Latest F1 news in brief - Thursday UPDATE Updates shown in Red below.
F1 teams warned before Shanghai race
|Mario Andretti agrees with AR1.com and Bernie Ecclestone that the sound of the cars is very important|
- Chinese official calls Vettel 'Fernando Alonso'
- Red Bull step 'significant' for Shanghai - Marko
- Kovalainen not looking for Team Lotus switch
- Andretti opposes 2013 rules, Todt visits Ferrari
- Di Resta gets initial practice for first time in 2011
- McLaren lineup good for 'five more years' - Whitmarsh
- Happy Buemi pushes to keep Toro Rosso seat
- Stuck tells Mercedes to design 'new chassis'
- F1 should 'applaud' Pirelli 'risk' for 'show' - de la Rosa
- 'Bullets' the buzzword in Shanghai New
- Red Bull still not sure on KERS for Shanghai - Vettel New
- Mercedes 'my dream car' in F1 - Rosberg New
- Virgin might not qualify in China - Glock New
- Webber snarls in China amid Vettel dominance New
F1 teams warned before Shanghai race
(GMM) F1's travelling circus has been given a couple of informal warnings from Chinese authorities upon arriving in Shanghai for the grand prix.
According to travelling media correspondents, the warnings were triggered by Japan's worsening nuclear crisis in Fukushima, but also the risk of drivers unintentionally ingesting the illegal steroid clenbuterol.
It is believed the chemical, used in some Chinese farms to speed up and increase muscle mass in animals, can also cause sickness.
Drivers have therefore been urged to use caution when consuming things like meat, eggs and milk.
As for the risk of radiation from the Japanese nuclear crisis, while radiation has not been detected in Shanghai, it is evident in some other parts of China.
Therefore, teams are likely to consume large quantities of their own food and bottled water this weekend.
Chinese official calls Vettel 'Fernando Alonso'
(GMM) It was an amusing case of mistaken identity for world champion and 2011 series leader Sebastian Vettel.
As flight MH388 touched down in Shanghai from Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, a plethora of F1 faces waited for officials to welcome them to China.
One customs official spotted blonde-haired German Vettel and, according to Bild newspaper, exclaimed: "Fernando! Fernando Alonso!"
His Red Bull teammate Mark Webber, waiting in line behind Vettel, told the 23-year-old: "Go on Fernando, it's your turn."
Vettel can achieve a rare hat-trick of F1 wins this Sunday, and - dating back to late 2010 - victory in China would make him a five-time consecutive race winner.
"I am not counting," he insisted. "I take it as it comes. But, clearly, to defend my title I have to win as much as I can. That's the goal, and the sooner the better."
Red Bull step 'significant' for Shanghai - Marko
(GMM) Red Bull's currently-dominant 2011 package features a "significant improvement" for the Shanghai weekend.
Team consultant Helmut Marko revealed the news amid reports the cars fielded by closest rivals McLaren and Ferrari have also been updated for China.
"Yes, we are currently ahead of the others, but they are moving quickly and things could be different very soon. That's what we have to avoid," the Austrian is quoted by AS newspaper.
"We will introduce a significant improvement in China. I cannot say what it is, but it is necessary because standing still in F1 is tantamount to stepping backwards," added Marko.
Regularly accused of favoring back-to-back pole and race winner Sebastian Vettel, Marko also insisted that Mark Webber is being given identical chances to drive to the top at the wheel of the sister RB7 car.
"Last year it was Vettel struggling in the first two races, as fortune can be cruel," he said. "I would say that Sebastian's misfortune at the beginning of 2010 was worse than it has been for Mark this season."
Renault driver and Sepang podium-getter Nick Heidfeld said he thinks Vettel, 23, is in better form than ever.
"I don't know if he sees it that way, perhaps for him it's the same as always," the German veteran told sport1.de.
"But viewed from the outside you can say he is a bit more relaxed and is a bit more experienced. So far he has done a flawless season," added Heidfeld.
Kovalainen not looking for Team Lotus switch
(GMM) Heikki Kovalainen is sure Team Lotus has put his formula one career back on track.
After a disappointing two-year spell with McLaren, the Finn switched to the start-up team last season where alongside Jarno Trulli they want Lotus to step into the midfield in 2011.
"I feel that my career is back on the rise," Kovalainen told Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat. "I've consolidated my position after what happened at McLaren and my feeling is very positive."
The 29-year-old also sounded happy about staying with Team Lotus in the future.
"I have not looked anywhere else, I like it with this team," said Kovalainen. "I'm not thinking about anything else, even in a not-serious way.
"We are right on track with what we have had to do and where we are going, so why would I have to go somewhere else," he added.
Kovalainen admitted that he would "of course" have to think about his commitment should Red Bull or Ferrari come knocking.
"But the truth is that I am quite happy, it really was not a bad idea to come to this team," he said.
Turun Sanomat said the T128 car will have a new diffuser and exhaust for May's Spanish grand prix, delivering up to 8 tenths per lap.
Andretti opposes 2013 rules, Todt visits Ferrari
(GMM) 1978 world champion Mario Andretti has joined the calls for formula one to reconsider its engine plans for 2013.
Mercedes' Ross Brawn and Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn admitted last week that a "debate" is raging behind the scenes about whether the sport should as scheduled drop its current 2.4 liter V8 engine regulations after next year.
"I agree with Bernie Ecclestone (in) not liking the proposed 4-cylinder turbo engine formula for 2013," Andretti wrote on Twitter. "Booring!!"
It is believed Ferrari is also opposed to the 2013 rules, which have been championed by the famous Italian team's former boss Jean Todt, who is now FIA president.
Curiously, Ferrari revealed that Frenchman Todt visited the team's Maranello headquarters on Wednesday, meeting with president Luca di Montezemolo.
Di Resta gets initial practice for first time in 2011
(GMM) It is Adrian Sutil's turn on Friday to sit out the initial practice session.
In both Australia and Malaysia last weekend, it was the German's rookie teammate Paul di Resta who gave up his cockpit to Force India reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg.
Di Resta said he is confident the extra track time will be useful this weekend in China.
"Hopefully I can work away and get up to speed a bit quicker," he is quoted by breakingnews.ie.
"That's the bit I've not had this year. I've gone from FP2 into FP3 with the car I'm going to qualify with. That's meant I've gone in with something unknown and been changed, and it's not necessarily worked," added di Resta.
However, di Resta outqualified the more experienced Sutil at both Melbourne and Sepang.
McLaren lineup good for 'five more years' - Whitmarsh
(GMM) Martin Whitmarsh thinks McLaren's current driver lineup could be in place for another five years.
2011 is former world champions Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton's second season together at the British team, but Hamilton in particular has been linked with a move to Red Bull.
"We have had some long driver relationships but I hope this one goes on for many more years," said team boss Whitmarsh, referring to Button, 31, and 26-year-old Hamilton.
"Jenson's got inner peace, he enjoys F1, has a passion for it and for as long as he is competitive he will want to continue. There's no reason from a physiological point of view he can't be around at McLaren for another five years at least," he said.
Whitmarsh said the pair is fiercely competitive but also friendly.
"Jenson's got another five years in him if he wants it. Lewis has got another ten years in F1," he insisted.
Happy Buemi pushes to keep Toro Rosso seat
(GMM) Sebastien Buemi thinks he is ahead of the game as he fights for his seat at Toro Rosso.
Team owner Red Bull's driver manager Helmut Marko repeatedly made the same warning before team principal Franz Tost recently said Daniel Ricciardo will make his debut this year if Buemi or his teammate Jaime Alguersuari fail to impress.
"The most important thing is to beat my teammate," Swiss Buemi wrote in his regular column for Le Matin newspaper.
The 22-year-old outqualified Spaniard Alguersuari in Melbourne.
"At Sepang I qualified ahead of Jaime and I finished the race ahead of him. So that's not bad," he insisted.
He was however critical of the stewards' decision to impose a ten-second stop-go penalty during the Malaysian grand prix.
"Yes, I drove too fast in the pits because of a problem with the limiter," he admitted, "but the officials were very severe -- it's been years since we've seen 10-seconds penalties.
"Without that, I think I could have scored one or two points. Hopefully I'll get them on Sunday," added Buemi.
Stuck tells Mercedes to design 'new chassis'
(GMM) Hans-Joachim Stuck doubts Mercedes can turn its 2011 car into a winner.
"Maybe we need to rethink the concept of the car," team boss Ross Brawn, referring to the W02 that was off the pace in Melbourne and Malaysia, is quoted by TZ newspaper.
The Briton, however, admitted the limitations of such an approach.
"We need to consider how we can engage in the battle for the lead," said Brawn. "But there is a limit; the monocoque, for example, is a basic thing that is already set."
Stuck, a German commentator and former F1 driver, thinks simply changing direction with the development of the W02 would not work for Mercedes.
"I doubt they can solve the problems with the current car," he said. "They took a risk with - by far - the car with the shortest wheelbase. This seems to maybe have not been the best idea," he said.
"It could well be that their season can only be saved with a new concept -- that is, a new chassis," added Stuck.
Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg has denied ridiculing the W02, with Cologne tabloid Express claiming he said: "It was planned that we start the (test) season with a cucumber, but not that we end up with a cucumber."
F1 should 'applaud' Pirelli 'risk' for 'show' - de la Rosa
(GMM) Pedro de la Rosa believes Pirelli should be "applauded" for spicing up F1's spectacle with its tires for 2011.
The sport's new official supplier has been criticized following the opening two races of the season, for the high degradation of its tires which cause drivers to serve multiple pitstops whilst dealing with flying rubber 'marbles'.
But McLaren reserve driver de la Rosa, who was Pirelli's main tire development tester, told EFE news agency: "You have to applaud the risk Pirelli has taken with the high degradation, which is good for the show."
Fernando Alonso, however, has become the latest F1 driver to complain about rubber marbles that not only flick up into their cockpits but lie on the racing line and cause them to slide.
It is believed Vitaly Petrov's scary airborne moment in Malaysia last Sunday was caused by the Renault driver sliding on the marbles.
"Sepang is a big circuit with great escape areas but it's a worry for narrow tracks like Monaco, Montreal and Singapore," Alonso is quoted by La Stampa newspaper.
Pirelli, however, played down the potential danger to spectators, an official insisting that "Even on city tracks the marbles do not fly as far as to the spectators".
But the tire supplier reportedly vowed to "Listen to all the comments from the teams".
'Bullets' the buzzword in Shanghai
(GMM) F1 drivers on Thursday were baffled when faced with the latest rumor from the Shanghai press room.
A correspondent for the respected Corriere dello Sport informed the assembled drivers in China that they may soon be able to choose from any of Pirelli's four compounds rather than just two per grand prix event.
"It's the first time I heard of this," admitted world champion Sebastian Vettel.
"We're all hearing about this for the first time, right now," added Michael Schumacher.
Closer to reality, Pirelli moved to play down fears about "rubber bullets" falling off the degrading tires and either onto the racing line or into competitors faces.
"I think it's normal," Lewis Hamilton said, defusing the issue. "I don't see any danger whatsoever."
Added Vettel: "There's nothing we have to fear."
But others did not dismiss the topic to easily, with Felipe Massa admitting the marbles can "end your race" if a driver runs slightly wide.
"It's like driving on sand," said the Ferrari driver.
Vitaly Petrov said the marbles contributed to his spectacular airborne crash at Sepang a week ago, and revealed he was hit in the visor "three or four" times by the flying Pirelli bullets.
"Off the racing line it is a disaster. If it hit your hand it would definitely hurt," said the Russian.
Red Bull still not sure on KERS for Shanghai - Vettel
(GMM) Red Bull will not definitely still be running KERS when qualifying and the grand prix are run in China.
The dominant team did not use the energy-recovery technology in Australia for reliability fears, and the system did not run without problems on debut in Malaysia a week ago.
Sebastian Vettel, who has won both 2011 races so far from pole, said he hopes his RB7 is equipped with the power boost system for the whole Shanghai weekend.
"It makes sense to run KERS and it's our target obviously," he said on Thursday.
"Yes, we will be using it tomorrow –- and Saturday and Sunday, I hope," the German added.
Mercedes 'my dream car' in F1 - Rosberg
(GMM) Nico Rosberg on Thursday played down rumors he is destined to be Sebastian Vettel's next teammate at Red Bull.
The energy drink-owned team's driver manager Helmut Marko told the widely-circulated German newspaper Bild this week that Rosberg "is a strong driver".
Mark Webber's Red Bull contract ends this year, and the highly rated German Rosberg - who outpaced Michael Schumacher at Mercedes throughout 2010 - will reportedly also be in a position to move on at the end of the current season.
But Rosberg told Auto Motor und Sport: "I feel comfortable here with Mercedes.
"The Silberfeil (Silver Arrow) is my dream car. There are brilliant people here like Ross Brawn and Norbert Haug, who know how to win a lot in formula one and who have done it before," he added.
Virgin might not qualify in China - Glock
(GMM) The 107 per cent rule could be a problem for the Virgin cars in China, according to frustrated driver Timo Glock.
The German has been widely quoted recently admitting his disappointment with the MVR-02 car, and he told Auto Motor und Sport that it might be so slow in Shanghai it is excluded from the grid.
Glock revealed that the car is unchanged compared to a week ago in Malaysia, and that the specific characteristics of the Chinese layout might draw out the distance from the front.
"If the big teams in Q1 use soft tires because they were upset with us at the last race and want us out of the race, this (qualifying) could be really tight," he said.
Glock has already publicly questioned Virgin's policy of keeping costs low by using only computer technology rather than a wind tunnel to design and develop its F1 cars.
"The success has been okay," he said, "but maybe we would develop even faster with computer simulation as well as a wind tunnel."
Also missing at Virgin, he insisted, are truly experienced engineers.
"That would bring us faster progress in aerodynamics," said Glock. "But it's hard to get good people to come to a small team. And it costs money."
Webber snarls in China amid Vettel dominance
(GMM) Mark Webber was reduced to an expletive on Thursday as he faced the world's press who tried to sum up his start to the 2011 season.
One reporter in Shanghai dared to suggest the Red Bull driver is to Sebastian Vettel, the reigning champion and two-time winner from pole in 2011, what Eddie Irvine was to Michael Schumacher all those years ago.
"Absolutely f***ing ludicrous question, mate," he snarled.
34-year-old Webber, his contract running out, had an awful weekend in Australia and a KERS failure a week ago, but he vowed to fight back in China.
"He's not just beating me, he's beating everyone," he insisted when asked about Vettel. "No one will turn up then, might as well stay at home.
"People always make the natural comparison between you and your teammate, and Seb is driving really, really well and is on top of a lot of things at the moment.
"It could be a lot worse than it is at the moment," he added. "I am still performing pretty well, I believe, and also we're learning a lot."
As for his mental state two races down and 28 points behind, the Australian answered: "I'm fine mate. I think if you were much, much younger then obviously you'd be panicking.
"But I've been around the block."