Latest F1 news in brief
- McLaren gets press to report Vodafone ad
- Hartley waiting for FIA superlicense
- No Mark Webber Challenge in 2009
- No calorie-counting for F1's 'iceman'
- Toyota set for best-ever F1 campaign
- Piquet denies Renault driver disparity
- McLaren 'not where we want to be' - Haug
- Wurz in Brawn 'advisory' role in 2009
- Bernie not sorry to see me stay - Rubens
- Rubens looks forward to life after Honda
McLaren gets press to report Vodafone ad
(GMM) McLaren and title sponsor Vodafone on Tuesday pulled off a masterstroke: media coverage of an advertisement.
The Mercedes-powered team's head of communications Matt Bishop tipped off selected publications to a viral campaign by Vodafone starring world champion Lewis Hamilton.
The video depicts the 24-year-old Briton controlling his driver-less formula one single seater wirelessly with the use of a Blackberry Storm mobile phone.
Bishop's campaign raised speculation as to whether the footage is genuine, or whether the feat was achieved thanks to digital effects.
"It's amazing what can be done with a Blackberry Storm and that's all I'm prepared to say about it at the moment!" he said.
The video can be watched here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiLoANg6nNY
Hartley waiting for FIA superlicense
(GMM) Brendon Hartley's role as Red Bull reserve driver in 2009 has not been confirmed because he is yet to receive his mandatory FIA superlicense.
Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost this week revealed that the 19-year-old New Zealander will be the official back-up for the race drivers of the two Red Bull-owned teams this season.
But it has subsequently emerged in the New Zealand press that while Hartley qualified for the mandatory FIA credential at a recent test, he has not yet been issued with the license.
"This thing has prematurely got out -- it's all subject to signing off his superlicense and we're just waiting for that to happen," said Hartley's manager Peter Johnston.
The news agency NZPA said official confirmation of the role is expected within the coming days.
Hartley was expected to race in the F3 Euroseries this year.
No Mark Webber Challenge in 2009
(GMM) Mark Webber will not organize an edition of his outdoor adventure challenge in 2009.
The Australian driver, who broke his right leg in a cycling crash during the event last November, has announced that the Mark Webber Challenge is taking a break due to the global financial crisis.
"The timing was right to review the challenge in light of the more difficult economic times," Webber, 32, said in a statement.
He revealed that "major sponsorship contracts" for the event expired in 2008, although the Tasmanian government and title sponsor Pure Tasmania want to remain on board.
A "disappointed" tourism minister Michelle O'Byrne said more funding would have been provided in 2009.
Shortly following Webber's injury last year, event director Geoff Donohue admitted that discussions would take place with Red Bull Racing about subsequent editions of the challenge.
But Donohue clarified on Wednesday that the 2009 edition has not been cancelled at Red Bull's request.
No calorie-counting for F1's 'iceman'
(GMM) Much of the 2009 grid spent the winter losing weight, but Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen this week counted himself out of the calorie-counting chatter.
Asked by La Gazzetta dello Sport to reveal how many pounds or kilograms he shed since the 2008 season finale, the 29-year-old answered: "I don't know, I have not checked. But I am happy with my weight."
The 2007 title winner also said he would not enter the debate about driver roles within the Maranello team this year, after Felipe Massa raced to six grand prix wins last season.
Asked if he is now the team leader or the challenger, Raikkonen said: "I am not interested! Everyone starts the season equal."
Toyota set for best-ever F1 campaign
(GMM) Toyota, the Japanese carmaker's seven-year-old formula one team, has raced into contention to lead the field in 2009, according to a growing feeling in F1 circles.
"In the past days Toyota has been going very well," Renault's former double world champion Fernando Alonso said.
For Jarno Trulli's final two days of pre-season testing this week, the Italian took the TF109 to the third and fourth highest spots on the Barcelona timesheets.
But an engineer for the Cologne based team told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport on Tuesday: "Taking into consideration the fuel weights, we had the fastest car in the field."
There is little doubt, however, that despite the impressiveness of also the new BMW and Red Bull cars, it is the Ferrari that occupies the favorite role ahead of Melbourne, but only by a small margin.
Kimi Raikkonen was second fastest and fastest respectively on Monday and Tuesday, and the Finn told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "We did not push 100 per cent in order to do special times."
Piquet denies Renault driver disparity
(GMM) Nelson Piquet has played down speculation of continuing driver disparity within the Renault team.
The 23-year-old Brazilian began the French squad's test at Barcelona on Monday, but he then handed over to Fernando Alonso, who will remain in the R29 for the remainder of the four-day session.
Piquet dismissed suggestions that his 1:3 test day ratio alongside the 2005 and 2006 world champion this week indicates his role as a lesser member of the Enstone based team.
"It is normal that Fernando tests more days; he has a lot of experience and his information is very valuable to the team," he is quoted as saying by the Spanish newspaper Diario Sport.
Sport pointed out that, of the ten teams present at the Circuit de Catalunya, Alonso is the only driver to have been scheduled more than two days in the cockpit.
Wurz in Brawn 'advisory' role in 2009
(GMM) Alex Wurz remains under contract to the team formerly known as Honda, but the Austrian admits he will not see much cockpit action in 2009.
The rebranded 'Brawn GP' team finally began on-track preparations this week, but race drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello will use every opportunity to acclimatize to and develop the BGP001.
By the time Melbourne rolls around in just over two weeks, the new in-season test ban will be in force, meaning 35-year-old 'test driver' Wurz is not likely to be needed much beyond a reserve capacity in 2009.
"Work goes on but more in an advisory role," he told the Austrian news agency APA.
"I will work from the driver's perspective but my influence is minimized by the regulations," Wurz added.
The Austrian's reputation is of arguably F1's best test driver, dating back to his prominent role earlier this decade with McLaren, when testers were more commonly referred to as 'third' drivers.
"The great era of the test driver, which I began, is over," he confirmed.
Bernie not sorry to see me stay - Rubens
(GMM) Rubens Barrichello does not believe Bernie Ecclestone would have been disappointed to hear he has signed to contest a record seventeenth consecutive formula one season in 2009.
Ecclestone, F1's influential chief executive, offered to help rescue the Honda team earlier this year, but made his assistance conditional on Bruno Senna securing a seat.
"The silly thing is we have got Bruno wanting to drive," the 78-year-old Briton had said. "It would be fantastic for everybody to have the name Senna back in F1."
Honda, now renamed Brawn GP after a management buyout, ultimately turned down Ecclestone's offer, then opting for Barrichello's experience over the rookie Senna.
Barrichello, 36, is quoted as saying by Spain's El Mundo newspaper: "I have a good relationship with Bernie and do not believe he is sorry to see Rubens (with the team) and not Bruno."
Barrichello, a pallbearer at Ayrton Senna's funeral in 1994, is understood to have campaigned hard on his credentials behind the scenes this winter, despite his friendship with Bruno, the nephew of his late mentor and hero.
"Having the Senna name again would be very important for formula one, I agree, but I am happy that moment has not arrived yet," he smiled.
Rubens looks forward to life after Honda
(GMM) Rubens Barrichello is bullish about the prospects of life at Brackley in the wake of departed owner and financier Honda.
Before the Brazilian veteran joined the team in 2006, he collected experience with privateers Jordan and Stewart, and worked with Ross Brawn for six years - winning 9 races - at Ferrari.
In Honda's wake, he is looking forward to recapturing the feeling of his past teams at the reborn Brawn GP.
"Are we going to be like a small Stewart family (team) working? It might be, a smaller team working together, not going through too many people to get an answer.
"It might work in our favor," he is quoted as saying by The Independent newspaper.
36-year-old Barrichello, third quickest after his first taste of the Mercedes-powered BGP001 car at Barcelona on Tuesday, was careful to not overly criticize the team's departed owner.
"Honda did brilliantly and I am sorry to see them go, but you have to say there is always a culture difference and a difficulty in the language. So it was tough," he said of the Honda era.
"All I have wanted to see at the team is what I found at Ferrari -- they were really good at winning together and losing together.
"The team is quite small now, so it could be like that, and that is what I am looking forward to working on, and I am sure Ross is in the same boat. That is what makes it a competitive F1 team," added Barrichello.