Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Adrian Sutil

    Force India lacking speed for season start – Sutil

  • Team Lotus loses key ally Hunt in name dispute
  • Heidfeld also worried about 'piano' steering wheels
  • Alonso wants Vettel title 'rematch' in 2011
  • Kubica 'not crazy' to contest minor rally – Alonso
  • Sauber's Perez understands 'pay driver' label
  • Haug no fan of team orders ban axe
  • Heidfeld not ruling out first win in 12th season
  • New deal to stop rival teams' Vettel 'hunt' – owner
  • Buemi nervous but Alguersuari to sit out first practice
  • Four stops in 2011 possible but unlikely – Brawn
  • More money from Branson 'would be nice' – Glock

Force India lacking speed for season start – Sutil
(GMM) Adrian Sutil has admitted that Force India is lacking some speed ahead of this weekend's 2011 season opener.

"We have a reliable car, which is positive, and this will help us during the first few races. But we still need to look for more speed," the Silverstone based team's German driver said.

28-year-old Sutil, who has been with the team since before the Vijay Mallya takeover, suggested the problem with the VJM04 is on "the aero side".

"The first few races may be a little tough in that respect, but for sure we shall pick up our race pace soon," he added.

But he is not ruling out the possibility of a good result in Australia.

"It's always a good feeling to finish the first race," Sutil is quoted by "That could be decisive in Melbourne, even if our race speed is not the highest."

Former triple world champion Niki Lauda, however, is not optimistic about Force India's chances of a dramatic improvement.

"With these sorts of teams, you never know," he is quoted in German by Speed Week. "Force India is not one of the worst teams."

Team Lotus loses key ally Hunt in name dispute
(GMM) Team Lotus' hopes of winning its F1 naming dispute have taken a blow, with the defection of a major ally.

With the Group Lotus court battle set to resume in London on Monday, it emerged that David Hunt – who sold the 'Team Lotus' name to Tony Fernandes and his partners – is preparing to sue the Malaysian millionaire.

The Telegraph said their dispute surrounds Hunt, brother of the late F1 driver James Hunt, alleging that Fernandes has not yet paid him for the name.

The report said Hunt is "refusing to assist Team Lotus in court", and sees "potentially some serious holes" in Fernandes' case.

Referring to the allegedly broken agreement with Fernandes, Hunt said: "He's apparently changed his mind at the eleventh hour … and he's trying to renegotiate by offering new terms which are, frankly, ludicrous."

Team Lotus did not immediately comment.

Heidfeld also worried about 'piano' steering wheels
(GMM) Nick Heidfeld has become the latest F1 driver to highlight the potential "danger" of the sport's new rules for 2011.

Concerned that the combination of KERS and adjustable rear wings is like fiddling with a mobile phone on a motorway, GPDA director Sebastian Vettel has said he cannot rule out a driver strike.

"Every year the steering wheel is getting worse and worse," German veteran Heidfeld, referring to the number of buttons and functions on the steering wheels, told the news magazine Focus.

A former chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, Heidfeld likened the steering wheels of today to "playing piano" in the cockpit.

"We are at the limit now," he admitted, adding that there is a risk the technological advances "are becoming dangerous, therefore we have informed the FIA".

Explaining the problem, he said drivers are "more or less simultaneously" operating KERS and the adjustable wings, bluntly adding that the "fuck-up potential is extremely high" because yet "another eye" is kept on the lights that indicate whether the buttons can be pressed.

Nico Rosberg said he is less worried.

"We have to keep in mind that, under certain circumstances, there is a safety risk in principle, but I think that the adjustable rear wing for overtaking is right," the Mercedes driver told Auto Bild.

Alonso wants Vettel title 'rematch' in 2011
(GMM) As the 2011 pre-season enters its final week, Fernando Alonso has stepped up his rhetoric and vowed revenge on new world champion Sebastian Vettel.

It is widely acknowledged that only a bad strategy blunder cost the Spaniard his third drivers' crown in 2010, and Alonso's new Ferrari is believed to again be Red Bull's closest rival for honors this season.

"In 2011 I want a rematch of last year," Alonso told Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

"I want the world title to be mine at the end of the year, and also in 2012, 2013 and every subsequent year. There is no other goal," he added.

Alonso admitted that losing the championship at the final hurdle in Abu Dhabi last November took "two or three days" to get over.

"But then we had to do the testing of the tires and I was forced to go back to reality," he said.

And he backtracked on his recent claim that winning is not obligatory, even at the wheel of the famous red car.

When asked about the obligation to win for Ferrari, Alonso agreed: "It's like an unwritten law. For Ferrari and for myself."

In another interview, with Italy's Corriere della Sera, the bullish 29-year-old said Ferrari's objective over the winter was to "come to Australia ahead of everyone".

"We are starting from a stronger position than last year," he admitted. "We will see if it is enough.

"I know how hard it is to win a world championship and I'm in the best place to try it."

Kubica 'not crazy' to contest minor rally – Alonso
(GMM) Fernando Alonso has defended his friend Robert Kubica amid some claims the Pole was "crazy" to risk his F1 career for a minor rally outing.

Kubica is on a long road to recovery from horror limb injuries, with it currently uncertain if he will ever return to full power.

Alonso, however, told Welt am Sonntag newspaper that he is convinced.

"I am absolutely sure (Kubica will recover)," said the Spaniard, "and he will do everything to make it happen as quickly as possible."

Alonso told Corriere della Sera: "I know he will want to do that, just as I would — I would do everything to get back into a race car again."

The Ferrari driver said some commentators are wrong to say Kubica should not have split his F1 testing duties with a rally.

"A rally with an approved car, a helmet and a seat belt is not crazy," insisted Alonso.

Sauber's Perez understands 'pay driver' label
(GMM) The services of Sergio Perez was rolled into the major sponsorship offered by Mexican communications giant Telmex.

That is the admission of Monisha Kaltenborn, chief executive of the Swiss formula one team Sauber.

"Sergio is one of the Telmex stable, a program that supports drivers in various series," she said in a French language interview with Agence France-Presse.

"The question of whether we wanted one (Perez) or the another (Telmex) was never asked. The two went together," added Kaltenborn.

Mexican rookie Perez, 21, finished last year's GP2 championship in second place, behind another driver who has been denounced as a "pay-driver", Pastor Maldonado.

"I know why some people call me a pay driver," Perez acknowledged. "This is normal because I have great support from my country.

"But it's also normal that you get your lucky break if you do good seasons, as I did in GP2," he insisted.

However, it is widely held that first in line for the Sauber seat was the highly rated Nick Heidfeld, while at Williams, Maldonado's Venezuelan millions took the place of impressive rookie Nico Hulkenberg.

"It's not nice to see a guy arrive with a big pile of money to take your seat," the young German said, "but it's the way it can work in F1 at the moment."

Haug no fan of team orders ban axe
(GMM) Norbert Haug has admitted he is no fan of the return of legalized team orders in 2011.

Following last year's controversy surrounding Ferrari's actions at Hockenheim, the Jean Todt-led FIA decided to re-allow team orders from this season on the basis they are too hard to police.

"My personal opinion is that it is not correct," said Mercedes' Haug when asked about the legalization.

"I can well imagine how it can be controlled effectively without requiring that we resort to this," he told German media.

Haug said there are examples of acceptable deployments of team orders in recent history, such as Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen at Hockenheim in 2008.

"This is a difficult subject, as you have to act as a team, but within the context of sport and in respect to the audience, team orders should be avoided," he said.

"In the long period that I have been involved now in formula one, in our team it was rarely the case that a change of positions had to be made.

"We saw some spectacular battles last year between Nico and Michael, and that's what makes sport and in my view it should be the case whenever possible," added Haug.

Heidfeld not ruling out first win in 12th season
(GMM) Nick Heidfeld is refusing to rule out the possibility of racing to his first grand prix victory in 2011.

After initially facing the prospect of a season on the sidelines, the formula one veteran is now at the wheel of the innovative R31 that originally was to be driven by injured regular Robert Kubica.

And given that 33-year-old Heidfeld has driven for grandee teams including Williams and BMW, amassing more than 170 races over more a decade, it is a significant piece of trivia that the quiet German is yet to win a single race.

"Naturally it would be beautiful," Heidfeld told Cologne publication Express when told that some pundits are predicting a Renault victory in 2011.

"It will happen if the car is good enough.

"The test phase was good for us, but we don't known whether it has been enough to win races," he added.

Teams including Williams, Sauber and Toro Rosso have also had impressive winters, but Fernando Alonso does not think there will be a range of surprise winners in 2011.

"The fight will be between Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari," he told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

"We have new rules and tires but I do not think we will have new winners, or a mix of teams that win or do big surprises on the grid.

"The races will have frequent pitstops and will probably be more spectacular, but at the end the names of the winners will be the same as in the previous year, as will the names of the teams in the midfield," the Spaniard predicted.

New deal to stop rival teams' Vettel 'hunt' – owner
(GMM) Apart from keeping a winning car-driver combination together, Sebastian Vettel's new contract serves two other purposes.

That is the claim of Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz, who has secured the new world champion through 2014 but also admitted that Vettel, 23, can switch to a rival team if his car is not up to scratch.

By signing Vettel beyond his existing 2011 contract, however, the Austrian billionaire said he hopes there are two effects.

"First, so that he can feel secure at least for a while, but also to put to an end the 'hunt' of the other teams that often came close to the boundary of reasonableness," Mateschitz told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

He also insisted that the "pressure" of carrying the number 1 in 2011 will not faze F1's youngest ever reigning champion.

"For the very best sportsmen, and among them is Vettel, pressure is a stimulant rather than something that pushes you to defeat," said Mateschitz.

Buemi nervous but Alguersuari to sit out first practice
(GMM) It will be Jaime Alguersuari who gives up his Toro Rosso cockpit to promising rookie Daniel Ricciardo in the first practice session in Melbourne on Friday.

But Sebastien Buemi will take his turn on the sidelines two weeks later in Malaysia practice, confirming the immense pressure on the Red Bull-owned team's current duo to prove they should maintain the energy drink brand's support beyond 2011.

Both Buemi and Alguersuari said recently they welcome Australian Ricciardo's Friday-driving input this season, but behind the scenes the mood must be different.

"It's pretty difficult if you change the driver all the time," Swiss Buemi, who is regarded as the most likely to be ousted by Toro Rosso, has admitted, according to the AAP news agency.

"You lose time getting up to speed with them," he added, referring to new young drivers.

Buemi is officially on-notice by Red Bull's brusque driver manager Dr Helmut Marko, who said one of the 22-year-old's main weaknesses is nerves.

"If he can get rid of that, in 2011 we will again have a lot of fun together, as we did before," Marko is quoted as saying by Blick newspaper.

"This year Sebastien must press his talent," the Austrian insisted.

Buemi has a new chief mechanic and trainer for 2011, and has reportedly added a few new pounds of muscle.

"I am ready and cannot wait for the first practice session, because our car is good," he confirmed.

Four stops in 2011 possible but unlikely – Brawn
(GMM) Ross Brawn is predicting a regular maximum of three-stop strategies in 2011.

Due to the extreme degradation of new supplier Pirelli's tires, some of the sport's figures were warning of the possible need to pit four or possibly even five times during a grand prix.

But Mercedes team boss Brawn is quoted by the Melbourne Age newspaper: "If you get to four stops then possibly you are using the tires a bit harder than you should and it would be quite hard to make up that extra pitstop time."

Brawn famously masterminded Michael Schumacher's four-stop victory in France some years ago, but he thinks that many visits to the pits this year will be rare.

"It does depend which track we are at because some tracks have much shorter pitstops than others.

"It depends on the circumstances but if your model shows four pitstops are faster as a race and you think you can drive to the speed available then you could see four pitstop races," he added.

More money from Branson 'would be nice' – Glock
(GMM) Timo Glock has admitted "it would be nice" if Sir Richard Branson ploughed some more money into the team that bares his famous company's name.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has been a critic of Virgin Racing following its difficult debut in 2010, denouncing it recently as "a nickel and dime operation".

Virgin is admittedly running on a small budget and has vowed to design its cars without a wind tunnel, and currently the MVR-02 car looks destined for the rear of the grid.

Glock, who revealed recently that the 2011 car has an aero problem and is a second off the pace of nearest rival Lotus, was asked by Frankfurter Rundschau if a comparison between fellow billionaires Branson and Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz is fair.

"Red Bull has been in formula one a few years more," answered the German, "and I don't know what Mateschitz invested in the second year of his team.

"The name of Richard Branson is attractive for sponsors," continued Glock, "and of course it would be nice if he would invest some more in the team.

"But he has his plan," added the 28-year-old.

Glock does approve of the latest development at Virgin Racing; the return of banned crashgate conspirator Pat Symonds to F1 in a consultancy role.

He said the veteran Briton is "one of the most experienced people in F1", but famous triple world champion Niki Lauda is not convinced about Virgin's potential.

"It didn't work for them as recently as 2010, so why should it be better now?" he told Speed Week.

"It's a pity for Timo Glock, who is a good man who deserves a good team," added Lauda.

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