- New experience as F1 tests at Mugello
- Singapore eyes new race deal and F1 floatation
- F1 2012 'a 1000 piece puzzle' - Schumacher
- Another report links Webber to Ferrari
- Grosjean admits he 'didn't race' Raikkonen
- D'Ambrosio could drive Fridays in 2012
- France rushing to complete GP deal
New experience as F1 tests at Mugello
Tuesday was a new experience for many F1 regulars; a rare in-season test on an unfamiliar track.
Some teams wanted the three-day session to take place at Barcelona, saving money ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix at the same venue, but Ferrari pushed hard - reportedly even waiving the circuit rental fees - for its circuit in Tuscany to get the nod.
The day did not start well weather-wise, but the spectators - reportedly 25,000, and visibly more than in Bahrain last weekend - came nonetheless.
"This is my first time here," Sebastian Vettel, whose teammate Mark Webber kicked off proceedings for Red Bull on Tuesday, told Auto Motor und Sport.
Australian Webber, second fastest after the first morning behind crowd favourite Fernando Alonso, has been here before.
"I once did a sports car race here," he said.
"It's a bit too fast (for F1)."
Indeed, of the GP circuits, only Monza is faster. Nico Rosberg, in the Mercedes, gave Mugello a big thumbs up.
"1 to 10, I'd give it 8.5," the German grinned.
It is an important test for Ferrari, but - contrary to earlier rumours - there is no 'B' car.
Alonso told La Gazzetta dello Sport that Mugello and then Barcelona next weekend will not make or break Ferrari's championship.
"We need to catch up race after race," said the Spaniard. "If we do poorly in Barcelona, it doesn't mean our season is over."
Singapore eyes new race deal and F1 floatation
The fact F1 has chosen the Singapore exchange for the sport's high profile floatation does not mean the city-state's popular floodlit street race is guaranteed.
The night event's existing five year contract runs out this year, although a two-year notice clause in the deal means Singapore should stay on the calendar at least until 2014.
On the face of it, a new deal seemed a certainty, given it was Bernie Ecclestone himself who chose Singapore as the location for F1's forthcoming floatation.
"Formula One is known in Singapore, and Asia is thriving. It is a simpler market and not as restrictive," he said recently.
Talks about a new race deal "are underway", the local Business Times reported in March, "but it is understood that one sticking point is the sanction fee."
An unnamed banker commented: "The Singapore government wants formula one to be listed here and for that to happen, it knows the race has to remain here.
"But at the same time, it doesn't want to pay top dollar again. So the bargaining should continue for some time."
However, the English language newspaper now reports that F1's floatation plans, and the expiring Singapore race contract, could be entirely unrelated.
"We are in the process of negotiating a possible renewal of the (race) agreement and the outcome will be announced once discussions are complete," said a spokesman for race promoter Singapore GP.
Second minister for trade and industry S Iswaran insisted that the mooted floatation will not influence the outcome of the race contract negotiations.
And the Singapore tourism board's Aw Kah Peng added: "You've got to see whether the deal is right in every way.
"We're hoping everybody sees value in it and we get a so-called good deal for Singapore, in terms of whether all the numbers can work out and everybody takes home something -- a kind of a win-win proposition."
F1 2012 'a 1000 piece puzzle' - Schumacher
F1's new face of 2012 is polarising the sport.
It seems teams, drivers and spectators alike either love or hate the new great influence brought largely by Pirelli's new generation of tyres.
An admitted critic is Michael Schumacher.
"It's a 1000 piece puzzle that you need to put together at each race," said the seven-time world champion, according to Auto Motor und Sport.
Not for three decades have four different drivers driving for four different teams won the opening four Grands Prix of a season.
"From the standpoint of competition," wrote Livio Oricchio in O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, "there is no doubt that the Pirelli 2012 generation meets fully the objective of promoting the show.
"But if you think purely about the engineering challenge that is formula one, and the genius of the people and the immense financial and technical resources needed for success, the tyres have now taken on such an importance that the results don't seem compatible.
"Myself, and many in formula one, hope the new versions of tyres that Pirelli is developing returns a little more predictability in terms of how they behave, without affecting the show too much."
For now, however, the teams need to put their puzzles together, and that will undoubtedly be the focus of this week's three-day in-season test at Mugello.
"He who understands the tyres first," McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh astutely noted, "will have a huge advantage in the world championship."
A broad understanding is already developing, including why 2012 winners Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel won from the very front of the field.
"When you're in a battle, you can't take the lines that are best for the tyres," said Mercedes' Ross Brawn.
All eyes are now turning to Mugello, where the understanding will continue.
"These test days could change the balance of power in formula one," Norbert Haug predicted dramatically in Bild newspaper.
Not everyone is enthusiastic, however, including McLaren who oppose the Mugello test on cost grounds.
Williams' chief engineer Mark Gillan agrees: "The days of test teams are gone, so this is not logistically easy," he is quoted by Germany's Sport1.
Bruno Senna added: "Mugello is not an ideal test track, as it's very different to most of the tracks that are on the calendar."
Another report links Webber to Ferrari
More reports are suggesting Mark Webber could be Ferrari-bound.
One of Spain's leading F1 correspondents, Raymond Blancafort, wrote in El Mundo Deportivo that "there may be a pre-contract" between the Maranello based team and Red Bull's experienced Australian driver.
Webber, 35, was also linked with Ferrari last year, before Red Bull decided to sign him up for another single season alongside Sebastian Vettel.
He is now touted as Felipe Massa's 2013 replacement, not only because of his "experience (and) the consistency of his results" but because "he gets along" with number one driver Fernando Alonso, Blancafort said.
Flavio Briatore also manages both Alonso and Webber.
Following Blancafort's claims, Spain's El Confidencial is now reporting similarly.
The publication said Webber has been earmarked as Alonso's ideal teammate for 2013, perhaps pre-dating Sergio Perez's move to the team in 2014 when the young Mexican has gathered another season of experience.
That may mean yet another single-season deal for Webber, but it might be better than what he is offered by Red Bull, given the energy drink-owned team's grooming of youngsters Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso.
El Confidencial said Webber is also Spaniard Alonso's first choice, with a source saying a deal has been "already reached but not signed", possibly therefore in the form of a letter of intent.
Grosjean admits he 'didn't race' Raikkonen
Romain Grosjean has admitted he didn't try to keep his teammate Kimi Raikkonen behind him at the recent Bahrain Grand Prix.
In the wake of Lotus' podium breakthrough, it was suggested Frenchman Grosjean was the victim of team orders.
Team figures, including boss Eric Boullier and 2007 world champion Raikkonen who finished the race second ahead of rookie Grosjean, denied the charge, even though team orders are fully legal.
But it emerged this week that, just before Grosjean was passed by Raikkonen, the French driver was told on the radio: "Kimi is faster than you.
"Do not hold him up," the radio message, broadcasted for the first time by F1's official website this week, ended.
Onboard footage of the move also showed Raikkonen briefly waving to his teammate as he completed the easy pass, ostensibly to thank him.
"I think that if I had closed the door on Kimi, or if we had fought, then I could have lost a wing," Grosjean said this week.
"We knew that we could have a podium as a result and I didn't want to make a mistake. I didn't race at my best level," he admitted to RMC.
D'Ambrosio could drive Fridays in 2012
Jerome d'Ambrosio has revealed he could drive one of the Lotus cars during Friday morning practice sessions at some point in 2012.
The former Virgin driver, who is managed by Lotus boss Eric Boullier's Gravity company, was appointed as the team's third and reserve driver for this year.
But, until now, it was not known if the role would involve Friday morning practice duties.
Asked by the La Libre newspaper when he will be seen on the grid once again, Belgian d'Ambrosio answered: "I hope in 2013."
He will get his 2013 campaign up and running on Tuesday, when he gets the chance to drive Lotus' current E20 for the first time at the Mugello test.
The 26-year-old said on Monday: "I will try to show what I can do every time I have the opportunity, not only tomorrow but also during the Friday morning tests that I can participate in."
D'Ambrosio admitted he would rather be racing this year, but insists that his role at Lotus is a good stepping stone.
"I'm not complaining," he said. "I remain convinced that my decision to become a reserve driver with a big team was the best thing for me."
And he insisted he is not jealous of the similarly-aged Romain Grosjean, who took the E20 to the podium in Bahrain recently.
"Honestly not," said d'Ambrosio. "I would be a fool to think that if Romain had crashed twice more I would replace him in Barcelona.
"Instead, what Grosjean has done confirms that young guys can be trusted. I am glad to see him succeed.
"I don't come to grands prix hoping one of my teammates is hurt. I'm here to learn, not to laugh."
He thinks Lotus could win a race in 2012.
"It's possible, yes," said d'Ambrosio. "The E20 works well when it's hot, degrading the tyres not too much.
"In Bahrain, we had the best car in the race. We cannot afford to miss opportunities."
France rushing to complete GP deal
The French government is dashing to seal the lid on the country's return to F1.
Bernie Ecclestone has said a deal has been reached to annually alternate a race between Paul Ricard in France and Belgium's fabled Spa-Francorchamps.
But the final signature and official announcement are still missing.
David Douillet, the French sports minister, told Le Journal du Dimanche that the chance France will be on the 2013 calendar is "90 percent".
"The contract is going back and forth between the lawyers. I hope I get to London to meet with Bernie Ecclestone between Wednesday and Friday," he added.
The newspaper said Douillet is dashing to complete the deal by this weekend's presidential election, because socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande has hinted the GP project would be reviewed if he is elected.
Douillet admitted that it is "very likely" Hollande would "bury" the race.
Le JDD newspaper said organisers and Ecclestone have agreed the race sanctioning fee, EUR 22 million, which is still a few million short of guaranteeing a balanced budget.
And "without a balanced budget, we do not sign," he warned. "The state, which does not participate financially, is still the guarantor of any debt."
There also remains an odd silence from the Belgian side, who have not confirmed that Spa is the circuit that will alternate with France.
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