- Vettel must qualify better for 2012 title - Marko
- Rivals scoff at Alonso's 'not favourite' claim
- Hulkenberg calm amid Ferrari switch rumours
- Whitmarsh denies McLaren 'double DRS' ready for Spa
- Mercedes not commenting on latest Schumacher rumours
- Maldonado not sure of Williams seat for 2013
- Russian gov't no longer backing Petrov - manager
Vettel must qualify better for 2012 title - Marko
Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko is sure reigning back-to-back world champion Sebastian Vettel is still in the hunt for the 2012 title.
No longer with the season's dominant package, the 25-year-old German is 42 points behind championship leader Fernando Alonso, and he even trails his own teammate Mark Webber by a couple of points.
"The title is still entirely feasible for us," Austrian Marko, who is team boss Dietrich Mateschitz's right-hand man on motor racing matters, told Bild newspaper.
"But Vettel needs to do better in qualifying."
Indeed, after scooping 15 of the possible 19 pole positions as he cruised to last year's title, Vettel has started from the front row of the grid only 4 times so far in 2012.
His sole win so far was in Bahrain, while Fernando Alonso (3), Lewis Hamilton (2) and even Webber in the sister Red Bull (2) have all been multiple winners this year.
But the real problem is Spaniard Alonso's metronomic consistency. In fact, the Ferrari driver can match Michael Schumacher's all-time record of 24 consecutive points finishes this weekend in Belgium.
Marko said: "Vettel doesn't need five wins, but he can't have any more failures. Alonso's run is going to end sometime soon, and when it does we have to be there."
Marko also insisted Vettel, despite being two points behind Webber, will not receive preferential treatment as the 2012 title chase heats up.
"With us, both drivers may be world champion. So Webber can go for the title too," he said.
Rivals scoff at Alonso's 'not favourite' claim
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel on Thursday scoffed at Fernando Alonso's claim he is not the runaway favourite for the 2012 title.
With Ferrari's Alonso commanding a 40-point lead over his chasers with now less than half the season to go, the Spaniard insisted at Spa that his car is "clearly the slowest" compared to the Red Bull and McLaren.
"We have a points advantage, but a performance disadvantage, so I don't think we are any favourite," said Alonso.
McLaren's Hamilton smiled as he suggested his former teammate is playing an obvious psychological game.
"He would say that, wouldn't he?" the Briton is quoted by the Express newspaper.
"He's just positioning himself in a nice way. I could say the same thing, that our car is definitely the slowest out of the top four teams."
Reigning back to back world champion Sebastian Vettel also said Alonso is obviously the "favourite".
"He's not leading just because someone wrote a cheque and gave him his points. He deserves to be leading," said Red Bull's German.
"If you look at the races they (Ferrari) have been quick enough to be on the podium, win races sometimes, and that's what matters, to have consistently strong results."
Hulkenberg calm amid Ferrari switch rumours
Nico Hulkenberg has described as "speculation" reports he could be headed to Ferrari to replace Felipe Massa in 2013.
After taking some time to settle back into racing this year following a season on the bench, the former Williams driver has impressed at Force India in recent Grands Prix.
"That (early struggle) has changed and now I am fully comfortable," he said ahead of this weekend's Belgian grand prix.
Reports have even mentioned Hulkenberg, 25, as a possible contender for struggling Massa's cockpit alongside Fernando Alonso.
"That's all speculation and it wasn't me who put it on the table," he is quoted by SID news agency at Spa.
"It's nice when you get good press, but I'm just concentrating on my job," added Hulkenberg.
Whitmarsh denies McLaren 'double DRS' ready for Spa
Martin Whitmarsh on Thursday played down reports McLaren is set to follow Mercedes and Lotus' lead by racing a 'double DRS' system this weekend at Spa.
But the Woking based team's boss did not deny McLaren designers are working on the straightline-speed boosting concept.
"We are not announcing when, where and if we are going to be introducing it," he told reporters during sponsor Vodafone's regular media teleconference.
"I think we will see different wing variants, certainly on our car along with a number of visual items as they go through scrutineering later today and hit the track on Friday.
"We will see new bits, but McLaren will not have a double DRS in Belgium," Whitmarsh said from Belgium.
He also refused to rule out a scenario where Jenson Button, who is 41 points behind teammate Lewis Hamilton's points tally with nine races to go, might eventually fall in line to support the sister McLaren's title charge.
But "It will be quite a few races before we make that decision," Whitmarsh - who insisted McLaren's long-standing policy of driver equality remained in place - said.
"There may well come a point (when team orders are used), but there are still many races left and many points on offer -- things can change quickly."
Mercedes not commenting on latest Schumacher rumours
Team boss Ross Brawn on Thursday would not be drawn on speculation Michael Schumacher and Mercedes have now agreed to stay together at least another year.
German commentator Christian Danner, a former GP driver, earlier brought the seven-time world champion's uncertain future back to the headlines when he revealed he thinks Schumacher, 43, has decided to stay in F1 in 2013.
"I ask for your understanding that we are not going to constantly give statements about our decision-making process," team principal Brawn told DPA news agency.
"As soon as a decision is made, we will inform you about it," he added.
Maldonado not sure of Williams seat for 2013
Pastor Maldonado on Thursday admitted his priority is to stay with the Williams team in 2013.
With financial backing in tow, the Venezuelan made his debut for the Grove team last season and, despite some ups and downs so far in this campaign, he broke through in Barcelona for Williams' first pole and win in years.
But he admitted at Spa Francorchamps that he is not yet signed up for 2013.
"First of all I am concentrating on this season," he told reporters in Belgium.
"We're only at about half the season behind us, but of course I am looking forward to the next one. The team is working hard on the new car.
"We'll see what happens," said Maldonado.
The 27-year-old, with crucial backing from the state owned oil company PDVSA, admitted he is not sure if he will be staying at Williams.
"No, there have not been any contract talks yet. I would say the team is waiting as usual for the end of the season," said Maldonado.
"In Formula One, you should never feel safe, but I think I have done a good job and have taken the team forward, especially after the disappointing 2011.
"The mood in the team is much better now, I get along well with the people, but we have to wait. Anything can happen."
Asked if he is looking around at the alternatives, Maldonado answered: "This is still too early, but my manager will take care of it, even though my first choice is Williams.
"We are making steady progress. I would like to win the world championship here before I say goodbye."
Russian gov't no longer backing Petrov - manager
Vitaly Petrov's manager has admitted the Russian driver's F1 career is hanging in the balance.
Oksana Kosachenko, who has managed the 27-year-old's career at Renault and Caterham since 2010, told Russian news agency Ria Novosti that the government has pulled its financial backing.
The R-Sport website said Petrov has lost the government-linked sponsors Russian Helicopters and Lada.
"We have now lost government support," Kosachenko is quoted as saying.
"There's never been interest from sponsors. I've always said that it's impossible to find sponsors in Russia for a project like formula one.
"When there was support at the top level of government, this project worked commendably.
"I don't rule out a scenario in which we have to end this Russian driver's competition in formula one," she added.