Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

UPDATE #2 More updates in red below.

04/16/12 Updates shown in red below.

Fernando Alonso


  • Alonso expecting more Ferrari misery in Bahrain
  • Schumacher could be Mercedes' next winner
  • Mercedes reaches F1 summit with 'small budget' – Haug
  • Winning 'easier now' for Rosberg – Lauda, Tambay
  • Alguersuari unsure of 2013 F1 grid return
  • No one in F1 wants to go to Bahrain – journalist
  • Massa 'only wasting petrol' slams journalist
  • Bahrain committed to Grand Prix
  • F1 touches down in Bahrain for controversial race
  • Fry delivers stark assessment of Ferrari shortcomings New
  • Ferrari among teams exploring Mercedes-style DDRS New

Alonso expecting more Ferrari misery in Bahrain
(GMM) Despite winning in Malaysia last month, Fernando Alonso is expecting a miserable weekend in Bahrain.

On the back of his surprise Sepang victory, the Spaniard qualified and finished just ninth in China, and he is not expecting a better Ferrari until next month's return to European grands prix.

"Obviously, this (result) does not leave me very optimistic for Bahrain, on a track where traction and speed are vital, exactly the areas where we are weakest," said Alonso in Shanghai.

Even more bluntly, he said the Maranello based team is "far behind" the pacesetters because the F2012 has "big problems" in aerodynamics.

But the bright side, Alonso insisted, is that the field of 2012 is oddly tightly bunched.

"If we improve two, three tenths then we can jump several opponents," he is quoted by Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo.

"The fight now is for fractions of seconds."

After Ferrari and Sauber were quick in Malaysia, Mercedes' Nico Rosberg dominated in China — but many in the paddock still believe McLaren has the quickest car overall.

Indeed, Jenson Button is ruing a team mistake – a cross-threaded wheel nut during a pitstop – that he says cost him a shot at Shanghai victory.

"There can't be many more mistakes if you want to compete for a championship, definitely not," he said.

Schumacher could be Mercedes' next winner
(GMM) Michael Schumacher could be the next silver-clad driver who takes a Mercedes to the top step of the podium.

His teammate Nico Rosberg dominated the Shanghai weekend and, at his 111th attempt, finally broke through with a maiden pole and win.

The much-younger German also dominated Schumacher, the 43-year-old, at Mercedes in the last two years — ever since the seven time world champion returned to formula one in 2010.

But former Benetton and Ferrari title winner Schumacher appears much more on Rosberg's pace this season, and in fact even solidly outqualified his 26-year-old teammate in Australia and Malaysia.

"It's simple," Schumacher told Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo.

"The way I can drive this car is much more how I have driven a car throughout my whole life.

"If you look at my driving today and compare with ten years ago, not much has changed," said the famous German. "But if you look at 2010 and 2011, my arms never stopped working.

"It wasn't my way to drive," insisted Schumacher.

Having followed Rosberg early in the Chinese grand prix – before his retirement – Schumacher admitted that he could not quite match the leading pace.

But, despite not standing on a podium even once since his F1 comeback, he has now smelled that a victory is close.

"It will be the same feeling as when I went to the podium for the first time with Benetton, and Ferrari," Schumacher predicted.

"When I started with those teams, we were far away from being able to think about it. But after a lot of work, I would say years – just as now with Mercedes – we had reached the stage of being able to fight.

"Most people have no idea how many things need to be changed, how much effort and investment is required. At 43 I'm going through all of this again, but it's because I really love what I do."

Schumacher's Mercedes contract expires at the end of this year.

"You might not believe it," he responded, "but I'm so focused on developing this car that I don't think about it.

"Later on in the season, of course, it's inevitable.

"Of course it gives me great pleasure that we are starting to see the results of this great work. I am still perfectly capable of winning in formula one," Schumacher insisted.

Mercedes reaches F1 summit with 'small budget' – Haug
(GMM) Norbert Haug said he is proud Mercedes has reached the top of formula one in a short space of time and with a small budget.

The German carmaker's works team is often lumped together with F1's other grandees including Ferrari and McLaren, but Haug insists the Brackley based outfit is in fact "a small team, with a small budget".

Mercedes' competition boss, who on Sunday collected the winning constructors' trophy on the Shanghai podium, also said some of the team's rivals – undoubtedly Red Bull – "took five years to win".

"We have done it in two and a quarter," the German told the RTL broadcaster. "That's not bad at all.

"And there are other teams that still have not made it."

So is Mercedes now a contender for the world championship, despite Haug's earlier protestations that the team needs a few more campaigns under its belt for that?

"It is too early to make a prediction," he told Auto Motor und Sport. "I hope so, but so far we have seen three different winners in three races."

The newest of those winners is Nico Rosberg, who along with Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve are the only sons of F1 drivers to have also gone on to win grands prix.

It is a good omen for Rosberg that both Hill and Villeneuve also won titles.

Rosberg's former Williams teammate, Alex Wurz, has high praise.

"As a teammate (in 2007) he made my life difficult because he was such a fantastic qualifying driver. In the race it was then always okay.

"But for this (race win) he deserves praise," Wurz told the Austrian ORF broadcaster, "because he did everything after his pole position also sensationally."

But in Bahrain, there could be another winner, triple world champion Niki Lauda remarked.

"I have never before seen F1 as interesting as this," said the Austrian legend. "Every race we see another winner."

Winning 'easier now' for Rosberg – Lauda, Tambay
(GMM) More wins could quickly follow for F1's newest race victor, Nico Rosberg.

The Mercedes driver began the 2012 season with more than a century of races under his belt, causing some pundits to predict he will never taste winning champagne.

But he broke through in China just a day after his maiden pole.

"I took 113 (races to win) and he's on 111," 2009 world champion Jenson Button smiled in Shanghai.

Niki Lauda thinks Rosberg's next wins will be easier.

"It (winning) gets easier," the Austrian legend said in China late on Sunday, "because he know you can do it, and you've proved it.

"The next victories come quite quickly," Lauda told the German broadcaster RTL.

Patrick Tambay won just two grands prix in consecutive seasons, 1982 and 1983, but he said the first one – achieved in Keke Rosberg's championship year – came with "a sense of completion".

"After that, things seem easier," said the Frenchman, "especially so when you've waited 110 grands prix!

"It will feel like a relief," Tambay told RMC Sport. "Now, he's still young at 26 but with a lot of experience; he has everything he needs to reproduce this victory.

"The first is the most difficult."

However, Tambay thinks Rosberg has a fight on his hands if he thinks the Shanghai victory is a springboard to a potential championship challenge.

"I see the McLaren as the best car of the season. They passed up a good opportunity for the (China GP) win," he said.

Alguersuari unsure of 2013 F1 grid return
(GMM) Jaime Alguersuari has admitted he is not sure if he will be able to return to formula one in 2013.

After his ousting at Toro Rosso, the young Spaniard is keeping up appearances in the paddock this year as a co-commentator for British radio.

And he recently signed on as Pirelli's new F1 test driver.

But "Everyone knows the desire I have to return to competition," Alguersuari is quoted by the Spanish sports daily AS.

"Honestly, right now, today, I don't know where I will be in 2013.

"If I cannot be competing next year then I will try to continue the path of my life somewhere that will make me happy," he added.

When Toro Rosso's new drivers slumped in qualifying last weekend, the similarly-deposed Sebastien Buemi made the point that, in Shanghai a year ago, he and Alguersuari had been in Q3.

As for whether he would be doing a better job now than Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, Alguersuari said: "I'll let you answer that question."

And as for the likely 2012 champion, he added: "I'd bet on one of the McLarens as I think their car is very consistent, generating more downforce than the others and with two very good drivers.

"But it's still open," said Alguersuari, 22.

No one in F1 wants to go to Bahrain – journalist
(GMM) No one in formula one really wants to go to Bahrain, according to the correspondent for The Times newspaper.

Kevin Eason has admitted he was harangued by the low-profile FIA president Jean Todt in Shanghai last weekend, after a series of articles criticizing the decision to plough ahead with the grand prix.

"Todt admitted that he will have to live with his decision," wrote Eason, "and he will be in Bahrain to oversee events at the grand prix."

The British journalist insisted, however, that he has "talked at length to team personnel, team principals, secretaries, motor home catering staff, public relations men — and I cannot find anyone who truly wants to go to Bahrain."

One female member of Williams' catering staff has had her contract terminated for refusing to go to Bahrain on moral grounds.

But the Austrian legend Niki Lauda said he has no qualms.

When asked if he's travelling from Shanghai to Bahrain to work as usual as a pundit for German television RTL, he insisted: "Yes of course.

"The FIA and Ecclestone have made a decision, as they believe it is safe enough to go. So we go."

On Monday, a photo emerged on the internet showing protesters burning down the largest F1 billboard on capital Manama's main highway.

It is also reported that a teenage boy is lying in intensive care after being shot by Bahrain police at a funeral.

"Nobody has been shot," F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone snapped at a reporter for AFP news agency in China. "What are you talking about?"

The reporter said: "He (Ecclestone) then swore and stormed off."

Massa 'only wasting petrol' slams journalist
(GMM) An Italian journalist has admitted he is more than unimpressed with Felipe Massa's apparent progress in China.

Already before the Chinese grand prix, La Stampa correspondent Stefano Mancini was calling on Ferrari to axe the struggling Brazilian driver.

Massa then qualified twelfth in Shanghai, equaling his Sepang achievement, but dropped to thirteenth by the time the checkered flag waved.

"I think that as far as my race was concerned, this was a step forward compared to the first two races," he insisted.

Mancini, however, is continuing to severely criticize the 30-year-old.

"A Ferrari that would like to introduce a third car is still racing with just one driver," he wrote.

"Massa is a useless presence; not yet scoring a point and only wasting petrol."

Interestingly, however, Mancini is no longer one of those who think Ferrari should immediately drop Massa and replace him with the team's top development driver Sergio Perez.

"He's too young and inexperienced to do anything about it (Ferrari's situation): better to take him from Sauber at the end of the year," he said.

Bahrain committed to Grand Prix
Bahrain International Circuit chairman Zayed R Alzayani has admitted to taking "a calculated decision" with regard to the staging of this year's grand prix.

The eyes of the world are on Bahrain this week as the countdown continues in earnest to its return on the Formula One calendar this weekend.

Alzayani has long preached confidence the race will pass without a hitch. However, there are several demonstrations and protests planned this week ahead of the event.

One in particular has been described by a risk assessment group as "a vehicular rally" due to take place along two of the main highways that lead up to the airport on Wednesday, when most F1 personnel are due to arrive.

Monday's arrival into Bahrain was peaceful enough with GP staff on hand at the airport, including a cameraman and photographer to catch the arrival of their first F1 guests.

That included drivers in Williams' Bruno Senna, Sergio Perez from Sauber, along with two reserves in Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi and Jerome D'Ambrosio from Lotus.

Appreciably there are plenty of posters and banners promoting the race, most notably on lamp posts leading away from the airport, one especially counting down the days to Friday's first practice.

But given the potential for disruption, Alzayani does not believe the future of the race is at stake.

"We've been in Formula One for seven years and we will be in it for much longer than that," said Alzayani.

"We wouldn't take a decision on a gamble. But it's a calculated decision, we've weighed up our options and we are committed to the grand prix and to its success.

"I don't think anything drastic will happen. It's not Syria or Afghanistan. I don't see why anything should happen this year that hasn't happened in the previous years.

"I don't see any benefit for anyone personally attacking the media or the teams or anything.

"Even those who are protesting weaken their message if they do so. Why would you go and attack the media?

"I think they will probably look out for the media to try and get their message abroad, which is fine. Let them express their opinion."

It is a question, however, of how forcefully that opinion is expressed and whether any protester goes above and beyond to do so.

A week ago seven policeman were injured, three seriously, by a petrol bomb, while a funeral march on Friday resulted in three teenagers being shot as police attempted to disperse the more volatile demonstrators.

However, Alzayani said: "It could happen in any country in the world.

"Why is it any different here? Look at what happened in London when we had a guy jump into the Thames and stop the Boat Race.

"Do you want to tell me there is no threat on the Olympics in London? Should we should stop the Olympics?

"What's the difference? There are idiots everywhere in the world. Does that mean we just sit at home and lock ourselves up?

"So let's have the event, I'm sure it will be a good event, a safe event.

"I can assure you most of the people who are hesitant or reluctant about Bahrain will change their perception within the first day of being here.

"We've seen it, and people who have already been to Bahrain and were worried and everything like that, they left with a different perception."

Alzayani feels F1's visit will allay some of the myths that have been perpetrated in the run-up to the race, although appreciates problems do exist that cast a shadow over the race and Bahrain.

"Will this year be exactly like it was in the past years? No," said Alzayani.

"We know that for a fact and I'd be lying if I sat down and told you it would be the same and everything’s normal.

"The country has gone through a tough year, we are still wounded in some aspects or another, and we are on the way to regaining our health.

"But the race will be positive to the country, positive to the economy which has suffered a lot in the last year and a half, and it will put things in perspective.

"A lot of the damage that has happened to Bahrain post the events of last year have been driven by perception, by people not necessarily writing what they see or hear.

"For us, we will be happy for the teams and the journalists and the media to come to Bahrain and see it and then write about it.

"Things are not 100 per cent, but they are not as bad as people make them out to be."

F1 touches down in Bahrain for controversial race
(GMM) After so much talk about F1's controversial return to Bahrain, the sport's travelling circus has now begun to arrive in the island Kingdom.

Already during Sunday's Chinese grand prix in Shanghai, some members of the teams as well as tire supplier Pirelli were across the world busily setting up at Sakhir, upon which the eyes of the world will descend this week.

Then on Monday, drivers Bruno Senna and Sergio Perez, and reserves Sebastien Buemi and Jerome d'Ambrosio, were reportedly among the first F1 personalities to touch down in Bahrain, as was Press Association reporter Ian Parkes.

Another early arrival was The Times' Kevin Eason, who said he was greeted off the plane by a "welcome party and car to hotel".

"All seems quiet on the streets," he Tweeted. "The people here are genuinely nice."

Circuit boss Zayed Alzayani is not expecting trouble.

"We've been in formula one for seven years and we will be in it for much longer than that," he said.

"Will this year be exactly like it was in the past years? No," he admitted.

"Things are not 100 per cent, but they are not as bad as people make them out to be."

Fry delivers stark assessment of Ferrari shortcomings
From the unexpected high of victory in Malaysia, the Chinese Grand Prix brought Ferrari back down to earth with a bump as Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa finished in ninth and 13th places respectively. The Maranello outfit may currently be in the process of accelerating developmental work on the F2012 in a bid to improve the difficult car’s competitive as quickly as possible, yet the team’s senior technical figure has admitted there are also more deep-rooted problems that need to be resolved if Ferrari is to enjoy sustained long-term success again.

Pat Fry, who took the reins of Ferrari’s technical department last year following the axing of team stalwart Aldo Costa and promptly instigated a more aggressive design focus, in Shanghai delivered what was a frank assessment of what he believes the team’s shortcomings are. The Briton feels a fundamental overhaul is required in the ‘methodologies’, in other words, the fundamentals of the way Maranello designs and develops its F1 cars. It hints at a long term fix, to return the Scuderia to the glory days of the 2000s.

“I don’t really want to go into where all the problems are – it’s not just a case of us trying to build a quicker car, we need to fundamentally be changing the methodologies that we use to select, design and manufacture so that we are competitive long term," Fry said over the weekend. “There’s work on all fronts, not just work going into what we’re taking to Barcelona, there’s also a huge amount of work in just trying to change the fundamentals of what we do so we can actually take a step forward and be competing with everyone else."

Correlation problems with its wind tunnel at the start of last year stymied the team’s progress with the 2011 car and Fry admits a stronger aerodynamic program is top of the team’s priorities, along with a complete overall of the “methodologies" currently used in the design process.

“The biggest performance differentiator – as people have mentioned earlier – is aerodynamics. We’ve got some issues there that we’re trying to resolve. The areas you need to be working on is everything from the way you run the wind tunnel, the accuracy of your wind tunnel, the simulation that you use to decide what components to take forward, so we’re not leaving any stone unturned," he explained.

“We’re actually trying to review and revise our methodologies through the whole process and that carries on into the design office for trying to get weight out of various parts, make other bits more durable, so there’s work going on absolutely everywhere within the company, on the basic fundamental methodology as well as just trying to upgrade the car."

After a difficult race in China on Sunday, Fry added that the short-term situation is likely to change much in Bahrain with the team’s first big upgrade of the year – when a new exhaust layout looks set to be pressed into service – having to wait until Barcelona. “Next week in Bahrain we won’t have any particularly significant updates, so we cannot expect a miracle: we must try and squeeze the maximum out of what we have to work with," he added. James Allen of F1

Ferrari among teams exploring Mercedes-style DDRS
Ferrari is among the teams likely to develop a Mercedes-style Double DRS (DDRS) now that the system has been declared legal by the FIA.

The Mercedes device improves top speed by stalling the front wing when the DRS is activated, providing a specific advantage in qualifying when DRS use is unrestricted. Lotus protested the DDRS, which works by channeling air from inlets in the rear wing endplates to the car's front wing, but had its argument rejected by the FIA at the Chinese Grand Prix.

Lotus technical director James Allison led the unsuccessful protest, but after the FIA ruling he admitted the rest of the paddock would have to consider introducing a similar system.

"Well they'll certainly need to decide whether or not the opportunity-cost of doing that system is higher than developing the things they had in mind otherwise. And that's exactly the same choice we'll face in our team."

Ferrari technical director Pat Fry, who currently has several problems to solve with the F2012, said his team had been considering the system for some time and is likely to push forward following the FIA ruling.

"We've been looking at it for a while," he said. "I think it's just a case of weighing up what the performance is on our car. It's bound to vary differently from car to car and particularly if you've had that system in mind and developed your car to work around it, you're further up the development curve.

"It's not just a case of applying it to our current aerodynamic characteristic, it's then trying to exploit it further after that, so I expect there will be a two-fold thing: we will know instantly – or we know instantly – what it's worth in terms of lap time and we can weigh that up in the cost performance and the effort needed. And then we also need to look at what's the ultimate potential of that device. We've been looking at it for a month or two. Now it's clear we can at least start working for sure, weighing up everything properly."

McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe said one major consideration is that the DDRS has limited use in the race.

"In these days of really very limited capacity – whether that's people or time in wind tunnels – to develop aerodynamics, you do have to carefully select where you put your effort to make the most profit in performance, so this will fall into that camp," Lowe said. "We have to decide how much we can get from it, how it ranks compared to other areas we may work on. It does have the immediate downside that it really is only a qualifying benefit as far as we can see, so immediately it has to earn quite a lot to make that worthwhile."

Meanwhile, Sauber, which has made a strong start to the season, is not likely to throw its resources at the system.

"We're looking into the system to try and assess it fully, to work out the lap time, or qualifying lap time gain, versus costs," chief designer Matt Morris said. "I think at the moment for us it doesn't balance out. We're probably better off spending our money on more conventional lap time."

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