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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Favorites Brawn prepare for challenges
  • Sponsors dash to join Brawn livery
  • Buemi expects Toro Rosso to struggle in Malaysia
  • Vettel believes Sepang penalty not fair
  • Hamilton, Alonso criticisms not justified - de la Rosa
  • Ecclestone to make 2009 debut in Malaysia
  • 2009 is Heidfeld's last chance in F1 - Stuck
  • Don't compare Brawn with Force India - Mallya
  • Kubica undecided over KERS at Sepang
  • Alonso leaves Sepang track with ear infection
  • Body strips Donington of racing license

Brawn team expected to lead the way again in Sepang
Favorites Brawn prepare for challenges
(GMM)  On the basis of the Mercedes-powered BGP001's performance in Australia, Brawn is the overwhelming favorite to repeat victory at Sepang this weekend.

But the Malaysian event boasts several features that contrast starkly with that of the season opener, and not all of them bode well for the newly-rebranded Brackley based team.

"It's probably going to be wet, isn't it?" said Melbourne winner Jenson Button in Kuala Lumpur, where it has rained already this week.

"That's a pity in a way.  I'd rather it was dry because although Rubens and I are both good in the wet, we haven't driven this car in those conditions yet," he added.

Also, the Brawn car does not feature a KERS system, the power-boost technology that is expected to be more of an advantage than at Albert Park on Malaysia's long straights.

The pitstops last Sunday also revealed that the former Honda crew, having sat out most of the winter, is slightly rusty.

Team boss Ross Brawn also admitted to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport that he is concerned about reliability, with Button and Rubens Barrichello's cars needing to feature the same gearbox this weekend as was raced in Melbourne.

Referring to the transmission, which after the switch from Honda to Mercedes power for 2009 had to be tweaked, he said: "For the moment that is our Achilles heel.

"We are not yet over that mountain," he added.

Brawn also spoke about his team's lack of winter pitstop practice.

"During our seven days of testing only twice did we have the opportunity to practice pitstops," he said.

Button is also concerned about the Melbourne pace of the team's rivals, including Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel, who seemed to peg the Briton's pace throughout most of the 58 laps.

"His pace was a surprise," the Englishman admitted.

And Brawn is expecting the other teams, including powerful rivals like Ferrari and McLaren, to make big and rapid steps forward in the next races.

"Right now we've a long way to go and people will progress very rapidly this year," he said, amid premature speculation about the outcome of the world championship.

Brawn said at least three significant development steps for the BGP001 this season are planned, the first to be rolled out for May's Spanish grand prix.

Sponsors dash to join Brawn livery
(GMM)  As he switched on his mobile phone following the flight from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur, Nick Fry began to field numerous calls from potential sponsors of the Brawn team.

The former Honda squad arrived in Melbourne last week with a blank-liveried car, but also with the favorites tag that lured Virgin's Sir Richard Branson and his checkbook to the Australian city.

A pending full Virgin sponsorship is now worth many millions of euros, and team chief executive Fry admits other brands are also lining up to be associated with Brawn's success.

He told the Times newspaper that many of those interested are British household names, buoyed by Brawn's link with its Brackley base.

"People sense that this is a British team and they want to have that link," he said.  "There is no doubt that Jenson's victory has performed wonders for us.

"Apart from Virgin, we hope to have other companies on board as soon as we can," Fry added.

Buemi expects Toro Rosso to struggle in Malaysia
(GMM)  F1's only 2009 rookie Sebastien Buemi has admitted he does not really expect to break out of the bottom-five qualifiers when the action resumes in Malaysia this weekend.

On his Melbourne debut, the 20-year-old Swiss outqualified the more experienced Sebastien Bourdais, and stayed in front of his French teammate in the race to score points.

But having qualified sixteenth in Australia, Buemi told the Le Matin newspaper that he is expecting another difficult weekend for round two.

"I know that the Malaysian grand prix is not going to suit our team, it is a very different circuit to Melbourne," said Buemi after jogging the Sepang layout twice to acclimatize to the heat and humidity.

"We are waiting to get some new parts for the car and will have to see what effect they have.  The goal is to get through to Q2, to be in the top fifteen, but the competition is very tough," he added.

Vettel believes Sepang penalty not fair
(GMM)  Sebastian Vettel believes his ten-place demotion on the Malaysian grand prix grid was harsh, but has vowed to move on from his Melbourne tangle with Robert Kubica.

The pair collided whilst tussling over second place at Albert Park last Sunday, where after 21-year-old Vettel apologized and was ruled to have caused the collision in a post-race stewards' inquiry.

"I put it behind me very quickly," the Red Bull driver is quoted as saying by the broadcaster RTL.

Asked if he believes his penalty is fair, German Vettel admitted: "No.  I couldn't dissolve into air and neither Robert or I wanted to end our races there."

Hamilton, Alonso criticisms not justified - de la Rosa
(GMM)  Pedro de la Rosa insists that most of the criticism attracted by world champions Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso is not justified.

The formula one veteran is close to both drivers, as a Spanish compatriot of Alonso, and the main test driver for Hamilton's team McLaren.

Hamilton and Alonso are among the most controversial figures of the grand prix circus: Alonso often caricatured as a whinger, and Hamilton regularly criticized for supposed arrogance.

Asked by the Spanish news agency Europa Press about the criticisms leveled at Hamilton, de la Rosa said: "It bothers me for the same reason that it bothers me about (the criticisms of) Alonso.

"The people who criticize do not know them, or have any idea about who they really are.

"They are two extraordinary, fantastic, professional guys, who are respected by the people who work with them," de la Rosa, 38, added.

Ecclestone to make 2009 debut in Malaysia
(GMM)  After sitting out the Melbourne season opener, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone will make his 2009 season debut in Malaysia this weekend.

The 78-year-old billionaire opted to remain in London rather than travel to Australia last week, amid speculation he was tying up loose ends relating to his divorce.

But Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker, admitting he was "disappointed" with the Briton's decision to stay away from Melbourne, said last weekend: "He's in London and then he's going to Malaysia."

2009 is Heidfeld's last chance in F1 - Stuck
(GMM)  2009 is Nick Heidfeld's last roll of the dice for success in formula one.

That is the belief of Hans-Joachim Stuck, a German former grand prix driver and contemporary motor racing expert.

When 31-year-old Heidfeld was struggling for form with BMW-Sauber last year, Stuck predicted that the nine-year F1 veteran "could lose his seat" if he does not return to the pace quickly.

The German driver ultimately did have a stronger finish to the 2008 season, but Stuck insists that Heidfeld remains under pressure.

"If he is not really up there with Kubica this year, then it would surprise me a lot if he gets another contract," Stuck, who was closely aligned with BMW throughout his career, told spox.com.

Don't compare Brawn with Force India - Mallya
(GMM)  It is not right to hail Brawn GP's success as a David versus Goliath-style feat, according to Vijay Mallya.

The Indian billionaire is the boss and owner of Force India, an independent team that is yet to spring off the back rows of the grid.

Brawn's Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello qualified and finished first and second in Australia last week, a triumph hailed as a "fairytale" story for an outfit that nearly collapsed over the winter.

But although the Albert Park livery was blank, Mallya insists that Brawn's success was powered by the huge investment of its now-departed owner, the Japanese carmaker giant Honda.

He said it is therefore unfair to compare Brawn with fellow privateer and UK-based Force India's struggle for F1 success.

"I know that Ross (Brawn) dumped the 2008 car early on, and has spent almost a year developing the 2009 car, with the benefit of a full-scale wind tunnel and all the other facilities available at Brackley.

"That car has had a huge amount of technical and financial resources thrown at it," said Mallya.

"So I wouldn't say that it's fair to compare the Brawn GP car's performance with an independent team," he added.

Kubica undecided over KERS at Sepang
(GMM)  Robert Kubica on Thursday said it has not been decided if his BMW-Sauber will be fitted with a KERS system in Malaysia this weekend.

Last weekend in Australia, his teammate Nick Heidfeld used the controversial energy re-use power boost technology but Pole Kubica - who weighs significantly more than the diminutive German Heidfeld - did not.

BMW has said it is assessing using KERS this season on a driver-by-driver and circuit-by-circuit basis, weighing up the power benefit against the compromise in weight distribution.

KERS is expected to be more beneficial this weekend than in Melbourne a week ago, due to the Sepang circuit's longer straights.

But Kubica, 24, said in Malaysia: "I've not decided yet (about KERS).  I could have it and I could not have it.  If I am not using KERS there is a reason."

He also backed Williams driver Nico Rosberg's concerns that the new trend for twilight races in Asia is "very dangerous".

Alonso leaves Sepang track with ear infection
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso left the Sepang circuit early on Thursday, after being diagnosed with an ear infection.

The Renault driver met in the early afternoon with Dr Riccardo Ceccarelli, who advised him to abandon his duties at the Malaysian circuit and return to his hotel to rest.

Alonso's team, however, insists that the 27-year-old will be fit to contest Friday's practice sessions, according to the sources Diario AS, Reuters and the Associated Press.

Body strips Donington of racing license
(GMM)  Donington Park, the new venue for the British grand prix beginning next year, has failed to be granted a racing license by the Motor Sports Association (MSA).

According to the Evening Telegraph, the MSA rejected the application mainly because improvement works at the circuit had diminished the amount of run-off between the Coppice and Macleans corners.

An MSA spokesman confirmed that there is "no quick resolution" to the "substantial" problem.

Donington spokesman Dave Fern said the track will be ready to host formula one next year.

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