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Latest F1 news in brief
  • A ray of hope for McLaren at Jerez
  • Alonso, Trulli, slam latest FIA rules
  • Lewis Hamilton wax figure unveiled
  • McLaren still needs test drivers - Dennis
  • New system to work in Button's favor - Ecclestone
  • Diffuser designs use rule 'loophole' - Whiting
  • Abu Dhabi night race still possible - Cregan

A ray of hope for sandbagging McLaren at Jerez
(GMM)  The Spanish sun took on the role of a ray of hope for McLaren on Wednesday, as the beleaguered F1 giant conducted its penultimate day of a troubled pre-season.

At the Jerez test circuit, it was not Heikki Kovalainen's defeat of the only other test runner Kazuki Nakajima that was significant, but the fact the Finn would have been within half a second of Brawn's stunning pace of the day before.

When Brawn and Renault were still circulating on Tuesday, Lewis Hamilton had been more than a second off the pace.

McLaren's post-day press release reflected the improvement: "The test proved extremely productive, both in terms of evaluating the lap time potential of the new components and their effectiveness over the course of a simulated race stint." Third fastest for the week proves beyond a doubt they were sandbagging all winter.

McLaren and Williams' final day of running on Thursday marks the formal close of the 2009 winter period.

Alonso, Trulli, slam latest FIA rules
(GMM)  Two of the racing veterans of the formula one circus have reacted with concern to the FIA's latest wave of fundamental rule changes.

The change to the 'gold medals'-style points system for this season has been roundly panned, but it is the duel-rule budget cap idea for 2010 that Fernando Alonso publicly appealed to be "reconsidered".

"I don't understand the need to constantly change the rules of this sport," the 2005 and 2006 world champion said.

"I think that these types of decisions can only confuse the fans," the Spaniard added, insisting that the desires of "the teams, the sponsors, the drivers and above all the fans" were ignored by the sport's governing body.

Jarno Trulli, an Italian veteran of 200 races, echoed his former Renault teammate's view, telling La Stampa that the World Motor Sport Council's decisions this week comprise "many negative factors and no positive" ones.

"It seems to be that formula one wants to die and we will all have to go and race in some other championship," he is quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Trulli, 34, said the 'gold medals' system runs the risk that if one driver dominates the season as in 2002 and 2004, the championship will be officially over even earlier than usual.

"It is right to try to give the public more, to improve the show, but it shouldn't distort the spirit of formula one.  I am very, very worried," he added.

Lewis Hamilton wax figure unveiled
(GMM)  A lifelike statue of reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton was unveiled by London's Madame Tussauds wax museum on Wednesday.

The McLaren driver in December underwent 300 measurements for the immortalization, which was reported to have cost nearly $230,000.

His figure is complete with his full McLaren overalls and race gear, depicting him holding his helmet and gloves.

Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell and Michael Schumacher are similarly depicted at Madame Tussauds.

McLaren still needs test drivers - Dennis
(GMM)  Despite the ever-tightening test restrictions, McLaren still needs its full compliment of drivers, company chairman Ron Dennis insists.

The Mercedes-powered team's primary development and reserve driver Pedro de la Rosa announced this week that, due to the diminished role for testers, he will leave formula one at the end of 2009 if he cannot secure a return to a race cockpit.

"If I cannot race and I cannot even test, I will go to another category," the 38-year-old is quoted as telling the Spanish press.

But while de la Rosa has been scheduled only a few days of testing for the entire year, McLaren continues to rely on the contribution of both the Spaniard and his test deputy Gary Paffett, Dennis insisted.

"I think one of the questions that would be on everybody's lips is, when you are not testing between the first and the last race how come we've got four drivers?" he is quoted as saying by the news agency Reuters.

"But we are fully committed to exploring every possibility as regards how we develop the car and of course we need a reserve driver, that's Pedro, and we need a lot of capacity for our simulator," added Dennis.

McLaren's simulator is credited as being perhaps the industry leader, meaning that much of the forbidden track work can now be shifted to the factory.

"For that to work you really have to have drivers with all the same attributes that are expected of a driver when he actually tests the car on the circuit," Dennis explained.

The World Motor Sport Council this week ruled that, notwithstanding the in-season test ban, teams may conduct eight one-day straight-line tests this season.

Additionally, three days of circuit testing can take place between the end of the 2009 season finale and new year's eve, so long as the drivers used are rookies.

New system to work in Button's favor - Ecclestone
(GMM)  Jenson Button on Wednesday gave a mixed welcome to the new 'gold medals' points system, despite Bernie Ecclestone predicting the Brawn driver could benefit most from it in 2009.

Button, his veteran teammate Rubens Barrichello and the new BGP001 single seater were the shock winter pacesetters, moving F1 chief executive Ecclestone to predict a flurry of early race wins.

The unique mechanics of the new points system could indeed work in Brawn's favor, for example if the team has done the best job with the concept of the 2009 rules, but ultimately cannot keep up with the development pace of better-funded rivals.

"If Brawn has got it right, there's a chance that for the first three races we could maybe see Jenson winning," Ecclestone told the BBC.

"Now that it is not points that decides the championship, if Jenson has three races in his pocket then it is not bad -- although I suppose in the end you have to look at the old timers like Alonso, Kimi, Felipe and Mr. Hamilton," he added.

Diffuser designs use rule 'loophole' - Whiting
(GMM)  Following a recent visit to the Barcelona test garages, controversial technical features on some F1 cars were inspected by the FIA's Charlie Whiting.

Subsequently, the 30cm-high cockpit fairing fins on Williams' FW31 disappeared on safety grounds, and the much smaller fins on the 2009 BMW-Sauber are also believed to have been scrapped ahead of the 2009 season.

But it is understood that, while the rear diffusers of the Brawn, Toyota and Williams cars have been the most controversial of the pre-season, the teams have not been asked to change those designs.

"They used a loophole (in the regulations) that was always there," the governing body's technical delegate Whiting is quoted as saying by Auto Motor und Sport.

"Additionally, we can understand that other teams have a different view," he added.

The threat of formal protests lodged by the teams' rivals in Australia thus remains.  "I guarantee whoever wins the races in Melbourne will be told they are cheating, and it doesn't matter who it is," Bernie Ecclestone commented on Wednesday.

Williams' Sam Michael is surprised the other teams have not simply picked up the concept rather than complain about it.  "It would be relatively simple to copy this solution," the Australian said.

"It surprises me that more teams have not done so up to now," he is quoted as saying by the German magazine.

Abu Dhabi night race still possible - Cregan
(GMM)  The possibility of Abu Dhabi switching to become a night grand prix in future remains open, an official of the race's organizers has admitted.

Late last year, circuit boss Philippe Gurdjian played down the speculation about a night race at the new Yas Marina venue, despite Bernie Ecclestone saying the possibility was being discussed.

But Richard Cregan, who recently left Toyota to become Gurdjian's deputy in Abu Dhabi, admits that following Singapore in hosting an artificially-lit formula one race is theoretically possible.

"The fact that we can run the track 24 hours a day leaves us in a very good position to run the circuit at night time.  There are a lot of possibilities," he told Germany's Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Abu Dhabi will host its inaugural grand prix on 1 November.

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