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Pirelli under fire after 82 pit stops, tyres now rule Formula One


By Berthold Bouman

Pirelli under fire after 82 pit stops, tyres now rule Formula OneFormula One’s tyre supplier Pirelli is under heavy fire after the Spanish Grand Prix last weekend, during the race most drivers needed to pit four times for new tyres, and thus needed five sets of tyres to cover the 300 km Grand Prix distance. Which means on average one set of tyres lasted only 60 km or 13 laps.

Formula One is certainly not an environmentally friendly sport when each of the 22 drivers need five sets of tyres to finish a race, and thus 440 tyres in total were wasted during the Spanish Grand Prix. There are not only concerns about the green image of the sport, as fans and drivers feel Formula One is now ruled by the Pirelli tyres, some even spoke of the ‘tyranny of tyres’.

Drivers cannot really race, afraid to damage their tyres, qualifying is a farce as teams want to save tyres for the race, and following a race is, even for the drivers, confusing to say the least. Drivers are instructed to let their rival pass them, as they are on a different strategy, which must be hugely frustrating.

There are also safety concerns, tyres explode or delaminate unexpectedly, large pieces of rubber fly through the air, and the last thing Formula One needs is a seriously injured driver. If a tyre explodes at 300 km/h, a driver can only hope for the best, and with Formula One now heading to Monaco, a circuit without run-off areas, this doom scenario could become reality.

The start of the Spanish GP - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

The start of the Spanish GP – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Although Pirelli’s job was to make the sport more exciting by increasing the number of pit stops, many feel the Italian tyre manufacturer has gone too far, one of them is Red Bull and Toro Rosso owner Dietrich Mateschitz, who said Formula One is not racing anymore.

In an interview with Autosport, Mateschitz vented his frustrations and said, “This has nothing to do with racing anymore. This is a competition in tyre management. Real car racing looks different. Under the given circumstances, we can neither get the best out of our car nor our drivers.”

“There is no more real qualifying and fighting for the pole, as everyone is just saving tyres for the race,” the Austrian complained. “If we would make the best of our car we would have to stop eight or ten times during a race, depending on the track.”

Red Bull’s Team Principal Christian Horner agreed and said, “When you are telling drivers not to push because we are saving tyres, it isn’t great for the sport or for the fans. We need to push the drivers harder and allow them to drive properly!”

Too many pit stops in Spain - Photo: McLaren

Too many pit stops in Spain – Photo: McLaren

During the race at the Circuit de Catalunya, Lewis Hamilton complained that he had just been overtaken by a Williams, the 2008 World Champion, who had qualified in second place, was a sitting duck for the Williams of Pastor Maldonado, who had qualified in 17th place. At one point when his team asked him to spare the tyres, he said, “I can’t drive any slower!”

Hamilton later commented about the lack of pace, “I really don’t know what the problem is. I’m lost. We were slow and I had no grip for some reason. It was really tough, way too tough. I felt like I was going backwards, which I obviously did.”

About his race pace he commented, “The team were asking me to slow down in certain areas but I couldn’t go any slower otherwise I’m going at walking pace. I was already going so slowly to the point that people were just passing me. That is the way the sport has gone to improve overtaking. It is for the public to judge.”

Also Niki Lauda was critical after the race, “The car is quick, there’s no question about it. But the tyre consumption … look at Vettel, the same problem. He couldn’t get anywhere near the Ferraris and Raikkonen. And he added, “So, this is a problem which we need to fix but I don’t know how. They have to fix it. No question [about it].”

Even the race winner, Fernando Alonso, questioned the policy of heavy tyre degradation to ‘improve the show’. “With this year’s degradation and this year’s tyres we see races keep changing all the time. Whatever car keeps the tyres alive normally finishes on the podium or wins the race. Is it too much confusion for the spectators? There is no doubt,” Alonso said.

Jenson Button was also critical, “When we’re going round doing laps three seconds slower than a GP2 car did in qualifying, and only six seconds quicker than a GP3 car did in the race, there’s something wrong. This is the pinnacle of motorsport. We shouldn’t be driving round as slow as we have to look after the tyres. We go 12 seconds slower in a race than we do in qualifying.”

Winner Alonso with Raikkonen and Massa - Photo: Pirelli

Winner Alonso with Raikkonen and Massa – Photo: Pirelli

Red Bull’s Mark Webber wasn’t happy either and said, “Neither Seb [Sebastian Vettel] nor I had the performance of the cars in front, and without that you can’t nail the magic strategy. With the tyres performing as they do, the races can be a bit frustrating, but that’s the way it is at the moment.”

Sky Sports commentator and ex-Formula One driver Martin Brundle wrote in his column, “Enough is enough. Pirelli have to change their tyres after a race bordering on a farce. I’ve tried my best to be supportive of more interesting — albeit to an extent fabricated — motor racing, but it’s just gone too far. Qualifying clearly means nothing these days, just ask the front row Mercedes boys.”

Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery angrily defended the policy of producing rapidly degrading tyres and said, “What do you want? We are only doing what we are asked to do, which is provide two or three stops. I know some people would like us to do one stop where the tyres aren’t a factor.”

“You can go back to processional racing where the qualifying position is the end position. Is that what you want? Unless you want us to give Red Bull the tyres to win the championship, I think it is pretty clear. If we did that there is one team that would benefit.”

Later, in an official press statement, Hembery said, “Our aim is to have between two and three stops at every race, so it’s clear that four is too many: in fact, it’s only happened once before, in Turkey during our first year in the sport. We’ll be looking to make some changes, in time for Silverstone, to make sure that we maintain our target and solve any issues rapidly.”

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Spanish GP: Alonso victorious at home GP, Mercedes sitting duck


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Alonso victorious at home GP, Mercedes sitting duckFernando Alonso took the victory for Ferrari during round five of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya this afternoon, a great day for Ferrari as Felipe Massa took third place. Alonso reduced the gap to rival Sebastian Vettel, who finished fourth and still leads the championship, but Alonso’s win at his home Grand Prix reduced the gap to just four points.

Alonso was of course happy, but also cautious about his championship chances, as he said, “Nothing really changes, we’ve only had five races and we’ve had ups and downs. Some races we have had a good race with no problems, and we more or less finished all of them on the podium. At some races we have had mistakes and mechanical problems that we don’t want to repeat, but we know we have the car to fight with the top and we can fight for the championship.”

Ferrari celebrating Alonso's win - Photo: Ferrari

Ferrari celebrating Alonso’s win – Photo: Ferrari

Second place was for Kimi Raikkonen, who once again showed how fast the Lotus E21 is, as he was actually the only driver who could keep up with the Ferraris. Raikkonen needed one set of tyres less than his rivals, but the Finn was not pleased with the result, “Unfortunately it’s second place again so it’s not time to celebrate too much.”

“The car felt good and we did pretty much all we could today, but we didn’t have the pace to challenge Fernando [Alonso]. I drove to the maximum and it’s good for the championship that Sebastian finished behind us. It’s nice to be on the podium for me and the team; let’s see what we can do in Monaco.” Massa tried to catch Raikkonen during the closing stages of the race, but after concerns about the tyres Ferrari told the Brazilian to take it easy.

Raikkonen not happy with second place ... he wants to win! - Lotus F1

Raikkonen not happy with second place … he wants to win! – Lotus F1

Not a great day for Red Bull, Vettel finished in fourth, and Mark Webber finished in fifth place, but at least they still scored a decent amount of points. Vettel could not get closer to the Ferrari of Alonso, as he was struggling to keep his tyres alive for almost the entire race.

The triple World Champion was nevertheless satisfied with the result. “I think we can be happy with fourth today. The first three cars were a little bit too fast for us and regarding looking after the tyres, they did a better job,” Vettel said. He was certainly not happy with the fast degrading tyres, “We need to catch up; we’re not going the pace of the car, we’re going the pace of the tyres and obviously we do something to make the tyres wear more.”

Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton started from first and second place on the grid, but it didn’t take Alonso, who made one of his famous rocket starts, very long before he first passed Hamilton, and after the first round of pit stops also overtook pole sitter Rosberg. The Silver Arrows are fast during qualifying, but are sitting ducks during the race, and the German team still has a lot of work to do.

Rosberg defends, but the Mercedes is a sitting duck – Photo Mercedes-Benz

While Alonso was leading, Rosberg did a great job keeping the Red Bull of Vettel behind him, but it didn’t take long before Vettel got past the Mercedes, and Massa and Raikkonen also didn’t have any problems passing the Silver Arrows, a car that is hard on the tyres and causes massive tyre degradation. At one point Hamilton reported he ‘just had been overtaken by a Williams’, and when his team told him to spare the tyres, the Briton remarked he ‘couldn’t drive any slower’.

Rosberg and Hamilton finished in sixth and 12th place, and both drivers were obviously not happy with the poor result. Rosberg was puzzled by the lack of pace, “I didn’t expect it to be that tough, I thought we’d be in a better position. It was very difficult, it’s so difficult to explain it, you know? Why? Why on one lap so fast and then on a long run it’s so slow? It’s not just rear tyres, it’s front and rear both, both just struggling. No explanation.”

Hamilton, who was even lapped by winner Alonso, was also lost as to why his car was so slow. In an interview after the race he said, “It was an experience I don’t want to go through again. I don’t know why it happened. I did absolutely everything I did in Bahrain but the tyres just didn’t come in and give me any grip. If I pushed, they went off immediately. I’m absolutely lost, I don’t know what went wrong.”

McLaren managed to make some progress during the race, and Jenson Button and Sergio Perez came home in eighth and ninth place respectively. Button said, “We took the same approach as in China, adopting a different strategy from the others. To finish eighth shows what a good job the team did with the strategy. I don’t know whether we’ve improved our package or not, but we certainly beat some cars that we possibly shouldn’t have beaten. There’s still a lot of work to do. It’s tough at the moment, but I’m pleased that we’re making the best of what we have.”

Problems for Sutil during his pit stop - Photo: Sahara Force India

Problems for Sutil during his pit stop – Photo: Sahara Force India

Paul di Resta finished the race for Force India in seventh place, but his team colleague Adrian Sutil wasn’t so lucky, he lost valuable time during a pit stop, and finished in 13th place. Di Resta said, “We said before the race that seventh would be a good result and towards the end I was even fighting for sixth. The result shows the consistency that we have had since the start of the year and that we can perform each weekend.”

Sutil was obviously disappointed and commented, “It’s extremely disappointing to come away empty-handed from this race because we were so quick today. It was all going to plan until the first pit stop when there was an issue and I lost so much time. The team told me to switch the engine off while they sorted the problem, but it cost me the chance of points.”

It was also an eventful race for Toro Rosso, Daniel Ricciardo finished in tenth place, but Jean-Eric Vergne was hit by the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg during his pit stop, and not much later his rear tyre suddenly delaminated and although the Frenchman made it back to the pits, he had to give up his race.

Vergne commented after the race, “The strategy we adopted was the right one and even with a damaged floor and wing I was able to do good lap times. Yet again I was unlucky and I hope that stops soon, because as I was coming into the pits, Sauber did an unsafe release with Hulkenberg who drove into me and then I had a problem with a tyre, so it was one problem after another today.”

Also massive tyre wear for the Williams team - Photo: Williams F1

Also massive tyre wear for the Williams team – Photo: Williams F1

Williams also had problems with the tyres and Technical Director Mike Coughlan said, “We were suffering with high tyre degradation and so made the decision to switch Pastor [Maldonado] onto a four-stop strategy. We committed to a three-stop with Valtteri, but we then lost a lot of time. We need to check the data as the degradation on his car was unusual compared to the pace we had on Friday.”

For Dutchman Giedo van der Garde, the race was over quickly as his pit crew sent him out while the left rear tyre wasn’t properly secured, “When I came in for my second stop I could feel that there was a problem with the left rear as soon as I rejoined the track. At some point the wheel came off so I tried to make it back to the garage to see if I could continue, but once the team had taken a close look it was clear I had to retire the car.”

The race in Spain was really all about the tyres, Pirelli now rules Formula One, and drivers cannot attack or even defend their position, afraid to damage the tyres. From a ‘green’ point of view, it is also ridiculous one car needs five(!) sets of tyres to finish a race. Pirelli have gone too far by producing tyres that last only ten laps, it is time for Formula One to think about the future, using so many tyres during one race is not acceptable.

Pirelli has responded after the race, and admitted 82 stops in one race is too much. Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said on Twitter, “We aim for 2-3 pit stops. Today was too many, we got it wrong, too aggressive. We will make changes, probably from Silverstone. We were asked to replicate Canada 2010, and aim for 2-3 stops.”


Spanish GP: Rosberg storms to pole for Mercedes, Hamilton second


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Rosberg storms to pole for Mercedes, Hamilton secondAnother surprise from Mercedes this afternoon at the Circuit de Catalunya, during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix Nico Rosberg convincingly took pole position, while his team colleague Lewis Hamilton will start from second spot on tomorrow’s start grid. Rosberg took pole with a lap of 1m20.718s, the fastest time recorded so far this weekend.

Rosberg, who scored his second consecutive pole, and the team’s third pole in a row, commented, ”It’s a great feeling to be on pole again. So far this weekend has been very positive and it’s a pleasure to see that the team is improving and fighting through the problems together.”

“However,” Rosberg said, “We know that this is only half of the job completed and have the painful memory of what happened in Bahrain to prove that. So it will be a big challenge tomorrow and our goal is to make the most of the opportunity we have from starting at the front and get a strong result for the team.”

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Sebastian Vettel took third place for Red Bull, while his Australian team colleague was eighth. Vettel was 0,336s off the pace set by Rosberg, and remarked, “We had a pretty smooth qualifying session, we took a slightly different approach to some others using option tyres only — whether that helps us tomorrow we‘ll have to wait and see, but it will be an interesting race and a lot will be about tyre degradation.”

Fourth place was for Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus, the gap to Vettel was just 0,123s, while Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari, who was fifth this afternoon, was just 0,041s behind the Finn. Felipe Massa, in his turn, was just 0,001s slower than Alonso, and it indeed seems, compared to last year, that the Brazilian feels at home in the Ferrari F318.

Romain Grosjean was also on the right pace and the Frenchman took seventh place, he was just 0,131s behind his Finnish team colleague, again showing how competitive Formula One is this season.

Sergio Perez and Paul di Resta completed the top ten, Perez was the only McLaren driver to finish in the top ten, as Jenson Button was only 14th in the second McLaren. Thus it was another very disappointing result for McLaren and Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh said, “Jenson had a difficult qualifying — and, although we haven’t yet had a chance to examine his data thoroughly, it would appear that perhaps his tyre pressures may have been set a little too high.”

Fernando Alonso - Photo: Ferrari

Fernando Alonso – Photo: Ferrari

Not a very good excuse Whitmarsh admitted, “Having said that, McLaren Mercedes’ ambitions extend to a great deal more than merely going through to Q3, and it’s clear that our MP4-28 still requires a lot of development before it becomes as competitive as we need it to be.”

A great afternoon for Toro Rosso, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne finished in 11th and 12th place, but there was some disappointment for the Force India team as Adrian Sutil could not match the pace of his Scottish team colleague and finished the day in 13th place.

Sutil said, “Q2 was a bit disappointing because my position on the track for the final run was not ideal. Vergne pulled out of the pits just as I was leaving and I had Nico [Hulkenberg] pushing from behind. Also Webber was on a flying lap and it was difficult to find a gap. I think that’s the main reason why I missed out on Q3 because we had the pace to be in the top ten.”

Further down the list are the two Saubers of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez, who were 15th and 16th respectively. Hulkenberg commented, “Qualifying went according to plan today. It is disappointing, as we are simply too slow. The updates this weekend were a step in the right direction, and the set up of the car during qualifying was good, but not good enough as the other teams might have improved even more. I am very satisfied with my lap in Q2. It was the perfect lap.”

Not much luck for Williams during qualifying - Photo: Williams F1

Not much luck for Williams during qualifying – Photo: Williams F1

They were followed by Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado, they were 17th and 18th for Williams, and it seems the Williams team is heading for another disastrous result, last year Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix, and the Venezuelan admitted things are not going well at Williams, “We’re having a difficult time with the car at the moment, but we have been working very hard to improve things. We were missing a lot of grip which made it difficult to get a good time today. In terms of performance, we’re not there but we will keep focussing on the work needed to move us up the grid.”

Giedo van der Grade outpaced not only his team colleague Charles Pic, but also Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton in the Marussia. Of course van der Garde was pleased with his best qualifying result of the season and said, “We made a few changes to the car overnight to try and find a balance with the new parts and it’s worked out really well. I’m not running the same package as my team mate here — I have most of the new package except the front wing so we went a slightly different way than Charles.

And he added, “This is the sort of performance I’d targeted for when we had new parts on the car so I’m really pleased for me, the whole team and everyone who’s backed me that we can deliver like we did today.”

The qualifying result can be found here


Spanish GP: Massa fastest for Ferrari after final free practice session


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Massa fastest for Ferrari after final free practice sessionFelipe Massa was fastest for Ferrari after the final free practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya this morning. The Brazilian set a time of 1m21.901s on the medium compound tyres, almost a second quicker than the fastest time set on Friday by Sebastian Vettel. Fernando Alonso was sixth, but 0,353s slower than the Brazilian.

Kimi Raikkonen was also quick, he took second place in the Lotus, just six-thousandths of a second behind pace-setter Massa. Romain Grosjean in the second Lotus secured fourth place, again confirming the Lotus E21 is very quick at the Barcelona circuit.

Romain Grosjean - Photo: Lotus F1

Fourth place for Romain Grosjean – Photo: Lotus F1

Mark Webber was the fastest Red Bull driver, he took third place, while triple World Champion Vettel was fifth. Force India was also quick this morning, Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil took seventh and eighth place respectively, the difference between the two was just 0,155s.

Lewis Hamilton and Jean-Eric Vergne completed the top ten, Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes was 11th after the German completed 26 laps, and Daniel Ricciardo in the second Toro Rosso was 18th.

The McLaren drivers were again disappointing to say the least, they never made it into the top ten during all three practice session, this morning Jenson Button was 12th, while Sergio Perez, who had problems with the power steering, was 14th.

Nico Rosberg - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Nico Rosberg – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Surprisingly, Esteban Gutierrez was the fastest Sauber driver as the young Mexican outpaced Nico Hulkenberg as he took 13th spot, while his team colleague was 16th.

Further down the order were both Williams drivers, Pastor Maldonado was 15th, and Valtteri Bottas was 17th, thus it seems Williams are certainly no contenders for the victory tomorrow.

The last four places were occupied by Charles Pic, Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton and Giedo van der Garde.

Results of the third and final free practice session can be found here.


Spanish GP: Vettel sets fastest time during second free practice session


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Vettel sets fastest time during second free practice sessionSebastian Vettel beat Fernando Alonso this afternoon during the second free practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix and recorded the fastest time for Red Bull with a lap of 1m22.808s, the difference with the Spaniard was just 0,017s.

Mark Webber was third fastest, but was very close to his German team colleague as the difference between the two Red Bull drivers was only 0,083s. Kimi Raikkonen was fourth fastest this afternoon, he set a time of 1m23.030s in the Lotus, his French team colleague Romain Grosjean was 18th, over three seconds slower than pace-setter Vettel.

Felipe Massa took fifth place in the second Ferrari, he was followed by the two Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were sixth and seventh respectively.

Adrian Sutil, Jean-Eric Vergne and Paul di Resta completed the top ten. Not a good afternoon for di Resta, he had to park his Force India after a rear wing failure.

Kimi Raikkonen and his fans - Photo: Lotus F1

Kimi Raikkonen and his fans – Photo: Lotus F1

Daniel Ricciardo was 11th in the second Toro Rosso, and although they had a new upgrade package, the problems are still not over for McLaren, as Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were 12th and 13th for McLaren.

Valtteri Bottas was the fastest Williams driver this afternoon, he took 14th spot, while Pastor Maldonado was 16th. Nico Hulkenberg took 15th place for Sauber, while Esteban Gutierrez was 17th.

A good second session for Dutch Caterham driver Giedo van der Garde, who was 19th, a full second faster than his team colleague Charles Pic, who ended the afternoon in 21st place.

The last two on the list were Marussia drivers Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton, they were 20th and 22nd.

Results of the second free practice session can be found here.


Spanish GP: Alonso on top for Ferrari after wet first free practice session


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Alonso on top for Ferrari after wet first free practice sessionFernando Alonso recorded the fastest time during the first free practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya this morning. Alonso set a time of 1m25.252 after completing 20 laps on a damp circuit, Felipe Massa made it an all Ferrari front row as he was second fastest this morning.

The rain and the damp circuit made it difficult for teams to test the new parts they developed for this race, it took an hour before drivers went out on the slick tyres.

Jean-Eric Vergne was the surprise of the morning as he took third place for Toro Rosso, but the Frenchman was almost half a second slower than Alonso. His team colleague Daniel Ricciardo was 11th after completing 26 laps.

Felipe Massa was second this morning - Photo: Ferrari

Felipe Massa was second this morning – Photo: Ferrari

Plenty of off-track excursions this morning, one of the victims was Romain Grosjean, but the Frenchman could continue and scored fourth fastest time for Lotus. Kimi Raikkonen was eighth in the second Lotus, but it must be said: times were meaningless on the damp track.

Adrian Sutil was the fastest Force India driver, he took fifth place while Paul di Resta was tenth. Lewis Hamilton was sixth in the Mercedes, Nico Rosberg was ninth. Valtteri Bottas was seventh for Williams, while his Venezuelan team colleague Pastor Maldonado finished the morning outside the top ten in 15th place.

Nico Hulkenberg took 12th spot, followed by both Mexican drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez who were 13th and 14th respectively. Dutchman Giedo van der Garde outpaced Heikki Kovalainen, who was doing some test work for Caterham in the car of Charles Pic, the Finn finished in 18th place.

Only one McLaren on track: Sergio Perez - Photo: McLaren F1

Only one McLaren on track: Sergio Perez – Photo: McLaren F1

Jules Bianchi was 17th for Marussia, while his team colleague for this morning, Rodolfo Gonzalez, who took over from Max Chilton this morning, was 21st, five seconds slower than Alonso.

The big guns didn’t even bother to set a representative time, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were 19th and 20th, and Jenson Button was 22nd and last as he didn’t complete one single lap.

Results of the first free practice session can be found here.


Spanish GP: Ferrari and Alonso determined to score during home Grand Prix at Barcelona


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Ferrari and Alonso determined to score during home Grand Prix at BarcelonaFerrari driver Fernando Alonso is determined to score during his home Grand Prix this weekend, the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya. Driving a home race is always a special feeling, and racing in front of a home crowd gives you another 10 percent extra, according to the Spaniard.

Fernando Alonso: We need to have a normal weekend

Double World Champion Alonso explained why this race is important, “This year, we have seen that race pace and tyres are the key factors, more so than previously. Obviously it’s good to start from the front, because you know your chances are high and you can almost touch the podium if you qualify on the front row. We need to have a normal weekend, finding the right balance between qualifying and the race.”

Fernando Alonso and his race engineer Andrea Stella - Photo: Ferrari

Fernando Alonso and his race engineer Andrea Stella – Photo: Ferrari

Alonso is confident he will perform well, “We finished second in Australia and we won in China, because we have a very different package. This gives us optimism and confidence that we can have a good championship, if we deliver consistent results.”

And he added, “This year is the first time I have arrived here with a competitive car but we still need to do everything right and put together a good weekend if we want to fight for the top places. We will also need to see how the car responds to some new parts we have here. But we can say we are approaching this weekend with a positive mentality, not a defensive one like we did in my first years with Ferrari.”

About the gap with his rivals Alonso commented, “We are some points behind at the moment, but it’s a long championship and we have seen many examples of people fighting back: last year, Sebastian [Vettel] was 43 points behind us after the summer break and arrived in Austin leading the classification, so in five or six races you can recover 45 to 50 points if you get some consistent results.”

Felipe Massa - Photo: Ferrari

Felipe Massa – Photo: Ferrari

Felipe Massa: I also hope we will be competitive in qualifying

Brazilian Felipe Massa is also confident ahead of the weekend, “This could be a good track for us and it’s one where we went well in the winter. It’s a track I like too and I also feel very positive about this race, thinking about our race pace, but I also hope we will be competitive in qualifying.”

Ferrari will also be testing new parts on Friday and Massa remarked, “We have new parts yes, and of course we are always hoping for a car with more downforce, that degrades it’s tyres less, but gives more grip and hopefully we end up with a car that helps the tyres work better, not just in qualifying but also in the race.”

Pirelli have changed the hard compound, much to the delight of the Brazilian, as he had criticized the old version of the hardest rubber compound. Massa said, “The new tyre is a positive change, because the difference between the hard and the medium was that the hard this year was always slower but also wore out more than the medium. Now I think the hard should be a little bit quicker than before with slightly better wear than the medium. But it’s hard to say until we’ve used it and also we need to see how the other teams get on with it.”

Ferrari are currently third in the race for the Constructors’ Championship with 77 points, 16 points behind the number two, Lotus, and 32 points behind leader Red Bull. Alonso is fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, while his team colleague Massa is sixth.

Also read:

Red Bull Spanish GP Preview
Ferrari Spanish GP Preview
McLaren Spanish GP Preview
Lotus Spanish GP Preview
Mercedes Spanish GP Preview
Sauber Spanish GP Preview
Force India Spanish GP Preview
Williams Spanish GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Spanish GP Preview
Caterham Spanish GP Preview
Marussia Spanish GP Preview


Spanish GP: Lotus hoping to keep momentum, aiming for a win in Barcelona


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Lotus hoping to keep momentum, aiming for a win in BarcelonaIt has been a great start of the season for Lotus, Kimi Raikkonen won the Australian Grand Prix, and was second in China and Bahrain, while Romain Grosjean was also on the podium in Bahrain three weeks ago. But there is no time for complacency, and the black and gold team are aiming for a win this weekend in Spain.

Eric Boullier: It’s such a finely balanced and competitive season

Lotus team Principal Eric Boullier is of course satisfied with the results so far, but now the Formula One circus returns to Europe, there is no time to rest on their laurels. “Achieving a one-off result is one thing, but keeping momentum is a far bigger challenge and I’m pleased to say we’re doing a great job of that so far this year. It’s such a finely balanced and competitive season,” Boullier said.

Quizzed about his star driver Raikkonen, Boullier remarked, “Kimi is a fantastic driver and you can never rule him out in any race. In Bahrain, he drove a strong race to manage the tyres and was comfortable in second by the chequered flag. In Australia he won the race and said it was one of his easiest wins.”

Lotus celebrating in Bahrain - Photo: Lotus F1

Lotus celebrating in Bahrain – Photo: Lotus F1

Asked about the development race in Formula One the Frenchman commented, “We have a strong development programme for the E21 and I’m confident we can continue to improve it through the year, just as we did with the E20 before it. Most teams tend to bring a fairly major upgrade package to the first European race of the season and we’ll be no exception.”

Kimi Raikkonen: Let’s hope I’m happier in Spain

Raikkonen is a man who is never satisfied, he is always hungry for more, and a win at the Circuit de Catalunya is on top of his list. “You’re never really happy if you don’t win, but I suppose second place is as close as you can get,” he said about the race in Bahrain. “Let’s hope I’m happier in Spain,” the flying Finn added.

Raikkonen’s main rival is triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel, and Raikkonen commented, “It’s going to be hard to catch Sebastian [Vettel] if he keeps taking good results so we need to start taking more points from him, but you never know what can happen. We’ll keep pushing to improve the car and see where we end up.”

Asked what is required to catch up with Vettel he said, “Some more wins! To catch the leaders, we have to work twice as hard as they are. It’s no secret that we want more speed from the car in qualifying; it’s so tight up there at the front and we really need to be on the first two rows to fight for victories every time.”

Eric Boullier and Gerard Lopez - Photo: Lotus F1

Eric Boullier and Gerard Lopez – Photo: Lotus F1

Romain Grosjean: It will be important to qualify well

It’s no secret Grosjean has been struggling with the Lotus E21 the first three races of the season,, but third place in Bahrain has lifted his spirits. “It wasn’t the chassis, the aero or anything like that, but we took a while to get everything to my liking and that’s been frustrating. We managed to put our finger on the issue and I feel much more comfortable now,” said the Frenchman.

Asked about the key to a great weekend in Spain he commented, “It will be important to qualify well as it will be much harder to overtake than in Bahrain. As a team, this is an area where we can still improve a little bit, but we have some ideas of how to do that and hopefully we’ll be able to make the front row.”

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Spanish GP: Force India wants to keep fighting with the big teams


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Force India wants to keep fighting with the big teamsForce India are pleased with the best season start they ever had, as they have scored nine points more than last year. But there is no time to rest on their laurels, and the Indian outfit run by Indian entrepreneur Vijay Mallya is determined to keep fighting with the big teams.

Vijay Mallya: We intend to hold our ground

Team owner Mallya commented ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, “At both the factory and at the track, everyone is working hard to ensure we can build on these good results. We intend to hold our ground and remain in the hunt for points and podiums.”

He was especially satisfied with the results of drivers Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil, “The performances of di Resta confirm just how much he has matured as a driver. He’s delivering consistently every week and we are reaping the rewards of all his hard work.”

About Sutil he said, “Sutil has also shown his speed so far but the luck has not gone his way. The last two races have been very frustrating because he’s been the victim of other drivers’ mistakes. His race pace in Bahrain was remarkable because he was one of the fastest cars on track.”

Force India wants to keep fighting with the big teams - Photo: Sahara Force India

Force India wants to keep fighting with the big teams – Photo: Sahara Force India

Paul di Resta: Hopefully we can stay fighting with the big teams

Di Resta was pleased with the results so far and said, “It’s important to pick up good points early in the season against our competitors and to be ahead of McLaren after four races is a credit to the team and a nice feeling. Of course we want to be on the podium and it was very close in Bahrain, but I’m sure it will come soon enough.”

About the challenge facing him this weekend he said, “The key is making sure you find the right operating window whatever the conditions because that’s what makes the difference. We need to keep doing what we’re doing, but at the same time we know the return to Europe always sees every team bring more upgrades. Hopefully we can stay fighting with the big teams and keep picking up the points.”

Adrian Sutil - Photo: Sahara Force India

Adrian Sutil – Photo: Sahara Force India

Adrian Sutil: I definitely missed out on a few good points

Indeed, Sutil was in the wrong place at the wrong time, how does he feel about that? I’ve been unlucky with being hit in China and the puncture in Bahrain, and I definitely missed out on a few good points. These things happen all the time in Formula One — sometimes you benefit from them and sometimes it goes against you instead,“ the German said.

But it is time to score good points at the Barcelona circuit, and Sutil commented, “It is important, after three difficult races without points, to finish the race without any incidents. If I do that, I should have the pace to be among the front-runners. I have to do my job, avoid mistakes and hopefully my luck will change.”

Force India is currently fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, three points ahead of McLaren. Di Resta is eighth in the Drivers’ Championship, while Sutil is 12th.

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Spanish GP: Marussia – Barcelona is always a very good barometer of car performance


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Marussia - Barcelona is always a very good barometer of car performanceMarussia is also heading to Barcelona for round five of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya. Like all other teams, Marussia will also bring an updated package to Barcelona, and are hoping to improve their race pace.

John Booth: We head into Europe feeling refreshed and prepared

Marussia Team Principal John Booth did enjoy the long three-week break, and said, “We head into Europe feeling refreshed and prepared for the start of the next phase of races. It was a whirlwind start to the season for us in some ways and the past few weeks have allowed the drivers in particular to draw a little more breath.”

About the first race on European soil Booth commented, “Barcelona is always an interesting race as it provides a very good barometer of car performance up and down the grid and also the benefit of the new upgrades most teams will bring to their cars.”

Jules Bianchi - Photo: Marussia F1

Jules Bianchi – Photo: Marussia F1

Marussia will also test some new parts at Barcelona, and Booth said, “Having tested here over two weeks pre-season, we’ll be taking the opportunity to use that baseline data to further analyse our progress to date, conducting some back to back work with our Bahrain package prior to fielding our new developments for this race.”

Jules Bianchi: The team have spent a lot of time analysing our progress

Marussia driver Jules Bianchi has been the surprise of the season so far, and he too, is looking forward to race on familiar grounds again. About his Formula One debut he said, “Although my first four races have been quite positive — and a nice adventure for me personally — as a driver in my debut season it is good to be heading into the start of the European season.”

The Frenchman is confident ahead of the race in Spain and commented, “The team have spent a lot of time analysing our progress so it will be good to verify our findings with the package so far and of course to explore our new developments for Spain. I’m looking forward to getting busy in the car again.”

Max Chilton - Photo: Marussia F1

Max Chilton – Photo: Marussia F1

Max Chilton: We’ve learned a lot in the first four races

Max Chilton was clear about the progress the team has made, “We’ve learned a lot in the first four races and quite a lot since, with the technical team having been hard at it in the break. What we bring to the Circuit de Catalunya is the product of four races of evaluation coupled with the next step in our ongoing development path, so it will be interesting to see how we can progress from Bahrain.”

About the circuit the Briton said, “On a personal level this is a track I enjoy and have raced at plenty of times, and that will also be useful as we work through a busy evaluation programme on Friday in particular.”

Marussia are currently 10th in the Constructors’ Championship, Bianchi is 19th, and Chilton 22nd in the Drivers’ Championship.

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Spanish GP: Caterham to evaluate new parts on Friday, confident to make progress


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Caterham to evaluate new parts on Friday, confident to make progressCaterham will also bring new parts for round five of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya, for all teams a familiar circuit as they have spent a lot of time testing their cars on the Barcelona track during pre-season testing in February.

Charles Pic: We made pretty good progress at the last race

Like all other drivers, Charles Pic is looking forward to race in Europe again, and he is also a fan of the Barcelona track, “I have to say it’s a track that I like a lot. Normally the weather is great — it’ll certainly be warmer than when we were testing there in February! — and I think that with how we finished off in Bahrain it will be an interesting and, hopefully, a good weekend for us.”

Keeping up with the other race in Formula One — the development race — is also very important for Caterham and Pic commented, “Everyone brings new parts to Spain but what is really important is optimising the car for the new package, for the parts you bring.”

Charles Pic - Photo: Caterham F1

Charles Pic – Photo: Caterham F1

“Everyone at the factory and in the wind tunnel has been working really hard on the updates we brought to the last race, and what we’ll race this weekend and at the other races this year, but it’s not as easy as just putting on the new parts and going faster — we’ll continue the hard work on track by making sure we can find the best set-up for these parts with the specific demands of the Barcelona circuit.”

And the Frenchman added, “We know everyone else will have updates, so for us it’s important that we can find a little bit more than our direct rivals, and keep that momentum up all year. We made pretty good progress at the last race, and I’m confident we’ll do the same in Barcelona.”

Giedo van der Garde: The most important thing is that we get the set-up right

Dutchman Giedo van der Garde agrees with his team colleague and is looking forward to test the new parts on Friday, “I’m excited about the weekend ahead, especially as we have some more new parts on the car that should help us build on the step forward we saw from my team mate’s car in Bahrain.”

Giedo van der Garde - Photo: Caterham F1

Giedo van der Garde – Photo: Caterham F1

“We’ll be running the new parts from Friday and we’re not going to make any predictions about what they’ll bring. The most important thing is that we get the set-up right with them first, then we can start really pushing and see where we are in quali and on Sunday. I’ve been at the factory in the last week with the engineers and in the simulator and I know we’re well prepared for the week ahead.”

Caterham are 11th and last in the 2013 Constructors’ Championship, and Pic and van der Garde are 20th and 22nd in the Drivers’ Championship.

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Spanish GP: Williams looking forward to race at Barcelona again


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Williams looking forward to race at Barcelona againOf course, Williams have fond memories of the Spanish Grand Prix, as Pastor Maldonado won the event in 2012, and gave Williams the first victory since 2004. But there was also drama as a fire broke out in the Williams garage while the team was celebrating their victory.

Mike Coughlan: Track conditions can change a lot

Technical Director Mike Coughlan commented about the track, “Track conditions can change a lot during the weekend, making it a challenge to get a good set-up. The track layout, with its high average speed, also makes it quite hard on tyres. Surprisingly it has a similar power sensitivity to Monaco, due to the long corners and demand on handling.”

Williams too, will bring updates for the car to Barcelona and Coughlan said, “As the first race back in Europe, traditionally many teams will bring upgrades to their cars – and we are no different. Following a successful aero test at Idiada last week, we have a number of upgrades which we will be looking to run over the coming races.”

Pastor Maldonado - Photo: Williams F1

Pastor Maldonado – Photo: Williams F1

Pastor Maldonado: The track can be quite hard on tyres

Of course, Maldonado is happy to return to the circuit where he scored his maiden Formula One win, but he is more concerned about the tyres, as the track’s surface will change during the three days. “All the drivers know the track very well and we have some good data from testing here earlier in the year, but the track changes quite a lot so you still need to familiarise yourself with the conditions during practice and set up the car accordingly,” said Maldonado.

The tyre choice will also be important according to the Venezuelan driver, ”The choice of tyre compound will also be a big factor on how well the teams handle the track conditions as the track can be quite hard on tyres. We are now entering a very important part of the season because the next couple of races are quite close to the factory, so there will be more opportunities for us to react to our performance on track and make changes to the car.”

Valtteri Bottas - Photo: Williams F1

Valtteri Bottas – Photo: Williams F1

Valtteri Bottas: The win last year was a big motivational boost

Although he never raced a Formula One car on the Spanish track, Valtteri Bottas does know the track well from his Formula Renault and Formula Three days, and the young Finn said about this weekend’s challenge, “The win last year in Barcelona was a big motivational boost for everyone and was a good example of what we can achieve when everything comes together.“

And he added, “We are working hard to get back to that level and following a good aero test last week at Idiada and a number upgrades coming for this race, hopefully Barcelona can be the start of improved performance for us this year.”

Despite their efforts, Williams still has to score their first points of the season, the Grove-based outfit is ninth in the Constructors’ Championship, Bottas and Maldonado are 16th and 17th respectively.

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Spanish GP: Mercedes pins hopes on new upgrade package, race pace main concern


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Mercedes pins hopes on new upgrade package, race pace main concernMercedes is also ready for round five of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya. The performance of the Silver Arrows team has been a concern as the car did not perform well during the Bahrain Grand Prix, but a new upgrade package should improve the race pace of the car.

Ross Brawn: We’re not there yet but we are making progress

Team Principal Ross Brawn is aware of the lack of pace of the Silver Arrows team, and has pinned his hopes on a new upgrade package that will be introduced in Spain this weekend. “We have focused our efforts in two key areas; finalising our upgrade package for Spain and understanding our comparative lack of race pace in Bahrain. We have made progress in the latter area and will evaluate some developments over the upcoming race weekends to help improve the situation,” Brawn said.

There is still a lot of work to do, and Brawn further commented, “We’re not there yet but we are making progress and of course, performing in the race is what really counts.” About the Barcelona circuit the Briton said, “Overtaking is more difficult there than at some of the early season tracks and, of course, every team will be bringing new developments so the weekend should provide an interesting challenge.”

Lewis Hamilton - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Lewis Hamilton – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Lewis Hamilton: We know the areas that we need to improve

Lewis Hamilton, who switched from McLaren to Mercedes, commented ahead of this weekend’s race, “We’ve been boosted by the results that we’ve had at the start of the season and to come away from the first four races with two third and two fifth places feels like a real achievement.”

He too, knows there is still a lot of work to do, “I’m feeling very comfortable in the car now and we know the areas that we need to improve — so a lot of effort is being put in to close that gap to the front-runners.” And he added, “Barcelona should be a good test as we know the circuit so well having completed most of the pre-season test programme there. The weekend should be a good benchmark of the progress we have made since then.”

Nico Rosberg took pole in Bahrain - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Nico Rosberg took pole in Bahrain – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Nico Rosberg: I am hopeful that we can have a strong weekend

Nico Rosberg is looking forward to the race and commented, “We know that the car went very well at the Circuit de Catalunya in pre-season testing so I am hopeful that we can have a strong weekend. We will have to wait and see how our pace compares however.”

The race-pace of the Mercedes is the main concern according to Rosberg, “Everyone has been working hard to make progress on our race day performance. It will be an interesting weekend and once we see how everyone performs in Barcelona, it should give a good idea of how the rest of the season will look.”

Mercedes is fourth is in the Constructors’ Championship with 64 points, while Hamilton and Rosberg are third and ninth in the Drivers’ Championship.

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Spanish GP: Sauber to bring several aero updates to Barcelona


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Sauber to bring several aero updates to BarcelonaLike all other Formula One teams, Sauber are also looking forward to race on European soil again. The Swiss outfit will bring several new aero updates to the Circuit de Catalunya, including a modified rear wing.

Tom McCullough: Our target is to finish in the points

Sauber’s Head of Track Engineering Tom McCullough thinks that, not only the updates, but also the tyres will be the key to success this weekend, “Although Barcelona is a track we know well from winter testing, the higher temperatures do change how the tyres perform, so we have to adapt to that. The option tyre will be the medium compound and for the prime Pirelli are re-introducing the 2012 hard compound for this event.”

And he added, “We have some further aero updates, including a modified rear wing, and we will be evaluating these during Friday practice. Qualifying is particularly important here as overtaking can be difficult in the race. Our target for the race is to finish with both cars in the points.”

Nico Hulkenberg - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Nico Hulkenberg – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Nico Hulkenberg: We know the Circuit de Catalunya well

Nico Hulkenberg is pleased to race in Europe again, and said, “I’m looking forward to the Spanish Grand Prix because it kicks off this season’s European races. Barcelona is a nice city where you can get a real feel for the Spanish life style. We know the Circuit de Catalunya well, of course, from the winter tests.”

“However,” the young German said, “Since winter testing many things have changed and also the climate will be different from the one we had in February, which you have to take into consideration.” Asked about the circuit characteristics he commented, “The circuit is diverse. The first two sectors are fast with fast, long corners, which require good down force and a well-balanced car, whereas the third sector is quite technical.”

Esteban Gutierrez - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Esteban Gutierrez – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Esteban Gutierrez: Tyre management will be crucial here

Esteban Gutierrez got his first taste of a Formula One car at the Circuit de Catalunya during pre-season testing in February this year, and is looking forward to race on the demanding track. He also thinks the tyres are important this weekend, “The track is quite demanding, especially the last sector. Tyre management will be crucial here, and, especially during a qualifying lap, you need to nurse your tyres in the first two sectors in order to get a clean third sector.”

And he further explained, “You must make sure the tyres still have good grip when you approach the final corners of the lap, including the chicane. We have to wait and see if the updates will help us to catch up with the guys further up the field.”

For Sauber it has been a difficult start of the season, they have so far only scored five points — courtesy of Hulkenberg — which gives them the right to eighth place in the Constructors’ Championship; Hulkenberg is currently 14th in the Drivers’ Championship, while Gutierrez is 18th.

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Spanish GP: Red Bull drivers Vettel and Webber looking forward to race at Barcelona


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Red Bull drivers Vettel and Webber looking forward to race at BarcelonaAfter a hectic first four races of the season, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel have settled their differences and are looking forward to round five of the FIA Formula One Championship, the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Mark Webber: It’s good to go there and get a nice result

Mark Webber is pleased Formula One returns to Europe and said, “It’s a little bit easier; obviously the travel is very convenient and everything is within a striking distance of two hours. We all know the hotels well and the drill of how to get around. It’s much more straightforward than some of the new venues; it’s a nice time to be racing in Europe with the weather generally and it’s a good atmosphere.”

Mark Webber - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Mark Webber – Photo: Red Bull Racing

The Australian has fond memories of the Barcelona circuit and asked about his favourite race in Spain he said, “My win in 2010, I qualified on pole and it was a race which I controlled from the front. I pulled a gap from Sebastian [Vettel], then Lewis [Hamilton] was behind me and put a little bit of pressure on me in the middle of the race, but he had a mechanical failure towards the end. It’s rewarding because we do so much testing there, so it’s good to go there and get a nice result.”

And what is his favourite part of the circuit? “The first sector, I like the exit of Turn 2 into Turn 3. I also like Turn 13, which is a weird little right-hander, downhill, blind corner, but I think it’s quite a nice little corner to get right.”

Sebastian Vettel: The win in 2011 was very special

Vettel too, is ready for the first race on European soil, and the German commented, “It’s good to be back in Europe, and in Spain in particular. The atmosphere is always very special at the European races and the weather is usually good too. It helps that the travelling time to and from events is shorter and there’s no need to adapt to a time difference.”

Sebastian Vettel - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Sebastian Vettel – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Asked about his best memories of the Circuit de Catalunya he said without hesitation, “The win in 2011 was very special. It was a long race and for the last 20 or 30 laps I had a lot of pressure from behind from Lewis [Hamilton]. I had no KERS to defend, so it was good to come out on top at the end.”

And his favourite part of the circuit? “The whole Barcelona circuit is interesting as it includes all types of corners and offers a really good mix, but my favourite part is still the first sector, because it has really quick corners.”

Red Bull Racing is currently leading the Constructors’ Championship with 109 points, but Lotus is catching up and are second, just 16 points behind the Austrian outfit. Vettel is leading the race for the 2013 Drivers’ Championship with 77 points, followed by Kimi Raikkonen who is ten points behind the triple World Champion. Webber is fifth with 32 points, sandwiched between both Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, who are fourth and sixth.

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