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Latest F1 news in brief
  • FIA steps up illegal floor offensive
  • 'Three options' for Prodrive F1 - Richards
  • Red Bull youngster gets first taste of F1
  • F1's TV figures 'encouraging' - report
  • McLaren test on Spanish island
  • Briatore wants GP format revolution
  • Schu 'surprised' by Hamilton debut

FIA steps up illegal floor offensive
(GMM) F1's governing body has stepped up its offensive against illegal floor bodywork, according to reports.

The specialist publication Auto Motor und Sport said the FIA's Charlie Whiting has now informed all teams that tests to ensure the rigidity of cars' underbodies will be even stricter at the Spanish grand prix next month.

The saga first hit the headlines after the Australian grand prix, when teams including Ferrari and BMW-Sauber were accused of deliberately circumventing the rules to obtain a performance advantage.

The FIA's subsequent clarification affected the design of most formula one teams' floors, sources said.

But Auto Motor und Sport contends that Ferrari and BMW's original floor designs passed even the stricter test; motivating the FIA to now quadruple the amount of load applied for the new Barcelona tests.

Toyota's Pascal Vasselon suggests that the move may force some teams to totally re-think their underbody setups, because too stiff a floor is likely to break over the curbs.

"Many teams will have to raise their cars quite a lot," he said, "but (raising a car by) only a millimeter can mean two per cent less downforce."

'Three options' for Prodrive F1 - Richards
(GMM) Prodrive's David Richards has rejected reports of a definite 2008 alliance with McLaren by revealing that talks are ongoing with no fewer than three existing F1 teams.

The Briton plans to enter the sport next year with a car and engine bought from the same carmaker-backed outfit, and widespread speculation suggests that McLaren-Mercedes has long been the top option.

But while Richards insisted to Auto Motor und Sport that there is no great hurry, he added that Prodrive's F1 partner will nonetheless be decided "soon".

"We want to test together in the winter," he told the magazine, "and we will make use of their engineers. But there is no great hurry at the moment.

"It is however a decision that will be made sooner rather than later, and we have three options."

Richards said his decision to make Prodrive the first open 'customer team' is vindicated in Toyota and Honda's high-profile failures to become competitive in F1 even with huge budgets.

He is targeting a start-up budget in 2008 of just $100m and eighth in the constructors' title, but ruled out an immediate link-up with his newly-acquired road car company Aston Martin.

Richards confirmed, however, that bringing Aston Martin into the sport in the medium term future is on the cards.

"My partners from Kuwait and obviously myself know exactly what formula one has meant for Ferrari.

"In five years this might be more realistic for us," he said.

Red Bull youngster gets first taste of F1
(GMM) A young Portuguese driver has climbed a rung of energy drink-owned outfit Red Bull's 'Junior Team' ladder.

Last Saturday, Filipe Albuquerque made his maiden appearance at the wheel of a formula one car.

Albuquerque, who currently drives in the World Series by Renault, replaced Michael Ammermuller at an event after the team's usual test regular injured his wrist in the GP2 season opener in Bahrain this month.

The 22-year-old drove last year's Toro Rosso single seater - with a Red Bull Racing livery - on the streets of Cartagena, in Colombia, for a formula one demonstration.

He praised Red Bull for backing young drivers on the path to grand prix racing, and joked that he "wouldn't have anything against it" when asked if he will one day be seen on the F1 grid.

"It's really hard to get sponsorship to go racing," said Albuquerque, whose backing first moved him into Spanish F3 and later Formula Renault.

He added: "Without Red Bull I would probably be at home studying."

F1's TV figures 'encouraging' - report
(GMM) Formula one may have lost Michael Schumacher, but European television ratings are looking "very encouraging" after the first three grands prix of the new era.

That is the finding of the Sportbusiness publication, which analyzed the TV figures of the so-called 'Big Five' European markets in France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the UK.

Spanish broadcaster Tele5 recorded higher ratings for all three races, and the audience-friendly timeslot for the Bahrain GP attracted peak of 6.7m viewers -- more than a million higher than last year's race.

A similar trend was noticed for Italy's F1 coverage by Rai, where the 11.1m viewers of the Bahrain GP was higher than for any race on the 2006 calendar.

France's TF1 coverage was steady, while a 10 per cent decline compared to last year in Germany is unsurprising, given the popularity of its departed seven time world champion.

Even so, RTL's coverage of the race in Malaysia drew the top audience of any rival program that day, even though fine German weather on the Sunday of the subsequent Bahrain GP is thought to have dented the figures a bit.

A 'Lewis Hamilton-effect', meanwhile, is being seen in the UK, where ITV's coverage of the Malaysian GP recorded a 27 per cent boost compared to last year.

The figures for evening highlights of the Bahrain GP topped the scales at a staggering million viewers, compared to 400,000 just 12 months ago.

McLaren test on Spanish island
(GMM) A spokeswoman for McLaren has confirmed reports in the Spanish press that the Woking based team will this week test on the island of Menorca.

"(The team is) always looking at new circuits to use for their testing program," she said.

The venue is the Real Aeroclub de Mahon; a private airfield on the small Mediterranean Sea island, which has a population of just 80,000.

McLaren test driver Gary Paffett will drive the MP4-22 on Wednesday and Thursday, but as it is a straight-line aerodynamic test, no official times or reports will be issued by the team, the spokeswoman added.

It is believed that McLaren turned to Menorca after its regular aerodynamic test venue, the Elvington Airfield located near York, was hit with a court order restricting use of the facility by F1 teams due to the excessive noise.

Spanish reports explain that 50 McLaren engineers have accompanied the McLaren test team to Menorca, where the airfield boasts an ideal runway of nearly 2 kilometers in length.

The airfield's president Jose Villalonga, meanwhile, is quoted as inviting McLaren to regularly test on the Spanish island.

In other McLaren news, it is understood that Mercedes-Benz is proposing to expand its F1 engine facility in Brixworth (UK) with a nearly $100m investment, involving the transfer of 80 staff from Stuttgart (Germany).

Briatore wants GP format revolution
(GMM) F1 needs to revolutionize its format in order to spice up the spectacle, according to Flavio Briatore.

In an interview with the specialist magazine Auto Motor und Sport, the boss of the Renault team said the sport should reinvent itself by splitting the results of a grand prix over two shorter races.

"We need two races; a 45-minute sprint in the morning and a race for one hour in the afternoon," the Italian said.

Briatore's revolutionary plan would involve banning refueling and using the results of the morning 'sprint' as qualifying for the main feature -- with the top eight finishers made to start in reverse order.

Points would apply for both races, Briatore said.

The flamboyant 57-year-old also slammed F1's governing body for being more interested in championing environmentally-friendly cars for the future than on doing things to improve the spectacle.

"It's going to cost us millions of dollars in development but contribute nothing to the show," Briatore charged.

Schu 'surprised' by Hamilton debut
(GMM) Seven time world champion Michael Schumacher has climbed aboard the Lewis Hamilton bandwagon by admitting that he has been "surprised" by the rookie Briton's performance so far in 2007.

McLaren's Hamilton, 22, recently singled out newly-retired Schumacher as a role model, amid team boss Martin Whitmarsh's claim that the impressive newcomer could go on to succeed the 38-year-old German as the "greatest ever" driver.

Hamilton's record-setting debut this year was one of the few topics that slipped through the net when Schumacher addressed the media in London this week.

The former Ferrari driver's press assistant, Sabine Kehm, had explained to reporters before the international press conference that only questions relating to the UN's Global Road Safety Week should be addressed to Schumacher.

However, a noticeably tanned Schumacher obliged an errant journalist by answering: "Lewis clearly has a lot of talent so it does not surprise me at all that he has been doing very well.

"But what has been a real surprise is his consistency."

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