- Alonso 'a step ahead' of all rivals - Fisichella
- Alonso F1's strongest driver now - Schumacher
- Force India duo racing without pay in 2012?
- Williams upbeat despite 'underwater' shares
- All eyes on Lotus for high speed double header
- Ferrari fastest pit crew in 2012 - analysis
- Caterham must improve aerodynamics 'a lot' - Kovalainen
Alonso 'a step ahead' of all rivals - Fisichella
Giancarlo Fisichella has joined a growing list of F1 competitors and commentators declaring championship leader Fernando Alonso the class of the 2012 field.
Once race teammates at Renault, the pair still work together at Ferrari, where Italian and three-time GP winner Fisichella, 39, is a test driver.
Fisichella is quoted by Spain's El Confidencial as saying it is "incredible how he (Alonso) judges the limit of the car, the track and the tyres.
"He knows when to attack and when to look after the tyres. He is always on the limit of what he can and should be.
"At the moment he is quite a step ahead of his rivals. He is always achieving the most of what is possible and I don't think there is anyone who can do a better job than him," he added.
Another of Alonso's strengths, said Fisichella, is the way he has rallied the troops at Maranello around him.
"He is very close to the team," said the Italian. "He is frequently at Maranello, with the mechanics, playing football with them, going out to dinner with them, cycling with them.
"The human aspect is very important in formula one. The mechanics need to see someone who is good, who is fast, but they also need to feel a friendship."
Alonso F1's strongest driver now - Schumacher
Michael Schumacher has named Fernando Alonso the strongest active F1 driver.
Schumacher, whose run of five consecutive titles was broken in 2005 by Spaniard Alonso's Renault breakthrough, said the 2012 championship leader is developing "even beyond himself".
"There are phases like that when everything seems to work out, but he has worked for it," the great German said in an interview with Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
Schumacher, 43, therefore admitted that Alonso is currently also better than F1's reigning back-to-back world champion, the 25-year-old German Sebastian Vettel.
"Sebastian is a great guy and a great driver, but he is dealing with a different situation now in a learning process," said Schumacher.
"To be a good winner, one must also be able to lose, it is a part of your development.
"Only when you have learned to lose can you respect and enjoy winning even more."
Schumacher said that is all part of "life's ups and downs", which perhaps is comparable to his own first and second careers.
Since returning to F1 with Mercedes, he has been on the podium only once.
"So far I have not regretted my comeback for a second. There have been a lot of good moments, even if to the outside it hasn't appeared so," Schumacher insisted.
He said it would be "a pity" if he returned to retirement without winning a record 92nd race, but would not comment on whether he will sign a new deal for 2013.
"We don't need to talk about winning the championship this year," said Schumacher. "And whether the journey goes on next year is not clear yet."
This weekend at Spa, by far his favourite circuit which he refers to as his "living room", Schumacher will mark his 300th Grand Prix.
Force India duo racing without pay in 2012?
Force India's drivers may have gone without pay so far in 2012, according to rumours.
Austria's Sportwoche reports speculation that Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta are the latest victims of team owner Vijay Mallya's struggling Indian airline Kingfisher.
As the 2011 season kicked off, German Hulkenberg said the airline's high profile financial problems have "nothing to do with us".
"This is Formula One, not an airline," he insisted.
Business Book GP 2012 estimates Hulkenberg and his Scottish teammate di Resta's salaries this year at EUR 500,000 and 200,000 respectively.
But Sportwoche cited more than one paddock source in suggesting that the duo have not been paid anything yet.
The magazine said only the payments from title partner Sahara are keeping the Silverstone based team afloat.
Williams upbeat despite 'underwater' shares
Williams remains upbeat about its share market situation, despite the Telegraph newspaper saying the team is financially "underwater".
That is a financial expression, prompted in the famous British team's situation because its shares floated at EUR 25 last year but are currently trading for just EUR 23.
"The market is down as well," Williams' chief executive Alex Burns said.
"We always said it would be a long-term investment. I'm still confident we can deliver good value for shareholders," he added.
That confidence might be inspired by the team's vast improvement this year, compared to the abysmal performance of 2011.
Indeed, with only half the 2012 calendar down, Williams already has more than ten-times the points it scored all last year.
"What's good is we've implemented change and those changes are taking us in the right direction," Burns said.
"We're still a long way from where we need to be, but we've shown major improvement and we expect to maintain that."
There is also tricky financial news elsewhere on the 2012 grid.
The Austrian magazine Sportwoche reports that Enstone based Lotus, despite a strong on-track performance this year, remains EUR 70 million in debt.
All eyes on Lotus for high speed double header
All eyes will be on Lotus' already-competitive black and gold E20 at high speed Spa and Monza.
Technical boss James Allison confirmed recently the Enstone based team intended to debut its so-called 'double DRS' system in Belgium.
Sky television pundit Ted Kravitz said the device, so far only tested in Friday practice sessions, works at any point of a circuit over 150mph.
Historic Spa and Monza, the F1 double-header taking place over the next two weekends, are among the fastest circuits on the calendar.
"They (Lotus) say it's about four or five kilometres per hour (benefit) - that's a huge advantage," said former Toyota driver Allan McNish.
Lotus calls it simply 'the device'.
"We've been focusing on ensuring that we have the capability to run the new device in Spa should we be confident enough to do so," Allison said this week.
Still yet to win a race in 2012 despite being third in the constructors' standings, the device's likely debut has ramped up Lotus' confidence in the days before Spa.
Last year in Belgium, Romain Grosjean wrapped up his GP2 title.
"I remember every moment," he is quoted by RMC. "Going back there will be special to remember these emotions.
"What would be nice is to get my first victory in Formula One there. I will also try to qualify well -- and why not a pole?" he grinned.
Patrick Tambay, who is Grosjean's French countryman and a former GP winner, agreed that Spa and Monza will be two "very interesting races" for Lotus.
They will also be interesting weekends from a 'silly season' point of view, as Grosjean has been a standout surprise of the season and Kimi Raikkonen is linked to Ferrari.
"I can understand why other teams would be interested (in them)," said team boss Eric Boullier, "but to be honest they (the other teams) are probably wasting their time."
Ferrari fastest pit crew in 2012 - analysis
Ferrari, whose Fernando Alonso is leading the world championship, is also the team with the fastest pit crew so far in 2012.
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport has found that the Italian squad's tyre-changing crew is on average a touch under two-tenths faster than reigning champions Red Bull per pitstop.
It is a remarkable turnaround for Maranello based Ferrari, who were reportedly in the pitstop "midfield" in the same mid-season ranking a year ago.
In 2011, Mercedes' was the fastest pit crew, but now the Brackley based squad is just fourth, more than three tenths slower than Ferrari and also behind Force India.
McLaren, whose 2012 crew is now orchestrated by Williams' former technical director Sam Michael, have the outright record for the fastest individual stop of 2012.
But, overall, the British team is behind Toro Rosso in sixth place, on average more than seven tenths slower than the Ferrari crew.
And, indicating that smaller budgets even slow teams down in the pits, Caterham's pitstops are on average 1.75 seconds slower than Red Bull, while Marussia (2.28s) and HRT (3.28) bring up the rear.
Kubica tests world rally Ford in France
There was a mystery addition behind the wheel of a world rally Ford at France's Circuit des Ecuyers.
Ford's technical director Christian Loriaux was quoted by the French-language L'Avenir as saying works drivers Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala tested over four days at the asphalt circuit.
But also in action was a "mystery driver who does not want to give publicity to this collaboration", Loriaux reportedly said.
The mystery driver, according to Ford's Loriaux, is a "guy with some experience on asphalt, and I take off my hat to him: he came at his own expense and worked gracefully".
"And his expertise was very interesting. During our first contact, he told me he was not sure if he could do the job physically, but everything went well," he added.
L'Avenir said the 'mystery driver' is Pole Kubica, the former BMW and Renault driver who is still recovering from serious injuries sustained in a horror rally crash in early 2011.
Caterham must improve aerodynamics 'a lot' - Kovalainen
Heikki Kovalainen has revealed Caterham needs to improve "a lot" in the area of aerodynamics.
Having expected a major step forward in performance terms for the 2010 startup this year, speculation suggests the Finnish driver may be seeking a faster team for the 2013 season.
Finland's Turun Sanomat has published a summary of the 30-year-old's career so far, contrasting his four podiums with Renault and McLaren with his four best 13th-place finishes for Caterham (nee Lotus) since 2010.
Kovalainen has been strongly linked with Sauber for 2012, but the Suomussalmi-born driver also revealed that he has "seen" Caterham's "preliminary plans" for its 2013 car.
"It (the project) is all concentrated around the aerodynamics," he said.
"There is no greater element that influences the whole car. We need to improve the aerodynamics a lot," added Kovalainen.
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