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DATE News (chronologically)
02/16/09
f1
Latest F1 news in brief  
  • ING to pull out of F1 at end of 2009
  • US team eyes Danica Patrick for F1 seat
  • Pressure on Stewart to relinquish RBS role
  • Bell 'satisfied' with new Renault car
  • Senna/Honda reports not true - report
  • Lauda has no interest in F1 foray
  • Ecclestone wants Rome GP - promoter
  • No hurry to sell STR - Mateschitz
  • Not just Renault 'analyzing' F1
  • Most F1 drivers have lost weight
  • Mercedes wants money for Honda deal
  • No KERS for Williams until June
  • Bushfires compel Aus GP motto change
  • McLaren explains use of 2008 wing

ING to pull out of F1 at end of 2009
(GMM)  The Dutch bank ING on Monday announced that it will end its formula one sponsorship activities at the end of 2009.

It was already clear that Renault's embattled title sponsor was reviewing the F1 program - which also includes trackside advertising and naming sponsorship of grands prix - because of the global financial crisis.

The Dutch government recently moved to safeguard ING Group, who had posted a second consecutive multi-billion dollar quarterly loss and decided to cut F1 spending by 40 per cent this year.

The three-year title sponsorship of Renault was due to expire at the end of this year.  A statement said ING has decided "not to renew" the deal and therefore will "end its presence in F1" beyond 2009.

"ING has enjoyed the relationship with Renault F1 and will continue to work closely with the team during the final year of the partnership," the statement added.

US team eyes Danica Patrick for F1 seat
(GMM)  Ken Anderson, one of the principals behind the prospective F1 team USF1, has confirmed interest in signing Danica Patrick.

Patrick, the 26-year-old female star of America's open wheeler series IndyCar, is "great", Anderson said in an interview with the Associated Press.

"She gets a lot of press," he added.  "(Indianapolis Motor Speedway president) Tony George would probably be pretty mad with me if I took her out of the IRL but we'll see.

"I don't know if it's something she wants to do.  We'd certainly love to test her and go from there."

The American news agency also revealed more details about USF1's 2010 plans, to be officially launched next week.

The annual budget, for example, will be around 50m euros, there will be at least 100 staff, and American names Scott Speed, Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden were mentioned as other candidates for a seat.

Anderson also confirmed reports that USF1 is considering setting up a European base at the Spanish headquarters of the Le Mans team Epilson Euskadi.

Pressure on Stewart to relinquish RBS role
(GMM)  Pressure is mounting on figures including Sir Jackie Stewart to pull out of highly-paid ambassadorial roles with the embattled British bank Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

RBS, also a sponsor of the Grove based team Williams, has promotional long-term deals in place with the likes of Stewart, a sponsor representative at grands prix, as well as sports stars Zara Phillips (equestrian), Andy Murray (tennis) and Jack Nicklaus (golf).

In the wake of the global financial crisis, however, a government bailout means that RBS is now effectively majority owned by the British taxpayer.

John Mann MP, a member of the Treasury Select Committee, said of the star figures' ambassadorial deals: "I think it would go down very well with the British public if some of them were to cancel their contracts.

"Some of them would become real heroes if they did."

It is thought that former triple world champion Stewart has earned more than 4m euros through his RBS deal, and is quoted in the media as confirming that he is still "very much" with the bank.

"My contract has nearly two years to run and they always honor contracts," he insisted.

A RBS spokeswoman told The Guardian newspaper: "We are doing our best to strike the right balance between the benefits sponsorships bring ... while managing costs down within contractual constraints."

Bell 'satisfied' with new Renault car
(GMM)  Contradicting media reports, Renault technical director Bob Bell insists the French team is on course to record a strong start to the 2009 season next month.

With the R29 regularly observed at the bottom of winter testing timesheets, it has been suggested that Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jr could be set for a frustrating campaign with the new car.

But in an interview conducted and distributed by the Enstone based team, Bell said he is "becoming increasingly more satisfied" with the uniquely-shaped single seater.

His comments were made as Alonso finally moved onto the pace of the other 2009 cars, while at the same time putting in more laps than usual, at the close of the Jerez test last Friday.

Admitting that the early miles of the R29 were not impressive, Bell insists that engineers "put a lot of things right" in Spain.

Speaking with the Spanish press at Jerez, 27-year-old Alonso had a similar message, concluding that "we are definitely going in the right direction".

"Every time (I am in the car) it is more manageable and easier to drive," he is quoted as saying by the sports daily Marca.

Bell continued: "From what we've seen in Jerez, I don't feel there are any fundamental problems with the car: it's well balanced and is responding well to changes.

"We're lacking a bit of grip, which is the same for everybody, but that will improve as we fit new parts to the car and continue our development up to the first race," he added.

Senna/Honda reports not true - report
(GMM)  Reports that Bruno Senna has inked a contract to make his formula one debut with the team currently known as Honda next year are untrue.

That is the claim of the British broadsheet newspaper The Daily Telegraph, in the wake of widespread suggestions that the Brackley based team's future - thrown into doubt by the shock withdrawal of Honda Motor Co. - is now clearer.

The reports at the weekend also suggested Senna was bringing with him some key Brazilian backing, including Petrobras and Embratel.

"However, not only are the reports regarding Senna believed to be untrue, but Petrobras have pulled out of a sponsorship deal with Honda for 2009," Telegraph journalist Tom Cary wrote.

He said the future of the team is therefore still "hanging in the balance", with a team source adding that the proposed management buyout led by Nick Fry and Ross Brawn is in jeopardy because of a bid from an unnamed third party.

The Honda source said the third party is a well known company, but that team management are calling its late interest a "hostile bid".

"Will Honda be on the grid in Melbourne?  I would say it's 50-50," the source mused.

Lauda has no interest in F1 foray
(GMM)  Niki Lauda has counted himself out of forging another career on the formula one pitwall.

The 59-year-old Austrian is a former triple world champion, but following his retirement in the mid-80s he worked as a consultant for Ferrari, and also as a Jaguar team boss earlier this decade.

Asked if he would consider setting up his own team, Lauda told Auto Motor und Sport: "I have absolutely no interest (in that).

"I have fun with my RTL (German F1 television commentary) task and other responsibilities as well -- with (car hire enterprise) LaudaMotion and my airline Niki," he added.

He doubts the conditions are right for more privateers to enter the sport, despite efforts to drastically reduce costs.

"I believe the times are precisely wrong for such questions, because of the world economic crisis.  For the moment it is quite good, because apart from Honda, thank god nothing else happened.

"But much more from the present situation should not be expected," Lauda insisted.

Ecclestone wants Rome GP - promoter
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone is supporting the concept of a grand prix on the streets of Rome, according to organizer Maurizio Flammini.

The idea has gained momentum in recent days, and F1 chief executive Ecclestone's interest was indicated by the inspection of the capital's EUR district recently by his preferred track designer Hermann Tilke.

Flammini told Saturday's La Gazzetta dello Sport: "We have the approval of the city council, the regional government, the provincial government and of Ecclestone too."

Flammini, the World Superbike series promoter, also said the project will have a 150m euro budget for the debut race in 2011 or 2012, to complement that year's Italian grand prix at Monza.

He told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that final plans will be lodged with city and regional authorities by the end of March.

No hurry to sell STR - Mateschitz
(GMM)  Red Bull is not in a hurry to sell its secondary formula one team Toro Rosso, owner Dietrich Mateschitz has revealed.

With all teams needing to be a full constructor by next year, the Austrian billionaire has said he is looking to offload the former Minardi squad because "there is no movement" in the customer car situation.

"If a respectable prospective purchaser comes forward, we will talk with him," Mateschitz told the Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

"For the medium-term Toro Rosso is for sale," he said.

Amid the difficult global situation, however, he acknowledges that buyers of F1 teams are likely to be scarce, and pledges to continue to back Toro Rosso.

Not just Renault 'analyzing' F1
(GMM)  Renault is not the only manufacturer questioning its long-term commitment to formula one.

That is the insistence of Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner of two teams including the Renault-powered Red Bull Racing.

Following the shock departure of the Japanese manufacturer Honda, it was rumored that the Renault board might also be reconsidering its involvement in the expensive sport.

"It's not only Renault," Mateschitz told the Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung, "it's the same with Toyota and apparently also BMW.

"Probably everyone in formula one is analyzing itself in times of a global recession," he added.

Most F1 drivers have lost weight
(GMM)  More than 70 per cent of F1's eighteen confirmed drivers for 2009 have lost weight since the end of last season.

That is the finding of the Austrian portal sportnet.at, which published a ranking of who has reacted with the most rigor to the debut of heavy KERS systems this year.

With the car-plus-driver minimum weight remaining static at 605kg, the need for drivers to be as light as possible is more crucial this year.

In Monday's edition of Der Spiegel news magazine, Williams' Nico Rosberg called on the FIA to introduce a separate minimum weight for drivers, with overly light competitors forced to attach handicap weights to their seats.

The biggest weight-losers this winter have been Robert Kubica, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Kimi Raikkonen, Giancarlo Fisichella and Sebastien Bourdais, who reportedly all lost between 3 and 7 kilos.

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton is said to have fallen from 68 to 66kg, while Rosberg, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi all also dropped 2 kilos.

Nelson Piquet, Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli dropped 1 kilo apiece, while Adrian Sutil, Felipe Massa, Sebastian Vettel, Timo Glock and Nick Heidfeld did not lose weight.

Mercedes wants money for Honda deal
(GMM)  Norbert Haug has confirmed reports that Mercedes-Benz will not release engines to the team currently known as Honda until backing for the entire 2009 season is in place.

The German carmaker has offered to furnish the Brackley squad with customer V8s, but it emerged at the weekend that Honda may have so far secured financial support only for the first four races.

To the news agency DPA, and amid rumors of a 8m euro price-tag, Mercedes' competitor chief Haug confirmed that he is willing to help Honda but not give the team any presents.

"We are not delivering anything in advance," he is quoted as saying, "but only when the money in this agreement is assured."

No KERS for Williams until June
(GMM)  Williams will not deploy KERS technology until after at least the first six races of 2009, according to team driver Nico Rosberg.

The Grove based team has taken a novel approach to the controversial energy re-use technology, buying into a hybrid power company and designing a mechanical flywheel solution that is said to be safer and less expensive than the more popular battery-based systems.

But Kazuki Nakajima last week admitted that he has never pressed the KERS button on the Williams steering wheel, and teammate Rosberg revealed that the situation is not likely to change for some time.

"For sure we will race the first six races without KERS," he is quoted as saying by the Swiss newspaper Blick.

Round 7 of the 2009 world championship takes place in Turkey in early June.

Bushfires compel Aus GP motto change
(GMM)  Organizers of next month's season opening Australian grand prix have changed the event's motto because of the devastating bushfires near Melbourne.

The catchphrase 'Melbourne fires up' had been used in earlier marketing material for the Albert Park race on March 29.

But in light of this month's bushfires in the local state of Victoria, which have so far claimed 181 lives, 500 injuries and 1834 houses, the motto has been "toned down", according to The Australian newspaper.

The newspaper said marketing material is still declaring that British band The Who "are coming to fire up Melbourne" at the grand prix, but it appears these references have also been altered during the course of Monday.

And the event's official website is now urging fans to "make sure you're there in 2009 as Melbourne Gears Up!"

McLaren explains use of 2008 wing
(GMM)  McLaren has recently been using a 2008-spec rear wing on its new MP4-24 as a "reference point", test driver Pedro de la Rosa insists.

At times during its Portimao debut, and then again last week at Jerez, the 2009 car conspicuously featured the lower and wider wing of the title-winning MP4-23.

Throughout the wing anomaly, the explanations have been varied.  Initially, at the wet Portuguese test, the McLaren press office said the 2008 wing was used "as a precautionary measure to increase downforce" in the conditions.

Last week at Jerez, when the European weather had improved, McLaren said the 2008 wing was used because the team is currently "without a high-downforce 2009-spec" piece.

Latterly, it was explained that the Jerez wing is actually "a hybrid-spec" wing "in order to more effectively simulate expected downforce loads".  The team added that "a raft of new components" will appear at the next winter test.

In the pages of Spain's Diario Sport, de la Rosa said of the recent reappearance of the 2008 wing: "We wanted a comparison point, a reference, to compare (this year's data) with the data of last year.

"In any case," he added, "we are always using proper aerodynamic loads, (it is) not to deceive or to waste time."

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