Check out all the small news coming from the Melbourne paddock
It was meant to be a demonstration of the sporting prowess of the Clio 200, but Renault's Robert Kubica burned out the road car's clutch on Thursday at the Sandown Raceway outside Melbourne. Luckily, a (albeit unbranded) spare car was on standby, as the Polish driver admitted he is not used to driving a manual gearbox.
The pitlane speed limit for qualifying and the race has been reduced from 100kph to just 60kph in Melbourne.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has admitted he has to watch what he says now that Michael Schumacher is his F1 teammate. "I can't afford bad headlines against one of the best of all time who has a huge following," said the 24-year-old. But as for actually sharing a garage with the great 41-year-old, Rosberg added: "I'd heard so many bad things about being his teammate, but it's been really good until now."
Williams tried a 'shark fin' engine cover during initial practice in Melbourne on Friday afternoon, while Rubens Barrichello wore a tweaked blue and white helmet livery.
Asked whether he was happy to watch first practice while test driver Paul di Resta drove his Force India, Adrian Sutil answered: "No, not happy, but it's the team's decision."
Despite earlier estimates of his 2010 salary at EUR7m, Germany's Bild newspaper said Michael Schumacher's actual EUR25m income this year makes him the highest earner in pitlane. Sebastian Vettel, who recently moved into a new farm in Switzerland, comes in with 12m, with Fernando Alonso earning 18m with Ferrari this year. Vettel's teammate Mark Webber makes 7m, much less than Lewis Hamilton at 16m. Reigning world champion Jenson Button earns 3.5m less than his McLaren teammate, and Nico Rosberg's deficit to Schumacher is a staggering 19 million, the newspaper said. Nearer the bottom of the list, Adrian Sutil is on 1.7m, and fellow German Nico Hulkenberg is making 1m in his rookie season. The figures include personal sponsorships.
Among the reasons for Michael Schumacher's struggle in Bahrain two weeks ago was an ill-fitting seat. The German and his Mercedes technicians were working on tweaks in the Albert Park paddock on Thursday, and he is said to have been much more comfortable in Melbourne practice, despite the continuing lap time deficit to his teammate Nico Rosberg.
Schumacher was spotted eating in the Ferrari catering area earlier this week at Albert Park, as Fernando Alonso walked past to pull a bottle of water from the fridge. "I have the impression that our kitchen is better than theirs (at Mercedes)," the Spaniard laughed.
Despite Sauber struggling with crumbling front wings in first Friday practice in Melbourne, the Swiss team did run its new McLaren-style air inlet system. "We will probably use (race) it," said technical boss Willy Rampf to the newspaper Blick.
Intermittent rain affected the second 90 minutes of practice at Albert Park late on Friday afternoon. In front of 68,000 Australians, the two McLarens were quickest ahead of Mark Webber and Michael Schumacher, but Ferrari - who did not have a car higher than 15th - said the rain made the real pace "difficult to assess".
Flavio Briatore has told Italian car magazine Quattroruote that he is still managing F1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber.
Ferrari's F1 race drivers are easy to spot when not at Albert Park this weekend -- they are both using the striking $330,000 Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S as their company cars in Melbourne. Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher each have a Mercedes C63 AMG at their disposal, Lewis Hamilton is driving an E500 saloon, and Bernie Ecclestone is getting about in a Mercedes S350.
Mark Webber has revealed that his leg, broken badly in a cycling crash early last year, is still not fully healed. "There are a few little niggles here and there but they are absolutely nothing compared to what I had," said the Australian.
While the team claims a spark plug issue, Red Bull's Christian Horner has dismissed McLaren chief Ron Dennis' assertion that Sebastian Vettel's problems during the Bahrain GP might simply have been due to the German running low on fuel. "The problem with age is your hearing fades, maybe Ron didn't hear the engine," said the Briton.
In the wake of Vitaly Petrov's mammoth EUR7000 speeding fine in the initial Friday session, Melbourne stewards have now confirmed that Adrian Sutil and Bruno Senna each received 1600 euro fines for breaching the pitlane's 60kph limit.