Webber apologised after press conference snub

Mark Webber walked out of the official FIA press conference after Sunday’s Indian grand prix.

The incident occurred at the tail end of the media formalities at the Buddh circuit, when not a single question from the floor was addressed to the Australian. So, when Bild newspaper’s Frank Schneider asked title contenders Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel what they would each like from one another, Vettel turned to Alonso and grinned: “Ah, no, you have a cap.

“I was just about to say his cap, but … where did you get that from?” Webber’s Red Bull teammate joked.

Alonso looked puzzled: “I can give it (the cap) to you but … I didn’t understand the …”

Webber, “shaking his head” according to the SID news agency, had already walked out.

F1’s media delegate Matteo Bonciani told the Indian news agency IANS that he later apologised.

“He said it is something he should not have done. Maybe he did that as he didn’t like the questions asked in the room,” said Bonciani.

Bonciani told SID: “He apologised and I accepted.”

He confirmed that he could have referred Webber to the stewards for penalty, but explained: “I didn’t (do that) because anyone can respond incorrectly in the heat of the moment.

“Normally there are no problems.”

Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko also defended Webber.

“Mark actually had an early fight and was running late,” he told Bild. “So because the last question was not for him, he got up (and left).”

Marko also dismissed the ‘psychological games’ played by Ferrari’s Alonso in India this weekend, when the Spaniard said his title fight is not with Vettel but with car designer Adrian Newey.

“It’s just games,” he insisted. “But they don’t make us nervous.”


Boullier: Grosjean ‘has his place’ after Indian GP performance

Romain Grosjean’s future is secure thanks to a good performance in the Indian Grand Prix last weekend, according to Lotus team boss Eric Boullier.

Boullier’s comments come after a tumultuous period for Grosjean, whose career has been in doubt due to his multitude of early-race incidents on his return to the sport in 2012.

Boullier told RMC Sport after the Indian grand prix: “Romain did a great race, doing what was expected of him. He did a good start. He was able to fight and win places. He drove well with no errors.

“I think he has really showed his potential and that he has his place. His confidence has taken a big leap forwards, he is more calm now and he will build on it,” he added.


Karthikeyan: Keep politics out of Formula One

Narain Karthikeyan has explained why he did not respond to the Ferrari flag controversy at the weekend by flying the colours of India’s navy.

Ferrari irked Indian nationals and officials at the weekend by putting the flag logo of the Italian navy on the front of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa’s F1 cars. The Maranello team insisted it was not a political move, but it most certainly triggered a highly politicised debate.

So did Karthikeyan, F1’s only Indian driver, consider responding in kind by adding the Indian naval flag to his helmet livery? Some thought so, when they spotted that the top of his helmet resembled the logo on the Indian flag.

“I support my country,” he is quoted by Italy’s Tuttosport, “and for this I have the national symbol of India on my helmet, but it’s something I’ve done from the beginning of my career.”

As for the naval flag saga, Karthikeyan added: “It is better to keep politics out of the race. What the military has done is wrong, but there is an ongoing process,” he insisted.


Ferrari allowed to keep navy stickers for race

Ferrari’s F1 cars will still be wearing the Italian navy flag logo during Sunday’s Indian grand prix, despite a huge controversy.

With the government and other Indian officials furious at the saga, the FIA has remained completely quiet on the issue, despite its foremost statute about refraining from politics.

Although Ferrari undoubtedly triggered the renewed political controversy about Indian/Indian relations over two soldiers on murder charges, the famous team insists it put the stickers on Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa’s cars for entirely non-political reasons. Bernie Ecclestone has been walking both sides of the street, initially vowing to “have a word” with Stefano Domenicali and then telling an Indian reporter that it was “not the behaviour one expects from Ferrari”.

But Italy’s Tuttosport quotes him as saying later: “There is nothing wrong with putting the Italian flag or any other symbol on the cars”.

India’s motor racing federation has also moved to downplay the saga, its president Vicky Chandhok saying: “It’s just a sticker.

“When we are convinced that it’s not a political move why should I ask them to remove it?” he is quoted by the Press Trust of India.


Mallya hits back at media hostility at home GP

Vijay Mallya was not in a good mood when he was swamped by Indian media at his home grand prix.

The Indian billionaire had been branded an “absconder” by some of his countrymen as he holed up in London amid his ailing airline Kingfisher’s crisis. But he arrived at the Buddh circuit near New Delhi on Saturday, and immediately had to face a barrage of questions including whether his private Airbus had been “seized” by unpaid airline authorities.

“You believe that Indian papers have any credibility?” the Force India boss snapped. “Wonderful,” he scowled. “I don’t owe anybody money. Why should my plane be at risk? It’s so stupid.”

He also faced the accusation that he had finally stumped up the courage to appear at his F1 team’s home race, despite the obvious hostility he was facing.

“Why should there be even one iota of doubt that I wouldn’t be here?” said Mallya. “If I am not at my home grand prix, why should I be anywhere else?”


Angry Perez says ‘no reason’ to skip India practice

Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton appear to be in the process of falling out of favour within their respective teams.

Hamilton is moving from McLaren to Mercedes for 2013, to be replaced at the famous British by Sauber’s Perez. Mexican Perez was sidelined in morning practice in India early on Friday, ostensibly due to a heavy cold. He was replaced by Esteban Gutierrez, who is tipped to move into Perez’s race seat full-time next year.

Perez has told Argentine Fox television, however, that he was well enough to drive.

“I am pleased that they are so worried about me,” Perez said ironically. “It’s obvious that I’m not 100 per cent, but I’ve driven in worse shape. There was no reason for me not to drive. I was ready.”

Perez said his countryman Gutierrez “did a good job” in the practice session, but insisted: “I would prefer to have done the laps in the car. So we’ve lost a session.

“Now it’s more difficult to set up the car for the race.”

Briton Hamilton also looks to be out of favour at McLaren, with the team’s sporting director Sam Michael openly telling reporters that the 2008 world champion’s car was on Friday fitted with some experimental parts for 2013.

But when asked about the new parts after Friday’s track action, Hamilton furrowed his brow and answered: “No, we don’t have anything new.”


Unwell Perez back on track in India

Sergio Perez is set to complete the rest of the Indian grand prix weekend, after skipping Friday morning practice with a heavy cold.

The McLaren-bound Mexican’s likely 2013 successor, Esteban Gutierrez, stepped in for the unwell 22-year-old, but Perez was back on track and up to speed in the afternoon.

“Now Sergio will be taking over again but, in case anything should happen, I feel ready to get into the car again,” Gutierrez said after going 20th quickest in the morning, 1.4 seconds behind Kamui Kobayashi.

Ferrari not taking sides in political standoff

Ferrari insists it is not trying to play partisan international politics by wearing the flag of the Italian navy on its F1 livery in India this weekend.

The famous Italian team had announced that adding the flag to its livery this weekend is “in the hope that the Indian and Italian authorities will soon find a solution” to a situation involving two Italian sailors. Media reports said the sailors were being held by Indian authorities on murder charges, following the fatal shooting of two Indian fisherman mistaken for Somali pirates.

So far, the regional Indian governed has refused to agree a settlement while Rome pushes for the marines’ return for prosecution in Italy. In return, Italy has recalled its envoy from New Delhi, confirming its “strong displeasure” with India’s handling of the incident.

Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi welcomed Ferrari’s support, and was quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport: “This shows our naval guards that they have the support of the entire nation.”

Ferrari’s gesture, however, is controversial, especially given the FIA statute prohibiting “racial, political or religious discrimination” in Formula One.

A team spokesman told the Indian Express newspaper: “Something which has to be clear (is) that we don’t want to say anything in one sense or the another.

“We have utmost respect for the Indian authorities. We just hope that a solution can be found as soon as possible,” he said.


‘Mozzies’ a buzzword in the Buddh paddock

Mosquitoes are a problem at the Indian grand prix this weekend, the local Times of India reports.

The newspaper said Jenson Button swatted one as he spoke to reporters at the Buddh circuit, near the capital New Delhi, on Thursday.

“Oh, I got that mozzie,” the Briton laughed.

But the Times of India reports that the McLaren driver would not be laughing if he contracted “dengue”. Dengue fever, transmitted by mosquitoes, is an infectious disease that can be life-threatening. The newspaper said McLaren and Williams are staying in hotels in Mayur Vihar, where upon arrival “a swarm of mosquitoes greets you”.

Journalist Ruhi Batra said he has seen “McLaren team members … constantly slapping their arms and scratching themselves”, while hotel staff rush around “with racquet-shaped zappers”.

The Times of India said there are hundreds of reported mosquito infections in New Delhi, “and a concerned government on Tuesday asked municipal bodies to carry out fogging exercises across the city”.


Good and bad news for F1’s Vijay Mallya

Vijay Mallya, the owner and boss of the Force India team, had good and bad news on Thursday.

The good news was that embarrassing protests planned for the Indian grand prix by grounded and unpaid staff of his ailing Kingfisher airline have been called off. That’s because he struck a salary deal with the disgruntled workers.

“There will (now) be no protests during F1,” an airline engineer told the Times of India.

But there was also bad news. One piece is that there is a risk his private Airbus plane will be impounded if he lands it on Friday, due to unpaid bills to India’s airline authorities. Force India’s deputy boss Bob Fernley, however, insisted Mallya is still planning to attend the grand prix.

“He won’t be at the circuit tomorrow (Friday) but he’ll arrive Saturday,” he is quoted by PA news agency.

Forbes, meanwhile, has decided that Mallya is no longer a billionaire.

“Thanks to the Almighty that Forbes has removed me from the so-called billionaires list,” he wrote on Twitter. “(It will mean) less jealousy, less frenzy and (less) wrongful attacks.”

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said he is sure Mallya’s apparently declining wealth is not a threat to Force India.

“I’ve known Vijay for 30-odd years and in his business life he’s always had ups and downs,” he is quoted by the Telegraph. “I don’t think Vijay’s problem will affect the team.”