Stella: Raikkonen can win 2012 title

Andrea Stella, Fernando Alonso’s race engineer at Ferrari, has singled out Kimi Raikkonen as a challenger for the 2012 championship.

The buzz in the sodden Spa paddock is that four-time Belgian grand prix winner Raikkonen is a true contender for Sunday’s victory at the wheel of a Lotus. And the Finn, who in 2007 won the title for Ferrari, is still within shouting distance in the drivers’ standings, just a point shy of Lewis Hamilton’s fourth place.

“Of course Kimi can challenge Fernando in the championship,” Stella told Finland’s Turun Sanomat. “He has a good car. I remember 2007 very well, when we came from far behind with him right to the top.”

Raikkonen, 32, agrees that his 48-point deficit does not mean he cannot win in 2012.

“I have almost as good a chance as anybody else,” he said in Belgium.

But Raikkonen also admitted he is not desperate to add a second title to his tally.

“I’ve always said I am happy that I won one championship,” he said. “It’s good if there are more, but whether I win more championships or not would not change my life. When I have the opportunity, I will try my best.”


Lotus tipped to do well at Belgian Grand Prix

The buzzword in the Spa paddock is ‘Lotus’.

Already a standout performer of the 2012 season, the black and gold E20 is long overdue for a victory and the Belgian Grand Prix could be just the place. Only Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher have won more times in the Ardennes than Kimi Raikkonen (4).

And, for the first time in 2012, he and teammate Romain Grosjean are tipped to race the Enstone based team’s new ‘double DRS’ innovation, which on Spa’s long straights could provide a big advantage.

“On paper, it (Spa) looks very good for us,” the always-smiling Frenchman Grosjean is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

Friday practice will be his first ever chance to try the double-DRS.

“It will be very interesting and a big help if it works the way we expect,” he said.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton said in Belgium: “Lotus are going to win at some stage. That car looks fantastic to drive. They’re quick and yet they don’t have the rear end Ferrari, Red Bull and us have. When they get that, the rest of us are going to be in trouble.”


Pic’s manager to meet with Sauber & Force India

Charles Pic’s management will reportedly meet with representatives of the Force India and Sauber teams this weekend at Spa.

According to RMC Sport, the 22-year-old French rookie takes EUR 7 million to the Marussia team this season, raised and invested by his management group Lagardere. The report said Lagardere has been disappointed by Marussia’s performance so far in 2012, and is therefore shopping around for possible alternatives for 2013.

RMC said Pic’s representatives will meet with bosses of the Force India and Sauber teams in Belgium this weekend, while Caterham “is also interested”. The report said Sauber and Force India “have made enquiries” about Pic, and so experienced manager Didier Coton will represent Lagardere and Pic in meetings this weekend.

Marussia’s technical consultant Pat Symonds said this week he is happy with the team’s current driver lineup, also featuring the experienced Timo Glock. And asked if he has been pleasantly surprised by Pic, he answered: “Yes, absolutely.

“I think this year he has matured in his approach in Formula One. There is no doubt that he’s fast; he has proven that on a number of occasions, and I think race-by-race he learns more about the nuances of the tyres and indeed the way one approaches a grand prix weekend.”


Tombazis feared for job after Ferrari’s poor start to 2012 season

Nicholas Tombazis has admitted he feared for his job after launching the 2012 Ferrari early this year. Through an impressive development programme, and the skilled racing of Fernando Alonso, the red F2012 now leads the drivers’ championship. But it was more than a shaky start, and the team’s Athens-born chief designer Tombazis admitted it was a career low point.

Asked if he feared following Aldo Costa and Chris Dyer out the Maranello factory doors, he told La Stampa: “A team has the right to question his chief designer and – if they’re not winning – wonder if he is the right person for the job.”

But, more than half the season in and with Alonso now regarded as the clear favourite for the title, Tombazis insists relief is not the right word.

“We have recovered from one of the worst beginnings of my whole career,” he said. “For now we are alright, but we need to keep developing if we are to win the world championship.”

So how did his technical team recover from such a bad start?

“The first step was to recognise where we were wrong. And as is the case with an alcoholic, one starts from admitting you have a problem.”


Hamilton doesn’t want Button’s help for title

Lewis Hamilton insists he doesn’t want help from his teammate Jenson Button to win the 2012 title.

Button is 41 points behind the sister McLaren in the drivers’ standings, prompting team boss Martin Whitmarsh to warn that there “may come a point” when the issue of team orders is discussed. It was clear on Thursday at Spa, however, that Button is not ready to have that discussion yet.

“Personally I think it is a pretty pointless conversation right now,” he said. “We will fight all the way until either we win the championship or it is no longer possible.”

Hamilton, meanwhile, said he doesn’t even want Button’s help.

“Jenson drives for the team and for himself,” he is quoted in Belgium by Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. “I want to beat my rivals on the track, not because someone has let me past. That’s not my approach and I would never ask for it,” said Hamilton.


Perez likely to remain at Sauber

As F1 emerges from its August slumber at Spa-Francorchamps, the chances Sergio Perez will be staying at Sauber in 2013 seem to have increased dramatically.

The cream of Ferrari’s driver development programme, Mexican Perez has been tipped all season long as a likely successor for the struggling Felipe Massa. But the 22-year-old said on Thursday: “Sauber is a great team doing a fantastic job.

“When I go to the factory and I see the people so motivated every day, I don’t see any reason why I want to leave,” he is quoted by The National newspaper. “I’m happy here, and every day I’m more comfortable. I think the team can build a good car for next year, so I don’t see any reason to step away from it.”

Switzerland’s Blick newspaper reports that, earlier this year, Perez and Sauber’s backer Carlos Slim approached Ferrari, asking that the Italian team decide by August whether it wants to sign Guadalajara-born Perez for 2013.

Slim Domit is quoted by the French-language website “If I cannot continue to wait, it is simple.

“I will call Monisha Kaltenborn, buy the whole team and start a Scuderia Mexico.”

Sauber’s chief executive and shareholder Kaltenborn told Blick: “So far I haven’t got the call! We are going on our way, with our goals and with the responsibility of our more than 300 employees.”

Team boss Peter Sauber added: “I can hardly believe that Slim said that. But I suppose in this world full of rumours, everything is possible.” Kaltenborn said Hinwil based Sauber is in no rush to decide its 2013 driver lineup.

“We are not busying ourselves too much over the driver question,” she insisted.

One rumour is that Sauber is shopping around, because the Mexican tie-up with Perez, Slim and reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez was not as lucrative as first thought.

On that suggestions, Peter Sauber replied: “No comment.”


Rosberg: It’s not realistic to talk about race wins right now

Nico Rosberg has played down his chances of adding another pole or victory to his 2012 tally this weekend in Belgium.

Since breaking through in China early this season, the German has only managed one more front row start and one more podium, and he was tenth at the finish last time out in Hungary.

“At the last race we had balance problems in the long corners,” Rosberg is quoted as saying at Spa Francorchamps by Germany’s Speed Week, “and here there are a lot of the same type of corners. I believe we can have a good weekend, but whether it’s enough for a very good result, I don’t know,” the 27-year-old insisted.

“I believe that in Monza and Singapore we will have a better chance to have a good result, but I don’t know if it’s realistic to talk about winning,” Rosberg added.


Hamilton: I want to stay at McLaren

Lewis Hamilton has revealed that his management team at Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment are now negotiating the terms of his 2013 contract.

With McLaren figures insisting a new deal with the 2008 world champion is close at hand, team boss Martin Whitmarsh said on Thursday the impasse “will be resolved in fairly short order”.

“We’ll know in due course and when we’ve got something to say we’ll make that statement,” he added.

Hamilton, 27, entered F1 six years ago with McLaren, having also enjoyed the marque’s support in his junior career. But according to speculation, his managers are now arguing with the Woking based team about money and other business-related issues. Asked at Spa Francorchamps if – in his heart – he wants to stay at McLaren, he told reporters on Thursday: “Yeah, but this is a business.

“I always wear my heart on my sleeve but of course you have to be business-minded as well. The guys that are paid to do their job are discussing that and working on getting that resolved,” said Hamilton.


Tombazis: 2014 engine importance ‘right’ for F1

Ferrari designer Nicholas Tombazis insists it is “right” that engines will have a higher importance in 2014.

His Red Bull counterpart Adrian Newey said recently he was worried the start of the new V6 era could mean one engine supplier enjoys a big advantage over its rivals. But when asked by Italy’s La Stampa if he thinks F1 is currently too dominated by aerodynamic performance and development, Tombazis agreed: “In 2014, the engine will regain a major importance.

“And that’s just right,” said Ferrari’s Athens-born designer.

Mercedes’ Norbert Haug, meanwhile, said fears that the 2014 rules will spoil the current high-competitiveness on the grid are unfounded.

“I believe there will be a good competition between the teams and a balanced world championship that will not be dominated by engines,” he told Germany’s


Button could be next to mark 300 F1 races

Jenson Button has admitted he could be the next F1 driver to notch up a landmark 300 grands prix.

Michael Schumacher is celebrating his triple-century this weekend at Spa Francorchamps, and the next most experienced active driver on the grid is McLaren’s Button, who has raced 221 times to date. Asked if he might become the third driver in F1 history with 300 grands prix, after Schumacher and record-holder Rubens Barrichello, Button said in Belgium: “Yeah, there’s no reason why not.

“It’s four and a half years of racing. Yeah, it’s possible.”

Less likely is that Schumacher could go on to notch up yet another century of grands prix, as racing in an unprecedented 400th grand prix will mean he is still driving at the highest level towards the end of his 40s.

“We probably (can) say no for that one,” German Schumacher said on Thursday.

In fact, the 43-year-old’s former Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa thinks the seven time world champion was wrong to come out of retirement in 2010.

“He had the most perfect career that a driver could imagine,” the Brazilian told Germany’s

“In my opinion he stopped just at the right time and at the right age,” said Massa at Spa.

Fernando Alonso, however, thinks the only thing missing since Schumacher returned to F1 is a good car.

“With a Red Bull Bull last year he probably would have won the title,” the Spaniard told Diario AS.