Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • Button gets service from his McLaren crew as they struggle to make this year's lemon fast

    McLaren downcast as car upgrade fails

  • Kubica 'faster than Raikkonen' – Loeb
  • Pirelli considers changes after latest failure
  • Kovalainen in talks to continue driving role
  • 2014 winter season to begin in January
  • Demerit points will make bad drivers 'suffer' – Massa
  • Hamilton scoffs at Vettel-to-Mercedes rumor
  • Pirelli concerned by Di Resta tire failure
  • Alonso: F138 seems to be competitive
  • Button unsure over extent of McLaren gains
  • Newey expects minor visual changes in '14

McLaren downcast as car upgrade fails
(GMM) McLaren team figures are downbeat in Barcelona, as a big upgrade for the uncompetitive MP4-28 car failed to fix the great team's problems.

"It definitely wasn't a good feeling today," said team boss Martin Whitmarsh on Friday, referring to the "huge effort" since Bahrain to prepare a visually different car for the first European race of 2013.

Hopes are now turning to a rush shipment of new wings, which are en route to Spain from Woking.

"I hope they will help us," Whitmarsh admitted.

During the week, McLaren had played down the likely effect of the Barcelona upgrade, but Jenson Button could not hide his disappointment after practice.

"We're still a hell of a long way off the pace," he said.

His teammate Sergio Perez added: "At the moment it's not realistic to think we're going to be fighting for the title.

"It's the fifth race and we're still two seconds a lap slower."

Kubica 'faster than Raikkonen' – Loeb
(GMM) Sebastien Loeb, the most successful driver in world rally history, thinks Robert Kubica has more potential than Kimi Raikkonen.

In 2010 and 2011, Finn Raikkonen tried his hand at world rallying, and now former BMW and Renault driver Kubica – still recovering from his 2011 rally crash – is driving for Citroen in the second-tier world rally series.

"Robert's potential to reach the top is very good," Frenchman Loeb told Finland's Turun Sanomat newspaper.

"He is fast, he does need more experience but I think Robert will become faster than Kimi.

"It's still difficult to say, but I can see that he really wants to develop.

"Kimi was really good straight away, but then was not able to improve in the way he wanted. He returned to F1 and won again, which shows just how completely different F1 and rally are.

"Robert is really serious about rally, and is working hard to improve," he added.

Kubica is currently unable to drive a single seater due to the restricted movement of his right arm, but he has been testing at the wheel of Mercedes' F1 simulator.

Mercedes' Toto Wolff played down suggestions the Pole is shaping up for a F1 return with the Brackley team.

"At the moment he's rallying, which I think is his decision at this time," he is quoted by Italy's Tuttosport.

"It's up to him if he wants to stay in rallying or return to formula one," added Wolff.

Pirelli considers changes after latest failure
(GMM) Pirelli is considering more tweaks to its tire design for 2013, following the failure at the rear of Paul di Resta's Force India on Friday.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton had an almost identical problem in Bahrain, where the tread peeled off the tire.

"It's a big concern for us," McLaren's Sergio Perez is quoted by Finland's MTV3 broadcaster.

"Every weekend we're seeing two or three cars with this problem. It could cause a very serious accident," added the Mexican.

Pirelli, F1's official tire supplier, admitted it is also concerned.

"We're looking at it and seeing if there are things we can do to eliminate it," motor sport director Paul Hembery told reporters in Barcelona.

He admitted, however, that making significant mid-season changes is difficult.

"We are very limited in terms of tire tests," said the Briton.

"And if we change the structure, it can affect the aerodynamics, which could advantage or disadvantage some teams," he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

A significant change for 2014, however, is on the cards.

"We will probably make the rear tires wider," Hembery said, "because the new engines have more torque."

Kovalainen in talks to continue driving role
(GMM) Heikki Kovalainen is in talks about extending his driving duties at Caterham beyond Barcelona.

In his new reserve role, the team's former racer was drafted back into the driver lineup recently, practicing on Friday both in Bahrain and now Spain.

The 31-year-old was actually slower than Charles Pic in Bahrain, but on Friday in Barcelona he just outpaced Pic's 2013 race teammate, Giedo van der Garde.

Finland's MTV3 broadcaster said Kovalainen is now in talks about making further cockpit appearances this season.

"Everything is a little bit open," he admitted.

"Nothing is for sure but, yes, I believe I will have more time in the car this year," added Kovalainen.

Caterham's technical boss Mark Smith said running Kovalainen in Bahrain and Spain was "useful".

Referring to the all-new race lineup for 2013, he admitted losing Kovalainen meant Caterham "lost driver continuity".

"So in terms of having some continuity, having some connection to the previous car, (it) has been useful," added Smith.

2014 winter season to begin in January
(GMM) F1's winter test season will kick off early ahead of the 2014 championship.

Normally, pre-season running doesn't begin until February, but because of the radical new rules next year – including the shift to turbo V6 engines – some teams have been pushing for more testing.

That hasn't happened, but the teams have agreed to push forward the first of next year's three winter tests to January.

McLaren's sporting director Sam Michael also revealed: "There's the possibility of a non-European test or tests.

"I think there'll be a test in January and two in February."

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said the first test, in January, is likely to take place at Jerez, Spain.

Renault engine boss Rob White said the limited test program is no big problem, despite the huge regulation changes.

"We can do a lot of development work on the test rigs," he said.

Demerit points will make bad drivers 'suffer' – Massa
(GMM) Well-behaved drivers should not fear F1's incoming 'demerit points' penalty system, according to Felipe Massa.

Reportedly from next year, drivers will lose points against their super licenses for on and off-track indiscretions, culminating in possible race bans.

Brazilian Massa said the good drivers should not be worried.

"I think the drivers who always create problems will suffer more than the others," he is quoted by Totalrace.

"So if I continue the way I've always done in my career, I should not have problems. It's also important to educate those who are coming into formula one," added Massa.

Hamilton scoffs at Vettel-to-Mercedes rumor
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has scoffed at reports Mercedes might be looking to oust him already, having only switched from McLaren over the winter.

In the past days, a rumor has been bubbling away about Niki Lauda, Mercedes' co-owner and chairman, making a serious bid for world champion Sebastian Vettel.

The first theory was that Nico Rosberg would be the obvious victim, but there are some who think Mercedes would be foolish to pit Vettel against fellow F1 grandee Hamilton.

Hamilton, therefore, could go.

"It's not something I need to think about," Hamilton insisted, "because it's not going to happen.

"Nico qualified on pole in the last race, so he clearly has the speed and deserves to be here," the 2008 world champion is quoted by the Telegraph in Spain.

"I have just come to the team and I'm not doing too badly, so I doubt they will be replacing me.

"It doesn't affect me in the slightest," the 28-year-old, referring to the rumors, continued.

"Why should it? I'm comfortable where I am. I have a solid contract and a great lawyer, as have Mercedes."

Pirelli concerned by Di Resta tire failure
Pirelli expressed concern on Friday at an alarming tire failure suffered by Force India's Paul Di Resta in Spanish Grand Prix practice.

The tread came off the Scot's still inflated left rear tire in second practice but Di Resta was able to bring the car safely to a halt.

"It obviously doesn't look pretty when you've the tread coming away like that," he told reporters at the Circuit de Catalunya.

"Last year if we had failures it tended to collapse the tire on to the rim so it still didn't look good. This year we are seeing the tread coming away so visually it looks rubbish. I don't like that.

"We're looking at it and seeing if there are things we can do to eliminate it," said Hembery.

"The tire was still inflated from what I could see," said Hembery of the latest incident. "The structure didn't give way, and that's what we've seen in a few other cases, that the tread is overheating and coming away."

Alonso: F138 seems to be competitive
Fernando Alonso believes Ferrari will be competitive this weekend despite losing the first practice session at Barcelona due to the rain.

The double World Champion was quickest in the changing conditions in FP1, edging his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa by 0.203s.

However, the track conditions meant the teams were unable to run the evaluations many had hoped to do on Friday morning.

The rain, though, did clear ahead of the second session which took place on a dry track.

During those 90 minutes Alonso was running at the front on both the hard and the medium tires, finishing second quickest, 0.017s behind Sebastian Vettel.

"I think there is still a long way until qualifying and unfortunately we missed the first session because of the rain," he said.

"It was the same for everybody but it was very useful information that we didn't get today.

"The car seems to be competitive, in the long runs as well, so it's a positive start.

"But we've had many Fridays with positive starts and then we see in qualifying that the Mercedes flies or that the Red Bull is in front of everybody. So we need to remain calm and analyze the information."

Asked about the prospect of winning Sunday's race, which if he achieves it would be only his second victory at the Spanish GP, Alonso said: "It's still a dream.

"It's something that it's extremely difficult to get, not just in front of your home fans.

"You need many factors to come together to win on Sunday, so let's start with qualifying tomorrow.

"We know how important it is to start from the first two rows here in Barcelona. Maybe we are in the group of the leaders, but you can be first or you can be eighth with two or three tenths." Planet F1

Button unsure over extent of McLaren gains
Jenson Button has admitted that he is uncertain as to how far McLaren has moved forward after trailing the team's substantial Spanish Grand Prix upgrade package, with early wet weather conditions limiting representative mileage during Friday practice.

The Briton, who finished the day just ahead of team-mate Sergio Pérez in 12th place, believes the outfit now has a clearer understanding of the correlation between its wind tunnel and the track, but does not yet know where it stands compared to rival outfits.

"As with any test of an upgrade package, there are positives and negatives to take away from today," said Button. "There’s now a better understanding of the correlation between the track and the wind tunnel. That’s positive for the future, but of course we’d always like more. So I think we’ve moved forwards, but I think the others have too.

"We were limited in terms of the amount of running we could this morning, so there’s a lot of data to sift through and plenty of things to change. We need to look at those elements that are potentially working and those that are not helping the car balance. We need to focus on a couple of areas – but, hopefully, we can improve them a bit."

Newey expects minor visual changes in '14
The 2014 Formula 1 season marks the start of a new era in Formula 1 regulations. After five years under the current ruleset, the teams are already working hard on their all-new contenders, which will feature turbocharged 1.6-lite V6 engine units.

However, although there will be plenty of under the skin modifications, Red Bull's Adrian Newey is not expecting any major changes to the core shape of the cars.

When asked if next year's cars will look any different to those in use this season, acclaimed designer Newey explained: "So much of the shape of the car is dictated by the regulations, and that kind of hems you in. Visually, as was said the lack of the beam wing, the low nose which is again forced by regulations and a slightly narrower overall front wing – 75mm a side narrower. Those are the other things you’ll notice.

"The other thing, depending on how good a job everybody manages to do, is slightly bigger sidepods to accommodate the significantly increased cooling requirements."

Most team's will shift the majority of their focus to 2014 as early as next month.

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