F1: Villeneuve, Coulthard Say Vettel Good, Not Great Photo:
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TMR Team | Mar, 22 2013 | 3 Comments
  • Villeneuve, Coulthard, say Vettel not great
  • Red Bull too focused on qualifying - Marko
  • Ferrari actually fastest in Australia - Brawn
  • Massa wins record for longest Ferrari drought
  • McLaren begins task to improve flawed 2013 car
  • No regrets despite McLaren crisis - Perez

Villeneuve, Coulthard, say Vettel not great

Two former drivers have questioned whether reigning triple world champion Sebastian Vettel weighs up against his highly rated rivals.

David Coulthard, who made room for German Vettel's Red Bull debut at the end of 2008, said the jury is out as to whether the 25-year-old can be considered a 'great', despite dominating formula one at the wheel of his Adrian Newey-designed car.

"Do I think he has to move (teams) to cement his legacy? Yes, I do," he wrote in the Guardian, amid reports elsewhere that Vettel may in fact have signed a contract extension through 2016.

"Seb is a good driver, a world-class driver. But he hasn't overcome adversity yet in terms of being with another team or being up against a teammate who was already world champion.

"If it appears as a magic carpet ride, none of us like to see that. We like to see people overcome a bit of adversity," added Coulthard.

Typically much more outspoken on the matter is Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 world champion and, like Coulthard, now an expert television pundit.

He told Germany's Auto Bild that Vettel is: "Super fast but makes mistakes under pressure.

"If he's in front, all is well, but otherwise he does not control his nerves well.

"The difference with Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton is that they are always fighting, regardless of their place and whether their car is good. They always give everything.

"On this level, Vettel does not impress me."



Red Bull too focused on qualifying - Marko

Red Bull might need to tweak its focus if it wants to win in 2013.

That is the admission of the energy drink-owned squad's forthright management figure Dr Helmut Marko, on the eve of round two of the newly-commenced world championship in Malaysia.

In Melbourne last Sunday, Sebastian Vettel continued his reputation for mastering a single lap by dominating qualifying, while his teammate Mark Webber was second.

But Vettel ultimately finished just third, while Kimi Raikkonen eased to victory from seventh on the grid, in a victory credited on the Finn and his Lotus best handling Pirelli's heavily-degrading Pirelli tyres.

Marko told Austrian broadcaster Servus TV: "Kimi Raikkonen did not simply make a pitstop less than us, he was also consistently faster without suffering from the high tyre wear with which we struggled.

"We do need to master the tyres better," he admitted, saying the secret is in the setup.

"Mark Webber had slightly different settings (in Australia) and that was a little bit better," said Marko.

"What we have learned is that we should not be fixated on qualifying. There are more important things than being fast on a single lap, such as being fast over the whole race distance.

"That's what we are going to focus on more now," he added.



Ferrari actually fastest in Australia - Brawn

The headlines in Australia last weekend were that Red Bull dominated qualifying, before Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen eased to victory.

But Ross Brawn, boss of the Mercedes team, said the standout performer at Albert Park was Ferrari.

"On average, of all the lap times in Melbourne without traffic, Ferrari had the best race pace," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"If they had done a two stop race, they would have won," added Brawn, the former Ferrari technical director.

Actually, Spaniard Fernando Alonso made three stops compared to Raikkonen's two, and finished 12 seconds adrift.



Massa wins record for longest Ferrari drought

Felipe Massa is enduring the longest victory drought in the history of all Ferrari drivers, according to an analysis by Italy's Autosprint.

Dating back to his title-losing win in Brazil 2008, Melbourne last Sunday marked 68 consecutive races in which the Brazilian has entered a grand prix but failed to triumph.

Massa therefore takes the unenviable record from Jean Alesi, who failed to win a grand prix for the fabled Maranello marque between his Ferrari debut in 1991 until Montreal 1995 (67 races).

31-year-old Massa, however, is quoted by Brazil's Globo as characterising the start of his 2013 campaign as "10 times better" than last year.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo agrees: "I'm satisfied with Felipe Massa's performance (in Melbourne) -- he was very fast in qualifying and delivered a brilliant race."

Next on Autosprint's list of drought-stricken Ferrari drivers are Michele Alboreto (55 races), Eddie Irvine (49), Clay Regazzoni (34), Stefan Johansson (31), Rubens Barrichello (30), Chris Amon and Gerhard Berger (both 27).

But there were others in F1 history who waited even longer for a win and never achieved it, led by Andrea de Cesaris (208 grands prix), Nick Heidfeld (183) and Martin Brundle (158).

And Jarno Trulli holds the record for a winning driver who tried in vain the longest to try to add to his tally. After winning at Monaco in 2004, he raced another 135 times but never stood on the middle of the podium again.

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso on Wednesday began his preparations for his 200th career grand prix this weekend by road cycling around the hot Sepang circuit.



McLaren begins task to improve flawed 2013 car

McLaren is pressing ahead with plans to improve the new 2013 car, as suggestions last year's winning model could be resurrected begin to fade.

Despite struggling markedly with the radical new MP4-28 in Melbourne, the flawed silver machine is parked in the Sepang garage this weekend and will not be retired any time soon.

"It's better to stick to the plan in terms of developing what we have to improve what we have -- that's always the way forward," Jenson Button told Sky.

Indeed, the Woking based team is known as perhaps the best team in F1 at continual car development, and the need for all those skills is now greater than ever.

It has already begun.

Sporting director Sam Michael told reporters on Thursday that previously unscheduled developments for the car have arrived in Malaysia for experimental testing.

"All our energy is going into the current car and understanding it," he said.

Pulling out the winning 2012 car might seem like an easy and obvious solution, given the fact that most teams on the grid simply evolved their existing cars for the new season anyway.

But Anthony Rowlinson, editor of F1 Racing magazine, said it's not quite that simple.

"They would have to re-crash test the MP4-27, have a new front wing that's compliant with the new technical regs, have a new underfloor that's compliant with the new technical regs.

"That in itself is a big job and then they'd arrive, say in Spain for the Spanish GP, with a car they hadn't tested, they hadn't run, so they'd probably be in no better a situation than they are now," he explained.



No regrets despite McLaren crisis - Perez

Sergio Perez insists he has no regrets about joining a McLaren team in crisis.

The young Mexican admitted on Thursday that when he signed to replace Lewis Hamilton for 2013, he expected to be seated in a highly competitive silver car.

"I thought I would be fighting for the front rows but we are far from there," Perez is quoted by the AP news agency in Malaysia.

Even so, the 23-year-old said he has no regrets.

"If they would have told me before I signed I would be in this position, I would have signed (anyway)," he said.

"I prefer hundred times to be in this position with McLaren than with any other team and winning."

Perez said he has confidence McLaren can emerge from its slump, even though leading team figures Martin Whitmarsh and Jenson Button have said it could take some time.

Reviving the competitive 2012 car has been touted as one possible solution, and Perez sounded open to the idea.

"I think the (new) car has potential and we have to try to understand and take the maximum out of it," he said. "But we want to win this year and we will do anything in our hearts to go back to winning."

Sporting boss Sam Michael, however, said the focus at the moment is on the MP4-28, even though he hinted radical changes could be on the way by actually referring to the car during a media teleconference as the "28A".

"That (developing the 2013 car) is what we think will offer us the best chance over the course of the season and at this point in time that's where all our efforts are going," he added.


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