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Latest F1 news in brief - Wednesday
  • Alonso serious about losing weight
    Alonso vows to lose weight for KERS return
  • Organizers get construction green light for US GP site
  • Webber plays down impact of team orders 'return'
  • Van der Garde still in running for Virgin seat
  • Montezemolo asked if Dyer getting Christmas present
  • 'Calm' Liuzzi expects to keep Force India seat
  • Alguersuari says 2011 Toro Rosso deal '100 per cent'
  • Piquet says sorry for crashgate scandal
  • Kolles blames drivers for HRT's 2010 letdown

Alonso vows to lose weight for KERS return
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso has joined Rubens Barrichello in vowing to lose some weight ahead of the 2011 season.

As in 2009, the return of heavy KERS systems is once again putting a higher premium on driver weight, despite moves to further increase the overall car-plus-driver minimum weight.

A report in Spain's El Mundo Deportivo said Ferrari driver Alonso - who currently weighs in at 68 kilograms - wants to lose between 2 and 3 kg before Bahrain in March.

"The fans should get ready for me being thinner," the 29-year-old smiled during Ferrari's Christmas celebrations at Maranello.

"With the return of KERS, every kilo a driver can trim can be used as ballast.  So I'm going to lose a little weight," confirmed Alonso.

"I will also improve my athletic preparation for the longest championship in history because it will be necessary to be fully fit for ten months," he added.

Williams' Barrichello admitted recently that his engineers had asked him to lose some weight before 2011 for the same reason.

Organizers get construction green light for US GP site
(GMM)  Organizers of the 2012 US grand prix have received a green-light to begin work on the circuit at the Austin site.

Local KVUE news reports that a conditional approval has been granted for work within the Dry Creek flood plain to begin.

The authoritative American Statesman newspaper explained that the approval of Travis County Commissioners on Tuesday means initial "grading work" at the site will likely now take place before final approval is granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"County officials said they anticipate no significant objections from FEMA," said the report.

Organizers have said they would begin work this month, necessary to have the facility ready for the formula one circus to arrive in 2012.

However, there is still some uncertainty about who will pay the $6m price-tag for road improvements.  A recent county study found that it might take race-goers as long as 12 hours to leave the area after the inaugural event.

"Everybody is talking about a lot of people coming to our community and that this event is going to be a wild success," said US GP spokesman Richard Suttle.

Webber plays down impact of team orders 'return'
(GMM)  Mark Webber has played down the likely impact of F1's lifting of the ban on team orders.

"People shouldn't get too nervous about it.  They're not going to see it every weekend," said the Australian.

Webber was an advocate of a team strategy in Red Bull's recent championship campaign, arguing that the 2002 ban did not stop orders from being imposed in F1.

The FIA has decided to lift the ban for 2011 after Ferrari's team strategy at Hockenheim this year showed that enforcement is difficult and controversial.

"I think the Ferrari one was pretty brutal and that's as bad as it gets," Webber said on Tuesday on BBC radio.

But as for team orders 'returning' next year, he laughed: "Yeah, like they ever went!

"When you've got two drivers driving for a team and you can swing the results around every now and again to help the team achieve a better result ... it has been done in the past, it's been done up and down the field.

"I've done it myself at times.  I've been on the receiving end of it and done it as well in teams I've driven for in the past," revealed Webber, 34.

His comments are at odds with the policy of strict driver equality at Red Bull, but Webber insists that his spats were never so serious in 2010 as to cause him to think about leaving.

"I knew as a team we could go through growing pains this year and go forward from it," said Webber.

"So it never went through my mind that I needed to go somewhere else."

During the interview, however, Webber did admit that most F1 drivers secretly covet a Ferrari seat.

"I will take each year as it comes," he said.  "Contract time always comes around and you're either wanted or you're not.  Let's see what happens in 2012.

"I still need to want to do it.  What's really important is that you finish on top of your game.  I don't want to be beaten by some guys who I don't think should (beat me)."

Giedo van der Garde
Van der Garde still in running for Virgin seat
(GMM)  Giedo van der Garde might still be in the running for the Virgin seat alongside Timo Glock in 2011.

Last week, it emerged that Belgian Jerome d'Ambrosio's hopes had advanced so far that he only needed the approval of team partner Marussia to secure the race seat.

But Dutchman van der Garde, whose manager Jan Paul ten Hoopen is also commercial director of the fashion brand McGregor, has also been strongly linked with Virgin for 2011.

"Giedo is ready," said ten Hoopen.  "We hope that a decision is taken for Christmas."

The magazine formule1.nl reports that Lucas di Grassi, the seat's 2010 occupant, also stands a chance of staying at Virgin.

Ten Hoopen denies that money alone will determine the victor.

"Teams look at three things: speed, potential and budget," he insisted.

"It's not like the one with the most money automatically gets the spot.  Giedo has developed enormously in recent years and is thus an attractive partner for a team," he added.

"The plan we set out has largely been realized: champion in the Renault World Series, a good debut in GP2 with a top classification and some wins, and in the second year champion.

"The latter didn't quite work out for various reasons not only under Giedo's control.

"He is right when he said going into formula one will be difficult, but we do believe that he has a chance," added van der Garde's manager.

Chris Dyer
Montezemolo asked if Dyer getting Christmas present
(GMM)  A cheeky Italian journalist risked the ire of Luca di Montezemolo on Tuesday during the Ferrari president's annual Christmas dinner for the country's media.

Asked what Christmas present he is planning for Fernando Alonso, the 63-year-old replied: "What the heck do you give him?

"He earns enough," laughed Montezemolo, who gave each of the reporters a model of this year's F10.  "And I already give him a F1 car!" he quipped.

Amused that Montezemolo seemed not to be planning a gift at all, the questioner cheekily hit back: "I'm not asking you what you're going to give Chris Dyer..."

Chief engineer and Australian Dyer is thought at risk of losing his job after bungling the race strategy that cost Alonso the drivers' title last month in Abu Dhabi.

Montezemolo repeated again that Ferrari is not planning a major staff upheaval before the 2011 season, but that "some adjustments" are likely to take place.

He also played down rumors he is preparing to enter Italian politics, or that Ferrari to be floated on the stock exchange.

Montezemolo will similarly meet with international journalists on Thursday.

Vitantonio Liuzzi
'Calm' Liuzzi expects to keep Force India seat
(GMM)  Vitantonio Liuzzi has declared once again that he has an ongoing contract and therefore expects to stay at Force India in 2011.

Although next year's FIA entry list currently lists no drivers as confirmed for the Silverstone based team, it is widely believed that Adrian Sutil is staying put.

Speculation also suggests that Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg are the candidates to race alongside German Sutil next season.

Italian Liuzzi confirms: "Every time a driver is mentioned who Force India might be interested in, it always seems that I am the one who will have to make the space.

"But this is only what some media say, because from my side I am very calm," the 29-year-old said in an interview published on Italian magazine Autosprint's website.

"On the team's side, no one has said anything to me about it.  I have a contract for next season and I am already working from that perspective," added Liuzzi.

"I feel safe, not only because of the contract in my hand but also because of my good relations with the team," he continued.

"The team has told me they cannot stop the media (speculation), and already at a press conference at Suzuka they denied the rumors," said Liuzzi.

Indeed, ahead of the Japanese grand prix in October, deputy team principal Robert Fernley answered "yes" as to whether both Sutil and Liuzzi are staying in 2011.

But subsequently, team owner and boss Vijay Mallya said Force India has "open spaces" for 2011.

The 2011 entry list appeared to confirm Mallya's statement.

Liuzzi responded: "The fact that my name is not on the list has nothing to do with it as there are also other drivers (not on the list) who have already signed.

"Between myself and Force India, the situation is more than clear," he insisted.

"I have heard many things but then you realize they have come from nowhere.  If you remember, according to some journalists di Resta was already sitting in my car in the middle of last season, but then I finished normally.

"So I have decided to pay no attention to anything except for what I am told directly by the team," added Liuzzi.

Alguersuari says 2011 Toro Rosso deal '100 per cent'
(GMM)  Jaime Alguersuari has revealed he has "no idea" why the recently published FIA entry list does not feature his name.

But the Spaniard is quoted by the sports newspaper Marca as insisting he will be on the 2011 grid next March at the wheel of a Toro Rosso.

The Red Bull-owned team has announced on more than one occasion that Alguersuari, 20, and his Swiss teammate Sebastien Buemi are staying put for 2011.

And even after the publication of the double 'TBA' on the entry list alongside Toro Rosso's name, official team sources clarified that the driver lineup is not in doubt.

Asked why he was left off the list, Alguersuari - a keen amateur DJ - joked: "Because I'm thinking about leaving F1 for music.

"I am with Toro Rosso, for sure.  I don't know why people are playing this game -- I am in formula one, 100 per cent."

He said his goal for 2011 is to "be among the top ten in every race".

"I want to keep doing the work we have been doing and above all to finish seventh or eighth in the constructors' championship," added Alguersuari.

"The team and I gave everything this year.  We didn't have the car for any more.  On a personal level I'm happy with myself and I hope that in 2011 we can keep improving," he said.

On his goals beyond 2011, Alguersuari told La Vanguardia: "I want to be with Red Bull (Racing) and I'd like to be there in two years."

He admits that "depends on how next season goes".

On team orders being legalized for next season, Alguersuari commented: "I see it as positive because each team needs to look out for its own business."

As for his tip for the 2011 title, he admitted: "I sense that McLaren will have a great car next year, I don't know why.  I think Hamilton can win.

"Ferrari's (car) will also be great.  I see the title between Fernando and Lewis and Red Bull surely also there and very competitive," added Alguersuari.

Nelson Piquet Jr. now a lowly truck driver in NASCAR
Piquet says sorry for crashgate scandal
(GMM)  After Renault apologized last week for calling him a liar and blackmailer, Nelson Piquet has now issued his own apology to the wider world.

Having lost his Renault seat last year, the Brazilian revealed to the FIA that he was ordered by his team bosses to crash deliberately in Singapore 2008 to aid his teammate's winning race strategy.

The saga became known as 'crashgate' and Piquet, now 25, is rebuilding his career in America, including by agreeing a deal to race full time in the NASCAR truck series in 2011.

Asked in Sao Paulo about the crashgate affair, Piquet is quoted by Brazil's Globo Esporte: "It was an unfortunate episode that is over now.

"I made a mistake, I was immature, I apologize.

"It happens to many young people who get to a position in a global sport and they're not prepared.

"What I can guarantee is that it will never happen again.  I am restarting my career, getting a second chance, and I think I deserve it.  I've already proved to everyone that I am a winning driver," he insisted.

Piquet said his goal now is to open the door for Brazilians to succeed in NASCAR.

"I want to be one of the first Brazilians to do a full season and to be the first Brazilian champion," he revealed.

"It's great to open the door for other Brazilians coming to America.  There are already many Brazilians racing in Europe and worldwide."

Piquet admitted it might take him some time to reach the pinnacle of the American racing scene, the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

"Our plan is to be in the main category in five to six years," he said.  "We don't really know how quickly it will evolve, it could be a little more (time) or a little less.

"But I don't want to get to the main category unprepared to compete for the title," added Piquet, who is moving to North Carolina.

Kolles blames drivers for HRT's 2010 letdown
(GMM)  Team boss Colin Kolles on Wednesday blamed HRT's lack of success in 2010 on its selection of inexperienced drivers.

The Spanish team, ultimately 11th in the constructors' championship ahead of Virgin but with the least competitive car in the field, began its debut season with the rookie pairing Bruno Senna alongside Karun Chandhok.

Brazilian Senna contested most of the season but the more experienced Sakon Yamamoto and Christian Klien also drove for HRT in 2010.

"It was a difficult year but we were the most reliable new team," said Kolles in an interview distributed by the Spanish team.

"I think the only reason why we did not finish tenth is that teams like Lotus and Virgin had more experienced drivers during the whole season.

"I think that in testing we showed quite a good performance in relation to the other new teams," he added.

Speculation has surrounded the future of Hispania, particularly with the split with 2011 partner Toyota leaving the team precious little time to prepare a better car.

Reports in recent days indicated a possible link with former Super Aguri technical director Mark Preston's Formtech company, but the Australian has confirmed that he has not been in contact with HRT.

Kolles nevertheless sounds confident.

"We are working to have a better package than last year.  Obviously this depends on a lot of factors but we are working to achieve our goals," he said.

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