Australian GP boss warns against race sharing
By NEIL FRANKLAND
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Australian Grand Prix chief Ron Walker has urged the Victorian state government to resist any temptation to share the race with another state as a way of reducing the cost of the hosting rights.
The cost of hosting the race had long been an issue in Australia, with the state government under pressure from many interest groups to drop the event or otherwise offset costs.
Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper quoted an unnamed spokesman from the Victoria state premier's office as refusing to rule out a plan to share the race with another Australian city, similar to the arrangement that exists for the German and soon-to-be Spanish grands prix.
"We've got the race until 2015 in its current form," the spokesman was quoted as saying. "Negotiations beyond that will focus on value for money for the Victorian economy."
Walker was against any sharing of the event, describing the option as "a formula for disaster."
"All of our major events are hard won and we are not about to share ours with another Australian city," he was quoted as saying.
HOTEL HOODOO: It's not just the mint left on his pillow that makes Jenson Button a fan of his Melbourne hotel, the Briton also thinks his lodgings may have a part in his string of successes at the Australian Grand Prix.
After winning his third Australian GP from four races in Melbourne, Button revealed he's stayed in the same hotel room for all three victories.
"We arrived this year and my missus said 'we're actually in the same bedroom as when you won those two previous years,' so maybe that's the reason why," he said.
And if Button has his way, he'll be sleeping in the same bed next year.
When second-place getter Sebastian Vettel suggested he stay in another room, Button quickly replied "yeah, whatever."
RESURGENT RICIARDO: Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo's first home grand prix could hardly have started worse, but top-class passing moves on the final sequence of corners meant it could scarcely have ended better.
The 22-year-old Toro Rosso driver qualified 10th, was down to 21st after one lap, started the final lap in 12th, and finished ninth, taking his first ever points in F1 and getting early bragging rights over his teammate Jean-Eric Vergne.
Even beneath the din of the screaming F1 engines, the groans from the Australian fans could be heard when Ricciardo got caught up in a first-corner collision and was forced to pit, pushing him to the back of the field.
With a little bit of help from the safety car tightening up the running order, Ricciardo managed to get into the fight for the points. Entering the final corners, he still had plenty of work to do, but managed to overtake Vergne and Force India's Paul di Resta.
"I don't really know how that happened on the last lap," Ricciardo said. "I saw blue flags and a lot of cars in front and I was sure I could make up at least one place because it was chaos.
"I was a bit lucky to be the last one in that group because I could have a clear picture of the other cars going off in front. Then I had a chance to attack Jean-Eric. He defended into Turn 13 and I thought I could make the switch back and I did, which put me in P9."
Ricciardo's first taste of points left him with a hunger for more.
"It's good to finish ninth, but I could have done better because the car was very strong, given how fast it was even with the damage I had to carry through the whole race, with the car pulling to one side," Ricciardo said. "It was not easy to come back, but I never gave up, pushing all the time."
WINGS OF DISCONTENT: Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn is surprised at the level of dispute about the team's innovative wing design, saying it has little effect on the cars' performance.
Lotus and Red Bull were reportedly among the teams who have asked the FIA for further clarification on the legality of the wing system. The FIA has given the design initial approval but was expected to have a more thorough examination before the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Mercedes aerodynamic design feeds off the Drag Reduction System - an initiative introduced to F1 in 2011, which allows drivers to open the rear wing to reduce drag and increase straight-line speed.
On the 2012 Mercedes, when the rear wing is opened, it exposes a duct which directs airflow back under the car to increase downforce.
At the heart of the argument is whether the system breaches rules which prevent ducts being operated by the driver. Mercedes says the driver operates the DRS and the ducts are only incidentally exposed.
The DRS can be used at any time in qualifying, but in the race it can only be used on designated fast sections of the track, and then only when the car in front is less than a second away.
"We have an interesting system on the car, and its not complicated at all, so I'm sure other teams are looking at it and they need to decide if its worthwhile or not," Brawn said.
Brawn would have experienced deja vu when the dispute arose. Three years earlier, Red Bull, Williams and Toyota officially challenged the legality of the double diffuser system fitted to the cars of his then Brawn team. The challenge failed, other teams were forced to play catch-up and Brawn accrued enough early points to win the title.
"It (the wing system) is not in the same magnitude as the diffuser concept that we have or even the exhaust concepts the cars ran the last few years," Brawn said. "It's obviously helpful, that's why we're doing it, but its not a massive performance gain.
"For me, the magic of Formula One is not just the drivers, its the technology, the engineering, the innovation. That's why Formula One is so fascinating, why its so appealing to our fans and enthusiasts."
Updated March 18, 2012