- Vettel to push for rare title hat-trick
- Red Bull not yet a great team - de la Rosa
- Briatore blasts F1 'show'
- Raikkonen broke wrist in Christmas crash
- Montezemolo denies heads to roll in Ferrari crisis
- Too soon for Mercedes title challenge - Haug
- Sauber flattered as Red Bull copies 2012 exhaust
- Mercedes 'even faster than Red Bull' - reports
Vettel to push for rare title hat-trick
If Sebastian Vettel hangs on to the drivers' world championship trophy at the end of 2012, he will be only the third driver in the sport's history with a title hat-trick.
Eight drivers have won three or more championships in total, but only Michael Schumacher (2000-2004) and Juan Manuel Fangio (1954-1957) won more than two on the trot.
Names including Prost, Lauda, Senna and Alonso all failed.
"My guess is that he (Vettel) really can do it again," Bernie Ecclestone told F1's official website. "What points against it? I think anything else would be the surprise."
So what does the 24-year-old German think about the chances of a treble?
"That only two or three had done it before, I was not aware," he is quoted by SID news agency.
"All good things come in threes. Of course it would be great, but there's a long way to go and we stay patient and keep the feet on the floor."
The 2012 field, however, appears closer than in 2011, and the Red Bull perhaps not as dominant.
"To say that everything is perfect would be a lie, because we have some problems to solve," admitted Vettel ahead of the 2012 season opener in Australia.
"It will only be possible to make a true assessment of our performance and the performance of the others this weekend."
Red Bull not yet a great team - de la Rosa
Red Bull is not yet one of F1's 'big two' teams, according to Pedro de la Rosa.
The HRT driver admits his own Spanish employer is the "worst" in the field at present, but at the other end of the grid, he insists the "best" - Red Bull - is not yet one of the greatest.
"Formula One is in that respect very similar to the Spanish football league," he is quoted by Marca sports daily.
"There are two big clubs, Madrid and Barcelona, and (in F1) I would say they are Ferrari and McLaren.
"Red Bull, not yet. They are one of those teams that can win the cup, but I would dare to predict that in 20 years the big two will still be the big two," added de la Rosa.
Until now, de la Rosa was McLaren's highly-respected reserve driver, with a new long-term contract.
"I thought (boss) Martin (Whitmarsh) was going to shout at me, so I found it difficult to tell him and he cut me short, saying 'Pedro, what do you mean?'
"I told him I wanted to go to HRT, that I wanted to race again - there was a long silence and he said 'You must be mad, but I love that my reserve driver is that way - it means we had the right guy'."
De la Rosa, 41, will drive the 2012 car for the first time on Friday, in Melbourne. His teammate Narain Karthikeyan managed a few laps during a filming shakedown.
"When he got out, I asked him what it was like and he looked at me with his eyes sparkling and said 'It is better than last year'," beamed de la Rosa.
Briatore blasts F1 'show'
Flavio Briatore has hit out at F1 by suggesting "any top driver" would have won last year's title with the 2011 Red Bull.
"It's only a real show now when it rains," the former Renault team boss told Italy's Sky Sport 24.
Briatore, 61, blames the huge role played by technology.
"If you were to take GP2 cars and put the 6 world champions in them, it would be more fun," he insisted.
"The car is now made in the wind tunnel, the engineers aren't even at the circuits and they spend 200 million euros making identical machines.
"Last year, the championship was over after the first race, and this will be the same; McLaren are two tenths from Red Bull, Mercedes three, and Ferrari and Lotus 4 to 7.
"Two tenths is like 2-0 behind in a football game. In F1, the Messi is Alonso, but if his car is not competitive, he is going nowhere."
Raikkonen broke wrist in Christmas crash
Kimi Raikkonen has revealed he actually broke his wrist just before Christmas.
The media made much of the returning Lotus driver's apparently hurt arm, but he insisted at the time it was "the smallest and slowest crash I've ever had".
But during his appearance on the popular British motoring programme Top Gear last week, 32-year-old Raikkonen confessed to having been more seriously injured.
He showed anchor Jeremy Clarkson a big scar on his left wrist, admitting: "I hurt it a little bit, but I had a good doctor to fix it."
"That's a big scar!" Clarkson exclaimed. "Did you break it (your arm)?" he enquired.
Raikkonen smiled: "A little bit."
Montezemolo denies heads to roll in Ferrari crisis
Luca di Montezemolo insists heads will not roll, as Ferrari looks set to race into the 2012 season without the chance of a podium.
The famous team wrote off last year's championship early to focus on 2012 with an aggressive project, with new British technical chief Pat Fry in the spotlight.
But also feeling the pressure is team boss Stefano Domenicali, who said at the weekend that he has "the support of president Montezemolo".
"I am not the one who designs the car: my task is to give my people everything they need in terms of organisation and structure," said the Italian.
But Montezemolo denied that Ferrari will react in arguably typical fashion by making sweeping changes.
"I've always given my staff time and trust," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "We have not even begun and already you're putting the people in doubt?
"Let's not have that talk," insisted the Ferrari president.
He admitted the F2012 has untapped potential.
"There are too few tests and unfortunately they are in public. But I would still wait before drawing conclusions about the title fight.
"According to the drivers, the F2012 has some negative elements, but also some positive. The problems have been identified and I hope they can be fixed quickly," he added.
Too soon for Mercedes title challenge - Haug
Norbert Haug on Monday played down reports Mercedes could be set to be a shock title contender in 2012.
Some new analysis in the sport's specialist media claims the W03, to be raced by Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg this season, was actually quicker than all comers in the crucial 'long runs' during recent pre-season testing.
But Haug, Mercedes-Benz's motor sport vice-president, insisted it is unlikely the former Brawn, Honda and BAR team can leap from fourth in the constructors' world championship to first in just a single bound.
"You don't go from the the creation and restructuring of a team to (winning) the world championship in two years," he is quoted by SID news agency.
"The reigning world champions (Red Bull) didn't, and we didn't either (as engine supplier) with McLaren.
"You just have to accept this building-up period," added the German.
Sauber flattered as Red Bull copies 2012 exhaust
Peter Sauber has admitted his Swiss team is flattered after Red Bull apparently copied the C31's exhaust layout ahead of the 2012 season.
Red Bull ran at the initial Jerez and Barcelona tests - and then the two opening days of the final Barcelona test - with its own solution in the wake of the FIA's blown exhaust clampdown.
"We had a nice surprise on the penultimate day (of winter testing)," Sauber team boss Peter Sauber wrote in his column for Sonntagsblick newspaper.
"Red Bull announced their plans to use a heavily modified car, as it will race in Melbourne.
"Compared to their first version it had a completely different rear, which differs significantly from most cars - but not ours.
"The Red Bull and our C31 have a very similar concept, concerning the management of the airflow at the rear.
"For our engineers, it was an extra confirmation that they have chosen the right development direction. They are convinced that this concept has the potential for further development," added Sauber.
Mercedes 'even faster than Red Bull' - reports
Mercedes could be set to surprise the entire F1 world by setting the pace in 2012.
That is the claim of the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport, having found that the W03 had the strongest 'long run' pace during recent pre-season tests.
The major daily Bild agrees, crowning the Ross Brawn-led team the "Bluff champion!" of the winter.
"The analysis of recent testing in Barcelona shows that Mercedes are even faster than Red Bull," the report exclaimed.
Brawn is quoted by Brazil's Globo: "You always believe it. You want a winning car, and I have not seen anything that tells me that we don't have (now)."
Perhaps even more sensationally, Sauber ranked second in the Auto Motor und Sport analysis of long runs, although last year the Swiss team looked similarly fast in testing.
Red Bull, McLaren and Lotus come next, followed by the struggling Ferrari.
Peter Sauber wrote in Blick newspaper: "It has never been as difficult as it is this year to get a picture of where everybody stands.
"Why? Because the field has never been so close together."