F1: Domenicali Fuels Vettel-To-Ferrari Rumours

TMR Team | Jun 22, 2012
  • Domenicali fuels Vettel-to-Ferrari rumours
  • Ecclestone hits back after Gribkowsky bribe admission
  • 'No problem' with Hamilton or Vettel at Ferrari - Alonso
  • Massa 'smiles' as brighter future looms
  • Rivals suggest Cosworth set to quit F1
  • McLaren confident Button slump to end now
  • McLaren helped design British armoured vehicle
  • Mexico 'working on' 2013 GP return - Slim
  • Door open for Perez despite commitment to Sauber - Slim
  • Valencia looks set to race off F1 calendar
  • No 'special trick' as midfield shines in 2012 - report
  • Mercedes strengthens Schumacher's team for Valencia

Domenicali fuels Vettel-to-Ferrari rumours

Team boss Stefano Domenicali has heaped fuel on speculation Sebastian Vettel could be headed to Ferrari.

While Red Bull's back-to-back champion recently denied reports he has signed a 2014 'pre-contract', Domenicali admitted simply that "one should never say never".

The subject was back up for discussion recently when the Italian sat down alongside F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone for an interview with German reporters for the Auto Bild and Sport Bild publications.

Ferrari faithfully republished the transcript this week, featuring an inquisitor telling Domenicali that Vettel should wait until Fernando Alonso's career is over because "two cocks cannot live in the same hen house".

Domenicali answered: "I think they are both intelligent guys and they could easily coexist together."

As an interesting aside, the correspondent for Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo - Livio Oricchio - reminded his readers this week what Alonso thinks of Vettel.

Referring to the German's 2012 season so far in comparison to his meteoric 2011, the Spaniard insisted: "With a normal car, he's not a Martian."

(GMM)

Ecclestone hits back after Gribkowsky bribe admission

Bernie Ecclestone has hit back after German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky this week sensationally admitted he received millions in bribes from the F1 chief executive.

Gribkowsky recalled the diminutive Briton telling him that, "In formula one, the practice is you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours".

German media reports said the former BayernLB risk officer also told the court that Ecclestone said he had the power to re-shuffle contracts so that the bank's stake in the lucrative sport would be diluted.

At the same time, Ecclestone reportedly told Gribkowsky that "If you help me to sell formula one, I will employ you as a consultant".

Ecclestone, whose conduct amid the sport's sale some years ago is also being probed by the Munich prosecutors, responded to Gribkowsky's court admission by telling the Telegraph that the jailed banker is trying "to save himself".

"I suppose he would say that," the 81-year-old explained, "so maybe he gets seven years instead of 14 years.

"The poor guy has been banged up for 18 months. He would have said anything to save himself. He was going to be locked up whatever happens," Ecclestone added.

In a separate Telegraph article by journalist Christian Sylt, Ecclestone said he was considering whether to take legal action against Gribkowsky.

Widespread media reports confirmed that Gribkowsky's admission means he now faces a maximum of nine years in jail, rather than many more.

The judgement is expected next week.

(GMM)

'No problem' with Hamilton or Vettel at Ferrari - Alonso

Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton at Ferrari? It sounds unlikely, but the Spaniard on Thursday said he would have "no problem" pairing up again with his old McLaren sparring partner.

Ferrari number one Alonso also played a straight bat as reporters at Valencia probed him about boss Stefano Domenicali's suggestion that he and back-to-back world champion Sebastian Vettel could happily co-exist at Ferrari.

"After I won the title in '05 with Renault, people were saying I was already going to Ferrari and it took me five years, so maybe Seb will come in five years," he smiled.

The real news of the hour was the 30-year-old's confirmation that he wields a vote in Ferrari's deliberations about the identity of his next teammate.

"In the past, never, but now in Ferrari, yes," Alonso admitted.

On paper, and according to the coy Alonso, Hamilton is an option for Ferrari, but in reality the 27-year-old Briton is simply gearing up for "tough" forthcoming negotiations with McLaren.

Team supremo Ron Dennis revealed in Canada that, despite McLaren's long and close relationship with Hamilton, there are troubled waters ahead if the driver's management squeezes too hard on the money front.

"Ron is very tough negotiator," Hamilton admitted on Thursday. "He was very tough when they negotiated the contract I have now, I expect him to be the same when we go back in.

"But I don't see there being that many problems, to be honest," he added.

(GMM)

Massa 'smiles' as brighter future looms

Ferrari, and even Bernie Ecclestone, have publicly backed Felipe Massa as the calls for his scalp get quieter after the Brazilian's recent boost of form.

Prior to Monaco, where the struggling 31-year-old took a step forward after a start to 2012 that looked set to cost him his career, some paddock voices were even saying Ferrari needing to axe Massa well before 2013.

Now, Massa appears back in the running to secure a new deal, as Sauber aims to keep hold of its major backer Telmex and Sergio Perez, and Mark Webber looks set to stay at Red Bull.

"To me it's obvious," F1 chief executive Ecclestone told German journalists recently in an interview republished this week on Ferrari's website.

"Felipe is very talented and there's not much to add."

And, crucially for Massa, Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali nodded that he agrees "completely" with the sport's supremo.

"After Felipe drove a great race in Monaco, the same journalists who had been criticising him began to ask me why he did not yet have a contract for next year," Domenicali said.

Asked if in Domenicali's shoes he would stay behind Massa, Ecclestone insisted: "Of course!

"He is doing a good job, what's he doing wrong?"

A separate report on Ferrari's website this week confirmed that Massa has been all "smiles" after Monaco and Canada.

And even after the world's media expected the famous team to condemn the Brazilian for his Montreal spin, Ferrari actually said in its official race statement that he "had the pace to match the front runners".

"It's true," the driver confirmed on Wednesday. "I'm much happier, because I can drive the F2012 much more in the way I like now."

(GMM)

Rivals suggest Cosworth set to quit F1

Cosworth could be set to exit formula one.

Currently, with F1's existing V8 formula facing its final season in 2013, there are four engine suppliers on the grid -- Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Cosworth, the British independent.

But the rules are changing radically, as from 2014 cars and drivers must be powered by turbo V6s complemented by sophisticated KERS systems.

Late in 2011, there were rumblings Cosworth - left with just two customers this year in the form of struggling Marussia and HRT - might not be able to commit to expensive V6 research and development.

Indeed, even the viability of Cosworth staying around for the final V8 season has been the subject of recent paddock speculation.

"Cosworth, for sure, are finished," Renault's Jean-Francois Caubet is quoted now by German-language website motorsport-total.com.

And Craig Pollock, whose new PURE foray is developing a V6 for 2014, agreed: "Cosworth cannot be there in 2014.

"They just can't make it in time now, no matter what anybody says," he told the Dutch website gpupdate.net. "It's an absolute impossibility."

Recently, Cosworth lost its best customers - Williams and Caterham - to Renault, as the French supplier pushes harder for the FIA to further relax the rules about how many partners each carmaker can supply.

"I am pushing for an open market because we are in formula one and regulations cannot solve all the problems," Caubet was quoted as saying last year.

(GMM)

McLaren confident Button slump to end now

McLaren sounds confident it has solved the issue that risks derailing Jenson Button's 2012 title bid.

The 2009 world champion admitted he was "confused and very lost" after the recent Canadian grand prix, when he was lapped by the identical car driven to victory by his teammate Lewis Hamilton.

"(Since Canada) There's been a huge amount of work carried out back at the factory, analysing the data to check everything was as we thought it was," team operations director Simon Roberts told reporters on Wednesday.

He said no flaws were found on Button's MP4-27 or even with the basic setup, "But, subtly, there are differences with these cars," he confirmed.

"And I think going into Valencia we are quite optimistic we have identified them. I think we can have a slightly different way of getting Jenson's car under him for both qualifying and the race," added Roberts.

Some analysts claim the 'topsy-turvy' results seen so far in 2012, with seven different winners including Button winning the opening seven grands prix, is due to the Pirelli tyres only working within a tiny operating 'window'.

"We think we've stepped nearer to understanding it all," Roberts continued. "Whether we've cracked it, only time will tell.

"It's been a painful but interesting learning exercise for us."

(GMM)

McLaren helped design British armoured vehicle

McLaren played a role in developing a $1.4 million armoured vehicle for British troops to use in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The Sun newspaper said the British formula one team, as well as BMW and world rally engineers, helped with the design of the new Foxhound truck, which arrived in Afghanistan last week.

The Foxhound has a top speed of 113kph, a V-shaped bottom to deflect bomb blasts, can be driven even with a missing wheel, and can have an engine replaced in just half an hour.

"This government has spent 270 million pounds on 300 of these high-tech, British-built vehicles to help keep our troops properly protected," said British defence secretary Philip Hammond.

(GMM)

Mexico 'working on' 2013 GP return - Slim

Mexico is not quite ready to confirm the country's return to the formula one calendar, key figure Carlos Slim has revealed.

We reported a month ago that the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City, the scene of the last Mexican grand prix in 1992, is being lined up to host formula one again in 2013, replacing Valencia.

The original report in Spanish sports newspaper Marca said the race will be backed by many of Sauber driver Sergio Perez's sponsors, including billionaire Slim.

Telmex's Slim, however, told Marca this week that he cannot confirm the news.

"There are many variables to make a grand prix a reality," he insisted.

"We still need a few more things before we come to a formal proposal and everything takes its time. Hopefully it can be a reality soon."

But Slim agreed that Mexico has proved it deserves a place on the calendar, given the amount of tickets for the forthcoming US grand prix that have been bought by Mexicans.

And amid the economic troubles elsewhere, Slim argued it is a "great time" for Mexico, which has "all the characteristics to (host) large events".

"We are working on a formal proposal," he reiterated. "As far as I know everything is being done in optimal time."

(GMM)

Door open for Perez despite commitment to Sauber - Slim

Carlos Slim is happy at Sauber, but the Telmex chief is not ruling out a change of direction as Sergio Perez pushes to the front in formula one.

"Peter Sauber is a person who knows the business of F1 like no other and is characterised by his development of new talent," Mexican Slim, who is 22-year-old Perez's high profile financial backer, told the sports newspaper Marca.

"The (Telmex) partnership has two sides," he explained. "On the one hand there is our interest with Sergio Perez, whilst on the other hand we have committed ourselves as a company to the (Sauber) project."

But, whilst at Sauber now, Perez is also the cream of Ferrari's driver development programme, and has been linked with Felipe Massa's race seat.

Asked specifically if Telmex would follow Perez to Ferrari, Slim answered: "We want, some day, to see one or more world champion Mexican drivers.

"If we can accompany them on the way ... but the important thing is right now," he insisted.

"He (Perez) has shown that, in the future and with the right tools, he can win races and the championship."

On a sponsor event in Switzerland on Wednesday, Perez was asked about his future and simply told Le Matin newspaper: "My focus for now is on this season."

(GMM)

Valencia looks set to race off F1 calendar

If this weekend's Valencia street race is the Spanish city's last, the cries of disappointment will be barely heard.

Instead, the opposition to the race has been shrill in the build-up to the 2012 running.

A residents group calling itself 'Circuit Urba No' has published a letter to Fernando Alonso complaining bitterly that the race should be scrapped amid Spain's financial crisis.

"The grand prix creates an illusion of fantasy accessible to very few people," the letter to the Ferrari driver pleaded.

All the signs indicate that Valencia will not be on next year's schedule, with Mexico slated to take up the 2013 date if as expected F1's two Spanish hosts move to an annually-alternating scheme.

The first Valencia street race in 2008 was attended by well over 110,000 fans, but organisers this year are struggling to fill the vastly-culled 45,000-capacity.

The latest dark sign for the event is that some firefighters are refusing to accept 'volunteer' status for their duties this weekend.

The city "has turned its back on formula one", the El Pais newspaper headlined, estimating that actual attendance on Sunday could be below 30,000.

'Circuit Urba No' urged Alonso to "take off your helmet" in order to discover "the humiliation, inconvenience and hardship" endured by those around the circuit.

And a spokesman for another opposition group urged Valencia president Alberto Fabra to "stop looking the other way" in order to realise that F1 is "a disaster for all Valencians".

(GMM)

No 'special trick' as midfield shines in 2012 - report

'2012 tyre lottery' is not a term one would hear seriously deployed this season within the garages of traditional midfield teams including Sauber, Lotus and Williams.

Until now, as an unprecedented seven different winners scooped the honours at the opening seven grands prix of the year, top teams including McLaren and Red Bull have referred constantly to the tiny 'window' of operation of Pirelli's 2012 tyres.

But "The window for the tyres has not become smaller," Sauber's technical director Matt Morris is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport as insisting.

"No, it's the cars' (operating window that has changed)," he argued.

His boss Peter Sauber said the top teams "underestimated" the cost of losing the advantage their blown diffuser and flexible front wings had previously given.

Indeed, even Dr Helmut Marko, energy drink Red Bull's motor sport consultant, had to admit all the talk about the tyres has been overstated.

"Sauber seems to understand them (the tyres) -- and almost all of the time," said the plain-speaking Austrian.

Pirelli motor sport director Paul Hembery agrees it is not true that the top teams don't "understand" the tyres.

He said it's just a matter of balance.

"He is probably spot on," said German journalist Michael Schmidt. "Lotus, Sauber and Williams are not shining because of a special trick, but because of well balanced aerodynamics."

(GMM)

Mercedes strengthens Schumacher's team for Valencia

Mercedes has beefed up Michael Schumacher's support team for Valencia, as the team bids to end his shocking run of reliability.

Whilst Nico Rosberg has finished every race so far in 2012 and is right in the hunt for the title, Michael Schumacher's record features no fewer than five DNFs, leaving him with more points only than the six hapless drivers of the bottom-three teams.

Bild newspaper reports that in a bid to finally stop the rot, team boss Ross Brawn has decided to bolster Schumacher's support team with a new additional chief engineer.

His job will be to monitor the work of the regular mechanics, after Brackley based Mercedes "double and triple checked" every component of the seven time world champion's W03 car ahead of Valencia.

"What is happening at the moment with Michael is not the standard that we are striving for," admitted Rosberg.

Brawn added: "Our standards here are extremely high. We haven't changed our approach or any of our procedures; we haven't taken any short cuts or let the system slip in any way, so it's been highly frustrating and peculiar.

"So we're constantly looking at how we can improve the way we work, and we can do better."

Hinting at his Concorde Agreement dispute with Mercedes, meanwhile, Bernie Ecclestone fired a barb at Mercedes when asked about Schumacher's troubles.

"I think that if he was still at Ferrari, he would still be winning today," the F1 chief executive told Germany's Sport Bild.

(GMM)

Filed under: f1, Racing, sebastian vettel, McLaren F1, Jenson Button, michael schumacher, felipe massa, ferrari f1, mercedes f1, bernie ecclestone, red bull f1, stefano domenicali, News, motorsport, cosworth f1, enthusiast

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