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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Hartley may not become Red Bull reserve
  • Mosley agrees to drop F1 license fees in 2010
  • FIA confirms lowest team status for Brawn
  • Bernie blames McLaren for Hamilton image
  • Kimi would have liked scoring change - manager
  • German carmakers rule out Hockenheim rescue
  • Schumacher to attend first two races of 2009
  • Abu Dhabi becomes another McLaren home race
  • Teams threatened to boycott season opener
  • McLaren is third team to confirm KERS debut
  • Klien thrills locals in bushfire tribute

Hartley may not become Red Bull reserve
(GMM)  Brendon Hartley is hoping he will be granted special dispensation so that he can be officially named Red Bull's F1 reserve driver for 2009.

While the energy drink company wants to nominate the 19-year-old New Zealander for the role, it emerged earlier this month that Hartley is waiting to receive his mandatory FIA superlicense.

He completed the necessary formula one mileage at a winter test, but the New Zealand radio station Newstalk ZB reveals that Hartley is still waiting for the document.

The news source said Hartley's license application did not meet the criteria for automatic approval by the FIA, despite his third place finish in last year's British F3 series.

While an exemption is possible, New Zealand FIA official Morrie Chandler admitted that Hartley may not be able to participate as an official driver at this weekend's Australian grand prix.

Mosley agrees to drop F1 license fees in 2010
(GMM)  Max Mosley on Monday agreed to lower the cost of formula one Superlicenses.

The FIA president has been locked in a dispute with the drivers' body the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, who were unhappy about recent price hikes for their mandatory credential.

A statement released by the FIA revealed a "very positive meeting" took place on Monday between Mosley and the GPDA.

"A proposal will be made to the World Motor Sport Council to revise super license fees for drivers in the 2010 championship," it said.

"A reduced fee would reflect the major cost reductions that will be brought into the sport for next season."

The FIA said it will meet with the GPDA "on a regular basis" from now on "to maintain what promises to be a constructive dialogue".

FIA confirms lowest team status for Brawn
(GMM)  F1's governing body on Monday confirmed that Brawn GP drivers have been allocated the lowest race numbers in 2009.

The move, revealed in the final version of this season's official entry list, validates the observations at Albert Park that Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello have been assigned the last pit garages.

In an earlier provisional list, Force India was assigned the lowest race numbers (20 and 21), with the team formerly known as Honda one spot higher due to finishing the 2008 championship second-to-last.

However, the FIA accepted Brawn's application to race this year on the basis that the Brackley squad is a new entry.

Also confirmed in the final entry list, Felipe Massa has swapped places with Kimi Raikkonen and been assigned the higher race number (3) at Ferrari, and a similar change has occurred at Toro Rosso.

Bernie blames McLaren for Hamilton image
(GMM)  Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton is not a "character" and McLaren is to blame, according to F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

In a briefing with a select few British reporters, the F1 chief executive said McLaren chief Ron Dennis prefers his employees all adhere to a company "brand" rather than display individuality.

"What McLaren drivers have anybody ever taken to?" the 78-year-old billionaire is quoted as saying by the Mirror.

"The 'Jack the Lad' type of driver doesn't fit into the brand.  There is just a way about them (McLaren people), isn't there?

"Ron doesn't want to breed individuals, anyone who stands out," said Ecclestone.

He contrasts McLaren's featureless style to that of Ferrari, the Italian team who "let people do what they like".

Ecclestone, however, is not scathing of Dennis, in fact he believes the 61-year-old should be knighted by the Queen.

"It's not the same with me," he explained.  "Everything I have done, I have done for myself or the company that I run.  I have never done it thinking it could be good for somebody else."

Kimi would have liked scoring change - manager
(GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen would have thrived under the 'winner takes all' scoring system, according to his manager.

Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA wanted this year's champion to be crowned only after he won the greatest number of races, but the late change was rejected by the F1 teams' alliance FOTA.

2007 world champion Raikkonen's manager Steve Robertson, however, said ultimate racers including his Finnish charge would have welcomed the system.

"Kimi is the ultimate type of winner, who drives for the victory until the last lap," he told the Finnish daily Turun Sanomat.

"I believe it (the scoring system) would have suited him.

"Right now second place is good enough if you can't win, but the FIA decision would have made the difference between victory and second place gigantic," Robertson added.

German carmakers rule out Hockenheim rescue
(GMM)  Mercedes-Benz and BMW have ruled out stepping in to safeguard the future of the embattled German grand prix at Hockenheim.

The race's organizers, next scheduled to host the country's single formula one grand prix in 2010, are set to announce on Wednesday whether a solution to the growing losses from the event has been found.

The local government, as well as Bernie Ecclestone, have ruled out coming to the rescue, and now the two German carmakers involved with formula one have joined the Hockenheim snub.

"We are the competitors of formula one, not the organizers," BMW-Sauber team boss Mario Theissen is quoted as saying by the German news agency SID.

Mercedes' Norbert Haug gave a near-identical answer, and another car manufacturer - Volkswagen - has also ruled out financial support for the venue located in the German state Baden-Wurttemberg.

Schumacher to attend first two races of 2009
(GMM)  Michael Schumacher is a member of the Ferrari race team for this weekend's 2009 season opener in Australia.

The German newspaper Bild confirmed that the retired seven time world champion, still an advisor to the Maranello based team, has confirmed his attendance not only in Melbourne but also for Malaysia a week later.

The 40-year-old has attended several races as advisor to the Scuderia since he stopped competing, but this will be his first season opener since he contested the first race of 2006.

"In the last two years it was not so important to have Michael in the pits," the German's long-time manager Willi Weber explained.

"Now, however, with the many rule changes, Michael can help the engineers to better understand the car.

"It is in this area that Michael's experience is extremely important," Weber added.

Abu Dhabi becomes another McLaren home race
(GMM)  McLaren has added another 'home race' to its 2009 formula one tour.

The Mercedes-powered British squad already calls Germany and Britain home, and a Bahraini company bought a 30 per cent stake in the Woking based outfit two years ago.

Moreover, last weekend Mercedes' parent company Daimler announced that an investment fund controlled by Abu Dhabi's royal family had paid nearly 2 billion euros to buy a 9.1 per cent stake.

The United Arab Emirates' capital is scheduled to host its inaugural grand prix this November.

"We now have another home grand prix, so we look forward to a beautiful season finale in Abu Dhabi," Mercedes' competition chief Norbert Haug told the German newspaper Bild.

Teams threatened to boycott season opener
(GMM)  At least two team bosses threatened to boycott this weekend's Australian grand prix, it has emerged.

London's the Times newspaper reports that Flavio Briatore of Renault, and McLaren's Ron Dennis, recently told Bernie Ecclestone they would not send their cars and equipment to Melbourne due to a dispute over unpaid income.

The Melbourne newspaper Herald Sun, meanwhile, said Ferrari may also have been involved in a boycott threat, so angry was the team and chief rival McLaren about the FIA's latest rule changes.

Ultimately, all the cars did land in Melbourne, but race promoter Ron Walker admitted he is aware of the feuding.

"It's very serious at the moment, but I think good sense will prevail by Sunday," he said.

"A clear understanding will be made between the teams and the FIA.  (And) Bernie is the master deal-maker.  He's been in it for years."

Australia's FIA representative Garry Connelly also played down the rumors.  "That (a boycott) would be suicide for them," he said.

"They have sponsorship agreements in place.  What are they going to do -- throw away a large percentage of their television coverage just because they're upset?

"They'd be in breach of contract with their sponsors, I'd suggest," he added.

The boycott ultimatum by Briatore and Dennis - also on behalf of other FOTA teams - was revealed by Ecclestone as the F1 chief executive this week met with a few select British reporters.

The 78-year-old said Toyota's John Howett was also present when the boycott threat was issued, reportedly over money Ecclestone promised to pay the teams if they sign a new Concorde agreement.

The new commercial agreement has not yet been signed.

"Poor John was sitting there a bit confused about life in general.  Flavio started it (the threat)," Ecclestone revealed, "aided and abetted by Ron Dennis.  They were saying all the FOTA-schmota are not going (to Australia) -- nobody's going to go.

"So I said what I'd better do is cancel the aircraft obviously.  It costs a fortune to charter those things and almost as much to cancel them," he added.

While all the cars did travel to and land this week in Melbourne, it is believed the teams have not yet been paid by Ecclestone.

The billionaire said he doesn't mind hard business tactics, but detests when the threats are empty.

"If they come in here with a gun and hold it to my head, they had better be sure they can f---ing pull the trigger.  And they should make sure it's got bullets in it because, if they miss, they better look out," Ecclestone warned.

McLaren is third team to confirm KERS debut
(GMM)  Another team has joined Renault and Ferrari in confirming that it will race new KERS technology in Australia this weekend.

The other teams are expected to delay the voluntary use of their energy re-use systems until later this season, while BMW-Sauber has a race-ready KERS but has not decided when and where to deploy it.

Asked if Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen will have use of KERS this weekend, Mercedes' competition boss Norbert Haug told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport: "We definitely intend to start (the season) with KERS, with both cars."

Klien thrills locals in bushfire tribute
(GMM)  Christian Klien on Tuesday drove last year's BMW-Sauber down the main road of the town of Kinglake.

The Austrian's demonstration was to show support for the area, located about an hour's drive from Melbourne, that was ravaged by the devastating 'Black Saturday' bushfires of last month.

The event, also attended by former team boss Paul Stoddart and featuring Zsolt Baumgartner in a two-seater Minardi, aimed to "provide some relief and entertainment for the local community" ahead of Sunday's Australian grand prix, a spokeswoman said.

Kinglake, whose main road was converted into a 220-metre stretch of race track for the display, was one of the worst-affected towns of the fires, with at least 42 of the more than 200 total fatalities occurring in the area.

On Sunday at Albert Park, F1's drivers will be carried around the circuit for the drivers' parade on the track of local fire trucks.

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