F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • The McLaren is fast around the corners says Alonso
    The McLaren is fast around the corners says Alonso

    McLaren chassis 'among best' in 2017 – Alonso

  • Sainz eyes 'top three teams' for future
  • 'Stress gone' between Mercedes drivers – Wolff
  • No new rule after Vettel grid position controversy
  • 'Correlation' to blame for Red Bull problems
  • Flexible Ferrari story 'nonsense' – Lauda
  • Wehrlein can still feel old back injury
  • Vandoorne still 'future champion' – Vasseur
  • Hamilton admits Bottas 'did the better job'
  • Vettel surprised by pole deficit to Mercedes
  • Force India gives Celis Jr. another test day

McLaren chassis 'among best' in 2017 – Alonso

Alonso in Bahrain
Alonso in Bahrain

(GMM) McLaren's 2017 chassis is "one of the best" on the grid.

That is the claim of Fernando Alonso, who is apparently pinning the team's ongoing competitive crisis solely on engine partner Honda.

"With the power deficit that we have, we have proved in these races that we have one of the best chassis in the championship," the Spaniard is quoted by AS newspaper.

Alonso was speaking after the latest reliability problems struck by the flagging Honda 'power unit' in Bahrain.

"It's a shame that we have to change the engine for reliability and not when it is out of kilometers, but that's what we have right now," he said.

"It was going to be a difficult race, and now it will be even more difficult," added Alonso.

Sainz Jr. eyes 'top three teams' for future

Sainz Jr. will have to earn a top-seat, or buy one
Sainz Jr. will have to earn a top-seat, or buy one

(GMM) Carlos Sainz Jr. has hinted he would like to drive for one of the three top teams in 2018.

The Spaniard was linked strongly with a move to Renault for this year, but Red Bull elected to hold him to his contract with Toro Rosso.

Now, El Pais newspaper said the 22-year-old has made comments in Bahrain that are designed to "attract the attention of a large team".

Sainz was speaking amid a difficult weekend mired by reliability problems in Bahrain.

"The three top teams are in another league. I don't even look at them as it would be stupid," he said.

"That you cannot even consider fighting with them is a joke in bad taste. It's frustrating, although if I was with one of them I would not mind," added Sainz.

'Stress gone' between Mercedes drivers – Wolff

Toto Wolff
Toto Wolff

(GMM) Toto Wolff says he is very happy with how Mercedes is shaping up in the wake of the Nico Rosberg era.

After retired Rosberg's successor Valtteri Bottas took pole from his teammate Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain, boss Wolff said he received a notable text message.

"It was from Nico and it said 'Great driver pairing!'" he exclaimed.

And Wolff agrees with that sentiment.

"It feels great, because we have a real opponent in Ferrari so success tastes even sweeter," he said.

"Valtteri has now done his first pole, and I am very impressed with how well he has recovered from his setback in China. We can't forget that this is his third weekend with us, and he is driving against the best driver in the world," Wolff added.

"What makes me particularly happy is that there is a different dynamic between the two drivers than before. I would say all the stress is gone," he said in Bahrain.

"After qualifying it was clear that Lewis was really happy for Valtteri. And with Sebastian Vettel there is also a mood of real sportsmanship."

And as for Sunday's race, Wolff said: "We remain on our guard.

"Red Bull showed good pace on Friday, as did Ferrari and us. So everything is possible."

No new rule after Vettel grid position controversy

Vettel was lined up a few feet too far to the left in Shanghai
Vettel was lined up a few feet too far to the left in Shanghai

(GMM) The spotlight was on Sebastian Vettel for a full 22 minutes in the pre-Bahrain grand prix drivers' briefing.

That is the news from Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, after a barrage of fellow drivers complained about how the German positioned his Ferrari on the Shanghai grid a week ago.

Stewards did not penalize Vettel in China, because there is not a specific rule about how a driver can position his car to avoid damp and slippery white lines.

"Theoretically, as long as you have one wheel in the starting box, you can be where you want," Force India team manager Andy Stevenson said.

But Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa reportedly all brought up at length the issue of Vettel's controversial starting position.

Massa called for a clear rule.

"I think this was the only briefing in which he (Vettel) was quiet," Massa laughed.

"If a driver is forbidden to cross the line at the exit of the pitlane, he cannot do that. We need to have rules that must be adhered to," said the Brazilian.

However, Whiting responded that a 'common sense' approach should instead be taken to the issue of grid start positions.

"In the last 22 years, there were maybe three notable cases like this," the F1 race director said. "If we had a strict rule to the centimeter, then 10 drivers would have been penalized in China."

But Massa insisted: "In formula one, there are some things that we are asked to use common sense with, but as we know, common sense is not always in formula one."

'Correlation' to blame for Red Bull problems

Red Bull's British designer Adrian Newey now gets beat year-in and year-out by the Italians
Red Bull's British designer Adrian Newey now gets beat year-in and year-out by the Italians

(GMM) Mismatching data has been identified as the cause of Red Bull's problems early in 2017.

Despite Adrian Newey's reputation with changing regulations, the energy drink owned team is at least a second per lap off Mercedes and Ferrari's pace.

However, the gap looks smaller in Bahrain.

"We have understood our chassis problems," team official Dr Helmut Marko is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport. "But we need to wait until Barcelona for the solution."

And team boss Christian Horner says the cause of the issues has also been found.

"For the first time in a long time, the correlation between CFD, the wind tunnel and the race track does not match. We get three different sets of data," he said.

The resulting car surprised much of the paddock for its lack of aerodynamic appendages and visual complexity.

"We are too fast on the straights," Marko admits, referring to low drag but also low downforce.

The Austrian has said the Spanish GP-spec Red Bull will be a "new car".

Horner agrees: "The step will be significant."

Flexible Ferrari story 'nonsense' – Lauda

The Italians are dominating F1. Did Ferrari find a gab in the rules for their floor? Italian Aldo Costa finds gaps in the rules all the time for Mercedes. Costa and Binotto (Ferrari) are out designing the Brits and they are not taking defeat well.
The Italians are dominating F1. Did Ferrari's Binotto find a gap in the rules for their floor? Italian Aldo Costa finds gaps in the rules all the time for Mercedes. Costa and Binotto are out designing the Brits and they are not taking defeat well.

(GMM) A controversy about the legality of Ferrari's competitive 2017 car is continuing in Bahrain.

Earlier, Red Bull official Dr Helmut Marko said "incriminating" video footage of flexible aerodynamic features of the red car is doing the rounds.

But Niki Lauda, the team chairman at Mercedes, played down the rumors as "nonsense".

"If someone believes it is illegal, all cars go through technical inspections," the F1 legend told German television RTL.

The flexible parts of the Ferrari most under scrutiny are the front wing flaps, the rear wing and the 'monkey seat'.

But some believe the biggest advantage is being achieved through the floor.

Former F1 driver turned pundit Marc Surer, however, told Germany's Sky: "It is legal.

"Ferrari has cleverly used a gap in the rules."

And so for now, while Marko is among the naysayers, there is no sign of an official protest.

"Nothing is coming from us," he said. "The FIA are the police."

Wehrlein can still feel old back injury

Pascal Wehrlein still in pain
Pascal Wehrlein still in pain

(GMM) Pascal Wehrlein says he can still feel the effects of his recent back injury.

After missing Australia and China, the German returned to his Sauber in Bahrain and confirmed that he had recovered from three broken vertebrae.

And on track, he duly impressed, clearly outpacing his teammate Marcus Ericsson.

"He has hit back in a spectacular way," Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes' junior driver program, said.

At the same time, 22-year-old Wehrlein admitted he can still feel his old back injury.

"It can be like that for another half year," German reports quote him as saying.

"But I am not concerned.

"It's ok. I can still feel it in my back a little, but it was not a problem to do the long runs."

In fact, he said the intense training he was able to do in the past few weeks has made him "absolutely ready" for the rest of the 2017 season.

"My (fitness) numbers, especially the strength, are very different compared to Melbourne," said Wehrlein.

"I have no concerns that there will be problems again."

Vandoorne still 'future champion' – Vasseur

Stoffel Vandoorne getting mopped up by his teammate Alonso
Stoffel Vandoorne getting mopped up by his teammate Alonso

(GMM) Stoffel Vandoorne remains a "future champion" despite his difficult start to the 2017 season.

That is the claim of former Renault boss Frederic Vasseur, who is back in the paddock this weekend with his GP2 team ART.

Vasseur has worked with several former GP2 champions, including Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and more recently Belgian Vandoorne, who in 2017 has stepped up with a full-time F1 race seat at McLaren-Honda.

But the Anglo-Japanese partnership is struggling, as is the 24-year-old rookie in comparison to his highly rated teammate Fernando Alonso.

However, Vasseur says it is too early to judge Vandoorne.

"We cannot tell anything from the first three grands prix," he told the Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

"I am convinced that Stoffel is a great future champion and two difficult races will not change that for me.

"The fact is that he has started a season with an avalanche of technical problems, and this is probably the worst situation for a young driver who needs to acclimatize to a team and learn circuits on which he has never raced.

"Every time he has had the chance, he has shown he is there. Now he must take things calmly.

"In Bahrain he finally arrives at a circuit he knows, even if it has not gone smoothly, but after that are Russia, Spain, Monaco, all places he knows.

"I am convinced that Stoffel is one of the most brilliant drivers of recent years, he just has to go through this difficult period and keep the positive and constructive attitude he has about the team," said Vasseur.

"It's hard to compare a Lewis Hamilton of 2005 with a Stoffel Vandoorne of 2017, but he is one of the best I have had."

And so Vasseur says that while comparisons to Alonso are not possible yet, Vandoorne has the best possible teammate for his rookie season.

"Having Alonso as a reference point is important," said the Frenchman.

"He is one of the best two or three drivers, so we can judge his (Vandoorne's) progress in the second half of the season."

Hamilton admits Bottas 'did the better job'

Hamilton and Bottas in China
Hamilton and Bottas in China

Lewis Hamilton has admitted that new team-mate Valtteri Bottas simply "did the better job" after claiming pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who led the way in Q1 and Q2, kicked off the pole position shootout with a time of 1:28.792, half a tenth clear of Bottas.

However, on the second runs, Bottas improved to a 1:28.769, two-hundredths up on Hamilton, who was unable to find more time.

Bottas had qualified third for his first two races at Mercedes, behind Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, but Sakhir yielded a breakthrough.

Speaking after qualifying, Hamilton said: "Firstly, a big congratulations to Valtteri.

"He's been working so hard, he's gelled so well with the team, and today he was just quicker than me, he did the better job, so hats off to him."

Hamilton added that he has struggled with the first sector so far this weekend.

"My first lap felt great, I looked up [at the television] and the time was so close, so I thought, 'Wow that was a great lap, he [Bottas] did a great job'," he said.

"But I was losing quite a bit of time through the first sector, it was generally my weaker point, and usually it's a stronger point for me, so I'll work on it for tomorrow.

"Valtteri found some great pace through the first sector; the second and third sectors ended up being quite good, but overall I was a little bit down.

"It was a great battle, that's how close quali should always be, it forces us to be on the limit.

"I'm generally happy with the job I did and it's great for the team to be one-two."

Hamilton and Bottas finished almost half a second clear of Vettel, while Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo beat the other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen to fourth position.

Vettel surprised by pole deficit to Mercedes

Vettel looks up in amazement at the times turned by the Aldo Costa designed Mercedes'
Vettel looks up in amazement at the times turned by the Aldo Costa designed Mercedes'

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel conceded he was "a bit down" after witnessing the deficit to rival Mercedes during qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Vettel finished within a tenth of a second of Lewis Hamilton during Q2, but the Mercedes pair pulled clear in Q3, with Valtteri Bottas taking his first pole position in Formula 1.

Vettel, meanwhile, was almost half a second adrift in third, winding up 0.478s behind Bottas, and admitted he did not expect to face such a deficit.

"Overall I was very happy with how qualifying went, with how the car felt," said Vettel.

"We had some issues yesterday; there was nothing wrong, but we tweaked the balance for today in the right direction, and we were happy with how it turned out to be.

"In Q2 I thought, 'OK, this will be tight', I was happy to go into Q3, I was happy with my first lap, I crossed the line and looked up [at the big screen] and saw both of them ahead.

"When I got the time obviously I was a bit down, to be honest, four-tenths was a lot more than I expected, also given how good the lap felt."

Vettel says that the deficit forced him to adopt an aggressive approach for the second run, though it proved to be fruitless, as he failed to improve.

"On the next run I tried a bit hard everywhere but equally I had nothing to lose as I was quite safe also to cars behind," he commented.

"I tried harder but it didn't work.

"I went slightly slower, obviously if I went a tenth quicker it would not be enough, so I tried a bit more, but hopefully we can do a bit more tomorrow."

Kimi Raikkonen wound up fifth in the other Ferrari, behind Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, having complained of understeer throughout qualifying.

Force India gives Celis Jr. another test day

Alfonso Celis Jr.
Alfonso Celis Jr.

Force India will hand reserve driver and World Series Formula V8 3.5 racer Alfonso Celis Jr. another day in the VJM10 at the post-Bahrain Grand Prix test.

Formula 1 teams will test at the Sakhir circuit on Tuesday and Wednesday, in the first of two in-season gatherings, the second to follow the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Celis Jr., who got his first taste of the VJM10 on the third day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, will receive a second run on Tuesday.

As per the current regulations, F1 teams must run 'young' drivers – who have competed in fewer than three Grands Prix – on two of the four in-season test days.

Force India's race drivers, Esteban Ocon and Sergio Pérez, will split running on Wednesday, Ocon driving in the morning and Pérez taking over for the afternoon.

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