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Latest F1 news in brief - Tuesday
  • Williams denies cigarette caused Barcelona blaze
  • Massa's F1 career on brink of collapse
  • Vettel shrugs at F1's 'crazy' pecking order
  • Alonso 'stands out' amid 2012 chaos - Klien
  • McLaren sure gaffes won't hurt Hamilton talks
  • Felipe Massa fumes at drive-through penalty
  • Button: I need to solve setup problems
  • Ferrari must not become complacent - Stefano Domenicali
  • Williams F1 fire exposed incompetence of fire crews
  • Red Bull have 'lots to understand'

Williams denies cigarette caused Barcelona blaze
(GMM)  Two days after winning in Spain, Williams is scrambling to put together the equipment it needs to contest next weekend's Monaco grand prix.

Mere hours after Pastor Maldonado secured the once-great British team's first victory since 2004, a huge fire broke out in the pits, leaving one team member still in a Barcelona hospital with burns.

"His family are in constant communication and he is in good spirits," Williams said in a media statement.

The Oxfordshire based team is now making efforts to ensure it can race in Monte Carlo, having lost a lot of equipment in the fire.

Mercifully, however, Bruno Senna's car appears to have survived, with the Finnish broadcaster MTV3 saying an initial inspection of the chassis showed no devastating damage.

Maldonado's winning car was in parc ferme at the time of the incident.

"We had a lot of damage and lost a lot of equipment, including IT equipment," chief operations engineer Mark Gillan said, according to the Daily Mail.

"Over the next couple of days we will be looking at where we are parts-wise.

"We will have everything we need to run operationally at Monaco, but we may be missing a few of the extras because obviously we don't carry a complete set of spares for everything," he said.

It is believed more than one rival team has offered to help Williams by loaning the Sir Frank Williams-led outfit any equipment it needs.

A McLaren spokesman confirmed the Woking based team has offered to help.

Germany's Bild newspaper said Williams' damage bill runs into the millions.

Team manager Dickie Stanford denied a rumor the fire was caused by a cigarette in the vicinity of Senna's fuel tank while it was being emptied.

"We don't know the cause, but we would never allow smoking in the pits," he insisted.

Williams and F1's governing FIA are investigating.

Massa's F1 career on brink of collapse
(GMM)  Felipe Massa's formula one career is on the brink of collapse.

Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali left Barcelona insisting he expects the struggling Brazilian to "fight back starting in Monaco".

"We absolutely need his points to also fight for the constructors' title," he said.

Earlier, the Maranello based team said on Twitter that Ferrari is "disappointed with" the 30-year-old's performance.

When asked about that comment, a Ferrari spokesman told the Sunday Times: "It was a poor choice of grammar.  We are disappointed in the outcome of Felipe but not with Felipe himself."

But the very latest development is that Ferrari is now making it abundantly clear that Massa needs to up his game immediately.

In a statement posted on its official website, Ferrari said Massa's teammate Fernando Alonso "has always maintained a very high level".

As for Massa, his "drop off has made itself felt", the report stated.

"The Brazilian had picked up 49 points two years ago and 24 the following year, while so far this season he has just 2," said Ferrari.

"Everyone, he more than anyone, is expecting a change of gear starting right away with the Monaco grand prix", the statement concluded.

Even Massa's strongest supporters in Brazil, like the O Globo journalist Celso Itibere, admit the situation is dire.

"He is at risk," said Itibere, "his decline is progressive, he is failing to react and he runs the real risk of not finishing the season.

"At this time Ferrari has no one to take the job.  Everyone they would like to have there - Perez, Kobayashi, Webber - are not available."

Tuesday's edition of the Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport will report that Massa's ousting is imminent.

And the latest edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport did not even once mention Massa's name.  "It is as though he does not exist," wrote the Brazilian journalist Livio Oricchio in O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

"Yet it is an Italian newspaper, and he is a Ferrari driver."

When asked if he fears for his F1 career, Massa said in Barcelona last weekend: "No.  I live in the present.  What will happen will happen."

Asked if he is afraid another bad performance will seal his fate, Massa insisted: "I'm not afraid of anything, especially criticism.  It doesn't affect me."

Vettel shrugs at F1's 'crazy' pecking order
(GMM)  Five races in, F1's cleverest brains are still yet to decode the mystery of the bizarre and fascinating 2012 season.

As was the case when he utterly dominated last year, Sebastian Vettel is still leading the drivers' points chase.

But, before last weekend, if he had been told that Williams' Pastor Maldonado would be the winner of the Spanish grand prix, the German admitted: "Well, I would have put a lot of money on them!

"I think the odds weren't bad," he smiled.

Indeed, the major British bookmaker William Hill was taking bets at 500-1 prior to the Barcelona weekend.

A spokesman confirmed that only two bets at 10 pounds or above were placed on Maldonado prior to qualifying.

"I'm sure Williams don't understand why they just won the race here," McLaren's Jenson Button is quoted by the Guardian newspaper.

But the previously-derided 'pay driver' Maldonado is not the only potential new winner in 2012, after Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg and Vettel won the opening four grands prix.

A detailed look at F1's specialist reporting in the past few weeks shows that Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Kimi Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean, Michael Schumacher, Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi are all also widely regarded as genuine victory candidates in 2012.

And given that their teammates have won grands prix this season, even the struggling Felipe Massa and Bruno Senna should be added to that list.

"Dammit, let's go for (HRT's) Karthikeyan!" wrote Chris Hockley in the Sun newspaper.

"It's really quite crazy right now," Vettel, who despite his young age would count himself among F1's currently perplexed purists, told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"What's happening is difficult for us to explain," he added.

The situation has split the F1 audience, with the purists shaking their heads, and others marveling at the unprecedented spectacle.

"The spectacle has taken over the sport," said the Paris daily Le Figaro.

"Even the teams can't be sure who will be the hare and who will be the tortoise at any given track," wrote Hockley.

Alonso, who is the joint championship leader, is in the purists' camp.

"Of course it is attractive for the spectators that we are going to Monaco not knowing if we will fight for victory or be left out of the points," he is quoted by El Pais.

"But in a way, after eleven years in formula one and now I'm at Ferrari, I would like to have more stability," the Spaniard admitted.

Sir Jackie Stewart said: "What's going on is unbelievable, which I think is the outcome of the new rules, new tires -- I think it's many factors," he told the Spanish sports daily AS.

"What's happening," said Maldonado's race engineer Xevi Pujolar, "is that these tires are allowing teams who do not have the biggest budgets to be eligible for really good results.

"The reason is that the most important thing now is to have a good setup and also some luck with the temperature."

Pirelli, F1's tire maker, has received both criticism and praise for its huge role.

"Pirelli have been both bold and brave," Sun journalist Hockley said.  "It can't be easy for a manufacturer to make tires that sometimes wear out faster than you can say Mercedes."

Marco Tronchetti Provera, the Italian marque's company chief, is unapologetic.

"What we have provided is what the teams have asked for, and it was not easy," Italian language reports quote him saying.  "Our engineers have done an extraordinary thing."

Alonso 'stands out' amid 2012 chaos - Klien
(GMM)  Even amid the chaos of the 2012 pecking order, the star performer is obvious.

That is the view of former F1 driver Christian Klien, who confirmed to the Austrian news agency APA that one of his current roles is a simulator driver for the sport's latest winning team, Williams.

"It (2012) is very open," he said, "but for me Fernando Alonso stands out."

Equal with Sebastian Vettel, Spaniard Alonso is at the top of the drivers' world championship, a full eight points clear of Lewis Hamilton.

The Spaniard's car has been the struggling Ferrari F2012, but he has never finished a race this season lower than ninth (China).

He has therefore scored points at every opportunity, even finishing first and second in Malaysia and Spain respectively.

"Alonso has an inferior car," Klien explained, "but he uses every single little opportunity.

"He is the most complete driver who gets the most out of the package he has."

Triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart agrees that, among arguably the most competitive grid of drivers since the late 80s, Alonso is the standout performer.

"Right now we have the best generation of drivers we've had for a while," the famous Scot told the Spanish sports daily AS.

"Everyone talks about Vettel, who is a great driver, and also Hamilton of course, but there is also Button, Schumacher, Kimi -- all champions.

"There are others like Webber who also have the quality to win, young drivers coming up, many of them are very good, but also it is true that Alonso is fantastic."

Asked why the Spaniard has not added a title to his tally since 2006, Stewart said: "The explanation is easy -- he hasn't had the luck to get the best car.

"Now he has one that isn't good, but it's in those circumstances that you see even more the quality that he has," said Stewart.

Given Alonso's push to the top of the championship with a sub-standard car, therefore, all the talk about Ferrari writing off the 2012 championship has been silenced for now.

"We have to keep developing the car," Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari's team boss, said after Barcelona, where significant upgrades were brought to the F2012 package.

"We are not yet fast enough to consistently fight for the podium, but that is the only option if we want to be in contention for the title," he insisted.

McLaren sure gaffes won't hurt Hamilton talks
(GMM)  Martin Whitmarsh is sure McLaren's recent errors will not affect contract negotiations with Lewis Hamilton.

The British team's latest mistake not only cost Lewis Hamilton pole in Spain, it put the 2008 world champion to the very back of the grid.

Asked if he worries that the now seemingly constant flow of team gaffes will damage McLaren's efforts to re-sign Hamilton, Whitmarsh insisted: "No, I don't.

"He has got to build the support of the team, he has got to feel comfortable doing it, he has got to want to drive and he is in good shape," British newspapers quote the McLaren team principal as saying.

"I look forward to working with him for a long time to come."

But Whitmarsh admitted that, given Hamilton's tumultuous 2011 season, he was worried the British driver might have despaired last Saturday when the team's refuelling mistake cost the 27-year-old pole.

"I was concerned," he said, "because it is a pretty tough thing to happen to a driver.

"But I have to say he showed some greatness I had not seen before.  By the end of our chat he was consoling me.

"The relationship between Lewis and the team is stronger and better and hopefully we will work together for a long time," added Whitmarsh.

Felipe Massa fumes at drive-through penalty
Felipe Massa was at a loss to explain why he was given a drive-through penalty during the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday, which he says ruined his chances of scoring points.
Massa was penalized by the stewards of the meeting for not slowing sufficiently while racing under yellow flags. But the Ferrari driver could not fathom why he should have been singled out among the cars he was racing with.

"I saw the yellow flags definitely, but I was following the cars in front and I didn't try to overtake anybody and I didn't do anything wrong," Massa said. "For me there was no reason to give me the drive-through and if you give it to me you should give it to all the cars in front of me, which did exactly the same thing. I was not close enough to the car in front to try to overtake, I did not try to overtake or go off line or anything. I don't understand."

Massa finished the race 15th but said without the penalty he could have scored some decent points.

"I was in the group with the Red Bulls and the McLarens and I could match their pace," Massa added. "I had a good opening lap when I managed to make up a lot of places. I am happy that Fernando was able to fight for the win all the way to the end, as it shows our car's potential has definitely improved: we still don't have the quickest car but it seems we are going down the right road."

Button: I need to solve setup problems
Jenson Button is striving to solve car setup difficulties when F1 continues in Monaco next weekend. In Barcelona, the McLaren driver was knocked out in Q2 qualifying before struggling from tenth on the grid to an eventual ninth place in the race.

“Congratulations to Pastor (Maldonado)!” said Button, winner of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix who made his F1 debut with Williams in 2000. “That was a great drive and I’m sure it will instill a lot of confidence in him and the Williams team.

“The Formula 1 form book is very mixed up at the moment, which is unusual, but that’s the way it appears to be going this season. As for us, well, a lot of my afternoon was spent stuck in traffic and I had a Sauber (Kamui Kobayashi) breathing down my neck for most of the race.

“All in all, we weren’t quite quick enough today – but that’s something I need to solve myself. I need to find a setup that suits me better, as I feel like I have pretty poor grip at the moment.”

Heading to Monte Carlo, Button aims to repeat his Brawn victory of 2009.

Ferrari must not become complacent - Stefano Domenicali
Team principal Stefano Domenicali  has urged Ferrari to keep pushing in order to fight for the championship this year and has admitted the team still needs to make "a massive step" to continue to race at the front.

Fernando Alonso is level on points at the top of the championship with Sebastian Vettel after finishing second at last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, but with the order still mixed Ferrari is wary of becoming complacent. The first stage of a major upgrade appeared to offer Ferrari a decent step forward over the weekend, with Alonso qualifying on the front row and in contention with for victory until the final few laps, but Domenicali said his team still has a lot of work to do.

"I think there has to be a push from all the engineers at home to improve the car," he said. "If we want to win this championship we have to do a massive step and keep pushing and keep improving the downforce mainly. With all the problems that I think we had since the beginning of the season, to be on top of the drivers' championship means that at least we are there. But there is a lot of improvement that we need to bring home because our target has not changed."

He said the good result in Spain would act as motivation for the staff back in Maranello.

"I'm happy because I saw that the job [we've done] in the last weeks has given the right sign in terms of trend, but we know that it's not enough," he said. "I'm happy for my people that at least they showed that the job they are doing is moving things in the right direction."

Alonso finished the race three seconds shy of race winner Pastor Maldonado, but earlier in the final stint he was closing on the Williams and Domenicali said the tire performance went off just at the wrong time.

"We had an issue with the last set of tires, we were not able to maximize the performance. In fact there was a moment when I thought we could have beaten Pastor Maldonado because we were closing him down very quickly, but then unfortunately we lost the tires and we had to manage them because Kimi [Raikkonen] was coming up behind very quick."

Domenicali also suspected that the performance of Alonso's Ferrari was hampered by a bit of rubber getting stuck in its rear wing.

"We had some [tire] marbles wedged in the middle of the wing which made the car quite unstable, but we are waiting for the car to come back to look at that issue. But it was also clear on the data."

Williams F1 fire exposed incompetence of fire crews
Pastor Maldonado took the checkered flag to give Williams their first taste of success for 132 races, their last back in Brazil in 2004, and becoming the first Venezuelan to win in F1 history.
But just 90 minutes after the race ended, as founder Sir Frank Williams gave a speech to every team member in the garage, a blaze, believed to have originated in the fuel area, quickly took hold.

As thick, acrid black smoke billowed from the garage, Williams personnel, along with those from Caterham and Force India in the neighboring garages, fought to bring the blaze under control.

Once managed, Fearnley hit out at the laid back response of the fire crews at the Circuit de Catalunya and demanded that more attention is paid to how much training they receive.

"Incompetent would be a very polite way of saying what these people have done here today," Fearnley said. "There's no training, no procedures. I went down to see how my man is, and I had to fight my way in.  We need to look seriously at the training of people at the circuits. I'm not impressed at all."

Meanwhile, Williams chief operations engineer Mark Gillan extended the team's gratitude to their rivals for their help in dealing with yesterday's fire which resulted in 31 team members being attended to by circuit medical centre staff, seven of whom remain in hospital.

"On behalf of Williams, I'd like to thank all of the team members from other teams for their help during the fire," Gillan said. "We were overwhelmed by the support. It was really impressive.

"Williams would like to say thanks to the teams, the FIA, FOM and all of those who came to help. It was a serious issue and I am very grateful indeed.

"What happened after a great result is very disappointing, but things were limited by the fast response of our team and everyone who helped."

He added that while the fire destroyed a significant amount of the equipment, he had no doubt they would be competing at the Monaco Grand Prix in just under a fortnight's time.

"We had a lot of damage and we have lost a lot of equipment, including IT equipment, Gillan continued. "Over the next couple of days we will be looking at where we are parts-wise.

"We will have everything we need to run operationally at Monaco, but we may be missing a few of the extras because obviously we don't carry a complete set of spares for everything."

Red Bull have 'lots to understand'
Christian Horner has conceded that his Red Bull team have "plenty to understand" ahead of the next round in Monaco in wake of mysterious front wing problems and general pace issues during the Spanish GP.

The World Champions had hoped in Sunday's race to capitalize on the fact that both of their drivers had access to several sets of fresh tires apiece, yet both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber ultimately struggled to make headway up the order for much of the race.

A late charge saw Vettel finish sixth but, in addition to a drive-through penalty for failing to slow for yellow flags, the RBR pit crew was forced to change the German's front wing at his final pit stop - having already earlier had to do the same on Webber's car.

Red Bull have yet to confirm the reasons for the damaged wings and Horner admitted it had been a tricky race for the team that left them with plenty to analyze over the forthcoming days. 

"A difficult afternoon. Unfortunately Sebastian had a drive-through penalty for an incident under a yellow flag, which I believe is because he had the DRS open," the Team Principal said.

"We also had front wing damage on both cars that necessitated two nose changes. Despite that, it was a strong recovery from Sebastian to finish sixth, passing two McLarens and Rosberg in the closing stages and, as a result, we leave here still leading both the Drivers' and Constructors' World Championships.

"For Mark it was a tough race with the wing change early on and then unfortunately a mystifying lack of pace, which resulted in him spending a lot of the race looking at the back of Nico Hulkenberg's car. So, there is plenty to understand."

Vettel, who was joined at the top of the Drivers' Championship by Fernando Alonso, who finished second, speculated that a piece of debris or rubber may have become lodged in his front wing prior to the change.

"I don't know what the problem was when we had to change the nose of the car; I wasn't sure if I had damage or something stuck at the front - maybe a piece of rubber or something," he said.

"I tried another lap, but it wasn't the right thing to do, so we decided to come in and change the nose to make sure. It lost us some time, but it was the right thing, as I was told there was some damage to the front left of the wing."

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