Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • A stoic Rubens Barrichello

    Ecclestone meets with Valencia president

  • 2012 to be 'transition year' says Sutil's manager
  • Barrichello quiet as longest career reaches end
  • New Williams on track for Jerez debut
  • Senna family supports Williams reunion
  • FIA to tinker with DRS zones for 2012 – report
  • Red Bull and Force India announce launch dates
  • 1996 champion Hill to be TV pundit
  • Caterham confirms move to Oxfordshire
  • Alonso says Hamilton better than Vettel New
  • Nurburgring cuts jobs but hopes to keep race New

Ecclestone meets with Valencia president
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone on Tuesday had a "private" meeting with Valencia's government president Alberto Fabra.

That is the claim of the Spanish press, amid reports the Spanish port city might have to accept an annually alternating race date on the F1 calendar with Barcelona as Europe's economic crisis deepens.

EFE news agency said Fabra requested the meeting in London as Valencia "seeks to negotiate down" its contract to host the street race every season.

"There is a willingness to negotiate," confirmed vice president Jose Ciscar, "and we are on the right path".

He predicted there will be "more meetings" to come.

Running the annual race at present is promoter Valmor's Facundo Garcia de la Cuadra, who told Sportspro in an interview that Valencia wants F1 "forever".

But he also acknowledged the possibility of an alternating date.

"That's something we have been talking about in the last weeks," he said. "We will see, that's all I can say at the moment."

2012 to be 'transition year' says Sutil's manager
(GMM) Tuesday's news from the Williams factory was another serious blow to the formula one career of German driver Adrian Sutil.

Having lost his Force India race seat and with a grievous bodily harm trial imminently looming, the 29-year-old was hoping to keep his career alive by replacing Rubens Barrichello at Williams.

Instead, that job has gone to Bruno Senna, making 2012 a "transitional year" for Sutil, according to his manager Manfred Zimmermann.

"The negotiations with Williams were already over in mid December, because there were different opinions," Zimmermann, apparently referring to the desired length of a contract, is quoted in German by Sport1.

It is also rumored Medion, Sutil's sponsor, has reduced the value of the deal.

Williams' chief operations engineer Mark Gillan said on Tuesday: "I don't want to talk about individual drivers.

"Adrian was part of our plans, but based on everything that was on the table, Bruno was the best choice."

Zimmermann continued: "We still believe that we will be in formula one in 2012. It will be a transition year for us as we are planning long-term.

"Right now we will concentrate on the trial on January 30 and 31," added Zimmermann, referring to the case of Sutil's alleged assault last April on Lotus team executive Eric Lux.

As for Tuesday's news, DPA news agency quotes Zimmermann as adding: "We were not surprised.

"We have not tried anymore with Williams for weeks."

So what's next? "Either there will be a surprise or we will do a plan-B," said Zimmermann coyly.

Barrichello quiet as longest career reaches end
(GMM) Rubens Barrichello is so far refusing to comment after losing his Williams race seat this week to countryman Bruno Senna.

The news looks set to end F1's longest-ever driver career, with the only other vacant seat for 2012 – at HRT – expected to go to the highest bidder.

O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper contacted 39-year-old Barrichello on Tuesday but found the veteran Brazilian unwilling to talk for now.

"I will speak later, firstly with friendly journalists," promised Barrichello, who since 1993 has contested 326 grands prix for six teams over 19 consecutive seasons.

On Tuesday, he told his 1.4 million Twitter followers that the future "is wide open".

Earlier, amid the uncertainty of his situation, he admitted he will take stock of his situation should he be left without a F1 seat for 2012.

"I think at first I won't look for anything. Perhaps I'll just enjoy my family for a year. After that I believe my passion for speed will not allow me to stand still.

"For sure I will not race on the American ovals — I have promised that to my wife," said Barrichello, whose close friend is Tony Kanaan, the IndyCar driver, "and I will honor that."

For the moment, an era appears over.

"I'm not sure how many more seasons Rubens could have expected to carry on in formula one," said 1996 world champion Damon Hill, "although I think he did a pretty good job."

A few years ago, when Honda folded and became Brawn, Senna was considered for Barrichello's 2009 race seat.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot.

"I haven't talked to him," Senna told reporters on Tuesday. "We are good friends and that's the way motor sport is.

"There is nothing personal, and Rubens is a pro. He will understand," said Senna.

He is quoted by O Estado de S.Paulo: "Rubens knows even better than I do that sometimes it's part of the sport that someone comes in and someone has to go.

"We have a great relationship and I'm sure it will stay that way," added Senna.

New Williams on track for Jerez debut
(GMM) Williams' 2012 car is on schedule for an early February debut.

That is the claim of the famous team's chief operations engineer Mark Gillan, who said the actual track debut of the newly Renault-powered FW34 will take place during an aerodynamic test before the opening test at Jerez.

"We passed the crash tests before Christmas," he is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"The debut is planned for the first week of testing at Jerez in early February. So far, the data looks right — we have been able to achieve all the targets we set."

Gillan said the next goal for Williams, having restructured the team during the course of its dire 2011 season, is for the FW34 to be a regular top-ten finisher.

"I know that making a great leap forward is not easy," he said. "But from what we know about the car so far, there is reason to be fairly confident that we can be back in Q3 regularly and score points from there."

Gillan welcomed the FIA's banning of exhaust blowing; a principle pioneered by Red Bull and also perfected by championship runner-up McLaren last year.

"It (the ban) neutralizes the lead that some teams had achieved in this area," he said.

"So the field should move closer together now, at least at the beginning of the season. After that it's a matter of time before someone comes up with the next F-duct or double diffuser."

Senna family supports Williams reunion
(GMM) The Senna family is fully supportive of the famous name's return to Williams.

18 years ago, Brazil was in mourning over the death at the wheel of a Williams of the great Ayrton Senna.

The tragedy also halted for many years the young Bruno Senna's formative karting career, as the sporting world's attention moved to Italian courtrooms, where Williams bosses were accused of manslaughter.

So almost two decades on, how did the Senna family – including Ayrton's once grief-stricken and angry parents and sister – react to Tuesday's news that their grandson and son had inked a deal to drive for Williams in 2012?

"Everybody is ecstatic," the 28-year-old told reporters.

"I spoke to my grandparents before even I spoke to my mother (Viviane) yesterday when I got the news and my grandmother was so happy, my grandfather had a great laugh.

"In the family everybody is smiling, everybody has worked very hard for it. It's very much a family business in our case and we have a great unity and everyone is super-happy about it," insisted Senna.

His next responsibility is to safeguard the reputation of the family's name, after his first two seasons with HRT and Renault did not set the F1 world alight.

And Bruno also faces the task of shaking off "the stigma" of being arguably a pay-driver, Ayrton Senna's 1994 teammate Damon Hill said on Tuesday.

But Senna insists he is not a pay-driver.

"Initially they (Williams) wouldn't even talk about any type of sponsorship. They just wanted to assess me before anything else," he said.

"The only way they would ever give me this chance was if they were comfortable with my performance."

According to former F1 driver Luciano Burti, however – now a pundit for Brazil's TV Globo – the situation is "not ideal" for Williams.

"For Bruno it's very good for him to be able to continue his career. As for Williams, at least theoretically the situation is not ideal.

"The team now has two inexperienced drivers, although in practice Maldonado has shown some speed and Bruno has also shown that he can do a good job," he said.

FIA to tinker with DRS zones for 2012 – report
(GMM) F1's controversial "DRS" innovation is staying put for 2012, according to an Italian report.

While many hailed the moveable rear wing flaps' contribution to overtaking last season, others criticized the drag reduction system for compromising the purity of wheel-to-wheel racing.

According to Autosprint, DRS is staying this year.

But the FIA will reportedly modify the number and length of the overtaking zones at some circuits.

"The reason is to facilitate overtaking by extending the zones at those circuits where it proved too difficult, and shortening them where the passing was too exaggerated," the Italian language report read.

One DRS supporter is the Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg.

"The important thing is that we are overtaking — who really cares why?

"However it is good to optimize everything, especially where it has been possible to gain 50 meters (on a rival) by the end of a straight.

"It's better that it (passing) is a bit more difficult than too easy," the German said.

Red Bull and Force India announce launch dates
(GMM) Red Bull will reveal its 2012 car during an internet presentation on the day before the RB8 is given its official track debut.

The reigning champions said in a media statement that the Adrian Newey-inked car will be seen for the first time on the team's website on 6 February, the day before the opening four-day test at Jerez kicks off.

Red Bull said the car will be seen "in a different light" at 1pm.

Meanwhile, F1's sixth-ranked team in 2011, Force India, will reveal its new car on February 3 at 9am at the Silverstone track, located across the road from its Northamptonshire headquarters.

Technical director Andrew Green said the VJM05, whose monocoque has already passed the FIA's mandatory crash tests, will be built and fired up next week.

"There's always a buzz around when it's happening," he said.

1996 champion Hill to be TV pundit
(GMM) 1996 world champion Damon Hill will return to the F1 paddock in 2012 as an expert television pundit.

The 51-year-old has signed up with Sky as part of the broadcaster's new split British broadcasting deal with the BBC.

Hill will appear on-screen as a pre and post-race pundit at ten of the 20 grands prix, including the season opener in Melbourne.

"It's a few years since I stopped driving but I've never stopped looking at F1 and never lost interest. It's a sport that I love," he said.

Caterham confirms move to Oxfordshire
Caterham F1 Team and its GP2 team Caterham Racing have today confirmed that they are proposing to move their operational base from their current site in Norfolk to a new home in Leafield, Oxfordshire, in August 2012.

Team Principal Tony Fernandes explained how the proposed move will help both teams continue to establish themselves as serious contenders for long-term honors in the FIA Formula One World Championship and the GP2 support series: “The factory in Hingham has been our home since we were first granted our entry into the F1 World Championship in September 2009 and it has served us extremely well, giving us the perfect platform to establish both the F1 team and our GP2 team in the first stages of our development. However, as both teams grew, and in the planning process we went through when acquiring Caterham Cars and establishing the wider Caterham Group, it became clear that we needed to house the car company in the same facility as our racing operations, to give us the best chance to meet our future goals on and off track. We began looking for a site that could be adapted to suit the future needs of our racing and road car operations and Leafield quickly became the obvious choice.

“We propose moving the F1 and GP2 teams to the new site in or around August 2012, giving us ample time to build up the infrastructure required to house all the critical elements of both teams, and propose moving Caterham Cars into a new, bespoke development and production facility on the same site in due course. We are able to build the new home for Caterham Cars from the ground up on the Leafield site, giving us a permanent home in the perfect location for two of the primary arms of the Caterham Group. We will be consulting with all our team about the proposed move before we make any decisions about exactly which functions will be located to the new site."

“The factory in Hingham is where the dream began, and we will continue to develop that site into the new permanent home for Caterham Composites. We have cutting edge technical and production facilities already in operation in the factory, now focused on the F1 and GP2 teams, and we will be expanding those facilities to help meet the future demands of Caterham Composites’ clients in all the markets that company will operate in, continuing to provide jobs and investment in Norfolk in world class, cutting edge technology. Caterham Technology and Innovation will also remain in Norfolk, demonstrating our long-term commitment to our first home.

“While it will obviously be sad if the F1 and GP2 teams move on from Hingham we are not saying goodbye to Norfolk. This will be the next chapter in the development of both our motor racing teams and our road car company and gives us the best chance to keep progressing on track and, in future, on the road with Caterham Cars."

Alonso says Hamilton better than Vettel
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton is better than Sebastian Vettel.

That is the sensational claim of Hamilton's former nemesis and McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso.

Like Ferrari driver Alonso, Vettel is now a back-to-back world champion, while Briton Hamilton's only title was won in 2008.

But Spaniard Alonso thinks Hamilton is better than the Red Bull star.

"Lewis is so fast, aggressive, totally focused. He is interested only in victory.

"Sebastian has not quite reached that level," he told Germany's Sport Bild.

"I know he is a two time world champion, but he is still slightly below the level of Lewis," added Alonso.

According to 1996 world champion Damon Hill, however, Hamilton was not focused enough last season.

"Lewis needs to show that he can manage his private life as well as being a professional racing driver," Hill is quoted by the Sun.

"He will be the first to admit that he had some distractions last season and we will see if he can address those."

Nurburgring cuts jobs but hopes to keep race
Operators of Germany’s Nürburgring have cut almost 100 jobs at the circuit but still hope to keep their Formula 1 race. They are now moving into discussions with FOM head Bernie Ecclestone regarding their upcoming event of 2013.

Since 2007, the circuit has shared the country’s F1 action with Hockenheim, despite that year’s race being labeled ‘European Grand Prix’. After the Nürburgring hosted last year’s German Grand Prix, which was won in dramatic fashion by McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, 2012 sees Hockenheim return to the F1 calendar. Organizers at the Nürburgring now plan to seal a 2013 return.

“Negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone have already started and are ongoing for the 2013 race," Nürburgring spokesman Karl-Heinz Steinkuehler explained to Reuters. “At the moment there is a package that the operators look at positively. But it is also the state of Rhineland-Palatinate that needs to sign off partners for any deal.

“The operators have no problem and the (Nürburgring racing) season starting in April this year is fully guaranteed. The cutbacks are necessary to meet the leasing costs."

The spokesman went on to confirm that 55 employees have been made redundant, with 37 other contracts not being renewed into the new season.

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