Mike Stevens | Feb 9, 2012
  • Raikkonen 'quick', not showboating - Button
  • Webber sees 'many years' ahead on F1 grid
  • Raikkonen slams 'ridiculous' DRS
  • Red Bull 'letterbox' slot for driver cooling - Newey
  • New blown exhaust saga begins at Jerez
  • Toro Rosso counts Caterham among 2012 rivals
  • Kovalainen not keen on Caterham's practice plans
  • Barrichello to announce Indy future next week
 

Raikkonen 'quick', not showboating - Button

Williams' official launch took just five minutes in the Jerez pitlane on Tuesday, before the new Renault-powered FW34 had a difficult birth.

"Unfortunately testing was cut short with a couple of initial teething problems which we are currently investigating," said engineer Mark Gillan.

Official testing action burst into life in 2012, with every team except Marussia - and nine all-new cars in action for the first time - kicking off their campaigns.

Returning 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen was fastest all day.

"The lap times don't matter today," Lotus' Finn insisted.

"I do have a good feeling, and that was not always the case in my career after the first day of testing," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"But I would rather be P1 at the end of the first race than at the end of the first test day," smiled Raikkonen.

Red Bull's Mark Webber, with the team's brand new title-defending car only the third quickest of the 2012 runners, agreed.

"If what we saw today happens in Melbourne, then we'll talk again," he laughed, explaining the missed morning of testing as due to a crucial part being held up at an airport shrouded in fog.

The Guardian also reports that a Red Bull truckie was stopped for speeding.

Lotus team boss Eric Boullier, however, is convinced Raikkonen's speed is real - and his motivation intact - after two years away.

"Believe me, he is there."

Agreed technical director James Allison: "You can tell Kimi is a class act."

Like fellow top team Red Bull, the new McLaren also had a low-profile day, with Jenson Button just eighth quickest.

But he didn't accuse Lotus and Raikkonen of showboating.

"Maybe he (Raikkonen) was running heavy," said the 2009 world champion. "We maybe haven't seen eye to eye a lot of the time when we've been racing, but he's a very quick driver, a world champion.

"He's obviously in a very competitive car, and whatever they did today - low fuel or whatever - it was still quick."

Struggling on Tuesday was Caterham, whose new car could not be restarted following damage to the engine starter shaft, and Toro Rosso with an oil leak.

And Felipe Massa was just ninth in the new Ferrari.

"It is obviously too early to say if this year we will be able to win or not," said designer Nikolas Tombazis.

(GMM)

 

Webber sees 'many years' ahead on F1 grid

Two young chargers are waiting in the wings, but Mark Webber insists he intends to extend his formula one career beyond 2012.

Among the top names at Red Bull, however, the Australian veteran is the odd one out, with only a one-year contract in his pocket.

At the same time, the energy drink company has appointed two young rookies - Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne - to its junior team Toro Rosso.

"Obviously there is probably a chance with Red Bull, but at the moment I don't want to look too far ahead," said Frenchman Vergne this week at Jerez.

Webber will turn 36 this year, but he told Austrian Servus TV he sees himself on the grid "for many years" to come.

"The feeling I had in Australia (over the winter) was the desire to come back here and drive the car," he said.

Nevertheless, the big rumour is that Dr Helmut Marko - the Red Bull driver manager - decided to appoint Ricciardo and Vergne so that he can assess which one will be Sebastian Vettel's teammate in 2013.

"I can't do anything about the rumours -- I remember I was going to be replaced way back in 2008. That's just formula one," said Webber.

(GMM)

 

Raikkonen slams 'ridiculous' DRS

Kimi Raikkonen has revealed he is no fan of F1's 'DRS' concept.

The former world champion was busy in the world rally series last year when formula one introduced the moveable rear wing system, designed to boost overtaking.

Having skipped the 2010 season entirely on television, Raikkonen began to watch some grands prix last year when his thirst for circuit racing returned.

"The way the DRS wings work is for me a little ridiculous," he admitted to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport. "Overtaking is not really a great art anymore.

"You just put the wing down and go past easily," said the 32-year-old. "The guy in front can't really do anything.

"But I agree that at least it makes the show better," added Raikkonen.

He admitted that his brief stint in American Nascar racing last year rekindled his love for wheel-to-wheel.

"I realised how much I was missing it," said the former McLaren and Ferrari driver. "That doesn't mean I am sick of rallying; actually I'd like to do both but that's not possible.

"But if you want to race and you have the choice, first you look at formula one," he added.

Raikkonen was the fastest of all when 2012 testing kicked off at Jerez on Tuesday, insisting he is not fazed at the prospect of returning after two years away.

"For me it's easier to get used to the (Pirelli) tyres than it was for the others a year ago. For me it's more like a new beginning."

As for the refuelling ban, which came in last year, Raikkonen insists: "That's no big deal -- the pitstop is just a little shorter.

"Driving with the heavier car is not like day and night; it's still the same sport. There's just a few more buttons to push on the steering wheel."

(GMM)

 

Red Bull 'letterbox' slot for driver cooling - Newey

Adrian Newey has cleared up the mystery about the 'letterbox' opening in the nose of the newly-launched 2012 Red Bull car.

The F1 world noticed that Newey's 'step nose' differs from its rivals in the form of an air inlet where the monocoque height meets the new lower nose height.

Some surmised it must be for KERS or engine cooling, or perhaps even an F-duct style channel through to the diffuser.

Designer Newey, however, said it is to just cool the drivers.

"The toes are a bit too cold now actually," grinned Mark Webber to Italy's Autosprint.

"Traditionally the driver cooling slot is at the front of the nose," explained Newey, "but really for styling as much as anything we moved it to where you now see it to break up the aesthetics of the ramp."

Newey also took the opportunity to reject speculation he might contemplate a switch to Ferrari in the near future.

"To now leave for another team would kind of feel a little like walking out on your children in a way," said the Briton.

(GMM)

 

New blown exhaust saga begins at Jerez

While 'step' noses were still occupying some in the F1 paddock, the sport's purists were staring at the rear of the cars as the field of 2012 tested at Jerez on Tuesday.

With blown exhausts effectively banned this year, the new rules state that the outlets must now be visible from above.

But according to Auto Motor und Sport, the Ferrari and McLaren solutions are not necessarily visible from a bird's eye view, causing some insiders to predict a new controversy about the legality of cars this season.

So at Jerez, the game began.

"We have had a lot of correspondence with the FIA," said Ferrari designer Nikolas Tombazis. "We believe that what we are doing is legal."

McLaren's solution is also innovative, with the side 'bump' seen at the launch of the MP4-27 still on the car at Jerez.

One early analysis is that the team is using a rule loophole to cleverly redirect the exhaust air.

"There's always a chance that somebody will come up with something that's right on the border," said Red Bull designer Adrian Newey.

Added Lotus' James Allison: "So far we have a conservative solution," he commented on the day Kimi Raikkonen went quickest in the 2012 car.

"We will watch the competition and also what the FIA says. Depending on how much they will allow, we will act accordingly."

Some of the smaller teams are already expressing frustration.

"The FIA has said that the exhaust should no longer influence the aerodynamics. We support that and we will stick to that," said Toro Rosso's Giorgio Ascanelli.

Added Williams' Mark Gillan: "The rules are actually pretty clear and we are trying to be on the right side of them."

(GMM)

 

Toro Rosso counts Caterham among 2012 rivals

Toro Rosso counts Caterham - the 2010 start-up team that has failed to score a single point since inception - among its close rivals for 2012.

Last season, the Red Bull-owned rookie team Toro Rosso finished the championship in eighth place with 41 points, well clear of Williams and behind Sauber and Force India.

"Our direct competitors are Sauber, Force India and Caterham," the Faenza based team's boss Franz Tost is quoted by autohebdo.fr.

Formerly Lotus, the Tony Fernandes-led Caterham team has been the best of the new 2010 teams including Marussia (nee Virgin) and HRT.

"Caterham has managed to build a good infrastructure," Tost is quoted as saying.

"They have the Renault engine and a KERS from Red Bull and it means their package is good.

"They have two experienced drivers and I expect they will become our rivals.

"Our goal is to take seventh place in the championship -- we must do better than last year," added Tost.

(GMM)

 

Kovalainen not keen on Caterham's practice plans

Heikki Kovalainen insists he does not need number one status at Caterham.

Entering his third year with the former Lotus team, and with his teammate Jarno Trulli reportedly on the cusp of being ousted, it is an open secret in the paddock that Finn Kovalainen is the favourite.

But that doesn't mean the 30-year-old needs a favoured status.

"I think I've been able to take my place in the team with at least an equal footing with my teammate," he is quoted by the Finnish broadcaster MTV3.

"As long as we have the same, I do not need anything else. It has worked so far," insisted Kovalainen.

What he would like, however, is an assurance from the team that he will not be sidelined on Friday mornings by test drivers.

For 2012, Caterham has signed Dutch GP2 driver Giedo van der Garde to take part "in a number" of morning practice sessions.

"It is still being discussed," insists Kovalainen. "It is still open.

"Of course, I am firmly of the view that we don't need that -- I would like to drive all the sessions."

(GMM)

 

Barrichello to announce Indy future next week

Rubens Barrichello is set to decide next week whether he will switch from formula one to the Indycar series for 2012.

F1's longest-serving veteran has been left without a race seat this season, but he recently enjoyed an Indy test with the KV team, in which his close friend Tony Kanaan is involved.

"There is a lot going on, we have spoken with many people and there are things to be resolved, including the family aspect," the 39-year-old told radio Bandeirantes on Tuesday.

"There is great anticipation and if everything goes well I think we can make the announcement of the decision early next week," added Barrichello.

"I'm sure anyone who knows me can see in my eyes what I want. The first race is March 25 and there is no time to waste.

"If we want to be in a competitive way, everything has to be right and that means sponsorship, team, family -- everything."

Barrichello's first F1 team boss, however - Eddie Jordan - has urged the likeable Brazilian to forego the Indycar opportunity.

"I love Rubens -- our story began when he was only 19," the Irishman is quoted by Globo.

"I love his family, his parents, and I think he should retire with dignity."

Barrichello's contemporary David Coulthard, however, said: "I wish him luck in the United States. We had a great relationship throughout my career and I know how passionate he is about racing."

But fellow Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi warned of the dangers of American oval racing.

"Today, Indy is different to when I drove -- the risk is higher but it is a risk that he knows he will need to take.

"Still, I think he can have fun doing what he likes," said the former series, F1 and Indy 500 winner.

(GMM)

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