Latest F1 news in brief

  • Hamilton says no TC to blame for Jerez spins
  • Patchy track debut for new Red Bull
  • Glock shocks Jerez with new Toyota pace
  • Raikkonen coy on Renault return to form
  • Drivers reluctant to air safety views – DC
  • Red Bull must wait for race wins – Mateschitz
  • Alonso fears bad Renault return
  • Piquet expects no conflict with Alonso
  • Missing parts blight Super Aguri test
  • Ralf happy with first DTM test
  • Dennis plays down McLaren ECU controversy

Hamilton says no TC to blame for Jerez spins
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton admitted on Wednesday that the absence of traction control led to his two visits to the Jerez gravel traps during the final day of the Spanish group test.

The 23-year-old British driver twice beached his new McLaren MP4-23 away from the damp circuit's tarmac — once early in the day, and once as the session wound down.

The removal of driver aids including traction control and engine braking for 2008 has been controversial, with some drivers concerned that driving in wet conditions is now more dangerous.

"Without these controls helping you on the entry to corners there is a lot more locking of the rear wheels, and when you are on the limit and pushing that is what happens," Hamilton agreed as he faced reporters at Jerez.

"It is so slippery, and even harder without traction control," he added.

Patchy track debut for new Red Bull
(GMM) Red Bull's new car for 2008 survived a scare on its installation lap before breaking down at the end of its first day of running at Jerez.

The RB4 was launched at the Spanish circuit earlier on Wednesday, before David Coulthard put 54 laps on its odometer.

On the very first out-in lap, Scot Coulthard – who like all Red Bull personnel is hoping for a more reliable season for the team – feared a throttle problem, but it turned out to be a false alarm.

Ultimately, Adrian Newey's second car designed at Milton-Keynes was a few tenths slower in the patchy rain than the 2007 version, which completed a similar number of laps in the hands of Mark Webber.

"The car's potential? Far too early to say!" Newey said, after Coulthard walked back to the pits following an engine problem with a few minutes of the session left to run.

Glock shocks Jerez with new Toyota pace
(GMM) Timo Glock left the Jerez paddock scratching its collective head on Wednesday as his 2008 Toyota topped the time sheets on the final day of the group test.

Despite saying just 24 hours earlier that the TF108 could initially be a "step back" for the struggling Japanese team, the reigning GP2 champion went quicker than all comers, including Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Fernando Alonso (Renault) and the title-winning Ferraris.

"It was a perfect lap," he boasted to Germany's Bild newspaper, which said Glock completed the lap late in the afternoon with fresh tires.

But Glock insisted: "I had much more fuel on board than many people might believe."

Earlier this week, however, he cautioned that the Cologne based team is unlikely to make an immediate step towards the middle of the podium in 2008.

"What is clear is that we can't think the new car is the new 'wonderbaby' and we will be five seconds quicker or whatever," the Press Association quoted him as saying.

"It could be a little step back, but in the end it will pay off when we understand how the car works and make it quicker," he added.

Raikkonen coy on Renault return to form
(GMM) Reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen remained skeptical on Wednesday as the paddock mused Renault's apparent return to top form at Jerez.

On Tuesday, on the only thoroughly dry day of running at the Spanish group test this week, 26-year-old Alonso led the field in the R27, which in the hands of Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen in 2007 was not a race winner.

On Wednesday, he was third; a couple of tenths adrift of his former McLaren teammate, Lewis Hamilton.

"We'll see what happens in the races," Raikkonen, at the circuit to test Ferrari's 2008 car, said.

"I don't think they have improved so much suddenly after last season with the old car, but let's wait and see," the Finn added.

Even Alonso, F1's championship winner of 2005 and 2006 with the French team, seemed unconvinced about the true meaning of his form.

Asked by the Spanish broadcaster Telecinco how the R27 shapes up against his 2007 McLaren mount, he answered: "It is difficult to know.

"This is not a car for winning races, as we have seen all (last) year, but perhaps I was expecting more difficulties to drive it," Alonso added.

Drivers reluctant to air safety views – DC
(GMM) Many fellow formula one drivers have not publicly expressed their concerns about the ban on electronic aids, according to outspoken critic and grand prix veteran David Coulthard.

The Red Bull driver, who at 36 is the oldest active driver on the grid, told reporters at the Jerez test on Wednesday that some of his rivals are simply not prepared to be labeled "soft" by declaring that the absence of traction control will make their jobs more dangerous.

Coulthard said many drivers are not shy to air their concerns in drivers' and GPDA meetings.

"There is an element of not wanting to get involved publicly, an element of not wanting to talk about safety because racing drivers are meant to be brave and pushing the limits and all that sort of thing," he explained.

Coulthard seemed to resent the depiction of him as 'afraid' of F1's new era without sophisticated driver aids.

Referring to some of his younger rivals, he said: "I've raced when a lot of these guys were at kindergarten, and I was racing cars without those toys."

Coulthard's teammate Mark Webber also laid his cards on the table at Jerez on Wednesday, ridiculing the suggestion that F1 drivers' high salaries justify the risks.

"But I don't want to see 'Webber is a pussy with safety' (in the media)," the Australian admitted.

"I like taking risks, and I'm up for the challenge, but we need to always find a balance," he said.

Red Bull must wait for race wins – Mateschitz
(GMM) Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has played down expectations that the team's second car penned by Adrian Newey could be in the running for race wins in 2008.

"Not under normal racing conditions," the Austrian billionaire cautioned at Jerez on Wednesday, as David Coulthard put the first 54 laps on the newly launched RB4 single seater.

Mateschitz, however, told the news agency APA that he has an "excellent feeling" about this season, because the RB4's evolutionary predecessor was beginning to be regularly competitive towards the end of 2007.

"I believe that our drivers will have several possibilities to go on to the podium," he said of his team's prospects for 2008.

"But for victories, we will probably have to wait until 2009," Mateschitz added, explaining that the real goal for this year is to close the gap to BMW, currently F1's third force after Ferrari and McLaren.

He also denied that his patience with the F1 project is running out, despite failing to taste success in Red Bull's opening three campaigns.

"I have never had illusions about how thin the air is at the height of formula one," Mateschitz insisted.

Alonso fears bad Renault return
(GMM) Fernando Alonso says the prospect of Renault not making a step forward in 2008 is a worry for him.

After a one year absence from the team, the Spaniard spearheaded a seemingly competitive return at Jerez this week, despite the R27 single seater rarely being in contention for podiums in 2007.

"My fear is having a bad year and fighting for eighth position with no motivation," Alonso, 26, told the Spanish broadcaster Telecinco on Wednesday.

"It is important to get up and fight for podiums and good results to keep motivated and push forward," he insisted.

Alonso won back to back titles with the French team in 2005 and 2006 and has returned to Renault this year after falling out with his employer of 2007, McLaren.

Despite his fears, Alonso said he is confident that Renault will produce a good car for 2008.

The R28 will make its track debut next week.

"I think we will have a good car, because the development of the R27 was stopped in June so the full focus can be on the new single seater," Alonso observed.

"In all those months, I believe something good must have been done. We will find out next week, but it will be better than 2007," he said.

Piquet expects no conflict with Alonso
(GMM) Nelson Piquet Jr has once again played down concerns that he will not get along with Renault teammate Fernando Alonso in 2008.

After twice world champion Alonso's relationship with Lewis Hamilton last year led to his unplanned departure from McLaren, some observers forecast that his new pairing with the often surly Piquet could lead to similar conflict this season.

"I do not believe that anything like that will happen," the 22-year-old Brazilian told Spanish newspaper Diario AS.

"Fernando's problem at McLaren was that the team manager was more interested in Hamilton winning. The same thing will not happen here.

"I have nothing to prove," Piquet added. "It's my first year in formula one, so if I am better than Alonso, that's good, but if I am a little bit behind there will not be a problem.

"I am here to learn and the best way to do that is with the best teammate possible."

Piquet also angrily rebuffed suggestions that there is no doubt about his 'number two' status at Renault this year.

"That is an invention of journalists. In formula one there is no number one and number two. Both the cars are equal and here it will be the same way," he said.

Missing parts blight Super Aguri test
(GMM) Super Aguri endured a miserable opening week to its 2008 campaign by completing just 10 uncompetitive laps at the Jerez group test.

The small Japanese team's test driver James Rossiter had to abandoned his program on Monday when the rear of his car overheated and caught fire.

British race driver Anthony Davidson was expected to subsequently take over, but he failed to exit the garage at all on Tuesday or Wednesday as Super Aguri attempted to fly out new parts from its Leafield (UK) base.

The British news agency Reuters reports that the plane containing the new parts was diverted to Malaga.

The parts therefore began the two hour journey by road to Circuito de Jerez, but a motorway closure meant that the three day test had ended by the team they arrived.

Ralf happy with first DTM test
(GMM) Ralf Schumacher declared himself happy with his maiden outing in a Mercedes-Benz DTM car on Wednesday.

The 32-year-old is testing the black C-Class touring car at the former Portuguese grand prix circuit Estoril this week, ahead of a possible switch to the German race series in 2008.

"It is a new feeling for me to have a roof over my head," the German and former Williams and Toyota driver told Bild newspaper.

"The first lap was enormous fun," Schumacher, a six time winner of F1 races, added.

Ralf is due to drive again on Thursday, with Bild saying talks with Norbert Haug about a possible 2.5 million euro retainer to race this year may then begin.

Haug, Mercedes' competition director, observed: "His lap times were very satisfactory."

Dennis plays down McLaren ECU controversy
(GMM) McLaren boss Ron Dennis played down the controversy surrounding the introduction of standard electronics in formula one this year.

While competitors including Renault, Ferrari and BMW grumble about the initial advantage enjoyed by McLaren in 2008 by owning the company that developed the new ECU, Dennis pointed out that all manufacturers had been invited by the FIA to tender for the deal.

It was announced in July 2006, long before the espionage scandal of last year broke out, that the collaboration of Microsoft and McLaren Electronic Systems, based at the McLaren factory in Woking, had been awarded the contract to supply the entire field with ECUs between 2008 and 2010.

The British news agency Reuters also points out that, while unhappy that Ferrari's top F1 rival is his new electronics supplier, boss Jean Todt admits that the FIA's tendering process had been fair and open "and we just have to accept it".

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