Latest F1 news in brief - Thursday
- Ecclestone happy after visit to India F1 site
- German workers helped Korea to get F1 track ready
- Alonso is title favorite - Berger
- Spa in 'negotiations' over Belgian GP - official
- Vodafone extends McLaren sponsorship through 2013
- Being late for FIA meeting OK in Korea
Ecclestone happy after visit to India F1 site
(GMM) Before arriving in Korea, Bernie Ecclestone visited the site of next year's inaugural Indian grand prix.
According to local reports, the F1 chief executive gave the facility 40 kilometers from Delhi a thumbs-up, despite the recent international criticism of the Indian capital's hosting of the Commonwealth Games.
"Very, very happy," he told journalists. "Much better than I thought.
"I have no fears about the circuit. After the Commonwealth Games, silly people said 'be careful' but I'm so happy about the progress of work.
"It is going to be much better than many tracks," added the 79-year-old.
Ecclestone countered reports that the airport will struggle with F1-levels of flow, or that the local infrastructure will not cope with the traffic.
"The only thing left is more hotels coming up in surrounding areas," he insisted.
The Briton blamed the media for the negative hype about Delhi's hosting of the Commonwealth Games, and pointed out that "different people" are organizing the F1 event.
"I will come back if necessary but I don't think it will be necessary before (the 2011 race in) October. These people are quite capable, and I don't see any problem," said Ecclestone.
Ecclestone arrived at Korea's new F1 circuit on Thursday.
German workers helped Korea to get F1 track ready
(GMM) Help from Germany ensured that Korea's new F1 circuit is able to host its inaugural grand prix this weekend.
That is the claim of Hermann Tilke, the architect of the circuit but retained only as an 'advisor' to the actual construction of the venue in Yeongam.
When it became clear that the Koreans were struggling to complete the facility, Tilke stepped in, reportedly providing workers and machinery, primarily to get the track surface in racing condition.
"In the end we sent workers over from Germany, otherwise it probably wouldn't have worked," he is quoted by Auto Bild Motorsport.
Tilke insists that fears the track surface will break up this weekend are unfounded.
"We have used a special formula -- one that dries quickly and is ready immediately," said the German, who said the only problem encountered by the drivers will be low levels of initial grip due to the bitumen sitting above the asphalt.
But Tilke admitted that, earlier, he did have "some doubts" that the circuit would be ready, according to France's L'Equipe.
"It was necessary to analyze the problems and find solutions," he said. "We (Tilke GmbH) helped, but the construction companies in Korea worked hard.
"Overall, everything should be fine, but there might be some shortcomings here and there."
Indeed, on Thursday as the F1 paddock filled up, many of the sport's travelers moaned about plumbing and late media shuttles to the circuit, whilst highlighting the circuit's imperfections.
"F1 has raced in a parking lot in Las Vegas, a desert in Bahrain and a swamp in Shanghai.
"But never on a building site in the middle of nowhere," said Bild newspaper, as 1500 Korean soldiers hurriedly screwed in seats in the grandstands whilst workers painted dirt track verges green.
"We can hardly expect to be perfect from the outset," said an event spokesman.
The good news is that organizers are expecting a healthy crowd - perhaps 90,000 on Sunday - for the track action, although it is understood this number of tickets has not yet been sold.
"We don't expect too much on our first attempt at this event," acknowledged the spokesman. "We hope interest in F1 (in Korea) will increase after this."
Alonso is title favorite - Berger
(GMM) Fernando Alonso's rivals will need to be as "selfish" as the Spaniard to beat him to the 2010 title, according to Gerhard Berger.
Although the former grand prix winner - a close friend of Red Bull mogul Dietrich Mateschitz - believes Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel are in the best car, Berger thinks Ferrari's Alonso is the better driver.
"Only if they're as selfish as Alonso will they be world champion this year," the Austrian is quoted by Sport Bild.
"For me he's the best driver at the moment overall; he has experience and is still young enough to be going flat out without fear," added Berger.
Alonso, 29, can also count on the full support of the Ferrari team, whose other driver Felipe Massa has fallen into line behind him.
"Ferrari cannot do better than Alonso, and there is no better place for Alonso than Ferrari," said Berger, backing the Italian team's philosophy.
In a separate interview with APA news agency, Berger said Adrian Newey's RB6 is in a "class of one" in 2010, and dismissed rivals complaints about its legality as "cheap politics".
Spa in 'negotiations' over Belgian GP - official
(GMM) A Belgian politician has played down fears Spa-Francorchamps is set to lose its grand prix, but admitted that no European venue is completely safe.
Bernie Ecclestone said this week it is "absolutely" possible the famous and popular venue, which is reportedly struggling to pay the F1 chief executive's annual race fees, will be axed to make room on the calendar for the sport's expansion.
Jean-Claude Marcourt, economics minister of the local Walloon government, reacted cautiously to the 79-year-old Briton's comments.
"Formula one is becoming more globalised," he is quoted by the Belga news agency, "and some countries are sparing no expense to join in.
"But we should not dramatize the situation; negotiations are still gong on," added Marcourt.
Vodafone extends McLaren sponsorship through 2013
(GMM) Vodafone has extended its title sponsorship of McLaren through to the end of 2013, the British F1 team announced on Thursday.
"Formula one is a strong platform from which we can engage our customers with unique experiences and events," said Morten Lundal, group chief commercial officer of the UK based telecommunications giant.
The Vodafone/McLaren relationship began in 2007.
Being late for FIA meeting OK in Korea
Being late for an FIA Press Conference usually involves being fined, but today at the new Korea International Circuit, all five participants were “legally late” because they took part in a photo call as the last five drivers still in with a chance of winning the 2010 title.
It was a reprise of a famous photo taken in 1986 when four drivers were in the running, all sitting on the pit wall together, Senna, Prost, Mansell and Piquet. This time, we had the two McLaren men, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, the two Red Bulls, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari man Fernando Alonso.
Having looked at the new circuit, Fernando believes that the entire facility was 99% ready.
“They have done a very good job and so I hope we put on a good show this weekend. It is always nice to come to a new circuit and a new country to face a new challenge. These things are very welcome in the championship.”
With all five contenders in the room, the questions were centered on who might come out on top in Abu Dhabi and the Ferrari man, like his fellow panelists in fact, had no clear idea. But he was certain he had enjoyed his debut season with the Maranello squad.
“The championship is not finished yet,” he said. “But whatever the outcome, in terms of happiness, motivation, the driving and integration with the team itself, this has been my best season in Formula 1. It would be nice to be champion this year, but if that does not happen, I will still have some great, great memories of 2010.”
In more specific terms when it came to this weekend, the Ferrari man was asked if he had a plan to beat the seemingly unbeatable Red Bulls in qualifying.
“I would rather beat them on Sunday!” was his immediate response.