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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Court fines no surprise to McLaren team
  • Dennis' view of Ferrari 'totally changed'
  • F1 team survival 'not impossible' - Honda
  • New Force India set for Sunday debut
  • American drivers linked with new USF1 team
  • Honda admit future F1 return possible
  • Teams to agree 2009 engine rules tweak

Court fines no surprise to McLaren team
(GMM)  Fines levied by an Italian court against McLaren engineers this week were no surprise to the Mercedes-powered team, a spokesman insists.

It emerged on Monday that, at the protracted end of the 2007 Ferrari 'spy saga', McLaren's Rod Taylor, Jonathan Neale and Paddy Lowe were ordered to pay 150,000 euros apiece by the Modena court, while sacked designer Mike Coughlan was fined 180,000.

"The proceedings in Italy were merely the officializing of what had been proposed long before, namely the 'nolo contendere' agreement," the team spokesman said from Woking.

'Nolo contendere' means 'no contest', where a defendant neither admits nor disputes the charge but accepts the effect of a guilty plea.

The McLaren spokesman added: "A line has finally been drawn under this matter."

It is reported that McLaren will almost certainly pay the engineers' fines, with the possible exception of Coughlan.

Ron Dennis lays down the axe
Dennis' view of Ferrari 'totally changed'
(GMM)  Ron Dennis admits that the rancor of McLaren's prior relationship with Ferrari has now completely changed.

"Today I have a totally different view of Ferrari than one year ago," the outgoing McLaren team principal said during an interview with Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Dating back to 2007, McLaren and Ferrari - recently the most competitive teams on the grid - were locked in a bitter quarrel over the transfer of sensitive information belonging to the Italian team.

"At that time our relationship was very difficult, but perhaps difficult times bring people together," Dennis continued.

"I now have an excellent relationship with Luca di Montezemolo.  He is a key figure among the teams (FOTA alliance) to improve the sport," Dennis added.

F1 team survival 'not impossible' - Honda
(GMM)  An official of the Honda Motor Co. has clarified that it is "not impossible" that its formula one team will survive to contest this season's world championship.

The carmaker's departing chief executive Takeo Fukui said in Tokyo on Monday that while there are offers on the table from potential buyers of the Brackley based outfit, "none of them are serious".

His comments come amid high speculation of the Virgin Group's interest in the team, and rumors that Sir Richard Branson saw the sale as little more than an opportunity for some free publicity.

The F1 grapevine is still hinting that a Ross Brawn-led management buyout - maybe now without the involvement of Nick Fry - is possible, perhaps imminently, but Fukui's pessimism has increased fears that the grid will shrink to just 18 cars in 2009.

But in light of Fukui's comments, an unnamed Honda official insisted that it does not mean a positive outcome to the saga is therefore "impossible".

New Force India set for Sunday debut
(GMM)  Force India will give its 2009 formula one car its track debut on Sunday, the Silverstone based team has announced.

In a media advisory, the Vijay Mallya-owned and led squad informed that the Mercedes-powered VJM02 is scheduled to be run for the first time at the Jerez circuit in Spain, 26 days before it is presented for scrutineering in Melbourne.

Both Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil, Force India's race drivers for this year, will be present for the rollout.

It was reported that the car, also with a McLaren gearbox, was fired up for the first time in the factory workshop on Monday.

American drivers linked with new USF1 team
(GMM)  With the new prospective American team USF1 set to be announced officially on Tuesday, attention is already turning to the possible occupants of the Charlotte-built race cockpits in 2010.

IndyCar star Danica Patrick has already played down her reported link with the outfit, but other notable American names have also been mentioned in various quarters of the racing world.

AJ Allmendinger's has been another name associated with USF1, but he said he is concentrating on his NASCAR foray even though he views a formula one opportunity as "intriguing".

The motor sport writer for the Toronto Star claims Kyle Busch - also a NASCAR driver - should be "a shoo-in" for a USF1 seat, while the 26-year-old veteran of 28 grands prix Scott Speed has also been linked with Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor's project, as have Conor Daly and Marco Andretti.

Windsor is quoted by Britain's The Independent newspaper as clarifying that no decisions about details including engines and drivers have been made.

"We have yet to speak to any drivers, but we are looking at every American with the right credentials, and Danica is definitely on the list," he said.

Patrick, however, insists that she might not even be interested in accepting a test.

"I don't want to lead anyone on, for sure.  It's a costly thing to go testing, that's for sure, and there would be a big time commitment to making a seat and doing all that stuff," she told the Associated Press.

"Time is very valuable and I have very little of it, so unless I was really serious about it, I don't think I would go down that road.

"I am happy where I am.  It would take a bit to make that change for me," she said.

Honda admit future F1 return possible
(GMM)  Honda Motor Co.'s incoming chief executive has left the door open to the struggling Japanese manufacturer returning to formula one in the future.

Under the stewardship of departing CEO Takeo Fukui and amid the brunt of the global financial crisis, Honda decided to pull out of the sport after the 2008 season, citing the need to "protect its core business activities".

But with Takanobu Ito set to take over in June, the future Honda CEO and president insisted that elite motor racing is "very challenging but also fun".

"Unfortunately, our company has a slight cold right now.  But we would like to cure this cold as quickly as possible and work towards reaching that happiness (of racing)," the 55-year-old explained in a press conference in Tokyo.

Honda contested grands prix as a standalone manufacturer in 1963-1968 and 2005-2008, but achieved its greatest success as a F1 engine supplier in the 80s and 90s.

Teams to agree 2009 engine rules tweak
(GMM)  The 2009 engine rules will be tweaked so that teams cannot use different powerplants in qualifying and the race, it has emerged.

The current wording of the new regulations allows teams to utilize its eight engines for the entire season in any configuration or order.

But the website of the British magazine Autosport said the rules will be adapted so that engine changes after the start of Saturday morning practice can only be made if the existing 2.4 liter V8 unit is damaged or develops a problem.

It is said that some teams, including Renault, requested the change because it might have become commonplace for engines to be changed prior to qualifying, requiring more staff at grands prix.

The clarification will be ratified during this week's meeting of the Sporting Working Group in Nice.

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