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DATE News (chronologically)
11/12/11
f1
Latest F1 news in brief - Saturday UPDATE Update show in red below.

11/12/11
  • Romain Grosjean
    Grosjean considered quitting racing in 2010
  • Massa's 2012 wing still 'fluttering'
  • Maldonado set for second F1 season with Williams
  • McLaren and Ferrari urge Williams to sign Raikkonen
  • F1 unlikely to tweak qualifying format
  • Bosses back F1 to survive Eurozone crisis
  • Tech bosses agree to blown exhaust ban
  • Ecclestone sure about Bahrain return, not Austin debut New

Grosjean considered quitting racing in 2010
(GMM)  Romain Grosjean has admitted he almost quit motor sport after his formula one career hit the rocks after just seven grands prix in 2009.

Among the victims of the 'crashgate' saga, the Frenchman had replaced sacked Nelson Piquet at Renault but then fell by the wayside as Flavio Briatore's career foundered and the team moved into new hands.

"At one point at the start of 2010 I thought about stopping everything, stopping racing," Grosjean admitted to The National in Abu Dhabi.

"It was difficult, but two weeks later my decision came back, and I said no, this is what I really wanted to do.

"I watched the first grand prix of the year in 2010 and thought I need to get back and I always believed I could do it."

He was speaking as, at Yas Marina, he began to put his grand prix career back together with a seat in the Friday practice session.

Grosjean, who this year became the GP2 champion, is also a contender for the Renault race seat in 2012.

He will return to the R31 on Friday morning in Brazil and acknowledged the importance of the practice drives.

"It is a fantastic opportunity for me but I know it is a test from the team and they want to see how I have improved and changed since last time."

Massa's 2012 wing still 'fluttering'
(GMM)  Ferrari is still working to solve the 'fluttering' problem with Felipe Massa's new 2012-style front wing.

The Red Bull-like wing - apparently designed to pass the aerodynamic load tests but still flex towards the track - was observed violently oscillating at high speed in India two weeks ago.

The Italian team said it had fixed the problem for Abu Dhabi but in the Friday practice sessions Massa's wing was still 'fluttering' and sending up spectacular sparks when the extremities bottomed out.

"The reality is that we found something that was not correct in terms of the structure of that wing (in India) but apparently it seems that there is still a problem," admitted team boss Stefano Domenicali.

But why isn't the problem similarly affecting Fernando Alonso's sister car?

"I have got engineers much more expert than me here that know that an effect on a wing can depend on a lot of issues, a lot of things," said Domenicali.

"It depends on the setup of the car, depending on tire pressure and so on.  Maybe it is a combination of all these elements for our engineers to understand and react as it is not what we would like to see," he added.

On the bright side, Massa said he was not aware of the problem until he saw the television replays.

And Ferrari is also happy to have encountered the problem now, before the crucial 2012 pre-season test period.

"We would have lost an entire week of testing," an unnamed team member confided to Auto Motor und Sport.

Maldonado set for second F1 season with Williams
(GMM)  Amid all the speculation about the identity of his 2012 teammate, it seems clear that Pastor Maldonado can relax about keeping his race seat at Williams.

Rubens Barrichello, Adrian Sutil and - to the delight of F1's rumor mill and headline writers - Kimi Raikkonen are reportedly in contention for the Oxfordshire based team's second seat.

But although Venezuelan rookie and last year's GP2 champion Maldonado has not yet been officially confirmed for 2012, boss Sir Frank Williams admitted in Abu Dhabi that the heavily backed 26-year-old can relax.

"I am sure Pastor will be in one car," he said at Yas Marina.

In some quarters, Maldonado is still dismissed as little more than a pay-driver, with his PDVSA sponsorship and personal support from Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said to run into the dozens of millions.

But when asked who he thinks is this year's standout rookie, Fernando Alonso told AS newspaper: "I like the season that has been done by Maldonado.

"He is usually always fighting with Barrichello or beating him and doing some pretty serious racing.  I think he has done very well in his debut," said the Ferrari driver and former back-to-back world champion.

McLaren and Ferrari urge Williams to sign Raikkonen
(GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen's most recent teams think Sir Frank Williams would be wise to sign up the 2007 world champion for next season.

For his part, 69-year-old Williams remained calm amid the waves of speculation in Abu Dhabi, refusing to let slip the status of the talks with the former Ferrari and McLaren winner.

"I cannot make any comment about supposition, sorry to be so unhelpful," he told reporters.

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh, however - now the head of Raikkonen's Woking based employer between 2002 and 2006 - was emphatic when asked what advice he has for Williams.

"Try and sign him," said the Briton.  "I hope that he (Raikkonen) is hungry.

"I am sure he hasn't lost the capability to thrill us so I think it would be fantastic for formula one," added Whitmarsh.

"I wouldn't ordinarily presume to advise Sir Frank who he should sign but I think it would be exciting if he did."

Another man in Abu Dhabi who knows Raikkonen well is Stefano Domenicali, team boss at Ferrari, the Finn's last F1 team and the scene of his title triumph.

"I know Kimi very well," said the Italian.  "He is very talented, very strong, he was the last driver to win the world championship with us and he will want to show he is still one of the strongest."

F1 unlikely to tweak qualifying format
(GMM)  Formula one appears unlikely to tweak the current qualifying format despite concerns in 2011 about a flagging spectacle.

Overall, the 'knockout' format has been popular in recent years, with fast drivers graduating from the Q1 segment to Q2, and then from Q2 to the decisive top-ten Q3 session.

But in 2011, with fresh sets of Pirelli's heavily-degrading tires at an unprecedented premium, a tactic increasingly deployed is for a driver to move into the next 'Q' segment but then sit out the actual session.

By doing this, the driver ensures a decent grid position and saves a fresh set of Pirellis for the race.

Team bosses in Abu Dhabi admitted that the phenomenon has been discussed recently during meetings.

"I think, generally, when that's been discussed, it's been the view of the teams that qualifying is actually quite an interesting format now," McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh said.

He said that after F1 moved from the free 60-minute format of 2002, several new formats were briefly trialed but then abandoned.

"So I think we should exercise quite a lot of caution before we change what is, frankly - certainly for those of us sat on the pitwall - pretty gripping," said Whitmarsh, also the chairman of the FOTA group.

He revealed that "the consensus view" during bosses meetings is that the existing format should stay.

Mercedes' Ross Brawn concurred.

"Quite honestly, I think the ability for other teams to take a more tactical approach to try and compensate their performance is an added dimension," he said when asked if drivers sitting out sessions is a problem.

"As Martin said, we should be careful not to fiddle with it because it's actually quite a good show."

Bosses back F1 to survive Eurozone crisis
(GMM)  Team bosses are sure formula one will weather the European storm.

Struggling Eurozone members headed by Greece have triggered a worsening financial crisis in the sport's key market.

But Sir Frank Williams, who is understood to be negotiating with Middle Eastern sponsors, remains confident that formula one will still be able to rely on European money.

"I believe it (sponsorship) will still come from Europe because the sport is based in Europe, most people who watch it are from Europe but I think (F1 figures are) very adept at sniffing out the dosh," he said in Abu Dhabi.

"There will always be money to keep their teams in business.  The determination within those teams is immeasurable," added Williams.

Mercedes' Ross Brawn broadly agrees but he thinks F1 might have to make some adjustments to cope with the changing global market, even though a cost-cutting agreement is at present highly controversial within team meetings.

"I daren't bring it up but we're working hard on the resource restriction (agreement); if we need to, that can be tightened even further," he said.

"So I think the teams are incredibly resilient and we will cut our cloth to suit the climate and that's what will happen."

Bernie Ecclestone has been criticized for expanding F1 from its traditional European market to the emerging ones in the Far and Middle East.

"As you know we were one of the first companies that had the opportunity to receive investment from this area and now we are looking also in the other parts of the world," revealed Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali in Abu Dhabi.

And Martin Whitmarsh, head of McLaren and the FOTA group, reminded that not too long ago F1 weathered the global financial crisis and then saw Honda, Toyota and BMW pull out.

"I think it brought the best out in formula one," said the Briton, "because we react well in a crisis.

"Perhaps we are all a little bit too comfortable now - some of the teams - and another bit of a crisis might focus some minds on what we need to do together," he added.

Tech bosses agree to blown exhaust ban
(GMM)  Blown exhaust technology looks set to be banned completely for the 2012 season.

Despite the FIA having already moved to outlaw the use of engine gas as an aerodynamic aid, there were rumors in the Abu Dhabi paddock that the ban might not actually go through.

The problem was that Red Bull and McLaren are understood to have argued against the governing body's latest rules for 2012 on the basis they are now too far advanced with the design of their cars for next year.

The suspicion was that they had identified loopholes in the 2012 rules and might continue to find an aerodynamic benefit from the exhausts.

Auto Motor und Sport reports, however, that the exhaust controversy "has ended" for now after a meeting at Yas Marina.

The rules, agreed by the technical directors, will make it "almost impossible" to utilize the exhaust gases for an aerodynamic gain.

The next step is the signing off by the team bosses via fax.

"That is not as easy as it sounds," the German report reads.  "While the engineers think pragmatically, their bosses always have an ulterior motive."

Ecclestone sure about Bahrain return, not Austin debut
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone on Saturday sounded hopeful Bahrain will host its grand prix as scheduled next year, and less confident formula one will race in Austin.

He was speaking in Abu Dhabi alongside his guest the crown prince of Bahrain, amid speculation within the media and team corps that the island Kingdom is not yet ready to welcome the sport back in the wake of the 2011 cancellation.

"Just like any other country that's faced troubles in the past, we will move beyond it, we will learn from it and we will grow," Prince Salman is quoted by Emirates 24/7.

F1 chief executive Ecclestone agreed that Bahrain's April 2012 date is safe.

"Why would we include Bahrain if we were not sure of the country hosting it?" he told reporters at Yas Marina.

Ecclestone however sounded pessimistic about the return to the calendar next year of a US grand prix, hinting at a disagreement within the organizing body and promoters of the Circuit of the Americas project.

"Austin?  I wouldn't want to put my money down that that will happen," he said.

"I hope it will and we are doing our best to make it happen, but I wouldn't want to say yes.  For New York (in 2013), no problem at all," added Ecclestone.

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