|The German's would love to get their hands on F1's fastest driver|
- Mercedes 'trying to get Vettel' – Marko
- Qualifying 'much less important' now – Webber
- 2013 title 'difficult' for McLaren now – Coulthard
- Red Bull 'the team to beat' – Barrichello
- Lotus 'surprised' no soft tire for Spain
- Sauber not considering Gutierrez axe
- Watson: Red Bull has shown weakness New
- Drivers to get 'prototype' tire for Friday action New
- Extra tires for rookies idea is shelved New
Mercedes 'trying to get Vettel' – Marko
(GMM) Dr Helmut Marko has admitted he can understand Mercedes' efforts to woo triple world champion Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull.
Speaking to Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper, Niki Lauda admitted he has been trying to convince Vettel to join Mercedes, whose current drivers are Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
"I continued what (former motor sport director Norbert) Haug began," said Lauda, Mercedes' new chairman and shareholder.
Fellow Austrian Marko, who is Red Bull's F1 consultant, insisted he has no hard feelings.
"Niki should absolutely be trying to get Vettel," he said.
The news gives fresh insight into the driver rumblings at Red Bull, amid Mark Webber's possible exit at the end of the year, and rumors Kimi Raikkonen is being courted.
"Red Bull need to ensure that if Sebastian Vettel gets the mega-offer from Ferrari and leaves, they have their tail covered and Raikkonen would be very capable of that," technical expert Gary Anderson told the BBC.
"I believe he (Raikkonen) is a perfect fit for Red Bull. I wouldn't be surprised if negotiations were well down the road for this to happen," he added.
Similarly, David Coulthard thinks Lotus might be hard-pressed to convince Raikkonen to stay, if powerful Red Bull comes knocking.
"They definitely have good people there (at Lotus)," he told Germany's motorsport-magazin.com, "but it looks like not the same financial setup (as Red Bull)."
Coulthard said his former teammate Mark Webber is still doing a good job, "but the link between Kimi and Red Bull goes way back".
"If Mark decides to do something else, in my view Kimi would be the perfect teammate for Sebastian."
For now, Raikkonen's public comments on the matter are guarded.
"I don't have a contract (beyond 2013)," he told Finland's Turun Sanomat newspaper, "but at some point I have to think about it.
"I want to win, and at least for the moment, I want to be here (at Lotus)."
Some have named the 2007 world champion as Vettel's most likely challenger for the 2013 title, but 33-year-old Raikkonen is not so sure.
"It's going to be hard to catch Sebastian if he keeps taking good results so we need to start taking more points from him," the Finn said.
Qualifying 'much less important' now – Webber
(GMM) Qualifying is no longer as important as in the past, according to Mark Webber.
"Previously," the Australian is quoted by the German-language T-Online website, "qualifying was almost everything — 75 to 80 per cent.
"It's now much less than that," the Red Bull driver added.
Webber, 36, has been one of the leading critics of the 'new' formula one, in which Pirelli's heavily degrading control tires are dominating.
Now, starting position is arguably completely outweighed by race strategy and tire management.
"There's still a little bit of chess on a Saturday to make sure you're in a good position," Webber continued, "but it's no longer as important as it once was."
Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen has a slightly different view, even though so far in 2013 the Finn has won from seventh on the grid in Australia, and qualified eighth yet finished second in Bahrain.
"The further forward (on the grid) you are," he said, "it helps you to save the tires, and keeps you away from any (first lap) accidents."
More generally, F1 is looking into how the 'Pirelli effect' gels with the current weekend format, amid reports a harder tire could be supplied exclusively to spice up the often meager early action in practice sessions.
And there have been suggestions the 'knockout' qualifying format is no longer working well, with tire conservation strategies becoming more common.
"It's early days," Pirelli's Paul Hembery said. "Let's see what happens through the season.
"It's a game of opinions. Ultimately we'll do what the sport asks us to do, of course, and if we do feel together that qualifying is not working I'm sure we'll all find a solution together."
2013 title 'difficult' for McLaren now – Coulthard
(GMM) The 2013 title is slipping away from McLaren, according to the British team's former long-time driver David Coulthard.
On the record, boss Martin Whitmarsh is insisting that the season is not lost for McLaren, despite launching the troubled MP4-28 and falling a long way off the championship lead after the first four races.
"There are a lot of races this season," Coulthard told Germany's motorsport-magazin.com.
"But when you look at the last few years, it's clear that you need to be finishing almost all of them in the points — and in the good points.
"I think it might be difficult for them (McLaren)," he admitted.
McLaren's big upgrade package for the opening round of the European season this weekend, then, might be seen as the Woking based team's only chance to put its 2013 campaign back on track.
"We've made some progress but we need to make a lot more," Whitmarsh said after Bahrain.
Officially, lead driver Jenson Button said: "There's been a lot of talk about the importance of next weekend's upgrades … but I'm pragmatic about what we'll discover next weekend."
However, to Brazil's Totalrace, the 2009 world champion admitted: "Barcelona is more important than ever for us, but we're not going to get the seven or eight tenths which is basically what we're missing in qualifying.
"But hopefully we can go in the right direction, as there is much more we can do with this car."
Another argument is that McLaren should simply write off 2013 and focus completely on 2014, because shifting resources so early in the season could pay strong dividends for the all-new V6 rules.
Whitmarsh has ruled that out, but Button admitted it "should be something we are thinking about".
"On the other hand, I don't know," the 33-year-old added. "We want to win races this year; our goal is still to fight for the (2013) championship, so first of all let's focus on what we have to do in Barcelona."
Red Bull 'the team to beat' – Barrichello
(GMM) With the European phase of the 2013 season now looming, Rubens Barrichello thinks Red Bull is a step ahead.
Indeed, drivers' title leader Sebastian Vettel is the only multiple race winner of the season so far, while Red Bull is also off to an early lead in the constructors' standings.
"Ferrari is very consistent," Brazilian veteran Barrichello told Totalrace, "and the car is a lot like the Red Bull in terms of pace and consistency.
"But the Red Bull is really the team to beat; they have a little bit more of everything," said the 40-year-old, a new commentator for Brazilian television Globo.
"The Mercedes is a car that gets the tires working for a great lap on Saturday," Barrichello continued, "but in the race they can't maintain the same pace.
"The Lotus is a very well balanced car that does not have the speed in qualifying, but saves the tires very well in the races.
"A fifth team that (like Lotus) also looks after the tires and is quietly achieving is Force India. Their race pace is very good," Barrichello added.
Also failing to mention usual grandee McLaren, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner fundamentally agrees with Barrichello's assessment.
"Ferrari is strong," he is quoted by the Mirror newspaper, "Lotus has a good car, and the Mercedes – certainly over a single lap – is very strong."
Lotus 'surprised' no soft tire for Spain
(GMM) Lotus has admitted it is "surprised" at Pirelli's decision to not supply the 'soft'-compound tire this weekend in Barcelona.
Following all the controversy about the Italian supplier's 2013 tires, with Red Bull by far the loudest critic, Pirelli announced that it is tweaking its 'hard' compound for Barcelona and beyond.
But, in the past, Pirelli has usually supplied the 'hard' and the 'soft' tires for the Spanish grand prix.
So far this year, Lotus' 2013 car has shown to be arguably the most effective in managing the heavily degrading compounds, and the team and its lead driver Kimi Raikkonen are both currently second in the championship points standings.
It's no surprise, then, that technical director James Allison is disappointed Pirelli has not allocated the 'soft' compound for Barcelona.
"We've used Pirelli's hard and soft compounds for the last few years (in Spain), so we were slightly surprised to see them opt for the more conservative hard and medium this season," he said.
Similarly, 1996 world champion thinks Pirelli's moves will favor championship leaders Red Bull.
"You might see that (Pirelli's decisions) swings towards Red Bull's favor and there are mutterings that that is the case and some of the teams are suggesting that is not what they want to see and that they quite like the softer tire," he told Britain's Sky.
"But that's formula one."
Sauber not considering Gutierrez axe
(GMM) Peter Sauber has played down suggestions the Swiss team might be considering ousting underperforming rookie Esteban Gutierrez.
Having fielded Sergio Perez alongside Kamui Kobayashi last year, Sauber is running an all-new driver lineup in 2013.
Peter Sauber, the Hinwil based team's founder, said he is happy with Nico Hulkenberg.
"He has brought exactly what we expected him to," he told the Swiss newspaper Blick.
"He is not only quick but also consistent, and provides the engineers with valuable information.
"It's up to us now to give him a car to take regularly into Q3 and compete for top positions," added Sauber.
In almost total contrast, Mexican Gutierrez is struggling so far in 2013.
The 21-year-old rookie has been not only off the pace but also getting caught up in incidents, triggering speculation Sauber might be looking at its options.
Blick named Japanese Kobayashi, Red Bull's Sebastien Buemi and Swiss GP2 driver Fabio Leimer as potential candidates.
Peter Sauber said: "Esteban has had a difficult start, which has resulted in some critical reactions in the media.
"Of course we are not happy with his results so far, and neither is he. But after four races that doesn't lead us to a discussion about the drivers.
"Esteban has the full support of the team, so that he can turn his talent into results. We have not supported him for several years for nothing."
Sauber said Gutierrez's early struggle in 2013 is evidence of the difficulties facing new drivers breaking into formula one.
"The main problem is that they hardly drive a formula one car before they have to race it," said the 69-year-old.
"That's why I like the idea that has been discussed for a while, with rookies getting an extra set of tires on Friday morning, allowing them to do more laps.
"It won't solve the problem completely, but it will help," added Sauber.
Watson: Red Bull has shown weakness
Ex-Formula 1 driver John Watson says Red Bull has displayed "incredible weakness" by failing to penalize Sebastian Vettel for his actions in the Malaysian Grand Prix, during which the reigning World Champion repeatedly ignored instructions and overtook team-mate Mark Webber for his first victory of the season.
Watson, who has reignited the team orders debate, believes that the outfit faces a severely challenging situation over the remaining 15 Grand Prix weekends, with the 67-year-old anticipating further issues between the pair as the year progresses.
"The whole Malaysia thing has been swept under the carpet," former race winner Watson explained to BBC Sport. "I don't know how long it can stay there. I suspect we will still see ructions at races later in the year. There will be occasions where Webber and Vettel will be running in a one-two situation.
"What authority does the pit wall now have to control certainly one of its drivers but most likely both of them? I can imagine Webber will think: 'I did the right thing and was prevented from winning that race and now I find myself with a team-mate who doesn't obey team orders and doesn't receive any sanction or penalty – so why should I bother obeying team orders?'"
Watson reckons team boss Christian Horner's decision not to rebuke Vettel in the aftermath of the battle sets up a concerning prospect for the rest of the campaign.
"I think the team have shown incredible weakness by not penalizing their number one driver and they have now created a rod for their own back," explained Watson. "They have, in effect, let him run roughshod over the authority of the Team Principal. Red Bull have opened Pandora's box. How can anybody control Vettel from now on?"
Drivers to get 'prototype' tire for Friday action
(GMM) Pirelli has finally confirmed that it will supply a new 'prototype' hard tire to teams from this weekend in Barcelona.
The extra tire set, which will not carry any distinguishing color markings, will be allocated to each driver on Friday with the aim of spicing up the track action in practice.
It is a "specially-created compound with the emphasis on durability so that the teams run for as long as possible", Pirelli announced in a media statement.
F1's official supplier admitted the move is to discourage drivers who would otherwise opt to "conserve tires for the rest of the race weekend".
"It's something we wanted to do to encourage all the teams to run as much as possible right from the start, especially with the rookie drivers, to give fans the spectacle they deserve to see," said motor sport director Paul Hembery.
However, although there were suggestions the tire would only be available to rookie drivers, in fact every car in the field will be eligible to run the new unmarked tire.
"The (rookie) idea failed," said German correspondent for Auto Motor und Sport, Tobias Gruner, "because of the resistance of top teams who only have experienced drivers in their ranks."
Extra tires for rookies idea is shelved
Plans to encourage Formula One teams to run rookie drivers during free practice in exchange for an extra set of tires have been dropped, with all outfits due to receive an extra allocation for the forthcoming Spanish Grand Prix.
The idea had initially been proposed by Force India, but it failed to receive wide support due to complications over the definition of a 'rookie driver', with some teams employing experienced testers that nevertheless do not have F1 race experience.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli's motorsport director, said: "As permitted by the current regulations, we'll be supplying an extra set of prototype hard compound tires for free practice, which will hopefully ensure that all the cars run throughout these sessions. It's something we wanted to do to encourage all the teams to run as much as possible right from the start, especially with the rookie drivers, to give fans the spectacle they deserve to see."
The Spanish Grand Prix will also be the first time that the revised hard compound tire has been run, with Hembrey confident that the change will allow teams to be more diverse in their strategy choices, creating better racing.
"This new tire gives us a wider working temperature window – although it delivers a little bit less in terms of pure performance – but it should allow the teams to envisage an even wider variety of race strategies than before in combination with the other compounds, which remain unchanged this year," he explained. "This is a decision that we've come to having looked at the data from the first four races, with the aim of further improving the spectacle of Formula 1."