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Latest F1 news in brief UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

  • Bridgestone confirms green circles for 2009
  • Rescued Honda to be called 'Brackley F1'
  • No USGP solution in sight yet - Williams
  • Barrichello back in frame with two F1 teams
  • Williams slams BBC over sponsor exit reports
  • Toro Rosso says Adria debut not open to media
  • New rules do not halt F1 innovation
  • Nakajima admits F1 Toyota exit possible
  • Gov't plays down Aus GP venue switch reports
  • Williams drivers have 2009 superlicenses
  • FIA moves to fill dwindling grid (New)
  • Button agrees to slash 2009 retainer (New)
  • Williams to pay off debts - Parr (New)

Bridgestone confirms green circles for 2009
(GMM)  Bridgestone has confirmed that it will visibly distinguish the softest compound of slick tires at grands prix this year by painting green circles around the edges of the sidewalls.

We reported recently that this new solution, necessary due to the end of the grooved tire era where a white line was painted inside a groove, was the most likely for 2009, after teams tested it at the recent Jerez test.

"The green color has been chosen to show Bridgestone's continued support of the FIA's Make Cars Green campaign," the Japanese manufacturer explained in a statement.

Bridgestone's director of development Hirohide Hamashima, meanwhile, also confirmed suggestions that the difference between the two compounds at races this year will be bigger than previously.

"We have changed our allocation strategy so that we can bring non-consecutive allocations to races," he said.

For example, with the 'super soft' being brought to Melbourne next month, the other tire will be the 'medium', not the next-hardest tire in the range, the 'soft'.

Bridgestone confirmed that this system will be in place at least for the first five races of 2009.

Hamashima added: "We hope that the change in allocations gives competitors a good challenge and the fans entertaining racing."

Rescued Honda to be called 'Brackley F1'
(GMM)  With a blank livery and Jenson Button at the wheel, the team currently known as Honda will return to action at a Silverstone shakedown of its 2009 car next Thursday, sources from inside the Brackley factory are reporting.

With the Ross Brawn-led management buyout now approved - but not officially announced - by Honda Motor Co.'s Tokyo board, information is leaking from the outfit that had until recently looked likely to be wound up ahead of the 2009 season.

Now, however, suggestions of at least one (and possibly two) full tests at Spanish circuits in March are gaining credence, and one source told us that these will be preceded by a run-out with Mercedes power at Silverstone late next week.

With the Honda board also insisting upon a name change, the frontrunner at present is 'Brackley F1', but a final decision on this has not been taken.

Also likely - but not confirmed - is the identity of Button's teammate.  Bruno Senna has all winter been named as the frontrunner, but given the nature of the challenge faced for 2009, it is believed the veteran Rubens Barrichello is now favorite to retain his seat.

Under Brawn's leadership, the funds for the team this year will come from increased and advanced FOM income, commercial sponsors, and Honda itself, who have concluded that it is cheaper to offload the squad as a going concern rather than fund the closure and compensate contracted staff, including the very highly paid Button.

The Swiss newspaper Blick said of rookie Senna: "The young Brazilian will drive in the DTM championship (in 2009)."

No USGP solution in sight yet - Williams
(GMM)  F1 teams have pressured Bernie Ecclestone to reinstate a grand prix in North America, but no immediate solution is apparent, team boss and co-owner Sir Frank Williams said on Thursday.

Speaking at a pre-season media event at his Toyota-powered team's Oxfordshire headquarters, Williams admitted that there are hurdles to once again tapping into the world's biggest economy.

The first, he said, is Ecclestone's standoff with Indianapolis and the lack of a F1-standard alternative, while other potential venues outside North America knock loudly on the F1 chief executive's door.

"We're a little bit full I think for the next few years," said Williams, referring to the growing calendar to boast future hosts including Korea and India.

"My private opinion is that we are a little bit of a way off yet but Bernie is brilliant at surprises," he added.

Martin Whitmarsh, set to take over from Ron Dennis as McLaren team principal as of Sunday, this week echoed Williams' comments and pointed out that the subject has been discussed by the commercial arm of the FOTA alliance headed by Renault's Flavio Briatore.

Stressing all the teams, manufacturers and sponsors' desire to reinstate an American race, the Briton added: "I know that both the FIA and FOM are supportive of that collective wish."

Barrichello back in frame with two F1 teams
(GMM)  After an entire winter of uncertainty, Rubens Barrichello's name is now strongly linked to not one formula one team, but two.

With the Ross Brawn-led management buyout of the Honda team set to be announced, the latest speculation is that the Brackley camp would prefer the unmatched experience of Barrichello alongside Jenson Button in 2009.

Previously, the 36-year-old's rookie countryman Bruno Senna was linked most strongly to the team, but it now appears that his sponsorship ties to Brazilian sponsors were not as lucrative as earlier was reported.

Meanwhile, just as Barrichello's Honda chances re-emerge, a principal of the new USF1 team for 2010 has confirmed reports the veteran of more than 270 grands prix is a leading candidate for a drive.

"We need someone experienced who in the first two years can give us as much information as possible.

"One name is Rubens Barrichello, certainly," the team's British sporting director Peter Windsor is quoted as saying by RTL.

Williams slams BBC over sponsor exit reports
(GMM)  Sir Frank Williams on Thursday expressed anger at the media reportage of key sponsor Royal Bank of Scotland's (RBS) withdrawal from formula one at the end of 2010.

The independent British team's boss and co-owner said he is frustrated at how the BBC, Britain's public broadcaster and the country's new formula one broadcast rights holder, explained the implications of the loss of Williams' second largest backer.

"The stories by the BBC expressed doom and gloom," the 66-year-old told reporters at a pre-season media event at Grove.

"(It) was presented in such a way that it was the end of the world for formula one.  That is totally, totally untrue and incorrect," Williams insisted.

Sir Frank said the RBS's problems are well known, and that it was always almost certain that the bank would withdraw sponsorships of this kind.

It also emerges that, although to remain on the Williams livery this year and next, RBS will stop advertising trackside at grands prix as soon as is contractually possible.

Toro Rosso says Adria debut not open to media
(GMM)  Toro Rosso has confirmed reports that its 2009 car, the STR4, will be given its track debut at the Adria circuit in northern Italy next week.

We reported this week that the event - an initial 'shakedown' prior to the new Red Bull Technology-designed single seater's full debut at the forthcoming group test - is scheduled for next Wednesday.

The Faenza based team duly confirmed the news, but pointed out that the media should not arrange to attend the Adria circuit because the shakedown is to be conducted behind closed doors.

"Just to make it clear, if and when we do go to Adria, it will be a private test behind closed doors and nobody is allowed in," the team said in one of its tongue-in-cheek media communiqu├ęs.

New rules do not halt F1 innovation
(GMM)  F1's new bodywork rules may have brought an end to a lot of the cars' overt aerodynamic detail, but it has not halted the innovation of the teams.

At the winter test tracks so far, plenty of clever features are on display, including Williams and Toyota's controversial rear diffuser designs.

Sam Michael, Williams, technical director, said on Thursday he expects "50 per cent of the grid" to have honed-in on the idea by the time late March and the Australian grand prix roll around.

Also spotted recently is a new design of carbon-fiber front wheel covers on the 2009 McLaren.

Described as a sort of "snorkel" by the German publication Auto Motor und Sport, the innovation is expected to be fitted to the MP4-24 in Australia.

Meanwhile, on Williams' 2009-spec FW31 at the Grove factory on Thursday, reporters could not miss the addition of new fins on the cockpit.

"They're called 'skate fins' because they're similar to what you see on a surfboard," Australian Michael said.

Nakajima admits F1 Toyota exit possible
(GMM)  Kazuki Nakajima admits it is possible Toyota will follow its Japanese manufacturer rival Honda out of formula one.

The Japanese driver, who is backed by Toyota, Williams' semi-works engine supplier, told reporters on Thursday he hopes the carmaker resists the menace of the global financial crisis and continues its eight-year presence on the grid beyond this season.

"I hope that they will not finish formula one before they achieve something.  That's my opinion as a fan," he said at a Williams media event at Grove.

Nakajima, 24, added: "But with the situation at the moment, I think it's really on the edge.  You never know what's going to happen."

Gov't plays down Aus GP venue switch reports
(GMM)  John Brumby, premier of the Victorian state government in Australia, has played down reports that the grand prix in Melbourne could be moved.

We reported earlier this week that the company Linfox, a local transport giant, was keen on constructing a $200m venue at Avalon airport that would be cheaper to operate than the semi-permanent Albert Park circuit.

"I saw the speculation about it but I think the GP itself, they're pretty happy with where they are so I don't think it has gone any further than that (feasibility study)," Brumby, whose government picks up the losses of the annual Australian grand prix, told the Geelong Advertiser newspaper.

Williams drivers have 2009 superlicenses
(GMM)  Williams' three drivers have valid superlicense credentials for the 2009 season, it emerged on Thursday at the British team's pre-season media event in Oxfordshire.

"We pay the fees -- they're paid," said chief executive Adam Parr, referring to the licenses of race drivers Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima, as well as reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg.

Led by the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA), formula one stars were this winter embroiled in a standoff with the governing FIA, following the Paris body's latest price increase for the mandatory F1 drivers' license.

But contrary to the GPDA's wishes, it emerged recently that at least three drivers had fully paid up for 2009.  It is believed that in the wake of the news, some non-GPDA member drivers individually chose to sign off their latest paperwork.

Moreover, as well as Williams, there are other teams - possibly including McLaren - that also simply pay for the licenses on behalf of their drivers, despite the GPDA's request to the F1 teams' alliance FOTA for support over the issue.

FIA moves to fill F1 grid
(GMM)  Radical cost-slashing rules for 2010 will make it easier for new teams to enter formula one and survive.

The governing FIA said in a statement on Friday that the proposals will be submitted for ratification to the World Motor Sport Council before the Australian grand prix next month.

The Paris body said the rules "will enable new teams to fill the existing vacancies on the grid for 2010 and make it less likely that any team will be forced to leave the championship".

The move, to slash current budgets to "a fraction" of their current size, is in view of the global recession, which is affecting "sponsors and major car manufacturers", the FIA added.

Button agrees to slash 2009 retainer
(GMM)  Jenson Button has agreed to cut his 2009 retainer in half as the Honda team survives the withdrawal of the Japanese manufacturer.

A management buyout headed by Ross Brawn has apparently been green-lighted by the carmaker's Tokyo board, but it will mean a drastically reduced budget this season.

The Daily Telegraph in Britain claims up to 300 of the 700 Brackley based staff will be shed, while 29-year-old Button voluntarily cuts his contracted $15m salary for this season in two.

Some of the Brackley staff, however, are reportedly unhappy with the Brawn buyout and prepared to strike.

If Honda had folded the team, the manufacturer would have dished out healthy severance packages, while under the Brawn deal, many staff will still be shed but not compensated as handsomely.

Those surviving the job cuts face pay cuts, the Telegraph added.

Williams to pay off debts - Parr
(GMM)  Williams will begin the climb back into the black in 2009 and 2010, management of the Oxfordshire based team claim.

It emerged last year that the independent British team had recorded a second consecutive multi-million loss while increasing bank borrowings and eating into dwindling savings.

Chief executive Adam Parr told reporters at a team media event at Grove on Thursday that Williams was indeed living "beyond its means".

But despite now preparing to lose its lucrative RBS backing, and readying to unveil the FW31 livery without previous sponsors Lenovo, Baugur and Petrobras, Parr insisted that recent cost cuts in the sport are allowing Williams to get back on track.

"In the last two or three years we were spending beyond our means.

"That was the right thing to do because if we hadn't done that then we wouldn't have been able to stay in the game," he is quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph.

"Now, when I look at the budget for last year, this year and next year, that is not the situation.  We are operating within our means.

"We will be paying off debt this year and paying off debt next year," Parr added.

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