Jenson Button has joined his teammate Lewis Hamilton in hinting McLaren should rethink the basics of its car’s aerodynamic concept.
After a poor British grand prix, 2008 world champion Hamilton intimated the foundation of the struggling MP4-27 is flawed.
“You’ve got to look at the cars in detail — just look at them and ours looks different from the others,” he had said.
Hamilton was undoubtedly referring to the ‘stepped noses’ that are seen throughout the 2012 grid, except on the McLaren and the McLaren-linked backmarker Marussia. McLaren then seemed to take a step forward at Hockenheim with a major upgrade, before both Hamilton and Button struggled for pace in the wet qualifying.
Button was then asked about McLaren’s visibly different approach to its 2012 car.
“I’m sure you can make it work with a drop nose like other people or else every other team wouldn’t be running it,” he is quoted by Express newspaper. “Our guys at the time thought this was the right direction. Whether they think so now or not I don’t know. I’m not sure they would tell me anyway,” he added.
Team boss Martin Whitmarsh, however, warned that even McLaren’s German grand prix hopes can’t be written off yet.
“They tell me tomorrow (Sunday) will be dry, so I think we can be competitive,” he said.
Despite promising that he would be present at the race, Bernie Ecclestone did not show up at Hockenheim on Saturday.
David Tremayne wrote in the Independent that the F1 paddock had spent the day playing “where’s Bernie?”
The F1 chief executive’s absence – unusual for a European race but not unheard of – heightened speculation he is afraid of being arrested. In the days before the German grand prix weekend, local newspapers reported that Munich prosecutors are ramping up their investigation of the 81-year-old, after Gerhard Gribkowsky was convicted of accepting bribes from the diminutive Briton.
“With Mercedes-Benz stalling on a new Concorde Agreement, and sponsors watching on anxiously, no one knows quite what will happen next,” Tom Cary wrote in the Telegraph.
A source close to Ecclestone insisted he will be at Hockenheim on Sunday, and Gribkowsky’s lawyer Daniel Amelung told Deutschlandfunk radio that he doubts police will arrest him.
“If he is arrested now, jailed for a long time and acquitted at the end, the state would be subject to extremely high damages,” he said.
Bild am Sonntag newspaper, however, claims Ecclestone’s office has cancelled several meetings that were long scheduled to take place at Hockenheim this weekend.
Sebastian Vettel has played down the moment on Saturday when he waved his hands angrily at teammate Mark Webber.
With Webber staying put at Red Bull next year, German Vettel insisted last week that the pair – despite clashing memorably during their last title battle in 2010 – actually share a healthy mutual respect. But that was before Vettel gesticulated at Webber from his cockpit during qualifying at Hockenheim.
Asked if he was upset with the Australian, Vettel insisted: “Not really, it was just that I got stuck behind Mark at the end of one lap and the beginning of a new lap. So it was not upsetting, it was just a pity to have lost one lap for nothing.”
Vettel said he spoke with his teammate after the incident on Saturday and understands that visibility in the unseasonable German weather was poor.
“He told me that he simply didn’t see me,” Vettel is quoted by F1’s official website. “You can see nothing in the mirror,” he had earlier told reporters in the official FIA post-qualifying press conference.
“I guess he couldn’t see me,” added Vettel. “I don’t think he had intention to hold me up.”
According to Finland’s Turun Sanomat newspaper, Heikki Kovalainen “smiled” when asked about reports he is linked with the vacant 2013 seats at Sauber and Ferrari.
Having resurrected his reputation following undistinguished stints at top teams Renault and McLaren, the 30-year-old Finn is openly musing a switch for next year after three consecutive seasons at Caterham.
When asked about the paddock speculation, Kovalainen reportedly smiled before answering at Hockenheim: “I am confident that if I got the opportunity to drive a good car, I could fight for the top places.”
Lotus is testing a Mercedes-style ‘double DRS’ concept this weekend at Hockenheim.
Britain’s BBC, and Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, revealed on Friday that the system is currently featured only on Kimi Raikkonen’s car.
It is believed the concept is different to Mercedes’, with air ducts running on either side of the engine intake, funnelling from front to rear. It is not clear whether the activation is linked to ‘DRS’, or whether the system simply triggers at a certain speed, but it is believed the latter is the case.
“We won’t call it a Mercedes-style double-DRS because it’s not that,” said British broadcaster Sky’s pitlane expert Ted Kravitz.
Bernie Ecclestone is the epitome of imprecision on the subject of the Concorde Agreement and Mercedes. The F1 chief executive said recently that there is “total agreement” in the paddock about the future. However subsequent reports, essentially confirmed by Mercedes’ Norbert Haug, indicated that Mercedes is in fact yet to sign on the dotted line.
“I am sure Mercedes will soon issue a press release on the subject,” Ecclestone told DAPD news agency when asked about Mercedes’ apparent agreement. “I will speak with them at Hockenheim,” he then added. “Hopefully there’ll be a final decision there.”
Die Welt newspaper said this week that Mercedes is not only yet to sign up, but that Niki Lauda has been engaged as an intermediary for the negotiations.
“We ask for your understanding that we are not commenting on the negotiations,” Haug insisted. “This is the standard in the industry, not because we want to hide something.”
But when asked if Mercedes is contemplating pulling out of F1, he answered simply: “No.”
Bernie Ecclestone has not been seen at Hockenheim so far, raising suggestions he is afraid of arrest.
German newspapers – including FT Deutschland, Suddeutsche Zeitung and Munchner Merkur – say corrupt former F1 banker Gerhard Gribkowsky has this week spent no fewer than eight hours in conversation with Munich prosecutors.
The subject? A possible indictment against F1’s chief executive.
Munich prosecutors on Friday declined to comment.
“We do not disclose details at each step of an investigation,” said a spokesman.
Ecclestone, however, insists he is not staying away from Germany this weekend for fear of ending the day in custody, also charged with corruption.
“I am going. I will be there on Saturday,” the Briton is quoted by the Hamburger Abendblatt.
But is he afraid of arrest?
“I have nothing to do with the case,” Ecclestone insisted.
Major F1 sponsors, however, are not so convinced. The Times reports that companies including UPS, Allianz and Petronas “have examined details” of the Gribkowsky situation.
“Big companies are very wary of being involved in anything that could damage their reputations,” said a source.
Romain Grosjean flashed his usual grin at Hockenheim as he jokingly dismissed F1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart’s offer.
After the Lotus driver was crowned in the media as one of F1’s ‘crash kings’ of 2012, 73-year-old triple world champion Stewart reportedly offered to coach and mentor him. Grosjean smiled that he is too busy for that.
“It’s very tight at the moment and I’ve a honeymoon to do,” said the recently-married Frenchman.
More seriously, he explained: “I used to work with a coach and I don’t feel that I need one today.”
Romain Grosjean faces a five place grid slot penalty at the German Grand Prix because his Lotus team needed to change his gearbox after the British Grand Prix last weekend.
On the final lap of the race at Silverstone, Grosjean’s car was hit with an issue with his gearbox. The team analysed the issue and discovered that it needed replacing ahead of the German Grand Prix.
“It was a gearbox problem and we are very fortunate that Romain didn’t have the problem earlier in the race,” Lotus technical director James Allison explained.
“Unfortunately for Romain it means he’ll take a five place grid penalty at Hockenheim, but he certainly showed at Silverstone that dropping down the order won’t stop him challenging at the sharp end.”
Former grand prix winner Rene Arnoux has tipped his French countryman Romain Grosjean to win up to two races in 2012.
The Swiss-born Grosjean struggled in his abortive 2009 debut but has shone so far this season after returning to the sport with Lotus’ new management.
“Grosjean has matured, he has a nice car, and he has done some great races,” Arnoux, who won races in the 80s with Renault and Ferrari, is quoted by RMC. “I hope it continues to go well and he wins one or two grands prix this year,” he added.
But a win might be difficult for 26-year-old Grosjean this weekend at Hockenheim. The Frenchman said in Lotus’ official pre-race statement that he is hoping for “pole position, a win and the fastest lap! The perfect weekend!”
Pole, however, will be impossible for Grosjean in Germany. It has emerged that Grosjean’s black and gold E20 developed a gearbox problem on the very last lap at Silverstone.
“Unfortunately for Romain it means he’ll take a five place grid penalty at Hockenheim,” technical director James Allison confirmed. “But he certainly showed at Silverstone that dropping down the order won’t stop him challenging at the sharp end.”
Grosjean has given himself a 7.5 out of 10 for his 2012 return to F1 so far.
“I’m a perfectionist in that I always want better, so I’m not 100 per cent happy because not 100 per cent has been right,” he said.