- Webber to have equal status in 2012 - Mateschitz
- Alonso gives Ferrari boost after worrying start
- Vettel admits doubts over F1 grandees' 2012 pace
- Mercedes fast with radical 2012 'F-duct' front wing
- Work racing ahead at 2012 US GP site
- Failed crash tests stall 2012 HRT's Barcelona debut
- Cloud still hangs over 2012 Bahrain GP
Webber to have equal status in 2012 - Mateschitz
He may share a garage with the reigning double world champion, but Mark Webber will still have an equal chance to win in 2012.
That is the news of Red Bull's low-profile mogul Dietrich Mateschitz, who made a rare visit to an F1 paddock this week at Jerez.
Asked if Sebastian Vettel's Aussie teammate will have equal status this season, the Austrian billionaire insisted: "Absolutely.
"Both get the same equipment," he told Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper.
"The only change is that Mark has a new chief mechanic."
Mateschitz, 67, said the obvious target for Red Bull in 2012 is to win again.
"We really have no choice except to defend our two world titles," he insisted.
"Also Toro Rosso will have to improve; the team should be in the midfield and fighting for fifth place with Force India, Sauber and Lotus."
Alonso gives Ferrari boost after worrying start
Ferrari's worrying start to the 2012 pre-season got a boost on Friday when Fernando Alonso topped the times in the famous team's new car.
Earlier, when Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz was in the paddock, he wondered to Blick newspaper: "What's up with Ferrari?"
Former Ferrari driver Mika Salo answered: "They're having problems at every corner."
But although not as quick as the impressive Lotus earlier this week, Spaniard Alonso was faster than all comers on the last of the four-day session at Jerez, including Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel who had technical problems.
Typically, Alonso was giving nothing away.
"This time is worth nothing as is the one I set yesterday and those of the previous days," he said.
He was also not getting excited about Lotus' potential title challenge.
"I don't know as even for them it's a bit early and I would rather just say I am very happy to see Kimi (Raikkonen) back.
"He's a great driver and a great person," said Alonso.
Vettel admits doubts over F1 grandees' 2012 pace
While the smiles in the Lotus pits are obvious at Jerez, the same cannot be said of 'grandee' outfits Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton had his first try of the MP4-27 on Thursday and said the new McLaren felt "pretty good".
"My initial feelings are pretty positive," he added. "The car feels reasonably quick."
But with every other 2012 car featuring a radical 'step' in its front nose, some reports believe McLaren may have missed a trick by opting for a conservative solution.
"It is not a trick or a loophole that we did not spot," said McLaren's technical director Paddy Lowe.
"Some people have some interesting ideas around the use of that step, and we are looking with interest at all of that stuff," he told the Mirror.
Actually, the McLaren was not far off the pace of Sebastian Vettel's new Red Bull, but the pair were a long way from Romain Grosjean's impressive Lotus E20, and the 2011 Mercedes driven by Nico Rosberg.
Vettel, also getting his first taste of his 2012 machinery on Thursday, admitted there are "question marks" about all of F1's regular pacesetters.
Nevertheless, "We are where we want to be," the reigning world champion smiled. "It feels fine and as we expected."
Agreed team owner Dietrich Mateschitz on a rare paddock visit: "It looks quite good but anything else would have been a surprise as the car is a development."
Much more worried is Ferrari, after the aggressive 2012 Ferrari on Thursday looked no more impressive in Fernando Alonso's hands than it had under Felipe Massa's control earlier this week.
Britain's Daily Mail said the F2012 is "ugly in more ways than one".
"I can only say that it is going to take a lot of analysis to put all the pieces of the jigsaw together," said Ferrari's British technical director Pat Fry.
"I am not happy with where we are at the moment."
Arguably even less happy on Thursday were Force India's Jules Bianchi and Nico Hulkenberg, after the French test driver crashed the new VJM05 before setting a laptime.
There were not enough parts to repair the car and so Hulkenberg's scheduled track debut was postponed.
"I'm very sorry," said Bianchi, "because my mistake has cost the team a lot of time and effort."
Mercedes fast with radical 2012 'F-duct' front wing
Alongside step noses, clever exhausts and Lotus' surprise pace, another point of interest in the Jerez paddock this week is Mercedes' radical front wing.
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said the German team, albeit still running its 2011 car, tested a new front wing featuring a passive F-duct style system.
In Nico Rosberg's hands, the W02 was quickest of all on Thursday, just as it had been when Michael Schumacher was driving earlier.
The German report said air enters Mercedes' revolutionary nose at the tip, where it is rechanneled onto the front wing.
Auto Motor und Sport said McLaren Whitmarsh estimates the top speed benefit of the system, which first appeared on the Mercedes in prototype form late last season, to be around 5 and 8kph.
"For the front wing, there are no (F-duct) rules," said the Auto Motor und Sport report. "It is legal."
Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz was in the Jerez paddock on Thursday, checking out his team's progress and also the new cars fielded by rivals Ferrari and McLaren.
"Now we are all waiting for Mercedes," he said.
Work racing ahead at 2012 US GP site
450 workers are pushing to enable Austin's new Circuit of the Americas to be ready for the US GP later this year.
After the Texas project's earlier hiccups, the rooves and walls of the paddock and medical buildings, media centre and main grandstand are now taking shape.
Another recent setback, however, was 2 inches of rain in the last ten days.
"We've got a lot of dry weather we know is going to be coming, and are hoping to be gaining some time," said a contractor spokesman.
He revealed that the first layer of track asphalt will be poured around April "so we can get other elements, the tire barriers (and) the FIA fence going on", he told the local Austin American Statesman.
The report said construction is scheduled to be essentially completed two months before the November 18 race.
Failed crash tests stall 2012 HRT's Barcelona debut
HRT team members had their fingers crossed this week that the 2012 car would pass the FIA's mandatory crash tests.
Most of the Spanish team's rivals have already begun testing their new single seaters, but at Jerez Pedro de la Rosa had to be content with the outdated 2011 machine.
"If it (the new car) passes (the FIA tests), we will have the car at the next test in Barcelona," said the Spanish driver.
"It is very important that we pass the tests even though we know it's not easy given that some top teams failed at the first attempt.
"We need every mile," de la Rosa was quoted in Spanish reports.
But bad news about two of the crash tests emerged late on Thursday, meaning de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan will not get their hands on the 2012 car at the forthcoming Barcelona test.
New rules in 2012 mean teams cannot test their new cars until they are fully homologated by the FIA.
Cloud still hangs over 2012 Bahrain GP
A dark cloud continues to hang over Bahrain's scheduled return to the F1 calendar in 2012.
In the UK - where eight of the twelve F1 teams are based - the violent attack of a British man by Bahraini youths is making waves.
News that the man had his fingers severed by a sword came on the same day as a letter in the Times newspaper signed by several influential Lords called on Bernie Ecclestone and the governing FIA to cancel the race.
"Given the current dire situation, with daily street protests and the deaths of more civilians, we do not believe that the time is right for Formula One to return to Bahrain," the letter read.