Costa and Willis join Mercedes

Mercedes GP on Friday confirmed reports ousted Ferrari technical boss Aldo Costa is reuniting with his former colleague Ross Brawn.

The Brackley based F1 team also announced that HRT’s recently-departed Geoff Willis, who was with the German team in its Honda days until 2006, is joining up as technology director next month.

Italian Costa, who worked under now Mercedes team boss Brawn at Ferrari some years ago, will start his new job as engineering director in December.

Both Costa and Willis will report to technical director Bob Bell, the former Renault chief, Mercedes GP added.

“Aldo will be responsible for design and development, and Geoffrey will head the aerodynamics, vehicle dynamics, control systems and simulation functions,” the team said in a media statement.

Said Brawn: “Building a winning team is an exciting challenge for us all as we work towards the competitiveness and standards that we aspire to as the Mercedes-Benz works team.”


Drivers ask discussion over Hamilton at Suzuka

Formula One drivers have asked to discuss Lewis Hamilton’s recent driving during a meeting ahead of the Japanese grand prix at Suzuka according to Italian magazine Autosprint after the McLaren driver’s latest run-in last weekend in Singapore, where Felipe Massa physically confronted the Briton.

Ferrari’s Massa sarcastically suggested 26-year-old Hamilton should call upon his father for help, while Anthony Hamilton blamed a failure of support by his son’s new management led by entertainment agent Simon Fuller.

Former driver Hans-Joachim Stuck, meanwhile, has suggested Hamilton needs a “therapist”, while David Coulthard thinks he needs a wise manager like Martin Brundle.

“It doesn’t have to be a manager necessarily,” the Scot wrote in the Telegraph, “but you need someone to be able to sit down and talk to you with complete honesty. To tell you you’re being an idiot.”

Autosprint claims Hamilton’s rivals have asked FIA race director Charlie Whiting to allow a conversation about his overly aggressive driving style during the Suzuka briefing.

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh acknowledged 2011 has “not been a good season for Lewis Hamilton” but said the tone of the latest criticism “is wrong”.

“Lewis is still a young guy, he is learning and he will learn from all of this. He will win races and I am sure he is going to win more championships,” he added.


Report hints US GP project to lose promoter Hellmund

There are fears about the ongoing involvement in the 2012 US grand prix project of the race’s promoter Tavo Hellmund.

Hellmund has been the driving force behind the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, scheduled to host its first F1 race next November.

But the slowing of construction work at the venue has been “noticeable” lately, according to the local Austin American Statesman newspaper.

And it is now suggested that the “promoter or management” could be changed after Texas comptroller Susan Combs this week wrote to F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

The letter was written after Hellmund reportedly asked Combs whether “a change in management or promoters” would affect the funding promised by the Texas government.

Ecclestone and Hellmund did not respond to calls or emails on Thursday, the newspaper said.


Brazil legend claims Ferrari slows number 2 drivers

Some F1 teams work to manipulate the performance of their two drivers, according to Fritz d’Orey.

Now 73, Brazilian d’Orey contested races at the end of the 50s and remains an eager spectator.

He said on the SporTV programme ‘Linha de Chegada’ this week that Ferrari manipulated the situation some years ago to ensure Rubens Barrichello was not as fast as his number 1 teammate Michael Schumacher.

“Alain Prost told me at a dinner in Paris that they did it to Barrichello when he was going too strongly in relation to Schumacher,” he said.

Another legendary Brazilian driver, 73-year-old Bird Clemente, agrees: “That’s right. I’m sure it still exists.

“The team as well as the sponsors are making a big investment. To some extent, it is theatre.”


Valencia opens door to Barcelona alternation

The government of Valencia has left open the door to annually alternating its Formula One street race with Spain’s other grand prix venue Barcelona beyond 2014.

After a meeting with mayor Rita Barbera this week, Valencia sport minister Dolores Johnson told the EFE news agency that the government will honour the existing contract for a race every year until 2014.

Beyond the current contract that is “in force”, Johnson said Valencia intends to extend the deal only “in the best conditions”.

The specialist Spanish media has interpreted the comment as a clear signal that Valencia is considering alternating a single annual F1 date with Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.

Red Bull designer Adrian Newey recently expressed regret that the future of permanent circuits like Barcelona is imperilled by the rise of temporary venues.

“I gather there’s a danger that Barcelona could be lost relative to Valencia and I think that would be a tragedy,” he said.


Kubica should be ready by November

Robert Kubica and Renault may be out-of-sync on their deadlines as the Polish driver bids to return from injury to Formula One.

His doctor Ricciardo Ceccarelli and manager Daniele Morelli reported the good news this week that Kubica, 26, will almost certainly recover from his horror February crash to contest races in 2012.

But Renault team boss Eric Boullier – also with Vitaly Petrov, Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean in the frame – has imposed a strict end-of-October deadline for the finalisation of his driver lineup for next season.

“I have to stick to one deadline,” insisted the Frenchman.

Dr Ceccarelli told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport this week that he will only be able to categorically guarantee Kubica’s readiness for 2012 in early November.

And manager Morelli added: “I speak often with Boullier and will give a response, either positive or negative, in early November when we have a clearer idea.”


Rogge: F1 will not be an Olympic sport

Formula One-style motor racing is never likely to be seen at the Olympics according to the current International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge.

“The most important thing must be the man, not the machine,” the Belgian said in an interview with Germany’s SID news agency.

“I see no real chance that Sebastian Vettel will be in the race for a gold medal,” added Rogge.


Flight scare for Vettel after Singapore

World champion Sebastian Vettel had a high-altitude scare when returning to his home in Switzerland from Singapore earlier this week.

Media reports say the Singapore Airbus A380 carrying the Red Bull driver, as well as other F1 personalities including Peter Sauber, encountered a problem just before landing in Zurich.

The pilots diverted to Frankfurt, and Bild newspaper said it was a failure of the aircraft’s instrument landing system (ILS).

Passengers recalled that as the plane descended for landing, the pilots suddenly pulled back up at full power.

“We were never scared, because we were given very good information from the cockpit,” Sauber is quoted as saying by the Swiss newspaper Blick.

“But during the approach I did think, oops, the forest down there is looking rather close. Then we went back up.”

Said Vettel’s press manager Britta Roeske: “The captain came immediately to Sebastian and explained the electronic defect. Sebastian was very relaxed and even let himself be photographed with the crew members and passengers.”


2012 Pirelli tyres in action this week

Pirelli’s tyres for the 2012 season are up and testing this week in Barcelona.

The official supplier’s test driver Lucas di Grassi has revealed he is in action at the Circuit de Catalunya.

So how do the 2012 tyres feel?: “Can’t tell you, sorry,” the Brazilian said on Twitter.

The F1 teams may get their first taste of next year’s rubber during the young drivers’ test at Yas Marina after the penultimate grand prix of the season in mid November.

“We will use the 2012 tyre if the teams want,” said motor sport director Paul Hembery.

The driver lineup for the rookies’ test in Abu Dhabi is taking shape, according to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport.

While Jean-Eric Vergne will appear for Red Bull, the energy drink’s sister team Toro Rosso is reportedly selling its test seats for $200,000.

Williams will have its Finnish test driver Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes will have Sam Bird, and McLaren intends to run Gary Paffett.

Jules Bianchi will be in action for Ferrari, while Esteban Gutierrez runs for Sauber.


No KERS for Virgin in 2012

Virgin will not be using KERS technology in 2012 – although another of the new-in-2010 teams, Team Lotus, has announced that from next season it will be using the kinetic energy recovery system developed by Red Bull.

“We have done the very best job we can this year but without that extra power we are always competing on a different level to the teams ahead,” said Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes.

Virgin is also making efforts to catch the more established teams, including by hiring the highly experienced ‘crashgate’ engineer Pat Symonds.

“My impression of him is very good,” driver Timo Glock told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport.

Symonds’ attention to detail is already becoming apparent, with the switch from steel to titanium pitstop jacks, and the use of laser technology for pitstop positioning, seen for the first time in Singapore.

The German report also said the 60 per cent scale model of Virgin’s 2012 car is now complete and will enter the McLaren wind tunnel at the end of next month.

But Glock reportedly confirmed that, when complete, the car will not feature a KERS system.

And he warned: “I don’t think that by the first race of next year we will make a big jump. There just isn’t enough time. But for the start of the European season we are planning a major update.”