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DATE News (chronologically)
12/17/09
f1
Latest F1 news in brief
  • Lotus versus Virgin rivalry heats up
  • Massa admits sore neck after Mugello tests
  • Ecclestone reveals Schumacher return likely
  • F1 teams to select appeal judges in 2010
  • Renault halves F1 budget with Genii deal
  • Sauber sponsor switches to Virgin
  • Kovalainen to drive Proton in Finnish rally
  • Tung's manager quiet amid Renault seat reports
  • Canada GP tickets go on sale
  • Kubica waits for answers after Renault team sale
  • Sauber confirms Kobayashi for 2010

Lotus versus Virgin rivalry heats up
(GMM)  Lotus team boss Tony Fernandes has doubted Virgin Racing's claim that it can be competitive in formula one without using a wind tunnel.

Virgin's designer Nick Wirth, who owned Simtek and was also involved with Benetton in the late 90s, has penned the 2010 single seater by using only computers and simulation technology.

"(Virgin are) very convinced that is the way forward, that you can do it all with CFD," Fernandes told Reuters.  "I am from the aviation business, mate.  You can't.  You've got to have a wind tunnel."

The rivalry between Lotus and Virgin, whose bosses Fernandes (AirAsia) and Sir Richard Branson both run airlines, took a cheeky turn this week when Branson dared Fernandes to become a female Virgin stewardess if his team is beaten in 2010.

Fernandes responded by saying "bring it on", while a photoshopped image of Branson wearing AirAsia stewardess gear was posted on the Lotus team website.

"Knowing Richard, the real challenge will be to prevent him from asking our guests 'coffee, tea or me?'  That would be scary," said Fernandes.

Massa admits sore neck after Mugello tests
(GMM)  Felipe Massa admitted to having a sore neck after two days of testing this week at Mugello.

The Brazilian, who missed most of the second half of the 2009 season following his Budapest accident, drove a total of 90 laps in a two-year-old F2007 fitted with demonstration tires.

"Even though I trained a lot over the last months, certain muscles important for driving were a bit sleepy," he said in an AFP news report before returning home to Sao Paulo.

"I had a bit of pain in my neck, especially on the fast corners which make this one of the toughest tracks.  As for the rest I felt good and felt no difference from before the accident," Massa, 28, added.

Ecclestone reveals Schumacher return likely
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has said he will be "surprised" if Michael Schumacher does not return to formula one next year with Mercedes.

The F1 chief executive was asked by London newspaper The Times if he thought Robert Kubica might want to exit his Renault contract in the wake of the Genii takeover to become Nico Rosberg's 2010 teammate.

Referring to Brackley based Mercedes GP, the 79-year-old billionaire said: "Well, they've got Michael haven't they?  They won't want Michael and Kubica."

Briton Ecclestone said he is "absolutely over the moon" about the likely news that the seven time world champion is coming out of retirement, but admitted the comeback is not yet a "fact".

"I'd be surprised if he's not driving for them but I don't know if that's fact," he said.  "It looks like it's going to happen."

F1 teams to select appeal judges in 2010
(GMM)  Formula one teams will have a say in the selection of judges used for appeal hearings, the governing FIA has announced.

After a meeting in Monaco last week, it was decided that for cases involving formula one, the International Court of Appeal (ICA) will feature its existing panel plus judges "co-opted" by the teams, the Paris federation confirmed in a statement.

"The ICA has taken this step to add to the existing reserve of knowledge and expertise, to allow for broader participation in the workings of the ICA, and to further enhance transparency and public confidence in the workings of the ICA," said the FIA, which is now led by president Jean Todt after Max Mosley's 16-year reign.

The governing body added that all ICA judges will remain "absolutely independent and impartial".

Renault halves F1 budget with Genii deal
(GMM)  The sale of a "large stake" of Renault's formula one team will halve the French carmaker's annual spend on the sport.

The team's managing director Jean-Francois Caubet is quoted by French language reports as saying: "Between the net cost for Renault in 2009 and 2010, it (the cost) has been halved."

After BMW and Toyota elected to pull out of formula one entirely, he said the Genii Capital deal means Renault is able to stay on the grid for now.

Caubet said the French carmaker recently informed the team that a full budget for 2010 was not going to be provided due to "the economic difficulties".

"So we started to work on alternatives to preserve the presence of the brand (in F1)," he explained.

Renault did not confirm the size of the stake that has been retained, but Italian reporters told Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo that the French marque now owns only 25 per cent of the Enstone based squad.

"Better that than nothing," he is quoted as responding by Tuttosport.

Sauber sponsor switches to Virgin
(GMM)  Sauber has secured a spot on the 2010 grid in the wake of former owner BMW's withdrawal, but the Hinwil based team has lost a prominent sponsor.

The foreign exchange broker FxPro joined BMW-Sauber at the beginning of this year, with branding on the front wing, side mirrors, drivers' helmets and overalls of the 2009 car.

But the sponsor has switched to the new Virgin Racing team, with a deal that will again feature branding on the cars and clothing.

"I'm absolutely delighted that FxPro is sponsoring Virgin Racing in formula one," said chairman Denis Sukhotin.

Kovalainen to drive Proton in Finnish rally
(GMM)  Heikki Kovalainen looks set to contest next month's Arctic Lapland Rally in his native Finland.

It was reported at the end of the 2009 season that the 28-year-old was keen to resume his hobby of rallying, which was forbidden under the terms of his McLaren contract.

Kovalainen has contested the Arctic Rally four times in the past, and his new deal with Lotus looks set to pave the way for a reprise at the end of January.

While in Malaysia for the announcement of his 2010 F1 contract, the Finn sat in a Proton Satria Neo S2000 rally car that had been used the day before with Alister McRae at the wheel.

Proton is the majority owner of the Lotus Cars company, and the Turun Sanomat newspaper reports that the Satria Neo is Kovalainen's likely car for the Arctic Rally.

Another high profile competitor in the Arctic Rally will be Kimi Raikkonen, who is set to make his debut in the Citroen C4 he will drive in the 2010 WRC.

Tung's manager quiet amid Renault seat reports
(GMM)  Ho-Pin Tung's manager has refused to comment on reports that the takeover of the Renault team has put the Dutch-born Chinese in pole position for a 2010 race seat.

27-year-old Tung tested the R29 recently at Jerez because he is managed by the Gravity Sports company.  Closely involved with Gravity is Gerard Lopez, the new majority owner of the Enstone based formula one team.

Tung's manager Bert Winkler said earlier this month that if Lopez buys Renault, "a future for Ho-Pin in formula one would be possible".

But to the Dutch formule1.nl, he is now declining to comment, following the announcement on Wednesday that Lopez's bid was successful.

The website said that at the time of the Jerez test, Winkler rated the chances of a seat for Tung at 50 per cent.

Canada GP tickets go on sale
(GMM)  Tickets for Canada's return to the formula one calendar in 2010 went on sale this week, new promoters Octane Racing Group announced.

Kubica waits for answers after Renault team sale
(GMM)  Robert Kubica's manager is waiting for more information about the new owner before confirming if the Pole will drive for Renault in 2010.

24-year-old Kubica has already signed to switch from BMW-Sauber, but the contract presumably contains a clause allowing him to leave Renault if the ownership changes.

"We would like to know about Genii Capital and who is doing what in the team -- a partner can be a sleeping partner or a controlling partner," manager Daniele Morelli told the BBC.

Not yet disclosed is the minor percentage of Renault still controlled by the French carmaker, or whether Bob Bell will continue to be the team principal.

The Financial Times suggested that the Genii deal means Renault does not face "a heavy bill" for selling the team after signing the new Concorde Agreement.

Kubica's manager Morelli added that one side-effect of the change could be that development of the 2010 car has been delayed.

He said: "We need some time - at least a few days - to evaluate the new situation so I am not in a position to say we will leave or stay."

Sauber confirms Kobayashi for 2010
(GMM)  Kamui Kobayashi has as expected signed to race with the Sauber team in 2010.

The Hinwil based team said Japanese Kobayashi, 23, "drew attention to himself" at the end of 2009 with "two strong drives" for Toyota.

Recent reports have linked him with the sponsorship backing of the former long-time Toyota sponsor Panasonic.

"I am convinced he has a great deal of potential and will be able to make the most of it in our team," said Peter Sauber.

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