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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Mercedes figures admit W01 down on pace
  • Button frustrated, Alonso cautious after test
  • New Renault not far off Ferrari's pace - Kubica
  • De la Rosa rules out wins, podiums for Sauber
  • Schumacher to remain team 'number 1' - Horner
  • Thyroid surgery for Mercedes' Haug
  • McLaren engineer Slade resurfaces at Renault

Mercedes figures admit W01 down on pace
(GMM)  Key figures of the Mercedes GP team have admitted they have work to do to bring the new W01 car up to speed.

"I think we are behind somewhat," Michael Schumacher told Germany's Bild newspaper, after achieving the third best time on the final day of the opening test of the pre-season.

But a list of combined best lap times from the Ricardo Tormo circuit showed that the German, albeit quicker than his teammate Nico Rosberg, was just the seventh fastest driver in Spain.

"I do not assume that we are equal to the fastest ones or ready to win the first race, but that is not important.  What is important is to be able to achieve good points from the beginning and then to develop well," added the 41-year-old German.

Mercedes' Norbert Haug said: "Our speed could be better, but everything is in the right direction.

"There are still more than four weeks until the first race and our car is going to change greatly," said the German.

Team boss Ross Brawn, pointing to handling imbalances, admitted to the BBC that the W01 is "a little bit off on pace".

The W01 also had several cracked exhausts replaced at Valencia, and on Wednesday Schumacher's test ended with an hydraulic leak.

"We are not as quick as Ferrari and Lewis (Hamilton) looked quick so it looks like we've got a bit of work to do," Brawn added.

Schumacher acknowledged that the new Ferrari seems "very strong".

Button frustrated, Alonso cautious after test
(GMM)  World champion Jenson Button on Wednesday had a "frustrating" opening day at the wheel of his 2010 mount.

The Briton's first try of the new McLaren, because he is 7cm taller than his teammate Lewis Hamilton, was delayed due to difficulties with his seating position, and when he did hit the Ricardo Tormo circuit he was still sitting too high.

He then finished as just the tenth quickest driver of the three-day schedule, and markedly off teammate Hamilton's pace in the same MP4-25.

"This test was always to get used to the environment inside the cockpit, get used to the team and to run through all of the checks you do at the first test," said the 30-year-old.

He declined to say that McLaren's new car is a "great" one.

"There is a lot more to get my head round here, to work on, before I would (say that)," said Button.

Button also played down Ferrari's dominance of the Valencia test.

"Ferrari are fast but we don't know how fast.  You never know what fuel they are running when they do those times," he said.

Fernando Alonso, having set the fastest time of the test in front of a record crowd of more than 36,000, also played down the obvious speed of the F10.

"I'm happy to be in the car, but I remain cautious," he said.

"I think maybe if we topped the times (on all) the three days (it) is related to fuel load or whatever," Alonso added.  "But I found the car easy to drive and I feel good."

The Spanish media then quoted him as saying ominously that he did not extract "100 per cent" of the car's performance at Valencia.

New Renault not far off Ferrari's pace - Kubica
(GMM)  Robert Kubica insists that Renault's new car is not just a newly liveried version of its uncompetitive predecessor.

The Pole this week kicked off his switch from BMW-Sauber in the wake of Renault's dismal 2009 campaign, the crashgate scandal, and the resultant loss of sponsors and the Genii Capital takeover.

Newly painted in yellow and black, the R30 was then derided for too closely resembling last year's car, even though 25-year-old Kubica's best lap was just a second off the dominant Ferraris.

"It just looks like the old car, but it's new," he is quoted as saying by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"Perhaps it is because we have a shorter car than our competitors.  With full tanks, we are on the pace and I don't think much slower than Ferrari."

Kubica admitted that the new McLaren is the one that impressed him most this week.

"Clearly the McLaren," he answered.  "In the area of the rear they have some very interesting aerodynamic solutions."

De la Rosa rules out wins, podiums for Sauber
(GMM)  Although outpaced only by the dominant Ferrari this week, Sauber's new C29 car is not a podium contender.

That is the admission of the Swiss team's veteran Spanish driver Pedro de la Rosa, following suspicions that Sauber have been running low fuel at Valencia in a bid to attract sponsors.

When asked by the Spanish press if he will be on the podium in 2010, the 38-year-old answered: "We will try, but it is not really possible.

"We have a good car but the team is very small."

De la Rosa emphasized that Sauber, in the wake of BMW's departure in every way except official title, is not in the championship fight with Ferrari.

"They have impressed everyone," he said of the Maranello-made F10's debut.

"We have to be realistic.  Our aspirations are to calmly get the most points we can, not to win races," added de la Rosa.

"It matters little that Ferrari are faster because our struggle is not with them, even though we are well positioned."

Schumacher to remain team 'number 1' - Horner
(GMM)  Christian Horner has added his voice to claims Michael Schumacher will be the 'number one' driver at Mercedes in 2010.

In the pages of the Germany weekly Sport Bild, the Red Bull team boss was responding to reports that Nico Rosberg could find himself playing a subordinate role to the famous seven time world champion.

"Michael was always number one, so in that context it's interesting to observe the little things that indicate a continuation of the tradition," Briton Horner said.

"For example, the sudden change of their starting numbers," he added, referring to Rosberg's loss of the lower number 3 due to Schumacher's superstition.

Horner believes Rosberg, who expected to share a garage with Jenson Button in 2010, became Schumacher's teammate unwittingly.

"If you ask me, when Nico signed his contract with Mercedes, the very last person he would have expected to be his teammate was Michael Schumacher," he said.

Mercedes' Norbert Haug played down the circulating claims about Schumacher's preferential team status.

"This is the usual theatre of formula one," the German told Bild newspaper.  "We all laugh about it, and Nico in particular."

Thyroid surgery for Mercedes' Haug
(GMM)  Norbert Haug missed the recent launch of McLaren's 2010 car because he had surgery, it has emerged.

In the wake of their split, it is believed that McLaren and Mercedes agreed to maintain their long friendship by attending the official launch of one another's new cars.

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh duly attended the livery launch of the Mercedes GP car in Stuttgart, but Haug was notably absent when the wraps came off the MP4-25.

Mercedes said Haug, Mercedes' competition boss, had "voice problems", but that brief official explanation was met with some skepticism.

Germany's Bild newspaper now reports that, in fact, Haug recently underwent thyroid surgery.

His voice is indeed very weak at present, and the 57-year-old confirmed that "it will take some time" for his throat to fully recover.

Incidentally, in Haug's absence, Mercedes spokesman Wolfgang Schattling attended the launch of the new McLaren.

McLaren engineer Slade resurfaces at Renault
(GMM)  Long time McLaren race engineer Mark Slade has resurfaced at the Renault team for 2010.

Slade, who headed former McLaren driver Heikki Kovalainen's engineering team last year, had been in the same role at the Woking based outfit for 15 years.

He had also headed engineering for the respectively title and race-winning drivers Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen, but earlier this month was excluded amid a McLaren reshuffle.

Finland's Turun Sanomat said Slade began working with Renault's new Russian driver Vitaly Petrov at Valencia this week.

"McLaren did not want me at the races any more and so I have moved to Renault," he is quoted as saying.

McLaren's managing director Jonathan Neale recently said McLaren decided to reshuffle its engineering team for 2010 because "we felt it was the right time".

He also played down suggestions McLaren's 2009 struggles indicated an engineering weakness.

"I think it's more that the opportunity of a new driver (Jenson Button), plus the rethinking required by the resource restriction agreement, comes at a very good time for us.

"It enabled us to ask ourselves: How are we going to best do this?" Neale added.

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