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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Ecclestone backs return of qualifying rule
  • No protests against McLaren inlet system
  • Hamilton admits he triggered manager split
  • Schu not expecting strong race in Bahrain
  • Sauber looking for sponsors for 2011
  • No AirAsia branding for Lotus - Fernandes

Ecclestone backs return of qualifying rule
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone is supportive of the FIA's efforts to reinstate a 107 per cent qualifying rule in formula one.

FIA president Jean Todt this weekend indicated he will push for the rule, with cars failing to get within 107 per cent of the pole time excluded from the race, to be applied in 2010.

But an immediate rule change would require the near-impossible feat of an unanimous team vote.

Introduction in 2011 requires just a 70 per cent majority.

"We will reintroduce the rule," F1 chief executive Ecclestone is quoted as saying by France's Auto Hebdo.  "Not this year, next year."

Interestingly, the Auto Hebdo report indicated that Ecclestone wants the 107 per cent rule tightened to 105 per cent for 2011.

107 per cent of Sebastian Vettel's Bahrain pole is about 8 seconds, meaning that neither HRT driver would have qualified for the season opener.

At 105 per cent, all of F1's three new teams would have struggled to qualify.

But McLaren team boss and FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh told Finland's Turun Sanomat he is not surprised the new teams are so far off the pace.

"If the new teams were very close it would mean the rest of us had done a poor job," he said.

On Sunday, Ecclestone also indicated that a 20-race calendar including India is likely in 2011.

No protests against McLaren inlet system
(GMM)  The lingering threat of protests against McLaren's controversial air inlet innovation has subsided.

Despite the opposition and even anger of some rival teams including Red Bull, Renault and Ferrari, the FIA cleared the McLaren system before the 2010 season opener.

"I haven't heard of any protests," said team boss Martin Whitmarsh, after Renault's Bob Bell earlier declared the innovation as clearly illegal.

"Renault have known about it for some time and I think if they were going to protest they would have protested on Thursday.

"No other team has been able to talk about how or why it could possibly be in contravention of the rules," he is quoted as saying by the News of the World.

It was rumored late on Saturday that Williams might be about to lodge a protest, but technical director Sam Michael says he accepts the McLaren system is legal.

Mercedes' Ross Brawn told the German news agency DPA that the team is now working on its own version, with Michael Schumacher surmising that the concept is "interesting".

Hamilton admits he triggered manager split
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton has admitted he masterminded the end of his managerial relationship with his father Anthony.

Amid rumors he had come under pressure from his pop singer girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger to make the split, the McLaren driver said in Bahrain: "That's complete rubbish.  It was me who initiated it."

Before the split, Hamilton and Scherzinger confirmed they had ended their relationship, but in the days before the Bahrain GP they reunited in Los Angeles, where Hamilton has rented two houses.

At the time, the Daily Mail said: "So Lewis Hamilton, does your dad know you've flown 6000 miles to be with your Pussycat?"

Hamilton, 25, told British newspapers late on Saturday that his father "will miss" coming to the races this year.

"I think he took it well.  He tried to take it as a dad."

Schu not expecting strong race in Bahrain
(GMM)  After months of headlines and hype, Michael Schumacher has admitted he will struggle to finish higher than his seventh grid position on Sunday.

"The race will be difficult," said the seven time world champion, after being outpaced all weekend by his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.

"Overtaking?" the 41-year-old is quoted as saying by La Stampa in Italy.  "Possible, but unlikely.

"The McLarens are too fast on the straights and the pace of the Ferraris and Red Bulls is too strong.

"The podium is not an unrealistic dream but it will be very tough," said the German.

Mercedes has pledged equality between Schumacher and 24-year-old Rosberg, but signs that the great German will wield his power are already evident.

Schumacher already plucked the race number 3 from Rosberg, and Britain's Daily Mail reports that he demanded the team "evict his teammate from the side of the garage he had been allocated" upon arrival in Bahrain.

The newspaper said Schumacher has also been given greater freedom than Rosberg in terms of his ability to sign personal sponsors.

"Michael knows what to ask for and he's in the position to ask for it," said Niki Lauda.  "I would do the same."

Sauber looking for sponsors for 2011
(GMM)  Peter Sauber insists he is not panicking in terms of signing a major sponsor for the 2010 season.

In the wake of BMW's withdrawal and the 66-year-old founder's rescue takeover, the team is racing this weekend in Bahrain with a mainly blank white livery.

According to a report in the Swiss daily Neue Zurcher Zeitung, Sauber has put some of his own money into the team this year, with the budget therefore guaranteed for 2010.

"We are focused on the search for a partner in 2011," he added.

After a strong winter with the Ferrari-powered C29, Sauber answered "sure" when asked if 14th and 16th on the Bahrain grid is disappointing.

It is expected the car will be more competitive on less bumpy tracks.

Also rumored is that the team will make an application some time during the 2010 season to drop the 'BMW' from its official name.

No AirAsia branding for Lotus - Fernandes
(GMM)  Tony Fernandes' 'AirAsia' brand is unlikely to feature on the livery of his new formula one team Lotus in 2010.

Instead, AirAsia logos are still seen prominently on Williams' FW32 car, with its CEO Fernandes instead advertising his investment firm Tune Group on the green T127.

"AirAsia is already well established.  And we already have a contract with Williams," said Fernandes, one of Malaysia's wealthiest men according to Forbes magazine.

"I don't think AirAsia will be on a Lotus car," he added.

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