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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Red Bull fast in Spain, Toyota in Bahrain
  • Dennis, Hamilton, win award
  • No launch for new Force India next month
  • Singapore GP a financial success
  • Slim Buemi wants to lose 5 kilos
  • F1 and sports cars no problem - Bourdais
  • Ralf secures new Mercedes DTM contract
  • Vettel's new color-changing 'disco' helmet

Red Bull fast in Spain, Toyota in Bahrain
(GMM)  More bad weather marred formula one testing on Tuesday, with less than 40 days to go until the new in-season ban takes effect.

Five teams have congregated this week at Spain's Jerez circuit for a four day group test, but from mid-morning until well into the afternoon, the tarmac was wet.

Four 2009-spec cars are going head-to-head at Jerez, and on Tuesday Sebastian Vettel's newly launched Red Bull set the pace, even though he had to be rescued by a recovery truck at one point following his second breakdown in as many days.

Williams' 2009 car, again in the hands of test driver Nico Hulkenberg, was next quickest, followed by the new McLaren (Heikki Kovalainen) and finally Nelson Piquet in the R29.

Better weather conditions are forecast for Wednesday.

"It's a shame that we lost some track time because at this stage of the season we need to get as many miles on the car as possible," said Renault driver Piquet.

Sebastien Buemi, as per usual, was much quicker than the rest of the field in his 2008 Toro Rosso, but the Faenza based team should soon take delivery of its new Adrian Newey-penned machine, with a statement confirming that Jerez is likely to be the STR3's "final test session".

The three teams in Bahrain, meanwhile, enjoyed warm weather on Tuesday, but fog delayed the start of the session by two hours.

The three 2009-specification cars' best laps were all within two tenths of one another, led by Toyota's Timo Glock, followed by Felipe Massa in the Ferrari and BMW's Robert Kubica, who stopped on the track just after lunch with a mechanical problem.

Dennis, Hamilton, win award
(GMM)  Departing McLaren team boss Ron Dennis on Tuesday collected a Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) award in Paris, accompanied by 2008 drivers' world champion Lewis Hamilton.

The International Automobile Festival, whose opening ceremony took place on Tuesday, is being held in the French capital this week at the Paris-Hotel National des Invalides.

Previous Palme d'Or recipients include Alain Prost (1997), Michael Schumacher (2003), Renault's Carlos Ghosn (2004), Edouard Michelin (2005) and Luca di Montezemolo (2007).

McLaren CEO and chairman Dennis, in charge of the Woking based formula one team since the beginning of the 80s, is handing over the role of team principal to his long time deputy Martin Whitmarsh on March 1.

No launch for new Force India next month
(GMM)  True to the form of its formula one team rivals, Force India will not organize a formal launch for its 2009 car.

Last year's event was a glamorous affair in Mumbai, staged in front of the famous Gateway of India monument.

But team owner Vijay Mallya's brands, particularly the airline Kingfisher, have not been immune from the global financial crisis.

"There will be no formal launch this year," the Indian billionaire confirmed on Tuesday, according to India's Telegraph.

For 2009, the Silverstone based team has teamed up with McLaren and Mercedes, with the 2009 car - the VJM-02 - due to appear at only the last two test sessions next month before the trek to Melbourne.

Nonetheless, the technical tie-up moved long time former McLaren driver David Coulthard to observe this week that Force India could be the "shock of the season" in terms of surprise pace.

Mallya said: "I would like to say one thing, don't expect miracles.

"No team has had enough testing and so, the first couple of races will be shakedown races.  From Barcelona onwards, we will be seriously competitive," he promised.

Singapore GP a financial success
(GMM)  Last year's inaugural Singapore night race was a roaring financial success, a government minister told parliament this week.

Also a hit with fans, the novel street race, to be reprised with a late September date on this year's formula one calendar, generated more tourism revenue than was projected, minister S. Iswaran said.

He told parliament on Monday that the race generated (87m euros), against projections of tourism revenues in the region of (52m).

However, tourist arrivals are forecast to drop in 2009 because of the global financial crisis.

Singapore's F1 contract runs until 2012, with an option for a further two years after that.

Slim Buemi wants to lose 5 kilos
(GMM)  Sebastien Buemi, although perhaps F1's most visibly slender driver, has admitted he wants to lose several kilograms.

The Swiss rookie, who will debut with the Toro Rosso team next month, currently stands at 176 centimeters and 63kg.

"(To lose) five kilos would be ideal," Buemi, 20, told the Swiss newspaper Blick, even though that weight loss would register an 'underweight' result in most standard body mass index (BMI) tests.

With no corresponding change in the minimum car-weight of 605kg, heavy KERS systems have this year added up to an extra 40kg to F1 packages for the 2009 season.

Buemi said: "There is hardly a car now that is under the minimum weight, and an extra ten kilos adds 0.4 seconds every lap."

F1 and sports cars no problem - Bourdais
(GMM)  Sebastien Bourdais has played down suggestions he might compromise his formula one program by also contesting professional sports car races in 2009.

The Toro Rosso driver will race not only in June's famous Le Mans 24 hour event for Peugeot between the Turkish and British grands prix, his participation in the Sebring endurance race is just one week before the Melbourne season opener.

"It doesn't worry me, it's something I have lots of practice in.  I couldn't do it last year but I did it in 2007 when I did both Champ Car and Le Mans," he told sports.fr.

Bourdais, 29, insisted that the Peugeot and Ferrari-powered cars are so different that the transition does not pose a problem, but admitted that the turnaround between Sebring and Melbourne in March is slightly tight.

"It would not be fun to return to Europe between Sebring and Melbourne," he said.

"Perhaps I will go directly to Melbourne from the US on the Monday or the Sunday (after Sebring), but it is not a big deal, I won't be too tired.  It is possible to manage," said Bourdais.

Ralf secures new Mercedes DTM contract
(GMM)  Ralf Schumacher has secured a new contract to remain in the German touring car series DTM in 2009.

Amid speculation his unspectacular series debut last year might force his retirement from motor racing, the German newspaper Bild reports that Schumacher, 33, will remain with Mercedes-Benz for the forthcoming season.

Ralf last year scored points on only two occasions, but his mount was a year-old C-Class.

In 2009, the German will drive Mercedes' latest machine, and he has already begun testing with the new car.

"Driving the new car this year will of course mean more pressure," the six-time grand prix winner, who lost his Toyota seat after the 2007 season, told the newspaper.

It is possible that Ralf's wife Cora will accompany her husband to all ten DTM rounds in 2009, as she is in talks to become a trackside television reporter, Bild added.

Vettel's new color-changing 'disco' helmet
(GMM)  An effect on Sebastian Vettel's new helmet livery for 2009 is a world first, the Red Bull driver has told the Cologne newspaper Express.

In switching from Toro Rosso to Red Bull's senior formula one team this year, the 21-year-old German wanted to mark the occasion with a tweaked version of his usual helmet design.

Vettel's new helmet retains the basic Red Bull drinks can look, but now features flashes of yellows, purples and pinks.

He told Express that these flashes change color depending on their exposure to light and heat.

"It's my disco helmet," he joked.  "I have a friend (helmet livery designer Jens Munser) who helped me with the design."

Munser also collaborated with Nick Heidfeld for the BMW-Sauber driver's new green helmet livery.

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