Latest F1 news in brief: Wednesday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

03/30/16

  • Doctors must still evaluate Alonso
    Doctors must still evaluate Alonso

    FIA doctors must green-light Alonso return

  • Allison takes break after death of wife
  • McLaren, Red Bull opposed 'musical chairs' tweak
  • Hamilton questions 2017 rule changes
  • Force India expecting tight midfield battle
  • Perez eager to make up for Australia
  • Symonds intrigued by tire choice variations
  • McLaren plays down 'broken' seat reports New
  • Stewart says F1 'not in crisis' New

FIA doctors must green-light Alonso return
(GMM) Fernando Alonso will not be cleared to race in Bahrain this weekend until a meeting with FIA doctors on Thursday.

Following the Spaniard's terrifying high-speed crash in Melbourne, Alonso hinted on social media that he has been unable to train this week due to the effects.

And a report in the Spanish sports daily Marca said that although the double world champion actually lives near Bahrain in Dubai, he returned home to Spain to recuperate near his family.

But McLaren announced late on Tuesday that Alonso will be in Bahrain.

"I'm very pleased to be heading to Bahrain after the crash in Australia," he said. "I've spent some time resting and I can't wait to get back in the car."

However, Britain's Sun newspaper said McLaren reserve Stoffel Vandoorne is heading to Bahrain on standby, with Alonso not yet technically cleared to race.

"As is always the case after a significant accident, Fernando will have a routine meeting with the FIA doctors in the formula one paddock on Thursday morning," a team spokesman confirmed.

If cleared, Alonso will drive an all-new McLaren chassis and power unit in Bahrain, after the 46G impact in Melbourne that left a crack in his carbon seat.

"Yes, it (the seat) was cracked but not broken, but we will replace it anyway," a McLaren spokesman said.

And Honda's Yusuke Hasegawa added: "We will be replacing the complete power unit in Bahrain."

Alonso, meanwhile, said: "There's been a massive effort from the teams in Woking and Sakura who have been flat-out manufacturing parts for this race to ensure we can get back up to speed after the chassis was damaged."

The other car involved in Alonso's shunt was Esteban Gutierrez, and Haas has revealed that the Mexican will also have a new chassis for Bahrain.

"Some of the parts, for example the chassis, were sent back to Europe to be checked and fixed because we can't do it onsite in Bahrain," said team boss Gunther Steiner.

"We have enough spare parts to build up another chassis, so we will use that."

James Allison morns loss of wife
James Allison morns loss of wife

Allison takes break after death of wife
(GMM) James Allison is spending some time away from formula one as he mourns the recent death of his wife, it has emerged.

On his wife Rebecca's Facebook page, the 48-year-old Briton confirmed to friends and family last week that she died suddenly from meningitis.

"We at Ferrari are united with him and his family during this period of profound sorrow," said Ferrari, where Allison is the technical director.

Speed Week, a German-language publication, claims that following Rebecca's death, Allison returned home to Britain. Normally, he commutes between Britain, where his wife lived with their three children, and his work in Italy.

"From Italy, we hear that to Ferrari's credit, James Allison has been given total freedom to organize his life anew," said correspondent Mathias Brunner.

"Nobody knows when he will return to the race tracks again," he added.

But we reported in February that Allison actually did not plan to travel to all the grands prix in 2016, after Ferrari signed up Jock Clear to head track operations.

Horner opposed changing ridiculous qualifying system
Horner opposed changing ridiculous qualifying system

McLaren, Red Bull opposed 'musical chairs' tweak
(GMM) The lack of time and unanimity means F1 is stuck with the hated 'musical chairs' qualifying system for Bahrain.

Mercedes' Toto Wolff, who like most other stakeholders declared the new 90 second countdown system "rubbish" after its farcical debut in Australia, sounded exasperated on Tuesday when faced with the prospect of a repeat this weekend.

"We haven't found the right format with this change and it's hard to see how it might be more entertaining for the fans this weekend in Bahrain," he said.

Team bosses were initially unanimous in wanting to scrap the system after Australia, but it emerges that McLaren and Red Bull opposed simply tweaking 'Q3'.

A senior insider believes McLaren, in particular, felt so strongly about reverting to the popular 2015 format that it was not prepared to accept the "fudge" alternatives offered by the FIA in recent days.

"There is no time to find another solution so the FIA cannot do anything other than maintain the system from Australia," F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is quoted by Spain's El Confidencial.

France's L'Equipe called the qualifying saga 'Le Grande Farce'.

And another French-language source, RMC, said a petition has been launched through the change.org platform calling for an immediate change "as per the wishes of teams, drivers and fans".

Indeed, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel declared in Melbourne that the new format is "s–t", angrily revealing that the drivers warned in advance that it would not work.

"I don't see why everybody is surprised. We all said what's going to happen and it happened," said the German.

"There's a certain responsibility — we can't just try things that many of us criticize and then turn around and say it was the wrong thing. We need to be sensible and try to do the right changes," Vettel added.

Lewis Hamilton opposes faster cars
Lewis Hamilton opposes faster cars – everyone in Mercedes sings the same tune, they don't want anything changed that might disrupt their advantage

Hamilton questions 2017 rule changes
Lewis Hamilton says it should not be down to drivers to float potential changes in Formula 1, but has questioned the sport's planned 2017 regulation overhaul, claiming that it "won't deliver better racing".

Formula 1's proposed changes for next season, focused on new bodywork, are aimed at creating "more exciting cars, delivering additional downforce to increase speeds and lower lap times."

Hamilton, however, feels that making cars faster will only reduce overtaking possibilities, and feels the sport should be targeting reduced aero interference and greater mechanical grip.

His comments follow on from an open letter issued by the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, which described Formula 1's rule-making process as "obsolete and ill-structured".

"There's been a lot of talk about the rules and whether the drivers should be more involved in decision making," said three-time World Champion Hamilton.

"It's not our job to come up with ideas and we all have different opinions anyway.

"But personally, I think we need more mechanical grip and less aero wake coming off the back of the cars so we can get close and overtake.

"Give us five seconds' worth of lap time from aero and nothing will change – we'll just be driving faster.

"I speak as somebody who loves this sport and loves racing. I don't have all the answers – but I know that the changes we're making won't deliver better racing."

The F1 Commission recently postponed the 2017 rules deadline to April 30.

Force India expects a tight midfield battle
Force India expects a tight midfield battle

Force India expecting tight midfield battle
Force India Team Principal Vijay Mallya says he is expecting a competitive midfield battle across the course of 2016, based on the evidence of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Force India was in the midst of a midfield scrap for points at Albert Park, along with Williams, Haas, Toro Rosso and Renault.

Mallya reckons that the battle in the middle of the Formula 1 grid will provide the most excitement this year.

"What is clear is that the grid is more competitive and closer together than it has ever been in the recent past," he said.

"There are four or five teams who are all performing at a similar level, which made for a tight squabble in qualifying and the race.

"That can only be good for the fans; it's what the sport needs and I think Melbourne showed that it's the middle of the grid where most of the entertainment is being generated in terms of wheel-to-wheel racing."

Force India has secured a points finish in each of the last 10 races and Mallya is confident that run will continue in Bahrain this weekend, where Sergio Perez claimed a podium in 2014.

"On paper Bahrain should be a strong track for us so I'm optimistic we can deliver a similar level of performance to that which we showed in Melbourne," Mallya added.

"We will have some new aerodynamic developments, which will add some performance to the front of the car, so we will work hard to optimize those during the weekend."

Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez

Perez eager to make up for Australia
Sergio Perez says he is keen to make up for the disappointment of a non-points finish at the Australian Grand Prix, which was largely due to a poor getaway.

Perez started the season opener inside the top 10, ahead of team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, but lost a handful of places on the first lap and ultimately came home 13th.

Hulkenberg, meanwhile, crossed the line in seventh position, despite being hindered by the red flag for the collision between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez.

"Australia didn't bring the result I was hoping for so I am targeting a better outcome from Bahrain," said Perez.

"Getting a bad start really compromised my race last time out because I got stuck in the middle of cars on different strategies and I couldn't recover.

"However, it's a long season and I have an opportunity to get back in the points in Bahrain.

"I have some very good memories from Bahrain – the race in 2014 was just fantastic when I celebrated my first podium with the team.

"I'm confident we can be strong again this year and get back all the points I missed in Australia. There were lots of positives we can build on, such as our strong qualifying speed and race pace.

"The team is doing a great job back at the factory and we should have some interesting new bits on the car, too, so I am feeling confident."

Driver tire choices for Bahrain
Driver tire choices for Bahrain

Symonds intrigued by tire choice variations
Williams technical chief Pat Symonds says he is interested to see how the differing tire choices between leading teams play out over the course of this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix.

Pirelli will bring its Super Soft, Soft and Medium tires to Bahrain, allocating a set of Super Softs for the drivers that reach Q3, and a set of Softs and Mediums for the race, only one of which must be used.

Out of the remaining 10 sets, Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams, which occupied the top three positions in last year's championship standings, have all opted for different approaches.

Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will take just one set of the Medium tire each, giving them more of the Soft rubber compared to the Ferrari and Williams drivers.

"The Bahrain International Circuit is quite tough in all respects," said Symonds.

"It's important to have good high-speed balance in the car and look after the rear tires in particular.

"We will see much hotter conditions [in Bahrain], and there is always a concern over wind and sand, which was a real factor in the early part of the weekend last year.

"Following the cooler Australian conditions, we will now see how our cooling systems stand up in the heat and what impact opening up these systems has on aerodynamic performance.

"The tire choice shows a bit of variation as well with Ferrari and ourselves appearing to be going down a different route to Mercedes, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out."

McLaren plays down 'broken' seat reports
(GMM) McLaren has played down reports Fernando Alonso's carbon seat was 'broken' in his high-speed Melbourne crash.

We reported this week that amid claims the seat was broken amid the 46G forces, the FIA had launched an investigation so as to learn from the incident.

"Yes, it (the seat) was cracked but not broken, but we will replace it anyway," a McLaren spokesman told us on Wednesday.

He later added: "The fact that the seat cracked but was not broken means it did its job well — specifically, it flexed helpfully, as it was designed to do, and it efficiently absorbed a lot of the energy of the accident."

Sir Jackie Stewart
Sir Jackie Stewart

Stewart says F1 'not in crisis'
(GMM) F1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart has played down suggestions the sport he has been involved with for over five decades is broken.

"Look, everyone only sees the bad," the triple world champion told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"I have to say the field is too far apart — there is too little competition," Stewart, 76, said. "But the sport is still attractive for plenty of reasons."

Today, Stewart is still involved in F1 as an ambassador for Rolex, the luxury watch company he says he introduced to Bernie Ecclestone.

"I signed my first Rolex contract in 1968," he recalled. "And I'm still with them.

"Four years ago I proposed that they support the entire series and it was one of the best choices they could have made."

The Scot therefore played down suggestions F1 is now in crisis.

"If there are a few problems at the moment," he said, "we have seen it before when Michael Schumacher won everything. But the sport is still healthy."

Stewart said even the current qualifying format debacle can be looked at from different perspectives.

"Our generation says 'Too complicated, back to the old system!' But the kids understand it immediately. We always compare with the past, but they accept it as something new.

"I can tell you one thing," Stewart continued. "Very soon, a large, internationally renowned company will come into F1 as a global sponsor, and they wouldn't do it if they were of the opinion that the sport is on the way down."

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