Ferrari deny Raikkonen signing was a snub

Formula 1’s biggest team Ferrari have denied that the re-signing of Kimi Raikkonen from Lotus F1 for next season is a snub to the team’s current number one driver and former two time Drivers’ World Champion Fernando Alonso.

Stefano Domenicali stated emphatically when asked whether the arrival of the Finnish driver would unsettle the Spaniard that the duo is the best pairing the sport could offer at the moment and he is hopeful that the combination will work wonders for the team.

He went on to add that everyone who thinks the team’s decision to add Raikkonen to the roster has to do with anti-Alonso sentiments can put their minds at ease adding that it is nothing like that. Domenincali further stated that everyone at the Italian team knows that it is the interest of the team that comes first and Fernando is a key cog in the team and he will remain so for many years to come.

The Italian giants confirmed that the Flying Finn has signed a two year contract to return to the team from 2014 and will replace Brazilian Felipe Massa as the partner of Fernando Alonso. Ferrari and Alonso have suffered a tumultuous season this term and their relationship is also said to be strained after it was revealed that Alonso had expressed his disappointment to people close to him at the inability of the team to provide a car that could compete with the runaway Drivers’ World Championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing.

Fernando Alonso has missed out on the Drivers’ title twice in the last three years and Domenicali stated the way Vettel hauled in a 39 point lead last season still remains a sore for the team and with Raikkonen in the team, Ferrari will go for the assault next season.

RAIKONNEN RUMOURS

Rumours about Kimi Raikkonen returning to Ferrari have been intensifying in the last few days especially after the Italian Grand Prix came to an end. This is usually the time when Ferrari announce their line-ups for next season.

There have been a lot of rumours surrounding star driver Fernando Alonso, who has been linked with teams like Red bull. After the move to Red Bull collapsed, Alonso looks like he will stay at Ferrari at least for the next season. This will not be the same for Brazilian driver Felipe Massa, who has been in poor form this season.

His contract runs out at the end of the campaign and it looks highly unlikely that the team will retain the former Sauber driver, who has been at the team since the days of Michael Schumacher. The betting markets envisage a return to Ferrari.

Ferrari paid off Raikkonen from the final year of his contract in order to bring Alonso, but Raikkonen has been the last Ferrari driver to win the world championship title. He achieved this feat back in 2007 in his first season at the team. The huge gamble with Alonso has not paid off because he has been second best to Vettel since replacing the Finn at the Italian team.

“It is a decision we want to take at the appropriate time, to make sure that we take the best decision for our team. I think the fact that we have not decided yet means we still have to put all the elements on the table – we want to put all the considerations there before taking the right decision. We will announce and say something on that as soon as we have finalised it. It’s not an easy decision for us. There is no doubt that Fernando is a leader, and Fernando with a Ferrari is moving the mountains,” said Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali.

BRUNDLE BACKS KIMI

Sky Sports F1 pundit Martin Brundle is of the opinion that Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen wants to leave the team at the end of the season. The future of the former Ferrari driver has been speculated a lot especially given that he has only a contract till the end of the season.

So far, he has not appeared to be closer to reaching a deal with Lotus due to interest from several teams like Red Bull and Ferrari for his services. Up until recently, he was heavily linked with a move to Red Bull in 2014. However, that move seems to have fallen off due to several reasons.

Raikkonen’s manager Steve Robertson recently confirmed that his client will not be joining Red Bull and it appears that he may be set for a return to Ferrari. The Italian team have not won a title for the last six years and they are under tremendous pressure. They put all their money on Fernando Alonso, but he has so far not delivered the title for the team. Interestingly, it was Raikkonen who won the world championship title for Ferrari in 2007. Brundle has said that Raikkonen will be regarded as one of the top drivers in the paddock alongside the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Alonso, and Sebastian Vettel.

“I think there is a lot of bluffing going on and we will have to wait and see what the teams do. There is certainly some negotiations going on and Kimi might well spring from the Lotus team. Does Raikkonen really want to leave Lotus? You have to assume he does as he is scouting around,” said Brundle in a recent interview. F1 will be resuming this weekend with the Belgian Grand Prix, which is a favourite track for most of the drivers and teams.

FASTER TRACKS

Formula 1 will be returning to faster tracks like Silverstone in the next few races, which will be beneficial to Ferrari according to driver Felipe Massa.

Ferrari have struggled for form during the early stages of the new season. As a result, they have once again fallen behind favourites Red bull in the race for the F1 world championship.

Star driver Fernando Alonso has not been able to consistently challenge Sebastian Vettel for the victories, but that will change when the sport returns to Silverstone. This is acknowledged as one of the fastest racetracks over the course of the season.

Massa has said that the races at Montréal and Monaco have not been ideal for the team due to the slow speed nature of the circuit. This has meant that Sebastian Vettel has opened the gap between him and Fernando Alonso.

The Spaniard will be looking to close it down over the next few races, which is likely to favour Ferrari due to the fast nature of the circuits. The next few races will be at Silverstone and Nurburgring. Both these tracks have a lot of medium and high speed corners, which will suit the setup of Ferrari cars according to Massa.

After struggling with form over the last few years, Massa appears to be back to his best in recent races.

“I think Silverstone can be a bit better for us. The car was very strong in Barcelona and in China. Montreal was a completely different track compared to where next we are going, to Silverstone and Nurburgring, where you have a lot of lateral corners. There are a lot of medium and high-speed corners, so we will see. I think will be better on normal tracks. I know we have the pace, and that is important,” said the Brazilian.

RED BULL DENY SPECULATION

Red Bull Racing have denied the speculation that their Australian driver Mark Webber could leave the team at the end of the season. The 36-year-old has had a frosty relationship with his teammate Sebastian Vettel over the last few years.

However, the relationship turned sour after the recent Malaysian Grand Prix when the German driver disobeyed the orders from the team to overtake Webber in the final few laps of the race, thus claiming the 27th victory of his career. There have been suggestions that Red Bull have been favouring Vettel over the years. Yet, Webber has continued with the team.

The Australian, though, is thought to be deeply disappointed by the lack of action from the team for this selfish attitude by Vettel. He has been rolling contract with Red Bull for the past few years, and his current contract ends at the end of the current season. Webber’s manager Flavio Briatore stated that he cannot see the Australian continuing at Red Bull after this latest incident. There have even been suggestions that Webber may retire from the sport itself. However, the team have said in an interview to the BBC that such speculation are baseless. According to the team, it is also too early to talk about the 2014 season.

“We are two races into the current season and it’s far too early to be talking about 2014. The team has managed the situation each time in its own way behind closed doors,” said a statement by the team. This is not the first time Vettel and Webber had clashed with each other. The most famous incident between the two happened in the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix. The pair ignored the team orders and clashed on the race track, thus ending the hopes of Red Bull having two cars on the podium.

READY FOR RAIN

The Red Bull driver Mark Webber has revealed that he is ready for the rainy conditions that are expected on the final day of testing, which is currently being conducted in Barcelona.

The entire pre-season testing so far this week has been characterised by cold conditions, but the teams will have to prepare for the worst for the final day of testing when rain is expected. Webber has said that it is going to be a tough day for the teams because they have to not only adjust to the rain, but also extremely cold temperatures as well.

It is predicted that the temperatures will drop to around 7°C, and the fact that there will be no sun means that it will be a tough period of acclimatisation for the teams. However, the Australian is well prepared for such an eventuality. Recently, the Red Bull team owner confirmed that there will be no favouritism between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel for the upcoming season. Vettel has managed to win three consecutive world championship titles, while also managing to overshadow Webber in the process. The 36-year-old Australian is one of the experienced members on the F1 paddock following the retirement of Michael Schumacher at the end of last season.

“I think it’s going to be very cold tomorrow and raining, so it could be a difficult day for the teams. The predicted temperature is seven or eight degrees, so the track is going to be in the same window maybe because there’s going to be no sun on the track. It’s incredibly unusual to racing at a grand prix in these conditions, so we need to see how much mileage we can do tomorrow on the intermediates. We need to have a look at how the inters are and see how the new car is in the wet conditions,” said Webber.

ALONSO BACKS LEWIS

The factory driver Fernando Alonso has said that he still retains the former McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton as one of his important competitors for the F1 world championship title.

Alonso came extremely close to winning the title last season. He has not managed to lift the F1 world championship title winning it with Renault back in 2006. Ahead of the 2013 season, there is a lot of optimism within the Ferrari camp after a strong finish to the 2012 season. Despite starting the last season very poorly, Alonso was able to take the title race to the last day of the season.

The McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton, who shares an intense rivalry with Alonso, was not challenging for the title for the majority of the season. He recently left McLaren for Mercedes or a three-year deal. This has raised many eyebrows because Mercedes have not been able to challenge even for a couple of victories in the three years they have spent in recent times. Despite the poor form of Mercedes, Alonso is confident that Hamilton will remain as one of the key men to watch for the 2013 season. Alonso has also praised Vettel by saying that he completely deserves his third consecutive world championship title.

“I do not know who will be my main opponent for this season, he who has the best team, with the best year in terms of preparation, luck, testing, all of these factors, will help a driver or team to come on top of others. But as for strongest opponent, who is strongest driver? My answer is Hamilton. It was true last year, it was true this year. The strongest driver? It is a personal opinion, not political, not to make people think something,” said Alonso. Ferrari will be unveiling the new car in the next few days.

HAMILTON ON POLE

The McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton has said that he is extremely delighted to be on the pole position for the final race of his McLaren career.

The British driver will be starting from the pole position for the final race of the season – the Brazilian Grand Prix. It will also be the last race for McLaren before he moves to Mercedes for the next season. Hamilton said the prior to the qualifying sessions that it will be an extremely emotional race. He will be starting from the pole position, while his teammate Jenson Button made it to the second position to lock the front row for McLaren.

Hamilton has been ahead of their rivals from Red Bull and Ferrari throughout the practice sessions, and he carried his good form into the qualifying sessions as well. Hamilton won his first world championship title at this circuit back in 2008. He has said that it holds special feelings for him as a result of it. He is also extremely emotional during this race because it is the home circuit of his childhood hero Ayrton Senna. Hamilton has also said that he would like to win at this circuit for the first time because it is such a special place.

“It is an incredible feeling. I remember coming through the last corner and being two tenths up and it was going 2.8, 2.9, 3.0, just moving up and when I came across the line it was 0.35 so I was so happy with it. It is so exciting when you come across the line and get pole. Brazil is such a special historic track but this is one I haven’t won at,” said Hamilton. Hamilton will be looking to take advantage of the best starting position on offer in this race.

TIME TO MOVE ON

The Lotus team principal Eric Boullier has said that it is about time the critics moved on focusing on the first lap incidents of the Lotus driver Romain Grosjean and allowed him to race properly.

The 26-year-old Romain Grosjean has been subject to intense criticism over the last few weeks for the number of first lap incidents he has had during the season. It even led to the Red Bull driver Mark Webber recently suggesting that he is a first lap nutcase. This has led to speculation that he will not be allowed to drive for any team in the forthcoming F1 season.

However, the Lotus team principal Eric Boullier has dismissed suggestions that the team is looking for a replacement for the Russian driver. He has backed the 26-year-old to become one of the best drivers in Formula One. He has said that the quality within the 26-year-old is not doubtable, and is confident that he will improve with experience under his belt. Romain Grosjean has managed to cause seven first lap incidents in his first full season in the Formula One sport. He was recently involved in a clash with Mark Webber at the recent Japanese Grand Prix.

“It’s definitely time for us to draw the line and move on, but more importantly it’s also time for Romain to put it in the past for himself. Despite a lot of pressure, he drove a good clean race in Korea and I fully believe he now understands what he needs to do to avoid these things in the future. Romain’s target for the rest of the season is clear – to build on the platform he created in the last race and help the team push for maximum points in the last four races,” Boullier said after the Korean Grand Prix.

BRUNDLE UNSURE ON ALONSO

F1 commentator Martin Brundle has said that he is not sure whether the Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso will be able to win the Drivers’ Championship at the end of this season. Fernando Alonso currently has a 40 point advantage over the Red bull drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel.

However, with 9 races still remaining in the calendar, Martin Brundle believes that anything can happen in the second half of the season. The second half of the F1 calendar will be resuming with the Belgian Grand Prix in the first week of September.

Speaking ahead of the race, Martin Brundle has said that he is much looking forward to the second half of the season and hopes that it is as exciting as the first half. Ferrari certainly do not have the fastest car on the paddock. This means that they are unlikely to win both the championships according to the commentator Martin Brundle. Even the Italian team themselves have admitted that they have to work a lot harder in order to make the current car competitive with the likes of McLaren and Red bull. He has said that Alonso will certainly require help from other areas in order to maintain the advantage in the title race.

“I think Alonso’s going to have to rely on Red Bull and McLaren and Lotus taking points off each other and he needs [Felipe] Massa to get in and help him by taking points off his main rivals. I think Alonso’s obviously got a big head start points wise but I don’t think it’s a dead cert by any means. Well he’s 40 points in the lead which is a race victory, so he can afford to have one non-finish and still be in the lead,” said Martin Brundle in an interview given to the Sky Sports.