Hembery hopes Alguersuari will make 2013 F1 return

Pirelli’s Paul Hembery is confident Jaime Alguersuari will be back on the grid soon.

After losing Red Bull’s backing and his Toro Rosso seat at the end of last season, the now 22-year-old Spaniard kept his F1 dream alive by accepting the role as official tyre supplier Pirelli’s main test driver. This week, he is in action at Belgium’s fabled Spa Francorchamps.

“These days there are few opportunities for drivers to drive formula one cars,” Hembery told El Confidencial. “Right now Jaime is doing almost 700 kilometres a day, the equivalent of two grands prix. This year he will do six tests which is basically 12 grands prix.

“For him it’s a fantastic opportunity to get back in. And I hope he can, because he has the talent for it. Sometimes you have to step back to step forwards, like (Romain) Grosjean, who had a hard time at first but is now able to show his maturity and preparedness. I hope it’s the same for Jaime.”


Spa alternation plans ‘no longer on agenda’

Spa-Francorchamps is no longer part of the proposal to revive the French grand prix.

Prior to ex president Nicolas Sarkozy losing the general election, plans to alternate a single annual race between Paul Ricard and Belgium’s fabled Spa were well advanced. But with Francois Hollande in power and his sports minister Valerie Fourneyron in the driving seat of the grand prix project, the situation is now very different. French reports this week say Fourneyron has told France’s motor racing sanctioning body, the FFSA, that Paul Ricard and Magny Cours are competing to secure the rights to a grand prix that the state will not contribute to financially.

And according to the Belgian news agency Belga, the formerly proposed race alternation between France and Spa will remain merely an “unconfirmed possibility”.

“Alternating with Belgium is no longer on the agenda,” a report by the French language news agency Agence France-Presse added.


Ecclestone offers to pay for London grand prix

Bernie Ecclestone is gearing up on Thursday to launch a bid for a grand prix on the streets of London.

The plans are reportedly separate to a McLaren sponsor event that imagines a fictitious layout in the British capital, as well as suggestions a London race could be run in and around the Olympic stadium. The Times reports that 81-year-old Ecclestone is prepared to put up almost $55 million to organise a street race around famous landmarks including Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and Nelson’s Column. Other British media reports say the plans will be unveiled later on Thursday.

“Think what it would do for tourism,” Ecclestone said. “It would be fantastic, good for London, good for England — a lot better than the Olympics.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s office did not immediately comment. Ecclestone continued: “With the way things are, maybe we would front it and put the money up for it. If we got the okay and everything was fine, I think we could do that.”


Ecclestone calm as bribery scandal closes in

The judge who sentenced corrupt F1 banker Gerhard Gribkowsky on Wednesday described Bernie Ecclestone as the “driving force” of the $44 million bribery.

Condemning Gribkowsky to eight and a half years in jail, presiding judge Peter Noll said in the Munich state court: “In this process we assume the driving force was Mr Ecclestone”. The F1 chief executive “brought the accused into breaking the law and not the other way around”, Noll added, according to the Financial Times.

It is a strong indication that Ecclestone, 81, could himself be charged.

The diminutive Briton sounded open to returning to Germany in relation to the scandal. “If I was asked, yes, of course,” he said on Wednesday. “They asked me before and I went.”

It is not known if this will happen.

Daniel Amelung, one of Gribkowsky’s lawyers, told the court the prosecutors are “scared of Mr Ecclestone, his position and his wealth”. Ecclestone maintains he was effectively the victim of Gribkowsky’s extortion, telling the Daily Mail: “I think (he) told them what he thought he had to tell them.”

As for whether he will face charges, he answered: “I don’t think I should but you don’t know, do you?”

Ecclestone is already facing investigations in the UK, with the Times newspaper reporting that the tax and serious fraud offices have been in contact with German authorities.

“I suppose you’d expect that,” said Ecclestone.


Gribkowsky sentenced to jail for F1 bribery

Gerhard Gribkowsky was on Wednesday sentenced to jail by a Munich court.

The guilty verdict could have serious implications for F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, who admits to paying millions to the former BayernLB banker.

Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight and a half years in jail for crimes including bribery, for the $44 million received from Ecclestone.

In closing arguments earlier Wednesday, the German prosecutors described Ecclestone as an “accomplice”, not a victim of extortion as claimed by the 81-year-old Briton.


Prosecutors say Ecclestone corruption ‘accomplice’

German prosecutors on Wednesday appeared likely to press ahead with a corruption case against Bernie Ecclestone.

Until now, the F1 chief executive has been implicated in the Gerhard Gribkowsky scandal but only as the subject of an investigation into the money he paid to the jailed banker. Ecclestone, 81, has also appeared as a witness in the trial to give evidence protected by immunity, but on Wednesday it sounded likely he will be separately charged and pursued by the Munich prosecutors.

As prosecutor Christoph Rodler wrapped up Gribkowsky’s trial on Wednesday, he described Ecclestone as an “accomplice”. He said the diminutive Briton’s explanation of the $44 million payments to Gribkowsky was a “nebulous story”, arguing Ecclestone was “not the victim of an extortion but the accomplice in an act of bribery”.

According to the Financial Times, Rodler said Ecclestone had an “existential interest” in paying the money to Gribkowsky because his “life’s work” was at risk.

Ecclestone has not yet been charged.


Pollock’s Pure offers best price for 2014 engine

Customer engines will be much more expensive in 2014.

Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport reports that, for example, Sauber currently spends EUR 8 million on its Ferrari engine, and another million for KERS. But for 2014, with F1 switching to ‘green’ turbo V6 power, the price is reportedly going up to between EUR 18-23 million.

Offering the best price is Craig Pollock’s new venture Pure, who are asking EUR 14 million for the Gilles Simon-designed engine-plus-KERS package.

“Even that is too expensive,” Sauber managing director Monisha Kaltenborn said.


Williams back in charge after Parr exit

Sir Frank Williams has revealed he is back at the helm at his famous British F1 team.

Although still the major shareholder and team principal, the now 70-year-old had taken a step back at the Oxfordshire based team, including stepping down from the board. He had expressed great faith in the abilities of Adam Parr, but Williams’ chairman surprised the F1 world by resigning early this season. Williams told F1’s official website on Wednesday that he is now back in charge.

“Well, I have to say that it is sad Adam Parr didn’t achieve what we would have liked together, after all that he did,” the team’s founder and long-time chief said. “So when he left it was left to me to step back into that position,” added Williams, who had handed over the chairmanship to Parr in 2010.

The team suffered arguably its lowest low last year, but Williams has been back in the winner’s circle in 2012, Pastor Maldonado winning from pole in Spain.

“Adam Parr – to his credit – played a significant role in his all too short time with the team,” Frank Williams continued. “I am very sad that he left as he is a terribly clever man who took on two or three key people, like Mike Coughlan for instance, and some key people in engineering, and that makes all the difference. We do see that,” he said.


Journalists at odds over Vettel-to-Ferrari reports

Respected journalists are at odds over whether Sebastian Vettel is headed to Ferrari.

Major British newspapers recently claimed the Red Bull driver has inked an agreement to switch to Ferrari in 2014. Italian television Mediaset’s Italia1 channel now agrees, citing the information of the well-connected and authoritative journalist Giorgio Terruzzi. Fabio Seixas, the correspondent for Brazil’s Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, thinks the news could be good for Felipe Massa, given that Vettel will not be arriving until 2014.

“For me, Sergio Perez would not accept going (to Ferrari) only for 2013. For Ferrari, it is more convenient to keep Massa for another year. This time of year is known as ‘silly season’, where most of the rumours are not true,” Seixas explained. “But experience says that when a rumour comes from so many different sources, it does often materialise.”

But the correspondent for another Brazilian newspaper, O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, said that in his view, the Vettel-to-Ferrari rumour is obviously untrue. Nonetheless, Livio Oricchio described Mediaset’s Terruzzi as a “friend” he has known for “two decades”.

“I find it strange that Giorgio states categorically that Vettel is already signed with Ferrari. He is always very cautious with these issues,” he said. “My argument is that the story makes no sense for anyone.”


Stuck: The Safety Car was justified

Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull should tread carefully in accusing the FIA of a conspiracy to enliven last weekend’s Valencia race. That is the view of Hans-Joachim Stuck, the president of the German motor sport association DMSB.

After Vettel retired at Valencia from a commanding lead, the reigning world champion and his team’s Dr Helmut Marko suggested the FIA called the safety car period chiefly to close up the field.

“Vettel was too far ahead and so the field was brought back together,” said Marko, doubting the safety car was needed to clear the track of debris.

Stuck however warned “Herr Vettel” to think in future before making accusations that could be interpreted as “unsportsmanlike conduct” — behaviour that could draw the ire of the governing FIA.

“Sebastian Vettel should learn to be a good loser,” he told Germany’s Yahoo Eurosport. “It was clear there was debris on the circuit, representing a danger of puncture to the other cars. For that reason, the safety car was justified,” he said.

Stuck also scotched Vettel’s claim that the safety car period caused his Red Bull to fail.

“I don’t think driving slowly behind a pace car can be the cause of a failure, otherwise all the other cars would fail also. If the Red Bull car overheats because of the safety car then it is designed wrong,” the former F1 driver insists.