Latest F1 news in brief

  • Prodrive quiet, Renault board set to meet
  • AirAsia boss to stay in charge at Lotus
  • Abu Dhabi wants return to F1 finale date
  • Brawn backs Rosberg to replace Button
  • F1 should embrace not resist 'new media'
  • Kimi turned down F1, not other way around – manager
  • Valencia to host common car launch on January 30

Prodrive quiet, Renault board set to meet
(GMM) Following rival bidder Gerard Lopez's comments on Wednesday, David Richards' Prodrive company has refused to be drawn on its link with a buyout of the Renault team.

Lopez, of the reported Mangrove/Gravity group, is said to be the frontrunner for the deal, and openly confirmed the reports while attending the Motor Sport Business Forum in Monaco.

Asked about his plans, he told the Press Association: "It would be very different from a start-up team.

"If we were to do a deal with Renault, we would still be basing ourselves as a constructors' team, but it will be a different kind of business," Lopez added.

It is rumored that if Lopez is the successful bidder, the Enstone based team might continue to be called Renault.

Bernie Ecclestone revealed this week that up to four parties are in the running for the buyout, but Richards' Prodrive elected not to follow Lopez in confirming the rumors.

"There have been so many rumors about Prodrive and formula one, so we are not commenting on the latest," a spokesman was quoted as saying in a French language AFP report.

Other French reports said the Renault board is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the sale of the team. The French carmaker would not confirm the reports.

AirAsia boss to stay in charge at Lotus
(GMM) Tony Fernandes has announced he is to remain boss of the new formula one team Lotus.

The Malaysian entrepreneur, who is also in charge of the low-cost airline AirAsia, said in September that his appointment as team principal was not permanent.

"There was a reason for doing (saying) it at that time, because I think (AirAsia) shareholders were kind of spooked," millionaire Fernandes, 45, said in a Reuters report from Wednesday's Motor Sport Business Forum in Monaco.

"Now they are beginning to see that this is no different from any other business that I own."

He explained that while he doesn't want to run the F1 team forever, "this is not the right time to go".

Fernandes also joked that his target for 2010 is to finish ahead of the team backed by his airline competitor Virgin.

"I said that number one we have to be ahead of (Sir Richard) Branson, otherwise I will retire and kill myself," he said.

Abu Dhabi wants return to F1 finale date
(GMM) The boss of the Abu Dhabi grand prix has revealed he is pushing for the Yas Marina race to be the final round of the 2010 season.

Current versions of next year's formula one calendar show that despite Abu Dhabi's inaugural 2009 event being the season finale, Brazil has been scheduled as the last race next November.

Circuit boss Richard Cregan's comments to Reuters at the Motor Sport Business Forum in Monaco indicate that talks are underway for a tweak to the calendar before the final version is published by the FIA in the Principality on Friday.

"I think the final slot for us is very important in terms of the grand prix as an overall event," he said.

It is suggested that the order of the Brazil and Abu Dhabi races was swapped for the 2010 calendar for logistical/geographical reasons.

But it is rumored that the preceding race, the inaugural Korean event in mid October, might not actually go ahead, which would drop the number of grands prix for 2010 to 18.

Said Cregan: "We feel that we deserve to be the last race and I'm sure they (Brazil) feel they deserve to be last," said Cregan. "We'll have to wait and see."

Brawn backs Rosberg to replace Button
(GMM) Ross Brawn has backed Nico Rosberg's ability to effectively replace the team's departed new world champion Jenson Button.

Amid the transition from Brawn GP to the Mercedes works team, Briton Button announced his departure to McLaren after seven years with the Brackley based outfit.

German Rosberg, 24, has already been confirmed as Mercedes' first driver for 2010, and it is rumored that Nick Heidfeld – another driver who is yet to record a single grand prix victory – might be his teammate.

But boss Brawn told Britain's ITN that Rosberg is a driver in the same mold as Briton Button, who won six races in 2009 alongside two-time season winner Rubens Barrichello.

"I think that Nico has all the potential that Jenson showed over the years, but never had the opportunity to prove it.

"He's just not been in the right team at the right time," added Brawn.

Rosberg made his debut with Williams in 2006, and to date has captured 2 podium results and 75.5 points.

F1 should embrace not resist 'new media'
(GMM) Formula one should embrace the challenges posed by "new media", figures at the Motor Sport Business Forum held in Monaco said this week.

Neville Wheeler, business development director of the technology company Cisco, said the sport's commercial rights holder faces a "major challenge" in adapting from the rapidly outdated television broadcast model.

"We all know the pace of change is so fast that unless you are prepared to break away from the shackles of the old way of doing things you are often left behind and you will find that the passionate fans will seek out other ways of viewing your content," he is quoted as saying in a New York Times column.

Wheeler said "smart organizations" are "embracing new opportunities" provided by "new media" rather than maintaining the "walled garden" approach.

"We have to get to a point where the new media is a key component to the way the sport is delivered to the global audience. If we can't get to that point then advertisers, sponsors, suppliers and teams will not be able to monetize their investment in the way they would like," he added.

Gerard Lopez on Wednesday confirmed his interest in buying into the Renault team, and agreed that current TV broadcasting contracts are "based on the ways people watched television 20 years ago".

"We're really interested in something we call 'Freemium'," said Lopez, who was involved with the launch of the internet communication software Skype.

"This stands for free and premium. You give free content, via the internet, to as many people as possible and you make it important to them to buy additional content," he explained.

Andrew Barrett, the global sponsorships chief of the official F1 technology backer LG, agreed that the rights holders should embrace rather than spurn the new online age.

"The MTV generation watches television in a different way, but the broadcast needs to evolve to capture that viewer, both on television and online.

"Also this is one of the few professional sports in the world that is not broadcast in high definition," he said in the Financial Times.

Kimi turned down F1, not other way around – manager
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen decided to walk away from the F1 paddock for the 2010 season, not the other way around, his manager Steve Robertson insists.

The 2007 world champion agreed to end his Ferrari contract one year early and was subsequently linked with moves to the McLaren, Toyota and Brawn/Mercedes teams.

But Finn Raikkonen, 30, ultimately signed with Citroen to make his full time debut in the World Rally Championship, leaving the door open to possibly returning to F1 in 2011.

Robertson told the Turun Sanomat newspaper that Raikkonen turned down offers to drive in F1 next year because he was determined to try his hand at serious rallying.

"Mercedes wanted to have Kimi," the Briton confirmed. "But by this time he had already decided to go to WRC. Kimi doesn't change his mind."

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali confirmed that a proper rallying foray was always a goal of Raikkonen's.

"Kimi was speaking about it with me already years ago," the Italian told Autosprint. "He always wanted to do rallies at world championship level."

Two weeks before the world championship season begins in Sweden, Raikkonen will make his debut in a Citroen C4 in Finland's Arctic Lapland Rally in January.

His co-driver Kaj Lindstrom told that a pre-rally test on Finnish roads in January is also a possibility.

"That's what we'd like, but at this stage we haven't agreed a plan with Citroen. We'll find out more in the New Year," he said.

Valencia to host common car launch on January 30
(GMM) Valencia has emerged as the venue for a common car launch for most formula one teams at the end of January.

As a novel way to cut costs, the concept was discussed during the 2009 season and was reportedly backed by several teams.

Spanish media reports now reveal that most teams are committed to the event, to take place at the ultra-modern Ciudad de las Artes y de las Ciencias (City of the Arts and Sciences) complex.

The date for the event is Saturday, January 30, as alluded to by Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi this week when he revealed that the team's 2010 car will be seen on that date in Valencia.

Two days later at the nearby Ricardo Tormo circuit, the first pre-season group test begins.

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