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Latest F1 news in brief - Thursday
  • Maria de Villota
    Marussia signs female test driver de Villota
  • Lehman Brothers selling 15pc F1 share
  • Horner, Ecclestone, predict Button title challenge
  • Red Bull to discuss Webber future in summer
  • Red Bull to bring 'new' RB8 to Australia
  • Pollock's Pure to use Toyota facilities
  • Ferrari predicament 'dramatic' - Lauda
  • De la Rosa admits HRT 'worst' team in F1
  • Nurburgring's Kafitz emerges at Red Bull Ring
  • France waiting on Belgium for GP share green-light
  • Senna confirms Williams deal for one year only

Marussia signs female test driver de Villota
(GMM)  Female driver Maria de Villota has signed on as a test driver with the Marussia team.

The Spaniard, whose father is the former F1 driver Emilio de Villota, tested a Renault last year at Paul Ricard.

She will initially "work with racing drivers operating at the pinnacle of the sport and, later in the year, (get) the chance to drive the MR01," the former Virgin team announced in a statement.

The team said she will do the Abu Dhabi young drivers' test near the end of the season.

De Villota, 32, has previously raced in Spanish F3, Superleague and the Daytona 24 hours.

"I will be joining the team trackside so I'm looking forward to working alongside them at the first race next weekend and this can only help my future ambition to step up to formula one racing," she said.

Lehman Brothers selling 15pc F1 share
(GMM)  F1 could be set to get some new shareholders, amid reports the collapsed US bank Lehman Brothers wants to sell its stake within two years.

The bank, which is being wound up to pay back creditors, still holds a 15 per cent stake in the majority CVC-owned holding company Delta Topco, which the Guardian newspaper said is valued at about $1.5 billion.

Lehman Brothers became a F1 shareholder in 2002, when the German media company Kirch defaulted on a loan.

Horner, Ecclestone, predict Button title challenge
(GMM)  Christian Horner and Bernie Ecclestone have singled out Jenson Button as potentially the biggest rival to Red Bull's dominance in 2012.

McLaren's Button surprised many observers by beating his highly rated teammate Lewis Hamilton last year, and finishing runner-up behind Red Bull's dominant Sebastian Vettel.

"Jenson seemed to get the team around him and strung a set of results together that was very impressive," Red Bull team boss Horner told Sky Sports.

And when pressed on BBC radio to name Vettel's biggest rival, he admitted: "Probably Jenson."

F1 chief executive Ecclestone, meanwhile, tipped 32-year-old Button to give Hamilton yet another headache in 2012.

"Jenson looks after the car and tires better, so it is more than likely he will be a big problem for Lewis," he told the Sun newspaper.

Red Bull to discuss Webber future in summer
(GMM)  Mark Webber is yet to secure his place at Red Bull for the 2013 season.

Team boss Christian Horner said the Australian has a "spring in his step" after a strong winter following Sebastian Vettel's dominance last year.

But as for the future, he said that will only be discussed "in the summer".

"We've extended his contract on a year by year basis, I think that's something that Mark and the team agreed was the right way forward," Horner told Sky Sports.

"His motivation is high at the moment, he's still delivering and undoubtedly will sit down later in the summer to discuss the future."

The biggest threats to 35-year-old Webber's place are rookie team Toro Rosso's new signings, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.

Horner admitted the young duo is "being groomed for the future".

But the real tension for Webber will be in the Red Bull garage, as another trouncing by Vettel could signal the end of his tenure.

"(Vettel is) probably one of the best, if not the best driver on the grid at the moment and that's what Mark Webber's got to come up against, unfortunately," 1980 world champion Alan Jones told News Limited newspapers.

"This is why I think Mark's really got to come out of the blocks flying, he's got to come out firing."

Red Bull to bring 'new' RB8 to Australia
(GMM)  Christian Horner has denied reports Red Bull is considering taking the 'old' specification of its 2012 car, the RB8, to Melbourne.

The reigning world champions arguably set the early pace this winter, but apparently struggled once a big package of upgrades - essentially a 'B' chassis - was brought to the final Barcelona test.

Sebastian Vettel's final day of running was dismissed by team advisor Dr Helmut Marko as no less than "shit", ramping up speculation the team might revert to the initial RB8 specification.

But team boss Horner told BBC radio: "It's amazing how these things get construed.

"Those (Barcelona) upgrades seem to be working ok and they'll certainly be on the car in Australia in ten days' time."

Pollock's Pure to use Toyota facilities
(GMM)  BAR founder Craig Pollock's new 2014 engine supply venture, Pure, is setting up camp in Cologne.

A German-language report at motorsport-total.com said Jacques Villeneuve's former manager has struck a deal with former F1 team Toyota.

The report said Pure, to move shortly, needs better facilities than it currently has at its Paris headquarters.

"We have signed an exclusive agreement with TMG (Toyota Motorsport GmbH)," Scotland-born Pollock is quoted as saying.

He said the deal involves office space, a workshop and engine test stands.

Pollock explained that time and cost factors explains why Pure did not set up its own factory.

But he said there is plenty of time left to find at least two F1 team customers for 2014.

Pollock also said Pure will retain its French headquarters as a business base.

Ferrari predicament 'dramatic' - Lauda
(GMM)  Ferrari has set to work to fix a problem at the rear of its troubled F2012 car, Italy's Autosprint reports.

The report said initial winter testing highlighted problems with the car's exhaust solution, prompting Pat Fry to order the outlets be moved inwards.

This, however, left the homologated portion of the chassis that housed the original exhausts intact, with modification to require a new FIA crash test.

"I want to understand what is happening, and how many seconds it will take to be fixed," president Luca di Montezemolo is quoted as having said.

Triple world champion Niki Lauda is alarmed.

"I have never heard comments like this from within a team -- this is dramatic," the great Austrian told Blick newspaper.

However, the Swiss newspaper also said some of Ferrari's rivals are making similar modifications to their cars that will require new FIA crash tests.

Even so, "nobody at Maranello expected this", wrote the famous Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Corriere dello Sport, meanwhile, said the fact Ferrari gagged its drivers for the first time ever recently is "more worrying than the testing results".

Test driver Marc Gene told Spanish television Antena 3: "This will be a very long world championship, and we will fight to win.

"At the moment we are not at the level we wanted to be."

It is faintly possible Ferrari is playing an extreme hand of bluff, but Lauda insists that theory is now believed by "only a few".

"They've got a great team," Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports, "they haven't fully shown their hand yet.  I think they're more competitive than people believe they are.

"I'm sure the car looks a handful but sometimes a difficult car can be a quick car so it would be foolish to write off Fernando (Alonso) going into Melbourne," he added.

De la Rosa admits HRT 'worst' team in F1
(GMM)  Pedro de la Rosa insists he is not afraid to admit he will tackle next weekend's Australian grand prix at the wheel of the "worst" car.

"We will have a difficult year," said the veteran Spaniard, who is yet to actually drive HRT's newly-launched F112.

"It will also be interesting because the team is 80 per cent new," added the 41-year-old former Arrows, Jaguar and Sauber driver, who for years was McLaren's main test driver.

"We should not be afraid to admit that we are the worst, but we must have the ambition to not stay that way," he told Antena 3 television.

"Our goal is to finish races, stop being the last across the line and to grow, trying to close the gap to pole position."

The next stop, he said, is the Melbourne pitlane.

"The team is packing up everything and preparing a second chassis.  Tomorrow night it is all put onto planes and sent to Australia.

"I leave on Monday," revealed de la Rosa.

Nurburgring's Kafitz emerges at Red Bull Ring
(GMM)  Former Nurburgring chief Walter Kafitz has re-emerged at Austria's A1-Ring.

But he said the Spielberg circuit, now owned by the energy drink and officially called Red Bull Ring, is not set to revive the Austrian grand prix.

"I've been here only a few days, just absorbing all the information.

"Formula one is not currently a topic," he is quoted by Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

Kafitz would not comment on the shambles at the Nurburgring, where the operators of the German grand prix venue are being evicted, and former managers potentially charged with financial crimes.

"What went before," he insisted, "went before."

France waiting on Belgium for GP share green-light
(GMM)  France is only now waiting on Belgium to green-light its return to the formula one calendar in 2013.

Sports minister David Douillet told RMC Sport that everything else is now in place for France to stage its first formula one race since 2008.

"I have told Bernie Ecclestone that we are ready.  We have done the financial side, on which he agreed," he said.

"Now we wait for the position of our Belgian friends, since the project is to alternate between Le Castellet (Paul Ricard) and Spa," added Douillet.

He said the hold-up with Belgium is because of Spa-Francorchamps' existing contract with Ecclestone for a race every year.

"They need to work it out amongst themselves," he explained.  "But we are ready, and - for our car industry - we need it."

Senna confirms Williams deal for one year only
(GMM)  Bruno Senna has confirmed reports he has signed with Williams for a single season only.

We reported recently that the former HRT and Renault driver, reportedly taking EUR 14 million in sponsorship to the famous Oxfordshire based team, is guaranteed the seat for 2012 only.

With countryman Felipe Massa's Ferrari contract also expiring this year, the situation raises the prospect that there will be no Brazilians in F1 in 2013.

"All drivers, Brazilian or not, have great pressure to deliver results," Senna is quoted by Agencia Estado.

"Of course it is very important to have Brazilians in formula one, but we always do the best we can, regardless of the duration of the contract.

"I think this is the beginning of my career, as with a good job this year, we can extend the contract and, god willing, keep on getting better in the future," he added.

"Last year at this time all I could do was work on my fitness, but now I am driving the car, working with the engineers in the team and doing everything else that has made all the difference in this preseason.

"I have got to this stage of the championship with a preparation probably better than last year when I finished the race in Brazil," he added.

The 28-year-old said Williams' target for this season is to score points regularly, after a woeful 2011.

"All the teams have taken a leap forward; I think Force India, Toro Rosso and Sauber are strong," said the Brazilian.

"Lotus seems to be strong, Mercedes as well.  Ferrari do not seem to have the performance, unless they are hiding their game.

"It seems like McLaren and Red Bull are a little in front of everyone.

"I think the big surprise has been Caterham, who seem to have a reasonable performance.  So it'll be very interesting to see what will happen," added Senna.

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