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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Brawn on pole for title bombshell
  • Haug admits new McLaren 'far too slow'
  • France on track for F1 return
  • Schu in 'no hurry' for Ferrari talks
  • BMW 'not title favorites' - Kubica

Brawn on pole for title bombshell
(GMM)  The newly-rescued Brawn GP on Thursday continued to astound its rivals at Barcelona, on the last day of the final group test of the winter.

Not only was Rubens Barrichello atop the timesheets, he bettered teammate Jenson Button's astonishing time of Wednesday and was nearly a full second clear of the quickest of his dumbfounded rivals.

The cynics are not now wondering if the BGP001 is fuelled light, but how much below the mandatory 605kg minimum weight it is circulating.

Up and down the pitlane, however, the message is clear: if Brawn is running representative fuel and a legal weight, the car is the runaway favorite to win in Australia.

Asked by La Gazzetta dello Sport who he would put his money on for Melbourne, BMW's Robert Kubica laughed: "Button!"

"Seeing a truly competitive car again really excites me," said Barrichello, who switched from Ferrari to Brawn's previous guise Honda in 2006.

"I feel bursting with energy.  After two or three not so good seasons I'm feeling positive again.  And I'm back to win," the Brazilian added.

Felipe Massa, Barrichello's younger countryman, agrees that on current form, Ferrari is no longer leading the field.

"We are still very competitive but behind the Brawn," he acknowledged.  "I would say their lap times are just much quicker than anyone can do.

"I'm not an engineer so I cannot say they have ballast or not, but even if they have no ballast and they put ballast (in) they will be quick anyway.

"It is very surprising," added Massa, the 2008 championship runner-up.

Button, to occupy the sister Mercedes-powered Brawn in 2009, beamed as he told reporters the real test will be at Albert Park in two weeks.

"This is fun but we have a long way to go and we still don't know where we stand," the Briton insisted.  "It's a quick car and there is also room for improvement."

Quoted by Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport, the 29-year-old added: "For sure we will be fast at the first race but I don't know about after four or five races."

Button said the F1 fraternity should not be surprised about Brawn's form.

"I like surprising people, but I really want to surprise people at the races.

"Perhaps people forgot that we have good facilities and talented people who can make competitive cars.  Before we went on the track many people in the factory knew we had done a good job.

"When I went to the factory after the (Honda withdrawal) announcement I found everyone at work as usual.  The results show that we kept our heads down on our goals.

"We seem quick at the moment but we don't know about the others: Trulli looks excellent, and Ferrari.  There are many people who with little fuel can do very quick lap times," said Button.

The 2009 pre-season has now concluded for many teams, with the exception of Brawn, Renault, McLaren and Williams, whose last winter outing will be at Jerez next week.

Force India, meanwhile, will shake down a second car at Silverstone on Tuesday, with test driver Tonio Liuzzi at the wheel.

Haug admits new McLaren 'far too slow'
(GMM)  Just as Brawn's sterling test pace is surprising, so too is the apparent struggle of reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton's employer McLaren.

Pre-season testing is often an unreliable guide to championship form, but former McLaren driver Fernando Alonso observed at Barcelona this week: "They have been testing with both drivers and have not done very well."

Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who lost the 2008 title fight against Hamilton by a single point, admitted surprise that the works Mercedes-powered team is regularly occupying the bottom places on the timesheets.

Unofficial word from the Woking based team at the end of the test is that the car's problem has been identified and can be fixed in the run to Melbourne.

"They still can improve and they have another test that we don't have so they can find what is wrong, what is not working," Massa said.

"For sure it is surprising to see McLaren behind but we need to respect and wait for the first race of the season to have a clear idea about that," he added.

McLaren group chairman Ron Dennis this week put a brave face on the MP4-24's problems, but Mercedes' competition boss Norbert Haug is less guarded.

"We are far too slow at the moment but are going to work hard to get back to the front," he said in interview with Germany's Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

France on track for F1 return
(GMM)  France's return to the F1 calendar took a step forward this week with the unveiling of detailed plans for a new circuit.

Following the demise of the Magny-Cours event, Bernie Ecclestone said "it is quite sure" the country will also be missing from the 2010 calendar.

Plans for numerous alternative venues continued, however, and the one winning the support of authorities is a 4.5km layout at Flins-Les Mureaux, northeast of Paris in the department of Yvelines.

Reports say the budget is 112m euros - the lowest cost of all the considered projects - with an intended grand prix debut in 2011.

The circuit plans, featuring a seating capacity of 120,000, have been drawn up by a Parisian architect, with British company Apex to handle construction.

Work at the site is expected to begin immediately, despite F1 chief executive Ecclestone not yet giving the proposal the green-light for his series.

Schu in 'no hurry' for Ferrari talks
(GMM)  Talks about Michael Schumacher's expiring Ferrari contract will only take place in the summer, according to his long-time agent Willi Weber.

Since retiring as a driver in 2006, the seven time world champion has remained with the Maranello marque as an occasional test driver and advisor to the team as well as Ferrari's road car division.

Germany's Bild newspaper estimates his annual retainer at 5 million euros, with the contract set to expire this year.

"I'm just saying this from a personal point of view, it's clear that everything must be assessed for what it can bring," team boss Stefano Domenicali said after Christmas.

Weber, flagging talks to ramp up in the summer, said: "We are in no hurry."

Schumacher, 40, has made a number of appearances at the pre-season tests this winter, including this week at Barcelona.

When McLaren's reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton crashed earlier this week, Schumacher was quickly on hand at the wheel of a hire car on the internal access roads and observed peering at the underbody of the stricken MP4-24.

BMW 'not title favorites' - Kubica
(GMM)  With BMW-Sauber's pre-season test program now ended, Robert Kubica has fended off suggestions he is a 2009 favorite.

Brawn has been clearly out front at the Barcelona test, but previously it was said the championship could be a closely-fought battle with contenders including Hinwil based BMW, Ferrari, Toyota and possibly others.

But told by Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport that he has been named a possible title dark horse, the Polish driver replied: "Well, I would not say (we are) the favorite.

"At this test everyone was trying to get some idea (of the pecking order) although you never know what the others are doing.

"But here at Barcelona there were cars that were stronger than us," the 24-year-old said.

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