- Lotus 'most consistent' team in 2012 - Webber
- Mugello eyes place on F1 race calendar
- Only Alonso to try Ferrari upgrade at Mugello
- Mugello 'not right' for F1 cars - Petrov
- Experienced teammate would be better - Vergne
- Billionaires line up to push Sauber on
- Barcelona determined to host GP in 2013
Lotus 'most consistent' team in 2012 - Webber
F1 is slowly adjusting to the sport's new reality.
Although still with a winning car, Red Bull's utter dominance is undoubtedly over.
Not just that, the Pirelli tyre situation, and the equality of performance amongst teams, have thrown up as many as four or five teams that might realistically be in with a shout of the 2012 title.
"We have a very good car," Mark Webber said at the Mugello test this week, "but we have company, that's clear.
"We've got some teams that are performing pretty well and if we're not totally on our game we will be punished," he is quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald.
Early on, McLaren seemed to have the best overall package.
"I see no reason why he (Jenson Button) shouldn't be champion again," legendary British commentator Murray Walker told the Sun newspaper.
"Mind you, I don't see any reason why four or five others shouldn't be either!"
Webber has a different idea about the 2012 favourite, after Romain Grosjean was right at the top of the Mugello timesheet on dry Wednesday.
"If you look at all the races and the tests," the Red Bull driver is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, "then the Lotus is the most consistent car in the field."
Grosjean and Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi posted identical fastest times on Wednesday, but the Japanese did his 1.21.603 with softer tyres.
Mercedes' Ross Brawn, however, quantified Webber's use of the word 'consistent' to describe this year's pecking order.
"It has been an inconsistent first four races for every team," he insisted, according to DPA news agency.
He said the crucial challenge has been understanding the Pirelli tyre.
"It's an exciting challenge because when you get it right as we did in China then obviously you can get some great results," said Brawn, "but it's adding another layer of challenge to the normal challenge we face.
"That will tend to even out after a period and the best cars or the best teams will show through because you will get it right more frequently."
Mugello eyes place on F1 race calendar
Mugello, the Ferrari owned circuit near Florence, has set its sights on hosting a Grand Prix.
As the high speed circuit hosts this week's rare in-season formula one test, circuit director Paolo Poli was asked about speculation Mugello might soon bid for a spot on the race calendar.
"We are working to improve the track, to test the ability of the infrastructure and our potential to be able to think about something more," he said on the Raisport 1 programme Mattina Sport.
"The path is long, but we do not want to miss the opportunity," added Poli.
Reports suggest Ferrari pushed hard for Mugello to be selected for this week's test, calling in old favours and tempting teams by waiving the circuit rental fee.
Crowds have been high, with 15,000 spectators on Wednesday.
"1 to 10, I'd give it 8.5," said Nico Rosberg after his first taste of the high speed layout.
Agreed Mark Webber: "Ten laps around Mugello is the same as doing 1000 laps around Abu Dhabi in terms of satisfaction."
However, not everyone is happy about Mugello's apparent ambitions.
"We have a contract with FOM until 2016," insisted Enrico Ferrari, the director of the fabled Italian GP venue Monza.
"We respect certain initiatives, but we should remember that Monza is part of automotive history and I think there is a desire for this tradition to be respected."
Only Alonso to try Ferrari upgrade at Mugello
As ever in the world of Ferrari, every move is analysed, re-analysed, and decoded.
It has not been lost on the Italian specialist media, therefore, that Felipe Massa only got to play with the essentially Bahrain-spec F2012 on his single day of Mugello testing this week.
On Thursday, for the Spaniard's second day of running, Fernando Alonso will have much of the significant Barcelona upgrade to sample.
"It's no tactic," Massa is quoted by Autosprint late on Wednesday, "the new pieces are just not ready. They arrive tonight.
"That's the programme we have."
Struggling Brazilian Massa, therefore, had little to tell reporters about his experiences on Wednesday.
"I know the car well, the defects are the same," he said.
"We need a huge improvement, bearing in mind that in these tests the others will have found two or three tenths."
Massa said it is not realistic that Ferrari will have recovered the full gap when the new F2012 is rolled out in Barcelona next week.
"That would be too optimistic," he is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.
Massa is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport: "Fernando will try some new things tomorrow (Thursday) but the bulk will arrive in Barcelona."
Alonso added: "All that matters is that we improve the package."
Mugello 'not right' for F1 cars - Petrov
Vitaly Petrov on Thursday dealt a blow to Mugello's ambitions to join the F1 calendar.
The Russian, who drives for Caterham, said the Ferrari owned circuit in beautiful Tuscany is too dangerous for modern GP cars.
On Thursday, F1 teams are concluding their third consecutive day of rare in-season testing at the high speed circuit near Florence.
"I'm not sure the track is right for today's F1 cars," Petrov is quoted by the Ria Novosti news agency.
"You get very close to the walls and it's maybe a bit small for the cars now."
There have also been grumbles heard in the paddock all week about the wisdom of the test.
"I wonder about the sense of having just one test session during the season," a Mercedes engineer told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Either we do more tests or we forget it."
Also on Thursday, Fernando Alonso delayed Ferrari's test programme when he ran off track with the newly upgraded F2012.
He finished the morning session third fastest, behind Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) and Romain Grosjean (Lotus).
Experienced teammate would be better - Vergne
Jean-Eric Vergne has admitted his F1 debut would be easier if he was sharing the Toro Rosso garage with an experienced driver.
Instead, the French rookie made his GP debut in Australia alongside Daniel Ricciardo, the young Australian with only a handful of races for struggling HRT under his belt.
The Toro Rosso duel this year is one of F1's most interesting, given owner Red Bull's clean sweep of its 2011 lineup, and the expectation that either Vergne, 22, or Ricciardo could succeed Mark Webber at the senior team.
"Of course it would have been easier to come in with a teammate who has more experience, because you always learn from your teammate," Vergne is quoted by Le Presse Canadienne.
"But we (Vergne and Ricciardo) have a very good relationship," he insisted.
"We've known each other for a long time, we came through together in the development programme, we drove together in Formula Renault for a year.
"So we've had good laughs, a great time and have even taken vacations together.
"He's a good guy and a great driver," said Vergne. "I think we're both progressing well."
Vergne said he is settling into the F1 rhythm, but still has to check himself when he is out on track.
"I tell myself that all the other drivers are just drivers as I am. I try to forget that these are guys that I have watched since I was 10.
"But there's no aliens. I tell myself that I have a steering wheel now just as they do, and I just need to go as fast as I possibly can," he said.
Billionaires line up to push Sauber on
Sauber has the swagger of a team of the future.
The Hinwil based team struggled for survival in the wake of owner BMW's shock withdrawal in late 2009.
"We've been through a quite awkward time," admitted Monisha Kaltenborn, the chief executive.
But with the Ferrari-powered C31, the Hinwil based team is back with a bang, pushing for victory in Malaysia and now counting on the billionaire backing of Sergio Perez's powerful Mexican sponsor Carlos Slim.
And yet another billionaire is in tow, following the tie-up with Roman Abramovich's English premier league club Chelsea FC.
Blick newspaper acknowledged, however, that it is unclear just how many millions the deal entails.
Nonetheless, Russian billionaire Abramovich appears interested, amid suggestions he will visit the Sauber garage in Monaco later this month.
At Mugello this week, the C31 is again performing well, Kamui Kobayashi sharing top honours on Wednesday with an identical time to that set by Lotus' Romain Grosjean.
Of all the upgrades seen so far this week, Sauber's are the most comprehensive, and even more will be trackside in Barcelona next weekend.
"We have ambitious dreams and goals," Kaltenborn is quoted as saying. "In this sport, if you don't have that, you don't have much."
Barcelona determined to host GP in 2013
Barcelona has opened the door to alternating its Grand Prix with F1's other Spanish host Valencia.
But the Circuit de Catalunya organisers, set to run the Spanish GP next weekend, are determined to appear on the 2013 calendar, vowing to put tickets on sale the day after Sunday's race.
"We will put the tickets (for 2013) on sale on 14 May," Vincenc Aguilera, the new circuit president, is quoted by El Mundo Deportivo.
According to EFE news agency, however, Aguilera said alternating every year with Valencia is a "reasonable" proposition, given the current economic situation.
"In a crisis, during a storm, decisions should be conservative," he said in Barcelona.
"We are getting all sides to reach an agreement," he revealed. "It will take two, four, six weeks."
Barcelona's existing contract, for a GP every year, runs through 2016.