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F1 2011 Launch Catch Up – McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull, Sauber, Toro Rosso, Renault…

Catching up on the launches in one mega post.  Here in you’ll find quick interviews with senior members of the team and photos from the Red Bull, Sauber, Renault Lotus, Toro Rosso, Mercedes and McLaren launches.

Apologies for being somewhat late, the whole blog isn’t running at full power until the season starts again.

Red Bull RB7

The world champions launched their new car, named the RB7.  A clear advancement on the hugely successful RB6, hopes are high that this machine can deliver once again.

“This year is no different to any other,” said Christian Horner, team principal of Red Bull.

“I think if we had not have won either championship last year there would have been that expectation and obviously the pressure that comes with that. We’ve achieved that and achieved that in a short space of time and I think it is like winning your first grand prix.

“Out of that comes confidence but not arrogance, but the team goes into this year very, very motivated and very committed but you have to remember we are still an independent team with a customer engine that achieved some remarkable things last year and that is our target again, again, obviously this year.”

 

Sauber C30

The independent Swiss team pulled the covers of their new car, the C30 marking the second incarnation of the team in its modern era.  The new car is backed heavily by Mexican giants Telmex and will be raced by Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez.

Former Force India but now Sauber technical director James Key said: “Our aim in the development of the Sauber C30-Ferrari has been to build on the strengths of the C29 and to eliminate its weak points.

“In addition, it is also important for us to go into winter testing with a car we understand, and we have worked hard on ensuring the characteristics of the car are heading in a direction we believe in. There will be much to learn about the new Pirelli tyres and in this respect we want to ensure there are no surprises with the way the car is handling.”

“My rookie season was a very challenging, very exciting period,” Kamui Kobayashi commented at the launch as he enters his second full season of racing.

“Now it’s still exciting but it’s a different role. It’s more the experienced driver in the team. I am thinking how I can bring a good level to the team.

“I have to be ready to lead the team. That’s why Peter Sauber and the team chose me for this year. This is definitely my challenge and let’s say I am ready to be the leader for the team.”

 

Renault Lotus R31

Newly backed by Group Lotus, Renault pulled the covers off their new car – the R31 – to a mass of media wondering what the final paint scheme would look like, and wondering how the Lotus name debate would go on.  The debate on the name may still be rumbling, but there is no debate over how fabulous the car looks in classic JPS brown and gold.

Featuring front blown exhausts, it looks fast and could be a title contender.  And with Bruno Senna as a spare driver, it harks back wonderful memories seeing the yellow helmet inside a JPS liveried Lotus.

“I’m happy that we had some creative designs on the car. We clearly back our team and definitely our technical team because we want to be fast, we want to be at the front.” said team principal Eric Boullier

“We know it takes time. You have to be creative. You have to find different ways of creating downforce or performance points. We have been taking this path because we believed, quite early in 2010, that we could find more gains going this way.

“In the wind tunnel, or on paper shall we say, the car already has more performance than 12 months ago. If it’s on the car it’s because we believe it works. But we will see on the track.”

Meanwhile Robert Kubica, the number 1 driver was somewhat cautious on their chances “I think realistically speaking is far too early to say what will be possible to achieve this year,”

“Last season was quite disappointing and let’s hope this year will be different. I think definitely we are more prepared this year, because of the more stable situation in the team than last winter, when I joined the team.

“The winter of 2009 and 2010 was very difficult for Renault and I think this year the engineers and designers had a much easier time and much more time to design the car and I think they have done a really good job.”

 

Scuderia Toro Rosso STR6

Toro Rosso, always in their senior brothers shadow has brought a new design to the table and hopes it will deliver them more success this season in the capable hands of Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi.

The pairing are aiming for 6th place in the Ferrari powered beast.

“My expectations are to do a decent year and we have to have the target to be eighth and as I said, we are good to be ninth but we have to do better. And at the end of the year we have to bring back an eighth place,” said Giorgio Ascanelli.

“Last year we didn’t have a wind-tunnel, the CFD was not mature in order to define the car,” he added. “Therefore, we did not change very much apart from those elements linked to the change of regulation between 2009 and 2010.

“This year the tools which design the car in its performance aspect, which are again the wind tunnel and CFD, are more mature, which means that although we are still learning how to make the best of them I think we have started using them properly.

“For this year, we have to aim for eighth place, because that is our target and I didn’t think that was possible if we had gone with some sort of conventional car.”

 

Mercedes Benz WO2

Mercedes Benz will be hoping that their second modern F1 car can deliver them some more success than last season.  With Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg behind the wheel they have plenty of potential.  A well sponsor backed car now features the light green of Petronas merging into the brushes silver paintwork.  Ross Brawn, the technical mastertmind behind multiple drivers world championship wins will be eager to deliver the German squad some success.

“It is always a thrill to see a new car ready to take the track for the first time and this year is no exception,” said Brawn. “After our first year as the Mercedes-Benz works team, we are now seeing the benefits of our chassis and engine groups working well together.

“With a good technical structure and a strengthened race engineering organisation, both at the factory and the race track, I am confident that we have done and will continue to do a better job this year in all key areas.

“We want to be setting the standard right from the start but if we are not, we will respond very strongly to get ourselves into the game. Everyone is excitedly waiting to see what the new season will reveal.”

Meanwhile top driver Michael Schumacher was upbeat on the chances of the car delivering him a record breaking 8th world championship.

“I very much look forward to the new season. We have said it several times already but again, we are really to building up something big together. I am very confident that this season we will be standing on the podium much more regularly; ideally in the middle!”

 

McLaren MP4-26

McLaren launched their radical new car in Berlin in a ceremony hosted by lead sponsors Vodafone.  The car will be raced by two former world champions, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

The new car features L-Shaped sidepods, and a two tier floor amongst other technical advancements.  The squad are already looking at incorporating a front blown exhaust similar to the Renault Lotus’ design.

Lewis Hamilton was very happy with the machine on launch day.

“I hope the car proves just as innovative once we take to the track next week,” said Hamilton. “I head into 2011 in a relaxed but determined frame of mind.

“I’ve spared nothing during my winter fitness preparations and, in many ways, I feel as fit, focused and refreshed as I did ahead of my first season in Formula 1 in 2007.

“Having spent the past few weeks talking with our designers and engineers, I feel extremely happy that we’ve created a car that will once again allow us to fight at the front.”

 

 

 

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Red Bull Racing Share Out Staff Bonuses For Winning Title

Red Bull Racing owner Dietrich Mateschitz has handed out all of the staff bonuses to his team following their double world championship victory this season, according to German newspaper Bild.

It has been estimated that the majority of the 500 staff in Milton Keynes were given £10,000 for their troubles over the season, while more senior staff earnt themselves a bonus of about £42,000 for their part in the victories.

World Champion Sebastian Vettel earnt himself around £2.6million for winning the world championship, on top of the extra sponsorship money and revenue he will now command following the championship victory.  Proctor & Gamble have already signed a new sponsorship deal with the young German.

It is merely a drop in the ocean for owner Mateschitz, himself a millionaire, who is expected to receive about £62million in prize money for the championship wins.  He has always maintained however that his wallet is not a bottomless pit when it comes to the budget for the team, they are estimated to have a middle ground budget of between €300million and €500million.  Toyota were the top budget spenders in F1, but it is likely that Ferrari have regained the crown of the largest spenders in F1.

 


Toro Rosso Sale Denied – Many Interested In Purchasing Team

Dietrich Mateschitz has been forced to deny that one of his Formula One teams, Scuderia Toro Rosso is up for sale.

It had been reported online earlier this week that the team, based in Faenza, was up for sale at a paltry €30million.  The team was formerly known as Minardi until the end of 2005 when Mateschitz took control of the outfit and rebranded it to fit in with his Red Bull portfolio.  Designed as a feeder team to the main Red Bull squad, it had been using repaints of the senior teams cars until this year when the rules on customer cars was finally sorted.

The team are most famous for producing the 2010 title challenger Sebastian Vettel who joined at the end of 2007, winning their first and only Grand Prix at Monza in 2008.  He was then promoted to the senior Red Bull Racing team.

“There are constant rumors about it, but now we have no plans to sell Toro Rosso,” Mateschitz’s PA told 422race.com.

Despite the denial of sale there are reported to already be a number of people interested in purchasing the team, should Mateschitz decide to sell.  These include Carlos Slim, the Mexican entrepreneur who has always been interested in buying in to the F1 dream.  Another interested party is Jacques Villeneuve along with the Duragno group who failed to succeed in becoming the 13th team for 2011.  Stefan GP have also been linked with purchasing the team now they have severed all links with the former Toyota outfit.


Raikkonen Backs Away From 2011 F1 Return But Considers 2012 Date

Kimi Raikkonen has backed away from claims he was about to make a shock return to Formula One next season with the Renault team.

Raikkonen, who won the F1 world championship in 2007, left the sport at the end of last season.  He now races in World Rally with the Citroen Junior Team in partnership with Red Bull.

Reports from within the Renault team camp suggested that they had made an offer for Kimi to join Robert Kubica at the team for next season replacing Vitaly Petrov.  However today Raikkonen suggested he was happy with rallying, for the time being at least.

“I don’t miss Formula 1 and I am enjoying what I am doing now,” Raikkonen told reporters

“I have still not decided what I am doing next year yet. Soon I have to decide, maybe it will be just after Rally Finland.”

Meanwhile Oliver Quesnel of Citroen Motorsport was confident the Finn would sign for another season.

“I’m sure this will happen,” he said. “For myself, he is really involved in rallying and he wants to succeed. I will be pleased if he will stay. he has done one year and he needs to do one more year to make sure.”

Red Bull are said to be very happy with their partnership with Raikkonen, and there is still a possibility he could return to F1 in 2012 but with the high flying Red Bull team in place of Mark Webber.  He would theoretically be racing alongside Sebastian Vettel.


Red Bull Gives You Wings…..Unless Your Name Is Mark Webber

Red Bull’s slogan gave me that terrific title you read above, okay perhaps its no better than something you might read in a tabliod newspaper like The Sun but this weekend’s controversy surrounding the Red Bull Racing team once again highlights the problems with in-team politics and the effect it can have on the drivers.

Mark Webber was denied the use of the new Red Bull front wing, after his was given to team mate Sebastian Vettel for qualifying whose new wing had been damaged in Saturday morning practice.  The Australian was duly annoyed when Vettel took pole position.  It was another item of favouritsm toward the young German from this season, Webber is even using one of Sebastian’s old chassis.

Despite all of this, Webber managed to win the Grand Prix – barging Vettel off the road into turn 1 – but no amount of nice press photos with Christian Horner and Adrian Newey could put the lid on the problems within the team.  Mark claimed down the radio on victory “not bad for a second driver”, a clear point towards his status within the team – or at least his percieved status.  Red Bull had defended themselves by claiming they were giving the championship leader the advantage, but we will see if that is true in Germany as Webber now leads the standings ahead of Red Bull favourite Vettel.

“Whether the gap between us in qualifying was the difference between the two front wings, I don’t know,” said Webber after last weekend’s British Grand Prix. “But it was a far from ideal situation and it definitely made my win taste even sweeter.”

Christian Horner came out in the Monday newspapers claiming he regretted not speaking with Webber before the decision was made, and he categorically denied that it had anything to do with Helmut Marko or Dietrich Mateschitz the owners of the Red Bull Energy Drink brand.

“There has never been any pressure from Red Bull to favour one driver over the other.” Horner told The Daily Telegraph in England

“I didn’t have a conversation with Helmut or anyone from Red Bull regarding the decision to give Sebastian the wing. It was purely a technical decision, which I discussed with Adrian [Newey].

“My one regret is that I didn’t have time to discuss the issue with Mark personally prior to qualifying as I’m sure that would have given him a more balanced understanding.”

We have seen many instances of team bias and favouritsm over the years, most recently with the arguments between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso at McLaren, a row which has never really been cleared up and forced the Spaniard to leave the team and then earlier between Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello during their time at Ferrari.

Top teams have trouble keeping their drivers together and motivated, especially when they are fighting for the championship – Barrichello even had trouble with Brawn GP last year with their dominance.  However this is the first time we have seen the management of a team really getting involved and openly favouring one driver over another, even during the Schumacher days at Ferrari they did not willingly pass equipment or new parts over Barrichello – definitely not during a race weekend in any case.

The path Red Bull now tread with Webber is a difficult one, but they really have the Australian cornered to an extent.  He has signed a new contract, and there aren’t really any race seats with top teams on offer for next season.  He could potentially leave the team, who are looking likely to win the world championship, and head to Renault alongside Robert Kubica.  That would leave the door wide open for Red Bull sponsored rally driver Kimi Raikkonen to come back to F1.  Or Webber can just live with the favouritism toward Vettel and get on in trying to win the World Championship.

Nick Fry, the CEO of Mercedes Benz has seen these problems before, having dealt with the Button/Barrichello problems last year and advises Red Bull to sort the issues out quickly otherwise they have the potential of shooting themselves in the foot.

“I do sympathise on the one hand with them,” said Fry

“But one of the main points is to stop shooting yourself in the foot. Just looking at it from the outside, there seems to be a case of Red Bull causing more problems than they need to.

“They have clearly got the fastest car by quite a margin, and they should be way ahead of the rest of us, and they are not. So they do need to look at themselves and try and work out what they are doing wrong.

“They are beating themselves – which is very satisfying for the rest of us but it should not be what they are up to.”

All I know is, I am glad I am not in Christian Horner’s shoes this week!!

Happy families?


2010 British Grand Prix Preview

Back in 2009 at the British Grand Prix we all believed it would be the last time we would see Formula One cars racing around Silverstone as the race was set to move to Donington Park.  However, Donny messed it right up and with a lot of bartering with the master Bernie Ecclestone, the British Grand Prix was saved and it is back at the home of British motorsport, Silverstone.

However it is doubtful if you are heading to Silverstone this weekend, or just watching it on television, that you will recognise the circuit.  The layout has been changed, the new “arena” complex will be used for the race.  Originally designed for motorbike racing (Silverstone now hosts the British MotoGP round).  The circuit retains the fast Copse and Magotts corners before hitting the Hangar Straight down to Stowe.  Vale and Club also remain.  However the big changes are up at Abbey.  You will now see the cars turning right at Abbey, not left then under Bridge.  Farm is as good as abandoned, and there is a small straight which bears slightly to the left before a sharp right, left right combination known as Village, The Loop and Aintree before drivers hit the Wellington Straight.  This straight then merges back onto the old circuit at Brooklands before the cars loop around the final Luffield hairpin before hitting the Grand Prix straight.

Silverstone Data File:

Dates: 9th-11th July

Location: Silverstone Circuit, Northamptonshire – England

Laps: 52

2009 Winner: Sebastian Vettel

One’s to watch…

  • Sebastian Vettel – The 2009 race winner is looking to get back on to top form
  • Fernando Alonso – The Ferrari star admits they need a win, looking to get some points after the Valencia debacle
  • Lewis Hamilton – He loves nothing more than a home win, and can smell the 2010 title
  • Michael Schumacher – His form has to pick up soon….right?

From the Twitter waves….

From @TheFifthDriver – Jenson Button driving the Vodafone camper to Silverstone this morning

From @LucasdiGrassi the Virgin driver – the new pit complex being constructed


Horner Dismisses Raikkonen F1 Return Rumours

Christian Horner has openly dismissed the rumours circulating that his red Bull Racing team was about to hand the 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen a race contract for the 2011 season.

Raikkonen quit Ferrari at the end of last season so the team could take on Fernando Alonso.  After failing to agree terms with McLaren, the former champion Raikkonen went off to race in the World Rally Championship for the Citroen Junior Team.   At the time there was speculation he had a return to F1 contract signed with Red Bull, following the drink manufacturer becoming the Finn’s title sponsor with Citroen.

When asked about Kimi returning was a possibility Horner said “No. Kimi has committed himself to rallying, and he seems to be enjoying that environment.

“We have been happy with the job that Mark is doing, so why would you change?”

Mark Webber now looks set to recieve a big contract to stay with the team for another year, as the 2011 silly season’s big movers are set to stay in their current environments.  Felipe Massa is set to be offered another contract by Ferrari and Robert Kubica will commit himself to another season with Renault.

“When we sit down and talk about it, it will be very straightforward,” said Horner. “Mark is an important member of the team, he enjoys driving for the team and we have a great balance between our two drivers. So, it is the usual thing – if it is not broken, don’t fix it.

“I think that it is clear where our intent is, it is clear where his intent is. It is just a matter of sorting out the paperwork with his management, but in the coming weeks I am sure that will be sorted.”


Force India and Red Bull Racing To Run F-Ducts In Turkey

Force India and Red Bull Racing have confirmed that they will be running F-Ducts in the practice sessions for the Turkish Grand Prix this weekend as they evaluate whether the air flow control mechanism is a worthy new technical advancement to their cars.

Vitantonio Liuzzi told reporters that the Force India team were very confident of their system, a system which is operated by the drivers wrist.

“We are really optimistic about it,” Liuzzi said. “You can never know. It might change tomorrow, but the team has done a big work in the wind tunnel for the last two weeks to test it and it seemed to work pretty well.

“Tomorrow we’ll get the confirmation because on track you never know, but we are pretty optimistic that it should be spot on.”

“We made a simple system with the wrist so we don’t have to take the hand off the steering wheel,” he added.

Meanwhile Red Bull Racing’s man of the moment Mark Webber told reporters in the pre-race press conference that Red Bull were to evaluate their own F-Duct system as they try and maintain their recent dominance.

“Yes, we will give the F-duct a go tomorrow,” Webber said during a pre-event press conference in Turkey. “We will give it a chance.”

Ferrari, who were one of the first teams to use the system are going to try a variation on the position of the hole that needs to be covered in order to stall the air during practice.

F-Duct air vent


Australian GP 2010: Button Wins First Race For McLaren

Jenson Button turned a race of the highest quality today in Australia to win his first race for the McLaren team, on a circuit where he dominated with Brawn last season.

Robert Kubica grabbed a heroic second place for Renault, and Felipe Massa hung on to third mostly thanks to his team mate Fernando Alonso.

Race Review

There was always an outside chance of rain at the Melbourne circuit, and it came just before the race leaving everyone to start on intermediates on a damp, cold circuit.  The race was always going to deliver the excitement that we didn’t get in Bahrain and it came thick from the first corner.

Fernando Alonso got a poor start, in contrast to team mate Felipe Massa.  Alonso came into turn 1 and was punted from the inside by Jenson Button, pushing the Spaniard into Michael Schumacher.  The two former World Champions got damage and were forced to the back of the field, Schumacher by a pit stop and Alonso by the virtue that he was spun 180.

Further down the first lap, Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber lost its front wing on the straight for no reason, sending him in an out of control slide into Sebastien Buemi and Nico Hulkenberg knocking all 3 out of the race and bringing the safety car out for the first time.

This allowed Alonso and Schumacher to bunch up the back of the field, and Alonso cut through the field brilliantly, while Schumacher got held back and only ended up finishing in 10th place, his overtaking less competent than Alonso’s and certainly less competent than we are used to from the former master.  Is it the car or is it Schumacher?

Massa had got in front of Webber before the safety car, but lost position when it went into the pits, leaving the Brazilian scrapping with Kubica and Rosberg for 3rd, 4th and 5th.   Jenson Button pitted early for some slick tyres, a move which seemed crazy but eventually led him to win the race.  He was setting hot lap times and the rest of the field pitted, but it was poor timing for Massa who ended up well behind the pack of McLaren’s, Red Bull’s, Kubica and Rosberg, while at this point he was being caught by Alonso and Hamilton both of whom had worked their way through the field.

Only the Red Bull’s did not pit, leaving it a bit late.  Vettel got away unscathed, but Webber on cold tyres made a mistake into turn 1, and cars zipped passed him with ease.  However only a handful of laps later, and Massa looked poor once again, with Webber slotting passed and Hamilton following.  Later on a similar move would cause Massa to force team mate Fernando Alonso off the track and to lose positions that he ultimately would not recover.

A scorching Hamilton now hassled Rosberg, whom he passed with ease around the outside into 13.  His charge only cooled by waved yellows from Sebastian Vettel’s stranded Red Bull, the young cocky German had stuffed it into the gravel trap with suspected brake failure.

The crash handed Button the lead, and allowed Kubica second place which would ultimately be the final positions for the two who decided not to pit for fresh slicks.  The optional second pit stop was instigated by Michael Schumacher, who down in 12th decided on some fresh soft Bridgestones and was lapping nearly 2s per lap quicker.  Hamilton and Webber were notable names to pit, but both Ferrari’s did not pit.

Felipe Massa appeared to be holding up Fernando Alonso but it was lucky for the Brazilian his resilient team mate was behind as Alonso began a heroic drive to the finish.  With Hamilton gaining 2seconds or more per lap on the Ferrari’s, Alonso managed to hold off the charge from the British former World Champion and his McLaren nemesis for over 10 laps to the finish a brilliant piece of driving skill which should have been rewarded with a trophy.

But with 2 laps remaining, a hot headed Mark Webber once again clashed with Lewis Hamilton leading them both to finish much further down the points than they should have done, but Alonso’s work was not done as Nico Rosberg charged to the back of the Ferrari but couldn’t make a move stick.

Liuzzi and Barrichello were 7th and 8th, having a quiet race amidst all the action.  Schumacher took the final points position, with Alguersuari just behind the young Spaniard giving the old German a hard time and no doubt learning more than ever before.  De La Rosa was 12th, but the best mentions have to go to Heiki Kovalainen who finished another race for Lotus and Karun Chadhok who managed to FINISH the race for Hispania, unbeliveable!  Congratulations to both teams.

Race Results

Pos Driver Team Time
1 J. Button McLaren Mercedes 1.33.36.531
2 R. Kubica Renault +12.034
3 F. Massa Ferrari +14.488
4 F. Alonso Ferrari +16.304
5 N. Rosberg Mercedes Benz +16.683
6 L. Hamilton McLaren Mercedes +29.898
7 V. Liuzzi Force India Mercedes +59.847
8 R. Barrichello Williams Cosworth +1.00.536
9 M. Webber Red Bull Renault +1.07.319
10 M. Schumacher Mercedes Benz +1.09.391
11 J. Alguersuari Toro Rosso Ferrari +1.11.301
12 P. De La Rosa Sauber Ferrari +1.14.084
13 H. Kovalainen Lotus Cosworth +2 laps
14 K. Chandhok Hispania HRT +4 laps

Retirements:

Driver Team Lap Reason
T. Glock Virgin 41 Fuel
S. Vettel Red Bull Renault 26 Brake Failure
L. Di Grassi Virgin 25 Hydraulic
A. Sutil Force India 12 Unknown
V. Petrov Renault 10 Accident
B. Senna Hispania HRT 5 Unknown
S. Buemi Toro Rosso Ferrari 1 Accident
N. Hulkenberg Williams 1 Accident
K. Kobayashi Sauber Ferrari 1 Accident
J. Trulli Lotus Cosworth 1 Fuel Pressure

Post Race Interviews

Jenson Button – McLaren Mercedes (1st):  “It is very special.  It has taken me a little while to get to grips inside the car, but the team has been fantastic and welcomed me in.  It is difficult to put it into words, it is a very special feeling and we will take a lot from this. I feel I am building in confidence, and I hope in the next rate we can do something similar as this feels too good.”

Robert Kubica – Renault (2nd):  “To be honest we were not expecting to finish on the podium, for Renault and myself it is a special result. We were pushing hard during the winter and this was the best result we could get for the beginning of the season. This is big thanks to all the guys.  We have to stay realistic, we are not up to pace to finish on the podium normally. We need to keep pushing and I am sure we will manage sooner or later to be on the pace.”

Felipe Massa – Ferrari (3rd):  “I had a fantastic start, without wheelspin, and I saw many cars, especially Fernando and [Mark] Webber having some wheelspin.  I did a very smooth start and passed them in a very good way. I was happy with the start and whole race was very difficult, very slippery and low grip everywhere.  My best result in Australia before was sixth, and in 2007 I had problems in qualifying and started last. It’s not the best race for me in terms of pace, and we lost some positions at the pitstop and a bit on track because of mistakes, so it is fantastic to have one second and one third.”

Fernando Alonso – Ferrari (4th): It was a fantastic result in the end for the team, and for myself as well. So, I was ready to sign before the race for this result – if you win the race you take seven points to your main competitor.  Now, I took 12 points to Vettel, to Michael and to some of the main rivals for the championship. So it has been a much better race in terms of points than Bahrain, if you compare with your main competitor.  I was not convinced that I could recover the positions to get into the points, [but] the car was perfect, and now even thinking through the race and all the analysis – there is the possibility that you can win the race even starting last because the car was so much quicker today than all the others.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi – Force India (7th):  “Another great race and another great result for the team,” said Liuzzi, who charged back from 13th place to score points for the second race in succession.  It’s a confirmation of the pace we showed in Bahrain and the work the team did over the winter.  We worked hard all weekend for this seventh place and it’s a brilliant result at the end of what was a crazy race.”

Michael Schumacher – Mercedes Benz (10th):  “I could have had a good race today so it was a pity that I was hit right after the start,” Schumacher said. “That incident decided my race obviously. But things like that happen and you have to just say ‘that’s racing’.  I had to take the remainder of the race from last position but I have to say that I was still having fun as our pace today was promising and for part of the race, we were going quicker than the top group.  It was nice to pick up a point and we can take that good feeling into the next race where we will look forward to another challenge.”

Heikki Kovalainen – Lotus Cosworth (13th):  “I enjoyed it today and had good fun out there. Our target was to finish the race and from the start we were quite comfortably ahead of the new teams. When [Virgin’s Timo] Glock dropped out I just focused on keeping up a decent rhythm, not making any mistakes and bringing the car home.  Now we go to Malaysia with a good feeling and we’re all looking forward to that.”

Karun Chandhok – Hispania HRT (14th):  “To finish was very difficult today, and all the more satisfying because of that.  I dedicate this race result to all the mechanics and engineers who worked so hard since Bahrain, without any pre-season testing. This is a fantastic day for the team and a great step forward.  I am proud to have ended our first race. We achieved the best result we could do today. We have to keep pushing and working and we will manage to finish even higher.”

Christian Horner – Red Bull Renault Team Boss:  “Ultimately an extremely disappointing day.  Having been in control of the race, the second in succession, Sebastian unfortunately retired with what looks like a wheel related issue (front left), which certainly cost him a comfortable race win today.  It was cruel luck for him for the second year in a row here in Australia.”

Tony Fernandes – Lotus Racing Team Owner:  “I’m disappointed for Jarno, but Heikki did us proud – three places away from a point, and he was keeping pace with most of the other cars throughout the race.  Maybe it would have been nice if three other cars had gone out so we could get a point, but, joking aside, it is good that at this stage of the season we’re already thinking about points. We’re in a nice position for Malaysia.”



CONFIRMED: Raikkonen WRC Deal Done!

A deal taking 2007 F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen into the World Rally Championship has been confirmed this morning after large speculation the Finn had signed on the dotted line last night.

Raikkonen vacated his race seat at Ferrari at the end of last season to allow Fernando Alonso a shot with the Scuderia for 2010 onwards.

He has joined the Citroen Junior World Rally team, with Red Bull backing alongside Sebastian Ogier.

However rumours that it will lead to an F1 drive with Red Bull Racing for 2011 for Raikkonen have been quashed somewhat in an interview with a Red Bull spokesperson.

“This has no prejudice at all for Kimi’s further F1 career if he intends one” He said

“It does not mean at all that he will replace a current Red Bull F1 driver in our team from 2011.”

Raikkonen admitted he is delighted to reach a life time goal and compete professionally in rallying.

“I always wanted to compete in rally, especially in the World Rally Championship at some point in my career,” said Raikkonen.

“Thanks to Red Bull, I have the opportunity to drive the best car of the series with the Citroen C4. This is a new but very exciting challenge.”