Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Hamilton called a coward by Sutil

    Lotus targets title tilt in 2015

  • Angry Sutil slams 'coward' Hamilton
  • Briatore tips Alonso to win 2012 title
  • Massa slams 'absurd' F1 pay-driver situation
  • No secrets behind Mercedes' late launch decision – Haug
  • McLaren 'the best team' in F1 – Berger
  • Rain slows work on Austin Formula One track

Lotus targets title tilt in 2015
(GMM) Lotus F1 owner Gerard Lopez has revealed plans to take the former Renault team back into championship contention within a few years.

"Our efforts are concerted behind our objective to be a contender once more for the 2015-16 championships, to continue the proud heritage of the 1994-95 and 2005-6 world championship titles achieved by Enstone," he said.

Lopez, the Genii-owned team that will run 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen and reigning GP2 champion Romain Grosjean in 2012, made the announcement as he revealed two appointments as chief executive and chief operating officer.

The team was founded as Toleman, becoming – under different ownership – the title-winning Benetton and Renault squads in subsequent decades from the same Enstone headquarters.

Lopez added: "Our fight to return to the front of the grid is a continual process, and we are leaving no stone unturned."

Angry Sutil slams 'coward' Hamilton
(GMM) Adrian Sutil, convicted this week of grievous bodily harm, has angrily slammed his former friend Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton, the 2008 world champion and McLaren driver, declined to appear as a witness in former Force India driver Sutil's trial this week over the assault of Lotus team executive Eric Lux.

Hamilton was sitting beside German Sutil, 29, at the time of the incident, but the Briton wrote in a statement to the Munich court that he could not remember the details of the scuffle.

He declined to appear as a witness ostensibly due to the proximity to the launch date of his 2012 car.

"Lewis is a coward," Bild newspaper quotes Sutil as saying.

"I don't want to be friends with someone like that. If you ask me he's not a man as even his father sent me a text message, wishing me the best of luck for the hearing.

"From Lewis, nothing. He even changed his number so I couldn't reach him," he added.

Sutil's manager Manfred Zimmermann insists the criminal conviction does not endanger his FIA superlicense, the mandatory credential for racing in formula one.

But he conceded that it is "almost impossible" that Sutil will be on the 2012 grid.

Briatore tips Alonso to win 2012 title
(GMM) Fernando Alonso is unlikely to have the fastest car, but the 2012 Ferrari should be good enough for the Spaniard to win the title.

That is the claim of Flavio Briatore, the former Renault team boss who is still linked to former double world champion Alonso's management.

The Italian told Rai radio that he thinks Ferrari's new car will be better than the conservative 2011 model, but still a few tenths shy of the pace of Adrian Newey's next Red Bull.

"Red Bull had a great advantage and have been working very quietly in these last months," said Briatore.

"I see Ferrari two, three tenths behind their pace. If this is the case at the first race then Fernando and Ferrari can win the championship," he added.

Briatore also urged Ferrari to ensure Alonso is supported as the lead driver, with Felipe Massa in a clear supporting role.

"Last season was disappointing, but Massa was returning from his accident and he has always previously done well.

"At the same time, the second driver must be in harmony with Fernando. The world championship is won by a single driver and the team has to focus on that," he added.

Massa slams 'absurd' F1 pay-driver situation
(GMM) Felipe Massa has revealed his disappointment at the rise of the 'pay-driver' in formula one.

The Brazilian will fight for his future at Ferrari in the first half of 2012, and thereafter may join the struggle for an alternative seat in competition with many lucratively-backed rivals.

"Today, there are only four teams that can afford to operate without drivers that bring money," Massa is quoted by the Brazilian Totalrace website.

"It's an absurd situation," he said, "and I don't think it's good for F1 and especially the young drivers.

"Even if you get very good results in the formulas below (F1), you either have to be lucky or have money in order to get a seat.

"That's not F1," Massa charged.

No secrets behind Mercedes' late launch decision – Haug
(GMM) Mercedes will not stun the F1 world with a secret 2012 innovation, Norbert Haug insists.

The German marque's competition boss is referring to the fact that the Brackley based team is holding back its new car – the W03 – until the second test of the forthcoming winter pre-season period.

Most other teams will unveil their cars at Jerez early next week, leading some experts to surmise that Mercedes must be holding back a secret innovation so that its rivals have less time to copy it.

But Haug insists there is no "sensational reason" for the decision.

"Last year we were very early and we paid for it by having a fairly unsophisticated car," the German is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

"Now we have set a development schedule so that we can work on any problems before they happen," added Haug.

He said the decision to delay a new car is common among the top teams.

"Red Bull and McLaren have done it (in the past) as well," insisted Haug.

At Jerez next week, Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg will drive the 2011 car, fitted with some development components.

"But there is nothing spectacular," warned Haug.

Much more spectacular could be McLaren's new model, with a team member saying on Tuesday that in some areas the MP4-27 skirts close to the regulations.

"Lots of talk about McLaren's radical new car and dramatic, visible, design tweaks," said Daily Mirror correspondent Byron Young on Twitter.

The same team member, McLaren Applied Technologies managing director Geoff McGrath, also suggested Sebastian Vettel drove better than Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton in 2011, before the story was removed from a popular British website.

The Mirror's Young added: "McLaren PR been doing some behind-the-scenes firefighting in the build-up to the car launch (on) Wednesday. Hope the car's as good as the PR moves."

McLaren 'the best team' in F1 – Berger
(GMM) Ahead of the launch of the team's 2012 car, former driver Gerhard Berger has crowned McLaren the very best in formula one.

Since Lewis Hamilton won the 2008 title, however, the Woking based squad has not added to its tally of world championships.

"Actually, McLaren is basically the best team," Austrian Berger told Auto Motor und Sport magazine.

"They don't have (Adrian) Newey and yet they still build good cars all the time. This shows they have a strong, broad-based team of engineers.

"With the Mercedes they have the best engine in the field and a very good driver pairing," he added.

Another of Berger's former teams is Ferrari, but he says the great Italians now remind of his own era rather than the ultra-success achieved by Jean Todt, Michael Schumacher, Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn.

"Now they're back where they were in my time," he insisted, "winning one race per season and finishing third.

"The success in between those periods really was about those four people. Probably now it would be enough for them to just take away Newey from Red Bull. Aerodynamics are just that important."

And Berger said he is not surprised that Mercedes is struggling to find its feet, despite having Brawn at the helm.

"Not really. Ross Brawn is a very good technical manager, a great strategist, but he does not build the car," he insisted.

Rain slows work on Austin Formula One track
Heavy rains this week slowed, but did not halt, construction at Austin's Formula One track.

Project manager Rocky Williams said there were probably 100 to 150 workers at the Circuit of the Americas on Thursday. That was less than half the normal workforce of late, which has been about 350, but much more than the 20 to 50 workers Williams said were at the site on a stormy and soggy Wednesday.

Southeast Travis County, where the $300 million racetrack is being built, was one of the areas hit hardest by Wednesday's deluge. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, just northwest of the track, received 5.67 inches of rain while nearby Creedmoor recorded seven inches.

On Wednesday morning, a stretch of FM 812 about three miles east of the circuit was narrowed to one lane because of flooding. On Thursday, pools of water remained on some nearby farmland and the 1,100-acre circuit site, some of which sits in a flood plain.

"We have standing water in certain areas," Williams said. "We go and pump it out."

He said Thursday there was standing water on the north end of the site, near an electrical substation, but that work was continuing on the paddock. About 25 to 30 percent of the concrete for the paddock — the garage for the F1 racing teams — has been poured.

Paving of the 3.4-mile circuit will not begin until spring. Because of the instability of the native clay soils, the ground that will be underneath the track was dug out to a depth of nine feet and filled with more stable soil.

The track has an elevation change of 133 feet, so the rains could have created some erosion.

"If it does wash down, we'll bring it back up," Williams said of the fill.

Williams said the rain was not enough to affect the overall construction schedule for the track, which is to be the site of the inaugural United States Grand Prix on Nov. 18.

"We've planned for rain events throughout construction," Williams said. "We saw what the regional (rainfall) average is, and we're coming off the worst drought in the area in years. We did not spend as many rain days early on in the project (as projected)." The Statesman