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DATE News (chronologically)
03/17/13
f1
Latest F1 news in brief - Sunday UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

03/17/13
  • Maldonado says new Williams undriveable
    New Williams 'undriveable' - Maldonado
  • Ecclestone happy Austrians in charge at Mercedes
  • Zytek interested in F1's 2014 engine rules
  • Ecclestone's big hope for 2013 is Ferrari revival
  • Alonso says Red Bull leading pack is 'nothing new'
  • Forgotten man Massa is back
  • Whitmarsh admits McLaren made qualifying errors with both cars
  • Raikkonen is first 2013 title leader
  • We're not as good as we thought says Webber New
  • Slugmobile - McLaren recovery 'will be long process New

New Williams 'undriveable' - Maldonado
(GMM)  It has been a nightmare start to Williams' 2013 season.

The deaths of Hugo Chavez and Ginny Williams were big commercial and personal blows for the famous British team, and now its new car has been denounced by Pastor Maldonado.

"It is undriveable at the moment," said the Venezuelan.

"I think we're back to two years ago with conditions in the team," added Maldonado, referring to 2011, when the Grove based team finished a woeful ninth before a marked improvement last year.

Unlike Maldonado, his rookie teammate Valtteri Bottas just squeezed into Sunday morning's Q2 segment at Albert Park.

Maldonado is quoted by Brazil's Globo: "Perhaps, with less traffic, we would have entered Q2, but that's not the goal.

"The goal is to be among the top ten.  Now, we are nowhere."

"There's nothing else to say," he is quoted by Spanish television Antena 3.  "It's going very badly."

Meanwhile, supporting Finland's newest F1 driver - Bottas - in the paddock this weekend and beyond is Mika Hakkinen.

"I am a manager, a counselor, or something else.  Decide for yourself what to call me," the double world champion smiled to Turun Sanomat newspaper.

Ecclestone happy Austrians in charge at Mercedes
(GMM)  Niki Lauda, the team's new co-owner and chairman, has admitted he was shocked when he first visited Mercedes' Brackley headquarters.

Also home to BAR, Honda and Brawn staff in recent history, Mercedes team members had driven to work at the wheel of Audis, Hondas and Vauxhalls, triple world champion told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

"We changed that," said the famous red-capped Lauda.  "Now there's a better employee leasing (scheme)."

Crucially for the recently-underperforming team, however, the really important car - Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's W04 - is also going well.

But Lauda warned: "We are still not at Red Bull's level."

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, however, senses that the direction at Mercedes - with Lauda and fellow Austrian Toto Wolff in charge - is now right.

"I believe they know what changes are needed," the Briton told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

"They have the same rules, the same tires as everyone else, one of the best drivers -- maybe the best driver in Hamilton.  And they have the best engine.

"If I had a team, I would use a Mercedes engine.  What else do they need?"

Ecclestone also backs further personnel shakeups, saying "They will go that route if it is necessary".

The next domino to fall is probably Ross Brawn, the current boss.  Indeed, asked who he now regards as the ultimate boss of the Mercedes team, Ecclestone does not plump for the current team principal.

"Obviously not (Daimler CEO Dietrich) Zetsche," said Ecclestone.  "Not Niki, not Brawn.  For me it's Toto Wolff.

"Niki's position is more political, while Toto needs to put the whole team together."

Zytek interested in F1's 2014 engine rules
(GMM)  Yet another new name could be looking seriously at F1's radical engine rules for 2014.

It is already a poorly-guarded paddock secret that McLaren is likely to team up with the Japanese giant Honda, probably in 2015.

But with Marussia supplier Cosworth looking set to depart the sport at the end of the current season, the only confirmed engine manufacturers for the new turbo V6 era beginning next year are Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari.

However, another one could be Zytek, a British engineering company.

A leader in the hybrid field, Zytek currently works in the Auto GP, Le Mans and Renault World Series categories, and helped Mercedes to develop its KERS in 2009.

On Twitter, the company hinted it was looking closely at F1's 2014 rules, "but (we) can't say too much about that at this stage".

"Maybe we will do a whole power unit ourselves," Zytek added.

"Certainly we have all the elements needed for it in our skills/experience plus the (regulations) reset gives newcomers a chance.

"(It's) certainly a big job and needs serious money to turn the basic engineering concept into a competitive package."

Ecclestone's big hope for 2013 is Ferrari revival
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has admitted a resurgent Ferrari is his great hope for the 2013 season.

Asked by Welt am Sonntag newspaper to describe his main hope for the new world championship, he answered: "That Ferrari gets back to where it belongs; in the front."

The famous Maranello marque, arguably the most important team on the grid, has not won a drivers' title since 2007.

The most recent few seasons have been dominated by Red Bull, but F1's chief executive insisted a fourth consecutive title in 2013 for Sebastian Vettel would not be a problem.

"I answer your question exactly as I did when Michael Schumacher won world title after the next, or it's like Muhammad Ali when he was almost invincible.

"Everyone is waiting to see when and if these guys can be beaten," added Ecclestone.

However, although Vettel is the world beater, many in the F1 paddock and beyond regard Fernando Alonso as the truly best driver of the moment.

"Maybe it's because his style is more aggressive," Ecclestone said, "perhaps because he has to drive it like that because his Ferrari is not as good.

"He (Alonso) also deals with the politics in a more spectacular way."

82-year-old Ecclestone therefore acknowledges the speculation that Vettel is great because of the dominance of Red Bull, and car designer Adrian Newey.

"Christian Horner does a great job," he said.  "All the other teams are not as efficient.

"The problem for Ferrari is its long tradition, and the expectations, which increases their fear of making mistakes.  They are afraid to look bad in public, so they prefer to act a bit more conservatively.

"Too conservatively I think.

"Red Bull is in a different position with (owner Dietrich) Mateschitz.  More or less, he is an independent businessman; his own boss who can do what he wants.

"Even if he makes a big mistake, nobody can fire him, but Luca di Montezemolo always has to behave like a politician."

Finally, Ecclestone insisted he is not afraid of the Gerhard Gribkowsky affair, even though there is a chance he could be convicted in Germany and even jailed.

"I had and have no fear.  Of anything or anyone," he told Welt am Sonntag.  "Never have."

Alonso says Red Bull leading pack is 'nothing new'
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso, although very quiet over the winter period, insists in Australia that he is happy even though not at the wheel of the fastest car.

"Red Bull have the edge; there is nothing new," the Spaniard told Antena 3 television on Saturday.

Championship runner-up last year, Alonso was hoping for a better Ferrari in 2013 but in Melbourne qualified behind the Red Bulls, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and even his resurgent teammate Felipe Massa.

"Yes, I'm happy," he insisted.

"We are starting in good positions, something we have not done in recent races here," added Alonso at the season opener.

Former champion turned commentator Jacques Villeneuve said: "I have no doubt that Alonso will fight for the title this year.

"Ferrari will probably be better than last year, and Fernando always brings out something even more.  He is definitely the best driver," he told AS newspaper.

Told that Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel is arguably the best, because he is the reigning triple world champion, French Canadian Villeneuve shrugged his shoulders as if to say 'so what?'.

"Vettel is nothing like Alonso or Hamilton.  He is a product of the team, and it is the team (Red Bull) that is the best."

Asked if he thinks Alonso deserved the 2012 title, Villeneuve answered: "It's obvious isn't it?

"He has two titles but Schumacher should have ten.  This is a very complicated sport and there are many factors in play."

Forgotten man Massa is back
(GMM)  Ferrari's forgotten man is back.

Since his 2008 title challenge and near-fatal crash a season later, Felipe Massa has been almost missing in action.

A late resurgence last year enabled him to keep his seat for 2013, but every pundit sees it as the Brazilian's last chance at the wheel of a red car.

He has started 2013 well.  No longer with drooping shoulders in the paddock, the 31-year-old told TV Globo in the Melbourne paddock that he is "happy, super-excited".

Also quick.

"I'm delighted with the fight with Felipe," Ferrari's undisputed number 1 Fernando Alonso told Spanish television Antena 3 on Saturday.

"We are used to 17-2, now it's 0-1."

He is referring to the earlier Alonso versus Massa qualifying whitewash, and the fact that Massa has turned it all around to become the top Ferrari driver of 2013 so far.

"It is quite different to the Felipe Massa at the beginning last year," agreed Massa.

In Australia to support his Finnish charge Valtteri Bottas, double world champion Mika Hakkinen said on Saturday: "I hope it's a good season for Massa.

"Looking back, it's been difficult for him.  He has a very challenging teammate."

Whitmarsh admits McLaren made qualifying errors with both cars
A downbeat Martin Whitmarsh admitted McLaren's tire tactics during the final two stages of qualifying for the Australian GP hadn't paid off after his team qualified in tenth and 15th positions for Sunday's race.

The Woking-based team's start to the 2013 season had already looked set to be a challenging one after a realistic in Friday's dry practice sessions that their radically-different MP4-28 wasn't on the pace of their usual front-running rivals' cars, with their Team Principal Whitmarsh confessing to Sky Sports F1 that "certainly we are lacking pace" and had compounded their problems by making "some fundamental errors in setting the car up".

Rain for the majority of what turned into the two-part qualifying hour across Saturday afternoon and then, initially, Sunday morning at Albert Park had appeared to offer McLaren some hope - yet they still lost one car in Q2, new signing Sergio Perez, after switching to slick tires too soon.

Speaking to Sky F1's Ted Kravitz after the end of qualifying, Whitmarsh conceded they should have reverted to the intermediate tires for the Mexican when he immediately pitted again after reporting a problem with his first set of slicks - rather than sticking with the supersoft compound - given how difficult Perez's opening foray on the same tires had proved.

"I think first we took a risk with Sergio going on to a dry tire. It was a very difficult call, I think clearly sector one, sector two, it was quicker on the dry tire, sector three was still struggling on a dry tire, but we took that risk," Whitmarsh confessed.

"Unfortunately there was some issue on that set of tires - he thought it was a puncture - so we had to change so that put us on the back foot. With hindsight I think we should have switched back to the intermediate tire, but we didn't.

"So that was a shame, it didn't come off for us, and it means that took us out of Q3 with Sergio."

McLaren had initially also switched de-facto team leader Jenson Button onto slick tires in the closing stages of Q2, but the former World Champion's greater experience told when he made the call to immediately switch back to the intermediates, and once back on the wet rubber, the 33-year-old ultimately comfortably made it through to the final stage in fourth place.

By the start of Q3 the track was now ready for dry tires and Button was duly the first of the remaining runners take to the track on slicks. However, after he slumped from an initial provisional pole to the very bottom of the top ten, Whitmarsh admitted that they sent him out too soon.

"With Jenson then we decided to go for it on the dry tire - the dry tire was the right thing - but we put ourselves on the track and tried to get three laps, " he explained.

"But unfortunately the track clearly got quicker, it was clearly quicker right at the end, but the tire had grained so Jenson wasn't able to go and realize the potential of the track at that very last critical stage.

"So decisions that were made in very difficult situations but didn't quite come off and made a challenging afternoon for us." Sky Sports

Raikkonen is first 2013 title leader
(GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen is the surprise world championship leader, after winning the season-opening Australian grand prix at the wheel of the fast and tire-friendly Lotus.

Coming in behind the Finn, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso described the Melbourne result as "fantastic", particularly as he beat pole-sitter and traditional rival Sebastian Vettel, who many thought would be unbeatable on Sunday.

"I wonder if anybody out there had money on a Lotus winning, a Ferrari second and a Red Bull in third?" wondered former F1 driver turned BBC commentator David Coulthard.

Vettel said on the podium: "The first few laps were ok but then the tires started to fall apart.

"Lotus and Ferrari had incredible pace and we were third quickest."

Spaniard Alonso admitted it is a "worry" that Raikkonen's Lotus coped better with the high degradation of the new Pirelli tires -- of the top six finishers, only the Finn was able to make just two pitstops.

Alonso said: "We only have five days to prepare for the next race (Malaysia) but we will again be a tough opponent."

We're not as good as we thought says Webber
Red Bull's failure to win the Australian Grand Prix after hogging the front row of the grid has shown the championship team they were not as good as they thought they were, a disappointed Mark Webber said on Sunday.

The 36-year-old Australian lined up second behind pole-sitting team-mate Sebastian Vettel but finished a deflating sixth after a horror start in his 12th and possibly final bid to win his home Grand Prix.

Webber struggled to get moving due to a clutch problem at the start, slipping back to seventh at the first turn, and lost his car's kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) to face an uphill battle to secure points.

More disconcerting was that the pace the Red Bull cars had shown in practice and qualifying was made redundant as they chewed through their tires and were shown cleaner heels by Lotus's winner Kimi Raikkonen.

"We had a KERS failure, quite a few things we needed to manage," a resigned Webber told reporters.

"We didn't have a clue where to put the clutch for the start either, there was no telemetry back to the guys so they were just rolling the dice with that.

"The first 15-20 minutes was a real, real difficult part of the grand prix for us and to get back somewhere towards the points at the end wasn't too bad, but ultimately even if we had a smooth day, I think we would have got done today."

Slugmobile - McLaren recovery 'will be long process
Jenson Button is under no illusions about the task McLaren faces to make its car competitive after admitting ninth place was the best the team could have hoped for in the Australian Grand Prix.

The Woking-based squad struggled all weekend in Melbourne, with Button qualifying in 10th position and finishing nearly a lap down on race winner Kimi Raikkonen.

Button, who won in Australia a year ago, reckons it will take a good while for the team to return to the front.

"There is a lot of work for us to do. It's not something we are going to change overnight," said Button.

"I think we extracted everything we could today. But we are not going to suddenly be competitive."

The former world champion admitted even ninth position was a surprising result for him given his car's form.

"I didn't expect to get that many [points] today," he said. "I think we should be happy with how we went about the race. In a way I'm slightly surprised to have beaten a Lotus and to have held Mark [Webber] for so long."

He added that McLaren would have to be delighted if it managed to score a similar result next week in Malaysia.

"I think if we came away with the same sort of points we would be ecstatic, so that really shows where we are. We are McLaren, we should be further up."

Button conceded, however, that two points scored did not ease the pain of seeing McLaren struggle.

"You can look at it one way: at Silverstone last year I finished 10th and I'm one place higher here. We had bad spells last year, but I think there is a lot more for us to do to get back to the front than last year. It's good to get a couple of points, but it doesn't really ease the pain." Yahoo Eurosport

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