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Latest F1 news in brief - Friday UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

  • Virgin to race with Russian license in 2011
  • Contenders cautious as Valencia test ends
  • 600 meter zone for rear wing overtaking - FIA
  • Hembery defends Pirelli after Valencia test
  • No 'twilight' race time change for Melbourne New
  • Sauber rules out aping Williams' stock market move New
  • Fernandes turned down $10m Lotus settlement offer New

Virgin to race with Russian license in 2011
(GMM)  F1 team Virgin will race with a Russian license in 2011, it will be announced officially early next week.

The Russian sports car maker Marussia sponsored the new British team last year, and ahead of the 2011 season acquired shares and renamed the team Marussia Virgin.

The team, whose 2011 car will be launched on Monday at the BBC television centre in London, announced this week that Marussia chief Nikolay Fomenko has become engineering director.

Marussia's UK managing director Andy Webb has become CEO, to be assisted by the highly experienced former Jordan and Force India marketing boss Ian Phillips, who is the team's new chief operating officer.

The next announcement is that Virgin will race with a Russian license from 2011, meaning that the Russian tricolor would be flown above the podium in the event of a top-three finish.

"On Monday, February 7, we will officially announce that Marussia Virgin Racing is not just the first Russian team, but the first team with a Russian license," Fomenko is quoted by the Ria Novosti news agency.

"This means that for a victory the Russian anthem will be played," he explained.

Contenders cautious as Valencia test ends
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso on Thursday said he was calm amid reports more adventurous car designs could set the pace in 2011.

With its radical front-exiting exhausts, the new Renault driven by Robert Kubica set the fastest time of all as the first group test of the pre-season concluded.

"Futuristic projects are not always better than more conservative ones," insisted Ferrari's Alonso, according to La Stampa newspaper.

"I have my traditional Ferrari and I'm happy that way," he added.

The Spaniard had joked earlier that the only thing he has noticed about Red Bull's new car was its unchanged livery.

Now also asked about the newly Lotus-sponsored Renault, Alonso answered: "One (the Red Bull) has the same colors as before, the other (the Renault) is different."

Christian Horner, boss of the reigning champion Red Bull team, told Sport Bild that he too is cautious about drawing conclusions.

"Everyone knows that the times are insignificant at the moment," he insisted.

Of the other main contenders, McLaren's 2011 car breaks cover for the first time only on Friday, while there have been concerns about the early speed of Mercedes' new W02.

"What we have on the car now is a long way from what we are eventually going to have," warned Nico Rosberg.  "Right now, I'm not worried."

And with moving wings, scarce allocations of tires at the test, KERS and big fuel tanks all in the mix, his Mercedes teammate Michael Schumacher is also not panicking.

"There are so many things to take into account that I don't care about the times," said the German.

"Some teams could be close already to what they are going to have at the first race, while for others it is different," Schumacher is quoted by L'Equipe.

"We will have a clearer picture of the situation in Bahrain for the final test," he insisted.

Team boss Ross Brawn agrees: "It's too early to judge, but there is nothing wrong with this car," he is quoted by autohebdo.fr.

His counterpart at Ferrari, technical director Aldo Costa, also said the pecking order after just three days of testing is unclear.

"I'm not saying we're stumbling around in the dark, but almost," he told reporters on Thursday.

600 meter zone for rear wing overtaking - FIA
(GMM)  At the Valencia test this week, F1's governing body gave teams more details about the operation of the mandatory moveable rear wings in 2011.

Drivers have been experimenting with the overtaking aid this week, with observers able to visibly see the rear wing open up on the straight to stall the downforce before it is clicked back into place at the braking zone.

It has been feared that if chasing drivers are allowed to press the rear wing button too often, overtaking will become commonplace and uninteresting.

So the FIA has told teams that if the chasing car is within a certain time of his rival - say, one second - he will be allowed to activate the wing only within a 600-metre zone at the end of a straight.

These zones will reportedly be marked out with white lines, and Guardian correspondent Richard Williams reported that the one second gap will be calculated at the corner before the designated straight.

"Further information, going into detail and the various scenarios still has to be clarified," said Ferrari's technical director Aldo Costa, adding that the wings for now will not be operated in the wet.

"Then it will be a case of seeing how things go in the race to understand how to proceed," he added, suggesting that the rules may be tweaked depending on the outcome of the initial races.

The early feedback from the drivers is that, combined with preparing and triggering KERS and watching for the rear wing green light, their cockpit workload is increasingly unreasonable.

"It's just not enjoyable -- pressing buttons, changing gear, pressing and holding," said Rubens Barrichello.

Of the newer generation, however, Fernando Alonso said he was beginning to get his head around the new functions after a few days in the car.

The old guard is unconvinced.

"It's not motor racing.  It's calculation," slammed Swiss ex-driver and German-language commentator Marc Surer.

Team Lotus' technical boss Mike Gascoyne thinks the FIA is right to flag possible changes to the rear wing rules this year.

"I don't think we're going to get it right straight away," he predicted, admitting his own concerns about the loss of racing's purity.

"Some of the greatest drives were by people like Gilles Villeneuve, holding off the rest of the field.  Are you going to say 'Well, that's never going to happen anymore'?"

Another fear is that chasing drivers will call off a genuine overtaking attempt on another part of the circuit in order to simply press the button in the designated 600-metre zone.

But F1's most successful driver, Michael Schumacher, backs the concept.

"It's a good innovation," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"We know that in F1 we have a problem with cars following other ones.  If there is no dramatic change in the ratio between aerodynamic and mechanical grip, you need something else.  This might help," added the German.

And Schumacher said he doubts pressing the button will make overtaking easy.

"There is no button for just driving past someone.  It could be that we just close the gap and get in the slipstream to start a fight.  Or it could be that it's not quite enough."

Ferrari's Costa agrees: "Our calculations say that it (600m) is on the edge."

Hembery defends Pirelli after Valencia test
(GMM)  The Italian marque's F1 boss Paul Hembery has defended Pirelli after the first test of the 2011 pre-season at Valencia.

Several drivers have complained about the consistency but particularly the poor durability of the tires supplied to teams at the first of four tests before the 2011 season opener.

Hembery said as the test began that the 2011 compounds are now in a "pretty definitive" specification for the first races.

But the subsequent feedback, at best, was mixed.

"Of the compounds available, some were more consistent than others," Michael Schumacher told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"I had some awkward moments on the track when I was on tires that I had not been on for long.  It was like driving on ice," admitted the seven time world champion.

Schumacher, who struggled with departed Bridgestone's tires last year, hopes Pirelli is still willing to make changes.

"I think they are still in the testing phase and that they will deal with the situation well," he said.

Hembery responded to the driver feedback of this week by suggesting that the ambient conditions at Valencia were not ideal.

"The tires don't like it too cold," he is quoted by Turun Sanomat, confirming that Pirelli will make some tweaks ahead of the next tests.

"Another thing we have to remember that all tires wear out, which is something some people seem to have forgotten in the last few days," he insisted.

Yet another consideration is that, in the interests of the spectacle, Pirelli was specifically asked by Bernie Ecclestone to produce aggressive tires for 2011 that force multiple pitstops.

"Some teams here have had a new car, some last year's car.  It is very early to draw conclusions," Hembery said.

He added: "You can't make decisions based on one set of comments or data or because someone wants something different, you need to have a general understanding."

No 'twilight' race time change for Melbourne
(GMM)  Melbourne will stage another 'twilight' grand prix this year.

The 2010 edition at Albert Park was criticized by drivers who said fading light towards the end was dangerous.

But Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker had denied reports that the drivers had lobbied successfully for an earlier race start, while Bernie Ecclestone favored the twilight concept for European television viewers.

"It (the 5pm start) is clearly not dangerous," said Walker.  "You can't please these drivers, they are a bunch of lazy people who won't do anything to help the sport."

The FIA announced on Friday that the 2011 race on 27 March will start at 1700.

Meanwhile, a race start time for the inaugural Indian grand prix in October has not yet been set.

Sauber rules out aping Williams' stock market move
(GMM)  Peter Sauber has played down claims his Swiss formula one could follow Williams' lead by floating shares on the stock market.

Williams, which like Sauber is a fully independent team, announced recently that a floatation is the "best way to secure" its future.

It is believed that 28 per cent of the team will be issued on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange later this month, with Sir Frank Williams to remain in charge as the majority shareholder.

Hinwil based Sauber has also been working to re-establish its footing for the future, after former owner BMW's withdrawal and the failed sale to Qadbak.

Peter Sauber has admitted he does not want to still be on the pitwall when he turns 70 in a few years, but on Friday he seemed to rule out following Williams into the stock market.

"I honestly have to say that I don't understand the reasons behind going public.  That's all I have to say," he told F1's official website.

It might be said that Sauber has ruled out selling shares to the public because new sponsor Telmex, headed by billionaire Carlos Slim, might be looking to take over the team.

But Peter Sauber insisted: "I don't think so.  It was never the plan that Carlos Slim would get directly involved with the team.

"And to be honest I feel pretty good knowing that 100 per cent of the team is with me again," he added.

Fernandes turned down $10m Lotus settlement offer
(GMM)  Tony Fernandes has revealed for the first time that Group Lotus has offered to settle the F1 naming dispute out of court.

The parties are fighting over Fernandes' right to use the 'Team Lotus' name he bought from David Hunt for his Hingham based team in 2011.

Group Lotus terminated a license for Fernandes' team to use 'Lotus Racing' last year, before the famous Proton-owned sports car maker decided to enter F1 as title sponsor to Renault.

"I considered doing a deal, but the one they offered me would have bankrupted us," Malaysian Fernandes, whose team is testing privately at Valencia on Friday, is quoted by the Norwich Advertiser.

It is reported elsewhere that the deal offered was less than US $10m.

Instead, the saga has descended into a 'he said, she said' tit-for-tat, with fans now facing the prospect of two Lotus teams on the grid this year before a High Court ruling.

"It's petty," agreed Fernandes.

"I think we should all grow up and let the courts decide, and at the end of the day we honor the courts.

"I said I didn't want to say anything anymore, but they keep making statements.  I can't just say silent."

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