Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

  • When Michael Schumacher went fastest Brawn felt better

    Bahrain unrest far from over

  • Brawn was 'nervous' before Barcelona breakthrough
  • Horner tips Hamilton to knock at Red Bull
  • Haug joking about cut-price new deal for Schumacher
  • Alonso denies orchestrating Fry recruitment
  • McLaren 'better than they look' for 2011 – Alonso
  • Hamilton eyes 'music and film' with new manager
  • Alguersuari chasing Webber's 2012 Red Bull seat
  • Podium charge for Toro Rosso not realistic – Alguersuari
  • No pre-Melbourne shakedown for new HRT car
  • F1 calendar must not lose Australia – Todt

Bahrain unrest far from over
(GMM) F1 and Bahraini authorities apparently made the right decision to cancel the 2011 season opener in the troubled island Kingdom.

The day after the sport was to have raced at the Sakhir track, political observers were expressing grave concerns about the deployment to Bahrain of Saudi Arabian forces.

And with the May 1 deadline looming for the rescheduling of the grand prix later in 2011, it is feared the Saudi development in Bahrain "could be provocative or inflame sectarian tensions", according to a Pentagon spokesman.

Bloomberg said the price of oil spiked because it is feared the Bahrain situation "may escalate" due to the Kingdom asking Saudi Arabia for military support.

Part of the reason for the fear of escalation is that Iran has long been at odds with Saudi Arabia, and has strongly backed the protesting Shia majority in Bahrain.

Throughout last weekend, which had been scheduled for the Bahrain grand prix, tens of thousands of protesters remained at the focal Pearl roundabout and were also marching at government sites.

Horner tips Hamilton to knock at Red Bull
(GMM) Christian Horner has refused to rule out signing McLaren's Lewis Hamilton.

"Any driver-manager doing his job at the moment has been banging on the door," said the Red Bull team boss, on the day Hamilton announced his career will be handled from now by entertainment manager Simon Fuller.

"Lewis is a great driver," Horner is quoted by the Telegraph. "You would think he's not going to be happy having another barren year."

Horner's comments might be regarded as mischief-making, with McLaren's 2011 car currently off the pace of the field-leading Red Bull and Ferrari.

But Hamilton also had a poor season in 2009 as reigning world champion, while last season the McLaren was not quite a match for the best cars.

Horner suggested it is 26-year-old Hamilton who will therefore be doing the knocking.

"That is not to say we are looking for him to come to our team. We are very happy with the two drivers we have. That is more of a question you would need to put to Lewis," he added.

Horner insisted Red Bull could handle a Sebastian Vettel-Hamilton pairing.

"You would certainly envisage it being quite a busy partnership, but you can never rule it out. From my perspective you always want to have the best two drivers," he said.

For now, Hamilton says he is happy at McLaren, playing down reports he is disillusioned before even racing the MP4-26.

"It's a long, long year and I have no doubts that we can compete with these guys," he said.

Brawn was 'nervous' before Barcelona breakthrough
(GMM) The combined timesheet from the final test of the 2011 pre-season makes interesting reading just over a week before the season begins.

With Mercedes' admittedly "basic" launch car finally fully updated, it was seven time world champion Michael Schumacher leading the charts.

"Whether we have done enough or not is difficult to say," team boss Ross Brawn told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.

The Briton admits he had felt "nervous" when the W02 was a second off the pace and so much was riding on the major Barcelona upgrade.

"It was hard to keep calm, and I was constantly reminding the team to stick to the plan. In situations like that, it's tempting to react and waste resources," said Brawn.

Schumacher told El Pais newspaper: "All I can say is that we finally found the right balance and the aerodynamic package works. As for whether we will be in front in Australia, I don't know."

With the second best lap of the Circuit de Catalunya last week was Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, ahead of Sergio Perez in the impressive Sauber.

The fastest Red Bull (5th) was Sebastian Vettel, with Mark Webber just eleventh best.

"Throughout my career," said veteran Rubens Barrichello, "I have never seen a pre-season that is so difficult to interpret.

"What you can say is that Red Bull and Ferrari seem to be in front, while Williams has improved," the Williams driver told O Estado de S.Paulo, "but I am sure there are some cards hidden up sleeves."

Also with notably good laps in Barcelona were Renault and Toro Rosso, while the best McLaren driver was Lewis Hamilton in just fourteenth place.

Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus, meanwhile, was faster than either of the Force India drivers, while in the absence of Timo Glock, rookie Jerome d'Ambrosio brought up the timesheets in the sluggish new Virgin.

Haug joking about cut-price new deal for Schumacher
(GMM) Norbert Haug has played down claims Mercedes would only retain Michael Schumacher beyond 2012 with a cut-price deal.

Haug was quoted in Germany last weekend that the marque will ink a new deal for 2013 "with pleasure" but only if the price is right.

"This was a reader's question in a live chat that I gave last Saturday and the wink was not broadcast live," Haug explained to the SID news agency.

Haug said the "wink" was a reference to the remark about price, not Mercedes' willingness to discuss Schumacher's future beyond 2012.

"We are very pleased with Michael and very proud of his skill and experience," he insisted.

"And if he wants to carry on in formula one after 2012, we will very happily speak with him about it," added Haug.

After the disappointment of Schumacher's F1 return last year, he said there is "no doubt" the 42-year-old is still a top driver.

"Most drivers during the test in Barcelona practiced a qualifying lap," said Haug when asked about Schumacher's best time of the week in the updated W02.

"One or two in the field could probably have gone faster, but probably he (Schumacher) and Nico Rosberg could have as well," he insisted.

"We have no doubt that Michael Schumacher is still absolutely competitive."

Alonso denies orchestrating Fry recruitment
(GMM) Fernando Alonso has denied asking Ferrari to poach Pat Fry from McLaren.

Ferrari signed the former McLaren designer last year, while Alonso – who worked with Fry during his ill-fated single season with the British team in 2007 – was racing his first year with the famous Maranello based marque.

"When he arrived, he (Fry) brought new ideas, another way of working, fresh air," Spaniard Alonso said during an interview with El Pais newspaper.

For 2011, Fry has taken over the chief engineering post formerly occupied by Chris Dyer, who took the blame for the championship-losing bungled strategy decision in Abu Dhabi.

Alonso said that, in contrast, "When making a decision, there was nothing that caught him (Fry) by surprise. It's what we needed," he insisted.

But when asked if he played a role in Fry's recruitment, the two-time champion said: "No. I was told about it the day before it was announced."

McLaren 'better than they look' for 2011 – Alonso
(GMM) Fernando Alonso does not think his former team McLaren is set to endure a season in the midfield in 2011.

When asked by El Pais newspaper about the British squad's apparently uncompetitive MP4-26 car, the Ferrari driver answered: "They're better than they look.

"Winter testing doesn't explain anything. They say themselves that they are expecting a little more, so perhaps they will be at a similar level to the best (in Australia) and then go on ahead.

"When we get there, we'll see. McLaren are not going to be fighting for tenth place, but rather (for) the podium," added Alonso.

Meanwhile, when asked about F1 drivers' complaints about the extreme degradation of the Pirelli tires, Alonso said his main concern is the effect on braking.

"Before (with Bridgestone), you would come to the end of the straight and step on the brake with all your strength. Now if you do that, you block the wheels, especially the rears.

"The traction is also worse. Before you would step on the accelerator quickly out of a corner, but now it's more measured. You have to be much more sensitive," he explained.

Hamilton eyes 'music and film' with new manager
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton's decision about his new manager is not just about formula one, the 2008 world champion has admitted.

The McLaren driver on Monday said signing up with XIX Entertainment is because its chief Simon Fuller "shared my ambitions for the longer term".

Fuller is famous for creating American Idol and its spinoffs, managing the Spice Girls and coming up with Honda's 'earth car' concept of 2007.

A report in Germany's Bild newspaper said Hamilton "Wants to get away from having purely an athletic image".

26-year-old Hamilton, whose girlfriend is Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger, confirmed: "I'm open to music and film."

Alguersuari chasing Webber's 2012 Red Bull seat
(GMM) Jaime Alguersuari has admitted to wanting to move to Red Bull next year after Mark Webber's contract expires.

On Monday, Red Bull announced it has signed up Sebastian Vettel, Adrian Newey and 50 other crucial team figures through 2014, but not Australian Webber whose deal runs out at the end of this season.

Meanwhile at Red Bull's junior team Toro Rosso, drivers Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi are set to fight for both survival and stardom in 2011, with one expected to get the call to replace Webber and the other to be replaced by hotshoe Daniel Ricciardo.

Asked if the currently vacant 2012 seat at Red Bull is his goal, Alguersuari told El Mundo: "Of course that's the first target.

"That is clear, very clear. Having a great car is the most important thing and Red Bull's is the best," he added.

Monday's Red Bull news created the impression that Webber's tenure is racing towards an end, and the Australian hinted recently that he covets a move to Ferrari.

"Driving those red cars has always held that romantic attraction," Webber is quoted by the Herald Sun.

Podium charge for Toro Rosso not realistic – Alguersuari
(GMM) Toro Rosso is not ready to take on F1's grandee teams, its Spanish driver Jaime Alguersuari has insisted.

Numerous figures and observers have singled out the Red Bull-owned team's innovative STR6 car as a potential surprise podium contender this year.

"Yes, I've heard," 20-year-old Alguersuari told El Mundo newspaper.

"This one is the first Toro Rosso fully developed by the team without relying on Red Bull, because with last year's car there were things in common with the previous one.

"The truth is that it is going well, I think better than last year, but we still don't know the true potential. It seems fast, but we don't know exactly where we are until Australia."

Asked if a Melbourne podium is possible, Alguersuari answered: "It would be a dream, but realistically our struggle is not with Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes or McLaren.

"We can't compete with them either in budget or another way. The adversaries we need to overcome are Force India, Sauber, maybe Williams. That would be satisfying to us."

But Alguersuari's biggest 2011 adversary is his teammate Sebastien Buemi, with one of them to possibly get the call to move up to Red Bull in 2012, while the other makes room for Daniel Ricciardo.

"Yes, I think I'm ahead of Buemi," insisted Alguersuari.

"He has a great talent and can do laps faster than me, but there are many things to put together: endurance, maturity, mental strength, rhythm … and overall I think I'm ahead."

No pre-Melbourne shakedown for new HRT car
(GMM) HRT's new car for 2011 will turn a wheel for the first time next Friday in Melbourne.

After the struggling Spanish team launched the F111 in Barcelona late last week, it could not then be tested due to parts supposedly being held up in customs.

It has therefore been suggested that a prudent move would be for Hispania to at least roll out the Cosworth-powered car at a private venue, rather than in the world's glare in Melbourne.

But a team spokeswoman told Dutch website "The first run of the F111 will be the first free practice on Friday in Australia."

F1 calendar must not lose Australia – Todt
(GMM) Formula one should not lose the Australian grand prix, FIA president Jean Todt said in Melbourne on Tuesday.

Amid the local debate about the cost of the annual Albert Park event, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said recently that his sport "does not need" Australia.

But while in Melbourne for a road safety campaign one week before the F1 circus lands in the southern city for its 2011 opener, Todt appeared at odds with Ecclestone.

"Formula one is not essential," the Frenchman, comparing the sport with road safety, is quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

"It is a sport and it is important, and if formula one does exist I think it is important to have one race in Australia because Australia is among the biggest nations in the world.

"Australia has been doing a great job together with people from (motor racing federation) CAMS. They have put Australia among the best grands prix in the season," added Todt.

"Melbourne is a sensational venue with nice people, and when I arrived yesterday, I was thinking how good Melbourne is for formula one."

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