Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • DTM driver Susie Wolff is now a Williams F1 development driver

    F1's Bahrain crisis deepens

  • Caterham has 'blown away' F1 rivals – boss
  • Red Bull 'has a plan' to bounce back in China
  • Bianchi to begin Friday duties in China
  • More passing in 2012 than early last year – report
  • McLaren not yet ready with own F-duct
  • New York speeds ahead with F1 pit building
  • Shareholder calls on Mercedes to quit F1
  • Susie Wolff Appointed Development Driver for the Williams F1 Team
  • McLaren: We have quite a few upgrades for the car going to China New
  • Golf tournament going ahead in Bahrain New

F1's Bahrain crisis deepens
(GMM) With F1 currently scheduled to arrive en masse in Bahrain next week, a crisis surrounding the possible cancellation of the island Kingdom's race is continuing to deepen.

The teams have now denied Bernie Ecclestone's claim that they can simply choose to skip the event.

"That would not be possible," said a statement issued by the teams association FOTA. "Teams are unable to cancel (a) grand prix."

Bahrain, meanwhile, stepped up its campaign, accusing some of deploying "scare-mongering tactics" designed to force the race's cancellation.

The race organizers released a report conducted by Lotus, following the Enstone based team's recent reconnaissance mission to Bahrain.

"We came away from Bahrain feeling a lot more confident that everything is in hand," Lotus is quoted as having reported.

The team, however, reacted angrily, accusing the organizers of having released a "confidential" document.

"Lotus F1 Team is one of 12 contestants of the … world championship and we would never try to substitute ourselves for the FIA", said the Enstone based team.

Surmised Times correspondent Kevin Eason on Twitter: "(It's) getting messy…"

At the same time, F1 chief executive Ecclestone became fully immersed in the political situation on Tuesday, reportedly personally phoning Bahrain's crown prince to express concern about the jailed hunger striker.

An Amnesty International report published this week had called for Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja's release, amid claims he is now close to death and being force-fed.

But the Bahrain government, through its information affairs authority, insisted that only police and rioters are being injured in "infrequent and remote clashes".

Also weighing into the argument was Sir Jackie Stewart, the eloquent triple world champion, who said: "I would go.

"The commercial rights holder has sold a package, at a price, and it is part of the constructors' agreement that they attend the races that have been published," he told the Guardian.

"As a team owner I would have to honor my agreement both orally and legally."

Whatever happens, the Bahrain saga – stretching back now over a year – is not good news for the future of the island Kingdom's calendar spot.

"Maybe we wouldn't renew it (the contract)," Ecclestone admitted to the BBC. "We'll have to look and see."

Caterham has 'blown away' F1 rivals – boss
(GMM) Tony Fernandes has given a strident defense of his formula one team, Caterham.

The former Team Lotus outfit, headed by the cheery Malaysian entrepreneur Fernandes, entered its third season with high hopes it was set to join the midfield mix.

Instead, the green cars – whilst still the cream of the backmarker group – are still better only than fellow stragglers Marussia and HRT.

The Finnish broadcaster MTV3's well-known analyst Mika Salo has advised lead driver Heikki Kovalainen to therefore quit Caterham at the end of 2012.

"Something has been wrong with the car," Kovalainen is quoted as saying by Turun Sanomat newspaper this week. "We need to see what is not right."

Fernandes, meanwhile, is looking fervently on the bright side, insisting Caterham has done markedly better than F1's other 2010 start-ups.

"We are competitive," he told the Sun, reminding that Caterham was the last 2010 team given its official entry by the FIA a few years ago.

"We've blown away Marussia and HRT when in actual fact they have been there six months longer," insisted Fernandes.

"We are half a second away from the established midfield … you must remember that this team is only two years old.

"When I started, we were nine seconds away from the front. Last year we were about four seconds away from Red Bull.

"This year, on certain laps, we lapped at the same pace as them. So I am very happy and I am strengthening the team all the time," he added.

But one of Caterham's direct rivals, HRT, is looking to make a major step forwards this weekend in China, having struggled recently in the wake of team supremo Colin Kolles' departure.

"We come into this grand prix having had much more time to prepare the cars," Pedro de la Rosa is quoted by the Spanish news agency EFE.

"We will bring small improvements to China but what we really need is the cars back in Europe and then the team can concentrate at the (new headquarters) Caja Magica.

"Step by step we will improve," said the Spanish driver.

Red Bull 'has a plan' to bounce back in China
(GMM) Red Bull is ready to start bouncing back from a difficult start to 2012.

That is the claim of the energy drink owned team's racing consultant Dr Helmut Marko, who acknowledged that Australia and Malaysia was not a good start to the campaign for a third-consecutive championship-winning season.

Comparing the reigning world champions with McLaren, Ferrari's technical director Pat Fry agreed on Tuesday: "I've been slightly surprised by Red Bull's lack of pace."

Marko acknowledged: "Over the race distance (in Malaysia) we saw that (Sauber's Sergio) Perez was the fastest," the Austrian said on Servus TV.

"In wet but also in dry conditions, the Sauber was absolutely the fastest one.

"On the other hand, the whole package did not come together for us," Marko insisted, referring specifically to bad pitstops, and broken radios.

"There are so many things that have to come together. But we have a plan for how to deal with it for China, to solve our problems.

"I'm confident that we will get it back together sooner or later.

"It makes things of course more exciting, although not quite as easy for us," he smiled.

Bianchi to begin Friday duties in China
(GMM) Jules Bianchi will kick off his season of Friday practice duties this weekend in China.

Despite remaining under contract to Ferrari's development program, the Frenchman was signed to be reserve driver at Force India this year.

The team said 22-year-old Bianchi will practice during "a minimum of nine" Friday sessions this season.

The first will be in Shanghai late this week, according to the French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche.

The report said Bianchi, who will also race in the Renault World Series in 2012, will take over Paul di Resta's Mercedes-powered car in the initial free practice session beginning at 10am local on Friday in China.

"I hope it (the role) will put me in a strong position to one day move into a race seat," Bianchi said in January.

More passing in 2012 than early last year – report
(GMM) The 2012 season has kicked off promisingly, with more overtaking moves recorded in the first two races than in the same exciting period last year.

The finding is significant, given the highly lauded contribution early in 2011 made by the new passing aid 'DRS', and new official supplier Pirelli's heavily-degrading tires.

Finland's Turun Sanomat newspaper said 2012 has so far broken even the all-time records of early last season, when there were 63 overtaking moves – excluding the first laps – in Australia and Malaysia 2011.

This year, there were 70 passes in Australia-Malaysia combined.

It bodes well for this weekend's Chinese grand prix, after last year's Shanghai race saw no fewer than 63 separate in-race overtakes, including Lewis Hamilton's winning move on leader Sebastian Vettel.

"China proved to be one of the most fascinating races in our first year, so we have a tough act to follow," said Pirelli's Paul Hembery.

"However, the philosophy we have adopted this year actually extends the window of peak performance on the slick tires, which means that the drivers should be able to race harder and closer," he added.

Yet another factor at the 2012 Chinese grand prix could be the weather, with F1's travelers already sampling wet Shanghai roads early this week.

That forecast would suit Malaysia winner Ferrari, with technical director Pat Fry admitting that the Italian team's 2012 car is almost a second off the pace in the dry.

"Damp, low grip conditions suit our car and flatter some of the issues we have at the moment," he said.

McLaren not yet ready with own F-duct
(GMM) McLaren is not yet ready to roll out a Mercedes-style 'F-duct' to complement its highly competitive 2012 car.

Despite Mercedes struggling with tires in the actual races so far, the W03 is a standout qualifying performer, thanks in part to the so-nicknamed front and rear 'super-DRS' system.

Red Bull, Lotus and perhaps even Ferrari are threatening to protest, but until now McLaren – with arguably the dominant package of the 2012 season so far – has stayed out of the argument.

"We don't have a strong view one way or the other," technical director Paddy Lowe confirmed during the regular Vodafone media teleconference on Tuesday.

The F-duct will remain a hot topic in China this weekend, with Lotus' technical boss James Allison believed to be armed with two new arguments against its legality.

It was thought McLaren was quite advanced with its own version of the system.

But Lowe revealed: "Until we've got clarity it's difficult for us to commit a huge about of effort in that direction. So that's where we are at the moment."

He steered away from suggestions Mercedes, including boss Ross Brawn, have flouted the "spirit" of the recent F-duct ban.

"There's no such thing as the spirit of the rules," insisted Lowe, admitting that if there was a 'spirit' of the DRS rule, the Mercedes system is "definitely" in breach.

"The debate around whether they can keep that system on the car is not about whether it is in that spirit or not, it's about whether the text of the regulations means they can't," he explained.

New York speeds ahead with F1 pit building
(GMM) Construction of the facilities for the 2013 New York grand prix is speeding ahead.

At the same time, there remain grave doubts about the Texas project, despite the permanent Circuit of the Americas venue being scheduled to host its inaugural US grand prix in November.

The Austin American Statesman newspaper has this week quoted county commissioner Sarah Eckhardt as saying: "It appears they (the organizers) don't have the cash flow to prepare the site for the event."

It is a very different story so far at Port Imperial, where the American grand prix will take place mid next year on the streets of West New York and Weehawken, amid the Manhattan skyline. published a photo depicting the advanced construction of the pit and garage building, which will reportedly house the F1 teams in June next year.

Shareholder calls on Mercedes to quit F1
(GMM) A Daimler shareholder has called on the German car giant to pull its works Mercedes team out of formula one.

Fund manager Ingo Speich, of the Daimler shareholder Union Investment, said at Daimler's annual general meeting that he is disappointed Mercedes has lost ground to road car rivals Audi and BMW.

"Mercedes is no longer the measure of all things in the premium sector," he is quoted as saying by Die Presse.

Speich referred to "a lost decade" for Daimler, and called on the company to follow BMW's recent lead and pull out of formula one.

His speech reportedly received applause from other shareholders.

Mercedes is the biggest formula one team yet to follow the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull in signing a new Concorde Agreement beyond 2012.

Susie Wolff Appointed Development Driver for the Williams F1 Team
The Williams F1 Team today confirmed that Susie Wolff will join the team as its Development Driver.

Born in Scotland, Susie Wolff has had the classic racing career, beginning in karting and then moving to junior single-seater series and was twice nominated for the prestigious Young Driver of the Year Award before moving up to DTM. In 2012, Susie will contest her seventh season in DTM.

Frank Williams, Team Principal of the Williams F1 Team, said, “Susie is a talented, successful and highly professional racing driver who competes in one of the world’s most fiercely-contested racing series. Susie will join Williams as a Development Driver, in which capacity she will assist us with the development of our simulator and other technical challenges. Susie will also undertake some aerodynamic testing of the FW34 and a full track test in the coming months. Susie will also attend a number of races with us. I should add that, as Susie is married to Toto Wolff, a Director of Williams, her appointment was carefully considered and then approved by the Board, with Toto recusing himself from the process."

Susie Wolff said, “I would like to thank Sir Frank for giving me this opportunity both on and off the track. I must also thank Mercedes Benz AMG and HWA for supporting me to take up this new experience with Williams. Formula One is the ultimate challenge for any racing driver and it offers me the chance both to apply and to improve the skills I have developed racing in DTM. In return I shall be offering some of my own technical insight and experience – coming from a different discipline – and helping the team engage with its partners. I hope also to demonstrate that women can play a role at the highest levels of motorsport and I shall be working closely with the team on its social responsibility program in the areas of education and road safety."

Bernie Ecclestone, Chief Executive of Formula One, welcomed the announcement: “If Susie is as quick in a car as she looks good out of a car then she will be a massive asset to any team and on top of that she is very intelligent. I am really looking forward to having her in Formula One."

McLaren: We have quite a few upgrades for the car going to China
(PVM) McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe has revealed that his team head to China with their containers carrying a number of upgrades for their pace setting MP4-27, and believes that their main rivals will also be carrying equal amounts of new bits for their respective cars.
During a media phone-in session he said, “We have quite a few upgrades for this event, on pretty much all sections of the car. So we’re hoping for a reasonable step in performance. However, we expect that is only what we need to do to stay where we are, in terms of qualifying and race pace. I would be surprised if our principal competitors aren’t also coming with reasonable steps forward. So that’s the name of the game."

McLaren head to China leading the constructor’s standings with two races down and 18 scheduled to go and, as yet, no real pecking order has emerged.

Lowe explained, “It’s a relentless battle for in-season development, particularly amongst the top teams. It’s started already and we’ll have to play our part and see if we can maintain the qualifying lead we had at the first two races."

Much fuss has been made about the F-duct style ‘super DRS’ which Mercedes have on their 2012 car and many teams are reportedly on the verge of copying the system, but McLaren’s technical boss is not yet fully convinced that the mechanism is legal.

“I think there are a number of points being debated behind the scenes. I think what we need at this point is clarity," he said.

And added, “I would say it would have been better to have clarity before now. So we’ll have to see what the next event – in China – will bring us in that sense. Until we’ve got clarity it’s difficult for us to commit a huge amount of effort in that direction. So that’s where we are at the moment."

Golf tournament going ahead in Bahrain
(GMM) A major golf tournament is set to go ahead in Bahrain.

The BBC is reporting on Wednesday that "a number" of formula one teams now fully expect next weekend's Bahrain grand prix to be called off – with the final decision to be made this weekend in China – due to the security risk.

If that happens – despite Bahrain's contract to 2016 – it could be the end of the grand prix forever, with rules stating that a cancellation for two years running will result in exclusion from the calendar.

It is interesting, therefore, that organizers of the inaugural Bahrain Invitational – a Pro-Celeb-Am golf competition – are reporting that the two-day event is definitely going ahead this weekend.

"We are looking forward to welcoming all the participants and safety around the event is assured," said a spokesman.

Sir Jackie Stewart, a triple world champion in F1, backed the continuation of sports in Bahrain, admitting that if the grand prix is cancelled again "they may never get it back".

"If this race is cancelled then I think it is a very backward position to have in sport," he told the Herald Scotland.

"Sport is a positive force, it brings people together."

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