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Latest F1 news in brief - Thursday
  • Horner exit rumors 'stupid and unfair' - Berger
  • Korean companies waiting before entering F1
  • Ecclestone confirms SingTel staying with Singapore GP
  • No Portimao on 2011 winter test schedule
  • Interlagos improves F1 safety after fatal crash
  • Ecclestone gives finger to zimmer-frame gift
  • New F1 cost-cutting deal slackened for future
  • Red Bull's Horner vows equality for Vettel

Horner exit rumors 'stupid and unfair' - Berger

(GMM) Gerhard Berger has dismissed as "stupid and unfair" speculation that Red Bull team boss Christian Horner could be set to lose his job.

Media reports, including in the German daily Bild, said the Briton risks being ousted because the team could lose this year's drivers' and constructors' championships despite having easily the fastest car in 2010.

"The rumors are stupid and unfair," former grand prix winner Berger, a close friend of the energy drink company's chief Dietrich Mateschitz, is quoted by Auto Bild Motorsport.

"Red Bull are in a position to win both the constructors' and the drivers' world championships. An unsuccessful season looks very different to that," the Austrian insisted.

Moreover, the report claimed Horner's contract is tied to that of his countryman Adrian Newey, meaning that if Horner is ousted, Newey could leave the Milton Keynes based team as well.

Newey is credited as the designer of the widely-lauded RB6 car.

Berger's dismissal of the rumor is ironic, given that it follows his suspicion that Mark Webber tried to take out his championship rivals after crashing in Korea.

Horner rejected that speculation as "ridiculous" and "absurd".

Korean companies waiting before entering F1

(GMM) South Korean companies are reportedly holding off before deciding whether to follow the east Asian country into formula one.

The brand new Yeongam circuit hosted its inaugural grand prix last weekend, but the only Korean brand involved as a sponsor was LG.

A range of companies told Korea's JoongAng daily that they are waiting to gauge the impact of the first F1 race.

And South Korean mobile operator SKT, and the other major telcom KT, "largely expressed disinterest" in F1, the newspaper revealed.

"We have obviously decided not to sponsor the F1 races this year, but the situation might be different next year. It's impossible to say at this point," a spokesperson for KT said.

An SKT spokesperson added: "We had not heard of any plans regarding sponsorship (of F1) inside the company."

And Diageo Korea, the Korean arm of McLaren's whisky sponsor Johnnie Walker, said via a spokesperson: "We might consider sponsoring next year, depending on the success of this year's Korean grand prix."

Ecclestone confirms SingTel staying with Singapore GP

(GMM) Singapore telecommunications company SingTel has renewed its naming sponsorship of the city-state's night grand prix yet again.

The company initially inked a one-year deal in 2008, and then extended the contract for 2009 and 2010.

The local media broadcaster MediaCorp now reports that SingTel has extended its sponsorship for another two years.

The news follows rumors during Singapore's third F1 event in September that SingTel was considering ending its association with the grand prix.

"Quite the contrary," said F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone. "We agreed terms with SingTel for the renewal of their contract for a further two years."

He did not, however, deny speculation that other companies had expressed interest in replacing SingTel.

"We have companies worldwide that wish to have association in formula one and I always prefer to have local sponsors for the title sponsorship," said Ecclestone.

No Portimao on 2011 winter test schedule

(GMM) Reports that Portimao will host an official pre-season test early next year have proved wide of the mark.

A British magazine said earlier this month that one of the few winter tests will take place at the Portuguese circuit in addition to the more usual Spanish venues.

But two unofficial pre-season test schedules, revealed within the Finnish and Italian media, have named four other venues for the initial testing of next year's cars.

The schedule shows Valencia's permanent Ricardo Tormo circuit as the scene of the first winter test on 1-3 February.

The second and third venues are Jerez (10-13 February) and Barcelona (18-21 February).

And the fourth and last group test is expected to take place in Bahrain on 3-6 March, the week before the season opener at the same Sakhir circuit.

Interlagos improves F1 safety after fatal crash

(GMM) Organizers of the Brazilian grand prix have moved to improve the safety at one of the most dangerous stretches of track on the F1 calendar.

Three years ago, Brazilian stock car driver Rafael Sperafico died after striking the tire barriers on the exit of the fast right-hand kink before the pitlane entry at Interlagos.

He died instantly when the car bounced out of the barriers into the path of a competitor.

Globo Esporte reports that, ahead of the penultimate round of F1's 2010 championship, organizers have replaced the offending tire barrier with a 225 meter stretch of 'softwall'.

The 'softwall' concept - a combination of foam mounted behind hollow metal barriers - is intended to absorb the impact of an accident without 'grabbing' the car and spearing it back onto the track.

"It's a barrier that absorbs the impact," said circuit engineer Luis Ernesto Morales.

"It is a dangerous point of the circuit, with the wall very close," he added.

Ecclestone gives finger to zimmer-frame gift

(GMM) Photos of Bernie Ecclestone giving a middle finger salute are complementing reports on Thursday about the F1 chief executive's birthday.

F1's chief executive and long-time 'supremo' is turning 80, and Red Bull marked the forthcoming occasion in Korea last weekend with a mischievous present.

It was a zimmer frame, featuring a Red Bull front wing and a special F1-style steering wheel with a range of custom buttons.

One of the buttons was labeled 'Viagra', another 'Nurse', and yet another 'Pasquale' -- referring to his ever-present assistant Pasquale Lattuneddu.

Posing at the front of the Red Bull garage with Christian Horner and his favorite driver Sebastian Vettel, Ecclestone greeted the massed photographers with good humor and the obscene single-finger gesture.

And according to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, Ecclestone does not intend to mark the occasion of his actual birthday on Thursday.

"I hate parties," he said.

When asked what he really wants for his 80th birthday, the Briton was quoted a few days ago by the German weekly Die Zeit: "I just want to get there."

New F1 cost-cutting deal slackened for future

(GMM) F1's cost-reducing program has taken what might be regarded as a backwards step.

Known as the Resources Restriction Agreement (RRA), the deal this year includes a clause limiting each team to spending just EUR40 million on external services.

The cap was set to reduce to 20 million in 2011, but Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said the teams have agreed to increase the limit next year to 30m.

Moreover, team staff numbers were set to be capped at 350 people, reducing to 280 a year later.

But the latter number has now been increased to 315, with the total agreement extended through 2017. The former agreement was set to expire in 2012.

"The good news is that the teams have agreed to extend the duration of the RRA," FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh confirmed.

"In doing that, there's been some adjustment, so it's been agreed in principle and everyone has signed up to that," added the McLaren boss.

"In some areas it's been tightened, in some areas it's been slackened," admitted the Briton.

The existing agreement also limits things like staff numbers at grands prix, the use of wind tunnels and CFD, and track testing.

"I think there was a danger that we wouldn't be able to extend it (the agreement)," continued Whitmarsh. "I think all the teams took a sensible approach to come together and to agree to extend it for a long period of time."

Ferrari, meanwhile, confirmed that the new agreement will be in place until 2017.

Red Bull's Horner vows equality for Vettel

(GMM) Christian Horner has stated emphatically that Red Bull will not be asking Sebastian Vettel to take a supporting role for the last two races of 2010.

"We have two fantastic drivers and we will continue to support both equally in line with Red Bull's credible sporting ethos," he told the Austrian team's official website.

The declaration follows speculation it would make better sense for Vettel - who is 25 points off the top of the drivers' championship - to help his teammate Mark Webber close his 11 point deficit to Ferrari's title leader Fernando Alonso.

Horner's comments also follow German Vettel's admission that he only has a "tiny chance" of becoming the 2010 world champion.

"My chances? They are how they are, but as long as I have a tiny chance ..." the 23-year-old said.

"We have two races to go and we saw in Korea how quickly things can change. Let's wait to see what Abu Dhabi brings," added Vettel.

The situation moved Spain's daily sports newspaper Marca to nominate Vettel as Alonso's "greatest ally" for his third drivers' crown.

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