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DATE News (chronologically)
Latest F1 news in brief
  • F1 world impressed as Webber flexes Red Bull muscles
  • Ferrari tests 'shark fin' engine cover in Spain
  • Sauber not far behind top four teams - de la Rosa
  • Di Grassi not frustrated as Virgin struggles into F1
  • Mercedes tests Ferrari-like traffic light system
  • Petrov given until mid-season to score points
  • Alguersuari says Mercedes not title contender
  • New safety car to be gull-wing SLS AMG
  • Staying at Force India was 'sensible' - Sutil
  • Coulthard has not signed DTM contract - Haug

F1 world impressed as Webber flexes Red Bull muscles
(GMM)  Red Bull's dominance on the opening day of the final winter test in Barcelona on Thursday impressed the formula one world.

"That is a very good time, even with low fuel on board," said Sauber's technical director Willy Rampf.

He was referring to Mark Webber's 1.21.487, achieved during a qualifying simulation.  In front of an estimated crowd of 15,000, the next best time was almost a full second slower.

"Clearly we have the pace," the Australian driver told local media, "but your Spanish friend (Fernando Alonso) won't be far behind."

Sauber's Pedro de la Rosa told English speaking media that Webber's pace had been "impressive", and when speaking in his native tongue praised the "excellent" lap time.

33-year-old Webber added that he thinks the RB6 is "in better shape than the other teams", and Bernie Ecclestone told Kicker magazine that Webber's teammate Sebastian Vettel is "my tip for the title".

"This team is one of the best - if not the best - in the pitlane in terms of what we've done last year and what we're doing this year," Webber is quoted as saying by The Sun.

Webber later wrote in his new Twitter feed that the pecking order in Bahrain is "going to be tight".

The Adrian Newey-designed car has also broken down a few times at recent tests, including on Thursday, and Webber told reporters there is "no question" the team can improve its reliability.

Mercedes' Norbert Haug insists that reading into the testing timesheets at present is "just impossible.  It's guesswork."

"This time is not the benchmark.  It's early days, and I would not say that any team has made any serious qualifying efforts so far," said the German marque's motor sport chief.

Numerous teams, including Sauber, intend to do some qualifying runs at the Spanish circuit on Friday.

De la Rosa told the Spanish press that Hinwil based Sauber will indeed "show its cards" with low-fuel pace.

Ferrari tests 'shark fin' engine cover in Spain
(GMM)  Ferrari tried a McLaren-esque 'shark fin' engine cover on the back of Fernando Alonso's F10 car on Thursday.

Astute observers also noticed a different nose and revised wheels on the red single seater at the Circuit de Catalunya, while insiders believe a brand new triple diffuser will be fitted when the Spaniard returns to the track on Friday.

"We had several new things in the car and we collected some data to see how they work," the 28-year-old Spaniard confirmed.  "Now we've got to understand how to exploit them."

He lost some time in the morning with an electrical problem, and finished the day just seventh fastest.

Sauber not far behind top four teams - de la Rosa
(GMM)  Sauber's 2010 car is not far away from the leading group of four top teams, according to Spanish driver Pedro de la Rosa.

The former McLaren test driver, who turned 39 a few days ago, told the Spanish press: "The (C29) car is good.

"I think we're leading the group that is behind the four prominent teams that we all know," added de la Rosa, referring to Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes.

"Our goal now is to shorten the distance to them, which is not too much," he said.

Di Grassi not frustrated as Virgin struggles into F1
(GMM)  Lucas di Grassi's crash on Thursday raised fears that Virgin had experienced another wing failure.

After the new British team suffered a front wing failure recently at Jerez, it was feared Brazilian rookie di Grassi's crash at Barcelona was caused by a broken rear wing.

The Speedweek publication said technical director Nick Wirth studied video footage of the incident to ensure that a wing had not fallen off prior to the incident at turn 9.

But investigations showed that the VR-01, already delayed recently with a chronic hydraulic problem, had crashed because of "experimental control settings".

It meant di Grassi did not return to the track on Thursday, but the 25-year-old insists he is not frustrated by Virgin's teething problems.

"It's not what I want, but it's what I expected," he is quoted as saying by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"Frustration now would be out of place.  On the contrary, I have to motivate the guys in the team.

"If I was with an established team, I would have set myself a goal," di Grassi explained.  "In my situation I have to grow with the team; to develop myself and the car at the same time."

Virgin hopes the VR-01, faster only than the Lotus on Thursday, is repaired so that Timo Glock can begin testing as scheduled on Friday morning.

Mercedes tests Ferrari-like traffic light system
(GMM)  The race to perfect ultra-fast pitstops in 2010 continues to heat up.

With refuelling banned in 2010, the limiting factor in pistops this year will be the teams' ability to jack up the car and change the tires.

"Our record is 2.83 seconds," said Williams' test boss Dickie Stanford, according to Auto Motor und Sport.

Ferrari has introduced a new quick release-and-replace wheel nut, and Mercedes' efforts to speed up pitstops is also evident.

The former Brawn team has been testing Ferrari-style traffic lights, and also mechanical quick-release jacks, in order to steer around the new ban on powered systems.

With Vitaly Petrov at the wheel, the Renault crew practiced dozens of real-world pitstops at Barcelona on Thursday, most in the realm of three seconds.

Petrov given until mid-season to score points
(GMM)  Vitaly Petrov has been given until the middle of the 2010 season to start scoring points, according to the Russian rookie.

He told Holland's formule1.nl in an interview that he is not feeling overly pressured by the Enstone based team, who are set to receive a reported EUR15 million in Petrov's funding.

"The team has told me that as of halfway through the season they will count on me to start scoring points," 25-year-old Petrov, the 2009 GP2 runner-up, said.

He said he has enjoyed his recent days at the wheel of the new yellow and black R30.

"I really needed that (track) time," said Petrov, whose teammate this year is the highly rated Robert Kubica.  "All the others have driven much more than me."

Alguersuari says Mercedes not title contender
(GMM)  Jaime Alguersuari does not think Mercedes is among the contenders for the 2010 world championship.

The German team, formerly the 2009 title-winning Brawn GP outfit, has signed seven time world champion Michael Schumacher and is regularly listed among the season favorites Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren.

But Toro Rosso driver Alguersuari said in the Spanish press: "Mercedes are in the second group, along with us, Williams and Sauber."

Force India's Tonio Liuzzi does not agree.

"For sure McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari are the favorite, and I think they will fight for the championship," the Italian said in an interview with 422race.com.

Schumacher's 2010 teammate Nico Rosberg was third quickest in the W01 car at Barcelona on Thursday, about a second off the impressive pace of Mark Webber's Red Bull.

But he said Mercedes is not currently looking to set headline lap times.

"It's such a big step we're bringing to Bahrain it could change things again.  So it's not ideal to make any suggestions at the moment," said the German, also referring to a new rear diffuser that will make its debut at the first race.

But teenager Alguersuari, who drives for the energy drinks company's sister team, thinks Red Bull Racing is leading the pack.

"If I had to choose one (title favorite) I would say Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel."

New safety car to be gull-wing SLS AMG
(GMM)  The silver F1 safety car this year will be the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.

The unique 571 horse power gull-wing supercar, with its doors hinged on the roof that fold upwards, sped to formula one fame recently when Michael Schumacher drove a red model on the ceiling of a tunnel in a new TV commercial.

German Bernd Maylander, 38, will again be the full time safety car driver in 2010, according to Bild newspaper.

Staying at Force India was 'sensible' - Sutil
(GMM)  Adrian Sutil insists it was more "sensible" to stay with Force India in 2010 rather than gamble on securing a seat with a top team.

The Silverstone based team activated the option on the 27-year-old German's contract late last year, and Sutil later also signed the double-sided clause.

Formerly at the rear of the field, Force India was a standout performer of the 2009 season, but Germany's sport1.de asked Sutil why he opted to stay for another year following speculation he might finally switch to a grandee team.

"It was the most sensible (choice)," he answered.

"There were teams we had contact with, but ultimately no one knew what their futures would be.

"With the other teams, the so-called top teams, it was clear that there would not be quick decisions.  It would have been a risk to wait.

"I saw the improvement (at Force India) last year so I decided to sign the contract and have a safe place," said Sutil.

The interviewer asked Sutil, who made his F1 debut with Force India's predecessor Spyker in 2007, if continuing with the team in 2010 was a case of 'a bird in the hand (is worth two in the bush)'.

"You can see it with other drivers," he answered.  "Many of them had an anxious time, and Nick Heidfeld didn't get a (race) contract at all -- also because he waited too long," said Sutil.

Coulthard has not signed DTM contract - Haug
(GMM)  David Coulthard has not yet signed to race in the German touring car series DTM in 2010, according to Mercedes' Norbert Haug.

The Scot tested one of the German marque's cars recently, sparking rumors that he will soon test again prior to replacing Mathias Lauda, the son of the triple world champion Niki Lauda.

"There is no contract signed, it is only speculation," Mercedes' Haug is quoted as saying by the Belgian website autosportnieuws.be.

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