- Ecclestone backs Webber to shine in 2012
- McLaren gags Hamilton after Sutil's "coward" slur
- McLaren denies 2012 car close to legal limits
- Barrichello to decide Indycar switch 'soon'
- Ferrari calls off Fiorano launch of 2012 car
- Mateschitz donates EUR 70m to research university
Ecclestone backs Webber to shine in 2012
Feb.2 (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has backed Mark Webber to shine in 2012.
Australian Webber came close to winning the championship in 2010, but last year was completely overshadowed by his young teammate Sebastian Vettel, the reigning back-to-back title winner.
And it is likely Adrian Newey has penned another field-beater yet again for 2012.
"I don't want Red Bull to dominate in the same way but I fear that's what will happen. That's why I put my hopes on Mark Webber's shoulders," F1 chief executive Ecclestone said recently.
Webber turns 36 later this year and many tip Red Bull to replace him with one of rookie team Toro Rosso's new chargers for 2013.
But Ecclestone insists it is not too late for the Australian.
"I think he could win, yes for sure," he is quoted by the Herald Sun.
"I think you are going to see a different Mark this year. What he has to do is come to appreciate that Sebastian is quick, and he has to make sure he is quicker.
"(And) get it out of his head that people are not supporting him because they actually are."
McLaren gags Hamilton after Sutil's "coward" slur
McLaren on Wednesday stopped Lewis Hamilton from responding to former friend Adrian Sutil's "coward" accusation.
Sutil, the 2008 world champion's former F3 teammate, has been Hamilton's closest friend in the paddock throughout their subsequent F1 careers.
But the German slammed his British rival for being "not a man" this week after Hamilton declined to appear as a witness at Sutil's assault trial in Munich.
Despite sitting alongside Sutil in the Shanghai nightclub last April, Hamilton claimed in a written statement to the court he could not remember the details of the alleged assault on Lotus team executive Eric Lux.
"I do not want to be friends with someone like that," Sutil, referring to Hamilton, said after receiving a 18-month suspended jail term and EUR 200,000 fine for grievous bodily harm.
A reporter asked Hamilton about Sutil's anger following the launch on Wednesday of the 2012 McLaren car.
Before the Briton could answer, a McLaren spokesman intervened: "We've been told that Lewis shouldn't really go there because it (the conviction) might go under appeal.
"So can we move on to the next question," he added.
Hamilton told the reporter: "I'll listen to him."
The winner of 17 Grands Prix had a tumultuous season on and off the track in 2011 but on Wednesday thanked McLaren for granting him a long winter break that left him feeling "fresh" for the new year.
"What I have decided to do this year is just focus on the most important thing and that's racing," said Hamilton.
He also hopes to quickly ease rumours about his expiring McLaren contract.
"I think probably after the first couple of races it's something we will probably want to get out of the way so we can focus on the rest of the year without the team being concerned and without it being something that's just hanging around for us.
"Then you guys won't be having to ask questions about it," he smiled to reporters.
McLaren denies 2012 car close to legal limits
McLaren has denied that a senior staff member expressed concern the team's newly-launched 2012 car flies close to the limits of the technical regulations.
The staff member made the comments about the new MP4-27 single seater before it was launched by the British team at its Woking headquarters on Wednesday.
The story was only live on the internet for a short time before it was removed.
After that, members of the media were contacted by McLaren insisting that the quotes had not been accurate.
The saga caught the attention of the widely circulated German newspaper Bild, which wondered: "(the risk of a) protest? So maybe the car is illegal?
"The rivals will now be looking very closely (at the car) at Jerez," wrote correspondent Frank Schneider.
He said the MP4-27 has "mysterious lumps" on the side, perhaps to "hide the exhausts".
Spanish sports newspaper Marca's correspondent Marco Canseco, meanwhile, said the new McLaren is "not revolutionary" at first glance, with the disappearance of the L-shaped sidepods of last year even indicating a "backwards step".
The exhausts, however - with blown diffusers now banned - were "very well camouflaged" at the launch, "embedded in a strange bulge" at the rear of the engine cover.
The diffuser, added Canseco, is "nonexistent" in the MP4-27's launch version "to avoid clues being given to the rivals".
2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, laughed as he revealed that McLaren answered his call for better mirrors in the wake of several incidents last year.
He said the new MP4-27 mirrors are higher and "don't flap around", joking that "Felipe (Massa) will be very happy about that".
Barrichello to decide Indycar switch 'soon'
The likelihood is rising that Rubens Barrichello will switch from F1 one to Indycar for the 2012 season.
Left without a race seat after 19 consecutive seasons of Grands Prix, the 39-year-old Brazilian has been testing this week in Florida with the team of an Indy driver he describes as his "brother", Tony Kanaan.
Barrichello was scheduled to test at Sebring over two days, but he completed yet another half-day on Wednesday, the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo revealed.
"I don't know how things are going to move forward now," he told the correspondent Livio Oricchio. "I have not spoken with (owner) Jimmy Vasser about racing in the season."
Much has been made about an earlier promise Barrichello made to his wife Silvana about never racing at high speed on American ovals - the kind that claimed the life of Dan Wheldon late last year.
"She has come here (to Sebring) now," Barrichello revealed, "and today she was supporting me, seeing how happy I am.
"Silvana even joked with Tony, saying that he was to blame for all of my enthusiasm," he laughed.
The 15-round 2012 season, featuring four oval tracks including the fabled Indy 500 in May, and a city race in Barrichello's native Sao Paulo, kicks off at the end of March on the streets of St.Petersburg, Florida.
"What is certain is that it (the speculation) will not last long. Whether I race or not will be known soon.
"There is a lot of work still to do and KV (Racing) needs to know its driver," said Barrichello.
Ferrari calls off Fiorano launch of 2012 car
Ferrari has cancelled the launch of its 2012 car.
The famous Italian team had already said the scheduled track debut of the new single seater on Friday appeared unlikely, due to heavy snowfall at Maranello.
Work, however, had continued on the structures for the official launch of the car at the Fiorano test circuit.
In the meantime, the snow has continued to fall.
"Therefore, the decision has been taken to cancel the presentation ceremony for the new car, which was to have taken place at 10.30 tomorrow," said Ferrari on Thursday.
"The decision was taken because of the weather conditions and because of the difficulties that would have faced the 300 or so people due to attend from the team partners, the authorities and representatives of the media in their attempts to get to Maranello," the team added in a statement.
Ferrari will instead reveal photos, technical information and interviews on its website.
Mateschitz donates EUR 70m to research university
F1 team owner Dietrich Mateschitz has donated a staggering EUR 70 million to a medical research university in his native Austria.
The local 'Salzburg 24' reports that the 67-year-old billionaire, whose energy drink company owns the Red Bull and Toro Rosso teams, donated the money to the Paracelsus Medical University.
Mateschitz reportedly wants the money to be used for research into incurable spinal injury and paralysis.
The report said the university was founded in 2002 with Mateschitz's support.
"This is the third highest amount ever donated to a university in Europe by a private person," said a university official.
"We are very grateful and also aware of the great responsibility that comes with such a high sum."
The Spanish press quoted the publicity-shy Mateschitz as saying: "It is a very worthy project and I want to help."