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Latest F1 news in brief - Monday
  • Ron Dennis cried when he watched Senna film
    Virgin eyes 'plan B' should Turkey upgrade fail
  • Dennis cried after seeing new 'Senna' film
  • Lotus didn't showboat in winter testing - Gascoyne
  • US GP site 'bare' but still on track
  • Todt targets 2013 for electric FIA series
  • Horner predicts return to form for Webber
  • Vettel repeats F1 driver strike threat
  • Mercedes not ready to challenge Red Bull - Marko
  • Alesi feels sorry for 'poor' Kubica
  • Todt not ruling out second term as FIA boss
  • Aero upgrades for Williams in Sepang
  • Teams to test extra hard Pirelli tire in Malaysia

Virgin eyes 'plan B' should Turkey upgrade fail
(GMM)  Virgin is considering a 'plan B' should a car upgrade for the Turkish grand prix not result in a major step forward.

That is the claim of Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, after it emerged the British team actually took a step backwards in Australia following a difficult debut campaign in 2010.

The report said the new MVR02 car was about a second slower than the team's average deficit to pole position of last year, meaning that in Melbourne Timo Glock and Jerome d'Ambrosio were threatened by the 107 per cent qualifying rule.

And they could be set for more pain in Malaysia and China.

"This round of long-haul races means there are few developments we can bring to the car until the next significant upgrade for Turkey," confirmed team boss John Booth.

Force India test driver Nico Hulkenberg said Virgin's problem is easy to spot.

"They have not enough downforce, especially at the rear," he said.

The German report said one problem could be designer Nick Wirth's use of a very long engine exhaust, resulting in a loss of horse power, but without compensating in cornering speed by blowing the exhaust a long distance under the car.

"Nick seems to have miscalculated something," said an insider.

For Istanbul next month, Wirth's upgrade includes a new exhaust, diffuser and rear wing, but it is believed the team is already considering a 'plan B' for future car development should that effort fail.

"The team needs to think about certain things and change them," Glock is quoted by sport1.de.  "We cannot continue like this."

One possible area for a re-think is Wirth's commitment to using computer CFD simulation but not a traditional wind tunnel.

Glock said: "Other teams also use CFD but in addition to the wind tunnel."

Dennis cried after seeing new 'Senna' film
(GMM)  Ron Dennis admits that watching the acclaimed new feature documentary about Ayrton Senna was emotional.

"Yes, at certain points I cried," the long-time McLaren team boss, who presided over the great Brazilian's three world championships, told Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport when asked about 'Senna'.

"Some of the images touched me deeply," added Dennis.  "We had a very close relationship, only fighting about contracts."

A strong focus of the film is Senna's intense rivalry with Alain Prost, but Dennis said he does not regret pitting the two against each other.

"If you try to win with only one driver, then the ability of the team to win suffers," he said.  "What's clear is that despite the dispute, we won 15 of the 16 races in 1988."

Dennis admits he has also been similarly close to other McLaren drivers Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton, and said the relationship between the latter and Jenson Button is "harmonious".

"Martin Whitmarsh has a much easier time with the drivers than I did in my time," he smiled.

Meanwhile, by Corriere della Sera, Dennis was asked if he thinks Michael Schumacher's record of seven titles would be different had Senna not died in 1994.

"You could only answer that with a crystal ball," he said.

"When he went to Williams, the team was in trouble but he would have used his experience and won at least a fourth championship," Dennis told the newspaper.

Lotus didn't showboat in winter testing - Gascoyne
(GMM)  Mike Gascoyne has denied that Lotus' pace in Australia proved the team was showboating in winter testing.

After the pre-season test period, most F1 insiders predicted that the Tony Fernandes-led outfit - now with a Renault engine and Red Bull rear end - was ready to step into the midfield.

But in fact, the T128 once again seems simply the best of F1's three newest outfits including Virgin and HRT.

Faced with the charge Lotus had showboated in testing, technical boss Mike Gascoyne fired to Auto Motor und Sport: "Utter nonsense.

"The last day in Barcelona was a race simulation, so why would we lie to ourselves?"

He said the car's problem in Melbourne was due to not being able to heat up the Pirelli tires.

"With the hard and the soft tires we were well below the average temperatures of all the other cars in the field," explained Gascoyne, referring to data that is shared by F1's official tire supplier.

It is for that reason, and the fact that Pirelli is expecting teams to struggle with degradation in the Malaysian heat, that Gascoyne is much more upbeat about this weekend's event at Sepang.

"We will see how good our car really is.  Maybe there (in Malaysia) our weakness will be a strength," he said.

US GP site 'bare' but still on track
(GMM)  A spokesman insists the construction of the circuit for next year's US grand prix is on track, despite the Austin site still appearing mainly bare.

Local KVUE News reports that while the project has made progress in recent months, there is still skepticism about whether it will be ready to be handed over to the FIA mid next year.

A report said earthmovers can be seen at the site, as can the outline of the actual track layout.

"Right now as it stands, all of our construction milestones are on track," said Jeff Hahn, whose Texas PR firm is working with the race promoters.

"It's an aggressive schedule.  We are planning on a June 2012 opening day.  Now it's not unusual.  A lot of other tracks like this have been built in the same amount of time."

A local cafe owner said he has noticed progress at the site recently.

"I'd say not more than less than two months ago, there was a whole field of trees, brush and everything, and within the last month it's completely bare," he said.

Todt targets 2013 for electric FIA series
(GMM)  F1's governing body will create a new global racing series for electric cars, FIA president Jean Todt has revealed.

A report in the Financial Times said Todt, who thinks the new category can be set up for 2013 and be run on formula one circuits, has been asked to create the series by the European Commission.

"We want as soon as possible to have new categories with new energy," said the Frenchman, who is also introducing greener new engine rules for F1.

"As much as we can do it all over the world, we will do it," he added.

Todt indicated he understands some resistance to the change from within formula one, including Bernie Ecclestone who is worried about losing the unique sound produced by the current V8 engines.

"The racing community are only interested in how to improve performance because they want to win," he said.

"If you speak to the boards of manufacturers they feel a strong interest to implement the technologies, which are not so obvious for the sporting community because it costs money and research and it doesn't improve performance, and I understand that," added Todt.

Horner predicts return to form for Webber
(GMM)  Christian Horner is confident Mark Webber will be up to speed at this weekend's Malaysian grand prix.

Red Bull said the Australian's RB7 chassis would be stripped down and inspected with a fine-tooth comb after Webber struggled to keep up with runaway winner Sebastian Vettel in Melbourne.

Despite Helmut Marko saying in Australia that the chassis might be carrying a major flaw, it appears in fact that nothing significant has been found.

"He (Webber) and the team have been looking to understand that (performance) in the last week," team boss Horner told the BBC.

"We think we've found a few pointers and I'm confident we'll see him back up at the front in Malaysia next weekend."

In an official preview, Webber said: "We got a lot of information from the first race and we expect our car to be good in Malaysia -- I want to get
some champagne and up on to the steps."

Meanwhile, Horner and Red Bull designer Adrian Newey have said they will decide whether to fit KERS to the RB7 in Malaysia after it is tested on Friday.

The team did not use the energy-recovery technology in Melbourne and McLaren driver Jenson Button suspects he knows why.

"I don't think they have a good system -- we gain between 3.5 and 5 tenths from our KERS but I think Red Bull only gain 1.5 and that's why they did not bother with it and the extra weight," he is quoted as saying by AFP.

Vettel repeats F1 driver strike threat
(GMM)  Sebastian Vettel has repeated his threat to front a formula one driver strike.

Before Melbourne, the world champion had raised his fears that the return of KERS and the new adjustable rear wings had increased the workload of the drivers to a new level of danger.

A director of the F1 drivers' union GPDA, the 23-year-old has now repeated his threat that - as a last resort - the drivers could refuse to race.

"If the situation worsens to the point of becoming dangerous, I think we have the power to voice our position," he told the Sunday edition of German daily Die Welt.

Vettel admitted that the last resort "is where we do not race if a dangerous situation is not changed".

"In the meantime, we will open our mouths and speak with the international federation to find a reasonable solution," he added.

Mercedes not ready to challenge Red Bull - Marko
(GMM)  Mercedes is not currently a threat to Red Bull's dominance.

That is the claim of Helmut Marko, motor racing consultant to the latter energy drink-owned team that in Australia recently re-established its place at the top of the F1 pecking order.

At the same time, Ferrari surprisingly struggled in Australia, as did Mercedes, while McLaren made a step forward following a dire winter campaign.

"Of course I hope that the world championship is as boring as possible," Marko told Bild newspaper.

Team boss Christian Horner, however, has said he expects "an arms race" this season, and Michael Schumacher insisted last Friday that it is "much too early" to write off Mercedes.

But Marko said Mercedes is not ready to win yet.

"At the moment they are not our direct competitor, but maybe they will be soon.  They showed at the last test (in Barcelona) that they have a good car," he said.

Alesi feels sorry for 'poor' Kubica
(GMM)  Fellow winner of one grand prix, Jean Alesi, has revealed his great sympathy for the plight of the badly injured Robert Kubica.

It is believed Frenchman Alesi, a representative of Renault sponsor Group Lotus, was scheduled recently to conduct a bedside interview with Kubica for Italian television RAI.

But the interview was reportedly called off at short notice, as was a similar interview scheduled with the Swiss newspaper Blick.

Alesi said he sympathizes with the talented Pole's struggle but revealed that Kubica is set to put his weight on his feet for the first time since his rally crash "in the coming days".

"The poor guy; he didn't deserve this," Alesi told Sonntagsblick newspaper.

Todt not ruling out second term as FIA boss
(GMM)  Jean Todt has indicated he will seek a second term as FIA president.

When the former Ferrari boss was campaigning for the role to replace predecessor Max Mosley, it was reported that he said he only wanted to stay for four years.

But according to journalist James Allen, who has interviewed Todt for the Financial Times, Todt denied he ever committed to serving only one term.

"My frame of mind is to achieve as much as I can in my first mandate," he said in quotes published on Allen's blog.  "I'm healthy, motivated.

"We don't have to decide anything for another two years," added the 65-year-old.

Todt also played down some harsh criticism from Bernie Ecclestone, who in denouncing the 2013 engine rules recently also hit out at the Frenchman's presidential style.

"There is emotion, but what is important is never to overreact," he said.  "I feel confrontation, unless it is necessary to achieve the final result, you lose time."

Aero upgrades for Williams in Sepang
"Sepang is dominated by two high-speed corner combinations as well a number of slow-speed corners," said Williams Technical Director, Sam Michael. "There are three long straights at Sepang so set-up is geared towards those high speed sections as efficiency is well rewarded.

"We expect the moveable rear wing to have a greater influence on overtaking here, even more than it did in Australia.

We have some aero upgrades for the front end of the FW33 that we will be bringing to Malaysia, while we will also have some improvements on the KERS together with solutions for the transmission issues we experienced in Melbourne.

"It will be interesting to see how the FW33 performs on this medium to high-speed circuit. Our target for the race is to finish with both cars in the points."

Teams to test extra hard Pirelli tire in Malaysia
(GMM)  Pirelli has revealed it will supply an "experimental hard compound" for teams to test during practice in Malaysia on Friday.

In March, we reported that F1's new official supplier was working on a fifth tire compound - unofficially referred to as 'extra hard' - for possible use in 2011.

The reports said the compound is designed to cope with extreme corners such as Turkey's famous Turn 8.  Pirelli tested at the Istanbul circuit with Pedro de la Rosa at the weekend.

The tire supplier confirmed in a statement on Monday: "The new tire is an experimental hard compound that could be used in the future".

"With testing not allowed during the season, this gives us a valuable opportunity to gather more data and feedback, while it also gives the teams an interesting taste of what could be coming in the future," said the Italian marque's motor sport director Paul Hembery.

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