Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

UPDATE Update shown in red below.


  • Lotus suspension problems fixed

    Lotus back on the pace after chassis problem

  • France, Belgium yet to agree race fee with Ecclestone
  • Webber backs Hamilton to bounce back
  • Williams names Adam Parr as future successor
  • Pundits agree Ferrari struggling in 2012
  • Brawn admits Mercedes 'slower than Red Bull'
  • Hembery explains 'blank' Pirelli tires in Spain
  • Strike could derail season opener
  • F1 has already banked Bahrain race fee
  • Barrichello confirms IndyCar move for 2012
  • A perfect start for Caterham, says Gascoyne
  • Circuit of The Americas Releases Spanish Version of Website
  • Williams leaves board of own F1 team New

Lotus back on the pace after chassis problem
(GMM) Lotus has overcome a serious chassis flaw to lead the field as the final pre-season test began at Barcelona.

The former Renault team had to sit out last week's running at the Circuit de Catalunya as designers grappled to fix a problem with the front suspension mounting.

"The mounting of the suspension is now the strongest part of the car," an unnamed team member is quoted by SID news agency.

At the end of his return to action on Thursday, Romain Grosjean was quoted by France's Auto Plus: "It (the E20) feels the same, there's not much difference really."

Indeed, the revised car is 1 kilogram heavier, but the biggest issue is the four lost days of testing, which after an FIA clarification cannot now be made up.

"To miss four days is not ideal as suddenly we have to try to work twice as hard to catch up," continued Grosjean.

"It's true that it's not great, but it's not as problematic as it might have been."

He is referring to the fact that, so far, the Lotus appears intrinsically fast.

Asked if the E20 felt as good around Barcelona's demanding layout as it had at Jerez last month, the reigning GP champion enthused: "Yes, exactly the same.

"You can trust the car, push it, play with it.

"You can attack, and if you attack too much, you know what will happen — if you have understeer, you know that by attacking less, you'll have less understeer.

"On this aspect, the car is very good."

1982 world champion Keke Rosberg told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3 that while the Lotus looks as good in Barcelona as it had at Jerez, it is still not clear if it will be able to compete against F1's regular top teams.

Auto Motor und Sport quotes Grosjean as saying: "I think there are a couple of teams ahead of us — Red Bull and McLaren look very strong.

"Behind them, it's a lot closer than it was before."

However, amid F1's now extremely limited track testing regime, there is no ignoring the four lost days of running.

Asked if he is ready for 2012, Grosjean said according to Finland's Turun Sanomat: "I have to be.

"Of course, the more time you have with your car, the better you feel. However, it is what it is.

"We have this four days prior to Melbourne and that's better than nothing," he added.

* Caterham had to replace Heikki Kovalainen with his teammate Vitaly Petrov on Thursday, as the Finn recovered at his nearby hotel with food poisoning.

France, Belgium yet to agree race fee with Ecclestone
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone is leading the negotiations as France tries to return to the formula one calendar.

The country's government is pushing hard to include Paul Ricard on the 2013 calendar, with a deal to alternate annually a single race date with Belgium’s Spa Francorchamps.

RMC Sport reports that Paris has formally requested Ecclestone, F1's chief executive, send them the contract.

But the report said a crucial detail is missing: the necessary race fee.

As those negotiations begin, it is revealed that Eric Boullier – the Lotus team's French team principal – met with Ecclestone in London on Wednesday to talk about it.

Boullier had tried to "speed things up", the French language report said.

RMC added that Spa-Francorchamps' Belgian promoters currently spend EUR 22.5 million per race on the grand prix, a figure neither they nor France are willing to pay in 2013 and beyond.

"Both have set a maximum of EUR 15 million per race," said the report.

The responsible Belgian minister, Jean-Claude Marcourt, declined to comment.

Webber backs Hamilton to bounce back
(GMM) Mark Webber has backed his rival Lewis Hamilton to bounce back in 2012.

McLaren's 2008 world champion had a tumultuous season on and off the circuit last year, but has returned having reunited with his girlfriend and with extra support in the form of Mika Hakkinen's former manager Didier Coton.

"It's normal for a sportsman or woman to go through some headwinds in their career — particularly someone like him who had so much success so early, and he's black, and he's got interest, and he's got a girlfriend of profile," Red Bull driver Webber is quoted by the Sun newspaper.

"Let's hope he's strong but not too strong. As a competitor you hope he can realize his potential but clearly we still want to beat him," added the plain-talking Australian.

Despite winning the season ending Brazilian grand prix last year, Webber also had a less than ideal 2011 as his teammate Sebastian Vettel utterly dominated.

The 35-year-old, however, has lost a couple of kilos over the winter and insists he is ready for 2012.

F1 chief executive Ecclestone backs Webber to succeed.

"I think Mark will be the guy who will threaten him (Vettel) if anybody," the 81-year-old told The Australian newspaper.

"The last time I spoke to him about it, he was really motivated."

Williams names Adam Parr as future successor
(GMM) Sir Frank Williams has named Adam Parr, the Oxfordshire based team's current chairman, as his obvious successor.

69-year-old founder Williams remains the major shareholder and team principal, but he has already handed over the day-to-day running of the once-great outfit to fellow Briton Parr, 46.

"If for whatever reason I couldn't come in to do my job, Adam would fill the gap," Williams told the British magazine F1 Racing.

"He's not a racer but, in a way, that's probably an advantage in these distinctly commercial days," he added.

Parr began his career with the investment bank Barclays de Zoete Wedd, and later worked for Rio Tinto.

He practiced law until the late 90s, meeting Williams in 2000.

Pundits agree Ferrari struggling in 2012
(GMM) Former Jordan and Jaguar designer Gary Anderson has singled out Lotus and Force India to impress in 2012.

The Irishman stood trackside at the Barcelona test on Thursday and later told the German-language Speed Week magazine that Mark Webber in the Red Bull suffered from "a bit too much understeer" in the new title-defending RB8.

He admitted, however, that the team may have been experimenting with setup, as the new Red Bull and McLaren have so far been "model students" in terms of handling.

Force India's Paul di Resta, meanwhile, did not look impressive on the end-of-day timesheet, but Anderson said he was pleasantly surprised with the long-run consistency of the VJM05.

He said both di Resta and Nico Rosberg were both circulating at the same time with medium times, and the Force India was faster than the Mercedes, which was suffering from heavily-degrading tires.

And Anderson added: "Lotus had to miss last week in Barcelona, but today they could confirm their good impression of Jerez.

"The car is fully sorted and the lap times are consistent."

Ferrari, however, is another matter.

"They are still using the colored (aerodynamic) paint, which for me is a sign that the engineers don't understand what is happening with the airflow.

"And just before the start of the season, that's pretty alarming."

Also trackside on Thursday was Sky commentator Martin Brundle, who confirmed Anderson's view that the new McLaren looks "very good".

Similarly, he added: "The Ferrari looks a bit of a handful, especially when it's coming out of a corner trying to put the power down.

"It doesn't look as bad as the McLaren did last year, but they've got some issues — there's no doubt about it."

Brundle also agreed with Anderson that, unlike the cakewalk of 2011, Red Bull could be set for a close fight this season.

"You can see Mark Webber working quite hard at the wheel," said the former McLaren driver, "so I can understand why some of my mates in the paddock are saying it's looking really close."

Brawn admits Mercedes 'slower than Red Bull'
(GMM) Ross Brawn has admitted Mercedes' new 2012 car is not ready to take on the best teams in formula one.

"We are slower than Red Bull; we need to find more speed," the Briton plainly told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Other team figures for the German marque's Brackley outfit this week said the target for 2012 is third place, with the title not a realistic goal until 2014.

"On the positive side, our car is reliable and it's a step forward, but we are still not where we want to be," added Brawn.

He confirmed that the goal for 2012 is to finish behind the top title challengers.

"Third place, one better than last year," said Brawn. "Anything better than that, of course, is welcome."

He said Mercedes has been aggressive with the design of the W03, "But we have not reinvented the racing car".

"Red Bull has the advantage of building on a very good foundation."

Hembery explains 'blank' Pirelli tires in Spain
(GMM) Tongues were wagging in the Barcelona paddock on Thursday when some drivers hit the Spanish circuit wearing odd-looking Pirelli tires.

Some of the tires, whose compounds are normally visibly differentiated with colored branding, featured significantly different markings.

The big rumor was that, now just two weeks before the start of the season in Australia, teams had requested the blank tires in order to hide their test programs from their rivals.

According to France's Auto Plus, motor sport director Paul Hembery cleared up the matter by explaining that the blank tires were in fact "prototypes".

They had been manufactured not at Pirelli's usual F1 factory in Turkey, but elsewhere, in the event that a natural disaster forced the tire supplier to change its plans at the last minute.

Hembery also answered the criticism that, after Pirelli's initial 2011 tires spiced up the racing early last year, the new generation might not be aggressive enough.

"We need data from the races to judge that," he insisted. "It's far too early."

He also confirmed that Pirelli is close to announcing the identity of its 2010-specification test car, and a new test driver.

It is believed former Force India driver Adrian Sutil is a candidate.

Strike could derail season opener
(GMM) A strike could force this month's 2012 season opener into the gravel trap.

The local Herald Sun newspaper said hundreds of security guards have threatened to boycott the event over a pay dispute.

But promoter the Australian Grand Prix Corporation's general manager Ashley Davies said the news is "a beat up".

"The grand prix is one of the best run sporting events in the world and there is no reason to suggest that 2012 will be any different," he said.

F1 has already banked Bahrain race fee
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone will keep the 2012 race fee even if he is forced to cancel the Bahrain grand prix at the last minute.

The F1 chief executive made the revelation to fend off speculation he is only supporting the Kingdom's controversial return to the calendar for financial reasons.

Britain's Telegraph newspaper said the Bahrain government pays $40 million per race, but last year Ecclestone did not collect the fee after civil unrest forced the cancellation of the event.

"They (Bahrain) will pay if there is no race," Ecclestone revealed.

"The money is in the bank already. So we're not going because we're going to get paid. That has nothing to do with it.

"We have a contract with them and we're respecting the contract. And I don't believe the people there would take a risk if they thought there was a risk."

Barrichello confirms IndyCar move for 2012
(GMM) Rubens Barrichello has finally confirmed reports he will race in America's premier open wheeler IndyCar series in 2012.

After 19 consecutive seasons in formula one, the 39-year-old Brazilian makes the switch with the backing of the sponsor BMC Brasil Maquinas.

AP news agency said Barrichello, a winner of 11 grands prix with Ferrari and Brawn, has signed a one-year contract with the KV team.

"I'm loving the idea I'm going to be a rookie," he said. "That makes me young, and I'm loving that," he said.

Barrichello, meanwhile, explained the apparent contradiction of heading into the Indy 500 and other similar events this year having earlier promised his wife he would never race at high speed on dangerous ovals.

"What happened is we were watching an oval race and there was a crash and she looked at me and said 'You are never going to do that, right?'

"And I told her at the time, 'Of course not, don't worry'."

He said he ultimately won Silvana's backing, having initially considered skipping the five oval races.

But "I wouldn't feel comfortable sitting at home and watching someone else driving my car," explained Barrichello.

A perfect start for Caterham, says Gascoyne
Mike Gascoyne believes Caterham made strong progress as Formula 1 testing continued in Spain on Thursday. After an early drama, when Heikki Kovalainen was taken ill with food poisoning, Vitaly Petrov drove the car and notched up a mammoth 123 laps.

“That was an excellent day for us, despite the very late change of driver we had to make this morning" said Gascoyne, the team’s Chief Technical Officer. “We ran 123 laps and completed the whole program and, even though we will not have Vitaly’s race seat ready until he is back in the car on Sunday, he was much more comfortable in the car and improved his times and his feedback throughout the day.

“This morning we were focusing on further tire evaluation and setup work and in the afternoon session we completed a number of long runs, which has helped us take a step forward with the setup options for this car. Taking into account the number of laps we ran today, and the fact Vitaly is feeling ever more comfortable with the team and in the car, I think we can say that this has been the perfect start to the test for the whole team."

Petrov is expected to drive again on Friday as Kovalainen continues to recover.

Circuit of The Americas Releases Spanish Version of Website
Circuit of The Americas today launched the official Spanish version of the CoTA website. Located at, the new language website platform serves as a valuable resource for Spanish-speaking fans across the globe and, most importantly, for its neighboring country of Mexico. As the largest minority group in the United States, the Hispanic market can now easily choose to view the Circuit of The Americas website in Spanish, the second most common language spoken across the globe*.

“The Spanish website marks another milestone in our commitment to providing a great fan experience for every Circuit of The Americas and Formula 1 enthusiasts," said Geoff Moore, chief marketing and revenue officer for Circuit of The Americas. “We recognize the tremendous interest in Circuit of The Americas and F1 from the Hispanic fan base, and we know the Spanish translation will enhance their experience as we approach the 2012 FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX™."

The website is dedicated to providing updates and information to all those interested in the FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX™, V8 SUPERCARS™ and other events to be held at the venue in Austin, Texas. The website currently offers background information on the venue, the project team, FAQs, regular updates on upcoming series and events, as well as links to join the Circuit mailing and ticket interest list; news articles and releases; photographs and more. The Spanish version of the website is a part of the venue's outreach to Hispanic fans and consumers worldwide.

There are currently two Mexican drivers in the 2012 Formula 1™ season. Sergio Perez drives for the Swiss Formula One team Sauber, along with Kamui Kobayashi of Japan. Esteban Gutierrez is also currently part of the Sauber team as a test driver. The immense fan base supporting these drivers in Mexico and the U.S. will position the 2012 FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX™ as a home race for many Mexican fans.

“I am really looking forward to racing in Austin," Sergio Perez said recently. “It will be the closest race to my home. I think there will be a lot of Mexicans (attending) because we do not have a grand prix at home, so this is the closest. I think it will be a very special race for me. I am especially really looking forward to this race and to discover more about the (new) circuit."

Williams leaves board of own F1 team
(GMM) Sir Frank Williams has stepped down from the board of his own formula one team.

Earlier this week, the Grove based team's 69-year-old founder, major shareholder and team principal named chairman Adam Parr as his future successor.

"If for whatever reason I couldn't come in to do my job, Adam would fill the gap," he told the British magazine F1 Racing.

On Friday, a team statement read: "Sir Frank Williams, founder and team principal, announced his decision to step down from the board."

He explained: "I turn 70 in April and I have decided to signal the next stage in the gradual but inevitable process of handing over the reins to the next generation.

"This is not as dramatic a move as it may appear: I shall continue to work full-time as team principal and I shall continue to attend all board meetings as observer," added Williams.

He will also have a Williams family member on the board, as his daughter Claire steps up to be director of marketing and communications.

Frank Williams said: "I am proud to say that she has fought hard to earn this appointment and of all the battles she has had to fight, the prejudices of her father were not the least challenging."

Late last year, the team's co-founder Patrick Head also stepped down.

Williams Press Release

Williams Grand Prix Holdings PLC (Ticker: WGF1) today announced that Claire Williams will join the Board with effect from 1 April 2012 as Director of Marketing and Communications. The key marketing position at Williams has become available following the decision of Dominic Reilly to leave the Company at the end of March. At the same time, Sir Frank Williams, Founder and Team Principal, announced his decision to step down from the Board.

Adam Parr, Chairman, said, “Claire has worked at Williams for 10 years, taking on increasingly demanding positions and demonstrating throughout all of the qualities needed in this critical role. Claire will be accountable for acquiring new partners for the Williams F1 Team as well as continuing to be responsible for ensuring effective communication about the team and the Group as a whole. The Board concluded that Claire’s appointment would further strengthen its quality, diversity and effectiveness. I would also like to join Frank in expressing sincere thanks to Dominic Reilly for eight years’ of dedicated service to Williams, during which he has been highly successful in acquiring and working with our partners. Dominic plans to set up a new venture, with the support of Williams, and we wish him great success."

Frank Williams, Team Principal, said, “It is no secret that Claire is my daughter but I am proud to say that she has fought hard to earn this appointment and of all the battles she has had to fight, the prejudices of her father were not the least challenging. Dominic Reilly has proven a unique talent in the field of sports marketing and filling the gap he leaves was daunting. But I have come to the view that Claire, with her profound love and knowledge of the sport and the team, can do so and I am proud and delighted that the Board has given her this opportunity. I am equally delighted that Dominic will remain close to the team with his new venture and that we can thank him for his contribution to Williams by supporting him now.

“This is an opportune moment, also, for me to consider my own role in the team. I turn 70 in April and I have decided to signal the next stage in the gradual but inevitable process of handing over the reins to the next generation by stepping down from the Board at the end of this month. This is not as dramatic a move as it may appear: I shall continue to work full-time as Team Principal and I shall continue to attend all Board meetings as observer. I also remain the majority shareholder of Williams Grand Prix Holdings PLC. Nonetheless, I shall be looking to Claire to represent the Williams family on the Board and I know that she will work tirelessly alongside Adam to make the Group and the team just as successful as we can be."

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