- Rumour mill considers Webber's successor
- Ignored team order maybe 'a mistake' - report
- Villeneuve compares 'Multi-21' affair with death of father
- Merc extension ends Force India's McLaren deal
- Marussia, Bianchi are surprise package of 2013
- Marussia to use Ferrari or Mercedes power in 2014
Rumour mill considers Webber's successor
As the 'Multi-21' affair rages on, the F1 rumour mill is already beginning to name potential candidates for Mark Webber's seat.
The Australian's entourage and Red Bull have already denied rumours Webber will step down before his current contract finishes, but his future beyond 2013 is much more clouded.
There have even been some calling for Sebastian Vettel to be suspended for a race.
"It is a very serious affair if you tell a driver to do something and he doesn't do it," McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh agrees. "It could also be a breach of his contract."
That prospect has excited Switzerland's Blick newspaper, with veteran correspondent Roger Benoit pointing out that capable reserve driver Sebastien Buemi is waiting impatiently in the wings.
Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost told Blick: "There will certainly be no change of drivers between Red Bull and Toro Rosso."
Whitmarsh agreed: "You cannot manage these guys by discipline or by threat of broken contract -- unless you are seriously exasperated."
Bernie Ecclestone adds: "I don't think I'd give that (a race ban for Vettel) any consideration. (Instead) I'd say to Sebastian, 'in future don't make me look an idiot'."
More likely is that Red Bull will push ahead in 2013 before seriously considering whether Webber, 36, can work together with trust and harmony with his now obvious enemy Vettel in the longer term.
Germany's Bild newspaper said another Australian, Ricciardo, could be a real option for 2014.
The report also mentioned rising Red Bull-contracted star Antonio Felix da Costa, even though his more likely next step would be a Toro Rosso race seat.
According to Der Spiegel, a Red Bull spokesperson is quoted as saying deliberations about contracts for 2014 will begin "in the summer".
Asked whether Webber and Vettel will continue to work together, F1 chief executive Ecclestone continued: "Yes, of course they will, obviously they will."
As for whether he was talking about 2014, he admitted: "I don't know about that."
Ignored team order maybe 'a mistake' - report
There could be truth in Sebastian Vettel's claim that he didn't deliberately ignore team orders in Malaysia last Sunday.
Indeed, after happily celebrating the Sepang win initially, the German's face only turned to thunder once Mark Webber angrily repeated the order-code 'Multi-21' as they prepared to go onto the podium.
"I talked to him (Webber) and he came straight to the point. That was when it struck me like lightning," Vettel told F1's official website.
Germany's Sport Bild claims Vettel might really have overlooked, misunderstood or minimised the significance of the 'Multi-21' order -- which may have been sent to the drivers by way of a digital display message on the steering wheel.
Dr Helmut Marko said on Austrian Servus TV: "We have this certain code - the '21' - which was told by the race engineer on two occasions. There was no response."
Elsewhere, the team orders scandal triggered by Sunday's events rolls on.
Bernie Ecclestone has chimed in, saying that if he was a reigning triple world champion like Vettel, he also would have ignored the order.
"I'd probably do exactly the same as Kimi Raikkonen did when he came back and they gave him some instructions. I'd say 'I know what I'm doing'," said the F1 chief executive.
Peter Mucke, a former mentor of the once rising Formula BMW driver Vettel, agrees: "A driver who wants to win the world championship must be uncompromising.
"Racers are selfish and will be so even in a team sport," he told Der Tagesspiegel newspaper.
The saga has even spilled into an argument between Christian Horner and Flavio Briatore, after the controversial former Renault boss accused Horner of losing control of Red Bull and being "weak".
Briatore had told Italian radio Rai: "Christian didn't even have the strength to get on the podium because they're terrified with a driver in charge instead of the team manager."
Red Bull hit back in a statement: "A 'weak' team principal would be unable to steer a team to three consecutive world championships and oversee and manage the extensive teamwork that goes into this achievement -- while managing two talented racers."
At the same time, Briatore backed away from the controversy, insisting his comments were "misinterpreted" because he has "a lot of respect" for Horner.
"As a team principal, I think Chris has done an excellent job not only for Red Bull, but for formula one in general, and he is still undoubtedly doing so," he said.
Villeneuve compares 'Multi-21' affair with death of father
1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve is not sure Sebastian Vettel's apologies should be so readily accepted.
Vettel repeatedly said sorry to Mark Webber after Sunday's Malaysian grand prix, where he passed the Australian for victory against Red Bull's orders.
And he apologised to the Milton-Keynes based team's entire staff on Thursday, team boss Christian Horner revealed.
"He recognises the team is vitally important and being part of the team is a crucial aspect to being able to challenge for the championships," said Horner.
But outspoken Villeneuve, now a television pundit, told Germany's Auto Bild: "It's easy to make excuses.
"In the end he's got the win and the points. Mark has nothing. It was a deliberate decision by Vettel."
French Canadian Villeneuve said it is obvious the 25-year-old triple world champion did the wrong thing.
"The team give you the contract and pay you money and so you do what they want you to do. It's very simple," he said.
Villeneuve compared the Sepang saga with 1982, when Didier Pironi similarly ignored a 'do not pass' agreement to beat his father, Gilles Villeneuve, to the chequered flag at Imola.
"Ignoring is just plain wrong," said Villeneuve. "The best example is my father and Didier Pironi. Just look at the problems that caused."
Indeed, Villeneuve snr was so enraged by Pironi's actions that many believe it contributed to his crash and death at Zolder shortly afterwards.
Whatever the case, the general consensus in the paddock is that the affair has terminally damaged the teammates' relationship at Red Bull.
"They will simply have to try to survive the rest of the season somehow," former driver Mika Salo told Finland's MTV3 broadcaster.
"For next season, they (Red Bull) will probably look for another driver to put in Webber's place."
Merc extension ends Force India's McLaren deal
Force India has extended its engine deal with customer supplier Mercedes.
When the Silverstone based team was considering its 2013 driver lineup, many observers saw Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi's respective links to Mercedes and Ferrari as among the keys to Force India's final choice.
Ultimately, Force India signed the reportedly Mercedes-linked German Sutil.
On Thursday, the team said in a statement it has indeed extended its Mercedes deal for the "long-term", beginning with the start of the new turbo V6 era next year.
>From 2014, this will include the supply of Mercedes' engine, energy recovery system, gearbox and hydraulics.
Force India began its relationship with Mercedes in 2009.
Currently, McLaren supplies Force India's gearbox and hydraulics. Reuters quoted a spokesman as saying McLaren's arrangement with Force India will end.
"Our new agreement with Mercedes-Benz for the coming years is the most significant in the history of Sahara Force India," said team boss Vijay Mallya.
McLaren's long-term relationship with Mercedes is in doubt, amid rumours the famous British team could pair with returning engine supplier Honda from 2015.
"It is a significant milestone to announce our first long-term agreement for powertrain supply under the 2014 regulations," said Mercedes' Toto Wolff on Thursday.
"We hope it will mean Mercedes-Benz and Sahara Force India working together for the entire life cycle of the new powertrain generation."
Marussia, Bianchi are surprise package of 2013
A backmarker and its young rookie are emerging as a true surprise package of 2013.
Still yet to sign a commercial deal with Bernie Ecclestone for the new season, it emerged recently that Marussia could have disappeared from the grid over the winter in ultimately failed merger talks with usual back-of-the-grid rival Caterham.
For 2013, the Banbury-based team signed up pay-drivers Max Chilton and Luiz Razia, but the latter Brazilian's sponsor money dried up before he could even travel to Melbourne.
At the eleventh hour, Marussia plumped instead for 23-year-old Frenchman Jules Bianchi; a handsome rookie with solid connections in the form of manager Nicolas Todt - son of the FIA president - and solidly under contract to Ferrari's driver development 'academy'.
The Ferrari link could see Marussia move from Cosworth to Maranello-made power for the new turbo V6 era.
"You have to ask the team (about that)," Bianchi told Switzerland's Motorsport Aktuell.
"I don't know anything about it," he added, despite admitting that Ferrari "helped me to get the cockpit".
Marussia might now be counting its lucky stars. Some believe that, after the first two races of 2013, and spotted from deep in the pack, Bianchi is standing out in the way that Fernando Alonso did at Minardi more than a decade ago.
So far, he is clearly faster than Briton Chilton - the son of wealthy insurance mogul Grahame Chilton - and arguably on the road to scoring the team's first-ever point.
"If I was a betting man," Marussia chief executive Andy Webb told Reuters on Thursday, "I would bet on us beating Caterham this season.
"I would also recommend placing a bet on Marussia scoring their first point this season," he added.
Bianchi agrees that the back end of the midfield is now a realistic target for Marussia, despite the team having the smallest budget in pitlane.
"Basically, the potential is there," Bianchi agreed. "For the team and for me.
"In qualifying in Malaysia we were only 3 tenths slower than Williams. Compared to last year they were two seconds faster than us. That's not bad, is it?"
Having tested extensively for Ferrari, and serving as Force India's Friday practice driver last year, Bianchi admitted he expected to be underwhelmed when he first stepped into the 2013 Marussia.
Actually, he was "surprised".
"I had expected the difference to be greater," said Bianchi.
"I believe that, if we continue like this, we can start to think about Q2, and if I keep dreaming then maybe even the first championship point."
Marussia to use Ferrari or Mercedes power in 2014
Marussia chief executive Andy Webb has admitted the team will be powered either by Ferrari or Mercedes engines in 2014.
Cosworth, whose only customer in F1 this year is the Banbury-based team, is expected to leave the sport before the start of the new turbo V6 era.
So with Renault saying recently it is in talks with Toro Rosso but does not want any more customers, Marussia's choice appears to be between Ferrari and Mercedes.
"It's obvious," said Webb, "that with the departure of Cosworth then we can choose between Ferrari and Mercedes.
"We'll talk with both," he told Russia's Championat.
"It is clear that the price will be an important factor, because the cost will be significantly higher than the current engines," added Webb.
"And we need to make sure we choose the right partner. I hope to be able to announce our decision in the next four weeks."
It is believed that 2013 Marussia driver Jules Bianchi's connections with Ferrari make the Italian marque the favourite for the deal.
Webb admitted that the final decision should be made as soon as possible.
"The 2014 car is already in the wind tunnel," he said.
"We have already seen a lot of data on the requirements for the engines in 2014," Webb explained. "We have not chosen a partner yet, but we have a lot of information.
"Of course, a quick decision on the engine would help. Preferably by the end of April."
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