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DATE News (chronologically)
02/12/09
f1
Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Webber shrugs off doubts on F1 return
  • F1 has some new shareholders
  • Three drivers pay for 2009 Superlicenses
  • Schu visits hospital after motorcycle crash
  • Renault calls off next week's R29 testing
  • Raikkonen eyes next Finnish rally outing
  • Ferrari not hurt yet by financial crisis
  • USF1 heads for Feb.24 announcement - Windsor
  • Donington GP boss muses F1 cynicism
  • Bourdais potential won him seat - Mateschitz
  • USF1 considers European base in Spain

Webber shrugs off doubts on F1 return
(GMM)  Mark Webber shrugged off the doubters on Wednesday by reeling off more than a full grand prix distance despite still carrying the scars of his broken right leg and recent surgery.

The Australian driver, originally scheduled to hand the new RB5 back to Sebastian Vettel after a brief morning shakedown, ultimately lapped the Jerez test circuit 83 times, leading those cars fully complying with this year's new technical regulations.

Only Sebastien Buemi, in the 2008 Toro Rosso, and McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen, whose MP4-24 featured last year's rear wing, were quicker than Webber, who broke both bones in his right leg in a cycling accident last November.

A statement issued by Red Bull, whose 2009 car also ran reliably throughout the day, confirmed that Webber's return to the cockpit was completed "comfortably", although Australian reports said his test was aided by painkillers.

"I wasn't going in pessimistically, but F1 cars can be quite ferocious," the 32-year-old told the Australian news agency AAP.

"I'm very relieved of course.

"From my point of view, it all went better than expected and to do over a race distance on my first day back in the cockpit, with several weeks to go to Melbourne, is a good thing," Webber added.

Also in 2009 cars, Williams' Kazuki Nakajima and Nelson Piquet, in the problematic Renault R29, rounded out the times, with Renault explaining that the limited day's work of 49 laps was because of "some small reliability issues".

Over in Bahrain, Ferrari, BMW-Sauber and Toyota waited all day for a sandstorm to clear, but did not add to their morning tallies of just a handful of laps apiece.

"We have six more days here and we remain confident that we will reap the rewards of better conditions during the rest of the test," said Toyota's chief engineer Dieter Gass.

F1 has some new shareholders
(GMM)  Formula one has a group of new minority shareholders, according to the Financial Times.

The business newspaper said Sir Martin Sorrell, founder of the communications services group WPP, and Peter Brabeck, chairman of the food company Nestle, both took shares in the sport's holding company Delta Topco.

Their shares were bought for a nominal price but are reportedly worth $6m each, with the move "part of a tactic by CVC to offer long-term incentives to directors", the newspaper claimed.

More F1 directors, including lawyer Sacha Woodward-Hill, accountant Duncan Llowarch, and trackside advertising chief Patrick McNally, now each hold 1 per cent, with the result that majority owner CVC's stake reduces from 70 per cent to 63.4 per cent.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone's 8.5 per cent stake is worth some $100m, the Financial Times said.

15.3 per cent shareholder Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy protection late last year, meaning the F1 board can now demand the sale of its shares.

"In reality we are the only buyer," said CVC's UK managing director Nick Clarry.  "We have made an offer to buy Lehman's shares in the past and may do so again."

Three drivers pay for 2009 Superlicenses
(GMM)  Three formula one drivers have broken rank, amid their dispute with the sport's governing FIA over the cost of the mandatory Superlicense credentials.

A spokesman for the Paris based federation confirmed to the German news agency SID that the FIA "has received payments from three drivers".

The F1 drivers' representative group, the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA), had requested all drivers hold off paying for their licenses while the GPDA disputed the latest price increase with FIA president Max Mosley.

It is not known which three drivers paid for their 2009 licenses.

The GPDA last week issued a statement slamming the latest price increase as "inherently unfair", also refusing to agree to Mosley's request for details about the drivers' individual incomes.

Mosley is believed to have responded to the statement, writing this week in a letter to the GPDA that the FIA will not be backing down from its current position and that drivers without Superlicenses will not contest grands prix in 2009.

Schu visits hospital after motorcycle crash
(GMM)  Michael Schumacher on Wednesday checked out of a Spanish hospital basically unscathed following a motorcycle testing crash.

The former seven time formula one world champion was testing for the German Superbike team Holzhauer Racing at the Cartagena circuit when he fell from the 1000cc Honda Fireblade.

Reports said Schumacher, 40, was taken to the Virgen de Arrixaca hospital, amid suggestions in the Spanish press that the German had been knocked unconscious when his head hit the ground and sustained broken ribs and possibly neck and wrist injuries.

But he later insisted: "I was driving down the start-finish straight and then braking into the first corner I hit some bumps which made me fall.

"The checks in the hospital showed nothing and I am fine," Schumacher added.

It is believed the former Ferrari driver did sustain light concussion, but hospital tests showed no serious injuries and Schumacher returned home to Switzerland in the evening.

"It was not as bad as it sounds," team boss Jens Holzhauer told the Cologne newspaper Express.

"It was a harmless slip and a quite normal training fall."

Schumacher's spokeswoman Sabine Kehm insisted that the German was not knocked out and that no bones were broken.

The fall, however, was not Schumacher's first since he embarked on his semi-professional motorcycle racing foray in the wake of his record-setting F1 career.

Italian motorbike racer Max Biaggi told the German newspaper Bild: "If he wants to break his neck at the age of 40 then he should keep going.  Motorcycle racing is a dangerous hobby."

Renault calls off next week's R29 testing
(GMM)  Renault has called off its scheduled test for next week at Barcelona.

The German specialist magazine Auto Motor und Sport said the change of plans is in response to the troubled track debut of the French team's 2009 car, the R29.

The Enstone-built single seater, to be raced this season by Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet, has been regularly slow and also unreliable since it was launched in Portugal last month.

Instead of going testing next week, factory-based engineers will work on the car's shortcomings, Auto Motor und Sport said, before returning for two more tests in the run to March's Australian grand prix.

On the bright side, Nelson Piquet tried Renault's KERS system at the Kemble airfield in England recently and "everything worked perfectly", the Brazilian is quoted as saying.

Raikkonen eyes next Finnish rally outing
(GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen will resume his rallying foray in Finland later this month, according to reports in the Ferrari driver's native country.

The 2007 formula one world champion finished his first professional rally, the recent Arctic Lapland Rally, in thirteenth place, having entered a Fiat Abarthe Grande Punto S2000.

It is reported that he now wants to take part in the Vaakuna Rally, also part of the Finnish Rally Championship, between 20 and 21 February in Mikkeli, which would be only shortly after he returns from Bahrain for Ferrari testing, the Finnish tabloid Iltalehi said.

It is suggested that Raikkonen, 29, will again need the clearance of his Ferrari chiefs Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo.

"I can not say anything other than it is possible that we will be involved," Raikkonen's co-driver Kaj Lindstrom told another Finnish publication, Lansi-Savo.

The Ilta-Sanomat newspaper said Raikkonen has lost several kilos in preparation for the 2009 F1 season, and has completely stopped drinking alcohol.

Ferrari not hurt yet by financial crisis
(GMM)  The world might be gripped by a financial crisis, but Ferrari is continuing to make money, according to reports.

The Italian marque's board met at Maranello this week and revealed 17.6 per cent sales growth for 2008; a record for the Prancing Horse, thanks mainly to strong sales of the 430 Scuderia road car.

Sales growth in 2007 was 15.9 per cent.

Ferrari said it had successfully cut costs and upped efficiency, as well as increased other commercial initiatives and Ferrari-brand licensing by 28 per cent.

President Luca di Montezemolo, however, was cautious about 2009, admitting that it "is hard to say how the situation will develop from here".

USF1 heads for Feb.24 announcement - Windsor
(GMM)  USF1, a prospective new formula one entrant to be based in America, looks set to launch its foray on February 24, according to one of the figures central to the project.

Peter Windsor, a former team manager and now journalist, said he was surprised his and Ken Anderson's plans were kept under wraps for several years.

The Briton, the pitlane reporter for F1's US television coverage on Speed, told the channel's website speedtv.com that "the real announcement" about USF1's plans could be made on February 24.

Windsor explained that since the rumors broke, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

"Of course it's not easy raising money in the recession," he admitted.  "Having said that, the recession is all about adapting to changing times and re-setting the boundaries.

"That is what we are going to with USF1 -- and that is what the FIA are doing with the F1 rules.

"We know that we're primarily in the entertainment business and so every aspect of USF1 will reflect that," said Windsor.

Donington GP boss muses F1 cynicism
(GMM)  The F1 establishment is reluctant to embrace Simon Gillett's plans for the 2010 British grand prix because his veins "don't ooze petrol", the Donington Park boss claims.

Ever since next year's switch from Silverstone to Donington was confirmed, skepticism has surrounded the Leicestershire venue's ability to raise the money it needs to bring the track up to F1 standard by next year.

Recent media reports have focused on debts and legal actions, causing Gillett to muse on Wednesday: "I'm not of the establishment and I'm not courting the team principals.

"If you cut me open I don't ooze petrol.  Instead, I ooze business -- I think that's frowned upon a little," he suggested to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

He was speaking at a media event during which Donington's proposed new F1 layout was revealed with the help of a Williams simulator.

Gillett played down all the rumors about contract and rent disputes, as well as reports his company is crippled amid millions in debts.

"You can take things in different ways depending on how you want to spin the figures.  Financially we're in rude health," he insisted.

"Is this the best time to be raising money?  No it isn't.  Are we on the brink of ruin?  Absolutely not," said Gillett.

Bourdais potential won him seat - Mateschitz
(GMM)  Toro Rosso signed Sebastien Bourdais for a second season because the Frenchman showed promise on debut last year.

That is the explanation of team boss and Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz as he took in the test action at Jerez on Wednesday.

Toro Rosso, Red Bull's secondary formula one team, considered replacing 29-year-old Bourdais with the Japanese veteran Takuma Sato for this year, as the outfit looked into signing a driver with considerable commercial backing.

But Austrian billionaire Mateschitz, referring to former multiple Champ Car champion Bourdais, is quoted as saying by redbulletin.com: "When you invest in a driver for one year and he is doing reasonably well, it makes sense to work with him for another year.

"He has the potential to make the best of his second year.

"Bourdais had some good races and very competitive qualifying sessions last season, but also some bad luck," Mateschitz added.

"Sato was doing well in testing, but he would have started where Bourdais started a year ago."

USF1 considers European base in Spain
(GMM)  USF1, a prospective American formula one team, has looked into setting up a European base in Spain, the Spanish newspaper Diario Sport reports.

While the cars are set to be designed and built in the heart of NASCAR country in Charlotte, North Carolina, it has been rumored that USF1 will need a European base for testing as well as the calendar's stretch of European races.

Diario Sport said USF1 has identified one possible base as that belonging to the Spanish Le Mans team Epsilon Euskadi, located at Azkoitia in the north of Spain and featuring a wind tunnel compliant with new FIA rules.

Epsilon Euskadi is headed by the former F1 stalwarts Joan Villadelprat and Sergio Rinland.

"It's all true," Villadelprat said, "but right now there is nothing definite, only conversations.

"First we have to see what happens with the (USF1) team."

Spaniard Villadelprat, who during his F1 career worked for Benetton, Ferrari, McLaren, Tyrrell, Benetton and Prost, said he has known USF1 principal Ken Anderson for "many years".

"It was he who contacted me," Villadelprat admitted.

"They thought they must have a base in Europe and they considered that Spain, where teams test for most of the winter, would be the ideal place."

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