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Latest F1 news in brief - Thursday
  • Richard Branson
    Ecclestone slates Todt, Branson in new book
  • F1 worried amid Bahrain rescheduling rumors
  • Ferrari with most reliable 2011 car so far
  • Trulli critical of Pirelli tire behavior
  • Valencia denies trying to change F1 contract
  • Champion Vettel weighs up title challengers
  • Kubica to start real rehabilitation 'soon' - doctor
  • Tricky contract situation for Liuzzi - report
  • Massa confident of putting team orders behind him
  • Red Bull wants Vettel to make team 'legendary'

Ecclestone slates Todt, Branson in new book
(GMM)  Jean Todt and Sir Richard Branson are two high profile targets of Bernie Ecclestone's ire in a new book about him, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Leading journalists this week are poring over review copies of No Angel, The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone.

Telegraph correspondent Tom Cary is apparently one of the first to finish the book, revealing Virgin's Branson and FIA president Todt as two of the sport's figures criticized by Ecclestone, the F1 chief executive.

"A nickel and dime operation," said Ecclestone, referring to Virgin Racing.  "He (Branson) won't last."

More significantly is the Briton's criticism of Todt, the successor as FIA president to Ecclestone's long-time friend Max Mosley.

Cary said that within the new book, Ecclestone's "clear dislike" of Frenchman Todt is obvious.

The book claims Ecclestone paraded the banned Flavio Briatore on the Monza grid last year just to rile Todt.

"Ecclestone enjoyed chastening Jean Todt whose indecisive grandeur infuriated him," author Tom Bower wrote.

Ecclestone confirmed: "He (Todt) put the president's hat on and his personality changed."

According to Cary, the book also revealed a telling quip by Ecclestone when, as a car salesman in his earlier life, a buyer complained that his MG did not as promised have a heater.

"Are you calling me a liar?" Ecclestone told the buyer.  "You want to be careful, boy.  I've had fingers cut off."

F1 worried amid Bahrain rescheduling rumors
(GMM)  F1's travelling circus is quaking in terror at the prospect of a rare three-race flyaway back-to-back as the sport looks to reschedule the cancelled Bahrain season opener.

It is suggested that, with the Kingdom's security situation too uncertain in the coming months, the weather too harsh in the middle of the year, and freight scheduling needing some time to organize, the only feasible new date for Bahrain would be at the end of the season.

From a logistical point of view, a pairing with nearby Abu Dhabi is therefore regarded as the most logical.

With the calendar unprecedentedly cluttered in 2011, however, a back-to-back scheduling with Abu Dhabi would mean three races in three separate countries on successive weekends.

The prospect of pushing back the Interlagos finale to create a free weekend has been ruled out due to the encroaching Brazilian football season.

Mohammed ben Sulayem, president of the United Arab Emirates' motor racing federation and also a FIA vice-president, sounded open to the idea of the triple back-to-back.

"We respect the (FIA's) judgment," he is quoted by The National.  "Finding time in the calendar is feasible."

A report in the Telegraph gives some insight into the sport's eagerness to reschedule Bahrain.

Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that he will only collect the race's $40 million sanctioning fee if the event actually takes place this year, while Gulf Air pays an estimated $6m for the naming rights.

And the teams also stand to lose out due to penalty clauses relating to missing races in their contracts with sponsors.

Meanwhile, the teams had already shipped equipment by sea to Bahrain for the now axed season opener, Pirelli had sent 1200 tires, and the entire travelling circus had arranged hotels, flights, rental cars and rental equipment.

"We are trying to recover as much of these costs as possible," admitted Toro Rosso's team manager Gianfranco Fantuzzi. 

Ferrari with most reliable 2011 car so far
(GMM)  Ferrari's new car has been the most reliable of the 2011 pre-season, according to an analysis by Auto Motor und Sport.

The German report said that the F150 already has 800 more kilometers on its odometer than its nearest competitor, Red Bull's RB7.

"From what we have seen so far, we are in a good position," admitted Fernando Alonso, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

But Red Bull is also happy.  "We have never had such a trouble-free testing season," said team boss Christian Horner.

Just 100 kilometers behind Red Bull in the pre-season reliability stakes is Mercedes, followed by Sauber and Williams.

With 1,500kms fewer than Ferrari's 5,200km is Renault, but Nick Heidfeld is impressed with the innovative R31, particularly the KERS system.

"It's better than with BMW," said the German, referring to his former team, "particularly with regard to the impact during braking."

Also with quite an impressive winter behind it is the Red Bull 'B' team, Toro Rosso, ranking just seventh in the reliability ranking but crucially ahead of McLaren.

"Considering that we are still a young team, we have done a very good job with reliability," agreed Sebastien Buemi.  "We have had only minor problems, and quite often it was just stoppages to be on the safe side."

In ninth place out of F1's 12 teams is Virgin.  "Compared to 2010, there is no comparison," said a satisfied Timo Glock, before joking: "We can't have any problems with KERS because we haven't got one!"

Force India is just tenth, ahead of Team Lotus, whose reliability was better only than the unranked HRT, who have not yet launched a 2011 car.

Lotus has switched since 2010 to Renault power and a Red Bull rear end, but Heikki Kovalainen said the biggest problem has been the diffuser.

"When you first have a blown diffuser, you pay dearly," said the Finn.  "Even the bigger teams found this out last year."

Trulli critical of Pirelli tire behavior
(GMM)  Jarno Trulli has admitted his disappointment with new supplier Pirelli's formula one tires for 2011.

"I think their development work was missing something," said the Italian veteran in an interview with Autosprint.

"The tires are not well balanced," explained the Team Lotus driver.

"Pirelli says the FIA has asked them to make tires that wear quickly, but I don't think this is the problem.  In my opinion, the degradation is secondary to the balance on the track.

"When you have new tires there is initially understeer and then three laps later the behavior is different -- either oversteer or impossible (handling)," said Trulli.

The 36-year-old is also critical of F1's ever-changing regulations.

"Frankly, with regards to KERS, is it exciting?  The people at home just want to understand," he insisted, "but if you change the rules every year, all you do is confuse them."

Trulli also had criticism for Italy's motor racing federation as well as Ferrari, when asked about why Italian drivers are a dwindling breed in F1.

"I know who to thank for my career and it is not the Federation," he said.

"And Italians have historically not been included in Ferrari's programs; I don't know why but it's true."

Valencia denies trying to change F1 contract
(GMM)  Organizers of the European grand prix at Valencia have denied specifically asking to pay a lower race sanctioning fee.

"We are not aware of any ongoing negotiation," the regional economy minister is quoted by EFE news agency.

Minister Gerardo Camps also said he is aware of Valencia's "obligations", amid speculation the 2010 fee was not paid because the organizers are pushing for contract amendments.

"The government at this time has not proposed to change any of the obligations we have with the organization of formula one," he insisted.

Camps also said he is not aware if "other countries, circuits or organizations are entering into negotiations" to change the terms of their own F1 contracts.

Champion Vettel weighs up title challengers
(GMM)  Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel has singled out two leading challengers to his F1 title, and mentioned two more rivals that could spring a surprise.

"Alonso for sure, and Hamilton is without question one of the best drivers," the German told Sport Bild during an interview.

But Vettel has also warned rivals and pundits against writing off 2006 Ferrari teammates Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher.

"He (Massa) didn't have a good season but no one should underestimate him; it's not so long ago that he was really strong," said the 23-year-old, referring to Massa's title challenge of 2008.

And Vettel said the same logic also applies to Schumacher.

"I think neither of them have forgotten how to drive," he said.  "Schumacher's history is too great to write him off, and Nico Rosberg has also showed us his strength," he added.

Vettel also said Jenson Button has unique skills that kept him in last year's title race, and admitted that his own Red Bull teammate Mark Webber is similarly a threat.

"If our car is good enough, he (Webber) will get involved again."

On Webber, Vettel said he and the Australian have cleared the air since their 2010 clashes, but admitted that the pair are "not necessarily on the same wavelength".

Kubica to start real rehabilitation 'soon' - doctor
(GMM)  Robert Kubica is facing down a long and intensive path to full fitness.

After suffering horrific injuries in a rally crash and three major operations, the Polish driver has finally been moved out of intensive care to the rehabilitation ward of his Italian hospital.

And the very first phases of muscle rehabilitation have now begun, well-known formula one doctor Ricardo Ceccarelli told Autosprint in Italy.

And Ceccarelli, who now works with Renault, said the full rehabilitation process - apparently to begin in about a month - will involve a number of specialists.

He said a different specialist will be assigned to "each region of the body injured" in the crash.

"Foot, knee, elbow, hand -- they all require different programs," he explained.

Ceccarelli said the first phase will start "very soon".

"His limbs, still for these last 20 days, have lost a lot of normal muscle tension and tone," he said.  "So we're already working on that.

"Robert is a very determined patient who wants to work many hours per day," explained Ceccarelli, who said that Kubica will soon be able to sit normally.

"But with these fractures, at least a month still needs to pass before he is able to stand on his feet," he added.

Tricky contract situation for Liuzzi - report
(GMM)  Vitantonio Liuzzi is in a "difficult contractual situation" with just one month until the rescheduled 2011 season opener in Australia.

That is the claim of the Finnish daily Turun Sanomat, referring to Italian Liuzzi's push to secure the final seat on the grid at HRT.

Technically, the 29-year-old is still under contract to Force India, despite the Silverstone based team ousting him to make room for Paul di Resta's debut.

The Turun Sanomat report said Liuzzi is therefore still negotiating a compensation payment from Force India whilst simultaneously talking about an all-new contract with Hispania.

The report said that if the former Red Bull and Toro Rosso driver simply signs now with HRT, he could jeopardize the Force India talks.

At the same time, if he stalls on HRT - who are also considering hiring a pay-driver - he could be left with no job at all.

Meanwhile, Turun Sanomat said another option being considered by HRT is Christian Klien, who impressed last year for the struggling team in Singapore, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

Massa confident of putting team orders behind him
(GMM)  Felipe Massa is confident a strong return to form will help him put the 'team orders' controversy of last year behind him.

In the midst of a difficult season, the Brazilian was ordered by Ferrari last year to give up the lead in Hockenheim to his teammate Fernando Alonso.

The surrender particularly stung many proud Brazilians, who were highly critical not just of the famous Italian team but also 29-year-old Massa himself.

"People do remember something as strong as that," Massa admitted during an interview with O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

"A victory is much easier to forget than that.  But it's not something that sticks in my head or stops me from fighting to win as many races as possible or fighting for the championship," he insisted.

Undoubtable, however, is that the saga hurt Massa's reputation just two years after so nearly winning the 2008 title, and then recovering from a near-fatal crash a year later.

"Undoubtedly," Massa agrees.  "(But) good results always make people change their minds between cheering for you or being opposed to you.

"Even with everything that happened, I know I'm still supported, especially in my country.

"Going to restaurants, on the street in Brazil, of course nobody congratulated me but they said things like 'keep strong, head up' and this helped me a lot," he admitted.

Red Bull wants Vettel to make team 'legendary'
(GMM)  Christian Horner insists he is sure Sebastian Vettel is not seriously considering a switch to Ferrari.

New world champion Vettel has mused on several occasions recently about wanting to one day drive for the famous Italian team.

"All drivers have that dream," commented current Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Some actually say it, but all think of it," he claimed.

Vettel's boss Christian Horner, who is attempting to get the 23-year-old to sign a longer contract with Red Bull, told Bild newspaper that he thinks the German's recent comments reveal his "romantic" side.

"But just because he's romantic doesn't mean he's going to give up everything that we have built together," insisted the Briton.

"As long as we offer him the perfect car, he will stay here," said Horner.

Also quoted by the German newspaper, Vettel confirmed: "I am happy with Red Bull -- they give me the fastest car."

Horner admitted that, regarding Ferrari's history, Red Bull cannot currently compete with the fabled Scuderia.

"We are regarded more as the cool team," he said.  "But who knows, maybe one day we will also be legendary -- thanks to Sebastian."

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