- Lotus plays down Raikkonen exit rumours
- Webber rumours grow despite Porsche denials
- McLaren to 'step up and support' struggling Perez
- Pirelli drops soft tyre for Bahrain
Lotus plays down Raikkonen exit rumours
Lotus has played down reports Kimi Raikkonen could be set to jump ship to Red Bull for 2014.
Team owner Gerard Lopez told France's RMC Sport that he thinks the rumours connecting the reigning world champions with the Finn are a diversionary ploy by Red Bull.
He said Lotus would like to keep the 2007 world champion, who is currently just three points behind Sebastian Vettel for the drivers' title lead.
"Kimi is a driver we appreciate greatly," said Lopez. "I think he also appreciates the team.
"We would like him to stay," he admitted. "For now, I think he cannot see himself somewhere else either."
Lopez said he thinks Red Bull triggered the rumours about Raikkonen as some sort of diversionary tactic amid the 'Multi-21' team orders affair.
"After the third race, to be saying things like that ... I think those who have said it are maybe having other problems.
"But that's not the case with us, it's going very well just as we are," said Lopez.
Webber rumours grow despite Porsche denials
Porsche has denied reports it has agreed a five-year contract to move Mark Webber from formula one to its Le Mans prototype project from 2014.
"This is wrong," a spokesman told German newspaper Die Welt.
"Mark Webber has not signed a five year contract with Porsche," he said explicitly.
"Porsche has a squad of ten highly successful works drivers, forming an excellent basis for the occupation of the LMP1 cockpits from 2014."
He said finalising the prototype lineup is "not urgent".
However, the paddock rumours - not only in F1's Shanghai paddock last week but also as the sports car championship raced at the same time at Silverstone - are strong.
Bild newspaper said Webber, 36, has already visited Porsche's Weissach factory and agreed a three-year term, even if his actual financial retainer is still to be finalised.
Amid the Webber rumours, a team figure of the similarly Volkswagen-owned Audi camp at Silverstone admitted that Porsche "could go in that direction".
And Derek Bell, a four-time Le Mans winner with Porsche in the 70s and 80s, told the Huffington Post at Silverstone: "I hear he (Webber) has gone."
McLaren to 'step up and support' struggling Perez
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has admitted new team driver Sergio Perez has struggled since replacing Lewis Hamilton.
After a poor weekend for the young Mexican in China, including a rebuke from Kimi Raikkonen following an on-track run-in, British commentator Martin Brundle said he would have signed Nico Hulkenberg for 2013 "ten times before (signing) Perez."
Immediately after Shanghai, Whitmarsh backed Perez's defensive driving in China, having told the 23-year-old to put his "elbows" out and "be robust without being dirty".
But he does admit that the Carlos Slim-linked Mexican needs to up his game.
"I know Sergio is not satisfied with his performance at the weekend, nor should he be," Whitmarsh told reporters.
The Woking based team's chief admitted Jenson Button's "fantastic job" in the sister car has made life difficult for Perez.
"A lot of credit to Jenson, but we as a team have to step up and support a young driver who has an enormous amount of talent," said Whitmarsh.
"With these sorts of tyres, which are very fragile, with the balance not quite there, with tricky racing, he did a reasonable job.
"As a young guy in a big team with lots of expectations you are under a lot more scrutiny, and it's tougher when you've a teammate doing a great job, so there is pressure there," he added.
Pirelli drops soft tyre for Bahrain
Pirelli has decided against taking its soft tyre compound to this weekend's Bahrain grand prix.
Before the season began, F1's official tyre supplier announced that it would take its hard and soft tyres to the island Kingdom.
"This is designed to ensure plenty of speed in qualifying coupled with the durability needed for the race," Pirelli said in a pre-season statement.
But the Italian marque has now announced that, in fact, the hard and medium compound tyres will be raced this weekend.
The news follows the Chinese grand prix, where Pirelli was heavily criticised when the soft compound lasted only a few laps at the Shanghai circuit.
Pirelli said on Monday that "tyre degradation (is) expected to be reasonably high (in Bahrain), which is why the two hardest compounds of the range have been nominated."
Paul Hembery commented: "It's one of the most demanding tracks of the year for the tyres, mostly because of the high ambient and track temperatures."
Bahrain protesters won't 'hurt people' - Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone has toned down his rhetoric ahead of the weekend's highly controversial Bahrain grand prix.
Earlier, amid reports of explosions near the formula one circuit linked directly to anti-government protests against the race, the F1 chief executive simply issued a blank denial.
"What's happened? They're demonstrating now? I didn't know that," he told AP news agency.
"There's nobody demonstrating."
However, even the government confirmed Sunday's attack by a "terrorist group", while the group itself admitted it blew up the car "in opposition to holding the formula one race".
And bringing the situation into stark focus are the events in the US, where terrorists have exploded bombs near the finish-line of the iconic Boston Marathon, with devastating effects.
Referring to Bahrain, Ecclestone told British newspapers: "We don't want to see trouble. We don't want to see people arguing and fighting about things we don't understand, because we really don't understand.
"We don't want to see people repressed as a result of the race.
"Some people feel it's our fault there are problems. We are extremely sympathetic to them."
The 82-year-old Briton, however, suggested the protesters are taking advantage of the global coverage attracted by F1, and played down the threat they really pose.
"I don't think the people who are arguing about their position are bad people, and I don't think they're trying to hurt people to make their point," he said.
A government spokeswoman told Bahrain news agency BNA that "appropriate security measures" are in place for the grand prix.
"The security situation in Bahrain is very reassuring," she added.
Meanwhile, the internet 'hacktivist' group Anonymous has threatened to disrupt the sport if it does not cancel the Bahrain grand prix.
"Bernie Ecclestone and the royal family of Bahrain have learned nothing," the group said in a statement.
"We will remove you from the worldwide web. We call upon Bernie Ecclestone while there is still time -- cancel your blood race now."