Latest F1 news in brief

  • Tire gap to be bigger in 2009 – Whiting
  • F1 to ensure KERS safety for marshals
  • No 'free' Friday engine use in 2009
  • FIA confirms safety car rule change
  • New STR heads for February debut
  • Malaysia also agrees to 'twilight' race
  • BMW decides to join Bahrain test

Tire gap to be bigger in 2009 – Whiting
(GMM) The difference between the performance of the two tire compounds on offer at grands prix this year will be bigger than in 2008, the FIA's technical boss Charlie Whiting has confirmed.

The sport's rules dictate that drivers must use both types of dry-weather compounds during races, but in 2008 the difference between the Bridgestone products was often not large.

Whiting confirmed that F1's official tire supplier has been asked to exaggerate the difference between the offered compounds in 2009.

"Sometimes, in 2008, this gap was a matter of one or two tenths. We thought it would be better if it was bigger. The Bridgestone engineers are working on that," the Briton said in a media briefing.

Early tests of the 2009 tires, to be 'slicks' for the first time since 1997, indicate that the difference between the compounds may now be very wide.

Whiting, however, played down the indications of the winter test tracks.

"What happens in winter testing is probably not indicative of what will happen in the warmer conditions of the first four races.

"It's something we'll have to look at, as we certainly don't want too big a difference between the two types of tires available at each race."

He said his preference for the compound gap at races is "at least half a second".

F1 to ensure KERS safety for marshals
(GMM) Warning lights, insulated gloves and color-coding will help keep F1 marshals safe from the dangers of new KERS technology, Charlie Whiting told the media on Tuesday.

The dangers posed to drivers and team personnel by the high-voltage systems has been often discussed, but also at risk are the trackside marshals, whose mainly voluntary job it is to recover stricken or crashed cars.

"It's several hundred volts and the potential to be tens of amps, pretty lethal," said Renault technical director Bob Bell recently. "And it's DC, so if you hold it you cannot let go."

A KERS Safety Working Group has been chaired by BMW, the team whose mechanic was electrically-shocked during early testing of the new energy re-use technology.

FIA delegate Whiting said a document prepared by the Group will shortly be circulated to all race hosts, in order to educate the marshals and other workers who will be exposed to KERS systems in 2009.

"There will be things like the KERS status warning light that will be on all cars," he said.

"If there's a risk, it should be clear to a marshal who walks up to the car. He should approach the vehicle, look at the KERS status light and, if it is in the wrong state, he shouldn't touch the car," said Whiting.

Another safety measure for marshals will be the color-coding of potentially high-voltage parts, and the mandatory use of gloves "which are good for a thousand volts", Whiting explained.

No 'free' Friday engine use in 2009
(GMM) Friday practice will no longer be exempt from F1's long-life engine rules, the FIA's Charlie Whiting has clarified.

The engine rules for 2009 have been tweaked, with the mandatory consecutive use of power plants dropped.

Instead, drivers will be limited to eight engines for the entire season and can use them "as they like".

In 2008 and previously, the two-race per engine rule did not apply to Fridays. "Now, for 17 races, the eight engines will have to do the three days of each grand prix," Whiting said in a media briefing on Tuesday.

"What the teams will do is to have a Friday engine that'll probably do the first four races or something of that nature. They'll then take the engine out and use another one for Saturday and Sunday," he said.

There has also been confusion as to whether, because of the existing 'parc ferme' rules, one engine could be used in qualifying and then exchanged with another for the race.

Whiting confirmed that penalties for engine changes will only occur in 2009 if a driver uses a "ninth engine".

FIA confirms safety car rule change
(GMM) F1's controversial safety car rules have been scrapped ahead of the 2009 season, the FIA's Charlie Whiting confirmed in a media briefing on Tuesday.

We reported last October that it was agreed to revert to the system of 2006, whereby the pitlane will stay open upon deployment of the safety car, rather than unfairly penalize drivers who are forced to pit.

"The rule introduced in 2007 was a bad one, and we've gone back to the 2006 regulations," the governing body's technical and safety delegate said.

We had also reported in October that, to accompany the revised system, drivers will need to adhere to a minimum lap time as they drive slowly after deployment of the safety car, as was trialed several times in free practice last year.

The new rules are an improvement but not perfect, BMW-Sauber team manager Beat Zehnder said last year.

"If at the time of (race) neutralization you were just past the pits, it will be a problem because you will have do a full lap."

New STR heads for February debut
(GMM) Toro Rosso's 2009 car will hit the test tracks at some point after the launch of sister team Red Bull Racing's RB5.

Sebastien Buemi, so far the Faenza based squad's only confirmed driver for the forthcoming season, suggested a date for the debut of the Ferrari-powered STR4 has not yet been fixed.

Although using different engines, Red Bull's two teams both use an otherwise identical chassis, designed by Adrian Newey and the Milton-Keynes based Red Bull Technology.

When asked about STR's plans, 20-year-old Swiss Buemi told the British broadcaster ITV: "I know that the Red Bull will come out on February 9, so I suppose we'll be a bit later than that, but I don't know exactly when."

Following testing duties in Portugal at the wheel of the 2008 car, Buemi this week returned for a short stay to Bahrain, his official residence.

Albeit not yet at the wheel of a 2009-specification car, Buemi said dominating the top of the test time sheets has been "very good for my self-confidence".

"But now we have to think of this coming year; it's going to be tough," he told the Gulf Daily News.

"We are quite confident. We just got the chassis and it looks good, and we'll see if we can run it before the end of February."

Malaysia also agrees to 'twilight' race
(GMM) Like Australia, fellow faraway formula one race host Malaysia will also stage a 'twilight' grand prix beginning in 2009, it has emerged.

Instead of agreeing to install expensive floodlighting and run a Singapore-like night race, organizers of the Australian grand prix in Melbourne last year negotiated to postpone the race start-time to 5pm beginning in 2009.

"Obviously, the later it is the better. I suppose it is easier getting up in Europe at 6am than 3am," a half-satisfied F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said last year.

Also to benefit European television viewers, it appears Malaysia has also agreed to the 'twilight' scheme, as the FIA on Tuesday confirmed the 5pm race start-time for both opening rounds of the 2009 championship.

Ecclestone's Formula One Administration, meanwhile, confirmed that qualifying in Melbourne and Sepang will also take place at 5pm local time.

BMW decides to join Bahrain test
(GMM) BMW-Sauber has decided to join Ferrari and Toyota at the Bahrain circuit for its next winter test.

Following the debut of the F1.09 single seater at Valencia last week, the Hinwil based team was scheduled to join the major action at the forthcoming Jerez test.

But after hearing of the abysmal weather conditions last week in the usually temperate Algarve region, it is understood that BMW has decided to leave Europe altogether in search of better conditions.

With the in-season test ban looming, there are now just a handful of days remaining for teams to prepare their new cars on track for the Australian grand prix and beyond.

While most other teams now head for Jerez, Toyota and Ferrari had already scheduled to travel to the desert island of Bahrain, where their test begins on February 10.

After fog, rain and even hail ruined the Portimao session last week, Toyota's Timo Glock said: "At least in Bahrain we can expect much better weather and many more laps, which is what we need to develop the new car."

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