Mark Webber all set to re-sign at Red Bull
US GP health better ahead of Wednesday vote
- Ferrari hopes Pirelli swerves hard tire for Silverstone
- New Webber deal 'very, very likely' – Horner
- Experts predict Vettel to win title by Suzuka
- F1 reliability better than ever in 2011
- Red Bull set for Renault engine deal extension
- Herbert: Webber lacking fire
- Ferrari: Diffuser cutbacks might not be significant
US GP health better ahead of Wednesday vote
(GMM) The health of the 2012 US grand prix project looked better on Wednesday, ahead of a crucial council vote on the Circuit of the Americas' state funding.
According to the Austin American Statesman, one of the council's concerns when a vote was postponed last week was the lack of an environmental agreement between the Texan capital and the F1 project.
But it has now been announced that an agreement, boasting the "strongest environmental sustainability standards for any event in Austin history", has been reached.
The council will meet to vote on its ratification, and the release of the state funding for the grand prix venue, later on Wednesday.
Ferrari hopes Pirelli avoids hard tire for Silverstone
(GMM) Felipe Massa has admitted he is worried Ferrari will struggle if the team has to use Pirelli's hard tires.
The Italian team, which in Valencia last weekend looked to have taken over from McLaren as Red Bull's nearest challenger, has struggled on the hard compound at other races in 2011.
"If we have it (the hard tire), it can be a problem," Brazilian driver Massa is quoted by Globo Esporte. "Not only for us but also for others, possibly excluding Red Bull and McLaren."
The Brazilian report said team boss Stefano Domenicali has also stated that Ferrari wants Pirelli to bring the soft and medium compounds to Silverstone, and that the tire supplier is poised to make its decision.
Pirelli vowed to stay neutral.
"If it is very cold, you will not want to have the very hard compounds," insisted motor sport director Paul Hembery. "It's something to consider."
New Webber deal 'very, very likely' – Horner
(GMM) Christian Horner has revealed it is "very, very likely" Mark Webber will be signed up to stay at Red Bull in 2012.
Australian Webber, one of the only key members of the Austrian team not already contracted for the foreseeable future, has struggled this season alongside Sebastian Vettel.
Speculation has linked Lewis Hamilton with a high-profile switch from McLaren, but team boss Christian Horner told Servus TV that the most likely outcome is a new deal for Webber.
"Well, that's very, very likely," said the Briton. "We have agreed to sit down a bit later and then focus on next year," Horner told the Red Bull-linked Austrian broadcaster.
As for the Hamilton rumors, Horner smiled: "I really don't think blue is his color. For Red Bull, the most important thing is the harmony."
But according to former F1 winner Johnny Herbert, Red Bull should think hard about its driver choice for 2012.
"He (Webber) is showing none of the fire that he showed last season, which helped him fight Vettel and make the championship so exciting. Until he finds it again I do not see him competing for wins," he wrote in a column for The National.
Experts predict Vettel to win title by Suzuka
(GMM) Despite Lewis Hamilton no longer thinking the 2011 title fight is effectively over, not everyone in the F1 paddock agrees with him.
Renault's departing team manager Steve Nielsen told Brazilian O Estado de S.Paulo correspondent Livio Oricchio that he thinks Sebastian Vettel will wrap up his second championship long before the 2011 season has ended.
"I believe the points gap will grow and that will Vettel will do it by Suzuka," he said, referring to the Japanese grand prix in October.
After Suzuka, there are still four grands prix left to run, and Telegraph correspondent Tom Cary admits he is also worried.
"We are entering dangerous territory here; slow death by asphyxiation," he wrote after Valencia. "Not since Michael Schumacher bored everyone into submission in 2004 have fans been forced to contemplate hegemony on this scale."
F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said before leaving Valencia last Sunday that Vettel is "sure to be champion" in 2011.
Former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore told Radio Monte Carlo that he reckons Vettel will have won by Monza, two races before Suzuka, but Rubens Barrichello thinks that is unlikely.
"To win at Suzuka he needs to increase his gap to 100 points, which at this rate is very possible," said the Brazilian.
Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali is reserving his judgment until after Silverstone, where the off-throttle blown exhaust clampdown takes effect.
"There may be a change in what we have seen so far, even if I recognize that Sebastian has a considerable advantage."
F1 reliability better than ever in 2011
(GMM) Technical reliability in formula one has taken a great leap forward in 2011.
Last Sunday at Valencia was the first-ever 24-car finish in F1 history, with every competitor entered in the world championship making it to the checkered flag.
And Germany's Die Welt newspaper noted that in the eight races so far this season, there were only 18 technical failures, compared to 38 at the same point one year ago.
"Reliability is at least as important as speed," said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, "and to be the best requires a combination of both."
But Jarno Trulli, a veteran driver who has spent the last season and a half at the back of the field with Team Lotus, is not so sure perfect reliability is good for F1.
"When I started racing (in F1), a driver knew how he'd start a race but not how he would finish it.
"This implies two things," he wrote in a column for La Repubblica. "The first is that the chances for a small team to get in the points have sensibly reduced; the second is a further loss of appeal for F1."
Red Bull set for Renault engine deal extension
(GMM) Red Bull appears likely to extend its engine supply agreement with Renault Sport F1 through to the end of the current V8 regulations.
The sport looks likely to adopt turbocharged V6 engines for 2014 and beyond, and in the meantime Red Bull is enjoying a significant sponsorship deal with the Renault-linked Nissan brand's Infiniti label.
Italian magazine Autosprint's auto.it website said Red Bull is therefore looking to extend its current Renault deal "at least until 2013".
Red Bull's technical boss Adrian Newey admitted this week that he is relieved he will not be working with a four-cylinder engine in 2013.
The AAP news agency quotes the Briton as revealing that F1 pushed ahead with the four-cylinder plan to help brands like Volkswagen enter the sport.
"They subsequently decided that no, they won't bother after all thank you very much, and we were lumbered with a four-cylinder turbo," he said.
Newey also revealed that the V6 rules will feature a higher rev limit than the 12,000rpm proposed for the inline-fours.
But whether it is high enough to appease angry circuit promoters, who want the current 18,000 limit to remain in place, is unknown.
"The revs are still being debated," admitted Newey, "but it looks as if it will probably be around 14,000 or 16,000.
Herbert: Webber lacking fire
(PVM) Johnny Herbert has criticized Red Bull’s Mark Webber for allowing team mate Sebastian Vettel to cruise unchallenged to the five victories he has scored so far this year, accusing him of lacking the fire and grit he showed last year when he was a contender for the title.
In his column for The National, former Grand Prix winner Hebert wrote, “It has hurt the championship as the man [Webber] best placed to challenge the world champion has ultimately provided no competition."
“He is showing none of the fire that he showed last season, which helped him fight Vettel and make the championship so exciting. Until he finds it again I do not see him competing for wins," laments the Englishman. “The one thing that he has done is highlighted just what a good job Vettel has done."
Herbert points out, “This is not the first time that one marque has had an edge over the rest of the field, but it does become a problem when only one of those drivers is claiming wins and is consistently beating their teammate. Back in the late 1980s, McLaren had the best car by quite some margin, but it was still exciting at the front as you had Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost taking points off each other."
He added, “There was also a season at Williams in 1987 when they were the class of the field, but the races between Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell made it interesting."
Herbert further observes, “I do not know if he has a problem with the car or the set-up, but if you look back he has not been the same since he lost last year’s drivers’ championship in Abu Dhabi. Yes, he has had problems in the race and some bad luck, but he has rarely got close to Vettel in qualifying, and the one time he did start ahead of his teammate was in Barcelona when he was on pole, but subsequently made a poor start and immediately fell to third."
Looking ahead to the remainder of the season, Herbert concludes, “While the title fight is already realistically over, I still expect there to be plenty of good action between now and the end of the season and think there is still plenty to look forward to at the front."
Ferrari: Diffuser cutbacks might not be significant
Ferrari are acknowledging the fact that the upcoming limitation for advanced engine mapping may not have a large effect on the Formula 1 pecking order. Prior to its introduction at Silverstone, the general paddock feeling is that championship leaders Red Bull, Mercedes GP and Renault could be the worst hit teams.
“The European Grand Prix produced Ferrari’s best result from the first eight races of this year, which is obviously a good thing, but it is definitely not the end product," reads an official Valencia reaction on the Ferrari website, which goes on to discuss Round 9 of 19.
“The Scuderia will bring a few updates of an aerodynamic nature to England, but it would be unrealistic to expect these to overturn the current rankings. There is no magic wand, no-one has one, so the recipe is the same for everyone: work, work, work.
“Silverstone will see the change of rules applied by the FIA concerning the use of exhaust gasses; for now, no one can be sure if this will be significant factor and the situation will only begin to get clearer on Friday during the two free practice sessions. In the meantime, everything possible is being done to be as well prepared as possible for this round, working on every area of development."
Red Bull's motorsport advisor Helmut Marko says the team will lose half a second per lap with the introduction of a ban on off-throttle blown diffusers from the British Grand Prix.
But Marko is adamant the team has taken the right measures to make up for that with new set-ups and aerodynamic updates.
The ban, which is likely to affect most teams to some degree, will kick in next week's race at Silverstone.
"We expect to lose approximately 0.5 seconds per lap without the blown diffuser," said Marko.
"However, we made preparations to equalize this in terms of set-up and aero measures. We are optimistic that we will keep our performance level."
He admitted, however, that Red Bull was disappointed about the FIA decision to introduce the ban in the middle of the season.
"We would have understood if this was implemented at the end of the season like many other technical developments recently," he said.
"But to do this halfway through the season is a bit strange and not quite understandable."