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Latest F1 news in brief UPDATE News updates have been added as noted below in red.

  • Prodrive given deadline for McLaren deal
  • ING confirms Belgian GP sponsor deal
  • McLaren move to deepen Ferrari 'crisis'
  • Alonso not feeling pressure - Kovalainen
  • Hamilton to keep Montreal trophy New
  • Haug 'surprised' by McLaren's Canada form New
  • Piquet Jr ready for F1 - Fittipaldi New
  • Pay-cut awaits for $20m man Ralf - Stewart New

Prodrive given deadline for McLaren deal
(GMM) Ron Dennis says time is running out for new formula one entrant Prodrive to commit to buying cars and engines from McLaren-Mercedes for the 2008 season.

David Richards-led Prodrive has already scheduled a significant announcement for the upcoming British grand prix, but McLaren chairman Dennis says mid-July is actually a rigid deadline for existing talks to be finalized.

"We don't want to do anything if there isn't an official announcement in July," the English language Autoweek quoted Dennis say telling Italy's Autosprint weekly.

Prodrive's Richards has already hinted that McLaren-Mercedes is the frontrunner to supply both customer cars and engines to his team next year, but he also insisted that there are other options.

Dennis continued: "Prodrive is ambitious, and it has a solid historical base. But to take this project forward, we need the documentation to be perfect.

"That means it must not expose us to the risk of dispersing our resources, nor expose us to other financial risks. Time is now really getting short.

"If by, let's say, mid-July, we don't have a binding contract, then it's highly unlikely we'll commit to a program for 2008."

ING confirms Belgian GP sponsor deal
(GMM) The Dutch bank ING has confirmed its title sponsorship of September's Belgian grand prix.

ING, already Renault's new title backer, said the Spa-Francorchamps deal reinforces "its commitment to F1", adding that it will also continue to sponsor the ING Australian grand prix at least until 2009.

The bank also advertises trackside at 14 of the 17 races in 2007.

"After the Netherlands, Belgium is ING's second
home market," said ING's F1 program director Isabelle Conner.

McLaren move to deepen Ferrari 'crisis'
(GMM) McLaren will have added salt to Ferrari's wounds by revealing that a significant upgrade to the already dominant MP4-22 car is due in just a couple of weeks.

"We have a pretty decent upgrade of the car coming in France," the British tabloid The Sun quoted managing director Martin Whitmarsh as saying after Montreal.

In Sunday's Canadian grand prix, the Woking based team - which already introduces smaller updates at each race - pulled 28 points clear of Ferrari in the constructors' championship, while drivers' leader Lewis Hamilton is a full 15 points ahead of the nearest Ferrari competitor, Felipe Massa.

The Italian squad's principal Jean Todt, however, denied that Ferrari has entered one of its notorious 'crisis' periods.

"You must see the facts," said the Frenchman.

"This season we have made four pole positions, we have won three grands prix -- so I don't think you can say it is a disaster for Ferrari.

"We are not happy at the moment but I think a sensible guy in the street understands what is the situation for us."

Ferrari's lagging albeit highly-paid Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, is continuing to blame setup problems for his mysterious struggle alongside Massa this year.

The Finn told Spain's El Mundo newspaper: "It does not surprise me that Massa is in front; he is not having so many problems with the (F2007's) settings."

Alonso not feeling pressure - Kovalainen
(GMM) Heikki Kovalainen has hit out at suggestions that F1's reigning world champion is "feeling the pressure" of racing alongside Lewis Hamilton in 2007.

The media made a meal of Fernando Alonso's claim this week that he has always felt "uncomfortable" at the McLaren team in 2007, after he lost the lead of the drivers' championship to his rookie teammate in Canada.

British newspapers interpreted the outburst as the Spaniard losing his cool; the Daily Mail declaring that he "has been rattled" by Hamilton's impressive showing.

"The Spaniard, normally resilient, appears to have one weakness -- he cannot cope with being embarrassed by a teammate."

The Times pointed to "a succession of errors" for 25-year-old Alonso, adding that his scrappy performance in Montreal "underlines that (he) is not only feeling the pressure from Hamilton's raw speed but is also being worn down by the Briton's poise and presence of mind in the heat of battle."

F1 rookie Kovalainen, however - who replaced Alonso at the championship winning Renault team in 2007 - told the BBC that it's "not right" for his predecessor to be accused of failing to cope with pressure.

The Finn, who worked alongside Alonso as a test driver last year, said: "I don't think Hamilton has any impact on him.

"He has shown time and again in the past that he is mentally very tough and in a long career he has not made many mistakes.

"He pushes very hard for the win every race and mistakes can happen when you race like that.

"Yes, he made might have made a mistake in Barcelona and one early on again in Canada, and because they have happened in a short period of time it looks very dramatic, but I don't think it affects him.

"He is still one of the top guys out there and he is going to be very strong, fighting for the championship for sure."

Hamilton to keep Montreal trophy
(GMM) McLaren looks set to break with tradition by letting Lewis Hamilton keep his crystal trophy after winning his maiden grand prix in Canada.

Contractually, the Woking based team's drivers must relinquish their podium prizes so they can be displayed at the impressive McLaren Technology Centre.

Replicas are then produced for the drivers.

But, just before the media's latest round of team favoritism claims erupted, team principal Dennis suggested in Montreal that he will not be seizing Hamilton's Montreal trophy.

"That wouldn't be right, would it?" Dennis smiled to the German broadcaster Premiere.

Haug 'surprised' by McLaren's Canada form
(GMM) Mercedes' Norbert Haug has admitted to "surprise" that the silver-colored package performed so strongly for a second race in succession in Canada.

McLaren's MP4-22 dominated the tight and twisty turns at Monaco, but it was expected that the performance may have been flattered by the longer wheelbase of the Ferrari.

Team rookie Lewis Hamilton, however, scored pole position and dominated the Canadian grand prix, which is staged on the very different straights and chicanes of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

The back-to-back performances have moved some observers to suggest that McLaren could be destined in 2007 to win its first titles since Mika Hakkinen in 1999.

"So far we are on a good course," Haug, who is Mercedes-Benz's competition director, is quoted as admitting to the broadcaster Premiere.

"It is a surprise for us that we did just as well (in Montreal) as he did in Monaco, because the requirements from the cars are like day and night."

Piquet Jr ready for F1 - Fittipaldi
(GMM) Former world champion Emerson Fittipaldi thinks Nelson Piquet Junior is ready for formula one.

The 60-year-old, who won the drivers' title in 1972 and 1974, said Felipe Massa's success in recent times proves that Brazilians are "coming back" to prominence at the pinnacle of motor sport.

The next of his countrymen to make a mark, Fittipaldi predicts, is Piquet Jr, who is currently Renault's official test driver.

"In my opinion, he is ready," Fittipaldi, who knows Piquet well after running him in his A1 GP team in the recent past, said.

"He is well prepared, very sharp and has the necessary talent. If he gets a cockpit, he will prove it."

Pay-cut awaits for $20m man Ralf - Stewart
(GMM) Ralf Schumacher will have to accept a pay-cut if he wants to stay in formula one beyond this year.

That is the opinion of triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, as speculation continues to swell that Schumacher faces the boot by Toyota if he does not improve his form relative to teammate Jarno Trulli.

Ralf's situation appeared to worsen on Wednesday when his incoming team boss Tadashi Yamashina was quoted as urging the former winner of six grands prix to improve.

"In the end the market will decide whether he can still find a place (in F1)," Stewart, also a former team owner and boss, said.

"If he can find a team that wants him and he is ready to accept a different financial situation, then I can imagine him still here.

"But the time in which he makes as much money as he has done in the past, I think, is past."

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