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Fernando Alonso: “I want to be in pole position, not second…”

Fernando Alonso insists he has no regrets about leaving Ferrari, despite Sebastian Vettel’s second place on the Malaysian GP grid emphasising the Italian team’s improved form.

The Spaniard made some interesting observations about the risks McLaren and Honda have to take in order to beat Mercedes.

“I want to be in pole position, not second,” he said. “It’s a long way to go for us, we start now quite far behind, but I have so much trust and confidence in this team, we have such a talented team and engineers inside McLaren, and we saw the progress in the last two weeks. To beat Mercedes you need to do something special, not to follow them, because if not you will be behind all the time.

“It will take some time, but we will grow up together. There are a lot of young people in the team, a lot of Japanese coming new to this world of F1. We will look at each other in a couple of months when we are in the points or on the podium or something and we will tell each other it was an exciting trip, and we are doing it together.”

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FIA allows both Merhi and Stevens to start in Malaysia

The FIA has taken a lenient approach with Manor Marussia and has allowed both drivers to start despite neither officially qualifying for the Malaysian GP.

Roberto Merhi did not make the 107% cut while Will Stevens did not run at all in qualifying after suffering electronic problems in FP2.

The stewards noted however that the two Marussia-Ferraris “had set satisfactory times in practice at this event” after both men had been inside the 107% in a particular practice session.

Team boss John Booth noted: We knew our first weekend of running would not be without its challenges and although we had a positive day yesterday, it has been important to keep our expectations for qualifying in check. Our two drivers have done a solid job in their debut and Friday’s practice showed promise in terms of having the pace for the 107% time, but today underlined that we have a lot of work to do.”

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Two place grid penalty for Grosjean in Malaysia

Romain Grosjean has been given a two-place grid penalty in Malaysia for a pitlane offence during Q2.

The Frenchman was reported after he left the pit exit with his car not in the same order in the queue as when he arrived, which is a breach of Article 23.6 of the sporting regulations.

The thus drops from eighth to 10th, and both Valtteri Bottas and Marcus Ericsson gain a place apiece.

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Horner behind push to allow teams fifth power unit

The F1 teams look set to agree to a change in the power unit allocation for this season from four to five – despite the demise of the German GP dropping the race total from 20 to 19.

This year the allocation is supposed to be down to four after the FIA set it at five for the first season of the new formula in 2014. However, after teams experienced problems in Australia – notably Red Bull and McLaren – there are fears that there will be a gradual reduction in the amount of laps run on Fridays as everyone seeks to keep their engine allocation alive, and thus avoid grid penalties.

Concerns that fans will thus get a raw deal have thus been used to push forward the idea, which was discussed by team bosses this morning. If unanimous agreement on the details can be found, it could be implemented straight away.

“I suggested the idea,” Christian Horner told this writer. “The objective is really to make sure that cars are out on the track, otherwise as we get further into the year it’s going to become harder and harder and teams are going to become more restrictive. There seems to be unanimous agreement on it, so that’s a positive sign.”

It remains to be seen whether the extra power unit would simply be added to the current allocation, or specifically earmarked for Friday use.

“It’s to be decided,” said Horner. “I don’t mind whether it’s a Friday engine or we just go back to last year’s rule, it doesn’t matter.”

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Williams reserve role for Adrian Sutil

Adrian Sutil has joined Williams as its reserve driver for 2015, and thus the former Force India and Sauber driver has landed an unexpected chance to at least keep a foot in the F1 door.

In theory he would have stood in had Valtteri Bottas not been passed fit this weekend.

The team noted: Adrian will spend time in the team’s race simulator to ensure he is fully accustomed to the Williams Mercedes FW37 controls and procedures, should he be required to step into the cockpit at any time during the current season. He has also spent time integrating himself into the team to ensure he is fully prepared to join Williams Martini Racing at any event, should the need arise.”

I’m delighted to have Adrian join our stable of drivers for the 2015 season,” said Sir Frank Williams. “Adrian brings extensive racing experience, having competed 128 Formula One races during his career. Having most recently raced during the 2014 season also gives him excellent knowledge of the current generation of race car and new Hybrid power units, which is invaluable for anyone needing to step into the cockpit in 2015.

The fight for a top Constructors’ Championship position will be intense this season, therefore we have selected a driver with recent race experience and are confident that if the need arose, he would be a solid pair of hands to race the FW37 and assist our 2015 campaign.”

Sutil added: “To work for Sir Frank Williams and his team means a lot to me. I would like to thank everyone at Williams for their belief in my qualities and the opportunity to work with such a successful and competitive outfit.”

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Bob Fernley: “Do we have to get into such a crisis before anybody reacts?”

Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley says that the small grid and other issues that surfaced at the Australian GP should be a wake-up call for F1.

While circumstances combined to provide the grid of 15 cars, Fernley agrees that it was a sign of the direction the sport could take if some teams collapse. In addition the Sauber saga and Manor’s failure to take to the track showed how tough teams are finding it as they try to survive.

“I think we’ve still got to focus on the fundamentals,” Fernley told this writer. “We need to get F1 in a position where it’s sustainable for all teams, and not just the four manufacturer teams. We’re seeing a situation where even Red Bull are reacting because they want to see a slightly different programme. That opportunity should have come a long time ago. Do we have to get into such a crisis before anybody reacts?”

Fernley is adamant that F1’s problems have been caused by all the power lying with Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull, the key players in the Strategy Group.

“The four manufacturer teams are not remotely interested in what happens to the other teams. In Australia Red Bull changed their position, and maybe that will be reflected in the future. And they also came out with banning wind tunnels. Red Bull have voted twice against that, and now all of a sudden we’re getting these things.

“There needs to be more momentum. The basic issue is that the four manufacturer teams are controlling F1, they’re not remotely interested in what happens to anybody else, and they think they can put the show on with or without anybody else.

“And I think we are starting to see some of the damage that’s been done over the Strategy Group’s decision. A lot of our situation today has come since the Strategy Group was put in place, because there’s no balance any more – it’s just four manufacturer teams dictating what’s going on in F1.

“It’s something that we’ve been very vocal about for two years. I don’t want to say I told you so, because you want to be constructive. It certainly needs to be looked at.”

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Alonso returns but still no more answers on testing accident

McLaren has confirmed that Fernando Alonso will return to the cockpit in Malaysia – with the rider that it will be subject to a final medical check at Sepang on Thursday.

However the team clearly believes that will now be a formality and that after missing Australia the Spaniard will be able to start his season next weekend.

Meanwhile the team still doesn’t have any more answers about the accident.

In a statement it said: “Since his Barcelona testing accident, Fernando has followed a rigorous, specialised training programme, designed and closely monitored by leading sports scientists, to ensure his safe and timely return to racing.

At the McLaren Technology Centre last week, Fernando met with his engineers and drove the simulator, to bring him up to date with the latest developments on the MP4-30 chassis and power unit. As part of that process he spent time with senior engineers, discussing the accident and reviewing the comprehensive data and analysis, all of which has been shared with the FIA.

While there was nothing evident in the extensive car telemetry data, nor anything abnormal in the subsequent reconstructions and laboratory tests, Fernando recalls a sense of ‘heavy’ steering prior to the accident. Consequently, the team has fitted an additional sensor to the car, to increase our data capture.”

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