Adrian Newey designs yet another winning car
Red Bull half a second in front – Newey
- Kinky Kylie, Chandhok crashes, no HRT yet
- Red Bull opposes wing rules due to power deficit
- F1 figure confident Suzuka race not threatened
- Tire situation leaves Domenicali 'concerned'
- Hamilton reinforced commitment to McLaren in meeting
- No Lotus court outcome for weeks – report
- Valsecchi disappointed with Chandhok drive
- Glock admits Virgin's 107pc qualifying fear
Red Bull half a second in front – Newey
(GMM) Red Bull's new car enters the 2011 season with a significant advantage, designer Adrian Newey has admitted.
Until now, figures at the reigning championship-winning team have played down speculation the RB7 is clearly faster than its nearest competitor, Ferrari.
But before Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel went significantly faster than any rival in initial Friday practice in Australia, Newey told Italy's Corriere della Sera: "We currently have an advantage of between 3 to 5 tenths."
Perhaps realizing he had let the cat out of the bag, however, the Briton quickly added: "But we are not too comfortable.
"If we sit back then we will be in for a nasty surprise. The competition is very hard, Ferrari are strong, and I know McLaren, I have worked there."
According to Autosprint, Vettel remains cautious.
"I am convinced that Ferrari will be very strong, so if we are close to them it will mean we are near the top," said the German.
Kinky Kylie, Chandhok crashes, no HRT yet
(GMM) As action kicked off under cloudy Melbourne skies, it emerged that new world champion Sebastian Vettel has finally dreamed up a name for his 2011 ride.
The British press speculated that the unofficial name for his new Red Bull – Kinky Kylie – is a nod to Australian pop star Kylie Minogue.
Referring to his RB7 rather than the singer, Vettel confirmed: "It has a tight butt, is supple and is good to look at."
On more serious matters, Jarno Trulli will have cringed when Friday test driver Karun Chandhok crashed his Team Lotus car within three corners of his out lap early on Friday.
The Indian driver hit the wall hard after losing control of the T128 under power. "I don't know what happened, I just lost it," he said on the radio as team figures shook their heads.
Team Lotus later confirmed that there had not been a technical failure, and that it should be prepared for Trulli by the start of the second session.
Chandhok did cover more meters than his former team HRT, with Narain Karthikeyan milling about wearing jeans and not scheduled to drive at all in the initial session.
Vitantonio Liuzzi, at least wearing his overalls, was more hopeful: "Hopefully we will get out at least one car to get some data, and then for the second session have both cars," he told Australian broadcaster One.
The Italian joked that "every flight landing in Melbourne" at present contains parts of the Cosworth-powered F111, adding that: "We should be 100 per cent on the track for tomorrow".
Ultimately, neither contender made it onto the track, but the struggling team will at least be able to continue working overnight, thanks to the FIA rule allowing four exceptions per season to the mechanics' curfew.
Red Bull opposes wing rules due to power deficit
(GMM) Red Bull reportedly made a last-minute attempt to have the moveable rear wing rules changed ahead of the 2011 season opener.
Finland's Turun Sanomat claimed that the reigning champions wanted the wing banned for practice and qualifying sessions, but not all the other teams agreed.
"Letting us use it on all the straights, on all the laps, makes no sense," O Estado de S.Paulo quotes Mark Webber as saying.
The Finnish report hypothesized that the reason for Red Bull's stance is due to the team believing that the constant deployment of the wings will only exacerbate its existing straight-line speed deficit to major rivals including Ferrari and Mercedes.
"The (wing rules) has been discussed and approved at the FOTA level as well as the FIA level," an unnamed source confirmed.
"One team wants it to be different because their straight line speed is not as good as its competitors," the source added.
For safety reasons, the FIA has however decided to ban the use of the adjustable wing in practice and qualifying sessions when cars are using wet tires.
F1 figure confident Suzuka race not threatened
(GMM) Kamui Kobayashi's manager is confident the Japanese grand prix will take place as scheduled later this year.
With much of the country in turmoil due to the recent and unfolding earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, it is feared that October's Suzuka race might be in doubt even though the immediate area is not overly affected.
But Sauber driver Kobayashi's manager Yoshinori Arimatsu told Swiss newspaper Blick: "No problem, the race will take place because for the Japanese people it is an honor."
As the opening practice session commenced at Albert Park, it was clear that some teams are running tributes to the Japanese people on their cars.
"If the GPDA or the FIA can help us we really do need it because so many people have no house, no food," said Kobayashi in Melbourne.
Tire situation leaves Domenicali 'concerned'
(GMM) Stefano Domenicali has urged Pirelli to improve the durability of its 2011 tires.
Despite recently shielding the Italian marque from the barrage of criticism, the Ferrari team boss admitted he is concerned about races beginning to unfold this season with multiple pitstops per driver.
"In the first race simulation in Barcelona, to achieve the best pace, we stopped four times," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"On Sunday (in Melbourne) there will be at least three, because when the performance drops, it is useless to leave a driver on the track without pace," added Domenicali.
He urged Pirelli to develop its 2011 product.
"We suggested that tires are made with a greater degradation in respect to 2010," said Domenicali. "With Bridgestone you could almost drive a grand prix without stopping.
"But imagine the race here with so much traffic in the pits for 72 stops in 58 laps … I am concerned," he admitted.
Further concerns were being raised in Melbourne on Friday after a Pirelli tire fitted to Sebastian Vettel's car featured significant damage, but Red Bull team boss Christian Horner explained that the German had struck some debris.
Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari insisted he didn't think anyone in F1 is "afraid" because of the Pirelli situation.
"There are many unknowns, many uncertainties, but it's the same for everyone," he told Marca sports daily.
Alguersuari said that "Every time you are on the track you understand more how they work".
"Sometimes they give you something you didn't expect, but every time you get more accustomed – us (drivers) and the team – to know how to set up the car better," he added.
Hamilton reinforced commitment to McLaren in meeting
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has revealed he sought out his boss Martin Whitmarsh to re-pledge his commitment to McLaren.
Recent speculation had linked the 2008 world champion with a future move to Red Bull, but he played those rumors down by saying the reigning champions are just "a drinks company".
Mark Webber then compounded Briton Hamilton's comments by mischievously answering "We are just a drinks company" when asked in Melbourne about his chances for the 2011 season.
But in a move to ensure McLaren is also convinced of Hamilton's commitment, the 26-year-old met with Whitmarsh in Melbourne to discuss the issue, according to Sky News.
"I've spoken to Martin today because I wanted to reassure him that I am here at McLaren, that I am committed to the team, committed to winning," he said.
"I'm not thinking about going elsewhere, I don't have my people going elsewhere and doing any other talking," added Hamilton.
Whitmarsh also confirmed the meeting but insisted that McLaren was already aware of Hamilton's commitment.
"It wasn't something I was going to raise with him, but it was nonetheless still nice for him to want to clarify his passion and restate his commitment to being in the team," he said.
However, Hamilton also made clear he sees a long future in formula one, and does not want to retire as the winner of a single world championship.
"You look at Sebastien Loeb, at Rossi, at Michael, the legendary drivers of their time and I want to be like that," he is quoted by Spanish language Europa Press.
No Lotus court outcome for weeks – report
(GMM) It will be weeks before the outcome of the Lotus court battle is known.
A ten-day trial between Team Lotus and Group Lotus is underway in the London High Court, but the outcome will not be immediately known, according to the Norwich Evening News.
"A judgment may not arrive until up to six weeks after the trial has finished", read the online report.
Team Lotus' technical boss Mike Gascoyne insists the case, coinciding with the 2011 season opener in Melbourne, is not a distraction.
"Formula one has always got shenanigans going on, but really none of that changes our job and the job of all the engineers," he said.
Valsecchi disappointed with Chandhok drive
(GMM) Davide Valsecchi has admitted he was disappointed to miss out on Team Lotus' Friday driving duties in Melbourne.
The Italian and GP2 driver was initially selected to drive in Jarno Trulli's car in initial practice, but Karun Chandhok was signed at the last minute.
Finland's Turun Sanomat reports that Valsecchi has now been promised a green T128 cockpit for first practice in Malaysia and China.
But he admits he was disappointed with the Chandhok news.
"It was all agreed and I flew such a long trip to Australia, so of course (I was disappointed)," he said.
"But the team felt this (Malaysia-China) is a better option for me, because Albert Park is not a good place for a newcomer."
Ultimately, Chandhok crashed Trulli's car within three corners of his out-lap early on Friday in Australia, and the team confirmed it had not been caused by a technical fault.
"Got the car back, a lot less damage than we expected so should be ready for Jarno in FP2," said Mike Gascoyne on Twitter.
Glock admits Virgin's 107pc qualifying fear
(GMM) Timo Glock has admitted that Virgin might struggle to qualify for the Australian grand prix.
F1 has reintroduced the old 107 per cent qualifying rule for 2011, and – based on the initial Friday time sheet – it means cars must be within about 6 seconds of the Q1 pole time on Saturday to qualify for the Melbourne grid.
Given the fact HRT has failed to get its car out of the pits so far, and also because the F111's front wing is believed to have failed the mandatory crash test meaning that a 2010 model must be used at Albert Park, it is widely expected that Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan will not qualify.
But also outside the hypothetical 6 second 107 per cent qualifying cut-off seen in practice were both Timo Glock and Jerome d'Ambrosio, driving the new Virgin MVR02.
In fact, the pair was more than two seconds outside the 107 per cent window in P1.
"We were running quite a lot of fuel," explained Glock to German broadcaster Sky, "but I think for us it's going to be tight if we can't get the tires to work.
"Hopefully in Q1 Red Bull and co. will slow down a little bit and maybe use the hard tire," he added.