Schumacher: Upgrades may take time

Michael Schumacher believes that the upgrades to the Mercedes W01 will help propel the Brackley-based team towards the front of the grid.

However the seven-times champion remains cautious about the progress made, but that it is a step in the right direction.

“The European season is about to kick off and now we will see how our developments look in relation to those of the other teams.” he said in Mercedes GP’s team preview for the Spanish Grand Prix. “Every team will come to Barcelona with a revised car and so of course do we.”

“I see a lot of potential here especially as our team has been reacting very well over the past four races. We have worked on general improvements to the car, as well as specific developments in downforce and efficiency, and I am confident that we have room to make further progress in the future.

“Our step forward in Barcelona will be bigger than you can make at each race during the flyaways but it would not be realistic to expect us to suddenly be competing right at the front. I am hoping for a better race in Barcelona than I had in China and of course I would not mind having had better results so far. However the good news is that after three years away, I am feeling extremely motivated. So I am clearly ready to take this challenge.”

Nico Rosberg is also confident that the upgrades will help keep him in the title race, as the F1 world heads into Europe.

“It’s a very nice feeling to be going into the European season with second place in the Drivers’ Championship and with a significant upgrade for our car in Barcelona next weekend.” he said “From talking to the guys at the factory, I know that they having been working really hard to get everything ready on time and it will be interesting to see the effect that the new developments have on the car.”

“Barcelona is such a familiar circuit as we have tested there so often over the years that we should be able to spend the practice sessions just focusing on getting the most out of the upgrades. Returning to Europe is when the season feels like it really gets underway and we will be doing our best to continue our good run and podium finishes from the first four races. I’m looking forward to it!”

Button confident ahead of Spanish race

Jenson Button is confident that McLaren can be strong in Barcelona, as the championship leader looks to stretch his lead over the European leg of the season.

The British driver was triumphant in last year’s Spanish Grand Prix and believes that McLaren’s strong showing there in pre-season testing could help him repeat the result.” Button said in McLaren’s Spainish Grand Prix preview.

“The Spanish Grand Prix is a race I won last year, and I regard it as one of my best victories of the 2009 season. It’s a relatively high-speed circuit, and one that’s quite enjoyable to drive – provided your car is working properly.

“There are some fast corners, like Turn Nine and the final corner, but the majority of the track is made up of pretty long corners where you really need the car to do all the work. It’s a circuit that really rewards precision, and punishes aggression. And if you’ve got a car that wants to understeer, then you’re going to have a difficult race!

“Fortunately, our car does seem to have a very good neutral balance in the high-speed corners it’s probably the most impressive aspect of the car and we went well during pre-season testing, so I think we go into this weekend feeling pretty well prepared.

“Finally, I’m looking forward to returning to Europe. It’s been an incredibly exciting series of flyaway races, but I think everybody in Formula 1 looks forward to racing closer to home, back in the sport’s heartland.”

Team-mate Lewis Hamilton is also optimistic about his chances around the Circuit de Catalunya, but believes that McLaren must not underestimate its rivals.

“We’ve got a couple of fairly significant upgrades coming for this race.” he said “And while it would be naive to think that these will move us up the pecking order because almost all the teams produce a major bodywork update for Barcelona we’re optimistic that they’ll once again help us to bridge the gap to the leading cars.

“And, of course, we’ve proved in the past that we’ve been both extremely capable and prolific at adding performance to the car across the course of the season, so I’m hopeful that we’ll be heading into Barcelona in good shape.

“If it’s a dry race, then, realistically, I think it’s going to be harder for us to be up at the front. As we did in China, we’ll be putting additional emphasis on qualifying; it will be more important than ever in Barcelona as, traditionally, it’s always been a track where overtaking is very difficult. Given that most cars will only be stopping once, we have a less scope for passing, so a good grid position will be vital here.”

Ferrari refutes subliminal tobacco claim

Ferrari has dismissed suggestions that the team displays subliminal tobacco advertising on its cars, following a call from a number of leading doctors for a government enquiry.

It was revealed by The Times on Thursday that a host of medical figures were calling for the Spanish and British governments to investigate the extent of Phillip Morris’s backing of the Italian team, especially through its use of a barcode on the car’s livery.

However, in a statement on its official website, Ferrari rubbished such suggestions and claimed that they were merely superficial.

“Today and in recent weeks, articles have been published relating to the partnership contract between Scuderia Ferrari and Philip Morris International, questioning its legality,” the statement said.

“These reports are based on two suppositions: that part of the graphics featured on the Formula 1 cars are reminiscent of the Marlboro logo and even that the red colour which is a traditional feature of our cars is a form of tobacco publicity.

“Neither of these arguments have any scientific basis, as they rely on some alleged studies which have never been published in academic journals. But more importantly, they do not correspond to the truth.

“The so-called barcode is an integral part of the livery of the car and of all images coordinated by the Scuderia, as can be seen from the fact it is modified every year and, occasionally even during the season. Furthermore, if it was a case of advertising branding, Philip Morris would have to own a legal copyright on it.

“The partnership between Ferrari and Philip Morris is now only exploited in certain initiatives, such as factory visits, meetings with the drivers, merchandising products, all carried out fully within the laws of the various countries where these activities take place. There has been no logo or branding on the race cars since 2007, even in countries where local laws would still have permitted it.

“The premise that simply looking at a red Ferrari can be a more effective means of publicity than a cigarette advertisement seems incredible: how should one assess the choice made by other Formula 1 teams to race a car with a predominantly red livery or to link the image of a driver to a sports car of the same colour? Maybe these companies also want to advertise smoking!

“It should be pointed out that red has been the recognised colour for Italian racing cars since the very beginning of motor sport, at the start of the twentieth century: if there is an immediate association to be made, it is with our company rather than with our partner.”

Webber: Points swing can help me remain in the hunt

Mark Webber believes that both championship standings could swing very quickly over the course of the season, with the front running teams so evenly matched.

Red Bull has only managed to win one race to McLaren’s two, so far this season, and as a result sites 36 points behind their rivals in the constructors championship.

However, Webber believes that the new points system means that his teams fortunes can change dramatically over the course of a single race weekend.

It can take one weekend. We know the points system fluctuates very, very fast,” Webber told Autosport.

“The middle part of the Championship last year for me was very, very good, and that is what I am looking to do again but with a different result at the end. I want to keep going and keep finishing.

“Melbourne didn’t go our way – but as I said, altogether, drivers and team, we know we would have liked to have done a bit better.

“But we didn’t deserve it. You get what you deserve. We are looking to do better.”

Webber is also adamant that the running order will continue to remain close, with no team emerging with a clear lead at the next round in Spain.

“I don’t see one team breaking away at that stage. I think it will be pretty tight between all the teams – Mercedes GP is there too,” he said.

“It is going to be who is doing the most consistent job. For a team to be breaking away, of course I hope it is us, but I don’t think it is going to be easy.

“Consistency mate is the big thing. That comes with executing clean Sunday afternoons. You could write a dossier of where things could be improved, but so could Ferrari.

“There is not any team that has come away from the first four flyaways and gone, ‘yeah, we’ve left nothing on the table,’ Every team has, and we have. And we are looking to address them as quickly as we can. There are lots of things.”

The Australian, who currently sits eighth in the drivers championship, is also confident that Formula One will continue to produce superb races, with-or-without wet conditions.

“We know Malaysia was a very good race because we had Lewis out of position and Jenson, Fernando and Massa down there in qualifying,” he said.

“In Melbourne, five minutes of rain can turn the whole race on its head, which it did. And Shanghai obviously was a different grand prix. It rained for a long period of time and there were lots of different things going on so, whether it as bad as Bahrain in the future we will see, but I doubt it.

“I still think we will have some good races.

“The F-duct has been good for the racing as well. We have seen some overtaking, but whether it is mega skilful? With KERS you push the button and get a top speed advantage, but at the end of the day it is overtaking and it is good for the sport that people can overtake because we don’t get much of it nowadays.”

Pirelli enters F1-tyre bid

Pirelli has announced that it will enter the tendering process to supply teams with tyres from 2011 onwards.

In a statement on Thursday, the Italian company said that it would submit its proposals to the FIA and the teams in a bid to become the sport’s standard supplier of rubber.

“Pirelli communicates its decision to present a technical and commercial offer for supply of tyres to all the teams in the Formula 1 world championship,” the statement said.

“The company plans to present the bid to FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) and FOA (Formula One Administration Limited) by 9 May, the date of the next Formula 1 Grand Prix to be held in Spain.”

The news will further delay any decision on the sport’s new tyre supplier, with Michelin and Cooper Avon having both entered the race.

Pirelli last supplied tyres to Formula One teams from 1989 to 1991.

Chinese bosses confident that race will remain on the calendar

Organisers of the Chinese Grand Prix remain confident that the race will remain on the Formula One calendar next season, despite this year’s event receiving criticism regarding its promotion.

F1-supremo Bernie Ecclestone criticised race organisers for failing to advertise the event properly – leading to poor attendance figures.

However, Leon Sun of race promoters Juss Events is adamant that the Shanghai event will remain an F1 event for the foreseeable future.

“It hasn’t been announced because there are still a few technical issues to be sorted out but we’re in good shape,” he told Reuters.

“It looks good at the moment. We’ve got until October this year to sort it out but I’m confident that we’ll have something before that.”

Sun believes that the F1 world will have to continue to be patient, as the race will take time to build into popular sport in China.

“We are trying to build something,” Sun added. “Obviously, compared to races in Europe we still have a long way to go to build the market. We improve every year and I think Bernie appreciates and understands this.”

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh also emphasized the importance of the Chinese event for the sport.

“Being here is important not just to our road car companies but is important to all of our partners in Formula 1,” he told Reuters.

“We’re here to create brand exposure and differentiation for the Vodafones, the Exxon Mobils, the Mercedes Benz. This is an important market, so Formula 1 must make sure that it continues to make a success of the Chinese Grand Prix.”

Silverstone opens Arena circuit

The new Silverstone ‘Arena’ circuit was officially opened by HRH the Duke of York at a grand unveiling which featured Formula One stars past and present.

This year’s British Grand Prix will now take place on the £5 million configuration, which was given the green light by FIA race director Charlie Whiting earlier in the week.

The new course, which see an increase in its length to 3.666 miles, features a variety of new corners in a bid to make the circuit more spectator friendly as well as pose a new challenge to drivers.

Abbey has been altered from its chicane format to a quick right hander, which blends into a left kink before arriving at the new ‘Arena’ complex. Thereafter drivers will join the ‘National’ circuit and reemerge onto the old Grand Prix layout at Brooklands.

For 2010 the start/finish straight will remain at the north side of the circuit, however plans are already well underway to relocate the pits to the newly-profiled Club corner from 2011 onwards.

For Damon Hill, 1996 Formula One World Champion and chairman of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, safeguarding the Grand Prix has been an uphill battle, which was not helped by Donington’s failed acquisition of the rights and the hard bargain driven by F1-supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

However, after an on-going battle, the future of the British Grand Prix was secured with the Northampton circuit given a new 17-year contract – allowing owners to press ahead with track upgrades.

“For motor racing fans it’s very important to have a grand prix in your own country so there has been a big battle to fulfil the criteria for hosting a grand prix.” Hill told the BBC. “This has been the result of a very long, hard battle to upgrade the facilities and provide a venue that is the best venue for drivers and fans.”

“The important thing was to make it sustainable and realistic, and unfortunately the Donington project was unrealistic and wasn’t able to fulfil what was needed to be done.

“So we’re back here. We want to provide the very best, but it has to be sustainable.

“We’ve reconfigured the shape of the circuit – this is the first year of a two-year development place. For next year, there will be a completely different position for the start-finish line, so the pits and paddock will be in a completely different place.

“The centre of attention, the start and finish, will all be down the other end of the circuit. We hope it will provide much better viewing facilities, greater capacity and also more of a thrill and challenge for the drivers.”

Those attending the event included former Red Bull team-mates Mark Webber and David Coulthard.

The latter was the first man to test the circuit in F1 machinery and gave it a resounding thumbs up.

“It’s typical Silverstone,” Coulthard told Autosport.

“I’ve loved every Silverstone, even the fiddly complex, because it is as close as you get to an amphitheatre in British motorsport other than Brands Hatch. With all the grandstands and the BRDC centre, you got to show the crowd the cars for a while.

“It’s Silverstone, this is this place for the British Grand Prix, and as much as I enjoyed racing at Donington when I was younger, I just think we are so used to coming to this area and celebrating in July.”

The 2010 British Grand Prix weekend is scheduled to take place on the 9th to the 11th of July.

KERS could return in 2011 as Renault and Ferrari offer cheaper, more powerful alternative

The power-boost device KERS could be set to make a return to Formula One next season, following positive talks at a Formula One Teams’ Association meeting in London on Wednesday.

Although the Kinetic Engine Recovery System remains in the sports regulations, teams decided not to use the device on cost grounds. It has been estimated that Ferrari and McLaren – leaders in developing the device in 2009 – spent around 10-20 million euros alone.

However, following today’s meeting, Williams technical director Sam Michael has revealed that Renault and Ferrari have both offered to supply teams with a cheaper and more powerful version of the system.

“Basically Ferrari and Renault put forward proposals that they could do KERS for less than a million euros ($1.33 million),” Michaels is quoted as saying by Reuters.

“Those have been accepted but what Ferrari and Renault are both saying is that unless we increase the energy level from the current 400 kilojoules up to 600 or 800, to make KERS more beneficial, they are not prepared at this stage to commit that they will actually do KERS.

“Renault will supply anyone who asks for it on the grid and Ferrari will supply any of their customers, anyone who is running a Ferrari engine.”

It would appear that any decision would not come before the next round of the championship in Spain, and that Michael’s Williams team would use its own system, after increasing its share in the newly-named company, Williams Hybrid Power.

“I think that by Barcelona (next week’s Spanish Grand Prix), the FOTA executive is due to try and make a decision on KERS for 2011. It’s all pretty split at the moment on that.” he said.

FOTA’s meeting also concentrated on the issue of next year’s tyre supplier, with Bridgestone committed to pulling out of the sport at the end of the current season.

Michael admitted that talks were going with both Michelin and Cooper Avon, with the latter the more cheaper option.

“The conversations really, at this point, are between Michelin and Avon,” said Michael.

“Avon’s a lot cheaper (than Michelin) but it’s a less proven product although they’ve done plenty of highly competitive tyres.

“They are a bigger unknown than Michelin because Michelin did it (in F1) very recently. But there is a significant difference in cost and you are probably talking over three times the difference in cost to the teams. So that’s what’s being debated at the moment.”

Trulli sick of bad luck so far this season

Jarno Trulli has admitted that he has been frustrated with his start to the 2010 season, after being plagued by bad luck and reliability.

The Lotus driver has struggled with reliability issues all year and has only once seen the chequered flag. Although the Italian expected a difficult start with the new team, he says he expected to have had more track time.

“Obviously I knew that it wouldn’t be easy, that everything would be new and we would need time,” Trulli told Autosprint magazine.

“However, I had expected at least to drive. Instead, after four races I did not start once and when I got to the finish, it was because it was decided I should take the chequered flag but in far from ideal conditions.

“Bad luck seems to persevere on my car, everything happens on my car and my car only. So, to this day, my expectations have not been met.

“It’s still early days to judge, we need more time for a reliable judgement. I knew it would be tough, but I practically haven’t driven yet. I’ll pass judgement at the end of the year.”

So far Trulli has struggled to match his team-mate, Heikki Kovalainen who has managed a set of 13th, 14th and 15th place finishes to date. As a result, the Italian says that he must aim to get onto terms with the Finn and that Lotus is the best of the new teams to accomplish this.

“On paper, our team is definitely the best among the new outfits in F1,” he said. “We operate like a real team in the top series, but unfortunately we are only at 10% of our potential because of lack of time.

“There’s no testing, and the racing weekend is the only chance to test and oil the structure. For us this is our apprenticeship year: we’ll see the potential in 2011, when many structural problems will be behind and we’ll be able to concentrate on the design of the new car.

“My aim today is to stay ahead of my team-mate and to lead among the new teams. The rest is just dreaming: you can think of getting into Q2, but you need a disaster to happen, like it did in Malaysia.”

Brawn: Schumacher remains determined to win

Ross Brawn has played down suggestions that Michael Schumacher no longer possesses the determination to win in Formula One, claiming that he remains incredibly motivated.

So far this season the seven-times champion has struggled to get on terms with his team-mate, Nico Rosberg. However, with the W01 expected to undergo a number of improvements ahead of the next race in Spain, Brawn is confident that Schumacher will soon be back to winning ways.

“Michael is determined to succeed. He was always his own best and worst critic.” Brawn told The Sun newspaper. “He is incredibly dedicated and competitive but also very structured.”

“He is not the sort of guy who will panic when things aren’t going well. He will analyse what is happening and reflecting on that and, for sure, the race in Shanghai was disappointing.

“But we are already getting to understand the reasons for that and are learning lessons from that. We have to make sure that in Barcelona for the next race we get it right and perform better.

“His experience is very useful and that was part of the thinking when he joined the team. The biggest challenge is for everyone to treat him normally as he is such an icon.”

The Mercedes team principal also admitted that he has been impressed with Jenson Button’s performance so far this season and that he is sorry that he reigning world champion left the Brackley-based squad at the end of 2009.

“I was disappointed Jenson left,” he said. “He felt people were of the opinion he only won the world championship because he had the best car. So he left us to show them he could do it again elsewhere.

“We are still friends. We were on the same flight back from Malaysia and we had a good chat. But on the racetrack it is different. There are no friends on the racetrack.

“Jenson was a fabulous member of our team last year but now he is the history and we have to beat him.

“He also wanted to prove himself at McLaren against the guy who is probably the fastest and most naturally talented in motor racing – Lewis Hamilton. He’s set himself a massive challenge and he is doing very well so far.”