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Latest F1 news in brief UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

  • New McLaren fast on track debut
  • F1 expert plays down McLaren ECU fears
  • Honda to have 'new livery' in 2008
  • Kimi could stay beyond 2009 says Ferrari boss
  • Asmer to test for BMW-Sauber again
  • Wurz named Honda test, reserve driver New
  • Toyota reveal 2008 car in Germany New
  • Fisi, Liuzzi, join Force India - Mallya New
  • Bourdais never worried about Alonso factor New

New McLaren fast on track debut
(GMM)  McLaren's newly launched car, the MP4-23, made a trouble-free and fast debut on Wednesday at the start of a three day exclusive test session.

Following Monday's launch in Stuttgart, Pedro de la Rosa took the same chassis onto the Spanish circuit shortly after 9am, with Heikki Kovalainen joining him in action in a second completed MP4-23 in the afternoon.

"The first impressions of the new car are good," said Finn Kovalainen, who was also making his debut in a Mercedes-powered car after starting in formula one with Renault in 2007.

His best lap time was nearly a second slower than de la Rosa's, who went marginally faster than the 2007 car had managed at Jerez last month.

"The car's performance today is definitely an encouraging starting point," Kovalainen noted.

To the German newspaper Bild, Mercedes-Benz's Norbert Haug added: "The performance was a good sign, if you look at the lap time done with last year's car."

F1 expert plays down McLaren ECU fears
(GMM)  F1 expert and former grand prix driver Hans-Joachim Stuck has played down formula one teams' fears about using standard electronics developed by a McLaren subsidiary in 2008.

Rivals of the Mercedes-powered team, notably Renault, Ferrari and BMW-Sauber, have expressed concern not only about the apparently troublesome ECU supplied by Microsoft-MES, but its links with McLaren, a current competitor that was recently involved in espionage scandals.

But Stuck, the German veteran of 74 grands prix in the 70s, and newly appointed Motorsport Representative for Volkswagen, told Bild newspaper: "It is clear that the teams are worried.

"But Mercedes would never be so stupid as to get involved in anything chancy like that.  For the faint-hearted, I try to reassure them," he added.

Honda to have 'new livery' in 2008
(GMM)  Honda has revealed that its formula one cars will sport a "new livery" in 2008.

The Japanese team pioneered its controversial 'earth car' concept in 2007, which depicted a huge map of the globe devoid of all sponsor logos to raise awareness about environmental issues.

But in the recent post-season tests, the Brackley based outfit's single seaters appeared with a blank white paint job, even though a spokesman insisted Honda had not abandoned the earth livery.

"We are currently hard at work on preparing to lift the environmental concept to the next level, not only for next season, but for the longer term as well," the spokesperson said in November.

In a media communiqué received early on Thursday, Honda revealed that the launch of the 2008 car in late January will show the RA108 "in its new livery'.

The team has however clearly not abandoned the environmental concept, as the email header featured an 'earth dreams' logo.

Kimi could stay beyond 2009 says Ferrari boss
(GMM)  Newly crowned world champion Kimi Raikkonen could race for Ferrari beyond the expiry of his current contract in late 2009, new team boss Stefano Domenicali has suggested at a media event.

To reporters at the joint Ferrari and Ducati 'Wroom' winter retreat in the Dolomites on Wednesday, the 43-year-old Italian played down rumors that Raikkonen's stay at Maranello could be shortened by the team's reported links with Fernando Alonso.

"Kimi has inserted himself into our team very well," Domenicali is quoted as saying by the German trade magazine Auto Motor und Sport.

"His contract goes until the end of 2009.  There is however no reason why he should not also drive for us for longer than that," he added.

Domenicali also played down the Alonso rumors, such as the theory that the Spanish double world champion only intends a short tenure at Renault before joining Ferrari.

"This is an issue which, for the time being, we are not going to consider," he insisted.  "We will see what happens in the future."

Asmer to test for BMW-Sauber again
(GMM)  BMW-Sauber has asked Marko Asmer to test again, with the German team yet to appoint a replacement for departed third driver Timo Glock.

The 23-year-old Estonian ran for the Swiss based team last month at Jerez, and was significantly faster than his main competitor for the official test and reserve position in 2008, Spanish GP2 race winner Javier Villa.

The Dutch magazine Formule 1 Race Report claims that BMW-Sauber, based at Hinwil in Switzerland, has confirmed that Asmer is set to return to the test cockpit for another outing.

A spokesman said a decision about the vacant test driver slot will be made at the end of January.

The team's new car, the F1.08, will be launched on 14 January at the new BMW vehicle delivery centre in Munich, Germany.

Asmer, the reigning British F3 champion, made his F1 test debut in a BMW-powered Williams as a teenager in 2003.

Wurz named Honda test, reserve driver
(GMM)  F1 race and test veteran Alex Wurz will be Honda's test and reserve driver in 2008.

The 33-year-old Austrian, who stepped down at Williams late last season, is considered as perhaps the best development driver in the sport.

In a statement, the Japanese team said Wurz, plus racers Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button, form "the most experienced driver line-up currently competing in formula one".

Wurz will attend all the races in 2008, Honda revealed, and will kick off his new role with a test in the 2007-spec RA107 on 22 January at Valencia.

"Alex has 11 years of top level experience in the sport and this depth and breadth of knowledge will prove invaluable to us as we aim to make Honda a competitive force in 2008," said Honda's new team principal, Ross Brawn.

Toyota reveal 2008 car in Germany
(GMM)  Toyota on Thursday launched its 2008 car, the TF108, at the Japanese team's Cologne headquarters in Germany.

Sporting a tweaked red and white livery and presenting drivers Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock in predominantly white overalls, the TF108 appeared a departure from recent Toyotas, following disappointing seasons in 2006 and 2007.

"The aerodynamic concept of this car has changed," Pascal Vasselon, Toyota's technical boss, confirmed.

The TF107 notably features a longer wheel base than its predecessor, a McLaren-style 'bridge' front wing, and all four wheels finished with carbon-fiber aero covers.

Team debutant Timo Glock, meanwhile, wore overalls revealing the yellow logo of his personal backer Deutsche Post, unlike his teammate Jarno Trulli.

Fisi, Liuzzi, join Force India - Mallya
(GMM)  Official confirmation is due later on Thursday, but Force India team owner Vijay Mallya has finally revealed the identity of his drivers for 2008 to an Italian newspaper.

Giancarlo Fisichella, the Roman veteran of nearly 200 grands prix, and Italian countryman Vitantonio Liuzzi, will join the Silverstone based squad as new race and test driver respectively this season, the Indian billionaire told sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The team will confirm the news at 7pm Indian time.

Mallya said Fisichella, who turns 35 next week, will be the number one driver opposite continuing German youngster Adrian Sutil.

"Absolutely, yes," he answered.

"He has great experience and he will help Sutil improve."

Bourdais never worried about Alonso factor
(GMM)  F1 newcomer Sebastien Bourdais says he was never worried that Fernando Alonso's recent round of musical chairs would disrupt his own plans for 2008.

It was strongly suggested that, as the Spanish double world champion contemplated his next move after falling out with McLaren, he flirted seriously with Red Bull.

With Mark Webber and David Coulthard firmly under contract for 2008, however, some speculated that Alonso's arrival could cause a shake-up within the two Red Bull teams -- with Bourdais possibly being asked to delay his move from his successful Champ Car career for a year.

But the Frenchman told L'Equipe, the nationwide daily sports newspaper: "I could not have imagined him signing with a midfield team."

On the other hand, 28-year-old Bourdais suggests that Alonso was lucky to have found a good seat at all in 2008, following his tumultuous single year at McLaren.

"When he started acting the diva, more and more line-ups became occupied and some doors for him were even locked," Bourdais said.

"Me, I did wonder about where he would end up."

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