Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

UPDATE #2 More updates shown in red below.

04/03/12 Updates shown in red below.


  • FIA still believes Mercedes F-duct legal
  • Pecking order could change again in Europe – Sauber
  • Raikkonen feels Lotus ready to lead races
  • Pirelli announces tire compounds up to Monaco
  • KERS unlikely for HRT in 2012 – Sala
  • Barrichello: Massa needs to relax New
  • Whiting to consider DRS claims New

FIA still believes Mercedes F-duct legal
(GMM) The FIA appears to have waded back into the 'F-duct' debate, indicating that the Mercedes-style solution is fully legal.

We reported on Monday that the saga looked set to continue into China next weekend, with some teams – notably Red Bull and Lotus – questioning the legality of the aerodynamic innovation.

It had emerged that Lotus technical director James Allison has come up with another argument against the technology that will be posed to the FIA's Charlie Whiting ahead of scrutineering in Shanghai next week.

Christian Horner insists Red Bull and Lotus' concerns are shared by others.

"Believe me it's not just Red Bull, I think there's half the paddock that's been looking at this," he told British television Sky Sport's The F1 Show.

The Red Bull team boss revealed that Whiting left Malaysia wanting "to have a think about it".

So, the latest development is the re-release via the FIA website of an "edited version" of the technical briefing that Whiting gave to reporters in Australia last month.

It is believed the complaining teams' main objection to the Mercedes system is that it arguably uses 'driver movement' – the pressing of the DRS button – to be activated.

Under the heading "Pressing the DRS button and the issue of 'driver movement'", the media briefing quotes Whiting as stating simply: "This is specifically allowed (in the rules)."

Mercedes' Ross Brawn is quoted by the BBC: "We call it the DRS, because that's all it is. The purpose of the DRS is to improve overtaking and that's what we're trying to do."

Whiting's stance in China, however, may not be the end of it.

"Then the teams are faced with alternatives," Horner explained. "Either accept it and get on it and maybe look at your own solution if that fits your car.

"You've got the opportunity to protest if we were to feel – or any other team were to feel – that we didn't agree with Charlie's interpretation," he added.

Pecking order could change again in Europe – Sauber
(GMM) With the pecking-order still not entirely clear after two races, it could be set to change all over again in the near future.

That is the view of Peter Sauber, the Hinwil based team's owner and boss who witnessed his Mexican driver Sergio Perez display almost race-winning form at Sepang recently with the impressive new C31 car.

He argues that the real key to 2012 is ongoing car development.

"The decisive factor of course is how quickly can the teams develop their cars," he wrote in his column for the Swiss newspaper Blick.

"Most will have small improvements in the next two races in China and Bahrain, before the major development stages are triggered for the start of the European season in Barcelona.

"Then, the balance of power could change," said Sauber.

Currently fourth in the constructors' championship, Sauber has after just two races in 2012 already scored almost 70 per cent of the final points tallies collected by the formerly BMW-owned team in the past two seasons.

But not only Sauber has been impressive, so too has almost the entire field of 2012.

"The quality in formula one has never been as great as it is today," he said. "If you don't get everything right in qualifying, you lose a number of positions.

"Also, the midfield has moved significantly closer to the front, which can mean an unusually mixed order on the grid," said Sauber.

Raikkonen feels Lotus ready to lead races
"I think we've got off to an encouraging start," Raikkonen told the Lotus website about the first two races. "It's been frustrating sometimes with the chassis issues in testing, the qualifying mix-up in Australia and the gearbox change in Malaysia, but we've shown we can deal with any problems and come back stronger.

"It feels like I've never been away; the team has done a good job and I'm working well with them which makes things easier. The car feels good and we clearly have the pace to be at the front; we just need some better luck."

Pirelli announces tire compounds up to Monaco
Pirelli has revealed which Slick tire compounds will be taken to the Bahrain, Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix. There will be a Soft and Medium choice for Sakhir, whereas Barcelona will feature the Hard and Soft options. In Monte Carlo, the red-marked Super Soft compound will be rolled out for the first time in 2012.

In Monaco, the Super Soft will make its 2012 début The decision means the same tire compounds will be used as in 2011, albeit with slight modifications for this year. Before Bahrain, the Soft and Medium tires will also be available when the World Championship continues in China next weekend.

“Our nominations this year are designed to push the envelope of performance, as can be seen from our latest choices," explains Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery. “Only the Super Soft tire is the same compound as last year; the other compounds are softer and therefore faster, designed to encourage closer racing as well as a wider variety of strategies."

Slick compounds for Rounds 1-6:

Australia – Soft and Medium
Malaysia – Medium and Hard
China – Soft and Medium
Bahrain – Soft and Medium
Spain – Soft and Hard
Monaco – Super Soft and Soft

2012 markings:

Hard – Silver
Medium – White
Soft – Yellow
Super Soft – Red
Intermediate – Green
Wet – Blue

KERS unlikely for HRT in 2012 – Sala
(GMM) HRT's team boss has admitted installing KERS is an unlikely goal for the struggling Spanish team this year.

Luis Perez Sala said the new F112 was designed to accommodate the energy-recovery technology, but qualifying comfortably within the 107 per cent rule is a better target for now.

"We have a car we are yet to discover," he told El Confidencial.

Indeed, HRT travelled to Australia last month having hardly run its new Cosworth-powered car, and failed to qualify for the season opener.

"It is designed to carry KERS but in the short term we will not (use it). We don't think we're going to race with it this year," he added.

"So, in this respect, it's not perfect. Right now, we have assembled the car in a hurry and so the private testing at Mugello, just after Bahrain, will be very important to us."

Sala, having rebuilt HRT following the departure of team boss Colin Kolles, was speaking from HRT's new headquarters at the Caja Magica (Magic Box).

"After Bahrain, we will have the cars here. From the Spanish grand prix, we will begin to function more effectively.

"In China and Bahrain we will improve things in the car and the team, but it is a slow process that will last all year.

"As I sit here (in Madrid), some people are in Valencia, others in Germany, England … the cars are flying to China and we need to address issues of reliability, not just performance."

It is a tough situation for HRT, but Sala concedes that the 'paddock perception' of the team is that it has gone backwards since debuting in 2010.

"It is really our first year," he insists.

He reveals that Bernie Ecclestone, once a staunch critic of the struggling backmarkers, is "quiet".

"We have not had any problems, I think he is calm," said Sala.

It is also a busy time off the track for HRT, as many rival teams are busily signing the new Concorde Agreement for 2013.

"There are teams that are more advanced than others; for us, the negotiations are still at the beginning," he said.

The most obvious goals right now, Sala insists, are to have "a team that works together, has a reliable car and a small team that can develop it, and we're around 105pc off the pole".

Barrichello: Massa needs to relax
Felipe Massa will get himself back to his best in Formula 1 if he learns to relax and rediscovers the joy of being a racing driver.

That is the view of his friend and compatriot Rubens Barrichello, who believes that the key to Massa lifting himself out of the difficult situation he is in at the moment is in sorting out his mental attitude.

In an exclusive interview with Brazilian sports website, F1 driver turned IndyCar racer Barrichello says that getting in the right frame of mind was key to helping him out of problems in the past too.

"It isn't a speed problem, it's something that he has to solve himself," explained Barrichello. "He has to close his eyes, enjoy himself and remember that he is doing this because he likes it.

"All of the times when I lost myself a little bit, I had forgotten that and reminded myself that I am doing this because I like it too. So [as drivers], we have to relax – and then we can improve. It's just a moment, and every moment in Formula 1 is a cycle of life."

Barrichello concedes, however, that Massa's plight is not helped by the fact that team-mate Fernando Alonso is so adored at Ferrari – especially now that he has taken a surprise lead in the world championship after his victory in Malaysia.

"Certainly, Ferrari has a love for Alonso, because he is one of the best, if not the best, in F1," said Barrichello. "So, Felipe has a tough hurdle to overcome."

Whiting to consider DRS claims
FIA race director Charlie Whiting says he will examine claims made by some teams that the DRS system being used by Mercedes is illegal.

The controversial design feature, which was given the green light by FIA officials before the cars' construction during the close season, is designed to help boost straight-line speed.

Several teams, including Red Bull and Lotus, who were among the first to object, have claimed that the innovation is illegal under FIA rules, but Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn has hit back at the accusations, insisting that there is no foul play.

"We call it the DRS, because that's all it is. The purpose of the DRS is to improve overtaking and that's what we're trying to do," said Brawn.

Concerns were expressed before the first race of the season in Australia, as many were convinced that it would give Mercedes an unfair advantage.

But, legal or not, the controversial system doesn't appear to have done the team any good, as drivers Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher have managed just a single point between them from the first two races.

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