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Latest F1 news in brief - Monday
  • Red Bull still favored, but not by much
    Press tips 'small advantage' for Red Bull
  • Coulthard doubted Raikkonen return rumors
  • France solution 'better than nothing' - Prost
  • Prost failed to find Williams new sponsors
  • Prost will not see 'Senna' movie
  • Success for new teams 'impossible' says Prost
  • Tost comments leave axed Buemi 'amazed'
  • Mercedes triggered latest FIA clampdown - report
  • Van der Garde to combine F1 with GP2
  • Rosberg 'closer to car's limit' in qualifying - Brawn
  • Prost appointed Renault brand ambassador
  • Williams admits Newey exit 'a mistake' 

Press tips 'small advantage' for Red Bull
(GMM)  Most leading specialist publications see Red Bull as the continuing pacesetter in formula one.

In their recent analysis, outlets including Auto Motor und Sport (Germany), La Gazzetta dello Sport (Italy) and Autosport (Britain) believe world champion Sebastian Vettel again resides the best car ahead of the 2012 season.

"They still have an advantage, but it's smaller," agreed Jenson Button, according to Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo.

His boss Martin Whitmarsh added: "Red Bull has a solid, fast car, better than us in slow corners, but we're better in the fast ones."

Switzerland's Sonntagsblick, however, sees McLaren actually ahead of the energy drink-owned team, with Mercedes in third place and Force India a surprise fourth.

"Red Bull is faster (than Mercedes)," said the German marque's boss Ross Brawn, "and clearly a little more than we had hoped for," he told Auto Motor und Sport.

The international publications said Lotus, amid their chassis flaw problems, rank anywhere between third (Auto Motor und Sport) and eighth (Blick).

According to the same press, Ferrari is in trouble, ranking no higher than fifth in the lists of the aforementioned publications -- and the authoritative Auto Motor und Sport predicting nothing short of a disastrous season for the fabled Italian team.

Felipe Massa is quoted by Spanish reporters as saying Barcelona was "a little more positive" than the Jerez test recently, and he was asked to rank the development of the new F2012 car out of ten.

"Probably more than five.  There is still much to do, but now we are closer than we were," said the Brazilian.

As for whether the car is a race winner, Massa added: "I hope so, but it's very difficult to say anything in testing," he is quoted by Finland's Turun Sanomat.

Indeed, Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi ended last week's Barcelona test with the quickest time, but Blick's veteran correspondent Roger Benoit warned against taking that too seriously.

"When with the same tires at the same time, (Mercedes' Nico) Rosberg was a second faster per lap than Sauber's Japanese," he said.

"In testing, the truth is seldom revealed -- if the teams used lie detectors, they would all be laying exploded around us."

According to Britain's Sun newspaper, Kobayashi confirmed: "I don't think McLaren and Red Bull are slow.

"We don't really wish for wins or podiums.  For us this is a bit too far away."

Instead, the midfield battle looks extremely tight, with Brazilian correspondent Livio Oricchio surmising that Sauber as well as Force India, Toro Rosso and Williams are all in there.

"It will be race to race," Toro Rosso's Giorgio Ascanelli told the Italian press.  "From what we've seen so far, this fight will be amazing."

And Oricchio concluded: "As for HRT and Marussia, who have not even presented their 2012 cars, they undoubtedly have capable people, but also almost as many difficulties."

Coulthard doubted Raikkonen return rumors
(GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen's former teammate has admitted he was surprised when the 2007 world champion decided to return this year to formula one.

Scottish veteran David Coulthard shared the McLaren garage with the now 32-year-old Finn seven years ago.

He told Russia's Championat: "When the rumors began, I thought it would never happen.

"I believed he was really enjoying competing in rallying and had decided to end his formula one career," said Coulthard.

The former McLaren and Red Bull driver, however, clarified that he is supportive of Raikkonen's return.

"I am in favor (of it)," he said, "and the others are not going to have it easy because they are going to be proving their abilities against six world champions."

And Raikkonen, Coulthard added, is one of the best.

"Last year I was with Kimi at the Red Bull Ring with Sebastian Vettel and a few others.  We competed together in a variety of cars and bikes, and Kimi was quick in all of them.

"He's a real natural talent," he said.

France solution 'better than nothing' - Prost
(GMM)  Alain Prost has backed France's touted return in 2013 to the formula one calendar.

Recently, the four time world champion was involved in a project to bring the sport to Paris.

"That's a closed chapter," he rued, according to the Russian website F1News.

"I really regret that, because - believe me - it was the best project I had seen in a long time."

The latest proposal is for France's Paul Ricard to share an annually alternating grand prix date with Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium's fabled and much loved circuit.

Prost said: "Obviously the best thing would be for France and Belgium to have their own grands prix each year.

"But unfortunately you have to admit that Europe is facing great difficulties, so if this is the only way for the race to happen, then why not?

"It's better than nothing," he said.

Prost failed to find Williams new sponsors
(GMM)  Alain Prost has conceded it will be difficult for the once-great Williams to return to the top in formula one.

The legendary Frenchman won the last of his four world championships with the famous British team, which in 1993 was utterly dominant.

But Williams has not won a single race since 2004, and last year finished the constructors' standings a woeful ninth, having scored only a handful of points.

"I talk often with Frank Williams," Prost told the Russian website F1News, "and this winter I even tried to help find him some sponsors, but failed.

"It's difficult for them," he continued, "as when you get yourself into financial problems, it's so hard to get out of them."

Prost's own team collapsed in 2001.

Prost, Senna and Berger on the podium after the 1990 Italian GP
Prost will not see 'Senna' movie
(GMM)  Alain Prost has revealed he has no desire to see the highly-lauded feature film about his former nemesis Ayrton Senna.

The award-winning 'Senna' movie focuses strongly on legendary Senna's on and off-track rivalry with Frenchman Prost, who was portrayed as the politicking villain.

"I haven't seen it and I don't want to see it," the 57-year-old told the Russian website F1News.

"I definitely don't agree with how they went about it," Prost explained.  "I spent a lot of time trying to explain to the makers that they are wrong."

The Frenchman was also asked about the late Ayrton's nephew Bruno, who in 2012 will race for Williams-Renault, a combination that in 1993 powered Prost to the last of his four titles.

"Bruno is a great guy and I mean that sincerely," he said.

"I cannot judge his ability as a driver, because it's premature to talk about that, but he is a good person."

Success for new teams 'impossible' says Prost
(GMM)  Alain Prost believes it is "absolutely impossible" for F1's newest teams to ever break the dominance of the sport's top five.

He is referring to small privateers Caterham (formerly Lotus), Marussia (formerly Virgin) and HRT (formerly Hispania), who were enticed into formula one in 2010 following the departures of manufacturers Honda, BMW and Toyota.

As well as winning four championships as a driver, Frenchman Prost also ran his own team between 1997 and 2001, when it succumbed to financial problems.

The Russian website F1News asked Prost what advice he would give to F1's current tailenders.

"I will say quite frankly that they cannot become competitive in today's formula one," he answered.  "It's impossible.

"They can make some progress, but - of course - you must immediately put the question 'What goals do they pursue?'

"To break into the top five with a new team like this in formula one -- it is absolutely impossible," said Prost.

Tost comments leave axed Buemi 'amazed'
(GMM)  Sebastien Buemi has revealed surprise and disappointment with Toro Rosso's reaction, after the Italian team performed a clean sweep of its driver lineup for 2012.

The Swiss and his teammate Jaime Alguersuari were given their marching orders just before Christmas, leaving the aforementioned Spaniard without a role this season.

Buemi has at least kept his F1 career alive with the Red Bull reserve role, but the 23-year-old has expressed disappointment with comments made recently by his former team boss Franz Tost.

"Of course I would prefer to race for myself," he told the Blick newspaper, "but maybe this new role is the opportunity of my life."

At the same time, he takes issue with Austrian Tost, who is appointed to head Red Bull's rookie team Toro Rosso.

He said recently: "We are talking about a double world championship-winning team (Red Bull), which means that drivers who get elevated there must have the ability to win races and championships.

"And it was from that perspective that second thoughts set in when it came to Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari," said Tost.

Buemi responded: "After we were put out, Alguersuari and I said not a single bad word about Toro Rosso, we were always loyal.

"So I am amazed that from the boss there comes suddenly such negative comments."

Mercedes triggered latest FIA clampdown - report
(GMM)  The latest twist in F1's endless 'blown diffuser' saga was reportedly triggered by Mercedes.

Amid last week's Barcelona test, it was rumored that Mercedes and Renault-powered teams would have to make tweaks, after a loophole was discovered in the standard electronics software.

For 2012, the FIA has clamped down on engine exhaust blowing for aerodynamic purposes, but speculation continued to sweep the paddock that some teams had devised ways to minimize the impact of the ban.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that it was Mercedes engineers who found the loophole, in terms of how to utilize the standard electronic software to maximize the off-throttle exhaust blowing effect.

"The FIA has responded by rewriting the software," read the report.

Auto Motor und Sport said Mercedes was right about the loophole, but that it could only have been exploited at the price of dramatic fuel consumption, and potential damage to the engine.

"We have erred on the safe side," an FIA source is quoted as saying.

Writing in Spain's Mundo Deportivo, Raymond Blacafort said the 2012 Red Bull's exhaust was making a strange sound in the chicane in Barcelona last week.

Van der Garde to combine F1 with GP2
(GMM)  Giedo van der Garde will combine his new F1 reserve role with another season in the GP2 series this year.

The 26-year-old Dutchman, who has raced in the F1 feeder category in the last few years, will be Caterham's reserve driver this year and appear in Friday morning practice sessions on a number of occasions.

According to a report in De Telegraaf newspaper, it has now emerged that van der Garde will race for Caterham's GP2 team as well.

"The agreement will be announced officially on Monday," said the Dutch report.

Van der Garde commented: "I want to stay sharp by being with Caterham Racing (GP2 team).

"I am very happy with my role as reserve driver, but when you're on the road for the whole year with the F1 team and do only a fair number of Friday practices, then you would miss your rhythm.

"I just wanted to keep up some racing.

"I will be involved in everything with the F1 team and at every race, but when I need to race, then my full focus will be on GP2," he added.

Rosberg 'closer to car's limit' in qualifying - Brawn
(GMM)  Nico Rosberg is regularly able to qualify a car beyond its abilities, according to his Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn.

While Michael Schumacher had an improved 2011 compared to the contest with his teammate Rosberg a year earlier, Brawn said a few days ago that the younger German remained clearly the better driver in the qualifying hour.

"In qualifying, he really can get the most out of the car.  Nico comes closer to its limits," he is quoted by Germany's Sport Bild.

"I think we've often seen him in a better qualifying position than where I would expect the car to be.

"Nico might think this is normal, but it's not.  For me, he is definitely among the best drivers in formula one."

But Brawn thinks a few cards could fall in seven time world champion Schumacher's favor in 2012.

"It could be that the new Pirelli tires help him because you don't have to be quite as gentle with them as you did with the 2011 generation," said the Briton.

Prost appointed Renault brand ambassador
More than 30 years after the start of the relationship between the four-time F1 champion and Renault, the two partners have decided to give a new dimension to their collaborative effort.

By accepting the role of brand ambassador, Alain Prost will place all his technical expertise, professionalism and influence at the service of Renault and its products. Throughout the year he will take part as a Renault driver in sports demonstrations and also as a representative at events organized or attended by Renault.

“Renault’s history is intimately linked to that of motorsport and I have a deep attachment to the brand, with which I achieved some of the greatest successes in my sporting career, Prost said. I accepted this mission with pleasure and I intend to accomplish it with professionalism.”

“We are delighted that Alain Prost has accepted the role as our brand ambassador. Carlos Tavares, Renault Chief Operating Officer remarked. As a four-time Formula 1 champion renowned the world over for his technical expertise, Alain is without a doubt one of the most demanding ‘customers’ that Renault has ever had! He is the best-qualified personality for talking about the progress made by Renault in the last few years on quality, technological innovation and performance.”

A brief history:

  • 1976: Formula Renault French champion.
  • 1977: Formula Renault European champion.
  • 1981: Formula 1 driver for Renault-Elf Team. First podium finish at the Argentine Grand Prix. First victory at French Grand Prix.
  • 1982: Victory in first two Grand Prix races of the season, fourth-ranked driver.
  • 1983: Second in Formula 1 drivers’ championship.
  • 1993: World F1 Champion with Williams-Renault.
  • 2009: First Trophée d’Andros race in Dacia Duster.
  • 2012: Victory in Trophée d’Andros at the wheel of Dacia Lodgy “Glace”.

Williams admits Newey exit 'a mistake'
Sir Frank Williams has admitted that his F1 operation has struggled since allowing Adrian Newey to walk away in a disagreement over the latter's involvement in the team.

Although there have been brief peaks since Newey's departure in late 1997, Williams has largely been on a downward spiral since the split, while the renowned designer has become the most successful penman in F1 history after helping to create championship winners for both McLaren and, more recently, Red Bull Racing. Prior to that, he had helped Williams to land drivers' titles with Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve.

Speaking in the latest edition of F1 Racing magazine, Williams concedes that he made an error of judgment in allowing Newey's talent to slip through his fingers.

"He wanted some shares that I didn't want to give to him at the time," he revealed, "[That] was arguably, with hindsight, a mistake. Adrian is quite a remarkable individual."

Despite the renewed sense of optimism at Grove for 2012, the loss of the last man to bring championship success to the team still haunts Williams.

"There's still a problem, and it's called Adrian Newey," he admitted, "There's only one of him."

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