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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Ecclestone threat to 'blow over' - Aus GP chief
  • Spanish fans behave badly at Barcelona test
  • Barcelona test notes
  • VW rules out F1 foray in next five years

Ecclestone threat to 'blow over' - Aus GP chief
(GMM)  Australian grand prix chief Ron Walker has played down Bernie Ecclestone's warning about the dubious future of the Melbourne race.

Ecclestone, F1's 77-year-old chief executive, was on Saturday quoted as suggesting the sport may move away from Australia after 2010 because the Victorian government, sponsors and manufacturers would prefer if the annual calendar spot was instead filled by Russia, India or Korea.

The British billionaire also said the only prospect for a new contract would be if Australian promoters agree to reconsider their reluctance to stage a floodlit race at night.

"I think this is just his first shot over the bow in his negotiations with the government on the renewal of the contract," Walker, chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, told the local news agency AAP.

In the Sydney Morning Herald, he is quoted as saying Ecclestone's comments will "blow over" and that the "negotiations will take place in (a) normal fashion".

Walker disagreed with Bernie's assessment that "your guy down there" - premier John Brumby - no longer wants a formula one race at Albert Park.

"The premier's been a great supporter of it ... but it has to add up in the eyes of the taxpayer," he added.

He acknowledges, however, that Brumby's support is not a given.

"All things have a used-by date sticker on them and maybe the government might say, 'Look it's been with us for 13 or 14 years or whatever it's going to be and it's time for a change', but we don't know yet," he said.

The Victorian major events minister Tim Holding said the government will not agree to staging a night race.

"We've made it clear we will not have a night race, Mr. Ecclestone has made it clear he accepts that decision and, in fact, supports it," he told reporters.

"Any claim that the government does not support this event is just plainly wrong."

Spanish fans behave badly at Barcelona test
(GMM)  Spanish formula one supporters at the Barcelona test this weekend hurled rubbish and insults at McLaren, and racial abuse at 2007 championship runner-up Lewis Hamilton.

Extra security guards were called to the Circuit de Catalunya venue and temporary barriers erected, abusive banners were removed from grandstands, and circuit officials called for calm, following a series of events as eight of the sport's eleven teams prepared for the 2008 season in Spain.

Hamilton, 23, who last year shared a difficult relationship with former teammate Fernando Alonso, was called a 'puto negro' (fucking black) and 'negro de mierda' (black shit) by large sections of the approximately 20,000-strong crowd on Sunday, according to the Spanish sports daily Marca.

"It is not right the way he is being treated," the news agency Reuters quotes McLaren test team manager Indy Lall as saying.

A spokeswoman for the Mercedes-powered team said: "McLaren has raced and tested on Spanish circuits for many years and everyone connected with the team regards Spain and the Spanish people with great affection, Lewis included."

Barcelona test notes
(GMM)  BMW-Sauber boss Mario Theissen on Sunday admitted that the team is still working to extract the full potential of the newly launched 2008 car.  "We are not yet satisfied with the lap times," the German told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper as the Swiss based outfit tests at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.


Williams did not test on the last of a scheduled three day test in Barcelona on Sunday, preferring instead to return to its Oxfordshire base to work on a front wing mounting problem with its new 2008 car, the FW30.


Toro Rosso drivers Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais were quickest of the 14 runners at Circuit de Catalunya on Saturday.  The Italian team admitted that the impressive lap times were achieved by running with low fuel for simulated qualifying runs.

VW rules out F1 foray in next five years
(GMM)  Volkswagen's motor racing representative Hans-Joachim Stuck on Sunday ruled out the Wolfsburg-based marque entering formula one within the next four or five years.  The 57-year-old former grand prix driver said the sport was not attractive to the world's fourth largest car manufacturer because of F1's current period of "rules instability", according to the German news agency SID.

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