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Latest F1 news in brief - Tuesday
  • Is Hamilton already beaten mentally?
    More Britons watched BBC's delayed coverage
  • Coulthard worried Hamilton already beaten
  • Insiders insist no writing off Red Bull yet
  • FOTA complaints led to 'special deal' report axe
  • Praise and scorn for Williams' Maldonado
  • Alonso 'saved Ferrari from disaster' - press
  • Webber 'wary' of late rain in Malaysia

More Britons watched BBC's delayed coverage
(GMM)  The BBC's delayed and edited highlights of Sunday's Australian grand prix attracted more viewers than the British broadcaster's live coverage of the same Melbourne race a year ago.

From 2012, F1's television coverage for Britain is being shared between pay-channel Sky - who have the full-time live rights - and the public broadcaster BBC.

Last year, the BBC's live coverage of the 2011 season opener averaged 2.13 million viewers.

But the delayed highlights package for 2012, aired hours after the race finished between 2 and 4pm, attracted 2.7 million viewers.

The figures may, however, be a one-off, with Australia usually among the lowest-rating races in Europe due to the very early morning live timeslot.

Sky's live coverage of the pay-channel's 2012 coverage, meanwhile, averaged just 526,000 viewers.

A spokesman for the channel refused to comment on whether Sky was disappointed with the figures.

"It is the performance of the whole (F1) channel we are interested in.  We are pleased with the launch of the channel overall," he told the Guardian.

Eight of F1's 12 teams are based in Britain.

Coulthard worried Hamilton already beaten
(GMM)  After putting his tumultuous 2011 season behind him, Lewis Hamilton has kicked off this year's world champion in downbeat mood.

The 2008 world champion had put his well-documented personal problems and on-track struggles behind him with a positive approach to his sixth season in F1.

But after his teammate Jenson Button beat him in the 2011 standings, Hamilton could not hide his disappointment on Sunday when the 2009 title winner also beat him to the first corner in Melbourne, before Button and reigning champion Sebastian Vettel filled the top two podium spots.

"I just struggled out there," confused pole-sitter Hamilton said afterwards.

David Coulthard, the former long-time McLaren driver and now paddock analyst, expressed concern about Hamilton's "striking" post-race body-language and "stony-faced" performance on the podium.

"Has it (Button's win) knocked Lewis?" he wondered in his Telegraph column.

Many in F1 are astonished by how Button, described as having entered Hamilton's "lion's den" at McLaren two years ago, is now being described by the famous British team as its title-winning hope.

"People underestimate him," said team boss Martin Whitmarsh.  "He's such a calm, mature and easygoing fellow that people don't realize necessarily the hunger that's in him to compete and to win.

"He must now believe he's in a good chance of a proper title run this year and providing we can continue to improve the car, not make mistakes, be reliable there's no reason why he can't do that," he added.

On Hamilton's side of the garage, meanwhile, is a downcast driver and an expiring contract.

"On his day, Lewis is unbeatable, and yet I suspect McLaren are wondering whether or not they want to keep him, because he brings so much baggage with him," another former McLaren driver-turned commentator, Martin Brundle, told April's Motor Sport magazine.

As for Whitmarsh, McLaren's team principal insists there is no concern yet that Hamilton has already re-entered another spiral of despair so early in 2012.

Downplaying Hamilton's post-race mood in Australia, he said: "When he starts getting happy with being third, or beaten by his teammate, then he won't be the Lewis we all love and admire."

Insiders insist no writing off Red Bull yet
(GMM)  Paddock regulars insist the formerly-dominant Red Bull team cannot be written off after a single defeat in Australia.

On paper, reigning back-to-back champion Sebastian Vettel's second place on Sunday doesn't look bad.

But Melbourne was in fact the first race since before either of the German's title-winning campaigns in 2010 and 2011 that a Red Bull car failed to lead a single lap.

"You cannot discount them, they (Red Bull) are always there," said Albert Park winner Jenson Button, "but it seems that the tables have turned."

After not winning a title since 2008 with Lewis Hamilton, Button's McLaren colleagues will hope that is true.

"Red Bull needs to dress warmly," German racing legend Hans-Joachim Stuck told Sport1, "although I see McLaren on an equal footing only."

He warned against over-analyzing the Melbourne result.

"This is not a benchmark for the rest of the season -- the Malaysia circuit is much more meaningful because who is good there is good everywhere."

However, McLaren hinted after Melbourne that it could actually have performed more strongly last weekend.

"We were more than marginal on fuel," boss Martin Whitmarsh is quoted by Kleine Zeitung newspaper.  "There is no question we could have been faster (in Australia)."

But so could Red Bull, Vettel insists.

"In Melbourne, we learned a lot about the behavior of our car, which has great potential," he said.

"We need to make it harder for McLaren in Malaysia."

Triple world champion Niki Lauda agrees: "Red Bull will catch up quickly."

Team advisor Dr Helmut Marko insisted: "We have not brought everything out of the car yet.  So we are very optimistic about the next races."

He is also dismissive of Red Bull's other rivals.

"Only McLaren are on par with us," said Marko, who scorned at Mercedes, the team who fared strongly in Melbourne before suffering in the race.

"They were more like a chicane," the acid-tongued Austrian added, according to laola1.at.

FOTA complaints led to 'special deal' report axe
(GMM)  Rival formula one teams complained when Sky News published a report suggesting Ferrari and Red Bull will receive special deals for the next Concorde Agreement.

There has been speculation the Bernie Ecclestone-headed Formula One Management ordered the article be pulled from the internet because it divulged secret plans about the teams' deals and a $10 billion stock market floatation.

But the Financial Times (FT) reports that it was parent company BSkyB's chief executive Jeremy Darroch who intervened because the article "had upset formula one racing teams".

The producer of Sky's new dedicated F1 channel reportedly "called his bosses from Melbourne", where the broadcaster was making its debut as Britain's new full-time live host.

He said "the article had caused a strong negative reaction from some F1 teams", people familiar with the situation reportedly told the FT.

"The piece was withdrawn for further review," a BSkyB spokesman confirmed.  "We stand by the story and, following that review, took the decision to re-publish on Monday."

The teams alliance FOTA, which no longer involves Ferrari and Red Bull, reportedly met in the Melbourne paddock on Sunday "to discuss how to respond to the (Sky) report", the FT continued.

The fact the Geneva-based body no longer features two of the major top teams apparently gives Bernie Ecclestone the opportunity to agree deals with them, forcing their rivals to follow suit.

"FOTA can't sign anything with anyone," Ecclestone scorned, before declining to discuss the reports of Ferrari and Red Bull's special deals.

Ferrari and CVC also declined to comment, but an unnamed senior team executive dismissed the apparent deals as "a pipe dream".

Another said the story was a typical example of Ecclestone's "divide and conquer" tactics.

Praise and scorn for Williams' Maldonado
(GMM)  Pastor Maldonado attracted praise and scorn from high places after his performance in Melbourne.

As far as Lotus team boss Eric Boullier is concerned, the Williams driver cost Romain Grosjean a place on the podium after their clash during the season opening grand prix.

Asked when the promising black and gold E20 will make its first drive to the rostrum in 2012, Frenchman Boullier told Helsingin Sanomat newspaper: "When Maldonado doesn't crash into us."

Venezuelan Maldonado, often criticized for being Williams' lead pay-driver, had another crash at Albert Park - on the very last lap - which ended his stirring push for a solid fifth place.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who initially admitted to being relieved when Maldonado was no longer hounding him in his mirrors, also said he felt sorry for the 27-year-old.

"He was much faster than me and in the end I might have had problems to defend my position," he told AS newspaper.

"I think he did a good drive and I felt some sadness when I saw that he had gone from my mirrors because he was about to earn the fifth, sixth, whatever (position)," added the Spaniard.

Alonso 'saved Ferrari from disaster' - press
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso was spared the Italian media's wrath after Ferrari opened its 2012 campaign with the troubled F2012 car.

"Alonso once again saved Ferrari from disaster," said the authoritative La Gazzetta dello Sport, after the Spanish driver drove the car to fifth place in Australia.

The under-pressure Felipe Massa's opening race, however, "was a nightmare", the daily newspaper added.

Jaime Alguersuari, the former Toro Rosso driver who is now a media analyst, also praised fellow Spaniard Alonso.

"For Ferrari, it is an unique advantage to have a driver like Fernando Alonso," he told El Mundo newspaper.

"He did a sensational Sunday, with intelligence and ambition, which will push and raise the team, I'm sure."

Alonso remains confident.

"There may be cars quicker than us now," he is quoted by Britain's Daily Mail, "but it's like Manchester United or Chelsea who play badly for a game but still win 1-0.

"Before this race we were working 24 hours (a day)," Alonso is quoted by Marca, "now it must be 25."

The Spanish press, however, is livid.

"The fifth place is really a miracle," said the sports daily Marca.  "The car is ridiculous, rendering the team a midfielder."

Jenson Button, meanwhile, received universal praise from the international press corps, as did the fact that Red Bull's dominance appears to have been knocked by McLaren.

"That's good news for everybody except (Sebastian) Vettel," insisted Corriere dello Sport.

The fight, however, has just begun.

"Vettel turned the middling new Red Bull into a good race car," said Gazzetta, referring to the German's performance on Sunday, "which is a warning to the opposition.

"He is still the world champion, and he will be hunting his first triumph of the year in Sepang."

Tuttosport, meanwhile, said Mercedes - which until Sunday's race was the talk of the Melbourne paddock - was the "big disappointment" of the 2012 opener.

Webber 'wary' of late rain in Malaysia
(GMM)  A typically hot, humid and thundery weekend is forecast for the Malaysian grand prix.

New championship leader Jenson Button travels to Kuala Lumpur eyeing a weather forecast of possible rain for all three days of track action.

And as ever in tropical Malaysia, the highest chance of rain is always in the late afternoon.

"Bernie (Ecclestone) loves a late start," smiled Red Bull's Mark Webber, "and, once again, the race has a late kick-off."

Indeed, qualifying and the race are not scheduled until 4pm local in Malaysia, ensuring a more civil early morning wake-up for F1's bulk live audience in Europe.

"Late afternoon is usually when the rain comes in Malaysia, and when it comes you know about it," said Australian Webber.  "It's something to be wary of."

Even more nervous about the rain forecasts will be HRT.

After sitting out almost the entire winter whilst rebuilding the struggling Spanish team following Colin Kolles' departure, Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan failed to qualify in Melbourne.

"In Australia we were only able to complete seven timed laps so I need to get more track time, get to know the car better and improve the setup," said de la Rosa.

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