Marussia yet to agree TV coverage deal for 2013

It is possible Marussia will be notably missing from next weekend’s coverage of the 2013 season opener. That is because Bernie Ecclestone is yet to agree a new Concorde Agreement with the backmarker team.

The F1 chief executive said recently that he has agreed bilateral financial deals with every team, Marussia included. But, apparently, that deal does not include provisions for images of the Marussia car and driver to be broadcast on television.

Asked by ESPN whether it is a crucial missing element for Marussia just a week before opening practice in Australia, team boss John Booth answered: “No.

“It’s vital for Bernie because he won’t be able to film us without it.”

A team spokesperson confirmed that talks are now taking place.

“Nothing is signed yet,” agreed Booth, “but it’s getting pretty close now.”


Two second gap makes Red Bull ‘worried’ – Surer

The faces of Red Bull chiefs became notably “worried” as the winter pre-season period wrapped up recently.

That is the claim of Marc Surer, a former F1 driver turned German-language commentator. Indeed, as the final test week concluded in Barcelona, Mercedes sped to the top of the time sheets, whilst Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel languished two seconds too slow.

“The faces of the (Red Bull) bosses looked worried,” Surer said in an interview with T-Online. “They were missing two seconds to Mercedes, and that’s a lot, even if Vettel was carrying a lot of fuel.

“They seemed surprised by how quickly Ferrari but especially Mercedes could go.”

So why the sudden problem for Red Bull?

Throughout the test period, every driver and pundit in the paddock was predicting another strong season for the reigning champions, particularly with the rules remaining basically the same as in 2012.

“Red Bull was holding back the newest parts, so that the competition could not copy them,” Surer explained. “But they didn’t work; the car didn’t become faster.”

Another possibility is that Red Bull’s game of bluff is working just as planned.

Niki Lauda, Mercedes shareholder and chairman, told the German broadcaster RTL: “I am delighted that we showed at the last test that we are quick.

“But I also know that the value of testing is extremely limited, because we do not know whether and to what extent the other teams have been bluffing.”

So yet another possibility is that Red Bull’s formerly struggling rivals have simply caught up.

“Everyone is closer together because there have been no rule changes,” said Lauda.

“So if you had a slow car, you try to catch up, while if you are Red Bull, you have more difficulty to develop your car because you were already at the top.

“We have a good car, no doubt,” the famous Austrian told Brazil’s O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper. “But to know where we are compared to Red Bull, we need to wait for the first race.”


Maldonado can survive without Chavez – Brundle

Pastor Maldonado can probably survive in F1 even without Hugo Chavez. That is the view of former F1 driver turned respected British television commentator Martin Brundle, whilst musing the consequences of the death of the late Venezuelan president.

Until Chavez’s death early this week, Maldonado enjoyed the personal backing of the controversial leader, with his Williams seat secured by the multi-million dollar sponsorship of the state-controlled oil company PDVSA. But now, with Venezuelan elections looming, it is possible Chavez’s ruling socialist party will lose power altogether.

“There are few 27-year-olds whose livelihood is determined not only by the whim of a kindly oligarch, but by the political machinations of an entire country,” noted Telegraph correspondent Oliver Brown.

Brundle, however, thinks the situation is slightly less dramatic for Maldonado.

“He became a national hero for winning the Spanish GP last year and I think that has been good for Venezuela and good for his sponsors, so why would they want to run away?” he told Sky.

Damon Hill partly agrees, but pointed out that “in this day and age, a driver needs more than just ability”.

In fact, the 1996 world champion is now looking for just that kind of support for his son Josh, who this year has stepped up to European F3, one of the last hurdles before F1.

“You need a South American country; we’re looking for one,” Hill joked to Reuters. “Chile, Argentina, any one will do.”


Horner: Button considered moving to Toro Rosso

Jenson Button considered switching to Toro Rosso at the end of 2008, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has revealed.

Ultimately, after Honda announced its shock departure from the sport, Ross Brawn led a management buy-out of the Brackley based team, and Button went onto become 2009 world champion.

But before the Brawn rescue deal materialised, Button’s management was scrambling for a seat.

“Last minute he got a deal but I remember his management were asking us whether even Toro Rosso had a drive,” Horner is quoted by the Daily Mail.

Horner made the comments whilst admitting Button, 33, has impressed him “enormously” since becoming champion and then switching to McLaren.

“The team went from Lewis (Hamilton)’s team pretty much exclusively … maybe the relationship (between McLaren and Hamilton) had run its course.

“What factor Jenson played in that, I have no idea.”

Hulkenberg plays down ongoing Ferrari rumours

Nico Hulkenberg has played down continuing suggestions he has merely ‘parked’ at Sauber for a year, before possibly switching to Ferrari in 2014.

Told that the rumours are still abounding in the paddock, the German driver said: “It doesn’t concern me at all.

“I don’t talk about the contents of my contracts and, anyway, I haven’t even done a single race for Sauber yet,” said the 25-year-old, who has moved from Force India to Ferrari-aligned Sauber for 2013.

He continued: “Of course I hear the speculation, and it’s even a form of recognition, but the whole thing leaves me completely untouched,” Hulkenberg is quoted by the SID news agency.

“I am concentrating completely on the coming season and, first of all, Melbourne.”

Told, however, that a driver of his rising stature and potential must be targeting a future seat at Ferrari, he answered: “But it doesn’t mean I will (go).”


Rossi rules out F1 switch

Valentino Rossi has ruled out switching to F1. Some years ago, the MotoGP legend flirted with a change of codes, conducting a series of tests with Ferrari.

Now 34, the Italian said: “Unfortunately, F1 is a thing of the past for me.

“I’m too old, the train has left already,” he told Italy’s Sky broadcaster. “While I’m competitive, I’ll stay on bikes.”


Perez admits pressure higher at McLaren

Sergio Perez has felt the added pressure of stepping up the F1 grid for 2013.

Formerly the surprise podium-getter in a Sauber, the 23-year-old has now been signed up by McLaren, to replace the ultra high-profile Lewis Hamilton.

“Of course the pressure is higher now,” the Mexican is quoted by Speed Week, as he represented his new employer at the Geneva motor show.

“But I have no problems with it. “Anyone who can’t handle pressure should not sign for McLaren,” added Perez.

According to most pundits, Perez has had a mixed first winter with the famous British team, complaining about “extreme” tyre degradation and a difficulty adjusting to the new MP4-28.

“Of course I would have liked to collect more information before going to Australia,” he admitted. “Some days it was cold and really difficult to learn about the car,” said Perez.

“But I don’t know anyone in the pitlane who had carefree winter testing. So it’s the same for everyone, not a disadvantage for us.”