Time since 2008 title tilt ‘intense’ admits Massa

Aug.31 (GMM) Felipe Massa has acknowledged being beaten by Fernando Alonso this year but the Brazilian insists he is not afraid of his teammate.

In the Ferrari drivers’ qualifying battle so far in 2011 – off the back of Brazilian Massa’s difficult 2010 season – Massa has outpaced Spaniard Alonso just three times out of twelve.

“Well, it’s simple,” Massa said during an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais. “Fernando has been far better than me in that area.

“I am working to turn around the situation and, in any case, I have not exactly been slow,” he insisted.

Massa, 30, so nearly won the 2008 championship against Lewis Hamilton but since then he has struggled with Ferrari’s 2009 car, returned from a near-fatal crash and welcomed his first child into the world.

And since Brazil 2008, he has failed to add a single win to his tally of 11.

So what has changed? “Nothing. I am exactly the same,” insists Massa. “It is true that I have not got the results since then but I have the same ambition and determination.”

Asked if his fatherhood and his struggle for survival after Hungary 2009 affected him, Massa admitted: “Both things give you a lot of experience. But none of it affects me when I get into the car.

“Then, you do not remember anything. In the car I forget about my son, my wife, my father and mother. Michael (Schumacher) won many titles as a parent, so people talk about it too much.

“Although it is true that these two years have been the most intense of my life.”

In the 2011 standings, Massa is a massive 185 points behind Sebastian Vettel’s lead, meaning that even mathematically he can no longer win the title.

But it remains “important to focus on the present,” Massa said. “We hope to do better.

“Also we are not expecting many changes in the regulations (between 2011 and 2012) so it is crucial to finish the season with a competitive car.

“Next year the position of the exhaust changes but not the (other) aerodynamics, so the cars will be an evolution of these ones. So it’s worth it to stay focused.”

And Massa insists he is still a winning driver.

“Of course. If I didn’t think that I would go home.”

GP2 Leader van der Garde aiming for 2012 F1 race seat

GP2 frontrunner Giedo van der Garde’s manager has revealed talks about the 2012 season with three formula one teams.

Last weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, where the Dutchman emerged in second place behind the new GP2 champion Romain Grosjean, 26-year-old van der Garde was linked with the 2012 Williams seat currently occupied by Rubens Barrichello.

Media reports said he has “the most” sponsorship money to offer a potential F1 employer.

“That (F1) is the goal, yes,” NUsport quotes van der Garde as saying. “My management is in talks with three teams, so there are possibilities. There is no plan B.

“So there are some free places but it (F1) is a strange world.”

Van der Garde’s case is indeed unique, with his manager Jan Paul ten Hoopen doubling as the commercial director of the F1 sponsor McGregor, a Dutch fashion house.

And van der Garde’s father-in-law is billionaire Marcel Boekhoorn.

The Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reports that Boekhoorn may be interested in buying into the Renault team, and van der Garde has also been linked with Virgin.

“The real conversations (with teams) don’t take place until October, or at least after the Italian grand prix,” said manager ten Hoopen.

Source: GMM

No fear of Monza after Red Bull’s Spa result

Red Bull will travel to high speed Monza next week with less-than-expected levels of trepidation.

The championship leading team was expecting its Renault engines to suffer on the long straights of Spa-Francorchamps, but Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber – with blistering tyres – delivered a one-two finish instead.

Italian grand prix venue Monza, meanwhile, is an even higher speed venue, and without many of the kinds of corners seen in Spa’s sector two that suited Adrian Newey’s RB7.

“In the last two years it (Monza) has not been a good track for us, so we’ll see,” Briton Newey is quoted as saying by Autosprint after accepting the constructors’ trophy on the Belgian grand prix podium.

Runaway points leader Vettel is happier with the prospect of racing at Monza after winning last Sunday.

“The car felt so fantastic (at Spa) and the balance was fabulous so it (Monza) should be manageable,” said the German.

Team boss Christian Horner admitted the Belgian result was a surprise.

“In many respects it was, yes, because power is a dominant factor and we thought it would perhaps favour some of our opponents more,” he said.

The RB7 was wearing a noticeably thin rear wing profile at Spa and the bespoke item will return to the car next weekend.

“I think that if we want to get close to certain engines on the straight we have to run a bit less wing,” confirmed Horner.

Source: GMM

Qatar denies Silverstone lease reports

Reports that Qatar is the likely buyer of the $400m lease of British Grand Prix venue Silverstone have been denied.

A British newspaper this week said the Arab emirate’s sovereign wealth fund is in exclusive talks for the 150-year lease with track owner The British Racing Drivers’ Club.

But the Gulf Times said the Qatar Investment Authority rejected the “authenticity of press reports … that it is a close to a deal” over Silverstone.

And an official source told the Qatar News Agency that there are “no relevant negotiations, currently nor in the past, in this respect”.

Source: GMM

Renault team owner Lopez open to Spa buy-out

Renault team owner Gerard Lopez has confirmed his interest in buying into Spa-Francorchamps.

The fabled Belgian circuit is a favourite among drivers and fans, but for financial reasons it might have to annually alternate a single race date in future with France.

Spa is currently controlled by the local Walloon government, and it was rumoured recently that Lopez’s Genii Capital was interested in buying into the track.

“Spa is a great circuit,” he told the Tageblatt Luxembourg newspaper, “and there would be a lot more we can do with it. We could develop together for the region.

“So if they are open for (talks with) private investors, then why not?” said Lopez.

The circuit’s general manager Pierre-Alain Thibaut, however, said that is unlikely.

“It is not possible,” he told The National. “The circuit is so important and imperative to all the region from an economic point of view.

“Of course, anything can happen, but, in my opinion, it is not the right way forward.”

Source: GMM

Lopez: We needed to test drivers other than Heidfeld

Nick Heidfeld’s response to the appointment of Bruno Senna in Belgium and beyond “surprised” Renault team owner Gerard Lopez.

German Heidfeld attempted to win a court injunction prior to Spa-Francorchamps to enforce his contract to race in Robert Kubica’s cockpit this year until the Pole is ready to return.

The judge ruled that Senna be allowed to race for the next two races before a full High Court hearing can take place after the Italian grand prix next month.

Heidfeld, 34, then appeared in the Spa paddock last weekend in order to be able to show the judge that he never breached his side of the contract.

“I was surprised,” Genii chairman Lopez told the Tageblatt Luxembourg newspaper. “I would say it is an emotional reaction.”

Lopez however defended Renault’s decision to replace Heidfeld with Senna.

“His performance was not right so we need to test other drivers,” he insisted. “Nick has always been a good colleague but we told him that we had not from him what we had expected.

“He was always treated with respect and that will continue, because he is still a member of the team,” added Lopez.

Source: GMM

Kolles to stay at HRT in 2012

HRT has no immediate plans to replace team principal Colin Kolles, according to new team advisor Luis Perez-Sala.

Sala, a former Minardi driver, was appointed by the former Hispania team’s new owners Thesan Capital amid rumours Kolles might be asked to step aside.

Not so, Sala told the Spanish website CarAndDriverTheF1.com at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend.

“There are no thoughts about changing the head of HRT; it is he who brings together the entire workforce. It would make no sense now or in 2012,” he said.

Sala, who contested 30 grands prix in the late eighties, also said HRT is sticking with Cosworth power and its technical tie-up with Williams.

“We have a contract with Cosworth for next year and we also have an agreement with Williams,” he revealed. “We will stay with these components because they are not the problem of the car.”

Source: GMM

Buemi’s father insists new Webber deal wasn’t a surprise

Red Bull’s decision to re-sign Mark Webber for 2012 was not a surprise according to Antoine Buemi, the father of Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Buemi.

According to Swiss newspaper Blick, Buemi was disappointed to learn the news about Webber’s new deal at Spa-Francorchamps because he was hoping to be promoted to the premier Red Bull team next year.

The news leaves a dark cloud over Buemi’s career, with either he or Jaime Alguersuari expected to have to make room at Toro Rosso for Daniel Ricciardo.

On the Webber news, however, Antoine Buemi told the Swiss newspaper Le Nouvelliste: “We were not surprised.

“Mark Webber and Red Bull have grown together and the team is pretty thankful.

“The Australian is also the ideal teammate for the world champion (Sebastian Vettel). He is fast enough to allow the team to go for both titles while doing no harm to the lead driver.

“By having an ambitious young man, there could be too many quarrels between the two drivers,” added Buemi Snr.

Antoine Buemi insisted that his son might be able to stay at Toro Rosso next year.

“There is nothing saying that one of the two has to leave, in fact both of them might be able to stay. The press tends to amplify the rumours,” he said.

As for Buemi’s other options, “There are few teams that focus on drivers that are not directly or indirectly connected with money, which is a handicap for us,” said his father.

“Having said that the pressure is easier today than at the beginning of the season. Sebastien has got used to it. He knows the rules of the game.”

Source: GMM

Two independent DRS zones for the Italian GP

There will be two independent DRS zones in use during next weekend’s Italian grand prix at Monza.

There were also two rear-wing overtaking zones per lap in Montreal and Valencia, but due to the complexity of operating the system for the FIA, there was just one activation point per circuit.

The two independent zones at Monza, a first for formula one, will mean that chasing drivers have two separate opportunities per lap to get within one second of their rival prior to reaching the overtaking zones.

At high speed Monza, the first DRS will be located on the pit straight, and the other on the long run to the Ascari chicane, according to Globo Esporte (Brazil), Auto Hebdo (France) and Autosprint (Italy).

Source: GMM

Lopez expecting Kubica to race again in 2012

Robert Kubica’s return to the F1 cockpit will begin at the wheel of a sophisticated driver simulator, according to reports.

The Swiss newspaper Blick, as well as Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, said the first test will probably take place at Toyota’s state-of-the-art Cologne facility.

Toyota will reportedly be selected because its simulator is much better than Enstone-based Renault’s.

Renault team boss Eric Boullier has already revealed that the next step after that for Kubica would be a run in a two-year-old single seater, in accordance with the F1 test ban.

Kubica is currently recovering in hospital from a successful fifth and final operation, to restore full mobility to his right elbow.

“We still do not know exactly but I think there will be clarity in a few weeks,” said Renault team owner Genii’s Gerard Lopez, to the Tageblatt Luxembourg newspaper.

“At the moment, we are still expecting that in 2012, Robert will be racing with us,” he added.

Source: GMM