The last F1 race run at the A1-Ring was in 2002
Liuzzi nervous under grim Melbourne skies
- A1-Ring return chances 'more than minor' – Mateschitz
- Ecclestone attacks FIA and president Todt
- Ricciardo 'ready' for F1 debut with eye on Webber
- Ecclestone not in New York for F1 race talks
- Mercedes car has third pedal for adjustable wing
- F1 return 'possible' admits Mario Illien
- Valsecchi to drive Lotus on Friday in Malaysia
- Vettel quiet after title win indulgence
- Alonso as great as Schumacher – Montezemolo
- Pirelli 'know what they're doing' – Mosley
Liuzzi nervous under grim Melbourne skies
(GMM) On the day before the first practice day of 2011, heavy Rain was falling at the Albert Park circuit.
However, weather forecasters believe the skies should clear for the forthcoming three days of track action, and with his fingers and toes crossed is Tonio Liuzzi.
The experienced Italian is scheduled to drive HRT's F111 car, which has never before turned a wheel at a circuit, on Friday.
"Getting some laps in the dry is vital," Liuzzi is quoted by Speed Week. "At the moment we only have a very vague idea about how the car will be."
There are rumors building in the Melbourne paddock that, just as the car was not ready to run throughout the winter, it still will not be in working order for Friday's 12.30 practice.
Team boss Colin Kolles denied the rumors about engineers quitting due to not being paid.
"All the salaries of all the team members are paid," he is quoted by Spain's AS daily. "And it's not true that we are in debt to suppliers."
Former grand prix driver Alex Wurz admitted he is pessimistic about HRT's prospects.
"HRT is beyond good or bad; they are fighting for survival and for every euro," he told laola1.at.
A1-Ring return chances 'more than minor' – Mateschitz
(GMM) Dietrich Mateschitz has played down the likelihood of Austria returning to the formula one calendar any time soon.
The Red Bull boss has rebuilt the previously demolished A1-Ring, which has been renamed 'Red Bull Ring' and approved for F1-standard events by Charlie Whiting.
But although Bahrain has slipped down the 2011 calendar, and Australia's commitment to its race is diminishing, Mateschitz denied those events are necessarily good news for his Zeltweg facility.
"The probability of F1 returning to Spielberg is more than minor," the Austrian billionaire told APA news agency.
Ecclestone attacks FIA and president Todt
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has stepped up his attack on Jean Todt, highlighting a growing rift between F1's chief executive and the head of the governing FIA.
Ecclestone said recently he is "at loggerheads" with Todt over the 2013 engine rules, with Todt responding this week: "I hear about the (engine) noise, but that's evolution."
The 80-year-old, in London this week rather than travelling to Australia for the season opener, has replied with a stinging attack on Frenchman Todt — "a poor man's Max."
That reference is to Ecclestone's long time friend and fellow F1 powerbroker Max Mosley, who pushed strongly for Todt as his successor.
But Ecclestone insists the pair is not alike.
"He (Todt) has been travelling around the world doing what Max didn't do too much — kissing the babies and shaking the hands."
He told the UK newspaper Express that Todt has "not so much had a positive effect on formula one", and slammed efforts to make the sport green a "complete joke".
Ecclestone has admitted his disdain for this year's new rules, including KERS and adjustable rear wings, and is campaigning hard for his own ideas such as artificial rain and medals instead of points.
"We should write the rules with the teams," he said. "The competitors have got to race and have got a big investment. We have got a big investment.
"It (the FIA) should be like the police — the police don't write the rules and say you've got to do 30 miles an hour. The FIA is a joke," Ecclestone charged.
Ricciardo 'ready' for F1 debut with eye on Webber
(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo has admitted the timing of his formula one race debut could be linked with the longevity of countryman Mark Webber's career.
The pair joked as they barbequed sausages for the media this week, but already posed to Toro Rosso's new Friday driver Ricciardo was whether he is just waiting for Webber to retire.
If that happens, one of Toro Rosso's current racers is expected to get the call alongside Sebastian Vettel, while Ricciardo replaces him at the Red Bull junior team.
"This Friday contract is already like a gift from heaven and the second best thing to being an F1 driver. It's an obvious step forward for me.
"It's premature to speculate about what Mark is going to do," he answered.
Ricciardo, who is 13 years younger than Webber, told Finland's Turun Sanomat that he gets along well with his fellow Australian.
"A long time ago he gave me his mobile number. Mark himself had a rocky road to the top of F1 and he is definitely trying to help so that I avoid some of his difficulties," he explained.
And if he should get an early call to the F1 grid, Ricciardo confirmed that he is "Ready.
"I am very happy with the situation now but if something did arise then I would be ready to step up," he said.
Ecclestone not in New York for F1 race talks
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has not travelled to New York this week to discuss a possible formula one race on Staten Island, it has emerged.
Explaining that the F1 chief executive had broken his earlier plans to attend the Melbourne season opener, race boss Ron Walker said Ecclestone had instead accepted the invitation of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
But a New York City Hall official told the Herald Sun that there is "Nothing planned" between the 80-year-old and Bloomberg.
And when asked about the plans for a Staten Island grand prix, a spokesman for Bloomberg answered: "We don't have such a plan."
Indeed, Ecclestone has been giving interviews in the last 24 hours from his London office.
Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker admitted he was confused: "Everybody tells me he is meeting with (New York) city officials but I have no idea what's in his diary at all.
"It's none of my business," he insisted.
Revealingly, Walker said he was not disappointed Ecclestone had broken his plans to fly to Australia.
"He's a task master you see. If you were to ask him the future of the race, he could just say 'none'. So these are reasons why I don't want him here."
Ecclestone confirmed to Reuters the news about him skipping Australia, and when asked if Staten Island is a candidate for a future race, he answered: "No, absolutely 100 per cent."
Mercedes car has third pedal for adjustable wing
(GMM) Ross Brawn has laughed at reports of a possible driver strike over the complexity of operating KERS and adjustable rear wings in 2011.
"Because it's hard to do both!" he told Auto Motor und Sport when asked about the complaints, but revealed that "Our drivers have no problems with it".
Indeed, the most prominent complaints are emerging from the Red Bull garage, with McLaren and Ferrari also insisting that the drivers' increased workload is manageable.
Asked about Sebastian Vettel's complaints, Gerhard Berger hypothesized: "Sebastian is a cunning lad. He complains probably because in this area Red Bull has a disadvantage."
Mercedes boss Brawn all but confirmed this is indeed the case.
"Probably the operation of the buttons is complicated if the drivers have to press all of them at once," he said.
Auto Motor und Sport revealed that the McLaren solution is a series of paddles behind the steering wheel, while in the Mercedes footwell there is an extra pedal.
The pedal, to the left of the brake pedal, reportedly operates the adjustable rear wing.
The clever layout means that whenever Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg are braking, their foot cannot be deploying the rear wing flap.
And when they are on the power, it is easy for their left foot to rest on the wing flap pedal during practice and – crucially – qualifying sessions.
F1 return 'possible' admits Mario Illien
(GMM) F1's new engine formula for 2013 may have piqued the interest of Mario Illien.
Formerly the designer of Mercedes' title-winning engines for McLaren, the Swiss has since delved into Indy racing and NASCAR and even attempted a MotoGP foray.
But as recently as two years ago, Illien admitted that the frozen development of F1's current 2.4 liter V8s was "not interesting".
Now, speaking with Automobile Revue, when asked about returning to F1 Illien replied: "Why not? Anything is possible."
Valsecchi to drive Lotus on Friday in Malaysia
(GMM) Davide Valsecchi will make his debut as a Friday driver for Team Lotus in Malaysia.
Recently, the GP2 driver and Italian admitted that getting the green light to drive in first practice in both Australia and Malaysia was a "great opportunity".
But the team then announced that Karun Chandhok will be driving in Melbourne.
Finland's Turun Sanomat reported rumors that both Chandhok and Valsecchi could be in action in the green cars on Friday, meaning that regulars Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli would both be sitting out the initial 90 minute session.
But technical boss Mike Gascoyne confirmed on Twitter: "Karun Chandhok to drive here for us in P1. Davide Valsecchi will make his debut in P1 in Malaysia".
Alongside Chandhok, other Friday-only drivers in Melbourne will be Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) and Nico Hulkenberg (Force India).
Meanwhile, Kovalainen passed his mandatory post-concussion FIA medical test on Thursday following his Race of Champions crash last November.
Vettel quiet after title win indulgence
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has admitted he treated himself to a personal gift after winning the 2010 title.
"I won't lie to you," he told a reporter for Germany's Bild newspaper, after shearing a sheep at a farm outside Melbourne.
"Yes, I did."
But the 23-year-old Red Bull driver is not giving anything else away.
Asked mischievously if he bought a Ferrari, the German smiled: "No, not a car."
Bild added: "A plane?" Vettel: "All I can say is; I have it ordered but it hasn't arrived yet. So you'll have to work a bit harder."
Also this week, another champion Lewis Hamilton admitted he too has splashed out since becoming one of F1's highest earners.
Asked by the Sun what his most expensive purchase has been, the Briton answered: "It's got to be this diamond ring — it's Bvlgari. It was ridiculously expensive.
"But the most expensive thing I have ever bought was for my girlfriend, I bought her a ring for our anniversary and that was frigging expensive," he added.
Alonso as great as Schumacher – Montezemolo
(GMM) Fernando Alonso is as good as Michael Schumacher, according to Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo.
He told Corriere dello Sport that the Spaniard "lacks nothing" in comparison to F1's statistically greatest-ever driver.
Explaining Schumacher's huge success, Montezemolo agreed that Schumacher "is a great but he also had a car clearly superior to the others".
Sir Stirling Moss told F1 Racing magazine: "I think he was lucky to get all those titles, frankly. He (Schumacher) got them because he was in the right car."
Schumacher reacted sarcastically when faced with 81-year-old Moss' appraisal.
"Yes, I have been a very lucky person," he told the Telegraph. "I feel that my success speaks for itself. You can't always be lucky."
The 42-year-old German told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday that he is hoping for regular podiums and possibly some wins this year.
But Alex Wurz is not sure the seven time world champion will perform comparatively better alongside his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in 2011.
"Formula one has changed and I don't believe it's going to look much better for him this year," the Austrian told laola1.at.
Pirelli 'know what they're doing' – Mosley
(GMM) Pirelli is not out of its depth in formula one, former FIA president Max Mosley insists.
Asked about the criticism being directed at F1's new official tire supplier, the Briton told Welt newspaper: "The people at Pirelli know what they're doing.
"The teams are now busy adjusting their cars to the new situation as they've always had to live with these technical challenges.
"And someone always does a better job than someone else," added Mosley.
Interestingly, 70-year-old Mosley also backed his long-time friend and powerbroker Bernie Ecclestone's controversial proposal to install artificial rain systems at some grand prix circuits.
"This is what Bernie and I considered ten years ago," said Mosley. "And why not?"
He also indicated that Bahrain, despite the behavior of its government recently, still has a right to be in formula one, as do other controversial current and future hosts including China and Russia.
"Sport must be separated from politics," Mosley insisted. "If that was not so, there would only be major sporting events in half the current amount of countries.
"Moral and political evaluations do not belong in sport," he added.
Mosley also defended the dwindling representation of Europe on the current F1 calendar, suggesting that the continent's eight races might also dwindle further.
"We are talking about a world championship, so if Europe has eight races that is still a disproportionate balance."