- Korea GP in doubt as rogue North threatens nuclear war
- Red Bull scraps team orders after affair
- 'Multi-21' affair makes Domenicali smile
- Rivals study Red Bull's record pitstops
- Too many pay-drivers on F1 grid - Todt
- Marko denies 'criticising' Webber
- Team orders angst now 'checked off' - Rosberg
- Hulkenberg happy with new role as young veteran
Korea GP in doubt as rogue North threatens nuclear war
A cloud of uncertainty has moved above October's scheduled running of the Korean grand prix.
The tension between South Korea, home of F1's fourteenth round of the 2013 championship, and the rogue North has been escalating at an alarming rate in the past hours.
Most alarming is the rhetoric.
North Korean media quoted a regime spokesman as saying: "The situation on the Korean peninsula is inching close to a thermonuclear war due to the evermore undisguised hostile actions of the United States and the South Korean puppet warmongers".
And a bulletin on state-run North Korean television reportedly warned of an "all-out war, a merciless, sacred, retaliatory war".
"(North Korea) does not want to see foreigners in South Korea fall victim to the war," the bulletin reportedly continued, warning that "all foreigners, including tourists (should) take measures for shelter and evacuation".
Western foreign affair analysts, however, insist the threat of war is actually low, while the US embassy said that "despite current political tension", there is "no specific information to suggest there are imminent threats" to peace.
Moreover, there have been no reports that suggest the huge North Korean army has been briefed for a major war.
"The (US) embassy has not changed its security posture and we have not recommended that US citizens who reside in, or plan to visit, the republic of Korea take special security precautions at this time," it added.
The latest reports, however, say spy satellites have identified two North Korean nuclear-capable missiles that are ready for launch, and that the US is deploying a missile defence system to Guam.
Japan is also on the alert, with missile interceptors moved to key locations around Tokyo.
The border to China has been closed and tourists are being turned back, with a border official confirming the "North Korean government is now asking foreign people to leave".
United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon warned that if the "very dangerous" situation is not handled correctly, it could become "uncontrollable".
Red Bull scraps team orders after affair
In the wake of the 'Multi-21' affair, Red Bull has abolished team orders.
"There will be no more team orders by us," the energy drink company's motor sport director Dr Helmut Marko told Germany's Sport Bild on Wednesday.
Sebastian Vettel ignored the team's instruction to stay behind leader Mark Webber in Malaysia recently, sparking the controversy.
The saga left team owner Dietrich Mateschitz "very unhappy", Marko admitted.
Austrian Marko also echoed billionaire Mateschitz's recent claim that Kimi Raikkonen is a candidate to drive for the reigning champions next year.
"Kimi Raikkonen is someone who is on our list (of candidates) for next year," confirmed Marko.
36-year-old Australian Webber's current contract runs out at the end of 2013.
He has been linked with a move to Porsche's 2014 Le Mans prototype project.
'Multi-21' affair makes Domenicali smile
Stefano Domenicali has admitted F1's recent 'Multi-21' saga made him smile.
In the past, it was Ferrari copping the brunt of fans and pundits' ire for risking pure sporting ethos by manipulating the order of its two cars.
Now, almost three weeks ago in Malaysia, Mercedes and particularly world champions Red Bull were in the spotlight.
"Obviously both teams simply wanted to protect their positions towards the end of the race," said Ferrari team boss Domenicali, "which is completely legitimate."
Legitimate yes, but rivals teams - Red Bull included - have often in the past drawn attention to Ferrari's willing disposition to impose 'team orders'.
This time, the criticism was elsewhere.
"I have to smile," Domenicali told Germany's Sport Bild on Wednesday, "when I think that in the past we were criticised for our philosophy of putting the interests of the team above all else."
Referring to 'Multi-21' in Malaysia, he continued: "I don't know the facts and the agreements that were made previously.
"I can only say that I saw one of the saddest podiums of my career."
Nonetheless, Domenicali's criticism of Vettel - for ignoring his Red Bull bosses - was muted.
"The fact is," said the Italian, "Sebastian always brings out the maximum from his car, in a way that Mark (Webber) cannot always do."
Rivals study Red Bull's record pitstops
After Red Bull beat McLaren's old pitstop speed record no fewer than five times in Malaysia, rivals have been studying the case with great curiosity.
According to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, the competition has concluded that Red Bull's advantage is not due to having a superior crew, or having simply invested more time practicing.
"One or two fantastic stops, you can imagine that," McLaren sporting director Sam Michael is quoted as saying.
"But five, with that consistency - that's really impressive."
The suspicion is that Red Bull has stepped up a gear with its pitstop equipment and technology.
"Our guys are certainly not inferior to Red Bull's, and all of our training methods have been optimised," said Michael.
Analysis shows that Red Bull has made a half-second per pistop time improvement in 2013 compared to last season.
"You can make a jump like that with developments in the equipment," Michael said.
One theory is that Red Bull is using higher air pressure for the wheel-nut guns.
Indeed, every time a Red Bull crew member uses his gun, he dutifully puts it away in a bag, suggesting they are hiding a secret.
"You can hear that they are using more pressure than the others," Williams team manager Dickie Stanford said.
But Michael disagrees: "I doubt anyone is going over 30 bar. Maybe they've simplified the switching mechanism, and it's now electronic rather than mechanical.
"Things like that could save you time."
Stanford, meanwhile, admitted Williams' investigation shows that the Red Bull crew is so easily able to throw the new wheels onto the car.
"At Red Bull they're throwing it on and apparently not even knowing if it's properly seated. It (the wheel) seems to go on by itself," he is quoted as saying.
That would imply that Red Bull has perfected the design of the hub, wheels and nuts so that the wheel is always perfectly seated when the wheel gun is pressed on.
Too many pay-drivers on F1 grid - Todt
Less than a month ago, the FIA's low-profile president Jean Todt seemed to race away from the issue of cost cutting in formula one.
Many teams on the grid are pleading for the governing body to intervene, citing the unenforceability of the gentleman's 'resource restriction agreement' and arguing that the measures should go further.
"It's not something we all have to agree together," Todt said last month.
"We are the regulator. If they don't want to reduce costs, that's it. It's not our responsibility to do things that teams do not want."
On this score, Todt - once the boss of the F1 superpower Ferrari - is apparently backed by the sport's modern big-hitter Red Bull, whose Christian Horner said this week that he would like to see even the current resource agreement torn up.
But Todt insisted: "I have never heard anyone say they are against a reduction in the costs.
"I'm sure that if we make reasonable suggestions, everyone can be happy," the Frenchman is quoted by the German-language Spox.
"We do need to reduce costs in order to keep everyone on board," Todt continued.
"It is important to find a compromise; the FIA has to come to an agreement with the owners of the commercial rights, and the teams."
Todt spoke of a 30 per cent overall cost reduction as being a reasonable target, expressing alarm at the growing rate of so-called 'pay drivers' on the grid.
"It is not normal that half of the drivers need to pay," he said.
"Formula one is the pinnacle of motor sport and so I think it's not right that drivers need to raise so much money just so they can be there."
Marko denies 'criticising' Webber
Dr Helmut Marko insists pre-season comments he made about Mark Webber were never supposed to be interpreted as criticism of the Australian driver.
Austrian Marko, seen by most as team owner Dietrich Mateschitz's right hand man, said before the 2013 championship kicked off that Webber "can't maintain form" throughout an entire F1 campaign and "has a little trouble with the pressure".
Webber hit back by saying it is obvious he is not "part of Marko's agenda".
Marko's apparent criticism might have gained new significance in the wake of the recent 'Multi-21' affair, where despite the fact Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders in Malaysia, it is Webber's place alongside him that appears most in doubt.
But Marko is quoted by Spain's El Confidential as insisting all the fuss about his pre-season Webber comments was exaggerated.
"First, the interview was conducted in German," he said, "it just happened to be Christmas, and so it was translated into other languages.
"I was asked why Vettel is champion and not Mark, so I tried to explain the differences with some facts.
"I did not think it would be taken as a criticism of Mark," he insisted.
Marko continued: "Mark has always been a driver with a good reputation, and I have always said of him that when he has a good car, he is a winner.
"But when he has a good car, unfortunately for him so too does Vettel. So, psychologically, it must be very hard for him.
"In the circumstances," Marko insisted, "the magazine tried to say that I was against Mark."
Marko made the comments about Webber in an interview with Red Bull's in-house magazine, Red Bulletin.
Team orders angst now 'checked off' - Rosberg
Nico Rosberg insists he and Mercedes have moved on from Malaysia.
At Sepang, behind the warring Red Bulls, Mercedes duo Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were also the subject of a team orders controversy.
Arguing that the silver cars needed to save fuel to the finish line, the faster Rosberg was ordered by boss Ross Brawn to settle for fourth place behind his teammate, triggering reports that Briton Hamilton is the 'number 1'.
The saga also intensified rumours that Brawn is at odds with the team's new German-speaking faction led by shareholders Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda.
"We need to talk to Ross," said Lauda after the race, "if this is the strategy to be used from now on."
Rosberg was also obviously unhappy, telling Brawn on the radio after crossing the chequered flag to "Remember this one".
But he insists now that it's all over.
"Malaysia was sobering for me in every respect," he told DPA news agency, "but it is now checked off.
"We have thoroughly discussed and clarified it internally," said Rosberg.
"Besides, I've learned over the years to quickly set aside any setbacks. This is a help in sports, because there are always setbacks," he added.
Indeed, Rosberg might now be on an upward curve, having looked the quicker Mercedes driver in the Sepang race, and now heading to China, the scene of his 2012 win.
Actually, the 27-year-old is somewhat of a 'Shanghai specialist', having led almost 50 per cent of all the laps raced in China in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
But Wolff warns: "Yesterday's home runs don't win today's games, and that's definitely true for us."
Still, Rosberg is confident as he heads to Shanghai, obviously one of his favourite layouts.
"It's hard to explain (why)," he said, "but there are many unique curves, which I find amazing.
"But what I like most are the memories of this track.
"We worked very hard over the winter," Rosberg continued. "We actually managed to close the gap to our rivals in Malaysia and were not so inferior to Red Bull.
"Now we have to keep at it."
Hulkenberg happy with new role as young veteran
Nico Hulkenberg has admitted he is enjoying his status as the most experienced driver at Sauber this year.
It is a new experience for the 25-year-old, who although now a very familiar face in the paddock, is actually contesting only his third full season of F1 in 2013.
He made his debut at Williams in 2010, but had to sit out 2011 as Force India's reserve, before stepping back into the race cockpit last season.
The German has now switched to Sauber, where he is the de-facto team leader due to teammate Esteban Gutierrez's rookie status.
"I think your question can not be easily answered, because my situations have been so fundamentally different," Hulkenberg said in an interview with his sponsor Dekra.
He insists it is too easy to say his status has now come full circle, having once been the rookie at Williams, and now showing the way for Mexican Gutierrez.
"When I was a rookie (at Williams), Rubens (Barrichello) was the most experienced formula one driver, with 18 years (in F1) under his belt.
"Now I have two years of experience, so the difference between me and Esteban is not as big as it was between me and Rubens.
"But I do think I prefer the current situation, because I've been in the sport longer and I do have some experience, which is a big help in this sport."
Hulkenberg's situation does come with arguably extra pressure, though, because he is perhaps expected to beat his inexperienced teammate.
"Absolutely it's expected of me that I beat my teammate," he agreed.
"But it's also wrong to underestimate Esteban. He is incredibly fast and I can still learn things from him.
"Otherwise, not much has changed for me compared to 2010 or 2012 - you always try to beat your teammate, no matter how experienced or inexperienced you are."
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