Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

UPDATE Updates shown in red below. See also the Friday Press Conference on our Home Page (Feature Articles).


  • FIA President Jean Todt says Bahrain race is on

    FIA says F1 to press ahead with Bahrain GP

  • 'Small' chance Hamilton to swerve grid penalty
  • Sauber runs 'teaser' for big sponsor – report
  • Double-DRS protest 'the normal game' – Schumacher
  • Kovalainen to stay at Caterham for rest of 2012
  • 'Nothing wrong' with 'nervous' Red Bull – Vettel
  • Hulkenberg happy without manager Weber
  • Sponsors nervous as F1 ploughs on with Bahrain
  • Karthikeyan sick of 'cucumber-gate'
  • Glock incident 'not mechanical' New
  • Fry blames Ferrari methods New

FIA says F1 to press ahead with Bahrain GP
(GMM) F1's governing body has moved to end the uncertainty about next week's Bahrain grand prix by insisting the race will definitely go ahead.

"The FIA confirms that the 2012 grand prix of Bahrain will go ahead as scheduled," the Paris federation said at the end of a long media statement, explaining its decision.

Until now, whilst plenty of speculation has been circulating the Shanghai paddock, very little has been said on the record.

For example, in Thursday's FIA press conference, a question about Bahrain was met with total silence by Bruno Senna, Vitaly Petrov, Paul di Resta, Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso and Narain Karthikeyan.

In fairness to Spaniard Alonso, he was later quoted by RMC Sport: "I think sport is not the biggest problem right now in Bahrain.

"I think that if we do not go, it will be accepted."

Red Bull's Mark Webber was another rare voice.

"We are all human," he told reporters. "We all have morals, irrespective of whether we're sportsmen.

"There's no beating about the bush — it is sensitive out there."

Indeed, with the decision now made to race, security in Bahrain will undoubtedly be tight — particularly after one anti-race group promised 'three days of rage'.

"We have a bullet proof car (in Brazil)," Jenson Button noted, "we have a police escort too. In Bahrain it has never been necessary."

German television presenter Kai Ebel admitted he would rather not go.

"I'm a sports reporter, I'm not Antonia Rados," he told the Cologne Express newspaper, referring to his RTL colleague who is a well-known war reporter.

Marussia's Timo Glock has also admitted he would rather skip Bahrain.

"A grand prix is the ideal thing for opponents of the regime to really get their message across," he is quoted by Speed Week.

'Small' chance Hamilton to swerve grid penalty
(GMM) There remains a chance Lewis Hamilton will not have to move back five places on Sunday's Chinese grand prix grid.

It emerged on Thursday that McLaren had discovered a problem with his Malaysia gearbox, requiring an out-of-sequence change and penalty in Shanghai.

"Of course it's not the nicest thing to hear that we've got a problem, but you just have to take it on the chin," the 2008 world champion told reporters.

"We're still here, we've still got a great chance to win.

"It just means I have a steeper hill to climb this weekend," Hamilton is quoted by the Times.

Indeed, Hamilton set the pace in the initial practice session.

And it then emerged that he had comfortably outpaced his rivals with the very gearbox that is bearing a worrying crack.

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh confirmed to the British broadcaster Sky there is a "very, very small chance" Hamilton can keep the damaged gearbox throughout the weekend, thereby avoiding the penalty.

However, he also confessed that the chance it will be replaced by a fresh gearbox on Saturday morning is "99 per cent".

Either way, defending Chinese grand prix winner Hamilton – who has started the first two races in 2012 from pole – insists he is not overly fussed.

"When I was a kid I always used to like coming from the back of the grid," he smiled.

Sauber runs 'teaser' for big sponsor – report
(GMM) After Sergio Perez's surprise push for victory in Malaysia three weeks ago, things are looking bright on the Sauber balance-sheet.

The small Swiss team announced in Shanghai that it is continuing its deal to promote the North American country with colorful 'Visit Mexico' signage.

"We can assume that our good results in the first two grands prix have contributed to the renewing of the agreement," said team boss Peter Sauber.

Not only that, another big deal is on the way, according to the well-connected Swiss publication Blick.

During Friday practice in China, the C31 was bearing mysterious 'Out of the blue' signage on the engine cover.

It is a 'teaser', the newspaper revealed.

"A big sponsor will be announced in a few weeks," wrote the veteran correspondent Roger Benoit.

That is good financial news for Sauber, but Perez – who finished second three weeks ago at Sepang – is not getting carried away.

The Mexican was fourth in first practice in China.

"I think we are really realistic as a team," Perez is quoted by AFP news agency.

"I think in normal conditions this (second place) is not where we belong, we have to be very realistic and our target is still to score as many points as possible."

Double-DRS protest 'the normal game' – Schumacher
(GMM) Michael Schumacher has dismissed the attempt to have Mercedes' innovative 'double-DRS' system banned.

Having twice previously rejected rivals' claims the concept is illegal, the FIA late on Thursday threw out Lotus' official protest.

Seven time world champion Schumacher, who drives for Mercedes, admitted in China he doubts Lotus really thinks the system breaches any rules.

"If someone has a good idea, we always have this sort of dispute," the famous German told Bild newspaper.

"It (the dispute is) because it's going to take too long for the other teams to do the same thing. It's the normal game," said Schumacher.

It is believed McLaren and Sauber are working on their own versions of the double-DRS, as are the reigning world champions Red Bull.

"We have been working on it for some time," a Red Bull source told O Estado de S.Paulo's Livio Oricchio, "but it's not easy to get even two small tubes down the entire length of the car, front to rear," he admitted.

Oricchio said Ferrari is also working on a version, to debut no later than next month's Spanish grand prix.

Kovalainen to stay at Caterham for rest of 2012
(GMM) Heikki Kovalainen has dismissed advice he should quit Caterham as soon as possible.

Fellow Finn Mika Salo, a former Ferrari and Toyota driver, told the broadcaster MTV3 he thinks Kovalainen should jump ship now because Caterham has failed for the third year running to move into the midfield.

But Kovalainen hit back by insisting he will at least see out his contract.

"It is a fact that I have a contract until the end of this year. It's written on paper," he said in Shanghai.

'Nothing wrong' with 'nervous' Red Bull – Vettel
(GMM) Whilst admitting the RB8 has "very nervous" handling, Sebastian Vettel insists there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the 2012 Red Bull.

The German looks likely to struggle to add a third consecutive drivers' title to his tally this season, after slumping to just sixth in the points standings after the first two races.

In China, he has reverted to a launch specification of the Adrian Newey-penned car's exhaust layout, whilst Mark Webber is plugging ahead with a further development of the Australia-Malaysia solution.

"There is no question of something (being) wrong," Vettel is quoted in Spanish media reports as saying in Shanghai, "just a few things that are probably just not working in an ideal manner.

"The problem we have is that the balance of the car is not as good as we had last year. It's not a question of downforce, but of ensuring that all the parts are behaving as a whole.

"That is what we are trying to achieve."

Vettel dismissed the suggestion that because Red Bull's cars are in two different specifications this weekend, it means the team has "lost" its way.

"I wouldn't say that," he said. "I firmly believe we have a very competitive car, at the moment we are just not able to take its full potential out."

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old said he has spoken with Narain Karthikeyan, following their collision in Malaysia.

Vettel twice showed his Indian rival the middle finger, and described Karthikeyan – who was penalized by the stewards – as an "idiot".

"I spoke with him and he apologized," Vettel is quoted by Germany's

But when told that he was once a backmarker like Karthikeyan, the German insisted: "I was never as far behind as the HRT.

"Of course you have to drive your own race. But you still have to know what is going on around you."

Hulkenberg happy without manager Weber
(GMM) Nico Hulkenberg insists he is happy in formula one without his famous manager Willi Weber.

After a year on the reserve bench, the German returned to the grid in 2012 with Force India, but no longer represented by Weber, the famous former manager of the Schumacher brothers.

"There were a few reasons why I separated with Willi Weber," Hulkenberg told

"Now I'm doing it without some new management," he explained. "I have assistants, because of course I can't do everything by myself.

"It's going quite well at the moment."

Hulkenberg, 24, is not the only F1 driver without a manager, as Kimi Raikkonen now handles his own career.

"I have (also) taken Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg as role models," admitted Hulkenberg.

Sponsors nervous as F1 ploughs on with Bahrain
(GMM) High-profile sponsors are nervous, as formula one ploughs ahead with next week's Bahrain grand prix.

Despite widespread trepidation felt within the paddock this weekend in Shanghai, the FIA has declared that there is no reason the Sakhir event cannot go ahead.

And after meeting with the teams on Friday, Bernie Ecclestone told reporters the race is "200 per cent" on.

But The Times reports that, amid the threat of violence, some sponsors have pulled the plug on providing hospitality for guests next weekend.

"When you have an environment like Bahrain then all the sponsors will be watching developments very, very closely and talking to each other," a source said.

"It's a case of 'watch this space' basically."

However, the British newspaper said it is unlikely any major sponsors will pull their logos from the cars.

"(They) will effectively just have to follow the sport," said Tim Bampton, of the motor sports marketing company Just Marketing.

"They will have to watch and wait to see what happens even though they could be caught in the vortex."

But, at the same time, it is believed that sponsors' contracts with the teams – such as Vodafone's estimated $75m deal with McLaren – contain "brand damage" clauses.

An added complication for McLaren is that it is part owned by Bahrain's sovereign wealth fund, with Mumtalakat Holdings "on course to own half the business" according to writer Kevin Eason.

Also under heavy scrutiny is the conspicuously silent FIA president Jean Todt, whose son Nicolas shares ownership of his GP2 team with Bahrain's controversial crown prince.

"We all know why it (the Bahrain saga) might have dragged a bit," Mark Webber is quoted by the Telegraph.

"F1 is like that. There's a lot of funding and finances that have come from Abu Dhabi and Bahrain and the Middle East.

"They're very excited about F1 and they clearly want to give it another go. Let's see if it works," added the Red Bull driver.

Karthikeyan sick of 'cucumber-gate'
(GMM) Narain Karthikeyan has revealed he is sick and tired of what could be described as 'cucumber-gate'.

After the Indian collided with Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia three weeks ago, he was twice shown the middle finger, and called a "gherkin" and "idiot" by the reigning world champion.

But that's when the real fuss began, as the world's media became involved — a mischievous German reporter even presented Karthikeyan with a cucumber in China.

"It's done and I would have preferred for it to stay private," he is quoted by the SID news agency.

But the affair is threatening to drag on even longer, with Vettel telling reporters in Shanghai that Karthikeyan had apologized to him.

He did not say if he has apologized himself.

"Sebastian can say what he likes," HRT driver Karthikeyan responded.

He said the incident had become an affair of "unbelievable proportions".

"It's crazy; I was questioned about it day and night," he said.

"It's become too much — I don't want to talk about it anymore and I'd prefer if I never even thought about it again."

Glock incident 'not mechanical'
Marussia has confirmed that mechanical failure was not to blame for Timo Glock's accident in the second free practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix.

Glock went off into the barriers at the mid-way point of the session when an issue with the nose box on his car saw him skate across the gravel going into turn one, with the German reporting some pain in his hand at the time but escaping any injury as the steering wheel was yanked from his grasp.

After looking into the issue, the team has confirmed there was no mechanical failure which will allow it to now push on with its program in the final practice session on Saturday morning.

“First and foremost we are obviously relieved that Timo seems to be fine," team boss John Booth said. “The next significant point is that we have clearly identified that the cause of the incident was not of a mechanical nature. This clarity enables us to push forward with our program with confidence and continue to explore what, based on this morning's performance, seems to be a very positive step forward in aerodynamic terms.

“We have brought developments for the front wing, the rear brake drums and the floor here and the results shown in today's running leave us very optimistic about the direction we are moving in. It's frustrating therefore that we have found ourselves with the problem we encountered today but we can at least turn our thoughts to the rest of the weekend now. Charles [Pic] has played his part in an otherwise strong performance by the team today and he has once again come up to speed very quickly on his third consecutive unknown circuit. It will be a late night for sure but we look forward to a better end to tomorrow's program."

Glock himself was pleased with the performance of his car despite the disappointing nature of the way his session ended.

“In general a positive day of progress with the car and I was happy with my pace and the way the car was working," he said. “Unfortunately we have experienced a problem which points towards an operational issue. While this is disappointing, we can at least be sure that this was not a car issue of any kind. In fact, the package, including the new developments, seems quite promising and I was happy with the good balance. There is damage to the car, as you might expect from the impact, but it is mainly cosmetic and the chassis is fine. A long night for the mechanics I think, so a frustrating outcome all round to an otherwise trouble-free day. Personally I am fine. Initially I had some pain in my hand from the steering wheel when I hit the wall but no lasting damage."

Fry blames Ferrari methods
Ferrari technical director Pat Fry has hinted that their problems run far deeper than those they are currently experiencing with the F2012 chassis.

Speaking at the Chinese Grand Prix on Friday, Fry suggested that the poor performance of the Scuderia's latest car came as a result of more fundamental issues back at their Maranello base.

He said that "methodologies" the Scuderia use during the design and development of their cars needed to be looked at.

The F2012 lacks downforce compared to its main rivals, although Fernando Alonso currently holds the lead in the Drivers' Championship thanks to his victory in the wet Malaysian Grand Prix two weeks ago.

Ferrari have already altered the design and positioning of the car's exhausts as they, like all F1's frontrunners, seek to minimize the loss in grip caused by the clampdown on blown diffusers.

More upgrades are planned ahead of next month's Spanish Grand Prix but the changes seem to be the tip of the iceberg as far as Fry is concerned. Sky Sports

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