Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Karthikeyan hits back at Vettel

    FIA rejects latest Bahrain axe rumors

  • McLaren must improve race pace – Hamilton
  • Pirelli eyes Alguersuari, Trulli for test role
  • Vettel risks penalty for 'middle finger' tirade
  • Sutil has 'enough friends' without Hamilton
  • Vettel team order 'not tactical' – Marko
  • Massa summoned to Maranello amid career crisis
  • Senna hopes strong result silences critics
  • Ferrari: Problems are still there
  • Karthikeyan hits back at Vettel remarks

FIA rejects latest Bahrain axe rumors
(GMM) The FIA has dismissed the latest rumors about next month's Bahrain grand prix.

Some publications this week said F1's governing body was in the process of drafting a statement announcing that the Sakhir race has been cancelled due to security concerns.

But the FIA's director of communications Norman Howell angrily denied those reports.

At the same time, Sheikh Abdullah bin Isa al-Khalifa, Bahrain's motor racing federation chief and also an FIA world council member, admitted he could not guarantee the safety of F1's travelling personnel next month.

"There are no guarantees in this world," he is quoted by PA Sport, after admitting "disturbances" in Bahrain are still taking place.

"You could be (in danger) anywhere, even Silverstone.

"All I can guarantee you is you will be as safe as at any other grand prix."

Asked if there will be extra security measures in place, Khalifa answered: "No, absolutely not. It will be life as normal.

"We've never had any violence towards foreigners simply because they are foreigners or in F1."

F1 industry monitor Formula Money has found that the Bahrain grand prix is more commercially successful for teams and trackside advertisers even than Monaco, Spa and Monza.

The publication also said that if the 2012 race is cancelled, "the teams could lose $44.7m of prize money".

McLaren must improve race pace – Hamilton
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has vowed to push his McLaren engineers to improve the race pace of the British team's 2012 car.

The 2008 world champion put the MP4-27 on pole position for both the Australian and Malaysian grands prix, but then failed to have winning pace in the all-important races.

"In qualifying we are very quick but we need to be quicker in the race," Briton Hamilton is quoted by the Sun newspaper. "I don't think we are quick enough."

F1's next stop is in Shanghai mid next month.

"We will have some upgrades for the car, I hope," said Hamilton. "I will go and push the guys to see if we can get some upgrades to try and squeak ahead in the race."

He admitted to being disappointed after the two races so far this season, when the MP4-27's qualifying promise did not power him to wins.

"The main thing is I need to pick up my race pace," Hamilton is quoted by PA Sport.

"I spoke to Fernando (Alonso) and Sergio (Perez) after (the race in Malaysia) and they had lots of understeer whereas I had lots of oversteer.

"Maybe I'm setting the car up too aggressively, so I might make some changes for the next two races," he said.

Pirelli eyes Alguersuari, Trulli for test role
(GMM) Pirelli is reportedly considering signing a 2011 race driver to be the official tire supplier's new test driver.

AS newspaper in Spain said Jaime Alguersuari, formerly at Toro Rosso and now travelling the F1 calendar as a co-commentator for British radio, is a front-runner.

Pirelli has secured the use of a 2010 Renault for private development testing this year, which is expected to begin in May.

AS said the "only obstacle" to a deal for 22-year-old Alguersuari is that Pirelli, an Italian marque, is also interested in grand prix winner Jarno Trulli, who raced last year with Team Lotus (now Caterham).

There are no Italian race drivers in F1 this year.

Vettel risks penalty for 'middle finger' tirade
(GMM) The FIA could sanction F1's reigning back-to-back world champion for his behavior during the recent Malaysian grand prix.

Before calling backmarker Narain Karthikeyan a "gherkin" and "idiot" in the wake of their collision, Sebastian Vettel was captured by his on-board camera twice displaying his middle-finger to the Indian driver.

"I think he's highly frustrated because he's having a tough season," Karthikeyan told the Deccan Chronicle on Wednesday.

"It's completely unprofessional to blame me for the incident. The derogatory remark only goes to show him in bad light.

"Just because he has a good car, he can't call others an idiot," Karthikeyan continued.

"I have won races in all the previous single-seater championships I have participated in so I don't need a certificate from Vettel."

Reports in Germany, including in the Kolner Express, Bild and Die Welt newspapers, claim that Red Bull driver's behavior may have breached the new stricter code of conduct introduced by FIA president Jean Todt.

The FIA has been contacted for comment.

"He has breached the code of conduct," former F1 driver Marc Surer told Germany's Sky television. "You sign it when you get the license and then you have to behave correspondingly.

"Any behavior that hurts other people or the sport is an offense," added the Swiss.

Asked what the penalties might be, Surer explained: "Anything from a warning to a license revocation. In this case I think it was quite understandable and there will be a mild punishment, if there is anything."

Hans-Joachim Stuck, however, is slightly less forgiving.

"When you're overtaking, misunderstandings can occur. I think Vettel needs to learn this.

"With him, the curve was always upwards and now it's not the case, and he needs to deal with that," the German legend told the DAPD news agency.

As for Vettel's description of Karthikeyan as a "gherkin", Stuck insisted: "It's better than 'asshole'."

Vettel's attack, however, was sustained, with Kleine Zeitung newspaper now quoting the Red Bull driver as having said: "Maybe formula one is not the place to learn how to drive."

Stuck responded: "If Sebastian had left more space, it would not have happened. It happens sometimes so it's a racing incident.

"He (Karthikeyan) didn't do it on purpose and it always takes two."

The HRT driver hit back by calling Vettel a "bully", and even David Coulthard – a Red Bull team consultant – defended Karthikeyan.

"He can't make his car invisible," the Scot is quoted as saying by the Mirror.

Also defending Karthikeyan was Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg, who told the Indian press this week: "From what I saw, it was not Narain's fault.

"So I don't really understand why he (Vettel) said all that."

Hulkenberg’s Force India teammate Paul di Resta added: "Narain is entitled to do as much on the track in comparison with someone like Vettel.

"Both are F1 drivers and are there to represent their teams."

Sutil has 'enough friends' without Hamilton
(GMM) Adrian Sutil has admitted that discovering Lewis Hamilton was not a friend was one of life's "disappointments".

Since their F3 days as teammates, Sutil and Hamilton have been arguably the closest pair of friends in the formula one paddock.

That changed, however, when the German driver was charged with assaulting Lotus team executive Eric Lux, and Hamilton was summoned as a witness to the Shanghai nightclub incident.

But Briton Hamilton declined to appear and also changed his mobile phone number without informing Sutil.

Sutil and his father reacted by calling the McLaren driver "pathetic" and a "coward".

When asked about his former close friend, Sutil told Die Welt newspaper: "Basically I only had a problem with one person, which was Mr. Lux.

"He has offered me his hand and said that for him, the issue is finished.

"What Lewis Hamilton does is not decisive for my ambitions to get back to formula one. Just as with defeats, you have to deal with disappointments, it's as simple as that.

"I think no one should expect to find any friends in the paddock — and I don't look for them there either. I have enough friends outside of F1," added Sutil.

Vettel team order 'not tactical' – Marko
(GMM) Red Bull has hit back at claims the team lied about a technical problem in Malaysia in order to gain a tactical advantage for the forthcoming races.

Near the end of the Sepang race, Sebastian Vettel's engineer repeatedly instructed the back-to-back world champion to retire his RB8 car.

Team boss Christian Horner said the brake temperatures had risen to a dangerous level, but Vettel nonetheless raced to the checkered flag and finished eleventh, one position out of the points.

Horner explained Vettel did not hear the radio calls due to a "lightening strike", but photos prove that the German driver was also repeatedly shown pit boards with the same messages.

And the 24-year-old revealed after the race: "Of course you can save the car, but I wanted to see the checkered flag. I think that's how it should be."

Moreover, the authoritative Auto Motor und Sport quotes Vettel as confirming: "I heard the command."

Red Bull has been accused in some media reports of feigning the brake problem in order to retire the car for tactical reasons and therefore install a fresh gearbox for China next month without penalty.

Dr Helmut Marko told Bild newspaper: "After the crash (with Narain Karthikeyan), the temperature of the brakes rose far above the allowed level.

"We called him in purely because the car was no longer safe. It was not a tactical decision," the Austrian insisted.

It is reported that Vettel will sit with his team bosses this week in Milton-Keynes to discuss the apparently ignored team order.

German racing legend Hans-Joachim Stuck said: "Another driver would be fired, but Vettel has the confidence of being a double world champion."

According to Welt newspaper, Swiss commentator Marc Surer added: "It was the right decision by Vettel, as the team needs to be careful with commands like that."

Massa summoned to Maranello amid career crisis
(GMM) Amid his performance slump and rumors Sergio Perez will soon replace him, Ferrari's struggling Felipe Massa has been summoned to Maranello.

A report on the Italian team's official website said there is "sorrow" within the team at witnessing the "particularly difficult time" being suffered by Ferrari's Brazilian driver.

While Fernando Alonso leads the drivers' world championship at present, 30-year-old Massa is yet to record a race finish better than his fifteenth at Sepang.

But amid the calls for Massa's head, team boss Stefano Domenicali – recalling a similar situation after Malaysia in 2008 – said his driver has the ability to react now.

"The papers (in 2008) were demanding his immediate replacement and he managed to react in the best way possible, thanks to support from the team, which saw him win two of the next three races," said the Italian.

"Felipe has changed his plans and, instead of heading home to see his family in Brazil, he will be in Maranello tomorrow to work alongside the engineers to calmly analyze everything that happened in these past two races, trying to identify why he was not able to deliver what he is capable of," added Domenicali.

"That's the right spirit and we are here, ready to help him."

Senna hopes strong result silences critics
(GMM) Bruno Senna has admitted he feels a release of pressure following a strong showing in Malaysia last weekend.

The Brazilian, whose uncle was the great triple world champion Ayrton Senna, has had a tough time establishing his credentials to date with part-time seats at the HRT and Renault (now Lotus) teams.

Although out-qualified for the second consecutive grand prix by his Williams teammate Pastor Maldonado in Malaysia, Senna went on to score 8 points in the race — more than the famous British team's entire tally of last year.

"Having a good result takes some of the weight off your shoulders," he admitted, according to the Sun newspaper.

"There will always be critics and you are never going to please everybody. But for sure, having a strong result will take some wind out of the critics' sails.

"Hopefully I can make sure I keep having strong results to show I deserve my place here," the 28-year-old added.

Martin Brundle, the former grand prix veteran who is now a highly respected British commentator and analyst, has revealed he is one such skeptic who has been won over.

"For the first time, I believe Bruno Senna can cut it in formula one," he said.

"I hadn't seen anything before that convinced me in the same way this (result in Malaysia) did."

Ferrari: Problems are still there
Fernando Alonso may have claimed victory at the Malaysian GP, but the consensus at Ferrari is that the race was a once-off result than a sign of improvement.

Alonso was able to make the most of wet conditions to pilot his F2012 to top spot at the Sepang Circuit after qualifying in eighth position.

As has been the case all through pre-season and leading up to race day in Malaysia, Ferrari have struggled for pace and team principal Stefano Domenicali does not believe that this situation has changed.

"Having Fernando leading the championship means nothing and we definitely don't think all our problems have been made to vanish with the wave of a magic wand," Domenicali told the team's official website.

"We have two weeks to prepare for another back-to-back run, first in China and then Bahrain and we will tackle these races with the same spirit we adopted in Australia and Malaysia, which means striving to be perfect on track and getting the most out of the tools at our disposal, while making the most of whatever opportunities come along."

Technical director Pat Fry echoed Domenicali's sentiments.

"I think the pressure is on the team to try and get the car performing," said Fry is quoted as saying by Autosport.

"Here in Malaysia, if anything, we had to do the best we could to make the most of the situation. In these situations our car is quite reasonable. But if it had been a completely dry race it would have been a totally different story."

Karthikeyan hits back at Vettel remarks
Narain Karthikeyan has responded to Sebastian Vettel’s ‘idiot’ comment after the pair made contact in the closing stages of the Malaysian Grand Prix. As a result, the Champion plummeted from fourth to 11th place and scored no points.

While lapping the HRT on Lap 47, the Red Bull appeared to move across and into the Indian driver, puncturing his own left-rear tire. After the race, there was an angry reaction from the double title winner on German television, initially labeling his rival a ‘cucumber’.

“It’s like on the normal roads; there are some idiots driving around and it seems like there is also one driving here," Vettel exclaimed.

Karthikeyan has now responded, claiming Vettel had no right to make the comment.

“He is trying to put the blame on me because of his poor showings," Karthikeyan told Singapore’s Deccan Chronicle. “I think he’s highly frustrated because he’s having a tough season after dominating the track for two years.

“It’s completely unprofessional to blame me for the incident. The derogatory remark only goes to show him in bad light. I, however, have high regard for Vettel for whatever he has achieved in a short span of time.

“We have every right to race on track. The rule is that backmarkers have to give way when they are shown the blue flag, but it doesn’t mean we have to go out of the track. Just because he has a good car, he can’t call others an idiot.

"I have won races in all the previous single-seater championships I have participated in and held pole position in the most demanding F3 Macau Grand Prix, so I don’t need a certificate from Vettel."

During the race, Karthikeyan was also hit by Jenson Button, but the McLaren driver immediately took responsibility in interviews which followed.

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