Red Bull is planning to pair Sebastian Vettel with his friend Kimi Raikkonen in 2012.
That is the sensational claim of the high-circulation German newspaper Bild-Zeitung, less than two days after Mark Webber ignored team orders at the end of the British Grand Prix.
2007 world champion and Finn Raikkonen, 31, left formula one at the end of 2009, and Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was quoted on Monday as saying "I believe he has put F1 behind him".
Bild said the plan to replace Webber with Raikkonen is "top secret" but divulged the information of a source "at the highest level".
German Vettel remains friends with Raikkonen, the pair often meeting in Switzerland to play badminton. Asked recently who his ideal teammate is, the reigning world champion replied: "Kimi."
The former Ferrari and McLaren race winner had talks with Red Bull last year and has now "apparently changed his mind" about wanting to stay in rallying and NASCAR.
And referring to Webber, Red Bull's driver manager Helmut Marko told Bild recently: "We have other options but I don't want to talk about them now."
The report also said Raikkonen told a Finnish journalist recently: "I have never said that my Formula One career is over."
Webber should 'respect' team orders - Briatore
Mark Webber's manager has refused to back the Australian's stance against Red Bull's imposition of team orders at Silverstone last weekend.
Britain's Sun newspaper says Webber, 34, "put his job at risk" by openly ignoring boss Christian Horner's instruction to end his challenge on teammate Sebastian Vettel towards the end of the British grand prix.
"I wasn't happy with that (order) because you should never give up in F1," Webber said on Monday.
Although the winner of six Grands Prix effectively handles his own career with his partner Ann, former Renault boss Flavio Briatore is still involved as a manager.
He told Italy's Sky Sport 24 that he thinks Red Bull was justified in asking Webber to hold station.
"Welcome to F1," Briatore is quoted as saying. "I would have done the same."
"If you're playing for a world championship, you have to take decisions and drivers need to understand that it's not your car and it's a team of hundreds of people. They (drivers) need to respect that," he added.
Briatore's other charge, Fernando Alonso, won the British Grand Prix but the flamboyant Italian does not believe Ferrari can chase down Vettel.
"He (Alonso) might be second or third in the end, but he has no chance of winning because the championship is over already."
Lauda, Coulthard, defend Red Bull over team orders
Drivers-turned-pundits Niki Lauda and David Coulthard have defended Red Bull's use of team orders at Silverstone.
An openly unhappy Mark Webber ignored the instruction to hold station behind Sebastian Vettel in the closing laps of the British GP.
Despite team orders now being legal under Jean Todt's reign as FIA president, Sunday's incident has reopened the old debate about unfettered racing versus the interests of a team of hundreds of staff.
So was Red Bull wrong to clip Webber's wings?
"No, not at all," triple world champion and now RTL pundit Lauda told Germany's motorsport-magazin.com.
"I can perfectly understand Horner making that call over the radio, simply because he was worried about his two cars. That's fine by me."
British commentator Coulthard agrees with Lauda, although he is aware that the readers of his Telegraph column may not.
He insisted: "You cannot expect teams who have sponsorship contracts worth millions to risk throwing away valuable points at that late stage of the race."
The obvious implication is that Webber's stance might affect his negotiations for a new contract with Red Bull, with boss Christian Horner already flagging private talks this week.
1996 world champion Damon Hill said: "If he was asked not to overtake, that's a bit serious for a racing driver."
But Coulthard, a former Red Bull driver and still a consultant to the energy drink's premier team, doubts Webber's reaction will affect his future.
"(Owner) Dietrich Mateschitz wants a fighter; he wants two guys battling hard for wins. He does not want a pussycat," said the Scot.
Ferrari surge 'nothing to do' with exhausts - Gene
Ferrari leapfrogged not only McLaren but also Red Bull at Silverstone, but the question now is whether the Italian team will maintain its pace in Germany in two weeks.
Fernando Alonso's winning pace in Britain coincided not only with a new package for the 150 Italia car, but also changeable weather and the fact that the Spaniard did not have to use the hardest compound tyre en route to victory.
But also significant is the fact that Silverstone was the debut of the FIA's full clampdown on off-throttle exhaust blowing.
Der Spiegel reports that, when unfettered blowing was allowed in Valencia and earlier, Ferrari-powered teams were only able to rev their engines to 50 per cent at the most when the driver was not on the throttle.
And unfortunately for the famous Maranello based team, the regulations will return to Valencia specification at the Nurburgring and beyond.
So will the 150 Italia lose its advantage in Germany?
"I think it would be unfair to say that. I think there will be people who conclude it," said McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh.
"Ferrari have been pushing this year, pushing hard, they deserved a win."
Ferrari test driver Marc Gene said that at Silverstone, where the regulations changed multiple times, the improved 2011 car was consistently competitive.
"We were good when we were blowing 50, 20 or 10 per cent," the Spaniard told El Mundo newspaper. "There are teams who think we benefit the most but it (the better pace) has nothing to do with it."
Niki Lauda, however, thinks the discussion is moot, given Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel's huge championship points advantage.
"Sebastian is clearly on course for the championship," the triple world champion told Germany's N-TV.
Clouds still lingering above US GP project
Clouds still linger above the health of the 2012 US Grand Prix project.
Progress at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin appeared brighter last week, when the state's $25m annual subsidy was signed off by the council and a legal action brought by a group of disgruntled taxpayers was dropped.
But the local Austin American Statesman newspaper now reports that a meeting of the event's quasi-governmental Local Organising Committee was on Monday mysteriously called off.
The vote of the committee is apparently required as the next step in race organisers receiving the state funds.
"As recently as late June, the local lawyer representing the F1 efforts told the city council the project's finances could be imperilled if the committee met later than the July fourth weekend," read the report.
And a freelance reporter has been quoted by KUT News as revealing that organisers do not yet have permission to build the circuit pits and other buildings.
Jacob Dirr said "All they can do is start pouring the track, build a couple of tunnels and keep pushing dirt around".
McLaren gives Hamilton break to avoid 'burnout'
Lewis Hamilton has won his bid for a breather this week after complaining at Silverstone about his busy off-track schedule.
At the end of an arduous media and sponsor regime ahead of his home grand prix, the Briton had warned that McLaren "are going to be shocked" when they hear his demands for a new contract beyond 2012.
"I will be doing a lot less work. There is definitely a danger of burn-out," said the 2008 world champion.
Hamilton then revealed on Monday that he refused to do two additional days of appearances early this week.
"I was supposed to be working today and tomorrow but I said 'no way' because I've been in England for the last week or so and it has been quite busy here.
"It's great to get home and put my feet up and watch the telly," he said.
Team boss Martin Whitmarsh admits Hamilton is feeling overworked.
"I think Lewis has done too much coming into this Grand Prix," he said.
"We've managed to organise a bit of a break for Lewis before Germany, which I know he wants," added Whitmarsh, who said F1 drivers also get "a big break" during the factory shutdown in August.
It appears one of Hamilton's cancelled appearances was a scheduled trip on Wednesday to India, with Calcutta's Telegraph reporting that the Briton's "visit is off".
"I was supposed to be flying to India for a day on Wednesday, in and out within a day. Fortunately, for some reason, it got cancelled," said Hamilton. "So that's good."
Track boss says 2012 return for Bahrain 'not our call'
Bahrain's circuit chief has described the F1 teams as "temperamental" as he admitted the island Kingdom's future on the calendar is still uncertain.
Chairman Zayed Alzayani visited the British grand prix last weekend and had little positive to say about the teams, outspoken driver Mark Webber and widespread criticisms about Bahrain's human rights record being tarnished.
The FIA came close to reinstating the Grand Prix this year but Alzayani admitted it was the teams' stance that was the most problematic.
"They have been very temperamental," he told the Evening Standard.
"I feel disappointed because it cannot go within three months from one end of the spectrum 'Oh, you are my favourite destination' ... to the other 'We don't want to go to Bahrain'.
"There were a lot of complaints from the teams and sponsors and, at the end of the day, we withdrew," he said.
The Sakhir track boss also criticised Australian Webber, who was a lone voice in the F1 paddock daring to speak about the drivers' concerns about racing in Bahrain amid the political turmoil.
"Doesn't Australia have issues with the Aborigines? I don't see Mark Webber talking about that. Why Mark Webber went against Bahrain I don't know," said Alzayani.
"They're going to the US next year," he added. "What about Guantanamo? Isn't that human rights violation? As Bernie told me, 'If human rights was the criterion for F1 races, we would only have them in Belgium and Switzerland in the future'."
Bahrain is provisionally scheduled to return to the very top of the 2012 calendar, but Alzayani admitted: "I don't know when the race will be held next year. It's not our call."
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