Latest F1 news in brief

  • Pit damage did not slow me – Alonso
  • Bernie still thinks Massa can win title
  • Schu inspired me – Hamilton
  • Alonso admits not quick enough in Bahrain New
  • Smiling Theissen seems happy with Heidfeld New

Pit damage did not slow me – Alonso
(GMM) After dominating the Malaysian grand prix just one week ago, Fernando Alonso has denied that a garage incident contributed to his apparent lack of pace this weekend in Bahrain.

With his rookie teammate on the front row of the grid, Spaniard Alonso qualified just fourth in his McLaren on Saturday.

While some suggest that race fuel strategy might have played a role, others agree that the championship leader is simply struggling alongside Hamilton at Sakhir.

Another theory, however, is that a broken overhead garage pit gantry, which fell on Alonso's MP4-22 single seater early on Saturday morning in Bahrain, might explain the reigning world champion's qualifying pace.

Components including the front wing of Alonso's damaged car had to be replaced before track action kicked off on Saturday, reports said.

But asked if he thought the impact had rendered his McLaren slower, 25-year-old Alonso answered prior to the race on Sunday: "No, I doubt it."

We have learned that Alonso has three laps more fuel on-board than teammate Hamilton for the start of the Bahrain grand prix, which might go some way to explaining the two tenth gap.

He played down the impact that not winning today's race might have.

"I need to be on the podium if it is possible at 17 races," Alonso said. "And then win the championship at the end."

Bernie still thinks Massa can win title
(GMM) Five rivals sit higher than Felipe Massa in the drivers' world championship, but F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone still thinks the young Brazilian can take out the title in 2007.

Ferrari's Massa, although quick, has had a difficult start to the current season, and in Malaysia threw away his pole position advantage by making two driving errors in the race.

But the 25-year-old is again on pole at Sakhir, moving Ecclestone to remain defiant on an earlier prediction that Massa could beat all comers to 2007's ultimate prize.

Asked by a reporter for the Austrian newspaper 'Kronen Zeitung' who his title favorite is a few races into the season, Bernie said: "I remind you of what I said in the winter.

"Massa is stronger, faster and better than a lot of people think."

76-year-old Ecclestone also played down the effect on his sport that the retirement of seven time world champion Michael Schumacher has had.

"I am happy," the Briton insisted. "We are having a fantastic championship. Today's drivers are doing a very good job.

"We have hardly lost a single TV viewer because of Schumacher; only in Germany, and there it is only 17 per cent."

Bernie said: "Nearly everywhere else we are doing better."

Schu inspired me – Hamilton
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton does not hesitate for long when he is asked to nominate someone who inspired him.

The McLaren rookie, who could on Sunday make history by becoming the first driver to ever finish his first three grands prix on the podium, said seven time world champion Michael Schumacher "always gave 100 per cent".

"I met Michael last year," Briton Hamilton, 22, told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag in Bahrain, "and he said something to me that I will never forget.

"I was walking in the paddock in Turkey and he stopped me and said, 'Fantastic race. What you did today was outstanding'."

Schumacher, now 38 and still an 'advisor' for the Ferrari team, was referring to Hamilton's inspirational drive through the field in GP2.

Asked if the German is still a role model, Hamilton answered: "Absolutely. And not just as a driver.

"He didn't have to say that to me. Other drivers achieved far less than he did but are much more arrogant.

"His ambition and dedication impressed me; before his last ever race he was still testing. He always gave 100 per cent, right up to the last second."

Alonso admits not quick enough in Bahrain
(GMM) Joint championship leader Fernando Alonso on Sunday admitted that he simply could not keep up with the fastest four drivers at Sakhir.

While his McLaren teammate finished second, the Spaniard – explaining to reporters the "bitter taste" in his mouth – was just fifth at the flag after losing out to Kimi Raikkonen through the pit stops and also to BMW's Nick Heidfeld, who passed the reigning world champion with an audacious overtaking move.

"I was not competitive today and I was not able to lap at the right pace," Alonso said.

The 25-year-old said before the race that he was targeting the podium, but Alonso reported that he found "no confidence" and "poor" grip and handling in his Mercedes-powered racer.

Alonso also handed a compliment to Heidfeld, who passed him on the outside of turn four and brought his competitive BMW home fourth.

"We already know that he is one of the really good drivers," Alonso said.

"He drove a good race; he was three or four seconds behind Kimi in the end, so a strong weekend for (BMW)."

Smiling Theissen seems happy with Heidfeld
(GMM) Amid rumors that Toyota might be courting Nick Heidfeld, his current boss Mario Theissen made it clear on Sunday that he is happy with BMW's German born racer.

With photographers all around them, Theissen embraced 29-year-old Heidfeld, who finished a strong fourth at Sakhir by sensationally overtaking reigning world champion Fernando Alonso and lapping at a similar pace to the leaders.

Teammate Robert Kubica, meanwhile, finished sixth after his fuel flap wouldn't close.

Heidfeld's move had caused a wide smile on Theissen's face on the pit wall, and he said afterwards: "Nick is the only driver in the top five who could overtake the car that was in front of him.

"That was simply sensational and for us a special moment."

Former F1 driver and British TV commentator Martin Brundle observed: "I think Heidfeld's secured his BMW job with this drive."

F1's tired traveling circus now returns to Europe for a four-week interlude, but most teams will test for at least three days at the Barcelona circuit prior to the Spanish grand prix.

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