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.”


Former friends Sutil & Hamilton to meet

Lewis Hamilton on Thursday sounded keen to patch up his broken friendship with returning F1 rival Adrian Sutil.

As German Sutil’s career was in tatters amid the Eric Lux assault affair, long-time friend Hamilton refused to appear as a witness at the trial.

Sutil, now 30, is returning to the grid after a one-year absence with Force India this year, and both the German and Hamilton are testing this week in Spain.

“I emailed him a couple of times and I emailed him a while ago saying that I heard that he could get the seat and that I hoped he would because he deserved it,” Hamilton told reporters in Barcelona.

“I also emailed him on the way here as soon as I found out, saying congratulations, and that I was happy for him. I haven’t heard back from him but I’m sure at some stage we will get to talk,” added the Mercedes driver.

Sutil was fined EUR 200,000 and given an 18-month suspended sentence for the assault, and as he exited F1 he denounced Hamilton as a “coward”.

Asked about his relationship with Hamilton, he said on Thursday: “I haven’t spoken to him. I have no relationship with him.

“For sure I will meet up with him, but I don’t know what will happen,” added Sutil.


Villeneuve: Grosjean ‘did not learn’ from 2012 mistakes

Romain Grosjean, denounced by Mark Webber last year as the ‘first lap nutcase’, insists he has changed for the better ahead of the 2013 season. But 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve doesn’t think so.

“The only reason he has the chance of winning is because he has an incredible car,” French Canadian Villeneuve, who has been signed up by F1’s new French broadcaster Canal+ for 2013, said.

“His only problem is that he does not learn from his mistakes,” the former Williams and Sauber driver is quoted by France’s RMC Sport.

“I found all of last year’s nonsense amazing,” continued Villeneuve. “He didn’t change from the first to the last race. It’s a shame because he is a very fast driver.”

Of the other F1 drivers, outspoken Villeneuve admitted that his favourite is Fernando Alonso.

“The best car is certainly Adrian Newey’s Red Bull. But apart from Alonso, there is no driver capable of driving at the limit of the car the whole race. When Vettel does, he makes mistakes,” said the 41-year-old.

“The only standout is Alonso. After him, maybe Lewis Hamilton. He is no longer at McLaren, with his family, and so he is not protected any more, but he is a fighter so it will be very interesting,” added Villeneuve.


Report – Mercedes’ Lauda to return to aviation

Having recently stepped down at Air Berlin, it is rumoured Niki Lauda could be looking to return to the world of aviation.

As he became a shareholder and the chairman at Mercedes’ works team, the famous Austrian stepped down from an existing management position at Air Berlin.

The business newspaper Handelsblatt speculated last month that Lauda “wants to dedicate his future to his role in formula one”.

But the Austrian daily Der Standard is now reporting that Alitalia, Italy’s struggling national airline, has targeted former triple world champion Lauda for the role of managing director.

“We do not comment on these media indiscretions,” an Alitalia spokesperson told the APA news agency.

And Lauda told Die Presse newspaper: “I’ve heard the rumours but no one has spoken to me — not even the journalists who peddle the story.”


Kovalainenin running for Razia’s seat

Heikki Kovalainen has emerged as a surprise contender to keep his F1 career alive in 2013.

Ousted by Caterham, the Finn is reportedly in talks with Marussia about replacing the Brazilian Luiz Razia, whose F1 debut is on the skids over delayed sponsorship payments.

MTV3, the Finnish broadcaster, is citing ‘several credible sources’ in reporting that 31-year-old Kovalainen is in with a shout of becoming Max Chilton’s teammate.

Multiple other media sources are reporting the same, based on swirling rumours in the Barcelona paddock that Razia will not be driving the Cosworth-powered Marussia this week.

“Nothing is certain until it is certain,” said MTV3 commentator Oskari Saari, “but that discussions are taking place is a fact.”

Saari added that it is “quite possible” Kovalainen will test the new MR02 on Saturday.

Britain’s Sky reports that Kovalainen has already had a seat fitting at Marussia’s factory, and is offering to race in 2013 for free.

“We have to do what is best for the whole team,” Marussia sporting director Graeme Lowdon said. “If there are changes it will be for the good of the team.”

It has also been rumoured that Narain Karthikeyan and Jules Bianchi are possible contenders for Razia’s seat. Meanwhile, Vitaly Petrov’s manager Oksana Kosachenko was in the Barcelona paddock on Thursday, sparking rumours of a Russian team-and-driver lineup for 2013.

But Kosachenko said: “We’ve already seen the Russian presence of the team diminish.

“The Russians on the team are almost gone,” she told, “Nikolai Fomenko stopped going to the races. The Russians are actually only the owners and the license holders.

“This year, Vitaly will not be in Formula )ne,” Kosachenko confirmed.


Pirelli wants new F1 contract soon

Pirelli is pushing hard for an early decision about whether it will remain F1’s official tyre supplier beyond 2013.

Now towards the end of its existing three-season deal, the Italian marque has made clear it wants to stay.

But “Time is pressing on,” motor sport director Paul Hembery is quoted by Britain’s Sky.

And according to Italiaracing, the fluent Italian speaker added: “The negotiations are ongoing and there is progress, but nothing conclusive.

“For sure we should not be here in June or July, talking about how things are going,” said Briton Hembery.


Caterham remove dubious exhaust

Caterham has followed Williams’ lead by removing a dubious solution for its Coanda-effect exhaust from its 2013 car.

Williams tweaked the specification of its FW35 as last week’s testing concluded, and on Thursday – as the final days of running in Barcelona began – it was clear Caterham was also now fielding a more conventional design.

In the green car, Frenchman Charles Pic ended Thursday’s running a half-second behind the Marussia.

In Speed Week, technical expert Gary Anderson said the black and red Lotus is offering drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean “outstanding” traction.

“In that respect,” he said, “the Caterham is the opposite of a Lotus.”