Latest F1 news in brief - Thursday UPDATE #2 More updates shown in blue below.
02/09/12 Updates shown in red below.
Hakkinen manager Coton to handle Hamilton now
- Analysis - 2012 pecking-order already emerging?
- Whiting says 2012 exhaust layouts 'legal'
- Hamilton back in hot-seat as Sutil saga continues
- Caubet says Renault helps Red Bull run light
- Legal dispute could derail F1 at the Nurburgring
- Bianchi suffers first F1 crash of 2012 New
- RB8 nose slot has no trick application New
- New Ferrari as slow as it is ugly New
- Force India reserve Bianchi to race Formula Renault FR3.5 New
- Kovalainen signs management for 'contract negotiation' New
Hakkinen manager Coton to handle Hamilton now
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has a new day-to-day manager, British newspapers have revealed.
As his on and off-track woes worsened last year, the 2008 world champion insisted he was happy with his management team headed by pop industry agent Simon Fuller.
But Fuller's company, XIX Entertainment, has now appointed Didier Coton - the famous F1 driver manager who handled Mika Hakkinen's career - to look after McLaren's Hamilton.
Formerly with Keke Rosberg's outfit, Coton now heads his own management firm, Monaco based Aces Group.
"Didier's appointment builds on the existing strengths of XIX and I am delighted to have him as part of the team," Hamilton is quoted as saying.
British tabloids also report that Hamilton, 27, has reunited with his girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger.
Analysis - 2012 pecking-order already emerging?
(GMM) Forecasts based on early test results are usually unreliable, but a picture of the 2012 pecking order may already be emerging.
On Wednesday at Jerez, Michael Schumacher moved to the top of the times in last year's Mercedes, followed by Mark Webber in Red Bull's new title-defending RB8.
"The car was pretty competitive in winter testing last year and it's the same again this year," said the Australian driver.
Much more than a second off the pace, meanwhile, was the radical new Ferrari, whose Felipe Massa could not conceal his negative body-language when speaking with the press.
While he said the F2012 has "enormous potential", expert observers report that he was fighting notably with the handling of the car around the southern Spanish venue.
"There is a lot of work to be done, perhaps more than we expected," acknowledged the Brazilian.
"It is a very, very, very different car," Spain's El Mundo newspaper quotes him as saying.
Italian veteran Jarno Trulli, however - a permanent fixture on the grid since the mid 90s - scoffed at those who are already picking winners and losers.
"Are you kidding?" he said in La Repubblica newspaper. "Only a fool would look at the times in the first days of testing."
Nevertheless, the paddock rumor mill is buzzing, including with suggestions Schumacher's best time was boosted by highly competitive components destined for his so-far unrevealed 2012 Mercedes.
Another rumor is that the W03, to also be raced by Nico Rosberg, is ready to test but Mercedes is holding back a radical secret weapon at the front of the car.
Webber, however, dismissed Schumacher's quick time.
"With the Brazil version of our previous car I would have done a time in the 1.16s," he laughed, apparently scoffing at Schumacher's mid-1.18 best.
Even the seven time world champion admitted Wednesday's result is not a sign of things to come.
"I don't think we can realistically achieve a championship car from where we started last year," said the 43-year-old German.
Whiting says 2012 exhaust layouts 'legal'
(GMM) Charlie Whiting has given the 2012 cars at the Jerez test this week an early clean bill of health.
It was reported the FIA's technical delegate decided to attend the opening test of the 2012 pre-season amid speculation the teams may have overstepped the mark with their new exhaust layouts.
Exhaust-blown diffusers have been banned for this season, but the early signs were that teams had been clever in their interpretation of the new rules to maintain an aerodynamic benefit.
"At the moment they're all legal," Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, following Whiting's inspection of all the team garages on Wednesday, quoted the Briton as saying.
Red Bull's Adrian Newey also played down all the speculation about 2012 exhaust interpretations, insisting there is unlikely to be a "bright idea" from this year's restrictive rules similar to the double diffuser or blown exhaust innovations.
"We do not see any big differences between all the possible solutions," he said. "The rules are very specific and very restrictive."
That could, of course, be great news for Red Bull's rivals, particularly with the FIA having also clamped down on flexing front wings -- another area perfected recently by Newey.
"That rule change," said Newey, referring to the halving of the allowable wing flex for 2012, "came very late.
"The result is that the wing has gained a lot of weight, making it harder to achieve the optimum weight distribution."
Newey said the FIA's new stance on wings was "probably" powered by the violently fluttering components on Ferrari's car late last season.
Indeed, between Ferrari and Red Bull, there already appears some tension.
Spain's Marca newspaper claims Newey suspected Ferrari's initial exhaust solution on the F2012 was not legal.
Then on Wednesday - the day of Whiting's pit visits - the Maranello based team hastily cut into its exhausts and fairings, ostensibly to meet the new rule about top visibility.
"Honestly," Ferrari designer Nikolas Tombazis said, "I haven't seen anything out of the ordinary. We have analyzed what everyone is doing and I do not see a great innovation that we have not studied already."
The saga will continue to run.
"They will still be able to use the exhausts (aerodynamically) this year," predicted Remi Taffin, engine supplier Renault's track boss.
"So we will see changes in this area in the Barcelona testing and probably also in Melbourne," he is quoted by France's Auto Plus.
Hamilton back in hot-seat as Sutil saga continues
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton looks set to be recalled as a witness as the Adrian Sutil assault saga rolls on.
German Sutil, and his father Jorge, described former close friend and 2008 world champion Hamilton as a "coward" and "pathetic" after the McLaren driver did not appear at the recent hearings in Munich.
But with the former Force India driver - and Munich prosecutors - now filing appeals against the judge's verdict, Hamilton's personal testimony might be regarded as crucial.
Hamilton is clearly visible in the video footage of the incident with Eric Lux in a Shanghai nightclub last April, but Sutil's manager Manfred Zimmermann claims the judge neglected the gravity of the security camera evidence.
"Not asking one of the witnesses to court and other important circumstances have not been considered as well," Zimmermann charged.
London newspaper the Daily Telegraph claims Hamilton "is happy to testify provided the date does not clash with prior commitments".
Caubet says Renault helps Red Bull run light
(GMM) Renault is a secret to Red Bull's recent success in formula one, the French carmaker claims.
The common perception, however, is that the energy drink-owned team has dominated the sport in recent years despite Mercedes-Benz actually supplying a more powerful 2.4 liter V8 engine to Red Bull's rivals.
"The Mercedes engine is indeed about 15 horse power more powerful than ours," confirmed Renault Sport F1's Jean-Francois Caubet.
"But in terms of drivability and fuel economy, it is our engine in front. So when it comes to the bottom line, we are a little bit better than Mercedes," he claimed to Germany's Sport Bild magazine.
The most crucial factor, Caubet claimed, is the engine's fuel economy amid the backdrop of the recent ban on in-race refueling.
"Because our consumption is lower, Red Bull can start the races with 15 to 18 liters less petrol in the tank than the competition," he said.
"That makes a big difference."
Another factor is Sebastian Vettel's driving, he agreed, with the back to back world champion having a "very fuel efficient" style, and being "extremely interested in the data".
"They are both key factors when the driver wants to use the engine perfectly," said Caubet.
Legal dispute could derail F1 at the Nurburgring
(GMM) The future of the German grand prix at the Nurburgring looks set to race into the courts.
The Rhineland-Palatinate state this week said it intends to cancel the circuit operator's lease, arguing that a bright future is "not possible" with the existing tenants.
Minister Roger Lewentz said he wants to personally take over the negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone about the future of the F1 race.
But according to the SID news agency, the operator Nurburgring Automotive GmbH (NAG) has announced it will fight back, including demanding "substantial amounts" from the government for the wrongful action.
"There is no reason for this extraordinary step," NAG's lawyer is quoted as saying.
The company's spokesman said the situation is crucial to Germany's future on the F1 calendar.
"Already, there are many candidates waiting for a (race) date to be available," NAG spokesman Karl-Heinz Steinkuehler said.
"Without the Nurburgring, formula one would make probably only a guest appearance every two years in Germany, at the Hockenheimring," he warned.
The minister Lewentz, however, said the government is ready for a fight, despite hoping for "an amicable solution" to the dispute with the operator.
"If not, a lengthy legal dispute cannot be ruled out," he said. "We consider ourselves well prepared."
Bianchi suffers first F1 crash of 2012
Jules Bianchi has established the unenviable statistic of being the first man to crash a Formula 1 car in 2012. The Frenchman, a Ferrari protégé but Force India’s reserve driver for this year, went off-track in Jerez on Thursday morning.
Having made the brave and possibly risky decision to fit the car with Pirelli’s Medium compound tires in near-freezing weather conditions, Bianchi left the pit lane but was spotted off-track at Pons corner just moments later. At present, it is unknown whether the car made contact with the tire barriers, although the driver climbed out unaided.
Also on Thursday, it has been confirmed that Bianchi has signed up with Tech 1 Racing to contest this year’s Formula Renault 3.5 championship. Like Daniel Ricciardo in 2010, this will work better than GP2 as the latter hosts its races on F1 weekends, meaning it would clash with Bianchi’s Force India commitments as Friday free practice driver.
“I am very happy to be driving for Tech 1,” he says. “This year is very important for my career and, as a young driver, it's crucial to have the opportunity to race in such a competitive environment. I will do my best to help the team to achieve its goals this season. I also would like to thank Ferrari and Force India for allowing me to do so.”
Bianchi’s last motorsport title to date came in 2009, winning the Formula 3 Euro Series in dominant fashion.
RB8 nose slot has no trick application
Adrian Newey has attempted to convince onlookers that the slot cut into the step of the new RB8 model's nose section has no use other than to aid cooling.
The slot was clearly visible in the artist's impressions of the car released at the time of Red Bull Racing's online launch, and remained the subject of conjecture as the covers came off the real thing on Monday, 24 hours before the car hit the track at Jerez.
Newey, who met journalists on day one of the first official group test of the winter to discuss the new machine and RBR's chances for the year ahead, was naturally quizzed on the development, which few of Red Bull's rivals appear to have included, but maintained that it had no trick application beyond keeping the RB8's internals and drivers cool.
"Traditionally, the driver cooling slot is always right at the front of the nose," he explained, "However, for styling as much as anything else, we moved it to where you now see it, just to kind of break up the aesthetics of the ramp that's required by regulation."
Newey admitted that wasn't happy with the way the 2012 rulebook had largely defined the front-end treatment of the cars, with a lowering of the maximum height of the nosecone driving the majority to incorporate a significant step between the nose and cockpit. Only McLaren has so far revealed its 2012 machine without a step, and Newey acknowledged that there was no point trying to avoid its inclusion.
"They're not particularly attractive, but performance has to come before aesthetics and this is no exception," he sighed. crash.net
New Ferrari as slow as it is ugly
|Look for Stefano Domenicali to get the axe from Ferrari if the new car is another lemon|
|Ferrari went with a pull-rod front suspension. Look at the flat angle of the pull rods. Mistake No.1 - poor suspension geometry. Rest assured if Adrian Newey's cars use push-rods at the front, that is the proper design|
Felipe Massa declared his new Ferrari "very ugly" and suggested its performance is also far from a thing of beauty just yet too.
The latest car out of Maranello has been derided as one of the ugliest the marque has ever built in its illustrious history.
Even those within the team have struggled to disagree, however, its design will be forgiven by Ferrari fans as long as it proves successful on the track.
But after the opening two days of pre-season testing at Jerez this week, there are rumors Ferrari are already off the pace of their rivals.
Massa's body language, hunched shoulders as he spoke to the media, further seemed to suggest all is not well, and the team have some way to go over the next few weeks before the season-opening race in Australia on March 18.
"It is a brand new car, not a car we have had over the last few years, a car that needs a lot more work, and a lot more things to try on it as well," said Massa.
After completing 95 laps on Wednesday and finishing seventh quickest, 1.3secs behind the best of the 2012 cars in Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber, Massa added: "I did so many laps, trying different things on the car.
"It was a program to understand every single point of the car, with the aerodynamics, suspension, even in the set-up on the chassis as well.
"There were so many things which has normally not been the case in the past, not even on the first day.
"It was a day where we had to concentrate so much on the little stuff, the little things that we need to understand, where we need to collect a lot of data.
"I am sure it will be like that tomorrow (when Fernando Alonso is in the car) and at the next test."
Unlike the positive vibes aired by the likes of Webber, Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen over the past two days, Massa conceded to 'unwelcome surprises' when asked.
"You always get them with a new car," added Massa.
"Sometimes you don't see the result you expect, and with some other parts as well you have a different direction.
"It is just the beginning of a big job to have a consistent and competitive car." Sporting Life
Force India reserve Bianchi to race Formula Renault FR3.5
(GMM) Jules Bianchi will split his time between the F1 and Formula Renault paddocks in 2012.
The former GP2 driver has been signed by Force India to replace the team's reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg, who has stepped up to the race seat this season.
Like Hulkenberg last year, Frenchman Bianchi will practice on numerous Friday mornings in 2012.
He will also race in the Formula Renault 3.5 series, it emerged on Thursday.
Bianchi, also under contract to Ferrari as a development driver and managed by Felipe Massa's manager Nicolas Todt, will drive for the Tech 1 team.
"This is a very important season for my career and, as a young driver, it is vital to have the opportunity to race in a competitive series such as this," he said.
"I want to thank Ferrari and Force India for having given permission to grasp this opportunity."
Kovalainen signs management for 'contract negotiation'
(GMM) Heikki Kovalainen has joined the IMG management stable ahead of crucial contract negotiations in 2012.
After disappointing early stints at Renault and McLaren, the Finn has rebuilt his reputation as team leader at the 2010 startup Lotus/Caterham.
Just before Christmas, he dismissed rumors he was set to move up to a better team but denied he has an 'obligation' to stay beyond 2012.
"I want to see what we can do together and let's see what is the situation in the summer," said the 30-year-old.
Kovalainen's new management has been associated with Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Sir Jackie Stewart and Danica Patrick.
Reports said Martin Anayi will handle his "contractual negotiation" in the F1 paddock.
"With the team we have assembled it will allow me to concentrate on my driving," said Kovalainen.