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Latest F1 news in brief - Thursday
  • Loeb thinks he's too old for F1 switch now
  • Kolles wants Valsecchi for 2011 HRT seat
  • Briatore rues mistake that cost Alonso third title
  • Talent scout denies Schu invested in Vettel career
  • Ricciardo stakes claim for 2011 F1 seat
  • Manager slams Williams for late Hulkenberg axe
  • Force India has 'open spaces' for 2011 - Mallya
  • HRT seat to cost de la Rosa millions

Loeb thinks he's too old for F1 switch now
(GMM)  Sebastien Loeb has played down speculation he could follow up his all-conquering world rally career with a stint in formula one.

Just as F1's 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen was deciding to switch to the world rally championship late last year, seven-time consecutive WRC title winner Frenchman Loeb was eyeing his grand prix debut.

But the 36-year-old has now told CNN that is it "too late" for him to seriously consider switching to formula one.

"I don't think it's (a) potential for the future," said Loeb.

But he revealed he came close to driving for Toro Rosso in Abu Dhabi last year.

Loeb said "everything was planned to do the last race of the season and the FIA didn't give me the license for that".

"Now I'm 36 years old and when you see some young drivers coming in, they're 20 years old, so maybe's it's a bit too late.

"If I have the opportunities to drive a formula one car, for sure I will take it, but I've got no plan to do a career in that," he added.

Loeb will rally again in 2011, but he is not sure what he will do beyond that.

"I will maybe have some other plans, but not especially in formula one," he said.

Kolles wants Valsecchi for 2011 HRT seat
(GMM)  Davide Valsecchi is a candidate to race with the HRT team in 2011 if he can find enough funding.

Alongside Pastor Maldonado and Josef Kral, the 23-year-old Italian was comfortably the quickest of the young runners with the Spanish outfit in Abu Dhabi this week.

In fact, he was the fastest driver at the wheel of any of the cars fielded by F1's new teams, including Jerome d'Ambrosio, Rio Haryanto and Luiz Razia (Virgin) and Rodolfo Gonzalez and Vladimir Arabadzhiev (Lotus).

"Italy should support him," team boss Colin Kolles is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"He definitely did an awesome job.  It took him a few laps to understand the car, while some of his colleagues did not succeed even after a full season," he quipped.

Auto Motor und Sport reports that Venezuelan Maldonado's tests with HRT and Williams in Abu Dhabi cost his sponsors an incredible EUR 1 million, while Czech Kral reportedly paid HRT 300,000 euros for his single test day.

Briatore rues mistake that cost Alonso third title
(GMM)  Flavio Briatore has rued Ferrari's strategy mistake that cost his charge Fernando Alonso a third drivers' world championship last Sunday.

The Italian team has acknowledged the strategy mistake of following Mark Webber in for an early pitstop during the recent Abu Dhabi finale.

"For Fernando it should have been a completely different race," Briatore, who is still the Spaniard's manager, told the La Repubblica newspaper.

"They should not have even thought about Mark Webber, because Fernando was fast," added the Italian, whose company also manages Webber.

So how did Ferrari make such a fundamental mistake?

"Hard to say," Briatore answered.  "Maybe they misinterpreted when Webber hit the wall.  Mark didn't do it (pit) as a tactic, but because he had hit the wall with his wheel."

Briatore refused to say that Alonso would now be champion if he had been sitting on the Ferrari pitwall.

"The day after a race, everyone is wiser," he said.  "The day before and during the race itself is the hardest, when the decisions must be made in a second amid the risk of a mistake."

Briatore also criticized the Abu Dhabi track layout for not allowing Alonso to recover from the error by overtaking Vitaly Petrov.

"It is a scandal that a crucial race track does not allow a single pass," he said.

"Monaco is fair enough, but Abu Dhabi is in the middle of a desert where they could easily build the right straights and curves.

"I'm sorry for Fernando.  He is a phenomenal driver who drove a brilliant season," added Briatore.

Talent scout denies Schu invested in Vettel career
(GMM)  Gerd Noack has denied reports that Michael Schumacher played a financial role in supporting Sebastian Vettel's early career.

Since Vettel secured the 2010 title, the German media has published photos of the German as a boy together with Schumacher, who in the mid 90s was winning titles with Benetton and switching to Ferrari.

"I must clarify a tale," said Noack, the chairman of the Kerpen kart track who is credited for discovering and supporting the young Vettel, as well as Schumacher years earlier.

"It is often said that Michael was not only a good friend but also a financial supporter of Vettel.  That's not true," he wrote in Die Welt newspaper.

"Yes, we asked him for his help, but from Michael's side it never came.  He was probably too busy with his own career to think about the younger guys," added Noack.

He said it was a struggle to keep Vettel's racing afloat in the early days.

"When I think of his first contract with Red Bull, I laugh -- it was four digits," revealed Noack.

"But a start was made so that a big talent would not be lost under the wheels, while the big car makers were blind.  I know of one F1 team boss who for years wanted me to believe that Vettel would come to nothing," he added.

"Now he is world champion."

Ricciardo stakes claim for 2011 F1 seat
(GMM)  Daniel Ricciardo has this week staked a claim on a full-time role in formula one with an impressive test at the wheel of the title-winning Red Bull.

The energy drinks company's most promising development talent and Australian was well clear of the field over the two days of the young driver test session in Abu Dhabi, smashing Sebastian Vettel's pole position time for good measure.

In the Ferrari, Jules Bianchi explained that the Yas Marina layout has simply become faster since the grand prix.

"The grip of the asphalt is more now, giving many tenths of a second benefit, and we are also more aggressive over the curbs due to the fixed cones being removed," the Frenchman explained in La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Even so, 21-year-old Ricciardo's performance stood out, amid reports Dr Helmut Marko has not decided where to place the Perth native in 2011.

"I'm not sure what this means for next year, but I know even more now that this is where I want to be," he is quoted by the Australian news agency AAP.

"Whether I might be in F1 next year or the following, I will do everything to make sure it happens -- and I think this test has probably helped me," added Ricciardo, who in 2010 was Red Bull's F1 reserve driver.

Even in the team's post-test press release, Ricciardo was quoted as saying "it would be fantastic to get the chance to drive in formula one full-time".

However, Red Bull's two F1 teams have already completed their 2011 lineups.

Austrian newspapers Kleine Zeitung and Salzburger Nachrichten are reporting that Lotus, set to use Red Bull gearboxes next year, could be an option for Ricciardo.

And La Gazzetta dello Sport claimed Australian Ricciardo as "an Italian" after the impressive Abu Dhabi outing, due his family's ancestry.

Manager slams Williams for late Hulkenberg axe
(GMM)  Nico Hulkenberg's manager has hit out at Williams for taking so long to oust the 23-year-old ahead of the 2011 season.

Auto Motor und Sport in Germany is reporting that the British team's chairman Adam Parr only told the German and his manager Willi Weber that he will not be racing next year in the darkness after last Sunday's Abu Dhabi season finale.

Apparently so late was the decision communicated that Hulkenberg was planning a longer stay in the Middle East ahead of the first Pirelli test late this week.

Williams confirmed only on Wednesday that Rubens Barrichello will now be doing the tire testing alone.

"I have not been handled like this for the last 20 years," said Weber, referring to his two-decade involvement in F1 since Michael Schumacher entered the sport at the beginning of the 90s.

"I wouldn't have minded if they came clean and said 'We need money so we can no longer afford Nico'.  But instead we are at the last second where we have hardly any time to look elsewhere," he added.

It is believed that Renault is no longer an option for Hulkenberg, given the Russian government's reported decision to pour more backing into Vitaly Petrov's coffers for 2011.

German reports mention Force India and Lotus as possibilities, but Ferrari and Weber have officially denied the reported link between Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa's confirmed cockpit.

Force India has 'open spaces' for 2011 - Mallya
(GMM)  With highly rated drivers still on the market, Force India's race lineup for 2011 is a hot topic.

Adrian Sutil has not yet been confirmed by the Silverstone based team for next season, while the likes of Nick Heidfeld, Nico Hulkenberg and Karun Chandhok are all linked with his seat.

And while Vitantonio Liuzzi has a contract for next year, team owner and boss Vijay Mallya has hinted that more than one place is available.

"We are the most attractive team with open spaces," Auto Motor und Sport quotes him as saying.

With India set to join the F1 calendar, the sport's chief executive Bernie Ecclestone thinks Indian Chandhok in the Force India is an ideal lineup.

Mallya answered: "Well, everyone out there wants to drive for Force India.

"We (will) sit with the team and decide in the next couple of weeks who our new drivers are going to be for next season," he told Gulf News Xpress.

Meanwhile, it is believed that the potentially vacant seat alongside Robert Kubica at Renault is no longer available.

"Since (Russian president) Vladimir Putin became a formula one fan, (Vitaly) Petrov has even more support in his pocket," Heidfeld is quoted as saying.

HRT seat to cost de la Rosa millions
(GMM)  Pedro de la Rosa has received a EUR 8 to 10 million price-tag for a 2011 race seat with the Spanish team HRT.

It was believed the veteran driver was set to join the team next year thanks to the investment of Juan Villalonga, while an attractive Toyota-designed car with a Williams gearbox was in the making.

But the Toyota deal has fallen through due to reportedly late payments, leaving not enough time for Hispania to separately build a new car for 2011.

And team owner Jose Ramon Carabante has now admitted that HRT will again be relying on pay-drivers.

"Pedro wants to come, but it depends very much on the support.  Without money, there is no place for him.  We can't allow ourselves a luxury like that.

"He needs to contribute about eight or ten million.  We have spoken with companies to try to attract sponsors, and we would like to have two Spanish drivers for our identity and someone like Pedro who can give us some direction for 2012," Carabante said on Cadena Ser radio.

He confirmed that HRT is currently in a "crucial week, deciding the future of the team".

"A budget needs to be above 120 or 130 million euros.  With that we will achieve a leap into the top ten.

"This year we had 45 (million) and next year it will be 55 and we would like 65 at least.  Ferrari for example is in 400 million each season."

Carabante said even the location of HRT's headquarters for 2011 is not decided.

"We have offers from Madrid and Barcelona.  For the logistics we would like to be in the centre of Europe," he added.

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