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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Briatore pockets $11m for F1 TV rights
  • McLaren still in front - Heidfeld
  • F1 can solve KERS safety fears
  • Sutil - I don't want a girlfriend
  • BMW progress has slowed - Sauber

Briatore pockets $11m for F1 TV rights
(GMM)  His custody of the formula one team Renault is not Flavio Briatore's only formula one income.

The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reports that the Italian tycoon has also pocketed more than $11m recently due to his control of the sport's broadcast rights in Spain.

His take of his UK-based company Stacourt's returns is nearly $2m higher than one year ago, the newspaper said.

The majority of Stacourt's $23m turnover in 2007 came from the Spanish broadcaster Telecinco, which pays for the F1 rights.

Briatore obtained the Spanish rights from his friend, business partner and F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone in 2002.

Since then, his protégé Fernando Alonso's success at Renault led to a boom in the popularity of formula one in Spain.

In a deal estimated at almost $1.5bn by Spanish media last year, the F1 broadcast rights will transfer from Telecinco to La Sexta in 2009.

McLaren still in front - Heidfeld
(GMM)  McLaren is still the favorite to win the 2008 world championship, BMW-Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld thinks.

The 31-year-old German, whose Swiss based employer had a notably bad outing in Hungary recently, is unconvinced Ferrari really closed the gap on Mercedes-powered rivals McLaren at the circuit near Budapest.

After Lewis Hamilton dominated the pre-race proceedings at the Hungaroring, Ferrari's Felipe Massa leapt into the lead on Sunday and would have recorded an inspired win if not for a late engine failure.

"But in my opinion McLaren is clearly the strongest team," Heidfeld, a veteran of approaching 150 grands prix, told the Credit Suisse emagazine.

"Lewis also had a bit of bad luck (in Hungary).  McLaren is the favorite," the German added.

F1 can solve KERS safety fears
(GMM)  Mike Gascoyne has played down fears the new KERS technology for 2009 will make formula one less safe.

The voluntary deployment of the environmentally-friendly solution begins next year, but some teams have experienced problems in the current development phase.

But despite the reports of exploding batteries, fire alarms, dangerous fumes and the risk of electrocution, Force India's technical boss insists the brains in F1's design rooms will get to grips with KERS.

"I think the safety issue is one that's being stressed but it's just an engineering problem and an engineering challenge," he said.

Gascoyne said making KERS ultimately safe is a "similar" challenge to the one involving hauling 70kg of fuel around corners at 200mph.

"We have to go through it and be rigorous but it's just like numerous other challenges on the car," the Briton explained.

Toyota's Pascal Vasselon, meanwhile, suggested that teams are deliberately pushing the envelope at present in order to explore the limits of the new technology.

"We will all be trying to overheat or overcharge batteries," he said.  "Those who will use flywheels will all be trying to crash flywheels."

At a meeting in Hungary, bosses of the ten teams failed to reach an agreement to delay racing KERS until 2010.

Even so, some teams have not decided whether or not to run their systems at the start of next year.

"The schedule will be very tight," Vasselon confirms.  "It is still possible, but clearly very tight to get something from the system at the start of the season."

And the question of whether teams use KERS-equipped cars as early as Melbourne next year is not simply about making the system safe, BMW-Sauber's Willy Rampf points out.

"First we have to see in the car what is the actual performance gain, because there is this extra power from KERS but also more weight or less ballast, so it will always be a trade-off," he said.

Sutil - I don't want a girlfriend
(GMM)  Adrian Sutil, the 25-year-old race driver for Force India, says he has chosen to not have a girlfriend during the early phase of his formula one career.

The German, who made his debut for the outfit's previous incarnation Spyker in 2007, wrote in a column for Formule 1 Race Report that - in frequenting the paddock as a grand prix star - it would not be difficult to end his spell as a bachelor.

"Is it easier to get girls if you race in F1?  The simple answer is 'yes'.  But I don't have a girlfriend at the moment," he admitted.

In contrast, Sutil's closest friend among his F1 rivals, Lewis Hamilton, is a regular in the gossip pages in his native Britain.

Sutil said: "I want to concentrate completely on my job, because I'm at a phase of my career when a relationship, particularly at the beginning, would be too distracting."

Sutil, a talented concert pianist himself, is accompanied to grands prix by his Uruguayan father Jorge, who was a professional musician.

BMW progress has slowed - Sauber
(GMM)  The development curve of the BMW-Sauber team has plateaued recently, founder and consultant Peter Sauber admits.

The 64-year-old, who sold to the German carmaker BMW ahead of the 2006 season, said the Hinwil based team's uncompetitive showing in Hungary last Sunday was the result of a number of complex factors including tire performance.

Clearly the third force in F1 in 2008, BMW-Sauber has recently faced an increasing challenge from the likes of Toyota, Red Bull and Renault.

Peter Sauber, referring more generally about the team's performance at recent races, wrote in the Swiss newspaper Blick: "It has not escaped me that we have made less progress than the teams around us.

"For us, the development curve at the beginning of the season was particularly steep.  Now, it has flattened a little," the Swiss added.

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