- Renault/Lotus team signs Raikkonen for F1 return
- Ricciardo to know '2012 programme' before Christmas
- Season finale win good news for Webber - Horner
- Europe 'finished' as F1's spiritual home - Ecclestone
- Renault gives Petrov 'stay or go' deadline - manager
- Press mocks Vettel's 'phantom' gearbox problem
- New McLaren contract 'likely' admits Hamilton
- Barrichello happy to settle for small retainer
- Virgin refugee d'Ambrosio aiming for 2012 race seat
- Kovalainen insists 'sticking with Caterham' in 2012
- Massa most disappointing driver of 2011 - Coulthard
- Brundle move ends Coulthard commentary combo
Renault/Lotus team signs Raikkonen for F1 return
Kimi Raikkonen will return to formula one in 2012, the Lotus Renault GP team announced on Tuesday.
The former McLaren driver, 2007 world champion and winner of 18 grands prix, who left F1 after the 2009 season with Ferrari, has "signed a two-year agreement", a media statement read.
"My time in the world rally championship has been a useful stage in my career as a driver, but I can't deny the fact that my hunger for F1 has recently become overwhelming," the 32-year-old Finn is quoted as saying.
Raikkonen insisted he "never lost passion" for racing in formula one.
The 2007 world champion, who left F1 two years ago for world rallying and NASCAR, also denied he might not be sufficiently motivated ahead of his return to the sport with Lotus Renault in 2012.
"The main reason for coming back to F1 is I never lost the passion for racing except for maybe all the things around it," the 32-year-old said.
The former McLaren and Ferrari driver explained that he began to think about a comeback whilst competing recently in NASCAR, when he got a feel for wheel-to-wheel combat after many contests merely "against the clock" in rally.
"I got a call from certain people in F1 and all sorts of things happened. In the end we managed to have a nice conversation with the people at Lotus Renault and made a deal."
Mere days ago, Williams was the front-runner to secure the services of the 18-time grand prix winner.
"There was two options; this team and Williams and in the end everything worked out as we wanted with Lotus Renault GP," said Raikkonen.
After leaving F1 at the end of 2009, the Finn - nicknamed 'the Iceman' - insisted he didn't miss or follow the sport at all in 2010.
He said on Tuesday he watched F1 a "bit more" this season, including the last 20 laps of Sunday's season finale at Interlagos.
"Because I knew that it (the deal) was going to happen so I watched how the team did but before I didn't know that the deal would happen."
Raikkonen revealed that he has been in specific training for his return for about a month, but thinks Pirelli's tyres will be the main difference compared to the F1 he left in 2009.
"I don't know if I'm different or not, it will be interesting to get back in the F1 (car) but I'm a few years older and nothing else has changed really."
What about his motivation, which two years ago had seemed at a low?
"I wouldn't come back if I wasn't motivated," insisted Raikkonen. "There's always a lot of talk about it but nobody really knows what I do or what I think so I don't really care what people say.
"I (will) enjoy to come back, I wouldn't put my name in a contract if I wouldn't think that I'd really enjoy it."
Ricciardo to know '2012 programme' before Christmas
Daniel Ricciardo can expect to learn about his future in formula one before Christmas.
That is the claim of Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner.
In 2011, Australian rookie Ricciardo began the season as junior team Toro Rosso's Friday driver before - still with Red Bull's backing - moving into the HRT race seat.
For next season, he is tipped to race at Toro Rosso, or alternatively the Red Bull driver deal might switch from HRT to the Caterham team.
"Daniel has done a good job this year and now we need to look at the opportunities available," Horner is quoted by France's autohebdo.fr.
"He has learned from the races, albeit in difficult circumstances with a car that was far from the pace. But still he gained some experience and fought against a talented teammate.
"I am confident that his programme for next year will be decided before Christmas," added the Briton.
Season finale win good news for Webber - Horner
Mark Webber's Brazil win is good news for the Australian heading into the winter, according to his boss.
Until Sunday, the 35-year-old struggled all season to match up to his teammate Sebastian Vettel, failing to win a single race compared to the sister Red Bull driver's eleven.
"I think it would have been very tough for him to have gone into the winter with Seb having won 11 races and Mark not one," Christian Horner is quoted by AFP news agency.
"So for him, one of the best races to win is the last race -- it sets him up very nicely for next year."
Europe 'finished' as F1's spiritual home - Ecclestone
European races are a dying breed on the formula one calendar, Bernie Ecclestone said on Tuesday.
At present, there are eight European rounds on the 20-event 2012 schedule, with the majority of the season therefore taking place throughout Asia, the Far and Middle East and the Americas.
And Europe should prepare to shed even more events in the future, said Ecclestone, with the F1 chief executive telling Spain's Marca that the continent - currently gripped in a worsening economic crisis - is "finished".
"I think in the next few years Europe will be left with only five races," he said.
"I think Europe is finished. It will be a good place for tourism but little else. Europe is a thing of the past," added Ecclestone.
Told that Europe is F1's spiritual home, he insisted: "It used to be."
He said the next hosts to join the calendar will be Russia and perhaps also South Africa and Mexico.
Renault gives Petrov 'stay or go' deadline - manager
Vitaly Petrov's manager on Tuesday confirmed speculation that the 27-year-old's place at Lotus Renault GP might not be secure for 2012.
Russian Petrov has a contract for next season, but manager Oksana Kosachenko was reported to be heading to the team's Enstone headquarters this week for urgent talks.
Her trip coincides with the announcement of Kimi Raikkonen's return to F1 next year with the team.
"After today's decision was announced, I was given a very short amount of time, literally ten days. We have until December 10 to decide if Vitaly stays or leaves," Kosachenko told the Moscow news agency Ria Novosti.
Assuming he stays, Kosachenko was asked if Petrov could learn from 2007 world champion Raikkonen, a former race winner for McLaren and Ferrari.
"You ask the question in the right way: if Vitaly stays in the team," she answered, amid speculation Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna are also in the running.
Interestingly, the Raikkonen signing and the new uncertainty about Petrov's future comes amid speculation team boss Eric Boullier might be ousted as the team becomes Lotus for 2012.
"It's better to put it this way," said Kosachenko, referring to Petrov's future. "Will the management come to an agreement with the owners?
"If we do, then Vitaly should take it as a given" that he stays next year, she said.
Press mocks Vettel's 'phantom' gearbox problem
The international press suspects Red Bull imposed team orders during the season ending Brazilian grand prix.
The team has already strongly denied the claims, but publications like Spain's Marca suspect Sebastian Vettel pulled over for Mark Webber because of a "phantom problem" with his gearbox.
"Webber gets the loyalty prize," said Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Agreed Corriere della Sera: "Vettel gave Webber the gift of the last crumbs after a huge feast and saved him a trip to the psychologist."
Spain's Diario Sport added: "Nobody believes Vettel really had a problem with the gearbox."
Austria's Der Standard said the team order "made sense", given Webber's mathematical chance of finishing the drivers' championship in second place.
Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali is quoted as joking to La Stampa: "Maybe they forget that team orders can now be issued freely."
Agreed Fernando Alonso: "I don't care, except to say that they were bothered with certain behaviours when we did them."
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, however, reported that Vettel personally watched when his gearbox was taken apart after the race and confirmed that "there was almost no oil left in it".
New McLaren contract 'likely' admits Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton has admitted he may soon be ready to sit down with his boss and sign a new contract beyond 2012.
The 2008 world champion has had a tumultuous season on and off the track, while his teammate Jenson Button finished behind Sebastian Vettel in the drivers' championship and inked a new long-term deal.
But British newspapers insist McLaren is keen to extend Hamilton's contract as well, even though the 26-year-old said he is in "no rush".
"I don't think there is any real pressure about my commitment to the team so there is no rush to have to do anything," he said.
"Martin (Whitmarsh) has spoken to me about re-signing already. I know it is there. At some stage, when we have time, we will sit down and discuss it," said Hamilton.
The Mirror said his new contract will be worth about $23 million a year.
"It is more than likely I'll stay," he is quoted by the Sun.
Barrichello happy to settle for small retainer
Rubens Barrichello has revealed he is unlikely to race out of formula one over an argument about money.
It is believed Kimi Raikkonen's talks with Williams ended suddenly because the parties could not agree on the size of the Finn's retainer.
"I don't need a big contract," 39-year-old Barrichello is quoted by Brazil's Globo, with the report claiming the veteran had ruled out settling for a seat at HRT, Virgin or Caterham.
"All I need is to drive something next year that is competitive."
It is possible Interlagos was Barrichello's last ever grand prix, and so the cameras duly captured him waving to his countrymen on the slowing down lap.
"The only thing is that the fans might have thought I was saying goodbye, but I was just waving. I know I'll be back and I feel almost like I deserve to," he said.
"In F1, many people come and go because the pressure is so big, which is a situation unlike in F3 or GP2.
"Several fast drivers quit because they didn't feel happy. When Montoya left all he said was that F1 sucks, but I love it," said Barrichello.
Another Brazilian fighting to stay on the grid next year is Bruno Senna.
"I know I made some mistakes," said the 28-year-old, who was drafted in by Renault mid-season to replace Nick Heidfeld.
"I did not score 10 out of 10 but I think it was not bad. I hope that the people deciding the places for next year also think so. I was very rusty," added Senna.
Virgin refugee d'Ambrosio aiming for 2012 race seat
Despite losing his Virgin race seat, Jerome d'Ambrosio sounds confident about his future.
The Belgian will be replaced at the newly-renamed Marussia team for 2012 by the French GP2 driver Charles Pic.
It means Interlagos was 25-year-old d'Ambrosio's last race for now.
"I finished on a high note with a great weekend; probably my best of the season," he is quoted by French website toilef1.com.
He said he was told the bad news by his bosses when he arrived at the track on Thursday.
"I will not be with the team next year but the team was happy with my season," said d'Ambrosio. "The new goal of course is to be here (in F1) next year."
He is managed by the Gravity group, which is headed by Renault/Lotus boss Eric Boullier.
"Without saying any names, we have discussed various options," said d'Ambrosio.
"My situation is the same as last year, except that I have done a very good season and I have not gone unnoticed in the paddock. So I have more credibility than before.
"I think a lot of things can still happen on the driver transfer market, so we'll see what happens."
Kovalainen insists 'sticking with Caterham' in 2012
Heikki Kovalainen has added his denial to rumours he might return to the Renault (now Lotus) team in 2012.
Albeit under former boss Flavio Briatore's management, the Finn made his debut for the Enstone based team in 2007, before switching first to McLaren and more recently to Team Lotus/Caterham.
He remains under contract to Caterham for next year, but speculation at Interlagos nonetheless linked him with a switch to Renault after it emerged injured team leader Robert Kubica is not yet ready to return.
"The list is long," Renault team boss Eric Boullier is quoted by Spain's Marca sports newspaper when asked about the driver candidates for 2012.
"There are also some drivers with other teams who have some provisions for breaking their contracts," the Frenchman revealed. "So the list is quite long."
But German reports quote Kovalainen as insisting: "I am bound to Lotus for next year. I'm sticking with Caterham."
It is believed Boullier's push for a clear team leader - and not just an interim solution - could be related to speculation that when Kubica does return to F1, it will not be with Renault.
"I need to understand if he (Kubica) is coming back and with a commitment of the medium term," said Boullier.
"I will not put aside a car for him to test if he has signed an option to be elsewhere in 2013."
Boullier's counterpart Stefano Domenicali played down the Kubica/Ferrari link.
"We've been speaking about drivers for Ferrari since February last year," the Italian insisted. "Maybe next year we'll come back to (talking about) Valentino Rossi."
Massa most disappointing driver of 2011 - Coulthard
David Coulthard has singled out Felipe Massa as the most "disappointing driver" of the 2011 season.
Brazilian Massa remains under contract to Ferrari for one more season but the Italian team has warned him that, next year, he will be racing to rescue his 2013 seat.
"I don't want to say (Massa was the) 'worst' driver of the year because clearly no one driving in F1 is a bad driver," veteran Coulthard, the former McLaren and Red Bull driver and now British commentator, wrote in his Telegraph column.
"But undoubtedly a few drivers punched well below their weight, notably Ferrari's Felipe Massa, McLaren's Hamilton and Red Bull's Webber.
"I'd probably give the (disappointing driver) award to Felipe for no better reason than he didn't win a race. In fact, he never finished higher than fifth.
"He's on thin ice at Maranello," presumed Coulthard.
When the season ended in his native Brazil at the weekend, 30-year-old Massa acknowledged he is looking forward to returning to top form in 2012.
"It's been a difficult year for me and the team and now we can turn the page," he said.
"We must work on improving the car and I will do all I can never to have such a disappointing season again."
Brundle move ends Coulthard commentary combo
Former McLaren drivers Martin Brundle and David Coulthard will no longer share a commentary box in 2012.
Brundle, who is also Coulthard's former manager, has accepted an offer to switch from the BBC to Britain's new dedicated F1 channel run by Sky.
The job undoubtedly involves more money, but - referring to the split BBC/Sky coverage - he insisted in his Sunday Times column: "I need to commentate on every race live.
"Recorded and delayed sports television doesn't give me the adrenalin fix I crave."
Some BBC viewers lashed out at the move, writing on Brundle's Twitter page that he is a "sell out" and a "traitor".
"After 15 years of F1 commentary I've made a career choice," the 52-year-old hit back. "(I) don't recall any promises or obligations to anyone."
With Coulthard announcing he is staying with the BBC, it means the effective combination shared their last race call at Interlagos on Sunday.
"I'm sure I'll continue to be criticised for my inability to pronounce 'Vettel' correctly -- thank god Nick Heidfeld left midseason as the abuse was getting ridiculous!" Scot Coulthard wrote in his Telegraph column.
"(But) I remain as passionate as ever and hope that my insight adds something for race fans."
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