Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Narain Karthikeyan taking time getting up to speed after year in lowly NASCAR trucks

    HRT will not miss Melbourne opener – owner

  • Karthikeyan confident of getting up to speed
  • Barrichello impressed by Lotus while Virgin 'slow'
  • 'Too early' to rule out Renault race wins – boss
  • Schumacher open to new contract beyond 2012
  • Prost Jr set for Renault F1 test
  • Mateschitz expects new Vettel signature 'soon'
  • Japan disaster shocks F1 world
  • Gascoyne admits KERS for Lotus unlikely
  • Vettel says Melbourne overtaking zone confusing
  • Williams to use KERS in Australia
  • CNBC becomes Business Media Partner to Marussia Virgin Racing
  • Alonso happy with latest Ferrari updates
  • Williams in Texas for Senna movie

HRT will not miss Melbourne opener – owner
(GMM) After the team's new car sat out the entire pre-season test period, owner Jose Ramon Carabante insists there is no risk that HRT will also miss the 2011 season opener in less than two weeks.

"It is certain that we will be in Australia and race there," Carabante is quoted as saying by El Pais newspaper.

The F111 was finally launched in the Barcelona pitlane late last week but the team said it could not be tested due to components being held up in customs.

Carabante admits that Hispania's preparation for its second formula one season was not ideal.

"Maybe we will not finish the first race, we'll see, but the car will develop from here with the clear aim of fighting with and beating the other two teams that started last year," he added, referring to Virgin and Lotus.

HRT has said the F111 is entirely new, but expert observers pointed out striking similarities with the back-of-the-grid Dallara car of 2010.

"We are relying on last year's chassis," admitted chief engineer Toni Cuquerella, "but 95 per cent of the car is new.

"We have a Cosworth engine with the latest specification and we have adapted the chassis for the new gearbox and hydraulics supplied to us by Williams.

"The collaboration with them (Williams) has allowed us to make a technological step of three years. It is clear that the car is much better than last year's," he added.

El Pais said HRT's 2011 budget is EUR 45 million, to potentially be covered by some as yet unsigned sponsors.

"We are negotiating with several sponsors," insists Carabante, who is reportedly willing to make up the shortfall if the budget is not finally completed.

Karthikeyan confident of getting up to speed
(GMM) Narain Karthikeyan is confident he can get back up to speed in formula one within a few races of his 2011 return.

The Indian's highly rated teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi was significantly faster in the limited testing he has done with the HRT team, but 34-year-old Karthikeyan has not raced in F1 since his debut season in 2005.

"I did two days in the rain and it went very well," he is quoted as saying by Dutch website

"On a dry track there is still a bit of searching for the limit, but in my new teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi, I have a good reference," added Karthikeyan, whose backer Tata is one of HRT's only sponsors.

"My first impression is that our driving styles are quite similar," he continued, "and that can only be an advantage. Give me a few races and I have no doubt that I will find the limit."

Karthikeyan also insisted that he is not too worried about travelling to Australia without having driven the new F111 car.

"Many smart people have designed it and I hope it's good enough to be the best of the three new teams," he said.

Barrichello impressed by Lotus while Virgin 'slow'
(GMM) Rubens Barrichello has revealed he has been impressed with the step forward taken by Team Lotus for 2011.

Lotus finished its debut season as the best of the three newcomers, but still significantly off the pace of the established teams.

"Lotus were four seconds behind Red Bull in 2010," Williams driver and grand prix veteran Barrichello told O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

"They seem to have improved two seconds for this year."

Little can be said about HRT's untested new F111 car, but Barrichello has admitted he is worried for the Virgin team.

"With the return of the 107 per cent rule, it is possible that a few times they will not qualify. At the moment they seem slow," said the 38-year-old.

'Too early' to rule out Renault race wins – boss
(GMM) Renault is hoping to chase the heels of the pacesetting Red Bull and Ferrari teams with its own 2011 car.

Boss Eric Boullier told Spain's El Pais newspaper that the Enstone based designers "made a commitment to innovation" when devising the R31 car.

Indeed, observers and rivals have lauded the car's innovative front exhaust layout.

"We spent a lot of time thinking about it and discussing it, as it was a risk. But in the end we said 'Why not?'" revealed Frenchman Boullier.

Losing lead driver Robert Kubica to injury was a major blow to Renault's 2011 campaign, but Boullier said the team is hopeful of a very good season.

"It's too early to say if we can win races," he insisted. "It will be hard to be there with Red Bull and Ferrari. But they will be our main rivals.

"I very much respect Ross Brawn, Mercedes and McLaren and I know they have greater resources; if we can stay ahead of them it will be a great success for us," added Boullier.

Schumacher open to new contract beyond 2012
(GMM) Michael Schumacher is not ruling out staying in formula one beyond the end of his current contract.

Mercedes' Norbert Haug at the weekend said he can imagine teaming up with the famous seven time world champion in 2013 "If Michael wants it and we can agree on a right price".

Schumacher's manager Sabine Kehm responded to Bild newspaper: "Of course we are open to discussions, because with the team we feel very good.

"Michael is totally motivated and is able to give F1 a lot more," she added.

By the end of 2013, Schumacher will be approaching his 45th birthday, but the great German's doctor Johannes Peil said age is not an obstacle.

"Michael is so fit," he insisted, "he could still be driving at 50."

Perhaps the key to Schumacher's willingness to re-sign beyond 2012 is the better performance of the Mercedes team, following a disappointing return to F1 last year.

Until very recently, the new W02 was a second off the pace but last week at Barcelona "We made the big step we had calculated", admitted a relieved Haug.

"We took a giant step forwards," confirmed Schumacher's teammate Nico Rosberg, who admitted that Schumacher's best lap time in Barcelona with the upgrade package showed that the W02 is "very fast".

"Even if the time was with low fuel, it surprised us. And many others, I am sure," said Red Bull's reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel.

But Haug told the SID news agency: "I don't see us as the favorites; that is going to take a while yet."

Prost Jr set for Renault F1 test
(GMM) Alain Prost's son is set to test with the formula one team Renault.

29-year-old Nicolas Prost, whose famous father won four world championships and has run a team, told La Provence newspaper that he is set to drive the Lotus-sponsored car in 2011.

He said the test will take place "soon, in England".

Most recently, Prost Jr has raced sports cars, but he also contested the defunct A1 series when the French team was run by now Renault boss Eric Boullier.

Nicolas Prost is not ruling out a late F1 tilt.

"Formula one teams have emerged from the 'baby driver' era," said Prost. "So I hope to arrive in grands prix within two to three years."

Alain Prost came close to winning his first title with Renault in 1983.

Mateschitz expects new Vettel signature 'soon'
(GMM) Dietrich Mateschitz has admitted to German news agency DPA that Sebastian Vettel should sign a contract extension "soon".

Sport Bild reported at the weekend that the reigning world champion is close to signing up with Mateschitz's Red Bull Racing through 2014.

"I can't comment at the moment but it's no secret that I am very, very comfortable with Red Bull," Vettel, 23, is quoted as saying.

He has recently mused a possible switch to Ferrari or Mercedes but the reports said Vettel will earn more money in 2012 and beyond and be required to do less PR work.

In a new interview with Spain's Marca newspaper, Vettel was asked about the Ferrari rumors.

"If you look at my passport, I think I've got more than a couple of years more to think about it," said the German.

"I'm very happy where I am, it's like a family. I have a special relationship with Red Bull and I'm proud of that."

Japan disaster shocks F1 world
(GMM) The formula one world has expressed shock and sadness amid the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster.

The disaster struck while the F1 world, including Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi, was testing in Barcelona late last week.

"My country has suffered an enormous catastrophe. The news is depressing and I'm very sad," said the Sauber driver.

Jenson Button initially feared for his Japanese girlfriend Jessica, who was modeling in Tokyo.

"She's fine, very shaken," said the McLaren driver.

Many F1 figures are deeply affectionate for Japan, the home of passionate race-goers as well as long-time former participants including Bridgestone and Toyota and popular drivers like Takuma Sato.

"Our hearts and minds go out to the people of Japan, who are great supporters of our sport," said Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn.

And the situation in Japan is still ongoing, with nuclear power plants affected, terrifying images emerging and the official death toll rising.

"It's like it's unreal but it's not," said Lotus driver Heikki Kovalainen on Twitter, who according to Turun Sanomat newspaper works with a Japanese engineer.

"I have a lot of Japanese fans and I sincerely hope they are all okay," the Finn is quoted as saying.

Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz admitted the emerging images and footage is "terrible", and Fernando Alonso said the tragedy puts F1 into perspective.

"Formula one and all its problems is way down the list of priorities," said the Ferrari driver.

Gascoyne admits KERS for Lotus unlikely
(GMM) Mike Gascoyne has admitted it is unlikely Team Lotus' 2011 car will ever feature a KERS system.

The Renault-powered T128 was designed without the energy recovery technology in mind, but chief operating officer Keith Saunt said last month: "We might end up with it, who knows?"

"We will discuss it with Renault, but for a small team like us, KERS is a very high cost," technical director Gascoyne told Auto Motor und Sport.

"We would need to change the chassis significantly, as at the moment there is no room for KERS," he said.

But Gascoyne is not ruling out a change of mind, especially as arguably the biggest benefit of running a KERS system this year is expected to be the race start.

"It would not be good if we're among a few of our direct opponents in qualifying and then before the first corner we lose three or four places because we lack that extra power on the line," he explained.

Vettel says Melbourne overtaking zone confusing
(GMM) Drivers will be allowed to activate their adjustable rear wings on the pit straight during next weekend's Australian grand prix.

The overtaking zone for the Albert Park track was formally decided during a recent F1 team meeting with the FIA's Charlie Whiting at the Barcelona test.

Because the Melbourne straight is quite short, the chasing car's requisite 1 second gap will be measured at the circuit's third to last corner, according to a report in Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

The rear wing adjust button may then be pressed at the exit of the final corner, with the wing needing to be back in place for braking for Turn 1. The overtaking zone is slightly more than the previously announced 600 meters.

Sebastian Vettel is staunchly opposed to the system, arguing that the Melbourne solution is confusing.

"Let's say I'm further away than 1 second from the car in the (designated) corner, but I get closer in the last three corners and I'm not allowed to press the button.

"How do you try to explain that?" said the Red Bull driver.

The report also said the FIA has declared the location of the overtaking zone in Malaysia to be the long pit straight, with the 1 second interval timed in the final corner.

In China the zone is the long straight between turns 13 and 14, with the decisive zone before Turn 13.

Meanwhile, also during the meeting with Whiting, some teams proposed that the wings not be allowed to be triggered in practice and qualifying in a bid to reduce the drivers' workload.

Reportedly, Red Bull wanted the limitation to be imposed, while the likes of Ferrari and McLaren did not agree.

"Presumably, McLaren and Ferrari have developed techniques that make it easier for the drivers to operate the systems," said Whiting.

Indeed, close inspection of the McLaren and Ferrari steering wheels reveals extra paddles on the back, reportedly simplifying the use of KERS and the rear wing.

Williams to use KERS in Australia
(GMM) Williams' FW33 car will feature its KERS system for the season opening Australian grand prix next weekend.

Rubens Barrichello had admitted last week that the British team was considering not using the system in Melbourne due to not fully understanding recent technical problems.

The latest problem was at the Barcelona test, with technical director Sam Michael admitting to Auto Motor und Sport: "We know what caused the failure, but we don't know why."

Having not used KERS in 2009, Oxfordshire based Williams designed its own battery-based system for this season.

"Just spoke to Sam," a spokesman said on Williams' official Twitter feed. "(He's) back in factory with designers. Reviewed KERS problem and good news is we'll be racing KERS in Melbourne."

Australian Michael told Auto Motor und Sport that KERS is worth at least four tenths per lap at Barcelona.

And he said the FW33 will make "a big step" forwards in Malaysia early next month when a Red Bull-like exhaust layout is ready.

CNBC becomes Business Media Partner to Marussia Virgin Racing
Marussia Virgin Racing and CNBC, the leading global broadcaster of live business and financial news and information, have joined forces in an exclusive global partnership that sees CNBC becoming the team’s official ‘Business Media Partner’ for the 2011 Formula One season, which gets underway on 27 March in Melbourne, Australia.

The partnership gives CNBC branding on various Marussia Virgin Racing assets including its new Formula One car and driver’s race suits, and in the paddock, as well as hospitality. Alongside this, the partnership provides business-to-business opportunities for existing and new commercial partners of the Marussia Virgin Racing Team through the reach of CNBC’s worldwide TV network and

CNBC’s global audience of affluent and highly influential business leaders, and the team’s fast-growing and broad-based fan following, can also look forward to special CNBC programming around a number of marquee Grand Prix events throughout the year, which will provide insight into the team, the sport, the technology and some of the burning issues driving the future direction of Formula One.

The first chance to see the CNBC identity as part of the livery of the team’s new MVR-02 race car will be at the Australian Grand Prix on 27 March.

Andy Webb, CEO, Marussia Virgin Racing
“It goes without saying that we are delighted to welcome CNBC to Marussia Virgin Racing as our Business Media Partner. This is a very exciting partnership which underlines the strategic, targeted and intricate nature of our offering and its appeal to our rapidly expanding portfolio of commercial partners. CNBC needs no introduction as an oracle of international business and financial news and this multi-faceted relationship provides the team and its partners with an enviable business development opportunity.

“Following a period of investment and restructure, the team now has all the right resources and people to step up the pursuit of its racing ambitions. This is a fascinating partnership for both parties and it will be exciting to see it develop as the year progresses. We now look forward to getting the season underway in Melbourne in a little under two weeks time."

Mick Buckley, President and CEO, EMEA, CNBC
“CNBC is extremely excited to be joining forces with Marussia Virgin Racing at this significant stage in the team’s development. Our audiences are complementary and this is an exceptional way to put CNBC in front of a massive global audience. We see many exciting marketing and commercial opportunities emanating from our association with the Marussia Virgin Racing Team and we look forward to a successful first season."

Alonso happy with latest Ferrari updates
Fernando Alonso has echoed the sentiments of team-mate Felipe Massa by declaring himself pleased with Ferrari’s final car updates for pre-season testing, which were in action at the Circuit de Catalunya between Wednesday and Saturday of last week.

“Once again, the car has proved to be very reliable, which is always good news," the former double World Champion of 2005 and 2006 said following a soaking day on-track on which he recorded no lap time.

“The updates that the team prepared for this last test have improved the handling of the car and today we managed to do a good simulation of a Grand Prix weekend, with reasonable lap times."

However, the Spaniard is still unable to place the Scuderia in the general Formula 1 pecking order. “Where are we compared to the others? Today, we are all together here in Barcelona…" he jested. “But, joking apart, we will only discover the truth in Melbourne."

Williams in Texas for Senna movie
A Williams Formula 1 car has been displayed in Austin, Texas – new home for the returning United States Grand Prix from 2012 onwards – as the city screens the acclaimed movie on late triple World Champion Ayrton Senna for the first time.

With Senna being aired in the Paramount Theater, the car was placed on display outside as the sell-out crowd made its way into the venue.

The film has already picked up the World Cinema Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and will be showing in the United Kingdom for the first time in June.

In Texas, Senna will be screened again this Thursday, 17 March.

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