Mike Stevens | Jun 15, 2012
  • Marko Hints Webber Staying At Red Bull, Hamilton A Poor Fit
  • Villeneuve thinks Lotus might 'drop' Raikkonen
  • Ferrari admits keeping close eye on Perez
  • Report reveals McLaren tyre temperature trick
  • New 'customer cars' idea dead - report
  • Caterham targets Toro Rosso and Williams
  • Valencia chief backs Spanish alternation scheme
 

Marko Hints Webber Staying At Red Bull, Hamilton A Poor Fit

Mark Webber appears headed for a new Red Bull contract.

The Australian, who signed only a one-year deal prior to the 2012 season, has been linked with a move to Ferrari.

"That's the way it is with them (Red Bull)," he told Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

"All I can say is that I have started the last few years without a job for the next championship."

When asked specifically if the Ferrari rumours are true, the 35-year-old said: "No.

"Ferrari will need eight cars next year to fit all the drivers who are going to replace Felipe."

Dr Helmut Marko, who is Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz's right-hand man on F1 matters, hinted that Webber is set to be retained.

"He has indicated to us that he has the necessary motivation and wants to keep going," the Austrian told Sport Bild.

"We know where we stand with him, and he knows where he stands with us."

Marko has also played down the likelihood Lewis Hamilton might switch to Red Bull in 2013.

Hamilton's long-term McLaren contract is due to expire, but it was expected that the 27-year-old would stay with the team that nurtured him since childhood.

In Canada last weekend, however, the Woking based outfit's executive chairman Ron Dennis hinted all is not well regarding the contractual talks.

"Where he can go, he's going to look at that, (and) we're going to look at who's available," he said.

As one of F1's very best drivers, Hamilton must only be contemplating a switch to another top team -- like reigning world champions Red Bull.

But the energy drink team's Marko said: "That Hamilton is considering his alternatives is fairly clear.

"But it has to fit with the team structure," he told Germany's Sport Bild. "It doesn't matter if you're the fastest driver or not if it doesn't fit with the team."

Marko is obviously referring to the fact that, with Sebastian Vettel already on board, Red Bull is in no need for someone who is so obviously a 'number 1'-type driver.

The same is true at Ferrari, not to mention Hamilton's 2007 clashes with Fernando Alonso.

So what about Mercedes? Norbert Haug hints that the door is open.

"It is no secret that Lewis is a part of the Mercedes family," the German marque's motor racing vice-president said.

But if money is an issue at McLaren, amid speculation the team is prepared to pay him $150 million over the next five years, then it will most certainly also be an issue at lower-budget Mercedes.

Writing in O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, Brazilian correspondent Livio Oricchio said it is fairly obvious that Hamilton is staying put at McLaren.

"There's much more speculation outside of the team than inside the team," team boss Martin Whitmarsh is quoted by Sky Sports.

"I think it's very clear that we enjoy working with Lewis. I think Lewis enjoys being in this team.

"So we have full expectation of that continuing."

(GMM)

 

Villeneuve thinks Lotus might 'drop' Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen's seat at Lotus might not be secure, according to 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve.

Villeneuve, while attending last weekend's Canadian GP at the Montreal circuit named after his legendary father, described Lotus' black and gold E20 car as "amazing".

The French Canadian suggested that with a top driver at the wheel, the Enstone based team might even be leading the world championship.

But what about Raikkonen? As the 2007 world champion who this season has made a widely-hailed F1 comeback, isn't the laconic Finn a truly 'top driver'?

Not according to Villeneuve.

Indeed, whilst the 32-year-old has been on the podium twice so far in 2012 and is equal fifth in the drivers' standings, Raikkonen has been regularly outqualified by his newcomer teammate Romain Grosjean this season.

"That he is usually behind Grosjean in pure performance makes me think he (Raikkonen) could be dropped," Villeneuve is quoted in the latest edition of France's Auto Hebdo.

Finnish commentator Mika Salo acknowledged Raikkonen's recent struggles, particularly the poor performances in Monaco and Canada.

At the same time, Frenchman Grosjean almost won in Montreal last Sunday.

"But this was just one good event for him," former Sauber and Toyota driver Salo told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3.

Nonetheless, there are rumblings in the F1 paddock that not all is well in the relationship between Raikkonen and Lotus.

A big sticking point is the saga about the E20's steering system.

"Now, it's like with a child," an unnamed team member is quoted by the German-language Speed Week. "We've laid down six lollipops and he can choose one.

"There won't be a seventh version of the steering for him," he insisted.

Salo acknowledged: "Kimi has retained his natural ability to drive a car, but he and the team definitely haven't come to terms about what he needs.

"But as for Jacques Villeneuve, I doubt he has even spoken a single word to Kimi about what the problem really is. He is a complete outsider," Salo insisted.

"We can all have opinions, but the truth is very different to what Villeneuve said.

"I still think Kimi will win a race this season when the weekend is spot on.

"You can see that the relationship between Kimi and the team is really good. Although there are problems, there is still a good atmosphere.

"Some in the media allege that they are breaking up, but the real situation is quite the opposite. The team has full respect for Kimi, and Kimi respects the team," Salo said.

(GMM)

 

Ferrari admits keeping close eye on Perez

Ferrari has made clear it is keeping a close eye on Sergio Perez's progress.

The Mexican seemed at the very front of the queue for struggling Felipe Massa's seat recently, until Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said Perez needs "more experience" before he is a candidate to drive for the famous team.

Montezemolo's comments came before last weekend's Canadian GP, and during a period in which 22-year-old Perez was struggling to find the same sort of form that delivered his maiden pole in Malaysia earlier this season.

"After Monaco, we had a discussion with Sergio," revealed Luca Baldisserri.

Baldisserri is the head of Ferrari's driver development 'academy', of which Sauber driver Perez is the cream of the crop.

"We wanted to find out why recent results had not lived up to expectations after the Malaysian Grand Prix," he admitted.

"Perez is undoubtedly talented, but he often lets himself down by being too aggressive which, especially in formula one, does not deliver results."

Perez returned to the podium in Canada last Sunday.

"The Montreal race was a great response," acknowledged Baldisserri on Thursday, "a race in which Sergio not only ran at a great pace, but also managed his race very well, managing to stay on track for fifty laps on the same set of tyres."

(GMM)

 

Report reveals McLaren tyre temperature trick

McLaren is the inventor of a clever system that is helping Lewis Hamilton at the front of the F1 field at present.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, with the collaboration of renowned F1 technical illustrator Giorgio Piola, said the British team is using a system that controls the flow of heat from the brakes into the difficult-to-manage Pirelli tyres.

So in a season in which a degree or two in temperature can bring a tyre in or out of Pirelli's tiny 'window' of performance, the McLaren trick is "ingenious", German journalist Tobias Gruner explained.

The team's mechanics adjust the rear braking system in the pits with a screwdriver, the screw being located near the driver cockpit opening.

As Piola's drawings show, the infinite adjustment affects the rear braking system and the flow of braking heat to the tyres.

But it has not been all good news for McLaren, whose Jenson Button is suffering arguably the grimmest period in his entire F1 career at present.

It might have something to do with the FIA's recent clampdown on the MP4-27's floor.

Reportedly after the Chinese GP, the governing body ruled that the British team had stepped over the line with its interpretation of the rules regarding flexibility.

Scratches had been found underneath the extremes of the front wings, to which McLaren argued that the floor bending was within the allowed tolerances.

"The tolerance is there to account for manufacturing defects," Charlie Whiting is quoted as saying, after ruling that McLaren's system deliberately exploited those tolerances.

Auto Motor und Sport said: "The seemingly minor change had major implications for McLaren."

Particularly Button. The team's subsequent technical changes, including the higher nose and the modified rear suspension geometry, seemingly worked for Hamilton, but not for the struggling 2009 world champion.

Getting the 2012 car to work for Button again is now a high priority for McLaren.

"The problem is very complex," technical director Paddy Lowe said. "Our car is good, it just has to be set up perfectly."

And at the heart of all the F1 teams' quests for performance at the moment is the mysterious Pirelli tyres.

"I'd say we understand 30 percent," admitted Lowe.

(GMM)

 

New 'customer cars' idea dead - report

A new 'customer car' plan for F1's future is dead in the water, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports.

Bernie Ecclestone revealed recently that he is planning to allow small teams to buy year-old customer cars in the next Concorde Agreement.

But the F1 chief executive acknowledged the dilemma that teams taking up that option would most likely all flock to the best constructors, resulting in a dearth of constructors on the grid.

"The way I'm imagining it, this would not be possible," Ecclestone said recently. "I'll tell you about it soon."

His plan may now never see the light of day.

Auto Motor und Sport reports that the customer car issue is once again dead for now.

The report said Ferrari and Red Bull were also championing the idea, which would have included McLaren, Mercedes, Lotus and Williams also designated as F1's official constructors.

The other half of the grid - Sauber, Force India, Toro Rosso, Marussia, Caterham and HRT - would have had to buy their single seaters 'off the shelf'.

The report said Sauber and Force India protested the loudest.

"Who is going to forbid them from making cars?" German reporter Tobias Gruner said.

"Some teams were even threatening with a move to a EU court," he revealed.

(GMM)

 

Caterham targets Toro Rosso and Williams

Caterham is targeting a major step forward for next month's British GP.

The former Team Lotus outfit has been disappointed so far in 2012 to have failed to step regularly into the Q2-range of midfield teams.

But in Canada last weekend, both Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov outqualified a Toro Rosso, while the bottom-two teams Marussia and HRT have now been clearly left behind.

Finland's Turun Sanomat newspaper said the Tony Fernandes-led team will enjoy the first real fruits of new performance chief John Iley's contribution at the British grand prix at Silverstone early next month.

The renowned aerodynamic specialist's development package is essentially a "completely new" rear end for the car, the newspaper revealed.

Writing in the Sun newspaper, Caterham spokesman Tom Webb said Montreal was proof "we are now almost within striking distance" of Toro Rosso.

"This is obviously very good news for the whole team and gives us the sort of motivation we need to work even harder to join the midfield pack as soon as we can," he said.

The next step, he said, is Caterham's first ever championship point.

"This extraordinary season is throwing up so many surprise results that we know that once we are actually racing the likes of Toro Rosso and Williams that elusive first point might just be within grasp," Webb added.

(GMM)

 

Valencia chief backs Spanish alternation scheme

Valencia race chief Gonzalo Gobert has confirmed moves are afoot to host the European GP street race only once every two years.

It emerged recently that the regional governments of Valencia and Catalonia have finally agreed that, amid Spain's economic crisis, Bernie Ecclestone's race alternating scheme is the best way forward.

So when asked how the city of Valencia can imagine sustaining both F1 and MotoGP amid the economic crisis, Gobert told Marca newspaper: "The key is the alternation.

"The solution is alternation," he repeated.

"At present, having two F1 races in Spain in May and June makes no sense.

"The alternation will work perfectly because it means the country does not stop (hosting F1). It (F1) is a great promotional tool but, like everything, you have to rationalise it."

Gobert admitted that the financial figures for Valencia's recent grands prix are "not good".

"On the other hand I think a Formula One Grand Prix is not to make money. If someone manages that, give him the Nobel Prize for economics.

"It is an event of 500 million viewers and 187 countries that fills up restaurants and hotels. If you make money as well, you would have invented the wheel.

"Instead, you have to have a balance and so we are reducing the budget where we can," he said.

The next step, he acknowledged, is to finalise the alternating scheme with F1 chief executive Ecclestone.

Asked if he is seeking a reduced sanctioning fee, Gobert answered: "I understand that the negotiations will take into consideration everything to fit the current situation.

"But this is at the governmental level, even if I know that they are negotiating."

(GMM)

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