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

  • Massa, de la Rosa, play down racism scandal
  • McLaren expects no racial incidents at Jerez
  • Renault yet to show true 2008 form - de la Rosa
  • New track revives hopes for Portugal GP
  • Williams resolve wing mounting issue
  • Plans on track for new Spanish F1 circuit
  • New McLaren needs to be faster - de la Rosa
  • No racism as Hamilton makes test return New
  • Aguri test, but call off 2008 launch New
  • Bahrain backs away from night race reports New

Massa, de la Rosa, play down racism scandal
(GMM)  Felipe Massa has played down the racism scandal involving Lewis Hamilton as an overblown war between the British and Spanish press.

The Brazilian driver, who did not attend the Barcelona test because Ferrari was preparing to run for six days in Bahrain, told La Gazzetta dello Sport that the reported instances of racial abuse against Hamilton by spectators was "ugly".

"But I have not fully understood what went on," Massa said, "apart from the fact that it was a war between the Spanish newspapers and the British ones."

Massa, who is 26, says he did not believe everything that was reported by the media about the events at the Circuit de Catalunya.

"In my opinion formula one is different (from other sports); we have big fights, but always in the correct way, and this is also true of the fans," he added.

McLaren test driver and Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa, meanwhile, objects to the portrayal in the media of Spain as a racist nation.

"The Spanish fans are educated and peaceful people," he told the Spanish daily Diario AS.

"So much has been said about this issue.  The important thing for me is that at the next test it can be demonstrated that all drivers are treated with respect, which has always been the case," de la Rosa added.

McLaren expects no racial incidents at Jerez
(GMM)  For the first time since the racism scandal broke out in Barcelona recently, Lewis Hamilton will return to the Spanish winter test tracks on Tuesday.

McLaren has scheduled three days of running for the 23-year-old at Jerez, in the south of the country, and Mercedes' racing boss Norbert Haug is not anticipating any more problems.

"We believe that every fan will behave as they should," he told the German newspaper Bild.

FIA president Max Mosley has threatened to strip the two Spanish grands prix from the calendar if circuit organizers cannot get a grip on the kind of racial taunts directed at F1's only black driver in Barcelona.

Haug said: "For us, the incident is in the past, and the vast majority of people have always behaved correctly."

The German said McLaren has not organized any extra security arrangements for the Jerez test, and Briton Hamilton will not be protected by a bodyguard.

"Safety is a matter for the track operators," Haug insisted.  "From our side, nothing (extra) is planned.

"But we will watch closely how the situation develops.  The same is true of the FIA."

Renault yet to show true 2008 form - de la Rosa
(GMM)  Pedro de la Rosa believes some formula one teams are yet to display their true level of competitiveness in pre-season testing -- and Renault could be one of them.

The McLaren test driver agrees that the Mercedes-powered team and Ferrari are a step ahead of the rest with their 2008 machines, but thinks winter testing so far has not told the full story about the likely pecking order in 2008.

"Ferrari and McLaren seem stronger and one step ahead of others, which is more or less how last season ended," the Spaniard told the newspaper Diario AS.

"But there are teams that have not shown all of their cards, and Renault is one of them," de la Rosa added.

"They are one of the teams that has the ability to make a step and come back up in the coming months," he said.

Asked whether his countryman and former McLaren colleague Fernando Alonso can challenge for this year's title, de la Rosa answered: "Of course he can."

Renault's engineering chief Pat Symonds is also confident that the French squad has now left its 2007 troubles behind.

"I am certain that the combination of Fernando in a revitalized Renault will see him challenging for race wins.  He knows what he wants from the car, and we have shown in the past that we can deliver it," Symonds said.

New track revives hopes for Portugal GP
(GMM)  A new circuit in Portugal will be used for formula one testing, and the facility is also hopeful of capturing a round of the world championship.

Two years ago, it emerged that a F1-style circuit in the Algarve, the southernmost region of mainland Portugal, was being planned with a budget of around 200m euros.

The facility is now scheduled for completion in October, and circuit boss Paulo Pinheiro told the news agency Reuters that a formula one team has already booked a test at the track for next January.

The track will have official FIA certification, and government backing to bid for Portugal's first grand prix since Estoril was taken off the calendar in 1996.

"The government will do its best for Portugal to become part of the world's main championships," said deputy sports minister Laurentino Dias.

"This circuit is prepared to host a range of motor races, from the most modest to formula one."

Williams resolve wing mounting issue
(GMM)  Williams' 2008 contenders on Monday did not encounter a repeat of the front wing mounting problems that marred the British team's running in Barcelona a week ago.

Before most other formula one teams commence running at the southern Spanish circuit at Jerez on Tuesday, Oxfordshire based Williams - with two FW30s in action - and Red Bull began the test on Monday.

In a team statement, Toyota-powered Williams said Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima had commenced the four-day program successfully.

"Last week's issues with the front wing mounting have been resolved and both drivers completed a list of development items," the statement read.

Technical director Sam Michael added: "After signing off the revision to the front wing mounting system, we proceeded to work on mechanical set-up and long runs for reliability."

Plans on track for new Spanish F1 circuit
(GMM)  Plans have now been finalized for a modern formula one-style circuit in the Spanish municipality of Alcaniz.

The track, to be known as 'La Ciudad del Motor de Alcaniz', has been designed by the well-known F1 architect Hermann Tilke with the advisory input of McLaren's experienced Spanish test driver, Pedro de la Rosa.

It is expected that, alongside the Montmelo, Valencia and Jerez tracks, Alcaniz - located in the autonomous community of Aragon - will be available to F1 test teams.

On Monday, Tilke, de la Rosa and Spanish motor racing chief Carlos Gracia attended the submission of the circuit's final plans, the newspaper Diario AS said.

The circuit, now in the initial phase of construction, is scheduled to be completed by mid 2009.

Alcaniz will boast a 5.3km layout featuring a very long 2km straight, followed by a Loews-style Monaco hairpin, AS revealed.

New McLaren needs to be faster - de la Rosa
(GMM)  Pedro de la Rosa has praised McLaren's new car for 2008, but admits that engineers are busily trying to make the MP4-23 go quicker.

It is widely reported that Ferrari currently possesses the fastest of the newly revealed 2008 grid, and de la Rosa - McLaren's veteran Spanish tester - agrees that the only missing element to his team's new racer is a mite more performance.

"Basically we have to make the car faster, and that means a lot of work on the aerodynamic side still has to be done," de la Rosa, 36, said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper Diario AS.

He added: "We are very pleased with the reliability we have shown until now, so the main thing is to be faster.

"But that does not mean that we no longer have a very competitive car in all areas."

De la Rosa also said McLaren is not enjoying a significant advantage ahead of the 2008 season just because the standard ECU was designed and supplied by a company owned by Ron Dennis' Woking based company.

"It's the same situation for everyone," he insisted.  "No-one can change any parameters (of the unit) and all the other teams knew about it for some time.

"I do not see that we have an advantage."

No racism as Hamilton makes test return
(GMM)  After the racial controversy of Barcelona, Lewis Hamilton's return to Spanish test action at Jerez on Tuesday went off without a hitch.

Only a small crowd has gathered at the former grand prix venue in the country's south, where every team except Ferrari and Toyota this week continue their pre-season test campaigns.

A repeat of the racist abuse suffered by F1's only black driver could cost the country its two F1 races, to be held this year at Montmelo and on the streets of Valencia.

Australian driver Mark Webber told the BBC that it would be wrong for Spain to be punished because of the actions of a few bigots.

"There were a few guys who were absolutely out of order, and that's what the whole thing has been hung on," said Webber, who was at the Circuit de Catalunya testing for Red Bull when the incidents occurred last weekend.

"You had a lot of fans who were there with their young kids on a Sunday, so why should you stuff it all for them because of a few guys?" he added.

Webber said he believes that some of the worst behavior regarding the racism controversy was conducted by the media.

"The over-reaction of the media ... take it back a bit," he urged.  "It's totally controllable and we can get on top of it."

Aguri test, but call off 2008 launch
(GMM)  There were positive and negative signs for the future of the struggling Super Aguri team on Tuesday.

After some notable absences recently, the Japanese outfit, with Takuma Sato in the cockpit, returned to test action at Jerez.

But on the sidelines, it emerged that the Aguri Suzuki-led camp has called off the scheduled launch of its 2008 campaign and car at Barcelona on February 19.

Instead, Suzuki and technical boss Mark Preston will be available for interviews, with any formal launch - and the announcement of a driver lineup for 2008 - now not likely to take place until the team has travelled to Australia for the first race.

Bahrain backs away from night race reports
(GMM)  Organizers of the Bahrain grand prix have backed away from reports that they are considering staging a formula one night race.

The Sakhir circuit's chief operating officer Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa told the local Gulf Daily News this week that, unlike race chiefs in Melbourne, Bahrain is "not opposed" to the concept of lighting up the track.

"It is only natural that we have been gathering information about it, trying to determine its advantages and disadvantages," he said.

But in the same newspaper on Tuesday, Shaikh Salman made it clear that the night race concept "is not on the agenda of the circuit".

The Bahrain International Circuit also issued a statement explaining that Salman's comments were "unfortunately ... taken out of context".

"While the concept of night racing is extremely interesting it is not on the agenda of the (circuit)," the statement added.

Unlike some of F1's fixtures located further east, Bahrain enjoys a favorable time difference to the key European broadcasters, and usually good television viewing figures.

"As a result we have had no discussions with either the FIA or Formula One Management towards staging our race at night," the Bahrain GP organizers insisted.

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