- Lotus to fight Red Bull for title - Gutierrez
- Mercedes 'in group of teams' behind Red Bull - Lauda
- 'Engine maps' trouble for Red Bull, Lotus - report
- Williams removes controversial exhaust trick
- New Ferrari 'much better' than 2012 - Massa
- Tight rules make today's F1 cars 'the same' - Forghieri
- Teams 'will adapt' to new tyre situation - Gutierrez
- Gutierrez expects Hulkenberg to beat him early in 2013
Lotus to fight Red Bull for title - Gutierrez
After spending some time from an elevated trackside vantage point in Barcelona last week, Esteban Gutierrez has tipped Red Bull and Lotus to fight for the 2013 title.
"I was out on track and had a look at a couple of the corners," the rookie Sauber racer is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport. "I was surprised by how different the cars are. I think Red Bull is in a very good position, which can be seen easily from the outside.
"The Red Bull and the Lotus are the most stable," he continued, according to Italy's Tuttosport. "They will fight for the title this season."
"I was very impressed with the Lotus in the cornering," the 21-year-old continued. It has incredible grip, far more than the others, not moving around at all."
"The Red Bull is also very smooth, with no uncertainty in the trajectory, very well balanced and very good at the front end."
In Switzerland's Blick, veteran correspondent Roger Benoit compiled the first tentative pecking-order list for 2013, with Red Bull and Lotus in first and second places.
Third is McLaren, ahead of Ferrari, Mercedes and Sauber.
Mark Webber told reporters on Friday: "We are in a good position to be strong in Melbourne, as you would expect from a team that has had our results in the past few years."
World champion Sebastian Vettel is also happy.
"It's true that I only felt comfortable in the car in the second half of last season," he is quoted by Sport Bild.
"It's also true that the handling of the new car is very similar."
After testing the impressive black and red E21 in Spain, Raikkonen headed to Moscow for a demonstration ice race.
"I can't promise that we are going to be able to fight for wins," the Finn told R-Sport, "but I think we will be up there and we will have ourselves a chance at least."
Mercedes 'in group of teams' behind Red Bull - Lauda
Mercedes has taken "an important step forwards" since the end of the 2012 season.
That is the claim of new team shareholder and chairman Niki Lauda, as Nico Rosberg expects race wins later this year and Lewis Hamilton plays down expectations.
"We're not looking at wins at the moment," Briton Hamilton, who has moved from McLaren over the winter, said after testing the new W04 late last week in Barcelona.
"As I've said, we're hoping to be fighting in the top ten."
Most insiders believe Hamilton's caution lies somewhere between pessimism and reality.
Triple world champion Lauda, at least, sounds more confident.
"I don't mean that we are better than Red Bull," he told Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo. "It seems they again have the fastest car.
"But we have taken an important step forwards compared to last year," added Lauda.
"Our car was born well, with no chronic problems, and with great potential to develop it, which is what we're doing.
"I think we have put ourselves in the group with McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus," he said.
"The differences between us are very small, as is the difference between the group (of chasing teams) and Red Bull."
Lauda thinks Hamilton is preparing to over-deliver on his expectations for his first season with Mercedes.
"I believe Lewis saw the challenge to win with Mercedes as great, but probably less now than what he (first) imagined," said the famous red cap-wearing Austrian.
'Engine maps' trouble for Red Bull, Lotus - report
Hot on the heels of Williams and Caterham's dubious exhaust exit solutions for 2013, trouble could also be brewing for F1's two other Renault-powered teams.
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that, after Renault and 'works' partner Red Bull were told to cease using certain 'engine maps' last year, the same issue is now back on the table.
Correspondent Michael Schmidt also said the similarly Renault-powered Lotus, who according to most pundits has been the second most impressive team of the 2013 pre-season, is also in the spotlight as the latest controversy brews.
The report said that despite the FIA issuing a technical directive about engine maps last August, "it was not clear what should apply for 2013".
Ferrari's engine boss Luca Marmorini was quoted as insisting "Everything remains the same".
His Renault counterpart Remi Taffin does not agree, claiming "a new benchmark" for engine mapping in 2013 will be set down by teams in Australia next month.
"The (August 2012) directive referred exclusively to last year," said the Frenchman.
According to journalist Schmidt, however, the FIA has confirmed that the August 2012 directive still stands.
Renault was reportedly unaware of the federation's stance until as recently as Thursday of last week, having developed new maps to optimise the exhaust-blowing effect for 2013.
Ross Brawn, Mercedes' team boss, thinks the situation could now harm Red Bull and Lotus, as their similar exhaust solutions for 2013 were probably designed to work in conjunction with "a clever engine management system".
Williams removes controversial exhaust trick
Williams has removed the controversial layout of its 'Coanda'-effect exhaust from its newly-launched 2013 car.
Despite designer Mike Coughlan believing his layout cleverly exploited a loophole in the rules, the FIA reportedly told the British team its solution was not legal.
"Charlie Whiting was here yesterday," British broadcaster Sky's pit reporter Ted Kravitz said on Friday as the Barcelona test concluded.
"(I think) he went to Williams and had a quiet word in their ear that they might want to take that (exhaust solution) off.
"We don't expect to see it reappear given the FIA's stance on that," he added.
New Ferrari 'much better' than 2012 - Massa
Felipe Massa has clarified his recent assessment that the 2013 Ferrari is "on a different planet" compared to last year's red car.
Although the Brazilian struggled for much of last season, the Maranello team and Fernando Alonso recovered sufficiently so that the Spaniard was a title challenger right until the last lap.
So if the F138 is "on a different planet", why then are commentators saying Red Bull, Lotus and possibly McLaren are currently looking better in pre-season testing?
Asked about the 'planet' comment, Massa told O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper: "Yes, I said it, but I was comparing it (the F138) with what we had at the beginning of last year's testing.
"This (2013) car is good," he added, "but still 'green'. When we develop it, we will see.
"I have seen people doing good times, like Red Bull, Lotus McLaren. As far as we can talk, we will have a package of new components here (in Barcelona) next week and then in Melbourne.
"But we are in a much better condition than in 2012," said Massa.
Tight rules make today's F1 cars 'the same' - Forghieri
Legendary former Ferrari designer Mauro Forghieri has lamented today's F1 rules that make all the cars "look the same".
Now 78, Italian Forghieri was a leading figure at the fabled Maranello team from the 60s to the 80s.
"Now, I see them all as though they are karts," Speed Week quotes him as saying.
"I bet if they were all painted white, you could not distinguish them. There are no freedoms; everything is overly regulated."
Forghieri said the result of the tight technical rules is that teams are forced to look more at one another's cars than delve deeply into the designers' creativity.
"It's really absurd," he said.
"When you see a new part, then the following week you see it on a lot of other cars."
Teams 'will adapt' to new tyre situation - Gutierrez
Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber's new race driver, has given a less dramatic assessment of the tyre situation heading into the 2013 season.
Last season dubbed 'the tyre whisperer', Mexican Perez has subsequently switched to McLaren, where last week at Barcelona he said the degradation of Pirelli's new compounds is "extreme".
Back at Sauber, however, fellow Mexican Gutierrez is less panicked.
"The tyre (situation) is obviously more dramatic than last year," he is quoted by Spain's Marca newspaper, "but gradually the teams will adapt. It's a matter of finding the right fit.
"In testing we have already seen progress," the 21-year-old added.
Even Perez's teammate Jenson Button is not overly worried.
"This year is more difficult in terms of graining," he is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace, "but it's much easier now to understand the tyre.
"You put it in your window of operation and know that it will begin to grain from the third or fourth lap.
"Last year," Button continued, "there were teams who could make the tyre work, but they didn't know why. For the others it was a knife edge."
Pirelli's Paul Hembery, meanwhile, is adamant the cool weather in Barcelona - "freezing" last Friday according to Mark Webber - made the degradation of the 2013 tyres look much worse.
"We shouldn't see anything like it (the Barcelona weather) in the whole season," he is quoted by Spain's El Mundo Deportivo.
And some, like the famously phlegmatic Kimi Raikkonen, are not worried at all.
Asked to compare the 2012 Pirellis with this year's compounds, the Finn told Turun Sanomat newspaper in Russia on Saturday: "I don't see much difference."
Gutierrez expects Hulkenberg to beat him early in 2013
Esteban Gutierrez is expecting his Sauber teammate to outpace him early in 2013.
A test driver for the Swiss team since 2010, the 21-year-old Mexican has finally moved into the race cockpit this year, as his Telmex-backed countryman Sergio Perez moves to McLaren.
Team founder Peter Sauber admitted earlier this month that he would like Gutierrez to match the more experienced Nico Hulkenberg "right from the beginning" in 2013.
Gutierrez said: "He has three years of experience, and I cannot compare with that, but for me he is definitely a great reference.
"I will use the opportunity to adapt quickly and be at his level this season, but just not right at the beginning," he told the Spanish newspaper Marca in an interview.