- Press tips 'small advantage' for Red Bull
- Coulthard doubted Raikkonen return rumours
- Success for new teams 'impossible' says Prost
- Tost comments leave axed Buemi 'amazed'
- Mercedes triggered latest FIA clampdown - report
- Rosberg 'closer to car's limit' in qualifying - Brawn
Press tips 'small advantage' for Red Bull
Most leading specialist publications see Red Bull as the continuing pacesetter in F1.
In their recent analysis, outlets including Auto Motor und Sport (Germany), La Gazzetta dello Sport (Italy) and Autosport (Britain) believe world champion Sebastian Vettel again resides the best car ahead of the 2012 season.
"They still have an advantage, but it's smaller," agreed Jenson Button, according to Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo.
His boss Martin Whitmarsh added: "Red Bull has a solid, fast car, better than us in slow corners, but we're better in the fast ones."
Switzerland's Sonntagsblick, however, sees McLaren actually ahead of the energy drink-owned team, with Mercedes in third place and Force India a surprise fourth.
"Red Bull is faster (than Mercedes)," said the German marque's boss Ross Brawn, "and clearly a little more than we had hoped for," he told Auto Motor und Sport.
The international publications said Lotus, amid their chassis flaw problems, rank anywhere between third (Auto Motor und Sport) and eighth (Blick).
According to the same press, Ferrari is in trouble, ranking no higher than fifth in the lists of the aforementioned publications -- and the authoritative Auto Motor und Sport predicting nothing short of a disastrous season for the fabled Italian team.
Felipe Massa is quoted by Spanish reporters as saying Barcelona was "a little more positive" than the Jerez test recently, and he was asked to rank the development of the new F2012 car out of ten.
"Probably more than five. There is still much to do, but now we are closer than we were," said the Brazilian.
As for whether the car is a race winner, Massa added: "I hope so, but it's very difficult to say anything in testing," he is quoted by Finland's Turun Sanomat.
Indeed, Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi ended last week's Barcelona test with the quickest time, but Blick's veteran correspondent Roger Benoit warned against taking that too seriously.
"When with the same tyres at the same time, (Mercedes' Nico) Rosberg was a second faster per lap than Sauber's Japanese," he said.
"In testing, the truth is seldom revealed - if the teams used lie detectors, they would all be laying exploded around us."
According to Britain's Sun newspaper, Kobayashi confirmed: "I don't think McLaren and Red Bull are slow.
"We don't really wish for wins or podiums. For us this is a bit too far away."
Instead, the midfield battle looks extremely tight, with Brazilian correspondent Livio Oricchio surmising that Sauber as well as Force India, Toro Rosso and Williams are all in there.
"It will be race to race," Toro Rosso's Giorgio Ascanelli told the Italian press. "From what we've seen so far, this fight will be amazing."
And Oricchio concluded: "As for HRT and Marussia, who have not even presented their 2012 cars, they undoubtedly have capable people, but also almost as many difficulties."
Coulthard doubted Raikkonen return rumours
Kimi Raikkonen's former teammate has admitted he was surprised when the 2007 world champion decided to return this year to formula one.
Scottish veteran David Coulthard shared the McLaren garage with the now 32-year-old Finn seven years ago.
He told Russia's Championat: "When the rumours began, I thought it would never happen.
"I believed he was really enjoying competing in rallying and had decided to end his Formula One career," said Coulthard.
The former McLaren and Red Bull driver, however, clarified that he is supportive of Raikkonen's return.
"I am in favour (of it)," he said, "and the others are not going to have it easy because they are going to be proving their abilities against six world champions."
And Raikkonen, Coulthard added, is one of the best.
"Last year I was with Kimi at the Red Bull Ring with Sebastian Vettel and a few others. We competed together in a variety of cars and bikes, and Kimi was quick in all of them.
"He's a real natural talent," he said.
Success for new teams 'impossible' says Prost
Alain Prost believes it is "absolutely impossible" for F1's newest teams to ever break the dominance of the sport's top five.
He is referring to small privateers Caterham (formerly Lotus), Marussia (formerly Virgin) and HRT (formerly Hispania), who were enticed into formula one in 2010 following the departures of manufacturers Honda, BMW and Toyota.
As well as winning four championships as a driver, Frenchman Prost also ran his own team between 1997 and 2001, when it succumbed to financial problems.
The Russian website F1News asked Prost what advice he would give to F1's current tailenders.
"I will say quite frankly that they cannot become competitive in today's formula one," he answered. "It's impossible.
"They can make some progress, but - of course - you must immediately put the question 'What goals do they pursue?'
"To break into the top five with a new team like this in Formula One - it is absolutely impossible," said Prost.
Tost comments leave axed Buemi 'amazed'
Sebastien Buemi has revealed surprise and disappointment with Toro Rosso's reaction, after the Italian team performed a clean sweep of its driver line-up for 2012.
The Swiss and his teammate Jaime Alguersuari were given their marching orders just before Christmas, leaving the aforementioned Spaniard without a role this season.
Buemi has at least kept his F1 career alive with the Red Bull reserve role, but the 23-year-old has expressed disappointment with comments made recently by his former team boss Franz Tost.
"Of course I would prefer to race for myself," he told the Blick newspaper, "but maybe this new role is the opportunity of my life."
At the same time, he takes issue with Austrian Tost, who is appointed to head Red Bull's rookie team Toro Rosso.
He said recently: "We are talking about a double world championship-winning team (Red Bull), which means that drivers who get elevated there must have the ability to win races and championships.
"And it was from that perspective that second thoughts set in when it came to Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari," said Tost.
Buemi responded: "After we were put out, Alguersuari and I said not a single bad word about Toro Rosso, we were always loyal.
"So I am amazed that from the boss there comes suddenly such negative comments."
Mercedes triggered latest FIA clampdown - report
The latest twist in F1's endless 'blown diffuser' saga was reportedly triggered by Mercedes.
Amid last week's Barcelona test, it was rumoured that Mercedes and Renault-powered teams would have to make tweaks, after a loophole was discovered in the standard electronics software.
For 2012, the FIA has clamped down on engine exhaust blowing for aerodynamic purposes, but speculation continued to sweep the paddock that some teams had devised ways to minimise the impact of the ban.
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that it was Mercedes engineers who found the loophole, in terms of how to utilise the standard electronic software to maximise the off-throttle exhaust blowing effect.
"The FIA has responded by rewriting the software," read the report.
Auto Motor und Sport said Mercedes was right about the loophole, but that it could only have been exploited at the price of dramatic fuel consumption, and potential damage to the engine.
"We have erred on the safe side," an FIA source is quoted as saying.
Writing in Spain's Mundo Deportivo, Raymond Blacafort said the 2012 Red Bull's exhaust was making a strange sound in the chicane in Barcelona last week.
Rosberg 'closer to car's limit' in qualifying - Brawn
Nico Rosberg is regularly able to qualify a car beyond its abilities, according to his Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn.
While Michael Schumacher had an improved 2011 compared to the contest with his teammate Rosberg a year earlier, Brawn said a few days ago that the younger German remained clearly the better driver in the qualifying hour.
"In qualifying, he really can get the most out of the car. Nico comes closer to its limits," he is quoted by Germany's Sport Bild.
"I think we've often seen him in a better qualifying position than where I would expect the car to be.
"Nico might think this is normal, but it's not. For me, he is definitely among the best drivers in formula one."
But Brawn thinks a few cards could fall in seven-time world champion Schumacher's favour in 2012.
"It could be that the new Pirelli tyres help him because you don't have to be quite as gentle with them as you did with the 2011 generation," said the Briton.