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Latest F1 news in brief - Friday UPDATE #2 2nd Update shown in blue below.

02/18/11 Updates shown in red below.

  • Barcelona
    F1 must axe Bahrain season opener - Lauda
  • F1 eyes Barcelona to replace Bahrain test
  • Formula One organizers hire Austin advertising, PR firms
  • Austin F1 construction now hard to miss
  • Heidfeld reveals 2010 talks with Renault New
  • 'No reason' for Red Bull switch insists Vettel New
  • McLaren's Dennis meets de la Rosa in Spain New
  • Work continues at Texas site for 2012 US GP New
  • F1 loses another attempt to control abbreviation New
  • Bob Bell to be Mercedes tech boss from April New
  • SMC University and Marussia Virgin Racing Team Up New
  • Kubica faces another two weeks in hospital New
  • Red Bull keen on VW link for F1 team - Mateschitz New
  • Glock already looking ahead to 2012 New
  • Hard to copy Renault exhaust concept - Costa New
  • Williams to reveal 2011 livery next Thursday New

F1 must axe Bahrain season opener - Lauda
(GMM)  Niki Lauda has urged F1 authorities to call off the 2011 season opener.

"This is about democracy in a country," the triple world champion told Bild newspaper, as anti-government protesters clash with violent police in Bahrain's capital Manama.

"It would be wrong to suddenly burst into a sports event.  We need to stay out of there," added Lauda.

A GP2 Asia race has already been cancelled, with some competitors including Spaniard Dani Clos revealing that his hotel was just 200 meters from the centre of the fighting.

"After learning that we weren't going to race, the only thought was finding a way to get out of the country," he told AS newspaper.  "And the sooner the better."

The F1 teams are yet to declare a unified position on the March testing and world championship opener, but FOTA is scheduled to meet in Barcelona on Friday.

"The safety of our employees is paramount," Mercedes motor racing vice-president Norbert Haug said.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone spoke to the media late on Thursday and admitted he is very concerned.

"It's not good is it?" said the Briton.  "If things stay as they are today, the answer is no.  If it's not quietened down by Wednesday, I think we will have to cancel probably," added Ecclestone.

"We'll make a decision by Tuesday or Wednesday," he said, "(but) If you are making travel arrangements, I'd say don't.

"We may try to put it (Bahrain) on again later in the year."

The Bahrain military said on state television late on Thursday that it had "key parts" of Manama back under control.

But US secretary of state Hilary Clinton, even with America's entire fifth fleet stationed in Bahrain, admitted "deep concern" about the government's violent overreaction to the protests.

F1 eyes Barcelona to replace Bahrain test
(GMM)  F1 might simply stay in Barcelona if the final pre-season test scheduled to take place in troubled Bahrain early next month is called off.

After testing between Friday and Monday at the Circuit de Catalunya in the coming days, formula one had intended to conclude its pre-season program in Bahrain a week before the championship opener in the island Kingdom.

But with cancellation of 2011's first of 20 scheduled rounds now looking likely, the teams will not want to forgo the four days of testing scheduled in Bahrain for March 3-6.

"FOTA has asked us what dates we have available at the prospect of being unable to go to the last test, but there is no formal request yet," Vicenc Aguilera, the new president of the Circuit de Catalunya consortium, is quoted by El Pais newspaper.

Aguilera said the Montmelo venue is booked on some of the days between the end of this week's test and early March.

"But if F1 asks us something, we will do our best to please," he insisted.

The F1 teams association FOTA will meet in Barcelona on Friday, as the four days of scheduled pre-season testing begins.

Formula One organizers hire Austin advertising, PR firms
Organizers of the proposed Formula One race in Austin have tapped local firms to handle marketing and public relations duties. Austin-based Exopolis Inc. will assume marketing and branding duties as agency of record for the race, the United States Grand Prix, and its venue, which is scheduled to open for an inaugural race in 2012.

Austin-based firm Hahn, Texas will handle media relations and other support duties.

Exopolis CEO Matt Hovis said his team is "extremely enthusiastic" about its new client.

"We're just thrilled, as you can imagine," said Hovis, who is a self-described car nut.

Exopolis was originally based in Los Angeles but was purchased last year by Austin Ventures and merged with Austin-based Action Figure.

Besides Los Angeles and Austin, Hovis' firm has offices in New York, with clients including Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp. and the cable network Nickelodeon.

Hovis said his agency's duties will include naming and brand development of the race facility, which is being built on more than 900 acres in eastern Travis County.

There will also be some extra effort required to educate the American public on the sport, which is popular worldwide, he said.

His team members are educating themselves on the sport and the facility's master plan, Hovis said.

"I think Austin is going to end up being an absolutely ideal fit for this," he said. "Part of what we'll be marketing is our fantastic little city. That's one of the great draws of this account for us."

Jeff Hahn, Hahn's principal, said he will personally oversee the Formula One assignment.

"It's that important," he said.

"One of our bigger priorities is to help develop the fan base in Austin, in Texas and around the world," he said.

Additionally, Hahn said his firm will help keep the public up to date on developments such as the reaching of milestones on track construction.

Clients of Hahn's firm include Catellus, the Mueller master developer; Samsung; and Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

"Every once in a while, a firm like ours gets to dream big and define a new piece of the Texas landscape," he said.

"These firms impressed us with their creative energy and outreach capabilities," said Sandy West, vice president of corporate affairs for Formula 1 United States.

"We are creating a world-class business and entertainment destination, so we selected agencies willing to bring their full commitment and a collaborative spirit to that vision," West said. The Statesman

Austin F1 construction now hard to miss
In late December there was some heavy equipment on the planned U.S. Grand Prix site in Elroy, southeast of Austin. But there wasn’t much of it and it was tucked away in some small hills on the 970-acre tract and not visible from the nearby roads.

In January and early February the earth-moving picked up speed, but was hardly proceeding at a breakneck pace. In the past two days, however, the F1 construction has become hard to miss — assuming, of course, that you’re driving on FM 812, which not many people do.

A trip by the site Thursday revealed a small fleet of white pickups and some frontloaders driving around a sizable stretch of cleared land. What looked to be a line of pipe was also visible from the road. Moving gas pipes is job one for the project.

A cherry picker from a sign company was also at an alternate entrance that has recently been opened on a side road, right across from the neighboring gas station. Will the once super secret site now be marked with a welcoming sign? We’ll soon see. The Statesman

Heidfeld reveals 2010 talks with Renault
(GMM)  Nick Heidfeld came close to being appointed as Robert Kubica's new teammate for 2011.

Instead, the 33-year-old is replacing Kubica following the Pole's horror rally crash, after Renault decided to keep the well-backed Vitaly Petrov on board this season.

But, after Kubica's crash, the ease with which Renault chose German Heidfeld to test the R31 at Jerez last week before appointing him for the newly-vacant race seat is explained by Heidfeld's latest comments in Sport Bild magazine.

"I know the people in charge of the team very well, because during the 2010 season I talked with them about coming here for 2011," he said.

Heidfeld admits it feels "strange" to be replacing his former long-time BMW teammate this season, but insists he would have been happy to simply retain his Sauber seat for 2011.

"I was disappointed when I went no further with Sauber at the end of 2010," admitted the German.

"But I believed firmly that my career was not yet over, which is why I trained harder than usual in the winter."

Heidfeld was the quickest in the field when he tested Renault's innovative new car at Jerez, and he is not ruling out securing his first ever win this year.

"In the longer term I still want to win the world championship.  I won't be put off from my goal," he insisted.

'No reason' for Red Bull switch insists Vettel
(GMM)  Sebastian Vettel has moved to dampen the flames of renewed speculation about a future switch to Ferrari.

The rumors re-emerged this week when Italian reports quoted Red Bull's new world champion as saying he wants a Ferrari seat so badly he would pay for Fernando Alonso to go on holiday.

But although his current team boss Christian Horner insists his drivers are free to express themselves to the media, Vettel has now returned his focus to his existing employer in an interview with Sport Bild.

"There is no reason for me to go elsewhere," said the 23-year-old.

He said the satisfaction of his current situation hit him on the way back into the pits during the first day of Valencia testing earlier this month.

"The blue of my car was shining particularly nicely; I could see the number 1; I thought to myself 'Boy, life is good!'"

And while Vettel has said F1's more famous marques are attractive, he now insists that every driver wants to be sitting in the fastest car.

"You think about how to get the best possible package," he confirmed.  "And I feel very good with Red Bull."

McLaren's Dennis meets de la Rosa in Spain
(GMM)  The Spanish media is still reporting the possibility of a return to McLaren for the British team's former long-time test driver Pedro de la Rosa.

De la Rosa, to turn 40 next week, left the plum role at the end of 2009 to return to the grid with Sauber.

But he was ousted mid-season, leading to the Pirelli test driving role that the Italian marque has also offered him for the 2011 season.

It is believed, however, that the Spaniard would prefer a role with an F1 team, but Spanish reports said recently that McLaren is happy with its current driver lineup of Gary Paffett supporting racers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

But on Thursday, McLaren's executive chairman Ron Dennis was at the Madrid offices of the team's Spanish banking sponsor Santander.

AS newspaper reports that, during his visit, Dennis met with de la Rosa.

Work continues at Texas site for 2012 US GP
(GMM)  Work at the site of the 2012 US grand prix in Texas is now obvious, according to a local reporter.

Organizers of the Austin race recently received digging permission, after initial work commenced at the site including silt fencing and soil drilling.

But a writer for the Austin American Statesman newspaper said signs of construction or machinery were not visible from nearby roads until now.

John Maher reported that earthmoving has been taking place in January and February, while in the past two days vehicles can be seen on a sizeable stretch of cleared land.

"What looked to be a line of pipe was also visible from the road.  Moving gas pipes is job one for the project," he explained.

Maher also wrote that a sign company's cherry picker was also present at a newly-opened entrance to the site.

"Will the once super secret site now be marked with a welcoming sign?  We'll soon see," he said.

F1 loses another attempt to control abbreviation
(GMM)  The Formula One Group has lost another attempt to exclusively control the "F1" abbreviation.

In 2007, the French website F1-Live and the sport's brand exploitation division Formula One Licensing fought over the right to use the "F1" abbreviation for logos and a range of services.

F1-Live, subsequently acquired and renamed by ESPN, was successful on the basis that "F1" is a generic term that cannot be owned.

This week, the case resurfaced in the form of Formula One Licensing's challenge of the European trademarks registry OHIM.

But Luxembourg's European General Court on Thursday agreed with the original finding that "the public" regards the F1 abbreviation as "descriptive".

"The General Court finds that OHIM was correct in making a distinction between the sign F1 as a word and the sign F1 as a logotype", the ruling document reads.

Formula One Licensing, ordered by the court to pay for court costs, can appeal the decision within two months.

Bob Bell to be Mercedes tech boss from April
(GMM)  Renault's former team boss and technical director Bob Bell has re-emerged at Mercedes.

As Renault changed hands and Eric Boullier took over in charge, Ulsterman Bell was left without a role.

"Bob did a good job and I've no idea what will happen," said Norbert Haug last October amid speculation Bell could be snapped up by Brackley based Mercedes.

The German team announced on Friday that he will become technical director on 1 April.

A statement said Bell's role "will primarily be based at the team's factory" with "overall responsibility for the technical operations of the chassis group".

Mercedes said the appointment will give Brawn "greater freedom" to oversee the relationship between the chassis and engine groups in Brackley and Brixworth.

"We are pleased to have recruited one of the most experienced engineers in the sport," said Brawn.

Bell joined McLaren as an aerodynamicist in the 80s before switching to Enstone based Benetton in 1997.

He moved to Jordan in 1999 and returned to Benetton – now Renault – in 2001 as deputy technical director, becoming technical director to replace Mike Gascoyne in 2003.

Press Release

MERCEDES GP PETRONAS is pleased to announce the appointment of Bob Bell in the position of Technical Director with effect from 1 April 2011, further strengthening the team's engineering expertise. 

Reporting to Team Principal Ross Brawn, Bob's role will primarily be based at the team's factory in Brackley with overall responsibility for the technical operations of the chassis group. Bob's appointment will allow Ross Brawn greater freedom to oversee the full program between the team's chassis group in Brackley and the engine group at Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines in Brixworth. 

Bob began his career in motorsport as an aerodynamicist almost 30 years ago, working at McLaren, Benetton and Jordan, before becoming Deputy Technical Director at Renault in 2001. Bob was promoted to Technical Director in 2003 and played a key role in the team's double championship-winning successes of 2005 and 2006. Bob remained at Renault, becoming Acting Team Principal in September 2009 and Managing Director in 2010, until his departure from the team in October of last year. 

Bob Bell said: "I am both delighted and honored to be joining the MERCEDES GP PETRONAS Formula One Team as Technical Director. It will be a privilege to be a part of such a strong and determined organization, and to be able to contribute to furthering the enviable heritage of Mercedes-Benz in motorsport." 

Ross Brawn, Team Principal of MERCEDES GP PETRONAS, commented: "We are delighted to welcome Bob to the MERCEDES GP PETRONAS team in the position of Technical Director. Bob's appointment is a key step in the strengthening of our excellent technical team and we are pleased to have recruited one of the most experienced engineers in the sport. Bob will be an important asset to our team, bringing with him a wealth of Formula One knowledge and championship-winning experience, and we look forward to welcoming him at the start of April." 

Norbert Haug, Vice President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, concluded: "Mercedes-Benz is fully committed to providing our Formula One team with the personnel and resources to compete at the forefront of the sport. Bob's track record speaks for itself and I know he will be a valuable addition to our team as Technical Director. He shares our passion for competition and our vision for establishing long-term success with MERCEDES GP PETRONAS."

SMC University and Marussia Virgin Racing Team Up
The Marussia Virgin Racing Formula One Team is pleased to announce that it has agreed a new long-term partnership with SMC University, one of the world’s most international online business schools, educating students from more than 120 different countries. Synonymous with excellence, SMC University ranks among the leading institutions in its field of online education.

Based in Switzerland, SMC University offers a broad range of academic programs and solutions and is especially well known for its online Doctorate and Masters programs, which hold pole position amongst working professionals. SMC University offers its students the ability to enhance their careers in a flexible manner, without restriction according to ‘place and time’.

The partnership with Marussia Virgin Racing will allow SMC University to engage with the Formula One community as well as the Team, creating various off-track activities such as work experience programs within the Marussia Virgin Racing commercial department as well as business symposiums at the team’s headquarters. This will afford the students the opportunity to benefit from sharing extensive knowledge and an enhanced learning experience.

As part of the new relationship, the SMC University logo will be displayed on the team clothing and mechanics’ fire suits, as well as on the race trucks, motorhome, garage, Paddock Club suite and website.

Andy Webb, CEO of Marussia Virgin Racing, commented:

“I am delighted to welcome SMC University to the team as an Official Partner. This is an example of yet another tailor-made partnership to suit the requirements of our individual sponsors. We are extremely proud to be supporting the education sector and to be working with such a major league establishment. I think this will be another great opportunity for both parties to develop together and learn a great deal from each other.”

Michael Schmelczer, CEO of SMC University, commented:

“I am delighted and proud to announce the partnership between SMC University and the Marussia Virgin Racing Formula One Team, especially since it is quite unique for a business school to seal an interest and investment in motorsport. SMC has always been driven to be unique, to be ahead, and to be in pole position. This partnership is a great signal to our learners and stakeholders as it proves that SMC's approach, development, and position is at the top - otherwise we would not be here. Furthermore and most importantly, I am excited that SMC students can directly benefit from this partnership through internships, placements, business symposiums, Virgin company visits, meet and greet sessions with management and, of course, through experiencing a world where education, corporate life, motorsports, and "lifestyle" combine.  These are just a few of the benefits we expect from the partnership.  By working closely with the team over time we look forward to developing many, many more!"

Kubica faces another two weeks in hospital
The Santa Corona hospital says Formula One driver Robert Kubica's conditions are satisfactory and stable.  The hospital in Pietra Ligure near Genoa issued the update Thursday, a day after Kubica had surgery on his elbow.

The Polish driver crashed while competing in a rally on Feb. 6 and was airlifted to the hospital.

The elbow surgery on Wednesday was Kubica's third operation. Immediately after his crash, he underwent seven hours of surgery to save his right hand and last Friday he had operations on his shoulder and leg.

The hospital has said it doesn't expect the 26-year-old Kubica to require more surgery, but that he will likely remain hospitalized for another 10 to 15 days.

Red Bull keen on VW link for F1 team - Mateschitz
(GMM)  Dietrich Mateschitz hopes Red Bull is in pole position should Volkswagen decide to enter formula one.

"Our companies are relatively close together already," the Austrian billionaire said in an interview with Sport Bild.

The VW Group, with brands including Audi and Porsche, has been making noises recently about entering F1 when the new engine formula debuts in 2013.

And Red Bull, the reigning drivers' and constructors' champions, are openly less than happy with its current engine relationship with Renault, with main rivals Mercedes and Ferrari punching more power.

As for VW, "There are partnerships (with Red Bull) not only in DTM but also the Dakar rally, and also in some other areas", the energy drink's owner added.

Mateschitz insisted however that "talks with VW about a collaboration (in F1) would be interesting not only for ourselves but for every other non-factory team in F1".

Glock already looking ahead to 2012
(GMM)  Timo Glock has admitted to looking into the 2011 season with another eye on the future.

"2011 is an important year, with the driver market moving," said the German, who is facing his second year with the new Virgon team.

The 28-year-old's career was on the rise in 2009, until Toyota decided to pull out of formula one.

He had some talks about 2010 with Renault, whose new R31 car for 2011 looks like a potential winner.

But Glock instead plumped for Virgin.

"When I had to make that decision, formula one was in a difficult situation," said Glock, referring to the withdrawal of major carmakers and rumors that Renault would be the next to vacate the scene.

Indeed, Renault did flee, but the team's new owners Genii kept the team afloat and it's now looking in a strong position with major Lotus sponsorship.

"It was hard because I had seen firsthand a company like Toyota saying 'Well, now we're going over here'.  So from a personal point of view I went for the safe option.

"Of course you can say now 'If only I'd signed'.  But it could have been signing up with owners I didn't want to have," insisted Glock.

He thinks 2011 will be a big step forward for Virgin, but still has an eye on bigger things.

"Of course it's still my dream to drive for a top team like Ferrari, Red Bull or Mercedes," said Glock.

"But I don't see myself as on the back burner.  If for some reason 2011 doesn't work out, I need to be preparing for the future," he added.

Hard to copy Renault exhaust concept - Costa
(GMM)  It would not be the work of a day to emulate the Renault-like front exhaust system, Ferrari technical director Aldo Costa has admitted.

Of the innovative ideas seen so far in 2011, the R31's forward-exiting exhausts looks potentially the cleverest, amid speculation other teams are already trialing the layout in simulation.

McLaren is believed to also have an ace up its sleeve in the form of a similar exhaust layout, moving Germany's Auto Motor und Sport to ask Costa if Ferrari can also quickly follow suit.

But when asked if it will be hard to copy the idea, the Italian answered: "I would say so, yes.

"The exhaust of Renault needs to be integrated with the chassis, thinking twice about the cooling and the housing of the electronic boxes."

Costa confirmed that the last couple of seasons have seen a moving away from the optimizing of existing solutions to more radical innovations.

"For sure it has something to do with the major regulation reforms of 2009," he said.  "Everyone has worked with new concepts.

"As long as the rules are not stable, we will see many innovations.  Only when the rules are the same for three, four years will we be back to another optimization phase."

Williams to reveal 2011 livery next Thursday
(GMM)  Williams will launch its 2011 car livery in a live online presentation on 24 February, the British team announced on Friday.

The event will take place at Williams' own Conference Centre with a live audience at its Oxfordshire headquarters.

Wearing a plain navy blue interim livery, the new FW33 has already been in action at the initial pre-season tests so far in Spain.

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