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F1: Ecclestone Offers To End Melbourne Contract, Raikkonen Sees Wins Photo:
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Mike Stevens | Mar, 06 2012 | 1 Comment
  • Ecclestone Offers To End Melbourne Contract
  • 'In two weeks we'll know' says fast Raikkonen
  • Mercedes eyes Hamilton as Schumacher successor - report
  • Kubica still months from F1 recovery

Ecclestone Offers To End Melbourne Contract

Bernie Ecclestone has expressed frustration with the attitude of Australia's formula one race organisers.

The F1 chief executive is pushing for the Melbourne race, with a contract through 2015, to be held at night for a more favourable live timeslot back in Europe.

He may even be offering a fee subsidy, but formula one remains controversial within the Victorian state parliament, with taxpayers footing $50 million bills annually.

Ecclestone has reacted by offering to sit down and negotiate an early end to the Albert Park deal.

"If the government wanted to, we could certainly come to some terms, I suppose," he told Australia's Sunday Herald Sun from London.

81-year-old Ecclestone reportedly wants the government, led by premier Ted Baillieu, to come clean about his plans for the future.

"It would just be nice for somebody to say to me 'Bernie, definitely, 100 per cent, we don't want to renew our contract'," he said.

So Ecclestone reportedly warned that Baillieu should begin talks now if he wants to keep the sport in Melbourne.

The premier's spokesman reportedly said the government will not 'take an open chequebook' to the negotiations.



'In two weeks we'll know' says fast Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen ended the 2012 pre-season with this year's fastest Barcelona laptime, but the Finn is not yet predicting a win in Melbourne at the end of next weekend.

"No one will know how fast any of the cars are until we get to qualifying at Albert Park," said the returning 2007 world champion.

Lotus - fast at Jerez and also at the Circuit de Catalunya - is expected to trail pacesetters Red Bull and McLaren this season.

Yet in reality, the situation is deliberately clouded: Red Bull had a bad final day of testing on Sunday, but when he was running, rivals expected Sebastian Vettel's RB8 was brimmed with fuel.

And when he came into the pits, there was the odd sight of team mechanics using large umbrellas to hide the car's newly-added secrets, including the sidepod exhaust.

"I think that's a question for Charlie Whiting," said Ferrari's technical director Pat Fry when asked about the legality of the solution.

Even so, Red Bull's position of dominance seems to have been somewhat eroded for 2012, with Mercedes chief Ross Brawn suggesting the RB8 is closely matched by its rivals unless the team has been "running a huge amount of fuel".

Sebastian Vettel told DPA news agency: "McLaren are strong. Mercedes are definitely stronger than last year and Lotus and perhaps some other teams should not be forgotten -- Sauber, Force India.

"Ferrari seem to be having some difficulties," added the reigning world champion.

World champion Vettel's final comment appears undoubtedly true, with the famous Italian team's drivers oddly banned from speaking with the media while technical boss Fry confessed that all is not well.

"I'm always pessimistic," said the Briton, who said a podium for Ferrari in Melbourne is not likely. "I'm disappointed with our performance at the moment."

Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, ignored his media muzzle and told Spanish television at a football game: "In the first races we will suffer -- we are not yet at 100 per cent.

"We're not in as good shape as (Barcelona players) Messi and Iniesta," he is quoted by Barca TV.

But for now, it's all talk, and so the reticent Raikkonen summed it up well: "Like I said, I don't know, probably no one does," he is quoted by Germany's Sport1.

"In two weeks, we'll know."



Mercedes eyes Hamilton as Schumacher successor - report

Lewis Hamilton has been earmarked by Mercedes as a potential replacement for Michael Schumacher beyond the end of this season.

That is the claim of the German Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag, following the Stuttgart marque's recent denial that Schumacher has already been offered a new two-year contract for 2013 and 2014.

The newspaper said Briton Hamilton, the 2008 world champion whose McLaren deal ends this year, is the 'plan B' should seven time world champion return to retirement before his 44th birthday.

Bild am Sonntag said Mercedes already knows Hamilton after powering his F3 title in 2005.

"If we had a plan B already," motor sport vice-president Norbert Haug is quoted as saying, "we would not be well advised to talk about it in public.

"Before we talk to Michael, this is not a topic," he insisted.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said recently he doubts Hamilton will see out his career with McLaren.

"If he doesn't perform this year he'll be looking to move on. And the team, maybe, will also be looking to him to move on," the 81-year-old Briton said.

According to Bild, however, more than 50 per cent of German fans surveyed want Marussia's Timo Glock to replace Schumacher.

Hamilton secured 3.9 per cent of the vote.

"This is all just speculation," a Mercedes spokesman is quoted by Germany's Sport1. "There are no negotiations with any drivers and we will only speak with Michael at the appropriate time.

"For now our entire focus is on the start of the season."



Kubica still months from F1 recovery

A friend of injured driver Robert Kubica admitted the Pole is still months from knowing when he can return to the wheel of a F1 car.

The former BMW and Renault driver suffered horror injuries in a rally crash more than a year ago, but there are reports he might be well enough to return some time in 2012.

A close friend of the now 27-year-old said in the Barcelona paddock: "Robert is close to leading a normal life.

"He drives his road car and goes out by himself," the friend, who wished to remain anonymous, told the BBC.

"He is still building up the strength in his right arm. It will be June or July before it can be determined if he is fit enough to test a F1 car."



Man tipped to succeed Ecclestone leaves F1

Senior F1 official David Campbell has left the sport.

Late in 2010, Bernie Ecclestone appointed Campbell - whose most famous achievement was the transformation of London's O2 Arena - to succeed the retiring Paddy McNally.

McNally headed the lucrative trackside advertising company Allsport and the Paddock Club.

Campbell was therefore tipped as a likely successor for 81-year-old Ecclestone.

But a report in the Independent quoted CVC as confirming Campbell "has left".

"It didn't really work out," said the source. "Bernie wanted to take the business in a different way, and that wasn't the basis on which we hired David."


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