- Mercedes suspects Red Bull using 'illegal trick' - report
- Raikkonen to be 'surprise of season' - de la Rosa
- Report links Trulli with Massa's Ferrari race seat
- Williams 'not far' from top teams - Maldonado
Mercedes suspects Red Bull using 'illegal trick' - report
Hot on the heels of the new F-duct controversy, Mercedes has turned the heat back onto Red Bull.
Amid complaints from rival teams including Red Bull about its innovative aerodynamic concept aboard the W03, Mercedes' Ross Brawn admitted he sensed a diversionary tactic.
"The discussion about our system has diverted the focus from the exhaust issue," he said in Australia.
The FIA has clamped down hard on the exhaust-blown diffusers seen throughout the grid last year, but much pre-season chatter focused on some teams' post-ban 2012 solutions that reportedly fly close to the boundaries of the new rules.
But now Germany's Bild newspaper reports that Mercedes suspects Red Bull is also bending the rules in another area.
The report said Mercedes' sound analysis indicated Renault-powered Red Bull is deploying an "illegal engine trick", apparently involving the turning on and off of individual cylinders.
Mercedes' competition vice-president Norbert Haug commented: "There is no official protest by us. But there are some questions that we are asking the FIA."
Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko hit back: "No one will find anything. We comply with the rules."
German specialist magazine Auto Motor und Sport, meanwhile, reports that Melbourne winner McLaren currently has the most sophisticated exhaust solution on the 2012 grid.
"I wouldn't say that it's illegal," said Peter Sauber, "but it's borderline."
Teams including Mercedes, Lotus, Toro Rosso and Williams reportedly used much more conservative solutions in Australia.
"First we wanted to see what is allowed and what is not," said Williams engineer Mark Gillan.
Raikkonen to be 'surprise of season' - de la Rosa
Kimi Raikkonen is still up to the task of performing at his best in F1.
That is the claim of Pedro de la Rosa, who in 2006 was the famous Finn's race teammate at McLaren just before Raikkonen - now 32 - switched to Ferrari and won the world championship.
The so-called 'iceman' has been out of F1 for two years and on his comeback in Australia last week dropped the ball with a miserable qualifying performance.
It has emerged Raikkonen came into the pits to change the tint of his helmet visor, and could not get back out for a crucial final qualifying run.
According to Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, Raikkonen described the incident as "a little f*ck up", and a day later had to be reminded on the radio about the meaning of blue flags.
De la Rosa, however - who was a mere spectator in Melbourne after failing to qualify with HRT - said Sunday in Australia was "a fantastic race performance by Kimi".
(He took his Lotus from 17th to seventh; not a shabby effort.)
"Kimi is a phenomenal talent and definitely one of the best drivers I have ever seen," the Spaniard is quoted by another Finnish newspaper, Turun Sanomat.
"Kimi and his team (Lotus) look really competitive. My guess is that they will be the biggest surprise of the season," added de la Rosa.
Report links Trulli with Massa's Ferrari race seat
One race into the 2012 season, the Italian press has already named a candidate for beleaguered Ferrari driver Felipe Massa's seat.
On notice by the famous team and with an expiring contract, the Brazilian driver had a nightmare 2012 opener in Australia.
Mika Salo, the 1999 Ferrari substitute driver, told broadcaster MTV3 that Massa's performance, "compared to Alonso's, was very poor".
Autosprint, the Italian weekly, has suggested the out-of-work GP-winner Jarno Trulli is available to step in immediately to replace Massa.
The Maranello based team appeared to immediately react in the form of a report on its official website, acknowledging its 30-year-old driver "has certainly been the target of criticism" after Melbourne.
Indeed, so poor was Massa's performance last weekend that Ferrari has agreed to scrap his chassis and replace it with a brand new one for Sepang, despite the one-week turnaround between the flyaway back-to-back races.
"This choice was taken to clear up any doubts about the unusual performance of his car during the weekend at Albert Park," said the team.
Ferrari also revealed that team boss Stefano Domenicali and technical director Pat Fry returned to Maranello after Australia rather than make the much-shorter trek to Malaysia.
"The fifth position of Fernando Alonso in Australia was a distortion," argued former Ferrari engineer Joan Villadelprat in the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
"Actually, I see a much harsher reality for them."
Another Spanish newspaper, AS, reports that Ferrari is pressing the throttle on a 'plan B', involving a substantial redesign of the F2012 chassis for China that will involve a new FIA crash test.
Williams 'not far' from top teams - Maldonado
From the depths of 2011, Williams is now 'not far' from the pace of F1's strongest teams.
That is the claim of Pastor Maldonado, who in the newly Renault-powered and Mike Coughlan-designed FW34 qualified eighth and was pushing Fernando Alonso for fifth in the race when he crashed out of Sunday's season opener in Melbourne on the last lap.
It indicated a major turnaround for the formerly championship-winning team that collapsed to a dismal ninth place in last year's points standings.
Venezuelan Maldonado hopes last Sunday was indeed the start of a Williams resurgence.
He said this weekend in Malaysia "should be interesting".
"McLaren and Red Bull look strong, but we are not far away," he is quoted by Finland's Turun Sanomat.
"We were very close to (Red Bull's) Mark Webber in the first and second stints," said Maldonado.
"I think we are faster than Ferrari, Sauber and Force India," he added.
Maldonado's last-lap crash in Australia cost Williams a full ten points - double the team's tally of the entire 2011 season.
"We need points in the future," he acknowledged, "but we are also now more relaxed now."
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