Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • The brilliance of Alonso is his ability to tell the engineers what design changes are needed on the car to make it fast. This year's Ferrari started out as a slug and Alonso made it into a winner. He made Hamilton look good. Since leaving McLaren the team has struggled

    Ferrari has best car in 2012 – Vettel

  • F1's tired circus looks ahead to long break
  • Hamilton hits back after Dennis' contract jibe
  • McLaren duo admits 'urgent' Alonso chase
  • Ecclestone denies fearing Hockenheim arrest
  • De la Rosa looks set to stay at HRT
  • Hulkenberg 'can imagine' Force India stay
  • Ferrari lets 2013 Massa contract 'option' expire
  • Renault defends pushing F1 rules to limit with Red Bull
  • FIA denies anti-Red Bull 'conspiracy'
  • Grosjean not upset about 'super DRS' snub

Ferrari has best car in 2012 – Vettel
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel insists Ferrari has the best car on the 2012 grid.

In an interview with journalists from O Estado de S.Paulo (Brazil), Corriere della Sera (Italy) and Auto Hebdo (France), the reigning world champion reportedly laughed at Alonso and Ferrari's constant claims that the Spaniard is leading the world championship despite not having the best car.

Referring to last weekend's German grand prix, Vettel said in Hungary on Thursday: "Fernando was the fastest because he had the best equipment.

"At the moment, Ferrari is the best. So what I need to do is to be the most consistent.

"They (Ferrari) had a difficult start to the year, but we can see now where they are. They are the most consistent in all conditions: rain, dry, change of grip from the circuit, cold, hot …

"Ferrari has the best package at the moment; they're fast and reliable. At Hockenheim they kept us and McLaren behind. This is a fact, not my interpretation," the German insisted.

Vettel denied that part of Alonso's advantage is that his teammate, Felipe Massa, is entirely subservient, rather than taking points from one another as do the teammates at Red Bull and McLaren.

"It's not good for a racing team to have one driver fighting for wins and the other with significantly lower results," he insisted.

"From the outside we cannot understand the reasons that Felipe is not able to show his natural speed, because he is very fast.

"People forget that if his (Massa's) engine had not broken here (in Hungary) in 2008, he would have won the title. Now he's miles away from the top of championship, even though the car is working well.

"I don't understand that," added Vettel.

It is on that final point – the driver equality question at Ferrari – that Vettel has some doubt about whether he wants to be with the famous Italian team.

Asked if he would accept being Alonso's teammate at Ferrari, he answered: "I don't know.

"I hear so much about his contract with Ferrari that it makes me think about it. It depends on the situation.

"I am not afraid of fighting with Fernando at the same team, because that's good for the team, good for you. It's much better than having a teammate who is slower."

F1's tired circus looks ahead to long break
(GMM) After a marathon first half of the 2012 season, F1's tired paddock residents are looking forward to a rare five-week break between the end of Sunday's Hungarian grand prix and the resumption of action in September.

The opening eleven grands prix have been arduous for the sport's travelling circus, the schedule having so far already featured six races that were paired 'back-to-back' with another working weekend.

"It has been difficult with the travel to the double-headers," admitted Force India driver Paul di Resta.

"It is as important for me as it is for every mechanic and member of the team to get a break."

He is looking forward to the whole of August off.

"I've quite a long time off, so I can concentrate on other things," he told the Scottish Sun. "It will be nice to have a bit of a break."

The five-week period will include a mandatory 14-day, cost-cutting factory shutdown for the teams, but championship leader Fernando Alonso is not worried that sojourn will affect Ferrari's momentum.

"We need time and we need solutions to make the car faster and I think to have a longer period can only be good news for us," said the Spaniard.

The August break means the drivers can enjoy the 2012 Olympic Games without the distraction of F1.

"Yeah, I think I will watch as much as I can," Alonso admitted, "but obviously we are on holiday and if you go to the beach, you are not running to see the sport on TV."

There will also be some time for head-scratching, including Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and his new hair-cut and how he managed to lose 44 points to Alonso already despite racing arguably a better car.

"I will be thinking about what I could have done better," German Vettel admitted in Hungary. "I think it will take all the weeks," he laughed.

Hamilton hits back after Dennis' contract jibe
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton looks set for a round of feisty negotiations with McLaren, after supremo Ron Dennis weighed back into the saga about the 2008 world champion's new contract.

Dennis, formerly McLaren's team boss but now the company's executive chairman, sounded on Thursday as he though he is confident he has the upper hand in the talks about Hamilton's 2013 deal.

"It's a question of whether we employ him, not the other way around," he told BBC radio.

When told about the jibe, Hamilton insisted that – on the one hand – he had not even seen Dennis' comments.

And on the other hand, "It has nothing to do with me particularly," the 27-year-old Briton said. "Martin (Whitmarsh) is my boss."

To seasoned paddock observers, the spat is regarded as little more than negotiating ploys designed to affect the eventual dollar figure on Hamilton's deal.

The five-week August break will be a good chance to end the saga.

"We are relaxed at the moment," Hamilton said, also referring to his manager, Simon Fuller.

"At some stage he will sit down and speak to me over the summer."

McLaren duo admits 'urgent' Alonso chase
(GMM) McLaren's drivers have admitted the urgency of eating back into Fernando Alonso's increasingly big championship lead.

After ten races – or half of the 2012 schedule – the Ferrari driver is leading his Red Bull rivals by at least 34 points.

Even Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen has more points than McLaren's highest-ranked driver, Lewis Hamilton, while Jenson Button is a huge 86 points behind.

Told it appears 'quite urgent' for him to react, the 2009 world champion admitted: "Yes, it is.

"It's a massive gap to Fernando. Fernando and Ferrari have done an amazing job over the last few races and I know how difficult it is to come back from there," Button told F1's official website.

Even Hamilton, who is a further 24 points up the road, agrees, insisting that his bad outing at Hockenheim a week ago was a championship "dent".

"It was as big a dent as you could probably take, just as Valencia was," he said.

"There are only a certain amount of dents that you can take through the year, especially when the guy who is leading has finished every race in the points."

Every driver in the FIA press conference on Thursday – Narain Karthikeyan, Kamui Kobayashi, Heikki Kovalainen, Kimi Raikkonen and Pastor Maldonado – named Alonso as the obvious championship favorite.

The Spaniard trotted out the obvious line about not counting any chickens, but reporters did manage to get him to imagine winning his third drivers' title.

"When we finished Brazil in 2006, it was a dream for me to win three world championships in my career," he said in Hungary.

"To have the same as Ayrton (Senna) had … he was my idol or my reference when I was in go-karts and there's some other big names, Lauda etcetera, so three is a pretty good number and hopefully it arrives sooner rather than later," added Alonso.

Ecclestone denies fearing Hockenheim arrest
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has denied skipping last weekend's German grand prix because he was afraid of being arrested.

The F1 chief executive's familiar black motor home was in the Hockenheim paddock all weekend, but the 81-year-old Briton did not show, amid rumors he might have been swept into custody by German police amid the Gerhard Gribkowsky corruption affair.

Ecclestone denies he feared jail.

"I had a meeting in London with people from the Olympic Committee and also about television in America," he told the German newspaper Bild on Thursday.

"I couldn't take them with me to Hockenheim," he insisted.

"Also, my daughter Tamara had some personal problems I had to help with, but I don't want to go into that," said Ecclestone.

He denies being tipped off about a German plot to arrest him.

"No. No one told me that I would be arrested."

But with Gribkowsky now in jail for receiving Ecclestone's bribes, surely the F1 supremo fears being arrested in Germany sooner or later.

"I would assume that the German authorities would tell me something beforehand," Ecclestone said. "Probably they'd act differently if someone has committed a murder or if he is a terrorist."

Ecclestone said he could fly in to Germany soon.

"I'm not sure when, but it could be very soon. I want to meet the people from the Nurburgring. We want to see if we can help them."

De la Rosa looks set to stay at HRT
(GMM) Pedro de la Rosa's stint with the HRT team looks set to continue beyond 2012.

The Spanish backmarker HRT's new management, led by former grand prix driver Luis Perez Sala, convinced de la Rosa to leave the comfort of his reserve role with F1 giant McLaren and race around at the back in 2012.

"The direction that Pedro gives us is key," Perez-Sala, who has de la Rosa on a two-year contract, is quoted by Marca sports newspaper.

"For us, the direction he gives us is essential," he insisted. "He has experience, he's fast and he doesn't make mistakes.

"He's a fundamental piece," he added.

41-year-old Spaniard de la Rosa said in Hungary on Thursday that he feels "very comfortable" with HRT.

"There is nothing more rewarding than to experience the improvements that we are making in the car and the team," he is quoted by AS newspaper.

De la Rosa's current teammate is the Indian Narain Karthikeyan.

"At the beginning, perhaps Narain lacked some consistency but he is getting there now," Perez-Sala said. "We are very happy with him."

Hulkenberg 'can imagine' Force India stay
(GMM) Nico Hulkenberg on Thursday admitted he is not certain if he will still be racing a Force India in 2013.

After serving a season as the Silverstone based team's reserve last year, the 24-year-old German and former Williams driver finally put his racing career back on track this season.

But Hulkenberg admitted in Hungary that it is not guaranteed he will be staying for another season.

"I feel good and I can imagine staying," he is quoted by the German news agency SID.

"I am getting generally positive feedback from my team that they are pleased with me," he added.

Hulkenberg said talks about 2013 will "surely start soon".

Ferrari lets 2013 Massa contract 'option' expire
(GMM) Ferrari has allowed a contract 'option' on Felipe Massa's services for the 2013 season to expire, according to Italy's Autosprint magazine.

Amid the Brazilian's early struggles in 2012, it appeared a certainty that the Italian team was on the market for a new teammate for Fernando Alonso.

But Massa sped up as the F2012 also improved, even though it emerges that in the past days Ferrari let a one-sided contract option – that would have seen Massa definitely stay next season – expire.

It means that if the 31-year-old races a Ferrari for an eighth consecutive season in 2013, he will have agreed a brand new contract.

Massa told reporters in Hungary on Thursday that if he cannot stay at Ferrari, he could leave formula one altogether.

"I want to stay in formula one, but it has to be in a situation where I am in formula one to race, not just to participate," he said.

"If for whatever reason I don't have the chance to stay in Ferrari, then I will try and find a direction where I can race.

"But, otherwise, small teams? I'm not interested."

Renault defends pushing F1 rules to limit with Red Bull
(GMM) Renault has defended pushing the limits of the formula one rules together with Red Bull.

Although the French marque also supplies identical V8 engines to Lotus, Williams and Caterham, Red Bull is regarded as Renault's 'works' team.

And Remi Taffin, Renault's head of track operations, confirmed that the engine supplier was involved in the 'engine maps' controversy that caused the FIA to close a rules loophole in the days between Hockenheim and Hungary.

Taffin defended the push to squeeze every thousandth out of the tight F1 rules.

He told Britain's Times newspaper that, combined with the ultra-competitive nature of the sport in 2012, "you have to take the last bit of anything".

"The engine design is frozen so the only piece we have left, we work on," he said. "Back in Viry (Renault), Maranello (Ferrari), Brixworth (Mercedes), 300 people are not sitting on their desks doing nothing.

"Within the rules we work to have the best," he added.

Interestingly, McLaren-Mercedes' Jenson Button also appeared to justify Red Bull and Renault's squeezing of the regulations, insisting the reigning champions are doing it well in every area of the car.

"We are so limited in terms of the regulations," he said. "It gets more strict every year so you are always going to find people who are pushing the limits, pushing the boundaries.

"Then it is down to the FIA to decide if we are within the limits or not.

"It is not just traction where that Red Bull is strong. You cannot see a specific area where that car is stronger and the regulations say they are pushing the boundaries.

"They are doing a good job," said the McLaren driver. "They won't be slow suddenly."

FIA denies anti-Red Bull 'conspiracy'
(GMM) The FIA has denied there is an anti-Red Bull "conspiracy" at play in 2012.

In the few days between Hockenheim and Hungary, Dr Helmut Marko's grumbling about the 'engine mapping' saga and Sebastian Vettel's overtaking penalty has reignited speculation of a Red Bull vs. FIA war.

On the one side – goes the theory – is Red Bull and Bernie Ecclestone, with the Jean Todt-led governing body on the other side pressing its rule-making power and wanting a bigger slice of Ecclestone's money pie.

The evidence for the conspiracy is that Red Bull has apparently been targeted by the FIA, from the floor hole saga earlier in 2012, to the banned wheel hubs and now the Vettel penalty and engine maps.

According to an FIA source, however, if the Todt-led federation had really wanted to attack Red Bull, it could have sat back and allowed other teams to protest the illegal parts.

Instead, Red Bull has been allowed to race the specifications and then afterwards were asked to make modifications.

"If, as we are accused, we have something against Red Bull, we would wait until after the race and allow them (the other teams) to go (and protest) afterwards," the source is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

And the latest example has come to light only now, as it emerges the FIA asked Red Bull to modify a hand-controlled damper adjustment that may have allowed the team to make modifications between qualifying and the race.

When asked about the alleged 'conspiracy', Vettel said in Hungary: "I don't waste energy on that.

"Of course, maybe you could get that impression (of a conspiracy) over the last few weeks."

Vettel was also asked about the claim in a British newspaper that he is a "crybaby" following his attack on Lewis Hamilton at Hockenheim.

"Well, I haven't cried yet," smiled the German.

"But I think that if it doesn't work out for you, you don't need to be ashamed to show to the outside that you are not quite so happy," he is quoted by DPA news agency.

Grosjean not upset about 'super DRS' snub
(GMM) Romain Grosjean insists he is not upset about not getting his hands on Lotus' new 'super DRS' system.

Last week at Hockenheim, only Kimi Raikkonen's black and gold E20 was fitted with the top speed-boosting prototype in practice.

And the system will return to Raikkonen's car for more testing this weekend in Hungary.

"We are definitely trying it again here," Frenchman Grosjean said in Hungary when asked about the Mercedes-like system.

"Kimi will have it on his car, not me," he clarified, according to Auto Motor und Sport.

"We have only one version and setting it up is not so easy," said Grosjean.

Grosjean insisted he is not upset that Raikkonen is the only Lotus driver to enjoy the system so far.

"I was the first to get the last update," said the 26-year-old, "and now it's Kimi's turn. This is perfectly normal."

He hopes it will be ready to race soon.

"It would be a big help on tracks with longer straights, like Spa and Monza," said Grosjean.

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