Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

  • German Sebastian Vettel is getting smoked by his Italian rookie teammate Daniel Ricciardo

    'Pressure effect' is Vettel's new challenge – Massa

  • 'Sensitive' Sebastian Vettel struggling for feeling from RB10
  • Lauda gave Hamilton 'money can't buy' reward
  • Magnussen prefers Button over Alonso as teammate
  • McLaren should focus on track, not court – Horner
  • Rosberg: Mercedes out to totally demoralize opposition in Spain
  • 'Lewis was a man on his own planet' – Wolff
  • Video: Rosberg reflects on China
  • Video: Vettel Are you kidding?
  • Horner defends Vettel after terse radio message

'Pressure effect' is Vettel's new challenge – Massa
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has "forgotten" how to drive something other than the best car in the field.

That is Niki Lauda's view, as the entire world of F1 contemplates the reigning quadruple world champion's current struggle even to keep up with his new Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

Lauda, the Mercedes team chairman, told German television RTL: "He has been very spoiled in the past with many highs and victories, but that performance has gone.

"He has forgotten how to drive another car.

"With the (blown) diffuser cars, he had come up with a driving strategy that made him faster than everyone else.

"But now Ricciardo, who has never driven another Red Bull, only knows this one — and he is taking it in his hands and driving it," added Lauda.

Lauda is not alone with his theory. Felipe Massa thinks Australian Ricciardo has arrived to be Vettel's teammate at precisely the right moment.

"The best time to change is when everything is changing," he told the Brazilian press.

"I'm sure it would have been harder for him if he had arrived last year, when Vettel was already used to the car for many years.

"I think that is helping Ricciardo, but he's also showing that he is a great driver with a lot of talent," said Massa.

Massa also thinks it will be a tough task for Vettel to get back to the top of the tree at Red Bull.

"When he had a team that was all working for him, for all the years when he was with Webber, life was much simpler, easier (for Vettel)," he said.

"But now he is under a little more pressure and that changes the situation — the pressure effect," said Massa, who switched from Ferrari to Williams over the winter.

"I am not knocking Vettel's talent, the driver that he is, because everything he did deserves the recognition. But this is a situation that now he has to overcome," the Brazilian added.

"Without doubt it shows that Ricciardo is a good driver, fast and with the talent to be there. He has arrived at a great team and so far he shows he can do a great job," said Massa.

'Sensitive' Sebastian Vettel struggling for feeling from RB10
Sebastian Vettel's struggles this year are rooted in a lack of feeling from his car which is limiting his ability to look after his tires, according to team boss Christian Horner.

The reigning four-time world champion has been out-raced at the last two grands prix by team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and finished 20 seconds adrift of the Australian in China. Horner says Vettel is still struggling to find a set-up that suits his driving style and allows him to look after the car's tires.

"Sebastian is having a tough time at the moment because he hasn't got that feeling from the car that he is looking for," Horner said. "He's tremendously sensitive to certain aspects of the set-up and he's not getting the feedback from the car that he wants.
"The compound effect of that is that he's damaging the tire more, which is very unusual for Seb, as we've seen since the Pirellis were introduced. It's highly unusual for him to be going through the tire life quicker than the average. That's just the culmination of the issues that he's currently got and as soon as we've worked those out he will be back with a bang."

Horner confirmed that the gap in China was purely down to Vettel's issues and not a problem with his car.

"No, I think that he's just going through the tire quicker and the tire's opening up more for him because he's not found that sweet spot that he requires. Daniel, as we saw on Friday [in practice], had extremely good tire degradation and he had it again in the race."

Vettel initially ignored a team order to let Ricciardo pass in China, before giving way when he realized the two cars were on different strategies. Horner believes the team order has given Vettel greater impetus to resolve his issues at the upcoming races.
"For any driver, they don't like that call, but he's absolutely abided by it. He's a team player at the end of the day and the one thing you can be assured of is that he will be looking extremely hard at this weekend and this race to understand where the differences are, what he's struggling with and where we can improve. There will be no driver working harder in the three-week gap to bounce back in Barcelona."

Lauda gave Hamilton 'money can't buy' reward
(GMM) Niki Lauda gave Lewis Hamilton a 'money can't buy' reward for securing his first-ever F1 hat-trick — a ride on his own private jet.

"I told him 'If you win, I'll fly you back' (to Europe)," Mercedes' team chairman told Bild newspaper.

Lauda, not only a F1 legend but also a world-famous aviator, was true to his word after the Chinese grand prix, as the pair returned from Shanghai aboard the great Austrian's Bombardier Global 5000.

"Otherwise, Lewis would have been on a regular flight," the German daily said.

Hamilton's third win of the season also moved him equal to Lauda's career tally of 25 grand prix victories.

Lauda revealed in Shanghai that, last year, he had advised the now on-form Briton to drop his travelling "baggage" of dogs and rap stars.

Indeed, Hamilton is well on track for his second world championship with a permanent travelling entourage of just one — his trainer.

"This year I'm just able to arrive and drive with no other worries," he confirmed this week.

"It's the combination of lots of things. It's where I am in my life, family, girlfriend, all things: where I live, having the right people in place, management, being in the right team," Hamilton explained.

His teammate Nico Rosberg, however, is still leading the world championship by a few points, which Hamilton admits will be keeping the German's hopes afloat for now.

"In this racing business it's all psychological," said Hamilton.

"Nico's very, very fast but I'm grateful I've been able to put some really good performances in but I owe it to the team. It's incredible what they've done."

Beyond Hamilton versus Rosberg, Mercedes appears to be on a stroll to the 2014 title, notwithstanding the efforts of improving rivals like Red Bull and Ferrari.

"Everything is fine," Lauda agreed, "but there are so many races left.

"The most important will be the next three weeks," he told Spain's EFE news agency, referring to the gap between the initial 'flyaway' phase of the 2014 season and the return to more familiar European soil.

"We'll see who makes the most progress, who is faster and who wins in Barcelona," added Lauda.

"It will be important to see how the rest of the season is going to go. If you're on top in Barcelona, everything will be a little easier," he said.

Magnussen prefers Button over Alonso as teammate
(GMM) Kevin Magnussen says he is happy with the current configuration of McLaren's driver lineup.

Fernando Alonso – arguably the best driver in F1 – has often been linked with a 2015 move to McLaren to spearhead the British team's new Honda era.

And that speculation looks set to ramp up even more, given another difficult start to the Spaniard's fifth consecutive Ferrari campaign, and the latest turmoil at Maranello in the form of Stefano Domenicali's shock exit.

The cockpit most likely to be vacated in the event of an Alonso arrival at McLaren is the one currently occupied by Jenson Button, as the 34-year-old's contract is expiring.

But McLaren's impressive newcomer Magnussen sounded nonplussed when he was asked if he would welcome Alonso to McLaren.

"I wouldn't mind," the 21-year-old Dane answered. "The truth is that I'm happy now.

"I think having someone like Jenson – easygoing, speaks very good English, knows how to explain things and very experienced and fast – is ideal.

"I couldn't ask for a better teammate," Magnussen is quoted by the Spanish sports daily AS.

McLaren should focus on track, not court – Horner
(GMM) Red Bull has advised McLaren to focus on upping its game rather than taking the reigning world champions to court.

A bitter spat has broken out between the British-based teams over a highly-rated aerodynamicist called Dan Fallows, who was recently due to start work at McLaren.

But Fallows ultimately decided to return to Red Bull with a promotion, triggering a furious rebuke by McLaren supremo Ron Dennis.

In Shanghai, Dennis accused Red Bull of having "induced" Fallows to breach his contract.

But the latest paddock rumor is that Fallows originally decided to leave Red Bull because he was seeking a more senior position, having worked as Peter Prodromou's 'deputy' for the past several years.

McLaren then subsequently also signed Prodromou, sparking Fallows' change of heart.

It has also been claimed that Fallows signed the deal expecting the now ousted Martin Whitmarsh – not Dennis – to be his boss.

"With the changes that happened at McLaren he decided he didn't want to join," Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says.

Horner denies Dennis' claim that Red Bull "induced" Fallows to break the deal.

"He approached us to see if there was a situation still open, so it was 100 per cent his choice," he said.

Horner also took the opportunity to advise McLaren – whose Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen finished out of the points in China – to take the focus off Fallows and put it back on upping its game.

"We have to be careful this is not detracting from their focus, which should be a little closer to home," he said.

"Obviously it's easy for McLaren to be drawing focus away from their bigger issues — it's obvious why they are looking for aerodynamicists."

Rosberg: Mercedes out to totally demoralize opposition in Spain
As if the Mercedes advantage isn't big enough already (1+ sec per lap) Nico Rosberg has said Mercedes will be pushing to extend its advantage when the European season commences next month with the Spanish Grand Prix.

Rosberg had to settle for the runners-up spot again in China last weekend, with team-mate, Lewis Hamilton taking his third win in succession. Despite that, however, Rosberg remains top in the Drivers' Championship, after winning in Australia, the 2014 Formula 1 season opener, where Hamilton retired due to technical problems. Rosberg has four more points than Hamilton and almost double the tally of Fernando Alonso in third.

Meanwhile, Mercedes is way out front in the Constructors', with 154 points, almost three-times that of Red Bull in second.

"Hopefully, [we can do] more than all the other teams; we want to go to Barcelona with the biggest step, that's our ambition," Rosberg told reporters in Shanghai on Sunday after round four in the 2014 F1 World Championship.

"Barcelona is a chance for us to extend the advantage that we have and that's the approach that we have going to Barcelona, 100 percent."

'Lewis was a man on his own planet' – Wolff
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has paid homage to Lewis Hamilton following the Briton's dominant victory in China last weekend.

Hamilton led from start-to-finish and was never challenged as he took his third win in succession to close to within four points of team-mate, and runner-up, Nico Rosberg. Rosberg now has 79 points in the Drivers' Championship, while Hamilton has 75.

"From the beginning, Lewis was a man on his own planet, looking quicker than everyone else and making the tires last longer than we thought," Wolff confirmed.

"It's a great result for the team to get the third 1-2 in a row – congratulations to all the guys and girls who have worked so hard to put us at this level of performance," he added. "Now we are aiming to continue this good form going into the European season."

Meanwhile, Wolff also praised Rosberg too: "It was a difficult race after losing the telemetry on Nico's car, which shows how much of an exceptional race he drove considering this was a big limitation," he explained.

Video: Rosberg reflects on China
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg looks back on the 2014 F1 Chinese GP and recalls the incident with Valtteri Bottas at the start: “I thought it was over…"

Video: Vettel Are you kidding?

Horner defends Vettel after terse radio message
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner has defended the actions of World Champion Sebastian Vettel during the Chinese Grand Prix.

Vettel was running ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo during the middle stint of the race and was asked to allow the Australian to pass him. When Vettel enquired further and was informed that Ricciardo was on identical but fresher Medium tires, he replied "tough luck."

Vettel was consequently passed by Ricciardo shortly afterwards but Horner defended his driver.

"He's going to challenge them because he's a racer and the guys want to race each other," Horner told Sky Sports. "We were looking at a different strategy and then he has moved out of the way and let his team-mate through."

Vettel has had a quiet start to his title defense but Horner insists that Red Bull is pushing to help the German combat his problems with the RB10.

"We always want the best result for the team and Daniel finished 20 seconds up the road," he said. "More important for us is to understand why Sebastian is struggling. He's obviously not getting as much out of the car as Daniel at present. We know that Sebastian is very sensitive to how a car enters a corner and at the moment he hasn't got the feel he needs."

Despite Vettel being 46 points down on championship leader Nico Rosberg and Red Bull nearly 100 points behind Mercedes – which has won all four races in 2014 – Horner reckons his squad can take the fight to the current pace setters, although acknowledged that they cannot afford to lose more ground.

"We've got to take the fight to them and we're going to give it everything. I believe we can take the championship to them but we can't concede too much more ground," he said. "We were 22km/h slower on the straights and that's where we have to improve – and hopefully there will be some steps on that for Barcelona."

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