- ?'Only certainty is uncertainty' in F1 2012
- F1 assesses fallout after damaging Bahrain saga
- Raikkonen can win second title in 2012 - Salo
- Massa 'good' driver in 'very bad' Ferrari - Leme
- 'Super' Massa has nothing to prove - Alonso
- Hamilton to muscle in on McLaren's Mugello test schedule
- Force India sat out practice to save money - rumour
- HRT only team to miss Mugello test
'Only certainty is uncertainty' in F1 2012
All this year's title contenders know after four 'flyaway' races in 2012 is that they do not know what will happen in Spain next month.
"The only certainty is uncertainty," read the German headline at Netzeitung.
With F1 generally regarded in the wider world as a sport with predictable results, this is an entirely new situation.
"The statistics show that it's been nine years since there have been four different winners in the first four races," said Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali.
Indeed, the famous Italian team as well as McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull have won the opening races of 2012, and also with potentially winning pace have been Lotus and Sauber.
"More than that," continued Domenicali, "you have to go back 29 years to find the last time four different cars won."
One explanation is that F1 has never been more competitive, with plenty of well-oiled teams and no fewer than six world champion drivers on the grid.
But Domenicali thinks Pirelli is the dominant factor.
And not everybody is happy about that. Michael Schumacher told Bild newspaper that this year's tyres degrade so fast that rubber "flies from the rim" if he pushes too hard in a corner.
"We drive around like the safety car. It is not a satisfying situation," the seven time world champion said.
Pirelli's motor sport director Paul Hembery is unimpressed with the rebuke, insisting that the Italian marque is only trying to "make tyres that make the races exciting".
"We cannot take individual drivers into consideration," the Briton insisted.
"It would be dead easy for us to make tyres that don't break down. Then the top ten would also be the top ten in the race.
"But no one wants to see boring processions," Hembery claimed.
Agreed the Swiss headline at Blick: "Pirelli is sweeping away the boredom".
Indeed, not even the other Mercedes driver, Shanghai winner Nico Rosberg, agrees with Schumacher.
"It's total chaos. You don't know who is going to be fast at the next track," he is quoted by DPA agency. "Formula One has become almost unlike any other sport.
"Yes, you cannot drive any laps any more at full throttle. Often, it's like driving on ice, but that's a big and an interesting challenge," said the German.
Undoubtedly exciting for the fans, but the teams are having to adapt quickly. Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport said on Sunday that Vettel's victory could mean Red Bull resumes its dominant grip on F1.
Dr Helmut Marko doesn't think so. "We don't even know who our opponents are!" he said.
F1 assesses fallout after damaging Bahrain saga
With the F1 world now returned from Bahrain, the sport is assessing the fallout of one of the most controversial Grands Prix in history.
The drivers were conspicuously quiet over the saga in the island Kingdom, but - with no contract tying him down - former Force India driver Adrian Sutil admitted he was glad he was not there.
"In a situation like that, it is probably better not to go," the German said on Sky Deutschland.
"On the one hand, the decision was made (to go to Bahrain), on the other hand, it's very difficult when there are so many problems in a country."
Red Bull reserve driver Sebastien Buemi, who has family living in Bahrain, does not agree at all.
"I arrived on Monday and I had no problem - maybe there were a few more police than two years ago, but nothing happened to me," the Swiss insisted on Austrian Servus TV.
Force India and Sauber, however, witnessed Molotov cocktail attacks on their treks to and from the circuit.
And Caterham team spokesman Tom Webb told the Sun that there was "one minor incident when one of our (hire) vans slowed down in traffic and its occupants saw a local youth on the side of the main road brandishing a bottle with a rag stuffed in its neck".
World champion and race winner Sebastian Vettel also admitted the feeling was tense in the paddock throughout the weekend.
"It was not easy for anyone," the Red Bull driver admitted, according to SID news agency, "but I'm glad that nothing happened to any of us (in F1)."
And the Telegraph quotes Vettel adding: "Hopefully, we come back in the future when everything's a little bit safer."
Reuters reports that Vodafone, the main sponsor of the half Bahrain-owned McLaren team, sent no staff to the country and expressed concerns to the British outfit.
But Jim Wright, an F1 sponsorship expert, told the Guardian that he thinks while the sport's image took a beating last weekend, sponsors will be happy.
"Most teams handled a difficult decision very well," he said. "On that basis I think a lot of people would be pleased with that and happy to get involved with them."
The television audience was also unaffected - even boosted - with the BBC reporting more viewers for Bahrain than Australia and Malaysia, and Germany revealing similarly strong figures.
Still, there remains criticism.
"Now is an opportunity to reflect," former F1 driver Alex Zanardi told Tuttosport, "and make sure that major sporting events are assigned only to governments that deserve the honour of hosting them.
"Ecclestone is brilliant and has made formula one what it is, but he can't administer races at any cost and above all else," insisted the Italian.
Due to security fears, Force India sat out a practice session on Friday so that staff could return to their hotels in daylight.
F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone was reportedly enraged, and according to rumours got his revenge by instructing Formula One Management's television cameras to ignore the Silverstone based team's cars in qualifying.
"There was a bit of fuss about what we did," deputy team principal Bob Fernley is quoted by Spain's AS newspaper, "and it was not easy, but I think it turned out to be the right response.
"We had a lot of pressure, our attitude was not well received," he confirmed, "but I think that we had a duty of care to our employees, and to do the right thing by the team."
Raikkonen can win second title in 2012 - Salo
Kimi Raikkonen can add a second title to his tally in 2012.
That is the claim of the 2007 world champion's countryman Mika Salo, who now commentates on Finnish television MTV3.
In the fourth race of Raikkonen's return to F1 from rallying, the 32-year-old last weekend challenged Sebastian Vettel for victory in Bahrain, finishing second for Lotus.
Five years after his title with Ferrari, he is 19 points from the head of the 2012 drivers' championship.
"The most consistent team has been Lotus," former GP driver Salo said. "They've been fast at every circuit so far.
"In that sense, Kimi's situation looks very good. I would not exclude it at all that he will be fighting at the very end of the championship, if Lotus is able to maintain the pace of development."
It is on Salo's final point that Lotus' 2012 season will really be made.
"They (as Renault) also began the previous season just as well, but soon after they were nowhere," observed the Swiss commentator Marc Surer, speaking on Servus TV.
"So the real question is 'Do they have the resources to develop the car and stay where they are now?'"
Even if Lotus' challenge fades, the future for Raikkonen - who has surprised some experts with his re-adaptation to F1 after two years of rallying - is bright, Surer said.
"I think he has shown everyone that he is still able to do just what he was doing before (leaving F1)," he said.
"He is a lot younger than Schumacher, and if you look at the past ten years, he is probably one of the best talents that we have seen in F1."
Surer said he could therefore imagine Raikkonen leaving Lotus and returning to a 'top' team, but he wouldn't know which one to recommend.
"Everything is so balanced this year that it's impossible to pick a car that he could win the championship in."
Massa 'good' driver in 'very bad' Ferrari - Leme
Well-known Brazilian commentator Reginaldo Leme has defended Felipe Massa, amid the Ferrari driver's career crisis.
Massa's Ferrari seat hangs in the balance, and according to his boss Stefano Domenicali, he will have to improve in order to simply stay on the F1 grid with any team next year.
But Leme has pointed the finger of blame at Ferrari's struggling F2012 car.
"It is very difficult to give an explanation for any driver's bad phase," Leme acknowledged on the Redacao Sportv programme.
"The car is very bad. The fact that Alonso is always scoring (points) just shows that the Spaniard is the best driver of this generation.
"No other driver, however good, could get anything out of that car.
"I think that's what's happening with Massa," said Leme.
Massa will drive Ferrari's heavily updated Barcelona-spec car at the Mugello test next Wednesday, while Alonso will drive on Tuesday and Thursday.
Turning his attention to the 2012 championship, meanwhile, Reginaldo Leme said consistency is more important than ever before, with four separate teams having won races so far.
"Look at Webber - he has been fourth four times and is third in the championship. Hamilton has been third three times and is right in contention."
'Super' Massa has nothing to prove - Alonso
Fernando Alonso has backed his beleaguered teammate Felipe Massa.
Massa is fighting to save his Ferrari seat, but his team boss Stefano Domenicali insists the Brazilian also "needs to improve" for the sake of his very "future in Formula One".
On the other hand, the Maranello based team is more than enthralled with the occupant of the sister F2012, Fernando Alonso.
In fact, Domenicali told El Mundo newspaper last weekend that Ferrari has a "moral obligation" to the Spaniard, that might also extend to his involvement "in the important issues".
One important issue is the identity of his 2013 teammate.
On Massa, Alonso is quoted by El Pais newspaper after Massa finished ninth in Bahrain: "He had a great start, pulled away from the traffic and ran a super race.
"But we didn't discover this just now: Felipe has won in Bahrain twice. He doesn't need to prove anything," said Alonso.
Hamilton to muscle in on McLaren's Mugello test schedule
Lewis Hamilton is rethinking McLaren's scheduled approach to the rare and crucial in-season test at Mugello next week.
The British team announced last week that both Hamilton and his teammate Jenson Button would sit out Mugello, so that testers Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey can run over the three-day session instead.
But that was before Bahrain, where McLaren's early-season upper hand vanished, leaving the drivers and team members scratching their heads over the way the MP4-27 ate rapidly through the Pirelli tyres.
"It (the Mugello schedule) might change," British newspapers report Hamilton as saying.
"I need to get back in the car. We need to figure out why the tyres are going off.
"If there are other things to test or ways to figure it out, I will be the one to do it, not let someone else do it," said the 2008 world champion.
A McLaren source indicated that if Hamilton wants to test in Italy, the programme will be altered to accommodate him.
Button, however, appears unavailable to test, as he is scheduled to attend a promotional team event in Budapest early next week.
Force India sat out practice to save money - rumour
Another theory about Force India's absence from a practice session in Bahrain last weekend has emerged.
Word has it the Silverstone based team sat out the second session on Friday because staff were spooked by a Molotov cocktail incident and didn't want to be returning to their hotels in darkness.
Officially, Force India said the decision to skip a practice session was for "logistical reasons".
"None of the other teams seem to have a problem," said Bernie Ecclestone last weekend. "Maybe (it's) nothing to do with being in this country, maybe it's something else."
An event summary by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said: "There are rumours that Force India wanted to save its engines because they are short on cash."
The team's Bahrain crisis was handled by deputy chief Bob Fernley, in the absence of owner and principal Vijay Mallya.
Indeed, Indian Mallya does seem to have bigger problems, with the latest reports indicating he is considering selling 26 per cent of his flagship spirits company in order to rescue his dying airline Kingfisher.
A spokesman for JM Financial, representing Mallya, dismissed the suggestion as "factually incorrect and speculative".
HRT only team to miss Mugello test
HRT has announced it will sit out next week's rare in-season Formula One test at Mugello.
For the first time in years, the sport has relaxed slightly its strict testing ban in order to give teams the chance to run between grands prix.
The three-day session at Ferrari's Italian circuit will begin next Tuesday, during the three-week gap between Bahrain and Spain.
Struggling backmarkers HRT, however, will not be there, opting instead to be "completely focused" on relocating to its new Caja Magica headquarters in Madrid.
Every other team will be at Mugello, 30 kilometres from Florence - the first in-season test for four years.
26 drivers will be in action, as will a lot of update packages following F1's return from the hectic 'flyaway' season.
Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, Sauber, Marussia and Toro Rosso will use their regular race drivers.
Running regular racers and a tester will be Lotus (Jerome d'Ambrosio), Williams (Valtteri Bottas) and Force India (Jules Bianchi).
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said Caterham is "using the opportunity to earn some money" by accepting the sponsorship of the Venezuelan Rodolfo Gonzalez.
McLaren has scheduled to run its testers Oliver Turvey and Gary Paffett, although Lewis Hamilton has indicated he might gatecrash the programme in order to help solve the MP4-27's newfound tyre problems.