Latest F1 news in brief

  • Ferrari's problems continue in Malaysia
  • Todt exit opens Ferrari doors for Alonso
  • Hamilton – no plans to sack father-manager
  • Hamilton – still no plans to join GPDA
  • Symonds warns Ferrari of Latin crisis
  • Webber worried about RB4's suspension
  • Haug hints Heikki not first choice for 2008
  • RBR chiefs meet stewards over DC crash

Ferrari's problems continue in Malaysia
(GMM) Despite topping the morning time sheets, Ferrari's Melbourne problems seemed to carry over into Malaysia, as free practice kicked off at the Sepang circuit.

Force India driver Adrian Sutil's Maranello built V8 engine appeared to fail, and reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen had to park his red car in a run-off area after losing drive.

It is understood that the Finn's problem is not an engine failure.

His teammate Felipe Massa told reporters in Malaysia that Ferrari's engine failures in Melbourne had been traced to broken valves.

"Speaking to the engineers it looks like we are very confident that we have solved the problem," the Brazilian said.

Meanwhile, David Coulthard had a big accident in opening Friday practice, ripping both front wheels off his Red Bull after running wide at the high speed chicane.

The crash brought out the red flags.

Red Bull's reliability woes also continued, with Mark Webber abandoning his RB4 after an apparent fiery Renault engine failure.

Toro Rosso ace Sebastian Vettel seemed to suffer a repeat of Webber's Albert Park problem, when the front right corner heaved black dust under braking before pitching him into the gravel.

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton, fifth quickest, did not return to the track after his McLaren coasted at low speed into the pits.

Todt exit opens Ferrari doors for Alonso
(GMM) Fernando Alonso in Malaysia refused to rule out switching to Ferrari in 2009.

The Spaniard, however, would not be drawn on speculation that the departure at the helm of the famous team of Jean Todt – who has traditionally been opposed to negotiating with Alonso – means that Ferrari's doors are now wide open to him.

Asked about the Todt rumors and what they mean, the 26-year-old replied: "Nothing, nothing.

"We are at the second race of 2008 and it is too early to start talking about next year. We must all be calm and see later," Alonso added.

Alonso has a clause in his contract that allows him to leave Renault at the end of this season if the French team does not meet certain performance targets.

He told the Spanish newspaper Diario AS at Sepang that he is not angry about the current lack of pace of his R28.

"I am in a good mood," said Alonso, accepting that 2008 is going to be difficult throughout.

"This is not a sport in which you can change one or two things and then everything goes well.

"To find a second (per lap) in formula one is something that sometimes takes years," he added.

Hamilton – no plans to sack father-manager
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton in Malaysia has fended off suggestions that he should dump his father Anthony as manager.

Triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart was quoted recently as questioning the McLaren driver's decision to eschew professional agents in favor of continuing to be managed solely by his dad.

But championship leader Hamilton, 23, at Sepang branded his father as "the best manager in the paddock".

"You should see him in action — he's very, very good," the Briton said.

Hamilton admits that their relationship often comes under strain.

"But that's just because he wants the best for me," he said.

"I guess it's harder than in other working relationships because there's more emotion involved. But we work around it.

"He does things for the right reasons, rather than for money or to better himself," Hamilton added.

Hamilton – still no plans to join GPDA
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton in Malaysia repeated his reluctance to join the F1 drivers' safety union, the GPDA.

The championship leader and McLaren driver has been under intense pressure recently – notably by Grand Prix Drivers' Association stalwarts Pedro de la Rosa, David Coulthard and Mark Webber, and observers including Sir Jackie Stewart – to formally throw his weight behind the body's efforts.

The Briton, as well as Kimi Raikkonen, Anthony Davidson and Adrian Sutil, are the only active F1 racers who are not GPDA members.

"I am quite comfortable the way I am. I don't have any particularly heartfelt reasons not to join," Hamilton said at Sepang.

"It's not a big story. At the moment I just don't feel that I need to make a choice.

"I'm happy. I need just to race, and not to take any other responsibilities. The most important thing is that the FIA and the GPDA have my support 100 per cent if they need it," he added.

Symonds warns Ferrari of Latin crisis
(GMM) The absence of Ferrari's famous 'dream team' could lead the Italian outfit back to the chaos of the early nineties, Pat Symonds has warned.

Renault's executive director of engineering observed in Kuala Lumpur that while figures including Stefano Domenicali and Aldo Costa are capable leaders, Ferrari's famous names of the recent past are now all essentially gone.

Symonds was asked his opinion about whether the absence of figures including Jean Todt, Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne will have a tangible impact on Ferrari's continuing success into the future.

"Who knows," he answered, albeit referring to Todt's successor as team boss, Stefano Domenicali, as an "excellent" manager.

"But what I felt last year when Ross took his sabbatical was that when everything is going well they'll be ok, but the real test of character is when things are not going so well.

"The Latin temperament has been known to melt down a little under those circumstances.

"With Stefano and Aldo they do have some very level-headed, very calm, thinking people, but they are just two guys in the team.

"There are an awful lot of others who might start digging for excuses, looking for a way out, and if that happens, things can go wrong pretty damn quickly," Symonds added.

Webber worried about RB4's suspension
(GMM) Mark Webber says he is concerned about the spate of shattered suspension pieces that have so far marred Red Bull's 2008 campaign.

The Australian had to stop on the Sepang circuit with a failed Renault engine on Friday, while his teammate David Coulthard had a big crash when his suspension seemed to crumble into pieces after running over a curb at high speed.

In Australia last week, Coulthard's suspension also shattered in the collision with Felipe Massa, and Webber similarly exited the race following what he describes as a "tap" against Anthony Davidson's Super Aguri.

"Looking at Monte Carlo and a few other street circuits coming up, it changes your attitude to barriers a little bit," Webber admitted to Speed TV.

The 31-year-old said Coulthard's Melbourne incident looked "funny", surmising that the RB4's suspension is amazingly weak when they are hit from some angles.

"Maybe it's something we need to look at," he said.

Haug hints Heikki not first choice for 2008
(GMM) Norbert Haug on Friday admitted that Heikki Kovalainen was signed for 2008 only after McLaren-Mercedes' negotiations with German drivers all came to naught.

It was rumored in the pre-season that Haug, Mercedes' competition chief, pushed hard for the British team to select from Nico Rosberg, Adrian Sutil and Sebastian Vettel for the vacant race seat alongside Lewis Hamilton for this year.

"It is no secret that in the winter we spoke with German drivers," he told Bild newspaper.

"Nobody was free and now we are very happy with Lewis and Heikki," Haug added.

Some listeners in Melbourne one week ago were similarly surprised when team boss Ron Dennis also seemed to freely admit that Kovalainen, a Finn, was not first choice to be Hamilton's teammate.

"We always have the best available drivers in our team — and the key word is available — and if drivers have existing relationships, we would never break them," the Briton said.

RBR chiefs meet stewards over DC crash
(GMM) Officials for Red Bull Racing were making their way to the stewards office as Friday afternoon practice concluded in Malaysia.

Following the spectacular shattering of David Coulthard's front suspension in the morning session, the Austrian team issued a statement explaining that the Scot would not run in the second ninety minute period due to safety concerns.

In the team's Sepang garage, meanwhile, mechanics were hard at work repairing the chassis, which had been stripped back to the bare monocoque.

"With safety the team's primary concern as always, it has been decided that David will not run in this afternoon's session," the statement read.

"This will allow the team sufficient time to investigate the causes of the incident and to ensure that the car is fully and properly repaired prior to tomorrow's final free practice session," it added.

Elsewhere on Friday afternoon, Ferrari's troubles seemed to continue, as the V8 in the rear of Sebastien Bourdais' Toro Rosso failed within a few minutes of the session.

There was better news in the works team's garage, however, as Kimi Raikkonen returned to the track following his morning breakdown.

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