Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • Massa says Hamilton thinks he is a rock star

    Hamilton 'behaves like a superstar' – Massa

  • Sutil, Barrichello still in dark over 2012 seats
  • Button fastest, Vettel crashes but title race almost over
  • No precautions for nuclear risk insists Alonso
  • Formula Nippon faster than F1 backmarkers
  • Massa thinks Red Bull's race pace out of reach New
  • Williams team has difficult Friday New
  • Vettel admits focus slipped before crash New
  • Mercedes races into 2012 with 'a lot' of tech bosses New
  • 2012 Red Bull to be 'an evolution' – Newey New
  • Mercedes struggling at Suzuka New

Hamilton 'behaves like a superstar' – Massa
(GMM) Felipe Massa has revealed he is still "angry and disappointed" with his 2008 championship rival Lewis Hamilton.

The pair had a minor on-track incident in Singapore two weeks ago and later clashed again in the television interview 'pen'.

But what really angered Massa, he confided to German television RTL, was that the McLaren driver refused to make eye-contact when he wanted to privately discuss the track incident afterwards.

"I'm still angry and also disappointed on the human level," said the Brazilian. "Unfortunately I was not able to reach him by phone either.

"He behaves like a superstar. I'm not going anywhere but he will have to come to me," added Massa.

The commentators for BBC radio in Japan on Friday morning revealed that Hamilton seemed close to tears as he spoke to reporters 24 hours ago.

"Am I in the best place in my life? No, there's been a lot of negative stories," said the Briton.

As for Massa's attitude? "I'm just focusing on my own racing. Maybe he should do the same," added Hamilton.

Sutil, Barrichello still in dark over 2012 seats
(GMM) As the 2011 season nears its end, two veterans remain in the dark as to whether their careers will extend beyond November's Brazil finale.

Force India's Vijay Mallya is refusing to lift the lid on his 2012 driver plans until mid December, and so German Adrian Sutil told the SID news agency that he hopes his forthcoming performances will do the talking.

"Anything other than points finishes are not interesting," said Sutil, who has been with the Silverstone based team since his debut five years ago.

"Most of the (other) cockpits are already taken, so we will have to see how the situation develops," he admitted. "Life goes on."

As for F1's most experienced driver, Rubens Barrichello, he is grappling not only with the uncertainty but also the paddock's rising excitement about the possible 2012 return of former world champion Kimi Raikkonen.

A big banner in the grandstands at Suzuka made clear that the Finn's fans want him to replace Brazilian Barrichello at Williams.

But "I don't think anyone, including Kimi, can offer more (to Williams) than what I can", the 39-year-old is quoted by Brazil's Globo Esporte at Suzuka.

Barrichello said that if he is required to, he will look for sponsors to take to the British team for 2012.

"If the team says it's necessary, I will work for that," he revealed. "But they have not said that this is what they require.

"Of course I have some talks with some other teams. I would love to drive a fast car and some teams have that for next year."

Button fastest, Vettel crashes but title race almost over
(GMM) With Jenson Button now the last man standing as a hazard to Sebastian Vettel's 2011 title, morning practice at Suzuka seemed to follow the script.

For the championship battle to move on to Korea in a week's time, McLaren's Button needs to win on Sunday with Vettel failing to score a single point.

The young German was third quickest early on Friday but he also ended the session as a spectator by crashing his Red Bull at Degner.

With Button fastest of all, Vettel, 24, also seemed to be feeling the pressure as he anxiously ran back to the crash scene after watching the Japanese marshals grapple with his damaged RB7.

However, any hopes that he might not wrap up the championship this weekend remain a very long shot.

"Sebastian has the title in his pocket, even if he decides to watch this race on television," Ferrari's Fernando Alonso is quoted by La Stampa newspaper.

The Spaniard said he is not overly interested in his close battle with Button and Mark Webber for the honors behind Vettel's championship.

"Nobody remembers who finishes second or third," said Alonso.

That might explain the obvious shortage of journalists at Suzuka this weekend, as Button raised his eyebrows when told he is still a true title contender.

"Sebastian is probably the only person here that's saying so," smiled the Briton on Thursday. "It's all but over.

"This is a circuit I'd love to win on, it's all about the challenge and to come away with a victory here would be very special.

"I'm sure it would be overshadowed by a certain person winning the championship but it would still be very enjoyable for myself," added Button.

And then F1's full focus can openly turn to 2012.

"We have to be optimistic and push bloody hard to make sure there is no repeat of how straightforward it's been for him (this year)," Vettel's teammate Webber insisted.

No precautions for nuclear risk insists Alonso
(GMM) It is business as usual for formula one this weekend despite earlier fears about the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Red Bull denied reports it made special arrangements for Suzuka to avoid contaminated food, and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso said his own routine is also unaffected.

"Nothing special," he is quoted by Spain's AS newspaper, "there is no danger, not with the food, the shower, nothing."

His countryman Jaime Alguersuari agrees: "There has been paranoia but I'm the same, just like if I was in Barcelona."

Alonso said he hopes F1's very presence in Japan this weekend can raise the spirits of the country still reeling from the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

"I have been coming for 12 years and it's always different but the people are always very passionate. Although what happened is very hard, I believe that sport helps to ease the pain," he said.

"Same with football, basketball, cycling, and F1 — to make the public feel better, to think of something else for a while."

Formula Nippon faster than F1 backmarkers
(GMM) Andre Lotterer on Friday boasted that his Formula Nippon single seater is faster than the F1 cars produced by F1 backmarkers Virgin and HRT.

The 29-year-old German, who is leading the Japanese championship ahead of former Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima, won the series' Suzuka round in May.

"Theoretically, if I would have entered today's first free practice with my Formula Nippon, I would be nineteenth," Lotterer, a Jaguar test driver in 2002, said at Suzuka.

In May, Suzuka pole sitter Naoki Yamamoto's Honda-powered Nippon qualified with a time of 1.40.470, which was faster than any Virgin or HRT driver could manage on Friday morning at the same Japanese circuit.

And that Formula Nippon time is just half a second behind Friday morning's slowest Team Lotus runner Karun Chandhok.

The 2011 Formula Nippon single seaters are built by American manufacturer Swift and powered by 3.4 liter V8 engines supplied by Toyota or Honda.

Mass thinks Red Bull's race pace out of reach
Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa both completed well over a Japanese Grand Prix race distance in the three hours of free practice at the spectacular Suzuka circuit today. The Spaniard ended the day in an encouraging second place on the time sheet, behind the McLaren of Jenson Button, who was the only man to break the 1m 32s barrier.

The Scuderia’s Brazilian driver was fifth fastest this afternoon, separated from his teammate by just under four tenths of a second and the two Red Bulls of third placed Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in fourth. Felipe’s former team-mate and multiple Suzuka winner Michael Schumacher completed the top six for Mercedes.

Massa thinks Red Bull Racing's race pace on long runs may be out of reach this weekend given the team's practice pace on Friday at Suzuka.

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel long-race pace was impressive, lapping in the 1m37s, a time Massa labeled as "too quick".

"That's quick, isn't it? 37 was a little bit too quick," said Massa. "We need to see for sure if you go to the long run with 20 kilos less or 20 kilos more, or 30 kilos – maybe some were running with 100kg and some with 140kg you can see a big difference.

"We will wait and see in the race, which is the right time to have a clear picture."

Massa said he was unable to go through the fast 130R corner with his DRS open like rival Red Bull.

"It is not easy for our car. Maybe tomorrow there will be a bit more grip and we can see if it is going to be better."

Williams team has difficult Friday
Williams look likely to lose a car in Q1 qualifying at Suzuka after both Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello lost significant amounts of practice time in Japan on Friday. Whereas the former crashed through driver error in the second session, the latter was forced to park his car in both sessions.

“We’ve had a difficult start to the weekend, with not as much running as we had hoped for," new Chief Operations Engineer Mark Gillan acknowledges. “Accordingly, we have now revised the running plan going into P3."

Barrichello’s accident saw the Brazilian damage at least three corners of his car plus its front wing after spinning into the barriers between the Degner Curves.

“In this morning’s session, a puncture cut my session short and then an off this afternoon also put me out early," said the Japanese Grand Prix winner of 2003. “The car felt quite loose before the incident and so we have a lot of things to look into now."

Maldonado’s afternoon problem has been diagnosed as an engine issue.

Vettel admits focus slipped before crash
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel admitted to not concentrating hard enough on Friday when he crashed in Suzuka practice.

If Friday's fastest driver Jenson Button wins on Sunday, and runaway championship leader Vettel crashes again, the title fight will move on to Korea.

On the other hand, Red Bull's Vettel – the back-to-back Japanese grand prix winner – needs only to finish tenth to guarantee his second crown.

"I had a good reminder in practice not to start thinking about something else," he admitted on Friday.

"It was not really a big mistake, but maybe at that moment I was not 100 per cent awake, and mistakes around here can be quite costly."

Mercedes races into 2012 with 'a lot' of tech bosses
(GMM) Mercedes' rivals on Friday admitted the Brackley based team is heading into the 2012 season with "a lot" of technical chiefs.

Although they all now have different titles, former technical directors Ross Brawn (Ferrari), Bob Bell (Renault), Aldo Costa (Ferrari) and Geoff Willis (HRT) will all be involved with the design of Mercedes' next single seater.

Sport Bild journalist Ralf Bach at Suzuka claimed it is a "new formula one record".

"Yeah, that is a lot," agreed McLaren's Paddy Lowe.

Renault's deputy technical director Naoki Tokunaga added: "Each team has its own approach and I think we have a different approach."

2012 Red Bull to be 'an evolution' – Newey
(GMM) Red Bull's 2012 car will once again be an evolution of its successful predecessor, designer Adrian Newey revealed on Friday.

It was reported this week that, with Ferrari taking a radical approach to its new car, Newey's RB8 would also surprise the paddock when it is launched early next year.

Newey confirmed to reporters in Japan that, despite Sebastian Vettel's dominance with the 2011 car, his technical team has pushed hard with its successor.

"Our approach is certainly not complacency, so we're not thinking 'We don't have to do anything, we'll still be quick enough next year'. That would be enormous folly."

A fundamental change for 2012 is the banning of the exhaust blown diffusers, but otherwise the rules are staying fairly stable.

"So, in that sense, the car will be an evolution, it will bear a family resemblance to the RB5, RB6, RB7 lineage. It's just a matter of pushing on, as always," said Newey.

Mercedes struggling at Suzuka
Michael Schumacher admits that Mercedes are likely to face another tough weekend at the Japanese Grand Prix. Although the six-time Suzuka winner led team-mate Nico Rosberg to sixth and seventh positions in Friday’s second practice session, the elder of the two Germans was still eight tenths of a second off the leading pace.

“It was a pretty typical two practice sessions today," said Schumacher. “We were working on setup issues as usual and achieved much of what we wanted, however we are aware that the character of our car and the character of this track are not a perfect match and there are areas still to work on.

“From what I have seen so far, I would guess we will find ourselves qualifying in the region we have been lately, but obviously we will make our best efforts to improve our position further."

“We had two challenging sessions today as we worked to get the balance of the car right on high and low fuel loads," Rosberg added. “However, I'm happy with what we learnt and I think all is going in the right direction for tomorrow."

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