Briatore involved in Ecclestone bribe affair – report

Banned former F1 chief Flavio Briatore has been named as being also involved in the Gerhard Gribkowsky bribery affair.

The Italian, a friend and business partner of Bernie Ecclestone, was reportedly involved in the F1 chief executive’s payment of millions to jailed German banker Gribkowsky.

The Seddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said Briatore, as well as a Swiss lawyer, helped Ecclestone get the money to Gribkowsky via a web of shell companies and fake consultancy contracts.

And the report said four of Ecclestone’s lawyers – three in Geneva and one in London – have been subject to searches by prosecutors.

The 80-year-old has said he was effectively blackmailed by Gribkowsky and argued that the amount paid to the former BayernLB risk manager was much less than $44m.

APA news agency said the prosecutors have declined to comment on the latest reports.

Source: GMM

Will Webber retire next year?

Dr Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s driver manager and consultant, has said that a 2012 F1 contract will probably be Mark Webber’s last.

The Austrian is known to be closer to fellow German-speaker Sebastian Vettel’s side of the garage, and he stunned F1’s Australian contingent on Sunday by effectively announcing 34-year-old Webber’s impending retirement.

Marko told broadcaster One’s coverage of the Hungarian Grand Prix that Webber is “probably going to retire” next year.

He said Red Bull therefore “would need to find one of our juniors who can replace Mark Webber”.

Ironically, a leading candidate is Webber’s countryman Daniel Ricciardo, who has been slotted in at HRT alongside Italian veteran Vitantonio Liuzzi.

“First of all, he has to beat his teammate, and he has to progress,” said Marko.

“He (Ricciardo) is losing too much in the pitstops, and losing too much when he is being lapped so he must get the feeling. And we want him to fight with the people who are around him.”

Source: GMM

Red Bull to test new diffuser at Spa

A long-awaited summer break, including mandatory factory shutdowns, lies ahead for F1 team members.

But the previously dominant Red Bull, beaten by Ferrari and McLaren at the last three races is planning a significant upgrade for the RB7 to debut at Spa-Francorchamps later this month.

“McLaren have made the biggest leap in the blown diffuser (area),” team boss Christian Horner told Der Spiegel in Hungary, adding that there is still developmental “potential” in Red Bull’s car.

The report said a new floor and diffuser, to be tested in Friday practice in Belgium, should make the Red Bull three tenths per lap faster.

Brazilian journalist Livio Oricchio said it is a myth that F1’s smartest chiefs will simply lie on beaches in the next few weeks.

“Who really believes that, as McLaren and Ferrari move ahead, Adrian Newey for example says to his guys tomorrow at Milton Keynes: ‘Ok guys, see you in two weeks!'”

Actually, more than 100 points ahead in the constructors’ and 88 points clear of the first non-Red Bull in the drivers’ chase, Red Bull are not panicking.

“We are on a par with McLaren. And we have a head start,” consultant Dr Helmut Marko told Kleine Zeitung with eight races left to run in 2011.

He also confirmed that development of the RB7 is moving ahead.

“We will continue to make the car better,” said the Austrian.

Die Welt headlined after Sunday’s result that second place was “The perfect defeat” for German Sebastian Vettel, whose championship lead actually extended due to Jenson Button winning.

“I definitely can live with P2,” he said.

“Perhaps we don’t have the strongest car at the moment, but we can still achieve good points.”

Source: GMM

Heidfeld unhurt in Hungarian Grand Prix accident

Nick Heidfeld has confirmed that he was not injured in the bizarre accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend.

As Heidfeld retired from the race, the sidepod of his Renault exploded. A marshal was struck by some of the debris and was shown to be limping away from the car.

As yet, there is no word on how badly injured the marshal is from the accident. Heidfeld, however, has confirmed that he was not injured in the accident.

“I had a fire in Barcelona, but I wasn’t worried there at all – but this one got quite close,” Heidfeld explained. “This time I felt the heat, so I had to get out quickly.

“Nothing happened to me. I’m not burned — my suit was black even before I got in!”

Team boss Eric Boullier has blamed Heidfeld for the accident claimed that the car was not designed to run at high revs whilst stationary for such a long period of time.

Source: GMM