Alonso joins Webber in Renault-power fears

Alonso FaceFernando Alonso has become the latest Renault-powered driver to attribute Toro Rosso’s performance edge at Valencia to the grunt of its engine, hinting that Renault and engine customers Red Bull Racing are being disadvantaged.

Both Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso’s qualified and finished in the top ten at Valencia with Sebastian Vettel putting in a sensational drive to finish sixth. Renault and engine customers Red Bull Racing in contrast had an abysmal weekend as all four cars qualified outside the top ten and failed to bring home a single point.

Both the Ferrari as well as Ferrari customers Toro Rosso had a significant advantage in the speed traps, and Fernando Alonso reckons the Ferrari V8 was powering STR ahead of its senior Red Bull Racing team.

“We must bear in mind that he (Vettel) uses a Ferrari engine and that is an advantage,” the Spaniard is quoted as saying by Diario AS.

“The Red Bull and Toro Rosso cars are identical, but one is fighting for the top positions and the other, with a Renault engine, could not get past the Q2,” he added.

Mark Webber was of the same view and claimed that the Toro Rosso cars were benefiting from an advantage of up to four tenths of a second around the new street circuit.

“We have struggled for grip all weekend, we know both Sebastian’s are driving well this weekend,” he said after dropping out of Q2 on Saturday.

“They have a stronger engine which is worth 4 tenths, the rest we can do a better job, we see where Renault are. Difficult day, new venues, not good pace and it’s getting frustrating.”

The fears expressed by the two Renault-powered drivers follow concerns that Renault have fallen behind as a result of the engine freeze.

Although engine development is outlawed under the freeze, teams are allowed to replace parts to fix faults and improve reliability. It has been suggested that big-budget teams such as Ferrari and McLaren have been able to exploit this rule to make performance-enhancing tweaks, while Renault have fallen behind in the arms race.

“The problem is that us, Renault, have stuck to the letter of the current regulations on frozen engines, and we’ve been buggered,” said Renault Team Principal Flavio Briatore earlier in the year.

“Others didn’t do that and are far ahead, while we suffer. It’s not fair.”

Webber: Top six a distant memory

Red Bull Racing ValenciaMark Webber admits Red Bull Racing have gone in the wrong direction with the development of the car after a disastrous outing at Valencia.

The Aussie, along with team-mate David Coulthard, both struggled with the handling and balance of the RB4 around the new street circuit, and wound up a disappointing fourteenth and seventeenth respectively.

Only a couple of races ago at Silverstone Webber was lining up on the front row of the grid having strung a sensational lap together in front of the British crowd.

But the Red Bull ace admits that the team will have to seriously think about their strategic direction after their performance.

“The new venue has been very tough for us from the start,” he said.
“Both David and I haven’t been particularly competitive at any point over the weekend. We are struggling to find the right amount of grip in the car and that’s reflected in our lap times to the opposition.

“Unfortunately qualifying in the top six just four or five races ago is a distant memory now and we have to work out where our pace has gone.”

Team-mate David Coulthard fared even worse and will start in 17th position after being knocked out in the first round of qualifying.

“A very disappointing qualifying,” confessed Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner. “We seem to have struggled for pace here all weekend despite having been very fast in the last sector and it’s frustrating for the drivers to finish in 14th and 17th.”

“An incident filled race is the only way we’re likely to achieve any points this weekend, so we’ll wait and see. Congratulations to Toro Rosso who got both their cars into the top ten for the first time.”

“A bad day and a bad result,” echoed Renault chief Fabrice Lom. “It was bad beginning to the week with the plane crash in Madrid and the death of Dino Toso, chief aerodynamicist for Renault, which puts things in perspective.”

“But, life goes on and coming back to our present work, we have to work like hell now to bounce back from here. We already need to be thinking about the next race in Spa.”

Rosberg brandishes Webber “stupid”

Nico RosbergNico Rosberg blamed Mark Webber for spinning off during practice ahead of this weekend’s European Grand Prix at Valencia.

The Williams driver lost control of his car at the final corner and spun across the path of Webber into the run-off area.

Rosberg seemed to think that the Red Bull driver was to blame, despite the fact that he lost the rear end of his FW30 before the braking zone, with a sizeable gap to the Aussie.

When asked by his engineers on the team radio if he had anything to say about Webber’s involvement in the spin Rosberg vented: “It was just stupid from him because he was just sitting there.”

Several drivers have noted that it is difficult to tell who is peeling off into the pit-lane at the final corner and who is continuing for another lap. This confusion may have triggered Rosberg’s spin.

But there are no serious fears about safety.

“I think the pit entry is quite nice, quite challenging,” confessed BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica. “I think if you look into the details you clearly see who is coming in and who is not coming in because if you want to enter the pit you can brake a few metres later, so you can gain something on the braking.”

“Of course there can be some misunderstanding but anyway you are not allowed to cross the white lines, so the rules are pretty clear.”

Renault’s Fernando Alonso concurred: “I think as Robert said it is maybe from the outside more difficult to look who is going into the pits than on the inside,” the Spaniard said.

“But when a car in front of you goes into the pits you see clearly that he brakes a little bit later and when you go to the pits you brake late. Also you have to stay on the right part of the white line.”

“Today, one time, I was not. It was my mistake and if you stay on the right I don’t think it is a problem and it is not dangerous or anything like that.”

Nico Rosberg was not the only German driver to have missed the ego-fuelled world of Formula One after a three week break.

Nick Heidfeld came all too close to careering into the back of Toyota’s Jarno Trulli when the Italian appeared to back off in the run down to turn two.

The BMW driver managed to avoid a collision but was visibly annoyed, shaking his fist as he overtook the Toyota.

Webber hoping for clean getaway

webberMark Webber admits that starting on the dirty side of the grid is less than ideal, but remains hopeful of a good performance in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver once again hoisted his RB4 into the top ten and wound up less than tenth of a second shy of Renault’s Fernando Alonso in eighth place.

“That was a pretty good qualifying session, quite straightforward. It would have been nice to have had a bit more pace in Q3, but Q2 and Q1 went well for us.”

But it will be a case of damage limitation for the Aussie at the start as he attempts to get a clean get-away from the dirty side of the grid.

“I’m disappointed I’m on the wrong side of the grid, an odd number is always better, but we definitely have a chance to get something from where we are, so we’ll see how we go tomorrow.”

Webber will have to fend off Toyota’s Jarno Trulli who starts on the clean side behind him in ninth, but could be there to capitalise on any problems that Kimi Raikkonen, runs into directly in front of him.

Webber brands Safety Car rules a joke

Mark Webber has branded this season s Safety Car rules a joke. Webber believes that Piquet s podium place at Hockenheim was sheer luck, mainly thanks to the Safety Car rules.

“The safety car threw up a bizarre result and I think the rules are a joke,” Webber explained in his BBC column.

“I was happy for Renault’s Nelson Piquet that he finished second, given the start to the season he has had, but F1 is more professional and better than the rules we have for the safety car at the moment.

“It looks very amateurish when the guy who nearly wins the race starts 17th and only overtakes one car, Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams, because he spun. For me, that is not what Formula One is all about.

“Nelson would be the first to agree that it was not a fully deserved second place. None of the drivers like the current system – we don’t like to get flukey results.

“The teams and the FIA are trying to find a better way with the safety car but they are making heavy weather of it.”