Latest F1 news in brief: Sunday

  • Mercedes worried Ferrari will smoke them at the start again
    Mercedes worried Ferrari will smoke them at the start again

    Mercedes asks parent for new clutch design

  • Magnussen qualified just to beat Palmer
  • F1 governance unlikely to change until 2020 – Todt
  • Todt backs doctors amid Dennis' frustration
  • Mercedes open to MotoGP test for Hamilton
  • Jury out over Williams' new nose – Massa
  • Whiting responds to fears over 2017 rules
  • Wolff: Qualifying supporters should be 'crucified'

Mercedes asks parent for new clutch design
(GMM) F1's reigning world champion team Mercedes has appealed to its carmaker parent Daimler to stave off a threat posed by 2016 title rival Ferrari.

In Australia two weeks ago, both silver cars were beaten off the grid by the Ferraris, after the Maranello team proved to have best mastered the new rules limiting drivers to the use of a single clutch lever for race starts.

Now, Mercedes has qualified first and second in Bahrain but the team is again worried that Ferrari will simply leap ahead.

"Ideally, we'll do the same thing on the start as we did two weeks ago," smiled Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who is third on the grid but led early in Melbourne. "I wouldn't mind!"

Acknowledging that Ferrari has the upper hand, Mercedes is reaching out for help.

"Daimler is making a new clutch for us," team boss Toto Wolff told Germany's Auto Bild. "We have asked the research department for help."

"We don't know exactly when it will be ready," he added, referring to "weeks or months".

Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton said in Bahrain that Mercedes has been working on improving what it already has since Australia, but admitted he "highly doubts" the situation will be much different compared to two weeks ago.

Mercedes, however, is not alone in having a key area to work on at the start of the 2016 season, amid paddock rumors Ferrari is struggling with its new turbo.

Asked if there is a fundamental problem, Kimi Raikkonen – who retired in Australia with a fiery airbox – told the Finnish broadcaster MTV in Bahrain: "Well, at the last race there was."

It is believed that until the problem is resolved, Ferrari is not able to turn its 'power units' up to full power, especially in qualifying.

"But qualifying and the race are entirely different things," Raikkonen said, referring to the half-second gap between Mercedes and Ferrari on Saturday.

"We know that we are always closer to them in the race," he added.

Kevin Magnussen
Kevin Magnussen

Magnussen qualified just to beat Palmer
(GMM) Kevin Magnussen said he put the pedal to the metal in qualifying without even thinking about getting a good spot on the Bahrain grid.

That is because, no matter where the Dane qualified, he would always have to start Sunday's race from the pitlane after running a red light on Friday.

"It's no secret that it was my goal to beat my teammate," said Magnussen, who duly succeeded in going a couple of tenths quicker than Jolyon Palmer, who had beaten him in qualifying two weeks ago in Australia.

However, the yellow Renaults were just 19th and 20th fastest in qualifying, with Magnussen telling the Danish broadcaster TV2: "We knew this track would be difficult for us because of the long straights. We do not have enough power."

Only slightly higher on the grid in Bahrain is the Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat, who amid rumors he could be relegated to Toro Rosso for 2017 is furious about being a second off teammate Daniel Ricciardo's pace.

"Never in my career have I been so happy with the car (in practice) and then I am so far behind in qualifying," he told Russia's Sportbox. "I can say as a driver that I am not a second slower than Ricciardo. I'm very, very upset."

F1 governance will not change for now. Drivers will have zero say
F1 governance will not change for now. Drivers will have zero say

F1 governance unlikely to change until 2020 – Todt
(GMM) To the surprise of no one, the 'musical chairs' qualifying was run again on Saturday to collective cries for it to be scrapped.

"It's not good unless you have a weak bladder," joked Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who is actually furious that F1 did not act collectively to revert to the 2015 system after the farcical debut in Australia.

His 'weak bladder' comment is a reference to the lack of action caused by the rapidly-expiring 90 second countdowns, with drivers normally sitting in the pits rather than pushing to better their times and stay in the session.

At one point, Williams sent its cars onto the track in Bahrain simply to entertain the confused crowd rather than push for grid position.

"Williams were out and I'm not even sure they knew why — we certainly didn't," exclaimed Mercedes' Toto Wolff. "It was terrible."

The increasingly widespread feeling in the paddock is that the qualifying debacle has been pulled into the increasingly-poisonous political wrangling that many believe is now badly damaging F1.

Four teams vetoed the scrapping of the format after Australia, but Wolff said any dissidents should be "crucified" if a change is once again blocked before China.

The sport will meet to discuss qualifying on Sunday and "Whatever we decide, I am optimistic we will get unanimous agreement," FIA president Jean Todt said in Bahrain.

But amid the current climate, no one is actually that confident.

"There is so much politics and bull—- in F1 that it is crazy sometimes," said Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. "People from the outside must look at us and think 'What stupid people, what are they doing?'"

Bernie Ecclestone, for instance, has responded to the drivers' collective call for a better sport by pointing the finger at GPDA president Alex Wurz, hinting it is a political move by the Austrian in cahoots with the teams.

"We are not political," Vettel hit back, defending his fellow GPDA director.

"It (the letter) is signed by Alex and me and Jenson (Button) but is from all the drivers generally."

The drivers' main gripe is that the governance of the sport has gone off the rails, but FIA chief Todt suggested F1 is probably stuck with what it has got until 2020.

"If we could get all three sides to agree to change, we could change the governance tomorrow," said the Frenchman.

"But I doubt we will ever get that so we are in this position until the current agreement runs out in 2020."

One team boss told the Sunday Times newspaper: "It's so frustrating. We have a president who is afraid to act and Bernie just shooting from the hip on everything and it's just not working."

Todt backs doctors amid Dennis' frustration
(GMM) FIA president Jean Todt has backed the decision to keep Fernando Alonso on the sidelines this weekend.

McLaren supremo Ron Dennis on Saturday admitted his frustration after the governing body's doctors refused a late bid to re-assess Alonso's health and let him return to the cockpit.

"Fernando felt good and wanted to drive so we went to the FIA and asked if he could do that if we got a new scan. We got a resounding no," Dennis said, according to the Spanish sports daily Marca.

Dennis said his frustration is because Alonso's medical team in Spain had actually approved the 34-year-old to fly to Bahrain and race in the wake of his partially collapsed lung and rib fractures, only to be overruled by the FIA.

"It's a little frustrating not to have the opportunity to assess the condition of our driver," he said. "In any other sport, these things are decided by the team and I think if he (Alonso) decides to race then it's his decision.

"I guess the position of the FIA is to ensure the safety of the other drivers and we have to accept that," Dennis added, "but I think it was not very appropriate to not reassess the situation this (Saturday) morning."

On a rare high-profile visit to the F1 paddock this weekend, FIA president Todt backed the doctors' call.

"It is a decision that is exclusively for them," he is quoted by Spain's El Mundo Deportivo.

"We want drivers to get back behind the wheel as soon as possible," Todt added, "but doing so with maximum guarantees of safety."

However, Dennis' frustration in Bahrain was compounded by the fact Alonso's injuries caught everyone by surprise, after the FIA gave him a clean bill of health in Melbourne.

Todt said: "We will make deeper checks after such accidents in the future, perhaps even if it is necessary to follow closely the development of the driver in the following three or four days (after a crash)."

Hamilton wants to test bike
Hamilton wants to test bike

Mercedes open to MotoGP test for Hamilton
(GMM) Mercedes has opened the door for a potential MotoGP test for the team's reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Last year, the Briton said: "When my dad bought me my first go-kart I actually wanted a motorbike.

"I'd love to test a MotoGP bike just to see what it's like."

The natural fit for a Hamilton test would be the MotoGP team Yamaha, as it boasts 'superstar' counterpart Valentino Rossi and a sponsor – the energy drink Monster – in common with Brackley based Mercedes.

Rossi admitted last year he would like to see Hamilton try the Yamaha, and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff now says: "It would not be a problem for us if he (Hamilton) wanted to do it.

"On the contrary, it's a fun idea," Wolff told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Besides, I think he has already ridden a motorcycle in the past."

Also on board is Lin Jarvis, Yamaha's MotoGP chief.

"For now it is just an idea," he said, "but clearly it would be very interesting."

Massa says Williams new nose not noticeably better
Massa says Williams new nose not noticeably better

Jury out over Williams' new nose – Massa
(GMM) The jury is out over Williams' highly-anticipated new ultra-short new nose and front wing assembly.

After a long delay in getting the piece through the FIA's mandatory crash tests, one version finally arrived in Bahrain on Saturday and was fitted to Felipe Massa's car.

The Brazilian qualified seventh — two thousandths of a second behind his teammate Valtteri Bottas, who was running the old nose.

"We had a very difficult morning with the new wing," Massa is quoted by Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo. "The car was completely undriveable.

"We were not sure until the last minute whether to use it in qualifying or not. Maybe it's not 100 per cent right yet, but I think it's ok and hopefully it can give me a little advantage in the race," he added.

As for the fact that teammate Bottas is ahead with the old layout, Massa answered: "He did a good lap even not using the new wing, so I think we need to analyze everything."

Charlie Whiting
Charlie Whiting

Whiting responds to fears over 2017 rules
Charlie Whiting, the FIA's Race Director, has responded to concerns from drivers that Formula 1's regulation overhaul for 2017 will send the sport in the wrong direction.

Planned technical changes, focused on revised bodywork, are aimed at creating "more exciting cars, delivering additional downforce to increase speeds and lower lap times."

Lewis Hamilton feels that such steps "won't deliver better racing", while Sergio Pérez reckons on track battles should be viewed as more important than outright speed.

Whiting, however, moved to ease these fears in Bahrain, making clear that there are also likely to be solid steps in terms of mechanical grip and tyre characteristics.

"I heard comments from some drivers that we would be going in the wrong direction in terms of increasing speed by just adding more downforce," said Whiting.

"But it's not only going to be about aerodynamics.

"We have had several meeting with lots of request and will probably end up somewhere in the middle.

"Probably half of the gain [in overall lap time] we are going to get from the 2017 cars will be because of mechanical grip, the other half is downforce.

"Our main goal has only been to make it easier to follow other cars to improve overtaking.

"At the moment drivers lose a lot of grip when they are behind another car and the tyres don't recover from that, so that's one of our goals for [supplier] Pirelli as well."

Wolff happy after qualifying with both cars on front row again
Wolff happy after qualifying in Bahrain with both cars on front row again

Wolff: Current qualifying supporters should be 'crucified'
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that any senior figure objecting to change the current qualifying format should be "publicly crucified in the paddock", after the new system was trialled once more in Bahrain.

The amended format, in which drivers are eliminated at 90 second intervals throughout three knockout sessions, was used again in Bahrain, despite widespread criticism following its introduction in Australia.

FIA President Jean Todt indicated prior to qualifying that Formula 1 must not over-react but Saturday's session was once again criticised for a lack of on track action, particularly during the final stages of each segment.

Senior team figures, Todt and Bernie Ecclestone will meet on Sunday lunchtime to address the issue, with reverting back to the 2015 format likely to be the preferred option.

"In qualifying we were there with our data," Wolff said.

"We have intelligent people on the pit wall and less intelligent people, like me, in the garage. Yet, despite all the data on the screens, we could not follow it.

"If somebody gets a block in the system and we get stuck, we should publicly crucify them in the paddock. Is that a politically correct answer?

"It is very difficult to follow, who is in and out [of eac qualifying session], we have a duty to simplify the sport rather than to add the complexity."

Mercedes again locked out the front row of the grid for the Bahrain Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton setting a new lap record to beat team-mate Nico Rosberg.

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