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Latest F1 news in brief - Tuesday
  • Button thinks Ferrari will recover.  Stefano Domenicali better hope so or 2012 could be his last hurrah.
    Button tips struggling Ferrari to recover
  • Ecclestone successor talk 'unnecessary' - Lauda
  • Mercedes ready to push top teams in 2012 - Lauda
  • HRT completes 2012 grid with Barcelona debut
  • Valencia hints at F1 share deal in 'coming weeks'
  • De la Rosa replaces GPDA president Barrichello
  • Alguersuari to stay in paddock with radio role
  • Salo intrigued ahead of secret Ferrari test

Button tips struggling Ferrari to recover
(GMM)  Jenson Button has tipped Ferrari to recover, after the famous Italian team announced it does not initially expect to be a podium contender in 2012.

Paddock insiders are tipping a close three-way battle between Red Bull, McLaren and possibly Mercedes early this season, as Ferrari apparently flounders with its complex F2012.

But McLaren's Button said: "I'm sure Ferrari can find their way out of a sticky situation -- if they're in a sticky situation.

"We're all trying new things at the start of the year.  One of us will get it right and I'm sure the others will follow suit in the end," he told the Guardian.

"They're obviously on the back foot but I'm sure they'll catch up."

Despite an almost unprecedented media muzzle, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso broke his enforced silence last weekend to admit by way of analogy that his 2012 car is not in top Barcelona football players' Messi and Iniesta's league at present.

But the Spaniard also pointed out that while the press is making a fuss about Ferrari's troubles, the immense pressure on Ferrari is unique.

"For example yesterday (Sunday at Barcelona) Red Bull had only a few laps and the last time on the sheet," Alonso reportedly told Ferrari staff at Maranello.

"If something similar had happened to us, hell would have broken loose, but here (in Italy) nobody really noticed it."

Alonso does not think he will be pushing for the Melbourne win next weekend, but he also insisted: "What counts is not to be first in the first race, but in November, at the end of the championship."

Ecclestone successor talk 'unnecessary' - Lauda
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone is not close to lifting his foot from the throttle.

That is the view of the outspoken triple world champion and F1 legend Niki Lauda, admit the latest rumblings about the sport's future beyond the 81-year-old Briton's long reign.

It emerged on Monday that David Campbell, the new head of F1's trackside advertising company Allsport as well as the Paddock Club, had left the role after just a year.

He had been tipped as a likely successor to chief executive Ecclestone, and so his departure sparked new speculation about F1's next 'supremo'.

But Lauda, denouncing the rumors as "unnecessary", told Austrian television ORF's Sport am Sonntag: "The end is not in sight for Bernie.

"This discussion has been around for ten years, since he turned 70 -- everyone saying he won't be around for much longer.

"On the contrary: I met with him just recently, he's in high spirits and he keeps doing what he is doing for as long as he wants to -- and I see absolutely no end," the Austrian legend added.

Mercedes ready to push top teams in 2012 - Lauda
(GMM)  Niki Lauda has tipped Mercedes to flirt with the top positions in 2012.

After February's winter group tests, rivals and pundits are now assessing the likely pecking-order less than two weeks before the season opener in Australia.

"My feeling is that McLaren and Red Bull are almost equal," triple world champion Lauda told Austrian television ORF's Sport am Sonntag program.

"The big positive surprise is Mercedes.  They have chosen a different way," said the 63-year-old.

"The nose is relatively small, making the car look quite different to the others, because they have the (front wing innovation) F-duct.

"For me, it's the most innovative car, and it also looks to me as through the (F-duct) mechanism works very well."

Lauda said a strong Mercedes will be the first real test for Michael Schumacher since the great German returned to F1 in 2010.

"It's a very important year for him," he said, "because for the first time he and us will really know the answer to how he stands against Rosberg.

"Michael needs to prove to us all how good he really is -- which of course is difficult, since logically you do not get faster with age."

Meanwhile, Lauda agrees with speculation sweeping the F1 world about Ferrari's current pre-season crisis.

"They're behind, no doubt about it," said the Austrian.  "The car is pretty unstable, slipping at the front as well -- I think they could be two or three tenths behind the top three.

"At the beginning of this year, that's quite a lot," explained Lauda.

"In Alonso they really have a top man, but if the car is too far behind then he can't do anything about it, especially as he has a not-so-strong teammate in Massa who is not going to push him."

HRT completes 2012 grid with Barcelona debut
(GMM)  The 2012 grid is complete, after backmarkers Marussia and HRT finally revealed their new cars on Monday.

Former Virgin team Marussia rolled out its MR01 at Silverstone, while HRT's F1112 was also running on demo Pirelli tires for a 'filming day', at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

At 5pm, the struggling Spanish team's car managed ten laps with Narain Karthikeyan at the wheel.

"The first impressions are quite good," said the Indian driver.  "It's definitely a step up from last year."

Monday was HRT's first ever winter test run with a new car, since the team's inception in 2010.

Valencia hints at F1 share deal in 'coming weeks'
(GMM)  Valencia president Alberto Fabra has admitted it is possible the Spanish port city will annually alternate its F1 race date with Barcelona.

Amid Spain's worsening economic crisis, organizers of the Circuit de Catalunya's Spanish grand prix last year proposed a Germany-style sharing of a single race date, alternating between the venues every year.

Valencia, however, turned down the initial proposal, but Barcelona officials this week suggested that talks are back on.

Indeed, Valencia's regional president Alberto Fabra confirmed to EFE news agency on Monday that alternating with Barcelona "is one of the alternatives".

He warned that an agreement "is not yet done", because the issue will need to involve F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone over the course of "the coming weeks".

"We're still in negotiations, waiting for a proposal with Ecclestone," added Fabra.

De la Rosa replaces GPDA president Barrichello
(GMM)  Pedro de la Rosa has returned to the head of the formula one drivers' trade union, the GPDA.

The Spanish veteran was the president of the safety-oriented Grand Prix Drivers' Association between 2008 and 2010, stepping down when he returned to the grid with Sauber after years as McLaren's reserve.

Nick Heidfeld and Rubens Barrichello were the next to lead the Monaco-based body, but the latter Brazilian veteran has now left formula one to race in IndyCar this year.

International media reports, including by the Spanish news agency EFE, said de la Rosa - who will race this year with the back-of-the-grid HRT team - is indeed now returning to the GPDA role.

The report said the GPDA decided last year that in the event of a vacancy, the 41-year-old would once again lead the body.

EFE also said the driver confirmed the news personally.

Alguersuari to stay in paddock with radio role
(GMM)  He may not have a race or even a reserve seat, but Jaime Alguersuari will at least be a regular face in the formula one paddock in 2012.

The axed Toro Rosso driver will be experienced broadcaster James Allen's co-commentator for British radio BBC 5 Live, the Telegraph newspaper reports.

Journalist Tom Cary said the news will be confirmed officially on Tuesday.

Still just 21, Spaniard Alguersuari revealed last month that he will remain fully focused on formula one this year.

"I am thinking only of F1," he said.  "What I can say is that I will devote myself body and soul to F1 in 2012.

"I will prepare myself, with no contractual relationships with anyone, to be ready and available for any opportunity that arises."

Salo intrigued ahead of secret Ferrari test
(GMM)  Mika Salo and the Finnish press are intrigued as the former F1 driver prepares to test a modern Ferrari later this month.

Newspapers Ilta and Turun Sanomat, and the broadcaster MTV3, report that the 45-year-old former Toyota driver has been drafted in to test a Ferrari at Suzuka.

On the face of it, Salo's drive is simply a case of his old employer - the Finn replaced the injured Michael Schumacher in 1999 - inviting a former driver to the Ferrari Racing Days event at the Japanese grand prix venue.

But "I was very surprised when they called me," Salo admitted, "because I haven't been seriously involved in formula one for ten years.

"I tried to ask them if this is just a 'show run' drive, but they have given me no more information than that," he said.

"They have Giancarlo Fisichella, Marc Gene and Andrea Bertolini (as test drivers), so it's not exactly clear to me why they are not driving."

Salo's Suzuka run will take place on the weekend of the season opening Australian grand prix, reportedly at the wheel of a 2010 car -- the newest F1 car able to be driven within the sport's strict testing ban.

MTV3 analyst Erkki Mustakari speculated that, amid Ferrari's pre-season struggles with the uncompetitive new F2012 car, the team is deploying more than its full complement of test drivers in a panic bid to solve the problems.

"If it's an emergency then it may be time to try something very different," he said.

At the very least, Salo has sensed the importance of his new role, confirming he is "training like mad" to strengthen his neck and lose a few pounds.

"This is not any old thing, but a two-day test," he revealed.

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