- Rosberg says Mercedes 'very close' to title challenge
- Horner denies claims he could replace Ecclestone
- Schumacher has 'unilateral option' to extend contract
- F1 title would have made paddock life easier - Massa
- Whitmarsh not worried Hamilton spat to turn 'toxic'
- Di Resta spokesman confirms Hamilton split
- Promoter confirms Rome grand prix idea dead
- Italy GP 'not in danger' over Monza asphalt crisis
Rosberg says Mercedes 'very close' to title challenge
Nico Rosberg has admitted Mercedes' is not the fastest car in 2012, but insists he is in the running for this year's title.
The German won his first Grand Prix in more than a hundred attempts this year in China; a breakthrough also for Mercedes after a 55-year victory drought.
27-year-old Rosberg said recently that the W03 car is perhaps the fastest overall on the 2012 grid.
Was he correctly quoted?
"No, no. It's not the fastest car," he said in an interview with Marca newspaper, conducted with Rosberg in Spanish.
"It's a good car, and in some races it's the fastest, and anyway we're in a good situation.
"We have to take a small step forward and then, yes, we can fight to win every race," said Rosberg.
His optimism might raise a few eyebrows, but perhaps they shouldn't, given he is only being beaten in the drivers' standings so far by grandees Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
Why, then, is he not considered a real 2012 championship contender?
"Because the others are with teams that have won championships, while I'm with ... we are a team that is growing," said Rosberg.
"If we can win again then people will start looking at us as contenders."
The interviewer pointed out that at a team featuring multiple title winners Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher, it is "curious" that Rosberg is the one best poised to succeed now.
"Curious?" Rosberg answered. "I was sure that I could do well with this team, but I'm not happy to be ahead of Michael. He is having much less luck than me.
"His car has not reached the finish line four times this year even though he is driving very well - better than the other years."
Arguably most importantly for Mercedes, however, is that the former Brawn team is now being once again regarded as a leader in F1 innovation, chiefly because of the novel F-duct system seen in 2012.
But Rosberg insists that there are other "very smart things" on the W03 as well.
"That's the difference between this year and previous years," he said. "Before we were copying and now we are inventing things that are working very well for us.
"Ross is still very smart," smiled Rosberg.
So perhaps Mercedes and Rosberg will be fully equipped to win the championship together in 2013?
"Perhaps this year," the German said. "We are close; we are very close."
Horner denies claims he could replace Ecclestone
Christian Horner has emphatically denied suggestions he might be the next Bernie Ecclestone.
Already very close to the sport's 81-year-old 'supremo' Ecclestone - who is at the middle of a potentially-damaging corruption affair - the name 'Horner' is often mentioned in the paddock as perhaps Ecclestone's preferred successor.
Briton Horner, 38, a former F3000 driver, was central to the transformation of the hapless Jaguar team into the juggernaut of energy drink Red Bull's F1 domination.
He has already been linked with the top job at Ferrari, and now British newspapers are musing that Horner is in line for the very top job of all.
Writing in the Times, journalist Kevin Eason said even the FIA believes Horner is the frontrunner to replace Ecclestone.
A source at the Jean Todt-led federation said: "What more can Christian achieve as a team principal? He is too bright not to get bored with doing the same thing every year.
"I think he will fancy it."
Horner moved swiftly to quash the speculation.
"I cannot imagine it," he said. "I wouldn't be equipped to deal with that role.
"I am totally happy with what I am doing," Red Bull's team principal insisted. "I don't think there is any one individual who could do what Bernie does. At the rate Bernie is going, it will be a long time anyway."
Eason said Mercedes' chief executive Nick Fry could be another contender.
An unnamed paddock insider told the Guardian: "Eventually, I don't think there is anyone who can replace Bernie. He will ultimately be replaced by an executive board.
"But I think Christian can play a part on that board. Looking at the other team bosses, he is the only one."
The insider, however, said Horner is not popular among his fellow bosses because "he seems to say 'no' to everything".
David Coulthard backs his former boss.
"He (Horner) has proved himself as a team principal and he's capable of going on to do something beyond that.
"But I'm not sure anyone could replace Bernie Ecclestone," said the ex-Red Bull and McLaren driver.
Schumacher has 'unilateral option' to extend contract
The extension of Michael Schumacher's contract at Mercedes is the seven-time world champion's decision alone.
That is the claim of the German newspaper Die Welt.
"In (F1) industry circles it is said that Schumacher sets the direction," read the report.
"Apparently only he has the unilateral option to renew his contract. So the veteran is unlikely to be rushed into making a hasty decision."
The news puts into context Mercedes' imposition of a six-week deadline for a decision about the 2013 cockpit alongside Nico Rosberg.
"We know it is coming and we have to make a decision soon," team boss Ross Brawn said.
Die Welt's claim also makes sense of team executive Nick Fry's recent assertion that Schumacher's run of bad luck could move the 43-year-old to quit, and his naming of Paul di Resta as an ideal successor.
And Schumacher's manager Sabine Kehm said on Wednesday: "We won't participate in a public discussion about time periods, background or preferences," she told DPA news agency.
"I can only repeat that we will communicate the decision along with the team when it comes."
F1 title would have made paddock life easier - Massa
Felipe Massa is sure his paddock life would be much easier had he become world champion in 2008.
The Brazilian only missed out on winning the title four years ago because Lewis Hamilton overtook Timo Glock mere seconds after Massa won his home race at Interlagos for the 2008 finale.
"If the last 17 seconds of that race had been different, the thing that would have changed is a bit more respect from the media," Massa told the Express newspaper this week in London.
Particularly before an improvement in form for the 31-year-old recently, the media was piling pressure on Ferrari to dump the struggling driver.
"Even if the media would have been hard with me now because I am not having the results I want, I believe, had I won (in 2008), I would maybe get a bit more respect than I do now," he insisted.
Massa has credited his recent surge in form not to a personal improvement, but rather the steps taken by Ferrari to speed up its once-ailing F2012 car.
"We have improved the car as well from Monaco onwards, so we clearly have a chance to fight for the podium at Silverstone," he said ahead of this weekend's British GP.
Massa said he has learned how to deal with the unique pressures of being a Ferrari race driver.
"Every year somebody is coming to Ferrari. You even have years when more than one driver is coming to Ferrari," he explained.
"I don't really think about it or let it go inside of my mind. Maybe the first year I was here I did but, after I understood the situation, I don't really worry."
Whitmarsh not worried Hamilton spat to turn 'toxic'
Martin Whitmarsh insists he is not worried McLaren is heading for a behind-the-scenes stoush with star driver Lewis Hamilton.
The 2008 world champion's contract runs out this year, and so far team executive Ron Dennis has indicated the 27-year-old might have to take a pay-cut.
Briton Hamilton hit back by indicating he is prepared to fight even for minor details, like the right to keep his trophies rather than relinquish them to the display cabinets at McLaren's Woking factory.
Team boss Martin Whitmarsh played down the burgeoning spat.
"We'd rather focus on making the car quicker, make sure we don't make any mistakes, operate well, try to win races and ultimately go for a championship," he told the Mirror when asked about the crucial talks with Hamilton.
"I don't think things are going to become toxic," he added. "I've known Lewis a long time. We have a very good understanding and trust of one another.
"I hope and believe that goes both ways. I don't see doing the deal as a big issue.
"It hasn't had the intensity of 'we must get this fixed' because we are pretty comfortable with each other at the moment," said Whitmarsh.
He indicated that something as apparently minor as whether McLaren should give up its tradition of not letting drivers keep their trophies will not sour the deal.
"I suspect in the coming weeks we will sit down and find a decent outcome," said Whitmarsh. "Some of those peripheral issues are resolvable."
Di Resta spokesman confirms split with manager Anthony Hamilton
A spokesman for Paul di Resta has confirmed reports the Force India driver his split with his manager Anthony Hamilton.
The Telegraph had said the 26-year-old Scot and Hamilton, who also no longer manages his son Lewis Hamilton, parted "some weeks ago" for unknown reasons.
A spokesman for di Resta, who is linked with a move to Mercedes for 2013 in the event Michael Schumacher returns to retirement, confirmed the split to the Scotsman and Sun newspapers, but did not elaborate on the reasons.
Grenada-born Hamilton, 56, has not commented.
But the Scotsman said di Resta or Hamilton have no plans to formally announce the split.
Martin Brundle, a former GP driver turned lead British television commentator, tipped di Resta for a bright future.
"There is no doubt that Paul will be on the shopping list for consideration by several top and well funded teams in the future and he is unquestionably a great talent," he said.
"It's too early to say if he's world champion material."
Promoter confirms Rome GP idea "dead"
Maurizio Flammini, who tried to organise an F1 race on the streets of Rome, has admitted the project is definitely dead.
He told Ansa news agency: "Absolutely not, it can't be done due to the problem of bureaucracy.
"I am now working on the Grand Prix of New York that I hope will go ahead soon," Flammini, a former F2 driver and world superbike promoter, added.
He explained: "The bureaucracy stops thousands of projects in Rome, not just Formula One. We should fight against it.
"It is unthinkable that a planning agreement, the foundation of any business venture that can be done in the area, has a duration ranging from 6 to 15 years.
"Any initiative in this world is old in six years, let alone fifteen," insisted Flammini.
Italy GP 'not in danger' over Monza asphalt crisis
Bernie Ecclestone has been told all is well with Monza's organisation of the famous Italian GP in September.
Last month, we reported that local authorities were investigating the fabled circuit following problems at this year's World Superbike races.
La Gazzetta dello Sport said prosecutors suspected the organisers knew ahead of time that the track surface was inadequate.
The same newspaper now reports that key officials including circuit director Enrico Ferrari have been suspended.
Wiretaps have reportedly proved that the officials deliberately ignored the risk that the sub-standard asphalt at Parabolica corner could cause problems.
"The management was aware of the problems of the asphalt but kept it quiet from the drivers, teams and race officials," circuit operator Sias' Paolo Guaitamacchi said.
He added: "Before the end of July we will correct the safety of the asphalt in the Parabolica.
"I have spoken with (Bernie) Ecclestone's closest collaborators, reassuring them that the organisation of the Italian Grand Prix in September is definitely not in danger," said Guaitamacchi.
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