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Latest F1 news in brief - Thursday
  • Alan Jones to be F1 steward in Korea
  • Sun out at Suzuka but rain clouds loom
  • Peter Sauber and Ecclestone not in Japan
  • Kobayashi first Japanese driver without sponsors - Sauber
  • Barcelona to host next Pirelli tire test
  • Renault hits back after angry Raikkonen jibe
  • F1 teams to discuss pitlane closure rule
  • Koreans begin to lay top asphalt on Thursday

Alan Jones to be F1 steward in Korea
(GMM)  Alan Jones will make his debut as a formula one steward in Korea in two weeks.

At the inaugural Yeongam event, the 1980 world champion will join the ranks of former drivers who have officiated this season alongside regular FIA stewards at grands prix.

"They call on the experience of an ex-driver to help the stewards make a better decision in the event of anything happening on the track," Australian Jones told SpeedCafe.

"As an ex-driver, the officials simply ask for my opinion," said the 63-year-old winner of 12 grands prix, and Williams' first champion.

However, there is still great uncertainty about whether the Korean race will go ahead at all.

The latest word from Suzuka is that Charlie Whiting's FIA inspection of the track next Monday will in fact take place over two days.

The outcome of the inspection will therefore not be known until Wednesday -- just 8 days before the first practice session is scheduled.

This weekend at Suzuka, it is another former Williams driver - Austrian Alex Wurz - fulfilling the stewards role.

The 36-year-old veteran of 69 grands prix, who last competed in 2007, made his debut as an FIA official in China in April.

Sun out at Suzuka but rain clouds loom
(GMM)  The sun is out at Suzuka on Thursday, but local reports are still predicting a chance of rain for the Japanese grand prix weekend.

The talk in the paddock is a close to 100 per cent chance of rain on Saturday, while Sauber's Nick Heidfeld said the forecast for Sunday is also not good.

The only truly wet Suzuka race was won by Damon Hill in 1994, with the circuit's other rain usually falling on practice days.

On a dry track, Red Bull's RB6 is considered the favorite for victory this weekend, but wet weather would cloud the picture.

"We are not as competitive in the rain and we don't really know why," Sebastian Vettel is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

Peter Sauber and Ecclestone not in Japan
(GMM)  Two prominent figureheads of F1's travelling circus are conspicuously absent at Suzuka.

According to the Swiss newspaper Blick, the sport's chief executive Bernie Ecclestone - who turns 80 in three weeks - did not want to travel the 9,000 kilometers from Europe to Japan.

And team founder and boss Peter Sauber is not at Suzuka this weekend because he has accepted an invitation to attend a wedding.

The lucky groom is Carlos Slim Domit, the chairman of Sauber's new major sponsor Telmex and heir to his father Carlos Slim Helu's many billions.

43-year-old Slim Jr's wedding is taking place in his native Mexico City.

Kobayashi first Japanese driver without sponsors - Sauber
(GMM)  Kamui Kobayashi is the first Japanese driver to have reached formula one without the heavy backing of sponsors.

That is the claim of Peter Sauber, who rescued the rookie's motor racing career after Toyota pulled out of formula one at the end of last year.

At the time, Kobayashi - who was supported and groomed for a long time by Toyota - had just impressed the F1 world with a couple of stirring performances whilst replacing injured regular Timo Glock.

The 24-year-old has been retained by Sauber for 2011.

"He is the first Japanese driver who is in an F1 team without supporting the budget," Sauber is quoted by Turun Sanomat newspaper.

"He is in F1 due to his ability to drive," added the Swiss.

Ahead of his first home grand prix at Suzuka this weekend, Kobayashi recalls standing in for the ill Glock in Friday practice a year ago.

"Jenson (Button) fought for the championship, but I fought for my life," he said.

"I felt like a mountaineer, climbing either to the top or falling into a gaping abyss.  There were no other options.

"I got one chance and knew that if I did not use it, my career in F1 could be over just as it began," said Kobayashi.

He confirms he does not fit the usual mould of racing drivers from Japan.

"My family is very far away from anything related to motor sport.  My dad has a sushi restaurant and he has never had a car," he said.

"When I became interested in karting when I was 9, I didn't even know formula one existed," added Kobayashi, who moved to Europe at 17, living in France and Italy.

Barcelona to host next Pirelli tire test
(GMM)  Pirelli will continue its 2011 tire development program in Spain later in October.

The Italian marque was back on track this week, where former test driver Nick Heidfeld's Pirelli replacement Pedro de la Rosa got to grips with the 2009 Toyota at the Valencia circuit.

The Spanish venue was artificially watered so that Pirelli's proposed wet and intermediate tires could be tried for the first time.

The next tire test will be at Barcelona at the end of the month.

"So far our schedule is going exactly to plan, and we look forward to continuing our work at what is a very exciting time for us during the next test sessions as well as back at base in Milan," said boss Paul Hembery.

Renault hits back after angry Raikkonen jibe
(GMM)  Renault figures on Thursday hit back at Kimi Raikkonen's claim the Enstone based team used him for marketing purposes.

After bosses Gerard Lopez and Eric Boullier repeatedly commented on rumors the Finn had expressed interest in joining Renault for 2011, Raikkonen slammed Renault and said he was "very disappointed" about the team's media approach.

But confirmed Renault driver Robert Kubica told reporters at Suzuka on Thursday: "What he (Raikkonen) said I think was completely different to what the overall picture was looking like."

The Pole said he is disappointed about Raikkonen's decision.

"I'm surprised because personally I thought there was a chance of him coming," said Kubica.

And team boss Boullier is quoted by Reuters: "We have not piggy-backed on Kimi's image at all."

A strong paddock rumor is that Renault has now decided to keep Vitaly Petrov.  His manager Oksana Kossatschenko would not comment.

If confirmed, the news will disappoint Nick Heidfeld, who this week also learned he will not be retained by Sauber for 2011 because the Swiss team has signed Sergio Perez.

"I didn't know about it (the Perez deal) before I signed," the German said on Thursday.

And Vitantonio Liuzzi, despite earlier insisting he has a firm contract to stay at Force India next year, has now revealed he and the Silverstone based team "haven't talked yet" about 2011.

It is believed Paul di Resta has inked a deal to race.

"At the moment we're just focused on finishing sixth in this championship and then we'll talk," said Italian Liuzzi.

F1 teams to discuss pitlane closure rule
(GMM)  F1 team chiefs are set to discuss a possible change to the safety car rules for 2011.

Previously, the sport abandoned a rule where the pits are closed upon deployment of the safety car, because cars out of fuel were forced to pit and then serve a penalty.

It is believed that, now that drivers cannot pit during the race for fuel, the rule could be reintroduced, with the pitlane to be closed throughout the safety car period.

The idea is to minimize the 'lottery' effect of the current rules, but the fact an opportune safety car period can benefit the lower runners during a race means the small teams may not vote for the change for 2011.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that the issue is to be discussed in Korea in two weeks, with a rule change for 2011 requiring unanimity.

For an introduction in 2012, only a majority team vote is required for ratification by the World Motor Sport Council.

Koreans begin to lay top asphalt today
(GMM)  Work began on Thursday to lay the final top layer of asphalt at Korea's new Yeongam circuit.

The race organizers only have three days to complete the job before the FIA's Charlie Whiting begins a two-day inspection on Monday.

"Work on the final surface layer will probably be done by Friday," confirmed spokesman Kim Jae-ho.

But the looming inspection deadline means the fate of the event, scheduled for October 24, could rest on as little as the local weather forecast.

According to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, F1's governing FIA and commercial body FOM have covered their tracks by requiring the organizers to sign a letter.

The letter guarantees that the asphalt will be properly cured and ready to accommodate F1 cars later this month.

Grand Prix Drivers' Association chairman Rubens Barrichello said on Thursday: "We are not worried, because we know that the FIA only approves a circuit if all the safety requirements are met.

"I am looking forward to the inspection next week and hearing if it's a green or red light," added the Brazilian.

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