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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Indy can live without F1, US GP boss says
  • No news on Heidfeld injury
  • McLaren eye return to pace on Saturday
  • Honda still struggling despite 'B' car
  • Niki Lauda slams 'silent Schu'
  • Fit Heidfeld to qualify, race - BMW

Indy can live without F1, US GP boss says
(GMM)  As a mid-July deadline looms, the boss of F1's current US grand prix venue in Indianapolis says he is still yet to conclude a deal with Bernie Ecclestone to stage the race in 2008 or beyond.

The fabled Motor Speedway's CEO Tony George puts the chances of a new contract at "50-50", amid reports that F1 supremo Ecclestone showed up in Las Vegas prior to jetting out to France for the grand prix on Sunday.

George, also explaining that the pair have spoken only briefly since the US GP, told the LA Times: "It's a matter of dialogue with Bernie and myself to try and bring it to a conclusion."

At least in terms of rhetoric, Ecclestone and George have now reached deadlock.  George echoes Bernie's statement that Indy can live without formula one, and vice versa.

"As much as we want it to be part of our calendar, if it doesn't come back it's been a good run," he said.

"I don't regret it.  Whether or not they find another venue in the United States to run at, I don't know.  I think it's unlikely that they know."

Financially, he describes the 2007 event as "ok", adding that "it would not be worthwhile to do it" for another eight years under the same contractual terms.

George continued: "What the event really needs is a title sponsor with the ability to promote the event and the formula one world championship across the country and around the world."

No news on Heidfeld injury
(GMM)  As he left the Magny Cours paddock on Friday, BMW's Mario Theissen said he was not sure if Nick Heidfeld's injured back would keep him out of his car at the French grand prix.

After sitting out much of the afternoon practice session, Germany's Heidfeld was taken to the Centre Hopitalier Pierre Beregovoy in nearby Nevers.  It is understood that he was complaining of pain where his left-hand side ribs meet with his spine.

Heidfeld was apparently experiencing the worst pain in the long Estoril right hand bend, but he told Auto Motor und Sport before leaving the circuit: "I should be ok to drive tomorrow."

"He is being examined," team principal Theissen confirmed to reporters, "and for the moment I have no further information to offer."

He also would not be drawn on the obvious assumption that reserve driver Sebastian Vettel could be called up to race for a second successive event, but the 19-year-old German said: "I am happy and ready to drive any time and I definitely will be here tomorrow (on Saturday) so we wait and see."

McLaren eye return to pace on Saturday
(GMM)  Championship leader Lewis Hamilton refused to rule out winning a third consecutive career grand prix on Sunday despite Ferrari's dominance on the opening day of practice at Magny Cours.

The 22-year-old lost time in the morning with an engine glitch aboard his McLaren, while teammate Fernando Alonso had three notable off-track moments as they uncharacteristically did not feature at the very top of the time sheets.

"We did not find the best setup in practice," Hamilton confirmed, however admitting that the handling of the Ferrari "looks a lot different" to the last time he studied the onboard footage from Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa's F2007 cars.

He added: "We possibly went down the wrong route but now we know what direction we need to go."

World champion Alonso was more downcast, telling Spanish reporters that he did "not feel as comfortable as I have compared to some other Fridays".

He added: "But sometimes I have been fast on Fridays and in the end it did not go so well for me, so hopefully this time it can be the opposite."

25-year-old Alonso said of Ferrari's ominous pace: "They improved at the Silverstone test and here it looks the same, but if they were using ten kilos less fuel than us then (their pace) does not mean anything."

Ten kilograms of fuel at Magny Cours equates roughly to three or four tenths per lap -- which would have put the Mercedes-powered duo right on the pace.

Alonso cautioned: "The last two races were bad for Ferrari but it was not so long ago in Europe, in Barcelona, they were winning the race."

Honda still struggling despite 'B' car
(GMM)  Rubens Barrichello said on Friday that Honda's heavily revised RA107 does not appear to have moved the struggling team forward at Magny Cours.

Many hopes were resting on the updated single seater's French debut, with the scope of its developments leading the press to dub it a 'B' car after the Brackley based team failed to score a single point in the opening seven races of 2007.

Barrichello and teammate Jenson Button, however, failed to rise above thirteenth place in the opening day's practice sessions, despite Barrichello describing the handling of the new car as "a little bit" better compared to Indy two weeks ago.

"But if you compare (us) to the times of the others, it's not good at all," the Brazilian veteran said.

"We honestly need to wait until tomorrow, but maybe the others have improved more than us."

Niki Lauda slams 'silent Schu'
(GMM)  Niki Lauda has attacked fellow multiple world champion Michael Schumacher for turning up at grands prix this year and then refusing to talk to the press.

Germany's popular 'Bild' newspaper on Friday published a photo-shopped image of Ferrari 'advisor' Schumacher, attending his fourth event so far in 2007 at Magny Cours, with a zip over his mouth.

The criticism follows 38-year-old Schumacher's refusal - with the exception of Barcelona - to accept requests for either one-on-one interviews or group press conferences at races.

'He comes.  He laughs.  He is silent,' Bild observed.

Lauda said: "It is sad that Michael is not willing to speak about formula one.  For many years he brought much joy to a lot of people and helped to shape the sport.

"To then come back and say nothing, I think, does not quite fit."

Schumacher's spokeswoman Sabine Kehm defended the seven time world champion by saying that talking openly at each race "would be counter-productive to his task" as advisor.

But Lauda countered: "Michael could talk about things without having to go into every detail."

Fit Heidfeld to qualify, race - BMW
(GMM)  Nick Heidfeld will qualify and race at this weekend's French grand prix, a spokesman for his team BMW-Sauber confirmed on Saturday morning.

"Nick saw the doctor, he got treatment," the spokesman Joerg Kottmeier said at Magny Cours.

30-year-old Heidfeld sat out much of the afternoon practice session on Friday and was later taken to the Centre Hopitalier Pierre Beregovoy in nearby Nevers.

He was complaining of pain and cramps where his left-hand side ribs meet with his spine, particularly in the long Estoril right hand hand.

Heidfeld told Auto Motor und Sport shortly before leaving the circuit: "I should be ok to drive tomorrow."

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