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F1: Champions Red Bull Retain Pace Lead For 2011 Photo:
 
 
Mike Stevens | Feb, 15 2011 | 0 Comments

The test timesheets have been confusing so far, but Red Bull is apparently still on top of the F1 world.

Since pre-season group testing kicked off this month in Valencia and Jerez, a plethora of other teams - notably Renault, Mercedes and even Williams - have looked up to the task of taking on Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren in 2011.

But Toro Rosso's Franz Tost told Blick newspaper: "Red Bull was clearly the best and the strongest at Jerez."

According to Estado de S.Paulo, Williams' Rubens Barrichello - fastest as the four-day test concluded on Sunday - agrees: "Red Bull are in front."

2010 runner-up Fernando Alonso said in the Spanish press: "On the basis that Red Bull had a half-second advantage at the end of last year, they remain the reference for everybody."

McLaren's pace at present is unclear, after Lewis Hamilton said the MP4-26 is a step ahead of last year's car, before Jenson Button struggled with balance and was notably slow on Sunday.

"I haven't got a clue where we are, really," Briton Button told reporters.

But Red Bull's Mark Webber is adamant: "In general, teams that were fast last year are still fast, us included."

Meanwhile, photographers captured an interesting innovation on the RB7 at Jerez; a much bigger than usual opening at the rear of the Red Bull's engine cover.

Cologne's Express newspaper said the 20-centimetre wide hole is tied up with the channelling of airflow to increase downforce.

"From what I've seen so far, I would say Red Bull remains the favourite," Nick Heidfeld is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

(GMM)

 

Renault Set To Confirm Heidfeld For Kubica Seat

Renault is expected to announce soon that Nick Heidfeld has been selected as injured Robert Kubica's replacement for the start of the 2011 season.

Injured Pole Kubica will be recovering from injuries suffered in a rally crash for months at least, and his former BMW teammate Heidfeld impressed the Lotus-sponsored team during his audition for the seat at Jerez at the weekend.

According to Auto Motor und Sport, team boss Eric Boullier will decide on Monday whether to stick with the 33-year-old or test Pedro de la Rosa or Vitantonio Liuzzi in Barcelona.

"I have the feeling I have passed this test. I could do no more than my best," said Heidfeld, though he played down the significance of topping the timesheet.

"Anyone can do that if they really want to, with little fuel and super soft tyres," he added.

He admitted that, after negotiating for the 2011 Mercedes test seat or a switch to DTM, benefitting from the ill fortune of a friend is a "funny feeling".

"You know very well that someone's bad luck might turn out well for you," said Heidfeld, "and obviously I'd like to come back in different circumstances.

"But it's a chance and you have to use it," he insisted.

"I've sent Robert a text message and I will visit him in hospital, but I am hearing that his condition is improving every day.

"You can tell he is very popular here and is the clear number one. I hope he can come back as fast as possible.

"By the way, it was Renault who called me and not the other way around," Heidfeld said.

One of his tasks for this week is to apply for the renewal of his super licence. "Before, it was not high on my agenda!"

Force India driver Adrian Sutil thinks Heidfeld is the best man for the job.

"He is experienced and in the past he drove against Kubica on the same level. Robert was the number one (at Renault) and now Renault need a new one," he told spox.com.

De la Rosa told Catalan television TV3 that Heidfeld "is in pole position" for Kubica's seat.

"I talked a little with Pedro de la Rosa," Boullier admitted, "but after the evaluation with Nick Heidfeld we'll see if we need to go further with those discussions or not."

(GMM)

 

Schumacher Fast Lap Was 'A Show For Germany': Webber

Mark Webber cynically raised his eyebrows after Michael Schumacher set the fastest test time at Jerez last Friday.

It had only been one day after Nico Rosberg sounded pessimistic following his stint in the new Mercedes, triggering a wave of negative reports in Germany.

Australian Webber, who drives for the reigning champion Red Bull team, noted that after Schumacher's chart-topping lap, "he was immediately two seconds off the pace once again".

"It was probably just a little show for Germany," said Webber.

"The super soft tyre is much faster but they only last for one lap," he explained.

Schumacher denied that his laptime was a ploy to ease the pressure off Mercedes, amid rumours he might also have pressed the button for his adjustable rear wing at every opportunity.

"I was on a ten-lap run, so I don't know if you can call that very short (on fuel). It is also true that we are not the only team to have tried these tyres," said the German.

But McLaren's Jenson Button, who insists his new MP4-26 is "not weak" despite it not yet setting a headline time, said the new Pirelli compounds have made it harder than ever to read into test pace.

It has also been suggested that Nick Heidfeld's quick time at Jerez was to appease worried Renault sponsors in the wake of Robert Kubica's crash, while Rubens Barrichello topped the order just two weeks before Williams floats on the stock market.

"There are big differences between the different tyres of tyres," Button said.

To Auto Motor und Sport, Bruno Senna explained: "The difference between the hard and the super-soft, I would say is 1.5 to 1.7 seconds."

Finally, Felipe Massa smiled as he said no-one in F1 should be surprised to see Schumacher topping a timesheet.

"Schumi in front? This is not news, he's won more than any of us," he is quoted by Autosprint.

(GMM)

 

Vettel Concerned About F1's Focus On 'The Show'

Sebastian Vettel has expressed concern about the increasing focus on F1's "show" factor.

The reigning World Champion was referring to the adjustable rear wing innovation for 2011, as well as new supplier Pirelli's intention to increase the need for pitstops by supplying less durable tyres.

"F1 is becoming more radical, with more and more attention being put into the show. I wonder if this is necessary," he told the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Fernando Alonso infamously declared a few years ago that F1 is "not a sport".

"It is too much a business to be a sport, and too much a sport to be a business," he has now told AS newspaper.

"But it is not just a sport purely and simply, because there are too many interests and too much at stake," added the Spaniard.

There have been rumblings within the paddock that, with KERS also returning in 2011, the demands on the drivers are becoming unreasonable.

"If a critical point is reached," German Vettel said, "we would sit down together and discuss it. It's about our safety."

One of the safety concerns is an apparent delay between the pressing of the button and the time it takes for the adjustable rear wing to click back into place before braking.

At Jerez last week, observers said there were several drivers having problems under heavy braking after the long straight.

"There is a sort of 'no man's land' of at least 5 metres when the load on the wing is not felt yet," Jarno Trulli confirmed, according to Autosprint.

But McLaren's Jenson Button countered: "Actually I was quite surprised how quickly it (the wing) reacts to the pressing of a button."

(GMM)

(Red Bull photo: Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

 
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