Alonso rubbishes rivals' fears over rear-wing changes

Spaniard fully supports initiative to increase overtaking despite concern about driver distraction

The first official practice sessions of the Formula One year here in Albert Park today will do more than just provide a long-awaited indication of the pecking order among the teams. They will also confirm whether the drivers are right to be worried about the new drag-reducing rear wings which have been introduced for 2011 to encourage overtaking.

They work by opening the gap between the upper and lower planes of the wings when drivers operate an onboard cockpit-mounted control. The plan is that only drivers who are following another car during a race may use the system, at points around the track pre-determined by the FIA, the sport's governing body. However, the drivers are concerned that the FIA risks overloading them by allowing the systems to be used without restriction throughout practice and qualifying.

The FIA has said it is open to further discussions about the deployment of the rear-wing drag reduction, and today's sessions will amount to something of a suck-it-and-see trial, after which further decisions may be taken.

"I don't think it's too bad for racing," said local hero Mark Webber. "I'm just a little bit surprised that we have everything at our disposal for qualifying because it doesn't really add to the show. For us to have to get used to the overload, it's just an added bit of tummy-tapping, head-rubbing, multi-tasking which is a fraction unnecessary for qualifying, maybe. But I think for the race we need to see how it's going to work because we're going to use it a lot less in the race. The rear wing is not going to be used anywhere near as much.

"You have to understand that in qualifying we're using it every single time we're at full throttle, so it's pretty busy. I'm on for a challenge. I've done Formula 3000 races round Monaco with a gear stick, so we can drive with one hand, this is not the problem. It's just that I think that some corners, like Eau Rouge at Spa and some of these other places, if you have to loosen your grip or do something different with the steering wheel, it's not the way you would normally do things. I think Ayrton Senna hung on to the steering wheel with both hands, even in those type of corners, so you need to be reacting, getting ready for anything that might happen."

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso took a different view, however. "I don't think there is any particular problem with the new rules so all the things we need to do on the steering wheel, they are part of our job. We are professional drivers and we need to understand between us and our team, to make the most comfortable way of using all the new things. If you have no time to do all the things on the steering wheel, you don't do it, it's not a mandatory thing to do. It will take time and I think that for us, we did a lot of mileage in the winter. I think I can say that for Felipe [Massa] and me, we can get used to the new things and it comes automatically the things that we need to do on the steering wheel, corner after corner, and I don't see any particular problem or anything to discuss in the near future."

Alonso also suggested that the style of F1 will change this year because of the high wear rates of the new Pirelli tyres. "There are many things to learn," he said. "For sure there is a new way of doing the races in terms of strategy, so a new Formula One starts here in Melbourne. We need to be focused on the strategy because it can play a big part in the race result. And maybe, on the other hand, qualifying on Saturday has less value as on Sunday there will be more factors on track.

"The number of laps we can cover on the hard or soft compound tyres is impossible to predict, but after practice we will understand a bit better how the strategy will work on Sunday. It is a new way of approaching the weekend, and hopefully will be more fun for the spectators."

McLaren's Jenson Button added: "It is quite possible that the result of a race will come down to where you are running when you stop for your last set of tyres."

Alonso believes that up to five teams could fight for the title, but that the number could drop to three after the opening races. "I think it's important for each team to be competitive in these early races and then be in that smaller group of two or three teams after three or four races. But at the moment everything is very open."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent