Latest F1 news in brief
- Coulthard sets new Barcelona lap record
- BMW scraps Friday driver strategy
- Alonso says home GP not special
- Four-way fight in '07 won't last - Alonso
- Updated Ferrari is 'new car' - Tost
- Gene opposed to return of street circuits
- I won't quit with third title - Alonso
Coulthard sets new Barcelona lap record
David Coulthard turned a few heads on Thursday by setting a new unofficial lap record as the four day Barcelona test drew to a close.
The Red Bull driver, whose 'RB3' was equipped with a new seamless shift gearbox that also impressed in the hands of Mark Webber earlier this week, narrowly went quicker than Kimi Raikkonen's Monday benchmark after Ferrari dominated the majority of the test.
It must be noted, however, that Scottish veteran Coulthard's fast time was achieved on a qualifying simulation run, and also before midday when the skies above Circuit de Catalunya opened and ensured that none of his rivals could trouble his apparent pace.
Meanwhile, aboard the heavily revised 'F2007' Ferrari, Brazil's Felipe Massa had a limited program due to the rain and a hydraulic problem in the morning, when it was mostly dry.
Teams packed up early at the end of the day when the track stayed wet.
Red Bull's chief test engineer Ian Morgan said: "It's always good to produce quick lap times and to be fastest, but let's wait and see how the situation evolves when we come back here for the race."
The Spanish GP takes place next weekend.
BMW scraps Friday driver strategy
BMW Sauber has apparently caved to the pressure of its race drivers by scrapping the unpopular policy of sitting one of them out during Friday morning practice at grands prix this year.
The Swiss based outfit's team principal Mario Theissen confirmed that teenaged tester Sebastian Vettel will not take to the cockpit of either Robert Kubica or Nick Heidfeld's cars at the Spanish GP next weekend.
"Until further notice, the two race drivers will be on track for the whole of Friday," the German said, having earlier revealed that BMW would "look closely" at the strategy following Heidfeld's struggle to perfect his setup with limited practice time.
Germany's Bild newspaper proclaimed the decision as a victory for Heidfeld, who has been openly vocal about disagreeing with a plan that put BMW's race drivers at a disadvantage compared with its rivals.
The tabloid publication headlined that Theissen's back-flip is a "triumph" for 29-year-old Nick, who has yet to secure a contract for 2008, "in the struggle for power".
In a media preview about the Barcelona race next weekend, meanwhile, BMW-Sauber said it wanted to remain clearly the third quickest team in formula one as the European season develops in 2007.
Alonso says home GP not special
Fernando Alonso says he feels "no special responsibility" in the lead-up to his home grand prix next weekend.
F1's reigning world champion is credited for almost single-handedly transforming the popularity of formula one in Spain, with an unprecedented sellout crowd of 145,000 countrymen expected at the Barcelona circuit next Sunday alone.
But 25-year-old Alonso shares a notoriously awkward relationship with the Spanish press and has in the past expressed frustration at not being able to live normally when he returns to the country from his home in England.
Speaking to the news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in Barcelona this week, he said: "I always try to drive a normal race.
"My goal is to win. When I race here, I want to win. When I race in Bahrain, I want to win. The same for Monaco.
"I know that thousands of fans come to the circuit to see me, but when I am driving in Bahrain, five million Spaniards are watching me on television anyway," Alonso insisted.
Four-way fight in '07 won't last - Alonso
F1's current four-way tussle for title supremacy is unlikely to last until the final moments of the 2007 season.
That is the opinion of reigning double world champion Fernando Alonso, who presently shares the top of the drivers' standings with his rookie teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.
Raikkonen's teammate Felipe Massa, meanwhile, is just five points adrift.
"The two Ferrari and McLaren drivers will fight together probably until the middle of the season," Spaniard Alonso said in an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
He added: "Eventually one or two will have some bad luck or stop achieving such good results, so that at the end of the championship probably only two or three will be left to fight."
Alonso conceded that English sensation Hamilton's debut this year was "a surprise for everyone".
"He is very fast and deserves his ranking in the championship. Hopefully he can keep it up for the whole year," the Spaniard said.
While discounting some of the current frontrunners, however, Alonso says a maiden victory for BMW-Sauber's impressive Nick Heidfeld this year cannot be ruled out.
"At the moment there is a small gap from the two top teams to BMW," he said.
"But perhaps at some circuits there will not be such a gap. We saw in Bahrain that Nick is capable of fighting for the front positions.
"I think there will be races when not only McLaren and Ferrari are on the podium, but Nick as well. And perhaps he will even fight for a victory," Alonso added.
Updated Ferrari is 'new car' - Tost
The media-pleasers at the Barcelona test this week were McLaren and Honda's wacky wings.
But the real revolution roared out of the Ferrari garage, according to the more astute members of the press; including Germany's Sport Bild.
The magazine quoted Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost as observing: "What Ferrari is testing is basically a new car."
Most obviously, the revised F2007 - strictly not a 'b'-spec, according to team sources - features a noticeably reshaped engine cover and smaller sidepods.
The controversial under-body, meanwhile, has been totally redesigned to withstand the FIA's new flexibility tests.
But it is the engine's cooling system that is the newest, allowing Maranello based engineers to run a more aggressive bodywork setup and dominate the opening three days of the ultimately four day test.
"We are at least half a second faster than before," team racer and Bahrain GP winner Felipe Massa is quoted as admitting.
'Sport Bild' estimates that Ferrari's advantage over McLaren ahead of the Spanish grand prix may have blown out to more than one second per lap.
Gene opposed to return of street circuits
The apparent return of street circuits in formula one is contrary to the sport's push for better safety, according to Marc Gene.
The occasional Ferrari test driver told the Spanish news agency EFE that he is opposed to Bernie Ecclestone's negotiations with Valencia, Singapore and other potential venues for Monaco-style city races.
Abu Dhabi's grand prix layout for 2009 will combine a purpose-built facility with a city section.
"It is definitely not going to be safer for the drivers," Gene said of the apparent trend.
He continued: "With the exception of Monaco, the occurrence of street races has been fading over the years.
"I don't think it is a good idea that they start coming back, obviously because of safety.
"But also in terms of the spectacle (I am opposed) because you almost never see overtaking on a street circuit.
"Just from the perspective of a driver, I am not in favor."
I won't quit with third title - Alonso
Fernando Alonso has played down the prospect that he could quit formula one as soon as he bags a third drivers' title.
The 25-year-old Spaniard won back to back championships with Renault and, after switching to McLaren, is jointly leading the 2007 standings.
The situation has rekindled memories of statements Alonso made late last year, when he hinted that he would be content to retire with the same number of titles as Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet and Niki Lauda.
In an new interview with Deutsche Press-Agentur, however, he clarified that while he would be content with three championships, it does not mean that he will quit if he achieves it in 2007.
Alonso started a three-season McLaren contract this year, and said: "Even if I do achieve my ambition (in 2007) it will not mean that I will no longer want to drive.
"If I should become a three times world champion, I will try to do it four times.
"Each year you need new motivations and new goals. This year the motivation is to win with McLaren-Mercedes and get the title. And next year will not be different," Alonso said.
He agreed, however, that a third title would probably change the challenge of formula one for him in successive seasons.
Alonso explained: "The pressure would probably not be as high as before -- I can imagine it would be more fun."