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Latest F1 news in brief - Wednesday UPDATE #2 2nd updates shown in blue below.

02/16/11 Updates shown in Red below.

  • Bahrain race still in question
    Bahrain GP cancellation threat remains
  • F1 owner CVC launches Gribkowsky bribe investigation
  • Williams denies running underweight car at Jerez
  • Pirelli still working on softest tires
  • Overtaking in F1 'should be difficult' - Vettel
  • Kovalainen sure Lotus switch was right move
  • Asia Jet is new Official Partner to the Sauber F1 Team New
  • Vettel thinks buttons are nonsense New
  • Still no love between Red Bull drivers New
  • Kubica calls Barrichello New
  • 'Leaner' Webber might stay in 2012 says Horner New
  • Shanghai signs 7 year extension for F1 race New
  • Hamilton's brother to begin race career in 2011 New
  • Sauber said 'Shut up and drive!' - Villeneuve New

Bahrain GP cancellation threat remains
(GMM)  A dark cloud is lingering above the 2011 season opener.

Anti-government protesters in Bahrain are clashing violently with police, with next month's grand prix specifically targeted by one group and Bernie Ecclestone admitting "danger".

For formula one, the biggest danger is that the race - scheduled to take place a week after pre-race tests at the same Sakhir circuit - will have to be called off.

"There are realities on the ground that we need to accept," an FIA spokesman told the Associated Press.

"But the FIA is fully confident, with the Bahrain motor federation, that the situation will be resolved amicably."

With a round of GP2 Asia taking place this weekend, the spokesman insisted that the situation is being closely monitored.

The Bahrain circuit said its main focus is safety.

Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa
"We are monitoring the situation very closely indeed in association with the relevant authorities, and will respond appropriately to any further developments," said chief executive Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa in a statement.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner acknowledged the threat to next month's events but said there is no alarming news about the situation emerging from the venue at present.

The Briton's GP2 team Arden is competing in Bahrain this weekend.

"I spoke to the team yesterday and they didn't mention any concerns and hopefully that race will go ahead as planned," he told Reuters.

A GP2 spokesperson told the Guardian: "The teams at the track have reported nothing shocking.  There is no concern and GP2 will be running this weekend."

Ecclestone told the Times that a decision about the F1 event will have to be taken "very quickly".

"It's a great shame because Bahrain have worked very hard to get their grand prix, but we have to be aware of what is going on there," he said.

"We will be watching every day so that we can inform the teams as soon as possible when we know whether it is safe to go ahead."

He admitted the very real possibility of cancellation.

"The Middle East is a big growth area and we want to be there but we also want to be safe and make sure that formula one is seen in the best light," said Ecclestone.

"I have never had any problems in Bahrain in the past and I'm happy to walk around town there.  But we don't know now.  The world is changing."

An FIA spokesman told the Guardian: "The plan is for the grand prix to go ahead but our main concern will always be the safety of the teams and the spectators."

F1 owner CVC launches Gribkowsky bribe investigation
(GMM)  F1's owner has launched an investigation into the takeover of the sport five years ago.

The news comes after banker Gerhard Gribkowsky was jailed on charges surrounding his receipt of $50 million, with mainly German publications claiming F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone may be connected with the mystery payment.

Sky News revealed on Tuesday that the sport's owner CVC Capital Partners, and the holding company Delta Topco's board, has appointed auditor Ernst+Young and law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to investigate the affair.

Sky News City editor Mark Kleinman said the probe will focus on "the circumstances surrounding the takeover of formula one back in 2006".

Kleinman added that the firms have been instructed to report back "within a matter of weeks".

Bloomberg quotes Ecclestone as saying: "I've been advised not to talk to anyone about it.  A person has been detained."

CVC repeated its earlier statement that it "has no knowledge of, nor any involvement in, any payment to Mr. Gribkowsky or anyone connected with him in relation to CVC's acquisition of formula one".

Williams denies running underweight car at Jerez
(GMM)  Williams has rubbished claims it set the fastest time of last week's Jerez test by running an underweight car.

Rubens Barrichello's best lap was comfortably faster than any of his 23 rival drivers, moving one unnamed competitor to declare he 'didn't believe' he had witnessed genuine performance.

Rumors suggested the Brazilian's new FW33 car was running low fuel, super soft tires and an underweight car after its KERS unit was removed, mere days before 27 per cent of the Oxfordshire based team's shares are offered on the stock market.

"Absolute nonsense," Williams' technical director Sam Michael told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.  "The time is real.  Anyone who knows our team knows that we don't run underweight.

"The time is down to Rubens using the super-soft tires, and of course he had a little less fuel in the tank.

"But the KERS elements were all on board; we only cut the connection from the generator to the engine because we had had a problem with the cooling," the Australian insisted.

Michael said Barrichello's time, half a second quicker than his nearest rival Michael Schumacher, could have been another few tenths quicker had the KERS been working.

As for why the FW33 was suddenly so competitive after days in the midfield, he explained: "This is because we had only used the medium tires and always with a relatively large amount of fuel on board.

"We never got the medium tire to work and we still don't know why," admitted Michael.

At the same time, Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn dismissed reports that Michael Schumacher's second-best time at Jerez last week was a 'glory run' to ease pressure off the marque.

"There is little point to wasting precious track time on low-fuel 'glory' runs when there is far more important work to complete," he told F1's official website.

Pirelli still working on softest tires
(GMM)  Pirelli has tweaked its softest tires ahead of the last European pre-season test this week.

The move follows reports that the super-soft tire has been ruled out for at least the opening four races of 2011, after it degraded severely after only one lap at Jerez.

"This compound will hardly be seen at a grand prix in 2011," Sebastian Vettel is quoted as predicting in Blick newspaper.

It is believed that is why Pirelli agreed to make some last minute changes for the Barcelona test, which is the last track outing before F1 moves to Bahrain.

"Pirelli will bring a modified version of the super-soft and soft tires (to Barcelona), in response to feedback from the teams following the first official tests," the Italian supplier confirmed.

Overtaking in F1 'should be difficult' - Vettel
(GMM)  New world champion Sebastian Vettel has admitted he is no supporter of F1's mandatory adjustable rear wings in 2011.

At the Jerez test last week, having already experimented with the systems earlier, teams for the first time trialed the FIA-coded software that will govern when the rear wings can be triggered on track this year to aid overtaking.

Fernando Alonso commented that he believes the current specification, with wings to only be triggered in the last 600 meters of a straight, will not make overtaking much easier.

"Overtaking in F1 has always been difficult," German Vettel told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Whoever manages to get past gets the same sort of admiration as a goal scorer in football."

He therefore thinks F1's new overtaking system, in combination with boost-button KERS units, is a "risk".

"There is a risk that the public thinks overtaking will now be too easy," insisted Vettel.

The Red Bull driver admits he is an admirer of F1's purer days.

"The drivers should be driving, not playing with all sorts of different buttons and systems," he said.

"Last year there was the F-duct, now it’s the rear wing and KERS.  I'm not totally convinced that this is all a good thing," complained Vettel.

Kovalainen sure Lotus switch was right move
(GMM)  Heikki Kovalainen is confident that Team Lotus' newly launched car justifies his decision to join the outfit.

After a disappointing two-year tenure with McLaren, the Finn switched to Lotus just as the small Tony Fernandes-led team entered formula one in 2010.

It was a difficult season at the back of the grid, but Team Lotus is confident the T128 car is much better.

"In terms of speed, the car looks a lot better than where we were a year ago," Kovalainen told Finland's Turun Sanomat.

"When comparing the feeling in the garage and the progress of one year, it's like night and day," added the 29-year-old.  "I'm really happy with it."

As for the car, the "balance is better and there is more grip, and it can be driven harder.

"The chassis is much more modern.  Engine, gearbox and hydraulics have also been completely upgraded and are now at the level of a modern F1 car".

Hopes are high that Team Lotus could join the midfield fight in 2011.

"I don't think about whether we are going to catch up with Toro Rosso, Force India or Sauber.  My personal goal is to get some points in those races in which it is possible.

"As a team we have definitely taken a step forward, which I expected.  I am more convinced than ever that the move to Lotus was a good decision," added Kovalainen.

Asia Jet is new Official Partner to the Sauber F1 Team
The Sauber F1 Team is pleased to announce Asia Jet as a new Official Partner. The logo of Hong Kong’s leading private jet company will be visible on the Sauber C30-Ferrari at selected races. At all APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Grands Prix plus the first Indian Grand Prix the name of Asia Jet will be seen in a central position on the rear wing endplates.

Team Principal Peter Sauber said: “Asia Jet is a prestigious and growing brand in a high-tech business in which time and performance are crucial, as is also the case in our sport. As Formula One is getting more and more popular in Asia with an increasing number of races to be held there, we regard Formula One as an ideal marketing platform for Asia Jet.”

Mike Walsh, CEO of Asia Jet, added: “We are extremely excited to be supporting Sauber Motorsport. With Kamui Kobayashi, who is already a household name in Asia, and the new Mexican recruit Sergio Perez, we look forward to discovering new heights together both on the track and in the sky with this collaboration. Asia Jet is a proud supporter of Formula One, and has consistently flown fans, drivers and sponsors to attend the F1 races in different cities for the past few seasons. We hope to continue and extend our reach further throughout Asia and beyond, combining the best F1 has to offer with the convenience of getting to and from the races on the schedules of our important clients. We are convinced this will be very successful for Asia Jet and further enhance our reputation as the leading private jet company of choice for our customers.”

Asia Jet is the leading private jet company in Hong Kong, with one of the largest charter fleets in the region. The company has branches in Beijing, Shanghai, and Tokyo and is well known for its award winning quality service. Asia Jet is highly-rated by elite travelers for offering the best and most comprehensive choice in private jet solutions.

Vettel thinks button are nonsense
Sebastian Vettel has again spoken of his unease over F1's mandatory adjustable rear wings in 2011, believing they could reduce the impact of overtaking in the eyes of spectators.

At the Jerez test last week, having already experimented with the systems earlier, teams trialed the FIA-coded software that will govern when the rear wings can be triggered on track this year to aid overtaking.

"Overtaking in F1 has always been difficult," Vettel told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Whoever manages to get past gets the same sort of admiration as a goal scorer in football.

"There is a risk that the public thinks overtaking will now be too easy. The drivers should be driving, not playing with all sorts of different buttons and systems.

"Last year there was the F-duct, now it's the rear wing and KERS. I'm not totally convinced that this is all a good thing."

Still no love between Red Bull Drivers
There will be no let-up in the battle for supremacy between Red Bull pair Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, according to team owner Dieter Mateschitz.

"Sebastian is fully motivated, and Mark nothing less," Mateschitz told Autosport. "They won't exchange gifts. Therefore I expect a similar situation to last year. And they remain both free to race. We do not change our strategy."

Reports that Webber will retire at the end of this season refuse to go away, but Mateschitz insists he's good enough to continue racing.

"Why should he? He has a body of steel, and he is mentally in perfect shape," he said. "If he does not continue with us, he will be offered a contract somewhere else. He is a top driver, at the same level as Sebastian. They both are exceptional guys, and this includes characters."

Mateschitz admits it will be tough to defend their Drivers' and Constructors' Championships this year as everyone will be out to beat them.

"For the first time we are the hunted ones and not the hunters, which is a new experience," he said. "To achieve something in F1 is easier than to maintain it. I don't want to make any forecast for 2011, as it is much too early. Every team will have different cars with updates until Bahrain." Planet F1

Kubica calls Barrichello
Rubens Barrichello was delighted to let everyone know that he received a phone call from injured friend Robert Kubica who is now making a slow recovery in hospital.

Wednesday will see Kubica go under the knife for a fourth operation.

‘Guess from who I received a call today??’ Barrichello typed on his personal Twitter feed. ‘Robert Kubica...thank GOD he is ok, talking normally...I was so happy...’

'Leaner' Webber might stay in 2012 says Horner
(GMM)  Mark Webber will not necessarily leave Red Bull at the end of 2011, his team boss Christian Horner has declared.

After a season of success and also turmoil in 2010, the 34-year-old Australian driver has signed only a one-year contract for this season, saying he wants to gauge his motivation before committing further.

But although the team and Webber were often at odds last year whilst he was locked in battle for the title with his teammate Sebastian Vettel, Horner said on Wednesday that a longer future together cannot be ruled out.

"Mark isn't approaching this year like this is his final year," he is quoted by the Daily Mail.

"We both agreed to keep his contract on a yearly basis at this stage in his career because it's important for us to see he's got the speed, motivation, hunger and commitment.

"All of those things look undiminished at the moment, if anything, burning brighter than ever.

"So we'll see how this season develops and obviously as we head towards the latter part of the summer then we'll start to talk about the following season," added Horner.

The Briton said Webber is "leaner, lighter and extremely motivated" for the 2011 season, which is scheduled to begin in Bahrain next month.

Shanghai signs 7 year extension for F1 race
(GMM)  The future of the Chinese grand prix is secure, it emerged on Wednesday.

Earlier, it was reported that officials wanted better contract terms for a renewal, with the first seven races at the imposing Shanghai International Circuit attracting few spectators and huge financial losses.

According to the Shanghai Daily, the city's Sport Bureau announced on Wednesday that the deal between Formula One Management and local organizer Juss Events has been extended through 2017.

Shanghai vice mayor Zhao Wen was quoted as saying the value of the renewed contract is lower than the previous one.

Hamilton's brother to begin race career in 2011
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton's younger brother is set to kick off his own motor racing career.

19-year-old Nicolas Hamilton, who has cerebral palsy, has reportedly gained a National B license and, with initial tests having already taken place, will start the Renault Clio Cup with a race at Brands Hatch in April.

The series is a support event for the British Touring Car Championship.

"I have loved motor sport from a young age and watching my brother achieve so much has given me inspiration to make my own racing debut," said Nicolas, who is a well-known face in the F1 paddock.

"I know this will not be an easy task, but I hope my doing this will give inspiration to others who have challenges in their life," he added.

Sauber said 'Shut up and drive!' - Villeneuve
(GMM)  Jacques Villeneuve has given a fascinating insight into some of the teams he experienced during his decade in formula one.

"I loved Williams because there was a good atmosphere," the French Canadian, who won the world championship with the British team in 1997, told the French language pitlane-vision.com.

"But that was normal because we were in front.  I had a lot of freedom to work on the car and there were no political problems," added the winner of 11 grands prix, who turns 40 this year.

After his early success with Williams, Villeneuve switched to the new BAR team, headed by his then manager Craig Pollock.

"At BAR, I had a lot of freedom with the car but there were so many political problems that it was unmanageable.

"After one year there was the impression that we had been racing for 5 years non-stop -- it was pretty exhausting," added Villeneuve, who after 1997 never won another race.

His final seasons in F1 were with Sauber.

"On the other side to Williams, at Sauber, it was 'Shut up and drive, we do not want you to design the car!'" he concluded.

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