F-1 Notes: Who Has The Best Ride?

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — It is going to be fascinating to see the relative performance the cars during this week’s final preseason test in Barcelona as it will give the final indication of what fans can expect at the Australian Grand Prix. At the moment Mercedes and McLaren are playing catch up to Red Bull and Ferrari.

“It is always difficult to catch people,” Lewis Hamilton said during a media day in England. “Wherever we are right now, we will have to do twice as much work with our update package for the first race because so will they [be adding upgrades.] We have to close the gap and it makes the challenge a little bit tougher. But it’s nothing we can’t do.”

Mercedes’ strategy all along was to produce a base car and get it completely sorted out before installing the performance package at the last test.

“We are well aware of the pace of our current car, the distance to the current front runners and the reasons for this, which include the compromises brought about by our cooling issues,” Ross Brawn said.”

Our intention was always to launch the car in a fairly basic specification to allow more time to focus on the upgrade package. This inevitably means that we look further off the pace than people might expect. Knowing all of the facts, I am comfortable with our current position and the developments that we have to come.”

– Timo Glock will probably miss the final preseason test as he is recovers from an emergency appendectomy on March 1.

– Whether the Bahrain Grand Prix will be rescheduled late in the season or postponed to next year will be decided this week. Bernie Ecclestone had proposed that the race be held in August during F-1’s summer break, but realized it is far too hot in Bahrain at that time.

“We’ll have a look and see what we can do, how we can swap things round,” he said. “Maybe we can change with Brazil. I don’t know how likely it is that there is going to be peace in Bahrain. But if there is, we will find a way.”

Things have calmed down somewhat in Bahrain, but Ecclestone admits that it would have been a mistake to hold the race on March 13.

“Whether if we were there it would have given the opportunity for more unrest or not, I don’t know. But I’d hate, had it happened, that we were the cause so people could suddenly get a lot more publicity by sabotaging F-1.”

But the danger exists that the same scenario will still be true in November.

– Drivers have been grumbling about the degradation of the Pirellis almost from the moment they strapped on their first foursome of the Italian tires. It could have been a lot worse claims Nick Heidfeld who was Pirelli’s official tester.

“I am responsible for having made it even better than it was,” he said. “You have to remember that it was a pretty short time for Pirelli to develop the tires. It was just late last summer that it was clear that they would produce the tires for F-1, which is not an easy task. Of course the degradation is quite a bit bigger than the tires we had before, but this was wanted, and it will be appreciated by the spectators. We will most likely see more pit stops, and more degradation should make the racing more interesting.”

– The delay to the start of the season has given HRT more time to decide who will be Narain Karthikeyan teammate. Tonio Liuzzi is the top candidate but his ride depends on the team landing a major Russian sponsor. Christian Klien is also in constant contact with HRT.

– Rain can turn races into exciting lotteries. Why not, Bernie Ecclestone mused on the official F-1 website, install sprinklers at the tracks which be programmed to douse the track at random or perhaps not at all. It’s one of those typical Ecclestone throwaway remarks that garner free publicity for F-1.

It would be impractical and expensive. Would all 20 tracks be required to install the systems? If not, which would be exempted? If a car spins off would it clobber an exposed sprinkler head?

Where will the millions of gallons of water required come from? If F-1 is striving for a green image, what message would it send by splurging the world’s most precious resource?