- F1's Bahrain crisis deepens
- Caterham has 'blown away' F1 rivals - boss
- Red Bull 'has a plan' to bounce back in China
- More passing in 2012 than early last year - report
- McLaren not yet ready with own F-duct
- Shareholder calls on Mercedes to quit F1
F1's Bahrain crisis deepens
With F1 currently scheduled to arrive en masse in Bahrain next week, a crisis surrounding the possible cancellation of the island Kingdom's race is continuing to deepen.
The teams have now denied Bernie Ecclestone's claim that they can simply choose to skip the event.
"That would not be possible," said a statement issued by the teams association FOTA. "Teams are unable to cancel (a) Grand Prix."
Bahrain, meanwhile, stepped up its campaign, accusing some of deploying "scare-mongering tactics" designed to force the race's cancellation.
The race organisers released a report conducted by Lotus, following the Enstone based team's recent reconnaissance mission to Bahrain.
"We came away from Bahrain feeling a lot more confident that everything is in hand," Lotus is quoted as saying.
The team, however, reacted angrily, accusing the organisers of having released a "confidential" document.
"Lotus F1 Team is one of 12 contestants of the ... world championship and we would never try to substitute ourselves for the FIA", said the Enstone based team.
Surmised Times correspondent Kevin Eason on Twitter: "(It's) getting messy..."
At the same time, F1 chief executive Ecclestone became fully immersed in the political situation on Tuesday, reporteding personally phoning Bahrain's crown prince to express concern about the jailed hunger striker.
An Amnesty International report published this week had called for Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja's release, amid claims he is now close to death and being force-fed.
But the Bahrain government, through its information affairs authority, insisted that only police and rioters are being injured in "infrequent and remote clashes".
Also weighing into the argument was Sir Jackie Stewart, the eloquent triple world champion, who said: "I would go.
"The commercial rights holder has sold a package, at a price, and it is part of the constructors' agreement that they attend the races that have been published," he told the Guardian.
"As a team owner I would have to honour my agreement both orally and legally."
Whatever happens, the Bahrain saga - stretching back now over a year - is not good news for the future of the island Kingdom's calendar spot.
"Maybe we wouldn't renew it (the contract)," Ecclestone admitted to the BBC. "We'll have to look and see."
Caterham has 'blown away' F1 rivals - boss
Tony Fernandes has given a strident defence of his F1 team, Caterham.
The former Team Lotus outfit, headed by the cheery Malaysian entrepreneur Fernandes, entered its third season with high hopes it was set to join the midfield mix.
Instead, the green cars are bettering only fellow stragglers Marussia and HRT.
The Finnish broadcaster MTV3's well-known analyst Mika Salo has advised lead driver Heikki Kovalainen to therefore quit Caterham at the end of 2012.
"Something has been wrong with the car," Kovalainen is quoted as saying by Turun Sanomat newspaper this week. "We need to see what is not right."
Fernandes, meanwhile, is looking fervently on the bright side, insisting Caterham has done markedly better than F1's other 2010 start-ups.
"We are competitive," he told the Sun, reminding that Caterham was the last 2010 team given its official entry by the FIA a few years ago.
"We've blown away Marussia and HRT when in actual fact they have been there six months longer," insisted Fernandes.
"We are half a second away from the established midfield ... you must remember that this team is only two years old.
"When I started, we were nine seconds away from the front. Last year we were about four seconds away from Red Bull.
"This year, on certain laps, we lapped at the same pace as them. So I am very happy and I am strengthening the team all the time," he added.
But one of Caterham's direct rivals, HRT, is looking to make a major step forwards this weekend in China, having struggled recently in the wake of team supremo Colin Kolles' departure.
"We come into this grand prix having had much more time to prepare the cars," Pedro de la Rosa is quoted by the Spanish news agency EFE.
"We will bring small improvements to China but what we really need is the cars back in Europe and then the team can concentrate at the (new headquarters) Caja Magica.
"Step by step we will improve," said the Spanish driver.
Red Bull 'has a plan' to bounce back in China
Red Bull is ready to start bouncing back from a difficult start to 2012.
That is the claim of the energy drink owned team's racing consultant Dr Helmut Marko, who acknowledged that Australia and Malaysia was not a good start to the campaign for a third-consecutive championship-winning season.
Comparing the reigning world champions with McLaren, Ferrari's technical director Pat Fry agreed on Tuesday: "I've been slightly surprised by Red Bull's lack of pace."
Marko acknowledged: "Over the race distance (in Malaysia) we saw that (Sauber's Sergio) Perez was the fastest," the Austrian said on Servus TV.
"In wet but also in dry conditions, the Sauber was absolutely the fastest one.
"On the other hand, the whole package did not come together for us," Marko insisted, referring specifically to bad pitstops, and broken radios.
"There are so many things that have to come together. But we have a plan for how to deal with it for China, to solve our problems.
"I'm confident that we will get it back together sooner or later.
"It makes things of course more exciting, although not quite as easy for us," he said.
More passing in 2012 than early last year - report
The 2012 season has kicked off promisingly, with more overtaking moves recorded in the first two races than in the same exciting period last year.
The finding is significant, given the highly lauded contribution early in 2011 made by the new passing aid 'DRS', and new official supplier Pirelli's heavily-degrading tyres.
Finland's Turun Sanomat newspaper said 2012 has so far broken even the all-time records of early last season, when there were 63 overtaking moves - excluding the first laps - in Australia and Malaysia 2011.
This year, there were 70 passes in Australia-Malaysia combined.
It bodes well for this weekend's Chinese GP, after last year's Shanghai race saw no fewer than 63 separate in-race overtakes, including Lewis Hamilton's winning move on leader Sebastian Vettel.
"China proved to be one of the most fascinating races in our first year, so we have a tough act to follow," said Pirelli's Paul Hembery.
"However, the philosophy we have adopted this year actually extends the window of peak performance on the slick tyres, which means that the drivers should be able to race harder and closer," he added.
Yet another factor at the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix could be the weather, with F1's travellers already sampling wet Shanghai roads early this week.
That forecast would suit Malaysia winner Ferrari, with technical director Pat Fry admitting that the Italian team's 2012 car is almost a second off the pace in the dry.
"Damp, low grip conditions suit our car and flatter some of the issues we have at the moment," he said.
McLaren not yet ready with own F-duct
McLaren is not yet ready to roll out a Mercedes-style 'F-duct' to complement its highly competitive 2012 car.
Despite Mercedes struggling with tyres in the actual races so far, the W03 is a standout qualifying performer, thanks in part to the so-nicknamed front and rear 'super-DRS' system.
Red Bull, Lotus and perhaps even Ferrari are threatening to protest, but until now McLaren - with arguably the dominant package of the 2012 season so far - has stayed out of the argument.
"We don't have a strong view one way or the other," technical director Paddy Lowe confirmed during the regular Vodafone media teleconference on Tuesday.
The F-duct will remain a hot topic in China this weekend, with Lotus' technical boss James Allison believed to be armed with two new arguments against its legality.
It was thought McLaren was quite advanced with its own version of the system.
But Lowe revealed: "Until we've got clarity it's difficult for us to commit a huge about of effort in that direction. So that's where we are at the moment."
He steered away from suggestions Mercedes, including boss Ross Brawn, have flouted the "spirit" of the recent F-duct ban.
"There's no such thing as the spirit of the rules," insisted Lowe, admitting that if there was a 'spirit' of the DRS rule, the Mercedes system is "definitely" in breach.
"The debate around whether they can keep that system on the car is not about whether it is in that spirit or not, it's about whether the text of the regulations means they can't," he explained.
Shareholder calls on Mercedes to quit F1
A Daimler shareholder has called on the German car giant to pull its works Mercedes team out of F1.
Fund manager Ingo Speich, of the Daimler shareholder Union Investment, said at Daimler's annual general meeting that he is disappointed Mercedes has lost ground to road car rivals Audi and BMW.
"Mercedes is no longer the measure of all things in the premium sector," he is quoted by Die Presse.
Speich referred to "a lost decade" for Daimler, and called on the company to follow BMW's recent lead and pull out of Formula One.
His speech reportedly received applause from other shareholders.
Mercedes is the biggest Formula One team yet to follow the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull in signing a new Concorde Agreement beyond 2012.
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