Latest F1 news in brief UPDATE Two updates added below.
- Crisis-struck Honda try to lure Brawn
- Sepang records higher Sunday attendance
- Hamilton tactics not intentional - Haug
- Berger now denies $150m STR buyout talk
- Bernie to end F1 row with money
- McLaren team to wear 'race win' t-shirts in '07
- BMW to reconsider Friday driver plans New
- Lauda pans Toyota progress New
Crisis-struck Honda try to lure Brawn
(GMM) As the Japanese squad's crisis deepened in Malaysia, Honda could be about to launch a multi-million dollar bid to sign Ferrari's former technical director Ross Brawn.
British newspapers including the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail report that Brawn, currently on a 'sabbatical' but not under any contractual obligations to Ferrari, is the target of beleaguered Honda's team principal Nick Fry.
"Brawn ... is the man Fry has identified to harness the vast resources available to the Japanese manufacturer," the Telegraph wrote.
Jenson Button finished a lap down and twelfth at Sepang on Sunday, and revealed afterwards to the Daily Mail that Honda personnel have resorted to "shouting at each other" in frustration about the RA107's dismal lack of pace.
"I've hit rock bottom," he said, as the British media who once hailed him as a future champion now turn their hype to McLaren rookie Lewis Hamilton, who finished second in Malaysia.
Button said: "We've been shouting at each other in frustration but there's no point in doing that now."
The Telegraph revealed that Fry, arguing that 52-year-old Brawn's experience could be the missing link at the Brackley based team, has already held "high-level talks in Japan" about bidding for the Briton.
It is understood that Brawn is currently on a fishing trip in New Zealand.
Sepang records higher Sunday attendance
(GMM) Sepang recorded its highest ever race day attendance at Sunday's Malaysian grand prix.
The turnout of 115,000, confirmed by F1's governing body, compares to the 107,000 who turned out to watch Michael Schumacher's last race in the country in early 2006.
The news has given momentum to Sepang's bid for a three or five-year extension beyond the end of its current contract, after Malaysian Prime Minister attended the circuit on Sunday and met with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
35,000 spectators turned up for qualifying on Saturday, but the measly 4,000 on Friday made the grandstands appear bare.
Sepang boss Datuk Mokhzani Tun Mahathir, however, confirmed that the PM and Ecclestone met this weekend, revealing: "We will discuss further with Ecclestone to extend the duration of the contract to host the F1 races here."
Hamilton tactics not intentional - Haug
(GMM) Mercedes-Benz's Norbert Haug has denied that Lewis Hamilton deliberately held up the Ferraris in the opening laps of the Malaysian grand prix.
The rookie Briton's slower initial pace than leader Fernando Alonso at Sepang, despite later setting the fastest lap of the race, allowed reigning world champion and new drivers' title leader Alonso to pull out a gap that ultimately proved insurmountable.
It also enticed a frustrated Massa, who a day earlier won the qualifying battle, into launching a failed passing move that relocated him to just fifth at the checkered flag.
But despite team boss Ron Dennis' hints to reporters after the race that both Alonso and Hamilton contributed "tactically" to the victory, Mercedes competition chief Haug said Hamilton did not intentionally hold up the Ferraris.
The German told 'Premiere': "But it is true that the Ferraris could not drive exactly as they had wanted."
Berger now denies $150m STR buyout talk
(GMM) Gerhard Berger has now issued a clearer denial to rumors that he is planning to sell his stake in the Toro Rosso team to a German car maker.
It was suggested in Malaysia this weekend that F3 and DTM race car builder HWA were launching a $150m bid for Berger's 50 per cent share, sparking a predictably light-hearted reaction from the Faenza based team's press office.
Former GP winner Berger, however, only insisted that he didn't "want to talk about it".
But he has now told the Kleinen Zeitung newspaper that he and co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz have "completely different plans" for the outfit formerly known as Minardi.
"Our long term vision," Austrian Berger said, "is to bring this team that was once on the very last positions on the grid into a good position."
Berger said he is not surprised that speculation has already linked Toro Rosso with potential buyers including HWA and, previously, Michael Schumacher.
He insisted: "Many people, including our rivals, can see that we are a team with large potential."
Bernie to end F1 row with money
(GMM) F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has proposed to calm the urgency of the 'customer car' argument by offering more money to every grand prix team.
Amid suggestions that the furious row between backmarkers Spyker, Super Aguri and Toro Rosso is motivated more by money than a genuine concern about the legality of their cars, it is reported that Ecclestone is shaping up to cool tempers by revising the criteria by which prize-money is allocated at the end of each season.
Currently, only the top ten constructors receive annual benefits like travel expenses and a share of TV money; a factor that is believed to have motivated grid straggler Spyker's determined effort to undermine its close rivals.
The Spanish newspaper El Mundo Deportivo, however, suggests that at an upcoming team principals' meeting in Bahrain, Ecclestone intends to propose a cease-fire by offering to give prize-money to eleven teams every season.
With Prodrive arriving in 2008, the prize-money pool will then be shared among all twelve teams.
The move is likely to upset some teams who may be concerned about the dilution of their regular prize money. In another move of pacification, then, Bernie could increase teams' prize money even further by decreasing the commercial rights holders' share of income.
The meeting in Bahrain is scheduled for Thursday or Friday.
McLaren team to wear 'race win' t-shirts in '07
(GMM) McLaren chiefs offered a surprise to the traveling race team on Sunday.
Following Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton's dominance of the Sepang placings, the Mercedes-powered team handed out personalized 'race victory' t-shirts to every member of the squad as they returned to the garage from the podium ceremony.
It is understood that the bright orange apparel, worn even by team boss Ron Dennis after the race in Malaysia, will be handed out as a memento only after race wins in 2007.
McLaren team members, however, did not have long to enjoy their triumph. Within half an hour of the champagne-flowing podium celebrations in Malaysia, the team joined its pitlane rivals in setting to work to pack up equipment so that it can be flown directly to Bahrain on Monday.
Round three of the world championship, to be held at the desert location of Sakhir in the Persian Gulf, takes place this weekend, in the first of five back-to-back races this season.
BMW to reconsider Friday driver plans
(GMM) BMW will review its policy to run Sebastian Vettel on the Fridays of grand prix weekends once the circus has returned from Bahrain.
The German squad's Nick Heidfeld has been an outspoken opponent of the strategy to sideline a race driver in the initial morning session, and in Malaysia his complaints seemed to be backed by his struggle to set up his car in less time than BMW's closest rivals.
Hinwil-based BMW Sauber explained in a press release that the change of plans for Bahrain this week is simply the result of Vettel and fellow test driver Timo Glock being unavailable as they race in other series.
But team boss Mario Theissen told the news agency 'sid': "We will investigate after Bahrain if this (policy) is harming the performance of our race drivers."
Lauda pans Toyota progress
(GMM) Niki Lauda has poured scorn on Toyota's claim that the Japanese team is "satisfied" with its result from the Malaysian grand prix.
Jarno Trulli scored two points at the Sepang circuit on Sunday, while Ralf Schumacher endured a dismal race to fifteenth.
But to the 'sid' news agency, triple world champion and outspoken commentator Lauda suggested that Toyota's pace should first be compared with that of its 'customer' team, Williams.
With an identical V8 engine but a far inferior budget, Williams' Nico Rosberg was running ahead of both works Toyotas when a technical problem struck.
Referring to Toyota, Austrian Lauda said: "They are still behind their second team. That says everything."