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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Former Arrows owner in trouble in America
  • Heidfeld concerned about new BMW racer
  • Williams determined to keep increasing budget
  • Webber happy with new Red Bull
  • 22,000 at Valencia on Wednesday
  • Fry excuses Barrichello for pointless 2007
  • Missing luck soured '07 title charge - Massa
  • Massa says Ferrari enjoying 'smooth' pre-season

Former Arrows owner in trouble in America
(GMM)  Former Arrows F1 part-owner Prince Malik Ado Ibrahim, who claimed to be of Nigerian royalty, has escaped conviction in America on charges of stealing $750,000 from the father of a driver in his NASCAR team Maverick Motorsports.

Ibrahim, with his failed marketing concept 'T-Minus', is thought to have owned up to 25 per cent of Arrows in 1999, in a short-lived venture that was later linked with the team's demise in 2002.

He was arrested in May last year on charges of theft and deception, according to the American Dallas Morning News newspaper, but remains in custody on charges of perjury.

Heidfeld concerned about new BMW racer
(GMM)  Nick Heidfeld has expressed concern about BMW-Sauber's 2008 car.

After the Swiss based team proved F1's third force in 2007 with its predecessor, the newly launched F1.08 single seater has not performed ideally in pre-season testing so far, 30-year-old Heidfeld revealed.

"Last year, at this stage, things seemed better to me," he is quoted as saying at Valencia by the Daily Mail.

BMW chiefs, including team boss Mario Theissen, have targeted a maiden win for the German team this season, which begins in Australia on March 16.

Heidfeld says it is too early to rule out an improvement before then.

"I cannot yet say this car is worse, because I think we know what areas we have to work on," he explained.

For the past two days, BMW's 2007 car has lapped faster than the new contender as they ran simultaneously at Valencia.

Williams determined to keep increasing budget
(GMM)  Williams is clawing its way back to having the resources it needs to challenge for victory in formula one, according to the British team's co-owner Patrick Head.

The Oxfordshire based team lost the manufacturer backing of BMW ahead of the 2006 season, when Williams used Cosworth power to finish an abysmal eighth in the constructors' title.

An improvement last year netted fourth in the teams' championship, and Williams has just unveiled the 2007 car's successor, the Toyota-powered FW30.

"I don't think we expect to win the drivers' or constructors' championship next season because we don't have strong enough resources at the moment to back that up," Head told the British magazine F1 Racing.

"But we're on an upswing.

"And when you're on an upswing, people are prepared to invest in you because they know you're likely to get more time on television.  So we're certainly seeing a strengthening environment now," he added.

Head admits that the team's poor performances in recent years, and the loss of works BMW support, cut into its annual spending power.

"So at the moment we have a stepwise program to increase the budget," he said.

Webber happy with new Red Bull
(GMM)  Despite two breakdowns on the Valencia verges, Mark Webber on Wednesday declared himself "happy" with Red Bull's 2008 car, the RB4.

The Australian driver finished last season twelfth in the drivers' classification, after Adrian Newey's first design for the team, the RB3, proved chronically unreliable.

Webber, 31, said at the eastern Spanish test circuit that the new single seater, eighth quickest in his hands on Wednesday, also seems a step forward in terms of performance.

"Now we need to work with what we've got and get it as fast as possible before Melbourne," he said.

Less impressive on Wednesday was the pace of Toyota's new TF108, while Rubens Barrichello only marginally avoided setting the slowest lap time of all as the new Honda got its track debut.

Renault, meanwhile, started working on the setup of its R28, but Fernando Alonso remained just sixth best of the seventeen runners.

"The time to improve the car will be during the next few test sessions," the Spaniard argued.

22,000 at Valencia on Wednesday
(GMM)  Following the incredible sight of 38,000 Spaniards at the Valencia test on Tuesday, a public holiday, the twisty circuit still managed a crowd of 22,000 on Wednesday, Spanish local press reports said.  "It was nice to see the support of the fans here and that is always a big motivation," said Renault driver Fernando Alonso.

Fry excuses Barrichello for pointless 2007
(GMM)  Nick Fry, chief executive of the Honda formula one team, has excused Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello for failing to score a single point in 2007.

Fry explained that Barrichello, the most experienced active driver on the grid and a nine time race winner for Ferrari, struggled for motivation last season with the uncompetitive RA107.

The 35-year-old, who has started more than 250 grands prix and will pass Ricardo Patrese's all time record in 2008, was given the duty of shaking down Honda's new challenger, the RA108, at Valencia on Wednesday.

Fry compared Barrichello's pointless 2007 form with that of his British teammate Jenson Button, who scored all of Honda's six points last season.

"Jenson is totally committed and flat-out from the first corner, all the time," he is quoted as saying by the Guardian newspaper.

"As for Rubens, I believe he still has all his skill and potential but by the same token I fully accept that after 15 years in formula one, when we have presented him with a car that is less than fully competitive, it may sometimes be hard for him to maximize his motivation," Fry added.

Missing luck soured '07 title charge - Massa
(GMM)  The only missing ingredient in Felipe Massa's championship campaign last year was luck, according to the Brazilian Ferrari driver.

Massa, 26, surprised the formula one world by matching the performance of his highly rated new teammate Kimi Raikkonen early in 2007, before ultimately supporting the Finn's successful title charge.

But Massa insists that he is not going to settle for second best in 2008.

"I am going to fight for the title.  That is my goal for the season," the winner of five grands prix told the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport at Valencia this week.

Massa refuses to acknowledge that Raikkonen, although now F1's reigning world champion, is a better driver.

"If I had a weakness last year, it was that I was less fortunate than he was," he said at the verge of the group test in Spain.

He said Brazilian drivers, particularly those in the wake of Ayrton Senna's untimely death in 1994, have always found themselves under pressure.

"Rubens had a particularly difficult task -- everyone expected him to be Ayrton's successor," Massa explained.  "I have also felt some of that.

"But I think my countrymen understand that I would have been the 2007 world champion if my car had been more reliable," he said.

Massa says Ferrari enjoying 'smooth' pre-season
(GMM)  Felipe Massa says Ferrari's preparations for 2008 are proceeding "smoother" than on the eve of the successful previous campaign.

So far in pre-season testing, the Italian team's new F2008 single seater has been a standout performer, even though Heikki Kovalainen set easily the quickest time at Valencia on Wednesday.

"I am happy with how the car feels, with how many kilometers we have done without technical problems, and we are already there with the lap times as well.

"Compared to the previous car, it seems better in the slow corners and still very strong in the quick ones," Massa said in an interview with Auto Motor und Sport.

He said Ferrari's preparations for 2008 are proceeding even better than they did at this point one year ago.

"In recent years, we always had some problems.  This time, everything is going smoother, but it would be dangerous to say exactly how we compare to the others.

"I can only speak about Ferrari, and the car feels good," he said.

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