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Latest F1 news in brief - Wednesday
  • Raikkonen was quickest in the new Lotus on Day 1
    Raikkonen 'quick', not showboating - Button
  • State ousts Nurburgring circuit operator
  • Toro Rosso counts Caterham among 2012 rivals
  • Ferrari suspension not seen in F1 since 2001 - Gene
  • New blown exhaust saga begins at Jerez
  • Raikkonen slams 'ridiculous' DRS
  • Wolff should step up at Williams - Ecclestone
  • Raikkonen head-start no shock to teammate Grosjean
  • Kovalainen not keen on Caterham's practice plans
  • Red Bull 'letterbox' slot for driver cooling - Newey
  • Marussia intends to keep Pic beyond 2012
  • Webber sees 'many years' ahead on F1 grid
  • Antena 3 secures F1's Spanish TV rights
  • First title winner Jones not writing off Williams
  • New destinations not harming F1 - Jones
  • HRT awaiting crash test news on Wednesday
  • McLaren MP4-27 'feels right' says Jenson Button 

Raikkonen was quickest in the new Lotus on Day 1
Raikkonen 'quick', not showboating - Button
(GMM)  Williams' official launch took just five minutes in the Jerez pitlane on Tuesday, before the new Renault-powered FW34 had a difficult birth.

"Unfortunately testing was cut short with a couple of initial teething problems which we are currently investigating," said engineer Mark Gillan.

Official testing action burst into life in 2012, with every team except Marussia - and nine all-new cars in action for the first time - kicking off their campaigns.

Returning 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen was fastest all day.

"The lap times don't matter today," Lotus' Finn insisted.

"I do have a good feeling, and that was not always the case in my career after the first day of testing," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"But I would rather be P1 at the end of the first race than at the end of the first test day," smiled Raikkonen.

Red Bull's Mark Webber, with the team's brand new title-defending car only the third quickest of the 2012 runners, agreed.

"If what we saw today happens in Melbourne, then we'll talk again," he laughed, explaining the missed morning of testing as due to a crucial part being held up at an airport shrouded in fog.

The Guardian also reports that a Red Bull truckie was stopped for speeding.

Lotus team boss Eric Boullier, however, is convinced Raikkonen's speed is real - and his motivation intact - after two years away.

"Believe me, he is there."

Agreed technical director James Allison: "You can tell Kimi is a class act."

Like fellow top team Red Bull, the new McLaren also had a low-profile day, with Jenson Button just eighth quickest.

But he didn't accuse Lotus and Raikkonen of showboating.

"Maybe he (Raikkonen) was running heavy," said the 2009 world champion.  "We maybe haven't seen eye to eye a lot of the time when we've been racing, but he's a very quick driver, a world champion.

"He's obviously in a very competitive car, and whatever they did today - low fuel or whatever - it was still quick."

Struggling on Tuesday was Caterham, whose new car could not be restarted following damage to the engine starter shaft, and Toro Rosso with an oil leak.

And Felipe Massa was just ninth in the new Ferrari.

"It is obviously too early to say if this year we will be able to win or not," said designer Nikolas Tombazis.

State ousts Nurburgring circuit operator
(GMM)  The future of the German grand prix at the Nurburgring is looking grim, after the Rhineland-Palatinate state cancelled the circuit operator's lease.

Minister Roger Lewentz told the Rhein-Zeitung newspaper that a bright future for the venue was "not possible" with the existing tenants.

The report, however, said talks with Bernie Ecclestone about a new deal for the formula one race are well advanced.

Lewentz said: "I want and need to speak personally with Mr. Ecclestone."

Recently, the Nurburgring has been annually alternating a single date on the F1 calendar with Hockenheim.

Toro Rosso counts Caterham among 2012 rivals
(GMM)  Toro Rosso counts Caterham - the 2010 start-up team that has failed to score a single point since inception - among its close rivals for 2012.

Last season, the Red Bull-owned rookie team Toro Rosso finished the championship in eighth place with 41 points, well clear of Williams and behind Sauber and Force India.

"Our direct competitors are Sauber, Force India and Caterham," the Faenza based team's boss Franz Tost is quoted by autohebdo.fr.

Formerly Lotus, the Tony Fernandes-led Caterham team has been the best of the new 2010 teams including Marussia (nee Virgin) and HRT.

"Caterham has managed to build a good infrastructure," Tost is quoted as saying.

"They have the Renault engine and a KERS from Red Bull and it means their package is good.

"They have two experienced drivers and I expect they will become our rivals.

"Our goal is to take seventh place in the championship -- we must do better than last year," added Tost.

Ferrari's pull-rod front suspension
Ferrari suspension not seen in F1 since 2001 - Gene
(GMM)  A feature of the 2012 Ferrari car has not been seen in formula one for more than a decade, test driver Marc Gene has confirmed.

While the 'stepped' noses have been grabbing all the media's attention, arguably more noteworthy is Ferrari's decision to design its F2012 around 'pullrod' front suspension.

While some F1 teams have been using pullrod suspension at the rear of their cars, it has been essentially absent from the front since the 80s and 90s.

"The system seeks to lower the centre of gravity and improve the entry and operation of the air from the front to the rear to improve downforce," Spaniard Gene wrote in the El Mundo newspaper.

"It was last seen at the front of Fernando Alonso's Minardi in 2011," he added.

After the first day of official testing on Tuesday, Ferrari designer Nikolas Tombazis said: "No one will be able to accuse us of having been timid in the design of this car."

New blown exhaust saga begins at Jerez
(GMM)  While 'step' noses were still occupying some in the F1 paddock, the sport's purists were staring at the rear of the cars as the field of 2012 tested at Jerez on Tuesday.

With blown exhausts effectively banned this year, the new rules state that the outlets must now be visible from above.

But according to Auto Motor und Sport, the Ferrari and McLaren solutions are not necessarily visible from a bird's eye view, causing some insiders to predict a new controversy about the legality of cars this season.

So at Jerez, the game began.

"We have had a lot of correspondence with the FIA," said Ferrari designer Nikolas Tombazis.  "We believe that what we are doing is legal."

McLaren's solution is also innovative, with the side 'bump' seen at the launch of the MP4-27 still on the car at Jerez.

One early analysis is that the team is using a rule loophole to cleverly redirect the exhaust air.

"There's always a chance that somebody will come up with something that's right on the border," said Red Bull designer Adrian Newey.

Added Lotus' James Allison: "So far we have a conservative solution," he commented on the day Kimi Raikkonen went quickest in the 2012 car.

"We will watch the competition and also what the FIA says.  Depending on how much they will allow, we will act accordingly."

Some of the smaller teams are already expressing frustration.

"The FIA has said that the exhaust should no longer influence the aerodynamics.  We support that and we will stick to that," said Toro Rosso's Giorgio Ascanelli.

Added Williams' Mark Gillan: "The rules are actually pretty clear and we are trying to be on the right side of them."

Kimi Raikkonen
Raikkonen slams 'ridiculous' DRS
(GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen has revealed he is no fan of F1's 'DRS' concept.

The former world champion was busy in the world rally series last year when formula one introduced the moveable rear wing system, designed to boost overtaking.

Having skipped the 2010 season entirely on television, Raikkonen began to watch some grands prix last year when his thirst for circuit racing returned.

"The way the DRS wings work is for me a little ridiculous," he admitted to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.  "Overtaking is not really a great art anymore.

"You just put the wing down and go past easily," said the 32-year-old.  "The guy in front can't really do anything.

"But I agree that at least it makes the show better," added Raikkonen.

He admitted that his brief stint in American Nascar racing last year rekindled his love for wheel-to-wheel.

"I realized how much I was missing it," said the former McLaren and Ferrari driver.  "That doesn't mean I am sick of rallying; actually I'd like to do both but that's not possible.

"But if you want to race and you have the choice, first you look at formula one," he added.

Raikkonen was the fastest of all when 2012 testing kicked off at Jerez on Tuesday, insisting he is not fazed at the prospect of returning after two years away.

"For me it's easier to get used to the (Pirelli) tires than it was for the others a year ago.  For me it's more like a new beginning."

As for the refuelling ban, which came in last year, Raikkonen insists: "That's no big deal -- the pitstop is just a little shorter.

"Driving with the heavier car is not like day and night; it's still the same sport.  There's just a few more buttons to push on the steering wheel."

Wolff should step up at Williams - Ecclestone
(GMM)  Team shareholder Toto Wolff should take more control of the famous yet beleaguered formula one team Williams.

That is the view of Bernie Ecclestone, who in the Swiss magazine Speed Week said the Grove based outfit was wrong to try to fix its problems from the bottom up.

Ahead of 2012, the team has ousted experienced driver Rubens Barrichello and technical director Sam Michael, long time co-owner Patrick Head has left, and designer Mike Coughlan and Renault engines have arrived.

The new FW34 was unveiled in a five-minute launch on Tuesday.

"One could say that we are off to a truly fresh start," said boss Sir Frank Williams.

But Ecclestone, F1's chief executive, criticized the approach.

"I don't think they've done it the right way," he said.  "The changes should have come from above, not from below.

"I think people like Toto Wolff should get more control," added Ecclestone.

He is referring to Christian 'Toto' Wolff, a young Austrian businessman and former racer who has a minor team shareholding.

Wolff is also involved in the management of Williams' test driver Valtteri Bottas.

Raikkonen head-start no shock to teammate Grosjean
(GMM)  Romain Grosjean says he understands the initial preference in 2012 given to his famous Lotus teammate, Kimi Raikkonen.

Frenchman Grosjean, with just 7 grands prix under his belt in 2009, is paired this year with Raikkonen, who has spent the last two seasons in world rallying.

Although they have both been away from the F1 grid for the past two seasons, it is Raikkonen who was granted an exclusive re-acclimatization test recently, and the first two days of official testing this week at Jerez.

Grosjean, 25, insists to Le Matin newspaper: "It's going well between us.

"It does not shock me that he began the testing for marketing reasons.  He was world champion and he will also need some time to adjust to being back in the game.

"Together with Kimi, we want to do everything so that Lotus is in the best possible position on the grid and I do not intend to fuss over topics that I cannot control," he added.

Kovalainen not keen on Caterham's practice plans
(GMM)  Heikki Kovalainen insists he does not need number one status at Caterham.

Entering his third year with the former Lotus team, and with his teammate Jarno Trulli reportedly on the cusp of being ousted, it is an open secret in the paddock that Finn Kovalainen is the favorite.

But that doesn't mean the 30-year-old needs a favored status.

"I think I've been able to take my place in the team with at least an equal footing with my teammate," he is quoted by the Finnish broadcaster MTV3.

"As long as we have the same, I do not need anything else.  It has worked so far," insisted Kovalainen.

What he would like, however, is an assurance from the team that he will not be sidelined on Friday mornings by test drivers.

For 2012, Caterham has signed Dutch GP2 driver Giedo van der Garde to take part "in a number" of morning practice sessions.

"It is still being discussed," insists Kovalainen.  "It is still open.

"Of course, I am firmly of the view that we don't need that -- I would like to drive all the sessions."

Newey claims letterbox slot in Red Bull nose is for driver cooling
Red Bull 'letterbox' slot for driver cooling - Newey
(GMM)  Adrian Newey has cleared up the mystery about the 'letterbox' opening in the nose of the newly-launched 2012 Red Bull car.

The F1 world noticed that Newey's 'step nose' differs from its rivals in the form of an air inlet where the monocoque height meets the new lower nose height.

Some surmised it must be for KERS or engine cooling, or perhaps even an F-duct style channel through to the diffuser.

Designer Newey, however, said it is to just cool the drivers.

"The toes are a bit too cold now actually," grinned Mark Webber to Italy's Autosprint.

"Traditionally the driver cooling slot is at the front of the nose," explained Newey, "but really for styling as much as anything we moved it to where you now see it to break up the aesthetics of the ramp."

Newey also took the opportunity to reject speculation he might contemplate a switch to Ferrari in the near future.

"To now leave for another team would kind of feel a little like walking out on your children in a way," said the Briton.

Marussia intends to keep Pic beyond 2012
(GMM)  Marussia intends to keep Charles Pic, the team's new French rookie, for more than a single season.

When known as Virgin, the team ousted Timo Glock's 2010 and 2011 teammates - Lucas di Grassi and Jerome d'Ambrosio respectively - after a single season each.

The latest in the pay-driver hot seat is GP2 driver Pic, 21.

"I think there is some long term potential for him," said team chief executive Andy Webb.

"I'm looking really to see if he can go forward for more than one year," he told the Daily Mail.

With its 2012 car not yet ready, Marussia is the only team sitting out this week's Jerez test.

Although also without new single seaters launched yet, Mercedes and HRT are running this week with their 2011 cars.

"I think it is a setback," admitted team boss John Booth.

"We've taken on a huge challenge following the exit of Nick Wirth and to build a new car from scratch is demanding, but we are certainly up for that challenge.

"We have decided that it is the best thing for us to reach Barcelona initially with the 2011 car, and then for the second Barcelona test with the 2012 car.  That's the plan."

Webber sees 'many years' ahead on F1 grid
(GMM)  Two young chargers are waiting in the wings, but Mark Webber insists he intends to extend his formula one career beyond 2012.

Among the top names at Red Bull, however, the Australian veteran is the odd one out, with only a one-year contract in his pocket.

At the same time, the energy drink company has appointed two young rookies - Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne - to its junior team Toro Rosso.

"Obviously there is probably a chance with Red Bull, but at the moment I don't want to look too far ahead," said Frenchman Vergne this week at Jerez.

Webber will turn 36 this year, but he told Austrian Servus TV he sees himself on the grid "for many years" to come.

"The feeling I had in Australia (over the winter) was the desire to come back here and drive the car," he said.

Nevertheless, the big rumor is that Dr Helmut Marko - the Red Bull driver manager - decided to appoint Ricciardo and Vergne so that he can assess which one will be Sebastian Vettel's teammate in 2013.

"I can't do anything about the rumors -- I remember I was going to be replaced way back in 2008.  That's just formula one," said Webber.

Antena 3 secures F1's Spanish TV rights
(GMM)  Spanish fans can breathe a sigh of relief with the news formula one will be seen on television in 2012.

Rights holder Mediapro terminated existing broadcaster La Sexta's deal due to non-payment, it emerged late last month.

But Spanish daily newspapers report this week that Antena 3 has secured the rights for 2012 and 2013.

First title winner Jones not writing off Williams
(GMM)  Alan Jones is not ruling out a Williams resurgence in 2012, despite his former championship-winning team slumping to its worst-ever result last season.

Australian Jones, now 65, in 1980 won the once-great team's first of seven drivers' titles.

Williams has also won nine constructors' championships, but not since 1997.  Juan Pablo Montoya won the team's most recent victory, in 2004.

Since then, Sir Frank Williams' team has slumped from fourth in the end-of-season standings to ninth in 2011, with Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado only managing to outscore the points-less drivers of the three new teams.

The Grove based squad has however made some fundamental changes for 2012, including switching from Cosworth to Renault power, and replacing technical chief Sam Michael with former McLaren designer Mike Coughlan.

Is it realistic to expect Williams to ever again be a force in F1?

"I think it is," said Jones.  "They've got a lot of good people, they've got a really good establishment, they've got good facilities -- I think it wouldn't be impossible for them to come back.

"I think we'll see them probably make a bit of a resurgence this year with the Renault engine," he added.

"(Pastor) Maldonado has got a year of experience under his belt and it's going to be interesting to see how Bruno Senna goes, so I wouldn't rule them out, that's for sure."

New destinations not harming F1 - Jones
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone is not harming formula one with his planned expansion to even more new venues.

That is the view of 1980 world champion Alan Jones.

F1 chief executive Ecclestone, who has already arranged two forthcoming US races and also an event in Russia, has said in recent interviews that he hopes his sport's next destinations are Africa and Mexico.

He is clearly making room on the already packed 20-race annual calendar by - for example - organizing for Spain's two events to alternate a single date.

And even the great Spa-Francorchamps and the historic F1 host France look like having to be only biennial events, creating the impression that Ecclestone regards new markets as arguably more important than the sport's traditional home Europe.

So is Ecclestone doing the right thing for the sport?

"Well, I don't know about South Africa," Australian Jones began.

"But I guess the more new places, or the more new venues that you can do won't do any harm, because it's putting it (F1) under the nose of people who a) haven't had it for a long time or b) have never had it," he told us.

Meanwhile, 12-time grand prix winner Jones - who revealed he is currently reading the controversial biography 'No Angel' - vowed to keep his Ecclestone anecdotes close to his chest for now.

"Well ... I'd like to think I've still got a few years in front of me," Jones laughed, "so no!"

HRT awaiting crash test news on Wednesday
(GMM)  Fingers are being crossed at HRT as its 2012 car undergoes the FIA's mandatory crash tests.

Most of the Spanish team's rivals have already begun testing their new single seaters.

But at Jerez on Tuesday, Pedro de la Rosa was driving HRT's 2011 machine, painted all white.

He told Marca sports newspaper that news should emerge on Wednesday about the outcome of the 2012 car's crash testing.

"If it passes, we will have the car at the next test in Barcelona," said de la Rosa.

"It will be a car which will not be as far behind as we are now, these four seconds," he said on Tuesday, "but we are not expecting other miracles."

McLaren MP4-27 'feels right' says Jenson Button
Jenson Button is convinced he has "a good base" on which to build a more solid start to the new Formula One season.

Button yesterday had the honor of being the first to put the new McLaren, the MP4-27, through its paces at the Circuito de Jerez in southern Spain.

Compared to a year ago - when McLaren ran last season's car for the first time in Jerez, which staged the second test - Button was all smiles.

Last February the team soon realized they had blundered with the novel concept of their exhaust that put them on the back foot.

A year on, and after completing 60 laps, Button was a happy man -in particular as there were no issues with balance and grip, the kind of areas that usually plague new cars.

"There are no niggly areas with the car, which is nice. It's quite different to last year," Button said.

"There's obviously work we need to do to improve it, but it feels right, which is good.

"You're never going to start off with a perfect car, but I feel it is more together, and it feels a very good base for the coming days."

The feeling for Button was like night and day in comparison to last year, and he is already predicting a very closely-fought start to the new campaign which starts in Australia on March 18.

"Last year we had reliability issues with the exhaust," Button said.

"For one lap it felt like you could get something out of the car, but then the degradation (of the tires) was massive. We knew that from the word go.

"So yes, it does feel very different to testing last year, which is a good thing really because it's not like we can stick on an exhaust that will give us two seconds at the first race.

"The regulations are very different now, so I think you are going to see the cars a lot more bunched up this season - especially at the start of the year when racing gets under way.

"As we improve throughout the season the field will split a little more, but at the start you are going to have a lot of cars within a few tenths (of a second).

"That's great for the sport. It just makes it a little more complicated and difficult for us."

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