Valencia surprised as Barcelona scraps alternation plans

Barcelona’s decision to abandon plans to alternate its annual grand prix hosting rights has caught Valencia by surprise.

It was believed Barcelona, the regular host of the annual Spanish grand prix, had agreed with European GP venue Valencia to annually alternate a single spot on the schedule from now on. Valencia is duly absent from next year’s calendar.

But Circuit de Catalunya chief Vincente Aguilera said on Wednesday: “We have no desire to alternate. We cannot speak for Valencia, who have agreements with (Bernie) Ecclestone about which we have nothing to say.” That has caught Valencia by surprise.

A Valencian government source is quoted by Marca sports newspaper: “There was an agreement between the (Valencia and Barcelona) presidents over the alternation.

“With the formation of the current Catalan government there may have been a change, we do not know.

“Understand that for our part we have worked for the continuity of F1 in Valencia through the alternation, which for us gives the grand prix rationality through increasing revenue and reducing costs,” the source added.


Valencia hoping for 2014 F1 return

Valencia is hoping to return to the F1 calendar in 2014.

The Spanish street race – recently the regular host of the European grand prix – has dropped off the sport’s schedule for next season. But it has been suggested that Spain’s two F1 hosts, Valencia and Barcelona, will alternate the Spanish grand prix from now on.

Barcelona will as usual host the race next year, leaving open the possibility of a return for Valencia in 2014.

Lola Johnson, the Valencia tourism minister, said the government has “been working” on a possible alternation with Barcelona.

“It is a situation that is on the table,” she is quoted by El Pais newspaper.

“It’s a three-way scenario, with the bosses of formula one and the two organisers of the grands prix. The alternation is on the basis of the reorganisation of the contracts. The details are being worked on,” Johnson said at the weekend, as Ferrari celebrated its end-of-season event at the Spanish port city’s permanent circuit.


Vettel denies safety car conspiracy theory

Sebastian Vettel has denied ever suggesting the FIA deployed the safety car at Valencia as a deliberate ploy to spoil his race.

The reigning world champion, and Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko, were quoted after the recent European grand prix as implying that Charlie Whiting only neutralised the race to deliberately curb Vettel’s runaway race lead. Shortly after the safety car period, ostensibly to clear crash debris from the track, the furious Vettel’s RB8 failed.

Asked about his reported conspiracy theory, the German said on Thursday: “What I said is that, in my opinion, there was no reason for the safety car to be on the track. Then I said that it ruined my race. I never said that it was (deployed) to ruin my race,” he is quoted by Brazil’s O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

“That was written by those who have the habit of removing important parts (of quotes) to make it more sensational. I have reviewed the race and I still have the same opinion, but I do not dispute the decision of the officials. They always have more information than we do in order to make their decisions.

“Agree or not, I always respect them,” said Vettel.

Vettel’s apparent backtracking follows reports last week that the FIA was unamused by the reigning back-to-back title winner’s post-race comments.


FIA admits Alonso and Hamilton escaped Valencia sanctions

Valencia winner Fernando Alonso, and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, only narrowly avoided penalties at the recent European grand prix.

Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport has revealed the details of a team bosses meeting that took place at Silverstone on Thursday. They were told by FIA officials that Alonso and Hamilton technically broke the rules at Valencia, and would have been sanctioned if rival teams lodged official protests.

Hamilton reportedly overtook pole sitter Sebastian Vettel twice on the pre-race warm-up lap; a practice that is not allowed. And Spaniard Alonso also broke the rules by accepting the Spanish flag from a marshal on the slowing-down lap, after thrilling the partisan crowd by winning.

Meanwhile, Blick newspaper has crowned Hamilton the unofficial “bad guy” of Formula One, on the basis of a document doing the rounds in the Silverstone paddock. It is a list of all the punished offenses in F1 over the last ten years — with the 27-year-old British driver in clear pole position.


FIA tells Vettel to mind his manners

Sebastian Vettel has been warned to watch his manners, according to Germany’s Kolner Express newspaper.

After Valencia, where following his retirement the Red Bull driver admitted he suspected a conspiracy, German motor sport association president Hans-Joachim Stuck said Vettel needed to be careful about being cited for “unsportsmanlike conduct”. Vettel had suggested the safety car was called onto the Spanish circuit chiefly to cut his huge lead.

“Sebastian Vettel should learn to be a good loser,” said Stuck.

The Cologne tabloid Express said Vettel’s theory did not escape the attention of the governing FIA, who have placed the reigning world champion on a sort of unofficial ‘probation’. Already in 2012, Vettel is said to have caught Jean Todt’s attention with his “cucumber” insults against backmarker Narain Karthikeyan.

“We know that, quite often, Vettel speaks roughly after disappointments, which is not a good example,” an unnamed FIA official is quoted as saying.

Manners or not, Jenson Button described Vettel’s qualifying and race pace until his retirement with a failed alternator in Valencia as “scary”.

McLaren’s Button had been asked about the widespread praise of Fernando Alonso following the Spaniard’s Valencia win, including Lewis Hamilton’s description of the Ferrari driver as “phenomenal”.

“There’s been a lot of arse-kissing going on lately,” Button told British newspapers. “I don’t know what’s happening. It’s quite strange.”

The Briton said Vettel, not Alonso, is the really “scary one”.

“The pace that Sebastian had (in Valencia) was amazing. He was on fire. He had such a massive difference in pace to the rest of the field and we haven’t seen that for a while,” said Button.


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.


Red Bull calls for ‘DRS under yellows’ clarification

Red Bull has called for a clarification about how the DRS overtaking system can be used whilst yellow flags are being waved.

The stewards conducted a three-hour investigation after Mark Webber spotted Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher using his ‘DRS’ inside a yellow flag zone at Valencia late last Sunday. Ultimately, the officials let Schumacher keep his first podium for more than 2000 days, Charlie Whiting arguing that “the decisive element” is not whether the DRS flap is open but “whether the driver has slowed or not”.

The FIA race director added that there is “no rule” specifically forbidding the use of DRS under yellows. But Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Austrian Servus TV: “There was a meeting where it was said that DRS and KERS may not be used under yellow flags.

“For this reason we told Mark not to enable DRS and so I was surprised that Michael did.”

Peter Sauber admitted: “From past experience we know that the FIA applies different standards from time to time.”

The Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper wondered if the fact it was Schumacher’s first podium of his comeback, and in the presence of his friend and FIA president Jean Todt, that influenced the stewards’ ruling.

Mika Salo, one of the stewards at Valencia, said: “I am not allowed to talk about our decision.”

Horner said: “I think it is important for the teams that we clarify the situation for Silverstone.”


Valencia hosted second most passes of 2012

Written off beforehand as a ‘boring’ race, Valencia in fact hosted a frenzy of overtaking manoeuvres last Sunday.

Before the race, Jenson Button and Mark Webber wrote off their chances of climbing through the field on the basis that passing is always almost impossible between the Spanish street layout’s concrete barriers. But the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat has counted up the genuine passing moves in Sunday’s race, and the tally is 58 — second only to China in 2012.

Last year in Valencia, and with twice as many DRS overtaking zones, there were only 29 overtakes. Webber and Lewis Hamilton made the most passes on Sunday – 6 each – while Fernando Alonso, Vitaly Petrov and Michael Schumacher all successfully overtook 5 rivals.

“It was a crazy day,” Australian Webber said after climbing up from 19th on the grid to fourth at the finish.

The 2012 record for overtaking is Shanghai’s 72, followed by Valencia (58), Bahrain (43), Malaysia (40), Barcelona (38), Canada (35), Australia (30) and Monaco (9).


FIA inspected Red Bull suspension after Valencia

The legality of Red Bull’s RB8 could come under the spotlight yet again.

Italy’s Autosprint is reporting that Mark Webber’s car only narrowly passed post-race scrutineering at Valencia after officials “examined carefully” the new rear suspension layout. Allied with the innovative ‘double floor’ which was also debuted last weekend, the developments helped Sebastian Vettel to set pole and dominate the Spanish street race until his retirement.

When asked about his new dominance, the German driver admitted: “That was surprising even for us. We did not expect to pull out 20 seconds over 20 laps. Until the safety car I had an extra pitstop in my pocket, which this year is extremely unusual given how close together the field has been,” he told Auto Motor und Sport. “It certainly would have been a good result.”

Vettel admitted the latest developments were a big step forward for the RB8 at Valencia.

“Yes and not only in a certain area, we simply have found more grip everywhere and have found a positive impact for the wear of the tyres,” he said.


Renault working to fix alternator headache

Valencia flagged a major headache for F1 engine supplier Renault.

Not only did Lotus’ Romain Grosjean break down with a failed alternator, so too did Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel. Initially, it appeared the failures were coincidental, but Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport now reports a common link. And, reportedly, Renault now suspects that a problem suffered by Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov in Monte Carlo was also similar.

The unit is reportedly manufactured in cooperation between Renault and Magneti Marelli.

“We don’t know what has broken, but we believe it’s the same source,” said engine boss Rob White.

He also doubts the initial diagnosis that the alternators overheated, in light of the possibility that Petrov’s Monaco failure was the same.

Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez agrees: “I heard it was the heat, but we have had races that were just as warm, and you would have to wonder why Kimi or Mark Webber weren’t affected too.”

Renault works very closely with Red Bull, the French marque’s premier partner.

“We know now that it’s a problem area,” said world champion Vettel, “so we need to work to resolve it as soon as possible.”