Latest F1 news in brief

  • Rain affects F1 testing in Europe
  • Renault committed to F1 for now
  • 2009 testing loophole for 'young drivers'
  • Honda spending led to F1 exit – chiefs
  • Williams bucks reports of financial strife
  • Renault, Williams, undecided over KERS
  • Piquet hopes for fair Renault treatment
  • Alonso lost weight over winter period
  • New Renault still yet to pass FIA crash tests
  • Budget caps in two years – Briatore
  • Minardi worried about Toyota's F1 commitment

Rain affects F1 testing in Europe
(GMM) Rain affected both formula one test locations on Monday.

At the Portimao circuit in southern Portugal, the action was marred by persistent wet weather, causing most teams to limit running.

McLaren, quickest behind the 2008-spec Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi, even fitted a higher-downforce 2008 wing to its new MP4-24 to generate more grip for the slippery surface, as Williams, Renault and Toyota also got to work with their 2009 packages.

At Mugello near Florence, meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen got his first taste of Ferrari's new F60, doing 54 laps on the wet track before the heaviest rain set in after lunch.

"There were no technical problems with the car," a statement said.

Renault committed to F1 for now
(GMM) Renault team president Bernard Rey on Monday said the Enstone based squad has the support of the French manufacturer for the 2009 season.

"The team will be supported by the whole (Renault) Group throughout the challenges that lie ahead this year," he said on the day the new R29 single seater was unveiled in Portugal.

After Honda pulled out of the sport before Christmas, speculation turned to whether other manufacturers in F1 would succumb to the current slump in car sales.

But Renault team boss Flavio Briatore said at the Portimao circuit: "I promise you someone else is in more difficulty than us."

He also seemed to indicate a longer-term involvement in F1 for Renault by dismissing recent reports that his own tenure will end in two years.

"I never said that to the Italian newspapers," the Italian declared.

2009 testing loophole for 'young drivers'
(GMM) Former F1 team owner and boss Gian Carlo Minardi says the sport's growing trend for less and less track testing is bad news for young hopefuls eyeing a future on the grid.

The recent limitations on testing, and the new total ban on in-season running, is "very bad" for young drivers who use testing opportunities as a means to impress F1 chiefs, he told

"We are going to encounter a black period for them because they will not have a way to demonstrate their potential at the wheel of a formula one car," Minardi said.

"In my opinion this is not the best way forward to limit the costs, which can be lowered in many other areas.

"It is important to leave open a window for the rookies," said Minardi.

Close inspection of the new 2009 rules, however, indicates that such a window has indeed been left open for "young driver training".

The 2009 sporting regulations say young drivers who have not contested a grand prix in the last two years "nor tested a formula one car on more than four days in the same 24 month period" are excluded from the in-season testing ban.

Honda spending led to F1 exit – chiefs
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, two of F1's most senior figures, have issued critical appraisals of Honda's recent approach to the sport.

To the Financial Times, F1 chief executive Ecclestone said the Japanese carmaker swung from one extreme to the other in spending exorbitantly and then suddenly withdrawing.

"They didn't even look for sponsors," Ecclestone said. "They stopped because they were ninth.

"(They were) pouring money in like there was no tomorrow."

The 78-year-old said Honda will not be missed.

"It's bad for me to say this, but the only team we would really say we would miss is Ferrari. I wouldn't want to lose McLaren for sure. I wouldn't want to lose Williams," he added.

Renault boss Briatore, meanwhile, revealed at the launch of his team's 2009 contender on Monday that he warned Honda about their spending habits.

"If Honda had listened to me five years ago, maybe they'd still be in business," said the Italian.

Williams bucks reports of financial strife
(GMM) Williams chief executive Adam Parr has contradicted the latest speculation about the financial health of the British team.

Just as the new Toyota-powered FW31 was unveiled in Portugal, dire news about the financial health of major sponsor Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) was circulating.

The FW31, however, bore the RBS logos at its Portimao track debut on Monday, as well as enlarged signage by the electronics company Philips.

Parr said: "We never take anything for granted, but our 2009 and 2010 budgets are in place thanks to the support of our partners as well as the increased revenues from FOM and the work being done by FOTA and the FIA to reduce costs."

Technical director Sam Michael is hopeful for an improvement in Williams' recent form this year, but he said the "Williams way" is to "under-expect and over-deliver".

He countered reports that the team has already begun to shed staff, for example by dismantling the test team.

"To say we won't have to do that in the future, I can't say, because it's an ever-changing landscape, but we haven't done anything on that front so far," the Australian said.

Renault, Williams, undecided over KERS
(GMM) At the Portimao test circuit on Monday, the controversial new energy-reuse technology KERS remained close to the lips of formula one chiefs.

It emerged that Williams and Renault, who both unveiled their new cars in Portugal, have not decided whether to use their KERS units at the first race of the season in March.

"It's very difficult to sign off KERS in time for Melbourne with all the other things we are trying to do," Williams technical director Sam Michael admitted, adding however that it is possible a team could introduce a system in the middle of the season despite the testing ban.

Williams has gone its own way on KERS design, patenting an unique patented flywheel storage system while all other competitors' designs are battery based.

Renault's new R29 featured only a dormant KERS version on Monday, with team boss Flavio Briatore hitting out at BMW for vetoing the technology's delay and condemning the 2009 debut as a "terrible mistake".

He said KERS is dangerous and expensive, and very limited in terms of performance gains.

The team's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso said teams should consider abandoning KERS altogether if it is not fully functional by Melbourne.

"You cannot arrive on Friday in Malaysia or Bahrain and think about testing a new solution for KERS. It's too late by then," he said.

Briatore said Renault's plan is to switch on the KERS system at the forthcoming Jerez test.

Piquet hopes for fair Renault treatment
(GMM) Nelson Piquet says he is expecting to be treated equally by the Renault team in 2009, despite the fact his teammate remains the former double world champion Fernando Alonso.

As a rookie in 2008, Piquet's status alongside team number one Alonso was clear.

The 23-year-old Brazilian, however, was entrusted with the track debut of the new R29 at Portimao on Monday, leading some to suggest that parity might be the order of the day for 2009.

However, Spaniard Alonso confided to reporters that he is sitting out the opening days of the 2009 car's tests because he wants to.

"The team asked which days I wanted to drive and I said day three and four because normally the first two days the car has a lot of problems.

"I'm happy because Wednesday should be dry," the 27-year-old added.

Piquet insists he will be treated fairly by Renault in 2009.

"Last year I was learning and obviously once in a while we would give priority to Fernando because he had a better chance of winning the race or being more in front," he admitted.

"Now I think the team will have to play on both sides and try to give both cars exactly the same conditions," said Piquet.

Alonso lost weight over winter period
(GMM) Fernando Alonso has lost 3.5 kilograms since the last race of the 2008 season, according to the Spanish newspaper AS.

Whereas last year he tipped the scales at more than 70 kilograms, the 27-year-old now weighs 67kg, after an intense training program designed to maximize his chances with the new regulations allowing heavy KERS systems.

Alonso's training of choice was four hours of cycling per day, bringing him close to the team engineers' ideal driver weight of 65 kilograms, the newspaper Diario AS said.

"I have worked with cyclists and Fernando is very strong, more than ever," his personal physio Fabrizio Borra said.

"He cannot lose any more weight, because if he does he starts to lose strength and that is not what we want."

New Renault still yet to pass FIA crash tests
(GMM) Renault's newly launched 2009 car still has not passed two of the mandatory FIA crash tests, team boss Flavio Briatore admitted on Monday.

As the R29 began testing in Portugal, the Italian confirmed reports that the car has not yet been cleared to contest the first race of the season.

It is understood that Renault engineers already knew the car was close to the crash test limits, due to efforts over the winter to reduce weight to accommodate the heavy KERS system.

Briatore told the Spanish press: "There is still time before Australia to pass the two tests. The car is working well."

Budget caps in two years – Briatore
(GMM) Now is not the time, but formula one can seriously consider introducing annual team budget caps within two years, Renault team boss Flavio Briatore said on Monday.

The Italian is a staunch advocate of slashing the sport's high costs, and at the launch of his team's 2009 contender in Portugal he agreed that simply restricting budgets would be ideal.

But to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, Briatore insisted that budget caps should follow more work in reining-in some of the most wasted outgoings.

"Right now we would have to supervise the budgets in too many areas," he said. "So we first have to keep driving down our expenditures.

"For the engine, transmission and aerodynamics we have already talked about it (cost cutting), now we have to think about the chassis.

"In two years time we can determine a budget limit," said Briatore.

He also scolded F1 powerbrokers Bernie Ecclestone and Luca di Montezemolo for recently engaging in a very public war of words.

"The gentlemen talk too much," Briatore charged. "It would really be better if we are all steering the ship together."

He also expressed frustration about FIA president Max Mosley, the original advocate of KERS technology who now thinks teams were wrong to develop expensive and dangerous battery-based systems.

Minardi worried about Toyota's F1 commitment
(GMM) Gian Carlo Minardi, a former F1 team boss and owner, is concerned about Toyota's commitment to the sport.

In a message on, the Italian said he noted the departure as engine boss from the Japanese owned team of his countryman Luca Marmorini.

"Unfortunately, the new regulations and the policies of the Japanese team do not leave much room for a character like Marmorini," he said.

Minardi said he interpreted Jarno Trulli's interview just prior to the launch of the 2009 Toyota, where the Italian driver indicated a victory must be delivered this year within six races, as an ominous sign.

And Minardi also said: "The failure to encourage the use of KERS from the beginning, the freezing of engines and the lack of prospects for development have led to this choice (by Marmorini) and this, certainly, in my opinion, is not a good sign."

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