Latest F1 news in brief - Monday
'In two weeks we'll know' says fast Raikkonen
- Kubica still months from F1 recovery
- Man tipped to succeed Ecclestone leaves F1
- HRT confirms Monday debut for 2012 car
- Pic preparation 'sad and frustrating' admits Panis
- Barcelona to propose race share deal to Valencia
- Ecclestone offers to end Melbourne contract
- Sahara Force India teams up with Hackett
'In two weeks we'll know' says fast Raikkonen
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen ended the 2012 pre-season with this year's fastest Barcelona lap time, but the Finn is not yet predicting a win in Melbourne at the end of next weekend.
"No one will know how fast any of the cars are until we get to qualifying at Albert Park," said the returning 2007 world champion.
Lotus - fast at Jerez and also at the Circuit de Catalunya - is expected to trail pacesetters Red Bull and McLaren this season.
Yet in reality, the situation is deliberately clouded: Red Bull had a bad final day of testing on Sunday, but when he was running, rivals expected Sebastian Vettel's RB8 was brimmed with fuel.
And when he came into the pits, there was the odd sight of team mechanics using large umbrellas to hide the car's newly-added secrets, including the sidepod exhaust.
"I think that's a question for Charlie Whiting," said Ferrari's technical director Pat Fry when asked about the legality of the solution.
Even so, Red Bull's position of dominance seems to have been somewhat eroded for 2012, with Mercedes chief Ross Brawn suggesting the RB8 is closely matched by its rivals unless the team has been "running a huge amount of fuel".
Sebastian Vettel told DPA news agency: "McLaren are strong. Mercedes are definitely stronger than last year and Lotus and perhaps some other teams should not be forgotten -- Sauber, Force India.
"Ferrari seem to be having some difficulties," added the reigning world champion.
World champion Vettel's final comment appears undoubtedly true, with the famous Italian team's drivers oddly banned from speaking with the media while technical boss Fry confessed that all is not well.
"I'm always pessimistic," said the Briton, who said a podium for Ferrari in Melbourne is not likely. "I'm disappointed with our performance at the moment."
Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, ignored his media muzzle and told Spanish television at a football game: "In the first races we will suffer -- we are not yet at 100 per cent.
"We're not in as good shape as (Barcelona players) Messi and Iniesta," he is quoted by Barca TV.
But for now, it's all talk, and so the reticent Raikkonen summed it up well: "Like I said, I don't know, probably no one does," he is quoted by Germany's Sport1.
"In two weeks, we'll know."
Kubica still months from F1 recovery
(GMM) A friend of injured driver Robert Kubica admitted the Pole is still months from knowing when he can return to the wheel of a F1 car.
The former BMW and Renault driver suffered horror injuries in a rally crash more than a year ago, but there are reports he might be well enough to return some time in 2012.
A close friend of the now 27-year-old said in the Barcelona paddock: "Robert is close to leading a normal life.
"He drives his road car and goes out by himself," the friend, who wished to remain anonymous, told the BBC.
"He is still building up the strength in his right arm. It will be June or July before it can be determined if he is fit enough to test a F1 car."
Man tipped to succeed Ecclestone leaves F1
(GMM) Senior F1 official David Campbell has left the sport.
Late in 2010, Bernie Ecclestone appointed Campbell - whose most famous achievement was the transformation of London's O2 Arena - to succeed the retiring Paddy McNally.
McNally headed the lucrative trackside advertising company Allsport and the Paddock Club.
Campbell was therefore tipped as a likely successor for 81-year-old Ecclestone.
But a report in the Independent quoted CVC as confirming Campbell "has left".
"It didn't really work out," said the source. "Bernie wanted to take the business in a different way, and that wasn't the basis on which we hired David."
HRT confirms Monday debut for 2012 car
(GMM) HRT has confirmed that its 2012 car, the F112, will finally make its track debut on Monday.
Recently, the FIA barred Red Bull and Ferrari from tweaking their test schedules so that their Barcelona running could end on Monday.
But struggling backmarker HRT asked its rivals for special permission, given it had yet to use its separate allowed test day for 'filming and promotional' purposes.
Actually, the Cosworth-powered HRT is also being launched, debuted and shaken down, after a failed FIA crash test delayed progress for a team already recovering from a change of ownership and the exit of boss Colin Kolles.
A report in the German press said HRT has been focused not only on the 'step nose' 2012 car, but also buying up all the infrastructure needed for a new F1 team -- like pitstop wheel guns at EUR 4000 apiece.
The team said Narain Karthikeyan will do the driving at the Circuit de Catalunya on Monday, with Pedro de la Rosa and reserve Dani Clos also on hand.
EFE news agency quotes de la Rosa as admitting the first six months this year will be "very hard" for HRT.
Other Spanish reports said the F112 was finally fired up in the factory on Sunday.
"I'm very happy," said de la Rosa, "but also I know how much work is ahead, because we are two months late and we are starting with virtually no preseason."
Referring to Monday's shakedown, he added: "It's better than nothing and, for us, it's almost a victory," de la Rosa is quoted by Mundo Deportivo.
Pic preparation 'sad and frustrating' admits Panis
(GMM) Charles Pic's situation leading into his rookie season in formula one is "sad and frustrating".
That is the claim of his manager Olivier Panis, the 1996 Monaco grand prix winner and former Toyota racer and McLaren test driver.
His well-sponsored countryman Pic, 22, will debut in Melbourne this month alongside the experienced Timo Glock, having never turned a wheel in his 2012 car.
Ahead of next weekend's season opener, the new Marussia is yet to pass all the FIA crash tests, which has left the former Virgin team grounded throughout February's test period.
"It's sad and frustrating," admitted Panis, when asked about Pic's situation.
"The beginning will be difficult for him," he told RMC.
For F1's backmarkers, including HRT who have also struggled through the winter, the tougher crash tests are just another hurdle, atop tackling the financial might of rival giants like Ferrari and Red Bull.
The sport's chief executive Bernie Ecclestone is unapologetic.
"If we tried to make things less complicated, you will always find the guys at the top looking for that tenth of a second.
"That's the difference between the winners and losers," he told the Sun newspaper.
Barcelona to propose race share deal to Valencia
(GMM) Organizers of the Spanish grand prix are set to propose once again that Valencia shares a single annual date on the formula one calendar in future.
Both the Barcelona and Valencia venues have admitted to financial troubles amid Spain's dire economic situation.
F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone is pushing the Spanish organizers to agree a deal whereby they open up a date to a new host country by annually alternating their races.
Valencia, however, is believed to have rejected a proposal along those
lines made by the Catalonian government last year.
"They said they were happy with how formula one had developed to date in Valencia and believed they could continue doing it the same way," Barcelona official Germa Gordo, reportedly close to Catalonia president Artur Mas, told the DPA news agency.
"We understand that although there was the rejection, the new Valencian government is prepared to consider a proposal," he added.
"The offer will be made in the coming weeks."
Marca newspaper, meanwhile, quoted a Valencian official as reiterating that "the issue of major events" is "under review".
"What we want is an agreement that is good for everyone," the unnamed official said.
It is believed informal talks between the regional authorities have already taken place.
Ecclestone offers to end Melbourne contract
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has expressed frustration with the attitude of Australia's formula one race organizers.
The F1 chief executive is pushing for the Melbourne race, with a contract through 2015, to be held at night for a more favorable live timeslot back in Europe.
He may even be offering a fee subsidy, but formula one remains controversial within the Victorian state parliament, with taxpayers footing $50 million bills annually.
Ecclestone has reacted by offering to sit down and negotiate an early end to the Albert Park deal.
"If the government wanted to, we could certainly come to some terms, I suppose," he told the Sunday Herald Sun from London.
81-year-old Ecclestone reportedly wants the government, led by premier Ted Baillieu, to come clean about his plans for the future.
"It would just be nice for somebody to say to me 'Bernie, definitely, 100 per cent, we don't want to renew our contract'," he said.
So Ecclestone reportedly warned that Baillieu should begin talks now if he wants to keep the sport in Melbourne.
The premier's spokesman reportedly said the government will not 'take an open checkbook' to the negotiations.
Sahara Force India teams up with Hackett
Sahara Force India is pleased to announce that Hackett, the London-based fashion brand, has joined the team as an Official Supplier for 2012.
Part of Hackett’s association will involve supplying team members with travel kit to be worn while travelling to and from races. The latest Hackett designs will be issued to staff this week in preparation for next week’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
The relationship with Sahara Force India marks the continuation of Hackett’s ambitious plans to expand further into international markets, especially India, and capitalize on the global appeal of the sport.
Dr. Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director of Sahara Force India: “I’m delighted to welcome Hackett to the team and look forward to seeing our team members wearing their clothes this season. I have a great interest in fashion and believe the clothes we wear speak volumes about who we are and the values that are important to us. Formula One is therefore the perfect showcase for Hackett’s range and helps reinforce their strong tradition of style and quality.”
Vicente Castellano, Managing Director of Hackett: “Continuing with our motor racing tradition, it seemed a natural step to support our new and exciting business expansion into India by becoming a partner to the Sahara Force India Formula One team for 2012. We are looking forward to supporting the team as they continue their fight to work their way up the highly competitive Formula One grid.”