Latest F1 news in brief

  • Tweaked colors, new sponsor for Renault
  • Three F1 racers in ski marathon
  • Lauda wants F1 drivers to double up
  • Kovalainen to relax more in 2009
  • New Toyota makes debut in Portugal
  • Hamilton in dark over Dennis' decision
  • Setback no problem to Donington's F1 plans

Tweaked colors, new sponsor for Renault
(GMM) Renault on Monday will reveal its 2009 car, a slightly revised livery and a new sponsor in the form of the French oil company Total.

Those preparing for this week's test at the Portimao circuit on the southern coast of Portugal have spotted the R29, featuring newly red-painted rear wing endplates bearing the 'Total' logo, and less blue than in the previous livery design, in the pit garage.

Total is the parent of the existing Renault backer Elf.

Contrary to speculation, however, the Dutch bank ING will in 2009 remain the title sponsor of the Enstone based team.

The new car will be revealed officially on Monday, with Nelson Piquet scheduled to complete the debut laps.

Fernando Alonso will be present for the launch and debut on Monday, but is not scheduled to drive until Wednesday.

Three F1 racers in ski marathon
(GMM) Three friends and former formula one drivers at the weekend were among the 500 competitors at a charity ski endurance race.

Held at the Villars ski resort in Switzerland, the annual 24-hour race is sponsored by Jacques Villeneuve and his long-time business partner Craig Pollock.

The French-Canadian has headlined the event since his days as a Williams driver in the 90s, and this year was joined on the piste by long-time friend and newly-retired racer David Coulthard, the Swiss regional newspaper 24-Heures said.

Villeneuve's former Williams teammate Damon Hill also raced, as did Paul Stewart, son of the triple world champion Sir Jackie.

"Believe me, I am not going for any records," said Hill, 48. "I have the enthusiasm but my body is not really up to the task!"

Lauda wants F1 drivers to double up
(GMM) Niki Lauda has a novel proposal to get more value out of F1's highly-paid drivers and at the same time help another premier series stave off the effects of the global financial crisis.

The former triple world champion wants racers like 2008 title winner Lewis Hamilton, and rising star Sebastian Vettel, to double up and race in the German premier touring car category DTM.

"In these difficult times Mercedes could use Hamilton (for its DTM team)," the Austrian told the German language news magazine Focus, explaining that F1 drivers this year will not be deployed on circuits so much due to the total ban on in-season testing.

"And Vettel could be put to use by Red Bull-Audi," Lauda continued.

He said his scheme would give F1 employers more value for their money, and boost the popularity of the DTM, whose 2009 calendar does not include many clashes with grands prix.

Lauda said he does not agree with proposals to cap or limit F1 drivers' salaries.

"Utter nonsense. It is a free market," he insisted.

Kovalainen to relax more in 2009
(GMM) Heikki Kovalainen thinks relaxing more could help him get closer to the performance of his teammate and reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton in 2009.

The Finn, 27, won his first grand prix in Hungary last year, but he ultimately finished the championship just seventh, 45 points shy of the British occupant of the other McLaren.

"I think I put perhaps too much expectation on myself, and sometimes I was too hard on myself if I didn't get the pole position or didn't win the race," he said at the launch of the new MP4-24 last week.

"I don't believe there are any magic tricks or any special area that I really need to improve. I hope we can improve every area and the results should be better."

One trick, however, could be learning to relax more, as well as drawing on more self-confidence, Kovalainen admits.

"I don't think I have to take all the blame on myself," he said. "If I have one session where I don't think I have maximized everything then I am not going to get stressed about it."

Kovalainen was also held back last year by usually qualifying with more fuel than Hamilton, technical problems with his 2008 contender, his heavy Barcelona crash and other incidents.

"I think first of all I have to finish more races," he acknowledged, but Kovalainen also believes his season of experience should now stand him in good stead for 2009.

"Hopefully I can give better instructions and better direction for the team, the engineers and the designers, about what I need from the car.

"This year hopefully we can turn things around and hopefully I can have a stronger year," he added.

New Toyota makes debut in Portugal
(GMM) Following the debut of the new McLaren on Saturday, Sunday was Toyota's turn to put the first laps on its 2009 contender, the TF109.

At the same Algarve circuit in southern Portugal, Toyota – under the eye of other teams setting up for a week of testing – had booked exclusive use of the track to roll-out its newly launched single seater.

Japanese test driver Kamui Kobayashi was at the wheel under overcast skies.

The group test at the Portimao venue, from Monday until Thursday in possibly mixed weather conditions, kicks off with the debut of the new Renault and Williams cars.

Hamilton in dark over Dennis' decision
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton, who under Ron Dennis' wing rose from a ten-year old boy karter to reigning world champion, learned only minutes before the rest of the world that the McLaren team boss is stepping aside.

Dennis, 61, announced to international media at his team's Woking headquarters last Friday that he will hand over the role of team principal on March 1 to his long-time deputy Martin Whitmarsh.

"I only heard Ron was standing down a couple of minutes before he announced his decision," 24-year-old Hamilton is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

The newspaper said the fact is evidence that the relationship between the pair is not the same as it was before an incident involving his then teammate Fernando Alonso in the summer of 2007.

Briton Hamilton, however, lauded Dennis at the launch of the 2009 contender, the MP4-24, crediting his entire career to the McLaren chairman.

But he insists that, while Dennis retains the controls of the McLaren organization overall, the grand prix team will not suffer without him at the helm.

"The team have never been just Ron, as he says himself," Hamilton said.

"The foundations are here for the team to have a sustained period of dominance," he added.

Dennis, meanwhile, revealed that Hamilton's title triumph last year was a factor in his decision to call it a day.

"Lewis winning the championship made the decision easier but it was not the catalyst," he emphasized.

Setback no problem to Donington's F1 plans
(GMM) The loss of the MotoGP race will not affect Donington Park's plans to begin hosting F1's British grand prix in 2010, circuit chief Simon Gillett insists.

It emerged last week that Silverstone, the current home of formula one in Britain, has secured the MotoGP rights for five years.

Donington has hosted the premier motorcycling category since the 80s.

And even before the circuit's loss of the MotoGP revenue, skeptics were expressing doubt about its ability to raise the money necessary for its expensive F1 overhaul.

But track chief Gillett told the Leicester Mercury: "We knew before Christmas that it would be moving, and although it is a big loss it is not going to impact in any way on our plans for the F1 grand prix."

He said Donington will bid to reclaim the MotoGP rights at the expiry of Silverstone's new contract in 2014.

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