Ferrari must give Alonso good enough car - Berger
After a low-profile winter for Fernando Alonso, some experts think 2013 is Ferrari's very last chance to give the Spaniard a truly top car.
"I believe his motivation will run out if he does not get the right material very soon," former driver Gerhard Berger is quoted by the Tiroler Tageszeitung newspaper.
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo was told by Italy's influential La Gazzetta dello Sport that Alonso, the 2012 runner-up, appeared almost "in hiding" throughout the pre-season period.
"I don't see it that way," Montezemolo insisted.
"But I understood his fears in the first test, when he didn't want to talk because he had to understand the possibilities of the F138.
"I hear from him almost every day. He is calm and confident," he added.
Alonso's manager, the former Renault boss Flavio Briatore, also acknowledged the double world champion's low-profile winter.
"He first wants to race, to really see where the (2013) Ferrari is. That's why from the outside he may appear tense, apprehensive," the Italian said.
"He is pleased with the outcome of the tests but as always you don't know where the others are exactly.
"Fernando is hoping that the gap to Red Bull has reduced. If he can start on par with the others, he will surely win the world championship."
Win or not, Montezemolo is sure Alonso "will respect" his contract, which is set to run to the end of 2015.
New bosses not reason for Mercedes boost - experts
Mercedes' new bosses are not responsible for the German marque's apparently sudden speed boost.
That is the claim of former team driver Michael Schumacher, referring to the removal of Norbert Haug and the installation of new co-owners and chiefs Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff.
The Brackley based team had a very strong end to the recent pre-season period, but Schumacher said: "I see it more to do with the background.
"(To do) with the engineers, the infrastructure of the team itself. And I think these steps were taken some time ago," added the great German.
Although team boss Ross Brawn's future now appears very clouded, Schumacher is undoubtedly referring to the Briton's decisions to bring in the likes of technical boffins Bob Bell, Aldo Costa and Geoff Willis.
Former F1 driver Gerhard Berger agrees.
"I do not think those two (Lauda and Wolff) have been able to have any influence on the performance of the car," he told APA news agency.
"Why? Because this (2013) car predates their time. But we must not underestimate the impact of fresh wind."
Another pundit, the 1996 world champion Damon Hill, thinks Mercedes' boosted form is due to the team spending more time than usual last year designing the 2013 car.
"I think Ross Brawn had decided 'Listen, this year is a write-off'," he told the Sun.
"By the looks of things they'd been focussing on 2013 (last year) and pretty much shelved 2012. They'd looked worse than they are," added Hill.
Experts doubt Vettel to make Ferrari switch
A trio of experts do not believe Sebastian Vettel will switch to Ferrari any time soon.
One of them is the reigning world champion's own boss, Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz.
"Right now it's not a problem," the Austrian billionaire told Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper.
For now, Mateschitz has Vettel under contract, but he acknowledged that the lure of Ferrari might one day become too strong.
"If he doesn't want to be with us anymore, it would be absurd to try to keep him because of a contract," he admitted.
"I have to say that, if I was a driver, my wish would be to drive for Ferrari."
Former F1 driver Gerhard Berger agrees that Vettel should be in no current mind to switch from Red Bull.
"One of Vettel's qualities is his brain," the former McLaren and Ferrari driver told APA news agency.
"As long as Red Bull gives him the conditions he has now, it would be crazy if he thinks about something else.
"It is a hundred times better to be world champion five times with Red Bull than never with Ferrari."
F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, who is famously close to backgammon partner Vettel, couldn't agree more.
"Seb could stay at Red Bull his whole career," he told Bild newspaper. "He's happy there, they build him a top car every time.
"I would be shocked if he left," added Ecclestone.
Ecclestone told Mercedes to sign Hamilton
Bernie Ecclestone has admitted he advised Mercedes to lure Lewis Hamilton from McLaren.
Many were surprised when Hamilton decided to leave established top team McLaren for 2013 and beyond, but it now emerges that Paddy Lowe is set to follow suit.
"I told Mercedes, 'If you get Lewis, you'll get all the right kind of people for the future'," Ecclestone said in an interview with Bild newspaper.
"They'll now get people who believe they are working on a winning team," he added.
The downside, for McLaren, is having lost two of the most highly-rated figures - 2008 world champion Hamilton and technical boss Lowe - in the paddock.
"McLaren is not as strong now," agreed Gerhard Berger, in a pre-season interview with Tiroler Tageszeitung newspaper.
"Sergio Perez is not going to put Jenson Button under the same kind of pressure (as Hamilton did)," said the former McLaren driver.
And former Renault boss Flavio Briatore told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "McLaren without Hamilton is a lot weaker."
Ecclestone 'understands' Danica Patrick's F1 reluctance
Bernie Ecclestone has admitted he understands why Danica Patrick is not interested in switching to formula one.
The F1 chief executive said he has been searching for a female driver for his sport "for years".
But American Patrick, who has moved from open wheel Indycars to Nascar, has said she has little interest.
"She has everything a driver needs for F1," Ecclestone told Bild newspaper.
"How old is she?" he asked the reporter.
"At 30," Ecclestone continued once learning the answer, "I can understand why she doesn't want to get into formula one. In the US she is already a superstar."
Meanwhile, the 82-year-old Briton - who has not travelled to Australia for the 2013 season opener - said he hopes Michael Schumacher makes another return to F1, this time to run a team.
"He is and remains a racer," Ecclestone said. "He wants to win.
"He would be a very good team leader. If he wants to? I don't know, but I'd like to see it."
Finally, after Ayrton Senna and Niki Lauda were recently featured in major films, Ecclestone said he has no interest in being the subject of the next one.
"There were movie deals (proposed), but I don't want that," he insisted.
"I don't have the time to waste on something like that."
Webber says new Red Bull 'very strong' - Briatore
Flavio Briatore does not believe Red Bull will struggle in 2013.
There have been reports the reigning world champions had a difficult final test with the new RB9, struggling with the latest upgrades and finding a good setup.
But former Renault chief Briatore, who still manages Mark Webber, said: "Webber tells me he will start very strongly.
"He said the tests have been fruitful and that the machine is very good," he told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.