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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Stefan GP to be on Bahrain grid - Eddie Jordan
  • Russia to sponsor Renault with Lada branding
  • Button must prove he's as good as Hamilton - Ecclestone
  • Button does not believe Schumacher pessimism
  • Force India's accounts uncertainty now over
  • Two F1 champions to miss 2010 season opener

Stefan GP to be on Bahrain grid - Eddie Jordan
(GMM)  Having earlier predicted Michael Schumacher's 2010 return to formula one, Eddie Jordan now thinks the Serbian outfit Stefan GP will be on the Bahrain grid next weekend.

"My understanding is that they will be in Bahrain with Jacques Villeneuve driving," the former F1 team owner and boss, and now expert pundit for British television, told the BBC.

38-year-old French-Canadian Villeneuve, the 1997 world champion who has been out of F1 since he lost his BMW-Sauber seat in 2006, reportedly had a seat fitting at departed team Toyota's Cologne factory on Monday.

The Cologne facility currently houses Stefan GP, who despite not having an official entry for 2010 have prepared Toyota's 2010 package.

Jordan said the team will take the place on the grid currently reserved for USF1, the failing American outfit that has asked to lodge a seven-digit US dollar bond so that its FIA entry is frozen until 2011.

But after the FIA's Charlie Whiting recently visited USF1's Charlotte base, it is rumored that the governing body might revoke the entry.

USF1's woes are bad news for sporting director Peter Windsor, whose role as the pit presenter for Speed TV has been filled, and also James Rossiter, who had been lined up to be Jose Maria Lopez's teammate but will instead race in the IndyCar series.

Irishman Jordan, 61, said USF1 backer Chad Hurley - the chief executive and co-founder of YouTube - might also switch his support to Stefan GP.

In a recent statement, Stefan GP - headed by Serbian businessman Zoran Stefanovic - said it has the "ability" to contest the entire 2010 world championship.

But after the team recently called off its test debut due to a lack of tires, it is rumored that the real reason for the cancellation was because it has not yet fully paid Toyota and completed the build of a second car.

Russia to sponsor Renault with Lada branding
(GMM)  Russia is set to sponsor the Renault formula one team in 2010, prime minister Vladimir Putin has announced.

Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov has been signed to race this year for the Enstone based team, which has been essentially taken over by the private equity firm Genii Capital.

But the team retains its identity and name, and French carmaker Renault's chief executive Carlos Ghosn met this week with Putin.

"We will sponsor this activity (the F1 team) as a first step, and do not rule out later increasing our financial participation in the project," the prime minister is quoted as saying in Moscow by the news agency EFE.

Putin said Renault's signing of the first Russian driver Petrov, 25, is a "great symbol of cooperation" between the French marque and Russia.

He said the branding of the Russian carmaker Lada will appear on Renault's 2010 car and team.

Renault bought a 25 per cent stake in Lada parent Avtovaz for $1 billion in 2008, and it is reported that Ghosn may now increase the French marque's involvement.

Button must prove he's as good as Hamilton - Ecclestone
(GMM)  2010 is Jenson Button's chance to prove he is as good as Britain's other formula one driver, according to Bernie Ecclestone.

After winning last year's world championship with Brawn GP, 30-year-old Button has switched to McLaren where he will share the British team with 2008 title holder Lewis Hamilton.

Asked about Button by March's Red Bulletin magazine, 79-year-old Briton Ecclestone said: "Jenson is Jenson.

"He's a racer of the old school," added the F1 supremo.  "Nice, charming, a great lad.

"A worthy world champion, but is he as gifted as the others who got the crown?  I don't know.  We will find out this year in his duel with Lewis Hamilton," said Ecclestone.

He also mused about the double world champion Fernando Alonso.

"Fernando is very Spanish in his character.  I get on well with him personally, he's a close friend.

"He's a nice, sensitive, reliable guy who has very high moral standards," Ecclestone added.

Button does not believe Schumacher pessimism
(GMM)  Michael Schumacher might be bluffing when he doubts his chances of winning the opening races this season.

That is the suspicion of reigning world champion Jenson Button, when contemplating the returning Schumacher's recent pessimism about the pace of the new Mercedes W01 car.

"He says he is not going to win.  I do not completely believe him," Briton Button, who drives for McLaren, told the German newspaper Bild.

With the 15 days of pre-season testing now over, the media's attention has turned to which team to name the 2010 championship favorite.

"Before the tests we thought that there might be four teams able to fight for the title.  But what we've seen so far (is) there might be even more," said Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton is also reluctant to accept the favorite’s role.

"I don't think we're in the strongest position," said the 2008 world champion, despite setting the fastest time of the recent Barcelona test.

"I think we're in a strong position, just as they (Mercedes) are.

"I think there are more than four teams at the front," the 25-year-old added.

"It's really difficult to say who is the most competitive out of all of them, but at the moment the Ferrari looks the fastest I think," said Hamilton.

During a McLaren media teleconference on Monday, Hamilton and Button said Sauber, Force India and Williams are the teams that could join the top four near the head of the pace in 2010.

Force India's accounts uncertainty now over
(GMM)  The recent uncertainty about the future of the Force India team is now over.

The UK's companies registrar Companies House recently threatened to dissolve the Silverstone based outfit because it had not lodged its mandatory financial accounts for 2008.

Last Wednesday had been imposed as a final deadline for the Vijay Mallya-led team, but according to a Companies House public search, the paperwork is no longer listed as 'overdue'.

Force India's next accounts are due at the end of September.

In the team's new Mercedes-powered car, German driver Adrian Sutil ended the final winter test less than two tenths off the ultimate pace.

"Speed-wise the car is competitive and we have to show it in Bahrain now," he said.

Two F1 champions to miss 2010 season opener
(GMM)  Two living world champions look set to be missing at next weekend's F1 season opener in Bahrain.

Last month, the race's organizers announced that all twenty living title winners would attend as part of the sport's 60th anniversary celebrations.

If Jacques Villeneuve is driving for the hopeful Stefan GP, the 2010 grid will already be boasting five of the champions, including Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and 2009 winner Jenson Button.

The other champions confirmed for Bahrain are Mika Hakkinen, Damon Hill, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Niki Lauda, Keke Rosberg, Alan Jones, Jody Scheckter, Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jackie Stewart and John Surtees.

83-year-old Sir Jack Brabham, the oldest living world champion, will also be at the 2010 season opener, and the late Juan Manuel Fangio's nephew and namesake will be representing the great Argentinean.

The only two champions who have not confirmed their attendance are three-time winner Nelson Piquet, and 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, who has switched full time to the world rally championship.

Also at the circuit will be more than 20 of the cars driven by the sport's legends.

"We expect the majority of the 20 plus cars to be displayed on track and, where possible, be driven by the original world champion," circuit advisor Martin Whitaker is quoted as saying by the Gulf Daily News.

Damon Hill will be on track representing the cars of the 90s, and so his son Josh will drive the Lotus 49 as raced by his grandfather Graham.

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