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

  • Williams delays 2008 car track debut
  • No number 23 for Hamilton in 2008
  • Klien to consider race post outside F1
  • Force India in talks with Indian sponsors
  • Ferrari equality to be flexible says Raikkonen
  • Ferrari not ready to move on from spy saga
  • Honda may appoint second test driver
  • Drivers to help groom Indian to race in F1
  • Schu tests 'won't hurt' Ferrari says Raikkonen
  • Heidfeld gets new F1 manager New
  • BMW confirms Deutsche Telekom deal New
  • Sutil disputes Fisi's 'number one' claim New
  • Fisi disappointed by Renault snub New
  • Force India to spend extra $50m in 2008 New
  • No number one at Toyota says Trulli New

Williams delays 2008 car track debut
(GMM)  The track debut of Williams' new Toyota-powered car for 2008, the FW30, has been delayed by an extra week.

The car had been scheduled to turn its first laps at Jerez next Monday (14 January), but the German trade journal Auto Motor und Sport reports that Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima will instead take to the Spanish circuit with the existing 2007 model, the FW29.

"The schedule was always going to be tight," said the Oxfordshire based team's Australian technical director, Sam Michael.

"So instead of rushing the car out, we would rather wait to do it at the following test in Valencia," he explained.

The team's 2007 car, however, will in Jerez feature the 2008-spec gearbox, to also be used by Toyota, which this season must for the first time last four races.

"For us that is no problem," Michael insisted.  "We had already built the 2007 transmission according to the regulations for 2008."

No number 23 for Hamilton in 2008
(GMM)  Contrary to a statement made by team boss Ron Dennis at McLaren's recent Stuttgart launch, Lewis Hamilton will not carry the number 23 on his new car in 2008.

"It is Lewis' birthday today, we've gone to a lot of trouble ... he is 23, it is the MP4-23 and he will carry 23 on the car, but that is more by accident than judgment I must say," Dennis told reporters on Monday.

But although the single seater featured at the launch event indeed wore 23, it has emerged that Hamilton's Finnish teammate Heikki Kovalainen will actually carry the number this season.

The official 2008 entry list published by the FIA shows Hamilton with the number 22 for 2008, and the Briton made his debut in the car at Jerez on Thursday with the lower number.

Hamilton ended Thursday with a best lap time of 1.19.132, which was a few tenths quicker than Kovalainen, who was also on track at the exclusive McLaren test.

"For me in particular the car is very different from last year, and I have been focusing on that side of things," said Kovalainen, who in 2007 made his formula one debut for Renault.

Klien to consider race post outside F1
(GMM)  After missing out on the formerly vacant race seat at Force India for 2008, despite being the fastest of the winter shootout contenders, Christian Klien has now turned his focus to returning to competitive duty perhaps outside of F1.

The 24-year-old Austrian recently left his 2007 post as Honda's test and reserve driver to pursue the Force India race seat, that on Thursday was officially presented to the Roman grand prix veteran, Giancarlo Fisichella, in Mumbai.

After the Force India announcement, a statement issued by Klien's management said he would now think about his alternatives.

"Obviously my first choice remains formula one.  It is important to me, however, to keep my race skills fully exercised," he is quoted as saying.

"Therefore, I have been considering other options for the 2008 season.  There are good opportunities outside of formula one, that I want to explore and I am very much looking forward to developments in the coming weeks," Klien added.

Force India in talks with Indian sponsors
(GMM)  Force India is in discussions with a number of major potential Indian sponsors, new team co-owner Vijay Mallya has revealed.

At the launch of the Silverstone based team's inaugural driver lineup following the Spyker buyout, the Indian billionaire said it was currently early days in terms of tapping into the booming economy of the second most populous country in the world.

"Several big companies have come to me already," Dr Mallya, a flamboyant Indian who arrived at Mumbai's Grand Hyatt in a red Bentley Continental GT, said.

"They are a bit unfamiliar with the sponsorship of F1, the way the contracts are written, the exposure, the way it is measured etc," he added.

"But that is a process that goes hand in hand with any new initiative."

The team's new marketing boss Vikram Malhotra, meanwhile, revealed that the name 'Force India' - as opposed to one of Mallya's brands such as the airline and former Toyota sponsor Kingfisher - was specifically chosen so that sponsors could come on board without conflicts.

Mallya, who first became involved in the sport as a Benetton sponsor in the 90s, said: "F1 and Force India is a carefully thought out business for me, capitalizing on what I see as a huge opportunity for India.

"I think it will be successful, not immediately but over time."

Ferrari equality to be flexible says Raikkonen
(GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen is reluctant to dispute Ferrari boss Jean Todt's apparent claim that the Finn is not regarded by the Maranello based team as a leader.

After more than a decade with Michael Schumacher the undisputed number one, Ferrari has made it clear that - despite Raikkonen winning the 2007 title - he will not be bestowed any automatic special treatment this year.

From the Ferrari-Ducati media event at an Italian ski resort, Finn Raikkonen, who is 28, was quoted as seeming unmoved by Todt's assertion.

"Jean Todt said I am not a leader?" Kimi asked La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Everyone has his own way of thinking, but I do not want to enter into this controversy," he said.

Raikkonen insists, however, that Ferrari's policy of driver equality - as was the case in 2007 - will be flexible as the season reaches its decisive phase.

"As with all the teams I have been in, I am on par with my teammate," he noted.

"That will be the case again this year at the beginning, then at some point we will look at the situation and decide," Raikkonen added.

He also nominated McLaren as Ferrari's main championship threat for 2008; a sentiment backed by new boss Stefano Domenicali, who is glad that Fernando Alonso left the British team.

"They do not have Alonso anymore, and that is an advantage for us," the Italian told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

He added: "Meanwhile, Renault is one step below, but now they have Alonso ..."

Raikkonen agreed: "Alonso is a great driver and he will be a loss to McLaren."

Ferrari not ready to move on from spy saga
(GMM)  Luca di Montezemolo has proved that he is not yet ready to put the espionage dispute with McLaren behind him.

In the heat of the championship contest last year, the Italian cynically remarked that "whoever wins the title will do so either with a little bit of Ferrari or with a proper Ferrari".

McLaren was fined $100m and excluded from the constructors' championship last year, and the FIA since cleared its 2008 car after the team voluntarily agreed to freeze certain aspects of development.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone's presence at the MP4-23's Stuttgart launch, meanwhile, was interpreted as a sign of the sport's desire to move on.

But to the Cologne newspaper Express, Ferrari president Montezemolo slammed McLaren's new single seater as a "silver Ferrari".

To the same publication, Ferrari designer Aldo Costa is also skeptical that the MP4-23 is uncontaminated by the nearly 800 pages of secrets that were viewed last year by suspended McLaren designer Mike Coughlan.

"They got the opportunity to understand the benefits of our technical concepts," Costa said.

"It is therefore my belief that Ferrari know-how has been incorporated into the new McLaren," he added.

Honda may appoint second test driver
(GMM)  Honda may appoint a second test driver to work alongside official reserve Alex Wurz in 2008.

Andreas Zuber, along with other potential candidates including Mike Conway and Luca Filippi, ran for the Japanese squad in the recent post-season tests.

Zuber, the 24-year-old Austrian, told sportnet.at that even though the Wurz appointment surprised the racing world, he is still in the running for a Honda test spot this year.

"I have known for more than a month that Honda were negotiating with Wurz," Zuber, who finished the GP2 championship in 2007 in ninth place, said.

"I am still in the running.  At the end of January I will know if I will get to do more tests, and in mid-February at the latest it will be decided whether I will be the second test driver," he added.

It was reported in October that four days will be exempt from each F1 team's testing restrictions in 2008 only for rookies who have amassed less than four days of formula one experience over the past two years.

Drivers to help groom Indian to race in F1
(GMM)  Force India's newly unveiled driver lineup will help to groom an Indian for a future role with the team.

Although the likes of Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok were earlier touted as contenders for a seat at countryman Vijay Mallya's new team, the Silverstone based outfit ultimately selected Italian veteran Giancarlo Fisichella to race alongside young German Adrian Sutil.

Another Italian, Vitantonio Liuzzi, will be the team's reserve driver.

"Narain is not the ideal driver for my team while Karun insists that he needs more time.  But these (confirmed) guys will help make India a powerful force," Mallya said at a Mumbai hotel on Thursday.

The Indian publication Mid-Day reports that Fisichella, Sutil and Liuzzi will visit India for various initiatives in 2008.

"Adrian and Tonio are former karting champions," Mallya went on.  "That's where the drivers get made.

"In India there is a huge demand for go-karting.  Our drivers will keep coming to India to participate and judge the drivers.  Force India will pay for everything a potential driver needs after my drivers identify them," he added.

Schu tests 'won't hurt' Ferrari says Raikkonen
(GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen on Thursday seemed less than enthused when the prospect of Michael Schumacher becoming a more regular Ferrari tester was raised by the press.

At the team's global media event at an Italian ski resort, the reigning world champion was asked what he thought about Schumacher, the most successful driver in the history of formula one, helping to develop the newly launched F2008.

"If we are not able to test, it's good that he's doing it and, for sure, it's not going to hurt us," the Finn answered.

Raikkonen's teammate Felipe Massa played down the interpretation that the comments are a less-than-glowing assessment of a seven time world champion's contribution.

"That's how he is," the Brazilian, who is an open admirer of Schumacher, said as he referred to Raikkonen.

"He doesn't talk much."

Heidfeld gets new F1 manager
(GMM)  Nick Heidfeld will have a new personal manager for his formula one career.

The existing contract between the BMW-Sauber racer and his current manager, Werner Heinz, runs out after Christmas this year.

Andre Theuerzeit, managing director of the sports communication agency b.a.n.g., will take over after that, following a transitional period where both men will share the duties in 2008.

Dr Stefan Seitz, meanwhile, has become Heidfeld's legal advisor, a statement added.

"After a long and successful cooperation with Werner Heinz, who has been my Manager so far, I decided at the end of the contract period to choose a new management path," Heidfeld told the motor sports magazine adrivo.com.

BMW confirms Deutsche Telekom deal
(GMM)  As predicted just before Christmas, BMW-Sauber has inked a sponsorship deal with Germany's largest telecommunications company, Deutsche Telekom.

It was reported that the company was considering backing the Swiss based formula one team to advertise its 'T-Mobile' brand.

In fact, Deutsche Telekom will promote its business customer subsidiary 'T-Systems', with logos around the cockpit of the 2008 car, on the nose, and on the drivers' helmets, a statement on Friday announced.

"The partnership of T-Systems and BMW brings together two leaders in innovation to create tailor-made solutions for our team," said team boss Mario Theissen.

Sutil disputes Fisi's 'number one' claim
(GMM)  Adrian Sutil has disputed new teammate Giancarlo Fisichella's claim that the veteran Italian will be 'number one' driver at Force India in 2008.

"I'm the reference point, the number one driver, thanks to my experience.  Sutil comes after that," Fisichella, who tuns 35 next month, told the Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday.

But 24-year-old Sutil, who made his F1 debut for Force India's former guise Spyker in 2007, rather reckons a policy of driver equality will be in place, even though three-time race winner Fisichella has more than a decade of experience on the grid.

"In a building-up process it would not make any sense to have a driver hierarchy -- we will keep that for when, one day, we will be fighting for podiums," the German told F1's official website.

Also speaking to f1.com, Fisichella clarified that he has not talked specifically about his number one status with the Silverstone based team's bosses.

"But they told me that I am the experienced one and that I have to lead the team," he explained.

"I am sure that the material will be exactly the same for both of us but I feel the responsibility to lead the growth and progress," Fisichella added.

Fisi disappointed by Renault snub
(GMM)  Giancarlo Fisichella, who on Thursday was unveiled as a Force India driver for 2008, says he is disappointed with Renault.

The Italian winner of three grands prix - two of them with Renault - claims that, following three consecutive years at the French team and another four in its previous Benetton guise, the Enstone based outfit failed to fulfill its promise of a winning car.

Asked by La Gazzetta dello Sport if he is disappointed with Renault, 34-year-old Fisichella answered: "Yes, very much, especially because of the many years together.

"The winning car they promised never came," added Fisichella, who was double world champion Fernando Alonso's teammate in 2005 and 2006.

The Roman also revealed that he was surprised when he first tested Spyker's 2007 car recently, which was usually the slowest F1 single seater last season.

"It is very similar to the (Renault) R27, as it lacks aerodynamic grip," Fisichella told F1's official website.

"For sure it needs a big upgrade with a lot of wind tunnel work, but the baseline is as good as Renault's," he added.

Force India to spend extra $50m in 2008
(GMM)  Force India will get a $50 million budget boost in 2008, new team co-owner Vijay Mallya revealed on Thursday.

At the launch of the acquired and re-branded team in Mumbai, Indian billionaire Mallya divulged that Force India's inaugural budget this season will be $120m in total, compared with struggling Dutch predecessor Spyker's $70m spend in 2007.

"Make no mistake, we are not going to win a race or get a place in the podium," Giancarlo Fisichella, who switches from Renault to drive for the Silverstone based team in 2008, told the Indian news agency PTI.

"But with an increased budget, we will strive for the best possible result and from the back on the grid, we can definitely become a midfield team," he said.

Fisichella's teammate Adrian Sutil, meanwhile, who made his F1 debut for Spyker last season, said Force India's 2008 budget is not set in stone.

"Dr Mallya said that if there is extra money required he will not hesitate to spend it," the young German told F1's official website.

"It's a palpable increase in professionalism," Sutil added.

No number one at Toyota says Trulli
(GMM)  Toyota will not have a number one driver in 2008, continuing team driver Jarno Trulli has said.

The Italian 33-year-old shared equal billing with his former teammate Ralf Schumacher, but in 2008 will be joined in the Cologne based squad's pits by formula one returnee Timo Glock.

But although former race winner Trulli has far more experience than 25-year-old Glock, not to mention enjoying a more lucrative retainer, he insists that the pair will have the same status in the eyes of Toyota officials.

"Toyota does not rely on one leader," he is quoted as telling Sky Sports at the launch of the new car in Cologne on Thursday.

"We have never had, and never will have a leader, because the Toyota concept means you are part of the team -- one team, one aim," he added.

Trulli also played down suggestions that the presence of a rising star, and the reigning GP2 champion, in Toyota's sister car this year is a significantly added pressure.

"In formula one there is always pressure.  It doesn't matter who you have next to you or in front of you," he insisted.

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