- F1 ready to spin Monaco roulette wheel
- Force India no winner in 2012 roulette
- Pecking order unclear after Thursday at Monaco
- Perez rules out Ferrari switch in 2012
- F1 greats blaming problems on tyres - Berger
- Senna 'must respond' to Maldonado's form - Williams
- Schumacher's future a hot topic in Monaco
- Kovalainen admits disappointment with Caterham progress
- McLaren wants to halve Hamilton's salary - report
- F1 warns shareholders about Ecclestone
- FIA's Todt throws a spanner in F1 plans
- Williams to thank rivals after garage fire
F1 ready to spin Monaco roulette wheel
Fernando Alonso's special golden and casino-themed Monaco helmet features some very telling words - 'Bet on red'.
In the scarcely believable 2012 season so far, the Spaniard has managed to emerge from the first five races with the joint championship lead, despite some sections of the media still describing Ferrari's situation as a "crisis".
"Yes, we have a chance for the title but it's up to us," he said on Wednesday. "We still have to make the car faster.
"It's a strange season," Alonso acknowledged. "No one is significantly stronger than us, but no one is much worse either."
Alonso doesn't expect the roulette-spinning to continue forever, though.
"I cannot imagine we will arrive in November with the same situation; a different winner in each race," he is quoted in Monaco by Italy's Autosprint.
"Sooner or later, someone will make a difference. Who? You cannot know now, but you know that I always keep an eye on Hamilton.
"He can make a difference even without the best car."
Amazingly, Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel have gone from utter recent dominance to almost anonymity in 2012, although the German does co-lead the championship with Alonso.
Even so, the turnaround is dramatic.
"I've made mistakes," Vettel told Bild newspaper, "but I think I have understood what I've done wrong.
"It's just not always easy to understand why the car is not as fast."
He predicts an unpredictable outcome this weekend.
"When it comes to a trend you would have to say a sixth winner in the sixth race from the sixth team," the reigning world champion joked to German television Sky.
Asked where he'd place a ten euro bet for Monaco, he answered: "I'd put it on Timo (Glock) for the top ten."
Force India no winner in 2012 roulette
As the roulette wheel spins in 2012, Nico Hulkenberg has admitted he finds himself without a chip on the board.
McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams have already won so far this season, whilst Lotus and Sauber have shown genuinely winning pace.
The three backmarkers aside, that leaves just Force India and Toro Rosso as perhaps the only teams without genuine chances of victory so far this year.
"According to our measurements, Williams and Sauber were the fastest cars in Barcelona. They must now be counted among the top teams," said Force India driver Hulkenberg.
It's a disappointing situation for the Silverstone based team, a distant eighth in the championship.
"We have definitely improved, especially in traction, but in the fast corners Sauber and Williams are better than us," Hulkenberg acknowledged to Auto Motor und Sport.
The German admitted Force India has a few tenths to find.
"We have no choice but to develop, because we are behind," said Hulkenberg. "It's important to find a good balance between improving the car and understanding it."
Force India's 2012 goal, fifth in the constructors', seems a long way away.
That place is currently occupied by Shanghai winner Mercedes, who are flanked by Malaysia and Spain winners respectively, Ferrari and Williams.
"It is still possible," Hulkenberg insisted, "although difficult, because the others are still going to be getting points."
Pecking order unclear after Thursday at Monaco
Norbert Haug summed it up best on Thursday when asked to weigh up the balance of power so far in Monaco.
"We know that we know nothing," laughed Mercedes' competition director, according to SID news agency.
Some rain on the usually clear and blue Cote d'Azur clouded the picture even further, but there appears plenty of competitive cars.
Ferrari and McLaren topped the two practice sessions respectively, but also fast were Lotus, Williams and Sauber.
Struggling was Red Bull.
"We couldn't try the changes that we wanted to make, because of the weather," the team's Dr Helmut Marko said.
"This is bad for us because we are not where we want to be, and we urgently needed this time."
Perez rules out Ferrari switch in 2012
Sergio Perez has ruled out switching to Ferrari this season to replace Felipe Massa.
It is suggested the famous Italian team is growing increasingly impatient with struggling Brazilian Massa's poor form.
"I think all this hype about a possible switch is massively blown up by the media," Perez told F1's official website.
"Should that situation really come about I would reject it as I would not want to make a switch in the middle of a season."
Nonetheless, 22-year-old Perez is the obvious favourite, as the cream of Ferrari's driver development programme and already powered by the Maranello team's engines at Sauber.
"I think that people should not mix up engines and drivers," he insisted.
The denials, however, are unlikely to dampen the rumours, with Massa under increasing pressure to perform -- and some saying Monaco could be his last chance.
"I hope this weekend is where one can consider that my 2012 championship will begin," the Brazilian said on Wednesday.
"I have had a few difficult times in my career and maybe the start to this season has been the most difficult so far.
"I have had to deal with the technical side of the problem, but also it causes a mental side, as it is not easy to deal with this situation. But if you fix one, then it is easier to fix the other," added Massa in Monaco.
Perez tipped him to bounce back.
"He (Massa) is a strong driver and he has a great team behind him. Once he's bounced back all these stories will die at once," he said.
F1 greats blaming problems on tyres - Berger
The 2012 'tyre lottery' is a buzzword in the F1 paddock at present, but Gerhard Berger on Thursday slammed those who are complaining the loudest.
"It's nonsense that the tyres are deciding everything," said the former GP winner and Toro Rosso co-owner.
Some are moaning that the heavily degrading and unpredictable product supplied this year by Pirelli is devaluing the achievement of winning at the pinnacle of motor racing.
"I think Michael Schumacher and Red Bull are finding an easy excuse for their problems," Austrian Berger told Auto Motor und Sport.
He thinks a better explanation for the balance of power at present is the new exhaust rules, with aerodynamics no longer as important as in the past.
Berger also said the tighter restrictions on flexing front wings has similarly allowed the less financially-powerful teams to have a chance.
"So when there's just a few tenths between first and fifteenth, the tyres come into play," he explained. "I think this is just fine for Formula One."
Berger has no problem that the once-derided 'pay driver' Pastor Maldonado is now counted among F1's exclusive club of race winners.
"He did a fantastic race from start to finish in Barcelona, withstanding pressure all the way through from Alonso.
"I think it's right that an outsider can be rewarded for a great job," he said.
Nonetheless, the head-scratching on the pitwall continues.
"There are many things from the last two races that we cannot explain," said McLaren's Jenson Button.
Peter Sauber added: "Only the top teams are complaining because they don't win everything anymore. The tyres are the same for everyone."
Senna 'must respond' to Maldonado's form - Williams
Sir Frank Williams has urged Bruno Senna to step up.
Even before teammate Pastor Maldonado's breakthrough Barcelona win two weeks ago, speculation had begun to circulate that Senna needed to up his game in order to keep his race seat.
Williams is pushing the credentials of its young reserve driver Valtteri Bottas, a Finn who is managed by team shareholder Toto Wolff and already attracting sponsors.
"Well, of course, as a racing driver I want to get into the car as soon as possible," Bottas told The National newspaper in Monaco, "and next year I hope it is possible.
"It (the speculation) doesn't change anything for me."
Brazilian Senna is the man under pressure, as he already gives up his FW34 to Bottas on most grand prix Fridays.
So in the wake of Maldonado's win from pole in Barcelona, Williams said on Wednesday: "Now Bruno must respond.
"Maldo's win will give him a kick up the backside - which he needs.
Before hearing about his boss's remarks, Senna told reporters on Wednesday that the speculation about his seat was "typical F1 gossip".
"You hear that I am in danger, but people quickly forget that before the last race I was ahead of Pastor in the championship," he is quoted by Brazil's Globo.
"I've had good races but just because I have a bad weekend and Pastor wins, people say 'Oh, he's out'. The only way to stop it is to shut their mouths by getting good results.
"My time will come," he is quoted by Britain's Sun newspaper. "I have taken my time to learn and I can't expect to nail everything every race."
Schumacher's future a hot topic in Monaco
Michael Schumacher's future is a hot topic in the Monte Carlo paddock.
A multiple winner in the Principality, the seven time world champion's comeback career has been far less glitzy, with some - even his boss Nick Fry - predicting he might return to retirement at the end of his 2012 contract.
Key ally, friend and former Ferrari colleague - and Mercedes team boss - Ross Brawn, however, backed Schumacher in the wake of Fry's remarks, insisting it is the Brackley based team that has "let him down".
And not everyone thinks Schumacher's time is up.
"Michael is in top shape physically and mentally, there's no reason for him to stop," former teammate and now British television pundit Johnny Herbert told Sport Bild.
"He's better now than in the first two years of his comeback."
German Schumacher, meanwhile, batted away the speculation about 2013 on Wednesday.
"So far we're not focusing on (that). It's more about what happens right now, so there's no news for you yet," said the 43-year-old in Monaco.
"Let's leave it at that."
Kovalainen admits disappointment with Caterham progress
Heikki Kovalainen has admitted he is disappointed with Caterham's 2012 season so far.
It is rumoured that the Finn may now have raised his profile sufficiently, after disappointing early seasons with top teams Renault and McLaren, to be a candidate to leave backmarker Caterham and move up the grid in 2013.
The Finnish broadcaster MTV3 suggested Kovalainen, who has appointed the management giant IMG to do his negotiations, might even be in the running for Felipe Massa's Ferrari seat.
He admitted to Turun Sanomat newspaper that he had expected a step forward in 2012, after Caterham's early startup struggles as Lotus in 2010 and 2011.
"Definitely, I have been a little disappointed," said the 30-year-old. "The pace has not been what we had hoped for, and the latest updates did not bring the momentum we had expected.
"The biggest disappointment is that we have not reached the group (of teams) that is in front of us in the races. The situation is more or less the same as last season," Kovalainen noted.
But he is also quoted by MTV3: "Yes, I believe that the situation can turn around.
"We have made progress - not necessarily with the car, but as a team."
McLaren wants to halve Hamilton's salary - report
Money could be at the heart of the delay in Lewis Hamilton's re-signing with the McLaren team.
Until now, the British team has indicated it wants the 2008 world champion to stay on board, while 27-year-old Hamilton insists he has no plans to leave and will turn his attention to the 2013 contract soon.
But according to Blick newspaper, McLaren is pushing to cut Hamilton's existing contract retainer "in half" to "about EUR 10 million".
The Swiss report said the driver is unimpressed with the negotiations so far, but at least Hamilton's mood has improved tenfold compared with his calamitous 2011.
It is a full year since Hamilton raged about his "frickin ridiculous" track rivals in the 2011 Monaco GP, when he also half-seriously suggested that the stewards were targeting him "because I'm black".
He is back on top form this season, but still yet to win a race, arguably mainly due to McLaren's numerous team mistakes.
Reports have suggested boss Martin Whitmarsh, who insists Hamilton "deserves" to win this weekend in Monaco, is worried the mistakes might drive the highly rated racer away.
On Wednesday, however, Hamilton denied he is frustrated.
"I'm not, no. This is the way racing goes sometimes," he insisted.
"I could easily get frustrated because I could have a healthy lead in the championship - but that's not the case.
"I don't want to speak too early but something has definitely changed. Whatever I'm doing is working," he told British reporters.
"In life, things just seem a lot better and that's enabling me to get on with my job without having any baggage."
F1 warns shareholders about Ecclestone
Formula one is formally warning potential shareholders that a key to the sport's health is 81-year-old Bernie Ecclestone.
Pre-marketing for F1's high profile Singapore floatation has begun, and a prospectus doing the rounds admitted the sport relies heavily on its diminutive chief executive.
The document, seen by the Financial Times, admitted Ecclestone is a suspect in the Gerhard Gribkowsky corruption scandal, and also the subject of civil proceedings relating to the sport's 2006 sale.
The Briton is also under investigation by Britain's tax authorities, the document reveals.
"While we have a succession plan for Mr Ecclestone ... and contracted revenues which provide us stability in the near term, the loss of Mr Ecclestone could disrupt our operations and have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operation," said the circular.
The document also admitted the threat of key teams breaking away to race in their own series, and the potential for a fundamental shift in how the sport is broadcast.
"We may consider changing our (television) model and exploiting (internet streaming rights) independently in the future," it said.
Yet another potential problem is that Mercedes is yet to sign up to the new Concorde Agreement, with anonymous insiders continuing to insist the possibility the German carmaker will pull out.
Team boss Ross Brawn said the governing FIA also needs to get on board.
"So I think we'll see in the next few months clearly where the FIA stand on all of this," he is quoted by Reuters.
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, however, welcomed the forthcoming flotation, amid news he might receive $25m in F1 shares as the board member representing F1's most historic team.
"We'll talk about it in Monte Carlo," Montezemolo is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport when asked about the floatation.
"It would be an advantage for the teams - more stability and also more transparency."
FIA's Todt throws a spanner in F1 plans
As powerful businessmen slice up the F1 pie, the sport's governing body also wants a piece.
Amid all the talk about the planned multi-billion Singapore floatation, a crucial detail has been missing: the sanctioning body, the Paris based FIA, is yet to sign the new Concorde Agreement.
Sky News reported on Thursday that president Jean Todt has appointed an investment bank to advise on the implications of the current goings-on.
"This is a pretty naked effort by the FIA to get its hands on part of the economic value that F1's management and owners have created," an insider said.
"They are moving on this now because it is the moment of maximum disruption."
Another missing piece of the puzzle is Mercedes' signature, as the carmaker's disagreement with Bernie Ecclestone threatens to blow a hole in the sport's valuation.
"I think we've got a long way to go before we arrive at the final solutions," team boss Ross Brawn told reporters in Monaco.
"I don't think things are closed yet."
Williams to thank rivals after garage fire
Sir Frank Williams has vowed to visit every rival team this weekend in Monaco to thank them personally for their response to the garage fire two weeks ago in Spain.
The Oxfordshire based team's founder and boss revealed not only that every fire extinguisher in the Barcelona paddock was willingly discharged, but that the other team principals had stepped forward with offers to help Williams recover from the loss of nearly everything in the pits.
"The reaction was extraordinary," he told the Telegraph. "Overwhelming.
"My main job when I get to Monaco is to go around all the team principals and thank them, and try to pay them back for whatever they gave us."
Chief engineer Mark Gillan is quoted by Spain's El Pais newspaper as putting a figure on how much of the team's travelling equipment was destroyed in Spain: 90 percent.
"That includes every metal component on Bruno (Senna)'s car through corrosion," he said.
Senna confirmed to El Mundo newspaper: "I think that from the car I raced in Barcelona the only thing that is the same now is the tub."
Williams is still missing some things, but Gillan insisted that the fire will not affect the team's Monaco Grand Prix.
"In fact, you can run an F1 car with one laptop if you have to. You don't want to, but we are fully operational," he insisted.