Surprise favourites ramp up pressure on drivers

Within memory of him delivering the beleaguered team’s first victory for more than seven years, Williams has expressed disappointment in Pastor Maldonado.

After soaring from pole to victory in Barcelona, breakthrough winner Maldonado suffered an horror Monaco grand prix two weeks later. The Venezuelan was pushed ten places down the grid for apparently colliding deliberately with Sergio Perez in practice, and at the start of the race got caught up in the first lap chaos.

“The car was good enough for a P4 or P5 qualifying position and our race pace was also good so it is disappointing not to have come away from this event with a decent haul of points,” said Williams’ chief engineer Mark Gillan.

When asked about Maldonado’s crash with Perez, he insisted: “I think that the incident was avoidable and therefore disappointing and that the penalty was therefore understandable.”

And even in light of Maldonado’s Barcelona triumph, the Oxfordshire based team’s disappointment is also understandable, given the competitiveness of the Renault-powered FW34.

German magazine Auto Motor und Sport cited “GPS” evidence in claiming that the Williams and the Sauber are the best cars in the 2012 field when it comes to aerodynamics, based on data from Barcelona’s demanding turns 3 and 9. And at Monaco, Sauber’s Perez recorded not only the fastest lap of the race, but “for long periods he was the fastest driver on the track”.

“This clearly shows what we can achieve if everything goes right for us,” said the Swiss team’s boss. “Now it is up to the entire team to turn our opportunities into success.”

Journalist Michael Schmidt said: “With Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel or Lewis Hamilton in the cockpit, Williams or Sauber would probably be leading the championship.”

The pressure is high, therefore, on the surprise favourites’ drivers.

“The team (Williams) are looking forward to Montreal as we believe that we should be strong again, but we need to deliver in both qualifying and the race,” Gillan insisted.


Organisers reject Ecclestone’s New Jersey doubts

Organisers of next year’s inaugural New Jersey street race have once again dismissed claims the event is in doubt.

Bernie Ecclestone said last month that the American grand prix could be pushed back to 2014. And the F1 chief executive repeated his doubts this week, revealing the organisers are having trouble with “funds” and had therefore missed deadlines in the contract. But when asked about Ecclestone’s latest comments, a spokesman for the race, which would be played out amid the famous Manhattan skyline, insisted preparations are “precisely on schedule”.

According to, he added that organisers are “still on track for a June 2013 race”. The spokesman added: “We don’t comment on our contractual relationship with Formula One or its details.”

The land that will be used for the race is co-owned by Roseland Property Co., whose boss Carl Goldberg said he had “heard nothing to suggest that there’s going to be a delay from any of the American promoters”. He added there is “a significant amount of time and money being invested, all pointed to a first race in 2013.”

Goldberg said Ecclestone’s comments are “disconcerting” in light of the money, time and manpower invested so far.


Webber denies ‘backing up’ rivals for Vettel

Mark Webber has dismissed claims he ‘backed up’ his rivals in Monaco so that Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel could catch up.

Australian Webber won Sunday’s race in the Principality with the other podium challengers, Nico Rosberg, both within a chasing gap of less than a single second. Next up was reigning back to back world champion Vettel.

But when contemplating the ‘backing up’ theory, Webber insisted in his BBC column: “That is absolute rubbish. You always get bitten on the bum when you get fancy. So you just don’t try.”


Perez not ruling out 2013 team switch

Sergio Perez is refusing to rule out a change of teams. The Mexican, however, has insisted that he is not about to switch to Ferrari during the 2012 season, despite strong speculation he is first in line for Felipe Massa’s seat. As for 2013, the door is open.

“In Malaysia, I lost the victory more than I won second place,” he told Auto Bild. “If I could do that race again, I would win it,” insisted Perez.

Once seen as a ‘pay driver’, Perez is now regarded as a potential winner with key connections; not only to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim but as the cream of Ferrari’s development programme.

“There is a point in your career when you feel ready to fight against the best drivers in the best team. For me, this is the next logical step. I feel very comfortable here (Sauber), but I want to win races as soon as possible,” he said.

And Perez admitted that Slim will play a role.

“We decide together what I do. I told him I would like to talk to him a little later in the season about my future and what options I have,” he added.


Pirelli to test harder tyre at Silverstone

Pirelli is preparing to test a harder-compound tyre, as criticism of the 2012 ‘lottery’ fires up.

The dilemma for F1’s tyre supplier is that it was specifically asked to spice up the show with heavily degrading tyres, and the six different winners so far this season proves the Italian marque met the brief. On the other hand, the purists are moaning that the unpredictability could now drive away the real Formula One fans.

“We think it’s absolutely great when people are talking about us,” motor sport director Paul Hembery is quoted by Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. “But we don’t want to be the focus of the conversation, just a part of it,” said the Briton.

Hembery said he is confident that, as the season presses on, the engineers and drivers will become better at understanding the way the tyres interact with the cars. But Pirelli is nonetheless planning to test a harder compound tyre, featuring less degradation, during Friday practice for next month’s British grand prix.

Still, Hembery warns that more durability will attack the spectacle.

Referring to the processional Monaco race, he said: “You can see what happens when the tyres last forever.”


Small teams worried engine price to skyrocket

F1’s ‘customer engine’ teams are worried that the price of power is set to skyrocket.

According to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, teams like Force India and Sauber currently pay around EUR 10 million for their engine-plus-KERS packages. That is reportedly set to increase to about 18 million when the turbo V6s debut in 2014.

“That is clearly too much,” Sauber co-owner Monisha Kaltenborn is quoted as saying.

The magazine said Williams, Caterham, Toro Rosso, HRT and Marussia agree and have asked the FIA to impose a cost-cap for their 2014 packages.

“We have to ensure that, looking back ten years ago, we don’t go back to a point where engines were so much more expensive,” she added.


F1 headwear triggers rumours at Monaco

F1’s excitable rumour-mill went into overdrive in Monaco simply because Michael Schumacher appeared without his cap. The seven time world champion spoke at the FIA press conference on Wednesday without his usual brand-laden cap, sparking suggestions he had split with his personal sponsor.

“The reason was quite simple: he had just forgotten it and no one could get it to him in time,” said Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport.

Headwear was also a bone of contention for Fernando Alonso in Monaco, according to the German magazine. When a journalist asked the Ferrari driver about his special gold helmet livery, Alonso hissed: “It’s on my website.”

When asked if he was in a bad mood, the Spaniard bit again: “No, but you’re not prepared. And we’re here to talk about the race, not about my helmet.”


Barrichello earns $330k as Indy 500 ‘rookie’

Rubens Barrichello earned more than US $330,000 in Sunday’s Indy 500. At the age of 40 and with an unprecedented 326 grands prix behind him, the famous Brazilian was the highest placed newcomer in the fabled American oval race. It means he was crowned the official ‘rookie of the year’ title for his eleventh place finish, earning him $331,080 in prize money.

“My first oval experience, it was very different than anything I’ve done,” said Barrichello. “It’s a pity that we didn’t finish top ten but I can be proud of that for my first time out.”

Winner Dario Franchitti’s earnings were almost $2.5 million.

Barrichello’s fellow grand prix winner Jean Alesi, however, went home empty handed, having been disqualified for lapping too slowly in his Lotus-powered Indycar.

“It was frustrating but the (105pc) regulation is fair and I leave with a lot of respect for the Indy 500,” said the 47-year-old Frenchman. “I hope to return next year. I will start to prepare now.”


Mexican GP set for 2013 return

F1 is returning to Mexico in 2013, according to a report in a Spanish sports newspaper.

Marca reports that the race will take place at the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City, which was the scene of the last Mexican grand prix in 1992. The report said the race is backed by many of Sauber driver Sergio Perez’s sponsors, including Telmex, Interproteccion, Tequila Cuervo and Mexico’s tourism ministry.

“They are willing to support the grand prix, which will replace Valencia,” wrote Marca journalist Jose Maria Rubio.

The report said the necessary bodies and the president have approved a contract with Bernie Ecclestone for an initial period of five years.

“Refurbishment work on the circuit should begin as soon as the elections happen (in July),” revealed Rubio. “Everything should be ready for the race mid next year”.

Mexico 1992, won by Nigel Mansell, was Michael Schumacher’s first of 154 career podiums.


Alguersuari reveals Italian earthquake fear

Jaime Alguersuari was also caught up in the latest Italian earthquake that killed 15 people and forced Ferrari to send its employees home on Tuesday.

The former Toro Rosso driver told Spanish sports newspaper AS that he was near the epicentre of the magnitude-5.8 quake as he prepared to test a kart this week. Asked if he is okay, Spaniard Alguersuari said: “Yes, everything’s fine, but this morning at the hotel I had a hard time, I was really scared.

“I was in the shower and I just ran out. At first I wasn’t worried because I’d experienced something similar in Japan, but soon I realised that everything was shaking and getting strong and that this was much worse. There was a point at which I kept thinking ‘it’s all over’ — I thought the building was coming down. So I put on a towel and ran down to reception and into the street.

“It all lasted about two minutes and I realised that, yes, in a moment everything can change. It was an experience.”