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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Zuber disappointed by Honda snub
  • Super Aguri, Honda, clash over drivers
  • New car not a winner, Honda figures admit
  • Barrichello still not eyeing retirement
  • Button retracts Honda quit threat
  • Barrichello involved in Beckham sport project
  • De Ferran to make race return with own team
  • Brawn plays down espionage in F1
  • De la Rosa opposes driver equality in F1
  • Brawn to take pitwall back seat at Honda
  • Bahrain to build new grandstand for F1 race

Zuber disappointed by Honda snub
(GMM)  Mike Conway and Luca Filippi have been handed 'Young Driver' status by the Honda formula one team.

The news means the pair, from Britain and Italy respectively and both active GP2 racers, will test for the Japanese squad in 2008, as the testing agreement allows for addition mileage for inexperienced drivers.

The announcement, coinciding with the launch of the RA108 at Brackley on Tuesday, is a blow to Andreas Zuber, the 24-year-old Austrian GP2 driver who also tested alongside Conway and Filippi in recent winter tests.

"I would not be a professional if I said I was not disappointed," he is quoted as saying by the Austrian press.

The Austrian press speculated that Filippi's family links with the influential Italian company Nord Diesel group will not have hindered his Honda appointment.

Zuber added: "I think my performances in my (Honda) test days will have caught the attention of other teams.

"I will make every effort to get more formula one test drives by performing strongly in GP2," he said.

The Spanish newspaper Diario AS, meanwhile, reports that the 16-year-old Spanish single seater driver Roberto Merhi travelled to Brackley last Friday for talks with Honda.

Super Aguri, Honda, clash over drivers
(GMM)  Super Aguri and parent team Honda have reportedly clashed over Super Aguri's deliberations about its 2008 driver lineup.

Leafield based Super Aguri is yet to name its drivers for the forthcoming season, amid rumors that it is considering dropping Anthony Davidson to hire a driver with links to a potential buyout consortium.

The team is undoubtedly struggling financially at present, and it is believed that talks with Narain Karthikeyan could help to secure the investment of the Indian telecom Spice Group.

Honda's F1 chief executive Nick Fry re-pledged the manufacturer's support to Super Aguri on Tuesday, but admitted that the satellite outfit run by Aguri Suzuki is a distraction.

"The intent for 2008 is that Aguri will be on the grid but clearly what Ross (Brawn) and I need to do, and are doing, is ensure that doesn't detract from our primary job.

"At this stage, the intent is that they will be on the grid with Honda engines and support.  Exactly how much of that support comes from here is being worked on at the moment," Fry added.

The news agency Reuters also reports that the support is conditional on Honda continuing to have input into Super Aguri's driver lineup.

Fry said Davidson, the British 28-year-old, is a driver of an "appropriate standard" for Super Aguri.

"I would not personally be convinced that the driver you mentioned (Karthikeyan) would be of an acceptable standard for us," he added.

Super Aguri's managing director Daniele Audetto confirmed that Honda must "approve" the team's choice of drivers.

He refers to Davidson as "Honda's preferred driver".

"But we are also looking for a strong partner.

"If they bring a lot of money and they want a driver from wherever, then he has to be good and accepted by the FIA," the Italian said.

New car not a winner, Honda figures admit
(GMM)  Honda's newly launched 2008 car is not a race winner and does not yet feature the touch of the team's high-profile new appointment, Ross Brawn.

Those were the key messages as the Japanese squad set modest ambitions for the RA108 single seater as it was unveiled to the press at an event in Brackley on Tuesday.

Honda embarrassingly scored just six points all season with the abysmal 2007 'earth car'.

The RA108 is the first step towards racing away from its flawed predecessor, Honda's key figures admitted at the launch.

Jenson Button confessed that it might be 2010 before Honda can realistically mount a challenge for the title.

"I want to be challenging for the world championship, which could be in 2009, but if it's not, it's not.

"It will be the following year," the 28-year-old Briton said.

New team boss Brawn is famous in the paddock for leading Ferrari's near-faultless technical charge throughout the Michael Schumacher era.

But, standing before the predominantly white RA108, he said on Tuesday: "This car -- I've had very little influence."

Brawn also said he feels no pressure from Honda's Japanese paymasters to produce a quick fix.

"We'll change things and if they see progress over the next few years they'll be happy," he insisted.

Button and his veteran Brazilian teammate Rubens Barrichello tested the RA108 for the first time at Valencia last week and said it is better than the evil-handling 2007 racer.

"I think we will get a better read at Barcelona (this weekend), but the good thing is that there is nothing that is wrong," said Button.

"It is not as quick as the Ferraris and McLarens or whoever but there is nothing wrong with the car.

"It's predictable, you know what it is doing, we just need to improve it a lot," he added.

Barrichello still not eyeing retirement
(GMM)  Rubens Barrichello wants to wear a special helmet livery when he becomes the most experienced formula one driver of all time this season.

At present, the statisticians are still split as to where exactly the 35-year-old Brazilian will surpass Riccardo Patrese's record of 256 grands prix.

Some credit the Honda veteran with 249 starts, others say he has already reached 250.  There is little doubt that he has attended 253 formula one weekends as a driver.

The official number gets hazy, however, when non-starts such as Imola in 1994, when he was injured in practice, and Belgium 1998, where he failed to take the re-start after a huge start-line pileup, are factored in.

"I never thought I was going to be the longest driver in F1 history," he marveled at the launch of his 2008 car, the RA108, in the UK on Tuesday.

Barrichello, who for the first time in his career failed to score a single point last season, is out of contract at the end of 2008.

But he is still younger than was Michael Schumacher when the great German quit at the end of 2006, with Barrichello having made his grand prix debut at the age of just 20 in 1993.

"I am probably going to stop before people tell me to stop," he revealed.  "I'm still not thinking about retiring, though.

"I want to be a part of the revamping of Honda for as long as I can.  I still have a lot of velocity in me and physically I'm as fit as ever," Barrichello added.

Button retracts Honda quit threat
(GMM)  After angrily slamming Honda's 2007 car as a "dog" late last year, Jenson Button has retracted his threat to quit the Japanese team at the end of the forthcoming season.

The 28-year-old Briton said at the launch of the Brackley based squad's 2008 effort, the RA108, that he has been reinvigorated by the recent arrival of lauded former Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn as team boss.

"Bringing in Ross has made a big difference.

"He has so much experience in winning world championships and now we have everything in place to challenge for championships in the future," Button said.

In November last year, Button warned that anything other than a "dramatic improvement" in Honda's form in 2008 would probably lead to his departure.

But at the team's Brackley factory on Tuesday, he said: "At the moment, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in formula one.  I am the happiest I have been probably in this team.

"All thoughts of leaving have gone."

Button openly acknowledges that the RA108, which was designed before Brawn's arrival at Honda, is not going to challenge McLaren and Ferrari for wins.

"But for the future in the sport, I can't think of anywhere better to be than here at Honda," he added.

Button did admit, however, that his management is due to hold contract talks with Honda officials towards the end of the year.

"At the end of this year I'm sure we'll be talking," he confirmed.

But he denied that his management had earlier scoured the finer print of his existing deal to find a way out for 2008.

"It was never an option to not be here.  I knew that Honda wouldn't just sit around in the position we were in last season.  I knew that something would change," Button said.

Barrichello involved in Beckham sport project
(GMM)  Rubens Barrichello is involved in British football star David Beckham's newly unveiled 'David Beckham World of Sport' complex in Brazil.

The luxury resort near the north eastern city of Natal will include the Rubens Barrichello Driving Experience, complete with a go-kart track and a racing scholarship program.

"I'm in this project with my name and my experience and I've bought the whole idea," the 35-year-old Honda driver, a native of Sao Paulo, said.

De Ferran to make race return with own team
(GMM)  Former Honda sporting director Gil de Ferran will return to the cockpit in 2008 with his own team in the American Le Mans sports car series.

The CART and Indy 500 winner, who left the Brackley based F1 team six months ago, will drive his own Acura ARX-01b prototype in the LMP2 class this year, under the Indianapolis-based De Ferran Motorsport Engineering banner.

He is expected to make his series debut at Long Beach in April.

Brawn plays down espionage in F1
(GMM)  Despite being a recurring figure of the espionage scandal last year, Ross Brawn has played down the gravity of spying in formula one.

The former Ferrari technical director was cited by Nigel Stepney last year as having triggered his desire to leave the Maranello based team and collate information with Mike Coughlan.

53-year-old Brawn, meanwhile, attended McLaren's World Council hearing as a Ferrari witness while on sabbatical last year, and for 2008 has emerged as team boss for Honda -- the team that looked into hiring the conspirators Stepney and Coughlan.

But to the British newspaper The Guardian on Tuesday, Brawn played down the seriousness of the movement of information between teams in formula one.

"Formula one moves so quickly.  Knowledge of details of another car has only limited value despite all the fuss there was last year," he said.

"You don't create the process that way.  And it's (a matter of) creating the right process, so that people don't just do the right things but understand why they're doing them, that I want to achieve," Brawn added at the launch of Honda's 2008 car at Brackley.

De la Rosa opposes driver equality in F1
(GMM)  Pedro de la Rosa has questioned McLaren's policy of conferring equal status on its race drivers.

The Woking based team's primary test driver said that if he was in Ron Dennis' shoes, he would appoint a clear number one.

"My vision is very different (to Dennis')," de la Rosa, the 36-year-old Spaniard, told the newspaper El Mundo.

De la Rosa was disappointed to have missed out on the race seat for 2008 that is now occupied by Heikki Kovalainen.

Last year, he was a McLaren ally of countryman Fernando Alonso, who complained about not receiving treatment befitting a double world champion alongside the rookie Lewis Hamilton.

"I got along with him really well," de la Rosa, referring to Alonso, confirmed in the interview.

De la Rosa explained: "In my view, a formula one team must have a leader and everyone should work for him, as happens in other sports such as cycling.

"That is the modern concept that should govern any team," he added.

De la Rosa says he "respects" team boss Ron Dennis' alternate view.

"I experienced it first hand," he revealed, "when I replaced Montoya (in 2006) and I got everything the same as Raikkonen."

De la Rosa also said he thinks Renault will return to better form in 2008 now that it has re-secured Alonso's services.

"They will definitely improve because we all know Fernando and how much he brings," he said.

Brawn to take pitwall back seat at Honda
(GMM)  Ross Brawn has revealed that he is unlikely to get involved in orchestrating Honda's strategic calls at grands prix in 2008.

The Japanese outfit's new team principal is renowned for his brilliance on the pitwall and in the engineers' rooms during his time as Ferrari technical director until 2006.

But he told reporters on Tuesday that his role at Honda is to be different.

"It would free me up to do more things if I was relieved of that duty," Brawn, asked about his strategic skills as Honda launched the new RA108 at Brackley, said.

"So if I can, I'd like to encourage the others to step up and that would give me a little more time on other matters," he said on Tuesday.

Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello, however, who knows Brawn well following his six years at Ferrari until 2005, is relieved that Brawn is now a guiding force at Honda.

"The team won't be panicking any more," the 35-year-old said at the launch.

"One of the problems we had last year related to decisions where Ross is outstanding.  He is what we were missing.

"In Fuji you hear the engineer say, 'Come in, come in'.  And on the back of his voice you can hear people say, 'No, no, no'.

"There was a big confusion and that didn't give a lot of confidence.  The team has good people, but there were too many people trying to be leaders and it was just confusing.  We have a leader now," Barrichello said.

Bahrain to build new grandstand for F1 race
(GMM)  Construction of a new grandstand on the pit straight of the Bahrain grand prix circuit will begin next month, according to a report in Gulf Weekly.

The additional seats, to boost maximum capacity to 44,600, is a response to the sellout race-day crowd of 2007, and the increased interest in the upcoming formula one race scheduled for early April.

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