Latest F1 news in brief
- Break in group testing, but still action at Jerez
- Vettel agrees four teams in hunt for 2010 title
- Ralf denies having shoulder surgery
- Massa laughs at rumors of Alonso discord
- USF1 driver Lopez presses ahead with 2010 preparations
- Teams to stick with rainy Jerez this week
- Heidfeld 'belongs on F1 grid' - Massa
Break in group testing, but still action at Jerez
(GMM) The group test action has subsided for now, but the engines will continue to sound at the Circuito de Jerez.
After a troubled debut test for the new Virgin team last week, the British outfit was still on track at the weekend for promotional and sponsor filming.
There will be more action on Monday and Tuesday, despite the test proper only recommencing at the Spanish venue for another four days beginning on Wednesday.
The first two days at Jerez this week will be Ferrari's, with the Italian team's drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa exclusively on track for filming purposes.
McLaren had booked the track for similar reasons just prior to last week's Jerez test.
Eleven teams will be in action in Spain this week, with Lotus set to join all of last week's Jerez contenders with its newly launched T127.
Of the confirmed 2010 entrants, only the reportedly troubled Campos and USF1 teams will be missing.
Vettel agrees four teams in hunt for 2010 title
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has echoed his countryman and rival Michael Schumacher's view that four teams look to be in the running for the 2010 title.
After last week's group testing at Jerez, it emerged that Ferrari might not dominate the championship, as was suspected following the earlier winter action at Valencia.
"It is very tight at the top," Red Bull's Vettel said, according to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport. "There are four teams (on the pace)," added the 23-year-old, referring also to McLaren and Mercedes GP.
Vettel, just the thirteenth quickest driver last week in the new RB6, said it is currently difficult to make any precise judgments about the pecking order.
"At one time someone has a nose in front, at another time it is someone else, which is pretty exciting anyway," he said.
Vettel would not be drawn on the new Red Bull machine, beyond admitting that it gave him a "good gut feeling".
Williams' rookie Nico Hulkenberg said F1 teams currently have only "a rough idea" where they stand.
"We'll only really know for the first time in Bahrain," he predicted.
According to Motorsport Aktuell, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso said: "Last year Brawn came along when everyone else had already laid their cards on the table and it was immediately clear that they had a winning car.
"This year it's different," explained the Spaniard. "No one is really standing out from the crowd as the ones to beat."
Moreover, the combined time sheet of the four-day Jerez test threw up a curious picture, with Sauber, Toro Rosso, Force India, Williams and Renault all looking competitive at one time or another.
Felipe Massa told Blick: "The fans will have fun this season, if everyone is really so close together."
Asked by Spain's Diario AS if the STR5 could be the surprise of the season, Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari said: "I think it's a highly competitive car, more than we expected and more than last year.
"We are quite close to Red Bull," the 19-year-old added.
Sauber was accused of running artificially low levels of fuel at Valencia, but after Jerez Pedro de la Rosa said: "The car has been born well and is faster than people think.
"I don't think we are very far from the leading group."
Ralf denies having shoulder surgery
(GMM) Ralf Schumacher has denied injuring his shoulder so badly that it required surgery.
Last week, the Cologne publication Express said the 34-year-old German fell heavily whilst skiing in mid January and had to have his right shoulder operated on.
The report said the former 6-time GP winner wanted the injury and his recuperation to remain secret because it might affect his chances of returning to F1 this season.
"I know nothing about it," Schumacher said. "I have merely bruised my shoulder and had no operations."
Mercedes, Schumacher's current employer in the German touring car series DTM, confirmed the denial and added: "We believe our driver."
Massa laughs at rumors of Alonso discord
(GMM) Felipe Massa has clarified that his relationship with his new teammate Fernando Alonso is fully intact.
Last week, Alonso played down an erupting controversy between his Brazilian cohort and the Spanish press, following the publication of comments made by Massa.
Massa, 28, denies that his pairing with Alonso could be fiery this year, given their public row at the Nurburgring some years ago, and the Spaniard's spectacular falling out with McLaren in 2007.
Asked about his reportedly troubled relationship with Alonso, Massa said: "When I read things like that I just laugh, because I know it is invented.
"There is a great atmosphere in the team, and there could not be trouble between us. Ferrari would not allow it," he said in an interview with La Nueva Espana.
Massa said he was "positively surprised" by Alonso when the 2005 and 2006 world champion arrived at Ferrari.
"He very smart and quiet, with his feet on the ground, he knows how to work together and learn fast," the Brazilian explained.
In the same interview, Massa also clarified a paddock myth that his first visit to the paddock was as a food delivery truck driver in 2000, two years prior to his Sauber debut.
"More or less," he smiled when asked whether the story is right. "I was already a (racing) driver, but my pass was only for Friday.
"My agent had a restaurant and was doing catering for the Benetton team, so I drove an old van to the (Interlagos) circuit and stayed after that."
USF1 driver Lopez presses ahead with 2010 preparations
(GMM) Despite persistent rumors about the health of the American team, Jose Maria Lopez is pressing ahead with his preparations to debut with USF1 in 2010.
Little official news has been heard about the new Charlotte based outfit since the Argentine driver was confirmed at the end of January.
But Lopez, 26, has been in Austria at Erwin Gollner's high performance centre doing physical training, according to the Spanish-language newspapers Marca and El Diario de Hoy.
His next reported move is to travel to Charlotte this week.
"I've finished this work in Austria that has really helped me to get physically fit faster than I thought," said Lopez.
"Now I think I'm ready physically to face the season without major problems."
It was also reported that USF1 and the Automovil Club Argentino are still working to obtain a mandatory FIA super license for Lopez.
Teams to stick with rainy Jerez this week
(GMM) Teams looked into relocating this week's Jerez testing to another circuit.
After rain disturbed the running at the southern Spanish venue last week, the weather forecast for this week at Jerez is even worse.
Heavy and constant rain could affect all four days of the test, which prior to March's Bahrain opener will be followed by just four more days of pre-season testing at Barcelona.
The Swiss newspaper Blick reports that investigations about relocating the scheduled Jerez running to Valencia or Portimao bore no fruit.
"The (alternative) circuits are busy," said Sauber team manager Beat Zehnder. "And the weather is too uncertain."
Heidfeld 'belongs on F1 grid' - Massa
(GMM) Felipe Massa has expressed surprise that his former Sauber teammate Nick Heidfeld has been left without a race seat in 2010.
The pair shared the Ferrari-powered team in 2002, but while the 28-year-old Brazilian is now a title contender with Ferrari, 32-year-old Heidfeld has had to settle for Mercedes GP's reserve driver role.
"Why has no one offered Nick Heidfeld a good cockpit?" Massa is quoted as wondering to the Swiss newspaper Blick.
"If I look at the (2010) field, Nick belongs in formula one but not as a spare driver," he added.
In fact, Heidfeld - having spent the past four seasons with BMW-Sauber - was a genuine contender for the Mercedes race seat until Michael Schumacher decided to return to F1 in 2010.
The German told Auto Motor und Sport last week that he "could have signed" with other teams, perhaps Lotus, but opted instead to wait for Mercedes.
It is rumored that the option of staying at Hinwil was then ruled out by Peter Sauber, because Heidfeld openly regarded the post-BMW outfit as a plan-B.
"I never said that Sauber was an alternative solution where I only needed to wave my hand and get a contract," he insists.
"My main focus was on being in a top team. There are several reasons why it didn't work out that are partly obvious and partly not.
"At McLaren I had a really good opportunity, and also at Mercedes, then things happened about which I had no control.
"When I talked to McLaren, I was fully expecting that Button is staying with Brawn," added Heidfeld.