Zanardi tips Hamilton to bounce back in 2012

Alex Zanardi has tipped Lewis Hamilton to bounce back in 2012 from his troubled past season.

Briton Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, had a disastrous season, struggling with his personal life amid a series of on and off-track incidents and poor form. But Italian Zanardi, who lost his legs in a Champ Car crash two years after being fired by Williams at the end of 1999, tipped the 26-year-old to fire on all cylinders in 2012.

“What is happening to him this year simply means that he’s human,” said the 45-year-old, whose new target is to win an Olympic gold medal for Italy in hand-cycling. “Even Lewis Hamilton is vulnerable,” Zanardi told the Telegraph.

“I mean if at his age what has happened to him had happened to me, I would probably have been in Monte Carlo with the biggest boat, with the gold Rolex watch, looking down at people and asking ‘what the hell do you want from me? I’m the best guy on the planet’.

“I had the privilege of interviewing him once for an Italian magazine and I really discovered a guy who is very, very mature for his age. So this tells me that basically he put one foot out of step but I’m sure next year he will have learned his lesson.”


Lauda tips Red Bull to pull ahead in 2012

Niki Lauda has tipped Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel to pull even further clear of their rivals in 2012. German Vettel won his second consecutive drivers’ title in dominant style this year, and triple world champion Lauda tipped the 24-year-old to equal his own career tally next season.

“Logic tells me that Red Bull will be even further ahead,” the 62-year-old told Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper.

The blown exhaust rules aside, F1’s technical regulations are staying relatively stable between 2011 and 2012.

“He who can build on an already very good car has an advantage,” insisted Lauda. “Making something good even better is easier than starting something new.”

He gives the example of Ferrari and Mercedes, whose new projects differ vastly from 2011. “There is the risk of going in the wrong direction,” said Lauda.

He said McLaren’s Jenson Button, runner-up in 2011, could again be a main rival.

“In 2011 he was consistent and relaxed and flawlessly fast everywhere,” said Lauda. “His self-confidence benefitted him immensely.”


Berger: I would not have signed Raikkonen for comeback

If he was in charge at Lotus, Gerhard Berger would not have signed Kimi Raikkonen for 2012. Former ten-time winner Berger, the former BMW motor sport director and Toro Rosso co-owner, admitted that the 2007 world champion’s comeback is “good for Formula One”.

But “If he is able to reach the top again I would say is 50-50,” he told the Austrian broadcaster ORF.

“I do not think the best,” said the former Ferrari and McLaren driver, “if he decides to stop, does a bit of rallying and then says ‘Ok, now I’m coming back’.

“I would be surprised if he has the strength, discipline and ambition to return to the front,” added Berger.

“Of course he should not be underestimated and I do not — there is no question he is quick and it would be good for F1, so let’s hope for it and wish him all the best.”

But if he was in Lotus chief Eric Boullier’s shoes, “Clearly, no, I would not have taken him”, admitted Berger.

“Formula one is so unique. If you don’t really live it day and night, constantly perfecting yourself and working on it, it is difficult,” he added.

“It’s hard, hard work, and whether he has the willingness to do this hard, hard work, we’ll see.”

Berger’s fellow Austrian, triple world champion Niki Lauda, told Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper: “It’s cool that he is back.

“He (Raikkonen) is a colourful personality and will arouse great interest among the fans and the media.”


Axed Alguersuari expects ‘good news soon’

Dec.28 (GMM) Jaime Alguersuari is holding onto hope that, at the tender age of 21, his formula one career has not ended.

From an event in London in which he appeared as an electronic music DJ, Marca sports newspaper quoted the Spaniard as saying: “We will have good news soon.”

Less than 50 races into his F1 career, Red Bull has removed Alguersuari – and his 2011 teammate Sebastien Buemi – from the Toro Rosso driver lineup.

“I still have much to do, learn and demonstrate,” said Alguersuari. “Along with music, formula one is the other thing that motivates me.”

Another driver waiting patiently for news is Dutch rookie Giedo van der Garde, whose sponsors are linked with the vacant race seats at HRT and Williams.

“The only thing I can say regarding F1 is that we are pushing hard. I feel positive,” De Telegraaf newspaper quotes him as saying.

Ferrari to fire first V6 engine next year

Ferrari’s turbo V6 engine for 2014 will be up and running “by the summer”, according to Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.

F1’s current ‘frozen’ engine formula, the regulations for normally-aspirated 2.4 litre V8 power plants, will remain in place next year and also in 2013. But the engine manufacturers are already working on the new 1.6 litre rules, amid reports Mercedes and Renault are also planning to fire up prototype versions mid next year.

Ferrari, meanwhile, continues to push hard to shift the emphasis of the F1 regulations from aerodynamics.

“We do not build airplanes or missiles,” argued Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo recently. “A manufacturer like Ferrari needs to race with references to the technology of its production cars.

“The sport must be a laboratory for the technology rather than just a marketing tool for sponsors who have a team,” he is quoted by Die Welt newspaper, in a clear reference to world champions Red Bull.


Montezemolo: F1 should not abandon Europe

Luca di Montezemolo is worried about F1’s trend away from Europe. F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said recently that he predicts only a handful of races in Europe will still be present on the calendar in a few years.

“I give him credit that in all these years he has always had great respect for the role and importance of Ferrari in F1,” the Italian marque’s president di Montezemolo is quoted by Autosprint. “But I cannot accept this trend of F1 going away from Europe. We cannot abandon our continent, because it represents the history of Formula One.

“It’s fine that Formula One goes all over the world, but we must not exaggerate by going to race in deserts or where there is no culture for racing. For years now the calendar has missed a historic race like France, and now a legendary circuit like Spa is at risk — to be replaced with what?

“I don’t know if Ecclestone really said there will only be five European races left, but I don’t believe it.”


Teams may already have new Concorde deals

Ferrari and Red Bull may already have inked separate new Concorde Agreements with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

The rumour follows the top teams’ recent split from the association FOTA. The current tripartite Concorde agreement, binding the teams with the commercial rights holder and governing FIA, runs out at the end of 2012.

Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport quotes Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo as denying that a new deal has already been struck.

“We will start with the negotiations in January,” he said.

By trying to deal with the big teams individually, Ecclestone could – for example – promise Ferrari and Red Bull more money whilst weakening the ability of the FOTA group to negotiate a proportionately higher share of the income.

Montezemolo added: “Whether as a group or individually, we will come to an agreement.”


Alonso’s new girlfriend is ‘Tschumi’

Fernando Alonso has a new girlfriend, according to reports and photographs in the Italian, Spanish, German and Swiss media.

Just before Christmas, the Ferrari driver announced his split with wife and Spanish rock singer Raquel del Rosario. Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that he has now linked up with Russian born Swiss model Xenia Tchoumitcheva, 24.

Sonntagsblick newspaper quoted Tchoumitcheva, already nicknamed ‘Tschumi’ by the German tabloid Bild, as confirming she is “great friends” with the former double world champion.

Photos of the new couple were published by the Basque newspaper Diario Vasco.


Berger: Toro Rosso right to axe both drivers

Toro Rosso was “absolutely right” to axe its entire driver lineup ahead of the 2012 season accoding to Gerhard Berger.

Faenza based Toro Rosso’s current owner Red Bull has ousted Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi in favour of the fresher Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.

“I think it’s correct, although it is very hard,” ten-time grand prix winner Berger told Austrian television ORF.

“For Red Bull and Toro Rosso, it’s about preparing drivers – ideally from the Red Bull pool – to find someone who can eventually succeed Mark Webber, or Sebastian Vettel when he moves on,” said the Austrian.

Berger said Alguersuari and Buemi did not fit the bill.

“The demand to be at Red Bull is the highest of all, of course, and these two are average at the most,” he said. “So these two were good for Toro Rosso but not for Red Bull Racing. It was right to look elsewhere for what they want.”

Berger admitted he will be keeping a particular eye on French rookie Vergne in 2012.

“I’ve heard a lot of good about him — maybe he’s a new Sebastian Vettel. The only way to find out is to try him,” he said.

And his teammate, Australian Daniel Ricciardo, admitted he will be looking to emulate Vergne’s aggression.

“Maybe I can learn from him, at least in the junior categories that’s been his style,” Ricciardo is quoted by AAP news agency.


Trulli: Pay-drivers not good enough for F1

Jarno Trulli has hit out at the growing influence of so-called ‘pay drivers’ in F1. It is rumoured that, despite his 2012 contract, the Italian veteran could be ousted by Caterham in favour of the well-backed Renault refugee Vitaly Petrov.

Trulli, 37, suggested Renault – becoming Lotus for 2012 – suffered last year as the team collected sponsorship dollars brought by Russian Petrov and Bruno Senna.

“Kubica is a great driver who can get the very best from the car,” he is quoted by La Repubblica, “and because of that they were a dark horse. When Robert was out, that was the end. Petrov was not in a position to lead the team, and Senna showed that he was not good enough.”

Brazilian Senna replaced the experienced Nick Heidfeld mid-season.

Trulli commented: “With his experience, Nick scored almost as many points as Petrov even though he (Heidfeld) did only half the season. There is no rule, but it is true that those who pay are less accustomed to suffering. They are less committed,” he claimed.

“Hiring them is a business decision but in my opinion it’s not worth it,” said Trulli.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, however, said the growing debate about ‘pay drivers’ recently has been overstated.

“For a team it has always been about finding the right balance between financial considerations and talent,” he said.

“It’s something that is as old as Formula One,” Horner insisted.