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Latest F1 news in brief - Sunday
  • Grosjean in the Lotus
    Lotus: We were hampered by power steering issues
  • HRT won't make Barcelona either
  • Karthikeyan: HRT is not a Mickey Mouse team
  • McLaren: Working hard to understand the Pirelli tires
  • Kovalainen savoring battle with Petrov
  • Ecclestone offers to 'help' for Melbourne night race
  • Injured circuit worker remains hospitalized
  • Austin F1 promoter Tavo Hellmund sues other race investors

Lotus: We were hampered by power steering issues
The team had a curtailed day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona today. Power steering issues in the morning and rain in the afternoon limited track time for Kimi Räikkönen to 43 laps.

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus F1 Team Race Driver:
“It was good to get in the E20 after missing testing last week. We had an issue with the power steering in the morning then we didn’t run in the wet, so it was quite a short time for me in the car today. At least we got some runs. The car was reliable when on track meaning we gained some good data for the team. Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow and we can complete more laps.”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director:
“Aside from the time we lost early on it was clear that we were running a different program from the other teams today. We were hampered by power steering issues in the morning, which took some time to rectify. Once on track, we steadily improved the car balance through the day. We opted not to run in the rain which meant we completed fewer laps today than would otherwise have been the case.”

What’s next? Kimi Raikkonen will complete the final day of pre-season testing working on set-up work and a race simulation.

HRT won't make Barcelona either
For the third successive season, the HRT team will go into the F1 season without any prior testing after failing in a bit to get its new car ready for the final day of running in Barcelona.

The Spanish team had been delayed in its plans to debut the F112 after failing the mandatory FIA crash tests; with a change in regulations for this season stating that teams had to pass the tests before being allowed to run on track.

Despite working hard to try and ready a car to take part in the final day of testing on Sunday, HRT has now admitted defeat in its plans and will not be able to join its rivals on track.

The only option remaining for the team now is to be able to complete a 'filming day' at Catalunya on Monday instead.

Although any 'proper' testing is unable to take place after Sunday's session draws to a close with the test ban coming into effect, team's are able to complete limited running for 'promotional purposes' – albeit on a special tires provided by Pirelli and the not the rubber that will be used during the season ahead.

If a filming day isn't possible, the new HRT won't turn a wheel for the first time until free practice in Australia, as was the case last year when both of its cars then failed to qualify.

The only pre-season testing HRT has completed so far was two days with Pedro de la Rosa in its 2011 car at Jerez. crash.net

Karthikeyan: HRT is not a Mickey Mouse team
HRT hope to run their new Formula One car for the first time on Monday, after failing to make the final pre-season test in Spain this weekend, driver Narain Karthikeyan said on Saturday. 

Karthikeyan told Reuters by telephone from Spain that the Spanish-based team had sought permission for a filming day at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya so they could get at least 100km of running.

He said mechanics at the factory in Inningen, near Augsburg, were working around the clock to meet the deadline.

“I’ve seen the car and it looks a lot better (than last year’s),” said India’s first grand prix driver and the only one to have scored points – albeit a fourth place with Jordan in the odd-ball six-car U.S. Grand Prix of 2005.

“We have a lot of experienced people in the team and everyone knows what they are doing. This is not a Mickey Mouse team. We are definitely in a better position than last year,” added the 35-year-old.

The team have yet to score a point after two seasons and finished 11th out of 12 last year.

HRT had hoped to take part in the final Barcelona test after passing the mandatory crash checks last month but Karthikeyan said there had been just too much work to cram into the time available.

The session ends on Sunday with no further testing allowed until a three-day spell scheduled in August, at Italy’s Mugello circuit. The season starts in Australia on March 18.

“We basically needed another 24 hours,” said Karthikeyan.

The team, who are now under new Spanish ownership after the departure of previous team principal Colin Kolles, did not race in Australia last year after failing to set the required qualifying time with an untested car. They also failed to test in 2010. Reuters

McLaren: Working hard to understand the Pirelli tires
Jenson Button’s first day in the cockpit at Barcelona very much mirrored the program completed by Lewis yesterday. Jenson and the team spent the morning exploring variations in set-up over a number of shorter runs and then moved on to a full race-distance simulation in the afternoon.
Jenson said:

“We’ve done a lot of reliability work over the past three days – more than 100 laps on each day. Most of that has been longer runs, getting used to the feeling of the car over a long-run and set-up work for the longer runs.

“We’ve also been really working hard to understand this year’s Pirelli tires and getting the car to work efficiently around them. That’s a key part of the program this winter.

“There are a lot of cars out there that look competitive: so we’ll keep pushing. We should hopefully bring our upgrade package to the next test and that will see us through to the first race in Melbourne.”

Jenson concludes the four-day test tomorrow.

Kovalainen savoring battle with Petrov
Although Heikki Kovalainen admits that he will miss Jarno Trulli at Caterham this year, the Finn is thoroughly looking forward to a new challenge in the form of Vitaly Petrov. Dismissed by Lotus Renault GP, the Russian switches to Caterham and is testing for the team for the first time in Barcelona on Wednesday.

Petrov’s replacing of Trulli had been expected long before it was officially announced last Friday, although the Russian had been waiting for the response of a slow sponsor. Caterham’s latest recruitment marks Kovalainen’s fifth Formula 1 team-mate after Giancarlo Fisichella, Lewis Hamilton, Karun Chandhok and the aforementioned Trulli.

“I got on really well with Jarno,” Kovalainen told GPUpdate.net in an exclusive interview. “I think we became good friends over these last couple of years, as obviously I didn’t know him so well before we were team-mates. I think, together, we pushed the team and worked very hard, on and off the track.

“Of course the decision was a team decision, it wasn’t anything to do with me. Now I work with Vitaly; he is a pro driver, so I think we will work well together and we need to work together to push the team forward. Of course, he is a strong driver as well, so I expect him to be pushing me, I will push him as well and I will try to stay ahead of him! It’s a normal situation, really.”

When questioned whether he now considers himself team leader, in-line with comments from Team Principal Tony Fernandes last year, Kovalainen replied:

“Vitaly will have the same service. Jarno had the same and there is no preference there. I am just happy that I have been able to, I think, earn my place in the team throughout these two years. When I arrived at the team I don’t think I was driving particularly well, my performance level was not particularly good at that time.

“I think I lost some performance in the early part of my Formula 1 career. Even in my first year at Renault in 2007, I don’t think I was performing as well as I had been in junior categories and the young, sort of ‘promising Heikki’ was missing. So I thought I had to take a step back to give me time to find the swing again, if you like.”

On Tuesday, Kovalainen’s running was cut back significantly due to a rear suspension problem. The Finn is spending the mornings and evenings of Wednesday and Thursday at the circuit, going training and playing golf when possible in the afternoons. He will be back in the car on Friday, taking over from Petrov.

Ecclestone offers to 'help' for Melbourne night race
Bernie Ecclestone claims the Australian Grand Prix is ‘probably’ the least practical, in terms of profitability, of all the races on the current Formula 1 calendar. However, the FOM head has offered to assist if organizers convert their event into a night race.

Although those running the race have a contract until 2015 and argue that the Australian Grand Prix is critical for tourism, pressure from taxpayers and the State of Victoria is still mounting, with the F1 event currently making annual losses of 50 million Australian dollars (£33.8m).

With this in mind, Ecclestone believes a possible dropping of the event – F1’s season-opener for 14 of the last 16 years – is highly possible.

Ecclestone first proposed a Melbourne night race in 2007“If we were having a divorce from our friends in Melbourne, we would probably be walking away from Australia,” he told journalists on Thursday. “I can't see how Adelaide could make it happen, or anywhere else, if Melbourne can't. The race itself is probably the least viable of all the races we have.”

The 81-year-old added that financial assistance could be made available, should Australia wish to follow in the footsteps of Singapore by becoming a nighttime Grand Prix, thus granting his long-term wish of catering more for European television audiences.

“We would have a look, maybe we could help subsidize that a little bit,” he continued. “Up until 2015, we're in good shape. After then, I really don't know.”

Including the current Albert Park race which made its debut in 1996, Australia has hosted a Formula 1 event since the Adelaide street circuit first appeared in 1985. The 2012 campaign begins in Melbourne on 18 March.

Injured circuit worker remains hospitalized
The worker injured Tuesday at Circuit of the Americas remains hospitalized but appears to be improving, a spokeswoman for the circuit said today.

“Our thoughts are with him and his family,” spokeswoman Ali Putnam said in a conference call Thursday.

She did not release the man’s name or who he was working for when he was critically injured by an earth-compacting machine. Investigations are taking place, she said.

Scott Kahler, senior superintendent for general contractor Austin Commercial, briefed reporters on construction, which he said is on pace for the circuit to be ready for the inaugural race in November.

Kahler said 450 to 550 workers are on the site six days a week, sometimes working odd hours, including overnight. Kahler did not say how often crews will be working into the nighttime hours.

About 45,000 yards of concrete have been poured, and 3 million cubic yards of dirt have been moved, Kahler said. The exterior walls and metal roof on the 40,000-square-foot media/convention building have been installed, and half of the pit building has been erected, he said. Crews anticipate to complete the rest of the pit and paddock building at the end of the month.

The slab for the grandstand is being poured, Kahler said, and crews expect the structural steel for the 9,000-seat structure to arrive in the next two weeks.


More than 80 percent of the storm and sewer lines have been installed, and track materials continue to be put in from the hairpin Turn 11 to the tunnel at the end of the back straightaway, he said.

Crews are preparing to spread top soil in the next week where grass will be planted, he said. He did not say what type of grass will be on the site, but that it will fulfill city and county requirements. The Statesman

Austin F1 promoter Tavo Hellmund sues other race investors
Austin's Formula One racetrack project has hit another speed bump.

Tavo Hellmund, once the face of the project, and his company, Full Throttle Productions, have filed a lawsuit against track investors Bobby Epstein and Red McCombs and various companies and managers involved in the $300 million project under construction in Travis County.

The civil suit filed in state District Court in Travis County does not specify damages but says Hellmund had an agreement for an $18 million buyout that was not fulfilled and that he was scheduled to make $500,000 a year for 10 years as chairman of the F1 U.S. Grand Prix.

The first race is set for Nov. 18.

Through the suit, Hellmund also might seek to regain management control of the project: "With the relief requested herein — namely, access to the Company's books and records and declaration that he cannot be removed as a manager — Hellmund hopes to steer the now-teetering Circuit back on track and determine how best to proceed, if at all, to acquire Epstein's remaining interest in the company."

According to the suit, Hellmund is already trying to buy out McCombs, who has about $8 million in the project — roughly a 20 percent stake, about the same percent that Hellmund claims.

Hellmund could not be reached Saturday.

Epstein said Saturday that he was unaware of the suit and that Hellmund has not worked for Circuit of the Americas for a long time.

"This is just a latest step in a pattern of behavior. Mr. Hellmund uses negative press to try and create an advantage for himself at every turn. The fact is, he has been found to be in breach of contract by Formula 1 and he has not fulfilled his agreements," Circuit of the Americas management said in a statement.

Hellmund says in the suit that the project has been hindered by misinformation and poor financial support.

For example, the suit claims that Epstein provided inaccurate information about the adequacy of soil conditions and underground gas pipelines on the almost 1,100-acre site.

According to the suit, Epstein claimed there were 2-inch low-pressure lines on the property, but those "turned out to be 20-inch high pressure lines. Those major gas lines were anything but easy or cheap to remove, costing several million dollars to relocate."

Track officials recently said 3 million cubic yards of earth have been moved during construction. As part of construction, workers dug down more than 9 feet and replaced the clay with more stable soil.

The bottom line, according to the suit, is that the project has cost more than anticipated and resulted in reductions in plans for the grandstand, pedestrian bridges over the track, paved parking, concessions and restrooms.

The suit also claims access and emergency routes to the Circuit of the Americas were inadequate and remain behind schedule.

Officials have said track construction is on schedule.

The suit claims a buyout agreement was reached with Hellmund Sept. 29. He was to receive $18 million for his share of the company and for assigning the contracts of Formula One and MotoGP to Circuit of the Americas, but that didn't happen.

Hellmund and his lawyers contend that he is still the chairman of the F1 race, claiming, "Despite Epstein/McCombs public assertions to the contrary, Hellmund has neither quit nor been terminated." The Statesman

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