Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Sergio Perez

    Pressure mounts on F1 to cancel Bahrain again

  • Perez developed skills in Mexican rain – father
  • Lotus wants 'no more crashes' from Grosjean
  • Mercedes' clever F-duct not easily copied – report
  • Barrichello not ruling out Ferrari return
  • Lack of development budget 'a shame' – Kaltenborn
  • 'Honest' Vettel no 'smiling boy' after losing
  • Raikkonen to 'have his say' on 2013 Lotus design
  • Grosjean crosses fingers for French GP return
  • F1 comeback easy with 'good car' – Raikkonen
  • HRT sign up Ma Qing Hua to driver development program

Pressure mounts on F1 to cancel Bahrain again
(GMM) Damon Hill has changed his mind yet again on the controversial issue of Bahrain's return to formula one later this month.

Amid the debate about the island Kingdom's return to the calendar in the wake of the cancelled 2011 event, the 1996 world champion said initially: "F1 must align itself with progression, not repression".

But he changed his tune after travelling with FIA president Jean Todt to Bahrain, insisting the situation on the ground had changed since the 2011 protests.

"The grand prix is of huge economic importance to Bahrain. You'd almost be putting an economic sanction on Bahrain by pulling the race," said Hill.

But the Briton has now changed his mind again, apparently after the latest reports of violence on the streets and the reaction in the international media.

Hill is quoted by the Guardian newspaper: "It would be a bad state of affairs, and bad for formula one, to be seen to be enforcing martial law in order to hold the race.

"Looking at it today you'd have to say that (the race) could be creating more problems than it's solving."

The former Williams driver is scheduled to attend this month's Bahrain grand prix as a television analyst, but Hill brushed aside any thoughts about his lucrative contract with the British broadcaster Sky.

"Some things are more important than contracts."

He also expressed misgivings about a recent media briefing in London, in which Bernie Ecclestone and team bosses stood with the Bahrain organizers and insisted the race is going ahead despite the continuing controversy.

Damon said that event was "troubling insofar as it tried to represent the rioting in Bahrain as the result of bad press reporting and as a 'youth' issue.

"I hope the FIA are considering the implications of this fully and that events in Bahrain are not seen as they are often sold, as a bunch of yobs throwing molotov cocktails, because that's a gross simplification."

Writing in O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, Brazilian correspondent Livio Oricchio admitted he thinks it would be "almost reckless" for F1 to travel to Bahrain this month.

"At Sepang," he wrote, "many team members were very concerned. They said their insurance companies had expressed concern about going to an Arab country in a belligerent state.

"Personally, I don't think we will be attacked, but it is the goal of the protesters to do anything so that the grand prix is not run.

"The Arab Spring is very much alive in this small country in the Persian Gulf," he admitted.

And the Times of London's Kevin Eason wrote on Twitter: "I have been thinking F1 should give Bahrain a chance but I am not convinced now that safety can be guaranteed."

Perez developed skills in Mexican rain – father
(GMM) Sergio Perez honed his wet-weather race craft from a very early age, his father has revealed.

According to the rumor mill, the 22-year-old Mexican has gone straight to the top of Ferrari's shortlist for 2013 after his strong charge for victory in the changeable Malaysian grand prix recently.

"This ability to drive very fast in the rain is a talent he developed at an early age," the Sauber driver's father Antonio, a former champion of Mexican F3, told France's Auto Hebdo.

"With his brother, he accumulated hours of karting from the age of 6, driving even in torrential downpours that characterize the rainy season in Guadalajara," Perez snr added.

Lotus wants 'no more crashes' from Grosjean
(GMM) Pressure is on Romain Grosjean to have a clean race in China next weekend.

The reigning GP2 champion has shown pace in his return to formula one so far this year, making good use of the competitive Lotus E20.

But in the actual races, the 25-year-old is yet to see much action in 2012, colliding with Pastor Maldonado in Australia and spinning in the Sepang rain.

With Kimi Raikkonen also yet to enjoy a fully clean race on his own return to F1, Lotus' trackside chief Alan Permane is quoted by the Sun: "It would be nice to have a straightforward race with no penalties and no crashes from Romain after the first couple of corners.

"I think it is McLaren and Red Bull at the front, and then I believe we are there."

Grosjean has duly vowed to do better.

"When you make mistakes you have to admit it and not repeat that mistake. When it's not your fault — well it's not your fault.

"I know that we can do some great things in the future races. My season starts properly in China," he said.

Mercedes' clever F-duct not easily copied – report
(GMM) In the case of Sauber's clever exhaust solution, Red Bull simply rolled out a copy in the days before the 2012 season.

Writing in O Estado de S.Paulo, Brazilian correspondent Livio Oricchio said the Sauber philosophy makes ingenious use of something called the 'Coanda effect'.

In the wake of the FIA's strict clampdown on blown exhaust technology for 2012, the C31 uses the Coanda effect – named after Romanian aerodynamics pioneer Henri Coanda – to legally entice the flow of exhaust to the diffuser.

Ferrari is understood to be the next team set to follow suit.

Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus, however, have a vastly different attitude when it comes to Mercedes' clever F-duct, which uses the existing DRS rules to redirect air from the rear of the W03 car to the front.

The concept not only significantly boosts straight line speed but also improves handling.

The FIA's Charlie Whiting has declared that Sauber and Mercedes are doing nothing wrong.

But the three aforementioned teams continue to rail against the F-duct, even leaving open the threat of protest ahead of the Chinese grand prix.

Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko explains: "Lotus, who are very responsible, have discovered two ways in which the F-duct is not in accordance with the regulations."

So is the difference in attitude when it comes to the Sauber and Mercedes innovations actually about the ease in which they can be copied?

Oricchio quotes Red Bull's Adrian Newey as having said in Malaysia: "In regard to the aerodynamic (F) duct of the Mercedes, and sending the airflow from the back to the front, it is necessary to review the entire project."

Barrichello not ruling out Ferrari return
(GMM) Just after backing his friend and countryman to bounce back, Rubens Barrichello has refused to rule out returning to formula one to replace the struggling Felipe Massa.

After 19 consecutive seasons in F1, 39-year-old Barrichello had to switch to the IndyCar series for 2012 after losing his race seat at Williams.

Speaking to Brazilian television Sportv this week, however, the Brazilian said he cannot rule out returning to the grid — even with Ferrari.

After a six-year tenure, Barrichello left Ferrari at the end of 2005 and – until now – has not looked back overly fondly on his treatment alongside the famous Italian team's former number one Michael Schumacher.

But in the wake of Massa's recent performance struggles, Barrichello was voted in an Italian poll as the ideal replacement for the diminutive 30-year-old.

When asked about Ferrari, Barrichello said this week: "I want the fans to understand that I don't have any hard feelings.

"If they called me today to go drive for them I would go. It was the best team I've ever driven for in terms of support, of creativity. But there were definitely some spicy episodes," he added.

With the backing of sponsors, Barrichello has signed on with the KV team in IndyCar for 2012, but he insists he is "completely open" about returning to F1.

"It would be something to think about," he said in the televised interview on Wednesday.

"I think anything can happen. I'm not saying it will happen, but I have to be ready."

Barrichello, the longest-serving driver in F1 history, revealed that he still enjoys the backing of Bernie Ecclestone, the sport's influential chief executive.

"He asked me if I was really going to race in IndyCar and I told him 'Yeah, because you didn't find me a place in F1'," he joked.

"He said he will see what he can do about it. Really, you just have to see what happens, you have to stay open about it," added Barrichello.

Lack of development budget 'a shame' – Kaltenborn
(GMM) Sauber is in a race for money after discovering its 2012 car is up to speed with F1's richest teams.

As ever in formula one, world championships are won not on the basis of a clever initial design, but on a team's ability to continue to develop it throughout a long season.

According to O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, the formerly BMW-owned Sauber team's chief executive Monisha Kaltenborn admits that the Hinwil based outfit cannot compete on that front with the likes of McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull.

"It's a shame," she is quoted as saying.

"I hope we can show enough potential so that some companies decide to invest in our project," said Kaltenborn, with the Brazilian newspaper estimating that Sauber's budget is EUR 80 million this year.

In contrast, the top four teams' budgets are believed to be all above EUR 220m.

Kaltenborn told F1's official website recently that Sauber would back a push to impose a budget cap — an issue that triggered the big teams' bitter political war with former FIA president Max Mosley a few years ago.

"We … have also openly said that we are not satisfied with our sponsor situation because we have high targets and to achieve them you need appropriate funding," she continued.

"We still need to work on that side of things, as of course the more funding you have the more you can develop — and it shows on the track.

"I have said before that when we look back we practically never had enough money to do what we really wanted to. The question is always how big the gap is — sometimes it is bigger, sometimes it is smaller."

'Honest' Vettel no 'smiling boy' after losing
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel remains unapologetic after insulting his rival Narain Karthikeyan.

The reigning world champion twice showed Indian Karthikeyan the middle finger in Malaysia recently, also describing the HRT driver as an "idiot" and "gherkin" following their on-track clash.

Karthikeyan hit back by calling the 24-year-old German "unprofessional" and a "crybaby", amid suggestions Vettel did not display sporting values befitting a double world champion.

Indeed, when asked by Germany's Sport Bild if he is a 'bad loser', Vettel replied: "It's true, I can only lose badly.

"Why should I lie? If I could lose well, I would not be in formula one. I was disappointed."

But the Red Bull driver also insists his outbursts should be taken in the context of the moment.

"So soon after the race, I feel like I should be honest rather than playing the 'smiling boy'.

"Sometimes it takes ten minutes after finishing a race to return to normal, sometimes you need a night's sleep to check things off and look ahead positively.

"When I put Jenson Button out of the race at Spa in 2010, I apologized to him the next day."

So, Vettel is much more positive now.

"From a pure sporting perspective, I have more points now than I had at this point in 2010 when I won the championship. So I'm only looking forward," he insisted.

Raikkonen to 'have his say' on 2013 Lotus design
(GMM) Just two races into 2012, Kimi Raikkonen has already sat at the wheel of Lotus' car for 2013.

His race engineer Mark Slade revealed that the Finn was at Enstone on Wednesday to sit in "a basic mock-up" of the single seater for next season.

"There's some rethinking in terms of the driver position for 2013, and we wanted to test it out before committing any further to the concept," said Slade.

"It may seem early, but it's better to do these things sooner rather than later otherwise it can hold up the whole design process."

A report by the Finnish broadcaster MTV3 said that Lotus' 2012 car was essentially complete late last November, when Raikkonen joined the team.

So "Raikkonen can have his say on the car for next year", the report added.

Grosjean crosses fingers for French GP return
(GMM) Romain Grosjean has admitted he hopes France's touted return to the F1 calendar is shown the green light.

Amid expectations he would announce a race at Paul Ricard will go ahead in 2013, French prime minister Francois Fillon instead said last Friday that talks are ongoing.

"I'm crossing my fingers that it will happen," Lotus driver and Frenchman Grosjean told RMC Sport.

"I think the enthusiasm for motor sport (in France) has been reborn," he added, referring to the presence on this year's grid of three French race drivers, plus Force India reserve Jules Bianchi.

"There has been lots of positive feedback after the first two races and also the first points for Jean-Eric (Vergne).

"I hope we will have a grand prix soon enough," added Grosjean.

Patrick Tambay, a former grand prix driver from France, believes politics can be thanked for the country's touted return to the calendar.

"I feel that the grand prix de France broke into the presidential campaign," he said.

"Since 2008, we hardly heard anything about it, and now it's a hot topic. There is a strong desire to make it work.

"All that remains is to validate the decision and set a timetable," he added.

Claude Sage, the administrator of the Le Castellet circuit, said Paul Ricard will be ready.

"The circuit is approved for formula one," he said.

"We need to prepare the facilities for the public, in the form of temporary stands, as in Monaco. We have room to install them," added Sage.

F1 comeback easy with 'good car' – Raikkonen
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen has a simple theory as to why his return to formula one was much smoother than fellow former champion Michael Schumacher's.

After two less competitive seasons in 2010 and 2011, seven time title winner Schumacher, 43, is finally back up to speed this year.

Finn Raikkonen is more than a decade younger than his German rival and he was off the grid for only two years, not three.

But he thinks there is a simpler explanation as to why he has returned immediately to the pace, while Schumacher took more than two full seasons.

"It's just about whether you have a good car or not. It has made life much easier for me," said Raikkonen, who has returned with Lotus.

"He (Schumacher) was not so lucky," the former McLaren and Ferrari driver told Germany's Sport Bild.

"The (Lotus) car is good," the 2007 world champion added, referring to his black and gold E20. "Whether it's good enough for victory or not, I don't know.

"At least we are not far away from the top."

Raikkonen insists not much has changed in F1 since he left for a world rallying foray at the end of 2009 — not even his friendship with Sebastian Vettel.

"He has won two titles since then but it didn't change him," said Raikkonen.

"Sebastian is a great racing driver but he's also a really nice guy," he added.

As for himself, Raikkonen insists he is just the same.

"Maybe people see me as more relaxed, which I think is down to the (Lotus) team," he said.

"It's a different atmosphere to what I've experienced before."

Ma Qing Hua

HRT sign up Ma Qing Hua to driver development program
HRT have announced that Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua has been incorporated into the team's driver development program. Qing Hua will be assessed over the coming months at private tests, using cars from different categories, and if he progresses well, he could enjoy an outing for the Spanish team at the young driver test later this year.

"I’m very honored to form a part of the driver development program at HRT since, with work and effort, it will allow me to become the first Chinese Formula One driver," said the 24 year-old. “It’s a very special moment for me and it’s hard to express how happy I am. I’ve dreamt of becoming a Formula One driver since I was very small.

“And now finally my childhood dream has become true thanks to the opportunity that HRT has granted. Driving an F1 car will be the most incredible experience and I’m going to work hard to earn it. Thanks to HRT for offering me the chance to show what I’m capable of. And thanks to my family and everyone who has always supported me. This is only the beginning."

Qing Hua started racing at eight and won the Chinese youth national karting championship when he was 12 years-old. He continued to race karts until 2004, when he entered the Asian Formula Renault Series and won the championship. In 2005 he represented Team China in A1 Grand Prix.

He moved on to Formula Renault 2.0 NEC in 2006, before competing in Formula Three Spain. In 2009 the Chinese driver took part in various British Formula Three International Series events, before representing Team China for two races in the 2010 Superleague Formula. In 2011 he competed in the Chinese Touring Car Championship and won the title after claiming four wins and four podiums.

"We are working so that one of the team’s signs of identity is to serve as a platform to launch young drivers, both nationally and internationally," explained HRT team principal Luis Perez-Sala. “Ma Qing Hua is one those talents in which we believe and we want to help him in his career so that he can make it to Formula One.

“Due to my responsibility in the Circuit de Catalunya young driver program, I’ve been able to follow his progress and personally assisted some tests he did. I knew he had potential, but I was surprised with his speed, safety, adaptation capacity, attitude and professionalism. All these virtues make us believe that his incorporation to the program will be very positive and will lead to a fruitful and lasting relationship."

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