Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

  • Ferrari was out to lunch in Melbourne

    Red Bull investigates Webber's Aus struggle

  • Rivals will struggle to catch Red Bull – Briatore
  • Ferrari identifies downforce issue on 2011 car
  • Sauber reveals team's 3mm rear wing rule breach
  • Kubica enjoyed 2011 opener on TV – manager
  • FIA glitch grounded Barrichello's wing in Aus
  • Spanish FIA chief slams Hispania team
  • FOTA approves Turkey tire test for de la Rosa
  • Long flights no problem before Malaysia – Hamilton
  • Vettel not as good as Mansell – Hamilton
  • FOTA chief not backing 'fake rain' proposal
  • Hamilton says Red Bull wings still flexing
Are the Red Bull front wings flexing?

Red Bull investigates Webber's Aus struggle
(GMM) Red Bull has vowed to get to the bottom of Mark Webber's lack of pace in Australia last weekend.

While his teammate Sebastian Vettel dominated the field, Webber struggled in the sister car, moving team consultant Helmut Marko to surmise that the Australian's RB7 may have had a chassis fault.

"They were in different worlds," Ferrari test driver Marc Gene wrote in his El Mundo column.

Confirmed team boss Christian Horner: "We need to go through things with a fine tooth comb. That was the biggest gap we've seen between the two of them that I can certainly think of."

Webber's father Alan admitted the 34-year-old's mood was "flat" when he realized he was so far behind Vettel's pace.

"I won't be lining myself up for races like the one I've just had every weekend," Webber said.

"The telemetry after the race gave us a few pointers, but we really need to strip the car down to see if there was something seriously wrong," he added.

Horner continued: "We found some front wing damage that might have had an effect, but to what extent is difficult to quantify.

"We need to get the car back, look at the data, understand if there is anything that was damaged, how it affected the car, and make sure they're both back to business as usual in Malaysia," he added.

But Webber acknowledged the possibility that he was to blame.

"Of course you have got to look at everything, including yourself," he admitted.

Rivals will struggle to catch Red Bull – Briatore
(GMM) Flavio Briatore has issued a sober warning to Red Bull's rivals after the 2011 season opener.

"You don't recover all those tenths in two months," the former Renault team boss told La Politica. "Half a second in formula one is huge.

"Red Bull are very well financed so I see it hard for them (the others) to play catch-up," said Briatore.

Others in the paddock are similarly pessimistic, like Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, who when asked by Bild newspaper if anyone can threaten Red Bull soon simply answered: "Nein (no)."

Yet McLaren and Ferrari are more confident, with the British team's boss Martin Whitmarsh insisting that the MP4-26 made a one-second improvement in pace in the two weeks before Melbourne.

"If we make as much progress in the next ten days as in the last ten, it'll be easy, won't it?" he joked to The Independent newspaper.

Ferrari identifies downforce issue on 2011 car
(GMM) Ferrari is working hard after the 2011 season opener, where in Australia the team's 150 Italia car was notably less competitive than it had seemed during the recent winter period.

"I was not surprised that Red Bull were so good, but that we were so bad," admitted Fernando Alonso, according to Bild.

Team boss Stefano Domenicali said a problem of too little front downforce, which affected the balance of the car and its ability to preserve the Pirelli tires, has been identified.

"We need to understand why we did not see on the track what we could see on paper," he is quoted by La Stampa newspaper.

"But we must be realistic that if Red Bull confirm their pace, the gap cannot be recovered in Malaysia," added Domenicali.

Fernando Alonso, however, insists that his title is on track.

"To win the title you need 13.4 points per race," said the Spaniard. "I got 12 (in Australia) so that's almost average.

"Yes I lost points to Hamilton and Vettel, but I gained against two other rivals for the championship, Webber and Button."

Commentators outside the famous team paint a different picture, like Spanish engineer Joan Villadelprat, who said Ferrari is "nowhere near where they thought they would be".

"They have a lot less downforce than Red Bull because they built a car that is too conservative with no risk.

"However, Ferrari knows how to develop and the base is good and reliable."

Alonso thinks Melbourne might have been a one-off.

"We did something wrong, because all winter we were a second ahead of Toro Rosso, Sauber and Renault, and today we were fighting to beat them," he told La Sexta.

Sauber rear wing deemed illegal

Sauber reveals team's 3mm rear wing rule breach
(GMM) Sauber's breach of the rear wing rules was by as little as 3 millimeters, according to team boss Peter Sauber.

After finishing in the points, both C20 cars were disqualified in Melbourne when scrutineers found that the concave radius of the upper wing element measured less than 100mm.

"Unfortunately, the rules were clear and we had no choice but to disqualify them," former team driver Johnny Herbert, who was on the stewards' panel in Australia, wrote in a column for The National.

Sauber told Swiss newspaper Blick: "A lunacy. The radius was 95 or 97 millimeters. We're devastated."

The Hinwil based team said late on Sunday that it would appeal the decision, and Blick reveals that team manager Beat Zehnder indeed lodged the official notice with the FIA.

"We have two different types of wing, and one of them seems not to have been precisely controlled during the construction.

"But for sure there was no (performance) advantage," Sauber insisted. "Even more painful is that Force India are now in the points with both cars."

Kubica enjoyed 2011 opener on TV – manager
(GMM) Robert Kubica watched the entire Australian grand prix from his Italian hospital room, and afterwards sent a text message to congratulate teammate Vitaly Petrov for securing the first podium of his career.

"Robert followed the race like a child follows his favorite Disney cartoon," manager Daniele Morelli, who watched the race with Kubica along with the Pole's girlfriend Edyta, told La Stampa newspaper.

"In the end he said the car showed performance beyond expectations, even though he had realized from the Barcelona test that it could be competitive.

"He wanted to congratulate Petrov for a superb performance in both qualifying and the race," said Morelli.

It is believed Kubica's text message to Petrov was via team boss Eric Boullier.

Morelli also said Kubica was "impressed and moved" by the many tributes and best wishes from within the paddock. "He feels he has many friends," he added.

Renault is still assessing whether it will be Russian Petrov or Nick Heidfeld who will best stand in for Kubica as the clear team leader.

Asked by the BBC if he can fulfill the role, Petrov said after his Melbourne podium: "I don't need to answer anything. You can see."

But it is true that German veteran Heidfeld's poor race performance was exacerbated by a severely damaged sidepod in Australia.

Team boss Eric Boullier, however, said Petrov has upped his game since 2010.

"He was nowhere a year ago, not zero, but F1 is a challenge. He is now a guy who clearly has his place in F1," he is quoted by L'Equipe.

"He made some good progress but knowing the pace of Robert, whether he could have been better or worse, I don't want to think of it," added Boullier.

FIA glitch grounded Barrichello's wing in Aus
(GMM) An FIA glitch marred the start of Rubens Barrichello's Australian grand prix, Williams has revealed.

Immediately after the Melbourne race, the British team said the Brazilian driver had "problems with the sector settings on the moveable rear wing".

To Auto Motor und Sport, team manager Dickie Stanford elaborates: "Something in the race control system was wrong.

"Barrichello couldn't use his rear wing on the home straight even though a few times he was close enough to the car in front.

"It was (mistakenly) programmed for the second sector," said Stanford.

He said the team told Barrichello not to use the wing in sector two while Williams communicated to race control by email to have the glitch cleared.

"That's why I took so long to get past Heidfeld," said Barrichello.

Glitch aside, the paddock as a whole is reacting cautiously to the debut of the 'drag reduction system' after Melbourne, a circuit featuring only a short main straight.

"We need to wait," Ferrari's Stefano Domenicali is quoted by Turun Sanomat, while Red Bull boss Christian Horner commented: "It didn't have much effect but it's too early to evaluate."

Fernando Alonso told La Stampa: "The wing helped me to pass Rosberg, but not Button. If the pace gap between the cars is 2-3 tenths only, it's not enough to pass."

Spanish FIA chief slams Hispania team
(GMM) The head of the Spanish motor racing federation has slammed Hispania after its drivers failed to qualify for the 2011 season opener.

In the untested F111, Tonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan kicked off the Spanish team's second season in F1 with a handful of practice laps before failing to meet the new 107 per cent qualifying rule.

Carlos Gracia, also a member of the FIA's World Motor Sport Council, told Radio Marca he is "annoyed at the attitude" of HRT's team bosses.

"I wouldn't say disappointed, because you could see this coming.

"Like this, I would prefer there was no Spanish team in formula one," he said.

"I want a Spanish team that is serious and with the necessary budgets, not a team that is made a fool of.

"Hispania has not done its homework. You cannot be in formula one in such precarious condition," added Gracia.

Meanwhile, former grand prix winner Johnny Herbert, who in Australia was the driver representative on the stewards' panel, said his fellow officials had no choice but to uphold the 107pc qualifying rule.

"I felt bad but you cannot compete in formula one on the cheap," he wrote in a column for The National.

"Hopefully this setback will give the team the kick they need to get ready to compete properly in Malaysia with the right funding," added Herbert.

FOTA approves Turkey tire test for de la Rosa
(GMM) Pedro de la Rosa is set to test one more time for F1's new official tire supplier Pirelli.

The veteran Spaniard was the Italian marque's primary tester but for 2011 he has returned to his former reserve role at McLaren.

Pirelli, however, is heading to Turkey's Istanbul circuit this weekend and wants 40-year-old de la Rosa to try improvements to the 2009 Toyota test mule.

"I wrote to the FOTA tire group and told them that we wanted Pedro to do this test. There was no negative feedback," motor sport boss Paul Hembery told the German website

The report said the test will be mainly for tire developments for 2012, but also to check the behavior of the current Pirellis through Turkey's punishing turn eight.

"This is an opportunity to check the critical eighth corner which, as everybody knows, is a special challenge for the tires.

"We want to be on the safe side," added Hembery.

Long flights no problem before Malaysia – Hamilton
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has played down concerns that returning to Europe this week is a less-than-ideal preparation for F1's forthcoming Malaysia-China double header.

The McLaren driver, after finishing the Melbourne opener in second place, revealed he is flying back to the UK to watch his disabled 19-year-old brother Nicolas make his motor racing debut in the Renault Clio Cup.

Hamilton, 26, will then make the 12,000 kilometer return flight almost immediately in order to stay in the Asian time zone.

"It's cool," he told British newspapers. "I'll get to watch lots of movies on the plane. Physically, this is the best I've ever felt by a long way.

"I can't miss my brother's first race. I can sleep on the flight. I can still stay in this time zone," Hamilton insisted.

Looking ahead, he admitted that Melbourne winner Sebastian Vettel will surely have another competitive outing at Sepang next weekend.

"Malaysia is a massive downforce track so you're going to see Red Bull as quick if not quicker. But I have no doubts our car can be competitive as well," said Hamilton.

Another Briton returning to the UK this week is rookie Scot Paul di Resta.

"I'm heading back because I have to prepare for Malaysia and China in the simulator as they are back to back," he told the Daily Mail.

Vettel not as good as Mansell – Hamilton
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has admitted he thinks Nigel Mansell is a better driver than reigning champion and 2011 title leader Sebastian Vettel.

After recently saying Vettel's currently dominant team Red Bull is "just a drinks company", McLaren driver Hamilton has now admitted he rates his nemesis Fernando Alonso higher.

"I see him (Alonso) as my Prost … if you were to say 'choose a driver' I would clearly choose Ayrton (Senna). And maybe I would put him as Prost," Hamilton told British newspapers.

But what about Vettel, who has taken Hamilton's record as the youngest ever world champion and last weekend easily won the 2011 opener from pole?

"I don't think so," the 26-year-old is quoted by the Guardian.

"If he continues to have a car like he does now then, maybe, but I think when we get equal pace then we will see some serious racing. Maybe he (Vettel) is the new Mansell? Not that I would rate him like I do Mansell," added Hamilton.

The salvos were also firing from the other direction, after Hamilton said he was confident about catching Red Bull this year because McLaren is the better team at car development.

"Of course he would say that, otherwise he might as well not turn up for the next race," Red Bull team boss Christian Horner is quoted as saying by L'Equipe.

"But does he really believe it? McLaren has made great progress recently, it's a great team and they were always good at developing their car during a season.

"But we were better than them in this area last year and we are determined to do the same again," added Horner.

FOTA chief not backing 'fake rain' proposal
(GMM) Martin Whitmarsh has admitted he does not support Bernie Ecclestone's proposal to artificially water circuits during grands prix.

F1 chief executive Ecclestone said special irrigation systems could be set up at some circuits to randomly mimic rain, which he believes sets the stage for the most exciting races.

But Whitmarsh, team boss of the McLaren team and also chairman of the teams association FOTA, said the idea risks making F1 like the American World Wrestling tournament.

Asked by German newspaper Welt to comment on Ecclestone's sprinkler idea, Briton Whitmarsh answered: "I think the dividing line between a sport and a pure entertainment show would not be clear enough."

Hamilton says Red Bull wings still flexing
(GMM) 2011 could be set to stage a repeat of last year's flexible front wing saga.

As Red Bull dominated the pace with its ultimately title-winning RB6 in 2010, rivals pushed for better scrutineering checks after noticing the extremities of the front wing bending towards the track.

That phenomena was spotted again in Melbourne last weekend, as were Red Bull's mechanics repairing the endplates after they bottomed on the asphalt and curbs.

"Have you seen Vettel's front wing?" Bild newspaper in Germany quotes Lewis Hamilton – who estimated the performance advantage at half a second – as saying.

"Either we close the loophole or everyone will copy it," the McLaren driver reportedly added.

Red Bull's motor sport consultant Helmut Marko replied: "It was the same thing last year. They try it over and over, but we pass the tests every time."

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