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Formula One 2013

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Lineker    33,995
22px-Flag_of_Austria.svg.pngInfiniti Red Bull Racing (Renault)
#1 - 22px-Flag_of_Germany.svg.png Sebastian Vettel
#2 - 22px-Flag_of_Australia.svg.png Mark Webber
22px-Flag_of_Italy.svg.pngScuderia Ferrari (Ferrari)
#3 - 22px-Flag_of_Spain.svg.png Fernando Alonso
#4 - 22px-Flag_of_Brazil.svg.png Felipe Massa
22px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg.pngVodafone McLaren Mercedes (Mercedes)
#5 - 22px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg.png Jenson Button
#6 - 22px-Flag_of_Mexico.svg.png Sergio Pérez
22px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg.pngLotus F1 Team (Renault)
#7 - 22px-Flag_of_Finland.svg.png Kimi Räikkönen (Round 1-17) / 22px-Flag_of_Finland.svg.png Heikki Kovalainen (Round 18-19)
#8 - 22px-Flag_of_France.svg.png Romain Grosjean
22px-Flag_of_Germany.svg.pngMercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team (Mercedes)
#9 - 22px-Flag_of_Germany.svg.png Nico Rosberg
#10 - 22px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg.png Lewis Hamilton
20px-Flag_of_Switzerland.svg.pngSauber F1 Team (Ferrari)
#11 - 22px-Flag_of_Germany.svg.png Nico Hülkenberg
#12 - 22px-Flag_of_Mexico.svg.png Esteban Gutiérrez
22px-Flag_of_India.svg.pngSahara Force India F1 Team (Mercedes)
#14 - 22px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg.png Paul di Resta
#15 - TBA
22px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg.pngWilliams F1 (Renault)
#16 - 22px-Flag_of_Venezuela.svg.png Pastor Maldonado
#17 - 22px-Flag_of_Finland.svg.png - Valtteri Bottas
22px-Flag_of_Italy.svg.pngScuderia Toro Rosso (Ferrari)
#18 - 22px-Flag_of_Australia.svg.png Daniel Ricciardo
#19 - 22px-Flag_of_France.svg.png Jean-Éric Vergne
22px-Flag_of_Malaysia.svg.pngCaterham F1 Team (Renault)
#20 - 22px-Flag_of_France.svg.png Charles Pic
#21 - TBA
22px-Flag_of_Russia.svg.pngMarussia F1 Team (Cosworth)
#22 - 22px-Flag_of_Germany.svg.png Timo Glock
#23 - 22px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg.png Max Chilton

The FIA has announced the full 2013 Formula 1 World Championship entry list, reduced to 22 cars following the demise of HRT.

Although several driver names are still 'tba' on the list - believed to be because teams have yet to allocate numbers to each driver - the only remaining vacancies are at Lotus, which is yet to confirm that Romain Grosjean will stay, Force India, Caterham and Marussia.
Paul di Resta is expected to keep one Force India drive, while Marussia will retain Timo Glock and is expected to add Max Chilton.
Sauber has signed Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez. Caterham has one vacancy but has confirmed Charles Pic. Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne stay on at Toro Rosso.
Of the drivers moving teams, McLaren signing Sergio Perez takes #6 behind Jenson Button, and Lewis Hamilton gets #10 at Mercedes.
No. Driver Full team name Chassis/Engine
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing Red Bull-Renault
2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing Red Bull-Renault
3 Fernando Alonso Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari
4 Felipe Massa Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari
5 Jenson Button Vodafone McLaren Mercedes McLaren-Mercedes
6 Sergio Perez Vodafone McLaren Mercedes McLaren-Mercedes
7 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus F1 Team Lotus-Renault
8 tba Lotus F1 Team Lotus-Renault
9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team Mercedes
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team Mercedes
11 tba Sauber F1 Team Sauber-Ferrari
12 tba Sauber F1 Team Sauber-Ferrari
14 tba Sahara Force India F1 Team Force India-Mercedes
15 tba Sahara Force India F1 Team Force India-Mercedes
16 Pastor Maldonado Williams F1 Team Williams-Renault
17 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Team Williams-Renault
18 tba Scuderia Toro Rosso Toro Rosso-Ferrari
19 tba Scuderia Toro Rosso Toro Rosso-Ferrari
20 tba Caterham F1 Team Caterham-Renault
21 tba Caterham F1 Team Caterham-Renault
22 tba Marussia F1 Team Marussia-Cosworth
23 tba Marussia F1 Team Marussia-Cosworth

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Rule Changes from 2012
Sporting regulations
At the June 2012 meeting of the World Motor Sport Council, the FIA announced plans to introduce cost-control measures for the 2013 season, which would be policed by the FIA pending the agreement of the teams. This follows a failed attempt by former FIA President Max Mosley to introduce a budget cap for the 2010 season, and the withdrawal of Ferrari, Torro Rosso, Sauber and Red Bull from the Formula One Teams Association in December 2011 over the implementation of the Resource Restriction Agreement, a voluntary agreement between teams to limit costs in the sport.
Following HRT's omission from the provisional entry list, the grid was reduced to twenty-two cars, prompting a change to qualifying procedures. With twenty-two cars on the grid, six cars – instead of seven – will be eliminated during the first period of qualifying, with six more eliminated at the end of the second period. The third qualifying period remains unchanged, with the ten fastest drivers all advancing to the final ten minutes of qualifying.
The rules governing the use of the Drag Reduction System (DRS) will be altered. Where drivers were free to use the system at will during free practice and qualifying, from 2013, the use of DRS will be restricted to the designated DRS zone in a bid to improve safety. In response to this, the FIA announced plans to include two DRS zones at every circuit on the 2013 calendar where it was feasible to do so.
The FIA is seeking to remove the rules of "force majeure" to clarify scrutineering procedures. Under the rules of force majeure, cars must be able to return to the pits under their own power during qualifying or else risk exclusion from the results. However, if a team can adequately demonstrate that circumstances beyond their control forced them to stop a car on the circuit before it could return to the pits, then the rules of force majeure dicatate that the team and driver in question are exempt from any exclusion. Under new regulations, force majeure would no longer be recognised as a valid reason for stopping a car. These changes were first proposed in the aftermath of the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, when Red Bull Racing instructed Sebastian Vettel to stop on the circuit after qualifying. Although race stewards initially accepted the team's explanation that the order came because of an imminent technical fault that threatened lasting damage to Vettel's engine, it was later discovered that Vettel had insufficient fuel in his car at the time and had been ordered to pull over so as to preserve the mandatory one litre sample required for testing at the end of qualifying. As a result, Vettel was excluded from the results, and the changes to force majeure were put forward.
Following a crackdown on driving standard by race stewards in 2012, the FIA has sought to introduce a "penalty points" system of enforcing driving standards modelled on the points system used for road-going drivers' licences worldwide. Under the system, driving infringements would be assigned a points value that would be deducted from a driver's Super Licence when they commit an infraction. When a driver accumulates a pre-determined number of points, they face an automatic ban from racing.
The practice of mid-season testing, which returned to Formula One in 2012 after having been banned in 2009, will be discontinued in 2013 as part of cost-cutting initiatives.
Teams will be faced with an increased entry fee for the season. Whereas entry fees had previously been fixed at €309,000 (USD$396,637) for all teams, from 2013, entry fees will be based on the World Championship points a team scored during the previous season. Teams will now pay a basic entry fee of USD$500,000 (€389,525), plus USD$5,000 (€3,895) per point scored. The reigning Constructors' champions will pay at a premium rate of USD$6,000 (€4,614) per point scored. With a final tally of 460 points, Red Bull Racing were presented with an entry fee of USD$3,260,000 (€2,507,091).
Technical regulations
Changes to the rules in 2012 resulted in the development of a "platypus" nose, with teams designing cars with a visible change in height along the nose assembly of the car. The design attracted criticism, with Red Bull Racing driver Mark Webber labelling the cars "ugly" and Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali calling them "not that pretty". At the 2012 Australian Grand Prix, Charlie Whiting, the FIA technical delegate, announced that although the changes to the sporting regulations planned for the 2014 season would effectively remove the "platypus" effect, the sport's governing body is planning to phase the stepped nose out for 2013. The FIA later accepted a proposal that would allow teams to cover up the stepped nose with a "modesty plate", a panel designed to obscure the step without fundamentally altering the aerodynamic profile of the car or offering any aerodynamic gain itself.
The FIA will completely overhaul testing procedures for front wings in 2013, introducing a more-comprehensive and strenuous series of tests designed to root out the practice of exploiting flexible bodywork regulations.
The "double-DRS" system, first developed by Mercedes for the W03 in 2012 will be banned in 2013. The device, which used a series of channels that ran through the car to create a stalling effect over the front wing when the rear wing Drag Reduction System was open, thereby cancelling out the downforce generated under normal conditions, would allow the car to achieve a higher top speed and better stability in fast corners. The system was the subject of several legal challenges early in the 2012 season, and rival team Lotus developed a similar system of their own before teams agreed to a ban in July 2012. However, while the regulations specifically banned the system developed by Mercedes, they make no provision for the variant developed by Lotus.
Other changes
The Sixth Concorde Agreement – the contract between the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the Formula One teams and the Formula One Administration which dictates the terms by which the teams compete in races and take their share of the television revenues and prize money – which was first ratified by teams in 2009 expires at the end of 2012, necessitating the creation of the Seventh Concorde Agreement. As part of the renewed Agreement, the commercial rights to the sport were to be floated on the Singapore Stock Exchange; however, in June 2012 the planned floatation was delayed, with weak markets, uncertainty within Europe over the continent's economic future, and Facebook's disappointing IPO cited as reasons for the delay.
The sport's decision-making process will be restructured. Prior to 2013, any decision to change the sporting or technical regulations required the agreement of at least 70% (or nine votes) of the teams in order for those changes to be accepted. From 2013 onwards, those changes will only need a 51% majority (seven teams) in order to be approved. The Technical and Sporting Working Groups, the committees responsible for deciding upon the technical and sporting regulations, will also be disbanded in favour of a "Strategy Working Group" that will oversee both technical and sporting regulations and will be made up of representatives from each of the teams that scored points in the previous season's championship, the FIA, Formula One Management, one engine supplier and six event promoters. FIA President Jean Todt described the changes as necessary and designed to give each of the stakeholders in the sport a proportionate representation in deciding the future of Formula One.

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Lineker    33,995
The 2013 German Grand Prix has been moved forward one week to accommodate another European race, the FIA World Motor Sport Council confirmed today.

With a three-week gap resulting from the date change, the 21st July has now been reserved for a European-based event. The German event will now run on 7th July.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Tuesday that he was working on plans to resurrect the Turkish Grand Prix.

The calendar was left with 19 races after it was announced the planned New Jersey Grand Prix would be postponed until 2014.

Alongside the calendar changes, the FIA announced a number of rule tweaks including the abolition of the qualifying 'force majeure' rule, as predicted by AUTOSPORT last month.

As revealed by AUTOSPORT, the F1 Technical Working Group also agreed to postpone to 2017 the requirement for all cars to be driven exclusively under electric power in the pitlane.

For next year, DRS use during practice will be permitted only in the race-specified zones, while the team personnel curfew will be extended from six to eight hours on Thursday night.

Only two exceptions - rather than the previous four - will be permitted across the season.

The FIA also confirmed a small increase in minimum weight to compensate for an increase in tyre weight, and the introduction of more stringent front wing deflection tests.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has hit out at Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, suggesting the Briton may be too old to be running the sport.

Ecclestone, 82, was critical of the controversy generated after Ferrari decided to write to the FIA asking for clarification on Sebastian Vettel's pass on Jean-Eric Vergne during the season finale in Brazil.

Ecclestone said last week that Ferrari was too late to consider a protest, and labelled the situation a "complete joke".

Di Montezemolo, speaking during the Ferrari World Finals, was critical of Ecclestone, saying "old age" is often "incompatible with certain roles and responsibilities."

Di Montezemolo's comments on Ecclestone came after the Italian criticised the current lack of testing for younger drivers.

"We are constructors, not sponsors: I'm no longer happy that we can't do testing on tarmac and that you can't give any chance for young drivers to emerge," he said.

"Since some people have used the expression 'It's a joke' in recent days, I would like to say that this is the real 'joke'.

"Yes, I'm referring to one of Ecclestone's phrases: my father always taught me that you have to have respect your elders, above all when they reach the point that they can no longer control their words. So I will stop there.

"Certainly, old age is often incompatible with certain roles and responsibilities."

Di Montezemolo insisted Ferrari had accepted the FIA's clarification on Vettel's move and that it had now moved on.

"Congratulations go to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull because they won and we are happy to congratulate winners, hoping and wishing that next year we are on the receiving end of these compliments," he said.

"As for the yellow flag saga, we took the simplest and most linear route, by asking the Federation to look into it, making it clear that we would accept their decision and that's what we did."

Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone insists he has no plans to slow down and has 'a thousand more ideas' to pursue at the sport's helm.

His comments come after Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo suggested the Briton may be getting too old to run F1.

Ecclestone poured scorn on the assertion, saying that even now he was balancing his duties for the FIA World Motor Sport Council with attempts to resurrect the Turkish Grand Prix, which lost its place on the F1 calendar for 2012.

"I don't feel 82, and as a matter of fact I'm now going to Geneva, then to Istanbul to see if we can get back the Turkish GP and [will then] participate at the World Council," Ecclestone told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"And I'm not stopping here, I have a thousand more ideas.

"Do I look in such a bad shape, two weeks after the USA GP that I wanted and somehow created?"

"I'm 82 and nobody can deny that. But time ago I used to discuss things with an 88-year-old gentleman when Luca was a 40-year-old. His name was Enzo Ferrari.

"Believe me, at that age he could make me shiver because he was terribly tough, incisive and clear-minded."

Ecclestone also played down his spat with the Ferrari boss, adding: "Anyway, I respect his opinion. It's no drama.

"More than once he has attacked me, but in the end we understand each other. I don't have hard feelings towards him."

Red Bull boss Christian Horner is convinced the best is yet to come from Sebastian Vettel despite the German having secured three Formula 1 titles in a row.

Vettel, 25, became the youngest triple champion in history this year. He also joined Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as the only F1 drivers to clinch three titles in a row.

Horner admits it will be hard to match the records set by seven-time champion Schumacher, but he is sure Vettel is yet to reach his peak despite the success the German has already enjoyed.

"It's difficult to see any driver beating 91 wins and seven championships," Horner told AUTOSPORT.

"Sebastian is 25, has three world championships, 26 wins from 101 starts, more than 40 podiums, 34 poles; he's had a remarkable career so far.

"As a driver he will continue to develop, to get better. We are yet to see the best of him.

"F1 today is different to 15 years ago. There's a much more level playing field in terms of everyone having the same tyres, the same amount of testing, limited engines.

"Only time will tell what Sebastian is capable of in the future but the exciting thing is we are yet to see the best of him."

Horner conceded Red Bull will need to take another step forward in 2013 if it is to stay ahead of its rivals after what the team boss labelled one of its toughest seasons to date.

"We will apply the lessons we have learned in each of the last three years, [as well as] the lessons we've learned this year, and look to apply them for next year," he added.

"We're up against some formidable opponents, they won't be sleeping over the winter and we will have to improve. We have to further the car and the team in order to maintain the kind of performances we've achieved not just this year but over the last three years.

"It gets harder, never easier. This year for sure was the hardest of the three. I think we had to show true strength of character as a team to fight our way back into the drivers' and constructors' championship.

"We have a great foundation, a great basis. Even if we took this car to the first race next year, it would be a good starting point. But Formula 1 doesn't stand still and we have to evolve, we have to improve.

"Everybody in the team knows that. We have improved over the last three years and we'll be looking to do the same next year."

Felipe Massa has admitted that the long-running uncertainty over his Ferrari future played a part in his poor early-2012 form.

Although the Brazilian had previously insisted that he had been able to shut out the pressure caused by Ferrari's doubts over his performances, he now accepts it affected his focus.

"In the first half of the year, I was worried about renewing my contract," Massa said at Ferrari's World Finals event at Valencia on Sunday.

"I did not think that Ferrari would really wait right to the end of the summer before deciding on the driver line-up for next year.

"It's true that ever since I've been at Maranello, there have always been rumours about me. Already in my first year there was a list of drivers who were supposed to take my place and it was the same this year, with a lot of names and plenty of speculation.

"At the start, I paid too much attention to these things, but then, in August, I told myself I should only think about racing and having fun and so I began to really drive, to have the right feeling with the car and to drive as quickly as I know how."

Ferrari eventually decided to renew Massa's contract in October.

He enjoyed a stronger end to the year, scoring two podium finishes and outqualifying title-chasing team-mate Fernando Alonso at the last two grands prix.

"Now I feel very strong and the results were there to see in the last nine races, so I am optimistic for the future - mine and Ferrari's," Massa added.

Jenson Button believes Pirelli should focus on widening the operating window of its 2013 tyre compounds in order to make the Formula 1 playing field fairer.

Unpredictable tyre compounds played their part in seven different drivers winning the opening seven races of the season, with form varying from one round to the next.

Mercedes, for example, suffered in Malaysia - a race in which Fernando Alonso hung on to deny a flying Sergio Perez – but then dominated in China, with Nico Rosberg winning for the first time.

Button said some teams and drivers had 'lucked in' to working the tyres properly, while others had been undermined by an inability to do so.

"I think it would be nice to see the working range of the tyre changed a little bit," Button said.

"As a lot of teams have, we've struggled to get it working and in the right region, and there just needs to be a bigger band of working range for everyone.

"It just makes it a little bit more fair.

"Some guys luck in to the tyres with their car at the start of the year and others luck out.

"It's so hard to find a way of getting tyres in the right range, and you have to change your car dramatically in terms of cooling in order to make it work."

Button otherwise paid tribute to Pirelli's 2012 compounds, saying that uninspiring one-stop races proved just how effective its high-degradation focus has been on improving the racing.

"I think the degradation of the tyres has not been too bad all year," he explained.

"The new asphalt has changed things in terms of one stop, which worked in the USA, but not at others which were not so exciting.

"I think Pirelli and the FIA are all pushing for more degradation."

Kimi Raikkonen is optimistic he and Lotus can be even stronger in next year's Formula 1 world championship.

The Finn starred on his comeback season in the sport, winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, claiming seven podiums and finishing the year third in the championship.

Raikkonen believes there is still room for he and the Enstone-based team to improve however, particularly if they can hit the ground running in 2013.

"I think definitely it is easier now than it was in the beginning of the year, and it should be easier again next year," Raikkonen said.

"We scored a lot of points but we know if we could have started the year stronger then probably we would still have been in the championship.

"I know the team next year, I know the business, so it should be an easier start for us.

"Hopefully we can build it up for next year."

Asked about his success in 2012, Raikkonen said: "It has been OK, but for sure when you start getting good results you want to do it even better; you start expecting yourself to do better.

"We have been quite consistent - not the strongest, but consistent. That kept us in the championship for a long time.

"First though you have to build the car..."

The Finn paid tribute to the atmosphere of Lotus, saying it had contributed to his strong performances over the season.

"I think it is the whole thing together: there are always a lot of people who are involved," he said when asked how beneficial team spirit had proved.

"It is team work and everybody tried to do the same thing, do the best we can and I think it has been a good atmosphere - and that helps.

"I always said this team is a bit different from the others I have raced before. It is all about the racing and less the politics, and it is a good place to be."

Raikkonen admitted he had harboured some doubt before his return about his ability to push to the limit, but said such fears were assuaged as soon as he began driving the car.

"I never really thought I would lose it, that it would be more difficult," he explained.

"Maybe the biggest question mark was if I could push as much on the limit as before, with a new team and new tyres, as things had changed.

"Since the first test though I felt comfortable with it; I was never worried by the racing."

Mercedes boss Ross Brawn is hopeful he can prove Lewis Hamilton wrong and give the Briton a car that is capable of fighting for victories in 2013.

Hamilton is leaving McLaren at the end of the year after a six-year spell at the Woking team to race alongside Nico Rosberg at Mercedes from next season.

The Briton admitted ahead of the season finale in Brazil that the Interlagos race may have been his last chance to win a race for a while given Mercedes's current form.

The Brackley-based outfit won the Chinese Grand Prix earlier this year but then struggled to keep up with its rivals and endured a five-race point-less streak in the championship run-in.

Despite that, Brawn believes Mercedes has all the ingredients to fight back and is not ruling out competing at the front.

"I hope so," Brawn said when asked by AUTOSPORT if Hamilton's predictions were too pessimistic.

"Obviously we're working very hard to give both him and Nico the opportunity to win and take pole positions. That's our ambition, our objective.

"It's obviously critical we improve from where we are. We're going to try [even] if we don't hit all our objectives next year. You never know what other people will do.

"I'd like to think we can do a few things of those things next year.

"I think Lewis was just playing things down. I'm sure in his heart he wants to win and set pole positions, but he understands the journey we've got to go on."

Brawn reckons the 2008 world champion's quality and input will also provide Mercedes with a significant boost.

"We're very excited about the prospect of working with Lewis," he said. "It's going to be very interesting for all of us. I'm sure he'll be different to Michael.

"The team are very excited that we're still able to have a driver of that calibre. As we get a stronger car, obviously the drivers will become even more critical for us."

Hamilton is under contract with McLaren until the end of the year, meaning he cannot start work with his new team until 2013.

Brawn is optimistic that such delays will not affect Hamilton's transition to his new environment, adding: "It's not a big problem.

"There are obviously things that you start to do. You start to build the relationship with the engineers, and that can start in earnest in January."

Bruno Senna remains hopeful he will be on the Formula 1 grid next season despite having lost his seat at Williams.

The Brazilian has been replaced by Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas, who will partner Pastor Maldonado from the 2013 season.

Senna has been in talks with Caterham and Force India and is believed to be still in the running for a seat with both teams.

AUTOSPORT understands that Senna tested a DTM car for Mercedes at Estoril last week, but he says he is still working hard to secure a slot for what would be his second full season in F1.

"You're never relaxed until you have a nice signed contract, but we're working very hard," Senna told AUTOSPORT. "Chris [Goodwin, manager] is a busy little bee. He's been doing his job very well.

"Hopefully before the end of the year we'll have a nice clear path to follow."

Senna insisted that having to make way for Bottas in 15 Friday practice sessions during the season made his year more difficult.

The Brazilian reckons he still did a good job considering his relative lack of experience.

"It's a tough world championship," he added. "This has probably been the toughest Formula 1 world championship in many years. I think that coming into it as my first real year in Formula 1 was already a challenge.

"And then missing practice sessions all over the season, probably missing about 30 per cent of all the practice sessions of the year, is a lot of practice missed.

"That probably puts you in a position where you shouldn't be at the start, only by a couple of tenths sometimes.

"It's made my year much more difficult. But still I've learned a lot. It's been a very big learning curve for me, and a very good one."

Maria de Villota has been released from hospital following her latest operation at the end of last month.

De Villota underwent a seven-hour operation in Madrid in late November.

It is expected to be the penultimate time she has surgery after her dramatic accident earlier this year.

The final operation will take place once she has recovered from her latest procedure.

On Monday, de Villota was named 'Driver of the Year' by Car & Driver magazine. Her family collected the award on her behalf.

Luxury watch making brand Rolex will become the official Formula 1 timekeeper from the 2013 season, it was announced on Wednesday.

As a result of the deal, the Rolex logo will appear around the circuits and at several corners during Formula 1 races.

In a statement, Rolex said its presence in Formula 1 is "due to develop over the coming seasons".

The new partnership means the Swiss company also becomes the official timepiece to the sport.

Formula 1 had signed a multi-year deal with LG in 2008 as its technology partner. LG's logo featured on F1's live timing system.

"Without question Rolex is the partner of choice for a world class sporting series like Formula 1," said F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.

"The brand's prestige, the excellence of its watches as well as Rolex's passionate and long-standing commitment to motor sports gives it true credibility.

"This partnership is something that many people interested in Formula 1 will have been waiting for and should rightly be excited about. Rolex has incredible sporting heritage and therefore Formula 1 is the right place for Rolex to be."

Silverstone has announced several improvements to its traffic management and infrastructure in a bid to avoid a repeat of the traffic chaos of this year's British Grand Prix.

The circuit was forced to advise fans with public car park passes not to attend on Saturday in order to ensure the venue was able to host a full attendance for the race, after unprecedented levels of rainfall led to waterlogged campsites and gridlocked roads.

Silverstone exclusively told AUTOSPORT last month about the changes it had planned in order to avoid a repeat of this year's debacle, while also confirming it had completed its refunding process for customers forced to miss parts of the weekend.

Silverstone has now confirmed it will expand the capacity of its Park and Ride scheme and operate it on all three days of the grand prix, improve its shuttle service for those commuting by train and invest in improving the non-tarmacked car parks on site.

The Silverstone Woodlands campsite will also be increased by 70 acres, to provide fans with an 'improved experience' and to act as holding site in the event of bad weather.

Silverstone Managing Director Richard Phillips said that lessons had been learned from 2012.

"For more than 10 years now, fans have had little or no issue getting in and out of the circuit for the British Grand Prix, so it's important to keep the problems of this year in perspective," he explained.

"That said, the traffic issues on the Friday of this year's event, and having to ask a number of fans to stay away on the Saturday, were far from ideal.

"We have learned from this year's experience and are taking steps to ensure we're better equipped to deal with whatever the weather may throw at us in future."

Singapore billionaire Peter Lim is planning to build a new FIA-compliant circuit in the Iskandar region of south Malaysia.

Lim said a 4.5 kilometre test track, to be conceived by an as-yet unnamed designer, will be part of a motorsports-themed development known as 'Motorsport City'.

The venture, of which Lim's FASTrack Autosports Pte has a 70 per cent holding, is valued at more than $1.2 billion.

It is planned for the Johor state, which borders Singapore, just five minutes drive from the Tuas Second Link border crossing between the two countries.

Malaysia already has a permanent grand prix track in Sepang, which has hosted 14 F1 grands prix since first being included on the calendar in 1999.

Singapore meanwhile hosts F1's only night race, and agreed to a five-year extension with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone in September.

Lim plans for the circuit to achieve FIA Grade 2 certification.

"The region is fast becoming a hub for motor sports," Lim, a shareholder of McLaren Automotive, is quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

Malaysian developer UEM Land Holdings Bhd. will hold the remaining 30 per cent of the venture.

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Katsuya    2,819

!! A1 Ring (or to give it the new title...the Red Bull Ring) could be the 20th track...

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maninblack    94
Following a crackdown on driving standard by race stewards in 2012, the FIA has sought to introduce a "penalty points" system of enforcing driving standards modelled on the points system used for road-going drivers' licences worldwide. Under the system, driving infringements would be assigned a points value that would be deducted from a driver's Super Licence when they commit an infraction. When a driver accumulates a pre-determined number of points, they face an automatic ban from racing.

I don't agree with this. Suspensions and fines should be enough of a penalty.

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Lineker    33,995

First post has been updated with new regulations etc - going to hold off on posting an updated calendar until the TBA European race situation has been recitified.

United States Grand Prix organisers want the date of the 2013 event at the Austin circuit changed in order to avoid a clash with an American football match.

The Circuit of the Americas race is scheduled for the weekend of November 17 next year following confirmation of the calendar by the FIA World Motor Sport Council on Wednesday.

The University of Texas football team is scheduled to play against Oklahoma State on November 16, in a event that is expected to draw a crowd of over 100,000 fans.

Both the university and the circuit chiefs have admitted the situation is far from ideal, with COTA eager to get a new date for the grand prix.

"Circuit of the Americas has expressed our strong preference for an alternate race date in 2013," chairman Bobby Epstein told the American-Statesman.

"We understand that setting a global calendar can be very challenging, involves many factors and is out of our control. We feel confident that Formula 1 has taken our concerns seriously and is working earnestly towards a collective solution.

"Ultimately, our 2013 race date may remain as it currently stands."

The Austin circuit made its debut on the Formula 1 calendar this year.

Turkish motorsport officials say the return of the country's grand prix to the Formula 1 calendar is now up to the government, after agreeing terms with Bernie Ecclestone.

Istanbul Park, which hosted an F1 grand prix from 2005-11, was tipped for a return to the calendar on Wednesday.

This was after the FIA World Motor Sport Council announced it had moved the German GP forward to reserve the July 21 date for another, yet-to-be-named European-based event.

On Thursday, Turkish motorsport federation TOSFED said circuit operator Vural Ak had met with Ecclestone to discuss a new deal.

It said, however, that the conclusion of the agreement depended on the government funding the event.

"We are making every effort so that Formula 1 races can be held at our Istanbul Park track... [in 2013] and in future years," TOSFED chairman Demire Berberoglu said in a statement.

"Everybody knows that what is needed for its presence in the Formula 1 race calendar for 2013 and following years is a guarantee and approval of the required budget at the government level.

"This will develop according to the prime minister's decision."

Red Bull is open to the idea of Austria hosting a Formula 1 race next year at its revamped Spielberg track.

The energy drinks company has overhauled the venue, now known as the Red Bull Ring, and its motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has revealed that he has been in touch with the FIA to make it aware of the opportunity available.

The FIA announced earlier this week that a European F1 race would be held on July 21 next year at an unspecified venue - with France and Turkey the favourites to secure the spot.

However, Marko believes the Red Bull Ring is more than capable of securing a return of F1 to Austria for the first time since 2003.

Marko said: "We made the FIA aware of the fact that there is the Red Bull Ring and it holds a full grade F1 licence."

Although Spielberg's current 40,000 capacity would make it tough for the event to make a profit, Marko suggests that funding could also be forthcoming from the Austrian national government and the province of Styria.

With Red Bull having renovated nearby hotels, as well as there being a high-speed toll road to the city of Graz, Marko says there should be no problem with accommodation.

"It worked in the 1970s and 1980s too," he said. "And we have a full amount of hotels in Graz."

Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz is currently on vacation and unavailable for comment about the possibility of there being an Austrian GP in 2014.

Austria has held 26 world championship F1 races. An event in 1964 took place on a military airfield at Zeltweg before the Osterreichring was used from 1970 to 1987. The revised A1 Ring held grands prix between 1997 and 2003.

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Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull team collected their FIA Formula 1 World Championship trophies in Turkey on Friday night - with boss Christian Horner adamant his outfit was better this year than it has ever been.

Vettel was presented with the F1 world drivers' championship trophy, and Horner the constructors' award, by FIA president Jean Todt at the organisation's prize gala in Istanbul.

Reflecting on the campaign, Vettel and Horner did not hide from the fact that the season had been incredibly challenging as rival Ferrari took the title fight all the way to the final round of the season in Brazil.

Horner said: "This is a phenomenal achievement for our team. The hard work and the dedication this year have been exemplary - but I think hard work and dedication have been common up and down the pitlane in this fantastic Formula 1 season.

"It didn't seem possible we could raise our game after last year but I think we have.

"The team have used every scrap of their skill and ingenuity; they've had the courage of their convictions and have refused to buckle under the most enormous pressure. I'm honoured to collect this trophy on their behalf."

Vettel also praised the efforts of his team – which fought back from a major points deficit in the middle of the season so he could secure the drivers' title by just three points.

"Winning the title with Red Bull Racing three times in a row makes us all feel very proud," said the German.

"This was a season with lots of ups and downs and the team had to push hard to get me over the line. In the garage and at the factory everyone did an incredible job, and the support we had from Renault was also great."

Indian Grand Prix organisers were meanwhile presented with Bernie Ecclestone's Formula 1 Promotional Trophy for the best race, while Sky Sports was awarded the accolade for outstanding television broadcast coverage.

FIA prizegiving in pictures

Lewis Hamilton says it would be nice to go back to McLaren in the future, as he sees the team as his home.

Hamilton is leaving McLaren at the end of the year to race with rival Mercedes after six seasons with the Woking-based outfit.

His exit from McLaren puts an end to a relationship that began when he was racing in karting as a 10-year-old.

After one Formula 1 title and 21 grand prix wins, Hamilton said he needed a new challenge and accepted Mercedes's three-year deal offer.

The Briton admitted, however, that the prospect of returning to McLaren in the future is never out of question.

"You can never say never and I've had a great time," said Hamilton. "I think it will always be my home.

"I'll always look at it as where I've come from. Going back there would be nice one day. But I want to go and experience some things for a bit.

"It's almost like leaving home and going travelling for a bit. But I'm doing it with a different company."

Although Mercedes has endured a disappointing season - finishing in a distant fifth place in the constructors' championship - Hamilton insisted he has no regrets about his decision.

"No, I'm really, really happy about it. You can't live with regrets in your life," Hamilton added.

"You have to make a decision and stick with it. Whether it's right or wrong, you just have to make the most of it, stick to your guns and hope you can turn it around or turn it into a positive."

Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, will partner Nico Rosberg at Mercedes.

Romain Grosjean is confident he will be much stronger in the 2013 Formula 1 season if he is given a new deal by his Lotus team.

Grosjean was signed to partner Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus in 2012 and had a promising start to the year despite some early incidents.

The Frenchman was a good match for Raikkonen's speed, beating him 10-9 in the qualifying head-to-head, and finishing on the podium three times.

The second half of the season was hard for Grosjean as he was involved in several accidents and received a one-race ban for his crash at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Lotus is expected to decide Grosjean's future imminently, but the 26-year-old believes he is capable of repaying the team's faith if he is given the chance next year.

"I hope much stronger," said Grosjean about how he expects to performed in 2013. "Normally it is one year to learn, two years to win, but in Formula 1 it is a bit different.

"It's hard to say how much stronger you normally are because all these things you digest over the winter, and restart with winter testing... we know where to start, what to test, what to improve.

"There are ups and downs, but I think this year has been mainly 10,000 more things I've learned than in the past."

Grosjean made his grand prix debut with Renault when he replaced Nelson Piquet Jr from the 2009 European Grand Prix. He endured a tough few races before returning to GP2 in the middle of the 2010 season, which he had started by competing in GT racing.

The French driver feels his performances this year have revised the perception people had of him based on his 2009 form.

"I think it started with the third place on the grid in Melbourne and then we had some podiums and the atmosphere inside myself and everything in the team has been working very well. I like working with all the guys," he said.

The Lotus driver also said he had been faster than he had predicted given his lack of experience.

"I think we were quicker than I was expecting. There have been some lows, but I think they helped me improve myself.

"So I feel much better than I did at the beginning of the season. I've been learning a lot, I'm still learning and improving myself a lot as well."

AUTOSPORT SAYS

F1 editor Edd Straw

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Lotus would be mad to cast off Romain Grosjean now. While he made too many mistakes in 2012 and there are very serious questions over his ability to assess risk while on track, he is simply too fast to be discarded.

Some argue he's already had his second chance. But the circumstances in 2009, when he raced alongside Fernando Alonso at Renault for half a season, were impossible. This year was his real rookie season and it's too often overlooked that he shaded the qualifying battle against world champion team-mate Raikkonen and finished on the podium three times.

If the mistakes carry on next year, then the situation would be different and he would have to be considered beyond help. But when you have a guy capable of being this fast - by which I mean as fast as anyone on the grid - it's essential to leave no stone unturned in harnessing his potential. A serious F1 team cannot afford to cast away such promise so soon.

Lotus is an ambitious team with some seriously good personnel. While they have been frustrated by Grosjean at times, everyone in a race team loves to see a driver who extracts the maximum speed from the car.

Taking a conservative second driver as a solid points banker over a potential superstar - and Grosjean really is fast enough to be just that if he can calm down – would be a disappointingly conservative step for a team that considers itself ambitious, creative and upwardly mobile.

Force India believes Nico Hulkenberg will miss the chance to realise the team's potential after leaving to join Sauber for 2013.

The German driver confirmed in October that he will race with Sauber next season after two years with the Silverstone-based squad.

Force India finished behind Sauber in this year's standings, but it outscored the Swiss squad in the final part of the year.

Deputy team boss Bob Fernley reckons Hulkenberg's departure comes at an inopportune moment for the German given the team's form over the season run-in.

"I think so," Fernley told AUTOSPORT when asked if Hulkenberg would miss Force India's potential.

"If you look at the stats since the summer break, the Force India car was clearly the fifth best performing.

"We're still quite a distance off the top four, but since the summer break we've forged ahead of all the others."

Fernley admitted, however, that Force India was sorry to see the German driver leave.

"We're very sad to see Nico go," he said. "He's been a great asset to the team. We've enjoyed having him around and it's a loss to us. There's no question that we're sad he's leaving."

Force India will keep Paul di Resta for 2013, with the Scot's partner yet to be named.

Di Resta struggled to match the performance of Hulkenberg in the second half of the season, but Fernley denied the reason for that was that he was focused on trying to secure a drive elsewhere.

"No, I don't think so," Fernley added. "Up to Singapore, Paul had dominated and Nico was feeling down. Since Singapore it went the other way around. That's how it's gone with them all season, they're so close.

"It's hard to judge. You get those runs. He's just got to dust himself down and get ready for the new season."

Jerome d'Ambrosio says he is still working on securing a Formula 1 race seat in F1 for next year, but the Belgian admits the situation is not easy.

D'Ambrosio made his grand prix debut with Marussia last year but was left without a full-time race seat for 2012.

He was signed by Lotus as its reserve driver this year and returned to racing when he replaced Romain Grosjean at the Italian Grand Prix while the Frenchman was serving a one-race ban.

With only Marussia, Caterham, Force India and Lotus yet to confirm their second drivers, d'Ambrosio concedes it is hard to find a place on the grid.

"Not everything is confirmed yet. We're still working on it," he told AUTOSPORT. "It's tough. We'll see what happens. Time will tell.

"With the season finished, the remaining people who have everything in their hands will take their decisions.

"It's very difficult. There are a lot of drivers out there without seats. Some experienced ones, some less experienced ones.

"All I can say is that I really love Formula 1, I loved being on the grid last year even if it was not in a top car. I enjoyed being in the car at Monza very much. It's what I love to do and I will fight to stay in Formula 1 as long as I can."

D'Ambrosio said he is not willing to spend another year on the sidelines if he can't secure a race seat in F1.

But the Belgian, who tested a DTM Mercedes last week, will only weigh up his options elsewhere if he is ruled out of a grand prix drive.

"We will see at the time," he said. "For sure it's difficult not to be driving. If I have to do another year as a third driver, then we will see what I can do."

Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes Michael Schumacher would have been better off not returning to the sport following his first retirement.

Schumacher quit grand prix racing at the end of the 2006 season following a record-breaking seven titles and a total of 91 race victories.

The German made his return to F1 at the start of the 2010 season, but managed just one podium before calling time on his career following the 2012 campaign.

Ecclestone thinks fans new to the sport will remember Schumacher for his underwhelming results in his second F1 spell rather than for his unprecedented previous success.

"I would rather he had stopped as a seven-time world champion than stopping now," Ecclestone told the official F1 website.

"People new to the sport - people who have joined the F1 fan fraternity just recently - will remember Michael now, not as he was.

"They don't see the hero that he was but the human that can fail.

"I think the important thing is - and this is probably difficult - to know when you can't do what you used to do anymore and then hand it over to somebody else.

"I hope that's what I can do. When I feel I can't deliver, I will certainly say goodbye."

Ecclestone admitted however that F1 will still miss Schumacher.

"He enjoyed racing and was there helping to do good things for Formula 1," he said.

"We will miss Michael, because even though he wasn't winning races in those three years, he is still very popular."

The F1 boss said Schumacher's close ties with Mercedes meant he has been unable to offer him a role to stay involved in the sport.

"Well, we wouldn't and we couldn't keep him in another role because he is too close to Mercedes. It would have been easier when he was still close to Ferrari, I guess.

"He doesn't have to work, he doesn't have to worry and he can do what he wants to do. Doesn't that sound good?"

Marussia's 2013 Formula 1 car is on schedule to make the first pre-season test according to team principal Graeme Lowdon.

Marussia used its 2011 car for the first tests of 2012, and the new MVR-02 only made its track debut in the final session at Barcelona before the first race of the season in Australia.

The team's plans were delayed by its failure to pass some of the mandatory crash tests.

Lowdon is adamant, however, that Marussia is now well on schedule with the MVR-03 thanks to the new technical structure put in place after the exit of Nick Wirth.

The first test of 2013 takes place at Jerez on February 5.

"It's on target at the moment, and in fact some bits are ahead," Lowdon told AUTOSPORT. "We've got a high degree of confidence. We've got a totally different structure now.

"This will be our first car that's truly our car in terms of the new people involved. The car we've just finished with was a full CFD car when we hit the first race."

Marussia finished in 11th position in this year's constructors' championship despite holding 10th place following the Singapore Grand Prix.

Heartbreakingly for the team, however, Caterham re-took 10th in the final race of the season in Brazil.

Despite losing out to its rival, Lowdon is convinced Marussia is a top 10 squad.

"I definitely think this is a top 10 team. We didn't have a top 10 car, and that's something that takes time and money," he said.

"Look at Brazil, Timo's fastest stop was faster than all the stops McLaren did. People don't notice that kind of thing, but we've now got a very, very good team. A really good structure, very tight-knit and a very low cost base.

"If we have a car that's capable of quicker laptimes, which is the other piece of the jigsaw - and everything I've seen is that next year's car is going to be a really good car - then you can't write this team off.

"I'm perfectly happy to call this team a top 10 team even if the results don't show it. I'm looking forward to Melbourne."

Timo Glock believes a bigger budget is key for Marussia if the team is to make a significant step forward in the Formula 1 field.

Marussia made its grand prix debut as Virgin in 2010 and finished last in the standings in its first two seasons before moving up to 11th in 2012.

The team looked set to finish ahead of Caterham for the vital 10th spot, but it lost out in the final race of the season in Brazil, where Vitaly Petrov gave Caterham in best F1 result with 11th place.

Glock, who will stay on for a fourth season with the team, is aware that only with more money will Marussia be able to escape the back of the grid.

"More budget, that's the key point," Glock told AUTOSPORT. "We all know that if you want to make a big step, you need more money to do it.

"We develop in terms of our possibilities, but everyone else develops and they can develop faster with more money. Our main goal is to have more budget, that's what the guys are working on, and then we can make a step."

Glock reckons his team has been hurt by the lack of development in the windtunnel, having used CFD exclusively during its first two seasons.

This year's car made its track debut in the final test of the pre-season, and the team ran without KERS all year, unlike rival Caterham.

"I'm pretty sure we would have looked much stronger with proper testing at the beginning of the year and if we had started earlier in the windtunnel," he said.

"KERS too, but mainly if we had been able to shift everything with the windtunnel a bit earlier, we could have been closer to Caterham and maybe even beat them.

"That's where we're working for next year."

Adrian Newey has admitted that it is becoming more challenging to find performance gains with the 2013 Red Bull.

The maturity of the regulations, which were introduced in 2009, and the lack of rules tweaks for next season mean that teams are chasing ever-shrinking improvements with their cars.

The Red Bull has been the dominant force under this rules set, winning the drivers' and constructors' championship double three times in four years.

"It is increasingly difficult because there are no real regulations changes compared to this year and it will be the fifth season since the 2009 rule changes," Newey told AUTOSPORT.

"The field is converging and you can see how competitive it is in the fact that we had eight different winners this year."

Newey believes that the number of winners in 2012, which is the largest since 2003 when eight drivers also tasted victory, shows how tiny the margins are in F1 currently.

Six different teams won races, with Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus, Mercedes and Williams all tasting success.

"It is a demonstration of how critical it is now," said Newey.

"Each race, you have so many variables that can cause swings between the cars.

"The tyres have been talked about a lot and they are important ans each car will work its tyres slightly differently compared to its competitors.

"Sometimes, a particular track layout and temperature might suit a particular car more than its immediate rivals.

"Whether it's a predominantly high-speed corner circuit like Silverstone or a slow-speed corner circuit like Abu Dhabi, for instance.

"Those factors mean that it has been difficult for one team to dominate."

Newey added that next year's Red Bull RB9 would be an evolutionary step from this year's machine.

"There will be no surprises, next year's car will be very much an evolution of this year's," said Newey.

"The great thing about motorsport and F1 in particular is that we know what we are intending to achieve over the winter but we have no idea of what everyone else will manage."

Red Bull's dominance 2009-2012

Drivers' championships: 3 (75%)

Constructors' championships: 3 (75%)

Wins: 34 (45.3%)

Poles: 46 (61.3%)

McLaren sporting director Sam Michael believes the pecking order will not change in the Formula 1 2013 season, with his team, Red Bull and Ferrari fighting for the titles.

Red Bull celebrated its third double championship-winning campaign in a row this year, as Sebastian Vettel became the youngest triple champion in history.

Vettel's 2012 campaign was very different to last year's however, when the German dominated with 11 wins from 20 starts.

Red Bull took seven victories this year, an amount matched by McLaren. Ferrari won three races, while Lotus, Mercedes and Williams took one each.

Michael reckons the situation will remain unchanged at the top next season, but he believes the midfield teams may be closer to front.

"They [midfield teams] will close up a little bit. I don't think there'll be any massive shake-up on the grid though," said Michael.

"We'll be in the normal situation at the front with McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull. Then the rest of them I can't predict.

"The great thing about Formula 1 is that someone could always go out and do a stonking car, have a good driver in there and be part of the action. You've got to say Lotus are looking very good. You've got to expect Force India to return strong next year. And Mercedes, of course."

While Michael concedes it is hard to predict who else will be competitive, he is convinced that McLaren will be able to produce a strong car.

"There's no point in me listing teams because I don't know what they're doing," he said. "All I can say is what we're doing. We know what we're up to and I know that should be good enough to produce a competitive car.

"It was only three or four races ago that people were going 'oh no, how are you going to go into the winter knowing Red Bull are going to walk all over next year's championship?'"

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner reckons Ferrari's Fernando Alonso will again be one of the main threats to his drivers in 2013 after coming close to taking the title this season.

Horner also feels McLaren's Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton - moving to Mercedes - will be fighting at the top.

"I think that for sure he is at the top of his game, at his peak. He will be a formidable competitor next year," Horner said of Alonso.

"You can see the team is very much geared around one driver.

"I think Fernando, Lewis and Jenson are potentially very strong threats for next year."

Jenson Button has no doubts he is ready to lead his McLaren team in 2013 following Lewis Hamilton's exit to rival Mercedes.

Hamilton is leaving McLaren after six seasons with the team, the last three of which have been alongside Button.

The former has scored 10 wins in the period and has finished ahead of Button in the standings twice. Button meanwhile has won eight times since joining McLaren.

In 2013 Button will be joined by Mexican Sergio Perez, who has competed in Formula 1 for two seasons, both with Sauber.

The Briton believes the role of team leader suits him perfectly.

"Definitely," said Button when asked if he was ready to lead McLaren. "It's not the first time I've done that. When I got to BAR and Jacques [Villeneuve] left it was exactly the same situation.

"I was there to lead the team and it's something I really look forward to and it's something where the best comes out of me in that situation. I can really build that team around me and direct the team in a direction I like with the car."

Button feels he is one of the best drivers when it comes to developing a car he feels comfortable with.

"We all drive differently and have different styles," he said. "For me I need a car I can develop beneath me and feel comfortable in. If the car feels neutral and unbalanced it doesn't work for me.

"I need to develop a car and engineer a car in a position that feels comfortable for me, and I don't think anyone can do a better job than I can in that position.

"The problem for me is if I can't get the car there I do struggle more than some."

The former world champion, who finished the 2012 season in fifth position, says working alongside Hamilton has taught him a lot of things, and he feels his team-mate has also learned from him.

"Lewis is extremely fast and he definitely has that speed that not a lot of people have - outright pace over one-lap - but as we know, Formula 1 is not about a single lap. It's a race and that's where you score points.

"Of course, he's been a tough team-mate in terms of speed, but also a good team-mate to work with and really develop the car. I think he's learnt a lot this year in terms of understanding that it's not just about one lap in terms of looking after the tyres.

"So I think the partnership has been good in terms of us learning off each other.

"Even if he says he hasn't, we've both definitely learnt from each other and it's helped us to improve as drivers."

Lewis Hamilton believes it is still possible for Mercedes to close the gap to the front of the Formula 1 field next year, even if he admits his main focus remains 2014.

The 2008 world champion will join a team whose form has swung wildly this year. The class of the field at China - where Nico Rosberg scored his breakthrough win – Mercedes failed to score in five straight races over the season run-in.

Hamilton estimates the team's current deficit to the frontrunning teams to be over one second per lap, but insists it is not completely unrealistic for that gap to be closed over the winter.

"It looks like in Brazil Mercedes were 1.1 seconds behind, so we have got a long, long, steep curve to climb, but I don't think that's impossible," Hamilton told Sky Sports News.

"I think the guys have great potential and that's why I'm going there. I don't see it as a short-term thing."

Hamilton did however stress he would need half a year to begin having an impact on the teams' development, making 2014 his primary focus.

"I don't get in the car until February so I won't be able to have a big enough impact until at least six months down the line," he explained.

"I really think 2014 has to be the most important year, or the most competitive year.

"But I don't see why we can't try and clinch a few podiums.

"If we can get some wins next year - if it just happens to go really, really well - then we will be smiling, but we'll see."

In contrast to his downplaying of expectations at Mercedes, Hamilton admitted McLaren is poised for a strong season in 2013.

"I feel positive about their car next year," he said.

"The car already from this year was pretty awesome and next year is an evolution of this car.

"I think next year they are going to have a championship contender, for sure."

Scuderia Toro Rosso owner Dietrich Mateschitz has called on his junior team to raise its game after a disappointing 2012 season.

The Red Bull co-owner admitted that he was dissatisfied with the ex-Minardi outfit's progress after it scored only 26 points and slipped down to ninth in the constructors' standings.

AUTOSPORT understands that unhappiness with the team's form was one of the factors that led to James Key replacing Giorgio Ascanelli as technical director midway through the season.

"Toro Rosso is our rookie team and its goals differ from those of Red Bull Racing," Mateschitz told AUTO, the international journal of the FIA.

"But that's not to say we're happy with the development of the car. Significant improvements need to be found and are being called for."

Daniel Ricciardo, who remains with Toro Rosso for a second season next year, is confident that the team can live up to Mateschitz's expectations, and return to its 2011 form, when it finished seventh in the constructors' championship.

"That's the aim for the team," Ricciardo told AUTOSPORT when asked if he was confident of the team taking a step forward next year.

"James coming on board, that's definitely his ambition and a big reason why he has come into the team.

"There's a lot of room to progress. With all due respect to what we did in 2012, we have more room to go forwards than to go backwards so I definitely see us progressing."

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Formula 1 teams now have enough tyre expertise to avoid a repeat of 2012's early 'random' results next season, reckons Mercedes boss Ross Brawn.

The first seven grands prix of 2012 featured seven different winners from five different teams, with form fluctuating wildly.

Difficulty in getting this year's Pirelli tyres into the correct operating window was pinpointed as the reason for the unpredictability.

Pirelli is revamping its compounds again for 2013, but Brawn says top teams have made concerted efforts to avoid getting caught out.

Asked by AUTOSPORT if he expected another tyre-induced shake-up in the order next year, Brawn replied: "I think the process on the part of the teams will be much stronger.

"We've been through a period where the tyres were fairly benign and we didn't need a lot of tyre expertise within the team.

"With the Pirelli tyres, there was far more potential to get it right or wrong, and we needed to create or strengthen the expertise.

"I think all the top teams have now got a lot of [tyre] expertise within their groups. Therefore when we start on the new tyres next year, we'll have a much stronger organisation to support it."

Brawn admitted the potential for teams to get wrong-footed by the new Pirellis' behaviour had been reduced rather than eliminated.

"That doesn't mean to say we won't get caught out, because of course we do three tests in cold weather in the winter then really start stressing the tyres when we get to the first race," he said.

"But I think the teams are more competent now in their strengths and ability to understand and use the tyres properly."

Mark Webber believes his refusal to settle for top-six finishes was a key factor in his 2012 Formula 1 championship defeat.

Red Bull's Australian was in the thick of the title fight early on, and emerged as Fernando Alonso's closest championship rival after winning the British Grand Prix.

But Webber's form tailed off thereafter. A run of six races without a podium contributed to him slumping to sixth in the standings, while his team-mate Sebastian Vettel produced a late surge to deny Alonso the crown in a wild Brazilian finale.

"We need to get some of that 2011 and '10 consistency back," Webber admitted. "We lost some of that this year. Some of it was through no fault of my own, some was.

"I tried to force some issues where I was not being prepared to finish fifth or sixth, which you had to grab this year. That's something that is a pain in the arse sometimes but you have to do it."

Webber is confident he had the pace to stay in the title fight and that it was inconsistency that cost him.

"We were very strong at the start of the year but then we had three races on the bounce with diff issues and penalties," he said.

"You can go through a whole list of things here and there but ultimately it wasn't strong enough, it wasn't a consistent enough campaign to get more out of what we had."

He believes his Monte Carlo and Silverstone wins proved he is a championship-calibre driver when he delivers his full potential.

"The British GP was a sensational result. [it was] local for the team, a second home race for me, and getting Fernando Alonso in the way we did..." Webber said.

"And Monaco as well - we were in the shit big time on Thursday, on Saturday morning we were struggling but we managed to get a couple of laps out of the car I was very proud of. Seb was struggling, only eighth on the grid.

"That was probably the biggest highlight of the year for me. To win Monaco was very, very special.

"I need to keep doing that, keep winning, which is something I'm clearly capable of."

McLaren is aiming to achieve two-second pitstop as 'standard' in the 2013 Formula 1 season.

The team set a record four-tyre-change time of 2.3 seconds on Jenson Button's car during this year's German Grand Prix.

Asked by AUTOSPORT if pitstop times were now near the limit of physical possibility, McLaren sporting director Sam Michael replied: "They are, but it's not hard enough at this point that we can't see a lot of things to change.

"We'll be really busy this winter taking the next step along that idea.

"Our target for next year is two-second pitstops. We thought we'd get down to it this year. We can do it.

"Our target is to get there during the winter so that two-second pitstops are normal rather than flash in the pan. That involves people and equipment.

"We've got a few technology changes for next year, but already compared to our preparation for the first race next year will be completely different from this year.

"Our target is to start off there right away in Melbourne."

Michael believes McLaren and Red Bull's pitcrews were a class apart by the end of 2012.

"Mercedes were the benchmark last year. Ferrari were definitely a benchmark at the start of this year, but they've just stayed still," he said.

"Red Bull and ourselves have just gone five or six tenths quicker than everybody. Red Bull definitely caught up to us in the last few races. They've definitely changed some things to do that. I know what they've done."

He added that the greatest satisfaction still came from making up positions in the pits, rather than achieving records.

"The most important thing when you're an engineer in Formula 1 is that you're working on things that you can see make a difference, and the pitcrew has done that this year," Michael said.

"I'm really proud of the job that they've done - not just the guys in the factory who have brought along the technology, but the humans in the garage.

"It's not doing the pitstop time. When we broke the record at Hockenheim, it wasn't that we broke the record [that was satisfying], it was that we jumped [sebastian] Vettel by doing it.

"When it's so close, with 50 milliseconds here or there, pitstops make a big difference to the race outcome. Saving half a second is massive."

Andy Cowell will replace Thomas Fuhr as head of Mercedes' Formula 1 engine arm from the start of 2013.

Fuhr, who has been managing director of Mercedes High Performance Powertrains since 2009, is leaving for a new job outside motorsport.

Cowell is currently the group's engineering director, resposible for Mercedes' current and 2014 F1 engines plus its KERS.

At present Mercedes supplies engines to McLaren and Force India as well as its own works F1 team.

Nico Hulkenberg feels ready to be the leading driver at the Sauber team next year, in what will be his third full season of racing in F1.

The 2009 GP2 champion will join the Swiss squad from Force India after two years with the Silverstone-based team, one of them acting as a reserve driver.

Hulkenberg will partner Esteban Gutierrez at Sauber, the Mexican making his grand prix debut with the team.

Hulkenberg says he feels no extra pressure from being the most experienced of Sauber's 2013 line-up.

"I feel ready for that," Hulkenberg told the official F1 website. "It's not a case of bringing extra pressure, it's something that helps motivate me even more, but to be honest I don't see my role as much different to the one I was in this year.

"I will simply concentrate on my job of trying to deliver good results."

The 25-year-old enjoyed a strong second half of the 2012 season and even led the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Despite switching teams next year, Hulkenberg believes he will be able to keep his momentum going.

"Yes, that is the goal. As you say, there is no warm-up phase anymore, so I personally hope that I start performing right at the point where I finished at the end of 2012 - and that was a very promising point.

"I am changing teams so there will be a 'getting to know each other' phase but I am confident that this will go smoothly."

Williams has defended its decision to make Bruno Senna sacrifice practice mileage to Valtteri Bottas in 2012 after promoting the Finn to take Senna's place in the race team next season.

Senna knew from the outset that he would have to hand his car to Bottas on most grand prix Friday mornings, but regularly argued that the loss of running was hampering his form.

The Brazilian often struggled in qualifying and was dropped at the end of the 2012 Formula 1 campaign.

He ultimately sat out 15 of the year's 20 practice one sessions for Bottas. Team-mate Pastor Maldonado in contrast ran in all sessions.

Williams's chief operations engineer Mark Gillan is sure bringing Bottas in on most Fridays was sufficiently beneficial to the team.

Asked by AUTOSPORT if Senna's struggles made it hard to justify denying him practice mileage, Gillan replied: "It's a good question. It's one that we will look at in depth.

"It's a balancing act. It's something that we all knew at the beginning of the season and we did our best to mitigate Bruno missing FP1 and did our best to learn from Valtteri.

"Each driver has different feedback. Bruno is different to Pastor, Valtteri is very different to Bruno and Pastor, and we've learned from that a lot.

"Valtteri benefited tremendously from it. We have got a lot from the third driver as well."

Gillan argued that granting Bottas track time was also beneficial for Williams's development as it facilitated comparison between its simulator and the FW34.

"With Valtteri being in the simulator a lot, it's important that he's had track time so that our virtual simulation package can be pushed forward," Gillan added.

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Chris2K    4,453

No, he's still a really good driver, he's just more interested in getting more money from sponsorship deals than racing looking for a new challenge by trying to bring back glory to the Mercedes team.

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MJB    1,607

Grosjean and Chilton have been confirmed at Lotus and Marussia for 2013. No great surprises and it now just leaves two seats left, one at Force India and one at Caterham.

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Lineker    33,995

Yup, Grosjean and Chilton confirmed. Now that my laptop is back, let's catch up...

Sauber has become the first Formula 1 team to reveal it has passed all the mandatory crash tests for its 2013 car.

The Swiss squad said on Wednesday morning that the C32, the chassis the team will use during the 2013 season, was now fully homologated to begin testing next year.

Cars must pass all crash tests before they can take to the track in testing. The rule was introduced at the start of 2012.

"The C32 chassis and safety structures have passed their FIA safety tests. So, fully homologated and ready for winter testing," said Sauber on Twitter.

Winter testing kicks off at the Jerez circuit on February 5.

Former world champion Alan Jones believes Kamui Kobayashi is the best Japanese driver to have ever competed in grand prix racing.

Jones is convinced the 26-year-old deserves to be on the Formula 1 grid next year, and has called on Japanese companies to get behind the driver and lend him the financial support he needs to land a race seat.

Kobayashi was left without a drive for 2013 after Sauber decided to hire Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez to replace him and Mexican Sergio Perez.

The Japanese driver, who finished on the podium in his home race at Suzuka, is still seeking a drive, having set up a fund-raising website.

"Kamui is the best so far from Japan to compete in Formula 1," Jones said.

"I have always admired and been supportive of race drivers that show courage, controlled aggression and strong determination, which are the qualities that I see in Kobayashi-san.

"Perhaps now is the right time for corporations in Japan to get behind their Japanese driver to secure his future in the sport.

"I would like to see him on the podium again as I am sure Peter Sauber was very happy with his results so far."

Fernando Alonso believes it will be near impossible for him to repeat the perfection of his 2012 performance in the future, the Spaniard insisting he had a flawless season.

Despite having an inferior car for most of the season, Alonso took the championship battle down to the wire and lost out to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel's by just three points.

The Ferrari driver won three races and finished on the podium 13 times out of 20 races.

The Spaniard feels there was nothing he could have done better.

"You just have the feeling that some years you have done a good job and others when you feel there was something missing or something you wanted to change or want to improve for next year," Alonso told reporters during a Santander media event in Madrid.

"I think it's been a perfect year. It's going to be nearly impossible to repeat that in my career."

Ferrari had a poor start to the year in winter testing after its car proved to be very far from the pace of its main rivals ahead of the start of the season.

Alonso is convinced there is no way the start of next season can be any worse, although he concedes Red Bull will still be the favourite given its late-season form.

"A worst start would be impossible," he said.

"We were some 2.5 seconds off the pace in the Jerez test when the car made its debut, so it's nearly impossible that it will be worse, and so I expect a better start.

"But there's no doubt that Red Bull will be favourite at the start. They finished the season with a pretty strong dominance and [the] rules are more of less the same.

"They had a seven, eight-tenth advantage so we need to close that gap in two months, which is not easy.

"There will be a lot of work, but the starting point will be much better than last year, which is not hard."

Despite admitting Ferrari will have to work hard to catch up with its rivals, the two-time champion remains hopeful that the Maranello squad can become the team to beat.

"I hope so. That's every team's goal: to be first and second on Saturday and first and second on Sunday. There are a few teams who have managed that recently," he said.

"McLaren has done that a few times. Red Bull has done it over the past years. Even Lotus, there were times when they had both drivers on the podium.

"We haven't been able to do the job properly when it comes to the car performance, and that's one of the goals for next year.

"But it was also the goal for this year and it wasn't to be, so next year we will try to reach it."

Bernie Ecclestone says Formula 1 is likely to have only 19 grands prix next year, but admits he is still waiting on a possible return to Turkey.

The calendar was left with 19 races after it was announced the planned New Jersey Grand Prix would be postponed until 2014.

Turkey has been in talks with Ecclestone and its motorsport body said it had a deal, but that a final decision was up to the government.

Although Red Bull has said it is open to the idea of having a GP at Spielberg, Ecclestone said he had not actually discussed the plan with anyone.

"Right now I think we will have only 19 grands prix next year. That wouldn't be a big problem for Formula 1," Ecclestone told Austria's Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

"Right now I'm thinking more about Turkey so we return to Istanbul."

When asked about the possibility of hosting a race in Austria, Ecclestone said: "I have not talked about this with anyone."

Last week, the FIA announced it had moved the 2013 German GP forward in order to slot in another Europe-based event.

Sergio Perez says he is aiming to win the world championship next year when he switches to the McLaren team.

"My target is to win the championship already next year with [McLaren]," Perez said.

"That takes a lot of work during the season, so it's very important to start my preparation really well with them and try to reach their targets."

The Mexican made his grand prix debut at the start of the 2011 season with Sauber and put in some stellar performances during 2012 to secure a deal with the Woking team, where he replaces the departing Lewis Hamilton.

Despite his relative lack of experience in F1, Perez believes fighting for the title next year is a realistic goal.

"Definitely, because you are going to the best team and the best team normally wins," he added. "This year, they had many reliability issues and if they solve that they will be ready to fight for the title.

"I think what I am saying is realistic because the team is capable of putting out a very strong car. The targets have to be high. McLaren wants to win every single race.

"As a driver you are looking for every challenge and I think it's a very good challenge. It's the best team in F1, the best team in the world so definitely a very big challenge."

Perez, whose best results in F1 is second places in Malaysia and Monza this year, is confident McLaren will have a strong car in 2013 and he acknowledges he will have to be quick right from the start too.

"It's going to be very challenging but we have everything to do it," he said. "The car will be quite competitive, myself must be very competitive from the first race.

"So I'm really looking forward to being in Melbourne and to be testing and working with the team, which we will start as soon as possible and I'm sure that we will be fighting for the championship next year."

The Mexican driver failed to score a point in the final six races of the season, a streak that began when his McLaren contract was announced.

Perez insisted the point-less run had nothing to do with his new deal.

"People in F1 love to make stories about everything," Perez said.

"They always link that to my contract, but it has nothing to do with that because I'm a very professional driver and a very loyal person as well.

"So I am so grateful to this team and so motivated as well that since I signed by contract, I'm giving my very best as I did in the 15 races before."

Sebastian Vettel admits his string of three consecutive Formula 1 world championships brings its own set of pressures and distractions which could damage his 2013 prospects.

The German beat Ferrari's Fernando Alonso the 2012 crown by just three points after surviving an opening-lap shunt in a wild Interlagos finale.

And while Alonso has tipped Red Bull to once again start the year as favourite, Vettel insists he and the team will keep to their methodical approach in order to avoid losing momentum.

"I said after [brazil] race that the hardest thing is to win after you have [already] won," Vettel said in relation to his prospects of a fourth F1 crown.

"You get the attention and the pressure, and you are very likely to focus on how to win again, rather than the small steps [needed] to win in first place.

"Of course there's pressure, [and] on top of that it's always getting more and more tense at the end of the year, within the last couple of races depending on who you fight in order to try to win the championship.

"Obviously we have won the championship [in 2010 and '11] and this year again, so I don't want to praise ourselves, but I think we have done a couple of things right."

In the immediate aftermath of clinching the 2012 title, Vettel had decried the use of 'dirty tricks' which had played against his outfit over the course of the campaign.

Vettel said his methodical approach had helped guard against becoming preoccupied with such issues.

"It's not our decision or in our hands when other people try literally everything to beat us," he explained.

"There might just be a little bit of a rumour; other things might get said; and other things might happen eye to eye without any words, without you having to mention anything.

"It's not easy to stay focussed in that regard - it's very, very hard.

"Again the most important thing is to focus on yourself and to remain yourself.

"You don't try to be something you are not it just distracts and takes energy away."

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Lineker    33,995
Fernando Alonso believes Ferrari should push the limits of Formula 1's regulations like its rivals do in order to find more performance for its car.

The FIA was forced to clarify and tweak the rules during the season in order to stop some teams from exploiting loopholes that were allowing them to gain performance.

After the Monaco GP, some teams questioned the legality of a 'hole' in the floor ahead of the rear wheels of Red Bull's car.

Red Bull was also forced to alter the engine mapping of its engines ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Alonso reckons Ferrari should also try to find loopholes in the regulations in order to be more competitive.

"There's been a few times when other teams have been on the limit. Not us," Alonso told reporters in Madrid.

"There were I think three races where they had to change things in the car for the next races or they wouldn't be allowed to race, but they had already raced with those things on their cars.

"But this has always existed in Formula 1 and we need to find the limits in the rules.

"Always within legality, but we have to find the limits or a loophole like other teams do so we have a better performance."

The Spanish driver is also confident Ferrari can catch up with its rivals for the start of the 2013 season despite spending most of 2012 off the pace.

The Maranello-based outfit kicked off the season on the back foot after its car proved to be far less competitive than expected, and Alonso reckons his car was around seven tenths of a second off the pace when the season ended in Brazil.

Ferrari has decided to shut down its windtunnel during the winter in order to improve its technology but Alonso does not expect that to hinder the team based on how it improved its car during 2012.

"The Ferrari windtunnel is closed because they have to make some major modifications and we won't be able to use it for a few months," he said.

"But we will use another one which we have used during the past years, so I don't think it's a problem, or anything negative.

"Since the rules are not changing much and Red Bull and McLaren were ahead of us [in 2012], they have walked the road a bit already.

"We probably finished behind Lotus and Force India and teams we shouldn't be behind of, so we have extra homework to do this winter.

"But I'm not worried because last year we were 2.5 seconds off in the first test, 1.5 in Australia, and then we fought for the championship until the end, so next year has to be better I'm sure."

Fernando Alonso has been voted as the driver of the year by Formula 1's team bosses in AUTOSPORT's annual team principals' top 10 poll.

The Ferrari driver, who lost out on the world championship by just three points to Sebastian Vettel, dominated the voting this year.

AUTOSPORT asked each of F1's current team principals to pick their top ten drivers for the season, with points being awarded under the current scoring system of 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1

The individual votes are kept secret so team bosses can give a more honest appraisal of their views.

Alonso was a clear winner this year, securing the biggest winning margin in the five years since AUTOSPORT began the top 10.

He was voted as best driver by eight of the 12 team principals. His score of 269 points gave him a 71-point margin over last year's top driver Sebastian Vettel.

It is the second time in the five years that the team principals' top ten has been running that Alonso has taken the number one spot.

He was voted as top driver in 2010, after also losing out on the championship in the final round.

Lewis Hamilton may have endured his frustrations on track with McLaren this season, but his efforts behind the wheel were acknowledged as he beat the returning Kimi Raikkonen for third place overall.

Nico Hulkenberg's form at Force India was also recognised on his F1 comeback, as he was voted as the seventh best driver by the teams.

AUTOSPORT team principals top 10:

1. Fernando Alonso 269
2. Sebastian Vettel 198
3. Lewis Hamilton 177
4. Kimi Raikkonen 176
5. Jenson Button 104
6. Mark Webber 66
7. Nico Hulkenberg 50
8. Nico Rosberg 30
9. Sergio Perez 30
10. Felipe Massa 27[/code]

Mercedes boss Ross Brawn believes his team's optimism of a stronger 2013 season is "well justified" despite a disappointing end to the 2012 Formula 1 season.

The Brackley team enjoyed a promising start to the season, with Nico Rosberg taking victory at the Chinese Grand Prix, the third round of the championship.

However, Mercedes failed to match the development rate of the leading teams and quickly dropped down the order.

It failed to score points for five successive races during the latter part of the season.

Brawn says that making sure of a sustained rate of development is the priority for next year, during which the team boss is convinced his outfit can enjoy a stronger campaign.

"We created a car that was reasonable this year, but we didn't keep it progressing strongly enough," Brawn told AUTOSPORT.

"It's something we're addressing and we're putting in place the processes to ensure we can follow-up a good car and keep it at the front for the whole season.

"Twelve months ago we recognised we needed to strengthen the organisation, and we had Aldo Costa and Geoff Willis joining this summer. We had further additions.

"We upgraded the windtunnel and improved the facilities. The new car has been progressing well.

"I think we've got some well justified optimism that we're going to be better next year."

Brawn said that, unlike this year, the new car is set to make its track debut at the first of 2013's pre-season tests at Jerez.

"The car will be at the first day of the first test. Unless we have a problem that we don't anticipate," said Brawn.

Brawn, whose team has hired Lewis Hamilton for 2013, also reckons the strengths of Mercedes' set-up could be highlighted in 2014, when new regulations will come into play.

"It takes a little while for groups to settle down, and we've achieved that. We're working very closely with the two parts of our team, the engine part and the chassis part," he said.

"That particular relationship is particularly critical for 2014. That year is a massive opportunity and I think that's where we will show our strengths as one team, where the engine and chassis succeeds.

"Nico [Rosberg] is aware of and familiar with what we're doing. Some of those things we were able to explain to Lewis and that helped convince Lewis to join us."

Norbert Haug will leave his role as Mercedes motorsport chief at the end of 2012 after 22 years in the role.

The 60-year-old German oversaw Mercedes' return to Formula 1 in 1994, initially as an engine supplier with Sauber and then McLaren.

Mercedes returned as a full constructor in 2010 when the manufacturer bought the then world champion Brawn team.

In his time in charge Mercedes-powered drivers and teams have won 87 grands prix and a total of six world titles.

"I would like to thank the best car company in the world for more than 22 years, which never had a single moment without passion for me," Haug said.

"I particularly wish to thank the board for the trust and freedom they have always given me with all my activities.

"Since 1991, we had tremendous achievements and wins, for which I want to thank all of my colleagues.

"Unfortunately, with one victory in 2012 since founding our own Formula 1 works team in 2010, we couldn't fulfil our own expectations.

"However, we have taken the right steps to be successful in the future. Our team and our drivers will do everything to achieve these goals."

Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Mercedes owner Daimler, paid tribute to Haug's commitment over the past 22 years.

"Norbert Haug was the face of the Mercedes-Benz Motorsport programme for more than 20 years," he said.

"For me, he put his stamp on a whole era and, as a highlight, he was responsible for the successful comeback of the Silver Arrows to Formula 1.

"In the name of the board of management and the whole motorsport family, I would like to thank Norbert for his extraordinary commitment to the three-pointed star."

Mercedes DTM driver Gary Paffett said he was sorry Haug was leaving.

"Sad to see a man that has done so much for me move on," he wrote on Twitter.

Haug has not revealed what he plans to do following his Mercedes departure.

[u][b]Haug in numbers[/b][/u]

1990 - The year in which Haug became Mercedes motorsport vice-president. He joined on October 1, just days before Jean-Louis Schlesser and Mauro Baldi clinched the World Sportscar title in a Mercedes C11

986 - Total number of races featuring a factory Mercedes presence during the Haug era. The three-pointed star won 439 of them, or 45 per cent if you prefer.

500 – Mercedes built an engine with the aim specifically to win the Indianapolis 500, and achieved it in 1994 with Penske and Al Unser Jr, breaking its Indycar series duck in the process. Eighteen more victories followed, with Unser and Greg Moore recording five of them each.

87 – Number of Formula 1 wins taken by Mercedes-powered cars during the Haug era. Mika Hakkinen took all 20 of his grand prix wins and his 1998-99 titles in McLaren-Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton in 2008 and Jenson Button in 2009 followed with McLaren and Brawn. The three-pointed star also powered cars to two constructors' titles.

19 – total number of DTM titles won, nine drivers' crowns courtesy of Klaus Ludwig, Bernd Schneider, Gary Paffett and Paul di Resta and 10 constructors' prizes.

13 – Drivers' titles won in major Formula 3 championships since Mercedes' engine programme began during the last decade. Jamie Green won the first in the Euro Series in 2004, while Lewis Hamilton, Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean and Jaime Alguersuari followed. A total of 189 major F3 wins have been scored, including 10 at the Masters and four at Macau.

10 – Mercedes won all 10 races of the 1998 FIA GT Championship; Ludwig and Ricardo Zonta taking the drivers' title ahead of '97 champion Bernd Schneider and Mark Webber.

2 – Championships won in the short-lived DTM successor, the ITC. Schneider again took the drivers' crown while a squad including Dario Franchitti.

1 – Number of grand prix wins gained by Mercedes as a constructor since returning to F1 in 2010. Nico Rosberg scored the victory at this year's Chinese Grand Prix.

Formula 1 would be better off with just 10 teams as long as Ferrari is one of them, according to Bernie Ecclestone.

The grid has been formed of 12 teams since the start of the 2010 season, when Lotus (now Caterham), Virgin (now Marussia) and Hispania (now HRT) joined the fray.

HRT will not be on the grid next year after failing to find a buyer before the payment deadline for 2013 entries.

Ecclestone admitted on Thursday that he will not miss the Spanish squad.

"I'd rather have 10 [teams]," Ecclestone told the Reuters news agency. "I never wanted 12.

"It's just that 10 is easier to handle, for the promoters, for transport. We'd rather have 10... so long as we don't lose Ferrari."

When asked if he ever considered the possibility of stepping in to save HRT, he said: "I wouldn't think that anyone would want to."

Jenson Button believes Sergio Perez is ready to cope with the extra pressure he will be under when he starts driving for McLaren next year.

Perez is joining the British team to replace Lewis Hamilton, who is moving to Mercedes after six seasons at McLaren.

Mexican Perez has been in Formula 1 for just two seasons, but has said he is already aiming to win the title next year.

Button admits driving for a team like McLaren will inevitably bring added pressure for Perez, who has been with Sauber since 2011, but he feels that dealing with that will come naturally to the Mexican.

"I think there is more pressure, but you're not afraid of the pressure because this is what you think you're very good at doing," said Button.

"When you're good at something and you think you're good at something, you don't feel that pressure is much at a competitive organisation and a team like McLaren.

"So there is more pressure, but I don't think he's going to feel it."

Button reckons too much was made of the fact the Perez did not score any points after announcing his McLaren deal, but the Briton believes his future team-mate is ready to perform well.

"I think there's been a lot of pressure on Checo, especially with all the stuff that's been said in the media," Button added.

"We've just got to let him do his thing. He's going to have an important winter and we'll see what he can do next year. But I think he's proved that he has good speed and has a good understanding of a race car."

Marussia boss Graeme Lowdon expects his team to eliminate the gap to Formula 1's midfield next season.

Lowdon is certain that rules stability, the addition of KERS, and early indications from Marussia's 2013 design mean it can leapfrog habitual rival Caterham and challenge the teams ahead.

"The gap will definitely be gone, I'm absolutely convinced of it," Lowdon told AUTOSPORT.

"Everyone's obviously going to improve over the winter, but the law of physics says the improvement is only going to be so much. The question is, are we predicting fairly major improvements, and yes we are. I'm looking forward to it.

"We just want to be in the mix and racing and I really honestly believe that that's where we'll be next year. We've got a lot to do over the winter but everything's on track. We're genuinely looking forward to Melbourne."

Marussia finished its third season in F1 in 11th position after being beaten by Caterham in the final race of the year in Brazil.

The team was far from the midfield all season long, however, with 18th as its best qualifying result and two 12th-place finishes its best achievements in the races.

Unlike Caterham, Marussia did not run KERS in 2012, and Lowdon reckons it will make a big difference when it uses the system next year.

"It's like a turn-key system. I'm no big fan of KERS personally, I think it was a missed opportunity marketing-wise and an expense the pitlane could've done without," Lowdon said.

"We very nearly beat a team that has it, and we didn't have it. With KERS and with the aero projections that we've got, we can hopefully surprise some people next year.

"Certainly our immediate competitors have been running KERS all year, so they're going to have to develop a pretty good car to defend that gap, let alone improve.

"From what we can see, the gap [to the midfield] should be closed next year. And that's good for us and it's good for the sport."

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Lineker    33,995
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh has praised departing Mercedes motorsport chief Norbert Haug's "crucial" contribution to his squad's success.

Mercedes announced on Thursday that Haug, who has been its motorsport boss since 1991, would leave the company at the end of the season.

McLaren has used Mercedes engines in Formula 1 since 1995, and was the firm's official works partner until it set up its own factory team in 2010.

"I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Norbert for all the help and support he's offered McLaren over many years," Whitmarsh told AUTOSPORT.

"The period since McLaren and Mercedes-Benz first teamed up in Formula 1 in the mid-90s has been a successful and enjoyable one, and Norbert's influence and guidance have been crucial contributors to that enjoyment and success.

"His love of motorsport is genuine and profound, as is his natural racer's competitiveness.

"On behalf of everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, I wish him well for the future."

Mark Webber says he will not consider retiring from Formula 1 until he feels his skills are waning.

The 36-year-old Australian will be F1's oldest driver next season after the departures of Michael Schumacher and Pedro de la Rosa.

But Webber is not the longest-serving driver on the grid, with Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso having made their debuts prior to the Australian's 2002 rookie campaign with Minardi.

Webber believes his age is less relevant to his long-term future than what he is delivering on track.

Although he could not match Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel's title-winning campaign this year, Monaco and British Grand Prix winner Webber is still certain he is capable of a world championship campaign.

"I'm not at the start of the career, I know that. I'm more towards the back end of my career," he said.

"My goal is to put together a campaign. I have fought for championships and I've had some good and very special memories over the past few years.

"Your peak is all relative. You've got to piece it all together.

"And you've got to be honest with yourself and say 'look mate, it's the right time now' - and I don't think it is the right time now."

He feels he is still a big enough threat to Vettel on pure pace.

"If I got spanked 20-nil in qualifying then yeah it's obvious, the alarm bells are ringing," Webber said.

"Until that point comes where you feel that you're not getting the most out of yourself, and you're sliding, then you need to keep pressing on.

"That's all we can do next year."

Paul di Resta believes it will take up to two years before Force India's cash boost fully translates into on-track progress.

The team's board approved a £50 million investment programme last month in a bid to improve its technology.

Di Resta reckons 2013 will be too early to notice the effect of the financial injection.

But the Scot has no doubts about the long-term potential of the investment.

"I think ultimately you shouldn't really be looking at next year because I think you should be looking a year back and then two years forward," said di Resta.

"The foundations are obviously getting bigger and there's a great level of investment coming.

"For a team like this you will get true benefits for it, but I think you see that for years to come as opposed to the near future.

"Given the way this team works and the small network it has, I think it will build upon something."

Force India finished in seventh position in the constructors' championship this year, dropping one place compared to 2011 after being beaten to sixth by Sauber.

The Silverstone squad endured a slow start to the season before it raised its game in the second half, something that di Resta hopes is rectified for 2013, when he hopes to kick off the campaign in strong fashion.

"That is always one thing that seems to happen," he said. "I think it certainly showed with the team last year. The performance we had last year, it would have been nice to start with that.

"I suppose in some ways you can be happy that the rules aren't changing too much next year because the car will be much stronger next year as it is only an evolution that we will be using.

"So there's no great philosophy change really, it's just working on the small things really. The things that make a difference."

Michael Schumacher has declared that Norbert Haug's departure from Mercedes will "tear a massive hole" in both the German firm's motorsport efforts and Formula 1 itself.

Haug is leaving his role as Mercedes' motorsport chief after 22 years in the position.

His tenure included Schumacher's first big break in Mercedes' World Sportscar Championship team, and the seven-time world champion's F1 comeback with Mercedes' revived factory F1 programme in 2010.

"Since I entered professional motorsport, Mercedes and Norbert Haug together were part of it, so this step will mark a big break," Schumacher wrote on his personal website.

"We spend a lot of years together, being sporting combatants or allies, and Norbert has always been into this with full enthusiasm and wholeheartedly.

"He was living motorsports, and him leaving will tear a massive hole in both our sport and our team."

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh, whose team was Mercedes' works F1 squad from 1995 to 2009 and still uses its engines, declared earlier on Friday that Haug had been a "crucial" factor in McLaren's success.

McLaren sporting director Sam Michael hopes Pirelli does not go too conservative in its 2013 Formula 1 tyre selection as he reckons it would hurt the show.

The Italian tyre manufacturer will alter all its compounds for the 2013 season, having promised it will make life easier for the teams.

F1 teams had a tough time understanding the tyre compounds in the first half of 2012, which led to an exciting opening to the season.

Michael thinks it would be detrimental for F1 if the 2013 rubber was a lot more predictable than in the past season.

"Teams do have a better understanding of it, and drivers understand how to drive them better," said Michael when asked by AUTOSPORT if 2013 will be more predictable.

"But it depends what they do with the compounds. The race was better when it was like that [more unpredictable].

"It wasn't unfair, it was down to who could understand and manage. That's what we do with everything.

"It's like saying someone's come up with a better diffuser. I actually didn't have any problem with what was happening with the tyres. I thought it was good.

"I hope we don't go too conservative."

Although Michael admits some of the one-stop races were exciting this season, he feels tyres that degrade faster will always help the spectacle.

"Those two or three races that were one-stop, they were fantastic races," he said.

"But they weren't fantastic races because of tyres, they were fantastic races because a lot of things happened.

"Three of them in a row had high potential for being boring races; they weren't because of other factors.

"I hope that we can maintain the sort of exciting racing that we've had for most of this year and not allow that to diminish."

Adrian Newey insists Red Bull is right to push the limits of Formula 1 regulations in order to maximise the performance of its car.

The team was at the centre of several rules controversies in 2012, with the FIA having to close off loopholes during the campaign.

Some of Red Bull's rivals questioned the legality of a 'hole' in the floor ahead of the rear wheels at Monaco, while it was forced to alter its engine maps ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

But with Fernando Alonso recently urging Ferrari to push the limit of the regulations in order to match its rivals, Newey insists doing so is simply part of F1.

"It seemed like every race we were accused of doing something illegal," Newey said in a Red Bull documentary.

"The car of course was using the regulations to the edge, that's to me what you should do in Formula 1.

"There's no such thing as the spirit of the regulations, it's the black and white print of 'you can't do this, you can do that.'

"We took the can do bits right to the edge.

"The bottom line is the car was legal, [and] we won the races."

Peter Sauber believes that the biggest challenge facing contemporary Formula 1 is the need to cut costs.

Sauber, who stood down as team principal of his eponymously-named outfit this year, believes that a budget cap would be an effective way of tackling this problem.

The teams, Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA have been locked in discussion about cost-cutting measures throughout the season and implementing such measures has been made a priority.

"I think the biggest challenge today is the commercial part," Sauber told AUTOSPORT.

"That's not only for Sauber, that's also for some of the big teams.

"Formula 1 is too expensive today, that's the important fact."

But Sauber is concerned about the rate at which discussions have been advancing.

He has called on the bigger teams to recognise the need to implement change as soon as possible.

"The progress has been slower than slow," he said.

"It's difficult and I hope that the big teams realise that they have to do something."

The Sauber team has been a supporter of the implementation of a budget cap for some time.

A £30 million was proposed by then-FIA president Max Mosley back in 2009 for introduction the following season, although this was subsequently raised to £40 million and ultimately abandoned.

"We very much support a budget cap," Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn told AUTOSPORT earlier this season.

"That is the right way we should be going and we should eventually reach the point where we have a budget cap."

Jenson Button believes Lewis Hamilton's ability and pace could surprise Nico Rosberg when the pair team up at Mercedes next year.

Button became the first of Hamilton's team-mates to beat him over a season in 2011, finishing runner-up as Hamilton ended the year in fifth.

This year Hamilton has regained the ascendancy, finishing directly above Button in the championship and ending the season with a 15-5 qualifying advantage even after penalties at Shanghai and Barcelona.

While Rosberg and Hamilton have been team-mates before back in 2000, Button warns that Hamilton's sheer speed will be the hardest thing for the German to acclimatise to.

"I think he'll probably get a bit of a surprise," Button said when asked what Rosberg could expect.

"I know he's been his team-mate in the past, but I think he'll be surprised at how Lewis can get performance out of a bad car.

"I didn't say that [Mercedes will be bad] - he [Hamilton] can also get speed out of a good car, and I think that will be the biggest thing."

Button and Hamilton were involved in a Twitter spat earlier this year following Hamilton's tweeting of confidential McLaren data over the Belgian Grand Prix.

Button said Rosberg knew what to expect when it came to working with the 2008 world champion, adding: "I think Nico knows Lewis better than I do.

"They've worked together before; I think he knows what to expect."

Asked whether he will rue Hamilton's departure from McLaren, Button said: "I'm not disappointed because there's always change.

"I'd be disappointed if Paddy Lowe moved from the team because that's the guy who's going to help me achieve in the future.

"Whereas with Lewis, drivers come and go and people change, and that's pretty normal in the sport.

"It's been a good three years and it's amazing how quick those three years have gone by. It's been a good partnership.

"We've had quite a bit of fun in terms of racing over those three years."

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo believes Felipe Massa's resurgence in the second half of 2012 could have a significant impact on the team's 2013 ambitions.

After floundering in the early parts of 2012, Massa scored points in all of the last 10 grands prix, helping Ferrari to secure second in the constructors' championship.

He also played a part in the drivers' championship, notably at Austin where, after outqualifying Alonso, he took a penalty to ensure the Spaniard started on the clean side of the grid.

Di Montezemolo hailed Massa's resurgence during Ferrari's Christmas celebrations, adding that it could also stand Ferrari in good shape next season.

"I don't know where you went in the first part of the year," di Montezemolo said to Massa, "but I am very pleased you came back.

"It meant we were able to finish ahead of major teams in the constructors' classification, but it is also important for next year."

Massa, who admitted the long-running uncertainty over his Ferrari future played a part in his poor early form, said his revival was good preparation for next year.

"This has been a very difficult year for me, especially at the start, when we couldn't find the right way to move forward with our car," he admitted.

"The second part was very different: I was more competitive and I managed to get back to the way I was before.

"Now I am more motivated than ever: the second part of the season was like a training session for next year."

Di Montezemolo added that it was imperative for Ferrari to be competitive from the first race next year, saying: "Fernando had an extraordinary season and I am sorry not to have given him a car that was quick as well as reliable.

"In 2013 the aim, not just for me but for all of you, is to immediately have a car that's capable of winning.

"We must all do a little bit more to achieve that, but without losing any of the plus points we demonstrated this year, starting with reliability.

"We can be pleased with the improvements we have made on the strategy front, at the pit stops and in our race preparation and we must maintain these strong points next year."

The failure of Formula 1's 'new' teams to break into the top 10 over the past three seasons reflects well on the sport according to Marussia boss Graeme Lowdon.

Marussia, Caterham and HRT came into F1 - in various different guises – at the start of 2010, but none have scored a point in the 58 grands prix which have followed.

Rather than that being detrimental, Lowdon believes the collective failure to break the top 10 validates just how advanced F1 is as a sport.

"We haven't even scored a point in the last three years, but I don't think that's a bad thing," Lowdon said.

"This is the pinnacle of the industry that we're in.

"If you were to simply come into it and dominate, then I think it would be a bad reflection on the sport."

Lowdon does however believe addressing the costs of competing would help improve the show.

HRT was recently omitted from next year's official entry list after failing to find a buyer.

"I think the sport does need to address a lot of issues with costs and primarily to make the entertainment value higher, because that's really what helps all of us," he said

"Formula 1's got enormous global TV coverage, but we get 1.2 per cent of it, so that's not an asset that we can readily sell to a sponsor.

"If you look at a lot of the sponsors associated with our team, they do business with us because it's beneficial for them from a business to business point of view.

"It's a different approach, but in our first year we brought in a lot of brands that had never been in Formula 1, and I'm very proud of that.

"I'm even more proud of the fact that most of them have stuck with us."

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Adrian Sutil says the way is open for a 'new beginning' for him in Formula 1, insisting there are no legal issues that will prevent him being totally committed to a return.

The German, who is in advanced talks with Force India about a drive for 2013, was given a suspended sentence by the German courts last year after being convicted of bodily harm against Lotus co-owner Eric Lux.

There had been suggestions that his chances of securing a seat could be compromised by restrictions that would be imposed on him as a result of the court action - but he insists that there is nothing standing in his way.

"We have checked of course, me and my management, we checked all the countries, and there is no problem for me to travel - which is why I am here in Bangkok," said Sutil, during an interview for the Race of Champions on Sunday.

"All my problems I had last winter are solved, and it is a new beginning."

Sutil is going up against a number of drivers - including Jules Bianchi, Kamui Kobayashi, Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari - for the Force India seat alongside Paul di Resta.

With the team having made it clear that its decision will be based on talent rather than sponsorship potential, Sutil says he is happy with the way talks are going.

"In five years I was in this team, they know how good I am and they know my qualities," he said. "I am not the one going to this team saying, 'please, please give me the drive'.

"They should come to me and say, 'we want you.' I want to drive for this team but they should also want me as a driver. I am quite relaxed.

"I know how to handle the situation. I did the maximum I could do and now it is up to them to decide if I am in the seat or not."

He also thinks that if he gets the chance to return to F1, he will come back as a stronger driver after a season out of the sport.

"It was a different year. I really enjoyed the year, it was one of the best ever, as I had time for different things in life," he said. "I am definitely more settled in my life right now and ready for a new beginning in F1."

Michael Schumacher says people shouldn't compare his successes in Formula 1 to those of Sebastian Vettel after the young German secured his third consecutive title in 2012.

Vettel became the youngest triple world champion in history this year, also matching Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio as the only other driver to clinch three titles in a row.

Seven-time champion Schumacher, who retired from F1 at the end of the season, says what Vettel has achieved is special, but believes trying to draw comparisons between himself and his compatriot makes no sense.

Schumacher and Vettel won the Race of Champions' Nations' Cup on Saturday.

"You have to be special to do that, it's pretty simple," said Schumacher of Vettel's third consecutive title.

"I don't think we need to compare. He is doing his thing in his moment and I did it before."

Vettel said he was still struggling to come to terms with the fact that he is a triple world champion.

"I think it's still difficult to put it in perspective," he said. "I'm not waking up in the morning and thinking of what I have achieved.

"I'm happy with who I am and I'm happy to wake up the next day and really go day by day, not making things too complicated or thinking about it too much.

"It's very special and something no one can take from us. I'm very proud of that."

Romain Grosjean believes the on-track troubles that marred his first full season in Formula 1 have helped him realise how much he still has to improve for next year.

The Frenchman, who is set to remain at Lotus even though his new deal has not yet been confirmed, got involved in a spate of first lap incidents in 2012 - and was handed a one-race ban after the Belgian Grand Prix for causing a crash.

Although he avoided further trouble on his return, Grosjean says that the post-season period has delivered him proper time to reflect on the areas where he must do better in 2013.

Speaking during the Race of Champions, Grosjean said: "I think when there are stats that show you have one fastest lap, three podiums and 96 points and stuff like that, and if you told me one year ago at ROC [that I would have that] – I would not believe it.

"So it was a good year in that respect. We had some fantastic results, [although] a little bit too [many] mistakes as well - which is the shadow of the year.

"But they helped me to improve myself in the winter – to try to analyse it, keep the speed we show and go for the results we deserve. We now need to score points for the team, for myself and for all the championship."

Grosjean said the support from Enstone has been key in helping him recover from the criticism he faced after the Spa-Francorchamps collision, which eliminated world championship contenders Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

"I really like the atmosphere of the team," he said. "We know each other much better now. We can work from there and improve ourselves. The support they showed was great.

"Coming back from the race ban at Spa was very hard, and there was not much time to recover.

"It was not the easiest time, but I think even in those tough times we showed good pace – like qualifying fourth in Austin - so let's capitalise on that and not make any mistakes and go for what we want."

Caterham boss Cyril Abiteboul says the team can no longer be satisfied with being the best of the newer Formula 1 squads in the 2013 season.

Caterham has finished in 10th position in its three years of existence since joining the grid for the start of the 2010 season, but this season failed to achieve its target of fighting in the midfield.

Abiteboul admitted the goals set for the past season were perhaps too high, but is aware Caterham needs to take a step forward in 2013.

"Absolutely, we cannot be satisfied with that title anymore," Abiteboul told the official Formula 1 website.

"I would like to be able to say that we raced teams ahead of us and had some more of what we felt in Brazil. However, I think maybe we overstated what was achievable in 2012.

"For 2013 I'd like to look back and say we continued to develop as a team, seized whatever opportunities came our way and surprised a few people, without compromising the preparation for 2014.

"For small teams like us 2014 is just as much a major risk - due to our size in particular - as it is an interesting opportunity, due to the quality of the technical relationship with Renault.

"Anyway, we have the capacity to do that and we are determined to fight harder than ever to succeed, so I hope 2013 is a year we remember for the right reasons."

Caterham beat Marussia to 10th place in the constructors' championship in the final race of the season in Brazil.

Abiteboul insisted the benefits of having beaten its rival were significant.

"The end of the Brazil race meant two things to me: firstly it means we are on a better financial footing than if we had finished 11th. The benefits of that are obvious and it means we have not had to compromise our 2013 or future plans," he said.

"The money is obviously important, but what finishing 10th also meant to me was that it showed our team what it felt like to be part of the show.

"It was very special to see what it meant to everyone when Vitaly [Petrov] brought his car home in 11th. This positive energy will be immensely useful for the work we have ahead of us over the winter."

Caterham is yet to reveal who will partner Charles Pic next year, and Abiteboul said the team is closing in on a decision.

"One option is someone who he can learn from and who he can use as his benchmark for what we want from both our drivers," he said.

"Another option, more radical, is to accept the fact that 2013 is a transition year that we use to continue building the team before a period of greater stability in 2014, when a lot of other things in the package will change.

"Both types of candidates are out there, and we are close to making a decision."

Williams says it will be very tricky to balance car development next year with the big regulation changes that will come into play in 2014.

New car and engine rules mean Formula 1 teams will have to work on two very different development programmes in order to make sure they stay competitive in 2013 while they prepare for the next season.

Williams's chief operations engineer Mark Gillan says that finding the right balance will be very tricky, admitting windtunnel work will be an area where extra caution will be needed.

"There are areas of this car over the winter which we need to improve and want to improve for next season but you've also got to balance 2014 on the horizon," Gillan told AUTOSPORT.

"That's a very important season and the resource you've got for what's relevant for 2014 and what's only relevant for 2013.

"This season, it has been very tight and the margins are small so we do want to push on 2014 as well.

"You are juggling two developments together so you have to try and fit that in. Clearly the windtunnel development is something which you have to be very careful of in terms of prioritisation.

"All teams will be in the same boat. It's about ensuring that you are far enough ahead on 2014 to make informed decision on setting the car out without impacting too much on the 2013 development."

Gillan added the team's 2013 car will be an evolution of the FW34 used this year rather than the radical overhaul brought about by the team's worst season in F1 in 2011.

"This year, we didn't throw everything out of the FW33 [but] a lot was changed," he said.

"But for next year, yes, it'll primarily be an evolution of this year's car but we will make changes."

Gillan said he felt the team had taken a significant step forward in 2012, although he conceded it still failed to maximise the car's potential all year long despite victory in the Spanish Grand Prix.

"We are much improved. It's still not where we want to be by any stretch of the imagination, but much improved," Gillan added.

"If you look at where we were lat year and where we are now, we are disappointed where we don't get the cars into Q3 and disappointed when we don't get into the points."

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Romain Grosjean will stay on at Lotus for the 2013 Formula 1 season after being confirmed by the team on Monday.

Frenchman Grosjean, who completed his first full Formula 1 season this year with the team, was widely expected to be retained following a promising but erratic year, during which he finished on the podium three times.

The 26-year-old had made his grand prix debut mid-season in 2009 with Renault before spending two years in GP2.

He claimed both the GP2 and the GP2 Asia series titles in 2011 before returning to Formula 1 as Kimi Raikkonen's team-mate at Lotus.

The former GP2 champion managed 96 points on his way to eighth place in the standings.

He was however given a one-race ban after his crash at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix.

"It's fantastic for me to be continuing with Lotus for 2013," he said. "It's superb to have the support of everyone at Enstone. I'm really looking forward to rewarding their faith when we take to the track in Australia.

"I learnt a lot in my first full season in Formula 1 and my aim is to put these lessons into practice with stronger and more consistent performance on track next year.

"There are a lot of exciting developments occurring behind the scenes at Enstone and I am very excited with the prospect of the E21."

Team boss Eric Boullier added: "Romain is a great talent and we are pleased that he is continuing with us for a second season.

"With the continuity of two exceptional drivers like Romain and Kimi we are well placed to build on our strong 2012 with even better results in the year ahead.

"Both drivers worked very well together in their first year as team-mates, and I think there is the potential of even better things from the season ahead. We were regular visitors to podiums in 2012 and we certainly intend to continue with this trend in 2013."

The news means only Caterham and Force India are yet to finalise their 2013 line-ups.

Grosjean's rollercoaster season

By Matt Beer

At the start of 2012, Romain Grosjean was often showing illustrious Lotus team-mate Kimi Raikkonen the way, but as the year went on, it was his wayward driving, not his speed, that was defining his season.

HIGHS

Melbourne qualifying: Grosjean serves notice of his and Lotus's raw speed by claiming third on the grid for his Formula 1 return, behind only the McLarens, and a full 14 places clear of Raikkonen. His race would end in an early tangle with Pastor Maldonado, though...

Montreal: In a race defined by tyre degradation, Grosjean produces a masterclass in discipline as he keeps his Pirellis in good shape despite a relatively early pitstop. He storms through to second, and is just 2.5 seconds behind winner Lewis Hamilton at the flag.

Valencia: Although Grosjean's European Grand Prix would end in an alternator failure, it was another clear shot at victory. He established himself in second place behind the dominant Sebastian Vettel in the first half of the race. Fernando Alonso jumped him after a safety car, but the Lotus was hounding the Ferrari for victory after Vettel's retirement only to stop with the same glitch.

LOWS

Monaco: Lotus was a favourite for Monaco victory, and Grosjean had a speed edge over Raikkonen all weekend. A mistake in qualifying meant he was only fourth on a grid he probably had the pace to top, and his race was over by the first corner as he bounced off Michael Schumacher and Alonso.

It wasn't as clear-cut an incident as some of his later lap-one clashes, but was one of the first cases of a promising race being squandered.

Spa: The infamous first-corner crash that ultimately had an impact on the championship outcome. After squeezing Hamilton, Grosjean's out-of-control Lotus flew into Alonso's Ferrari and triggered a multi-car pile-up.

Only good fortune and safety developments prevented some potentially nasty injuries, and Grosjean was given a one-race ban.

Suzuka: Chastened by his suspension and eager to make amends, Grosjean started to try too hard to stay out of trouble - and succeeded only in making more mistakes. Focusing on Sergio Perez at the start in Japan, he slid into Mark Webber. The enraged Australian left Grosjean in no doubt about his feelings when he stormed down to Lotus post-race...

Romain Grosjean has admitted that he feared for his Formula 1 future after his up-and-down 2012 season.

Lotus confirmed on Monday that the 26-year-old will stay with the team in 2013 despite question marks over the mistakes that punctuated an otherwise promising campaign.

The team is known to have considered alternatives, including Heikki Kovalainen and Kamui Kobayashi, but has opted to retain Grosjean, who claimed three podiums this season.

"I was worried," Grosjean told AUTOSPORT. "It hasn't been the easiest part of the season, to get to December when all of the races are done and you are waiting for an answer.

"I had good discussions with the team owners and we tried to analyse the situation, understand it and see if we could keep the speed at where we wanted to and to score a lot of points."

Grosjean accepted that the key to next season will be to get to the end of races, having failed to finish on eight of his 19 starts in 2012.

But when he did finish, he scored heavily, standing on the podium in Bahrain, Canada and Hungary before the August break.

"It is pretty clear," he said when asked about the team's expectations. "They just want me to get to the end of the races. That's all we need to do."

Grosjean believes that the key to stringing together consistent results will be having the right approach.

With Lotus winning its first race since 2008 (when it ran under the Renault name) this year and on an upward curve, the Franco-Swiss driver could be in the mix for a maiden victory.

But Grosjean is refusing to be distracted by such objectives.

"Let's see what happens next season," said Grosjean.

"First of all, we need to do the best with the car that we have, then do the best on the driving and engineering side and not worry about objectives.

"This year, there were some incidents because of sometimes going for the wrong objectives.

"Winning races would be fantastic, but first of all I want to do the best job for the team, for myself and to take everything step-by-step during the weekend.

"We will see after the chequered flag where we are."

Max Chilton will make his Formula 1 debut next year after securing the second race seat at Marussia.

As predicted by AUTOSPORT back in September, Chilton has been given the nod to line up alongside Timo Glock in 2013 after being promoted from the reserve driver role he held at the end of this season.

Speaking about his F1 opportunity, Chilton said the six races where he worked with Marussia had proved invaluable in helping him prepare for next year.

"It's hard to put into words how I'm feeling today, with the announcement that I will be racing for the Marussia F1 team in 2013," said Chilton, who took part in Friday practice for the outfit in Abu Dhabi.

"It comes at the end of what has been a fantastic year for me, and those steps - my GP2 pole positions and wins, my performances in the F1 young driver test and in FP1 at Abu Dhabi - have given everyone the confidence in my ability to compete at the highest level of motor sport.

"I am very fortunate to have spent the last six races with the Marussia F1 team as reserve driver, which means that instead of a standing start, I am already up to speed and at ease with the people, the culture, the systems and of course, the 2012 package."

Chilton's graduation to F1 comes after he emerged as a frontrunner in GP2 in 2012, winning the feature races in Hungary and Singapore. He had also been a race winner in British Formula 3.

Marussia team principal John Booth said that the team was convinced by Chilton's potential ever since it promoted him to the reserve driver role in September.

"We have spent a significant amount of time evaluating his performances during 2012, both in our own car in a testing situation and also from the pitwall as we monitored his progress alongside the other members of our junior talent pool during grand prix support races," explained Booth.

"We felt confident enough in his ability and potential to appoint him to the role of reserve driver in September and since that time his development has been rapid in all aspects.

"First and foremost, he has shown himself to be extremely capable in the car."

Chilton's promotion to F1 means there will be four British drivers on the grid next year - with Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Paul di Resta also competing.

AUTOSPORT SAYS

Edd Straw, F1 editor

Inevitably, the long-expected confirmation that Max Chilton would step up from GP2 to Formula 1 with Marussia will re-open the debate about pay drivers.

Earlier this season, Chilton was asked about the perception of him as a pay driver and he gave a very sensible response.

"I like to ignore it, but you can't because it gets brought up," he said. "But that's the way motor racing is. Not many people on the F1 grid would have started racing if they didn't have a wealthy backer to start with."

He's absolutely right, so let's take it as a given that, like many other drivers, he needed funds to secure the seat. There's no disgrace in that as it is the way of the world.

Given that pay driver is used as a pejorative term, it's important to note that Chilton is far from underqualified to race an F1 car.

He did, after all, finish fourth in GP2 last year, albeit in a year that has to be considered as one of the weaker in the category's short history in terms of depth of driver ability. But we can dismiss the idea that he's unworthy of sitting in a grand prix car immediately.

During his 2012 season, he won GP2 feature races (ie - the non-reversed grid ones) in both Hungary and Singapore and showed dramatically improved racecraft from his previous two campaigns. There have been plenty of drivers with patchier GP2 careers who have done a decent job when they stepped up.

That is firm evidence that he's a driver capable of improving and learning. At just 21, he still has time on his side. He's also level-headed and did a tidy job in test outings for Force India and Marussia, so he's clearly not overawed by F1 as some so-called pay drivers have unquestionably been in the past.

There are certainly some rising stars who have made a bigger impression in the junior ranks who you could argue merit a shot ahead of Chilton - Robin Frijns to name one – but that doesn't have to mean that Marussia's new driver is to be dismissed.

He comes into F1 with six years of single-seater racing under his belt having started out in British F3 at the age of 16. He has won in F3 and GP2. Just because he's had to bring a budget and, right now, wouldn't be considered one of the best 24 drivers in the world doesn't mean that he is incapable of doing a solid job in his first season.

Now that he does have an F1 drive, what he now deserves is the chance to prove himself either way.

2013 Formula 1 line-up so far:

Red Bull Sebastian Vettel Mark Webber
Ferrari Fernando Alonso Felipe Massa
McLaren Jenson Button Sergio Perez
Lotus Kimi Raikkonen Romain Grosjean
Mercedes Lewis Hamilton Nico Rosberg
Sauber Nico Hulkenberg Esteban Gutierrez
Force India Paul di Resta seat still available
Williams Pastor Maldonado Valtteri Bottas
Toro Rosso Daniel Ricciardo Jean-Eric Vergne
Caterham Charles Pic seat still available
Marussia Timo Glock Max Chilton[/code]

Kamui Kobayashi has conceded his chances of landing a seat in Formula 1 for next season are over.

The Japanese driver had been pushing hard to secure the funding that would have landed him a drive at one of the teams that still has vacancies.

He had set up a website to help raise funding from fans, as well as making progress with more traditional sponsorship avenues.

But despite raising almost 8 million euros, Kobayashi wrote on his website on Monday night that it was not enough to earn him a drive for 2013, and his focus was now on making a return in 2014.

"I was in the position to bring a budget of 8 million Euro at least," wrote Kobayashi about the big support he had received from fans.

"If you could imagine the time I had, it was [an] overwhelming reaction and it shows there still is a great potential from Japanese companies.

"Unfortunately, the time was still short and I am not able to secure the seat with [a] competitive F1 team for 2013.

"I have to admit that it is very sad and [i] feel sorry for fans and Japanese companies who supported me. But I am still confident to make it happen in 2014."

Kobayashi said the money that had been raised would be saved for his 2014 efforts, and made it clear that he was not interested in racing in any category other than F1.

"I start to look [at] what is the best option for 2013 and also 2014," he said. "My main priority is to secure the competitive F1 seat in 2014. I have no interests to race any other categories.

"I will make an announcement as soon as I make a decision for 2013."

Mark Gillan, one of the architects of Williams's 2012 revival, has left the team.

Gillan had joined Williams during its troubled 2011 Formula 1 campaign and was appointed as its chief operations engineer during its technical reshuffle.

The team confirmed to AUTOSPORT that Gillan had vacated his role to "spend more time with his family".

Williams declined to comment on any plans to replace Gillan.

The squad endured its worst F1 season since the 1970s in 2011, finishing a distant ninth in the constructors' championship.

But this year Williams recovered its form and while its position in the standings only improved by one place, it was a regular frontrunner again and won the Spanish Grand Prix.

Pastor Maldonado's Barcelona win was Williams's first since the 2004 Brazilian GP.

Prior to joining Williams, Gillan had held positions at McLaren, Jaguar/Red Bull and Toyota, where he was head of aerodynamics in the team's final F1 seasons.

[color=#8B0000][b]AUTOSPORT SAYS[/b][/color]

Edd Straw, F1 editor[/i]

Mark Gillan played a key role in the Williams revival after joining at the start of October last year, at a time when the team was in the midst of a dismal season.

Gillan, who had previously worked for McLaren, Jaguar/Red Bull and Toyota Motorsport, brought a logical, methodical approach to running the race team that enabled it to unlock the potential of the machinery on a regular basis.

While Williams ultimately underperformed in the world championship, finishing eighth in the standings when it had the potential to finish fifth, it was a vast improvement on the 2011 campaign. The highlight was unquestionably Pastor Maldonado's sensational victory in the Spanish Grand Prix.

It is not yet clear what effect Gillan's departure will have on the team. Working under technical director Mike Coughlan, he was central to race weekend operations.

Who replaces him with could prove central to ensuring that Williams continues to build on the step forward it made in 2012.

Mercedes-Benz's outgoing motorsport boss Norbert Haug says he had to take responsibility for his team's failure to deliver in Formula 1.

Haug announced last week that he will be stepping down from his role at the end of this month after 22 years in charge of the German car manufacturer's motor racing activities.

Speaking at length for the first time since news of his departure was made public, Haug said Mercedes' tally of just one win from three years in F1 cost him his job.

"This was a decision made after the last race," he told AUTOSPORT. "We had a report in Stuttgart and we reached a mutual agreement that we split. I take the responsibility for not having been successful enough in three years.

"We were quite OK with our pace in the first third of the season - but then we dropped back. So we need changes, and I fully accept that.

"There is no bad feeling between the board and I. We are splitting amicably and we have found a good solution for both sides."

He added: "We should have done a better job. We changed to the 60 per cent windtunnel in the middle of the year; we suffered a little bit with the RRA [Resource Restriction Agreement] and personnel numbers, but I don't want to have any excuses. My job was not good enough.

"I take full responsibility for that. Even if I don't build the car, I am in charge. And if I was responsible for the victory in China, I also have to be responsible for everything else that happened."

Haug has no immediate plans once his current commitments with Mercedes-Benz are over, and will only make a decision next year.

"I will still be involved in the first quarter of the year, and then I am a free agent. I have no thoughts on what I will do – but things will settle down.

"I am happy to have some time for skiing in the first part of the year, and my friends called me and say it is great I have the time now. This year I was away for 34 weekends out of 38 between February and the final race, which is quite a lot."

Regarding the possibility of a restructuring at Mercedes, or a replacement being lined up, Haug said: "I do not know about that. It is not my position to judge that, and this will be done by the board."

Haug is sure, however, that Mercedes will be able to achieve its target of more wins and title success in the future.

"I am 100 per cent convinced of that," he said. "It takes time and we should be further down the road than we are, but I think the guys will be fine.

"We will not be the world beaters in the first step, but I am sure Niki [Lauda] and Ross [brawn] will give it everything. I will support them, and should there be any need for further discussions or, advice, they can always contact me – but they are responsible."

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Katsuya    2,819

£6.5 million is a huge amount to raise as well. Bizarre that Force India wouldn't sign him. Probably means the Sutil deal is a done one.

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Adam es Tranquilo    6,780

THE WALL OF TEXT.

Yeah I agree on Kobayashi. He really shouldn't have much trouble getting a drive for 2014. What he'll do in the meantime though I've no idea.

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Katsuya    2,819

If the Alguesaurus gets the Force India drive, I imagine that Pirelli will sign him up within an instant. He's literally the perfect guy for them to test tyres with, other than Perez.

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Lineker    33,995
Robert Kubica will not contest the revamped European Rally Championship opener in Austria next month, despite recent speculation.

AUTOSPORT revealed last week that Kubica was on the verge of committing to a full-time rallying campaign for 2013 with M-Sport understood to be adapting a Ford Fiesta Regional Rally Car for him.

FIA sources confirmed to AUTOSPORT that a waiver had been granted to develop an adapted gearshift system suitable for his injured right arm, as the Pole is still recovering from his horrendous accident at the start of 2011.

Drivers do not have to contest the full 13-round season to challenge for the ERC title. Under its scoring system, entrants count only their best four scores from the first seven and last six rallies.

Kubica is not on the entry list for the season-opening Janner Rally in Austria on January 3-5, but series co-ordinator Jean-Pierre Nicolas hinted at an influx of entries for rounds two and three in February and March.

"The entry list for the new-look FIA European Rally Championship in 2013 is building up day by day and some of the drivers that were not able to be ready for the Janner Rally due to the early start to the season will join in Latvia or the Canary Islands," he said.

Leading Janner entrants include former World Rally star Francois Delecour, four-time Intercontinental Rally Challenge runner-up Jan Kopecky, and 2011 Monte Carlo winner Bryan Bouffier.

1984 WRC champion Stig Blomqvist will be driving a production Mitsubishi on the snow event.

Kubica has been making his motorsport comeback in rallying this autumn, winning national events in Italy and dominating France's Rally of Var in a Citroen C4 WRC until a co-driver error caused him to crash.

He has so far focused on asphalt rallies. The ERC's first such round is in the Canary Islands in March. The series also visits Kubica's Polish homeland in September.

Jenson Button believes any driver moving teams for the start of Formula 1's new rules package in 2014 will be at a significant disadvantage.

F1 will switch to 1.6-litre turbocharged engines after next season.

Although McLaren has not made the length of Button's current deal public, the 2009 world champion is expected to stay at the team through 2014 at least after signing a "multi-year" deal in 2011.

"If everything goes to plan I will be still working with the same group of engineers and we'll have worked together for four years," he said.

"So entering into a new category, which it basically is, in 2014 with the same engineers - we understand the each other in our way of working and I think it really does help when everything changes.

"I'm really excited about 2014 and I think it will make a difference if you really understand it's not just about when you put your helmet on, it's about what happens before you put your helmet on."

Button thinks trying to acclimatise to a new team while also coping with a major technical package change in 2014 would be extremely tough.

"If a team has a new driver in 2014, I think that's very tricky for the driver and for the team to really understand the right direction," Button said.

"Whereas if you have been working with the team for a long period of time you understand what you need from the car and what works.

"KERS is going to be massive in terms of power, and it's not going to be on a button, it's going to be filling in the holes of torque.

"So in terms of engineering there's a lot of work that needs to be done and in terms of the drivers and engineers there needs to be a good understanding."

Button also played down concerns that the new engines would diminish F1's spectacle.

"We talk about how the engine is going to be small, it's going to be boring, it's going to sound rubbish... The racing in the eighties was quite fun and they didn't have V10, V12 engines, so it will still be great racing," he said.

Force India has become the first team to confirm the launch date of its new car - as the outfit plans to unveil its 2013 challenger on 1 February.

The Silverstone-based team, which ended its season on a high as Nico Hulkenberg challenged for victory in Brazil, plans to unveil its Mercedes-powered VJM06 at its home circuit.

Although the outfit has not confirmed either of its drivers for 2013, Paul di Resta is expected to remain on board for a third season.

With Hulkenberg switching to Sauber, the team is weighing up a number of drivers to line up alongside di Resta - including Adrian Sutil, Sebastien Buemi, and Jaime Alguersuari.

Formula 1's first official pre-season test of 2013 will take place at Jerez from 5 February.

Mark Webber believes Fernando Alonso produced a flawless season in 2012 as he tried to fend off the Australian's Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel for the Formula 1 world championship.

Despite Ferrari starting the season off the pace, Alonso managed to pull out a 40-point lead over Webber, then his nearest rival, by the summer break.

But when Red Bull rediscovered its dominant form in the final run-in, Vettel was able to edge ahead and eventually clinch the title by three points.

Asked if he felt pity for Alonso, Webber replied: "I don't think he put a wheel wrong all year. That's the reason I think he's so disappointed. He felt he probably did everything he could.

"Was it his best season ever in terms of what he did? It could well be. He couldn't have done much more."

Webber noted that his defeat of Alonso in the British Grand Prix had proved crucial given Vettel's slender eventual winning margin.

"To still miss out by just three points - it was lucky I passed him at Silverstone..." said Webber.

Vettel said he would prefer not to pass judgement on his adversary's performance.

"I respect him as a driver for the fact he is fighting and he is one of the best drivers we have in F1, but you look after yourself," said the champion.

"We were fighting quite a lot as well. I don't want to put a perspective on who was fighting more or harder, that's not the point.

"It's a long season, there's a lot of races and in the end the guy who wins the most points wins the championship.

"Of course I am very happy it was us and not him."

Romain Grosjean has issued a personal message of thanks to his Lotus team for having faith in him, as he predicts a regular challenge at the front of the grid for 2013.

Speculation about the Frenchman's future in Formula 1, following late-season incidents, ended on Monday night when Lotus confirmed that it would be keeping him for another season.

Grosjean was understandably delighted with the news, and took time on Tuesday to send a message to every team member of Lotus thanking them for their support and expressing his happiness at remaining a part of the Enstone operation.

"I wanted to take this opportunity to express personally just how happy I am to be staying with the team for the 2013 season," wrote Grosjean in the email to the Lotus team, a copy of which has been seen by AUTOSPORT.

"The support of the team and everyone at Enstone is phenomenal; and I would like to thank you for being behind me. I've always said that Enstone feels like my home, and the team is like a family, and I am incredibly happy to be here."

Grosjean delivered three podium finishes last year, and could have won in Valencia if he had not been forced out of the race with an alternator problem.

With Lotus ending the year strongly, Grosjean is positive about its chances of making progress next year and delivering even better results.

"We are growing and developing from strength to strength as a team; I know next year will be bright for us and I cannot wait to get behind the wheel again," he added in his email.

"I've seen the amount of hard work that has gone into our new car, and I'm confident that we will be in a strong position to challenge for the front of the grid at every race.

"I'm looking forward to the future together; stronger, better and even more successful."

Romain Grosjean has accepted that he has to shoulder the full responsibility for making sure he does a better job in wheel-to-wheel combat next year.

After Lotus proved its faith in the Frenchman by handing him a fresh contract for 2013, Grosjean says that a big focus for his winter preparations is on overcoming the kind of troubles that marred his 2012 campaign.

And although his Lotus chiefs have promised to do all they can to help Grosjean find the right confidence levels, the man himself knows that the onus is on him to get things sorted.

"I think it mainly comes from myself," he told AUTOSPORT. "We had a lot of discussions with the team to see what was wrong, and we have been working since September on it.

"Now, over the winter, I will work twice as hard. At the end of the day you are on your own in the car, you have to take your own decisions, and you have to make the right ones.

"We improved in a lot of areas last year - so now it will be about putting everything together."

Although there is little Grosjean can do before returning to action to prove his problems are behind him, he thinks he already knows where he was going wrong last year.

"I think it was just sometimes about having the wrong goals and objectives," he said. "It was about being over-aggressive and that is what we have been working on.

"It was not an easy end to the season with the pressure, trying to do no mistakes and trying to control anything. I wasn't driving natural anymore, and you end up making mistakes because you are trying too much to be careful.

"It was hard to recover after the ban, and there wasn't much time before I was straight back in the car. So it was a tough time – but it has taught me a lot and we know what we need to work on now."

Grosjean also believes that having his new contract secured before the Christmas break has provided a boost, as it gives him more time to relax before the pre-season work kicks off.

"It helps me sleep better and relax for a week at least," he said. "It is very good news for me, and I was waiting and hoping for it.

"I am very pleased for it – proud of the confidence in the team and looking forward to restarting the adventure with them."

Romain Grosjean's acceptance that he needed to change his ways in Formula 1 was a key factor in helping him convince his Lotus chiefs to keep him for next year, AUTOSPORT has learned.

Team principal Eric Boullier has revealed that Grosjean's on-track incidents had weighed heavy in the team's decision about his future - but that the French driver's willingness to learn and improve helped convince it that he was worth sticking with.

Boullier made it clear that if Grosjean had displayed a negative attitude - or refused to revise his approach - then he would have been dropped.

"Definitely it would have been different," Boullier told AUTOSPORT, when asked about what the outcome would have been if Grosjean had not been ready to listen.

"He clearly showed us, with some feedback from the engineers in the teams, that everything he was taught – and everything he learned – was applied in his understanding of what is a complex matter.

"He definitely proved to us that he wanted to do well and it was really clear."

Boullier said he received the go-ahead from the team's owners after the final race to seek the best driver he could as partner to Kimi Raikkonen – and that Grosjean left everyone in no doubt he was the right man.

"There was a clear strategy from the board to push with two fast drivers so we can be a top team – which means fighting in the top three and going for more wins.

"Once we agreed on the strategy, there were some good feelings with Romain but also reservations when you take into account the different aspects of his season.

"For [team owner] Gerard Lopez it was important to understand and get feedback about why he [Grosjean] could not deliver as much as we wanted this season. For the medium and long term, we needed his understanding to know where we wanted to go.

"And he applied himself very carefully – and the team was happy with the process. He was often in the wrong place on the track, although it was not always his fault, but we needed his feedback to know he understood what we wanted.

"After that, the decision was obvious."

Boullier is convinced that Grosjean will return in 2013 a stronger driver – and back to his best form after a difficult end to the campaign.

"Being back in F1, it is clear that you need some time to settle as testing is very limited now.

"It was clear that he lost a little bit of ground after Spa, because of that decision to give him a race ban, but he showed on a couple of occasions after that about how good he is. We believe in him."

Mercedes admits it will be under pressure to produce a competitive car now it has signed Lewis Hamilton for the 2013 season.

The 2008 world champion ended a six-year spell at McLaren to replace Michael Schumacher at Mercedes after signing a three-year deal with the Brackley squad.

Mercedes has so far failed to field a car strong enough to fight for wins regularly, although Nico Rosberg took victory in the Chinese Grand Prix earlier this year.

Team CEO Nick Fry is aware than signing a driver like Hamilton will raise the pressure on Mercedes to make sure it can deliver a strong car, as there are no doubts about the Briton's skills.

"I think it's a clear indication of the aspirations of the team. We've had probably one of the greatest drivers of all time driving for us, who was clearly in age terms reaching the later part of his career when he arrived with us," Fry told AUTOSPORT.

"In order to do well in Formula 1, you've got to do well in every respect. You've got to have the best technology, you've got to have the best teamwork, you've got to have the best management and you have to have the best drivers.

"[Hamilton's arrival] is very exciting for the team and also puts a lot of pressure on because Ross [brawn] has to provide him with a very good car.

"He can't win with a car which is duff. He can win with a car that is not quite the best, but the competition is such that you can't bridge a huge gap."

Fry reckons Hamilton is in the same category as Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso when it comes to winning with a car that is not the class of the field.

He believes world champion Sebastian Vettel is yet to prove that despite three titles in a row.

"Certainly in my view, Lewis and Fernando Alonso are the two best drivers," he added. "I'd caveat that by saying Sebastian Vettel may well be in that group, but he's always had the best car, and he's got to prove it, in my mind.

"Certainly Fernando this year, when the Ferrari has not been the best car by any stretch of the imagination, has still done an exceptional job.

"And I think Lewis is still in that category of being a driver you could give not quite the best car and he could still win races, whereas most of the other drivers in the Formula 1 field will probably win the race if you give them the best car."

Sebastian Vettel has revealed he was convinced he had done nothing wrong in the Brazilian Grand Prix, even through the yellow-flag controversy.

Vettel took his third title in a row in the season finale at Interlagos after securing sixth place despite a spin on the opening lap of the race.

Three days after the race, however, Ferrari wrote a letter to FIA president Jean Todt asking for clarification on the circumstances surrounding Vettel's overtaking move on Jean-Eric Vergne on lap four of the race following suggestions that the pass may have been under yellow.

The FIA said it had no case to respond as it was clear that Vettel's pass had taken place with green flags on track.

Despite the controversy, Vettel says he was always convinced his pass had been legal as he had seen the green flag.

"To be honest, I never wasted one single thought that an irregularity was involved from my side," Vettel told the official Formula 1 website.

"Even if it was an eventful race I definitely saw all the flags - and their colours!

"I only got information that Ferrari was up to something after Christian (Horner) called me saying that obviously Ferrari was not too happy with the outcome of the race.

"After the FIA had checked every single inch of the recording of the situation in question - and confirmed that everything was according to rules - Ferrari renounced any protests.

"But believe it or not I knew since the chequered flag that there was not a single movement wrong from my side."

Caterham's sporting director Steve Nielsen has resigned from the team, AUTOSPORT has learned.

Nielsen originally joined the outfit when it was known as Team Lotus at the end of 2011 after several years at the Renault team.

It is not clear why he is leaving, but sources suggest that he is moving to another outfit. The Leafield-based team has confirmed he will stop working for it in January.

No replacement has yet been lined up, with Caterham using Nielsen's departure to evaluate a possible new structure to the sporting side of the operation.

Nielsen is an F1 stalwart, having previously worked at Arrows, Benetton/Renault, Tyrrell and the old Team Lotus, and his experience would be invaluable to any outfit on the grid.

Caterham endured a difficult 2012 campaign, when it failed to make the steps forward that it had hoped to.

However, it managed to hold on to its crucial 10th place in the constructors' championship after Vitaly Petrov finished 11th in the final race in Brazil to help his team overhaul rival Marussia.

Charles Pic does not believe his Caterham team is under pressure to score its first point in the 2013 season as long as it improves over last season's performance.

The team has finished 10th in the constructors' championship in the three years it has been in Formula 1, beating fellow new teams Marussia and HRT since the 2010 season.

Its best result to date, however, is an 11th place in the season finale in Brazil last month.

Although Caterham boss Cyril Abiteboul said the team cannot be satisfied with 10th place anymore, Pic reckons there is no huge pressure to finally get a point next season.

"Caterham have always been the first of the three 'new' teams so I think what they've produced so far has been good," Pic told the official Formula 1 website.

"But we can do better and our target is to do better next year. But I don't think we are under pressure.

"We know where we want to go and that is the most important thing for the team."

He added: "I think Caterham has big potential - I'm 100 per cent confident of that. We just have to work very hard to improve ourselves to be better next year and to take a step forward."

Pic, who made his grand prix debut this year, is joining Caterham from Marussia on a multi-year deal.

The Frenchman says having secured a long-term agreement does not mean he will approach 2013 any differently.

"I'm very happy about that because we can work together on the long-term and that's very important," he said. "But it doesn't change anything for me next year.

"I have my own targets, as do the team, and we'll have to work really hard together to achieve them - that doesn't change whether you're on a one- or a two-year contract."

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Lineker    33,995
Jenson Button admits he expected a McLaren versus Lotus title fight early in the 2012 Formula 1 season.

The Briton says he was convinced his team was set to win the championship after its strong start, and saw Lotus as a stronger threat than Red Bull.

McLaren ultimately finished third in the constructors' standings, between Ferrari and Lotus, as Red Bull swept to the title.

"After five races I thought that we would win the championship," said Button, who took victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix after a very positive winter of testing.

"We seemed very competitive, and I thought Lotus were going to be extremely good this year. They were consistent but they didn't have the outright pace."

The Briton added: "Five races in I wouldn't have said that the Red Bulls would win the championship this year."

McLaren had a mixed season in 2012, with a very quick car on most circuits but with reliability issues hurting its chances.

Lewis Hamilton secured seven pole positions and four wins, while Button won three races and grabbed one pole.

Despite the pace of their car, Hamilton and Button finished in fourth and fifth places in the standings.

Button conceded McLaren's efforts had simply not been good enough.

"You always think you've lost the title if you haven't won the championship," he said. "We're all fighting for the world championship and only one team can win.

"Red Bull did a very good job and won the constructors' championship, whereas with us, I think we've still done a good job, just not quite good enough.

"But it's a very competitive sport and we shouldn't be disappointed with how we've gone about our racing, we just haven't been good enough this year."

The Briton said Red Bull's consistency and reliability was key in the team securing its third consecutive championship double this year.

"In terms of the team, we weren't very quick before the summer break," he said. "Before Hockenheim we didn't have the pace, but with the update in Hockenheim we moved forward a lot and we carried that through for most of the year.

"But there's one team that has been quicker than us for a lot of the time - and that's Red Bull - and more consistent than us and they've been more reliable as well."

McLaren is to unveil its 2013 car on January 31, the team announced on Thursday.

The Mercedes-powered MP4-28, which will be driven by Jenson Button and Sergio Perez, will be launched at a currently unspecified location in the United Kingdom.

The Woking-based outfit finished third in the constructors' championship last year, despite winning seven races through the efforts of Button and Lewis Hamilton.

A spate of reliability problems late on hurt the team's title prospects as it was just beaten by Ferrari to the runner-up position behind Red Bull.

Gerhard Berger has dismissed speculation that he could replace Norbert Haug as the head of Mercedes-Benz's motorsport activities.

Haug announced last week that he is leaving the position he has held for 22 years after feeling responsible for the failure of the Mercedes Formula 1 team to achieve more success.

With no decision yet taken about a potential replacement, there have been rumours that Berger could get involved.

The Austrian, who in recent years held senior positions in F1 as joint motorsport boss at BMW and then co-owner of Toro Rosso, is currently the head of the FIA's single-seater commission.

Speaking to AUTOSPORT about his plans, Berger insisted that any talk that he was in the frame for a role at Mercedes was wide of the mark.

"Absolutely not," he said. "There have been no discussions at all."

Haug will step down from his role at the end of this year. Speaking to AUTOSPORT earlier this week, Haug said that he was not aware of any plans and would not be involved in those discussions.

"I do not know about that," he said. "It is not my position to judge that, and this will be done by the board."

It is possible that Mercedes may choose to split Haug's current role up, with separate individuals in charge of the German car manufacturer's F1 and DTM activities.

Former CART boss Andrew Craig has also dismissed speculation linking him to a Mercedes role.

Force India will not be satisfied if it starts the season with anything less than the fifth quickest car in the field in 2013.

The Silverstone-based squad endured a slow start to this year but became one of the strongest outfits towards the end, with Nico Hulkenberg fighting for victory in the last race in Brazil.

Deputy team principal Bob Fernley reckons his squad's momentum can be kept going into 2013, when he is optimistic Force India can hit the ground running.

"We have to be very encouraged by the second half of the season," Fernley told AUTOSPORT. "The regulations are stable going into 2013.

"So apart from the development work you're going to do over the winter, fundamentally where you've finished now is where you start in March.

"So we have to be to be encouraged, it's a strong package.

"Can we learn something? We've had two seasons where we've been slow out of the box.

"It's caught us out. Hopefully in 2013 that won't be the case."

Although Force India finished seventh in the constructors' championship behind Mercedes and Sauber, Fernley said the team should not be aiming for any lower than fifth in 2013.

"If you look at the stats, since the summer break, Force India's the fifth best performing team and Vijay [Mallya] will expect us to start there, it's as simple as that," he added.

"Mercedes obviously have a lot of work to do. They have Lewis [Hamilton] going there, so that's going to be a renewed enthusiasm for what they're doing.

"They're a force to be reckoned with, but they've got to overcome the back of this season.

"From our point of view we've been strong at the end of this season and we want to carry that through to next year."

Force India announced it will unveil its 2013 car on 1 February.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has no doubts that his team did the right thing in handing Felipe Massa a fresh contract for 2013.

Although the Brazilian driver had a lacklustre start to the campaign, he improved dramatically over the second half of the year to secure his future at Maranello.

That move was questioned at the time, with some reckoning Ferrari should have gone for a younger driver, but di Montezemolo is totally convinced about the decision.

"The Brazilian improved a great deal in the second half: in fact in the first part, it seemed he'd gone on a round the world holiday!" said di Montezemolo during his annual Christmas lunch with media at Maranello this week.

"Joking apart, I think the decision to reconfirm his position was the right one. If we had changed, then one would need to take on someone who would make a difference and I can't say I noticed many drivers around who would be quicker than Felipe.

"Also, we did not want to change the balance and the good atmosphere within the team. Domenicali and I told ourselves it was best to wait and I think that the facts proved us right.

"Towards the end, when Felipe was even faster than Fernando a couple of times, the points he scored played a vital part in securing our place in the constructors' championship."

Reflecting on the season just gone, di Montezemolo admitted that there was disappointment about the team just missing out on the championship - but that it should also realise it did a great job too.

"You can see the glass as half full or half empty, but clearly there is great regret," he added.

"Because the outcome went down to the wire, because after that first lap in Brazil, maybe things could have turned out differently, because Fernando went on holiday at the start of the summer break with a 40 point lead over his closest challenger and because, when it came to collisions, we were forced to retire, while others kept going as if nothing had happened.

"However, the biggest regret is that we did not have a car that was quick enough to win the world championship.

"On the glass half full side, we had amazing reliability which allowed us to come second in the constructors' championship despite the fact McLaren was quicker than us and despite the fact that, in the first half of the season we pretty much only had Alonso's points to count on.

"There were those great starts and pit stops and the fact Fernando had an extraordinary season, the best since he has been in Formula 1.

"Next year, let's hope we can say it was our best season, given that we want to give him and Felipe a car that's competitive right from the start."

Ferrari has appointed separate design co-ordinators for its 2013 and '14 Formula 1 cars as part of a reorganisation of its technical efforts.

While Nikolas Tombazis retains his chief designer role, Ferrari will split responsibility for its next two F1 contenders.

Team boss Stefano Domenicali said Ferrari had concluded that inefficient technical organisation had been a key weak point in recent seasons. The squad has not won a world championship since Kimi Raikkonen's 2007 triumph.

This year Fernando Alonso took an unlikely points lead despite Ferrari starting the campaign off the pace, but was ultimately beaten to the title by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel.

"We have decided, particularly in light of the unusual demands we will face in 2013, when we will have a completely new project to work on for the future, to have two co-ordinators," Domenicali said.

"Simone Resta, an engineer who has developed his career in Maranello and is very effective, will work on the 2013 car and Fabio Montecchi will deal with the one for the following year."

Ferrari is revamping its windtunnel after pinpointing correlation problems, and Domenicali said it will also adjust its windtunnel testing procedures.

"We have also adopted a better method of splitting up the work between those who run the windtunnel and those who should concentrate more on the creative side of the job," he said.

"This year, we saw that when we do too many things at the same time, maybe we are not efficient enough."

Ferrari has invariably been among the first to unveil its new car each winter, but Domenicali suggested that the 2013 machine will not break cover until the eve of the first test.

"Clearly we have only been concentrating all our efforts on the new one from a few weeks before the final race, given we pushed right to the end on this year's," he said.

"The 2013 car will be launched at the very end of January or the early days of February.

"As usual, the first one will be just a launch version, while the complete one will be seen in the final days of testing or in Australia, so as to make the most of all the time available."

Team president Luca di Montezemolo reiterated that Ferrari must also be more bold with its designs.

"We will need to try and push the technical regulations to the very limit," he said, "while maintaining our strong points from this year, or improving them still further, because the others will not be twiddling their thumbs, but not by almost brushing against illegality, as happened in 2009 with the double diffuser.

"However we need to adopt a different, more creative approach."

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Lineker    33,995
The BBC has announced that former MotoGP presenter Suzi Perry will front its Formula 1 programme next year.

Perry presented the BBC's MotoGP coverage for a decade and is delighted at being given the opportunity to replace Jake Humphrey, who is switching his focus to football.

Speaking about her new job, Perry said: "Motorsport is my life and I've really missed being away from the grid. I am so excited to be joining the BBC.

"Working alongside such an eminent team and the F1 world is a huge honour and I can't wait to get started."

The BBC has also confirmed the 10 races that it will be showing live next year.

They are China, Spain, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Italy, Japan, India and Brazil - plus whichever race is slotted in to the July 21 gap.

It means the BBC will not show live the opening two races of the season in Australia and Malaysia, nor the blue riband event in Monaco.

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In addition to those races live on TV, there will be extended highlights coverage of the remaining ten races. All 20 races will be live on BBC Radio 5 live or 5 live sports extra.

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Lineker    33,995
Bernie Ecclestone has backed the addition of a grand prix in Thailand to the Formula 1 calendar in 2015.

Kanokphand Chulakasem, Governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, said in October that he was working with F1 organisers to bring a night race to the streets of Bangkok and it appears that he has been successful.

"They say (it will be held in) 2014 and I say 2015. It is serious and it is good," Ecclestone is quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.

It has been reported that 60 per cent of the annual fee will be covered by the Thailand government with drinks companies Red Bull and Singha contributing the remainder.

New Jersey and Russia are already set to be added in 2014 and should Thailand come on board after that, it will place more pressure on the current circuits if they are to keep their places on the 20-race calendar Ecclestone favours.

Ferrari has singled out Sebastian Vettel over Lewis Hamilton as its future lead driver for when Fernando Alonso finally decides to retire from the sport.

Vettel has already been strongly linked to a move to Ferrari, and the company's president Luca di Montezemolo has not shied away from his praise of the German - who he thinks would be the perfect man for his team.

"Between all the drivers Vettel and Hamilton could be perfect for the Ferrari of the future with one difference - Vettel is younger," di Montezemolo was quoted as saying by the Independent.

"First of all, I think of all the drivers at the moment we have the best in Formula 1, in terms of speed, in terms of intelligence in the race and capability to work with the team. When you have the best driver you have to put him in the best condition to succeed, to win and have a good environment without peer troubles.

"But if Alonso decided tomorrow to go to live in Hawaii with the girlfriend I have no doubt that for human and professional reasons [i would choose] Vettel. He would be very good for us.

"Vettel I like because he is not presumptuous. He wants to win but he is not arrogant. Michael [schumacher] told me many years ago that coming from karts Vettel had the most potential of any young driver and he was right."

Di Montezemolo ruled out the possibility of Vettel being lined up alongside Alonso, and made it clear that his current driver was still the star of the show.

Reflecting on the Spaniard's strengths, he suggested Alonso had the best qualities of both Niki Lauda and Schumacher.

"Niki was very intelligent in the race and the first driver to be closer to the team, details, working even in the night," he said. "Michael was for me a war machine in the race because he was in condition to do 60 laps like qualifying.

"Fernando is a good mix between the two. He is very intelligent. He knows when to push, how to save the tyres, when to attack, super intelligent and super quick, too.

"It is difficult to make comparisons [across different eras] but he is right at the top. I'm very happy with Fernando. He is a key member of the team."

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has suggested that the time has come for new younger management to take over the running of Formula 1.

Amid a desire to see the sport get some fresh impetus to attract a wider audience, di Montezemolo has suggested that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone should ease his grip of the sport.

"We need people with a more modern view," di Montezemolo was quoted as saying by The Independent. "It is the same in my company. In a couple of years I will no longer be the person for Ferrari. Someone else will come.

"What I always say to Bernie is that the one-man show in life is finished. You need a team around you. We have to ask these questions in a positive way and look ahead. Sooner or later it will happen to Bernie as to me."

Di Montezemolo believes that F1 should think carefully about the venues it races at - as he questions the value of racing in countries where there is little enthusiasm for the sport among the public.

"Three years ago, I was so impressed when I was invited to open Le Mans," he said. "It was a party. You go to the pits in some circuits in F1 and it's like a desert.

"Do you think it good that we race in the middle of nowhere? Without the public, without the fans, the flags, the passion, it is cold. I don't like it.

"Bernie is always upset when I say this but listen, today, if you have a girlfriend, say 20-years-old, with low-fare airlines you can go around the world for less money than a long weekend in Monza. This should not be possible any more.

"The world is changing a lot. Ferrari want to play a role in the future. In terms of the competition this year, the return to the United States, this season has been very good.

"But you have to look to the future. The time to make decisions about the future is when you have success.

"If you don't, you are forced to make them when you are in trouble and that is bad. We are very close to opening a new page in the future of Formula 1, acknowledging the good work that Bernie has done but moving on."

Di Montezemolo also suggested that if German prosecutors investigating bribery allegations in the Gerhard Gribkowsky affair do decide to take further action against Ecclestone, then the F1 supremo should step down.

"First of all, I hope for Bernie and F1 that nothing will happen," he said. "If Bernie is accused under process I think he will be the first to give a step back in the interests of Formula 1. This could be bad for F1."

Timo Glock expects Pat Symonds' clearance to return to the Formula 1 paddock in 2013 to be a major boost to Marussia.

Symonds was banned from F1 in the wake of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix scandal, in which he was one of those held responsible for Nelson Piquet being asked to deliberately crash his Renault to trigger a safety car that would help team-mate Fernando Alonso win.

Although not permitted to attend grands prix in that period, Symonds was given clearance to work as a consultant to F1 teams - a role he has performed for Marussia.

Symonds played a key role in Benetton and Renault's championships with Michael Schumacher and Alonso, and Glock cannot wait to have his expertise on hand in the pitlane.

"We know that we have to improve on-track as well," Glock told AUTOSPORT.

"I think there is a lot of stuff where we need to be better. On the engineering side we need to be better everywhere. It doesn't mean we are bad at the moment, but to move on you need to improve.

"To have Pat at the races will definitely help because he has so much experience, can step back and have a look from the outside, and he's won championships.

"He can just get into it and we can improve it together. I hope he'll be at as many [races] as possible."

Glock added that he was already enjoying working with Symonds.

"We have a very good relationship. He's good fun, he knows what he's talking about and we've got the right people together," he said.

The German believes Marussia has plenty of cause for optimism going into 2013.

"The new car looks not too bad," said Glock. "It's all on target, which is great. And it's had more windtunnel time. We are flat-out on it."

Sebastian Vettel insists that there is still potential for him to improve as a grand prix driver despite winning his third consecutive world championship in 2012.

The Red bull driver became only the third driver to take a title triple alongside Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher this year, but is certain there is still more to come from both him and his Red Bull team.

At just 25, he is still younger than any other triple world champion in the history of F1 and is widely expected to add significantly to his tally of three crowns and 26 victories.

"In terms of results, the last three years and winning the constructors' championship have been perfect but I still feel that there are little bits here and there we can improve on," Vettel told AUTOSPORT.

"That's the philosophy and the spirit that we share in the whole team. You can always do better."

The German is now one of only nine drivers to have won more than two world championships.

But even after sealing his third crown in the Brazilian Grand Prix last month, he is refusing to rest on his laurels and is uninterested in comparing his achievements to those of others while there are still more titles to be won.

"At the moment, I don't really reflect too much on what has happened over the last three years," said Vettel.

"I am extremely happy and extremely proud of what we have achieved.

"If you put it into perspective, it sounds even crazier when you look at the people who have achieved the same or similar in the past.

"It's better not to put it into perspective and to carry on focusing on what we do.

"We are having fun, we are very passionate and that makes the difference.

"We did it our way and that's what made the year very special."

Nico Rosberg is adamant that Mercedes made 'massive' progress across the 2012 Formula 1 season and insists his confidence has not been shaken by its lacklustre finish to its campaign.

The German mixed scoring his breakthrough grand prix victory in China with a barren six-race pointless run at the end of the year as Mercedes dropped down the competitive order.

Rather than that being indicative of the team's true pace, Rosberg feels the disappointing end masked Mercedes's progress.

Like team boss Ross Brawn, he believes there are justified reasons to be optimistic of further improvements next year.

"The improvement is massive," Rosberg insisted when asked about Mercedes's form in 2012.

"Unfortunately we haven't seen it much in the second half of the season, but in the first part of the season we had the fastest car in two races - China and Monaco.

"That's the improvement. We're making progress; we're getting better.

"If you would walk through the factory today, you would see a massive improvement compared to three years ago.

"The amount of competence that has joined us, the way everything is joined together, it's really making huge steps and that's why next year I'm sure will be better for us again."

Rosberg conceded the team fell well short of its target of fighting for the championship, but says it was still able to learn valuable lessons for 2013 even as results tailed off.

"Unfortunately this process has taken a bit longer than we were hoping," he admitted.

"We were hoping to already be there really fighting for the championship this year and that didn't quite happen, by quite some margin unfortunately.

"But we learned a lot of lessons this year and that's why I'm very confident that we're going to start well next year and then develop through the season."

Pirelli is confident that Formula 1 teams are now much better prepared for a move to more aggressive tyre compounds in 2013 than they were at the start of this season.

The Italian tyre manufacturer is going to switch to new constructions and even softer compounds next year in a bid to improve the spectacle and ensure teams are still challenged.

The tyre plan has prompted talk that the new season could reproduce the unpredictability that was witnessed at the start of the last campaign, when there were seven different winners from the first seven races.

However, Pirelli's chief technical officer Maurizio Boicchi thinks that teams will not face such difficulties in dealing with the new rubber, as he is adamant that they have learned enough this year about how best to cope.

He thinks the fact that the final races of 2012 became straightforward one-stop events shows how much progress the teams made in understanding how to get the best performance from tricky products.

"During 2012, more or less all the teams learned much better how to use our tyres," Boicchi told AUTOSPORT.

"One of the key criteria that improved their consistency was the fact that we have seen and measured much less [wheel] spinning from them - which means they have learned how to manage this phenomenon.

"It [wheel spin] is terrible, as you wear the tyres fast, heat them up and they degrade very, very rapidly.

"This was something more and more taken into consideration by the teams. You could see cars during free practice with infra red measurements on the tyres in order to have a point-by-point reference on the circuit for the temperature on the surface of the tyres.

"It was one of the most important pieces of information on the tyres that relates to wheel spin - and it made all the difference.

"We believe a lot of things have moved in this direction, and what we would like to do in 2013 is to come back to be a little bit more aggressive in our compound choice in order to introduce more pitstops and strategy for the teams."

Boicchi, who believes the 2013 tyres will be faster, says another factor that will help the teams is the fact that they got to try out the future rubber during practice in Brazil.

"They got their first feedback which was important, as normally at the first tests in February we have such awful temperatures that it is more or less impossible to have clear information," he said.

"It is also hard to get a clear perception from the teams then too, because often they are focused 100 per cent on car development – they worry more about the aerodynamics than the tyres."

Lotus boss Eric Boullier believes his team will deliver a much stronger Formula 1 campaign in 2013, even if it starts the season with a car that is only as quick as last year's.

The Frenchman is convinced that the progress that his drivers have made, allied to a better technical understanding among the engineers, means the team can move forward even without technical gains.

"I would be very happy to start the season with the same car performance we had last year relative to everyone else," Boullier told AUTOSPORT.

"I know both our drivers will be race fit and, let's say, delivering more than 12 months ago.

"On the team front, last year we lost a little bit of ground during the summer, but we know where and we know why it happened. We learned from our mistake and we will not do the same strategy with next year's car development.

"At the same time, we performed well at the end of this season, and found some of our performance back, so it was a good fight until the end. It was good to see Enstone was capable of delivering as much as the bigger teams.

"So I am positive, but also cautious. You don't know what the others teams are delivering, as you can only guess from statistics.

"But the regulations are quite stable, so there will only be evolutions of the 2012 cars. That could be good for us to help us keep the ground."

Boullier says that one of the key issues for his outfit will be in dealing with the tricky balance of resources between developing next year's car and sorting out the design of the 2014 challenger.

"We obviously don't want to push too far to hurt ourselves with the big project for 2014," he said. "But the boys here in Enstone have managed some work already on 2014, and I hope that what we saved already from 2012 has given us more flexibility for 2013."

When asked how he would cope if the team emerged as a title contender in 2013 and needed to push on with developing its E21, Boullier said: "To be honest, it will be a nice problem to have - even though complicated to manage.

"But we have to be realistic. This is the end of a chapter of rules, and in 2014 there will be a new chapter. We cannot afford to start far from the others with these new regulations."

Jenson Button is sure that McLaren's early-summer slump was more damaging to its 2012 Formula 1 title bid than reliability or pitstop problems.

McLaren only finished third in the constructors' standings despite having the pacesetting car at several junctures this season, while drivers Lewis Hamilton and Button had to settle for fourth and fifth in a championship both had led at times.

Although the team had several well-publicised technical failures and pit delays, Button believes the spells when McLaren was too slow to fight for wins should not be underestimated.

"Sometimes you do get failures and you've got to rectify the issue," he said.

"But the most difficult part for us was before the summer break when we just didn't have the pace.

"The reason why we were not fighting for the title isn't just the reliability issues, the pace in that period of time wasn't good enough compared to our competitors."

He feels the mechanical glitches attracted more attention due to their timing.

"We have had reliability issues, but when you actually look at it, the problems have all been at weekends," Button said.

"We did 1400 kilometres at the young driver test and didn't have one issue at all, so we have been a little bit unlucky, I think."

From May to July, Button endured a string of races where he could manage no better than lower top-10 places, but he thinks the team ultimately benefited from his difficulties.

"We tried new things because I struggled to get tyre temperature more than most, and it didn't work, it just destroyed the tyres around Monaco and Canada time," he explained.

"Lewis had a good race in Canada and I had such a bad race, and it was good for the rest of the year in a way because we had the two extremes so we could look at the data, get in the simulator, change the balance around, and work out why I had so much degradation and he didn't.

"It was really useful to learn what you can and cannot do with the tyres, because it's different to what you'd usually think."

Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner says the 2012 Formula 1 title chase pushed his staff harder than they had ever been pushed before.

Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull ultimately delivered their third consecutive world championship double, but only after overcoming Fernando Alonso in a battle that remained on a knife edge until the final laps of the season.

Earlier in the year Red Bull had often appeared to be on the back foot as McLaren enjoyed periods of dominance and teams like Lotus and Mercedes appeared at the front.

"They've always worked hard but this year I think by far has been our toughest challenge," Horner said of his staff.

"It's been the hardest championship, constructors and drivers, because we've had to really fight our way back into them; that is what made it the most gratifying in many respects."

Horner underlined that 2012 had seen Red Bull personnel go 'beyond the call of duty' more than ever before.

"The personal sacrifices the time that's given up away from home away from family and friends, particularly in Milton Keynes has been just remarkable," he said.

"The reason this team is so successful is because of the spirit within the team. The way that we work as a team, the way that we work as one unit.

"There's so many heroic stories this year of people going beyond what they are asked of to deliver, to get performance from the car, to get components to the circuit, to get development into the windtunnel, to hit all of those targets.

"What you see on a Sunday afternoon is a very small percentage of what is involved in a grand prix team. This championship, and a triple championship, would never have been imaginable without the commitment of the staff."

1356541003.jpg

Organisers of the first Russian Grand Prix have announced that the new Sochi track is firmly on target, with the race control complex in the "final stages" of construction.

Sochi will host its first Formula 1 race in 2014, with the circuit being created within the complex that will be used for that year's Winter Olympics.

A statement from circuit operating company Formula Sochi said that the race control building was nearing completion, with "exterior and interior works and installation works" on the pit complex to get underway next spring.

The 3.7-mile circuit layout is also beginning to take shape.

"Many massive Olympic venues are already built, some sport facilities have been put in commission, while the motorsport venue is in the active phase of construction," said the statement.

"Construction crews are making good progress with the preparing of groundworks and laying of the asphalt coat.

"The first layer of pavement has been laid in some areas."

F1 circuit designer Hermann Tilke added: "Together with [track builder] Omega and Formula Sochi we are deeply involved in the Russian Grand Prix project and we are glad that all works are going according to schedule considering the large amount of coordination necessary with the Olympic construction."

Formula 1 teams need to be open to the idea of greater co-operation between themselves if they are to make the most of the radical 2014 change in regulations.

That is the view of new Caterham boss Cyril Abiteboul, who thinks that the scale of the challenge teams face when new 1.6-litre turbo engines come in means that going it alone could be a hindrance.

"Potentially this breakthrough will require some partnership between the teams, and that is not only for teams like us," Abiteboul told AUTOSPORT in an exclusive interview.

"I can feel that it will be just like in the automotive business when you want to produce a new product: you try and share the platform - that is what Renault, Alpine and Caterham will be doing [for a new sportscar for 2015].

"You want to be more efficient, you want to be more competitive - and therefore you work in collaboration.

"I think the same thing that will have to happen in F1.

"It is a bit new to F1, because the teams also have to compete against each on the track, but I think the future will be about collaboration - and 2014 will urge us into considering more collaboration."

Although Abiteboul is eager for closer ties between teams, he has made it clear that he is not advocating tie-ups going as far as leading to the return of customer cars to F1.

"There is a limit and in particular we don't want customer cars," he said.

"But between no collaboration at all and customer cars, there is a compromise to be found.

"I am sure we can do better than we do right now – both for Caterham and F1 in general."

Jenson Button is confident that McLaren will not be haunted by the failures that cost it the world championship this year - as he targets a full-on title assault in 2013.

Although the Woking-based outfit did not make the most of its opportunities in the season just gone, with reliability and errors costing it valuable points, Button is full of hope for next year.

Having taken on the team leader role following the exit of Lewis Hamilton, Button thinks that McLaren will not let what happened in 2012 hamper its determination to push on.

Talking to AUTOSPORT about his hopes for next year, Button said that McLaren would be better prepared to capitalise on a strong car if it could start the season as the best team again.

"I have got a great team behind me," he said. "Starting the 2013 season, if we can start strong like we did this year, I feel that the mistakes and the problems that we have had, hopefully we can put behind us.

"For me being the experienced one in the team, I really like that and I'm looking forward to working closely with the team, not just being the driver but actually working closely with the aerodynamicists, the engineers, and the designers to really keep pushing in the direction that I want.

"I'm not an expert in any of those fields but I’m the guy that drives, I’m the guy who knows what I want from the car and what I need. It’s going to be a good winter and we will start strong."

One big factor that could shake up the order in 2013 is the new type of tyre that Pirelli is introducing.

Teams got to try out the rubber at the Brazilian Grand Prix, and Button is looking forward to seeing what it will bring to the races.

"I liked it, actually," he said. "It was very hot in Brazil so it’s difficult to be sure, but the idea is that it generates heat a lot quicker and you don’t struggle with warm-up, which a lot of teams did in 2012. That is good.

"The grip is different. We were told that it had a certain style of grip but it doesn’t quite feel that way, it feels a bit different. It feels like it’s going to be a good tyre.

"There is going to be a lot of degradation, definitely. We are going to see more degradation in the latter part of the season – and it will be more like the beginning of 2012."

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      Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport (Mercedes)
       #44 Lewis Hamilton
       #77 Valtteri Bottas

       Scuderia Ferrari (Ferrari)
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       #27 Nico Hülkenberg
       #55 Carlos Sainz Jr.

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       #10 Pierre Gasly
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       #8 Romain Grosjean
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       Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team (Ferrari)
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      CALENDAR
      26th February-1st March 2018
       Pre-Season Testing 1 (Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona)
      6th-9th March 2018
       Pre-Season Testing 2 (Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona)
      25th March 2018
       Round 1 - Australian Grand Prix (Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne)
      8th April 2018
       Round 2- Bahrain Grand Prix (Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir)
      15th April 2018
       Round 3 - Chinese Grand Prix (Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai)
      29th April 2018
       Round 4 - Azerbaijan Grand Prix (Baku City Circuit, Baku)
      13th May 2018
       Round 5 - Spanish Grand Prix (Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona)
      27th May 2018
       Round 6 - Monaco Grand Prix (Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo)
      10th June 2018
      Round 7 - Canadian Grand Prix (Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal)
      24th June 2018
       Round 8 - French Grand Prix (Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet) 
      1st July 2018
       Round 9 - Austrian Grand Prix (Red Bull Ring, Spielberg)
      8th July 2018
       Round 10 - British Grand Prix (Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone)
      22nd July 2018
       Round 11 - German Grand Prix (Hockenheimring, Hockenheim)
      29th July 2018
       Round 12- Hungarian Grand Prix (Hungaroring, Budapest)
      26th August 2018
       Round 13 - Belgian Grand Prix (Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot)
      2nd September 2018
       Round 14 - Italian Grand Prix (Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza)
      16th September 2018
       Round 15 - Singapore Grand Prix (Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore)
      30th September 2018
       Round 16- Russian Grand Prix (Sochi Autodrom, Sochi)
      7th October 2018
       Round 17 - Japanese Grand Prix (Suzuka International Race Course, Suzuka)
      21st October 2018
       Round 18 - United States Grand Prix (Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas)
      28th October 2018
       Round 19 - Mexican Grand Prix (Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, Mexico City)
      11th November 2018
       Round 20 - Brazilian Grand Prix (Autódromo José Carlos Pace, São Paulo)
      25th November 2018
       Round 21 - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi)

      DRIVER SAFETY:
      Following a series of serious incidents in open-wheel racing—including the fatal accidents of Henry Surtees and Justin Wilson—in which drivers were struck in the head by debris, the FIA announced plans to introduce additional mandatory cockpit protection with 2018 given as the first year for its introduction. Several solutions were tested, with the final design subject to feedback from teams and drivers. Each design was created to deflect debris away from a driver's head without compromising their visibility or the ability of safety marshals to access the cockpit and extract a driver and their seat in the event of a serious accident or medical emergency, with a series of serious accidents—such as the fatal accidents of Jules Bianchi and Dan Wheldon—recreated to simulate the ability of devices to withstand a serious impact. The FIA ultimately settled on the "halo", a wishbone-shaped frame mounted above and around the driver's head and anchored to the monocoque forward of the cockpit. Once introduced, the halo concept is scheduled to be applied to other open-wheel racing categories including Formula 2 and Formula 3. The FIA revealed plans to allow teams some design freedom in the final version of the halo. Race Director Charlie Whiting noted that the halo would be incorporated into the chassis design from its inception rather than attached once the design was completed.
      SPORTING REGULATION CHANGES:
      The number of pre-season test days will be reduced to seven, while the mid-season test held in Bahrain in 2017 will be moved to Barcelona. The rules governing starting procedures will be changed for 2018, granting race stewards the power to issue penalties for improper race starts even if a driver's start does not trigger the automated detection system. The changes were introduced following a series of incidents throughout 2017; during the Chinese Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel positioned his car too far across his grid slot to be detected by the detection system; while at the Austrian Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas's start was called into question for his reaction time despite the detection system recognising it as legal. Drivers will be required to wear gloves containing biometric sensors which record their vital signs in order to better assist marshals and recovery crews in assessing their condition in the event of an accident.
      TECHNICAL REGULATION CHANGES:
      Drivers will be limited to three complete engines (down from four in 2017) for the whole season. Despite protests from several teams, the FIA decided to implement the rule for 2018. The FIA banned the use of "shark fins", a carbon-fibre extension to the engine cowling aimed at directing airflow over the rear wing. The use of "T-wings", a horizontal secondary wing mounted forward of and above the rear wing, will be banned. The FIA will introduce further restrictions against the practice of oil burning, where engine oils are burned as fuel to boost performance. The practice, which was first used in 2017 saw teams burning as much as 1.2 litres per one hundred kilometres. For the 2018 championship, this figure will be revised down to a maximum of 0.6 litres per one hundred kilometres. Tyre supplier Pirelli will provide teams with two new tyre compounds in 2018. Each of the 2017 compounds will be made softer, with a new "hypersoft" tyre becoming the softest of the seven. A new "superhard" tyre will also be introduced. The hypersoft compound will be marked by a pink sidewall, while the superhard will be orange. The hard compound, which previously used orange markings, will instead become pale blue.
    • By Lineker
      Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport (Mercedes)
       #44 Lewis Hamilton
       #77 Valtteri Bottas

       Red Bull Racing (Renault, TAG-Heuer branded)
       #3 Daniel Ricciardo
       #33 Max Verstappen

       Scuderia Ferrari (Ferrari)
       #5 Sebastian Vettel
       #7 Kimi Räikkönen

       Sahara Force India F1 Team (Mercedes)
       #11 Sergio Pérez
       #31 Esteban Ocon

       Williams Martini Racing (Mercedes)
       #18 Lance Stroll
       #19 Felipe Massa (Rounds 1-10, 12-) /  #40 Paul di Resta (Round 11)

       McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team (Honda)
       #2 Stoffel Vandoorne
       #14 Fernando Alonso (Rounds 1-5, 7-) /  #22 Jenson Button (Round 6)

       Scuderia Toro Rosso (Renault)
       #26 Daniil Kvyat (Rounds 1-14, 17) /  #10 Pierre Gasly (Round 15-16) /  #28 Brendon Hartley (Round 18-20)
       #55 Carlos Sainz Jr. (Round 1-16) /  #39 Brendon Hartley (Round 17) /  #10 Pierre Gasly (Round 18-20)

       Haas F1 Team (Ferrari)
       #8 Romain Grosjean
       #20 Kevin Magnussen

       Renault Sport Formula One Team (Renault)
       #27 Nico Hülkenberg
       #30 Jolyon Palmer (Round 1-16) /  #55 Carlos Sainz Jr. (Round 17-)

       Sauber F1 Team (Ferrari 061 (2016-spec))
       #9 Marcus Ericsson
       #36 Antonio Giovinazzi (Round 1-2) /  #94 Pascal Wehrlein (Round 3-)

      CALENDAR
      27th February-2nd March 2017
      Pre-Season Testing 1 (Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona)
      7th-10th March 2017
       Pre-Season Testing 2 (Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona)
      26th March 2017
       Round 1 - Australian Grand Prix (Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne)
      9th April 2017
       Round 2 - Chinese Grand Prix (Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai)
      16th April 2017
       Round 3 - Bahrain Grand Prix (Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir)
      30th April 2017
       Round 4 - Russian Grand Prix (Sochi Autodrom, Sochi)
      14th May 2017
       Round 5 - Spanish Grand Prix (Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona)
      28th May 2017
       Round 6 - Monaco Grand Prix (Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo)
      11th June 2017
      Round 7 - Canadian Grand Prix (Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal)
      25th June 2017
       Round 8 - Azerbaijan Grand Prix (Baku City Circuit, Baku)
      9th July 2017
       Round 9 - Austrian Grand Prix (Red Bull Ring, Spielberg)
      16th July 2017
       Round 10 - British Grand Prix (Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone)
      30th July 2017
       Round 11 - Hungarian Grand Prix (Hungaroring, Budapest)
      27th August 2017
       Round 12 - Belgian Grand Prix (Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot)
      3rd September 2017
       Round 13 - Italian Grand Prix (Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza)
      17th September 2017
       Round 14 - Malaysian Grand Prix (Sepang International Circuit, Kuala Lumpur)
      1st October 2017
       Round 15 - Singapore Grand Prix (Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore)
      8th October 2017
       Round 16 - Japanese Grand Prix (Suzuka International Race Course, Suzuka)
      22nd October 2017
       Round 17 - United States Grand Prix (Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas)
      29th October 2017
       Round 18 - Mexican Grand Prix (Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, Mexico City)
      12th November 2017
       Round 19 - Brazilian Grand Prix (Autódromo José Carlos Pace, São Paulo)
      26th November 2017
       Round 20 - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi)

      GENERAL CHANGES:
      In September 2016, Liberty Media purchased a minority stake in the sport from CVC Capital Partners ahead of a hoped-for full buyout in time for the 2017 season. As part of the deal, the sport adopted a model similar to that used by the US National Football League and Major League Baseball, with teams entitled to purchase a stake in the sport As a response to widespread changes in the technical regulations expected to increase cornering speeds by up to 40 km/h (24.9 mph), the FIA requested that every circuit on the calendar undergo revisions to update safety features.
      TECHNICAL REGULATION CHANGES:
      The technical regulations governing bodywork design were revised for 2017, with the objective of improving lap times by four to five seconds over the 2016 generation of cars. These changes include: An increase of the width of the front wing to 1,800 mm (70.9 in). Lowering the rear wing by 150 mm (5.9 in) and moving its position back by 200 mm (7.9 in). The leading edge of the barge boards being brought forward to allow teams more freedom in controlling airflow. An increase of the width of the front and rear tyres to allow cars to generate more mechanical grip. The minimum weight of the car including the driver being raised by 20 kg to 722 kg, with teams allowed to use 105 kg of fuel to account for the increase in minimum weight. The token system used to regulate power unit development — where the power unit was divided into individual areas, and each area assigned a points value with development of these areas deducting points from a manufacturer's overall points quota — will be abandoned. Restrictions are to be placed on the dimensions, weight and the materials used to build each individual component of the power unit. Teams are restricted to four power units per season regardless of the number of Grands Prix in the season. Previous seasons had included a provision for a fifth power unit if the number of Grands Prix in a season exceeded 20; from 2017, this provision is to be abandoned. The cost of a power unit supply is reduced by €1 million in 2017 ahead of a further reduction in 2018. Cameras will no longer be permitted to be mounted on stalks, located on the nose of the car.
      SPORTING REGULATION CHANGES:
      Under rules introduced in 2015, grid penalties for exceeding a driver's quota of power unit components carried over from one race to the next if the penalty could not be fully served when issued. When this carry-over system was abandoned, teams could build up a reserve of spare components by introducing several at once while only serving a single grid penalty. From 2017, teams will only be able to use one new component over their quota per race, with any additional components incurring further penalties. This change prevents teams from "stockpiling" spare power unit components. Power unit suppliers will have an "obligation to supply", mandating that they supply power units to any team, should a team end up without an agreement. The rule was introduced following the breakdown in the relationship between Renault and their customer teams Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso at the end of the 2015 season that left both teams in limbo until deals could be arranged. In the event that a race is declared wet and must start behind the safety car, the grid will follow normal starting procedures once conditions are declared satisfactory for racing. Drivers will line up on the grid for a standing start once the safety car pulls into pit lane, although any laps completed behind the safety car will count towards the total race distance.
    • By Jasonmufc
      Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team (Mercedes)
       #44 Lewis Hamilton
       #6 Nico Rosberg

       Scuderia Ferrari (Ferrari)
       #5 Sebastian Vettel
       #7 Kimi Räikkönen
       
       Williams Martini Racing (Mercedes)
       #19 Felipe Massa
       #77 Valtteri Bottas
       
       Red Bull Racing (Renault, TAG-Heuer branded)
       #3 Daniel Ricciardo
       #26 Daniil Kvyat (Round 1-4) /  #33 Max Verstappen (Round 5-21)
       Sahara Force India F1 Team (Mercedes)
       #11 Sergio Pérez
       #27 Nico Hülkenberg
       
       Renault Sport F1 Team (Renault)
       #20 Kevin Magnussen
       #30 Jolyon Palmer
       
       Scuderia Toro Rosso (Ferrari 0594/4, 2015 spec)
       #33 Max Verstappen (Round 1-4) /  #26 Daniil Kvyat (Round 5-21)
       #55 Carlos Sainz, Jr.
       Sauber F1 Team (Ferrari)
       #9 Marcus Ericsson
       #12 Felipe Nasr
       
       McLaren Honda (Honda)
       #14 Fernando Alonso (Round 1, 3-21) /  #47 Stoffel Vandoorne (Round 2)
       #22 Jenson Button
       
       Manor Racing MRT (Mercedes)
       #88 Rio Haryanto (Round 1-12) /   #31 Esteban Ocon (Round 13-)
       #94 Pascal Wehrlein
       Haas F1 Team (Ferrari)
       #8 Romain Grosjean
       #21 Esteban Gutiérrez
      CALENDAR
      22th-25th February 2016
      Pre-Season Testing 1 - (Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona)
      1st-4th March 2016
       Pre-Season Testing 2 - (Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona)
      20th March 2016
       Round 1 - Australian Grand Prix (Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne)
      3rd April 2016
       Round 2 - Bahrain Grand Prix (Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir)
      17th April 2016
       Round 3 - Chinese Grand Prix (Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai)
      1st May 2016
       Round 4 - Russian Grand Prix (Sochi Autodrom, Sochi)
      15th May 2016
       Round 5 - Spanish Grand Prix (Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona)
      29th May 2016
       Round 6 - Monaco Grand Prix (Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo)
      12th June 2016
       Round 7 - Canadian Grand Prix (Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal)
      19th June 2016
       Round 8 - Grand Prix of Europe (Baku City Circuit, Baku, Azerbaijan)
      3rd July 2016
       Round 9 - Austrian Grand Prix (Red Bull Ring, Spielberg)
      10th July 2016
       Round 10 - British Grand Prix (Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone)
      24th July 2016
       Round 11 - Hungarian Grand Prix (Hungaroring, Budapest)
      31th July 2016
       Round 12 - German Grand Prix (Hockenheimring, Hockenheim)
      28th August 2016
       Round 13 - Belgian Grand Prix (Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot)
      4th September 2016
       Round 14 - Italian Grand Prix (Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza)
      18th September 2016
       Round 15 - Singapore Grand Prix (Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore)
      2nd October 2016
       Round 16 - Malaysian Grand Prix (Sepang International Circuit, Kuala Lumpur)
      9th October 2016
       Round 17 - Japanese Grand Prix (Suzuka Circuit, Suzuka)
      23rd October 2016
       Round 18 - United States Grand Prix (Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas)
      30th October 2016
       Round 19 - Mexican Grand Prix (Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, Mexico City)
      13th November 2016
       Round 20 - Brazilian Grand Prix (Autódromo José Carlos Pace, São Paulo)
      27th November 2016
       Round 21 - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - (Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi)

      General changes:
      The FIA and Formula One Management will be granted greater power to change the Sporting and Technical Regulations and to make decisions affecting the governance of the sport. Technical Regulation changes:
      Cars were required to be designed with a separate wastegate for exhaust gases to pass through in a bid to increase the noise of the cars following criticism since the introduction of the 2014 generation of engines. Tyre supplier Pirelli introduced a fifth tyre compound known as "ultrasoft", with the manufacturer stating that they would only be available on street circuits. Pirelli changed their approach to tyre supply in 2016, bringing three dry compounds to races instead of two. The compounds are made public two weeks before each event. Pirelli assigns two "choice" compounds, and a third set (the softest available regardless of Pirelli's selection) are given to teams reaching Q3. Drivers select their remaining ten tyre sets for the event between the three compounds and must use two dry compounds during the race, provided that at least one set is from the Pirelli "choice" selection. The FIA has opted to increase the number of tokens available for power unit development starting in 2016. While the initial plans would have given manufacturers fifteen tokens for the season, the number was raised to thirty-two, the same number as 2014, in order to allow struggling manufacturers such as Renault and Honda to improve their development. This decision also allows further development on parts that were initially planned to be closed off, including the upper and lower crankcase, valve drive, crankshaft, air-valve system and ancillaries drive. Sporting Regulation changes:
      Starting in 2016, the number of pre-season tests were reduced from three to two. The FIA formally increased the maximum events allowed in a season from 20 to 21 to accommodate the calendar's approval. The stewards are given greater powers in enforcing track limits, with drivers required to stay between the white lines marking the edges of the circuit, except in cases of driver error. The change was introduced after an investigation by Pirelli into Sebastian Vettel's high-speed blow-out at the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix that concluded that Vettel's off-track excursions had been a significant factor in the incident. The FIA is also exploring a number of solutions to discourage drivers from abusing track limits and aid in their policing, including GPS tracking, the reprofiling of kerbs, the installation of pressure-sensitive sensors and the use of high-speed cameras. Any driver who causes the start of the race to be aborted will be required to start the race from pit lane at the restart. The procedure for issuing gearbox penalties will be amended so that penalties are applied in the order that they are awarded, bringing the system in line with the wider grid penalty system. The Virtual Safety Car system is to be used in practice sessions as well to avoid the unnecessary use of red flags and session stoppages. The drag reduction system, which is deactivated when under Virtual Safety Car periods and full-course yellow flags, is to be available as soon as a Virtual Safety Car period has ended; drivers previously had to wait two laps before the system was reactivated. The qualifying process was heavily revised two weeks before the season began. The three-period format first introduced in 2006 was retained, but with a progressive "knock-out" style of elimination. Despite widespread criticism of the format at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, and a vote from the teams to revert to the pre-2016 format, the FIA's F1 Commission chose to maintain the system ahead of a full review later in the season. The stewards' powers to monitor pit-to-car communications were broadened for the 2016 season, with race control able to monitor the radio feeds for each driver in real time and consult with engineering advisors to further monitor the content in a bid to crack down on driver coaching and the use of coded messages. The process new drivers go through in order to qualify for a superlicence will be changed, with additional restrictions put in place as part of the wider FIA Global Pathway. The changes were introduced following controversy surrounding Max Verstappen qualifying for a superlicence at the age of 16 after a single season competing in European Formula 3.
    • By Lineker
      Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team (Mercedes)
       #44 Lewis Hamilton
       #6 Nico Rosberg
       
       Infiniti Red Bull Racing (Renault)
       #3 Daniel Ricciardo
       #26 Daniil Kvyat
       
       Williams Martini Racing (Mercedes)
       #19 Felipe Massa
       #77 Valtteri Bottas
       
       Scuderia Ferrari (Ferrari)
       #5 Sebastian Vettel
       #7 Kimi Räikkönen
       
       McLaren Honda (Honda)
       #20 Kevin Magnussen (Round 1) / #14 Fernando Alonso (Rounds 2-19)
       #22 Jenson Button
       
       Sahara Force India F1 Team (Mercedes)
       #11 Sergio Pérez
       #27 Nico Hülkenberg
       
       Scuderia Toro Rosso (Renault)
       #33 Max Verstappen
       #55 Carlos Sainz, Jr.
       
       Lotus F1 Team (Mercedes)
       #8 Romain Grosjean
       #13 Pastor Maldonado
       
       Manor Marussia F1 Team (Ferrari 059/3 (2014-spec))
       #28 Will Stevens
       #98 Roberto Merhi (Rounds 1-12, 15, 19) /  #53 Alexander Rossi (Rounds 13-14, 16-18)
         Sauber F1 Team (Ferrari)
       #9 Marcus Ericsson
       #12 Felipe Nasr
       
      CALENDAR

      15th March 2015
       Round 1 - Australian Grand Prix (Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne)
       
      29th March 2015
       Round 2 - Malaysian Grand Prix (Sepang International Circuit, Kuala Lumpur)
       
      12th April 2015
       Round 3 - Chinese Grand Prix (Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai)
       
      19th April 2015
       Round 4 - Bahrain Grand Prix (Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir)
       
      10th May 2015
       Round 5 - Spanish Grand Prix (Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona)
       
      24th May 2015
       Round 6 - Monaco Grand Prix (Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo)
       
      7th June 2015
       Round 7 - Canadian Grand Prix (Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal)
       
      21st June 2015
       Round 8 - Austrian Grand Prix (Red Bull Ring, Spielberg)
       
      5th July 2015
       Round 9 - British Grand Prix (Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone)
       
      26th July 2015
       Round 10 - Hungarian Grand Prix (Hungaroring, Budapest)
       
      23rd August 2015
       Round 11 - Belgian Grand Prix (Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot)
       
      6th September 2015
       Round 12 - Italian Grand Prix (Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza)
       
      20th September 2015
       Round 13 - Singapore Grand Prix (Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore)
       
      27th September 2015
       Round 14 - Japanese Grand Prix (Suzuka Circuit, Suzuka)
       
      11th October 2015
       Round 15 - Russian Grand Prix (Sochi Autodrom, Sochi)
       
      25th October 2015
       Round 16 - United States Grand Prix (Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas)
       
      1st November 2015
       Round 17 - Mexican Grand Prix (Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, Mexico City)
       
      15th November 2015
       Round 18 - Brazilian Grand Prix (Autódromo José Carlos Pace, São Paulo)
       
      29th November 2015
       Round 19 - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - (Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi)
       
      REGULATION CHANGES - TECHNICAL
      The number of power units that a driver may use in a season will be reduced from five in 2014 to four in 2015. The rules regarding engine development that were introduced in 2014 will change, with the manufacturers allowed to perform half the development permitted in 2014; the development will be halved again in 2016. Following the backlash over "ugly" nose designs in 2014, the FIA moved to amend the rules surrounding nose designs for the 2015 season. Noses will now be lower than in 2014, retaining a minimum cross section, but they must taper to a point at a fixed linear rate, effectively outlawing the dramatic finger shapes seen in 2014 in favour of a more gradual shape. Furthermore, the design of the nose must be symmetrical and consistent with the centreline of the car, thereby banning the more exotic designs, such as the "twin-tusk" approach used by Lotus on the E22 chassis. The minimum weight of the cars at all times during an event was increased to 702 kilograms (1,548 lb). The ban on Front-and-Rear Interconnected suspension systems (FRIC) implemented in the middle of the 2014 season was formalised, with the regulations stating that the front and rear suspension must be designed in such a way that any change in performance must be a direct result of a change in load applied solely to them. The anti-intrusion panels on both sides of the survival cell have been extended upwards to the rim of the cockpit and alongside the driver's head. Following the financial struggles faced by Marussia and Caterham in 2014, the FIA approved the use of 2014-specification chassis in 2015 provided that teams showed cause and received an individual dispensation to compete with their old chassis. However a request by Manor F1 to use their 2014 car was later rejected by the other teams. Subsequent regulation changes allowed the team to use the 2014 model of Ferrari power units in their 2015 chassis instead of the 2015 specification power units used by Ferrari and other customer teams. REGULATION CHANGES - SPORTING
      The replacement of a complete power unit will no longer result in a penalty. Instead, penalties will be applied cumulatively for individual components of the power unit. If such a grid place penalty is imposed and the driver's grid position is such that the full penalty cannot be applied, then the remainder of the penalty will no longer be carried over to the next race, but will instead be applied in the form of a time penalty during the race corresponding to the number of grid spaces remaining in the penalty. In addition to the existing five-second penalty that may be served during a driver's scheduled pit stop, a new ten-second penalty that will have to be served in the same manner, will be introduced. If a car is deemed to have been released from its pit stop in an unsafe manner, the driver will receive a ten second stop-and-go penalty. Further penalties will be applied if the stewards believe that the driver is aware of this and attempts to drive the car regardless. The qualifying procedure has been further clarified to cater to different sizes of starting grids: if twenty-four cars are entered for the race, seven will be eliminated after the each of the first two qualifying segments; if twenty-two are entered, six will be eliminated after each qualifying segment and so on if fewer cars are eligible. The partial ban on pit-to-car communication introduced at the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix will be extended to include a blanket ban on sharing technical data between team and driver, such as specific fuel consumption settings. Double points will no longer be awarded at the final event of the championship. In light of a regulation introduced in 2014 dictating that a race can not run for more than four hours and following recommendations from the report into Jules Bianchi's accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, the start times of five Grands Prix have been brought forward by one hour, so that races do not start with less than four hours until dusk. Thus, the Australian, Malaysia, Chinese, Japanese and Russian Grands Prix will start an hour earlier than in 2014. In the aftermath of Bianchi's accident, a new procedure called virtual safety car (VSC) will be introduced, obliging drivers to reduce their speed to match the one indicated on their displays on their steering wheels. The procedure may be initiated when double waved yellow flags are needed on any section of a circuit where competitors and officials may be in danger, but the circumstances are not as such to warrant deployment of the actual safety car. The safety car procedure was amended. Once the last lapped car has passed the leader, the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap. This is a change of the previous practice which required the unlapped cars to have caught up with the back of the pack before the safety car could return to the pits. If a race is suspended, the cars will no longer line up on the grid but will slowly proceed to the pit lane instead. Pit exit will be closed and the first car to arrive in the pit lane will proceed to the exit with the other lining up behind the first one. If any team personnel or team equipment remain on the grid after the fifteen-second signal has been shown before the start of the formation lap, the driver of the car concerned must start the race from the pit lane. If the driver concerned fails to obey this, they will receive a ten second stop-and-go penalty. Drivers are no longer permitted to change the design of their helmet in-season.
    • By Lineker
      Infiniti Red Bull Racing (Renault)
      #1 Sebastian Vettel
      #3 Daniel Ricciardo


      Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team (Mercedes)
      #44 Lewis Hamilton
      #6 Nico Rosberg


      Scuderia Ferrari (Ferrari)
      #14 Fernando Alonson
      #7 Kimi Räikkönen


      Lotus F1 Team (Renault)
      #8 Romain Grosjean
      #13 Pastor Maldonado


      McLaren Mercedes (Mercedes)
      #22 Jenson Button
      #20 Kevin Magnussen


      Sahara Force India F1 Team (Mercedes)
      #27 Nico Hülkenberg
      #11 Sergio Pérez


      Sauber F1 Team (Ferrari)
      #99 Adrian Sutil
      #21 Esteban Gutiérrez


      Scuderia Toro Rosso (Renault)
      #25 Jean-Éric Vergne
      #26 Daniil Kvyat


      Williams F1 Team (Mercedes)
      #19 Felipe Massa
      #77 Valtteri Bottas


      Marussia F1 Team (Ferrari)
      #17 Jules Bianchi (Round 1-15)
      #4 Max Chilton (Round 1-16)


      Caterham F1 Team (Renault)
      #9 Marcus Ericsson (Round 1-16) / #46 Will Stevens (Round 19)
      #10 Kamui Kobayashi (Round 1-11, 13-16, 19) / #45 André Lotterer (Round 12)
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