Latest F1 news in brief - Thursday UPDATE Updates shown in red below.
F1 ready to return to Bahrain - Hill
- Hamilton might seek Red Bull switch - Hill
- Barrichello could find another F1 role - experts
- Maldonado trusts Williams to make 'much better' car
- Austin F1 track set for August completion New
- New Williams passed crash tests in December New
- Trulli not worried about Petrov rumors New
- Caterham confirms January launch for new car New
F1 ready to return to Bahrain - Hill
(GMM) Damon Hill thinks F1 is ready to return to Bahrain this season.
With the island Kingdom in turmoil last year, the 1996 world champion urged the sport to cancel the 2011 race.
"You can't just base your decision to hold a race in a country on that country's ability to pay," he said last June.
But the former Williams driver, now 51 and to be an expert pundit on British television this year, has changed his tune.
"I was frustrated last year that formula one did not raise its voice against what was happening. But a lot has changed there since then," Hill told the Times newspaper.
The Daily Telegraph said Hill actually visited Bahrain recently along with FIA president Jean Todt.
"I listened to a lot of people there, including eyewitnesses," he said. "I believe they are making change for the better.
"There is no question they have issues, but every country has issues -- we had riots here in the UK not so long ago," added the Briton.
"This time, formula one can go to Bahrain with a clear conscience and not just as a tool for some sort of cover-up."
Last week, the Sakhir circuit announced that staff sacked during last year's protests had been offered their jobs back.
"We are happy to see the Bahrain staff have been reinstated and are back to work," Formula One Management said in a report on the sport's official website.
Hamilton might seek Red Bull switch - Hill
(GMM) It is not certain Lewis Hamilton will stay at McLaren beyond this year, according to 1996 world champion Damon Hill.
Although 2008 title winner Hamilton regularly pledges his loyalty to the famous British team, his contract runs out this year and last season he had talks with Christian Horner in the Red Bull motor home.
"It may be he will seek to move from McLaren," pondered 51-year-old Hill, according to the Telegraph.
Earlier this week, former Williams driver Hill urged fellow Briton Hamilton to better manage his F1 career alongside his often troubled private life.
Part of improving that focus might involve leaving McLaren, suggested Hill, referring to the Woking based team that began grooming Hamilton for F1 stardom when he was a boy.
"It (leaving) may be something he feels he needs to do, which will be a bit like leaving home as he's been there since he was 13," said Hill.
"If I was Bernie (Ecclestone) I would probably want to see Lewis at Red Bull with Vettel."
Barrichello could find another F1 role - experts
(GMM) Rubens Barrichello will struggle to adapt to life after formula one, according to 1996 world champion Damon Hill.
Throughout most of Hill's entire career, he shared the grand prix circuits with Barrichello, who has gone on to set the outright record for the number of races contested.
But now 39, the veteran Brazilian has lost his Williams race seat and this year will therefore almost certainly be missing from the grid for the first time since 1992.
According to Hill, who retired at the end of 1999, Barrichello could struggle to adapt.
"It's a really difficult thing for drivers to give up," he is quoted by The Sun. "The shame is there is nowhere to go next for a driver.
"Nothing is the same as F1."
The only other vacant race seat on the 2012 grid at present is at HRT, but the Spanish team is likely to sign a driver with lucrative sponsorship.
When news broke this week that Williams had decided to sign Bruno Senna, Barrichello insisted on Twitter that his future was "wide open".
"When I said that things were open," he now adds, "it's because I still have lots of speed in me. Just like an old friend said, racing is in my blood."
He has, however - at the behest of his wife - ruled out joining his friend Tony Kanaan in the IndyCar series.
Writing in the Telegraph, correspondent Tom Cary thinks Williams would be wise to sign Barrichello for a development role.
"There was certainly a case to be made for using his experience at a time of massive change for the Williams team, with a new technical team and leadership," he said.
"Maybe that will still happen if they can persuade Barrichello to take on some sort of development role."
Agreed Cary's colleague Livio Oricchio - who spoke to Barrichello this week - in O Estado de S.Paulo: "It is possible Rubens will remain connected somehow to formula one.
"Teams can't test privately anymore, so someone with experience of 325 grands prix could be useful in many ways to a team developing a car.
"He would also be physically prepared to replace a driver who does not match up either to expectations, the financial commitments of his sponsors, or who needs some time to recover from an accident," added Oricchio.
Maldonado trusts Williams to make 'much better' car
(GMM) Pastor Maldonado trusts he will enjoy a better car for his second season in formula one.
The 2010 GP2 champion, whose sponsors now pay handsomely for his F1 race seat, made his debut alongside Rubens Barrichello and scored one of Williams' five points last year.
Retained for the forthcoming season, 26-year-old Maldonado said he is feeling "calmer" for 2012.
"I trust the team that the car we have made will be much more competitive than we had last season," the EFE news agency quotes the Venezuelan as saying.
He admitted 2011 was "very difficult" for him, "particularly as a rookie", but insists he enjoyed "every meter of every track".
"It was an unique experience and a very important one in my sporting life, and I believe also in all of the sporting life of Venezuela," added Maldonado, who has the backing of state-owned oil company PDVSA as well as president Hugo Chavez's personal support.
His Williams teammate this year will be Bruno Senna.
"I think Williams learned a lot from 2011," the Brazilian, who is moving to the Grove based team from Renault (now Lotus), is quoted by Brazil's SporTV.
"A difficult year helps a team to realize what are its flaws and problems. They have replaced some people and changed some processes and a lot of things and are excited about having a good season."
Austin F1 track set for August completion
Austin's new Formula 1 track is on course to be completed in the middle of August, AUTOSPORT reports, with construction efforts now fully back on course at the United States venue.
Although there was uncertainty about the future of the race last year amid a dispute over the contract - with work at the circuit being halted for several weeks – a big push by Austin's organizers ensured it remained on the final 2012 calendar issued by the FIA's World Motor Sport Council in early December.
With its deal secure, construction resumed at the track shortly afterwards and track chiefs have confirmed that the recent delays will not have any negative effect on its November 18 event taking place.
Senior representatives from the Circuit of the Americas, including president Steve Sexton, executive vice president Bruce Knox and chief marketing and sales officer Geoff Moore are in London this week for meetings with Bernie Ecclestone to update him on progress.
Moore told AUTOSPORT: "The race is on. Construction is happening six days a week. The paddock buildings are being topped off, work on the main grandstand has started and we are looking at mid-August for completion." More at Autosport
New Williams passed crash tests in December
Williams has revealed that its new 2012 car, the FW34, had already passed the necessary FIA crash tests in December. In a new rule introduced by the F1 governing body for this year, all cars must have passed every test before being able to run.
“We passed all the various crash tests before Christmas,” confirms Mark Gillan, Williams’ Chief Operations Engineer. “General performance trends look very encouraging and the processes, in terms of development and on the design side, have dramatically changed. So it’s looking very encouraging.
"Going forwards, I’d say we are on target. We want to be consistently in the points and in the top ten. We want to be through to Q3 and scoring points at the end of the race. I am confident that we can achieve that goal.”
Trulli not worried about Petrov rumors
(GMM) Jarno Trulli on Thursday said he is not worried amid raging speculation he could be about to lose his race seat.
The Italian veteran is signed up to stay with Caterham next year, but team figures are sounding vague about the commitment.
At the same time, it is reported that Renault refugee Vitaly Petrov's manager visited Caterham's Hingham headquarters recently.
"I have a contract with Caterham and that's it," Trulli, 37, is quoted by Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I know nothing about the rumors. The team has told me nothing.
"On Monday I will be at the factory for the seat fitting. Until I'm told otherwise, everything for me remains the same," added Trulli.
He was also reluctant to talk about his longer-term future.
"Every time (I do), words are put into my mouth that I want to do Nascar or the (Le Mans) 24 hours. I'm only talking about formula one," he insisted.
Caterham confirms January launch for new car
(GMM) Caterham on Thursday confirmed reports the team could be first out of the blocks with its 2012 car.
We reported earlier that the CT01 single seater is scheduled to be revealed publicly at the end of January, which at present is earlier than any rival team's plans.
"The first Caterham F1 Team car will be unveiled on the cover of the February issue of F1 Racing magazine, out on 26 January," said the former Team Lotus squad's communications chief Tom Webb.
The feature article will include exclusive photos of the car.
The first official group test of the 2012 pre-season begins at Jerez on 7 February.