Mike Stevens | Oct 12, 2011

Poor starts and qualifying explains Mark Webber's struggle to keep up with new back-to-back world champion Sebastian Vettel in 2011.

That is the claim of Ferrari's Spanish test driver Marc Gene, who said in El Mundo newspaper that he is a "big fan" of Vettel's Australian teammate at Red Bull.

Vettel, 24, has won nine races so far in 2011 and wrapped up the championship with four races to spare, while 35-year-old Webber is 130 points adrift in the sister car that is yet to record a single victory.

"I think the big difference has been in qualifying and then the (race) starts," said Gene. "He hasn't been as good in those areas and that has been the source of the points difference between the two (drivers).

"In the races their pace is very similar and in Suzuka the team even had to stop him (Webber) having a battle with Vettel."

Meanwhile, Gene doubts that Vettel and Red Bull will run away with another easy title in 2012.

"I think not," he wrote. "The other teams have learned a lot this year in their impossible fight with Red Bull and it makes me think it will be a big fight next year."

(GMM)

 

Domenicali tips Hamilton to target Ferrari switch

Stefano Domenicali on Tuesday said he can imagine Fernando Alonso working alongside F1's new double world champion Sebastian Vettel.

"Would Alonso accept it? I think so, I think it could work. Fernando's strength is that he is not afraid of anyone, a force that comes from his maturity," the Italian told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

But it's not a minor detail that Vettel is contracted to Red Bull until 2014, and tipped to extend his stay for a further two years.

For Ferrari team boss Domenicali, the seat to fill is currently occupied by Felipe Massa, whose deal ends next season.

"He will do everything to prove what he has to Ferrari, and the other drivers with contracts expiring will want to prove that they are ready to come," he said. "Among those, probably, is Hamilton."

"But it's early," said Domenicali, referring to McLaren's 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton, whose deal expires in unison with Massa's next season.

"Felipe had a good weekend (at Suzuka), until the contact with Hamilton. It was a shame it happened in a very positive weekend for him," he added.

Ferrari's first priority is to have a better car for 2012, and Domenicali revealed that only minor "details" of the current Italia 150 car will be saved.

"We will change everything; even the steering wheel," he said.

(GMM)

 

F1 to suffer 'drop of interest' in season finale

Interest in the 2011 season will decline now that Sebastian Vettel has wrapped up the world championship.

The world's media are busy hailing the 24-year-old German's latest achievement rather than building up as per normal for the next race, to take place in just a few days in South Korea.

McLaren and FOTA chief Martin Whitmarsh admits that, from the public's point of view, the early championship conclusion has taken the shine off the forthcoming races also in India, Abu Dhabi and Brazil.

"Inevitably, there will be a drop of interest - the tension and excitement that we've been fortunate to encounter in recent years is never a given," he told the Times of India, referring to recent season finales.

On the other hand, Whitmarsh said that any consequences of a championship contest, such as team orders or racing with an eye on the points mathematics, will now dissipate.

"I actually think you'll really see the gloves come off and we'll get to see some truly incredible racing by the greatest drivers in the world," he insisted.

There is also the issue of driver motivation, with Fernando Alonso for example buoyed that his car was at least competitive at Suzuka even though Ferrari has ceased its development.

"That gives us some extra motivation for the remaining races knowing that it is going to be tough as the updates on the car will be minimal," said the Spaniard.

"But in some races, some circuits, we are still competitive, so why not fight for victory in one of the remaining races."

(GMM)

 

Whitmarsh admits mirror problem for Hamilton

McLaren may have to alter the design of its car's mirrors in order to help Lewis Hamilton, team boss Martin Whitmarsh has admitted.

The 2008 world champion has had multiple on-track incidents in 2011, and after the latest - yet another collision with Felipe Massa - he acknowledged that one problem could be the MP4-26's rear view side mirrors.

"Sadly, they (Hamilton and Massa) do seem to be magnetised don't they?" Whitmarsh is quoted by AFP news agency. "Lewis did not see him (at Suzuka).

"You could say 'well he should have done', but are the mirrors big enough, good enough? Maybe not, but it was one of those things," he added.

Some commentators are not sure visibility is not Hamilton's biggest problem at present, pointing instead at a lack of trackside support since his managerial split with his father, or a lack of focus.

"I don't think so," the 26-year-old told British reporters this week. "You are all trying to come up with solutions as to why I am not doing well. There is no solution.

"There is no answer to it so I'd appreciate it if you didn't just jump to conclusions," added Hamilton.

But there is no doubt one strong theory is that his teammate and Suzuka winner Jenson Button's surge in recent form has rattled Hamilton.

"Jenson is proving to be a formidable teammate," agreed Whitmarsh.

"Bear in mind he is five years ahead of Lewis in his professional development. We have these massive expectations, and Lewis has massive expectations on very young shoulders."

(GMM)

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