x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Formula One notebook: Malaysia Grand Prix

Fernando Alonso remains calm, Michael Schumacher continues to struggle and Hispania make their mark in qualifying

No worry for Ferrari

Fernando Alonso remains confident that Ferrari can challenge for the title this season despite a poor start. The two-time world champion qualified fifth yesterday, almost a full second behind the pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing, and teammate Felipe Massa was seventh. "It's true that we need to be more aggressive in the development because we are too far behind, but I have no doubt that we can do it," Alonso said. "This is too big a team to worry about this. I'm very optimistic for the championship chances. This is a long championship, many races, many things can happen." Alonso finished fourth and Massa seventh in the season-opener in Melbourne.

Near perfection

The McLaren-Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said it would have taken "the perfect lap" to prevent Vettel from claiming the pole. "I saw there was just over a 10th [gap] and that is pretty much exactly what I had in the lap, no more," Hamilton said. "It would have been very, very close if I had been able to extract that. I think it genuinely would have been the perfect lap."

Problems for Schumacher

Michael Schumacher of the Mercedes GP team qualified 11th for the second straight race. "We had some issues with the rear wing activation today and unfortunately that's what compromised my last run in Q2," Schumacher said. "The car became difficult to drive, which is a real shame as it had been working very well during the earlier runs."

Last but not least

Narain Karthikeyan was delighted to qualify 24th for Hispania, after a five-year absence from the sport. His spot on the grid represents a marked improvement for the team, who were too slow to qualify in Melbourne. "We made it through qualifying which was our aim," said Karthikeyan, who raced for Jordan in 2005. "The car is virtually brand new so it's good to get some more mileage done. The more time we can get out on the track the better. I flat-spotted my second set of tyres on turn one so it was hard to set a good time with them after that but everybody worked extremely hard and we're delighted to be in the race."

Di Resta wary of rain

The Force India driver Paul Di Resta expressed concern about the possibility of driving in the rain for the first time. Heavy rain could fall during the race today. Di Resta, who will start 14th, three places ahead of teammate Adrian Sutil, said scepticism about what could unfold is natural. "The big thing is I've never driven the car in the wet, and I was the only driver during the winter not to drive in the wet with the way the allocation worked," Di Resta said. "It's new to me, but then it's going to be new to me at some point, so there's no point in worrying about it. You just get on with it. You get thrown in at the deep end, but then Formula One is like that all the time."

Drivers call for change

Drivers continue to push for a change to the infamous Curvo do Cafe at Interlagos, the venue for the Brazilian Grand Prix. Felipe Massa is wearing a sticker on his helmet this weekend in honour of compatriot Gustavo Sondermann, the 29-year-old Formula Renault driver who died last Sunday at the controversial turn. Also, Rubens Barrichello, the Grand Prix Drivers' Association president, said he is ready to speak out if need be. "If [track officials] need [Formula One] drivers to talk with the FIA to change the corner, we will," Barrichello said.