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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Friday role not yet certain for Lotus' Fauzy
  • Lotus works to replace problematic Xtrac hydraulics
  • Rosberg wants to stay 'at eye-level' with Schu
  • Webber not expecting Schu to beat Rosberg
  • Button predicts 'same as Bahrain' in Wednesday drizzle
  • Brain surgery for Aus GP boss Ron Walker
  • Chandhok says Indian GP not funding HRT seat
  • Hamilton senses Webber close to retirement
  • Petrov the 'key' to Russia for Renault - manager

Friday role not yet certain for Lotus' Fauzy
(GMM)  It is still yet to be confirmed that Fairuz Fauzy will be at the wheel of a Lotus on Friday morning practice for next week's Malaysian grand prix, or in Melbourne later this week.

Team boss Tony Fernandes said before the 2010 season opener two weeks ago that the Malaysian test driver will be in action in Bahrain practice.

But the 27-year-old did not appear in the green Cosworth-powered car, perhaps so that racers Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli could concentrate on learning the new track layout.

Fernandes said earlier this month that Fauzy will also drive in Melbourne and then a week later at Sepang.

A Lotus spokesman did not return an email requesting confirmation of the Malaysian-backed team's immediate plans for Fauzy.

But a report in Finland's Turun Sanomat, a publication with sources close to Lotus driver Kovalainen, said it is "probable" that Fauzy will be in action in Malaysia next Friday morning.

"I don't know anything and I have not asked about it," said Kovalainen, explaining that the decision would not overly disrupt either his of teammate Trulli's race weekend preparations.

"If it is important to the team to give him some kilometers, it should definitely be done," he continued.  "This is a Malaysian team and Fauzy is a Malaysian driver."

Lotus works to replace problematic Xtrac hydraulics
(GMM)  The source of many reliability problems encountered by F1's new teams so far in 2010 has been traced to their common supplier XTrac.

Not since 1996 has the UK-based company, who like Cosworth has re-entered formula one in 2010 with the backing of the governing FIA, supplied complete transmissions to F1 teams.

HRT and Lotus are running the complete XTrac transmission in 2010, while Virgin specified its own gearbox casing.  The hydraulic systems of all three new teams are provided by Newbury based XTrac.

Heikki Kovalainen told Finland's Turun Sanomat that Lotus is working on implementing its own hydraulic system "some time in July".

"I think it's absolutely the right way to go if we are to have full control over our car's hydraulics," said the Lotus driver.

Kovalainen, 28, added that the standard system is "too unreliable" and "not quite up to date".

HRT boss Colin Kolles said this week that the Spanish team has been working "long hours" with XTrac since Bahrain, amid reports some upgrades to the hydraulic system will be implemented in Melbourne.

Virgin reiterated on Wednesday that it was "hydraulic and transmission problems" that "blighted" its debut weekend in Bahrain two weeks ago.

Said technical boss Nick Wirth: "We have some new parts which we hope will provide a robust solution to the new hydraulic problem and transmission issue we experienced in Bahrain."

Rosberg wants to stay 'at eye-level' with Schu
(GMM)  While Michael Schumacher has struggled to settle at the wheel of the W01, Nico Rosberg is enjoying a smoother ride in the sister Mercedes car.

He was comfortably the team's pacesetter throughout the 2010 opener in Bahrain two weeks ago, as Schumacher grappled with understeer and the sport's new formula including thin front tires.

"I feel very comfortable in the car at the moment," said 24-year-old Rosberg ahead of the second round of the world championship in Australia.

"We do still have some small problems that need resolving."

Asked precisely where he is a better driver than seven time world champion Schumacher, the German told Bild newspaper: "Better than one of the best of all time?

"I cannot answer that," said Rosberg.  "But no one is perfect, so there are certainly areas where I am strong."

Asked if he will again outpace Schumacher this weekend, the former Williams driver remained diplomatic.

"What I want this season is to be at eye-level with Michael.  And I think that I can show a strong performance in Australia."

And despite beating Schumacher throughout practice, qualifying and the race in Bahrain, Rosberg said he does not draw confidence from the fact his teammate has won at Albert Park no fewer than four times.

"If I was to only draw my confidence from Michael's statistics, then it would not be very good for me," he smiled.

He also backed Jenson Button's claim that the 5pm start time for Sunday's Melbourne race is potentially dangerous.

"If the sun is very low in the sky, it will be a big problem," he said, "especially with the high sides on the front of the cockpits this year."

Webber not expecting Schu to beat Rosberg
(GMM)  The balance of power between Michael Schumacher and his younger teammate Nico Rosberg will not change dramatically for the duration of 2010.

That is the opinion of Red Bull's Mark Webber, who at times during his own formula one career has been highly complimentary as well as deeply critical of the seven time world champion.

Before Schumacher, 41, made his return to the F1 grid two weeks ago in Bahrain after three years of retirement, Webber said: "I have never ever seen a phenomenal comeback".

"I think it will be a bloody hard season for him," the 33-year-old Australian predicted.

Indeed, Schumacher was outpaced throughout the Bahrain weekend by Rosberg, who is 17 years younger than his famous German countryman.

Ahead of this weekend's Melbourne race, Webber believes the days of Schumacher winning races by huge margins are over.

"I wouldn't expect him to beat Nico -- I expect it to be close," he added.  "Rosberg is competitive and I would say Schumacher is too."

But Jacques Villeneuve, who narrowly beat Schumacher to the title in 1997, does expect Schumacher to return to the boil.

"He can be world champion again," the French Canadian is quoted as saying by the German news agency SID.

"In his first race after three years out he was only a few tenths behind, which was a very good performance.

"Give him a few races and he will be back to where he was with Ferrari," added Villeneuve.

Button predicts 'same as Bahrain' in Wednesday drizzle
(GMM)  There were a few spots of drizzle in the air at Albert Park on Wednesday morning, but a wet Australian grand prix remains only a remote possibility.

Local reports predict a chance of rain on both Friday and Saturday, and cloudy skies throughout Melbourne's fifteenth formula one race weekend.

But the worst of the weather should hold off until Monday, and after Wednesday's grey morning, the warm sun was shining down on the paddock by afternoon.

Some pundits are actually hoping Melbourne's notoriously fickle weather intervenes this weekend, in the wake of the processional Bahrain race two weeks ago and expectations that more one-stop strategies will be the order of the day at Albert Park.

"If you look at it, you'd say it is going to be the same as Bahrain," said reigning world champion Jenson Button in Melbourne.

Bahrain winner Fernando Alonso was one of the first to predict a boring season after the 2010 season opener, but on Tuesday he admitted that those sorts of comments had been "hot headed".

"It's too early to talk about changing the rules," said the Ferrari driver.  "We have to wait and see different races and check the situation, without being emotional.

"Something that confuses the fans is changing the rules all the time," added Alonso.

The media should also be taking blame for the 'Bore-rain' hype, like Britain's Sun newspaper who said the sport now has "two races to save the season".

The newspaper was reporting the latest comments made in Australia by Button, who was denying that a rule change in one area will be enough to solve F1's new problem.

"You can't just think of one area.  You need to think about a couple," said the McLaren driver, who in Bahrain struggled to match the pace of his new teammate Lewis Hamilton.

But as an insider in the Spanish media observed: "Losers always want different rules."

Brain surgery for Aus GP boss Ron Walker
(GMM)  The boss of the Australian grand prix will be at Albert Park this weekend, despite recently undergoing emergency brain surgery.

Ron Walker, chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, knocked his head in a cycling crash last month but only visited a neurosurgeon after struggling to get dressed for a function last Saturday.

The 70-year-old, who also broke a couple of ribs in the fall, told local 3AW radio that the doctor diagnosed fluid on his brain.

"They bored a hole in my skull and took the fluid out and I had to lay flat for a number of days," said Walker.

He confirmed that he will attend this weekend's Australian grand prix, which is the fifteenth since the race moved from Adelaide in the mid-90s.

"I'm not going to walk 25 kilometers a day like I normally do," he said, adding that he will take it "a little easier".

Chandhok says Indian GP not funding HRT seat
(GMM)  Karun Chandhok has denied claims the group behind next year's inaugural Indian grand prix is also funding his 2010 seat with the HRT team.

When F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone recently hailed this year's debut of the Indian driver, he also pointed out that "we will have an Indian GP thanks to the Jaypee Group in 2011".

Jaypee, an Indian industrial conglomerate, is constructing a Hermann Tilke-designed F1 circuit about 40km from the capital New Delhi.

But while Indian Chandhok, 26, secured his drive with the new Spanish team HRT with the help of $5m in sponsorship backing, he denied that the Jaypee Group is directly involved.

"The Jaypee Group had no influence in me securing a drive," Chandhok, whose father is the Indian motor racing and FIA official Vicky, told Forbes India.

"My father and I know the people and are advising on various aspects of the (Indian GP) 2011 project but as regards to my drive there's no link at the moment," he insisted.

Chandhok also admitted his racing career was close to collapse at the end of 2006, before Ecclestone stepped in.

"A week before the testing season, Bernie Ecclestone told me that me he had managed to come to a deal with (GP2 team) Durango which totally rescued my career.

"That was a defining moment in my career, one I will always be indebted to them for," he added.

Hamilton senses Webber close to retirement
(GMM)  Mark Webber could be planning to hang up his formula one helmet at the end of 2010, Lewis Hamilton said in Sydney on Wednesday.

After taking the helm of a racing yacht for a sponsor event on famous Sydney Harbor, the 2008 world champion suggested to reporters that Australian driver Webber's ninth home race this weekend might be his last.

"I don't know how long he plans to stay in formula one but I get the sense that it's one of the years he wants to finish on top and perhaps call it a day," Hamilton, who drives for McLaren, is quoted as saying by the AAP news agency.

Webber, 33, drives for Red Bull, whose 2010 car was described by Hamilton earlier this week as "ridiculously" fast.

Expanding on Webber's possible retirement, Hamilton added: "He has the best chance to end on that high this year and I wouldn't be surprised if he is considering it."

It has been rumored that Red Bull, already with the 2007 world champion under contract in world rallying, could install Kimi Raikkonen as Sebastian Vettel's teammate in 2011.

Webber's contract runs out at the end of the season.

Petrov the 'key' to Russia for Renault - manager
(GMM)  It is not right to describe Vitaly Petrov as simply a F1 "pay-driver", according to his manager Oksana Kossatschenko.

Although confirming that the Russian rookie is bringing EUR15 million to the Renault seat this year, she insists that 25-year-old Petrov's relationship with the team is deeper than that.

"Vitaly has not come into F1 because of the money, but because of the strategic interests of various companies, and because of his driving talent," Kossatschenko told the Austrian financial newspaper WirtschaftsBlatt.

"He was at the right place in the right moment, when Renault was expanding its partnership and Russian production with (car brand Lada maker) Avtovaz," she said.

Kossatschenko also confirmed that a "friend of his (Petrov's) father" is supporting the driver "financially".

"In Vitaly's career there have been tempting offers that we have turned down when we realized that the teams didn't want the driver, only his money.

"Formula one is a business," she continued.  "The team has a budget of just over EUR200 million, but the (Renault) group owns only 25 per cent of the shares and so cannot cover the budget.

"The team wants to expand into Russia and Petrov is the key for them.  For formula one, Russia is a white sheet of paper."

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