- French broadcaster TF1 not in Bahrain
- Force India, Ecclestone, deny Bahrain GP boycott
- Button 'big favorite' for title – Fittipaldi
- Barrichello takes credit for Williams surge
- Ferrari is 'sixth or seventh' best team in 2012
- Changes at Monaco after Perez's 2011 crash
French broadcaster TF1 not in Bahrain
(GMM) Another television broadcaster has pulled out of this weekend's Bahrain grand prix.
It had already emerged that Sky Deutschland, MTV3 Finland and Japan's Fuji TV would not be reporting from the scene of the race in the troubled island Kingdom.
Now, it emerges that the travelling regulars for France's TF1 are not in Bahrain either.
The French-language RMC Sport reported that, like the other broadcasters, the decision was taken "because of the unstable situation" in Bahrain.
It has also emerged that Stefano Mancini, the regular F1 correspondent for Italy's La Stampa newspaper, had trouble entering Bahrain this week.
He reported that he encountered the trouble, which ended when the FIA intervened directly, due to an interview he conducted last week with a Bahraini activist.
"You work for a newspaper?" Mancini said, recalling what he was asked by the polite uniformed official. "Write the name," the official said.
"My name?" enquired Mancini. "No, the newspaper," the official clarified.
Force India, Ecclestone, deny Bahrain GP boycott
(GMM) Force India deputy boss Bob Fernley has dismissed reports the Silverstone based team could pull out of the controversial Bahrain grand prix.
Two members of the team were allowed to return to Europe this week following a Molotov cocktail attack en route from the Sakhir circuit to the hotel.
There were high-level meetings involving Force India on Thursday, sparking speculation the entire team could follow its frightened members back to the UK.
But Fernley, admitting that security has been ramped up after the incident, is quoted by Express newspaper: "We are definitely taking part, that is decided."
Bahrain's information affairs authority also released a statement featuring quotes by Bernie Ecclestone.
"I have no knowledge of any teams planning to withdraw from the race and we are all looking forward to racing in Bahrain," the F1 chief executive said.
According to Telegraph correspondent Tom Cary, however, another incident like the one involving Force India this week could force F1 to change its decision to go ahead with the race.
"If that happened again and someone was injured then that's the nightmare scenario for organizers as it might push the teams over the edge," he said.
Many drivers, like Kimi Raikkonen, have said the situation is normal this weekend in Bahrain, but Cary does not agree.
"Normally there would be PR events in town, you know, 'meet the fans' and that sort of thing but certainly as far as I'm aware there aren't any of those happening," he said.
World champion Sebastian Vettel said he will be happy when track action begins on Friday.
"I think it's not a big problem," the German said when asked about the security situation this weekend, "and I'm happy once we start testing tomorrow because then we worry about the stuff that really matters — tire temperatures, cars."
Earlier, Vitaly Petrov's manager indicated the Russian would only travel to Bahrain if F1 could guarantee his safety.
"If it was dangerous they wouldn't let us in," the Caterham driver told The National in Bahrain.
"If they make sure nothing gets thrown onto that track to hurt us, then we'll be fine. We are here; if it happens, it happens," added Petrov.
In fact, almost everyone in Bahrain has been reluctant to comment in detail, but there is an obvious feeling of unease.
Peter Sauber told Blick newspaper: "I feel like a guest, and so it is not polite to criticize your host."
But 1996 world champion Damon Hill allowed himself some criticism of F1, including the sport's most powerful figures, Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt.
He pointed out that FIA president Todt has said "next to nothing" about the Bahrain saga.
"This I find baffling," Hill wrote in the Guardian. "Surely it is possible to condemn acts of inhumanity without taking a side?"
As for F1 chief executive Ecclestone, who has consistently trivialized the Bahrain issue, Hill noted that "few" in the paddock "dare to publicly disagree" with the imperious 81-year-old.
"Perhaps we should (criticize him), instead of just muttering under our breath, scared of losing our passes," said Hill.
Hermann Tilke, the German architect who designed the Sakhir circuit, sees the entire saga as a storm in a teacup.
"It is safe in Bahrain," Tilke, whose company has an office there, told the Kolner Express newspaper. "I've never heard about any problems from our people.
"Of course there is some unrest, but it is protests, not civil war. As Bernie Ecclestone has said, we do sports, not politics," he insisted.
"And if they demonstrate peacefully now, the media will report on it, so both sides benefit."
Button 'big favorite' for title – Fittipaldi
(GMM) Emerson Fittipaldi, the successful Brazilian driver of the 70s, has tipped Jenson Button as a strong contender to match his own tally of two world championships come the end of the 2012 season.
"From what I can see, it will be between Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg. They are the big favorites," the 65-year-old is quoted by Brazil's Globo.
"Obviously, if Ferrari improves, then Fernando (Alonso) is spectacular. Lewis Hamilton is very aggressive, very fast, but I think Jenson is very clean, easier on his equipment and the tires.
"I think this (season) is best suited to his (Button's) style," said Fittipaldi.
McLaren's Button, however, is not so sure, pointing out the unusually closely-packed 2012 grid, and the big role being played by the Pirelli tires.
"You don't know who is going to be your main opponent on Sunday," Auto Motor und Sport quotes the 2009 world champion as saying.
"It could be Red Bull, or Mercedes, or Ferrari, or Lotus or even Sauber," he smiled. "So who do you focus on for the strategy?"
This weekend, F1 will find out whether the hot track temperatures in Bahrain will reshuffle the order. Button laughed when asked if it means McLaren will pull ahead of Mercedes this weekend: "We hope so, but we don't know!"
Michael Schumacher, whose career stretches all the way back to 1991, said 2012 is the "closest season I've experienced".
As for what happened in China, where his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg won from pole for the first time, the German admitted: "I really didn't think that would happen."
It is for that reason that Button warned against writing off F1's reigning champions, Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel said he is not expecting "miracles" in Bahrain, but he also said: "We still haven't seen a team that is clearly above all the others.
"Maybe McLaren is the most consistent, but they didn't do what you expected them to do in Shanghai …"
Barrichello takes credit for Williams surge
(GMM) Rubens Barrichello has revealed he feels partly responsible for Williams' surge in form so far in 2012.
For the veteran Brazilian's final season in F1 last year, the famous British team had its worst performance, scoring just 5 points and slumping to ninth in the constructors' standings.
But already in 2012, just three races into the new season and with Barrichello's departure one of many changes, drivers Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado have already scored 18 points.
"When I turn on the TV and see formula one and I'm not there, it is a very strange feeling," he is quoted by Brazil's Globo.
"But I'm not feeling it as a loss," said Barrichello, who has moved to IndyCar.
"Williams is doing very well and they deserve to be ahead. But I have no doubt, as well, that with a little more experience in that group, their cars would be even further forwards.
"All the work carried out for this (2012) car is a result of what we fought hard for last year," Barrichello insisted.
"Bruno is already reaping a lot from being with an engineer who was mine, as I was an experienced driver who likes the technical side and we exchanged a lot of information.
"For Bruno's future it is very good," insisted the winner of 11 grands prix.
Barrichello also hailed F1's newest winner, Nico Rosberg, who like the Brazilian toiled in the sport for years before breaking through with his first victory.
"Nico is one of those great talents who takes a long time to win a race," said Barrichello.
"You know in your head what you could do in another situation, but anyway the lack of a win does become a mental setback.
"Afterwards you don't improve as a driver, but it does take an elephant off your back," he laughed.
Ferrari is 'sixth or seventh' best team in 2012
(GMM) Fernando Alonso has admitted Ferrari currently has the "sixth or seventh" best formula one car.
The Spaniard took issue with a pre-season analysis in the specialist press that predicted the famous Maranello based team's F2012 car was better only than the three struggling backmarkers and perhaps one or two other minor rivals.
"I believe it was a German newspaper. I think we could do a press conference about what was written and we would say more mistakes than wise moves," Alonso said in Bahrain, according to AS newspaper.
He did admit, however, that the prediction Ferrari would the "sixth or seventh" team was "about right".
"Now we have to improve," the 30-year-old insisted.
Changes at Monaco after Perez's 2011 crash
(GMM) Monaco has made changes to its famous street circuit in the wake of Sergio Perez's high-speed crash last year.
Ahead of his debut Monaco race, Mexican Perez lost control of his Sauber on the exit of the tunnel in qualifying, sustaining concussion when he hit the chicane barrier.
Perez sat out the subsequent Canadian grand prix and later admitted it had taken him most of the rest of the season to recover completely.
L'Automobile Club de Monaco, the organizers of the annual race in the Principality, have announced that the severity of the bumps on the approach to the harbor chicane have been carefully reduced ahead of late May's event.
And the 'Tecpro' wall that Perez hit has been moved back by almost 15 meters, the Spanish sports newspaper Marca added.