Latest F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • Vettel not in F1 to make friends, but to beat them

    Visiting Berger backs F1 in Bahrain

  • Rosberg on pole but not favorite in Bahrain
  • Wind tunnel tires to blame for team struggles – report
  • Vettel does not need friends in F1 – Marko
  • Andretti doubts F1 heading back to Long Beach
  • Brawn wants gearbox rules rethink after Hamilton penalty
  • Bahrain race to go ahead amid tensions, protests

Visiting Berger backs F1 in Bahrain
(GMM) Gerhard Berger has backed Bahrain's grand prix, blaming the media for overstating the island Kingdom's problems.

As protests and clashes took place outside the Sakhir circuit, the former Ferrari and McLaren driver strolled the pitlane and paddock and said formula one can legitimately continue to host the race in Bahrain.

"I also came a couple of months ago and went all around the city," the Austrian told Spain's El Pais newspaper, "and I didn't see any fighting or anything resembling it — except for a young couple making some noise.

"I think the press has overstated everything, but the reality is that nothing happened last year and nothing is happening this time," Berger insisted.

"If you believe what you read then F1 is motivating a war, but this is not a country at war.

"It is a place where there are some problems, but if we stop coming here then we will have to stop going to China and other countries like that as well."

In his typically blunt manner, Bernie Ecclestone admitted a similar view on Saturday, jokingly saying the Bahrain government is "really stupid" to host a race and give protesters "a platform".

Bahrain's crown prince, however, said he is not offended.

"It's Bernie being Bernie," said prince Salman bin Hamad Isa Al Khalifa. "I love Bernie and his quotes. I think it's funny.

"I can't be thankful enough for his support."

Rosberg on pole but not favorite in Bahrain
(GMM) Pole sitter Nico Rosberg is not confident he will win Sunday's Bahrain grand prix.

The German acknowledged that while his Mercedes is quick over a single lap, it might burn through Pirelli's heavily-degrading tires faster than his rivals in the race.

And, in the now tire strategy-dominated sport of 2013, it could be the case that Mercedes' rivals were sacrificing qualifying performance on Saturday to be in better shape for the grand prix.

"We're not going to be as quick (in the race) as we were in qualifying compared to everybody else," Rosberg acknowledged.

Similarly, team boss Ross Brawn is happy but not jubilant that a silver car will start from P1 on Sunday.

"Much more important is that we have the fastest car over 57 laps," he is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Indeed, a look at the top ten grid positions shows there are several contenders. 2013 race winners Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso are second and third, while Melbourne winner Kimi Raikkonen qualified only ninth.

"It's a big surprise," Red Bull's Vettel admitted. "I don't know what's their (Lotus's) plan but, it didn't matter the compound, they were quite quick all weekend."

Lotus' Raikkonen insisted qualifying ninth was not the plan, but he told Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper: "In Melbourne I qualified seventh and won."

Mercedes' Toto Wolff is quoted by Salzburger Nachrichten: "I am assuming that some of the top drivers have been working more for the race, but that does not mean they were right.

"Let's wait and see what happens.

"I don't think we really saw from Lotus or Red Bull what was really possible by them on a fast lap. But we are not so naive. The bottom line is that Sunday is what counts," he added.

According to Finland's MTV3 broadcaster, Ferrari's Alonso agrees: "Even those who are behind on the grid are definitely still in the game."

Wind tunnel tires to blame for team struggles – report
(GMM) Pirelli's new 60 per cent scale wind tunnel tires could be to blame for some teams' troubles in 2013, according to a technical expert.

Top team McLaren faltered badly over the winter in switching from the winning 2012 car to the new and uncompetitive MP4-28.

And it's been a similar story at Williams and Sauber, who last year were among the standouts of the midfield and are now conspicuously scrambling for pace in 2013.

Referring to McLaren and Sauber, Swiss newspaper Blick's technical expert Mike Hammer writes: "Both teams now believe they know where the problem lies.

"It has to do with the new Pirelli tires. They are more angular than in 2012, and then deform differently in the corners, which has a great influence on the aerodynamics.

"Millimeters play a role, but the 60 per cent tire for the wind tunnel models have led McLaren and Sauber astray," he added.

An unnamed McLaren engineer agreed: "They (the Pirelli tire models) are much worse than last year."

Faced with the latest criticism, Pirelli's Paul Hembery insisted: "We are talking about eleven teams with eleven different wind tunnels.

"It is not easy to build good 60 per cent tires," he added.

The theory would explain why teams who made significant changes over the winter have disproportionately suffered so far this season.

Meanwhile, Sauber boss Monisha Kaltenborn has defended struggling team rookie Esteban Gutierrez. On Saturday, the young Mexican failed even to make it out of 'Q1'.

"Clearly neither he nor we can be happy so far with the results that he's shown," she said.

"But we have been very convinced, and still are, of his talent, so it's for us now to make sure that he has the surrounding (environment) that he can develop."

Vettel does not need friends in F1 – Marko
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel does not need friends to thrive, according to Dr Helmut Marko and Gerhard Berger.

German Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag reports that, in the wake of the 'Multi-21' affair, F1's reigning triple world champion is now an isolated figure in the paddock.

But Red Bull's Dr Marko insists Vettel's perceived lack of popularity is not a problem.

"Sebastian is not a politician who has to win an election," he insisted in Bahrain.

"In formula one you don't count up your friends; only your points."

Gerhard Berger, who is arguably most famous for being the great Ayrton Senna's McLaren teammate, said Vettel's character is simply a reflection of his success, and vice versa.

"Drivers like Senna, Schumacher and Vettel are unable to follow these sorts of team orders," the Austrian, making a visit to the Bahrain paddock this weekend, told El Pais.

He was asked about Vettel's refusal to let his teammate Mark Webber win in Malaysia.

"Drivers like this want to win every race and every championship. You can't talk to them and say, 'Actually, this is what we are going to do'.

"They'll make whatever reply they like but when the time comes, their brain cannot process it."

Similarly, Berger dismissed Vettel's inconsistent reaction to the affair; having so profusely apologized initially before verbally attacking Webber in China.

"A waste of time," said Berger. "Sebastian had no need to justify himself, because everyone is aware of his position.

"He should focus on racing and winning, nothing else."

Anyway, it is not true to say that Vettel has no friends in F1, as he is actually close to the sport's highest profile outsider, Kimi Raikkonen.

Asked if success has 'changed' Vettel, the Iceman replied: "We don't spend much time together, but I think he's a nice guy.

"If you compare him to four seasons ago, I think he's older now and knows the sport better," Raikkonen told Spain's Marca sports newspaper.

Meanwhile, Raikkonen refused to say whether he would accept the very same 'Multi-21' team order, if he had been in Vettel's shoes in Malaysia last month.

"There's no point in thinking about it," he insisted.

Pressed for an answer, Raikkonen added: "It changes nothing. I have no interest in wasting time talking about it, because it hasn't happened.

"If it happens, we'll see."

Andretti doubts F1 heading back to Long Beach
(GMM) Michael Andretti, a leading motor racing figure in the US, has played down reports F1 could add the iconic Long Beach race to its own annual calendar.

Reports this month said that with IndyCar’s contract expiring, Bernie Ecclestone and F1 sponsor agency chief Zak Brown had expressed interest in snapping up the California street race.

More recently a fixture of American open wheel racing, the Long Beach event was actually devised for formula one in the mid seventies, and the race ran until 1983.

Now, Ecclestone, Brown and race founder Chris Pook are reportedly in talks to bring F1 back to Long Beach.

"I'm an advocate of F1 buying the Long Beach GP," Brown told Motorsport magazine this month, "and I've been having those conversations."

However, Andretti – a former McLaren driver – doubts it will happen.

These days, as well as fielding a prominent IndyCar team, Andretti's company promotes races in Milwaukee, Toronto and Baltimore, and he told the Indianapolis Star there is "no way" formula one is heading to Long Beach.

"Why would they sell it?" he wondered.

"It runs along every year, making enough money. They have things in place; it works. I don't think it's a headache for them at all."

Andretti also doubts F1 has the appetite to spend the money necessary to bring the street circuit up to the sport's higher standards.

"They'd have to spend $100 million to bring it up to where F1 would want it," he insisted. "No one would do that."

Brawn wants gearbox rules rethink after Hamilton penalty
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn believes Formula 1 teams should re-examine the gearbox penalty rules after Lewis Hamilton was handed a grid drop in Bahrain because of circumstances beyond his control.

Hamilton was moved back five places after he needed a gearbox change following damage caused by a debris-induced tire failure.

After hearing private frustrations from his driver about the situation – because he was being moved back through no fault of his own – Brawn thinks that it could be worth F1 having a fresh discussion about the situation.

When asked if there was cause to reconsider penalties in the event of drivers needing new gearboxes when they have done nothing wrong, Brawn said: "I think Lewis would agree with you – he made the very same point to me about external influences giving a penalty.

"I think the difficulty we have in the future is really in the marginal cases – which in this case it wasn't – but was it something exaggerated by the driver? Was it partially occurred by the driver? So then we get in to these long debates.

"I think it is certainly worthy of looking at, as it is frustrating to get a penalty when there has been an outside influence, and it is annoying.

"Luckily it doesn't happen too often, but if it happens at a critical time of the championship then it could be doubly frustrating. However, it is probably worth looking at again."

Hamilton himself said that there was little point in getting too frustrated at the situation, even though it heavily impacted on his performance.

"It doesn't matter, the rules are the rules," he said. "I just have to suck it up and deal with it.

"The car didn't feel the same as it did in P3 – P3 was a big improvement. In P1 and P2 we had some problems with the car and fixed it overnight. But we got to qualifying and it felt like it did on Friday.

"Whatever it was it doesn't matter, Nico did a great job in qualifying. I wasn't able to match his pace. Tomorrow's going to be a tough race from ninth place but I'll do what I can." Yahoo! Eurosport UK

Bahrain race to go ahead amid tensions, protests
Young men have battled police officers in near-nightly clashes in the Gulf Arab country – a key Western ally that hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet – since protests broke out in February 2011.

The country's Shi'ite-led opposition has also staged peaceful rallies that have drawn thousands of demonstrators demanding democratic reforms from the Sunni-led government.

But the Formula One race, which many in the opposition dismiss as a distraction from the country's urgent political problems, will go ahead as scheduled.

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman al-Khalifa said over 15,000 people visited the circuit on Friday and more were expected on Sunday, despite the unrest. He dismissed the suggestion the government was using the race to paper over human rights abuses.

"What I would like to say is let's focus on what's positive, let's build upon the platform that we have, and let's celebrate this event with Bahrainis who are really passionate," he said at the Sakhir desert circuit, roughly 30km south-west of the capital Manama.

Crown Prince Salman is a driving force behind talks between the government and main opposition groups aimed at breaking the political deadlock. He described the race as an opportunity to transcend national differences.

On Saturday, protests broke out in about 20 villages around Manama, human rights activists said, with protesters throwing rocks at police and security forces responding with tear gas in many cases.

Reuters could not independently verify most of the reports, but a Reuters witness saw young men scuffle with police in the Sanabis area west of the capital.

The government denies carrying out arbitrary arrests and torture and says any reports of wrongdoing by its security forces are investigated.

However, in contrast to the Shi'ite-inhabited villages where the clashes took place, there was little evidence of unrest in downtown Manama or around the race circuit at Sakhir.

Spectators there on Saturday for a Formula One qualifying round enjoyed a carnival atmosphere, watching music and dance performances and other activities geared towards children.

Watched by millions around the world, the opposition has hoped to use the race to put the spotlight on its pro-democracy campaign. The government has hoped to show unity and has portrayed the protesters as trying to undermine Bahrain's international image.

"This weekend is really about sport," Salman said. Yahoo! Eurosport UK

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