Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

  • Jean-Eric Vergne could figure in Toro Rosso's plans

    Future still uncertain for Toro Rosso duo

  • Paddock trio play down Smedley radio saga
  • Karthikeyan to practice in Japan and Korea
  • Kovalainen defends Hamilton before Suzuka meeting
  • Boullier expecting ‘very smooth’ staff changes
  • Williams targets double points finish in Japan
  • Glock expects more difficult races with backmarker Virgin team
  • Having a number one and number two driver is best – Jenson Button

Future still uncertain for Toro Rosso duo
(GMM) Toro Rosso's current drivers are still unsure if they will be racing beyond the 2011 season.

Team owner Red Bull's driver manager Dr Helmut Marko is famous for the pressure he puts on contracted drivers.

And hanging over Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi's heads at present are the advancing careers of Marko's latest favorites Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.

"We have not talked about the future or next year's contract," Spaniard Alguersuari told the EFE news agency at the weekend.

"It is very important that the whole team is focused on the rest of this year," he added, referring to Toro Rosso's push to beat Sauber to seventh in the constructors' world championship.

According to veteran Blick correspondent Roger Benoit, Swiss Buemi is in exactly the same situation with "five penalty shots" yet to kick in Japan, Korea, India, Abu Dhabi and Brazil.

"I know it's going to get harder and harder up to the finale in Sao Paulo but I can live with the pressure, and my morale is intact," the 22-year-old, who trails his teammate Alguersuari by 3 points, said.

He confirmed that Toro Rosso is pushing hard to beat Sauber.

"We have a different car now; front and rear, everything has changed," said Buemi before his flight to Tokyo.

Australian Ricciardo, meanwhile, is currently at HRT but tipped to move to Toro Rosso in 2012.

But "All this is rumor," he insisted to the Press Trust of India at the weekend.

Paddock trio play down Smedley radio saga
(GMM) A trio of respected paddock regulars have played down the latest twist in the saga surrounding Lewis Hamilton's difficult weekend in Singapore recently.

The McLaren driver's 2008 title nemesis Felipe Massa accosted Hamilton during a television interview after their clash that cost the Briton a drive-through penalty.

But it has now emerged that, prior to the collision, Massa's Ferrari race engineer Robert Smedley told the Brazilian over the radio to "destroy" Hamilton's race.

"Hold Hamilton as much as we can," Smedley is heard saying on the official edit of the race published at F1's official website.

"Destroy his race as much as we can. Come on, boy!" added Smedley.

The news has triggered suggestions in the international media that Massa, who last year obeyed Smedley's opaque instruction to move over for Fernando Alonso, may have followed another 'team order' in Singapore.

But former driver and British television commentator Martin Brundle wrote on Twitter that he is sure Smedley wanted Massa to "wreck Hamilton's strategy, not his car".

"Why would Massa damage his own car intentionally?

"(The) real story is Smedley must constantly direct and motivate his driver (and) has done for some time," said Brundle.

Daily Telegraph correspondent Tom Cary agreed that the radio message saga is "much ado about nothing" rather than a "sinister" anti-McLaren plot by Ferrari.

"He (Smedley) said it on an open radio channel after all," he said, admitting however that Smedley's use of the word 'destroy' was "ill-advised".

Livio Oricchio, a Brazilian journalist for the O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, also defended Massa and Smedley.

"Anyone who understands how things work in formula one and have a modicum of common sense knows that reactions like that of Smedley are normal during a race and more frequent than you might think," he said.

"'Destroy Hamilton's race' doesn't mean 'destroy Hamilton', so the disclosure of the (radio) recording has no great meaning," added Oricchio.

Karthikeyan to practice in Japan and Korea
(GMM) Narain Karthikeyan will get two more outings at the wheel of the HRT prior to his race return in his native India late this month.

After losing his full-time race seat to Daniel Ricciardo three months ago, the 34-year-old's sponsors have secured a one-race return for the Indian to contest his country's inaugural grand prix.

The Spanish team announced at the weekend that, after his run in Vitantonio Liuzzi's car for initial Friday practice in Singapore recently, Karthikeyan will return to action on the first day of this weekend's Japanese grand prix at Suzuka.

HRT said the outing, with Karthikeyan once again in Liuzzi's car, is to "continue with his preparation" ahead of India on October 30.

Karthikeyan told the Times of India he is happy with his re-acclimatization to the Cosworth-powered F111.

"I was just 1 tenth slower than Ricciardo during Friday practice (in Singapore)," he said. "That is great considering I was away from the cockpit for a while.

"I will again be doing Friday runs in Japan and Korea before racing in India and I am sure of getting enough track time to be ready for the big show," added Karthikeyan.

Kovalainen defends Hamilton before Suzuka meeting
(GMM) Heikki Kovalainen has defended his former McLaren teammate amid reports Lewis Hamilton's rivals are set to round on his aggressive driving style in Japan this weekend.

The Italian specialist Autosprint magazine has reported that Hamilton's competitors have asked for a special meeting with Charlie Whiting at Suzuka to discuss the British driver's many on-track clashes so far in 2011.

And the Sun newspaper in Britain said on Monday that "the meeting is due to discuss Hamilton's tactics this season".

Team Lotus driver Kovalainen, who in 2008 and 2009 was Hamilton's teammate at McLaren, was asked by a fan on Twitter if he is going to attend a 'special Hamilton meeting'.

"I'm not (because) I have no problem," answered the Finn.

Staunch critic Felipe Massa aside, the general feeling in the paddock about Hamilton was summed up by Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Buemi.

"I would say he is a little bit too impulsive now and again, but sometimes it works out well," the Swiss is quoted by the Hamburger Morgenpost.

"It is important to show a little consideration and find the right balance," added Buemi.

Boullier expecting ‘very smooth’ staff changes
Eric Boullier believes Renault will benefit without issues from its latest personnel changes, with Steve Nielsen having now left the team from his role as Sporting Director. At present, the Enstone-based squad holds fifth in the Constructors’ Championship – with Mercedes 44 points ahead and Force India 22 in arrears.

“Things should get better for us on quicker tracks and Suzuka is one of them," the Team Principal says ahead of this weekend’s race. “In Japan, we expect to return to the level of performance we saw in Belgium and Italy. Our mission will be to focus on getting both cars into Q3; from then on, the weekend should be pretty straightforward."

After Nielsen’s exit, Alan Permane – Race Engineer for Giancarlo Fisichella over the team’s championship-winning years of 2005 and 2006 – has received a promotion.

“It’s very simple. Part of what were Steve’s responsibilities will be taken over by Alan Permane, who is now Track Operations Director," Frenchman Boullier continues. “In addition, John Wickham is part of our team and further changes will be announced shortly. I expect this transition to be very smooth."

Williams targets double points finish in Japan
Williams are expecting no easy ride in Japan this weekend, with the Grove-based team braced for a rigid challenge on a circuit which demands ultra-effective aerodynamics. Despite this, the squad is still aiming for top ten results with both Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado as Formula 1 returns to Suzuka.

“The Suzuka layout leads to very high average cornering speeds and energy input into the tires, but it is light on brakes," explains Mark Gillan, Chief Operations Engineer for Williams, with Technical Director Sam Michael having now left the team.

“Our levels of understanding regarding the drivability issues of the FW33 have increased significantly since Singapore and we are currently working hard to optimize the setup and improve the car going into the Japanese Grand Prix.

“We obviously need to ensure that the car operates in the optimal aerodynamic window – this is fundamental to maximizing our performance and we aim to be fighting for a points finish with both cars."

Glock expects more difficult races with backmarker Virgin team
Virgin Racing hope to ‘harness momentum’ in this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, with the Sheffield-based outfit having suffered a difficult night last time out in Singapore. However Timo Glock fears for two more trying encounters at Suzuka and the following race in Korea, which comes just seven days later.

“We are in that final phase of the season now where the races are just flying by – it’s hard to believe there are only five remaining," says Team Principal John Booth. “Jérôme (d’Ambrosio) enjoyed a strong race in Singapore and will be looking to harness that momentum, I’m sure. Timo (Glock) will be keen to make up for the disappointment of having to retire early in the race at one of his favorite tracks."

For Glock, the latest gap between races has served chiefly for extra training.

“I’ve been back to Europe in the break to continue to work on my fitness for the long-haul races, which means a lot of cycling in Switzerland of course," the German driver explains.

“The next two races being back-to-back are tough ones for the team, so I’m as prepared as I can be to support us with what I hope can be two strong race performances."

Having a number one and number two driver is best – Jenson Button
Jenson Button says the best way to win the World Championship is to have a clear number one driver in the team. McLaren does not define a lead driver out of Button and Lewis Hamilton, and while Red Bull claims to operate in the same way it is widely regarded that Sebastian Vettel is the number one. Ferrari's approach is very clear, however, with Fernando Alonso leading the team, and Button told Welt Online that it's the best way to challenge for the title.

"The best way for a team to win the World Championship would be probably to have a No 1 driver, and a No 2 driver who is happy to be a No 2," Button said. "We do not have this at McLaren."

"If I cannot win then I am pleased if he wins. I'm like: 'Wow, he has really done a good job'. On the other hand it will be exactly the same because we drive for the same team. A victory is always good for the mood in the team."

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