- Alonso toughest possible rival for Vettel - Hill
- 'First loser' means $10m extra for McLaren
- Lotus waiting to pay staff, Raikkonen - report
- Barrichello admits little chance of F1 return
- Vettel lacks 'charisma' - Ecclestone
- Whiting clears Red Bull over 'rubber' nose
- Schumacher had 'no choice' but to retire - Stuck
Alonso toughest possible rival for Vettel - Hill
Fernando Alonso still has a significant chance of winning the 2012 world championship this weekend.
That is the view of 1996 title winner Damon Hill, who named the Spaniard as probably the toughest challenger Sebastian Vettel could possibly face for the Interlagos showdown.
"If he had any other opponent, I would say that Sebastian would definitely win with his 13 points advantage," the Briton told the German newspaper Die Welt.
"But you can't write off someone like Fernando Alonso. He is such a clever and tough driver and he always seems to pull off something extraordinary.
"Anything is possible in Brazil."
Nonetheless, the mainly Ferrari-loving readers of Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport concede that Alonso has only a 20 percent chance to win in Brazil.
"He has an advantage, no question," Hill agreed.
"If I had to put a percentage on it, I would say the odds at 65 percent in favour of Vettel."
And if German Vettel does add a third consecutive title to his tally on Sunday - a feat not achieved so early in Michael Schumacher's career - Hill thinks the 25-year-old could be on the road to eventually eclipsing Schumacher's record achievements.
"Someday, he certainly could," Hill said. "It's still a long way away of course. But he could certainly venture into that territory.
"If Vettel wins in Brazil, then you can certainly imagine him winning two more championships - at least."
Karl Wendlinger, a former Sauber driver, told Austrian Servus TV this week that on a dry track and in the absence of reliability problems, Vettel should easily finish ahead of Alonso in Brazil.
So that is where the sport's gaze is centred at the moment: on Red Bull and Renault's last-minute efforts to solve the recurring alternator problem, and on a forecast of almost certain rain for both qualifying and the race in Sao Paulo.
"We want to win the race," said Vettel. "Failing that, we want to be second or third."
The podium, or even a fourth place, would guarantee Vettel the title. Still, Italy is not giving up.
"Believe in yourself, Ferrari," La Gazzetta dello Sport hailed. "Believe in Fernando, the track, and the weather."
'First loser' means $10m extra for McLaren
McLaren's battle for the 2012 drivers' and constructors' crowns is over.
But Jenson Button said the Woking based team, whose 'supremo' Ron Dennis once famously declared that second is just "first of the losers", is nonetheless determined to be runner-up.
Red Bull has now secured the constructors' title for this year, but McLaren is just 14 points behind Ferrari for second place, with just this weekend's Brazilian showdown left to run.
Britain's Sun newspaper said the difference between second and third is almost $10 million in Concorde Agreement prize-money.
"The constructors' title does mean a lot to me because it is a lot of money," driver Jenson Button confirmed.
"I think we can do it, but we will need the perfect weekend.
"It is also nice to get one over on Ferrari. We want to finish in front of them.
"We are a competitive team. We cannot beat Red Bull but we can beat Ferrari, which has to be our aim."
Lotus waiting to pay staff, Raikkonen - report
Rumours of 'financial difficulty' at Lotus are continuing.
Early this week, it was claimed Kimi Raikkonen's place at the Enstone based team might actually be in doubt for 2013.
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said there is an issue in terms of promised bonus money in the Finn's 2012 contract, given his unexpectedly large points tally.
"I don't know where this stuff comes from," the 2007 world champion's spokesman Riku Kuvajan was quoted by the Finnish broadcaster MTV3.
"I can't say anything about it."
Now, on Wednesday, the German magazine said other staff at the Enstone based team are waiting for their pay-cheques.
Auto Motor und Sport said the team's management is holding out for the latest installment of commercial income from the sport's owners, headed by chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.
The report said Lotus is waiting for that money to "pay the wages of 493 employees and Kimi Raikkonen".
Barrichello admits little chance of F1 return
Rubens Barrichello has all but ruled out a return to F1 in 2013.
Until now, F1's longest-serving veteran has refused to call time on his GP career, despite switching to Indycar for 2012 after losing his Williams race seat.
The Brazilian, 40, made his first visit to a F1 paddock since retiring last weekend in Austin, sparking rumours he was chasing the cockpit vacancy at Force India.
But he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport: "I don't know whether I'll be driving Indycar next year. Certainly not with my old KV team.
"Everybody wants money. In Formula One my chances (of returning) are practically zero."
Vettel lacks 'charisma' - Ecclestone
Sebastian Vettel lacks "charisma", his friend Bernie Ecclestone has acknowledged.
But the F1 chief executive, who plays backgammon with the 25-year-old reigning world champion, doesn't blame the sport's latest crop of stars.
"He (Vettel) lacks a little charisma," Briton Ecclestone, 82, told Bild newspaper, as Vettel looks set to match the achievement of greats Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher with his third consecutive drivers' crown.
"Guys like Hunt, Rindt, Lauda, Senna were real characters, but they can't be like that anymore because they are protected by the team bosses far too much. Now the FIA gives them a muzzle," said Ecclestone.
"They're not even allowed to show their emotions," he exclaimed.
Whiting clears Red Bull over 'rubber' nose
Charlie Whiting has played down claims Red Bull has pushed the rules further than any rival with its supposedly 'rubber' front nose.
Video footage of a mechanic removing Sebastian Vettel's damaged front nose during a recent pitstop caused alarm in the F1 paddock, as the nose appeared to bend, flex and twist as though it was made of rubber.
Reports suggested the team, famously led technically by the so-called 'genius' Adrian Newey, had pushed the envelope further than ever in the realm of flexible parts.
But subsequent reports claimed Red Bull's nose actually behaved quite normally, given the qualities of the tips of F1 cars' noses for the FIA crash-test requirements.
Indeed, Charlie Whiting, the FIA's technical chief, is quoted by Italy's Autosprint: "What happened with Vettel in Abu Dhabi was an extreme case, because the mechanic grabbed the nose and gave it a twist.
"I am sure that would also happen on any other car," he added.
Schumacher had 'no choice' but to retire - Stuck
Hans-Joachim Stuck, a former F1 driver and now president of Germany's motor racing federation DMSB, thinks Michael Schumacher is being pushed back into retirement.
After a less-than-shining three year comeback with Mercedes, seven time world champion Schumacher will retire again after his 308th and final career grand prix this weekend in Brazil.
The famous German also 'retired' in Brazil six years ago.
"It will probably be less emotional for me this time than in 2006, when we (Ferrari) were still fighting for the championship and everything was much more intense," Schumacher said this week.
Schumacher and Mercedes have gone to great lengths to counter the perception that the 43-year-old is being callously ousted to make room for 2013 arrival Lewis Hamilton.
But when asked about Schumacher's impending retirement, Stuck is quoted by spox.com: "He had no choice.
"Mercedes signed Lewis Hamilton and Michael couldn't find another adequate cockpit."
Stuck said he regrets that F1's most successful driver of all time will no longer be on the grid from next year.
"I would like to have kept watching him try to match up to the younger drivers," said the 61-year-old.
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