Webber & Hulkenberg too tall for Ferrari?

Early contenders for Felipe Massa’s 2013 Ferrari seat may have been ruled out because they are too tall, the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport reports.

Ultimately, Mark Webber is staying at Red Bull next year, while German Nico Hulkenberg has signed to switch from Force India to the Ferrari-powered Sauber team. But earlier, rumours linked them with Ferrari, who in the end decided to re-sign the resurgent Brazilian Massa for 2013.

Auto Motor und Sport said Webber and Hulkenberg’s height might have been the problem. The pair are both 184 centimetres, or just over 6 foot.

Massa and Alonso, on the other hand, are considerably smaller; Alonso is 13cm shorter than Webber and Hulkenberg, while Massa is a diminutive 1.66m, or 5 foot 5. The German magazine said Webber confirmed in India that he would not have fit at the wheel of this year’s Ferrari.

And with the 2013 regulations staying essentially the same as this year’s, most teams will not be making fundamental changes to their chassis layouts for next season, due to the radical changes set to debut just a year later in 2014.

Hulkenberg did not comment on whether he would fit in this year’s Ferrari, but Auto Motor und Sport said the German admitted that his height is an issue.

He is quoted as saying designers “need to make compromises in the chassis” to accomodate tall drivers, like himself or his 2012 Force India teammate Paul di Resta, who like Webber and Hulkenberg also stands at over 6 feet.


Sauber confirms Hulkenberg, no word on Kobayashi

Sauber on Wednesday confirmed that Nico Hulkenberg is moving from Force India to join the team in 2013.

But, with Sergio Perez heading to McLaren next year, the Swiss team left the future of the Mexican’s current teammate Kamui Kobayashi in doubt. Sauber “will announce its second driver for the 2013 season at a later date,” the Hinwil based team said in a media statement.

As for German Hulkenberg, “We’ve been observing Nico for some time now and his performances have been very persuasive,” team boss Monisha Kaltenborn said. The 25-year-old debuted for Williams in 2010, famously capturing pole in Brazil before being dropped by the famous British team. He returned to F1 as Force India’s reserve last year, stepping up to the race seat in 2012 as Paul di Resta’s teammate.

“I’d like to thank the management at Force India for giving me the chance to return to formula one as a team driver,” Hulkenberg said on Wednesday.

Alonso: Schumacher would have won races for Sauber

With one short sentence, Fernando Alonso defended the great Michael Schumacher, criticised Mercedes’ performance, praised Sauber’s 2012 car, and slated the Swiss team’s current driver lineup.

“I am sure Michael would have won three races this year for Sauber,” the Ferrari driver is quoted by the German-language T-Online website.

Instead, 43-year-old Schumacher is all but resigned to bowing out of the sport at the end of the season on a low, his return to F1 since 2010 almost certainly to be remembered as a failure in his otherwise all-conquering career. The Mercedes driver is quoted as admitting saying goodbye in Brazil with a good result would “be nice”.

“But I don’t expect it,” he is quoted by Abendblatt. “So in this regard I will not be sentimental.”

Schumacher said the most he can hope for is that the fruits of his contribution to the Mercedes project will be reaped by next year’s drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

“It is natural that we are still working together as a team right now as though I will still be there next year,” he said. “The team is also interested in my opinion and experience.”

Team boss Ross Brawn confirmed that Schumacher’s hand will be obvious when Mercedes succeeds.

“I hope people think of Michael on the day that we achieve our goals, because he will wear a proportion of that success,” said the Briton.


Sutil’s manager says Force India talks ‘not concrete’

Adrian Sutil’s manager has played down reports the German is first in line for a return to Force India in 2013.

With Nico Hulkenberg looking likely to switch to Sauber next year, Force India supremo Vijay Mallya admitted last weekend that long-time team driver Sutil is a candidate to replace the younger German.

Sutil, who has been on the sidelines this year following his assault conviction of 2011, is quoted by Switzerland’s 20min.ch as admitting there
are “definitely opportunities” for a return to Formula One in 2013. But his manager Manfred Zimmermann is for now playing down the Force India link.

“There are no concrete negotiations with Force India,” he told the German news agency DPA by telephone.

Zimmermann said Sutil, 29, has several options for 2013.

“I think we have legitimate hopes,” he said. “We hope the puzzle is over in the next 14 days.”

Indeed, another contender for Hulkenberg’s Force India seat must be the team’s reserve driver Jules Bianchi, who is backed by Ferrari and managed by Felipe Massa’s manager, Nicolas Todt.

“If a place becomes available,” the French rookie told RMC Sport, “there will be plenty of contenders.The main objective is Force India,” admitted Bianchi.


Raikkonen not ruling out return to Ferrari or McLaren

Although committing to Lotus for another season, Kimi Raikkonen is not ruling out a return to his former teams McLaren or Ferrari in the future.

The 2007 world champion has been praised for his highly competitive return to F1 this season, but until now he has failed to add to his career tally of 18 wins. He won all of those races for McLaren (2002-2006) and Ferrari (2007-2009), until he headed to world rallying in 2010 after being replaced at the Italian team by Fernando Alonso.

“I think the last year has been, overall, good for the team but of course you want to win races and challenge for championships,” Raikkonen told the Telegraph, after Lotus announced that the 33-year-old has been signed up for 2013. “I’m not 100 per cent happy,” he admitted. “If I’m here I want to win and be successful.”

Raikkonen does not, therefore, rule out a return at some point to Ferrari or McLaren, insisting that although his relationships with those teams did not end perfectly, the doors could still be open.

“Ferrari could have ended in a slightly nicer way but the people I worked with who are still there, I had a very good relationship with them and go and talk to them still,” he explained. “You never know,” he said. “I don’t know how long I will be driving for. Maybe I don’t drive for many more years.”

Raikkonen said McLaren is another possibility, even though it is reported his relationship with team supremo Ron Dennis was not great.

“For sure you have a different view of many things but we still talk to each other,” he said. “I have never had a fight with him. People just try to make sh*t stories. I have no issues with anybody.”


Hembery doubts tyre war to return to Formula One

Paul Hembery doubts Pirelli will be fighting in formula one against a rival tyre manufacturer any time soon.

It was rumoured in India last weekend that the Italian supplier’s British chief has now kicked off talks with Bernie Ecclestone about Pirelli extending its stay in F1 beyond 2013. But Hembery is quoted by the German-language Spox as doubting the sport will end the era of no competition in the supply of tyres.

Asked if he sometimes imagines a ‘tyre war’ would be enjoyable, he answered: “Clearly. From a personal perspective, we always look forward to competition. It’s always more fun to beat an opponent,” said Hembery.

“Nevertheless, we need to consider the financial environment. The teams have no interest in a new tyre war,” he claimed. “Just as it is for the tyre manufacturers, it’s also very difficult to assess the team’s part in success.

“There would need to be quite a strong argument to return to the days of open (tyre) competition,” he added.


Senna doubts 2012 title will go down to the wire

Bruno Senna hopes the battle between Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel for the 2012 title goes down to the wire in his native Brazil next month. But he doubts it.

“I hope it does (happen) so that we can have some fun there,” the Williams driver is quoted by Brazil’s Totalrace, “but it’s difficult. Red Bull has a very big advantage,” added Senna.

In fact, he thinks Ferrari’s deficit to Red Bull could be even bigger this weekend in Abu Dhabi.

“In India, the advantage is somewhat minimised because it’s a track with less limitation for the rear,” said the Brazilian. “But when you get to a track like Abu Dhabi, they (Red Bull) will have a very good performance.”

Gary Anderson, a former F1 technical chief turned broadcaster, agrees that Red Bull and Vettel are very much the championship favourites.

“I don’t know how Ferrari will pull it from nowhere to overtake Red Bull’s pace of development,” he is quoted by German-language Speed Week. “Especially as Red Bull will also have new things on their car in Abu Dhabi.”


Austrian great Niki Lauda agreed this week that the title is now “almost impossible” for Spaniard Alonso to win.

Alonso, however, said nothing has changed.

“It’s been like this for a good part of my career, and yet people say good things about me, that I am considered one of the best.”

He told Totalrace that the key to Vettel’s resurgent title challenge has been Adrian Newey.

“I don’t think Sebastian and Mark (Webber) have improved their driving since Singapore, yet suddenly they are always first and second.

“This means that the car they have now is so superior that they can even afford to make a mistake; they have that margin.

“But we (Ferrari) will work hard so that they don’t have it in the three remaining races,” Alonso insisted.

The Spaniard’s former McLaren nemesis Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, clearly agrees with the paddock sentiment about Alonso being at least the ‘moral’ champion of 2012.

“In my opinion,” the Briton is quoted by Spain’s El Confidencial, “he is a three or four times world champion already.”

Alonso says Ferrari row reports ‘not true’

Fernando Alonso has dismissed as “not true” reports in the Italian press of a post-qualifying row with Ferrari team members in India last weekend.

La Stampa newspaper claimed the Spaniard took exception to media comments by Ferrari’s British technical director Pat Fry, and threatened to publish a ‘tweet’ about a lack of aerodynamic progress during his fading 2012 title battle.

The story spilled into the international media early this week, with some publications claiming the revelation of an argument is fair game. Some even linked the tale to Lewis Hamilton’s switch to Mercedes, and the rumours about Sebastian Vettel moving to Ferrari in 2014, suggesting Alonso’s future could be McLaren.

“The problem is when it is not true,” Alonso hit back on Twitter. “It’s not fair to your readers,” he added in Spanish.

“Forza Ferrari,” Alonso ended the exchange, amid reports in the Spanish sports daily Marca that Ferrari will do yet another straightline aerodynamic test this week before introducing more updates for the F2012 in Abu Dhabi.

“I do not remember when (the test is taking place),” Fry is quoted as saying. “We have small improvements coming to Abu Dhabi, and more in America,” he added. “It’s not over yet and we need to keep pushing as much as we can.”

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, meanwhile, played down claims Alonso has been overstepping the mark with some of his apparent criticism of Ferrari’s developmental progress in 2012.

“He is the best driver in the world,” said the Italian, “of that there can be no doubt. If he says certain things, it is only to keep everyone under pressure,” added Montezemolo.

Pressure, of course, is not in short supply, with Montezemolo insisting Ferrari must up its game in qualifying.

“If we always start from the third or fourth row,” he is quoted by La Stampa, “then everything else becomes difficult, if not impossible.”


Force India needs fast driver, not pay-driver – Szafnauer

Force India has added fuel to speculation it is considering Sebastien Buemi or Adrian Sutil to replace the Sauber-bound Nico Hulkenberg in 2013.

Officially, the Silverstone based team says it has not been told that German Hulkenberg is leaving, but other insiders consider it a done deal.

Team owner Vijay Mallya this week admitted 2011 driver Adrian Sutil is one potential candidate to replace Hulkenberg, while Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko named Force India as a possible employer for current reserve driver Sebastien Buemi in 2013.

Otmar Szafnauer, Force India’s chief operating officer, would not be drawn on the speculation, but he did hint that the team is not simply in the market for a ‘pay driver’.

“If we do lose Hulkenberg to Sauber,” he told the Swiss newspaper Blick, “then we have a list of some names. We do not need a driver with millions; we need the fastest one,” he added.


Barrichello refusing to rule out F1 return

Rubens Barrichello is refusing to give up on his F1 career.

After 19 consecutive seasons on the grid, the Brazilian veteran finally bowed out at the end of last year, when Williams signed countryman Bruno Senna to replace him. 40-year-old Barrichello rescued his open-wheeler career in the US-based Indycar series, but he has told Brazil’s Arena Sportv this week that he considers F1’s door to be still open.

“I had 19 years of great excitement and pure adrenaline,” he said. “For me, I would have been there (in 2012). You can never say never. Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen went back.

“I think in life you have to have the dream of wanting to improve every day, so I cannot say no. When I saw Raikkonen come back I thought he would have the same difficulties as Schumacher, but he had a sensational year. He is third in the championship. He has not fought for wins but he got six podiums.

“I say this because I didn’t stop and go to a completely different category; I’ve been more active. Physically and mentally, I would be prepared (for F1),” added Barrichello.