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Ferrari remaining positive
Ferrari finished qualifying with Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso in sixth and tenth positions respectively. Although each moved up a grid position following Ricciardo’s ten place grid penalty this is not the performance that either driver or the team was expecting.
Naturally the team were disappointed with their performance but there are also positives to be taken from the weekend.
Fernando Alonso: “We knew that this circuit with long straights these would always have been favorable to the Mercedes and that we would suffer a little. I expected to win the sixth to seventh time, because in Q1 and Q2 I’ve always done the fifth time, but in Q3 I lost two tenths, I was losing time down every straight. So far the circuits have favoured Mercedes but hopefully we will have ones more suitable to us. We have to collect points so as to do limit the damage because these points could be important later in the season. We are not satisfied with our performance but we know where we need to improve. For now, let’s keep a little patience.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “I am quite satisfied with my qualification, because until this morning I did not feel completely comfortable with the car. We are improving in all areas of the engine, data acquisition, electronics, and new parts fitted to the car have improved my feeling with the front. Certainly we are not yet where we want to be, but I think the direction is the right one.”
Pat Fry: “We expected to see Mercedes at the top of the standings here and knew we’d be fighting a rear-guard action. The characteristics of this track do not favour our car and the long straights favour the teams who can get higher top speeds. Kimi and Fernando found themselves fighting against four other teams separated by just a few tenths but Kimi did a good lap which confirmed the improvements we were looking for. Whereas for Fernando he was unable to take advantage of the available power. Tomorrow both cars start on the clean side of the gird and we will have to take this opportunity as the race will be a long, difficult race and reliability and fuel consumption will be very important.”
Vergne admits hospital visit after dieting
Jean-Eric Vergne has confessed to being admitted to hospital recently, “Actually, I was in hospital between the grands prix in Australia and Malaysia because of a lack of water and a little bit of lack of everything. I was very weak.”
This was caused by following an extreme weight-loss regime which he had implemented over the winter due to attempts to get on an equal footing with his slight Russian team-mate Daniil Kyvat.
“The weight difference between myself and my teammate was making me lose four tenths (per lap),” Vergne revealed. “I did a diet this winter but you get to certain limits that the body can no longer take.”
Vergne claimed the new weight limit rules for the new V6 turbo’s is too low and “Frankly, this (situation) is stupid,” he insisted. “Formula one cars are very difficult to drive and we need all of our skills. Being forced to lose weight is not good.” Despite the drivers all talking about the regulation, as in any sporting endeavor the lightest ones don’t want to give up their advantage.
Ecclestone agrees to two new F1 teams joining over next 2 years.
Bernie Ecclestone announced that a new team would be joining the Formula One championship next year and another for the 2016 season. Contrary to all the recent rumours though, it will not be the American team Hass which joins the world’s most expensive sport but a Romanian consortium fronted by ex- HRT and Midland team principle Colin Kolles.
The group will have the backing of Dacia which reportedly has agreed a supply of Renault engines – Dacia being a subsidiary of the French Group headed by Carlos Ghosn.
Surprisingly it was Bernie and not the FIA who made the announcement “I talked yesterday with Jean Todt and two nominations will be accepted. It does not depend on us whether they line up or not – I’d be happy to have a couple of other teams in Grand Prix’s.”
Asked about the Haas application, Ecclestone continued: “Yes, Haas is building a plant near its NASCAR base which has a wind tunnel and they are also putting in place a facility in Italy.”
Gene Haas is likely to postpone it’s debut until the 2016 season to allow the project leader – Italian Gunther Steiner – the time to source the budget in the United States for the team. Despite the likely co-operation of Ferrari supplying the power unit and Dallara designing and building the chassis, finding sponsorship Stateside – where American companies are accustomed to paying considerably less than a competitive Formula One budget – will take some time.
There has been a failed American attempt before, with the US F1 team folding without ever appearing on the grid. Peter Windsor, one of the founders of the team, explained their main USP for entry.
“We were trying something completely different, not only in the context of F1 today but within the context of the history of F1. We were designing and building a car outside Europe – and doing it in-house as well. Until then, everyone was saying that Europe was the only place to do a car; we felt, with the extensive technology infrastructure that now exists on the east coast of the States, that the time had finally arrived when an F1 car could be designed and built in America. It was never going to happen overnight, however”
The reason for the enterprise failing was essentially the non-introduction of the budget cap, “Everybody believed the conventional wisdom that an F1 team must cost 150m Euros or thereabouts. We set out to change that – to show that, in the States, you could do a start-up team for much less and that it could grow from there. This was long before the recession, remember. This was in the days when F1 sponsors were falling off trees.
As it happened, our approach chimed-in perfectly with the recession that began over the winter of 2008-09. That was one of the reasons we were successful in raising our capital: people were ready to listen and to learn about another way to do an F1 team – and to globalize via F1. Problem was, we then lost a lot of time as F1 imploded. As we now know, the budget-cap formula never happened.”
Schumacher making eye-contact, responding to voices – reports (GMM)
Michael Schumacher is making eye-contact and responding to voices, according to the very latest media reports. Earlier, after a worrying three-month long coma, the F1 legend’s manager Sabine Kehm revealed that Schumacher is now having “moments of consciousness and awakening”.
The news cheered the F1 paddock in Bahrain, but now there are apparently even more signs of improvement in the former Ferrari and Mercedes driver’s previously life-threatening brain injuries. Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Schumacher is making encouraging eye movements, while Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper claims the great 45-year-old German is even responding to voices.
Family friend Jean Alesi, a former F1 driver, has visited Schumacher several times in hospital, and he is now much more optimistic about the future.
“First, Michael responded only to pain, when he was pinched for example,” he is quoted by Speed Week. “But that can also be an unconscious reaction of the body. During my last visit I realised that something was beginning to change for the better. I felt with the family some relief, a great joy about how things were developing. It is fabulous,” the Frenchman claimed, “even though the path back to life is still long.”
Felipe Massa, a former Ferrari teammate of Schumacher’s and another close friend, seemed to confirm that the seven time world champion is now responding to voices.
“I cannot really put into words how excited I am about it,” the Brazilian admitted in Bahrain. “I prayed every day for Michael and they were answered. Now I hope to continue to hear good news from Grenoble,”
Team battles hotting up at Mercedes, Red Bull (GMM)
Red Bull’s reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, the dominant force of the last four years, summed up the mood in the paddock on Saturday when he said the silver cars are in a “different world”.
Indeed, with the dominant W05, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have traded wins so far in 2014, but in Bahrain it was the German-born championship leader who broke his British teammate’s grip on pole position. After Rosberg was outclassed in Malaysia, many predicted Hamilton’s superior one-lap speed would finally power him to his first world title since 2008.
But Sir Jackie Stewart said Rosberg cannot be ruled out. “Nico has proved he can drive a little bit the way I drove the car, or Alain Prost drove the car, or Jim Clark did,” the great Scot told the Mirror newspaper. “We are only in the third of 19 races and Nico is a real threat,” Stewart added.
Mercedes’ Niki Lauda also said Bahrain proves that 2014 doesn’t yet belong to Hamilton. “I have always said that we have two equal drivers,” the great Austrian, a triple world champion like Stewart, is quoted by Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. “In recent days it was claimed that Lewis is obviously stronger, so I’m pleased that now it is the other way around,”
Also ‘the other way around’ in Bahrain is the pecking order at Red Bull, as Vettel – who had an ultra-rare terminal spin in practice – was out-qualified by his new teammate Daniel Ricciardo for the second time in 2014. “That was an incredible lap by Ricciardo,” Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko is quoted by the Austrian press. “We never thought we would get that close to the Mercedes on this track.” Ricciardo must now move ten places back due to his Malaysia pit-stop error penalty, but did Saturday mark a turning point in the driver hierarchy at Red Bull?
“I don’t really want to rate them,” Rosberg said when asked. “Sebastian is clearly a fantastic driver, one of the best out there and Daniel is doing a great job and definitely deserves the seat that he’s got at Red Bull. It will be an interesting battle between the two.”
It may be an interesting battle, but Marko does not think Red Bull will be able to take the fight to Mercedes on Sunday. “We are 15kph slower on the straights,” he lamented. “So how we can overtake, I don’t know.”
Todt says crisis rule changes unlikely (GMM)
Jean Todt has lashed out at teams who are criticising the ‘new’ face of formula one. Ahead of his much-vaunted meeting on Sunday with Bernie Ecclestone and Luca di Montezemolo, the FIA president hit back at criticisms of the sport in the wake of revolutionary rule changes. “Making a judgement after two races is like George Lucas or Brad Pitt speaking ill of their next film — (as if to say) ‘don’t come to the movie!'” Todt told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport in Bahrain.
The Frenchman admitted he suspects the criticisms are being made because those complaining loudest are struggling to keep up with dominant Mercedes.
“Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari knew for five years what engines they would need to use this year,” said Todt. “Mercedes has simply done a better job. Such is motor sport,” he insisted. Todt said the only potentially valid criticism is about the quieter noise made by the turbo V6s. “I can understand if people think the sound is too quiet,” said Todt. “So we will look at ways we can make them a little louder.” As for suggestions F1 should axe the fuel flow rule, he explained: “I could live without it, but the engineers tell me that then we would need ten engines per year instead of five.”
Todt was particularly critical of his former Ferrari boss, president Montezemolo, who has slammed the new fuel limits as having turned F1 into an “economy run”. “Luca should first talk with his engineers and then he would be better informed,” he said. “There has always been fuel saving, even with the V8 engines of last year. How many times did we hear on the radio ‘you have to save fuel’?” Another rule change proposed by the naysayers is a relaxing of the engine ‘freeze’, but Todt said: “Everyone would have to agree, but why should the Mercedes teams do that?”
Indeed, Mercedes’ Toto Wolff rejected the theory the rules need to be urgently changed because F1 is now too slow.
“We are eight tenths off pole from last year … so what are we talking about?” said the Austrian. “We are in a brilliant technical revolution and we are talking the sport down. Is it because we have an agenda?” He ruled out rule mid-season changes, saying tweaks are only possible for 2015, “but I don’t see that happening,” he told reporters. “Apparently some (teams) are saying ‘we haven’t managed to make the car efficient and fast with 100 kilograms (of fuel), so let’s add 10 kilograms — sorry, we didn’t do our job in the way we should have done. I find this whole discussion absurd,” said Wolff.
His Mercedes colleague, Niki Lauda, also ruled out agreeing to rule changes within 2014. “Otherwise, why didn’t everything change last year, when Red Bull was always winning?” he is quoted by Italy’s Autosprint.
Lauda was particularly critical of the reigning world champions’ griping. “(Last year) I was happy for him. But now I say to him ‘Helmut (Marko), you can’t always win! The new rules were decided five years ago. They are fact and we have to live with it. Red Bull at the moment is not behaving in accordance with its supposedly fun and energetic image,” Lauda charged.