Latest F1 news in brief - Saturday UPDATE Updates shown in red below.
Engine makers not backing Ecclestone's 2013 opposition
- Red Bull 'still way ahead' - Haug
- Brawn leaves board but remains team boss
- Pirelli's tire wear defense 'a bluff' - Panis
- Vettel's pace mystifies even Horner New
- Alonso not happy with gap to Vettel New
- Schumacher not happy with Mercedes pace New
- KERS problem slowed Heidfeld New
Engine makers not backing Ecclestone's 2013 opposition
(GMM) At least two of the four engine manufacturers in formula one are not backing Bernie Ecclestone's push to repeal the new rules for 2013.
The FIA has announced a more environmentally-friendly four-cylinder turbo formula, but F1 chief executive Ecclestone has said he is worried about his sport losing the roar of the current normally-aspired V8s.
"Renault supports the new engine rules because technically it is relevant to our road cars," Renault's F1 engine chief Rob White told Auto Motor und Sport.
He said the rules could also entice other manufacturers to enter or return to F1.
Mercedes' Norbert Haug added: "For us, there is no turning back. The development of the four-cylinder engine has already begun.
"To go back now would mean a huge waste of money," he said.
The German media report said Ecclestone's recent stance against the FIA and its president Jean Todt is actually about the 100-year commercial lease agreement between the two sides.
Even though the agreement has been in action for a decade, it has never actually been finally signed off, and the Todt-led FIA is said to be negotiating for better terms with Ecclestone/CVC in a couple of crucial areas.
"There are still some issues that need to be clarified," confirmed Todt. "The agreement is very complex and relates to 100 years, which is so long that none of us will see its end."
Red Bull 'still way ahead' - Haug
(GMM) Red Bull is keeping cards up its sleeve ahead of the crucial qualifying session in Melbourne.
That is the view of Mercedes' Norbert Haug, who warned that the practice timesheets so far should be read with caution.
"If Sebastian Vettel wanted, he could be a second faster," the German is quoted by O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, before Vettel upped his pace to be a second quicker than the nearest non-Red Bull in Saturday practice, Lewis Hamilton.
"So, no matter how much progress we have made, Red Bull is still way ahead," added Haug.
Michael Schumacher agrees: "I'm sure they have not showed their full potential."
McLaren's Jenson Button was quickest late on Friday but he is also wary of Red Bull.
"I know they weren't using their (adjustable) rear wing when they set their quick laps, so they have another five or six tenths available to them," he said.
Fernando Alonso, however, said before travelling to Australia that he thought McLaren would be in the running this weekend.
"There were those who said Ferrari and Red Bull are ahead of everyone, so whoever is surprised now about McLaren is their problem, not ours," he is quoted by the Spanish newspaper Sport.
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh told the BBC on Saturday: "I don't think we have seen the best from Red Bull but I hope we will be giving them a hard time."
Brawn leaves board but remains team boss
(GMM) Ross Brawn has left the executive board of the Mercedes GP team, according to a report in the Cologne newspaper Express.
Brawn and his partners including Nick Fry have now sold 100 per cent of the Brackley based team to Daimler and Abu Dhabi shareholder Aabar.
The next step, according to Express, is team boss and Briton Brawn's resignation from the executive committee, with the tabloid surmising: "The parting (of Brawn) moves closer".
Brawn, however, insists the move just makes it "Easier for me regarding what my role will be in the coming years".
He insisted his board resignation is his own decision.
Mercedes' motor sport boss Norbert Haug commented: "Ross remains the team chief and can now concentrate completely on this role."
And Brawn insisted he is not yet thinking about retirement.
"So long as a physically can, I will continue," he said. "However this will be my last team in formula one."
Pirelli's tire wear defense 'a bluff' - Panis
(GMM) Olivier Panis has revealed he does not believe Pirelli when F1's new supplier said it designed its 2011 tires to wear so rapidly.
"Pirelli is a good manufacturer but they're new to formula one and it's normal that it takes them some time to adapt," Panis, a veteran of more than 150 grands prix who retired in 2004, told Le Monde.
The Frenchman suggested the Italian marque is not being completely honest when it says the teams and Bernie Ecclestone specifically requested the behavior of the 2011 tires to enhance the spectacle.
"Their communication is a 'bluff', but in the end all the drivers will leave the grid with the same tires," said Panis. "And if it helps the show, I think it is good."
After the practice action in Melbourne ahead of qualifying, drivers said the Pirellis were behaving much better than at recent Spanish tests.
"I was surprised that the grip was much better than we expected," said world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Rubens Barrichello told Brazil's Globo: "The degradation is not so bad, but I think this track is much easier on the tires than Barcelona.
"They will be better, but still I think it will be a three-stop race," he added.
Meanwhile, Pirelli had to replace 20 tires that had cracked in low temperatures during transit to Australia.
"It is a purely aesthetic issue that has no bearing on performance or integrity," read a statement.
Vettel's pace mystifies even Horner
Christian Horner say he doesn't understand why Mark Webber was so far behind Sebastian Vettel during qualifying.
While Vettel claimed pole position in Melbourne with a 1:23.529, Webber could only manage third place, 0.866s behind his World Champion team-mate.
Already the Aussie has stated that he's a "little bit mystified by the gap to Seb" and he's not the only one.
"It was a great performance by Seb and a great start to the season, but it's difficult to understand where the time between the two of them is, particularly in the last sector," Red Bull's team boss told the BBC.
"There is nothing obvious, particularly in the last sector there has been a difference between of them so we need to have a look at the data to see why."
Horner, though, does admit that part of the reason was Vettel's own ability.
"It was phenomenal couple of laps that Sebastian has produced there," he said.
"I think we are in good shape. Great to start the new season from pole."
Alonso not happy with gap to Vettel
Fernando Alonso says he's okay with his P5 in qualifying, however, he's not okay with the 1.44s gap to Sebastian Vettel.
Despite many predicting that Ferrari would be at the front in Australia, the Scuderia struggled in Saturday's qualifying.
Alonso could only manage fifth place while his team-mate Felipe Massa fared even worse, qualifying down in eighth place.
"We were not super-competitive today (compared to) practice," Alonso conceded.
"We knew if we took a big risk we may be fourth, if we are safe, we go fifth or sixth, so no need to take risks in the first qualifying of the season."
The Spaniard, though, insists he's "happy" with his grid slot, although the massive 1.44s gap to pole-sitter Vettel is a worry for the Italian marque.
"Position we are happy, distance from pole we are not happy, so we need to look at that overnight. Overall grip was where we lacked.
"We were not so bad yesterday, so we missed something today. I suspect this was not normal pace from us and we will get better and better tomorrow."
Schumacher not happy with Mercedes pace
Michael Schumacher was left downcast after enduring a difficult qualifying session on Saturday, with the German set to start tomorrow’s race in 11th place after missing out on Q3. Mercedes GP began to show glimpses of strong pace during the latter stages of winter testing, but failed to put together a strong result today.
"Clearly that was not an ideal start to the season, and I cannot deny that I am disappointed," Schumacher commented after his Q2 elimination. "It's not about that KERS only worked intermittently or that I could probably have made it to Q3, but it is because our performance did not turn out as we expected.
"From our testing experience, we were around the pace of Ferrari, however this did not translate today. We faced more problems here than at the test with several issues throughout the whole weekend. We now have to look deeply into it to understand why it turned out to be like this, because for the moment we are not where we wanted to be."
KERS problem slowed Heidfeld
Nick Heidfeld has revealed that a KERS issue slowed him in Australian Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday. The German, replacement for Robert Kubica at Renault, therefore was carrying an added weight which would upset the car’s balance.
“I’m disappointed to be starting the season from so far back,” he said after being eliminated in Q1.
“It wasn’t an easy session and I had a problem with the KERS, which meant I had to change some settings, and that cost me one of my timed laps. Then, there was so much traffic and I tried to find some free space, but it didn’t work out for me.
“It’s bad luck, but I must try and put that behind me now. As we have seen with Vitaly (Petrov), the car seems to have good pace and the race is wide open, so hopefully I can move forward and fight for points.”