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Latest F1 news in brief - Monday
  • Williams' radical gearbox hard to copy - Michael
  • Red Bull to race Infiniti-branded engines in F1
  • McLaren may be facing early 'gap' to rivals - Button
  • NEC joins Sauber as premium sponsor
  • Sauber, Force India stick with original test dates
  • No stock floatation plans for McLaren

Williams' radical gearbox hard to copy - Michael
(GMM)  Sam Michael is confident Williams' innovative 2011 car will be hard for the British team's rivals to copy.

The Oxfordshire based team's technical director singled out only four innovations of note among the class of 2011: Renault and Red Bull's exhaust systems, the Toro Rosso double-floor, and Williams' ultra compact and low gearbox.

He is quoted by The Sun as saying the first three innovations will be quite easy to copy "whereas a gearbox is a completely different kettle of fish".

Australian Michael said all the teams have been closely studying each other's new cars, but "We have no idea where everyone is".

Following the launch of the FW33's new livery, a photograph of the newly painted car circulating at an unidentified circuit with Pastor Maldonado at the wheel was published by Brazil's Globo Esporte.

Red Bull to race Infiniti-branded engines in F1
(GMM)  The Renault engines used by reigning world champions Red Bull are set to be rebranded as 'Infiniti' for the 2011 season.

Infiniti is the premium division of the Japanese carmaker Nissan, which is also headed by Renault chief executive Carlos Ghosn.

Speculation that Ghosn is keen to link the Nissan or Infiniti brands with formula one dates back years.

Some journalists, including Auto Plus columnist Jean-Louis Moncet, are reporting that the Red Bull-Infiniti tie-up for 2011 will be announced on Tuesday ahead of the Geneva Motor Show.

It is believed Ghosn, who is president and co-chairman of Nissan, will make the announcement.

The BBC speculated that the deal is worth at least $11 million to Red Bull, covering the cost of the team's customer Renault engine supply.

McLaren may be facing early 'gap' to rivals - Button
(GMM)  Jenson Button has acknowledged the possibility that McLaren might not be on the pace early in the 2011 season.

The MP4-26 has been hailed as the bravest of the new class of 2011, but Button and Lewis Hamilton have not strongly featured on the timesheets as reliability problems slowed development work.

"I have definitely not completed the laps that I expected to," Briton Button is quoted by Italy's Autosprint, "and when it comes to developing a new car it is essential to do a lot of kilometers."

The 2009 world champion added: "This car has a lot of potential, but if the development work is late, there may be a gap in the first races of the championship."

Autosprint said the nervousness of the MP4-26's handling was visibly obvious at the recent Barcelona test, particularly in comparison to the field-leading Red Bull.

"Barcelona is a track that rewards aero balance," said the Italian report, "but this does not seem to be the only front on which McLaren must direct its efforts."

The final test of the pre-season takes place next week, again at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

"It will be an important test," acknowledged Button, "for putting everything together, but I think it will be very difficult to get an exact idea of the hierarchy.

"I've heard rumors that the Red Bull is six tenths faster than Ferrari, and also that Ferrari are one second faster than everyone on race pace!" he is quoted as saying.

"I think that to get an overall picture we will have to wait until the first race," added Button.

NEC joins Sauber as premium sponsor
(GMM)  The well-known Japanese multinational NEC is a new sponsor of the Sauber team.

The prominent blue branding of the Tokyo-based giant on the Swiss team's C30 car was not present at the recent Barcelona test.

That branding debuted on the car at the weekend, when up to 200,000 Mexicans turned out to cheer rookie Sergio Perez for a street demonstration event in Guadalajara.

An image of the newly NEC-branded Sauber is also prominently displayed on the Hinwil based team's official website.

The NEC logo is also present in the website's 'premium partners' section, but the synopsis says only that "More information will follow soon".

Sauber's drivers for the 2011 season are Japanese Kamui Kobayashi as well as Mexican Perez, who is linked with new team sponsors Telmex and the associated mobile network Claro.

But despite his team's clearly better-funded prospects for 2011, boss and owner Peter Sauber is not willing to guess the likely pecking order.

He pointed out in an exclusive column for Blick newspaper that, after the cancellation of the Bahrain test, Melbourne will be the first time the new cars will be running in higher temperatures.

"Naturally, everyone is trying at the moment to assess the balance of power," he wrote in the Swiss newspaper, "but these predictions are to be treated with great caution.

"First, the individual drivers are running very different programs, and secondly the cars are going to change quite a lot - especially aerodynamically - before the first race.

"After the next Barcelona test we can make a reasonably meaningful assessment, but a truly reliable picture won't come until the second race in Malaysia, because Melbourne is not a very representative track," added Sauber.

Sauber, Force India stick with original test dates
(GMM)  Sauber and Force India have confirmed reports that some teams are sticking with the originally scheduled dates for the final pre-season test in Barcelona.

It had been reported elsewhere that all the teams had agreed to move the four-day test, rescheduled due to the Bahrain cancellation, from 8-11 to 9-12 March.

But only Williams, Mercedes and Ferrari announced that they will be running on the new Wednesday-Saturday schedule.

"We will be testing from 8-11 March in Barcelona," a spokesperson for the Swiss team Sauber confirmed on Monday morning.

A spokeswoman for Force India confirmed that the Silverstone based team is also sticking with the original plan.

"Teams can alter their testing days by one day but given the quick turnaround for freight departing for Australia immediately after the test we felt these days suited us better," she said.

No stock floatation plans for McLaren
(GMM)  McLaren has become a third formula one team to say it has no plans to join rival Williams in floating shares on the stock market.

With Oxfordshire based Williams' 27 per cent floatation on the Frankfurt exchange to begin later this week, rival team owner Peter Sauber said recently he didn't "understand the reasons" behind the decision.

And Ferrari president Montezemolo said: "There are no current plans (to list Ferrari)."

On Monday, the Guardian newspaper quoted McLaren's chief financial officer Andy Myers as telling a similar story.

"The McLaren group has no plans to float in the future," said Myers.

McLaren is 50 per cent owned by the Bahrain state-controlled Mumtalakat company, with Ron Dennis and Mansour Ojjeh holding the other shares.

Myers said McLaren's strategy "is to remain as a private company in the ownership of a small number of focused shareholders, since we believe that best suits our business model".

McLaren has bought back former shareholder Mercedes' 40 per cent stake.

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