Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • New McLaren said to be fast

    Red Bull and McLaren lead 2012 field – Sauber

  • Perez admits possibility of Ferrari future
  • HRT hoping to debut 2012 car on Sunday
  • McLaren downplays significance of engine mapping clampdown
  • Ferrari sign official energy drinks deal
  • Change of test program for Ferrari
  • Alonso on track at Jarama: “Moving forward step by step"

Red Bull and McLaren lead 2012 field – Sauber
(GMM) Red Bull and McLaren have the quickest cars as formula one teams prepare for the final pre-season test before Melbourne.

That is the view of Sauber designer Matt Morris, despite the Swiss team's Kamui Kobayashi setting the fastest overall time at last week's Barcelona test.

"The top teams are yet to show their hands," read a report in the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport.

Morris agrees with that assessment.

"If we are to believe our own analysis then Red Bull and McLaren are in front, there is a question mark about Ferrari, and behind them is a very close group of several teams.

"I think the gaps between those in this central group will be smaller this year," he added.

The F1 world's real gaze this week will however be on the apparent title contenders, with Lewis Hamilton quoted by the SID news agency as saying: "Maybe Red Bull are a bit quicker than us."

But McLaren's team boss Martin Whitmarsh revealed: "We will have a fairly substantial (update) package in Barcelona this week.

"We assume Red Bull will do the same," he added.

Unlike last year, however, there will be no last-minute technical sensation that determines the pecking-order for the start of the season.

Sauber's Morris explains: "There will be nothing spectacular; the rules don't allow it any more."

But he admitted that the best-funded teams will continue to tinker at the edges, as demonstrated by McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull who have so far run several different exhaust configurations in the wake of the blown diffuser ban.

Morris said: "Any modification in this area is an expensive pleasure, while before we (Sauber) do anything, we have to be sure that it is clearly better."

Perez admits possibility of Ferrari future
(GMM) Sergio Perez has admitted the possibility he could be paired with Fernando Alonso next year at Ferrari.

The famous Italian team has put Felipe Massa on notice, with Mexican Perez – currently driving for Ferrari-powered Sauber – at the head of Ferrari's driver development program.

At the same time, however, Red Bull's reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel regularly declares his desire to one day race a Ferrari.

"Ah, yes," Perez told the Spanish sports daily Marca.

So who is the real front-runner for Massa's seat?

"We will see," he insisted, "as ultimately it depends on this year, which for me is very important."

Perez, 22, admitted at least that he is a leading candidate.

"Yes, but this season is yet to even start and everything changes very fast in a year. There are many things that are yet to have been seen," he said.

"For me, Ferrari is the greatest team for which all the drivers dream of one day winning the championship but … let's see. I would love to be there some day."

Perez acknowledged that Spaniard Alonso, Ferrari's much-loved number one, would be a difficult teammate.

"Very difficult, I would say Alonso is the most difficult on all of the grid to have as your teammate, I respect him a lot," he insisted.

Reportedly on the cusp of a top seat, Perez is nonetheless still fending off suggestions he is a 'pay driver', due to his strong backing by the Mexican sponsor Telmex.

"In these days you do depend more on your support," admitted Perez, "but I believe the talent remains the priority.

"Even with the drivers having support, I don't think there are any bad drivers on the grid.

"I was criticized a lot for coming with the Telmex money, but if you look back, a driver who wins five races in GP2 and loses the title by 10 points will normally go in F1 the next year.

"It (Telmex) is an influence, but to say it's why I'm here is not fair," he insisted.

HRT hoping to debut 2012 car on Sunday
(GMM) HRT is hoping to get one up on its tailender rival Marussia by at least running its 2012 car before shipping it to Australia.

Marussia, formerly Virgin, has announced that after failing an FIA crash test, it will be unable to run its new Cosworth-powered car at the final Barcelona test this week.

"Of course it's a shame," German driver Timo Glock told the DPA news agency, "but safety comes first."

HRT's 2012 single seater, however, has – despite a similar delay – at least now satisfied the FIA's safety rules and is therefore allowed to run at the Circuit de Catalunya if able.

Indeed, in the Barcelona paddock this week, the HRT motor home is present.

But team figures Pedro de la Rosa and boss Luis Perez Sala have admitted that, while now homologated, the 2012 car is not quite ready to be tested.

"The truth is that, today, the goal is to try to debut on Sunday," de la Rosa is quoted by the Diario Sport newspaper. "If not, we would have the possibility to do a test on Monday."

The FIA has already declared that testing on Monday – the day after the final official Barcelona test ends – is not allowed because that would be the week before Melbourne.

But HRT is yet to do its allowed filming day, team boss Perez Sala is quoted as saying on Wednesday.

"We are in the construction phase of the car and it would be great to have it ready for Sunday," added de la Rosa.

The former McLaren test driver also revealed that HRT's new car is designed to run KERS, unlike the 2012 Marussia.

"It is designed to use it, but the team has decided to start the season without (KERS)," said de la Rosa.

McLaren downplays significance of engine mapping clampdown
McLaren has played down the significance of the recent engine mapping clampdown by the FIA that has closed off a loophole in the regulations.

As AUTOSPORT reported last week, the FIA had to act after it was alerted by Mercedes-Benz that there was a way in the regulations to get around throttle limits in the engine maps by inducing a misfire.

That move prompted talk that it could have an impact on the competitive order – even though FIA sources insisted that it was not aware of any team making use of the practice.

McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale told the FOTA Fans' Forum in Barcelona on Wednesday, however, that his team would not be affected by the changes.

"For us it has not been a big deal," he explained. "We understand the point that Charlie Whiting is making there, and what is happening is really a very fine technical point. But it is not a deal breaker for us.

"Certainly at McLaren Mercedes, it hasn't changed our plans, and it doesn't change our game program for Australia. We had understood that to be the case anyway, so Charlie just confirmed that."

Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Norbert Haug welcomed the move by the FIA – especially as it would prevent teams from trying to pursue development opportunities in this area.

"I think it was a good decision to stop the potential development in that direction at a very early stage," he said. Autosport

Ferrari sign official energy drinks deal
Scuderia Ferrari announces it has signed a sponsorship agreement with the Petropolis Group, covering the three years from 2012 to 2014. TNT Energy Drink thus becomes the team’s official energy drink, as of this year.

“We are proud to welcome a new partner to the ranks of the Scuderia’s Official Suppliers," said Team Principal, Stefano Domenicali. “The TNT brand is growing rapidly and has already established a significant presence in the world of motor sport. A passion for competition and the desire to excel are values shared by both parties and will form the basis of a very successful partnership."

TNT Energy Drink is of Brazilian origin and has been involved with Tony Kanaan in Indycars.

Change of test program for Ferrari
A further change of plan for the final test session prior to departure for Australia. Based on a new clarification of Article 22.4 of the Sporting Regulations, which was sent to the teams late yesterday evening, it is no longer possible to run on Monday 5 March: as a result, the test schedule for Scuderia Ferrari and the other teams that had originally decided to follow this option now reverts to that of the majority, running from Thursday 1 March to Sunday 4 March.

The order in which our drivers will be working remains unchanged: Felipe Massa will be at the wheel of the F2012 on Thursday and Saturday, with Fernando Alonso driving on Friday and Sunday.

Alonso on track at Jarama: “Moving forward step by step"
This is the start of an important week for Formula 1, the last one given over to testing before heading off to Australia and the start of the 2012 World Championship, which gets underway at the Albert Park circuit on 18 March. For Fernando, the week began on track, but not at the wheel of the F2012, nor at the Catalunyan one which hosts official testing in a few days. Instead, he was at Jarama, on the outskirts of Madrid, in the cockpit of a 458 Italia.

It was part of an event organized by the Santander Bank who invited the Spanish specialist media to the venue of one of Gilles Villeneuve’s greatest wins, back in 1981. The purpose was to outline the involvement of one of the Scuderia’s major sponsors at the highest level of world motorsport, Ten winners of a quiz about Ferrari and the career of Fernando Alonso were given a ride around the track with the Spanish driver himself at the wheel.

“We are continuing with development of the new car," said Fernando when he met the press. “Maybe we are only taking small steps forward, but they are coming constantly: in Barcelona, the F2012 was better than it had been in Jerez and it will be better still this week and even more so in Melbourne. There is still a lot of work to do, but as of today, there is no reason why we should not be ready for the first race. It’s true there are only four more days of testing and we will have to also make use of the first Friday at a race weekend to continue with development, but the car is reasonably complex and needs time, as was the case over the first eight days. It is definitely too early to say where we are compared to the others. Red Bull is very strong, but that’s hardly a surprise. For our part, it will be useful to get off to a good start as this always takes the pressure off the team, but if we do not turn out to be competitive enough to challenge for victory immediately, then it’s important that it’s not just one person doing the winning. If one thinks about it, the difference in performance between us and Red Bull in 2011 was not that different to what it had been in 2010 and yet two years ago, we came to the last race leading the championship, while last year we were hardly ever in the title fight."

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