Latest F1 news in brief

  • Trulli says Toyota is F1's fourth force
  • Massa spin not caused by Ferrari defect
  • Opinions split over Renault prospects
  • Hamilton, Sutil, holiday on Thai island
  • Top teams see BMW as serious rival
  • Bahrain test makes Ferrari favorites

Toyota TF108

Trulli says Toyota is F1's fourth force
(GMM) Jarno Trulli is confident that Toyota can remain F1's fourth strongest team as the circus moves on to Bahrain.

The Italian finished fourth in Malaysia; behind Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari, the BMW of Robert Kubica, and final podium-getter Heikki Kovalainen, who drives for McLaren.

Although ahead of Lewis Hamilton at Sepang, 33-year-old Trulli thinks his TF108 single seater is still not quite on the pace of the leading teams.

"The McLarens and Ferraris are obviously ahead of us, and we are maybe two or three tenths behind BMW, but we can fight the rest," he said.

Trulli hopes that, because only Toyota and Ferrari tested at the Sakhir track in the winter pre-season, he will also be in a strong position in Bahrain next weekend.

"We know what to expect there with our car. I think we can fight for the top six again," he added.

Trulli also commiserated with his new teammate, Timo Glock, who because of a cancelled flight endured a 40 hour journey from Australia to Kuala-Lumpur recently — on his twenty sixth birthday.

"I felt sorry for Timo," Trulli, who reached Malaysia via Brisbane, said.

Felipe Massa before he lost control and spun hopelessly into the pea gravel

Massa spin not caused by Ferrari defect
(GMM) A spokesman for Ferrari has ruled out any lingering doubt that Felipe Massa's terminal Sepang spin was caused by a technical problem.

Amid rumors that his seat for 2009 may not be safe, Ferrari officials said they would check whether any aspect of the car could be blamed for what appeared to be the Brazilian's second major driving error in a one week period, leaving his points tally so far at zero.

Asked by the German magazine Sport Bild if a defect had caused Massa to spin into the gravel at Sepang, the spokesman is quoted as saying: "No. The car was okay."

Team boss Stefano Domenicali, however, is confident that the 26-year-old can put his flagging reputation back on track in Bahrain next weekend.

"We must not over-dramatize. I'm convinced that from Felipe's and our point of view, a response won't go amiss in Bahrain," he said.

"Felipe has all the qualities and the capabilities to do well."

Massa's former boss Peter Sauber, though, was not surprised when he observed the driver's error from the BMW-Sauber garage in Malaysia.

"If things are not running well for him, Felipe loses concentration quickly," the Swiss said.

Opinions split over Renault prospects
(GMM) Renault boss Flavio Briatore has disagreed with team driver Fernando Alonso's claim this week that the R28 car is likely to remain out of podium contention for the rest of the season.

Rather, the Italian insists that only May's Turkish grand prix, or the subsequent Monaco race, will give the experts enough information to allow a judgment on the French team's performance this year.

"Wait three or four races and then ask me again, as I will have a pretty good idea of what our status is," he told F1's official website.

Renault's engine chief Denis Chevrier, on the other hand, points to the Spanish grand prix next month as a crucial moment for the 2008 campaign.

The team is planning some substantial improvements for Barcelona, but Chevrier told the Spanish newspaper El Pais: "We will need to improve a lot more than the other teams.

"If our developments are not much better than theirs, we will obviously stay in the same situation," he added.

But, according to the magazine FHM, former world champion Emerson Fittipaldi is confident that, "with Fernando, Renault will improve rapidly".

Hamilton, Sutil, holiday on Thai island
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has retired to Thailand to regroup following his lackluster fifth place in the Malaysian grand prix.

According to reports in the British press, the 23-year-old McLaren driver accompanied his close friend and fellow racer Adrian Sutil, as well as trainer Adam Costanzo, to the Thai island of Koh Samui, ahead of next weekend's race in Bahrain.

While Hamilton is leading the drivers' world championship, Sutil is ruing two Force India car failures, and a tough challenge in the form of trying to match teammate veteran Giancarlo Fisichella's pace.

Hamilton said he is not fazed despite failing to impress at the wheel of his MP4-23 at Sepang.

"I'm not down, for sure I'm not," the Briton said.

Top teams see BMW as serious rival
(GMM) Following two consecutive second place finishes for the German team in 2008, F1's Big Two, Ferrari and McLaren, are wary of the threat that BMW-Sauber now poses.

"For me, BMW is a serious rival," Norbert Haug, boss of McLaren's engine and equity partner Mercedes-Benz, admitted to the news agency SID.

At Sepang, following Nick Heidfeld's second at Albert Park, Robert Kubica's pace behind winner Kimi Raikkonen was never challenged, and Heidfeld posted the fastest lap of the race.

"After two races they are five points behind us. This is obviously nothing," Haug, referring to McLaren's constructors' championship lead, added.

"They seem to have the speed, so next time perhaps they will already be right out the front," the German said.

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali agrees that, after proving the third force in 2007, BMW is now right in the fray.

"They are there," the Italian noted. "We need to respect them a lot, and we do, because they are in a position to take points away from us."

To the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport, BMW chief Mario Theissen remains firm that the team's goal for 2008 is to win a race or two.

But he warned: "No one should draw premature conclusions. We are still not on eye-level with the two top teams.

"But we are on the right course. Our car still has potential; we have not reached our maximum yet," Theissen said.

Bahrain test makes Ferrari favorites
(GMM) Norbert Haug thinks Ferrari's recent experience of the Sakhir circuit should make Ferrari the favorites to win the upcoming Bahrain grand prix.

Of formula one's eleven teams, only Ferrari and Toyota opted to make the expensive trip to Bahrain for six days of winter testing.

"That should be an advantage for them," McLaren-Mercedes official Haug, referring to the forthcoming race in the Gulf region, told the German news agency SID.

Indeed, it was on the back of Ferrari's pre-season Bahrain form that the Maranello based team emerged as the winter favorite.

At Sakhir, Toyota's Jarno Trulli openly marveled at the pace of the F2008, as the red single seater went two seconds quicker than last year's pole lap.

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali agrees that the Bahrain test should be an advantage, but warned that track conditions in April are likely to be completely different to the February test.

But "having spent more days there compared to the others is something positive", the Italian conceded.

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