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Alonso, Raikkonen and Vettel close to grid penalties

Alonso, Raikkonen, Vettel on penalty bubble

Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel are among the drivers likely to face a grid penalty for using a sixth power unit element.

All three World Champions have now reached five power unit elements, and in Alonso’s case in four of the six categories – and in fact all six drivers who use Ferrari engines are now close to getting penalties.

In Monza Daniil Kyvat became the first driver to land a penalty for using a sixth example of one of the six elements, in his case an ICE, or V6. The Russian will now face a five-place penalty as soon as he uses a sixth example of any other element, and will get 10 places if uses a seventh ICE.

“The rules are as they are but surely at some stage we have to take some penalties, which penalties those will be is not entirely clear yet,” said Vettel. “We’re waiting for some parts, we’re hoping that we get as far as we can, but it’s inevitable to go for an extra engine on my side – which is already ten positions after qualifying.

“Potentially there is more waiting for us – which is only a consequence of the poor season we had, first half of the season, in terms of reliability. But that’s something we knew back then. Now we have to figure out what is the smartest plan, let’s say, and the smartest track to come up with a penalty.”

Brazil, given the ease of overtaking at Turn One and the prospects of a wet race, is regarded as the best place to take a penalty – if any of the drivers currently on the bubble can wait that long.

Here’s the full list of those who have reached five, listed in number order:

(ICE=Internal Combustion Engine, TC=Turbo, MGU-K/H=Motor Generator Unit Kinetic/Heat, CE=Control Electronics)

Sebastian Vettel: ICE, TC, MGU-H

Fernando Alonso: ICE, TC, CE, MGU-H

Kimi Raikkonen: ICE, MGU-H, CE

Romain Grosjean: TC

Pastor Maldonado: ICE, TC, MGU-K, MGU-H

Adrian Sutil: ICE, TC, MGU-K, MGU-H, CE

Esteban Gutierrez: TC, MGU-K, MGU-H, CE

Jean-Eric Vergne: MGU-K

Daniil Kvyat: ICE (6), MGU-K, MGU-H (5)

Jules Bianchi: ICE, TC, MGU-H, CE

Max Chilton: ICE, TC, MGU-K, MGU-H

Kamui Kobayashi: MGU-K

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Sebastian Vettel: “I think there have always been rumours…”

Sebastian Vettel has again downplayed the ongoing rumours about a potential future at Ferrari.

Vettel’s name has long been linked with Maranello, even more so since it became clear that Fernando Alonso is considering his options for 2015.

“I think there have always been rumours over the last couple of years, especially around this time of the season,” said Vettel. “I think probably more for Jenson; he already has 17 team mates for next year. I have been one of them, a couple of weeks ago, maybe next week I will be again. It’s not really in my head. At Singapore we made some progress and I hope that we can carry that momentum into this race, and that’s really where the focus lies.”

Meanwhile Vettel said that his season has started to look up since things began to fall into place for him.

I think it’s all the small bits coming together. Obviously we hardly ran the first half of the season, we had lots of issues in winter to overcome and then a lot of issues on my side in the first half – which is never great to get the right feeling and get things lined up the way things should be lined up.

“I think now we had a little bit more consistent weekends, a bit more time to look at all the stuff and I think it’s coming our way – but there’s still huge potential which I feel we are getting closer but there’s a lot of work ahead of us to make sure we extract it in the next couple of races as well.”

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Caterham denies rumours of legal action

Caterham has issued a statement denying rumours suggesting that legal proceedings against the team could prevent it from racing in Japan this weekend.

The team said tonight: “There have been unfounded and unsubstantiated rumours concerning actions against 1MRT, the entrant and owner of CaterhamF1.

An action was threatened yesterday against a supplier company to 1MRT. This company is not owned by 1MRT and it has no influence over the entry of CaterhamF1 or the entrant.

“Also contrary to uncontrolled rumours, all operations are currently in place at Leafield and the race team is doing its preparation in Japan.

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Birthday boy Verstappen given Suzuka FP1 outing

Toro Rosso has confirmed that Max Verstappen will replace Jean-Eric Vergne in FP1 at Suzuka as he continues his preparations for 2015.

The Dutchman, who only turns 17 tomorrow, has been granted a superlicence that allows him to run in FP1 sessions.

“It is good preparation for next year, even if it’s not something I could have imagined a few months ago,” said Verstappen. “To already be participating in a practice session is of course a dream come true. I have actually been to Suzuka before, to take part in a go‑kart race on the track that is located next to the main circuit’s back straight. My dad has raced at Suzuka many times and he told me it’s not an easy track to start on.

“For me it will be a very valuable experience, spending some time in the car and also getting used to working with everyone in the team, to prepare myself for next year. I am not going there to break any records, I just want to gain experience. I have spent one day driving this track on the simulator, which helps a bit, but it’s no substitute for driving it for real. My first impression is that it’s not an easy track and for example it looks hard to get the combination right in the first Esses. I have one and a half hours to drive there and I’m looking forward to doing a good job, for myself and for the team.”

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‘Contamination’ caused retirement for Rosberg in Singapore

Mercedes says that a foreign substance in Nico Rosberg’s steering column led to the problem that forced him to retire from the Singapore GP.

The team said via its Twitter feed: “Forensic analysis has revealed that the steering column electronic circuits were contaminated with a foreign substance.

“The contamination was not visible and did not manifest itself until Sunday as Nico went to the grid.

“The result was an intermittent short circuit in the electronic circuits meaning Nico could not command clutch or engine settings.

“Fresh parts will be used at the forthcoming races. Our hard work on reliability processes will continue at the same intensive level.”

Later Mercedes added: “To clarify, the contaminant was a substance used in normal pre-event servicing of the component,” in effect confirming that an employee had simply screwed up somewhere along the line…

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Caterham boss rallies team for 2015 push

Caterham has played down suggestions that the team has reached a crisis point amid reports of a meeting between staff members and team principal Manfredi Ravetto today.

A source close to the team told this writer: “The meeting was called by Manfredi yesterday morning for lunchtime today to tell the company what was happening. He gave the same speech to the race team last weekend, essentially that at the end of June the investors had bought a runaway, driverless train with all employees aboard.

It’s now the end of September and the train has a driver on board who has control, but efforts to stabilise it are being threatened by ‘surprises.’ Everybody knows the picture is not pretty, and nothing has been hidden.

They were also told that work on the 2015 car continues with a further wind tunnel session at Toyota starting Monday and we will be on the grid in Melbourne in 2015 if we all pull together. He also confirmed that the wages had been paid today, three days early.”

The ‘surprises’ referred to are believed to include unpaid bills left behind by the previous owners, and which are only now coming to light.

Meanwhile yesterday the team sent its demo car to an event in Jerusalem.

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Has Ferrari targeted Hamilton as Alonso’s replacement?

Rumours continue to circulate regarding Fernando Alonso’s future plans, and the consensus is that in the next few days we will learn a bit more about how the 2015 entry list will look.

Alonso has been linked with McLaren and Honda for months, and his name has obvious appeal to the Japanese manufacturer, which sells a lot of motorbikes in Spain.

It’s absolutely imperative that McLaren has a star on board, and with due respect to Jenson Button, the paddock acknowledges that Honda is working from a very short list, headed by Fernando, Lewis Hamilton, and Sebastian Vettel.

Of course the big questions over the weeks have been a) who might be able to make themselves available to join McLaren for 2015, and b) who has faith in the potential of Honda to be competitive from the off. One thing that is not in doubt is the funding available to pay for a big name, which would certainly cushion the blow should Honda not quite be on the pace immediately.

If Alonso is indeed on his way to McLaren, then obviously Ferrari needs to find a superstar with which to replace him – and for the past couple of years Sebastian Vettel has been the name in the frame as the next Ferrari signing.

However a source close to the Italian team tells me that none other than Lewis Hamilton now figures high on Maranello’s wish list, and indeed the Briton might be more easily able to walk away from Mercedes in 2015 than some might believe. He’s certainly less tied down than Vettel.

Of course for Lewis the issue is complicated by the ongoing title battle, but Ferrari would have obvious appeal to Hamilton, perhaps moreso if he secures his second title with Mercedes and can perhaps lose a year or two being a key part of a Maranello revival, thus following in the footsteps of Niki Lauda and Michael Schumacher.

Those who think the idea unlikely should remember that exactly two years ago this week the world didn’t believe that Lewis would quit McLaren for Mercedes…

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