Latest F1 news in brief

UPDATE Three new items added to this morning's F1 News Briefs below.

  • F1 still needs Europe – Theissen
  • Speedy Massa fined 1400 eur in Bahrain
  • Hamilton a title contender – Alonso
  • Sign Nick quick, Stuck tells BMW
  • Red Bull a match for Renault – Coulthard
  • Red Bull to debut seamless gearbox New
  • Italy forgives Massa for Malaysian mistakes New
  • 'No reason' to let Heidfeld go – Theissen New

F1 still needs Europe – Theissen
(GMM) Mario Theissen has warned Bernie Ecclestone to temper his enthusiasm about introducing formula one to new markets.

The BMW boss told the news agency 'dpa': "We need a healthy mixture of new venues with the traditional European circuits."

Theissen was responding to a wave of newfound interest in the sport by other regions; particularly the Middle East.

Ferrari is five per cent owned by the Abu Dhabi government; 30 per cent of McLaren is owned by the Kingdom of Bahrain; Spyker is significantly sponsored by two Middle Eastern companies, and rumors last week hinted that Kuwait may have joined the list of budding F1 venues.

Theissen explained: "If formula one advances into a new region, it is natural that it becomes interesting for their economy."

Speedy Massa fined 1400 eur in Bahrain
(GMM) If Felipe Massa had repeated a mistake made in qualifying at Sakhir during Sunday's Bahrain grand prix, the Brazilian might have thrown away victory.

The Ferrari driver would not have been merely fined 1400 Euro if he had exceeded the 80kph pit lane speed limit by nearly 9kph on Sunday rather than a day earlier.

During the race, such an indiscretion would have cost him a drive-through penalty and almost certainly his top spot on the podium.

Hamilton a title contender – Alonso
(GMM) McLaren's Fernando Alonso had to admit on Sunday that rookie teammate and joint championship leader Lewis Hamilton is now a genuine contender for the 2007 crown.

"Anyone who is driving a good car is a contender," the Spaniard said in Bahrain after finishing just fifth in the third race of the championship.

History-making Hamilton, 22, was second, as commentators surmised that the British rookie had simply outperformed his famous teammate.

"The best cars this year are the McLarens and the Ferraris," 25-year-old Alonso told Spanish reporters, "so Massa, Raikkonen and Hamilton will be fighting for the podium places all season."

The reigning world champion was visibly disappointed as he abandoned his silver car in parc ferme, but he confirmed that he had taken the time to congratulate Hamilton for making history as the most successful-ever formula one rookie.

Alonso also refused to accuse McLaren of failing to perfect his car setup or messing up his strategy for the race.

"Any strategy is good if you are fast," he said, "and any strategy is bad if you are not fast.

"This time I was not fast enough."

Sign Nick quick, Stuck tells BMW
(GMM) A former grand prix driver has urged BMW to quickly sign up Nick Heidfeld for the 2008 season.

The German manufacturer, which owns the Swiss based F1 team BMW-Sauber, has yet to take up an 'option' that includes next year on 29-year-old Heidfeld's current contract.

It was previously believed that the seat could be given to team boss Mario Theissen's German protégé Sebastian Vettel, but Heidfeld has so far in 2007 outclassed his contracted teammate Robert Kubica and in Bahrain executed a skilful overtaking move on world champion Fernando Alonso.

Germany's Hans-Joachim Stuck, who drove 74 grands prix in the 70s, told the Cologne newspaper 'Express': "In Theissen's place I would hurry (to sign Heidfeld) before all the other teams discover Nick's rare talent."

Red Bull a match for Renault – Coulthard
(GMM) David Coulthard refused to follow teammate Mark Webber's lead in Bahrain by angrily condemning Red Bull's lack of reliability in 2007.

Australian Webber did not mince his words when speaking to reporters after the Bahrain GP, where a stuck fuel flap and a broken gearbox ruined his day.

Veteran Coulthard, however, had been even more badly blighted at the desert surrounds of Sakhir, where two technical defects paused his RB3 single seater prior to the race.

Then, on Sunday, a masterly drive from the back of the grid to as high as seventh went begging when his driveshaft broke.

"I'm disappointed obviously but we have to go and look at the positives," Coulthard insisted.

The Scot said he took heart in Red Bull's progress since winter testing, after the Milton-Keynes built car looked genuinely a match for struggling champions Renault in Bahrain.

He explained: "As quickly as they have gone backwards we have gone forwards."

Coulthard said Red Bull's goal for the next few races is to finally score some points and become the fourth force on the grid, after proving quicker than big outfits like Toyota and Honda so far this year.

"We have to be realistic and as painful as it is parking the car, I'd rather park the car having had a good race rather than what we had last year," he said.

Red Bull to debut seamless gearbox
(GMM) Red Bull plans to make more progress at the next race by debuting a seamless-shift gearbox.

The technology, already used by many of the team's immediate competitors including Williams and Toyota, will be ready for the Spanish grand prix next month and tested at the Circuit de Catalunya before the official event.

Red Bull's motor sport advisor Helmut Marko, although admitting that much work is still to be done on the reliability of the RB3 car, insisted in Bahrain that the team is now the fourth quickest in pit lane.

"Everyone was talking about our crisis," he told the news agency 'APA', "but at the beginning of the season we were a second and a half behind Williams and now we have overtaken them.

"Here we were even (competitive) with Renault. We have made giant steps."

Marko, a former grand prix driver himself, defended the decision to give Austrian countryman Christian Klien the elbow and replace him for 2007 with an Australian, Mark Webber.

"We took a lot of criticism for (dumping) Klien," he said, "but Webber being among the top ten qualifiers at all three races so far justifies the decision alone."

Italy forgives Massa for Malaysian mistakes
(GMM) The Italian press on Monday morning appeared to have forgiven Felipe Massa for throwing away victory at the recent Malaysian grand prix.

After winning convincingly in Bahrain a week later, Brazil's Ferrari driver admitted that he had been given a tough time for his Sepang errors by the country's notoriously critical media.

Massa, 25, said on Sunday that journalists had given him "problems" after Malaysia.

"Fortunately it was only for one week," he grinned. "I'm sure now they are going to talk in a different way."

Massa was right. Corriere dello Sport crowned him as the 'desert King' after he proved the pick of the field at Sakhir.

La Gazzetta dello Sport wrote: "The post-Schumacher era is at Massa's feet, because Raikkonen and Alonso disappoint."

'No reason' to let Heidfeld go – Theissen
(GMM) Team boss Mario Theissen in Bahrain dropped a big hint about the pending 2008 'option' on driver of the race Nick Heidfeld's expiring BMW contract.

He insisted at Sakhir that the next driver lineup will not officially be confirmed by Hinwil based BMW-Sauber until closer to the end of the season.

But after Heidfeld's drive to fourth place after spectacularly overtaking Fernando Alonso on Sunday, 'sid' quoted Theissen as saying briefly: "From the perspective of Nick or BMW, at the moment there is no reason to change."

Heidfeld, 29, described his afternoon in the Bahraini desert as probably his best ever drive.

Amid rumors of the possible interest of Toyota and Honda, he smiled: "If I was a boss, I would give me a contract!"

BMW's 2007 car, the F1.07, will be fitted with a new aerodynamic package for the next race, and Theissen said: "We want to close the gap to the two teams in front of us even more.

"Then the world championship can be even more exciting."

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