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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Spanish rain disturbs Tuesday testing
  • Stepney denies giving dossier to McLaren
  • McLaren sponsors dominate F1 exposure
  • Rampf defends BMW's 'risks' with 2008 racer
  • Vettel looks forward to '08-spec Red Bull
  • Spanish sponsor completes McLaren exit
  • Sutil says Fisi good for his F1 career

Spanish rain disturbs Tuesday testing
(GMM)  Bad weather marred formula one testing at Spanish circuits on Tuesday.

As the winter pre-season entered its penultimate week, four teams began running at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya but were disturbed by showers that persisted throughout the day.

The leading two Williams cars, decked out in the personal wishes of its past world champions, persisted with substantial programs, but Red Bull, Renault and Toyota limited their laps.

McLaren, meanwhile, opted to stay dry in the pits, revealing in a statement that conditions "will be reviewed again" on Wednesday morning.

BMW Sauber's first of three exclusive test days at Valencia was also disrupted by Spanish rain.  The German team explained that it "decided to save testing mileage" rather than clock up too many wet laps.

Stepney denies giving dossier to McLaren
(GMM)  Alleged Ferrari spy Nigel Stepney has denied passing reams of the Italian team's secrets to McLaren co-conspirator Mike Coughlan.

The Briton, formerly a key engineer at the Maranello based team, was this week interrogated by Modena prosecutors, where he reportedly admitted contact with Coughlan but denied giving the suspended chief designer the famous 780-page Ferrari dossier.

Stepney's account differs to that of Coughlan, who has admitted to receiving the dossier.

"Maybe all that material got stolen, but that has nothing to do with Stepney," his Italian lawyer, Sonia Bartolini, is quoted as saying by the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

"This is why he's disappointed with Coughlan and his contradicting statements, while Stepney's statements to the magistrate are consistent with those given to the FIA," she added, albeit admitting that the pair "scribbled some drawings" at a meeting in Barcelona last spring.

To the Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport, meanwhile, prosecutor Giuseppe Tibis raised the prospect of interviewing other espionage figures - possibly those employed by McLaren - in March.

McLaren sponsors dominate F1 exposure
(GMM)  Vodafone has overtaken Marlboro as the most visible sponsor in formula one, a report has found.

The British mobile operator was ranked fourth in the table in 2006, when represented on the Ferrari livery, but tripled its exposure and climbed to top spot with its new title sponsorship of the Mercedes-powered team.

The media-watch business Margaux Matrix also found that four more McLaren sponsors featured in the top-10 of 2007, while Ferrari's Marlboro backing was relocated to second place.

The only other Ferrari sponsor in the top ten was Shell (fourth), while McLaren's Mercedes-Benz, Hugo Boss, Mobil 1 and newcomer Aigo all featured.

Renault sponsor Elf, meanwhile, dropped out of the top ten, as only new title sponsor ING made the 2007 list (eighth) for the dethroned world champions.

Apart from common tire supplier Bridgestone, energy drink Red Bull - with its two formula one teams - was the only other non-McLaren or Ferrari brand in the ten.

Rampf defends BMW's 'risks' with 2008 racer
(GMM)  Willy Rampf has defended the risks taken by BMW Sauber in the design of its imperfect new single seater for 2008.

Despite the German squad's intention to join the top two teams in the hunt for victories this year, the F1.08 has endured a troubled birth on the winter test tracks.

Rampf, BMW's technical boss, admits to the Swiss journal Motorsport Aktuell that the car is not as driver-friendly as the team wants.

"There is no question that the F1.08 is clearly faster than the F1.07," he insists, "but it is more complex and, for the drivers and the engineers, more difficult to find the full potential at all times and in all conditions."

BMW has made steady progress since taking over the Hinwil based Sauber team at the end of 2005, but Rampf admits that the design departments took "calculated risks" with the F1.08 to make the next step to winning races.

"We set ourselves the goal of joining the top teams," he said.  "This cannot be achieved by being conservative, as any top team knows."

Vettel looks forward to '08-spec Red Bull
(GMM)  Sebastian Vettel has essentially admitted that Toro Rosso is looking forward to getting its hands on sister team Red Bull's 2008 car later this season.

The customer car issue is a controversial one in formula one, with the Faenza based team, as well as beleaguered Honda satellite Super Aguri, already being challenged legally by Force India over the legality of sourcing their cars from active competitors.

But to the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport, STR driver Vettel declared that it is good to know that "Coulthard and Webber are happy" with the recently launched RB4.

"That is also a good sign for us," he added, having recently declared that Toro Rosso's new car will be "similar" to the new Red Bull.

Toro Rosso intends to start the 2008 season with last year's car, and has penciled in May's Turkish grand prix as the debut date for the STR3.

But even with the 2007 single seater, renamed the STR2B for this year's regulations, team co-owner Gerhard Berger thinks the outfit is in good shape.

"We have had a very good preparation for the season," said the former grand prix winner.

"The car is reliable and at the moment our lap times are on the seventh rank," Berger added, estimating that Toro Rosso is ahead of Toyota, Honda, Force India and Super Aguri.

Spanish sponsor completes McLaren exit
(GMM)  Spanish sponsor Mutua Madrilena has finally ended its association with the McLaren team and will return to the livery of Renault's formula one car in 2008.

The Madrid based insurance company switched with Fernando Alonso to McLaren for 2007, but reportedly had trouble breaking its long term contract in order to accompany the Spaniard back to Renault for the forthcoming season.

The Spanish daily Diario AS, however, reports this week that Mutua Madrilena has now successfully broken its McLaren ties, despite the fact that the company's logo was still represented on the overalls of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen at the launch of the MP4-23 last month.

AS claims that the sponsor was able to declare breach of contract because Alonso, 26, did not race for the Mercedes-powered team for long enough.

The newspaper says Mutua Madrilena has subsequently signed a new two-year deal with Renault for about (US) $12 million.

Sutil says Fisi good for his F1 career
(GMM)  Adrian Sutil believes having grand prix winner and formula one veteran Giancarlo Fisichella as his teammate this year will be good for his career.

The 25-year-old German was already earmarked as a rising star of the sport last year, when as a rookie he proved more than a match for the occupants of the sister Spyker, including Christijan Albers and Sakon Yamamoto.

But going up against Fisichella in the team's new guise Force India, Sutil agrees, will be a more meaningful yardstick.

"I see this as very important, and I can benefit a lot from that," he said in an interview with the portal motorline.cc.

"For this reason it is also a crucial year for me.  Last year it was difficult in this regard.  Albers was very good but in the end he was dealing with a lot of problems.

"Then Markus (Winkelhock) came in without any test days, and Sakon was definitely not the fastest.

"But with Giancarlo and I -- I think we will push each other," Sutil added.

He admits that the rumors of other teams' interest in him for 2008, including Toyota and McLaren, were very welcome.

"Obviously it was nice to hear my name connected with other teams, but ultimately nothing came of it and I am still here.

"But what I wanted to achieve last year, I did; namely, to attract some attention and bring my name into the conversations," Sutil said.

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