Latest F1 news in brief

  • Ecclestone denies Briatore to succeed him
  • Pressure keeps mounting for Massa mistakes
  • Hamilton promised $4m supercar with title
  • Toro Rosso offers to settle Force India row
  • Anderson suspects Ferrari team orders
  • Manager defends Schu's two-wheel hobby

Ecclestone denies Briatore to succeed him
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has played down speculation that he has lined up Flavio Briatore as his preferred successor as F1 chief executive.

The 77-year-old is close friends with Italian Briatore, who entered formula one team management in the late 80s and is still boss of the Renault outfit.

Ecclestone and Briatore, 57, also recently went into business, with ownership of the London football club Queens Park Rangers.

But Briton Ecclestone, albeit with no intention of retiring, doubts that one man will be able to replace him.

"And I don't think he is even interested in this job; he has different priorities than me," Bernie, referring to Briatore, told FHM magazine in Spain.

Also in the interview, Ecclestone branded F1's current world champion Kimi Raikkonen as "completely the opposite" of 2008 challenger Lewis Hamilton.

"Hamilton attracts all the attention, because he likes to talk," he said.

"With Kimi it is so different.

"Nobody even knows what he is going to do from one year to the next, so it is difficult to predict how the rest of his career will be," Ecclestone added.

Pressure keeps mounting for Massa mistakes
(GMM) The pressure is continuing to mount on the shoulders of Felipe Massa, as observers chide his driving errors so far in 2008.

"A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and Ferrari's is Felipe Massa," Sir Jackie Stewart, after watching the Brazilian driver terminally spin his Ferrari in Malaysia, told the Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell.

There is some lingering doubt about the cause of the 26-year-old's Sepang retirement, but a Ferrari spokesman on Wednesday ignored a request to clarify whether or not Massa made a simple driving error.

"The impression I had was that it was a mistake," former triple world champion Stewart added.

"I think he accelerated too hard out of the corner, and there is no longer traction control," the Scot noted.

From Brazil, Massa on Wednesday insisted that his spin was caused by "different problems" that were "not linked to traction control", and denied that he is having trouble adjusting to life without electronic aids.

But another former triple world champion, Niki Lauda, told Sport Bild: "If it wasn't a technical defect, he will be under terrible pressure in Italy.

"From Bahrain onwards, he can not afford to make any more mistakes," he added.

Hamilton promised $4m supercar with title
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has been promised a $4 million McLaren supercar for free — if he wins the world titles this year.

The 23-year-old British driver told The Sun newspaper that he first clapped eyes on the ultra-rare McLaren LM in the team's F1 factory ten years ago.

"When I first went to McLaren it was there and I fell in love with it," he said of the orange LM, one of only five such cars in the world.

Dennis, 60, says Hamilton can have the car if he wins the 2008 title, and McLaren is crowned constructors' champion.

"Fortunately, our deal gives me a bit of time to save up!" Dennis joked.

Hamilton currently leads the drivers' title from Kimi Raikkonen by three points, while McLaren sits five points ahead of BMW-Sauber in the teams' standings.

Toro Rosso offers to settle Force India row
(GMM) Toro Rosso has offered to settle its long running dispute with F1 rival Force India over the controversial use of so-called customer cars.

Force India is still pursuing both the Red Bull junior team and Honda satellite Super Aguri in Swiss arbitration court, as the Silverstone based outfit argues that because its rivals are not traditional constructors, they are breaking the rules.

According to the German specialist magazine Auto Motor und Sport, Toro Rosso is now offering to provide to Force India half of its potential commercial revenue in 2008, providing the latter team is not itself inside the top ten teams on the constructors' ranking.

It is suggested that while co-owner Vijay Mallya is receptive to the compromise, team boss Colin Kolles also wants about $6 million in compensation for the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost insists that the Faenza based team is within the rules, but explained: "With the process that is going on at the moment, only the lawyers are winning.

"We want to put this affair into the past and make a clear path for a new Concorde Agreement," he added.

Anderson suspects Ferrari team orders
(GMM) Team orders were in play by the Ferrari team in Malaysia, a veteran formula one expert suspects.

Gary Anderson, a semi-retired grand prix car designer for teams like Jordan and Jaguar, thinks Felipe Massa was manipulated into second place at Sepang despite scoring pole position and leading race winner Kimi Raikkonen until the first pit stops.

A series of quick sectors put Finn Raikkonen in front during the pit stop shuffle, and shortly afterwards Massa spun into the gravel.

"The way in which Raikkonen went past Massa at the first stop makes me suspect that Ferrari had it planned from the outset," the Irishman told Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell.

Anderson reckons Ferrari still operates a 'number one' driver policy, and highly rated reigning world champion Raikkonen, 28, is the obvious choice at present.

He said: "Don't forget, we are talking about a man who was brought in to replace the seven time world champion Michael Schumacher.

"For me, the key scene was the first corner, when Raikkonen was intelligent enough to not get involved in a collision with Felipe.

"Kimi always saw the bigger picture," Anderson added.

Meanwhile, Motorsport Aktuell also published a rumor that Honda's team CEO and former team principal Nick Fry could soon be drafted in as Super Aguri's new boss.

Manager defends Schu's two-wheel hobby
(GMM) Michael Schumacher's manager has played down fears about the retired seven time world champion's new foray into the world of semi-professional motorcycle racing.

It was reported recently that the German made his amateur debut at the Pannonia-Ring in Hungary.

It has now emerged that Schumacher, 39, was again in action while the formula one world focused on the Malaysian grand prix over the Easter weekend.

His latest races were at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain, Bild newspaper reports.

His former Ferrari team boss and friend Jean Todt said last weekend that he "absolutely" does not support Schumacher's dangerous new hobby.

But Schumacher's long time manager, Willi Weber, reacted: "I have no fears for him.

"He always knows what he is doing and what risks he can take.

"Just like in formula one, anything can go wrong, but a Michael Schumacher leaves nothing to chance," he added.

Schumacher, meanwhile, has been very competitive in his two amateur rides so far, causing speculation to linger that his professional racing return could be on two wheels.

"Quite honestly, it is still too early to answer that," Weber said when asked if MotoGP could be the German legend's goal.

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