Latest F1 news in brief - Friday UPDATE Updates shown in red below.
|A happy Petrov|
- Caterham dumps Trulli for Petrov
- Gascoyne to attend 'most' races in new Caterham role
- Secret debut for new 'conventional' Mercedes
- Suspicions linger after Newey's 'cooling slot' claim
- Salo 'surprised' Ferrari kept Massa for 2012
- Lotus says losing seat vital 'shock' for Petrov
- HRT admits Karthikeyan not promised full season New
- Petrov could stay at Caterham beyond 2012 - manager New
Caterham dumps Trulli for Petrov
Caterham F1 Team has today announced that Vitaly Petrov has joined the team as race driver, replacing Jarno Trulli with immediate effect. The Russian was at the Anglo-Malaysian team’s factory in Hingham on Friday 17th February for a seat fitting ahead of his first run with the team at the second pre-season test in Barcelona, 21st to 24th February.
Team Principal Tony Fernandes: “We are all delighted to welcome Vitaly into our team and are very excited about the role he will play in helping us take the next steps forward in 2012 and for many years to come. When we first met it was immediately clear that Vitaly understands and shares our vision for how we want our team to grow. As the first Russian to race in F1 he carries the hopes of a huge nation with ease and his talents, experience with one of our current competitors and insights on and off track will play a huge role in our development as we fight to join the established teams ahead.
“I also want to take this opportunity to thank Jarno for the absolutely pivotal role he played in the formation and progression of our team since he joined us in December 2009. Jarno knew that when he joined us it would be a very different environment to where he had been before, and when we gave him the package he wanted he absolutely shone. With that in mind it was not an easy decision to bring Vitaly in to replace Jarno, but it was one we made to ensure that we give fresh impetus across the whole team and with a realistic eye on the global economic market. Jarno has an incredible natural talent behind the wheel, and his winning record and longevity in the sport will bear testament to that talent in the Formula 1 annals forever, but now it is time to open a new chapter in our team’s story, and Vitaly is the right person to help us do that.
“We have reached agreement with Jarno to bring an end to our partnership with him, but he will always be part of our family. Now we want to integrate Vitaly as quickly as possible into the team, and we will do everything we can to welcome him in, give him a car he can use to showcase his skills, and keep up the rate of development that has seen us go from an empty factory with just four employees to a fully established Formula 1 team in just over two years.”
Vitaly Petrov: “This is a very exciting day for me. I would like to thank Tony, Kamarudin Meranun and SM Nasarudin for giving me the chance to join a team that made its F1 debut at the same time as me, and has grown from one of the new teams to a serious force for future honors. The passion and spirit that Tony and the whole team have to keep moving forwards is infectious, and I am honored to be able to join them and play my part in helping the team mount a serious challenge to the teams ahead in 2012 and for many seasons to come.
“I have been training hard all winter and am ready to get back into the cockpit and go to work. From what I have seen already, our new car is another good step forward from 2011 and now I cannot wait to see how it feels when we get to Barcelona. I would also like to take this chance to thank all my fans and partners for their support and their patience.”
Jarno Trulli: “I want to take this chance to thank Tony, Kamarudin, SM Nasarudin, Riad, Mike and everyone in the team for the two seasons we had together. From zero we built up and established a solid F1 team. I'm really proud to have been part of it. I understand the decision the team has made and I want to wish to the whole team the very best of luck for the season ahead.”
Gascoyne to attend 'most' races in new Caterham role
(GMM) Mike Gascoyne has handed over day-to-day control of the Caterham team's technical operations.
The former Lotus outfit announced that Briton Gascoyne - a founding member of the Tony Fernandes-led team and a long-term prominent figure in the paddock - has become chief technical officer of the whole Caterham Group.
That group now involves a GP2 team as well as the niche Caterham road car company, which was acquired by Malaysian millionaire Fernandes last year to solve the Lotus naming dispute.
The news means Mark Smith will "lead the F1 team's technical division day to day and will increase his presence at races", a media statement read.
Caterham said Gascoyne, formerly with Renault and Toyota, "will continue to attend races", "adding his wealth of experience and knowledge to the team when it is required."
Gascoyne clarified on Twitter that he will be at "most" grands prix.
"Mark Smith is exactly the right person to step up to the broader role he will now be taking on in the F1 team," the statement quoted him as saying.
Secret debut for new 'conventional' Mercedes
(GMM) Mercedes' highly-anticipated 2012 car made its track debut this week during a secret test day at Silverstone.
"Lots of questions about Silverstone and shakedowns," admitted the Northamptonshire based team on Twitter on Thursday.
Youtube video footage, captured by a trackside observer, showed the 'step' nose W03 turning laps at the British grand prix venue, which is located just a 15-minute drive from the German team's Brackley headquarters.
Mercedes said the test was for "filming" purposes, with Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher's equally sharing the allowed 100 kilometers of running.
Italy's Autosprint website said the car appeared "fairly conventional", despite speculation the late test debut is due to the team keeping an explosive technical innovation close to its chest.
Adrian Newey, Red Bull's car designer, admitted he and Mercedes' rivals might have a very close look at the W03 if the rumors about the technical secret are true.
"If it comes out and goes three seconds quicker than anybody else, yes of course," he is quoted by Reuters.
"Other than that, simply because its later doesn't mean to say you are going to suddenly show more attention at that than anybody else's."
Meanwhile, after the struggling Spanish team's 2012 car recently failed two mandatory FIA crash tests, HRT will sit out next week's Barcelona test.
Last week at Jerez, Pedro de la Rosa ran at the wheel of the 2011 car.
Suspicions linger after Newey's 'cooling slot' claim
(GMM) Two authoritative sources have admitted they doubt Adrian Newey was telling the whole truth about the air inlet in the 'step' nose of Red Bull's 2012 car.
Designer Newey, the pioneer of the now-banned blown diffuser solutions seen throughout last year's grid, insisted that the mysterious letterbox-slot gap in the RB8 is simply to cool the drivers with air.
But the aerodynamic expert's explanation was met with some initial skepticism, amid speculation the monocoque air could also be flowing elsewhere for a performance benefit.
"The drivers are going to get their feet wet when it rains," a suspicious unnamed engineer smilingly told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.
Also unconvinced is Joan Villadelprat, a veteran former formula one engineer who has worked at McLaren, Ferrari, Benetton, Prost and - most recently - heading the operations of the sports car team Epsilon Euskadi.
He wrote in El Pais newspaper: "Personally, I don't believe Adrian Newey's explanation that the opening is to refresh the drivers.
"If that's what they need then Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber must drive half-asleep," the Spaniard joked.
Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport speculates that the RB8's inlet directs air underneath the floor, as per Ferrari's innovative nose-slot of 2008.
Salo 'surprised' Ferrari kept Massa for 2012
(GMM) Former Ferrari driver Mika Salo has admitted he was "surprised" his former team opted to honor Felipe Massa's contract for 2012.
The Finn, who raced at the famous Maranello team for a time in 1999 after Michael Schumacher broke his leg, said Fernando Alonso is the "clear number one" nowadays.
"I don't think Massa will be staying after this season," former Sauber and Toyota driver Salo, who attended last week's Jerez test, told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3.
"I was surprised that he was allowed to continue this year."
Salo, 45, said there is a similar pecking-order at Red Bull, where Sebastian Vettel last year utterly dominated his teammate Mark Webber.
He also commented on McLaren's duo, comprising two world champions.
"If McLaren has a good car then the drivers will be taking points off one another -- that's not something that will happen in the other teams.
"On the track, (Lewis) Hamilton is the fastest but not quite as smart as (Jenson) Button in the races."
Salo sees less of a close battle at Lotus this year, where his countryman Kimi Raikkonen is returning to F1 alongside GP2 champion Romain Grosjean.
"Kimi should be much faster than Grosjean," he said, "who is only there because (Eric) Boullier is his manager."
As for Williams' lineup of Pastor Maldonado alongside Bruno Senna, Salo said: "I think this is one of the worst pairings. Both are susceptible to mistakes.
"Senna had few good races last year but faded badly by the end.
"Maldonado is a bit of a hothead, so I don't see it being a good year for them.
"For (test driver) Valtteri Bottas there could be a good opportunity to get a race."
Lotus says losing seat vital 'shock' for Petrov
(GMM) Losing his race seat could be the "shock" that causes Vitaly Petrov to up his game.
That is the claim of Gerard Lopez, owner of the Lotus team that has ousted the Russian driver after two seasons.
He told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport that Petrov, who is now seeking an alternative race seat but may have to be content with the Pirelli test role, felt too comfortable in 2011.
"We had the feeling that he thought 'If I keep delivering my sponsors' money to the team, I'll be there for the next five years'.
"But that's not the way formula one works," added Lopez, "where you have to work hard at everything.
"So I think Vitaly needed an electric shock -- whether he has to pause for a year now or he gets something at another team, it (losing his seat) will help him."
Lopez said Romain Grosjean, the new GP2 champion who is replacing Petrov, got his 'shock' at Renault in 2009.
"Romain was in a similar situation to Petrov," said the Luxembourger. "He believed everything would take care of itself. Afterwards, we watched him very carefully.
"Then we thought he had earned a second chance," added Lopez.
Yet another similar case, the businessman argues, is Bruno Senna, who was drafted in last year to replace Nick Heidfeld but for 2012 has had to switch to Williams.
"I remember in India he was about to go to the grid in fourteenth place and he was in good spirits. I thought 'this cannot be'.
"When you're 14th in qualifying you need to be annoyed, wondering what has gone wrong," said Lopez.
HRT admits Karthikeyan not promised full season
(GMM) HRT on Friday refused to guarantee Narain Karthikeyan will race the full season with the struggling Spanish team.
Albeit with different team ownership and management, HRT began the 2011 season also with Indian Karthikeyan at the wheel, but he was replaced mid-season for the Red Bull-backed Daniel Ricciardo deal.
Reportedly with millions in sponsor backing, 35-year-old Karthikeyan is back on track for this season -- but perhaps not guaranteed a place at all twenty races.
"The idea as of now is to race him the whole season, but nothing is taken for granted in F1, you have to work for your place in every race," team boss Luis Perez Sala told the Indo Asian News Service.
"But as things stand, Karthikeyan and Pedro will race the entire season," the former Minardi driver added.
While Karthikeyan's teammate Pedro de la Rosa was testing the 2011 car last week at Jerez, HRT's new single seater failed two of the FIA's mandatory crash tests.
That means the team will sit out next week's Barcelona running altogether.
"We have a new car and a new team. That means, to start with, we will be a little bit behind," said Sala.
"But we believe that sometimes to improve you must go backwards firstly, we have taken one step backwards in order to take two forward. Our target is to grow little by little as the season goes on.
"If we can stay ahead of Marussia, we will be happy and if we get closer to Caterham, then we will be delighted, but our first objective is to get things under way, improve on reliability and progress as the season advances."
Petrov could stay at Caterham beyond 2012 - manager
(GMM) Vitaly Petrov could stay at the Caterham team beyond 2012, the Russian's manager said on Friday.
Earlier, the former Lotus outfit announced that Petrov, ousted by Lotus (Renault) at the end of last season, is replacing Italian veteran Jarno Trulli with immediate effect.
On the face of it, the deal is not a good look for Petrov, having displaced one of F1's most experienced drivers - and a grand prix winner - on the back of his sponsors' purse.
Moreover, it also means there is no Italian on the F1 grid for the first time in decades.
"Vitaly is thinking about his place in formula one, and the rest is a question to the team," insisted Petrov's manager Oksana Kosachenko.
Team boss Tony Fernandes hinted in Caterham's media statement on Friday that the Petrov deal is indeed fueled by the world's economic situation.
So does that mean he is a 'pay-driver', and Heikki Kovalainen the clear number one?
"As far as I know," Kosachenko said, "we're having absolutely equal status."
She revealed that the initial contract is for one year only, but that could change.
"At the moment we're discussing that," Kosachenko is quoted by the Ria Novosti news agency.
Earlier, she admitted that Bernie Ecclestone - perhaps because he is scheduling an inaugural Russian grand prix for 2014 - was trying to help Petrov find a seat this season.
"He was talking to me, he was trying to assist," Kosachenko said on Friday, insisting that the eventual contract was "absolutely an internal deal" between Petrov and Caterham.
"No one else involved," she clarified.