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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Alonso positive despite R29 concerns
  • Renault unlikely for title tilt - de la Rosa
  • Red Bull wants fourth or fifth in 2009
  • Kubica wants to lose weight again
  • Teams already getting more income - Bernie
  • Efforts stepped up to save Hockenheim GP
  • Bernie offers to help Vettel into top F1 car
  • Ecclestone hopes Mosley stays FIA president
  • Briatore dismisses F1 team veteran - reports

Alonso positive despite R29 concerns
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso has dismissed suggestions he is surely set for a season near the back of the grid.

Renault's world champion of 2005 and 2006 was back at the wheel of the distinctive new R29 at Jerez on Thursday, continuing the car's run of sluggish test pace since it was debuted recently.

But the Spaniard told Diario AS: "It is still impossible to draw conclusions as to who is going to be fast (this season) and who is not."

On Thursday, it was the new McLaren (still featuring a 2008-spec wing) and Red Bull setting the 2009 car pace, with Alonso at the bottom of the time sheets, four tenths behind Kazuki Nakajima's FW31 Williams.

"Obviously it is better to be ahead than behind," Alonso acknowledged, "but the first race is in Australia and it is there that we need to be quick.

"The cars in Jerez are not going to be the ones in Australia," he added.

Alonso, 27, said the R29's latest setup is making him feel "much more comfortable" than recently in Portimao, when he was reported to have complained bitterly about the handling.

"We have a lot of further work to do," he explained on Thursday, admitting he was happy with the high number of laps he was able to complete.

"We have collected a lot of data and, little by little, we are resolving the problems, which is normal with a car when it is new.

"The car is the same here as when it was presented.  We will have to wait for a few more tests for the big improvements," he said. 

Renault unlikely for title tilt - de la Rosa
(GMM)  Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren's Spanish test driver, has ruled out Renault as a serious title contender in 2009.

His countryman Fernando Alonso won two of the final four grands prix last year, but the birth of the 2008 machine's successor, the R29, has been troubled, and the car is usually slowest on the pre-season test timesheets.

Speaking with Spain's new F1 television broadcaster La Sexta, 37-year-old de la Rosa said he expects usual suspects McLaren and Ferrari to battle for the championship.

"I hope I am wrong and that there are others," McLaren's reserve driver admitted.

He said that despite the huge changes to the regulations, the test results so far depict a close contest.

But when asked if Renault could be the surprise of the season, de la Rosa instead said that Williams looks likely to make a major improvement this year.

Red Bull wants fourth or fifth in 2009
(GMM)  Sixth place in the 2009 world championship definitely will not satisfy Red Bull Racing's ambitions, team owner Dietrich Mateschitz said at Jerez.

The Austrian billionaire, accompanied by Gerhard Berger and David Coulthard, was trackside at the Spanish test earlier this week, where the newly-launched RB5 has impressed in the hands of 2009 duo Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel.

In 2008, Red Bull finished the constructors' world championship seventh, one place behind its secondary team Toro Rosso.

"We want to be ahead in midfield and get close to the two or three top teams," Mateschitz is quoted as saying by the Australian news agency AAP.

"Anything worse than fourth or fifth place does not meet the aims of Red Bull racing," he added.

Kubica wants to lose weight again
(GMM)  Robert Kubica is another driver currently trying to lose weight ahead of the 2009 season, the Swiss specialist publication Motorsport Aktuell claims.

The pole, who at 184cm is among the tallest drivers on the grid, shed several kilograms ahead of the 2008 season.

But Motorsport Aktuell reports that the 24-year-old gained back most of the weight - six or seven kilograms - during the course of the season, when training and diet programs are harder to follow due to the rigors of the sport's racing season.

Kubica therefore currently weighs 72kg, but has targeted a loss of 5kg which he can then maintain throughout the year.

The Swiss publication said Toyota's Timo Glock also wants to lose 5 kilos, while Williams' technical director Sam Michael is quoted as saying: "Nico Rosberg has lost two kilos this winter."

Teams already getting more income - Bernie
(GMM)  F1 teams are already enjoying higher commercial rights revenues, according to the sport's chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

The sport's body of teams have recently been pushing hard for the 78-year-old billionaire to give to them more than the current 50 per cent of total commercial income.

Ecclestone, however, is resisting vehemently, and now argues that exchange rates between the US dollar and the euro are already greatly benefiting the teams.

"I pay the teams in dollars," the Briton said during an interview with the periodical Auto Bild, "and because of the comparison with the euro they are getting maybe 25 per cent more than was agreed."

Moreover, McLaren chairman Ron Dennis this week confirmed that changes of rules for 2009 have succeeded in cutting costs both for the big manufacturer-backed teams as well as the privateers.

"I think the top teams will manage to reduce their costs from between 10 and 50 per cent," he said at the International Automobile Festival in Paris.

"For the smaller teams it will be more dramatic, to the order of 30 to 50 per cent.  That is the aim we have this year."

Efforts stepped up to save Hockenheim GP
(GMM)  The administration of the local Rhine-Neckar region in southwestern Germany has stepped up to safeguard next year's running of the German grand prix at Hockenheim.

The Financial Times Deutschland reports that 20,000 tickets to the event have been offered in a letter to thousands of local companies urging them to support the race.

Without the additional funds, organizers of the German grand prix are likely to pull off the formula one calendar next year, due to rising losses of several million euros per year.

The buyers of the 20,000 tickets will be accommodated in a new grandstand, to be installed at the circuit near the town of Hockenheim in Baden-Wurttemberg state.

The race organizers are expected to make a final decision about the 2010 event in mid March.

Bernie offers to help Vettel into top F1 car
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone, F1's chief executive, has offered to help Sebastian Vettel find his way into the cockpit of a top car.

The 78-year-old Briton is an unabashed fan of the young German, who dazzled the paddock last year by winning the Italian grand prix in a Toro Rosso.

Vettel, 21, has stepped up to Red Bull's senior team for 2009, but Ecclestone has previously predicted an eventual deal with Ferrari.

Bernie told the latest edition of Auto Bild: "If he needs any help, he can call me."

Ecclestone reveals that Vettel's current contract ties him to Red Bull both this year and in 2010.  "But you never know what happens," he insisted.

"Things can change quickly and perhaps Red Bull will be happy to sell him on at the end of the year."

Ecclestone hopes Mosley stays on as FIA president
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has backed Max Mosley for a fifth consecutive term as president of F1's governing body.

Last year, the sport's commercial rights chief executive called for 68-year-old Mosley to step down as FIA president amid the sex scandal.

But with Mosley now set to decide in June if he wants to contest another election late this year, Ecclestone left the door open for his long-time friend and colleague to continue their joint F1 reign.

"That's up to Max," Bernie, 78, said in an interview with Auto Bild.  "If he stands again, he will undoubtedly win, and I hope he does stay.

"He has done a good job," Ecclestone added.

Briatore dismisses F1 team veteran - reports
(GMM)  According to growing speculation in the French specialist press, Renault's F1 engine chief Denis Chevrier has been dismissed by team boss Flavio Briatore.

The 54-year-old, involved with Renault Sport's formula one forays since the eighties, is not at the Jerez test this week, intensifying rumors that he will no longer head the Enstone based team's trackside engine operations.

A report in the authoritative French sports daily L'Equipe this week gives credence to the paddock whispers.

It is suggested that the team's Rob White, also with a high-ranking engine management role, or engineer Remi Tafin, will replace Chevrier, with the Frenchman having turned down taking up another post with the team.

Earlier reports in the Spanish sports press suggested Chevrier, involved with Renault's customer engine program with Red Bull for the past two years,  and Briatore were in talks about a compensation package.

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