Force India signs Sutil, aims to keep Bianchi

Force India on Thursday completed the 2013 grid by announcing it has signed Adrian Sutil.

The Silverstone based team had weighed up reuniting with German Sutil, its long-time German driver, or promote the Ferrari-linked 2012 reserve Jules Bianchi.

“It was a close call, but ultimately we felt that Adrian’s experience and historic links to the team gave him the edge,” said team boss Vijay Mallya.

Sutil, 30, drove for the team between 2007 and 2011, sitting out last season in the wake of the Eric Lux assault affair.

Mallya added: “As for Jules Bianchi, he has impressed us enormously with his speed and work ethic, and I’m hopeful we can continue working with him this year to help him develop into a future grand prix driver.”

Source:GMM

McLaren denies 2013 car off the pace

McLaren has denied it is slightly off the pace as teams enter the final week of pre-season testing.

With multiple sources reporting that Red Bull and Lotus look to be narrowly leading the 2013 field at present, Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali this week admitted he would be “very surprised” if the new F138 is quickest in Australia.

Drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez have been making similar noises about the 2013 McLaren.

Team newcomer and Mexican Perez sounded alarmed when he said the degradation of Pirelli’s new tyres is “extreme”, while Button admitted recently that while the radical new MP4-28 often feels good, “at other times it doesn’t”.

But McLaren’s managing director Jonathan Neale has this week sent out a more upbeat message, insisting the drivers have reported that the “handling is good”.

“I don’t think we’ve seen anybody yet do a laptime that we felt we couldn’t have done if we’d changed the fuel load,” he told British reporters. “A bit like the beginning of last season,” added Neale, “nobody stands out as being head and shoulders above everybody else at the moment and nobody appears to be hanging off the back either.”

Source:GMM

Lotus to begin 2013 season without title sponsor

Lotus looks set to begin the 2013 season without a title sponsor.

Late last year, it emerged that the Genii-owned team was close to announcing a $30 million per year deal with Honeywell, the American technology giant. But last month, Switzerland’s Speed Week reported that the deal is now “a way off”.

“We’ve had discussions and some of them were quite advanced,” Genii’s Gerard Lopez, without mentioning Honeywell, told Reuters this week.

“It’s important to have the right package. And the right package is to a large extent also financial. “I guess we could probably have signed a couple of things that leaked out but we think we are better off making sure that we sign what is the right thing for us,” he added.

“We will probably end up with something during the season.”

It is believed Lotus’ 2013 livery was designed with the Honeywell deal in mind.

Now, in the highly-prominent red-coloured area on the top of the engine cover near the airbox, the stylised words ‘Kimi’ and ‘Romain’ are featured on Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean’s cars respectively.

Lotus is the only top team without a title sponsor.

Source:GMM

Lotus denies engine maps issue will slow 2013 car

Ahead of the final pre-season test and 2013 season opener, Lotus has played down a new controversy about engine maps.

We reported on Monday that, after Red Bull were told to stop using certain ‘maps’ mid last season, the similarly Renault-powered Lotus was now also embroiled in a similar controversy.

Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport said the FIA directive issued in August of last year still applied for 2013, despite Red Bull and Lotus assuming it related exclusively to last season’s championship. But on Wednesday, Lotus’ operations chief Alan Permane said the suggestion the impressive recent pace of the E21 will now be affected by having to remove the offending ‘maps’ is “nonsense”.

“Renault had come up with some alternative engine maps to try,” he said, referring to last week’s Barcelona test. “They talked to the FIA about it but Charlie Whiting didn’t want us to use them.”

Permane is quoted by the BBC as insisting the engine maps in question have little to do with Lotus’ impressive winter form.

“Kimi has used the new one once on an installation lap and hated it,” he said. “Romain used it in the wet last week on the final day and it finished up ok. But all his running in the dry has been without it,” added Permane.

He said the performance advantages or disadvantages from the various Renault engine maps are “tiny”.

Permane also chided Ross Brawn for describing Renault-powered teams’ approach to exhaust layout as depending on “a clever engine management system”.

He said: “For Ross to talk about it like that is utter rubbish.”

Source:GMM

Susie Wolff eyes F1 super license

Susie Wolff has vowed to continue her “step by step” progress towards the F1 grid.

Last year just a development driver, Williams has ramped up the 30-year-old Scot’s programme for 2013, and earlier this month she was bestowed the honour of debuting the new FW35 during an aerodynamic test. Revealing that Bernie Ecclestone is “massively pushing” for a woman to join the exclusively-male grid in the near future, Wolff said her next goal is to obtain an FIA super license.

That is the mandatory credential to be allowed to drive during a grand prix weekend, including holding the status as an official stand-in ‘reserve’ driver.

“Things are going well,” Wolff, whose husband is the Mercedes shareholder and boss Toto Wolff, said. “I think we are going step by step and, of course, the next step will be to get my super license,” she is quoted by Brazil’s Totalrace.

“I don’t want to come out and just say ‘Yes, I want to be on the grid next year’,” insisted Wolff. “My plan is to get the license, have more time in the car, help the team as much as I can and just keep going step by step.”

Source:GMM

Salo tips Raikkonen to fight for Melbourne pole

Kimi Raikkonen has been tipped to fight for pole in Australia next month, and the world championship in 2013.

“I am quite sure Kimi will fight for the championship,” fellow Finn Mika Salo, now a commentator for the MTV3 broadcaster, said.

After two seasons in rallying, 2007 world champion Raikkonen returned to formula one with Lotus last year, finishing the championship third and winning in Abu Dhabi.

“Last year he was not able to consistently show good results all of the time, and the team made mistakes that should not be repeated,” said former Sauber and Ferrari driver Salo.

“It is clear that the Lotus has now improved. I have no doubt that, in Australia, Kimi will fight for pole position.”

Source:GMM

Alguersuari & Schumacher to race karts

Unable to find a race seat for his F1 return, Jaime Alguersuari has signed up for a season of kart racing.

Spain’s El Confidencial reports that the former Toro Rosso driver will combine his continuing role as Pirelli test driver with a seat in the powerful KZ kart category of the European championship.

“The truth is that I miss competition and so I will compete in what most resembles a Formula One car,” said the 22-year-old. “I don’t know if I will return to formula one but I don’t want to believe that my career is over at twenty two,” added Alguersuari.

It has also emerged that the newly re-retired Michael Schumacher is returning to kart racing, and will contest the WSK Euro Series race at Ialy’s La Conca circuit for Tony Kart.

Curiously, one of his competitors this weekend will be Max Verstappen, the 15-year-old son of his former Benetton teammate, Dutchman Jos Verstappen.

Source:GMM

Bad weather and car ‘holes’ for final winter test

Teams are concerned about a forecast of bad weather for the final week of pre-season testing, according to the German language Speed Week.

Last week, the ‘middle’ Spanish test ended with cold and wet conditions at the Circuit de Catalunya.

“I can’t remember having a full test day this cold,” said Australian Mark Webber.

More of the same is en route again to northeastern Spain. The last four days of testing before the season opener in Australia begins in Barcelona on Thursday, and on the morning of the opening day “it will start raining”, predicted correspondent Mathias Brunner.

The cold weather and rain is forecast to continue on Friday and possibly into early Saturday, with only the last day of running on Sunday so far looking sunny. As well as scanning the radar images, eyes this week will also be straining to catch a glimpse of rival teams’ final Melbourne-spec technical packages.

Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport has already spied conspicuous and mysterious ‘holes’ on the Sauber, Ferrari and Red Bull cars.

Sauber began the trend for nose inlets last year, and now the new Ferrari has a hole that resembles a shark’s mouth in the area beneath the nose of the car.

“And if you look closely,” said correspondent Tobias Gruner, “you can also recognise an intake on the Red Bull.”

Source:GMM

V6 to deliver less horse power, eighth gear – Renault

With the sophisticated ‘ERS’ energy recovery systems to complement next year’s V6 engines, F1 is not set to lose much horse power. That is the claim of Rob White, engine supplier Renault’s technical boss.

“Today’s engines produce around 750 horse power,” White, referring to the normally aspirated V8 units that will be used for the very last time in 2013, told Speed Week. “In qualifying, with the high performance (ERS) system, we will come very close to this value (with the turbo V6s),” he explained.

“In the race, with fuel consumption altering the objective, it will be at 550 to 600 hp,” added White.

Another change next year is the move from 7-speed to 8-speed gearboxes. Fans and promoters are, however, worried about the inferior sound of the new 1.6 litre units.

“The concern is unfounded,” White insisted. “The new engines are loud and the sound does justice to Formula One. “The glowing turbo is also a spectacle visually.”

White said F1’s engine makers are currently negotiating about possibly being allowed to test the V6 engines in the weeks before the usual February test period next year.

Finally, as the teams consider the higher cost of being engine customers in 2014 and beyond, White explained: “We hope to be able to balance the cost against the fact that we will have stable rules for at least seven years.”

Source:GMM

McLaren says Mercedes wooed Lowe with ‘exotic salary’

McLaren suspects its former technical director Paddy Lowe was lured to Mercedes on the promise of a “telephone number salary”.

“From time to time we have all done it,” managing director Jonathan Neale told reporters this week, after McLaren confirmed it has installed Tim Goss in Lowe’s former role, as the 50-year-old begins a period of ‘gardening leave’. “People are prepared to pay exotic salaries and wait 12 or 18 months, or longer in some cases. That’s the state of the market,” he said.

It is strongly rumoured that Lowe is headed to Mercedes, where multiple sources insist he will almost certainly replace team boss Ross Brawn.

“He (Lowe) has to think about number one,” Jenson Button, who has worked closely with Lowe since joining the Woking based team as world champion in 2010, said. Button denied Lowe’s departure is a personal blow.

“I didn’t come here because Paddy was here, I didn’t come here because Lewis (Hamilton) was here,” said the 33-year-old. “I came here because this is McLaren, with its heritage and history, and – a word we always use, but it is the truth – its ‘strength in depth’.”

Having also lost star driver Hamilton to Mercedes, some have suggested McLaren’s similar failure to hang onto its top engineer is a major management error.

Neale insisted: “The reality is that if somebody rolls up and says ‘I don’t like being here, you are not paying me enough money’ or whatever, then even if you have a good contract, you don’t want them in the team anyway.”

So with Lowe looking set to oust Mercedes’ Brawn, could McLaren make a move for the former Ferrari technical director?

“Ross, by his own admission, would say he hasn’t achieved what he wanted to in the last few years,” answered Neale. “He is still a fantastic guy and still well respected through the industry — a great leader of men and a good technical guy.

“But it is about the chemistry and the blend,” he added.

Source:GMM