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DATE News (chronologically)
11/15/10
f1
Latest F1 news in brief - Monday (UPDATED)  UPDATE See updates noted in red below.

Richard Branson
11/15/10

  • Branson leaves Abu Dhabi with AirAsia uniform
  • Weber suspects Williams have signed Maldonado
  • Valsecchi completes young driver test lineup
  • Mateschitz denies Webber strategy plot to fool Alonso
  • Red Bull switch not tempting for Hamilton
  • Fellow German Schumacher delighted with Vettel's success
  • Red Bull must keep delivering or lose Vettel - owner New
  • Fernandes wants feedback on possible Lotus name change New
  • Losers Webber, Alonso and Ferrari face reality of defeat New

Branson leaves Abu Dhabi with AirAsia uniform
(GMM)  Sir Richard Branson left Abu Dhabi on Sunday with an AirAsia stewardess uniform in his luggage.

It was given to him by Tony Fernandes, the owner of the low-cost Malaysian airline and the F1 team currently known as Lotus.

At the beginning of the season, Fernandes and fellow airline owner Branson, figurehead the Virgin team, wagered that the worst of the F1 newcomers would host the other on a low-haul flight -- dressed as a stewardess.

"He'll have to work the whole flight.  He'll have to serve, he'll have to clean, he'll have to clean the toilets," Fernandes is quoted by Reuters, after Lotus Racing finished the 2010 season in the coveted tenth place.

Virgin finished last, behind HRT.

"Watch out London-KL," Fernandes wrote on Twitter.

Smiled billionaire Branson: "The only positive thing is we own 20 per cent of his company so I'll be able to get some promotion for a company I have a stake in."

Also defeated and leaving Abu Dhabi with a much heavier heart is Mark Webber, who finishes the championship just third and was absent as Red Bull partied loudly on Sunday night to celebrate Sebastian Vettel's title.

"He's down really, to be honest with you," his father Alan admitted.

Weber suspects Williams have signed Maldonado
(GMM)  Willi Weber has reiterated reports that his young charge Nico Hulkenberg is set to leave Williams.

The famous driver-manager made the announcement earlier in Abu Dhabi, but 23-year-old Hulkenberg then revealed that he is scheduled to do the Pirelli test late this week.

"Nico will leave Williams.  They're not negotiating any longer.  They have probably already done a deal with Pastor Maldonado," Weber is quoted by Express.

Fascinatingly, the Cologne publication mentioned Ferrari as a possible alternative employer for Hulkenberg, and said Weber had met with the Italian team on Saturday.

But Felipe Massa sounds confident about returning to Ferrari alongside Fernando Alonso next year.

"It has been a very difficult year for me, but already I am concentrating completely on 2011," he is quoted by the Brazilian media.

Massa added: "We have some testing with the new tires next week and I'm curious to see how they behave."

Hulkenberg told Auto Motor und Sport he will know more about his future after those tests, "in one week".

"Nico will drive in 2011 in formula one," Weber insisted.

Hulkenberg admitted he is not expecting Williams' chairman Adam Parr to telephone him.

"It will probably be that I call him," said Hulkenberg.  "The exchanges so far have mostly taken place by email."

Weber added: "Until now they've left us hanging in the air quite a bit."

In fact, Auto Motor und Sport said Williams has been working on signing Maldonado for 2011, placing the well-financed Venezuelan at HRT for a year, and guaranteeing him a seat in 2012.

Valsecchi completes young driver test lineup
(GMM)  Davide Valsecchi is the final piece of the puzzle ahead of this week's young driver testing in Abu Dhabi.

With the checkered flag only marking the end of the long 2010 season late on Sunday, the F1 cars will be running around the Yas Marina circuit once again on Tuesday.

According to Turun Sanomat, the last available seat for the two days of Bridgestone-shod young driver running has now been filled by Italian Valsecchi, who won the GP2 race in Abu Dhabi.

In the HRT for the other day will be Pastor Maldonado, the new GP2 champion who is set for a busy week with testing also with the Williams team.

Also to appear for Williams is the F2 champion Dean Stoneman.

In the fastest car will be Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull's reserve driver in 2010.

"There is more pressure on me to be fastest, especially as the team has won the championship and everyone knows it's probably the fastest car out there nine times out of ten," said the 21-year-old.

Britons Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey will be driving the McLaren, and Ferrari's new test driver Jules Bianchi will be in the F10.

Sam Bird will be in the Mercedes, while Jerome d'Ambrosio and Mikhail Aleshin drive the Renault.

Belgian d'Ambrosio will also drive for Virgin in Abu Dhabi, as will Rio Haryanto and Luiz Razia.

Force India will also have three drivers in action; Paul di Resta, Yelmer Buurman and Antonio Felix da Costa, while Sauber runs Mexicans Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez.

Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne is set to drive the Toro Rosso, while Vladimir Arabadzhiev and Rodolfo Gonzalez prepare to appear for Lotus.

Mateschitz denies Webber strategy plot to fool Alonso
(GMM)  Dietrich Mateschitz has rejected suggestions Red Bull's race strategy for Mark Webber on Sunday was a plot to mislead Ferrari and favor Sebastian Vettel for the title.

It was Webber's early pitstop due to the safety car period that caused Ferrari to follow suit with the Australian's main championship rival Fernando Alonso.

Ultimately, the strategy was a big mistake, as Alonso got stuck behind Vitaly Petrov's Renault, preventing him from rising to the fifth place he needed in the event of a Vettel race victory.

So was Red Bull's strategy a deliberate one, with Webber used as bait to entice Alonso to cover him while Vettel strolled to the win from pole?

"Afterwards, everyone thinks everything like that is done deliberately, but that's not something you can plan," Red Bull owner Mateschitz told Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

After the race, Webber was a notable absence as Red Bull celebrated its double championships.  The Australian gave a terse "yeah" when asked if he will be back with the team in 2011.

Also asked if Webber will be back, Mateschitz answered: "I know Mark wanted a clearer position within the team and I can understand his disappointment.

"But he will go on with us."

The Austrian billionaire said Red Bull's strength now will be "continuity".

"We now have our dream team, with the right people in the right positions.

"Of course, our people get many offers, but the entire team is staying together," added Mateschitz.

Red Bull switch not tempting for Hamilton
(GMM)  After a double championship defeat to Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel in 2010, Lewis Hamilton insists he is not tempted to switch to the energy drink-owned team.

"There is not one bit of me that feels I will ever want to drive for Red Bull," the Briton is quoted by the Mirror as saying in Abu Dhabi.

"It doesn't have the character, the history or the appeal to me that McLaren has," added the 2008 world champion.

Hamilton, 25, finished the 2010 standings in fourth place, behind both Red Bulls and also his former McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso, who now drives for Ferrari.

But he insists that McLaren is his team of choice.

"My hero Ayrton Senna drove for this team and I have always wanted to," he said.

"Red Bull have done a fantastic job and huge congratulations to them for winning the constructors' championship.

"Of course, I want my car to be as good as that.  I could be here for the next 10 years in this team," added Hamilton.

"I believe they have got the most potential out of everyone."

Schumacher was one of the first to congratulate Vettel
Fellow German Schumacher delighted with Vettel's success
Michael Schumacher walked away from a life-threatening accident on Sunday and later paid a warm tribute to his young friend and newly-crowned champion Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel became only the second German, after his boyhood hero Schumacher, to win the title as well as the youngest in Formula One history.

'I'm quite happy for him because we are friends and it has been a tough year for him,' said Schumacher, who won his last title in 2004 with Ferrari and returned to the sport this year after a three-year hiatus.

'He's had up and downs and he has had to go through, probably, more on the mechanical side than on the driving side - so he really deserves this championship.

'Well done to him, well done to the team. They all did a great job. My time was a different time from his time. I just feel very happy for him. I think he deserves all the credit.

'He is a great driver and he is a fantastic guy, so I am more than happy for him.'

Red Bull must keep delivering or lose Vettel - owner
(GMM)  Red Bull will have to keep delivering a top car to Sebastian Vettel, team owner Dietrich Mateschitz has admitted.

The 23-year-old, groomed through the ranks by the energy drinks company, became F1's youngest ever world champion against the odds in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

"He will be a world champion a few times more," said Austrian billionaire Mateschitz on Austrian television ORG, "provided he is sitting in the right car.

"We will do our best to give that car to him," he added.

"If we are not able to, we will have to let him go somewhere where he can be champion again," said Mateschitz.

Vettel's current contract runs only to the end of next year, with an option for 2012, but Red Bull has expressed interest in extending the deal through 2015.

His next agreement will be worth much more money, Willi Weber has warned.

But he thinks Vettel has missed out on F1's headiest days of driver earning power.

"I have a feeling that Michael (Schumacher) and I had the best time in F1, with which you can no longer compare," the famous driver manager told SID news agency.

"Today there is less money available," added Weber.

Fernandes wants feedback on possible Lotus name change
(GMM)  Tony Fernandes on Monday admitted he is not ruling out a name change for his formula one team in 2011.

The Malaysian is locked in a bitter naming dispute with Group Lotus and its carmaker owner Proton.

He has bought the 'Team Lotus' name from David Hunt, but Group Lotus has retracted the official 'Lotus Racing' naming license because it reportedly wants to enter F1 next year with a separate project.

Fernandes admitted in Abu Dhabi that he wants to keep using the Lotus name but sounded reluctant to let the dispute spill into court.

"So we are going into final stretch of name change," he wrote on his @tonyfernandes Twitter account on Monday.  "Do we keep or do we start brand new identity(?).  Please let me know."

Fernandes also 're-tweeted' a reply from a follower who said "I hate Dany Bahar", a reference to Group Lotus' chief executive.

French commentator Jean-Louis Moncet wrote in his Auto Plus column at the weekend that Fernandes is open to dropping the Lotus name if he is paid out by Group Lotus or the Malaysian government.

The team's technical boss Mike Gascoyne said in Brazil a week ago: "For me, the job I do doesn't alter if the name changes."

Losers Webber, Alonso and Ferrari face reality of defeat
(GMM)  As Sebastian Vettel soaks up the spotlight, Mark Webber has admitted he is dreading the next few days.

According to the Australian press, he had booked a holiday straight after Abu Dhabi to Oman; a perfect spot to get over the disappointment of losing the world championship to his adversary and teammate.

Instead, he was ordered aboard a communal flight to Salzburg for energy drink Red Bull's victory celebrations and press conference -- and encouraged to pose happily with Vettel for a photograph as he prepares to wear the number 2 on his RB7 in 2011.

"It's going to be a pretty tough few days," the 34-year-old admitted to the Melbourne newspaper The Age.

Webber, who skipped Sunday's jubilant garage scenes at Yas Marina circuit, said there will also be "an empty feeling" to the looming championship celebrations, even though he played his part in Red Bull's constructors' title.

"I've been involved in the team for a long time, and I know we've done some pretty good things over the last couple of years, but it'll be hard," he said.

"When the target's that high and you just miss with the arrow, there's a long way down emotionally," admitted Webber.

Also down on Monday is F1's other defeated championship challenger, Fernando Alonso, who admitted "waking up was hard" after losing his points lead the night before.

The Spaniard will feel even worse when he picks up the Italian newspapers.  Corriere dello Sport called Ferrari's strategy error an act of "hara-kiri".

La Gazzetta dello Sport said the Italian team "threw away the title", but the country's Olympic committee president Giovanni Petrucci called for calm amid the criticism.

"You can also finish second in sports sometimes," he insisted.  "There are also opponents -- congratulations to Red Bull and Vettel."

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