Latest F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • Giovinazzi happy to get surprise GP start
    Giovinazzi happy to get surprise GP start

    Giovinazzi can 'change his life' on Sunday – Liuzzi

  • Alonso could quit McLaren mid-season – Webber
  • Drivers happy with '8G' new-generation F1 cars
  • Lowe defends Stroll amid bad debut F1 weekend
  • Suspension not reason for Red Bull struggle – Verstappen
  • Ricciardo: Separate issues caused dramas
  • Vettel 'over the moon' with Australia win
  • Marchionne praises Ferrari's winter push

Giovinazzi can 'change his life' on Sunday – Liuzzi
(GMM) Former F1 driver Vitantonio Liuzzi has hailed the return to the grid of an Italian driver.

Liuzzi, and his countryman Jarno Trulli, were the last two Italians in F1, but that changed suddenly in Melbourne when Antonio Giovinazzi got the shock call to replace unfit Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber.

Liuzzi, now 36 and a GT driver, told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "I truly believe Antonio deserves this wonderful opportunity.

"He showed last year in GP2 that he is more deserving of other drivers who enjoy better financial resources," he added.

The F1 paddock also collectively hailed Giovinazzi's first qualifying session on Saturday, as he came tantalizingly close to beating his teammate Marcus Ericsson.

"Maybe with a few laps I could have done it, but he has been racing for many years," said Giovinazzi.

"I'm still a little sorry because I really wanted to beat Marcus, but my dream of racing in formula one comes true and I can only thank Ferrari and Sauber for the opportunity."

Liuzzi also said Giovinazzi's effort in almost beating Ericsson was admirable.

"Ericsson is not the most rated driver in the paddock," he said, "but I really believe Antonio did a great job because he didn't even drive on Friday.

"Now he must absolutely take the checkered flag because in F1 you do not get many opportunities. So my advice is to prove on the track that he deserves a seat.

"These are the chances that can change your life," Liuzzi added.

Alonso could quit McLaren mid-season – Webber

Alonso wishes he was still with Ferrari now
Alonso wishes he was still with Ferrari now

(GMM) Mark Webber thinks his long-time F1 friend Fernando Alonso could soon quit McLaren.

Australian Webber, who is now a television pundit, said in Melbourne that the third year of struggling with McLaren-Honda could be the imminent tipping point for the talented Spaniard.

"Alonso may not stay with the team," he told the Belgian news agency Sporza. "Maybe Stoffel (Vandoorne) will soon have a new teammate.

"I can see it happening that Alonso does not complete the season. He is very frustrated," added Webber. "Fernando is not here for 6th or 7th places. He's not interested in points. He wants to fight for the podium," Webber insisted.

Alonso remarked on Saturday that one positive is that he beat Vandoorne by a full second in qualifying, but it is believed the rookie Belgian had a technical problem.

Indeed, Webber hailed Vandoorne's arrival in F1.

"We need talent like that in F1," he said.

"He's a good guy with a brilliant career ahead of him."

However, Webber said Vandoorne's situation is very different to the one being endured by Alonso.

"His (Vandoorne's) car and his team are not competitive, but Stoffel will get there. He can afford a moment like this.

"In your first season, you're learning about formula one and he gets to do it out of the spotlight. Everyone is looking at his team and at Honda," Webber explained.

Drivers happy with '8G' new-generation F1 cars
(GMM) F1 drivers say the cars of 2017 are living up to expectations.

Laptimes in qualifying were far from the predictions of 4-5 seconds per lap faster, but Max Verstappen said that kind of speed can be expected on circuits other than Melbourne.

So when asked if the 'new' F1 is on track, the Dutchman said: "In terms of driving, yes.

"The cars are faster, it's nice to drive them. The high speed corners are exciting."

But Verstappen warned that overtaking may be rare in 2017, with the excitement on Sunday in Australia perhaps limited to a fight for the first corner between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

"The races will be more boring," he said. "Tomorrow, whoever leads in the first corner will win for sure."

However, the cars are obviously and visibly faster and harder to drive.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, for instance, crashed in qualifying, and Romain Grosjean confirmed that the Australian was not alone in struggling to handle his car.

"We are going through the corners at an insane speed compared to the last seasons," said the Haas driver.

In fact, the Frenchman sensationally claimed that cornering speeds in Melbourne are getting close to 8G.

"Coping with this is not easy for the driver and the car," he said.

Even Fernando Alonso, who is otherwise frustrated with his situation at McLaren-Honda, is happy with the new F1.

"We can see that the veterans are out front and the rookies behind, because it's more difficult to drive," he said.

As for the risk of drivers losing control of their cars, Alonso joked: "Last year I think we had four seconds to recover — you could have a coffee while you were doing it.

"These cars are in another category."

Lowe defends Stroll amid bad debut F1 weekend
(GMM) Paddy Lowe has leapt to Lance Stroll's defense, as the teen rookie struggles through his first race in formula one.

After making notable mistakes in winter testing, 18-year-old Stroll – whose father Lawrence is a billionaire – crashed again in Melbourne practice and lines up dead last on Sunday's grid.

But Williams technical boss Lowe backed the team's important new recruit.

"Can you imagine the pressure he was experiencing?" said the Briton.

"For more than a year, Lance was preparing for this moment and then everything happens in just a few moments with almost no practice.

"But in the race he will gather some more experience, probably now with slightly less pressure because he's on the back row. So he will have the opportunity to practice and understand what the race is like and take more confidence to China.

"At this stage of his career, Lance really needs support first and foremost," Lowe added.

However, Stroll's chance to make a great first impression is now behind him, but Lowe thinks the Canadian will take it in his stride.

"He is only 18 but he already has a high level of maturity and a balanced approach," said Lowe.

"The main thing – and we've told him this already – is to keep his expectations in check. We just want him to go through the weekend normally, getting an idea of what it means to be in formula one."

Indeed, Stroll himself sounded sanguine amid his tough first F1 weekend.

"It's a tough start to my formula one career but there's no reason to put my head in the sand," he said.

"I'm still learning. I'm not expecting to compete with my teammate or fight for the podium. I just want to know where I stand and where I need to improve."

Suspension not reason for Red Bull struggle – Verstappen

Vettel smokes Verstappen
Vettel smokes Verstappen

(GMM) Max Verstappen says Red Bull's place as the third force behind Mercedes and Ferrari has been made obvious to the world in Melbourne.

"We are behind," the Dutchman said after qualifying. "We lack grip and engine power."

The team has been warning for weeks that it is not on the top two teams' pace yet, but the situation may have been made worse by news the FIA recently told Red Bull to remove its trick suspension system.

"No, for us it didn't matter. Everything is exactly the same," Verstappen insisted when asked about the suspension situation.

"The fact is that the suspension did not change since the winter tests. We need to analyze everything and try to do it all better."

One problem, for instance, is that Renault is still struggling with its winter reliability problems, while a major performance upgrade has now been delayed from May to June.

And according to Italy's Autosprint, team boss Christian Horner said after qualifying in Melbourne: "Mercedes and Ferrari have their 'magic button' and we don't have one yet."

But team official Dr Helmut Marko admitted the problem is not just Renault's fault.

"We have problems with the chassis," he told Auto Motor und Sport. "In the tests we realized that our car is incredibly sensitive, with only the slightest deviation in setup leading to a serious loss of laptime."

Verstappen added: "At the moment we don't know all the reasons for our problems. If we knew, we would already be fixing it."

Daniel Ricciardo succumbed to the Red Bull's handling by crashing in qualifying, but Marko said the team can now react to its issues "in a reasonable amount of time".

However, Verstappen warned: "We're missing a second, and you normally don't solve that overnight."

Ricciardo: Separate issues caused dramas
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo says two separate issues on his RB13 compounded his dismal Australian Grand Prix weekend, as he retired for the first time since mid-2015.

Ricciardo qualified only 10th after crashing out of Q3 and was set to line up from 15th spot due to a five-place penalty for a gearbox change, caused by the accident damage.

Ricciardo was unable to take up his grid position as he stopped on his reconnaissance lap due to an electrical glitch, and he joined the action two laps down, following repairs in the garage.

The home favorite continued at the back before pulling off at Turn 4 midway through the race, due to a suspected fuel pressure problem.

"That was a separate issue," Ricciardo said of his terminal failure.

"At the end, we believe it was something to do with fuel pressure, basically it just switched off.

"It was instant, nothing [I could do], no procedure I could do to stay out there.

"I was lapping a few laps down, but we were getting some info, which was better than nothing, the more laps we get the more we're learning, it's still valuable track time."

Max Verstappen maintained fifth throughout the race in the other Red Bull, trailing Kimi Räikkönen for most of the 58-lap affair before backing off across the final few laps.

The Dutchman expressed encouragement at his race pace, having been adrift of the leading quartet during qualifying.

"I was still a bit surprised we were that close to Kimi, the pace was quite good compared to him," he said.

"The whole race we were quite close to each other, behind me there was not pressure, so that was very nice, the car behaved quite a bit better in the race than in qualifying."

Verstappen's points haul puts Red Bull third in the standings.

Vettel 'over the moon' with Australia win

Vettel dominates on Sunday
Vettel dominates on Sunday

Sebastian Vettel described himself as "over the moon" after he opened his and Ferrari's 2017 Formula 1 campaign with victory at the Australian Grand Prix.

Vettel started from second place on the grid but remained within touching distance of early leader Lewis Hamilton, who opted to pit for his sole stop on Lap 17.

Vettel remained out, inheriting the lead in the process, as Hamilton got caught behind the yet-to-pit Max Verstappen, and was unable to pass the Dutchman.

Vettel ultimately made his sole stop five laps later and emerged from the pit lane narrowly in front of Verstappen, before successfully defending his position into Turn 3.

From there, Vettel pulled clear of the pack to register victory, his and Ferrari's first triumph since Singapore 2015, as he returned to the top of the standings for the first time since 2013.

"There's a long, long way ahead, but for now we're over the moon," he said.

"We're just happy. It's been a hard winter.

"It was an incredible race, at the start I was not entirely happy, I was a bit too nervous, and I had a bit of wheel slip off the line.

"Lewis was a tiny bit better, then I had to take care or Valtteri [Bottas] into Turn 1, but I had a decent exit.

"Then I was keeping the pressure on to make sure they got the message, 'We are here, we are here to fight'.

"Obviously I got a bit lucky when Lewis came out in traffic, but I was hanging in there, the tires were still good, still working."

Vettel was also full of praise for Pirelli's revised tires, as he managed to push throughout the race, running an Ultra Soft/Soft strategy.

"You could push much harder; usually the first couple of laps last year you were pushing then the tires dropped off," he said.

"Now, the tires are still dropping off a bit, but you can keep pushing, can keep braking at the same point.

"The car was screaming, 'more, more, more', and on the harder tires there was hardly any degradation.

"So it's really good fun, especially through faster corners, I could keep going forever, it was a great race, I enjoyed it a lot."

Marchionne praises Ferrari's winter push
Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne has reacted to Sebastian Vettel's victory at the Australian Grand Prix with a statement recognizing his team's efforts over the winter.

Vettel and Ferrari ended a victory drought stretching back to the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix by beating Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in Sunday's season-opener.

Vettel stayed out longer than early leader Hamilton before pitting for fresh tires and took advantage of his rival hitting traffic to emerge in the lead of the race.

By the time Red Bull's Max Verstappen pitted and released Hamilton, Vettel had built up a comfortable lead, the German cruising to the checkered flag.

Kimi Räikkönen had a lonely run to fourth position in the other SF70H to ensure that Ferrari leads rival Mercedes in both the Drivers' and Constructors' standings.

"It was about time," began Marchionne's statement.

"I am delighted for the team and for our Tifosi who stood by us throughout this whole period. We've been waiting for this victory for almost a year and a half.

"Hearing the Italian national anthem again was very moving.

"Sebastian delivered a great race and I am sure Kimi will be soon up there battling alongside his team-mate.

"Of course, this victory is something to share with the entire team, both at the circuit and back in Maranello, because teamwork is the only way to achieve major goals."

Marchionne made clear, however, that Ferrari must keep pushing.

"It is absolutely essential to remember that this is not the destination but the first step on a long road that must see us all focused on improving each and every day," he stressed.

Marchionne also congratulated reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi, who made his debut in place of Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber, crossing the line in 12th.

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