Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • Austin will look like this when complete

    Marussia to race after passing FIA crash test

  • US GP on schedule despite latest setback
  • Alguersuari ready to return to F1 grid
  • Red Bull 'not faultless' as 2012 season looms
  • Jordan says Hamilton should stay at McLaren
  • Montezemolo alarmed as Ferrari expects to 'suffer'
  • Montoya blasts F1 'joke'
  • 'Obvious' HRT needs more backing – de la Rosa
  • Ecclestone reveals 'customer car' plan
  • Domenicali: We can’t be happy how testing went
  • Lotus not 2012 favorite – Allison New
  • Hembery admits new tires not heavily-degrading New
  • Pirelli to use 2010 Renault as new test car New

Marussia to race after passing FIA crash test
(GMM) Marussia's 2012 car will be on the Melbourne grid next weekend, after the MR01 finally passed a missing FIA crash test.

The former Virgin team's Cosworth-powered car sat out the entire official pre-season period due to a new regulation in 2012 requiring single seaters to be fully homologated before they can even be tested.

The MR01 finally made its track debut on Monday and Tuesday, due to a loophole allowing limited running on demonstration Pirelli tires for filming purposes even when the mandatory crash tests have not been passed.

But finally, late on Tuesday, Marussia announced that the crash tests have now all been passed.

"After a challenging few weeks for the team, we are pleased to have overcome the last hurdle of the final FIA observed crash test, which we passed today," said technical consultant Pat Symonds.

"Whilst we have a lot of catching up to do, we take heart from the fact that everything is back on a more positive trajectory," Renault's former engineering director added.

US GP on schedule despite latest setback
(GMM) Even amid the latest speed-bump, organizers insist they are still on schedule to host Austin's inaugural US grand prix late this year.

Circuit of the Americas backer Bobby Epstein is being sued by race founder Tavo Hellmund, but he did not want to talk about it whilst giving the Culturemap Austin publication a tour of the construction site.

"I'm not going to do that," he said.

What he was willing to do was insist that the circuit is pretty much "on schedule" for its mid November grand prix date.

"It's not so much a question of whether the construction will be complete," said Epstein. "It's really a matter of deciding whether to add another shift of workers and get onto a 24 hour schedule.

"We'll need to do that if we get a lot of rain. If it stays dry, we'll be fine."

In an official statement, Circuit of the Americas added: "Our focus remains positive.

"We are creating the most incredible entertainment and racing venue in the world, construction is on schedule and seat license and suite sales are very strong."

Alguersuari ready to return to F1 grid
(GMM) Jaime Alguersuari has ruled out following his former Toro Rosso teammate Sebastien Buemi to Le Mans.

The pair were axed at the end of last season, leaving Swiss Buemi with the reserve role at Red Bull and a one-off drive in the fabled Le Mans 24 hour race.

21-year-old Alguersuari, on the other hand, will remain in the paddock this year thanks only to his new British radio co-commentary role, amid rumors he could become Pirelli's test driver.

Le Mans, he insists, is not an option.

"No, that's avoiding F1," he told the BBC. "I am working for the radio and I will do some go-kart races to help with my physical training.

"Racing elsewhere is just starting another career. It's doing something that's not F1."

It is clear Alguersuari is keeping his diary clean in the event an opportunity arises to quickly return to the grid.

"In F1 you never say never. Anything can happen," said the Spaniard.

The BBC is also acutely aware of its acquisition's real ambition.

Radio 5 Live controller Adrian van Klaveren said: "We are going to make the most of Jaime's firsthand experience right now knowing he could well be driving for one of the teams again in the near future."

Meanwhile, Alguersuari slammed his former bosses' explanations as to why he and Buemi were ousted.

"I respect the situation that they don't want my work anymore, but what they've said is absolutely not acceptable," he told the Daily Mail.

"They said we are good drivers, but we are not winners. It doesn't make sense if you give me a car that is not capable to be in the top ten."

Red Bull 'not faultless' as 2012 season looms
(GMM) They are the reigning back-to-back world champions and the favorites heading into 2012, but Sebastian Vettel has admitted Red Bull is not perfect.

"Yes, last year was nearly faultless", the German is quoted by the Guardian newspaper.

But he admits he made mistakes.

"Fridays have been poor," said the world champion. "I made mistakes. I crashed the car."

Dr Helmut Marko elaborated: "He threw the car away four times unnecessarily."

Vettel, 24, continued: "We got the concentration back when it mattered but on Fridays you only have a couple of hours to prepare the car — so we can improve on that.

"We had a meeting in January and went over the things that we need to do better and you would be surprised. It was a long list. There were lots of points to improve."

Even heading into the fresh 2012 season, there are already new items on that list: Marko bluntly described the final day of pre-season testing, when Vettel did a paltry 23 laps and was dead-last, as "shit".

But amid rumors the team might have to scrap its Melbourne update package for now, the Austrian insists Red Bull collected "sufficient" data from Mark Webber's work last Saturday.

"We had three very good tests, but not perfect," Vettel admitted to RMC. "Sure, there were a few pieces here and there that worked less well than expected, but overall there were not too many surprises.

"I feel good with the car, it (Sunday) was no big deal."

McLaren's Jenson Button, however – runner-up to Vettel last season – is keen to ensure Red Bull feels as much pressure as possible heading into 2012.

"In the last two years we weren't able to (apply pressure) all that often," he is quoted by the Koln Express, "but I think this year will be different.

"I want to see how they are when they are feeling that pressure," the Briton added.

Jordan says Hamilton should stay at McLaren
(GMM) Eddie Jordan has advised Lewis Hamilton to stick with McLaren.

With the 2008 world champion's current contract coming to an end this year, he said recently he would address the issue of his future "sooner rather than later".

"After the first couple of races it's something we will probably want to get out of the way," said Hamilton last month.

For the moment, however, there is speculation, after Bernie Ecclestone said he doubts the 27-year-old will stay with the Woking based team forever.

The major German daily Bild then reported that Hamilton has been earmarked as Mercedes' 'plan-B' in the event Michael Schumacher does not stay in 2013.

But Jordan, a former F1 team owner and boss, believes Hamilton should stay put.

"Given their (McLaren's) resources and level of investment, can you tell me that Lewis would be better off in another team?" he said on Tuesday at a BBC event.

Jordan believes, however, that the famous British team can do a better job of handling Hamilton.

"I think – and this is in some way a criticism – that they will have learned from their mistakes last season," he said.

One remedy is the placement by Hamilton's management of Mika Hakkinen's former manager Didier Coton, and another is the driver's move from secluded Geneva to bustling Monaco.

Hamilton has also reunited with his girlfriend Nicole, and had a long winter break.

"McLaren appear to have given him a chunk of time off, to go away and to focus," former long-time McLaren driver David Coulthard said.

Montezemolo alarmed as Ferrari expects to 'suffer'
(GMM) Luca di Montezemolo has reacted with alarm as Ferrari concedes it will not be a podium contender at the start of the 2012 season.

Despite a media ban, Fernando Alonso warned that he expects to "suffer" initially this year due to the famous Maranello based team needing to better understand its complex new F2012 car.

It is that comment that has raised the alarm of Ferrari's charismatic president Montezemolo.

"I hope that it is not true that we are going to suffer at the beginning, although Alonso is always very objective.

"I would like to understand why and above all understand how we can very quickly make the necessary changes," he reportedly said at the Geneva Motor Show.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, he pointed his finger at the current regulations.

"I don't like this F1," said the 64-year-old. "The aerodynamics count for 90 per cent and only the Kers makes developments possible that can be used in the production of road cars."

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, meanwhile, is backing Ferrari to recover.

"I am convinced they will rise again soon and that a preliminary assessment can only be made after the first two or three (races)," he reportedly told Sky.

"I similarly think that McLaren will fight for the title. They could be the real surprise and it is already clear from the tests that they are very competitive," added the sport's chief executive.

Montoya blasts F1 'joke'
(GMM) Juan Pablo Montoya has aimed fire at formula one, blasting the look of this year's cars and insisting he does not regret walking away.

The winner of 7 grands prix left McLaren in the midst of the 2006 season, switching immediately to Nascar.

Still in America's premier motor racing category and a few pounds heavier than in his F1 days, the now 36-year-old Colombian was asked if he has ever regretted the move.

"Not for a second," he is quoted by Switzerland's Motorsport Aktuell.

"Of course I have some fond memories of formula one, but I don't miss it. I miss some of the people I met there. But the racing? Not at all."

Montoya admits he still watches some races, but has "very little interest" overall.

"F1 is a joke," he blasted. "It's sad they can build cars like that — just look at the new noses."

'Obvious' HRT needs more backing – de la Rosa
(GMM) Pedro de la Rosa has defended the viability of struggling HRT, despite its new owners trying to build up a formula one team in the midst of a near-unprecedented economic crisis.

The unemployment rate in Spain has spiraled past 20 per cent, and yet owners Thesan have taken on the task of rebuilding the former Hispania team following the departure of boss Colin Kolles and all the infrastructure.

The F112, bearing more than a striking resemblance to the Dallara-designed 2010 and 2011 car, was launched recently with a new livery but only two visible sponsors.

Asked whether it is a good time to push ahead in Spain with a formula one project, lead driver de la Rosa said: "Any moment can be good.

"There is a large Labour force in Spain, highly educated and motivated people, young people pushing hard and experienced people."

But in formula one, money is the fuel and it's difficult to come by at present.

"This is a time of crisis," de la Rosa acknowledged to DPA news agency, "and also it has been noticed in formula one and budgets have gone down."

He admitted, however, that HRT will have to attract more backing in order to survive.

"If the (financial) injection does not come, it is going to be difficult," said the 41-year-old. "We need sponsors, investors who believe in the project, to help us to grow.

"It's obvious, we need it, but first we need to build a foundation so it can be seen that it is profitable to invest in our team," he added.

Ecclestone reveals 'customer car' plan
Bernie Ecclestone, head of F1 commercial rights holder Formula One Management (FOM), has unveiled the latest of his unique plans for the sport. With the now named HRT, Marussia and Caterham squads going through turbulent times since joining the grid in 2010, he is pushing the idea of allowing new teams three seasons worth of racing with a year-old front-running car, before a switch to full manufacturer status.

Marussia already enjoys a technical tie-up with McLaren “If we reduce the necessity to spend to be competitive they may well become competitive," Ecclestone explained to Sky Sports ahead of next weekend's season opener in Australia. “So that's what we have to do – we have to find that way.

"What I've been proposing is, perhaps, some of the teams at the bottom end of the grid should be able to run last year's constructor's car.

"So one of the other teams that you mentioned (HRT and Marussia) could run last year's McLaren, or last year's Red Bull, for three years until they get themselves together and then they have to go back to be a constructor."

With the likes of Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari enjoying larger budgets, Ecclestone insists that it is not about bringing costs down solely to suit the latter half of the field, but more about tweaking regulations to ease the initial process of an entrance into F1.

"The point is you don't have to bring the cost down to suit the people that can't really afford to spend as much as they (the bigger teams) do," he added. “You have to make sure that the regulations are such that it's not going to harm them."

So-called 'customer cars' were last outlawed by the sport's governing body back in 2010, following Toro Rosso's direct use of Red Bull Racing technology.

Domenicali: We can’t be happy how testing went
(PVM) Ferrari have admitted that they are not happy with where they stand after twelve days of Formula 1 pre-season testing, with team principal Stefano Domenicali and Fernando Alonso coming out at Maranello to rally the troops as the team step up another gear to sort out the ‘complex’ F2012 ahead of the forthcoming Australian GP.

Speaking to team staff on Monday, Domenicali declared, “It’s obvious that we can’t be happy with how the test went considering our goals, but let’s not forget that the Championship has [yet] to start."

“This is just the starting point and we have a very long season ahead of us. We know that there are some areas where we have to work a lot, regarding reliability and performance, but I’m expecting some great responses from you all and the wish to show who we are," said the team boss.

At the same meeting, Fernando Alonso echoed Domenicali’s words, ““Above all I want to thank you all for the work you’ve done. These were some very intense months and weeks and I know that you’re giving it your all, that you’re working 24/7 on the track and here at the Works to provide me and Felipe [Massa] with a strong car."

Adding, “The new single-seater has some characteristics, which are difficult to understand and maybe we’re not where we want to be yet. But we’ve all lived through many F1 seasons and we all know very well that until we’re in Australia we don’t really know where we stand regarding the others."

Reports that Ferrari are in trouble with the F2012, ahead of the season opener in Australia, have been gathering steam especially in Italy where the media have high expectations of their ‘national’ F1 team.

The Spaniard alluded to this unique pressure on the Scuderia, saying, “There’s lots of talk and many ideas, but nobody knows the truth. For example yesterday Red Bull, considered by many to be the front-runner, had only a few laps and the last time on the sheet: if something similar had happened to us, [all] hell would have broken loose, but here nobody really noticed it."

“More than ever we have to give it our all to improve, from the one who’s responsible for the rear-view mirror to the one who’s responsible for the piston. We’re united and we’re giving it our all, because we all want the same," said the double world champion.

“I just want to remind you of an episode two years ago: at the last test in Barcelona we were fifth behind Red Bull, McLaren, Sauber and Force India and two weeks later we gained a one-two win in Bahrain. What counts is not to be first in the first race, but in November, at the end of the Championship," concluded Alonso.

On Sunday, when asked in Barcelona if Ferrari expected to be on the podium in Melbourne, the team’s technical director Pat Fry replied, “In the hunt for the podium in Melbourne? At the moment I’d say no."

The Englishman, who was recruited from McLaren in 2010, explained, ““We are disappointed with the performance level seen at these tests and I think we have a lot of work ahead of us. Clearly the decision relating to the exhausts that we took last week meant we took a few steps backwards in terms of development."

“How much? Difficult to say right now. In testing, you can only make assumptions regarding what fuel loads the other cars are running and it will only be in Melbourne that we will get a clear answer as to whether we have to be very disappointed or just a little, how far we really are off the front runners and consequently how much ground we have to make up to get there," said Fry.

Lotus not 2012 favorite – Allison
(GMM) Lotus' technical boss has played down expectations the former Renault team could be ready to return to the winner's circle in 2012.

Although the middle test was a write-off due to a technical flaw discovered on the new car, the E20 was arguably the surprise of the winter, setting the ultimate pace at Jerez and Barcelona.

But as for whether Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean will be on top in Melbourne and beyond, technical director James Allison insists: "We do not see ourselves as a favorite.

"They are Red Bull and McLaren. Behind them is a group of teams that is very close together, and we are in it," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Hembery admits new tires not heavily-degrading
(GMM) Paul Hembery has admitted Pirelli's new soft tire might not degrade quick enough in 2012.

The sport's new supplier was lauded at the beginning of 2011 for spicing up the action by bringing tires that quickly degrade.

But by the end of the season the teams had essentially solved the mysteries of the rubber, and in recent winter testing it seemed apparent that the 2012 tire generation is not as inherently heavily-degrading as the last.

Motor sport director Hembery admits: "The soft tires are not degrading quite as much as we would like.

"But you have to remember there will be 50 degree track temperatures in Malaysia. Also, the cars are still being developed, and over the course of the season will pick up downforce.

"If we have to heat up the show, we can always bring the super-softs," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

One positive aspect of the 2012 tires, on the other hand, is that they are producing far less discarded rubber litter on the edge of the racing line.

"That should make it easier to overtake," Hembery said.

Another positive is that the new tires are easier to get up to temperature.

"Last year, only the two Red Bulls and Hamilton could get the hards to work," agreed the Briton.

Pirelli to use 2010 Renault as new test car
(GMM) Pirelli will use the former Renault team's 2010 car for private track testing this year, the sport's official tire supplier announced on Wednesday.

Until now, the Italian marque has tested with Toyota's 2009 car, the TF109, which was deemed now too outdated to use for the next generation of Pirelli tire.

"The Toyota is no longer able to generate the same sort of forces that we need to simulate in order to meet the current requirements of formula one," said motor sport director Paul Hembery.

Another reason is that the Toyota's fuel tank was not big enough to simulate a race-load of fuel, for the current regulations that came into force in 2010.

Pirelli said the Renault R30, originally raced by Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov, will be run in plain black carbon, driven by a test driver whose identity will be revealed "later this month".

The car will be adapted to simulate this year's regulations, and run by Pirelli's own technicians, "with no team member connected to a current formula one team" in order to "ensure complete impartiality".

Pirelli said it will test four or five times this year, beginning in May, with an observer from each F1 team invited to attend.

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