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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Spyker fire spells near-disaster
  • Ralf's career not in danger - manager
  • Annual German GP 'safe' - boss
  • Williams not yet targeting title tilt
  • Heidfeld 'optimistic' about new BMW contract
  • Kimi could be quicker - Peter Sauber
  • Klien looks on bright side of test seat
  • Renault 'frustrated' with engine rules

Spyker fire spells near-disaster
(GMM) F1 narrowly averted disaster at the Bahrain grand prix earlier this month.

We have learned that Spyker mechanics almost lost control of a fire that broke out near the back of the team's garage at the Sakhir circuit on the Saturday of qualifying.

Video footage of the incident shows mechanics scrambling to the scene with fire extinguishers, as huge flames licked dangerously around nearby compressed-air bottles.

Ralf's career not in danger - manager
(GMM) Ralf Schumacher and his manager have responded with defiance to speculation that the German driver could be out of Toyota and formula one at the end of 2007.

The 31-year-old has struggled to keep up with his teammate Jarno Trulli in the opening races of 2007, sparking gossip that the highly-paid winner of six grands prix will be left with precious few options to stay on the grid beyond this season.

"I can live with criticism but I'm not interested in irrelevant comments," Ralf replied. "There is no way it is going to make me nervous."

His manager Hans Mahr added: "If so-called experts who weren't even at the track assess the situation from a distance, they just lose credibility."

Mahr suggested that some of the criticism is motivated by an "agenda" to "confuse things" as negotiations about a new contract for Ralf prepare to begin.

"We agreed with Toyota quite some time ago that we would get together to talk about a (contract) extension towards the middle of the year. And we are sticking to this schedule," he insisted.

Mahr said: "There is no need to worry about his future. If Ralf wants to drive, there will always be a cockpit waiting for him."

Schumacher himself suggested that the difficult TF107 single seater is at least partly to blame for the situation.

Referring to his critics, Ralf said: "I will answer on the track as soon as the car is competitive again."

Annual German GP 'safe' - boss
(GMM) Germany's traditional spot on the annual formula one calendar is not in danger.

That is the insistence of Nurburgring boss Walter Kafitz, whose race - previously a standalone event - must now alternate every year with Hockenheim as Germany's calendar-count drops from two to just one GP per season.

Some observers have also expressed fears that the absence of the 'German Grand Prix' descriptor in 2007 may be a prelude to the total disappearance of the sport from the country.

But Kafitz told Auto Bild that Germany's calendar spot is "100 per cent safe", protected by its historical status.

"Germany is considered by the FIA in the same way as Italy, Great Britain and Monaco," he reported.

Williams not yet targeting title tilt
(GMM) Nearly a decade after last winning a race or a world championship, Williams is targeting a steady recovery back to the front of the F1 grid.

Team principal and co-owner Sir Frank Williams says the Grove based squad has just begun a "three to five-year" plan to recapture the sort of competitiveness that allowed his outfit to dominate in the 80s and 90s.

"But of course we always want to win," the Briton told Motorsport Aktuell.

With the newly Toyota-powered FW29 car, Williams already appears more competitive than in 2006; a season described by Sir Frank as "unblinkingly, humiliatingly shocking".

Chief designer Ed Wood said: "We are at the beginning of our recovery. At the moment we are not thinking about beating Ferrari and McLaren -- that will come in a couple of years.

"Now we have to build step by step."

Heidfeld 'optimistic' about new BMW contract
(GMM) Nick Heidfeld says he is "optimistic" about securing a renewed stay at the BMW-Sauber team beyond 2007.

The 29-year-old German has been an outstanding performer of the season so far, bringing into focus his expiring contract with the team and rumors of a switch.

But at a sponsor function in Munich late last week, where Heidfeld appeared apparently with a bout of the 'flu or a cold, he referred to his existing employer whilst telling reporters: "I cannot see many reasons why we would not want to keep working together (in 2008).

"I am optimistic, because (team boss Mario Theissen) also said that there are good reasons for us to go on."

Unlike in previous years, for example late in 2003 when only an uncompetitive Jordan team could give Heidfeld refuge on the grid, the German sees himself with a strong bargaining position for 2008.

According to the news agency 'dpa', he said: "I am doing the same job as I always have done; just the car is different this time.

"But it is always nice, of course, to approach these situations not having to explain why things did not work out.

"I think I am in a good position."

Dr Mario Theissen, however - apparently unperturbed by the Toyota and Honda gossip - insists that there is "no rush" to pen a new agreement with Heidfeld.

He revealed: "We are speaking, of course, but we won't be giving any progress reports.

"We will make a decision before the end of the season and then announce that decision in due course."

Kimi could be quicker - Peter Sauber
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen's former boss has suggested that the Finn might be an even quicker driver if he was more interested in technical matters.

It is often suggested in F1 circles that the 27-year-old, uncooperative with the media and solely relying on the engineers to perfect his car, is only interested in actually driving.

Many believe that Raikkonen's excessively cool approach may be contributing to his current struggle to keep up with his Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa.

"His strengths are definitely not on the technical side," Peter Sauber, who brought Raikkonen into formula one as a rookie in 2001, said in an interview with Auto Bild.

"Kimi is unbelievably fast, focused and powerful. He has a huge amount of natural talent.

"I would not call his lack of technical interest a weakness. But you could say this: It would be interesting to see how good he could be if he concerned himself with the technology-side as well."

Klien looks on bright side of test seat
(GMM) Christian Klien is refusing to let the 2007 season get him down.

For the first time since 2003, when he was a full time Formula 3 driver, the 24-year-old Austrian is without a regular race seat on the formula one grid.

But former Jaguar and Red Bull racer Klien, now attending every race as Honda's official reserve and test driver, said he found comfort recently in conversations with current F1 pacesetters Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.

Because of the new test and weekend restrictions this year, he admitted in an interview with Motorsport Aktuell that his actual cockpit time is currently "limited".

But Klien insisted: "I have more time to work with the engineers to expand my technical knowledge. And I have spoken with Massa and Alonso who told me that they learned a huge amount in their time as test drivers.

"So I want to make sure I do the same."

Klien's next test outing will be at Paul Ricard in France.

Renault 'frustrated' with engine rules
(GMM) Chief race engineer Denis Chevrier says Renault is "frustrated" that the current formula one rules are making it difficult for the French squad to improve its uncompetitive car in 2007.

After winning all drivers' and constructors' titles in 2005 and 2006, the Enstone based team has dropped off the pace with its 'R27' single seater.

But Chevrier revealed: "Our frustration today is not entirely related to the team's results.

"We're frustrated by the present regulations, which have really robbed us of the possibility of making the difference as engine engineers."

The 52-year-old Frenchman is surely referring to the new 'freeze' on most engine development, which took effect this season and will remain in place at least for the next few years.

Chevrier said the "engine group" previously played a crucial role in overcoming a team's lack of performance.

"This season (that role is) much more limited," he said.

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