Mercedes is better than McLaren at putting “the focus on the driver”, Lewis Hamilton has claimed after moving teams for the first time after six years in formula one.
It is believed one of the reasons the 2008 world champion decided to leave McLaren is because Mercedes was offering a lighter deal in terms of the team’s non-driving expectations.
“We still have sponsors, sponsors’ appearances and filming days,” he told reporters at the final Barcelona test on Thursday.
“There is not a huge difference. (Just that) the focus is on the driver, the driver’s performance, the driver being ready for the job at hand.
“That’s one thing I’m noticing is a little bit better here,” added Hamilton.
Force India on Thursday completed the 2013 grid by announcing it has signed Adrian Sutil.
The Silverstone based team had weighed up reuniting with German Sutil, its long-time German driver, or promote the Ferrari-linked 2012 reserve Jules Bianchi.
“It was a close call, but ultimately we felt that Adrian’s experience and historic links to the team gave him the edge,” said team boss Vijay Mallya.
Sutil, 30, drove for the team between 2007 and 2011, sitting out last season in the wake of the Eric Lux assault affair.
Mallya added: “As for Jules Bianchi, he has impressed us enormously with his speed and work ethic, and I’m hopeful we can continue working with him this year to help him develop into a future grand prix driver.”
McLaren has denied it is slightly off the pace as teams enter the final week of pre-season testing.
With multiple sources reporting that Red Bull and Lotus look to be narrowly leading the 2013 field at present, Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali this week admitted he would be “very surprised” if the new F138 is quickest in Australia.
Drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez have been making similar noises about the 2013 McLaren.
Team newcomer and Mexican Perez sounded alarmed when he said the degradation of Pirelli’s new tyres is “extreme”, while Button admitted recently that while the radical new MP4-28 often feels good, “at other times it doesn’t”.
But McLaren’s managing director Jonathan Neale has this week sent out a more upbeat message, insisting the drivers have reported that the “handling is good”.
“I don’t think we’ve seen anybody yet do a laptime that we felt we couldn’t have done if we’d changed the fuel load,” he told British reporters. “A bit like the beginning of last season,” added Neale, “nobody stands out as being head and shoulders above everybody else at the moment and nobody appears to be hanging off the back either.”
Lotus looks set to begin the 2013 season without a title sponsor.
Late last year, it emerged that the Genii-owned team was close to announcing a $30 million per year deal with Honeywell, the American technology giant. But last month, Switzerland’s Speed Week reported that the deal is now “a way off”.
“We’ve had discussions and some of them were quite advanced,” Genii’s Gerard Lopez, without mentioning Honeywell, told Reuters this week.
“It’s important to have the right package. And the right package is to a large extent also financial. “I guess we could probably have signed a couple of things that leaked out but we think we are better off making sure that we sign what is the right thing for us,” he added.
“We will probably end up with something during the season.”
It is believed Lotus’ 2013 livery was designed with the Honeywell deal in mind.
Now, in the highly-prominent red-coloured area on the top of the engine cover near the airbox, the stylised words ‘Kimi’ and ‘Romain’ are featured on Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean’s cars respectively.
Lotus is the only top team without a title sponsor.
Ahead of the final pre-season test and 2013 season opener, Lotus has played down a new controversy about engine maps.
We reported on Monday that, after Red Bull were told to stop using certain ‘maps’ mid last season, the similarly Renault-powered Lotus was now also embroiled in a similar controversy.
Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport said the FIA directive issued in August of last year still applied for 2013, despite Red Bull and Lotus assuming it related exclusively to last season’s championship. But on Wednesday, Lotus’ operations chief Alan Permane said the suggestion the impressive recent pace of the E21 will now be affected by having to remove the offending ‘maps’ is “nonsense”.
“Renault had come up with some alternative engine maps to try,” he said, referring to last week’s Barcelona test. “They talked to the FIA about it but Charlie Whiting didn’t want us to use them.”
Permane is quoted by the BBC as insisting the engine maps in question have little to do with Lotus’ impressive winter form.
“Kimi has used the new one once on an installation lap and hated it,” he said. “Romain used it in the wet last week on the final day and it finished up ok. But all his running in the dry has been without it,” added Permane.
He said the performance advantages or disadvantages from the various Renault engine maps are “tiny”.
Permane also chided Ross Brawn for describing Renault-powered teams’ approach to exhaust layout as depending on “a clever engine management system”.
He said: “For Ross to talk about it like that is utter rubbish.”
Susie Wolff has vowed to continue her “step by step” progress towards the F1 grid.
Last year just a development driver, Williams has ramped up the 30-year-old Scot’s programme for 2013, and earlier this month she was bestowed the honour of debuting the new FW35 during an aerodynamic test. Revealing that Bernie Ecclestone is “massively pushing” for a woman to join the exclusively-male grid in the near future, Wolff said her next goal is to obtain an FIA super license.
That is the mandatory credential to be allowed to drive during a grand prix weekend, including holding the status as an official stand-in ‘reserve’ driver.
“Things are going well,” Wolff, whose husband is the Mercedes shareholder and boss Toto Wolff, said. “I think we are going step by step and, of course, the next step will be to get my super license,” she is quoted by Brazil’s Totalrace.
“I don’t want to come out and just say ‘Yes, I want to be on the grid next year’,” insisted Wolff. “My plan is to get the license, have more time in the car, help the team as much as I can and just keep going step by step.”
Kimi Raikkonen has been tipped to fight for pole in Australia next month, and the world championship in 2013.
“I am quite sure Kimi will fight for the championship,” fellow Finn Mika Salo, now a commentator for the MTV3 broadcaster, said.
After two seasons in rallying, 2007 world champion Raikkonen returned to formula one with Lotus last year, finishing the championship third and winning in Abu Dhabi.
“Last year he was not able to consistently show good results all of the time, and the team made mistakes that should not be repeated,” said former Sauber and Ferrari driver Salo.
“It is clear that the Lotus has now improved. I have no doubt that, in Australia, Kimi will fight for pole position.”