F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • Horner thinks the Ferrari flexes
    Horner thinks the Ferrari flexes

    Red Bull concerned about flexible Ferrari

  • Red Bull admits 2017 title unlikely
  • Ferrari wrong to criticize Raikkonen – Surer
  • Alonso says Indy 500 criticism 'normal'
  • 'Young' Verstappen is 'developing' – Marchionne
  • Hamilton: Ferrari 0.2s ahead in race-trim
  • Horner renews call for ban on T-wings
  • Horner: McLaren 'barking mad' over Indy

Red Bull concerned about flexible Ferrari
Red Bull has become the first F1 team to admit concerns about the flexibility of Ferrari's 2017 car.

The energy drink owned team is notably lagging behind Mercedes and Ferrari this year, amid rumors the new Ferrari has aerodynamic elements – like the floor and the front wing – that visibly flex at speed.

"There are very incriminating pictures where not only the floor but also other parts show a lot of flexibility," Red Bull official Helmut Marko said in Bahrain.

"We will see how the FIA react," he is quoted by the Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung.

When asked about the 'flexible Ferrari' rumors, joint championship leader Sebastian Vettel said: "That's the first time I've heard it.

"I think when you're at the front there will always be something that people don't like, so it's more like a compliment," the German added.

And Vettel said it is not right to say the wings and floor are the only impressive parts of the new red car.

"We were very brave with our layout of the sidepods," he told Bild newspaper in Bahrain. "They look like rabbit ears, just for Easter."

Red Bull admits 2017 title unlikely
Top team figures at Red Bull are already playing down the likelihood of a championship tilt in 2017.

Daniel Ricciardo, who has been linked with a switch to Ferrari, admitted in Bahrain that given the performance in Australia and China, the title is "unlikely".

And Dr Helmut Marko, a top team official, agrees.

That is despite the fact that he thinks formula one as a whole has taken a big step forward with its new regulations.

"The cars look more aggressive and better but they're also faster," he told Osterreich newspaper. "There is also the fight between Mercedes and Ferrari.

"Unfortunately, Red Bull is not yet managing to get involved."

But he said the former world champions are working hard to get up to speed.

"In Barcelona we will have a new chassis, and for Montreal the engine update is planned. Then we should be the winner of the Austrian grand prix," said Marko, referring to the Spielberg race that Red Bull promotes.

But the Austrian admits that starting to win in July will probably be too late for the championship.

When asked who will win it come late November, Marko answered: "Vettel.

"Sebastian is far stronger than in the last two years, fully motivated and relaxed."

Ferrari wrong to criticize Raikkonen – Surer

Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen

A former F1 driver has defended Kimi Raikkonen, following criticism from Ferrari's bosses in China.

After a lackluster race for the Finn in Shanghai, team president and boss Sergio Marchionne and Maurizio Arrivabene respectively hit out at Raikkonen, saying they would speak with him.

Asked if that conversation took place, Raikkonen gave a terse "no" in Bahrain.

But former F1 driver turned pundit Marc Surer thinks Ferrari's criticism was unjustified.

"I don't think it's fair that they do that to him," the Swiss told the German broadcaster Sky.

"We heard what his problems were — that his engine did not deliver the right power. And he complained about missing grip in the front, which I see as a setup issue that the team has to solve," Surer added.

"If you criticize a driver, first you should check if everything was working technically."

More generally, Ferrari is impressing with its pace in 2017, but some ill-feeling towards the great Italian team has been caused by its self-imposed 'media blackout' this year.

Luigi Perna, a top journalist for the authoritative La Gazzetta dello Sport, slammed Ferrari for not giving the media much access to the team so far in 2017.

"After a winter of silence, there was tremendous media and Tifosi interest in Ferrari, but this was met with silence too," he said in Bahrain.

"It is understandable that president Marchionne wanted quiet after his statements of a year ago, but this is too much."

Alonso says Indy 500 criticism 'normal'

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso has played down criticism of his decision to skip Monaco next month to contest the Indy 500.

The shock news has created a buzz in the motor racing world, but many fellow drivers said they would never skip a grand prix, while team bosses revealed they would not allow their own racers to do the same.

"I think he needs to see a psychiatrist personally," said Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

"Would we let our drivers do it? No."

Alonso said in Bahrain that his former boss Ron Dennis would not have allowed it either, and former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone agreed.

"I think it's probably good for Alonso but if I could have persuaded McLaren not to go I would have done it," said the 86-year-old in Bahrain.

"I would have said 'Wait until your contract finishes and then do what you like — but you are in the middle of formula one."

But there is not only criticism.

1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve hailed Alonso's bravery for taking on the challenge of a race he himself won in 1995.

"Fernando has this," said the Canadian, using his hands to symbolize 'balls'.

"I don't understand when it's said that the risks are too high," Villeneuve told Brazil's Globo in Bahrain. "Yes, but if you're a driver and so many other drivers are doing it, you cannot be afraid.

"Are you a driver or not?" he added.

Indeed, Villeneuve said it is the danger of Indianapolis that means the quality of the field is high.

"Why are most of the drivers in the Indy 500 not paying drivers?" he asked rhetorically. "Because daddy is not going to give you money to race somewhere you can get hurt.

"But what are the risks today in F1? Hardly anything. And what happens? It's full of paying drivers."

When asked about the criticism of his and McLaren's Indy 500 decision, Spaniard Alonso said in Bahrain that he expected it.

"We spoke before the announcement that the drivers would say they would never miss a grand prix, and the bosses would say they would never let their drivers go to the Indy 500," Alonso told the Spanish broadcaster Movistar.

"We said this reaction (in F1) would be normal because this weekend the media coverage is high because of Indy, the sponsors want to go, the TV wants to go, journalists want to go — so I think it's normal," he added.

'Young' Verstappen is 'developing' – Marchionne

Marchionne eyeing Verstappen?
Marchionne eyeing Verstappen?

Sergio Marchionne has played down suggestions Ferrari might see Max Verstappen as the great Italian team's next driver.

The Ferrari president was notably critical of 37-year-old Kimi Raikkonen after a lackluster performance in China, triggering rumors the team might be eyeing Daniel Ricciardo for 2018.

But Ricciardo's Red Bull teammate Verstappen, 19, might be another Ferrari target.

When asked about the exciting Dutch driver, Marchionne said: "He is young and he has his whole life ahead of him. Ferrari has existed for 70 years.

"Now he is busy with something else, he is developing — that is the best way to describe it," the Italian-Canadian is quoted by Italy's Corriere dello Sport.

More generally, Marchionne says he is happy with Ferrari's performance so far in 2017, vindicating the group of Italian engineers who are responsible for the car following the departure of James Allison.

"We have a group of young guys, not an English superstar, and I'm proud of them. This machine belongs to them," he said.

Hamilton: Ferrari 0.2s ahead in race-trim

Is Ferrari really ahead in race trim?
Is Ferrari really ahead in race trim?

Lewis Hamilton claims Mercedes' data puts Ferrari two-tenths of a second ahead in race-trim following the first day of practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Mercedes had a low-key start to the weekend at the Sakhir circuit, as Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas placed 10th and 14th in FP1, while Hamilton's second session was compromised.

Hamilton abandoned his first lap on the Soft and Super Soft tires in FP2, before getting caught out by Renault driver Nico Hülkenberg, leaving him fifth overall.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel topped both sessions, ending the second 0.041s clear of Bottas, and Hamilton expects another close battle up front this weekend.

"It was incredibly hot early on, with some of the very toughest conditions – both physically and in terms of working with the tires," said Hamilton after Friday practice.

"We got through that and then it was much cooler in the afternoon, giving us a much better representation of what qualifying and the race will be like.

"I was able to get a much better understanding of where the car is in FP2.

"It was very close, with Ferrari fastest. In race-trim they seem a couple of tenths quicker, so I'm expecting a great battle tomorrow and then again on Sunday.

"We'll work as hard as we can to try to close that gap."

Bottas is also wary of Red Bull, after Daniel Ricciardo lapped within a tenth of pace-setter Vettel, and emphasized that overnight changes will be more important than usual.

"It seems like the same trend continues here with it being so close with Ferrari," said Bottas.

"But Red Bull are looking good too and the whole pack is pretty close, if you look at the top six particularly.

"It looks like every little thing that we are going to be fine tuning today with the set-up and anything extra we can find is going to be crucial for qualifying and the race."

Horner renews call for ban on T-wings

Bottas lost his 2nd T-Wing in two weeks
Bottas lost his 2nd T-Wing in two weeks

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has renewed calls for an immediate ban on T-wings after Max Verstappen struck debris during second practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Replays appeared to show Verstappen running over the T-wing which fell off Bottas' Mercedes midway through Friday evening's second session at the Sakhir circuit.

Horner, having already lamented the return of the shark fin and arrival of the T-wing, wants Formula 1 chiefs to revisit the area for the remainder of the campaign.

"It cost us a few quid and a lot of downtime," Horner told Sky Sports, as he was shown footage of Verstappen running over the debris through the high-speed Turn 12.

"They should absolutely be banned; get rid of them, illegal, dangerous – all of those things."

Horner admitted, however, that the incident is unlikely to lead to a ban.

"I don't think they're going to be banned based on that falling off," he said.

"I don't think [Formula 1 Race Director] Charlie [Whiting's] got that strong an appetite to get rid of them this season, but they look horrible and they're dangerous.

"It's not just Bottas, we've seen issues with the Haas and so on.

"People think that it's sour grapes, because we're not running one [a T-wing], but it's nothing to do with that – I think it does need looking at properly."

Verstappen himself was surprised at how much damage the T-wing caused.

"We had to change the floor, so quite a lot actually," he said.

"I didn't expect that it would cause that much damage… it's not ideal, because I lost again my long run a bit, so it was a little bit unfortunate, I guess."

Whiting suggested in Australia that the T-wing is likely to be outlawed from 2018.

Horner: McLaren 'barking mad' over Indy
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says McLaren chief Zak Brown must be "barking mad" to allow Fernando Alonso to compete at next month's Indianapolis 500.

It was announced earlier this week that Alonso will participate in the event in a one-car McLaren team, run by Andretti and supplied by Honda engines, with Jenson Button taking his seat for Monaco.

Horner, though, has questioned McLaren's eagerness to put together such a deal for Alonso, and made clear that Red Bull would not have taken the same approach.

"It's a difficult one for Fernando, he's having a tough time," commented Horner, referring to McLaren-Honda's ongoing reliability and performance struggles.

"Zak's got the problem that he got a depressed driver on his hands; he's trying to keep him motivated.

"He's come up with this idea to send him to Indianapolis. He must be barking mad.

"It's the nuttiest race I've ever seen. No testing. He's just going to jump in the car. Turn 1 is a proper turn as well. It's not just easy flat all the way round. I think he needs to see a psychiatrist personally.

"Would we let our drivers do it? No, we wouldn't.

"I believe if a driver commits to a team… it's a bit like disappearing with another girlfriend half way through the year and then coming back, it doesn't seem the right thing to be doing.

"Perhaps if the races didn't clash or do it at the end of his Formula 1 career. Obviously McLaren has got this approach which is different to ours but good for them."

Brown took to social media to respond to Horner's quip:

View image on Twitter

Er… sorry Christian, which of us needs to see a psychiatrist?! 😂

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