Ferrari’s Alonso predicts tighter F1 race

Updated 01 February 2013
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Ferrari’s Alonso predicts tighter F1 race

MILAN: Fernando Alonso said yesterday the battle for Formula One supremacy could be a lot tighter this year ahead of his bid to improve on two runner-up places behind Sebastian Vettel with a maiden title for Ferrari.
Last season’s world championship was remarkable for the fact there were seven race-winners in the first seven races before Alonso went toe-to-toe with Red Bull ace Vettel in a decisive, thrilling finale at Interlagos.
Vettel, the sport’s youngest-ever three-time world champion (2010, 2011, 2012), finished sixth at the legendary Brazilian circuit, where Alonso was second, to beat his Spanish rival to the title by only three points.
Alonso, speaking at the launch of Ferrari’s new F138 car for the upcoming season, indicated that their anticipated duel in 2013 could leave rivals trailing in their wake from the season-opening Australian GP in March.
“I think the likelihood of seeing seven different race winners in the first seven races, like last year, will be impossible,” he said.
“There will be a maximum of two or three teams” battling for the title, he added, “and one of those will definitely be Ferrari.” Alonso, a two-time world champion with Renault in 2005 and 2006, joined Ferrari for the 2010 season and finished runner-up to Vettel.
He finished a disappointing fourth in 2011 but in 2012 won three times and secured a total of 13 podium places before being piped by Vettel at the finish.
Afterwards, he said: “Next year, we will try and improve the car, trying to start further up the grid, thus avoiding accidents. Let’s hope we also have a bit more luck.” The F138 — whose name represents the current year and the car’s V8 engine, which will be used for the last time this season — was unveiled at Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters in northern Italy yesterday.
Ferrari described it as “an evolution of last year’s race-winning car, although every single part has been revised in order to maximize performance while maintaining the characteristics which were the basis of the F2012’s superb reliability.” “The rear of the car is much narrower and more tapered than before,” said Ferrari, although “significant modifications will be made to the car’s aero package” before the Australian Grand Prix on March 17.
One major change Ferrari has made, one year ahead of schedule, is in the electronics domain with the early introduction of the single control unit that will be used in 2014.
Alonso is set to get his first taste of the F138 at a pre-season testing session in Barcelona from February 19. It means Brazilian Felipe Massa will be at the wheel for the first pre-season test at Jerez in Spain next week.

Massa, who finished seventh overall last season, believes the car is equipped sufficiently to allow Ferrari to aim for both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles.
“I hope it will bring the two titles to Ferrari. It’s the only thing we want,” he said.
Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo said last year he wants to see three-times champion Vettel race for the Italian team in the future.
But yesterday Di Montezemolo ruled out the possibility of seeing Alonso and Vettel in the same team. “Absolutely not,” replied Di Montezemolo.


Saudi Arabia set to face Mario Balotelli after striker earns Italy recall

Updated 32 min 9 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia set to face Mario Balotelli after striker earns Italy recall

  • Saudi Arabia play Italy on May 28
  • Balotelli set to play for the Azzurri for the first time in four years

TURIN: New Italy coach Roberto Mancini on Saturday recalled Nice striker Mario Balotelli to the Azzurri fold for three upcoming friendlies as he begins the job of reviving Italian fortunes.
Mancini was appointed last Monday, six months after Gian Piero Ventura was sacked following the four-time world champions’ failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
The 53-year-old, who left Zenit Saint Petersburg to take the job, unveiled his first 30-man squad for matches against Saudi Arabia, France and the Netherlands.
Mancini takes charge of his first game against the Green Falcons in St. Gallen, Switzerland on May 28.
As expected, the 27-year-old Balotelli was included for the first time in nearly four years.
Balotelli has scored 13 goals in 33 appearances for the Azzurri but has not played international football since Italy’s humiliating group-stage exit from the 2014 World Cup.
Balotelli was last called up by coach Antonio Conte in November 2014 but did not play because of injury.
He has now been given another chance by Mancini, who coached him at both Inter Milan and Manchester City.
Balotelli has resurrected his career since joining Nice in 2016 after less successful spells with AC Milan and Liverpool, scoring 26 goals in all competitions this season, without any of the bad-boy behavior that previously dogged his career.
Italy are not spoilt for choice with forward so Balotelli’s success with Nice could not be overlooked by Mancini.
As a youngster, Balotelli was part of the Inter side coached by Jose Mourinho that won the Champions League in 2010.
He also won three Serie A titles with Inter before switching to Manchester City and helping them claim the Premier League crown in 2012.
Meanwhile, Mancini’s squad was without goalkeeping great Gianluigi Buffon who this week confirmed he would not play again for the national side.
The presence of Buffon — who holds the record for Italy caps with 176 — proved controversial during friendlies in March with his critics wanting him to move over for a younger generation.
In his absence, Mancini has recalled Salvatore Sirigu, who has had a successful season since joining Torino, alongside AC Milan teenager Gianluigi Donnarumma and Genoa’s Mattia Perin.
Among the veterans there was no call-up for Roma captain Daniele De Rossi, with Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini absent through injury.
The captain’s armband is expected to go to AC Milan center-back Leonardo Bonucci.
Five players have been given a first call-up — Chelsea left-back Emerson Palmieri, Torino midfielder Daniele Baselli, Crotone midfielder Rolando Mandragora, Sassuolo striker Domenico Berardi and Atalanta defender Mattia Caldara.
Along with defenders Alessio Romagnoli and Daniele Rugani, midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini and strikers Federico Chiesa and Federico Bernardeschi are among the promising youngsters who are expected to put Italy back on the road to victory.
The squad will meet for the first time at the Italian national team’s training camp at Coverciano near Florence on May 23.

Italy squad
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Mattia Perin (Genoa), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino);
Defenders: Leonardo Bonucci (AC Milan), Mattia Caldara (Atalanta), Domenico Criscito (Zenit St. Petersburg/RUS), Danilo D’Ambrosio (Inter Milan), Mattia De Sciglio (Juventus), Emerson Palmieri Dos Santos (Chelsea/ENG), Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan), Daniele Rugani (Juventus), Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea/ENG)
Midfielders: Daniele Baselli (Torino), Giacomo Bonaventura (Milan), Bryan Cristante (Atalanta), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Jorginho (Napoli), Rolando Mandragora (Crotone), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma)
Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Nice/FRA), Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Matteo Politano (Sassuolo), Simone Verdi (Bologna), Simone Zaza (Valencia/ESP)