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Latest F1 news in brief - Friday
  • Pastor Maldonado
    Williams 'worst' scenario for rookie in 2011 - Maldonado
  • Vettel insists more dominance in 2012 not certain
  • Mercedes sure V6 engines will sound 'great'
  • Alonso says Mercedes among favorites for 2012
  • Webber enjoys wheelie on grand prix motorbike
  • Lauda says DRS overtaking 'wrong' for F1

Williams 'worst' scenario for rookie in 2011 - Maldonado
(GMM)  Pastor Maldonado is confident he will have a better second season in formula one.

With his Venezuelan backing, the 26-year-old made his grand prix debut as the reigning GP2 champion this year, but scored only one of Williams' 5 points.

He is staying with the famous British team in 2012.

"I trust the team because it is impossible to be worse than this year," Maldonado told Brazil's Totalrace.

"I believe that was the worst position for a rookie (to be in), when nothing works, especially in the first year (as) you have to learn many things.

"Nevertheless, I defended myself well, even against Rubens (Barrichello).  It certainly was a year of learning."

Williams, indeed, had a disastrous season, finishing 36 points behind the next-worst team Toro Rosso and ahead only of the non-points scoring three newest teams.

"I'm sure we will improve," said Maldonado, "we have worked really hard to grow as a team."

A fundamental change for 2012 is the new technical boss Mike Coughlan, the former McLaren chief designer who was sacked a few years ago amid the 'liegate' scandal.

He replaces the McLaren-bound Sam Michael, Williams' long-time technical director.

"I hope we have a better car, one that is more competitive so that we can always fight for points and higher positions," said Maldonado.

Vettel insists more dominance in 2012 not certain
(GMM)  Sebastian Vettel has baulked at claims he will almost certainly stroll to an historic third consecutive drivers' title in 2012.

Some pundits think that, given the 24-year-old's huge 122-point championship win over McLaren's Jenson Button this year, it is almost inconceivable his and Red Bull's advantage will be eroded in the 80 days until Melbourne.

"We will try (to win again)," the German agreed in an interview with France's Auto Hebdo.

"But the beauty of this sport is that before a new season, all the points counters are reset.

"It is up to Red Bull to build a competitive chassis and Renault to produce a powerful and reliable engine.

"There is no certainty; nothing is sure about this (success) continuing," added Vettel.

He said recently that his meteoric season was the result of hard work that must now continue.

"All year long (we were) pushing to keep the car at the level that it was," said Vettel.

"McLaren were pushing massively and I think at the end we were pretty even.  I don't think that one car really had the edge."

Briton Button, Vettel's title runner-up, doesn't agree with his rival's last comment but he does think McLaren can mount a serious challenge next year.

"It hasn't been perfect, Red Bull have been quicker than us, more consistent than us," he said.

"All round it's been a reasonable season.  We've grown as a team together and I think that we have a very good base going into 2012," added Button.

The key for McLaren, he thinks, is to have a winter unlike pre-2011, when the team abandoned a complex exhaust system in order to hurriedly copy Red Bull's approach.

"It's wrong to say we could have fought them if we had a better winter," said the 2009 world champion.  "We don't know that.

"What we do know is that we didn't have a very good winter.  The guys did a great job of turning it around for the first race but obviously you lose a lot of preparation work," said Button.

Mercedes sure V6 engines will sound 'great'
(GMM)  Mercedes is sure formula one engines will still sound good when the regulations change significantly in 2014.

The German marque, whose F1 engines are designed and built in Northamptonshire, is believed to be imminently ready to fire up its first 1.6 liter turbocharged V6.

But after the sound of F1 changed when the sport moved from normally-aspirated V10 to its current V8 engines in 2006, there have been fears the cars could sound comparatively tame when they are powered by turbo V6s in 2014.

Thomas Fuhr, managing director of Mercedes' HighPerformanceEngines division, doesn't think so.

"With the limit of 15,000 rpm, the engines will have a great sound," he is quoted by Italy's Tuttosport.

"With the six pipes going into the turbocharger I think the sound will be very nice," added Fuhr.

Alonso says Mercedes among favorites for 2012
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso has named Mercedes as a dark horse for the 2012 season.

Together at the German marque's new works team since 2010, Michael Schumacher's return to F1 has been the subject of much criticism while it has been said teammate Nico Rosberg could go his entire career without a win.

But Alonso, the lead driver at Ferrari, insists he does not underestimate the German duo, or the Ross Brawn-led Mercedes team, even though they were soundly beaten by Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari in 2011.

"In formula one, the car is always the most important (element)," the Spaniard is quoted by EFE news agency.

"We know that Mercedes didn't have a great year but we have to respect them.  With a car capable of winning races, Rosberg and Michael are among the favorites," said Alonso.

In fact, when contemplating the field of 2012, 30-year-old Alonso insists Schumacher - 43 next month - remains the reference for his rivals.

"I say (it's) Schumacher, because we all respect a driver who has been champion seven times.

"He has always been very fast and there is nothing left for him to prove," he added.

Webber enjoys wheelie on grand prix motorbike
(GMM)  Mark Webber has this week enjoyed a high-risk ride on the back of a grand prix motorcycle.

The Australian, who recently sat out part of his own outdoor adventure challenge in Tasmania ostensibly due to Red Bull's fear of injury, rode at the rear of a Ducati 2-Up machine at Queensland Raceway.

At the controls was his countryman Troy Bayliss, a former MotoGP rider and triple Superbike world champion.

"Some things need doing," wrote Webber on Twitter as he published a photo of himself and Bayless mid-wheelie.

Bayliss replied: "You (Webber) were a top pillion and ripped it up solo as well."

During the 2008/2009 pre-season, Webber badly broke his right leg in a mountain biking descent.

He said earlier this month: "I'm not going to wrap myself in cotton wool.

"Formula one rules my life for most of the year, but I am going to go away, train and have fun doing it and nobody is going to stop me."

Lauda says DRS overtaking 'wrong' for F1
(GMM)  Niki Lauda has admitted he is no fan of the overtaking innovation 'DRS' that debuted in 2011.

The system, which allows a chasing driver to move a flap in the rear wing and increase top speed when he is close to his rival, is set to be retained and even ramped up for next season.

The BBC reports that in Melbourne next March, for instance, there could be two DRS zones, while other zones - like at Valencia - will be extended.

The system was designed by a working group including McLaren's technical director Paddy Lowe, who insists DRS was a good idea amid the long debate about tweaking the cars to boost overtaking.

"What's great (is) at least we can move on from this debate of trying to change the aerodynamic characteristics of cars to try to improve overtaking," he said.

"We've found something much more authoritative, much cheaper, easier and more effective, and adjustable from race to race."

Many purists, however, are unhappy, arguing that overtaking can now be too easy, has been devalued, while the spectacle of a driver successfully holding off his charging rival is diminished.

"You've got to take the rough with the smooth to a certain extent," argues the FIA's Charlie Whiting.

F1 great Lauda, the famous triple world champion of the 70s and 80s, told Austrian newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten that DRS "bothers me".

"To see passing at the push of a button is fundamentally the wrong direction (for F1)," he insisted.

"The front man (the driver in front) is totally defenseless.  I think from the sporting point of view it is not right."

He also thinks DRS has proved unnecessary, with new supplier Pirelli's heavily-degrading tires credited for much of the success of the racing in 2011.

"This (Pirelli's approach) is okay," said television pundit Lauda, who is reportedly arguing with the German broadcaster RTL about the size of his fee for F1's 2011 season.

"There is enough overtaking already because of the tires, which often have to be taken right to the limit by the drivers," he explained.

"And they pose the engineers with the task of making tire-friendly tires."

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