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DATE News (chronologically)
03/16/14
f1
Latest F1 news in brief - Sunday (Update) UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

03/16/14
  • A sad Fernando Alonso knows the Domenicali led  Ferrari team has once again produced an inferior car
    Cautious Alonso targets mere Melbourne finish
  • Mercedes duo to battle 'within limits' on Sunday
  • Ecclestone doubts Susie Wolff will race in F1
  • My 'servant' days are over - Massa
  • Mercedes wins but Red Bull crisis ending New
  • Bernie Ecclestone postpones Russian GP night race New
  • Massa calls for Kobayashi ban New
  • Ricciardo under investigation for fuel flow breach New
  • Magnussen thrilled by debut podium New
  • "We cannot be happy" says Kimi Raikkonen New
  • Vettel: It's going to be a long season New

Cautious Alonso targets mere Melbourne finish
(GMM)  A cautious Fernando Alonso is hoping simply to finish Sunday's Australian grand prix.

The Spaniard, with high hopes of finally winning a title in his fifth year at Ferrari, qualified in his now seemingly customary fifth position as the 2014 season began.

"Fifth is our natural position right now," he told Spanish-speaking reporters late on Saturday.

"I have not done much better or much worse than in other previous sessions.

"As for the rain, I don't think the car was better or worse -- fifth position is what we deserve," the two-time world champion added.

For the race, Alonso said he is simply hoping to see the checkered flag.

"It sounds pessimistic or unattractive or very cautious," he said, "but after the winter testing, I think everyone would sign just to finish the race."

But surely he would prefer to finish on the podium?

"I don't know, I really do not know how competitive the car is," said Alonso, "but if we have no problems then it (a podium) should be possible.

"But anything can happen with the fuel, the batteries, the tires -- this year there are so many variables."

Alonso said he thinks the Mercedes and McLaren cars qualified higher than him on Saturday because they are better for the moment, but he is not sure about Red Bull, whose Daniel Ricciardo will start Sunday's race from second place.

"Red Bull did not finish any race simulations in pre-season testing," he said, "so I think we should finish ahead of them."

More broadly, Alonso said it is clear that in his fifth consecutive campaign with Ferrari, he wants to finally win the title in 2014.

"I have been often the championship runner-up and nobody wants that," he told Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

"But on the other hand, I have had the best four years of my life.

"My personal performance has never been so good, sometimes perfect and against very strong opponents.  That gives me the same satisfaction as if I had won the world title."

Some, however - even his friend Mark Webber - have predicted that 2014 is make-or-break for Alonso before his patience with Ferrari finally runs out.

Alonso replied: "I'm a Ferrari driver, sitting here in a red suit.  It is nonsense to talk about me leaving the team if I win or lose.

"I have a long-term contract and I repeat that the last years were for me the best years of my career and my life.

"If things had gone a bit better and with a bit of luck, I would have won the title four or five times, but the past is history."

Mercedes duo to battle 'within limits' on Sunday
(GMM)  Whether Mercedes will or will not impose team orders in Sunday's Australian grand prix has become a major talking point.

First, it was said that despite the W05's obvious early-season dominance, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg would be free to race to the checkered flag.

But then boss Toto Wolff admitted there had been "conversations" behind closed doors about how the silver-clad pair should handle their battle on Sunday.

Rosberg, who qualified third behind Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and his pole-sitting teammate Hamilton, said late on Saturday: "I can already tell you now that there will be battles between Lewis and I.

"That is important for the TV and for everybody, and for us as a team."

However, the German acknowledged that those battles will be fought and won "within certain limits".

"We need to find the fine line," said Rosberg.  "We have prepared for it and really gone through it in detail so we know what to expect.

"That is the most important thing, once everyone knows what they have to do then it is good to go."

Wolff insisted that there will be no arrangements a la 1998, when the dominant McLaren drivers agreed that the winner in Melbourne would be he who gets to the first corner first -- with highly-controversial results.

"We are not doing this," he said.

But "We need to make sure that as a team we are running strongly," Wolff added.  "Then it is to be decided on a case-by-case (basis) with what is going on with the cars.

"We have discussed it and found a solution which is acceptable to Nico and Lewis and to the team."

Ecclestone doubts Susie Wolff will race in F1
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone does not think Susie Wolff will ever realize her dream of lining up on the F1 grid.

Briton Wolff, whose Austrian husband Toto is the Mercedes chief and Williams co-owner, will need a full race super license in 2014 as she appears on the Friday mornings at Silverstone and Hockenheim at the wheel of the Mercedes-powered Williams.

But F1 chief executive Ecclestone, who once notoriously admitted he hopes the 31-year-old is "as quick in a car as she looks good out of" it, doubts Wolff will ever actually race in grands prix.

"Susie Wolff is good," he told the Sydney Morning Herald, "but will she ever be in a position to show how good she is?  I doubt it.

"The big problem with a woman, even if she's good enough, is having the opportunity to show that," 83-year-old Ecclestone explained.

"Because a team won't take a woman driver unless they bring them massive sponsorship.  So you could have a very, very good woman driver and she would not get what she deserves," he added.

A greater matter on Ecclestone's mind at present is the sport's all-new turbo V6 era.

Fiercely critical of the move to quieter engines, the diminutive Briton will have heard with alarm the criticism in Melbourne of the 'sewing machines on wheels'.

"I think at the beginning when all this started we thought this would attract a lot of manufacturers who manufacture the size of engine that we are using in 2014," he said.

"Formula one is entertainment," Ecclestone insisted.  "The trouble is that sometimes we forget that.  These are the people who buy the tickets, turn on the TV and produce the money so that the sport can grow."

FIA president Jean Todt, however, is just as fiercely dismissive of Ecclestone's and the fans' concerns, insisting the matter will be all forgotten "after a few laps in Melbourne".

The Frenchman is taking criticism of the highly-controversial 'double points' idea for the season finale much more seriously.

As far as he is concerned, the tweak to keep interest in the championship until the end is merely "a little change", and far less significant than the important "revolution" to modernize F1's engine regulations.

But Todt also admitted the FIA is prepared to drop the 'double points' idea.

"If it doesn't work, it is easy to get rid of for next year," he told the Daily Mail.

"We will see if there is more interest at the end of the championship.  If not, I would be the first to say let's go back to the way it was."

My 'servant' days are over - Massa
(GMM)  Felipe Massa has kicked off the next phase of his formula one career with two thumbs up.

One thumb is for his move to Williams, where despite the British team finishing the 2013 season deeply uncompetitive, he has found himself powered by the plum Mercedes engine.

"I am happy, that's true," the Brazilian, who lost his Ferrari seat after eight years to Kimi Raikkonen, told the German newspaper Bild.

"I'm glad I went this way.  It could have been a stroke of luck.  The car feels good," said Massa.

"The fact that Williams changed to the Mercedes engines is the first step to success," he insisted.  "I feel that the car is strong and I'm hungry to finally win again."

Massa's other skywards-facing thumb is for the end of the Ferrari era, where despite intense highs and the almost title-winning 2008 season, the 32-year-old has also experienced some deep lows.

Asked by correspondent Nicola Pohl to describe what four years as Fernando Alonso's 'water-carrier' feels like, he answered: "I'll tell you one thing.

"The time as a servant is over!  Williams wants me to take a leadership role in the team.

"In a team you sometimes have to do things that you don't understand in the moment.  But you're not a racing driver if you cannot win," Massa insisted.

Mercedes wins but Red Bull crisis ending
(GMM)  Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, and Melbourne pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton, failed to finish Sunday's 2014 season opener.

Both men struck trouble right from the start at Albert Park, after a winter of technical struggles up and down the paddock.

"It's a long season," said German Vettel, whose run of victories dating all the way back to last August finally ended, "and there are positives."

The bright side is that Red Bull's 'crisis' appears to be rapidly ending, as teammate Daniel Ricciardo delighted the partisan crowd by finishing second.

Vettel's problems started before qualifying, when his car's fuel flow sensor reportedly alerted the FIA that the Renault engine was using more than the allowed 100kg of fuel per hour.

"The (Renault) software was changed so this no longer occurred," reported Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.  "Ricciardo's worked, Vettel's did not."

Ricciardo was delighted.

"Just two or three weeks ago, I would have bet everything I've got that we would not be standing up here," he told 1980 world champion Alan Jones on the podium.

"Full credit to the team for an unbelievable turnaround," the Australian added.

Hamilton, meanwhile, was as glum as Vettel as his otherwise dominant Mercedes struck trouble with an engine misfire.

But "the important thing," the Briton said behind the pit buildings, "is that the car is quick.

"It's early stages and there's a long way to go.  There's massive positives to take from the weekend."

Indeed, Hamilton was cheered by the performance of his winning teammate Nico Rosberg, who won easily by almost half a minute.

"What a car you have given me," German Rosberg told his Mercedes crew on the radio, "what a car."

More surprising than Rosberg's victory was the fact that doomsday predictions of cars failing left, right and centre did not materialize, as 14 cars saw the checkered flag.

"The teams are learning so much so quickly," said former F1 driver David Coulthard on British television BBC.

"The ones who have managed the new technology best were Mercedes," he added.

Rosberg, however, warned that the arms race is definitely now on.

"We can improve and we must improve," he said.  "The other teams will not go to sleep so we have to make sure we are ready for Malaysia."

Bernie Ecclestone postpones Russian GP night race
After months of posturing and predictions the 2014 Formula One season is finally upon us. However, even at this late stage, it seems that the calendar is still set for change. Recent reports suggested that the Russian Grand Prix would be held at night but Bernie Ecclestone has now confirmed this isn't the case after all according to an article in The Independent by Christian Sylt.

The inaugural Russian Grand Prix will take place in October in Sochi on a track which will already be very familiar to television viewers. It will snake around the venues which hosted this year's Winter Olympics and were illuminated by a huge fireworks display at the end of the Games.

Ecclestone wanted F1 to share in that glow this year but he says that when he met Russian president Vladimir Putin last week the decision was taken to host the first night race in 2015. This is because its calendar slot will be brought forward next year and the race will instead take place during Russia's holiday season which will give it even more attention.

"I was going to get them to light the whole place up but they are going to wait because the next race will be early next year so they want to do a big number," says Ecclestone. "It's definitely not a night race this year but it will be next year. Earlier in the year is a good holiday period for them. That is the reason and I think they have had a lot of nonsense to go through with the Olympics."

Massa calls for Kobayashi ban
A disappointed Felipe Massa has urged the FIA to ban Kamui Kobayashi, saying his antics are no different to Romain Grosjean's.

Taking out two Championship hopefuls - and others - at the start of the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix, Grosjean was hit with a one-race ban.

Massa now wants the same for Kobayashi after the Caterham driver took him out at the start of Sunday's Australian GP.

"Somebody hit me massively, and it was really a shame as everything was under control for the start," the Williams driver told Autosport.

"I was really careful going to the line very safely, but every time Kamui is trying to do a start like that he will do the same.

"You cannot brake at 50 meters on a start like that."

"I don't see a difference between what happened to his start and what happened to Grosjean when he did a crazy start at Spa."

"I hope they give a hard penalty because you cannot do that."

As for Kobayashi, he concedes the accident was entirely his fault.

"We struggled to get grip but definitely my mistake," said the Caterham driver.

Kobayashi, though, avoided sanctions as the "stewards later determined that the incident was caused by a serious technical failure completely outside the control of the driver."

Ricciardo under investigation for fuel flow breach
(GMM)  The first major technical controversy of F1's new V6 era is currently unfolding in Melbourne.

We reported earlier that after Ferrari was warned at the Bahrain test, fellow engine supplier Mercedes then caught the FIA's attention in Melbourne practice, regarding the new rule limiting the flow of fuel to 100 kilograms per hour.

We then reported on Sunday that while Daniel Ricciardo thrilled the Australian crowd with second place at Albert Park, teammate Sebastian Vettel has been grappling with new software since qualifying after his fuel flow sensor alerted the FIA that the Red Bull is exceeding the maximum rate.

"Ricciardo's worked, Vettel's did not," said Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Earlier, however, Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko indicated that new software for the Renault engine was only being run on Vettel's car, with poor results.

But now Ricciardo's second place is in doubt, with the FIA confirming that his car "exceeded consistently the maximum allowed fuel flow" rate during the race.

"As this is not in compliance with (the) technical regulations, I am referring this matter to the stewards for their consideration," said technical delegate Jo Bauer.

The seeds of the controversy date way back to October of last year, when the company awarded the contract to supply the mandatory fuel flow sensors struggled to improve on its error rate.

In January, the company - Gill - said its improved sensor "fulfils the FIA's accuracy requirements".

But just before the Melbourne season opener, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo warned the FIA to be ready for team "trickery" in the area of "fuel, software" and "consumption" as a result of "grey areas" opened up by the new regulations.

Magnussen thrilled by debut podium
Kevin Magnussen says that it is 'hard to believe' that he finished on the podium on his Formula 1 debut in Australia.

Magnussen started the race from fourth place and survived a lurid moment off the line when his MP4-29 snapped sideways and moved up to third place due to Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes problems.

The Danish rookie hounded Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo across the final stint of the race but settled for third place.

"It's hard to believe," said Magnussen. "It seems so surreal. The car was so much better than it has been at any point. I just had exactly what I needed the whole race. The preparation we have done this winter has been fantastic."

Magnussen's third place was backed up by Jenson Button in fourth, which gave McLaren the lead in the Constructors' championship. But the Brit warned that the team still has to find pace.

"It's been a long time since we were leading a Constructors' Championship so it's a good feeling – you always want more but this is a good start," he said.

"We're not leading because we were quickest, we're leading as got both cars home. Mercedes and Williams are still quicker, but we've got some updates for Malaysia."

Kimi Raikkonen battles with the lowly Toro Rosso team
"We cannot be happy" says Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso have admitted Ferrari can't be satisfied with their double-points scoring finish in the Australian GP after being comprehensively out-paced by Mercedes in the season opener.

While the fifth-placed Alonso finished over half a minute behind the victorious Nico Rosberg, Raikkonen crossed the line another twenty seconds later, with the F14 T appearing to only be the fifth fastest car in the field behind Mercedes, Red Bull, Williams and McLaren.

"The plain truth of the situation is that, even when considering their problems today, Ferrari are nearly half a second per lap off the pace of the Mercedes - and that is huge," calculated Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz starkly.

Raikkonen's assessment of his new team's predicament wasn't quite so stark, but, having performed reasonably well in pre-season testing, the team's worst fears were realized in Melbourne as the F14 T proved to be reliable but not match for the pace of the frontrunners.

Stefano Domenicali looks on in bewilderment, not able to understand that his pull-rod front suspension Ferrari is another lemon
"We cannot be happy with the positions we finished in. At least we got something out of the race, but it has been a very difficult week," said the Finn.

And that's putting it mildly.

"Both cars crossed the line, which is a good achievement. On the other hand, we finished 35 seconds behind Rosberg and that is too much," said Alonso. "We need to do better. We are Ferrari, we are a strong team, and after the first race you have a better picture of where we can improve. We need to analyze and be stronger in Malaysia." [Editor's Note: They will not do better as long as Stefano Domenicali is running the team.]

Vettel: It's going to be a long season
Sebastian Vettel came into the Australian Grand Prix with few expectations after a difficult few weeks but even so his fifth-lap retirement while near the back of the field left him visibly frustrated.

"On the second formation lap we lost power for some reason, we don't know why," he said. It's going to be a long season. At the beginning I thought it was OK, but I didn't get any power from the battery and the engine failed.

"We came here to do well. The most important thing is that the car is quick. At least 50% of the garage is happy. It's disappointing when it happens to you but what can I do now?"

Vettel, who qualified in 13th, struggled from the start. On the opening lap he radioed that the "engine is not running smoothly" and although soon after he said he had detected a slight improvement it was not enough and when he was called in he was back in 16th place.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner said Vettel's frustration was understandable. "Everything he tried didn't work but he stuck around, he helped in the garage and was offering advice to the pit wall."

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