Latest F1 news in brief

  • Puncture fears for Valencia bridge section
  • F1 news briefs: Friday
  • F1 not immune to economy crunch – Bernie
  • F1 said no to sailing tie-in – report
  • Bourdais needs to earn 2009 seat – Berger
  • Sutil never worried about losing seat
  • Ecclestone understands McLaren-Alonso split

Puncture fears for Valencia bridge section
(GMM) The FIA's Charlie Whiting will consider possible changes to the bridge section of the Valencia street circuit.

According to the Spanish newspaper Diario AS, tire supplier Bridgestone is concerned that a small height gap between the two sides of the swiveling swing bridge may cause punctures.

Whiting and his aides inspected the section – as well as the rest of the street layout – before lunch on Thursday, as did most of the twenty formula one racers during their on-foot sighting laps.

Honda's Rubens Barrichello, the most experienced driver in F1 history, raised another concern about the bridge section after he walked the track.

He fears that if cars stop or crash on the bridge, which is about 100 meters long, race control may need to stop the race.

"It's not even a safety car issue," the Brazilian told reporters. "You would have to take the car away and bring trucks onto the bridge."

F1 news briefs: Friday
(GMM) Francisco Camps, the president of the local region around Valencia, has asked F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone to adopt the status of official mourning for the inaugural grand prix on the eastern port city's streets this weekend. The Spanish government on Thursday declared three days of nationwide mourning following the Spanair plane crash in Madrid.

It is believed that a period of silence will take place at the urban circuit at noon on Friday.

Nick Heidfeld is maintaining a code of silence regarding his future at BMW-Sauber beyond the 2008 season. When asked at Valencia what he had to say about his contractual situation for next year, the 31-year-old German answered: "Nothing that I can tell you (reporters)."

F1 not immune to economy crunch – Bernie
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has played down fears that the struggling economy is already affecting F1.

The French engine preparing firm Mecachrome is reportedly no longer involved due to recent losses, and it now emerges that F1 supplier Pankl, an Austrian motor racing company, has posted a more than 1 million euros loss for the past trading quarter.

"It seems that everyone is affected, but we will have to wait and see," the 77-year-old F1 chief executive said in interview with Spain's El Mundo newspaper.

It emerged recently that the European Union is nearly in official recession.

"At the moment we are not noticing it, but we are not immune to anything. We will have to be prepared," the Briton added.

F1 said no to sailing tie-in – report
(GMM) Formula one officials turned down the opportunity to tie in the inaugural grand prix in Valencia this weekend with the world of sailing, according to the British newspaper The Times.

A walk around the port city layout on Thursday showed that many America's Cup teams are based nearby, and a glance at some of the boat components demonstrated how closely-related the two technology-based sports are.

But sailing sources said F1 did not want any "contamination" of its product by associating with the America's Cup teams.

"All of the (sailing) teams wanted to be part of the F1 show and F1 said no," said a source.

Bourdais (L) sweats it out against his faster Toro Rosso teammate Vettel (R). Bourdais is under pressure to perform or he will lose his F1 seat.
Red Bull

Bourdais needs to earn 2009 seat – Berger
(GMM) Sebastien Bourdais must still prove he deserves to retain his Toro Rosso race seat beyond 2008, team co-owner Gerhard Berger insists.

Franz Tost is the Faenza based team's principal, and Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz is also a part-owner, but Berger – a former ten time grand prix winner – takes a leading role in the key decisions of the team.

One of his greatest interests is the occupants of the cockpits. He believes Sebastian Vettel is a huge talent, but will lose the German to parent team Red Bull Racing in 2009.

In the other STR single seater at present is Sebastien Bourdais, who received his F1 break this season with Berger's blessing after years of dominance in Champ Car.

But Berger openly admits that the 29-year-old Frenchman has not yet proved he belongs in F1 long-term.

He told Formule 1 Race Report that identifying talent suitable for F1 is only a 50 per cent guarantee that the driver will prove his worth.

"During the season it can turn up that it didn't work, because only then do you see them under pressure," he said.

The Dutch magazine asked Berger if the rise and demise of Scott Speed is an example of a promising driver stumbling at F1.

"Exactly," he said. "Scott was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I hear he is doing well in America and I'm pleased to hear that."

So could Bourdais follow the Californian back to America following a short F1 tenure?

"We gave Sebastien half the season to adjust to formula one," Berger says. "That is over now, so he has to show that he deserves to be driving here. I think he can do it."

Sutil never worried about losing seat
(GMM) Adrian Sutil insists he is satisfied with how he has performed so far in 2008.

The German was highly lauded for his performance as a rookie last year, but his tenure alongside Giancarlo Fisichella this season began not so shiningly.

At the time, it was suggested that Force India chiefs considered demoting Sutil, who is 25, and replacing him with test driver Tonio Liuzzi.

In interview with Formule 1 Race Report, Sutil begs to differ: "The team has always been behind me.

"When it was obvious that I was having some problems, they gave me the time to work it out.

"There was a lot written about it in the press, but I never thought I was going to get fired," he told the Dutch magazine.

Sutil blames the early performance trough this year on a lack of testing in the winter months.

But even though the highly experienced Fisichella was clearly ahead at the beginning of the season, Sutil has redressed the balance by bringing his qualifying deficit back to 6:5.

"That's not too bad, is it?" Sutil says. "There's not so much between us in terms of driving the car at the limit. If there is three tenths between us, that's a different story. But sometimes you could just flip a coin (to separate us)."

He said racing alongside the Roman three-time race winner is a different matter entirely to last year, when Sutil easily dispensed with his teammates Christijan Albers and Sakon Yamamoto.

"I have to be driving really well, otherwise I am behind him. Last season was different," Sutil recalls.

"(In 2007) I knew almost certainly before every session, 'My teammate will be half a second slower'. I think I'm at my very best now.

"Of course I was driving as quickly as possible last year, but it is a different thing."

He said he is waiting for another opportunity, like he had in Monaco, to prove he is a top driver deserving of a winning ride.

"My main focus has to be to beat my teammate. But if I am in front of Giancarlo, it doesn't mean I go immediately to Ferrari.

"This is the most difficult stage of my career, to get into a better team. Look at Giancarlo — he has been years in F1 and only two or three of them with a really top car. Sometimes you need a bit of luck as well."

Sutil is likely to stay with Force India in 2009.

Ecclestone understands McLaren-Alonso split
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone on Friday said he understands why Fernando Alonso wanted to leave McLaren at the end of last year.

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo at Valencia, the F1 chief executive credited the former double world champion for the recent boom in the popularity of his sport in the country — leading to the addition of a second race in Spain.

But Ecclestone, 77, backs Alonso for leaving the Woking based squad.

"From a sporting perspective, it is obvious that his move to Renault was not good for him. But I know very well how unhappy he was (at McLaren)."

The diminutive Briton would not be drawn on the details of Alonso's McLaren breakdown, which hit its crescendo with the 2007 spy scandal.

"I have never asked him; that is something I should do," Bernie smiled. "I think what happened is he arrived to be the number one with a newcomer as his teammate. We all saw what happened — they (McLaren) fell in love with Lewis (Hamilton) instead.

"I don't blame Fernando for what happened," Ecclestone explained.

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