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DATE News (chronologically)
Latest F1 news in brief - Friday
  • 2011 Team Lotus car headed for January launch
  • Petrov the 'worst driver' on 2010 grid - Verstappen
  • Renault risks new disrepute charge over Lotus deal - Hunt
  • Prost regrets Renault's departure as F1 team owner
  • Petrov must increase commitment to F1 team - Lopez
  • Move to England, Renault tell Petrov
  • Piquet gives detailed account of 'Crashgate'

2011 Team Lotus car headed for January launch
(GMM)  Team Lotus' new car is heading for a launch in January, chief executive Riad Asmat has revealed.

Amid the naming and livery dispute with new F1 competitor Group Lotus, Asmat insists the confusion is not affecting the progress of the T127 car's successor.

"Our 2011 car has been in the wind tunnel since July and we have achieved our monthly objectives set," he is quoted by The Star in Malaysia.

"I'm very pleased with the situation and we're just eager for the launch of the car in January," he added.

The only impact of Wednesday's announcement about Group Lotus' new collaboration with Renault F1 is that Team Lotus might have to drop its plans for a black and gold livery in 2011, admitted Asmat.

"We might have to look into the colors before the season starts.  But it's just colors, nothing much," he insisted.

"The majority of public feedback wants us to continue using the green and yellow livery.  But the most important aspect of the car is how fast can it go, not how beautiful it will look in either green or black," added Asmat.

Petrov the 'worst driver' on 2010 grid - Verstappen
(GMM)  As Renault looks set to retain Vitaly Petrov in 2011, former F1 racer Jos Verstappen has slammed the Russian rookie as the "worst driver" on the grid this year.

"The Russian Vitaly Petrov I feel was the worst newcomer and the worst driver (overall)," Dutchman Verstappen, who scored 2 podiums in his 107 grands prix between 1994 and 2003, said.

Verstappen, now 38 and overseeing his son Max's karting career, admitted in his column for De Telegraaf newspaper that he thought Petrov drove well in Abu Dhabi to keep Fernando Alonso at bay.

"But apart from this race I mostly see Petrov as good at making mistakes," he wrote.

"Whether against a wall, spinning off or messing up his start, he ruined quite a few races and you can't let that happen when you're driving for a strong team like Renault.

"The different in quality and in points with his teammate Robert Kubica was enormous, but it's maybe not a fair comparison because Kubica - along with Vettel and Alonso - is the very best," added Verstappen.

Also in the Telegraaf column, Verstappen said Mark Webber had a "good season" with Red Bull but understands the team's frustration that he kept his shoulder injury from them.

"He hurt himself on a mountain bike, which doesn't sound like a good idea, especially when you're in the race for the title.  In that case you need to be extra careful.

"More clumsy still is keeping quiet about it even with his own team.  I can understand and well imagine the disappointment and frustration of the principal Christian Horner," he added.

As for F1's new champion Sebastian Vettel, Verstappen said the young German had "anything but a spotless year with big mistakes here and there".

And he admitted his disappointment that "one of the best newcomers" in 2010 Nico Hulkenberg has lost his Williams seat.

"I've known Nico for quite a few years and think he's a damn good driver," said Verstappen.  "It's difficult to contend with a seasoned pro like Rubens Barrichello, but while he might not have done a great job, he certainly wasn't bad.

"I hope he finds somewhere else for next year because his seat at Williams has been bought by Pastor Maldonado," he said.

Renault risks new disrepute charge over Lotus deal - Hunt
(GMM)  Group Lotus' move into formula one risks damaging the historic brand and bringing the sport into disrepute.

That is the charge of David Hunt, the brother of 1976 world champion James Hunt who held the rights to the 'Team Lotus' name for years until recently selling it to Tony Fernandes' outfit.

But since those plans were announced, the separate Proton-owned sports car maker Group Lotus - headed by former Ferrari and Red Bull marketing man Dany Bahar - has launched its own foray to buy into Renault F1 and be title sponsor.

This has led to the bizarre prospect of two warring teams in 2011 both called 'Lotus', powered by Renault engines and fielding near-identical black and gold liveries.

"Have the sponsors on Renault's car all been warned what they are in for and the damage that might occur to their brand through association of what is effectively a declaration of war by Proton?" wondered Hunt.

"And given Renault still have a suspended sentence tied to them after bringing the sport into disrepute (for crashgate) in 2008, are they doing so again by deliberately and willfully confusing the public over the Lotus brand?" he is quoted by the Norwich Evening News.

"I think it's silly, whatever angle you look at it," concluded Hunt.  "Talk about confusing the public."

But Renault team owner Gerard Lopez denies Group Lotus is the cause of any confusion, insisting that even Bernie Ecclestone supports the new alliance.

"As far as we're concerned (F1 chief executive) Bernie has been involved and obviously this happened with his blessing," he told London's Telegraph.

Renault team boss Eric Boullier also hailed the deal.

"This is great news because it is rare to find a principal sponsor in F1 with a contract for seven seasons," he said in a French language AFP report.

"A budget in the short, medium and long term is essential to become a top team," added Boullier.  "If your employees have a deadline, they will not have the right motivation."

Prost regrets Renault's departure as F1 team owner
(GMM)  Alain Prost has admitted further disappointment with France's dwindling involvement in formula one.

Last month, the quadruple world champion said he was frustrated with the country's reluctance to return to the grand prix calendar and the lack of French drivers on the grid.

Now, he said he "regrets" the carmaker Renault's decision to sell its remaining shares in the Enstone based F1 team and be only an engine supplier in 2011.

"These are the facts.  We (France) have hit the bottom," said Prost, whose own Guyencourt-based F1 team collapsed ten years ago.

"You can be optimistic and hope people realize this is not a good thing for a car country like France.  So perhaps there will be measures or strategies implemented to return things to normal, maybe even better than in the past," he told Auto Hebdo at an event in Paris.

"But it's extremely difficult right now because our country has become a little auto-phobic," continued Prost.  "Companies and marques have no desire to invest in formula one.

"That there is no French grand prix is one thing, but that there are no French drivers racing is a big gap," he said.  "That is what brings people's interest to the sport."

Prost admitted that his biggest regret is that the situation developed slowly and therefore surely without being unnoticed by authorities.

"For me it's not a surprise and it wasn't inevitable."

His latest lament is that, in 2011, there will be no French-owned teams, following Renault's sale of the remainder of its shares in the Enstone based team to make way for the Group Lotus buy-in.

"The Renault team was part of history and heritage so when you lose that it's hard to get back," said Prost.

"Being an engine supplier of course is very good, but I think it (Renault's departure as a team owner) is a shame.  But then, I understand the need to make savings.

"But it's going to be more even difficult for France and French drivers (now)," he rued.

Petrov must increase commitment to F1 team - Lopez
(GMM)  If Vitaly Petrov pledges more commitment in order to become consistently fast, there is "no question" he will retain his Renault race seat in 2011, the team's owner insists.

Group Lotus' newly announced collaboration with the Enstone based team was seen as a boost to the 26-year-old's chances, given Proton's eagerness to leverage Genii's links with the Russian market.

"It (the Russian link) opens up a lot of possibilities for us but mainly for our shareholders," confirmed Lotus CEO Dany Bahar in an interview with the Telegraph.

Team owner Genii's Gerard Lopez said Russian rookie Petrov is "our favorite choice" to be Robert Kubica's teammate next year, but there have been doubts about his speed and consistency.

"We believe he has got the speed, he just doesn't have the consistency," he admitted.

Petrov, who is currently recovering from eye surgery, must demonstrate a higher commitment to F1 and the British based team, Lopez confirmed to the Reuters news agency.

"Part of the discussion is that he needs to accept a certain change in life, he needs to accept to move to the UK and be close to the factory," he said.

"He needs to accept to be in an English-speaking environment all the time and if he accepts those things, and if we believe that through those things he can deliver consistency, then there's no question about who is going to be our second driver," added Lopez.

Move to England, Renault tell Petrov
Renault have told Vitaly Petrov he must move to England if the Russian driver wants to stay with the Lotus-backed Formula One team next season.

The former champions, now wholly owned by Gerard Lopez's Luxembourg-based Genii Capital after buying back Renault's stake and entering a new partnership with sportscar maker Lotus, have confirmed Poland's Robert Kubica for 2011.

Lopez, who is also Renault F1 chairman, told Reuters in an interview that Petrov was favorite for the second drive but needed to demonstrate consistency and commitment.

"I have always said that my preferred choice would be to keep Vitaly in the car," Lopez said.

The rookie scored just 27 points to Kubica's 136 this year but stood out in the season-ending Abu Dhabi race when he finished sixth having kept Ferrari's Fernando Alonso behind him for 40 laps.

"I think the discussion to be had with Vitaly is not one about speed -- our engineers tell us that he sure has the speed to compete.

"What he doesn't show in a consistent way is the capacity to focus on a complete weekend and deliver from first practice to the end of the race on Sunday. And that's what we have to discuss with him," said Lopez.

"Part of the discussion is that he needs to accept a certain change in life, he needs to accept to move to the UK and be close to the factory.

"He needs to accept to be in an English-speaking environment all the time and if he accepts those things, and if we believe that through those things he can deliver consistency, then there's no question about who is going to be our second driver."

Piquet gives detailed account of 'Crashgate'
Nelson Piquet Jnr has finally given a detailed account about the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix during which he was asked to deliberately crash.

The former F1 driver earlier this week won his "Crashgate" libel case against former employers Renault. The Enstone team agreed to pay "a substantial amount of damages" to Piquet and his father after they accused the two of lying.

It perhaps gives the 25-year-old some closure on the issue and he decided to lift the lid on the scandal in an exclusive interview with The Times newspaper.

According to the Brazilian, director of engineering Pat Symonds approached him after he and teammate Fernando Alonso had poor qualifying sessions.

"'Look, both cars are at the back of the grid,' he told me. 'We are in a situation where we are not going to get anywhere in this race unless something extraordinary happens.'" [Team boss Flavio] Briatore agreed, saying it would be "a disaster for the team" unless something extraordinary happened.

"I just sat there listening because I couldn't figure out where this was going," Piquet said. "They were both very fidgety and the situation was incredibly tense. I don't think I had said a word by this point. It was only after five minutes that Flavio made his pitch. 'Look, the only way we can benefit in any way out here is by getting a safety car on the course at the right moment,' he said.

"I just sat there, looking at them. They both reminded me of what had happened in Germany when someone had crashed just after I had pitted and I came second in the race. 'Do you want to help the team?' Flavio said. 'If you crash at the right moment, it could change everything.'"

Piquet then goes into long detail about how Briatore put him under pressure to perform and always "barked" orders before giving a detailed account of events before and during the crash.

"They wanted the safety car on lap 14," he added. "It actually felt good to agree to do something for the team after all the criticism I had taken. I did not even consider the morality of it.

"As the laps ticked by, I knew what was coming, but it was difficult to believe what I was going to do. I was almost more nervous of messing it up for the team than for my own safety.

"I was so scared, I could hardly breathe. I was straining my eyes to see the board each time I completed the circuit so I would know which lap I was on, but it was dark out there and I could hardly see a thing.

"I screamed into the radio again and again, 'What lap are we in? What lap are we in?' They confirmed the lap and I began to brace myself because I knew what I was about to do - even if I could not believe I was going to do it.

"I came around the chicane on lap 14 and I could feel my stomach tighten. I was incredibly scared, it was like a dream. I touched the rear wheel on the wall and then stepped on the throttle to crash into the other wall. I felt no pain on impact, but the adrenalin was pumping. I felt in control of the car throughout the crash."

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