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DATE News (chronologically)
03/19/12
f1
Latest F1 news in brief - Monday UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

03/19/12
  • Uproar over special deals for top F1 teams
    Anger as F1 does 'special deals' for top teams
  • Malaysia to immediately test McLaren dominance
  • Liuzzi to contest Italian touring car series
  • F-duct debate to speed from Australia to Malaysia
  • Pundits agree Williams made 'huge leap'
  • Ferrari glass 'half full' but no improvement yet
  • HRT looking to recover in Malaysia
  • Kovalainen receives five-place drop for Malaysia New
  • Button sends warning signal against Vettel's trademark salute New

Anger as F1 does 'special deals' for top teams
(GMM)  Many team bosses reportedly left the Melbourne paddock angry late on Sunday, amid claims Ferrari and Red Bull have agreed special deals for F1's future beyond the current Concorde Agreement.

Rumors of the top teams' deal - part of a reportedly planned $10 billion stock market floatation of the sport - began to swirl following the publication and then retraction of a Sky News internet report.

The report was reportedly based on a leaked copy of the draft 2013 Concorde Agreement, which according to London's Telegraph newspaper "could hand Ferrari a direct stake in the sport".

Red Bull, the reigning champions, "also stand to make a huge sum", the report claimed, adding that the energy drink-owned team as well as Ferrari will be asked to nominate directors for F1's holding company board.

Team boss Christian Horner revealed Red Bull is "in discussions with FOM" about a new Concorde Agreement, adding that talks are "progressing reasonably well".

How the other major teams - like FOTA members McLaren and Mercedes - fit into the picture is unclear at present, but the Times newspaper reports that there are "no seats" at the boardroom table allocated for them.

An unnamed senior team executive described the rumored special deals for Ferrari and Red Bull as "outrageous" and "against every facet of European competition law".

Ferrari declined to comment.

Horner added: "We want one (a Concorde Agreement) which reaches into the future ... a floatation is really down to the shareholders.

"It is not really the teams' business," he added.  "It is more of a question for Bernie (Ecclestone) or CVC."

Many paddock insiders, however, believe the deals are already done in principle, leading one angry rival team boss to blast: "Formula one stopped being about racing a long time ago".

"There will be an end game to this," he added.  "We just have to figure out what it is and what it means for the people in the teams who want to go racing and not be involved in this kind of thing."

Malaysia to immediately test McLaren dominance
(GMM)  With one race down out of twenty, F1 teams are now hopping from Australia to Malaysia where the new pecking-order will be immediately tested on a more conventional circuit.

Some paddock cynics suspect McLaren - having dominated qualifying in Melbourne before Jenson Button cruised to victory - played a deft hand of bluff in the winter season in order to persuade Red Bull its former dominance remained intact.

New 2012 championship leader Button, however, insists the British team was surprised in Australia.

"It wasn't bullshit at all," he said late on Sunday.

"I actually did pinch myself in the race just to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

"After qualifying I looked across at Lewis (Hamilton) and said 'Did you think we would be that quick?', and he was like 'No'."

Another possibility is that, while quick, McLaren may not be dominant.

"We knew from winter testing that McLaren were competitive but I think our race pace was every bit the equal of theirs today," said Red Bull's team boss Christian Horner, after a betting showing for the reigning champions on Sunday compared to qualifying.

"Malaysia is a very different prospect from here.  Here it is short turns, bumpy, not a lot of high-speed corners.

"But Malaysia offers that variant, so I think it will be interesting to see how quick they are in Malaysia," he added.

Mark Webber was also relieved on Sunday, after a troubled earlier evening.

"It's never nice to know you might be out of the ball game," said the Australian, referring to Red Bull's qualifying performance, "but clearly we are not."

Yet another possibility is that McLaren will extend their winning streak into Malaysia.

"The Barcelona test showed us that we are better than Red Bull in the fast corners.  Their (Red Bull's) advantage is in traction," McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Agreed Mercedes' Ross Brawn: "We could see that the McLaren improved significantly with the introduction of their new aerodynamic specification in Barcelona."

But the German team's Norbert Haug warned before leaving Melbourne: "We could see something quite different in Malaysia."

Livio Oricchio, the correspondent for Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, agreed: "It is prudent to wait and see what happens now in Malaysia.

"It's a permanent circuit, much more in line with most of the circuits on the calendar.

"But it seems unlikely that we will see something radically different to what we saw in Australia," he conceded.

Liuzzi to contest Italian touring car series
(GMM)  HRT refugee Vitantonio Liuzzi has re-emerged on the grid of the Italian-based touring car series Superstars.

Despite having a 2012 contract, the 30-year-old Italian lost his race seat at the struggling Spanish team HRT for this year to the well-backed Indian Narain Karthikeyan.

So, in 2012, he will race a Mercedes C63 AMG - which he tested last week at Monza - in the Maurizio Flammini-organized Superstars series.

Also on the grid will be former F1 drivers Christian Fittipaldi, Mika Salo, Gianni Morbidelli and Johnny Herbert.

"I'm persuaded that Superstars is a great choice to open yourself to other categories than F1," said Liuzzi.

The season begins in April at Monza, then moving on to Imola, Donington, Mugello, the Hungaroring, Spa, Portimao, Vallelunga and Sentul (Indonesia).

Since 2005, Liuzzi also raced in F1 with Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Force India.

F-duct debate to speed from Australia to Malaysia
(GMM)  The debate about Mercedes' controversial new 'F-duct' solution looks set to speed across the Indian Ocean.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, and particularly his Lotus counterpart Eric Boullier, had warned in Melbourne at the weekend that they might protest the qualifying and race results.

They are arguing that Mercedes' technical innovation is not legal, but ultimately the 2012 season opener was run without a protest being filed.

But the threat is merely on the back-burner, as Boullier and Horner seek urgent talks with the FIA and Mercedes' Ross Brawn.

"We want to sit together at a table with Mercedes and the FIA and find a solution," Frenchman Boullier is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Separately, Horner agreed: "We are expecting some pretty heated discussions in the next five days."  By then, the F1 circus will be firmly based at the Sepang circuit, for the second round of the season at Sepang.

McLaren, the dominant winner of Sunday's season opening Australian grand prix, is staying out of the debate about the Mercedes concept.

"I think the system is legal," said team boss Martin Whitmarsh.

Auto Motor und Sport writer Tobias Gruner explained: "The reason for (Whitmarsh's) opinion is simple -- his engineers at Woking have been hard at work on a copy for some time."

Pundits agree Williams made 'huge leap'
(GMM)  Despite not collecting a single point in Melbourne, the Williams team will travel from Australia to Malaysia in upbeat mood.

The famous British outfit's slide from its race and title-winning days hit rock bottom in 2011, scoring just five points all season and only finishing ahead of the three struggling new teams in the constructors' championship.

But Oxfordshire based Williams has restructured for the 2012 season and is now led technically by former McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, and in Australia the newly Renault-powered FW34 qualified comfortably in Q3.

In the race, Pastor Maldonado was pushing Ferrari's Fernando Alonso for fifth place when he crashed heavily on the very last lap.

If he had made it round to the checkered flag, Williams would have scored more points in one hit than it managed all last season.

"The car was considerably better than anything I have seen in recent years," said team chairman Adam Parr.

Referring to Maldonado's crash, the team's new driver mentor Alex Wurz told Austrian ORF television: "Of course nobody is happy.

"The bad news is that we have to leave with no points, but the team has made a huge leap forwards."

Jaime Alguersuari, the former Toro Rosso driver turned radio co-commentator, called Williams' step compared to 2011 "giant".

"No doubt about it, Williams are the big surprise," the Spaniard told Mundo Deportivo when asked about the new field of 2012.

"Last year their car was really, really, really bad, and so they have taken an exceptional leap."

Ferrari glass 'half full' but no improvement yet
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso kept up a positive outlook on Sunday despite some Italian newspapers describing Ferrari's situation as a "crisis".

Melbourne qualifying confirmed the famous team's winter woes, but Spaniard Alonso fared better in the race.

"After the way qualifying went, ending up with ten points behind the top two teams is good news," he is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The sports daily Marca described the attitude as Alonso "seeing the glass half-full".

"For the Ferrari fans I say 'wait a few races'," former F1 driver Jarno Trulli told Italy's Rai Uno television.

"Alonso managed to do something good but Ferrari needs to react, immediately," the Italian, who was Alonso's Renault teammate in 2004, added.

Team boss Stefano Domenicali, however, told Finnish MTV3 television that the F2012 will not be in better shape for 'a few races' at least.

Alonso agreed that, with one week between Australia and Malaysia, "We will have almost exactly the same car" at the Sepang circuit this weekend.

Added Domenicali: "We know what needs to be improved, but it can't be done overnight."

Former F1 driver Jaime Alguersuari remarked that the improvement in Alonso's pace between Saturday and Sunday was significant.

"The opposite of Mercedes," he told AS newspaper.  "I think Alonso once again showed his quality, although clearly they have much work ahead.

"A driver can only win with the best car, but what he can do is demonstrate his quality with a good or a bad car," he added.

It is on that final point that the pressure on Felipe Massa merely increased in Australia, as the Brazilian had a disastrously poor weekend from start to finish.

"We need to get behind him now as it's clear he's under pressure," Domenicali told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"When people find themselves under pressure you have to find a way to relieve that pressure so they are free to express themselves in the way they can.

"I've asked his engineers to work closely with him and analyze the data so they can offer their support," he added.

HRT looking to recover in Malaysia
After a frenetic start to the season, there’s no time to take a breather as the Formula 1 World Championship quickly moves on to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Grand Prix. HRT Formula 1 Team is looking to the leave behind the disappointment of not taking part in the race in Australia, but is confident that the teamwork will help us to continue progressing in the second round of the championship. The team is bonding and is working on solving the issues that the young car had in its first taste of the action in Melbourne.

The Sepang International Circuit will be hosting the 14th Malaysian Grand Prix in Formula 1 history. This track, designed by Hermann Tilke, is considered to be one of the most technical circuits on the calendar. It is very demanding for car and driver, with various long high-speed corners and conditions that affect the cooling of the car. Another factor worth keeping in mind in Malaysia is the weather, which can vary dramatically, passing from intense heat to heavy downpours in a matter of seconds.

Pirelli have elected their medium and hard tires for this Grand Prix.

Kovalainen receives five-place drop for Malaysia
Heikki Kovalainen has been docked five places on the grid for this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix, having overtaken illegally in Australia on Sunday.

The penalty marks a negative end to a somewhat disappointing weekend for newly-named Caterham, which had targeting Q2 qualifying. After finishing 19th and 20th in Q1, both cars retired from the season-opening race of 2012.

The five-place drop comes for passing two cars before the Safety Car line when the race was restarted on Lap 42; the Safety Car had been deployed when team-mate Vitaly Petrov stopped on the start/finish with a steering wheel problem.

'The penalty I got for the next race was because I passed Vettel before the first Safety Car line when coming into the pits, marginal, my mistake,' the Finn admitted on Twitter.

Kovalainen’s own race ended on Lap 41 because of a loose steering arm.

Button intends to end Vettels single digit salute
Button sends warning signal against Vettel's trademark salute
Jenson Button warned Sebastian Vettel on Monday that he plans to end the days when the German's trademark bent-finger salute is seen at the end of Formula One grands prix.

The 32-year-old Englishman cruised to victory in Sunday's season-opening Australian race - and admitted his new celebration, in which he forms a 'W' for winner with his hands, needed some practice.

"Yes, it was not ideal was it - but I am planning to have a lot more practice. We don't want to see the crooked finger any more this year and I hope that we can see the end of that," Button said.

Vettel's celebration, in which he raises his slightly bent right index finger to signify number one, was widely used last year as he took his second title in a row. He finished second on Sunday but never looked likely to win.

The good-natured Vettel laughed and warned: "I want to win, everyone does, and I don't think it will be too long before I do again.

"This race proved that after all the worries on Saturday we still have the pace. Everyone said we were in trouble, but if we were there are plenty of others in much worse and deeper trouble than we are."

"And I am pretty sure we can go well at Sepang next race. There is no doubt that Jenson deserved to win this time - we could not catch him - but it will be different in Malaysia."

Sunday's opening showdown proved that McLaren and Red Bull will be the two main forces in the early part of the season - and that Button is in excellent form already.

His composure and technique saw him take the lead at the opening corner and leave McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton frustrated at failing to exploit his pole position.

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