Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

UPDATE Updates shown in Red below.


  • Vettel in the new Red Bull

    Bold Marko hails 'amazing' new Red Bull

  • Alonso not worried about bad season with Ferrari
  • Marko scoffs at Red Bull 'biggest spender' claims
  • New McLaren 'looks different' to rivals – Hamilton
  • Pirelli to keep de la Rosa, Lotus not signing Chandhok yet
  • Ferrari turned away new Red Bull sponsor Geox
  • Vettel answer excites Italian reporter
  • Fiery start for Massa New
  • Hulkenberg confirms Friday deal with Force India New
  • Mercedes, Brawn not confirming team buyout reports New

Bold Marko hails 'amazing' new Red Bull
(GMM) Dr Helmut Marko is defiantly confident after the first two test days in the life of Red Bull's 2011 car.

Wearing the number 1 on the nose for world champion Sebastian Vettel, the RB7 has been impressive so far at the Ricardo Tormo track near Valencia, Spain.

Wednesday's action was watched on by the team's owner Dietrich Mateschitz, but it was his right-hand man Marko who gushed the loudest.

"If a race were held now, we would lap everybody," the Austrian told Bild newspaper. "How our car goes through the corners is amazing."

Even the usually-reserved Mateschitz sounded very confident.

"This will be our third strong year in a row," the billionaire energy drinks magnate predicted.

Said 23-year-old driver Vettel: "I cannot complain as I'm satisfied so far, but all the cars will still change considerably. Whether we're ahead or not is hard to say."

Mercedes' Norbert Haug said: "I don't think they're looking too bad."

And seven time world champion Michael Schumacher jokingly agreed. "The new Red Bull?" said the German. "Looks good. The color, I mean …"

Alonso not worried

Alonso not worried about bad season with Ferrari
(GMM) Fernando Alonso has reacted cautiously to those predicting a stellar season for him in 2011.

Bernie Ecclestone and Mark Webber are reported to have tipped the Spaniard for title contention with the new F150 Ferrari, which was three tenths faster than reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel's new Red Bull at the Valencia test on Wednesday.

"I have nothing to say about it," Alonso told Spanish reporters when asked about the championship predictions.

"Expectations are naturally high but it's the same for all the drivers with the big teams," he said.

"What gives you some peace of mind is that you know that a bad year at Ferrari or McLaren will have you fifth, while at some other teams you might not be in Q3," added Alonso.

"So that's not something we have to worry about.

"I like the car but it's too early to know if it's good enough to win," he said.

Alonso also tempered his earlier criticism of the Pirelli tires, whilst many drivers are speaking about high degradation, inconsistency and handling problems.

"It is true that they degrade but it was worse on the first day," said Alonso.

"We have made some setup changes that have helped us, while others have improved maybe less.

"The truth is that adapting the car to the tires is one of the main challenges."

He also dismissed reports that Renault's new exhausts which exit near the sidepods is set to be the must-have innovation of 2011.

"There are new things with each team; Renault have that and the others have something else," Alonso answered coyly.

Marko scoffs at Red Bull 'biggest spender' claims
(GMM) Helmut Marko has scoffed at claims Red Bull is now formula one's biggest spender.

Some reports have said the energy drink-owned team, who won the championships in 2010 and are tipped to once again set the pace in 2011, spent EUR 300 million on F1 last year.

"Those figures are completely wrong; the truth is less than half of that," team consultant Dr Marko told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

The Austrian implied that the false numbers were released maliciously.

"Either someone spread these false figures deliberately, or he cannot read a balance sheet," said Marko.

He said Red Bull Racing actually ranks as the fourth-highest spender in pitlane, with Auto Motor und Sport claiming the team's true budget is closer to EUR 160m.

There is some bad feeling in the paddock at present, as Red Bull is accused of breaking the Resource Restriction Agreement last year.

With the disagreement not yet resolved, the team is refusing to agree to a new agreement for 2011.

"We are not opposed to saving, it's just that it can't only benefit the teams that are not good enough by only restricting the aerodynamics.

"We say yes to savings, if the engine areas are affected in the same way," insisted Marko.

He said Red Bull is also opposed to financial penalties being paid to the other teams to "supplement their budgets", arguing that those found guilty of breaking the agreement should instead pay fines "for the promotion of the sport, or to charity".

New McLaren 'looks different' to rivals – Hamilton
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton had a sharp-eyed return to formula one on Wednesday after a long winter break.

The McLaren driver was in action at the Valencia test at the wheel of the team's 2010 car, with the MP4-26 only to be unveiled in Berlin on Friday.

As well as adapting to the new Pirelli tires, Briton Hamilton admitted to casting an eye over his rivals' new cars at the Ricardo Tormo track.

"Our car looks different to others and I hope it reflects on its performance," he is quoted by BBC Sport. "Ferrari and Red Bull look more like an evolution of last year's car."

Another change for the 2008 world champion this year is that his father will be back in the grand prix paddocks.

Hamilton, 26, dumped his dad as manager last year but Anthony Hamilton will this season be in the Force India garage with his new charge Paul di Resta.

"He (Anthony) has done a fantastic job to get Paul in and clearly he's very gifted at getting drivers to formula one," admitted Lewis.

At the same time, he said he is close to appointing a new manager to work on his image and brand, particularly in new markets like the US.

"Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I'll be able to let you know what's going on," Hamilton told reporters.

It is believed that 19 Entertainment, IMG and Creative Artists Agency are the frontrunners to represent Hamilton.

Pirelli to keep de la Rosa, Lotus not signing Chandhok yet
(GMM) Pedro de la Rosa looks likely to remain Pirelli's primary test driver this year.

The Spaniard admitted this week that, contrary to reports, a return to McLaren as reserve driver is unlikely, having failed to compile enough sponsorship to return to the grid with HRT.

It was also reported that his back-up plan for 2011 was to stay with F1's new tire supplier Pirelli, even though the Italian marque has not decided how to replace the ageing 2009 Toyota.

"Yes," answered Pirelli's Paul Hembery when asked at Valencia if de la Rosa, 39, is staying on board for 2011.

"(He will stay) unless he gets a drive somewhere else in F1, which is not looking likely at the moment.

"He is a great test driver, we're delighted with what he's been doing with us," added Hembery.

Hembery also denied that Pirelli has already decided to visibly distinguish the different compounds this year by using different colored branding on the sidewalls.

"That is still under discussion with the marketing people," he insisted.

Meanwhile, contrary to reports that Karun Chandhok has definitely signed to be a reserve driver with Team Lotus this year, the Indian clarified that he has in fact not yet reached a deal.

The former HRT driver was at Valencia wearing a Lotus jacket on Wednesday, but boss Tony Fernandes said he was just a "guest" of the team.

Ferrari turned away new Red Bull sponsor Geox
(GMM) The war of words between championship contenders Red Bull and Ferrari has continued this week.

The teams' new cars have been trading places at the top of the timesheets at the Valencia test, following on from the recent exchange of barbs in the media.

That sparring continued on Wednesday, when the boss of an Italian shoe brand said he decided to sponsor Red Bull rather than Ferrari in 2011.

"We decided to go with a young team that wins," Geox's Mario Moretti Polegato is quoted as saying in La Stampa newspaper.

That quote caught the attention of Ferrari's press department, which occasionally publishes on the internet a stinging column under the 'Horse Whisperer' guise.

The columnist revealed that when he heard about Red Bull's new Geox deal, he recalled "persistent offers" to Ferrari in 2010 "backed up with significant amounts of cash made on numerous occasions by the very same Moretti Polegato".

The column said Ferrari turned down the deal because of its existing footwear deal with Puma.

"Ferrari deemed the (Geox) proposal to be incompatible with a brand of this level: could this be why Moretti Polegato has fallen back on the energy drink manufacturer's company?" wrote the unnamed columnist.

Vettel answer excites Italian reporter
(GMM) Whether a genuine hint about his future or a mischievous reference to recent speculation, Sebastian Vettel caught the attention of Italian reporters with a single comment on Wednesday.

After the reigning world champion answered a question asked by Italian television RAI at the Valencia test, the reporter urged the 23-year-old to repeat his answer in Italy's native tongue.

"I'll speak Italian when I go to Ferrari," the Red Bull driver quipped.

Vettel had earlier met at the Spanish circuit with the energy drink Red Bull's boss and owner Dietrich Mateschitz.

Felipe Massa's first day in the new Ferrari starts bad

Massa has engine failure in Valencia
(GMM) Felipe Massa on Thursday got his 2011 campaign off to a fiery start.

With only a chilly shakedown at Fiorano behind him, the Brazilian was a few laps into his proper test debut in the new F150 at Valencia when oil began to leak onto the exhausts.

Massa stopped at the side of the track but a fire broke out.

"It is unlikely that the car will be back on track much before 3 in the afternoon," said the Italian team after assessing the damage.

Before completing the first two of the three test days in Spain, Fernando Alonso had been working on adjusting the F150's setup to the difficult new Pirelli tires.

"Felipe must now continue this work," the Spaniard had stridently told his country's reporters at Valencia late on Wednesday.

Hulkenberg confirms Friday deal with Force India
(GMM) Nico Hulkenberg has confirmed reports that he will be driving the new Force India on the Friday mornings of grands prix all season.

It had been suggested that the former Williams driver's new long-term deal included the Friday work, but until now there had been no confirmation.

"I'm still in F1," said the 23-year-old German at Valencia, where he drove his new Silverstone based employer's 2010 car.

"I will be driving on every Friday in free practice so the good thing is that I can still show what I can do," added Hulkenberg.

"I have the make the best of it. I have the year to convince the guys at Force India," he is quoted by the SID news agency.

Replaced at Williams by the well-funded Pastor Maldonado, Hulkenberg has been visibly downcast at Valencia this week.

"It hurt a lot and it's no secret that I am very disappointed," he admitted.

"But I've had some weeks to get over it. I am trying to put it behind me and look positively into the future."

Mercedes, Brawn not confirming team buyout reports
(GMM) Ross Brawn, and an official spokesman for the German marque, have refused to confirm reports that Mercedes is taking over 100 per cent of the Brackley based F1 team.

It was reported on Wednesday that team boss Brawn and his partners had agreed to sell the remaining 24.9 per cent of Mercedes GP to the carmaker and its Abu Dhabi shareholder AABAR.

A Mercedes spokesman did not deny the news but insisted that "We will only inform at a given time when there are facts".

And Brawn, who will reportedly remain team boss while the cars will continue to be built in the UK, told F1's official website that the reports were "just speculation".

"That's not something I am going to comment on," he added.

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