Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

  • Vettel leads Rosberg in Melbourne. Remember Mercedes has far more engine tokens left for 2016
    Vettel leads Rosberg in Melbourne. Media was tired of boring Mercedes parades

    Press celebrates end of 'Mercedes playground'

  • Quali U-turn shows F1 needs 'dictatorship' – Alesi
  • Verstappen criticized for Melbourne 'anger'
  • 'Sore' Alonso goes home as halo debate returns
  • Vettel wasn't allowed to be told why Kimi Raikkonen retired
  • Indian Tycoon Mallya Flees India Amid Criminal Investigation
  • Pirelli: New tire regulations helped strategy
  • Haas: Grosjean 'drove his heart out'
  • Ricciardo encouraged by Red Bull pace

Press celebrates end of 'Mercedes playground'
(GMM) Helmut Marko is not so sure Ferrari is really ready to challenge Mercedes in 2016.

On the face of it, it might be said Sebastian Vettel only lost victory in Melbourne because of the red flag and a tire choice blunder by the Maranello team.

"The Mercedes playground is over," wrote Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport, while Tuttosport agreed: "It is clear that Mercedes will not be the sole ruler this season."

Corriere della Sera added: "Not all losses are the same. Mercedes won in Australia but only thanks to Ferrari's mistakes."

Red Bull's Dr Marko, however, has a different theory, telling Kleine Zeitung newspaper that "Mercedes will be trying to conceal their (true) superiority" at races this year.

But Auto Motor und Sport claims Mercedes' advantage in the twisty third sector in Melbourne was just 77 thousandths over Vettel.

"In qualifying they turn on the power and they are gone," said the German. "But we can compete with them in the corners."

No matter the real gap to Ferrari, teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton at least look set for a close battle in 2016.

Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda thinks an immediate win in 2016 was exactly what German Rosberg needed as he bids to break Hamilton's run of titles.

"If it would have been the other way round and Lewis had won he (Rosberg) would have suffered because he always suffers when Lewis is there," he is quoted by the Daily Mail

"So, for him this race is important to mentally stay strong and have a good baseline for the next one."

The Austrian and F1 legend thinks part of Mercedes' problem last Sunday was Vettel's much better start as he leapfrogged the silver-clad pair to lead early.

"The race was half-decided on the start because Ferrari did an incredible start," Lauda said. "We screwed up (and) we have to find out why".

"I am afraid we see more of this because Ferrari is quick and there is no question about it. It is going to be exciting and I look forward to the next one."

Jean Alesi puts in good word for countryman Todt
Jean Alesi puts in good word for countryman Todt

Quali U-turn shows F1 needs 'dictatorship' – Alesi
(GMM) Jean Alesi says the latest events in F1 show that the sport needs a "dictatorship".

The former Ferrari driver spoke to the French broadcaster Canal Plus about F1's U-turn over the new 'musical chairs' qualifying format, which will be scrapped after just a single race in Australia.

"Personally, I liked qualifying" in Melbourne, the 51-year-old said.

"Perhaps it is necessary to change the third part (Q3) of the session, but to fully restore the old format, in my opinion, is ridiculous," Alesi added.

He said the team bosses voting unanimously last Sunday to scrap 'musical chairs' and revert to the 2015 qualifying format is proof of who should really be running F1.

"I'm a big fan of Bernie Ecclestone, but I like Jean Todt even more," said Alesi.

"They are trying to find ways to ensure that the interest in the sport is high, but they also need to take into account the positions of the team bosses.

"It seems to me that these people (the team bosses) are harmful to formula one," he explained.

"Unfortunately, in this sport you need a dictatorship. It is something that worked in the past but not anymore. Why? Because everyone has the right to express their opinion now and yet all they really care about is their own interests."

Alesi said F1 fans can at least look forward to a competitive world championship in 2016, after Sebastian Vettel came close to beating the normally-dominant Mercedes cars in Australia.

"They (Ferrari) have a fast car," he said.

"Once in the lead, Sebastian held his position without any problems and only lost the victory due to a strategy error.

"I think it means we will have an exciting season," added Alesi.

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen

Verstappen criticized for Melbourne 'anger'
(GMM) F1 teen sensation Max Verstappen has been criticized for his behavior at the Australian grand prix.

While tipped for greatness by most pundits, the 18-year-old "showed his age" at the 2016 season opener as he lost his cool with Toro Rosso and teammate Carlos Sainz, British commentator Martin Brundle said.

"These were the first signs of immaturity we have seen from Max," 1996 world champion Damon Hill agreed.

Verstappen had raged repeatedly on the radio about the situation he called a "f—–g joke", calling for teammate Carlos Sainz to be moved aside and even running into the back of the sister Toro Rosso.

"I was faster than Sainz all the time but nothing was done about it," the young Dutchman raged, his anger still showing in the post-race media scrums.

But when asked if he would obey a similar order to pull over and let Sainz past, Verstappen answered: "To be honest, I don't know and I don't care.

"Normally I should be miles ahead," he is quoted by the Times newspaper.

Well-known Spanish motor racing personality and former F1 driver Adrian Campos, however, said Verstappen was wrong to expect Sainz to be moved aside.

"I see some drivers today as sissies," he told Cadena Ser radio. "You have to earn your place on the track. Team orders in the first race would be unfortunate but some have gotten used to it.

"I would tell Verstappen to stop asking for help and take his risks on the track," Campos added.

Another well-known racer, Dutchman Tom Coronel, told De Telegraaf newspaper that the "anger" expressed by Verstappen in Melbourne was obvious in his driving.

"He was more aggressive than normal and he therefore made mistakes," he said, adding that Max's anger may have been misplaced.

"The team said he could overtake Sainz — it's called racing!" said Coronel.

If Alonso's head had hit the fence or wall, and we were planning his funeral, all the pundits would demand the halo be installed on the cars immediately
If Alonso's head had hit the fence or wall, and we were planning his funeral, all the pundits would demand the halo be installed on the cars immediately

'Sore' Alonso goes home as halo debate returns
(GMM) The controversial 'halo' concept is once again a talking point in F1 circles, following Fernando Alonso's huge crash in Australia.

The McLaren-Honda driver was spotted on a Melbourne beach on Monday wearing a light bandage on his knee, but he said he will not be needing any further medical treatment beyond "ice".

"This morning the team doctor came and gave me the 'ok' to travel and, as I said, I feel good," Alonso told Spanish radio Cadena Cope.

"I do not think I will have any problems going forward.

"My body is a little sore – as though I have been in a big washing machine on spin – but I have no marks or anything swollen. Within two or three days I will be back on the bike or something again," he added.

The front page of the local Herald Sun newspaper, however, declared Alonso 'The luckiest man alive', as the F1 safety debate reignited amid the governing FIA's push to cover the cockpits with the so-called 'halo' concept for 2017.

"In this accident," F1 legend Niki Lauda told Bild newspaper, "the halo would have done nothing."

In fact, many are wondering if a 'halo' would have trapped Alonso in the wreckage, after the Spaniard actually crawled out of the open cockpit without delay.

"I had no idea where I was exactly in the circuit so I saw a space to leave and said 'I'm getting out just in case'," he said.

"I saw there were broken pipes and plenty of fluids and I said 'Let me out'."

But Alonso also acknowledged that, as he flipped and barrel-rolled, he was worried his head might strike something.

"You tend to cower a little in the cockpit," he said, "trying to make yourself small in the car so that the head doesn't hit anything like the wall or the ground."

The only fire during the Australian grand prix was above Kimi Raikkonen's head as he retired in the pitlane, but the Finn said he would not have been worried had he been protected by a 'halo'.

"It makes no difference," said the Ferrari driver. "We can still get out."

But former driver and German-language commentator Christian Danner insisted: "The safety experts need to look at it again. With a halo, he would not have gotten out so easily."

Formula 1's existing safety measures "saved Fernando Alonso's life in a horrific crash on Sunday at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix but his escape has added a twist to the debate about proposed improvements to cockpit protection," according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS.

The Spaniard "clambered from his demolished McLaren after the high-speed crash with Mexican Esteban Gutierrez's Haas and later posted an Instagram photograph of himself holding the Melbourne Herald Sun bearing the front-page headline 'Luckiest Man Alive.'"

But "some commentators said Alonso's crash and his escape raised questions over further Formula One safety plans which involve installing a cockpit 'halo' device to protect drivers against being struck on the head by debris and bouncing wheels."

Some commentators expressed concern that "it might have been harder for Alonso to get quickly out of his car with the 'halo' in place."

Former racer and Sky TV pundit Johnny Herbert said, "Would that halo have caused more problems of getting out of the car? Probably. It will be thought about properly for next year."

Alonso was taken to the medical center for checks at Albert Park on Sunday after the collision with Gutierrez, "but was then released." McLaren Chair Ron Dennis said, "I'm sure he's had his marbles rattled a little bit" REUTERS

The PA reported McLaren driver Jenson Button believes the halo device "would have helped" Alonso.

Button: "He was upside down when he landed and if he had the halo it would have helped him. There was no need for him to get out in that situation. There’s more safety risk of things hitting our head than anything happening when the car’s upside down. With the halo he would have had less impact on his helmet" PA

Vettel and Raikkonen run 1-2 in Australia. Vettel was not allowed to be told why Kimi dropped out of race
Vettel and Raikkonen run 1-2 in Australia. Vettel was not allowed to be told why Kimi dropped out of race

Vettel wasn't allowed to be told why Kimi Raikkonen retired
Sebastian Vettel has revealed F1's new radio rules meant he was not allowed to know what had caused teammate Kimi Raikkonen's fiery retirement during the Australian Grand Prix.

Vettel started his season with a strong drive to third, which could have been even better were it not for a red flag and Ferrari's questionable strategy call at the restart. In the opening stint Vettel was leading a Ferrari one-two but Raikkonen was later forced to retire with fire coming from the airbox of his car.

In the build up to the Australian Grand Prix there had been a clampdown on the messages allowed between driver and pit wall. Though this was relaxed slightly in the hour before the race to allow for discussions around strategy, Vettel was not allowed to know the details of the No. 7 car's retirement.

In the post-race press conference for the top three, Vettel was asked about the other car retiring and said: "Until now, I don't know what is the problem. In the past we had a radio so it was nice to hear what was the problem but I was only informed that he had to retire. I don't know why. Maybe you can tell me why?"

When he was told, he replied: "Thank you very much. I was not allowed to get that message."

The retirement mirrored last year's Australian Grand Prix, where Raikkonen had a reliability issue late in the race and Vettel finished third. Vettel thinks he and Raikkonen were fairly evenly matched all weekend.

"As a team obviously we try to score as many points as possible. I think you could see in the first stint that there wasn't much between Kimi and myself. I think we were very close this weekend and ideally we would have fought for the same place on the track. I have no problems with Kimi, I get along well with him and equally, in general the first guy that I want to do well other than myself obviously is Kimi, so it's a shame that he didn't see the checkered flag." Nate Saunders/espn

All the banks are after Vijay Mallya
All the banks are after Vijay Mallya

Indian Tycoon Mallya Flees India Amid Criminal Investigation
Vijay Mallya is one of India's most flamboyant business figures, known as a liquor barron, an airline owner, and a man who reportedly owns 250 vintage cars.

But Mallya, 60, is now known as a debtor who is being pursued by banks to recover the mountain of debt he has accrued. He left the country on March 2, just as some 17 banks were closing in on him for payment of delinquent loans totaling the equivalent of nearly $1.5 billion.

He now faces criminal investigations and the possibility of an international warrant for his arrest.

In 2005, surrounded by a galaxy of Indian film and political stars, Mallya launched Kingfisher Airlines. Polishing his playboy image, he handpicked the attractive cabin crew and promised passengers they were in for a first-class ride.

The shareholders were taken for a ride of different sort. Kingfisher's fleet has been grounded for more than three years and a share today is worth less than two cents. Employees and tax authorities say they are owed money, according to columnist Shekhar Gupta.

"India's labor laws are very strong," Gupta says. "In his case, not only has he not paid employees, but even the statutory dues – for example, the tax his company deducted on employees' salaries – income tax — has not been paid." Nor has he paid into their pension savings funds, according to Gupta.

Kingfisher Airline reportedly owes state banks a total of 70 billion rupees, or just over $1 billion. While the banks attempt to auction off Kingfisher House, the one-time headquarters of the airline, investigators want to know if Mallya used airline funds to finance his lifestyle.

Mallya has real estate holdings said to include a game lodge in South Africa, a castle in Scotland and a condo at the Trump Plaza in New York. His flamboyance and his fabled parties set him apart, but also meant he hasn't received much sympathy, says educator and commentator Sashi Kumar.

"It's good to have money, good to have a good life. But being seen as someone who's always with women, and flaunting money, the in-your-face-kind-of-character, that runs against the grain of the Indian ethic of someone who is successful," Kumar says.

Mallya's defunct airline bore the same name as India's best-selling beer, Kingfisher, the brand Mallya inherited from his late father.

Author K. Giriprakash chronicled the life of the colorful son in a book titled, The Vijay Mallya Story.

"His father was very meticulous, was very careful with money, especially shareholder's money, and he stuck to the business which he knew. As far as his son is concerned, he is everything opposite to what his father stood for," says Giriprakash.

Gupta says an ambition to be "Richard Branson and Donald Trump rolled into one" drove Mallya's splashy ascent.

But he started an airline when the global aviation business was in the doldrums. The high cost of jet fuel at the time didn't help.

Biographer Giriprakash says Mallya's descent began when he acquired stakes in a host of other businesses, including engineering, construction, and Formula 1 racing.

Taking On Huge Debts

To finance his operations, Mallya amassed huge debts while he was also a member of the Upper House of the Indian Parliament. Senior journalist Shekhar Gupta blames what he calls India's "easy embrace of cronyism," and says lending money to Mallya was the bankers "ticket to corridors of power."

"If you are his lender, you're invited to sit in his box at a cricket match, which is a big event in India," Gupta says. "You get invited on his yacht, on the plane. He collected, money, glamour, hormones, alcohol all in the same place. He is the finest and loudest brand ambassador for crony capitalism in India. But behind this he also had a real business – a liquor business."

Mallya remains chairman of United Breweries, India's largest brewer. However, Heineken is a shareholder and looks to be moving in on the indebted spirits baron, and could ask him to step aside.

His legal troubles accumulating, Mallya left for London just days before the banks were expected to ask for an order restraining him from leaving India.

On Twitter, Mallya says he's not absconding, but he has asked for more time to appear before Indian authorities. NPR

Pirelli F1 tires
Pirelli F1 tires

Pirelli: New tire regulations helped strategy
Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery says that the tweaked tire regulations allowed different strategies to be adopted at the Australian Grand Prix.

Under revised regulations, each driver is permitted free choice from three allocated compounds for 10 of their 13 sets of tires at every Grand Prix.

While strategy at Albert Park was affected by the red flag period, Hembery was encouraged by the diverse choices made by the bulk of the field.

"The Grand Prix started and ended with a tactical tire battle, but a red flag after 18 laps reset the race, giving it a very different complexion with tire changes allowed," he said.

"After starting with the same used Super Soft compounds, Ferrari and Mercedes chose opposite strategies in the second part of the race, with Mercedes running two-thirds of the total distance on the Medium tire but closely challenged by Vettel on the Soft.

"This goes to show how the new regulations have helped to open up a number of different approaches to strategy, with nine of the 16 finishers taking advantage of all three compounds on offer and five completely different strategies covering the top six places."

Pirelli's 2016 tire choices so far:

Australia – Super Soft / Soft / Medium
Bahrain – Super Soft / Soft / Medium
China – Super Soft / Soft / Medium
Russia – Super Soft / Soft / Medium
Spain – Soft / Medium / Hard
Monaco – Ultra Soft / N/A / N/A
Canada – Ultra Soft / Super Soft / Soft
Azerbaijan – Super Soft / Soft / Medium

Grosjean exiting the pits in Melbourne
Grosjean exiting the pits in Melbourne

Haas: Grosjean 'drove his heart out'
Gene Haas has praised Romain Grosjean and says the Frenchman "drove his heart out" as he finished in sixth place on the team's debut at the Australian Grand Prix.

Grosjean started from 19th and made only marginal progress during the first stint, but profited when the race was suspended following the collision between team-mate Esteban Gutiérrez and McLaren's Fernando Alonso.

Having yet to make his stop, Grosjean was able to move ahead of rivals and change to Medium tires in the pit lane, which he preserved to the end of the race, winding up in sixth.

"Grosjean had a heck of a challenge there," said Haas.

"They made the decision to go on the Mediums for 39 laps, so that was really pushing it.

"He basically didn't chew up his tires initially, so he was able to get 39 laps out of them. I think near the end he was starting to pick up time on the person behind him.

"Tire strategy, saving your tires, those are the kinds of things that make a driver a legend.

"Grosjean just drove his heart out and did everything he could to keep it up there and it worked out.

"When [Nico] Hülkenberg was behind him I thought he might catch him, but he held him off and we actually started to make some time.

"He was saving fuel near the end, so I think once we got to the last few laps and we started to push a little harder, the car really responded."

Haas is acutely aware that there will be pitfalls ahead for the nascent squad.

"This is racing. It's what we do for a living and, you know, it's cool," he added.

"But I'll tell you, there'll be some bad days too, so we'll enjoy this one."

Daniel Ricciardo brought the Red Bull home 4th
Daniel Ricciardo brought the Red Bull home 4th

Ricciardo encouraged by Red Bull pace
Daniel Ricciardo expressed his optimism over Red Bull's pace after he classified in fourth position at the Australian Grand Prix, his highest result at his home race.

Ricciardo started from eighth place at Albert Park but made progress at the expense of the Toro Rosso drivers and Williams' Felipe Massa to emerge in fourth position.

It left Ricciardo as 'best of the rest' behind the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers, with Red Bull expecting substantial progress when Renault brings an engine package to the Canadian Grand Prix in June.

"It was so good to be back racing," he said.

"I came on the radio more than once expressing my joy to just being out there competing. That joy was emphasized by having a good car underneath me.

"At the start we were able to pick cars off. We had good pace with high fuel on the Option and it was fun to be able to pass cars, I was enjoying that as always.

"I was sitting in a podium spot towards the end and I was hoping the tires would last but I knew they weren't going to hold and I would have to pit again.

"But fourth is still a good result and I'm happy we're not that far off Mercedes and Ferrari."

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