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DATE News (chronologically)
Latest F1 news in brief - Friday
  • Schumacher believes the new Mercedes is a winner
    Experts expect 2012 to be close fight in F1
  • Ecclestone hopes Vettel's dominance ends now
  • Three teams modify 2012 pre-season programs
  • No 'step' on new Marussia car's nose
  • Vettel, Alonso cautious on 2012 title prospects
  • Schumacher feels Mercedes have raised their game
  • FIA to close off ECU loophole
  • The Tata-Formula One deal
  • Australian GP confirms title sponsor for 2012

Experts expect 2012 to be close fight in F1
(GMM)  The precise pecking-order is clouded, but one thing is clear: 2012 looks set to be a highly competitive season in formula one.

"There are a lot of cars out there that look competitive," said McLaren's Jenson Button, on the day Williams' Pastor Maldonado set the quickest time in the midst of the second group test in Barcelona.

Earlier this week, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg was the pacesetter, causing Mercedes' Norbert Haug to tell Bild newspaper: "That's great."

"I didn't expect that," agreed world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Hulkenberg smiled: "'Test champion' gives me nothing.  But I am in good shape."

Vettel continued to Kleine Zeitung newspaper: "This year everything is closer together", he said, after his teammate Mark Webber admitted there is "no question" Red Bull needs to keep working on the pace of its new RB8.

According to Die Welt newspaper, Vettel continued: "Most of the competitors are difficult to assess.  It's the same old game."

He is referring to unknown fuel levels, tire age and differing approaches and programs -- and teams' deliberate sandbagging or 'show-run' efforts.

"I never paid too much attention to direct comparisons on headline lap times," insisted David Coulthard, "but on the longer runs you can start to build a picture."

Williams engineer Mark Gillan told Auto Motor und Sport: "It seems as though the entire field has moved much closer together.  It will be a tough fight."

An early assessment of the pecking order might have Red Bull and McLaren at the front, and Mercedes and Lotus possibly ready to join the fight.

"It looks like Red Bull are fairly stable," Coulthard agreed to Russia's Ria Novosti news agency, "(and) McLaren and Mercedes maybe closer than they were.

"Ferrari is a bit of an unknown but I wouldn't write them off.  Let's be patient, another three weeks of tweaking and then we'll find out," said the former McLaren and Red Bull driver.

Ecclestone hopes Vettel's dominance ends now
(GMM)  They are famously close on a personal level, but for the sake of his sport Bernie Ecclestone wants to see Sebastian Vettel suffer in 2012.

The Red Bull driver has won the past two championships on the trot, including last season when the title battle was over long before the finale.

"It wasn't good.  The only person that would say no to that would be Sebastian, but I think everybody else would agree with it," F1 chief executive Ecclestone told reporters on Thursday.

He had just announced a new connectivity deal for F1 with Indian multinational Tata's communications subsidiary.

The aim is to modernize F1 in that area because, as the 81-year-old puts it, he is "getting old" and was "asleep" to the world's new digital era.

But more immediately important to Ecclestone is a better show in 2012.

"I'm surprised we survived with (the TV ratings) we got right at the end," said the Briton, referring again to Vettel's dominance.  "We need to see everybody else wake up."

Another element he hopes is in place this year is a fully-firing Lewis Hamilton, but Ecclestone admitted the 2008 world champion might have to farewell McLaren.

"I think if he doesn't perform this year, he'll be looking maybe to move on, and the team may also be looking for him to move on," he said.

And yet another golden egg for Ecclestone would be a winning Michael Schumacher, but he admitted the seven time world champion might need to sit at the wheel of a Red Bull for that to happen.

"I don't think Sebastian would mind," he said.

"I'm not saying I don't want Mark (Webber) around, I'm just saying it would be nice to see him (Schumacher) in the car where you know that if he doesn't win it's his fault, not the car."

Less important, Ecclestone argues, is the rare absence in F1 of a single Italian driver.

"If Ferrari is winning," he insisted, "it doesn't make any difference."

Indeed, there are bigger fish on the F1 supremo's plate: the thorny issue of Bahrain's return in 2012, and a looming fight with the teams over the next Concorde Agreement.

On Bahrain, he joked: "Pity I'm not going to be there myself but don't worry.  No, I shall be there, don't worry."

As for the teams wanting a bigger share of F1's revenue pie, Ecclestone answered: "I think they are right.  If they don't ask they are not going to get (it), are they?"

But when asked to rate their chances of success, the Briton replied typically: "Slim to none."

Three teams modify 2012 pre-season programs
(GMM)  With one group test and three weeks until Melbourne, Ferrari, Red Bull and Lotus have modified their pre-season program.

According to widespread media reports, and confirmed by the top teams, Red Bull and Ferrari will delay their Barcelona running next week by a day.

They will therefore test between Friday and Monday rather than Thursday through Sunday.

It is believed they argued successfully to their competitors, who needed to unanimously green-light the change, that Mercedes set the precedent by leaving Jerez one day early recently in order to run alone on the day before this week's Barcelona test.

Speculation indicates that Ferrari wants the one-day delay in order to gain more time to manufacture parts.

Following a difficult start to the life of the Italian team's radical new F2012 car, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone this week said Ferrari "know what the problem is".

"It's not a (difficult) problem to fix," he told reporters, "so I think you're going to find that they are going to fix it quite shortly."

Red Bull, meanwhile, wants some quieter running in order to test parts that have been held back by Adrian Newey's technical team, according to rumors.

"They haven't shown everything yet," thinks Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, according to Bild newspaper.

And Lotus will almost certainly be granted an extra test day in addition to next week's four days of Barcelona running, after the former Renault team pulled out this week after discovering a serious chassis problem.

"This request will probably be accepted by the other teams," Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn confirmed to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

No 'step' on new Marussia car's nose
(GMM)  Marussia's new car for 2012 does not feature a 'step' on its front nose.

Every team on the 2012 grid, including HRT who are yet to release their 2012 car, responded to the FIA's new height regulations by designing an awkward 'step' between the monocoque and the tip of the nose.

The one exception, until now, was McLaren.

But Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that the 2012 Marussia, which will be seen for the first time in Barcelona next week, also has a clean aerodynamic line at the front.

The former Virgin team works closely with McLaren, including using the famous British team's test rigs and wind tunnel.

"In fact, there was little difference in theory between the two solutions.  So why take risks with something that we do not know?" a Marussia team source is quoted as saying.

Timo Glock has already driven the new step-less Marussia in the McLaren simulator.

"We don't have too much experience with the simulator so we hope that it's right, but we will not be too optimistic -- that's not to say that I'm disappointed," said the German driver.

"I think we have a good base to build upon," added Glock.

"We have been focusing for a long time on finding the errors with the previous car and getting over them," he is quoted by Speed Week magazine.

Vettel, Alonso cautious on 2012 title prospects
(GMM)  F1 grandees Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso have refused to predict they will be in the running for this year's world title.

An early analysis of the winter test running in Spain might have Red Bull and McLaren at the front, with Mercedes and Lotus possibly challenging Ferrari for the position of F1's 'third power' in 2012.

"I think it's too far away," back to back world champion Vettel, referring to the three week gap until Melbourne, told German reporters.

"At the moment we do not know where we all are, which is why I don't want to talk about the first race or the championship."

Agreed Alonso: "I think it's wrong to try to figure out in February if you are going to have a successful season or not.  We don't know," he is quoted by AS newspaper.

"The feelings I have are that we are faster than the Giulietta," he smiled, referring to the Alfa Romeo road car.

"I don't know.  Red Bull seems to be strong but we will not know how much until we get to Melbourne," said Alonso.

According to Finland's MTV3, McLaren's Jenson Button added: "I don't think Red Bull will have the same kind of head start they had at the beginning of last season.

"But Sebastian is of course the favorite, as he should be -- he won the past two championships."

Schumacher feels Mercedes have raised their game
Seven times World Champion Michael Schumacher returned for Mercedes AMG on Thursday and after completing a race simulation, the 43 year-old ended the day feeling positive and felt the team have improved their game.

“I’m very happy with the race simulation that we ran this afternoon," he began. "It confirmed what we have seen from the first tests with our new car, and that we don’t seem to have any big issues with reliability."

Mercedes suffered a couple of issues early on in testing with a transmission oil leak and a small hydraulics issue. No such issues were reported today.

"The small things from the last two days I would rate as typical testing issues," he continued. "So from my side, I am happy with our first full testing session, and we have definitely improved our game which is what we wanted to achieve. To what extent, we can only see later, but I am finishing with a positive feeling.”

Schumacher hands over to Nico Rosberg on Friday, for the final day of the penultimate test.

FIA to close off ECU loophole
The FIA is to close off a loophole in Formula 1's new engine mapping regulations as part of a fresh clampdown on exhaust blowing, AUTOSPORT report.

As teams continue to push the limits of the exhaust regulations, sources have revealed that the FIA has been alerted about a way in which teams could get around the stricter engine mapping limits laid down for this year.

Motor racing's governing body has been on a crusade to eradicate any form of exhaust blowing that is primarily aimed at producing an aerodynamic benefit.

Although that move went some way to resolving the issue, sources have revealed that the FIA has now been tipped off by one engine maker that there remains the possibility in the current mapping configurations to get around those new limits.

AUTOSPORT understands that the issue relates to the extreme possibility of a team trying to make use of a bigger throttle opening than is allowed, to help increase the flow of exhaust gases by inducing a misfire.

Sources have confirmed that the FIA has worked with the manufacturer involved to cut off this potential avenue of development. An updated version of the software for F1's Standard ECU - which controls the engine maps - will be released before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The FIA does not suspect that any team was making use of this loophole at the present time, although such an action could not have been ruled out if outfits had found out about it later in the campaign. Autosport

The Tata-Formula One deal
The deal that has been announced today between the Formula One group and Tata could end up transforming the way in which Formula 1 fans around the world view the sport. The gist of the story is that Tata has impressive capability to shift data around the world, using fixed line systems, which are part of something called the Tata Global Network (TGN). This links up the new TGN-Intra Asia Cable, a 6,700km multi-terabit cable system that connects Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan, with the existing TGN-TIC and TGN-Pacific systems. There are also regional systems such as TGN-Atlantic, TGN-Northern Europe, TGN-Western Europe, and the TGN-Eurasia, in addition other networks which Tata part-owns. These ring the world and make it possible for eventual global high-quality connectivity, although there is still much to be done at local level where fiber-optic cables have yet to be installed and systems rely on the old copper wires that were used in telephone networks.

The TGN works at 1 terabyte per second (which means one trillion bytes a second). This is impressive but such is the rate of development at the moment that researchers at the National Institute of Information and Communications in Tokyo achieved a transfer rate of 13 terabytes per second, using a seven-core fiber optic cable.

In principle, however, the new deal means that rather than bouncing signals off expensive satellites, Formula One Management can one day deliver its TV feeds into homes all over the world. That in turn means that the sport can end its reliance on TV companies, which pay for the right to broadcast the sport and replace them with direct access to the consumer. This means that there is no longer any real need for middle men, who get back their investment in the rights by selling advertising. In future the Formula One group could do that itself, either by using traditional advertising breaks and on-screen signage, or by having coverage in each national market being sold to a sponsor. Thus there could be free-to-air coverage of F1 without advertising breaks with “Formula One, brought to you by Dunkin Donuts” style advertising. There is no doubt that in some places this would probably translate to pay-per-view access but that is never very popular with sponsors that want mass market exposure for the branding that they have on cars and drivers. Each regional market can be controlled, much as TV channels now do, stopping Internet users seeing their content, unless the viewer is in the right place.

It also means that there can be multiple feeds, which allows for pay-per-view access for more detailed information for passionate F1 fans and, in theory, it allows for inter-activity, such as viewers being able to select the cameras that they wish to see and, of course, access to the same kind of data that everyone has at the race tracks.

It also means that Formula One Management can save money as it will no longer have to send its now-ageing Broadcast Centre from race to race, which means not only a substantial saving in transportation costs, but also a calendar that can be packaged more cost-effectively than is currently the case, particularly if circuits are permanently wired and all that needs to happen is that the cameras are put in place. The editing of the programming can be done at a permanent facility in England (or wherever). Joe Saward

Australian GP confirms title sponsor for 2012
Qantas will sponsor the 2012 Australian Grand Prix, it has been announced. The airline has secured the naming rights for the event and will also be the 'official airline partner'.

The race, the opening round in the 2012 F1 World Championship, will be held at Albert Park in Melbourne on March 18. Qantas was previously the title sponsor of the race from 1997-2001.

“Qantas has been associated with the Australian Grand Prix for over 25 years and we are pleased that this important partnership is continuing,” said Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman, Ron Walker.

“F1 is the world's most popular annual sporting series, with each season attracting a television audience of 520 million fans around the world.

"Last year in Australia, 4.23 million watched the 2011 F1 Qantas Australian Grand Prix on television - you just cannot put a value to that level of branding.”

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce added: “Qantas has been associated with the Grand Prix since its inception in Australia and we are pleased to continue our support for this year's event.

“We wish Qantas Ambassador Mark Webber the best of luck for the race next month.”

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