Latest F1 news in brief - Friday UPDATE Updates shown in red below.
Early races key to new F1 deal - Hamilton
- Ferrari says Red Bull 'half a second ahead'
- Wealth has not dimmed Brawn's drive
- Donington no longer wants F1
- FIA says new F-ducts, exhausts all legal
- HRT cleared to race in Australia
- New Schumacher deal would indicate progress - Brawn
- Tweaked DRS here to stay - Whiting
- FIA to push for less 'ugly' cars in 2013
- Caterham F1 Team Partners With BRM Chronographs
- Williams F1 Team Launches New Multimedia Content New
- Maldonado fined for pit lane speeding New
- Marussia Wears Burrda Sport New
Early races key to new F1 deal - Hamilton
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has dropped a strong hint about his future beyond 2012, indicating he will decide his future soon.
Red Bull's Christian Horner has ruled out the 2008 world champion as Sebastian Vettel's new teammate, while rumors persist that Mercedes sees Hamilton, 27, as a potential successor to Michael Schumacher.
But rumors in Melbourne indicate Mercedes is almost ready to extend Schumacher's contract, intensifying talk that Briton Hamilton will similarly stay at McLaren.
He told reporters in Melbourne the first four races of 2012 will be key.
"They will definitely play a role," said Hamilton.
"My decision will be based on more than just the car. When you make a decision on your future it's the whole package, it's various things.
"I'm happy to be here (at McLaren)," he added. "I'll leave it to my management to take care of the rest."
With Jenson Button the standout performer at McLaren last year amid Hamilton's personal problems, the 2008 world champion said his immediate focus is to get back on form.
"It is a great privilege to be here but it is easy to come and go. Let's hope I can stay here (in F1)," he said.
Ferrari says Red Bull 'half a second ahead'
(GMM) Pat Fry, Ferrari's technical director, thinks Red Bull remains clearly ahead of the F1 field.
There is lots of talk that the reigning champion team is now closely matched by McLaren, with a big chasing group nipping at the heels headed by Mercedes.
But Briton Fry told the Guardian newspaper: "I think Red Bull are ahead of the rest at the moment. Maybe half a second.
"We're guessing about fuel levels used in testing but I would say Red Bull are between five and seven tenths ahead of everyone else."
Fry recently wrote off Ferrari's chances of a podium this weekend in Melbourne, but - at least in the most recent hours - drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso are sounding more positive.
"At the moment we don't know who is fast and who is not," insisted Alonso, according to Marca. "Don't pay much attention to what is said.
"We are not even going to know anything until Malaysia -- a normal circuit."
HRT's Pedro de la Rosa, at least, is daring a prediction.
"Maybe (Sebastian) Vettel will win again, but if he does, he will have more sweat on his shirt," the Spaniard is quoted by EFE agency.
As for Ferrari's apparent problems, de la Rosa commented: "All I know is what I read, but think about how much time has passed since the last test.
"Two or three weeks in formula one is a world."
Wealth has not dimmed Brawn's drive
(GMM) Ross Brawn insists great wealth has not affected his drive to succeed.
As team boss, the Briton bought Brackley based Honda for a nominal pound after the 2008 season, before 'Brawn GP' and Jenson Button raced to the drivers' and constructors' titles.
At the end of that campaign, Brawn sold the team to Mercedes, and the Financial Times claims the Briton - still team principal - collected dozens of millions of dollars.
"I'm obviously a lot wealthier now than before and you wonder if you still have the same motivation to get up in the morning," Brawn said.
"But it did not alter my perspective or my passion and ambition to succeed in racing."
His job now is to win for Mercedes, and 2012 is year three, and the end of Michael Schumacher's initial contract.
"If it does not come off I will have to recognize there is something missing, something I am not able to do that perhaps someone else should have a go at," revealed Brawn.
Donington no longer wants F1
(GMM) Donington Park no longer aspires to host formula one.
The circuit's bold bid to redevelop the site and host the 2010 British grand prix failed spectacularly, but it is once again the scene of minor category and motorcycle racing.
Managing director Christopher Tate told the BBC: "We have no ambition to run the British grand prix for cars."
FIA says new F-ducts, exhausts all legal
(GMM) It did not take long for F1's first technical controversy of the 2012 race season to erupt.
Asked about Mercedes' F-duct system that reportedly works in conjunction with the deployment of DRS, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: "Are they allowed?"
The FIA's Charlie Whiting says yes. "I cannot see a rule that prohibits it," he said.
"What is not allowed is the movement of the driver to generate an aerodynamic effect," he is quoted by Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo.
So at least for now, the other teams will have to react, amid talk the concept is worth several kilometers per hour in a straight line.
"We'll have to have a look at it," confirmed Horner.
But according to BBC analyst and former F1 designer Gary Anderson, Red Bull and Ferrari - and maybe others - have reacted already.
They "appear to have a different system and I'm struggling to understand how it complies with the rules", he said.
"I'm sure we'll be hearing more about this subject", Anderson added.
Also legal for now are all the teams' different interpretations of the new exhaust rules -- even the controversial Red Bull's.
"As far as we've seen so far, they all do comply with the rules," confirmed Whiting.
HRT cleared to race in Australia
(GMM) HRT has survived a close call in Melbourne, after crucial parts of Pedro de la Rosa's chassis did not arrive in time for scrutineering.
The back-of-the-grid Spanish team had to apply to the FIA for an exemption to Thursday's scrutineering deadline, because pieces of the suspension for the second car had yet to arrive from Europe.
And even when de la Rosa's car was ultimately cleared to enter the Albert Park circuit shortly before first practice, the mechanics were still hard at work 'dressing' it for action.
Ultimately the late start was of little consequence, when the sporadic rain around the Victorian capital made a wet deposit just before practice, ensuring that early action was scarce.
But de la Rosa did not even appear later in the session.
More showers are possible later in the day and also on Saturday, but Sunday's season-opening race should be dry.
New Schumacher deal would indicate progress - Brawn
(GMM) Ross Brawn in Melbourne has admitted he would like to keep working with Michael Schumacher beyond 2012.
The seven time world champion's three-year Mercedes contract expires this season, and the 43-year-old said on Thursday he has "no timetable" for talks with the Brackley based team.
There have been reports Mercedes sees McLaren's Lewis Hamilton - also with an expiring contract - as a potential successor to Schumacher.
Team boss Brawn, however, admitted he hopes Mercedes and Schumacher live up to their expectations in 2012.
"We look forward to continuing to work with Michael," he told SID news agency, "because that would mean we are successful in what we are doing.
"If Michael stays in the team, that would mean that we are coming closer to our goals," explained Brawn.
"At some point in the season we will decide to continue, or do something else."
Schumacher, however, denied that 2012 is "any more important than any other" season in terms of his future.
Tweaked DRS here to stay - Whiting
(GMM) At least for now, the overtaking innovation 'DRS' is here to stay.
"It will stay as long as it's in the regulations," smiled the FIA's Charlie Whiting in Melbourne, indicating it is a certainty for 2013 and 2014.
The concept debuted last year, replacing the driver-operated F-ducts with a standard rear wing flap that can be adjusted by chasing drivers in the midst of battle during grands prix.
Whiting said there are changes for 2012, to better balance the ease or difficulty of passing based on the experience of last year.
"For example, here (in Australia) there is a second zone, and in China and Belgium the zones will be shortened.
"Barcelona is lengthened by 50 meters and Canada there will be no second zone, same with Valencia," he is quoted by Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo.
"In Monza the zones will be longer, while for most of the other circuits we are satisfied."
FIA to push for less 'ugly' cars in 2013
(GMM) Charlie Whiting has vowed to do what he can to ensure next year's cars are not as 'ugly' as the 2012 generation.
"It's an ugly regulation," said Red Bull's Mark Webber, referring to the compromise reached between the FIA's push for lower nose heights, and the teams wanting to keep the old monocoque dimensions.
It has meant every 2012 machine, with the notable exception of the McLaren, has a conspicuous 'duck head'-style bump in the middle of the front of the car.
"We only got a sense of what was coming in December," Whiting is quoted by Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo, "when it was too late."
The Briton said the new rule for 2013 would have to be agreed by the end of June.
"I promise to do everything I can so that the representatives of the teams agree to a change," said Whiting.
Caterham F1 Team Partners With BRM Chronographs
Caterham F1 Team has announced today that it has signed a partnership deal with BRM Chronographs who join the team as Official Watch Partner. The globally renowned BRM Chronographs logo will be featured on the Caterham F1 Team’s cars from the opening race of the 2012 season in Melbourne, Australia, and joins a growing portfolio of blue-chip companies supporting the Anglo / Malaysian team, currently the fastest developing team in Formula One.
Bernard Richards, Founder of Bernard Richards Manufacture (BRM): “Motorsport fans are going to be thrilled that two iconic names, Caterham F1 Team and BRM Chronographs, have become partners in the most prestigious motorsport category - Formula 1. The first fruit of our union will be three limited edition timepieces that will be manufactured by BRM Chronographs, featuring the Caterham F1 Team's colors of green and yellow, the symbolic colors of the team’s brand. We are looking forward to sharing our partnership with fans of the team and of all technological sports as our union develops.”
Riad Asmat, Caterham Group CEO: “We are delighted to welcome BRM Chronographs into the Caterham F1 Team family and are very proud to be sporting such a prestigious logo on our car from the first race of the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship. The BRM Chronographs logo finds its natural home at the highest echelon of world motorsport and to add such an iconic brand to our team’s roster of partners reflects our continuing development, on and off track.”
Williams F1 Team Launches New Multimedia Content for 2012
Williams F1 is pleased to announce the launch of an exciting new range of multimedia content for the forthcoming Formula One season that will bring fans closer to the heart of the team than ever before.
This includes the launch of a brand new mobile app, iPredictor, which is available to download for free on Apple devices and selected BlackBerry® smartphones*. It can be downloaded now from BlackBerry App World™ and the App Store by searching for iPredictor.
iPredictor has been developed for fans to use over the course of the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship season. Players will be pitted against friends and challenged to correctly predict a number of racing outcomes ahead of each Grand Prix. The competition will continue throughout the season and create an iPredictor Champion at the Brazilian Grand Prix who will join the team at the 2013 British Grand Prix as a VIP guest.
The team is also pleased to announce that its website, www.williamsf1.com, is now available in English, Spanish and Portuguese language versions. The team magazine iGNITION has also been revamped for 2012, with exciting new content that will give fans a comprehensive insight into what life is like on and off the track at one of the world’s leading racing teams. iGNITION will be available to download online at key points throughout the season and a Portuguese language edition has been added to complement the existing English and Spanish versions.
Commenting on the team’s digital platform for 2012, Head of Communications, Claire Williams said, “At Williams F1 we work hard to deliver engaging content to our fans and the launch of iPredictor is one of many initiatives that we will be rolling out this year to do just that. Through a combination of social media updates, mobile apps, magazines, and video and audio content, we can help bring Formula One closer to our fans than ever before.’’
Maldonado fined for pit lane speeding
Williams and Pastor Maldonado have been sanctioned with a fine of 400 euros (£330) after the Venezuelan was caught speeding in the Albert Park pit lane on Friday.
On a day of mixed weather, with both practice sessions starting in damp conditions, the Venezuelan ended up in 17th place, two positions ahead of new team-mate Bruno Senna. However, the true pace of every car still remains to be seen.
Maldonado was 1.3km/h over the pit lane speed limit “We completed the majority of our program and did a longer run this afternoon,” Maldonado explained. “The car is performing well and we’re going in the right direction, but tomorrow we will see when we finally get into qualifying.”
“The conditions today cut our running a little, but it was the same for everybody,” Senna added. “This afternoon we completed some simulations to gain a greater understanding of what the car is doing - we are still learning. In terms of pace, we will see what we can achieve tomorrow.”
In testing, Williams’ Achilles’ heel was low-speed corners – an area in which the Grove team is still working. Maldonado’s fine will be submitted to the FIA.
Marussia Wears Burrda Sport
The Marussia F1 Team is pleased to announce the agreement of a new partnership with Burrda Sport. The sport brand is providing the team with racing apparel for the 2012 season, as well as bespoke collections for its brand new merchandise range and personnel based in its UK headquarters.
Tri Distribution - Burrda Sport’s official UK and South African licensee - is the provider of official licensing and merchandise programs for national and international brands in various sports.
Tri Distribution, under the brand Burrda Sport, has been working over the winter months to design and manufacture a distinctive range of race wear which is seamlessly integrated into the Marussia F1 Team brand and trackside environment. Making the most of Burrda Sport’s experience in sports-specific textiles, the clothing has been designed to reflect the team’s professional approach to racing whilst at the same time contending with the varying extreme weather conditions experienced across the different continents visited by Formula One. A travel range will ensure that the same professional image is maintained when the team is travelling to the 20 Grand Prix destinations this year. Furthermore, a range of factory wear ensures consistency and practicality back to the team’s operational staff based in Banbury, UK. The Burrda Sport brand will be visible across all three Marussia F1 Team ranges, as well as having a presence within the team’s trackside environment at races.
Andy Webb, CEO, Marussia F1 Team
“We’re delighted to continue our run of new partnerships to coincide with the start of the new season. Designing an appropriate range of team apparel is a far from straightforward task but Burrda Sport have proved that they are more than equal to the challenge. We have already received the first of our trackside clothing and we are very impressed with the quality and design. The new range will ensure that the distinctive Marussia F1 Team identity is reflected in the team’s appearance across our on and off-track locations and that our professional approach to racing is as obvious on the outside as it is within the team.”
Simon Skene, Director, Tri Distribution
“The partnership represents a fantastic opportunity for Tri Distribution to showcase the design and quality of the Burrda Sport brand at the highest level. Formula One represents the pinnacle of motorsport, allowing us to share the ambition and challenge with one of the most distinctive teams on the grid. Within a dynamic global market, our passion for excellence, innovation and a challenge has us extremely excited about the season ahead and our desire to share in the success of the Marussia F1 Team.”