Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • In Bahrain McLaren struggled to keep tires from falling off too fast

    Hamilton to muscle in on McLaren's Mugello test schedule

  • F1 assesses fallout after damaging Bahrain saga
  • 'Only certainty is uncertainty' in F1 2012
  • Alesi urges Grosjean hype to stop
  • 'Super' Massa has nothing to prove – Alonso
  • Ecclestone: Formula One will continue to grow in Middle-East
  • 'There's more to come' – Eric Boullier New
  • Sakhir chief baffled by press coverage New
  • Domenicali: Ferrari in crucial period New

Hamilton to muscle in on McLaren's Mugello test schedule
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton is rethinking McLaren's scheduled approach to the rare and crucial in-season test at Mugello next week.

The British team announced last week that both Hamilton and his teammate Jenson Button would sit out Mugello, so that testers Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey can run over the three-day session instead.

But that was before Bahrain, where McLaren's early-season upper hand vanished, leaving the drivers and team members scratching their heads over the way the MP4-27 ate rapidly through the Pirelli tires.

"It (the Mugello schedule) might change," British newspapers report Hamilton as saying.

"I need to get back in the car. We need to figure out why the tires are going off.

"If there are other things to test or ways to figure it out, I will be the one to do it, not let someone else do it," said the 2008 world champion.

A McLaren source indicated that if Hamilton wants to test in Italy, the program will be altered to accommodate him.

Button, however, appears unavailable to test, as he is scheduled to attend a promotional team event in Budapest early next week.

F1 assesses fallout after damaging Bahrain saga
(GMM) With the F1 world now returned from Bahrain, the sport is assessing the fallout of one of the most controversial grands prix in history.

The drivers were conspicuously quiet over the saga in the island Kingdom, but – with no contract tying him down – former Force India driver Adrian Sutil admitted he was glad he was not there.

"In a situation like that, it is probably better not to go," the German said on Sky Deutschland.

"On the one hand, the decision was made (to go to Bahrain), on the other hand, it's very difficult when there are so many problems in a country."

Red Bull reserve driver Sebastien Buemi, who has family living in Bahrain, does not agree at all.

"I arrived on Monday and I had no problem — maybe there were a few more police than two years ago, but nothing happened to me," the Swiss insisted on Austrian Servus TV.

Force India and Sauber, however, witnessed Molotov cocktail attacks on their treks to and from the circuit.

And Caterham team spokesman Tom Webb told the Sun that there was "one minor incident when one of our (hire) vans slowed down in traffic and its occupants saw a local youth on the side of the main road brandishing a bottle with a rag stuffed in its neck".

World champion and race winner Sebastian Vettel also admitted the feeling was tense in the paddock throughout the weekend.

"It was not easy for anyone," the Red Bull driver admitted, according to SID news agency, "but I'm glad that nothing happened to any of us (in F1)."

And the Telegraph quotes Vettel adding: "Hopefully, we come back in the future when everything's a little bit safer."

Reuters reports that Vodafone, the main sponsor of the half Bahrain-owned McLaren team, sent no staff to the country and expressed concerns to the British outfit.

But Jim Wright, an F1 sponsorship expert, told the Guardian that he thinks while the sport's image took a beating last weekend, sponsors will be happy.

"Most teams handled a difficult decision very well," he said. "On that basis I think a lot of people would be pleased with that and happy to get involved with them."

The television audience was also unaffected – even boosted – with the BBC reporting more viewers for Bahrain than Australia and Malaysia, and Germany revealing similarly strong figures.

Still, there remains criticism.

"Now is an opportunity to reflect," former F1 driver Alex Zanardi told Tuttosport, "and make sure that major sporting events are assigned only to governments that deserve the honor of hosting them.

"Ecclestone is brilliant and has made formula one what it is, but he can't administer races at any cost and above all else," insisted the Italian.

Due to security fears, Force India sat out a practice session on Friday so that staff could return to their hotels in daylight.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone was reportedly enraged, and according to rumors got his revenge by instructing Formula One Management's television cameras to ignore the Silverstone based team's cars in qualifying.

"There was a bit of fuss about what we did," deputy team principal Bob Fernley is quoted by Spain's AS newspaper, "and it was not easy, but I think it turned out to be the right response.

"We had a lot of pressure, our attitude was not well received," he confirmed, "but I think that we had a duty of care to our employees, and to do the right thing by the team."

'Only certainty is uncertainty' in F1 2012
(GMM) All this year's title contenders know after four 'flyaway' races in 2012 is that they do not know what will happen in Spain next month.

"The only certainty is uncertainty," read the German headline at Netzeitung.

With F1 generally regarded in the wider world as a sport with predictable results, this is an entirely new situation.

"The statistics show that it's been nine years since there have been four different winners in the first four races," said Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali.

Indeed, the famous Italian team as well as McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull have won the opening races of 2012, and also with potentially winning pace have been Lotus and Sauber.

"More than that," continued Domenicali, "you have to go back 29 years to find the last time four different cars won."

One explanation is that F1 has never been more competitive, with plenty of well-oiled teams and no fewer than six world champion drivers on the grid.

But Domenicali thinks Pirelli is the dominant factor.

And not everybody is happy about that. Michael Schumacher told Bild newspaper that this year's tires degrade so fast that rubber "flies from the rim" if he pushes too hard in a corner.

"We drive around like the safety car. It is not a satisfying situation," the seven time world champion said.

Pirelli's motor sport director Paul Hembery is unimpressed with the rebuke, insisting that the Italian marque is only trying to "make tires that make the races exciting".

"We cannot take individual drivers into consideration," the Briton insisted.

"It would be dead easy for us to make tires that don't break down. Then the top ten would also be the top ten in the race.

"But no one wants to see boring processions," Hembery claimed.

Agreed the Swiss headline at Blick: "Pirelli is sweeping away the boredom".

Indeed, not even the other Mercedes driver, Shanghai winner Nico Rosberg, agrees with Schumacher.

"It's total chaos. You don't know who is going to be fast at the next track," he is quoted by DPA agency. "Formula one has become almost unlike any other sport.

"Yes, you cannot drive any laps any more at full throttle. Often, it's like driving on ice. But that's a big and an interesting challenge," said the German.

Undoubtedly exciting for the fans, but the teams are having to adapt quickly. Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport said on Sunday that Vettel's victory could mean Red Bull resumes its dominant grip on F1.

Dr Helmut Marko doesn't think so. "We don't even know who our opponents are!" he exclaimed.

Alesi urges Grosjean hype to stop
(GMM) Jean Alesi would like to see the pressure eased on the shoulders of France's new F1 hope.

Until Sunday, Alesi was the last French driver to have stood on a formula one podium, after taking his Sauber to third at Spa in 1998.

Romain Grosjean therefore ended a 14-year podium drought for France, tasting top-three spoils in just his eleventh race in formula one.

"(Grosjean as) My successor?" Alesi told RMC Sport. "I don't see it that way.

"It's promising but we need to leave him alone now," the 47-year-old veteran of 202 grands prix over 13 seasons insisted.

Alesi is referring to the media hype about Grosjean after the first two races, when he failed to get his Lotus around even the first lap in Australia and Malaysia.

He then scored his first ever points in China and seven days later was on the podium, triggering press speculation in France that the tones of 'La Marseillaise' are next.

But there remains other pressures on Grosjean; exalted as France's new hope, and at the same time accused of preventing Kimi Raikkonen from winning in Bahrain by not letting his faster teammate through in the absence of team orders.

"I know what I'm talking about," said Alesi. "Since the beginning of the season there have been all sorts of comments about him.

"That isn't right.

"He needs to have calm and take the time that he needs to get on top of everything.

"When it's a podium, we're all happy but when it's a bad performance, we all have to be behind him too," he added.

'Super' Massa has nothing to prove – Alonso
(GMM) Fernando Alonso has backed his beleaguered teammate Felipe Massa.

Massa is fighting to save his Ferrari seat, but his team boss Stefano Domenicali insists the Brazilian also "needs to improve" for the sake of his very "future in formula one".

On the other hand, the Maranello based team is more than enthralled with the occupant of the sister F2012, Fernando Alonso.

In fact, Domenicali told El Mundo newspaper last weekend that Ferrari has a "moral obligation" to the Spaniard, that might also extend to his involvement "in the important issues".

One important issue is the identity of his 2013 teammate.

On Massa, Alonso is quoted by El Pais newspaper after Massa finished ninth in Bahrain: "He had a great start, pulled away from the traffic and ran a super race.

"But we didn't discover this just now: Felipe has won in Bahrain twice. He doesn't need to prove anything," said Alonso.

Ecclestone: Formula One will continue to grow in Middle-East
The Bahrain Grand Prix has a solid future and all publicity is good, Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone said on Sunday at a race that anti-government protesters had wanted cancelled.

Asked whether the race would stay on the calendar, the 81-year-old Briton told Reuters: “Absolutely. Forever. No problem."

The race at the Sakhir circuit passed without incident and was won for Red Bull by Germany’s world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Last year’s Grand Prix was cancelled after a bloody crackdown on an anti-government uprising and Sunday’s drew widespread condemnation from abroad and provoked rage among local opponents.

Asked whether the events of the past week, with the death of a protestor and television images broadcast worldwide of fiery petrol bombs and teargas, would have any impact on the growth of motorsport in the Middle East, Ecclestone was equally upbeat.

“I think it’s good because people talk about things, you know. You know what they say – there is no such thing as bad publicity," he said.

“It’s growing all the time, and other places are interested. I think it will grow here for sure," added Ecclestone, who owns the commercial rights to Formula One.

Bahrain was the first country to host a Grand Prix, in 2004, and the region now has two rounds of the 20 race calendar with Abu Dhabi joining in 2009.

Bahrain also owns half of the McLaren Group, the parent of the British-based Formula One team.

'There's more to come' – Eric Boullier
Lotus boss Eric Boullier is confident there is more to come from his team after its cars finished second and third at the Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend.

In the heat at Sakhir, Kimi Raikkonen challenged race winner Sebastian Vettel for the lead before settling for second place ahead of team-mate Romain Grosjean. Boullier said the strong comeback from 11th and seventh on the grid was proof of the team's potential.

"I think we had the speed all weekend, but the grid is so tight this year that even a few thousandths of a second can make a big difference, and one slight mistake can be very costly," he told the team's website. "While qualifying was not perfect, everything in the race was very good; the car itself obviously, the pit stops, which the crew had put hours of work into making more competitive, our strategy, which may have looked like a risk on the surface but which played out just as we'd hoped, and of course the drivers who drove flawlessly. It was a fantastic all-round performance, and there's more to come, I'm sure."

Boullier admitted he had been frustrated at the first three races after Lotus showed potential but failed to finish higher than fifth.

"I wouldn't pick out a single factor; it's more the culmination of a few small details where perhaps we haven't got things quite right in the first three races, which was incredibly frustrating, but we managed to put them right at the weekend," he said. "Everything ran very smoothly with no major glitches, and with a bit of a strategy gamble that eventually paid off." ESPN F1

Sakhir chief baffled by press coverage
Bahrain circuit boss Zayed Alzayani says he did not understand why there was such a media frenzy surrounding the grand prix last weekend.

The political situation in Bahrain was under intense scrutiny in the media long before Formula 1 personnel and journalists arrived in the kingdom, and that intensity kicked up a notch when reporters started arriving for the grand prix.

With the race now over, several team bosses have expressed their disappointment with the role played by the media over the past week, and Alzayani shares that view.

"You know, what surprised me is that some people continued with this negative tone," Alzayani told AUTOSPORT. "They started this without being on the ground, and throughout the season we offered many of them to come to Bahrain and write whatever they want to write, based on factual events rather than hearsay and speculation. But I don't think any of them took that offer seriously.

"It also surprised me that some of them went looking for a troublesome story to report, and one of the comments Bernie [Ecclestone] made when we paid a visit to the media centre was that he told a journalist that he was glad he was doing his real job, which is reporting about F1.

"If you go looking for trouble you will find it anywhere in the world: but look at the bigger picture. They were looking for a small story and making it the main issue, and leaving the real story uncovered. All in all they have seen that there is not much to report, and as I have said before: the race was really a triumph for Bahrain." Yahoo Sports/Eurosport

Domenicali: Ferrari in crucial period
Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali has described the period before the next race in Spain as crucial for the Maranello team as they attempt to transform the performance of the F2012.
Rain-affected conditions in Malaysia aside, Formula 1's most successful team struggled to match the leading outfits on outright pace in dry conditions throughout the opening four flyaway rounds, and therefore forced to engage in what the team consistently referred to as "damage limitation".

Fernando Alonso's relentless efforts, including his stunning win at Sepang, and the general unpredictable nature of the season so far means the team have actually headed back to Europe unexpectedly within 10 points of the lead in the Drivers' Championship.

Domenicali though is aware that Ferrari can't continue to rely on their current level of competitiveness to sustain a title push and therefore says it is vital that in the next two weeks – a period which includes a three-day test at Mugello – the team make significant development gains, both in the factory and on the track.

"The coming days will be very important, during which the primary objective will be to push as hard as possible on the development of the car: next week we have three days of testing at Mugello, but it's not definite that all the updates planned for Barcelona will be seen then," he told Ferrari's official website.

"We must try and make the most of every minute available to us to increase the performance of the F2012."

Domenicali also echoed the thoughts of rival Team Principals in describing understanding tire management as being crucial to the outcome of races this season.

"Tires seem to be the most important factor: understanding their behavior in order to settle on a strategy for the race and also for qualifying, as we saw last weekend in Bahrain, pinpointing the right moment for the pit stops, knowing how best to set a time on a single flying lap, based on the track evolution are all crucial elements in the fight for the top places," the Italian added.

"I expect that, in Barcelona, there will be many teams all bringing significant updates on track and we will have to do a better job than the others."

The Italian admits he would have "struggled to believe it" if someone had told him on the eve of the season-opener in Australia that Alonso would be just 10 points off the championship pace after four races, and now says the team's engineers "are working day and night" to give both the Spaniard and team-mate Felipe Massa a much more competitive package.

Domenicali also revealed that work was underway at Maranello to address some of the more fundamental problems in the team's operational methods: "We are intensifying the process of changing our working procedures in all areas and, at the same time, we are strengthening our efforts in areas where we are weakest, such as aerodynamics. It's a long term project and one that President Montezemolo is studying at first hand and it is vital to the future of the Scuderia. Formula 1 has changed so much these past few years and we have not always been up to speed with these changes. In this area too we need to step up a gear." Sky Sports

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