Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • Mark Webber

    Button, Webber target F1 seats for 'a lot more' years

  • Button eyes Le Mans in 2012
  • Crash shows perfection of Vettel's season – Alonso
  • Hamilton penalties 'not bad luck' – Alonso
  • Briatore eyes F1 return in 'marketing' field
  • Schumacher is 'helper' at Mercedes – Briatore
  • Rivals set to out-spend d'Ambrosio for Virgin seat
  • Webber is Vettel's 'perfect number 2' – Frentzen
  • Frentzen plays down fitness in F1
  • Red Bull avoided repeat of 2010 'wing-gate' at Suzuka New
  • F1 to discuss latest problems in Bahrain New
  • Schumacher brushes off final corner incident in qualifying New
  • Hamilton blasts Schumacher over "dangerous" driving New
  • Kamui Kobayashi promoted to seventh New

Button, Webber target F1 seats for 'a lot more' years
(GMM) Two formula one veterans have played down suggestions they are racing towards retirement.

31-year-old Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, has just signed a new multi-year McLaren contract but he admitted at Suzuka that he could go on to ink another one.

The Briton is enjoying a solid run of form at present and looks set to outscore his highly rated teammate Lewis Hamilton in the 2011 points standings.

"I've been asked if this is my last contract and, probably, two years ago, I would have said definitely," Button said.

"Even last year I probably would have said definitely. But time flies and I think it (retirement) will end up going back and back.

"I'm really enjoying where I am at the moment and, hopefully, this feeling will continue. If it does, I might be racing for a lot more years," he added.

Another F1 veteran commonly believed to be closer to retirement than the beginning of his career is Mark Webber, who only has a contract with Red Bull until the end of 2012.

But he told F1's official website that he could be on the grid for "many more years".

"Yes, if I can keep up the racing I'm doing now," said the 35-year-old Australian. "I think retirement is overrated. I think the first few weeks it's nice, but then…

"I enjoy my driving and I like the challenge on this level — and if you have the possibility to do this then why walk away?" added Webber.

He also made clear that when he does hang up his helmet, he will also permanently check out of the F1 paddock.

"I haven't thought so much of what I would do after F1, but it's definitely not here," Webber told Yahoo Singapore.

"Why? Because of the politics — I really don't like it."

Button eyes Le Mans in 2012
(GMM) Jenson Button has expressed interest in racing a McLaren at Le Mans.

The 2009 world champion has just signed a new contract with the famous British F1 team, which is also the manufacturer of the high performance MP4-12C sports car.

The car will be on the 2012 Le Mans 24 hour grid.

Button admitted at Suzuka that he would "love to give it (Le Mans) a go next year".

"Not sure if I would be allowed but yes I am very interested," he is quoted by the Guardian.

The 2012 Le Mans 24 hour race is scheduled for the weekend between F1's Canadian and Valencia rounds.

Crash shows perfection of Vettel's season – Alonso
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel's Suzuka crash was an embodiment of the kind of "perfect year" he has enjoyed in 2011.

That is the claim of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, referring to the Red Bull driver's nudge into the Degner wall on Friday morning.

The fact Vettel lost no track time, because the crash happened right at the end of the session and the mechanics had enough time to repair the car for the afternoon, shows that "When you do everything right, everything goes right for you".

"This has been a perfect year for him, also with a tremendous superiority of his car," Alonso is quoted by the EFE news agency.

"He has always done a perfect job in the moments that he had to; with his pole positions, in the races, with his problems only on the Fridays.

"There have been some extremely difficult races, for example in the rain in Canada where he managed to stay calm to finish second.

"It is true that he has had some luck but he has done the perfect job at the key moments," the Spaniard added.

On Suzuka, Alonso said Vettel might finally be challenged by a rival team – McLaren – in the qualifying hour, with championship rival Jenson Button topping every practice timesheet.

But the Briton played down his tiny mathematical chances.

"It's like challenging a four year old to a 100 meter race. You'd totally destroy him," said Button.

Hamilton penalties 'not bad luck' – Alonso
(GMM) After a week of speculation, the special 'Lewis Hamilton meeting' between his rivals and Charlie Whiting did not take place at Suzuka.

But the rumblings about the 2008 world champion's driving antics in 2011 continue in the Suzuka paddock.

After their disastrous season as McLaren teammates, Fernando Alonso is now reluctant to talk about 2007, sometimes insisting that he actually had no problems at all with the Briton.

But when probed on Hamilton's apparently too-aggressive style of 2011, the Spaniard told Autosprint: "To me, an accident like the one between Lewis and Felipe in Singapore can happen maybe once every two years.

"To some, it happens rather more often. If you are penalized six times in a season it is not a unique case or bad luck," added Alonso.

Earlier, he had repeated similar comments to Spanish reporters and concluded: "I don't want to say anything more about it."

Briatore eyes F1 return in 'marketing' field
(GMM) Flavio Briatore has ruled out returning to formula one as a team boss.

As for coming back to the F1 paddock when his 'crashgate' ban finally lifts in 2013, however, the Italian admitted he is looking forward to it.

"Certainly not as a team boss," he said in an interview with Bild newspaper. "I did that for 16, 17 years, won seven titles and I no longer want the stress.

"I can think of doing something in the marketing," added Briatore, "but it's not an issue now."

He admits to missing formula one, but reveals that he still has a toe in the water.

"I am in contact with formula one people almost every day. Our (management) agency has Alonso and Webber, and I meet in London regularly with Bernie to eat."

Fascinatingly, Briatore no longer categorically denies his involvement in the order for Nelson Piquet to crash his Renault at Singapore in 2008.

"Of course we all make mistakes," said the Italian. "The pressure in formula one is so great – the sponsors, the team of a manufacturer – and you don't always get it right.

"Still, I think I did more right than I did wrong," he added.

Schumacher is 'helper' at Mercedes – Briatore
(GMM) Michael Schumacher should ditch his dreams of adding an eighth title to his unprecedented formula one record.

That is the claim of his former boss Flavio Briatore, who nonetheless said he supports the 42-year-old's often-criticized return to the grid.

"Michael is a great driver," the former Benetton and Renault boss told Bild newspaper.

"He changed formula one, not just in how to drive the car but how to prepare it and yourself. With his fitness and his discipline he created a new generation of drivers.

"Vettel, Alonso and Rosberg have all followed him," said the flamboyant Italian.

"And it is good for formula one that he came back. If it entertains him and he understands his role as a helper for Mercedes – leading them back to the top – then that's good," added Briatore.

Rivals set to out-spend d'Ambrosio for Virgin seat
(GMM) Jerome d'Ambrosio cannot count on staying at Virgin for a second season of formula one.

That is the claim of the Belgian newspaper De Morgan, reporting that a few candidates look ready to out-spend the 25-year-old's sponsors.

"Dutchman Giedo van der Garde, Frenchman Charles Pic and Canadian Robert Wickens all have an advantage over d'Ambrosio — more money," read the report.

The Belgian rookie admitted at Suzuka that his management team and Virgin are yet to agree a new deal for 2012.

"There are obviously talks going on and management speaking with the team, speaking for my future about next year," said d'Ambrosio.

"I think I had my best grand prix so far in Singapore and throughout these (next five) races I need to focus on the present and not what will happen next year," he added.

De Morgan said Virgin is not likely to announce Timo Glock's 2012 teammate until the beginning of 2012.

Webber is Vettel's 'perfect number 2' – Frentzen
(GMM) A secret of Sebastian Vettel's run of success is the "dream team" at Red Bull.

That is the claim of the 24-year-old German's retired countryman and grand prix winner Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

The former Sauber and Williams driver told Welt newspaper: "As long as the team stays together, it will be very hard to beat. This is what we saw with Ferrari's dream team.

"Frank Williams once said to me that it's very difficult to put together a top team and even more difficult to hold it together."

Frentzen said Vettel has managed to establish himself as "the clear number one with the whole team around him".

He therefore thinks the extension of Mark Webber's contract for 2012 was a clever move.

"In a perfect team the perfect number one needs a perfect number two, and that's Mark Webber," said Frentzen.

"Finding the perfect number two is not easy and it's better to have a number two than having two number one drivers, which can bring instability."

Jenson Button recently made similar comments about the desirability of a number two driver, insisting that the situation does not exist at McLaren.

"Having a competitive teammate is the most important thing for a driver in a top team because it does push you," he is quoted at Suzuka by The Sun.

"(But) having a whole team behind you is great. Knowing they are putting all their efforts just behind you is fantastic. I am sure that is how it feels for Fernando Alonso at Ferrari," added Button.

Also commenting on driver dynamics in F1 is Flavio Briatore, who famously always installed a clear number two for Michael Schumacher as well as Fernando Alonso.

Asked if he can imagine Vettel alongside Alonso, the Italian told Bild newspaper: "Never. That would be stupid.

"Those two should never be in the same team because they are both champions, but there can only be one champion (per season). And the fans want to see champions fighting against each other," said Briatore.

Frentzen plays down fitness in F1
(GMM) Heinz Harald Frentzen has played down the importance of fitness in formula one.

The retired grand prix winner, who last raced with Sauber in 2003, was one of the last drivers in the sport who was an occasional smoker.

But fitness is today a keyword in the F1 paddock, with drivers including Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg now so fit they enter triathlons for fun.

Frentzen, 44, told Welt newspaper: "The issue of fitness was and is overrated in formula one.

"I remember driving in Hungary in 1998 with salmonella poisoning and finished fifth.

"Yes it's important, but the boys of today are all fit by default. It is the g-forces that my body could no longer withstand.

"I would need about three months to train the muscles to do maybe ten laps," added Frentzen.

Red Bull avoided repeat of 2010 'wing-gate' at Suzuka
(GMM) Red Bull avoided a repeat of last year's 'wing-gate' by letting Mark Webber keep his latest specification front wing at Suzuka.

At Silverstone 2010, Australian Webber kicked off the controversy by angrily declaring 'Not bad for a number 2 driver' after winning the British grand prix.

The win came after the team took the front wing off his car because the only other version collapsed on Sebastian Vettel's RB6 in practice.

At Suzuka, a similar situation arose when Vettel crashed at Degner on Friday morning.

But the German then tackled the rest of the weekend until qualifying with an older spare front wing replacement, and was duly outpaced in all the practice sessions by McLaren's Jenson Button.

Suddenly, Vettel returned to the front in qualifying — with a brand new front wing.

"The team did everything to bring it back and just in time it arrived (from Milton Keynes) for qualifying," the 24-year-old said.

Team boss Christian Horner told Reuters he never considered simply taking Webber's front wing away again.

"Last time (at Silverstone), it failed and we had one left and it wasn't anything to do with the driver," he said.

"Yesterday it was purely down to him (Vettel), that's why he looked pretty pissed off when he got out of the car because he knew he'd damaged a front wing that he knew there were only two of in Japan at that time."

F1 to discuss latest problems in Bahrain
(GMM) F1 teams and the governing body are set to discuss Bahrain's scheduled return to the 2012 calendar.

After this year's event was cancelled, Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA scheduled for the race to return next April due to the Kingdom's calming civil problems.

But those problems seem to have resurfaced in recent days, with the New York Times reporting that security forces clashed with protestors as recently as Friday.

"It's always concerning with the media reports that you hear," Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told the BBC. "But (we) trust in the promoter and FIA to deal with it accordingly."

The Briton admitted the situation would "inevitably" be discussed at the next World Motor Sport Council meeting.

F1 chief executive Ecclestone was asked about Bahrain last week whilst on a trip to India.

"It's surely in the racing schedule," he told the DNA news agency. "It will not be different from previous years. We had one little hitch.

"I do not know if it is right or wrong, but we have it on the calendar for 2012," added Ecclestone.

Hamilton blasts Schumacher over "dangerous" driving
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton described Michael Schumacher's driving at the end of Saturday's qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix as "dangerous" and "ridiculous" after the pair nearly collided before their final laps.

The McLaren driver qualified third on the grid for Sunday's 53-lap race after topping the times in the second part of qualifying and after the first laps in the final 10-minute shootout for the top 10.

But he failed to start a second timed lap before the checkered flag after an incident with Mercedes driver Schumacher and Australian Mark Webber of Red Bull at the final chicane.

The Briton spoke flatly after the session in a clear effort to retain his composure.

"I was entering the last corner, and Mark out of nowhere shot up the inside and nearly crashed with me, so I had to avoid him," he said.

"Michael was on the outside trying to do something – I don't know what the hell he was doing – and went off onto the grass. It was the most ridiculous thing I've ever experienced at the beginning of qualifying, but that's motor racing.

"I didn't see Michael, but he came past me and we nearly crashed to the left. It was quite dangerous."

The seven-time world champion Schumacher qualified seventh, after also failing to start a timed lap before the checkered flag, and felt Hamilton had pushed him onto the grass.

"I had Webber in front because Hamilton slowed down. I don't know what was in front of him (and) if he really had to slow down that much, but it was tight for all three of us," he said.

"I tried my best and Lewis pushed me a little bit wide onto the grass. I made it through, but a bit of an awkward start of a qualifying lap."

Schumacher brushes off final corner incident in qualifying
Michael Schumacher brushed off the final corner incident that saw both he and Lewis Hamilton miss out on a final flying lap during qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton was approaching the chicane at the end of his outlap when he backed off to leave a gap between himself and team-mate Jenson Button. With time tight, however, Mark Webber dived down the inside and Schumacher tried to go round the outside. Webber came out ahead and crossed the line before the checkered flag, but both Schumacher and Hamilton missed out. When asked by the BBC if it had been costly, Schumacher brushed off the incident as he still qualified in seventh, although he was later dropped to eighth behind Kamui Kobayashi who did start a timed lap.

"Not really, luckily at least Kobayashi didn't go out again to set another lap because that would have meant I would have been shy by probably a second," Schumacher said. "It was a bit stupid, in the last chicane everyone was driving so slow and I saw my time so I knew that I had to go through somehow otherwise I wouldn't make it, and I just missed it by a second, so a bit of a shame but it didn't make a problem in the end."

Schumacher said he had to try to pass Hamilton because time was running out, but that somebody was always going to come off worse.

"I had Webber in front who slowed down because Hamilton slowed down, I don't know what was in front of him – maybe he really had to slow down that much – but it was tight for all three of us so we all had to push somehow to make it through to do another lap. At that moment I was set to do a lap because I didn't know whether Kobayashi may go out or somebody would go out. So I tried my best and then Lewis pushed me a little bit wide on to the grass and I made it through, so a little bit of an awkward start to my qualifying lap." ESPNF1

Kamui Kobayashi promoted to seventh
Kamui Kobayashi will start from seventh on the grid at the Japanese Grand Prix after a lengthily deliberation over how positions seven to ten should line up for Sunday's race.

Michael Schumacher, Bruno Senna, Vitaly Petrov and Kobayashi all failed to set a time in the final session of qualifying after deciding to save fresh tires for the race. The preliminary classification put them in number order, with Schumacher (No. 7) ahead of Senna (No. 8), Petrov (No. 9) and Kobayashi (No. 16).

However, under the regulations any driver who starts a flying lap is classified ahead of drivers who did not, and therefore Kobayashi – who went out on medium tires, crossed the line and then came back to the pits at the start of the session – is ranked higher than the other three.

Schumacher attempted to start a flying lap at the end of the session but got stuck behind Lewis Hamilton at the final chicane and failed to make the start line before the checkered flag came out. Similarly, Senna and Petrov went out at the end of the session but did not start a flying lap before the flag came out. As a result Schumacher, Senna and Petrov will start in number order behind Kobayashi.

Sauber confirmed the news via Twitter: "Good news, at the end of a long day – FIA Formula One Provisional Starting Grid: Kamui is staring from P7 tomorrow."

Before he heard the news, Kobayashi was already ecstatic about starting in the top ten in front of his home crowd.

"I am really happy we made it into the top ten qualifying in Suzuka," he said. "I very much enjoy seeing all the fans here. In free practice we struggled quite a lot with the balance of the car, but the set up changes we made for qualifying worked out well. I think from the pace of the car you can see now that the new aero package is starting to work. My laps in Q1 and Q2 were good, and I can't complain. We still have some good tires left for the race tomorrow, and the race is what counts. I want to score points in front of this crowd." ESPNF1

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