Latest F1 news in brief: Saturday

Jacques Villeneuve
Jacques Villeneuve
  • Villeneuve: F1 must restore credibility
  • Ecclestone: Mercedes, Ferrari to split wins
  • Renault clears new front wing for Bahrain
  • Palmer 'more relaxed' after Formula 1 debut
  • Ricciardo expects Bahrain to suit Red Bull
  • Button: Drivers need 'full package' to succeed
  • Alonso to use new power unit in Bahrain

Villeneuve: F1 must restore credibility
(GMM) F1 must return to its glorious roots or risk collapsing, according to 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve.

The French Canadian is just the latest in a long line of insiders, experts and pundits who are exasperated at the current off-track goings-on at the pinnacle of motor sport.

The turmoil reached its peak last week when the F1 drivers' body, the normally safety-oriented GPDA, issued a rare letter blasting the status quo.

"I can only share the opinion of the drivers," F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda told Italy's Sky Sport News HD.

"What is going on in formula one is not good," said the Austrian.

"Everyone is taking his own position, each the blocking the other, so there is no agreement," added Lauda, just hours after the astonishing decision to stick with the hated 'musical chairs' qualifying format for Bahrain was taken.

Reports suggest that not only some teams dug their heels in amid the need for unanimity, but also the sport's authorities.

"The FIA and Jean Todt say they will not be dictated to by the teams on the issue of who makes the rules," Lauda said.

But Villeneuve, an avowed F1 'purist', says that when rule changes have been made over the past decade, the obvious 'Hollywood' factor is steadily eroding the sport's appeal.

"It's going the wrong way with trying to add more 'show'," the outspoken former Williams and Honda driver told French newspaper Le Figaro.

"We are trying to be the X-Games, appealing to teenagers who spend their lives doing something different every ten minutes on the internet," Villeneuve explained.

"But formula one will never be a show like that with exploding cars and drifting and 10,000 overtakes. F1 is not artificial Hollywood and going in that direction will destroy it.

"What is needed is to restore F1's former glory and prestige and, above all, its credibility," he insisted.

Can Ferrari really beat sandbagging Mercedes?
Can Ferrari really beat sandbagging Mercedes?

Ecclestone: Mercedes, Ferrari to split wins
Bernie Ecclestone expects Mercedes and Ferrari to split race wins during the 2016 season after the two teams went head-to-head for victory at the Australian Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen held a 1-2 for Ferrari in the early stages of the season-opening race, as the pair launched ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg off the line.

But Raikkonen retired shortly after the restart, and Vettel's efforts were undone by a poor strategic call, allowing Mercedes to continue where it left off at the end of last year.

Ecclestone says that he saw enough from Ferrari, however, to suggest that it will push Mercedes – double World Champions in 2014 and 2015 – much harder this time out.

"It was a good show, right? Mercedes won, but Ferrari showed they are better than last season," Ecclestone explained in an interview with Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"The progress that has been made is evident, even Mercedes know that.

"I'm hoping for a great fight between Ferrari and Mercedes.

"I think they will split wins evenly, but Mercedes will win the title."

Asked to give his prediction for the Drivers' title, which has been a straight fight between the Mercedes drivers for the past two seasons, Ecclestone plainly replied: "Hamilton."

Renault in Australia
Renault in Australia

Renault clears new front wing for Bahrain
Renault will run its new front wing design on both its cars at the Bahrain Grand Prix, following a successful evaluation with Kevin Magnussen at the season opener in Australia.

Renault, which rushed to prepare the RS16 over the winter, gave Magnussen an updated wing for Friday's running in Melbourne, as Jolyon Palmer continued with the old specification.

Renault's technical chief, Bob Bell, says that the update performed as expected, and will now be used by both Magnussen and Palmer for the second round of the season.

"We brought a prototype front wing to Melbourne that Kevin used and it appears to have lived up to expectations – it will be on both cars in Bahrain," Bell confirmed.

Bell expanded on Renault's overall development plan for 2016.

"In the first half of the year we will concentrate on the engine and have a normal development program for the chassis," said Bell, who returned to Renault at the start of the year.

"We will have the standard aero developments from race to race, as everyone will do, then have the complex mechanical items that will come through when we get into the European testing program.

"I think we have a credible plan to advance the car but obviously we have to balance what we want to do next year versus our aspirations for this year."

Jolyon Palmer on the grid in Melbourne
Jolyon Palmer on the grid in Melbourne

Palmer 'more relaxed' after Formula 1 debut
Renault driver Jolyon Palmer says that he will head into next weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix feeling slightly "more relaxed" after a strong Formula 1 debut in Australia.

Palmer narrowly missed out on points at the season opener, coming home in 11th, just in front of team-mate Kevin Magnussen, who recovered from an early puncture.

Palmer was also involved in a number of close battles, going wheel-to-wheel with Williams driver Valtteri Bottas and the Toro Rossos of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Max Verstappen.

"Everything went very smoothly," Palmer said of his maiden Grand Prix.

"I had a good qualifying and then maximized the car in the race. I was happy with the race; I had a good start and was wheel-to-wheel for quite a long time, scrapping hard – it was great fun.

"I wanted to get to the finish, and you always dream of stealing a point, but I just missed it with 11th position, which is really frustrating! But we can definitely build on this."

Palmer is looking forward to finding out where he stands at the next round in Bahrain, having won and finished on the podium there during his 2014 title-winning GP2 season.

"I will be more relaxed now I have one race under my belt," he said.

"I feel much more comfortable after pre-season testing and am looking forward to going to a track (the Bahrain International Circuit) I know and have won at before."

Daniel Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo expects Bahrain to suit Red Bull
Daniel Ricciardo is expecting the Bahrain International Circuit, the location for the second round of the season next weekend, to suit the characteristics of Red Bull's car.

Ricciardo finished fourth at Sakhir during his first term with Red Bull in 2014, and crossed the line in sixth last year after a spectacular engine failure exiting the final corner.

Having made an encouraging start to the 2016 campaign in Australia, where he worked his way through from eighth to fourth, Ricciardo is hopeful of another strong result.

"I think the track's always been pretty fun to race on," said Ricciardo.

"I feel I've always had good results at this track, and there are good places for overtaking.

"The tires last a bit longer and you can push a bit harder throughout the race, so it's been a good challenge the last few years and a place I've always enjoyed.

"Night races are fun; it feels like you go a bit faster at night. If every race was a night race it wouldn't have that same atmosphere, so it's cool that we have a few across the year.

"There are probably four places you can pass on the track which is pretty good.

"The track does suit us [Red Bull], and the last couple of years we've had a pretty good result, so hopefully we can continue that this year as well."

Daniil Kvyat shared his team-mate's optimism, pointing to winter gains from Renault.

"There is a long straight which was our weakness last year but this year we are looking to find some improvements so it could turn out to be quite a competitive track for us," he said.

"If we can grab a few good points for both cars, that would be great."

Jenson Button in his hapless McLaren
Jenson Button in his hapless McLaren

Button: Drivers need 'full package' to succeed
Jenson Button says that there is much more to being a modern-day Formula 1 driver than simply performing well, making clear that a "full package" is required to succeed.

Button, contesting his 17th season in the top echelon, is the most experienced driver on the current grid, having raced for Williams, Renault, Honda, Brawn and most recently McLaren.

Button, behind only Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello in the all-time start list, feels that he is one of the best at performing a demanding on and off track juggling act.

"If you can't be a different person out of the car, that's a weakness," 36-year-old Button, who claimed the 2009 world title, explained in an interview with Sky Sports.

"I personally feel that when you get in the car you are a certain type of person.

"You give it your all, you give it your maximum [on the track], and I feel that there's no one better than me at doing that throughout a race weekend.

"When you're out of the car, you have to be a different personality or else the sponsors, the partners don't want to work with you and your career is very short, however good you are on track.

"You need to be the full package and that's something you work over time and that's something the new kids will have to learn very quickly with the way the business this is.

"It's not the easiest place to find sponsors and partners in the sport for teams.

"They [sponsors and partners] need drivers who are not only quick on the circuit but who are publicly very good, who are very confident and someone they can relate to."

Button doubts youngsters coming into the sport today will enjoy such long careers.

"I'd be surprised if the 18, 19-year-old's who come into the sport now could have a 17-year long career in the sport, because the world has changed," he went on to comment.

"I think that's where I've been lucky – I've been able to grow over the years, not just into a good racing driver but the full package that you need to succeed in the sport."

Fernando Alonso flies upside down in Melbourne
Fernando Alonso flies upside down in Melbourne

Alonso to use new power unit in Bahrain
Fernando Alonso will take on a new power unit for the Bahrain Grand Prix as Honda conducts further analysis following his violent crash at the season opener in Australia.

McLaren racer Alonso was attempting to overtake Esteban Gutiérrez with the use of DRS on the run down to Turn 3 at Albert Park, but hit the rear of the Haas under braking.

Alonso launched into the air, hit the wall on the left-hand side of the track, slid into the gravel and flipped over multiple times before finally coming to a stop upside down.

Alonso was able to walk away from the scene of the crash, but his Honda-powered MP4-31 was heavily damaged, with all four corners of the car going through significant impacts.

Honda has since confirmed to GPUpdate.net that there is a "high probability" most of the power unit elements are damaged, but it is too early to tell if any parts can be salvaged.

Alonso will therefore use a brand new unit for next weekend's Sakhir event, before Honda determines if any elements from his initial 2016 unit can be used later in the season.

Drivers are permitted to use five power units during the 2016 campaign.

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