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DATE News (chronologically)
Latest F1 news in brief - Monday
  • Haug admits new Mercedes not in top ten
  • F1 figures push for Abu Dhabi test
  • McLaren still stuttering with 2011 car
  • Government not guaranteeing Spanish GP after 2011
  • Lauda says adjustable rear wings 'a poor compromise'
  • Alonso, Webber, think Pirelli to mean more passing
  • Alonso buoyed by Barcelona breakdown
  • Liuzzi set for HRT race seat talks this week
  • De la Rosa hoping for third driver role in 2011
  • Glock wants 'bigger step' from Virgin
  • Toro Rosso set for 'strong' season surprise

Haug admits new Mercedes not in top ten
(GMM)  A confusing message emerged from the Mercedes camp as formula one teams tested in Barcelona.

Late on Saturday, the German marque's Norbert Haug appeared to admit that the W02 is not as good as the Brackley based team would like it to be.

"If there was a race today, we would not be in the top ten," German media quoted him saying.

The following day, after Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel had been fastest on the opening two days at the Circuit de Catalunya, Nico Rosberg took the silver car to the top of the times.

Haug told Auto Motor und Sport: "We know that at the moment our car is not good enough for the top ten, but we had been hampered by having to cut holes because of temperature problems, and also Nico had been without KERS.

"Our plan is that with our new aerodynamics package we close much of the gap and have the car good enough for the podium."

Michael Schumacher is quoted by Speed Week: "Our goal is the same as it was a few weeks ago.  With this car we want to be on the podium and, if things go well, maybe win a race."

Auto Motor und Sport calculated that the W02 is about 1.5 seconds per lap slower than the new Red Bull during a race simulation.

F1 figures push for Abu Dhabi test
(GMM)  Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya has vowed to step in should formula one teams need to replace the Bahrain test next month.

"Formula one is our biggest customer, so when they decide what dates they want to have we will adjust the calendar," track director Salvador Servia told El Mundo newspaper.

"We are open to their needs.  If something happens, we will find a solution," he added, referring to the fact that the political situation in Bahrain makes it appear likely the final pre-season test will be called off.

But some F1 figures are convinced that a non-European test venue should be arranged as an alternative to Bahrain.

"We need a test in hot weather," Red Bull's Adrian Newey is quoted by O Estado de S.Paulo.

Renault's Steve Nielsen agrees: "I don't know any of the details, but if we can't test in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi would be a great option."

The report said that, in the likely event that the Bahrain grand prix is also called off, the teams could then stay in Abu Dhabi for yet another test.

"That's the most logical," commented Toro Rosso's Giorgio Ascanelli.  "It meets our technical needs and operationally it's not too different from our original schedule due to the proximity of Bahrain and Abu Dhabi."

McLaren still stuttering with 2011 car
(GMM)  Compared with fellow grandees Red Bull and Ferrari, McLaren's pre-season is not running as smoothly.

After finding out that Mark Webber had done nearly 140 laps on Sunday in the new title-defending RB7, Lewis Hamilton described the feat as "crazy".

"I can only laugh," he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.  "That's unbelievable.  They're doing a really good job."

McLaren's radical MP4-26 joined the winter circus one test late and its ultimate performance is not yet clear.

"We urgently need to do a race simulation," the 2008 world champion is quoted as saying by O Estado de S.Paulo.

When asked how he feels about his new car, Hamilton answered: "It's ok, we are making progress.  There's still a lot to come."

Jenson Button told The Sun: "I think it's unfair to judge us at this point because the amount of laps we have done is not massive.

"We really need some good days of running to really unlock this car."

France's autohebdo.fr quotes the 2009 world champion adding: "It seems like our base is good, but nobody will have a clear idea of where he stands until the first qualifying."

Government not guaranteeing Spanish GP after 2011
(GMM)  Doubts have emerged about the future of the Spanish grand prix in Barcelona.

Artur Mas, the new president of the local Catalonian government, told El Pais newspaper that he can only guarantee that this year's May race will take place.

"The continuity of the formula one race at this circuit is guaranteed this year and probably also for the next," he said at the Circuit de Catalunya at the weekend.

"I hope it can be sustained for the future, but that will depend on the evolution of the economic situation and the results obtained in the next two years," added Mas.

"The situation is what it is; I'm not here to fool anybody.  I know the value of hosting an F1 race and motor racing is a sector that drives the economy.

"I will do my best, but we cannot hide from the truth.  We need to reduce the budgets."

It is believed the venue's current F1 contract runs until 2016, with the EUR 13 million sanctioning fee this year to have doubled by then.

Mas told EFE news agency: "We are in a time of severe budgetary constraints and it's going to affect everything a little bit.

"We need to move through these two difficult years and, if we recover, the contract we have for a few more years we will see in a bit of a better light."

Lauda says adjustable rear wings 'a poor compromise'
(GMM)  Niki Lauda has admitted his opposition to the debuting adjustable rear wings this year.

Drivers will be able to press a button to stall the rear wing this year if they are within 1 second of the car in front and within a 600 meter zone on a straight.

"This artificial intervention of technology is a poor compromise," said the triple world champion, referring to the supposed problem of overtaking in F1.

Referring to the new rear wings, Austrian Lauda - who turns 62 on Tuesday - told Blick newspaper: "Ultimately it's a manipulation of the racing."

Alonso, Webber, think Pirelli to mean more passing
(GMM)  Forget adjustable rear wings and KERS, it is this year's Pirelli tires that will cause more overtaking in 2011.

That is the view of Fernando Alonso, who during the fourth group test with the sport's new rubber at the weekend tipped Pirelli to have a major impact on the forthcoming season.

"Nothing else will contribute more to overtaking," the Spaniard is quoted by Diario Sport, "because when you put on new tires you can be up to six seconds faster than the ones who have not yet changed."

Red Bull's Mark Webber agrees, but questions whether it will automatically make grands prix more exciting.

"I think there will be more overtaking," the Australian told Auto Motor und Sport.

"With different strategies there will be greater speed differentials between the cars.

"But sometimes it will be a car passing easily and disappearing, so I don't know how spectacular that will be," added Webber.

The Italian marque's Paul Hembery dismissed speculation that the durability of the Pirelli tires is so extreme that some drivers will need to make five pitstops per race.

"No, I think three will be the maximum," he told El Pais newspaper, "and in most cases two."

Hembery also said the degradation has been severe at the Spanish test tracks due to low temperatures and poor surface grip.

"When we go to circuits with higher temperatures and with more rubber on the track, the performance of both the hard and the soft compounds will improve dramatically," he said.

Meanwhile, as far as the championship fight is concerned, Alonso warned observers not to expect more wheel-to-wheel racing in 2011.

"From what I've experienced," he told EFE news agency, "I believe there will be a chance of more overtaking, but not at every corner.

"It may be easier to overtake slower cars, but between the four cars out in front the difficulty will be the same as before," added the Spaniard.

Alonso buoyed by Barcelona breakdown
(GMM)  Ferrari's happiness with its 2011 car was summed up neatly at Barcelona by the size of Fernando Alonso's smile during a technical hitch.

The Spaniard explained to EFE news agency why he seemed so amused while the clumsily-named F150th Italia was fixed.

"A mechanic had told me what when we go well in Barcelona (testing) the championship goes badly, and when we go badly in Barcelona the championship is historically very good for Ferrari," said Alonso.

"Of course I wasn't hoping for a problem but, when the car stopped, he came to me very happy that this year will go well," laughed the two-time champion.

Mark Webber confirmed that the Italian team could be Red Bull's strongest rival this year.

"They finished strongly last year," the Australian told Auto Motor und Sport.

"They've started strongly with the new car," continued Webber.  "It's almost always on the track.  They're well organized, they waste no time, they're fast.

"Also McLaren could get involved," he said, "but it's still early days for their new car."

Williams' technical director Sam Michael commented: "Red Bull would make a mistake to underestimate Ferrari.

"The car looks pretty fast on the long runs," mused the Australian.

Liuzzi set for HRT race seat talks this week
(GMM)  Vitantonio Liuzzi is not sure he will be on the F1 grid this year.

After being ousted by Force India, the Italian returned to the test track last Saturday with HRT, lapping the Circuit de Catalunya much quicker than the Spanish team's confirmed driver Narain Karthikeyan.

Liuzzi's best time was also much quicker than another reported contender for the final race seat in 2011, Swiss 30-year-old Giorgio Mondini, who was at the wheel of the black F110 on Sunday.

Liuzzi told the BBC: "We'll talk in the next few days and see what comes.  It's open at the moment.

"We have a few things I'm working on, there are talks elsewhere (in F1) but we are not talking about driving as we know the only seat available is Hispania."

He admits he was rattled by the news that he would not be racing at Force India this year despite having a contract.

"Back home I was thinking what to do, if I wanted to be back or not," he said.

"But when you jump on the track and it is what you love, you feel really good.  It's a big relief and I felt happy when Hispania gave me this chance," added Liuzzi.

He told autohebdo.fr that HRT was happy with his performance on Saturday.

"We'll see.  We agreed to do this test to get acquainted and to see if there is a possibility for the future."

De la Rosa hoping for third driver role in 2011
(GMM)  Pedro de la Rosa is hoping to be a third driver with a formula one team this year, according to the latest Spanish reports.

It was suggested that when McLaren's executive chairman Ron Dennis travelled to sponsor Santander's Madrid offices last week, he met at the same time with the team's former long-time test driver de la Rosa.

The British team denied that report, but the EFE news agency insists that the Spanish driver, who turns 40 on Thursday, has not given up on signing with a F1 outfit for 2011.

The report said "this was acknowledged by the driver" at the Circuit de Catalunya last weekend, referring to de la Rosa's participation in the delegation for the Catalonian president.

Glock wants 'bigger step' from Virgin
(GMM)  Timo Glock has called on Virgin to make a "bigger step" with its 2011 campaign.

The German driver told Auto Motor und Sport that he is happy that the team's new car is much more reliable than its predecessor.

But as for the performance, Glock said: "We are closer (to the pace) than we were, but we still need to make a bigger step with the speed."

The report said Virgin's nearest 2010 competitor, Team Lotus, is at least a few tenths ahead at present, and that the situation is clearer at Barcelona than it was at Jerez recently.

"It shows us clearly that we need more downforce," admits Glock.  "That's what counts the most in Barcelona."

Toro Rosso set for 'strong' season surprise
(GMM)  Toro Rosso has been earmarked as a potential surprise package of the 2011 season.

The Swiss newspaper Blick has christened the Ferrari-powered STR6 the "Wunder Auto" (wonder car) after a strong showing so far in testing.

Faenza based "Toro Rosso looks reasonably strong in terms of consistency," agreed McLaren's Jenson Button, according to The Sun.

On Saturday at the Circuit de Catalunya, Jaime Alguersuari was just two tenths shy of knocking Sebastian Vettel from the top of the times.

The young Spaniard played down suggestions it was a 'show lap' for Red Bull's second team.

"I know very well the conditions under which I did my fastest lap," he said.  "Believe me ... I am more than satisfied."

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