- Button warns top teams to 'watch out for Mercedes'
- Vettel's true quality 'yet to be seen' - Alonso
- New Mercedes to debut at second test
- New Mercedes to debut at second test
- FOTA unity was always doomed - Ecclestone
- Raikkonen owns slice of Lotus F1 team
- Hakkinen predicts 'very difficult' return for Raikkonen
- Kovalainen unsure of Trulli's involvement for 2012
- Hopeful quartet awaits news from Lotus camp
- Vettel wants quieter coronation after 2011 title
Button warns top teams to 'watch out for Mercedes'
Jenson Button has tipped his former team to be an outside chance for ultimate glory in 2012.
Just before the Brackley based team became Mercedes for the start of 2010, Button won the world championship at the wheel of his 'Brawn GP' car.
That team is still fronted by Ross Brawn, with Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg now in the drivers' seats for a third consecutive season next year.
"Usually it's the three very strong teams at the front, which is Red Bull, Ferrari and us," said Button, who in his McLaren finished the 2011 season as runner-up to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel.
"But we have to watch out for Mercedes," he told the German news agency SID. "They have been preparing for 2012 for half of this season - as they did before I became world champion."
Schumacher, however, is more cautious, despite admitting that members of the German team "all hope" Button is right.
"More likely is that we will improve in the coming year so that we can fight with our own power for the podium places," the seven time world champion, who turns 43 in January, is quoted by Sport Bild.
McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa agrees, although he hopes Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes can all pose a challenge to Red Bull next year "for the sake of the championship".
But he acknowledged that it is wrong to predict a close fight solely on the basis that Red Bull's ultra-successful exhaust blowing solution will be outlawed.
"I take the more humble view by accepting that the exhaust blowing was just one example of the quality and the creativity of the Red Bull team," he is quoted by Marca sports newspaper.
"Without it in 2012, I have little doubt that Red Bull will surprise us again with something ingenious."
Vettel's true quality 'yet to be seen' - Alonso
The jury is out as to whether F1's reigning back-to-back world champion is as good as Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.
That is the suggestion of Ferrari driver Alonso, who said the final test for dominant Red Bull driver Vettel, 24, is to prove he can regularly haul a less-than-perfect car to the top of the podium.
The Spaniard was asked by the Diario Sport newspaper if he agrees with Pedro de la Rosa's recent assessment that only Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel are able to win races in something other than the best car in the field.
"We have seen two do it, for the third it is yet to be seen," said Alonso.
"We will see when he has a car good enough to be sixth and he gets it to be second, third or fourth. Until now we have only seen him in a car that can win the championship with five grands prix to go.
"So we have to wait," added the Ferrari driver.
As for Ferrari, Alonso said the Italian team has been learning over the past year how to develop a car as rapidly as his 2007 employer, McLaren.
"McLaren is a good example," he admitted, "of a team that can start a year with any problem and resolve it in a couple of races.
"Pat Fry has brought new ideas, new methods and I have not the slightest doubt that Ferrari is much better today than it was a year ago," added Alonso.
New Mercedes to debut at second test
Mercedes on Monday announced that its 2012 car, the W03, will not make its track debut until the second pre-season test in late February, at the Barcelona track.
F1's pre-season test period kicks off two weeks earlier, at Jerez, where Mercedes will presumably be running with its 2011 single seater.
"We believe that the decision to run the car at the second winter test is the optimum compromise for our design and development programme," said team boss Ross Brawn.
The news came as Mercedes announced that it is adding the acronym 'AMG' - its high-performance arm - to its official name in 2012.
"We are very proud to reveal our new team name (Mercedes AMG Petronas) today," said Brawn.
FOTA unity was always doomed - Ecclestone
FOTA is failing due to the competitiveness of the F1 teams, according to Bernie Ecclestone.
The teams' alliance is reeling from the high profile loss of top teams Red Bull and Ferrari, due mainly to the disagreement about the cost-cutting resource restriction agreement.
The death of unity is music to F1 chief executive Ecclestone's ears, ahead of his crucial negotiations over the next income-distribution Concorde Agreement.
"I think (Ferrari and Red Bull) believed (FOTA) didn't quite do what it was intended to do," he is quoted by the Financial Times.
"It is very very difficult for all these people who are competing with each other to agree anything that's going to stop their ability to win."
The 81-year-old said the FOTA split has almost certainly ended the teams' cost-cutting agreement.
"I think it was probably dead before it started," said Ecclestone.
"It's pretty difficult (for a team) to ever be able to say 'this is what we've done'. You get all that nonsense, 'oh, they're cheating, because they've spent more than they should have'."
Ecclestone denied he has already made separate post-2012 Concorde deals with Red Bull or Ferrari, and would not rule out negotiating collectively with all the teams.
But Autosprint believes the FOTA split will definitely "benefit the more important teams".
And the story will continue to run, with Auto Motor und Sport predicting that FOTA could take Red Bull to court for quitting the resource restriction agreement after team boss Christian Horner signed the new deal in Singapore.
The German report said Red Bull is claiming Horner was not authorised to sign it.
Raikkonen owns slice of Lotus F1 team
Kimi Raikkonen is also a minor shareholder of the newly-renamed Lotus team, according to reports.
Spain's El Mundo Deportivo, and Italy's Italiaracing, claim the 2007 world champion traded income and performance bonuses for an actual slice of the Genii-controlled team that is based at Enstone, UK.
He "could be the first 'driver-owner' in F1 in more than twenty years," the Spanish newspaper claimed.
El Mundo said Finn Raikkonen, 32, proposed the idea to Williams but it did not take place "perhaps because (the British team) is listed on the stock exchange".
Together with his management team headed by David and Steve Robertson, Raikkonen had his own 'Double R' F3 team.
And he competed in world rallying this year with his own outfit by the name of Ice1 Racing, which is also involved in motocross.
Hakkinen predicts 'very difficult' return for Raikkonen
Formerly his strongest supporter, Mika Hakkinen is now questioning how quickly his compatriot Kimi Raikkonen can get back up to speed in F1.
When he retired a decade ago, Hakkinen recommended rookie Raikkonen to then McLaren team boss Ron Dennis by saying: "If you want to win, get the Finn."
Now, a 32-year-old Raikkonen is reportedly busy losing the four kilograms he put on during his forays in world rallying and NASCAR.
Hakkinen tells Bild am Sonntag: "The return will be very difficult for Kimi. He will have almost no time to test the new car - five or six days, that's it.
"If you lose a day with a problem you don't get it back, while in the past we used to sit in the cockpit from morning to night, because you get faster and faster the more time you have to get into the rhythm," he said.
That is why, to help Raikkonen readjust after his two-year sabbatical, Lotus already has plans to circumvent the current testing restrictions by preparing the 32-year-old a 2009-spec Renault equipped with GP2 tyres.
According to Hakkinen, Raikkonen will still find it difficult.
"It doesn't matter whether you are a world champion or not. In formula one the competition has never been tougher.
"The fitness of the drivers, their technical understanding, it just gets better and better. These drivers, they work brutally hard!
"It will all make Kimi's return much more difficult even than five years ago."
Giancarlo Fisichella, whose last few Grands Prix were alongside Raikkonen at Ferrari in 2009, agrees: "Formula One is unforgiving, especially if you've been away for a couple of years."
More optimistic for Raikkonen is 2009 world champion Jenson Button.
"This is a very good thing for the sport; he's such a competitive driver," the McLaren driver is quoted by France's autohebdo.fr.
"The guys at McLaren have told me that he is very good at setting up a car."
Raikkonen travelled to Lotus' Enstone base on Saturday and met with team owner Gerard Lopez, who sensed the former McLaren and Ferrari driver is highly motivated.
And "the more people that question it (his motivation) the better, because it's only going to motivate him further," said Lopez.
Kovalainen unsure of Trulli's involvement for 2012
Heikki Kovalainen has revealed he has been closely involved in the development of next year's Caterham car.
Despite his continuing contract, the Finn has been linked with a shock switch to Lotus, but he scotched those rumours by revealing the extent of his input into the green and yellow car he will be driving in 2012.
"I want to create the best possible conditions so that I can make something of it," said Kovalainen, referring to his so far multiple year commitment to the Caterham team having previously driven for McLaren and Renault.
"I am very involved in the design of the car for next year," he told the Dutch magazine Formule 1. "I come often to the factory, I know all the department heads, from aerodynamics to electronics.
"They ask for my opinion and listen to what I have to say, and I listen to their ideas. The team knows what kind of car I want in 2012, and together we will try to build exactly that."
Much more uncertain is the future of Caterham's other driver Jarno Trulli.
Referring to the input the Italian veteran has had into the 2012 car, Kovalainen replied: "I don't know, we've never talked about it."
Hopeful quartet awaits news from Lotus camp
Bruno Senna is in the running among at least another trio of rivals to become Kimi Raikkonen's race teammate at Lotus in 2012.
One of them is Adrian Sutil, who thinks that after his best ever season with Force India, it is "absurd" that he has not already been offered a new contract.
"Yes, I totally agree," he told F1's official website, adding that he would happily switch to Renault and have 2007 world champion Raikkonen as his new teammate.
"Kimi would be a great and very strong teammate," he said.
Previously thought the strongest contender for a Lotus seat next year, the Genii-managed GP2 champion Romain Grosjean will test BMW's new DTM car in Spain this week.
"I dream of returning to racing in F1," the Frenchman is quoted by Finland's Turun Sanomat, "and especially with Kimi it could be something really special in terms of my career."
Another contender is Vitaly Petrov, who actually has a valid contract for 2012. But the Russian and his manager Oksana Kosachenko have admitted that paperwork is not everything in the world of F1.
"Of course I was surprised and of course I'm disappointed," he is quoted by Germany's Sport1, referring to the fact that the Raikkonen signing triggered speculation about his own future.
Petrov told the Race of Champions website he is hoping for news in "a few days".
"Next year I would do another step and, together with Kimi in one team, it would be good fun," he said.
"He is experienced and I want very much to be part of this team."
According to the words of team owner Gerard Lopez, however, a change of approach for 2012 sounds the most likely route for Lotus.
"We've given some drivers the chance to shine. I think they have done ok, but have not all lived up to expectations, but it's difficult because it's formula one," he said.
Vettel wants quieter coronation after 2011 title
Sebastian Vettel has revealed he wants to enjoy a quieter 'coronation' one year after becoming world champion for the first time in 2010.
On the sidelines of the Race of Champions event in Dusseldorf, a reporter for the German news agency SID heard the Red Bull driver admit he was too busy with media and sponsor commitments after winning his first title a year ago.
"The first days and weeks (after winning a title) are very busy," said the 24-year-old.
"But we have learned from last year, when it was all very stressful, and try to do it better this time," added Vettel.
The German said although there is still "a lot to do" in his immediate future, the period around Christmas will be "quiet".
And there are no plans even for a holiday.
"I actually have no desire to get on a plane," he said, a week after the final event on the 19-race 2011 calendar.
"I have been flying all year long so I'll probably recharge my batteries by staying at home," revealed Vettel, who lives in Switzerland.
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