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

  • Spyker sponsor switches to Ferrari
  • Toyota not ready to lead field - Trulli
  • Webber eyes long F1 career
  • Coulthard slams Montreal, Fuji tracks
  • Button smiling again with Brawn on board
  • Dubai backing powers Super Aguri takeover
  • Piquet off the pace says RBR's Marko
  • Davidson expects to fight for last in Aus New
  • Dennis - I will miss Alonso New
  • Stoddart won't rule out F1 return New

Spyker sponsor switches to Ferrari
(GMM)  Former Spyker sponsor Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, has become a sponsor of the Ferrari team.

The company began a three year contract with Silverstone based Spyker last season, but the arrival of Force India owner Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher brand has forced Etihad to switch teams.

"We are pleased to enter into this new partnership, that reinforces our links with the United Arab Emirates," said Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo, as the Italian team confirmed a three year agreement.

The Etihad logo will be seen on the back of the F2008's rear wing, the turning vanes and on the drivers' helmets, Ferrari said.

Toyota not ready to lead field - Trulli
(GMM)  Jarno Trulli has poured cold water on speculation that Toyota could be set to spring a major surprise on the F1 world when the action kicks off at Albert Park this weekend.

The Italian ended the final day of the last group winter test at Barcelona recently with the quickest time, but he denies that his TF108 is ready to lead the field at grands prix.

"McLaren and Ferrari are in another world," he told the local Herald Sun while testing a 'Trulli' go-kart near the Albert Park circuit.

Trulli, 33, said the so-called Big Two outfits will be superior to all comers by "one second a lap, at least, this weekend".

He does admit, however, that Toyota has taken a step forward for 2008 compared with its "very bad" car last season.

"So, for me, the chance of fighting for points is already a good result," Trulli said.

"Last year the car behavior is opposite to what I like.  But this year, to stay with BMW, I think it's possible," he added.

Webber eyes long F1 career
(GMM)  Mark Webber has denied that, at the age of 31 and with six full seasons of formula one behind him, he might be beginning to think about retirement.

Red Bull's Australian driver is yet to win a grand prix despite more than 100 race starts, but he reckons there are plenty of years left to achieve his goals.

"I'm 31 and Damon Hill won his first championship when he was 34 so there's time," he told Melbourne's Herald Sun in the city.

"I might go to 40.

"I've got another few years ahead hopefully and hopefully I've got a few results to get before it's all over," Webber added.

Webber thinks he would be a race winner in a top car like the Ferrari, but admits that only if he gets the chance could he boast about proving it.

"I would be very disappointed if I was not able to (win races) if I was given a Ferrari," he wrote in his BBC column this week.

"Whether I could operate at Kimi Raikkonen's level for a whole season is another question, and that's what I'd like to find out.

"Most drivers are incredibly even but just like any sport, it is about consistency, the guys who can do it week in, week out," he wrote.

Coulthard slams Montreal, Fuji tracks
(GMM)  David Coulthard has kicked off his fourteenth full season on the F1 grid by complaining about two stops on the 2008 calendar.

The Red Bull driver, who turns 37 next month and is therefore the sport's oldest current racer, is quoted by the Independent newspaper as hitting out at the Fuji and Montreal venues.

Coulthard said the circuit facilities on the verge of the Canadian grand prix are among the worse in the world.

"They only have portaloos in the paddock.  And as anyone who has crapped in a porta-potty knows, it's a pretty uninspiring experience," he said.

While the facilities at Toyota's new Fuji Speedway in Japan are state of the art, meanwhile, Coulthard complains that the layout itself is no good.

"It's a shit track that must have been designed by someone high on mushrooms," the Scot slammed.

Button smiling again with Brawn on board
(GMM)  Like twelve months ago, he is still likely to pilot an uncompetitive Honda at Albert Park, but Jenson Button claims he will do so with a bigger smile on his face in 2008.

The 28-year-old Briton told reporters on a Melbourne beach that the arrival of new team boss Ross Brawn has wiped away the despair of driving for a team that got itself into the mess of dealing with its abysmal 2007 car.

Brawn arrives fresh from a sabbatical but renowned in the paddock as the technical architect of the ultra-successful Michael Schumacher period at Ferrari.

And Button is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail: "Six or 12 months ago I wasn't amazingly happy."

He praises Honda for realizing that it needed to look outside the team for the solution to its receding performance.

"I couldn't be happier at the moment.  I might be in a car that won't win points for a few races but I really couldn't be in a better position for the future," Button added.

"Before Ross came, I wasn't that excited that we could turn things round, but now I am."

Dubai backing powers Super Aguri takeover
(GMM)  The Dubai government is behind the takeover of the struggling Super Aguri team by the London based Magma Group, it has emerged.

Financially embattled Super Aguri, run by Aguri Suzuki and with links to the Japanese carmaker Honda, announced on Monday that it will shortly be acquired by Magma, which is headed by former Maserati and Ford man Martin Leach.

But according to rumors on the verge of the Australian grand prix in Melbourne, the team will, within two weeks, also divulge that the actual financing of the team will originate from a Dubai based international investment company that is owned by the emirates' government.

The Dubai backing will be the basis for Super Aguri's conversion from a Honda customer team to a fully fledged independent constructor, as required by the current Concorde Agreement.

The Leafield based team said it will not be commenting on the acquisition until it is completed.

"We will not be making any further comment or announcement until that time," a spokeswoman said.

Piquet off the pace says RBR's Marko
(GMM)  Nelson Piquet Jr will trail the battle for formula one's upper midfield when the 2008 action kicks off in Melbourne this week, according to Red Bull Racing's racing consultant, Helmut Marko.

Marko said the French team is only likely to be able to challenge BMW Sauber, Williams and Red Bull for honors behind the Big Two teams this year because it has reacquired the services of Fernando Alonso.

"We are behind Ferrari and McLaren, in a group consisting of BMW, Williams and Renault," the Austrian, a former grand prix driver, told Sportnet.

"Renault are keeping up only because of Alonso, as Piquet is behind this group," he added.

Marko also expects Heikki Kovalainen to have a solid season for McLaren this year, after appearing to adjust to life without traction control better than Lewis Hamilton.

"He is driving more calmly and is pretty good with the long runs," he said.

"Hamilton is faster, but he often loses time by making more mistakes," Marko added.

Davidson expects to fight for last in Aus
(GMM)  Anthony Davidson expects to fight only with his teammate to avoid being dead last on the grid for Sunday's Australian grand prix.

Following a mere race for survival in the winter period, the Super Aguri team arrives in Melbourne for the first grand prix of 2008 having completed only three days of winter testing with Honda's abysmal 2007 car, that at Albert Park is equipped with the current gearbox of the parent team.

Briton Davidson on Thursday told F1's official website that, despite having just one day of running under his belt since the Brazilian grand prix last October, he is simply relieved to have been told to catch a flight to Australia.

"For sure we are not looking for performance for this race -- or the following two.  But when we head back for the European season it should improve," he said.

"My guess is that we will be last on the grid -- easily.  That might sound worse than it really is but it is just a result of the lack of testing.  Here and in Malaysia we are just here to be here."

Davidson, 28, also responded to speculation that his newly-sold F1 employer might not make it through the entire season.

"The indication is that it is (for the whole of 2008).  That is good enough for me," he answered.

Dennis - I will miss Alonso
(GMM)  Ron Dennis on Thursday revealed that, despite McLaren's tumultuous relationship with Fernando Alonso last year, he will miss the Spaniard as a driver for the British team.

McLaren and Alonso agreed to terminate their long term contract after just one season together in 2007, but speaking with reporters in Melbourne, team boss Dennis insists that he looks back with no hard feelings.

Asked if he will miss the former double world champion, Dennis said: "Of course, because Fernando is one of the best drivers in the world.

"I also think that he will miss us, because we have a very competitive car.  But things simply did not turn out the way that both sides wanted," he added.

Elsewhere, Alonso seemed unmoved by Dennis' magnanimous comments.

"I really don't care too much," said the 26-year-old, who has returned to Renault.

"It's not very important to me at the moment.  I really don't care what people say," he added.

Dennis, meanwhile, vowed to stay in the role of McLaren principal in the face of intense speculation that he intended to step down, but would not comment on what he will do in 2009 and beyond.

Stoddart won't rule out F1 return
(GMM)  Paul Stoddart on Thursday admitted that Max Mosley's continuing role as FIA president would make his return to formula one as a team owner difficult.

The Australian, however, having sold his Minardi outfit to Toro Rosso (Red Bull) at the end of 2005, refuses to rule out buying into the pinnacle of motor racing again.

"I still love formula one," he told adrivo.com.  "You never know what might happen."

It was reported earlier this week that Stoddart even contemplated buying Super Aguri before the Dubai-funded Magma Group entered the frame.

Stoddart, at Albert Park this weekend for the opening race of 2008, also applied for the twelfth team slot that should have been occupied this year by Prodrive.

Referring to his political struggles as Minardi chief, he says of the primary obstacle: "Until Max Mosley goes, I'm going to have problems with the internal politics and I'm not going to feel comfortable in F1."

Mosley's current tenure at the Paris body runs out next year, and the 67-year-old Briton has not ruled out contesting the elections again.

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