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Latest F1 news in brief
  1. More pundits back Schumacher amid criticism
  2. Now MotoGP sponsor wants F1 switch for Rossi
  3. No threat to Spain GP as volcanic ash eases
  4. De la Rosa's Sauber seat 'not in doubt' - Gracia
  5. No quick fix to lack of Williams pace - Barrichello

More pundits back Schumacher amid criticism
(GMM)  Two more of Michael Schumacher's supporters have backed the seven time world champion amid his currently lackluster 2010 return to formula one.

On Wednesday, Bernie Ecclestone and Norbert Haug hit out at the negative reports about Schumacher's form in the W01 Mercedes, and now his younger brother Ralf Schumacher is asking the critics to "lay off a bit" and "stay fair".

"He himself knew that, after a three-year break, he could not go in and win again straightaway like before," 34-year-old Schumacher told the German daily Bild.

"But the expectations from outside were, of course, very big.  Clearly Michael probably hoped to be somewhat nearer the front after four races.

"With regard to the times he is not so far away as the points make it seem.  I believe a good result is soon possible," added Ralf.

David Coulthard said in the German press after Shanghai that the weekend had been "the darkest" in the 41-year-old's entire career.

But on Wednesday, ahead of his debut in the DTM series this weekend, Coulthard insisted it is "ridiculous" to write off Schumacher now.

Niki Lauda said after China that the German's performance had been "mediocre" but he thinks it can be remedied with "practice, practice, practice".

And another former GP winner Jochen Mass, who raced in the 70s and 80s, said he is neither "surprised nor disappointed" about Schumacher's current form.

"No one should forget that he hasn't driven for three years and could do hardly any testing," he told Express.

"We might not see the old Michael back again, but he can still be very good, further forward in the rankings and with a little luck winning again," added Mass.

Now MotoGP sponsor wants F1 switch for Rossi
(GMM)  The boss of the Italian carmaker Fiat has backed calls for Valentino Rossi to switch to formula one in 2011.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo this week said he wants F1's rules to be changed so that the Italian team can enter a third car for the multiple and reigning champion of MotoGP.

Sergio Marchionne, the chief executive of the Ferrari parent Fiat, admitted that Rossi at the wheel of a Maranello built single seater is "a great idea".

"Luca says he would like to have a third Ferrari car with Valentino -- it's a great idea if he (Rossi) is willing to do it," said Marchionne in Italian reports.

The comments are despite Rossi's contractual ties to Fiat, with the carmaker a major sponsor of his MotoGP team Yamaha.

Marchionne said he "cannot say anything" about Rossi's future, with the 31-year-old's contract expiring this year.

No threat to Spain GP as volcanic ash eases
(GMM)  Despite earlier fears that the race was endangered, the Spanish grand prix next month will not be affected by the European ash cloud.

As all the sport's freight - including the cars - were stranded in Shanghai with FOM's six 747s unable to leave Europe, it was feared earlier this week that the fifth round of the world championship might have to be called off.

But although many F1 figures have in recent days been zig-zagging back to Europe via a host of bizarre routes, European airports and routines were returning to normal throughout Wednesday as the ash cloud subsided -- even though the volcano in Iceland is still erupting.

Air China said flights to Europe are now departing.

"Eurocontrol expects approximately 21,000 flights to take place today (Wednesday) in European airspace.  On a normal Wednesday, we would expect 28,000," the air control organization said in a statement.

Circuit de Catalunya chief Ramon Prederas said on Thursday that "everything is in place" for the May 5 Spanish grand prix.

"We are ready and working with absolute normality.  The cloud of the volcano did not affect us," he is quoted as saying by Diario Sport, revealing that ticket sales are currently 10 per cent higher than at the same time last year.

It is also believed that F1's freight landed successfully in Bilbao, Spain, where the team's empty trucks were headed on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, contrary to earlier reports, Bernie Ecclestone did in fact give Sebastian Vettel - as well as Michael Schumacher - a seat on his private plane for a return trip to the UK.

Lotus' AirAsia charter has now arrived in Europe from Kuala Lumpur, and Nico Hulkenberg touched down in Zurich ahead of his return home to the UK.

De la Rosa's Sauber seat 'not in doubt' - Gracia
(GMM)  Peter Sauber has reassured a close supporter of Pedro de la Rosa that the Spanish veteran is not about to lose his race seat.

39-year-old de la Rosa, who returned to the F1 grid this year after a long stint as McLaren's test driver, played down the rumors about his near future in China last week.

His boss Sauber had expressed doubts about the time it was taking the Spaniard to reacclimatize to racing, with de la Rosa insisted he is "driving well".

At a media event this week ahead of the forthcoming F1 race in Barcelona, the head of the Spanish motor racing federation called on the press to support the Spanish drivers, especially de la Rosa.

A report in the Diario Sport newspaper added: "Carlos Gracia said Peter Sauber had assured him that he (de la Rosa) is not in doubt."

No quick fix to lack of Williams pace - Barrichello
(GMM)  Rubens Barrichello has admitted there will be no quick solution to Williams' current lack of pace.

The newly Cosworth-powered FW32 showed signs of promise in the pre-season, but has collected just 6 points from the first four races, causing technical boss Sam Michael to surmise that the car is "not fast enough".

"We know exactly some of the areas in which we need to improve," said Barrichello, who joined Williams from F1's title winning team of 2009, Brawn.

"We are not suddenly going to find a second (per lap) from somewhere, but the important thing is that I am firmly convinced that the second is in the car," he is quoted as saying by Speedweek.

"We want to be in the top six in qualifying, but even to achieve this, we need to find half a second," added the Brazilian veteran.

On the positive side, the 37-year-old said that he and Williams - just his fifth team in 18 consecutive seasons in F1 - are already working well together.

"There is a good harmony between driver and team," he is quoted as saying by Brazil's Globo.

"The best thing is that I am not happy with the results and neither is the team.  We just need to keep on working.

"Williams are prepared to listen to me, which is good.  They really trust my inputs so I am feeling good about that," added Barrichello.

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