Mike Stevens | Nov 16, 2011

It is increasingly likely that Renault, to be called Lotus next year, will kick off the 2012 season without Robert Kubica.

Team boss Eric Boullier admitted in Abu Dhabi that he is concerned that some weeks after the initial October deadline, the communication from the injured Pole's camp has been poor.

The obvious implication is that Renault fears he is not ready to return to F1.

"I am patient because I am committed morally to him, he was very important to us," Frenchman Boullier is quoted by autohebdo.fr.

"If we find ourselves in a situation for him to come back, even in the middle of the year, I will try to bring him back but I can do no more," he said.

"If he speaks to no one then what can I say?" he added. "October was a key moment for him but unfortunately I don't think he is ready yet."

Renault's contract with Kubica, 26, expires after Christmas.

"What we know already is that Robert cannot commit to a deadline, so we must keep an ongoing communication plan," Boullier is quoted as saying by Spain's AS newspaper.

"Obviously we want him back, so it may be during the (2012) season, why not?"

(GMM)

 

Sauber says Raikkonen needs 'top car' for F1 return

If Kimi Raikkonen returns in 2012, the Finn's first F1 boss Peter Sauber hopes he has a fast Williams to drive.

Many paddock observers recall the 32-year-old's last F1 season in 2009, when he struggled with the uncompetitive Ferrari and at the end of the year turned down opportunities with other teams in favour of a rallying foray.

Now, some believe he wants to come back to the sport in 2012 because he faces the prospect of being paid to drive for the first time since leaving F1.

"Obviously, anyone worth his salt in any business will argue about the price of things," Sir Frank Williams said in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, "so there is an argument going on, which of course is quite normal."

Sauber, who gave Raikkonen his debut in 2001, told Blick newspaper he welcomes the news the Finn is thinking about coming back.

"But he needs to be motivated," said the Swiss, "and Kimi will only be motivated if he's in a top car."

Williams has had a dire 2011 season, but for next season the team will be counting on former McLaren designer Mike Coughlan and Renault engines.

Asked if the new pieces to the puzzle will solve Williams' problems over the winter, chairman Adam Parr announced confidently: "Yes.

"I feel very energised about where we are at the moment because the people here are just stunning, without exception."

(GMM)

 

Button happy to win McLaren battle in 2011

Jenson Button has admitted he is happy to have won the inter-team battle at McLaren in 2011.

After his critics said he was entering the "lion's den" at the British team by pairing with Lewis Hamilton last year, Button has become the only driver in his teammate's F1 career to beat him in the end-of-season points standings.

"It's great to get more points than a teammate who is so competitive," he admitted after sealing the achievement in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, despite Hamilton winning.

"You have to win races, you've got to get more points than your teammate, consistently do a good job on race weekends," he added.

The duo are now tied on wins in 2011 with three apiece, and one race remaining in Brazil next weekend.

"I know them both well enough that they will want to be the driver who comes out of the year with four wins," said their team boss Martin Whitmarsh.

But for the second time in recent days, Hamilton disagreed with his boss.

"That's not the case," he insisted. "We both want to win, but it doesn't matter whether he gets it or I get it. We still end up on a high. That's my view."

And as for the inter-team battle, Hamilton added: "For me it's irrelevant if he (Button) has finished ahead of me because we want to win the championship."

Instead, he hopes to bounce back from his personal problems in 2012, by reinstalling a comfort "bubble" around him at grands prix in the form of his mother and brother.

"It was great having my mum in Abu Dhabi," said Hamilton. "It is difficult with my brother because he is racing all the time, but I would like to have him here more often."

Former McLaren driver and lead BBC commentator Martin Brundle admits he is not sure why that is so important to Hamilton.

"Frankly, I don't understand this concept that family and friends can or should make a difference to your on track performance," he said, "but I'm from a different generation and I never experienced the spotlight and pressure that the likes of Hamilton do."

(GMM)

 

2007 enemies in 'unholy alliance' against Vettel

Self-interest may have motivated the new friendship between Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

In 2007, the pair clashed spectacularly as McLaren teammates, and in the intervening years they have maintained a healthy distance.

At the penultimate GP of 2011 in Abu Dhabi, however, the pair spent the days leading up to the event praising one another's talents.

Then, when they finished first and second in the race, they shared an unusually warm hug.

Hamilton explained to Italian broadcaster Rai: "I loved the fight with Fernando, I think he's the strongest driver."

With Sebastian Vettel out of the race with a rare retirement but having started from pole as per usual in his meteoric back-to-back championship season, the correspondent for La Stampa newspaper smells a rat.

With the 2012 season now looming and Red Bull's dominance to possibly continue, journalist Stefano Mancini calls the new friendship between Hamilton and Alonso an "unholy alliance against Vettel".

(GMM)

 

Vettel's pitwall contribution 'enlightening' - Marko

Even while suffering his first retirement of 2011, back to back world champion Sebastian Vettel could not resist working hard.

Whilst drivers normally retire to their quarters, the 24-year-old German mounted the Red Bull pitwall and remained there for the entire Abu Dhabi race.

He is quoted by Kurier newspaper as admitting he had "learned something" from the experience, and even taken an active role in the race strategy deployed for his teammate Mark Webber.

"At first I only wanted to stay for five laps," he revealed.

Dr Helmut Marko was asked if Vettel might enjoy a post-racing future on the pitwall.

"That is still far away," the team consultant said, "but what he had to contribute was very enlightening."

In reality, the entire F1 paddock - Vettel included - is now eagerly awaiting the chequered flag in Brazil and then the 2012 season, when a world championship is once again at stake.

Vettel is quoted by AS newspaper as predicting a tough contest involving his teammate Webber, Fernando Alonso, the McLaren drivers and possibly a Mercedes.

He added: "Winning this year proved that 2010 was not just bad luck for the others and good luck for me."

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