Latest F1 news in brief

  • Aus GP future to be clear later in 2008
  • Mubadala revs up Ferrari F1 deal
  • Dennis plays down Sepang absence
  • Lauda slams drivers after Ferrari debacle
  • Pity Wurz left Williams says Keke Rosberg
  • Briatore goes easy on Piquet after dire debut
  • Flav saves cheeky smile for McLaren setback
  • My rear-view mirrors 'suck' says Coulthard
  • Gene surprised by McLaren finger trouble

Aus GP future to be clear later in 2008
(GMM) Melbourne officials will discover later this year if the country stands a chance of retaining the grand prix at Albert Park beyond the looming expiry of its contract.

Race bosses and F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone are at odds over a new deal, with the Australian chiefs recently ruling out meeting Ecclestone's demands for a night race.

Premier John Brumby, in charge of the promoting Victorian state government, said at the weekend that he expects to find out about the event's future from Ecclestone later this year.

"I expect that by the spring we will have a firm decision in relation to the future of the grand prix," he said.

Organizers have offered to compromise on the night race demand with a 5pm twilight start in 2009, but Ecclestone and grand prix boss Ron Walker did not discuss the issue at the weekend because the F1 supremo did not make the trip from London to Australia for the 2008 opener.

Interestingly, however, Walker – who said he spoke on the phone to Ecclestone on Sunday – told the local newspaper The Age that there might even be room to maneuver on the 5pm proposal.

"We're not far off a compromise," he said.

Mubadala revs up Ferrari F1 deal
(GMM) The state owned Abu Dhabi investment company Mubadala has extended until 2010 its sponsorship of the formula one team Ferrari.

It was revealed last year that Mubadala, having already bought a five per cent stake in the famous Italian marque in 2005, would inject additional funds so that its logos are featured on the red racers in 2007-2009.

The company has now negotiated a further one-season extension (to 2010) of that deal, with prominent branding on the nose of the Maranello built single seaters.

Dennis plays down Sepang absence
(GMM) Ron Dennis on Sunday pre-empted more inevitable speculation about his future by revealing that he does not plan to attend this weekend's Malaysian grand prix.

Not long after rumors that the McLaren boss might call it quits before the 2008 season opener were proved wrong, the 60-year-old told reporters in Australia that a prior engagement will keep him away from Sepang.

"When you don't see me in Malaysia, don't jump to conclusions — I will be at all the other races," Dennis said, insisting that his absence has nothing to do with formula one.

Wearing the now familiar bright orange McLaren 'victory' t-shirt in the Melbourne paddock, the Briton also bluntly denied that Lewis Hamilton's Albert Park win, and Ferrari's disastrous showing, was sweet "revenge" after the trials of 2007.

Dennis also would not hear suggestions that Ferrari's dreadful weekend could be related to the official handing over of power from Jean Todt to new chief Stefano Domenicali.

"They're a very competitive team, they're well run," he insisted.

"We know they're going to be a very strong team in all the remaining races," Dennis added.

Lauda slams drivers after Ferrari debacle
(GMM) Ferrari's poor reliability in Australia was well documented, but former triple world champion Niki Lauda insists that the drivers were arguably the Italian team's weakest link at the 2008 season opener.

"Kimi Raikkonen did not seem like the world champion," the Austrian legend, in the Albert Park paddock, observed to the German newspaper Bild.

When trying to pass his rivals on Sunday, Finn Raikkonen on one occasion missed his braking point and sped into the gravel trap, and he later put a wheel on the grass and spun out.

Lauda continued to "I do wonder about him, because he really did everything wrong, but Massa was no better.

"Everything that they could do wrong, they did do wrong," the former Ferrari racer added.

Felipe Massa's main mistake on Sunday was losing control and hitting the wall on the first lap, but he was also slammed by David Coulthard for a collision that ended the Scot's race.

Ferrari's bosses did not specifically criticize their drivers after the event, but new team principal Stefano Domenicali admitted that "the whole team has not performed to our usual standard".

Before leaving Melbourne, his deputy Luca Baldisserri added: "We did not work well on any level."

Pity Wurz left Williams says Keke Rosberg
(GMM) 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg says it is a pity that his son is no longer paired at Williams with his 2007 teammate Alex Wurz.

"Nico and Alex worked well together," the Finn, who now travels to all the races as a German-language commentator, told the Austrian newspaper Kurier, albeit admitting that Wurz's performances last year were often below par.

Rosberg Snr, who reveals that he celebrated his 22-year-old son's maiden podium triumph in Melbourne with a cup of coffee rather than champagne, is curious as to why Wurz announced his retirement last season and then promptly re-emerged as Honda's test driver for 2008.

He suspects that Sir Frank Williams replaced Wurz with Japanese Kazuki Nakajima, who is closely connected with the British team's engine partner Toyota, for reasons of money rather than merit.

"That is one possibility," Rosberg agreed.

Briatore goes easy on Piquet after dire debut
(GMM) Renault rookie Nelson Piquet insists that a less than comprehensive preparation contributed to his disastrous formula one debut in Australia last weekend.

The 22-year-old Brazilian was off the pace at Albert Park, qualifying second to last before logging slow lap times in the race and retiring with suspected damage to the rear of his car.

"It was hard," Piquet is quoted as saying afterwards by the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

"It is very difficult to set the car up for qualifying and the race. During the weekend, everything happens so quickly and there is not enough time to think," he added.

His predecessor, Heikki Kovalainen, had a similarly dire Melbourne debut a year ago, but Piquet insists that even that comparison is not valid.

"He was able to prepare with 30,000 kilometers of prior testing, while I only did about 10,000," Piquet said.

Indeed, after Kovalainen was slammed by Flavio Briatore twelve months ago for his Australian showing, the Renault boss was more reserved in contemplation of Piquet's dire debut.

"I am sure this has been a learning experience for him, and I am confident that in the races to come he will do better," he said.

Flav saves cheeky smile for McLaren setback
(GMM) Renault officials had little to be pleased about after a difficult opener to their 2008 season.

Team boss Flavio Briatore, though, saved a haughty smile for late in the Melbourne race, after his McLaren counterpart and nemesis Ron Dennis was captured by live television pumping the air with delight.

Dennis was clearly delighted when Heikki Kovalainen muscled past Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard who spectacularly fell out with his British team in 2007 before switching back to Renault.

"What I enjoyed the most in this race was seeing Ron Dennis' face," Briatore, referring to Kovalainen's subsequent accidental pressing of the pit lane speed limiter that allowed Alonso to snatch fourth place back, is quoted as saying by El Pais.

Briatore also mischievously said that he hoped Dennis' long flight back to Europe would be long enough for the Briton to "digest" the setback.

To the Spanish newspaper Diario AS, meanwhile, Alonso admitted to also celebrating when his McLaren successor Kovalainen accidentally pressed the pit lane limiter.

"After seeing on the (big) screens how McLaren reacted when he passed me, naturally I did the same when I went back in front," he said.

My rear-view mirrors 'suck' says Coulthard
(GMM) David Coulthard says recent designs for F1 rear-view mirrors "suck".

The veteran racer was furious with Ferrari's Felipe Massa after their collision at Albert Park on Sunday, answering "of course" when asked if he knew the Brazilian was trying to pass him.

But Coulthard, 37, is now quoted as suggesting that designers of modern F1 cars are not concerned enough about drivers' rearward visibility.

Red Bull's single seaters, penned by Adrian Newey, are among several in the current field on which the mirrors are mounted on the side pods, some distance from the drivers' eyes, because of the aerodynamic benefits.

It is rumored that Fernando Alonso demanded to Renault technicians that his mirrors be moved closer to the cockpit for 2008.

"The FIA should realize that you can see almost nothing out of these sidepod mirrors," Coulthard is quoted as saying by sportnet.

Gene surprised by McLaren finger trouble
(GMM) Ferrari test driver Marc Gene says he is surprised that wrongly pressing the button for the pit lane speed limiter ruined McLaren newcomer Heikki Kovalainen's quest for fourth place in Australia.

Kovalainen on Sunday said he accidentally pressed the button as he tore a rip-off from his helmet visor, which undid the effort of his daring overtaking maneuver on Fernando Alonso.

"I was surprised," Spaniard Gene wrote in a column for the newspaper El Mundo.

Despite McLaren's denials, Gene is convinced that pressing the wrong button also caused Lewis Hamilton to slow down in the title-deciding Brazilian grand prix last October.

"It is incredible that McLaren still have not done anything about it after that incident cost them so dearly," he remarked.

Gene points out that Ferrari's own speed limit system can only be activated when a driver is in a low gear, not at close to top speed on a main straight, as was Kovalainen at the time of his finger trouble at Albert Park.

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