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Latest F1 news in brief - Wednesday UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

  • Button (L) smiling after Tuesday's speed in the McLaren
    Button stuns rivals with Jerez pace
  • Brighter Caterham sparks first controversy of 2013
  • Pirelli wants new five-year F1 deal
  • Ecclestone confirms only 19 races for 2013
  • Cosworth not as good as Mercedes, Ferrari - Hulkenberg
  • Dennis 'fine' with defectors who don't 'bleed McLaren'
  • Senna swaps F1 for Le Mans in 2013
  • Vergne not worried about losing drive New
  • James Allison: "The E21 seems fairly swift" New

Button stuns rivals with Jerez pace
(GMM)  Jenson Button and McLaren have fired the opening salvo of the 2013 world championship, stunning rivals with the pace of the new MP4-28 at Jerez.

Despite a technical problem, by the end of Tuesday's action Briton Button was almost a second clear of the rest of the field, headed by Mark Webber in the new Red Bull.

"I was surprised when I saw the (lap time on the) dash," Button said, "but the time doesn't mean anything."

Perhaps not, but the competition was nonetheless impressed.

"I could have gone at Red Bull's pace, but not Button's," Felipe Massa, who was otherwise happy with Ferrari's new F138, is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo quoted Massa as saying Button's pace was "incredible".

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel has won the last three titles on the trot, but it was Button who won the last race of the season last November.

Australian Webber, therefore, admitted Red Bull has work to do.

"We're not having a grand prix tomorrow, thank god, so we'll work hard," he said.

"We don't know all the variables (of Button's lap), but it was definitely very, very strong," Webber added.

"(1 minute) 18.8 is really not a slow lap at Jerez with Pirelli tires."

Lotus' Romain Grosjean, whose technical boss James Allison on Tuesday said the new black E21 is "swift", commented: "It (Button's lap) is a very fast time.

"But it's only winter testing," the Frenchman is quoted by Finland's MTV3 broadcaster.

Some wondered if Button had used DRS throughout the lap, but he is quoted by Italy's Autosprint: "All the teams have agreed to use DRS only on the two straights."

It was a less impressive start for Mercedes, with Nico Rosberg getting in only 14 laps before an electrical problem caused a fire.

The German therefore held back a definitive analysis of the W04, but insisted: "I can guarantee you it (the car) will be a big step forward."

Massa hailed the 2013 Ferrari by saying it is on "another planet" compared to the team's slow start last season, but at least one trackside observer was not impressed.

"It is not as catastrophic as last year," commentator Marc Surer told Speed Week, "but if you watched Massa today you could see he was having to make a lot of movement with the steering."

Grosjean was happy with his car, telling O Estado de S.Paulo Lotus has "another good car" on its hands, while Nico Hulkenberg was musing whether Sauber will - yet again - have the 'surprise' package of the season.

"Maybe it's a little early to say that," said the German, "but it was a positive day."

2012 runner-up Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, spent Tuesday training on a road bicycle in a desert country, moving Niki Lauda to tell RTL he "cannot understand" the Spaniard's decision to sit out Jerez.

Brighter Caterham sparks first controversy of 2013
(GMM)  When Caterham unveiled its 2013 car in the Jerez pitlane early on Tuesday, observers immediately spotted the 'step' nose and a new, brighter livery.

"Cool!" said Dutch rookie Giedo van der Garde when asked what he thinks of the new green hue.

"Last year it was a little too dark, which sometimes didn't look good on TV," he told Dutch magazine Formule1.  "We have had a good response so far."

The next most noticeable feature of the CT03 is its nose, still 'stepped' as in 2012 despite the FIA allowing teams to smooth it with a 'vanity panel' in 2013.

"This is the package we will bring to Australia," technical director Mark Smith is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace.

Van der Garde was happy with his first day of work on Tuesday.

"It feels different (compared to the 2012 car)," said the 27-year-old, who last year completed the championship as Caterham's Friday practice driver.

"The front feels good, gives me a good feeling.  But so far the back is not to my liking.

"I have nothing to complain about.  We knew in advance that our expectations are not too high and we would not suddenly be right in the middle of the pack."

But Caterham has not sent out the best message of financial health by ousting its highly rated salaried driver Heikki Kovalainen.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Finland's MTV3: "Kovalainen deserves to be in formula one in his own right.

"It's a shame that the financial situation is requiring teams to have drivers with a budget, but unfortunately that's the way formula one has been for at least 30 years."

However, Caterham team boss Cyril Abiteboul insisted: "Our team is in a healthy position.

"We are still a small team," he is quoted by Blick newspaper, "but our goal is to be the most efficient team in formula one."

According to one publication, the CT03 is not lacking in innovation, with one aspect of its exhaust solution already raising eyebrows.

"There is one feature of the Caterham's exhaust that I don't think will be there when we get to Melbourne," Lotus' James Allison said.

Racecar Engineering magazine said the feature in doubt is a 'flow-conditioner' in the exhaust channel, which may fall foul of technical regulation 5.8.4.

Pirelli wants new five-year F1 deal
(GMM)  Paul Hembery, Pirelli's F1 boss, has revealed the Italian tire supplier is pushing for a longer-term contract beyond 2013.

Recently, the FIA has been tendering is contracts with F1's sole tire suppliers on a three-year basis, and Pirelli is now approaching the end of its first run.

Hembery said Pirelli wants to stay on the grid beyond 2013, but is pushing for an even longer contract than three years.

"We will know soon if we get a new contract as the sole supplier in formula one," he is quoted by the German-language Speed Week.

"We would prefer a long term contract, say five years," he added, referring to the world of Nascar racing, where Goodyear's latest contract is for five years.

Asked when Pirelli needs an answer from F1 about the future, Hembery smiled: "Yesterday, ideally.

"Seriously, we have 600 professionals at work, and so if we're no longer in F1, then we have to see how we can use them elsewhere.

"Unlike last time, we don't want the decision in June or July -- it's just too late," said the Briton.

Complicating the matter further, added Hembery, is the switch to turbo V6 power for 2014.

"It is expected that the turbos will develop more torque, which influences the traction of the corners," he said.

"More traction means more temperature, and we also need to know what to expect in terms of top speed so that we don't have problems with the integrity."

After a sneak peak of Pirelli's 2013 tires in Brazil late last season, the F1 field got their first real taste of this year's rubber at Jerez on Tuesday, as the official pre-season test period began.

Red Bull's Mark Webber - and many other drivers - complained about high wear, according to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"You could see it with the naked eye, so sudden was the loss of grip," said the Australian.

"The difference between a new and an old tire was very big.  After a few laps, the times were falling off dramatically."

Webber added: "But Jerez is a bit different.  You can have problems here that you don't have somewhere else."

Romain Grosjean agreed: "The asphalt here is very rough and the layout is hard on the tires, and the temperatures are also low."

Ecclestone confirms only 19 races for 2013
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed that F1's 2013 schedule will feature only 19 rounds.

Until New Jersey's demise, this year's calendar was set to have twenty grands prix.

Ecclestone, the F1 chief executive, opened up the twentieth slot to a potential new European venue, but he said on Tuesday that he could not now fill it "at this late stage".

"(I'm) disappointed it (the 20th race) didn't happen," he said in Dubai on Tuesday, where he announced the airline Emirates as a major new F1 sponsor.

"(But) you can't suddenly slot it in."

However, the 82-year-old Briton was quoted by the Gulf News as saying 20 is the ideal number for future F1 calendars.

"Twenty races is more or less what we should aim for in a season," he said.

Ecclestone said he was adamant Bahrain would host its grand prix as scheduled this year, because things seem "a little more peaceful" in the Kingdom in 2013.

Finally, he definitively dashed the hopes of a group of Canadian and American investors, who had hoped to buy up defunct HRT's assets and race this season.

Cosworth not as good as Mercedes, Ferrari - Hulkenberg
(GMM)  Nico Hulkenberg is well placed to comment on the respective strengths and weaknesses of most of the current engine suppliers in F1.

When he debuted in 2010, the German's Williams was powered by a Cosworth, while last year he raced a Force India with a Mercedes V8.

And on Tuesday at Jerez, his brand new Sauber had a Ferrari engine.

Asked to nominate the differences, the 25-year-old said: "Mercedes has the most power at the top, but the Ferrari is very good in the mid range.

"Both engines are better than the Cosworth," he is quoted by Speed Week, "although in qualifying trim it was very strong.

"Unfortunately it (the Cosworth) was not so good with full tanks," added Hulkenberg.

F1's other engine supplier is Renault, who may have yet another customer for 2014.

Team boss Franz Tost told reporters at Jerez on Tuesday that he is considering swapping Ferrari for the French-made turbo power in 2014.

"We are in negotiations but no contract (is) signed so far," he said.

Tost said it would be an advantage for Toro Rosso to share an engine supplier with its sister team Red Bull.

"If you are racing with a Renault engine we would have the same gearbox as Red Bull, because this is possible from the regulation side," he said.

"We will use the synergies that the regulations will allow us to do."

Mercedes' new shareholder and director Toto Wolff, meanwhile, said on Tuesday he can imagine F1 getting another engine manufacturer on board for the turbo era.

So far, Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes are committed to the V6 rules, and Wolff is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace: "I think probably we will see a fourth one coming."

With HRT's demise, the only Cosworth-powered team left in F1 is Marussia.  Boss John Booth admitted on Tuesday that he is in talks with suppliers about 2014.

Dennis 'fine' with defectors who don't 'bleed McLaren'
(GMM)  Ron Dennis has declared defiantly that McLaren can thrive without those who do not bleed 'rocket red' blood.

Still the 'supremo' of the entire company, Dennis declared this week that - with Martin Whitmarsh now in charge - he has now "moved on" from his F1-dedicated days.

But the Financial Times insists that Dennis, 65, is still firmly involved; consenting to Lewis Hamilton's departure and now musing the potential loss of McLaren's technical director Paddy Lowe, also to Mercedes.

Dennis would not comment specifically, except to emphasize his beliefs about loyalty.

"You cut yourself, you bleed McLaren," he said.

"We're about winning, we care about how we win ... we want to win with the right principles, the right values.

"If people don't want to be part of that and want to go and do different things, then fine."

Referring to the proverb about grass being greener on the other side, Dennis continued: "(But) if they get the hosepipe and the lawnmower out, they can easily contribute to making the grass greener their side of the fence".

Senna swaps F1 for Le Mans in 2013
(GMM)  Bruno Senna is bowing out of formula one.

Despite hoping to find a new seat after being replaced at Williams by Valtteri Bottas, the Brazilian has been signed up for 2013 by Aston Martin's sports car team.

The David Richards-led Aston Martin Racing said Senna, 29, will "drive at each round of the WEC" this year.  WEC is the FIA's world endurance championship, including the fabled Le Mans 24 hours.

Senna is quoted by Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo: "Until 2009, I always had victories and podiums in the categories I passed.

"Since then, through a series of circumstances beyond my control, I did not have the same chance in formula one.

"The proposals offered to me this season also did not give me this possibility."

Red Bull junior Antonio Felix da Costa is knocking on the door
Vergne not worried about losing drive
The Frenchman driver is well aware that the previous drivers at his team - Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari – were dropped without warning after Red Bull chiefs believed they had not delivered all that was expected of them.

But, ahead of a campaign where he is convinced he and Toro Rosso can make good progress, Vergne says he is calm about the future.

"I am not too worried about this," he said, when asked about Red Bull's potential impatience for its young drivers to make progress.

"I trust in myself to have the performance.

"I know when I have a good car, I can do something good. I showed it last year with the car we had, and we had some good races I would say.

"This year we definitely have a better car compared to last year's one. I am a better driver I believe, with more experience, and therefore these two combined will automatically give us better results."

Vergne and team-mate Daniel Ricciardo will face increased pressure to do well, however, because rising Red Bull junior Antonio Felix da Costa is knocking on the door of a promotion to F1.

Although aware there is some hype surrounding the Portuguese driver, Vergne said he did not feel threatened by another youngster emerging as a candidate for Toro Rosso.

"I don't see any problems in this," he said. "It is the way Red Bull works. I have been in the same position too.

"Antonio is a good driver. If he keeps doing a good job he deserves a seat in F1 and, following the politics of Red Bull, if one of us, Daniel or myself, is good enough to be one day at Red Bull, then that will leave a free seat at Toro Rosso anyway.

"Everybody has to deserve a seat – whether in F1, whether in the best F1 team to be world champion. You always have to perform.

"In any case, I am not here to just be in F1, just to garnish the driver platform. I have some objectives and I want to succeed. The pressure is only on me from me." Yahoo! Eurosport UK

James Allison
James Allison: "The E21 seems fairly swift"
After watching the team’s new baby take its first steps out on track, Lotus F1 Team Technical Director gives a brief assessment on what he’s seen so far.

So, thoughts on today?
I’m quite chipper about it really, not a bad day. The car didn’t break down and we seemed to have a reasonable turn of pace.

How different is this car from the E20 before it?
The aerodynamic line of thinking is the same, but each time you create a new car you try to push aspects on the new car which weren’t possible on the old car – for instance if the layout of the old car wouldn’t permit it. The layout of the new car is altered sufficiently that it will reward us for a whole season of decent development.

Is there much carried over from the old car?
Architecturally, it’s an evolution, but almost every single part of it is new, so there are plenty of components which could embarrass you on track, so there’s all the tension of a new car on the first day.

It looked okay out on track in terms of times today?
We’ve been chugging around with a fair amount of petrol on board and the E21 seems fairly swift. That said, it’s very early days and we won’t know how quick everyone is until we’re all in the same trim and going hell for leather.

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