Latest F1 news in brief

  • Button happy that slow 2008 car is improving
  • Briatore expects decent opener for Renault
  • Bernie blames Toyota for Ralf's demise
  • Glock expects Trulli to shine brighter
  • Kubica talks down BMW's victory target
  • Toyota CEO sets sights on race win
  • Michelin exit still hurts Alonso – Kubica

Button happy that slow 2008 car is improving
(GMM) Jenson Button is confident that, despite fielding a slow car in winter testing, Honda can move forwards in 2008.

Although the Japanese team did not appear to have turned around its disastrous 2007 form with the RA108 in the recently concluded pre-season period, Button says the big difference compared to last year is that the new car is showing signs of improving.

"The basic car was not very fast when we first drove it, but it's improving," he told the British broadcaster ITV.

Button admits that the RA108 is "definitely not" going to be challenging the front-runners this year.

"But we're improving and that's the main thing," said the 28-year-old.

"It's nice to see progress in testing — it's been a while," the Briton smiled.

Briatore expects decent opener for Renault
(GMM) Team boss Flavio Briatore has counted Renault out of the running for at least the opening three races of 2008.

To France's Journal du Dimanche newspaper, however, the Italian chief suggests that the new R28 single seater is not as bad as it seemed at some of the recent winter tests.

Briatore said he is "confident that in Melbourne, things will look better", before the car gets a substantial upgrade for April's Spanish grand prix.

What he is really happy about is that Fernando Alonso, after an uncomfortable season with McLaren, is now back to top form.

"He is more mature, very concentrated, very happy. Actually, we feel like we have already won because Fernando is smiling again.

"Last year I didn't recognize him. Now he knows where he is and that everything is clear," he said.

Briatore said the Spaniard is not necessarily being paid more in 2008, but confirmed that Alonso did ask for "sporting guarantees".

He also points out that Alonso's rookie teammate, Nelson Piquet, is "intelligent" enough not to create problems for the double world champion.

"He knows that, at his age, he is extraordinarily lucky to already be with a top team.

"There is no competition between them," Briatore added. "That would be suicide for Nelsinho; instead, he is there to learn."

Briatore also defended his decision to part with 2007 rookie Heikki Kovalainen after just a single season.

The Italian said that, "to get Fernando, we had to let (Heikki) go.

"Anyway, he went to McLaren, and I thought we had to improve our team relations," Briatore joked.

Bernie blames Toyota for Ralf's demise
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has blamed Toyota for the demise of Ralf Schumacher's formula one career.

Schumacher, the 32-year-old German who has switched to DTM with Mercedes-Benz for 2008, ended his once promising grand prix stay with a disappointing final three years at the Japanese team.

But F1 chief executive Ecclestone rejects the theory that the winner of six GPs left the scene because he was no longer fast enough.

"He has a lot of talent," the 77-year-old told Sport Bild, "but he was not consistent enough with his achievements.

"Should he have been with McLaren or Ferrari, he would still be in formula one, but he was with a team that was not good enough.

"In that situation it is very difficult for a guy like Ralf to do the right things," Bernie added.

Ecclestone predicts that the doors to the F1 teams' motor homes will once again open up to Schumacher if he does a good job in DTM, Germany's premier touring car series.

"I can well imagine seeing Ralf in formula one again," the Briton said.

Glock expects Trulli to shine brighter
(GMM) Timo Glock is not expecting to upstage his experienced Toyota teammate Jarno Trulli when he makes his return to formula one racing in Australia this weekend.

The 25-year-old German is the new reigning champion of GP2, but Glock warns that his ascent at motor racing's highest level will not be as meteoric as his predecessor Lewis Hamilton's was in 2007.

Expectations for Toyota's new TF108 single seater increased after Trulli finished atop the final time sheet of the testing pre-season.

But Glock told the German broadcaster RTL: "For me, there are still one or two issues on which we must work, because the car is obviously more suited to Jarno's driving style than mine."

He also said that Trulli's eleven seasons of F1 experience already made the Italian the team's favorite for 2008.

Some fear that Glock's concerns about his differing driving style sound eerily similar to 2007, when Ralf Schumacher's career faded alongside Trulli at Toyota.

Glock confirms: "Jarno has a very different style, where he likes to have understeer in the car.

"It seems that Ralf and I prefer a car that is a little more neutral. So we need to work on it.

"I have shown in the tests that my basic speed is there; it is just that for the race distances we need to improve it for me.

"At the beginning, I have to say, I don't think I can expect much, simply because Jarno has the experience. He knows the basic philosophy of the car much better.

"There is no number one and two, because Toyota is very open and gives both the drivers the same opportunity.

"But in my view, the advantage is with Jarno, because of his experience," Glock added.

Kubica talks down BMW's victory target
(GMM) Robert Kubica has described BMW Sauber's official target to win its first grand prix in 2008 as currently "impossible" with the F1.08 single seater.

The German squad insists that, despite a less than perfect pre-season for the Swiss built car, the target of beating Ferrari and McLaren to the top step of the podium at least once this year still stands.

But Kubica, the team's Polish race driver, reckons even BMW's mantle as the third force in formula one is "in danger" in 2008.

"To win a race we have to have the fastest car in the field. For the moment, we are not there, but we are working on it and we will see if we can achieve that goal," he said.

The Spanish newspaper El Mundo also asked Kubica, who is 23, if he thinks BMW Sauber's victory goal is realistic for this season.

"At the moment it is impossible for us to win a race, but in formula one it can turn around so quickly.

"The plan is very ambitious. The goal is to improve each season. Last year we were third (fastest), so the next target is very high."

He suggests that BMW's real target could be to confirm the team's place as a consistent challenger.

"We must demonstrate that last year was not just a fluke; that we know how to make fast cars," Kubica said.

He also insists that BMW's high ambition for 2008 does not put him under any extra pressure.

"I don't think about the targets," Kubica said. "My only goal is to drive as fast as possible and make the most of the car; which could be finishing sixth or winning the race.

"I will make sure I give everything I can and then we will see where we are.

"Every driver wants to win, but I know that it might not happen this year, or next year, or ever.

"I hope that I can win some time, but if I cannot, then that's life," Kubica said.

Toyota CEO sets sights on race win
(GMM) On the eve of the 2008 championship season, the biggest Toyota boss has asked the Japanese carmaker's F1 team to deliver its first race win.

Despite having a front-running annual budget since the Cologne based outfit debuted in 2002, Toyota has in more than 100 grands prix so far failed to collect more than a handful of podiums and the odd pole.

2007, meanwhile, saw the outfit score just 13 points in total, but Toyota president and CEO Katsuaki wants at least a 10-point haul in one go this year, with Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock at the wheel of the new TF108.

"I believe I have been saying it every year, but definitely this year we will put all our efforts in the top race of F1 to present everyone with our first victory and inspiration," he said in Japanese at a media briefing in Tokyo.

Michelin exit still hurts Alonso – Kubica
(GMM) Robert Kubica thinks F1 drivers like himself and former world champion Fernando Alonso are still struggling to adapt to life without Michelin tires.

The Polish driver, who races for BMW Sauber, told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo Deportivo that the French supplier's withdrawal from formula one at the end of 2006 was "instrumental" in the shift in the balance of power last year.

El Mundo asked Kubica, who is 23, if he thinks Alonso is the same driver now that he – along with every other rival in pit lane – is equipped with Bridgestone's control tires.

"No. What happened (in 2005 and 2006) was that Fernando got the absolute maximum out of his driving style with Michelin. The same with me.

"I believe that, with the change (of tire supplier), we have lost something that we used to have in our pockets," he added.

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