Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Upgrade for the TF108

Jarno Trulli was a happy man after Toyota finally got a good day of running in better weather conditions at Barcelona on Tuesday. The veteran racer was testing a major new aero package upgrade for the TF108 and was very positive.

"We have made good progress today," Trulli said after covering more than 450km in the day."We made it through a lot of different set-up work and we had a strong long run in the afternoon," he added. "The car seems more suited to long runs than to a single flying lap at the moment. So we still have some work to do in order to get a qualifying lap because that is important for the race. But in general it was a positive day."

Toyota grateful with new aero

Toyota has this week brought two cars featuring its new aerodynamics package for the first time. So race drivers Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock both had busy days as the team collects data in preparation for the Australian Grand Prix on March 16. Both drivers did aero testing today along with work on brakes and set-up. Timo and Jarno will return to the track tomorrow hoping for similar conditions for the last full day of testing before Melbourne.

Pascal Vasselon, Senior General Manager Chassis commented, "Finally we had a full dry day during which we could work quite a lot and move forwards in our preparations for Melbourne. Now we have all the information to decide the aero configuration for race one. The new aerodynamics package we brought here is a clear step forward. Things went quite well with our race preparation for Jarno. We will dedicate tomorrow to refinement but basically we are very pleased with his pace today. Timo was running a different programme and we will have to review the set-up direction with him tomorrow to see how we can help him to progress."

Catalunya keeps racism away

The Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona has said it made some changes to its security for this week's Formula 1 test. The Formula 1 teams are at the track for a three-day test programme. And while a few weeks ago there were a few fans that spoiled the party, this week things are calm.

The barriers prohibited access for fans, media and hospitality staff. The organisers also closed the right-hand part of the main stand, and supporters were denied access to the roof above McLaren's slot in the paddock. "We have made some changes," a circuit spokesperson told the Guardian. "We checked all banners and fans' clothes as they came in, which we usually only do at the grand prix. We also shut off the part of the stand opposite McLaren so that the fans would be unable to upset him. Access has been reduced in the paddock and we have also closed part of the roof because we want McLaren and Hamilton to be comfortable."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Camp Car and IRL agree merger

As F1 revs up for the start of the new season, there's action over the pond as the Champ Car and Indy Racing League have agreed to unify the two series in principle from the 2008 season onwards.

The new series will be called Indy Racing League and will be known as the IndyCar series. The Indy Racing League broke away from Champ Car in 1996 taking the Indianapolis 500 with it, but in recent years both series have been fighting against falling sponsor investment and falling spectator numbers.Full details haven't yet been announced, but provisionally there is a 2008 test scheduled for Wednesday. About six teams from Champ Car are expected to join IRL and will receive financial compensation for doing so, while the rest are expected to fold.

Alonso to defence of his Spanish fans

Fernando Alonso has jumped to the defence of his Spanish fans saying they are not racist by nature, despite the furore that has erupted since a group of spectators at Barcelona testing a fortnight ago threw racial abuse at Lewis Hamilton.

"I don't think Spain is a racist country and the fans aren't either," Alonso told the Spanish As newspaper. "Whoever says there is racism in Spain is talking about isolated cases."

In response to the Barcelona incident the FIA plans to launch an anti-racism campaign at the Spanish Grand Prix."The less we talk about what happened two weeks ago, the better, because that's a completely isolated case from someone who was celebrating a carnival," Alonso added, echoing Bernie Ecclestone's comments that this was just an isolated case.

"It was an isolated incident and the FIA or anyone saying that the Spanish fans are racists is a joke," he went on. "Last year, they even called me a dog in a few races. Niki Lauda said those things about me, and no-one came to me to show me their support."

A major aero for Toyota

Toyota is preparing a major aerodynamic upgrade for both of its cars as the final test before the start of the new season looms. The team will have three more days on track at Barcelona next week to make final preparations.

"Finally we had a day of running in the dry today so we could at last begin meaningful work on our new aerodynamics package," Toyota's chief engineer Dieter Gass said after the end of the current test. "It was still a difficult day because there were many disruptions for red flags. But on Timo's car we made it through the programme of work that we had pencilled in for the first day of this week's test. Kamui also made it through his programme and collected some useful data."

"We will now have to go back and analyse the findings in order to decide which direction to follow up next week," he added. "Both cars will have the new aero package so we will be able to make quicker progress. But the weather is still a question mark, with a mixture of sun and rain forecast."

RBR showed strong pace

Mark Webber and David Coulthard continued their Melbourne preparation work at Barcelona this week and showed strong pace, despite a handful of small car problems. The team was also hindered by the poor weather conditions all week, but still managed to make good progress.

"This has been a very useful three days, despite the weather," commented Red Bull's chief test engineer, Ian Morgan. "It was the first time this season that we have had the full race crew personnel all attending a test to operate as a team and, as such, it was excellent preparation for Melbourne."

Williams is showing a promising

The Williams Formula 1 team is showing a promising pace this winter at the tracks in Spain. The team has made good progress compared to last year and both of the team's drivers are happy with the current pace of the FW30.

Speaking after this week's three-day test at Circuit de Catalunya Nico Rosberg concluded: "We've had plenty of running in the wet this week and we looked pretty good, which was positive. It wasn't that easy to drive in the conditions, it's hard to keep the tyres in the working window, especially without traction control, so you're always quite on the limit. The last day was dry and so we managed to cover a lot of laps with no problems at all. Over the three days, we got some important reliability issues sorted out. We seem to be progressing well with the new car and I am happy with the improvements we're making."

Looking back at his days of testing this week Nakajima said: "Initially it was a bit of a difficult test because of the weather but it was good for me to get some experience in wet conditions. The car is feeling good, but we couldn't do as much work with it as we wanted to because of the bad weather. It was still a good week for us though overall."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Red Bull Optimistic

After yet another damp start to the day, which allowed the team to practice pit stops, this afternoon saw the first really dry track of the test. Both Mark Webber and David Coulthard continued their Melbourne preparation work although the former was sidelined by a minor problem, but was able to continue after a brief spell in the garage. Coulthard completed his planned programme as scheduled. Webber and Coulthard set the sixth and seventh fastest times today with best laps of 1:22.477 and 1:22.499s respectively. Red Bull Racing is back on track, still in Barcelona, for the final pre-season test from Monday.

Ian Morgan, Chief Test Engineer “This has been a very useful three days, despite the weather. It was the first time this season that we have had the full race crew personnel all attending a test to operate as a team and, as such, it was excellent preparation for Melbourne.”

Renault has failed

Fernando Alonso believes Renault has failed to make up enough ground on last season’s top three teams to go to the first race in Australia in contention for a podium.

The former world champion squad has targeted making it back to the front of the field with its new R28 in 2008 after slumping into the midfield last year.

However its returning superstar is pessimistic about its chances of producing an immediate turnaround in three weeks' time following the relative pace of its closest rivals in pre-season – and is predicting it will be in a fight for the lower points positions.

"We are far, far away," Alonso was quoted as saying by Spain’s AS newspaper on Thursday.

"I think it's looking like at the end of last year: two Ferraris, two McLarens and two BMWs, and if everything goes like that, you can almost only fight for seventh place.

"Thinking about the podium would be too optimistic right now, but then you arrive in the first grand prix, you start warming up in practice, your morale starts going up and you think you can be on the podium.

"But right now, thinking coldly, reaching the podium is a dream.”

The double world champion admitted at the launch of the R28 last month that Renault needed to find one second in pace during the rest of pre-season before it could challenge Ferrari and McLaren.

But although he concedes it has not made up that ground yet, he points to BMW’s recent step forward in form as an example of how things can soon change.

“In F1 everything changes very quickly,” he said.

“Just two or three weeks ago BMW was a little further back, we were near them.

“Now they are quite close to McLaren.

“Everything changes very quickly.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Peugeot recruiting from F1

The automotive media are all abuzz with Peugeot's announcement of its drivers' line-up for this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans. The French automaker's team took pole and second place at the event last year, and an overall victory in the European series where the equally matched Audi R10 TDI did not compete. PSA, however, is not about to rest until its team thoroughly trounces its rivals, especially Audi, and as we reported previously, towards that effort Peugeot has been recruiting top talent from Formula One to pilot the 908 HDi to victory lane.
The announced roster includes Ferrari test driver Marc Gene, BMW Sauber tester Christian Klien, former Lotus pilot Pedro Lamy, former Super Aguri driver Franck Montagny, former Minardi driver Stephane Sarrazin, Honda F1 test driver and former Le Mans winner Alex Wurz, F1 veteran Ricardo Zonta, and former world champion Jacques Villeneuve. Nicolas Minassian joins the team as the only member never to have earned his F1 Superlicense. Notable is the absence of Sebastien Bourdais, the four-time Champ Car champion who drove the second-place 908 HDi last year alongside Sarrazin and Lamy, but he has his hands full in F1 this year. With such an experienced roster of drivers, Peugeot could stand a more than decent chance of unseating Audi from its domination of the event, broken since 2000 only by the Bentley Speed 8, which Audi themselves supported.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bernie dismisses FIA's racism response

F1 Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone has played down the FIA's response to the Lewis Hamilton racism affair as not ‘necessary’. After Spanish spectators at the recent Barcelona test abused the sport's only black driver, the governing body reacted by vowing to launch a Motorsport-wide anti-racism campaign - called Racing Against Racism - at this year's Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton's team, McLaren-Mercedes, immediately backed the move, while a spokesman for Toyota confirmed:

"(We support) any efforts to combat racism and we fully endorse the stance being adopted by the FIA."

Super Aguri also backed the campaign, while a spokesman for Ferrari said: "Ferrari has solidarity with all initiatives against any type of discrimination." But speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme, 77-year-old Ecclestone said of the FIA campaign: "I don't think it's necessary.

"All it does, like all these things, is give attention to the people who want attention." The Briton dismissed those who abused Hamilton as football-style hooligans, and predicted that the incident will not be repeated. "It was a one-off, nothing to worry about," he said. "We'd have to have a look it if anything like that happened (again), but this is just an isolated incident."

I 'm just a shy boy, says Raikkonen

Formula One World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, whose monosyllabic and understated demeanour is often at odds with the glamour of his sport, says he's just a shy boy at heart.

"Me, shy? I've always been like this and probably always will be. It works so I see no reason to change,"

the Finn admits in a television interview due to be screened on Sky Italia today.

"I'm the same person even if I'm different at work to what I'm like at home, with my family or friends. These are different situations.

"Raikkonen will begin the defence of his Formula One title on March 16.

New BMW is much better

Despite the problems BMW has been suffering in testing so far this winter in finding raw pace from the F1.08, driver Nick Heidfeld insists the new car is much better than its predecessor.

"The car is most definitely than last year's," Heidfeld said. "You just have to take a look at the lap times to realise this. At the latest test, I said the old car was better balanced - but you shouldn't forget that we had an entire year to find this balance. Since then, we've had time to improve the new car's balance too, and it is also equipped with new components."

"Currently, we are trying different setup options," he added. "But it's not unusual to focus on the balance before making the next steps. As I see it, we are moving within the normal window."

Kovalainen buys Swiss villa

Heikki Kovalainen has followed his McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton's lead by choosing Switzerland as his adopted home.

The Finnish driver, believed to have signed a more lucrative contract for 2008 after debuting last year with Renault, is reported to have bought a villa in picturesque Coppet, on the north shore of Lake Geneva.

The current resident of England plans to move in April, the Swiss daily newspaper Le Matin said, citing the confirmation of Kovalainen's laywer Dominique Warluzel.Kovalainen, 26, joins active rivals Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Nick Heidfeld, Sebastian Vettel and Adrian Sutil as fellow Swiss residents.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tonio Liuzzi in Nascar or Champ Car

Tonio Liuzzi has had another go at Scuderia Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger saying the former F1 driver was the reason he ended up without a race drive at the end of 2007.

"I had alternatives, in Nascar and Champ Car but I preferred to concentrate on the Force India F1 programme, even if it is only as a test driver because the team's potential is so big and I can be back racing in F1 in the medium term," Liuzzi told Autosprint. "When I found myself without a drive at the end of last season it was mainly Gerhard Berger's fault," he added. "He's never been a fan of mine, just like Adrian Newey who has also blocked my arrival in the past as a regular Red Bull driver.""I'm sorry to have left the Red Bull orbit most of all for Dietrich Mateschitz, who has always believed in me - I can't say the same about others," he concluded.

McLaren for Aero programme

McLaren's three day session in Jerez drew to a close on Thursday, with weather conditions in the morning more favourable. The team continued the aerodynamic programme for the week. In addition Kovalainen spent some time in the morning conducting simulated qualifying runs, to further understand the handling of the MP4-23 in all race weekend situations.

"The primary focus of the test this week has been pushing forward with the aerodynamic programme," explained McLaren F1 chief Martin Whitmarsh. "There was some disruption to this on Wednesday and Thursday due to the windy conditions. However the test team have been able to complete the proving process on a range of aerodynamic components."

"The team has seven track days remaining before the cars depart for Melbourne on 6th March, incorporating full test sessions and some straight-line work," he added. "Naturally there will be a focus externally on the multi-team test at Barcelona in the final week of February. It will be the first time in a few weeks that all the leading teams will be on the same track. Whilst this will give us the possibility of a more comprehensive comparison, we will nevertheless focus on our own test programme rather than chase times. The real litmus test of performance will take place in Australia."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Test boosts RBR confidence

On the final day of this test, David Coulthard was separated from the top of the time sheet by just one McLaren. He and Mark Webber both completed a high mileage on a day when track conditions, at least in the morning, improved thanks to a lull in the strong winds that had plagued the previous two days.

"Overall, this has been a very good test for us, as we got through all our programme and completed more laps than planned," commented Chief Test Engineer, Ian Morgan. "Over the three days, we did a lot of aero and mechanical work with no major problems and we can look forward to the remaining pre-season tests in Barcelona with confidence."

Toyota chief happy with TF108 progress

Toyota chassis chief Pascal Vasselon says he is happy with the progress the team has made with the new TF108 since its launch. His comments come amid concerns from Jarno Trulli that the team will at best be able to break into the second string group of teams behind Ferrari and McLaren.

"We are happy with the progress we have made with the TF108," Vasselon insisted. "It has been very obvious from the first test that the TF108 is a different animal compared to the TF107, with much better stability and an all-around much better basis to work on. Our drivers feel a lot more confident in the car and they are able to push more. We have found that set-up work is much more straightforward and it is much easier to make progress in that area."

"At the moment I would say we have gained the stability we were looking for so we are now focusing on the improvement of pure aerodynamic efficiency," he added. "If you compare what is comparable, which means comparing times within the same test sessions and taking into account estimated fuel loads, you will see that at the moment the gap reflects a performance gain for the TF108 compared to last year. Of course there is still a gap, it is not good enough, and we are constantly striving to close it, but compared to this time last year I believe we are much closer to the cars at the front of the grid."

"There is still plenty of performance left to come from this car before we race for the first time," he went on. "We have new parts coming through continuously but the biggest upgrade to the package will come just before the Australian Grand Prix. It is a process of continuous development which will peak just before Melbourne."

SIC ready for night race

Malaysian authorities at the Sepang Formula One circuit say they will be ready to host a night race next year, according to local media report.

Monkhzani Mahathir, chairman of the Sepang circuit told the New Straits Times newspaper that talks were ongoing to stage a night race at the venue.

"We're studying the best system as there is no single lighting technology that can fit all tracs," Mahathir said. "We're in discussion with companies which can do that."

"We have also studied the impact of having lighting technology at the circuit and we have come to the conclusion that it will help generate bigger revenue as the circuit can be rented for night racing," he concluded.

McLaren test wheel covers

Formula One team McLaren Mercedes test new wheel covers at Jerez : - McLaren showed to have taken the aerodynamic 'wheel cover' concept to a new level as testing continued at the Jerez circuit on Thursday.

Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes-powered MP4-23 featured a new version of carbon fibre covers on the front wheels, and for the first time they include a piece that extends beyond the wheel rim and obscures part of the tyre wall.

Interestingly, at the lunch break, Kovalainen had set the fastest time of the sixteen runners in action, and gone more than five tenths quicker than Mark Webber's Wednesday best.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The British wonder-kid

The British wonder-kid came so close to winning the drivers' championship in his first year, but Sportingo's Richard Johnson reckons it's going to be another year of frustration for him and the McLaren team.

'I am looking forward to another great year - one that will hopefully be remembered more for on-track thrills and spills rather than espionage and illegality'

All the talk is Lewis this and Lewis that, but as good as he was last season he couldn’t overhaul Kimi Räikkönen. Hamilton was awesome in his first year as a Formula One driver, but in my opinion that was his best shot. In any case, Ferrari still came out on top and I don’t see this season being any easier for McLaren.
There is every chance that Räikkönen will be the next Michael Schumacher; after five years of disappointment in Woking, the Finn finally got what he deserved - the F1 title. At 28, he closed the season with an amazing seven straight podiums and victories in China and Brazil sealed the deal.
Far too many people have devalued the achievement by focusing on Hamilton’s errors towards the end of the season as the factor that led to the change of championship lead. The British press, of course, always focuses on its own national treasures - usually at the expense of giving respect to those who pip their idols for top spot.
Don’t get me wrong, Lewis is a fantastic driver. However, I get the impression that defeat will have left a massive emotional scar on the youngster. Let’s face it, to lose in such a fashion would affect any driver, let alone a rookie in such a fine run of form. I am sure Hamilton will be secretly glad to have Heikki Kovalainen as his partner rather than Fernando Alonso, whose problems with the team have been well documented.
Alonso finds himself back at Renault and I really don’t see him as a realistic candidate for the title this time around. Flavio Briatore’s outfit managed just one podium in 2007, and whilst they have an exciting team with Fernando and Nelson Piquet Jr, it would be a big ask for them to make up all that ground to Ferrari. I expect BMW Sauber to improve once again. They had a good season with Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica forming a reliable partnership; they are two drivers with a great combination of talent and potential, so look out for them to run McLaren mighty close for second spot, behind an increasingly resurgent Ferrari.
With the new season just weeks away, I am looking forward to another great year - one that will hopefully be remembered more for on-track thrills and spills rather than espionage and illegality. For me, it’s Räikkönen for a successive title with Hamilton again coming in an exciting second.

Kimi the WDC contender

FERRARI'S Kimi Raikkonen is even more motivated this year than he was during his title-clinching season a year ago, a source close to the driver says.

The source told the GDN that Raikkonen is this season more comfortable with the Ferrari team members, having already been with them over a whole season and winning the 2007 drivers' championship with a total team effort.

"Kimi now knows that it can be done with the people around him," the source who wished not to be named said of his fellow Finn. "He is now more focused, and he wants to win this year's title more than he has ever had, and he wants to beat the pressure of being the defending world champion."

Raikkonen himself admitted that he is now closer with team members this time than during his debut stint with Ferrari.

"It is much easier now after one year with them," Raikkonen said. "We know what we want and what to expect, so for sure everything is now better."

Raikkonen has been totally focused during the Bahrain tests, rarely speaking with the media or taking time out in the paddock. He also refused to answer a question posed to him yesterday about a new tattoo he is reportedly sporting.

The 28-year-old was joined in Bahrain for the latter days of testing by his father Matti and manager Steve Robertson. Both were present yesterday as tests concluded.

VJM01 debut in Jerez

Just five days after its presentation in Mumbai, India, the Force India Formula One Team's striking new livery of gold, white and tungsten made its track debut today in Jerez, Spain.

Test and reserve driver Tonio Liuzzi completed driving duties on the opening day of the team's three day test in Jerez, completing a programme that took in work on new gearbox development items, the 2008 electronics package and brakes. Tonio was able to complete more than 100 laps over the day and recorded a best of 1min 21.553, despite the high winds that swept the area in the afternoon and made track conditions challenging. Adrian Sutil will take over tomorrow, with Giancarlo Fisichella completing the test on Thursday.

"Today was a good day," said Liuzzi. "We managed to do a lot of mileage, which was the target today following the shortened days we have had at the previous tests. We had a few items to test for the new car and managed to complete the programme with some promising progress. As I had a full day I was able to get more comfortable in the car and feel very positive about it. We now need to put all the information together, look through the data and keep everything going forward."

Renault is back

Renault returned to action today, completing the first of three days in Jerez. The team was again running two R28s with Nelson Piquet joined by fellow Brazilian, Lucas Di Grassi, who was enjoying his first test with the new car.

"Another good day and lots of mileage for the car and myself," said Piquet.

"The more I drive the car, the happier I feel and it's all good preparation for the first race. The car ran well today and we did not have any problems, which meant we could do a race distance in the afternoon."
Christian Silk, chief test engineer commented, "The two main objectives of the programme were to complete a race distance with Nelson and to get Lucas comfortable in the car as he had not run an R28 on a full circuit test before. Both these were completed without any problems and both cars enjoyed a trouble-free day. Nelson did a bit of performance work in the morning, improving the set-up of the car, and completed a race distance in the afternoon without any major issue, so that was a good day for us."

Super Aguri postpones new car launch

The Super Aguri team has postponed the official launch of its 2008 car as it works to finalise agreements with sponsors and drivers. The team was due to launch its new car at Barcelona next Tuesday.

Team boss Aguri Suzuki and technical director Mark Preston will be at the circuit to answer media questions and the new car is due to run for the first time, but the official launch including livery and final driver line up is not expected to happen until the teams travel to Australia.

Williams fixes front wing

Williams is confident it has fixed the front wing problem which caused Kazuki Nakajima to suffer a high-speed crash at Barcelona testing last week. The Toyota-powered team resumed testing at Jerez on Monday and had no further problems.

"We ran two cars on the first day of this week's Jerez test, with both the race drivers working through the test programme," said Williams technical director Sam Michael.

"After signing off the revision to the front wing mounting system, we proceeded to work on mechanical set-up and long runs for reliability. We had no major issues and both Nico and Kazuki will continue with the programme tomorrow."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bernie has love for Russian GP

Russia could join the Formula One circus in 2010, according to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. Ecclestone is set to travel to St Petersburg next weekend where he'll meet the city's mayor to discuss the possibility of building an F1 circuit on the outskirts of the historic city.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is also expected to be present at the meeting, with Ecclestone hoping to have Russia on the calendar by 2010.

"Nothing is done yet but this could be an interesting development for the sport," the 77-year-old told the Mirror.

"We'd like to get it in the calendar as soon as we can but that depends on them. It's down to how long it takes them to get the circuit ready."

New Ferrari suits new rules

Ferrari team manager Luca Baldisserri has warned rivals that the 2008 Ferrari design suits the new regulations for the upcoming season and is encouraged by the car's performance so far in testing.

"Everyone thought the drivers would find the car harder to drive with the electronic aids banned this year," Baldisserri told the Gazzetta dello Sport.

"But, so far the F2008 has shown to be very good and has excellent traction."The new Ferrari has also been much more reliable than previous cars, giving other teams plenty to worry about.

Fisichella aims to be a force in F1

Giancarlo Fisichella insists he is ready for the challenge of leading Force India off the back of the F1 grid.

The 35-year-old left Renault at the end of last season after failing to secure a contract extension, with Force India subsequently signing Fisichella after he impressed during a test for the team.
The decision raised a few eyebrows in the paddock as some felt he should have quit F1 rather than join a backmarker team.

However, Fisichella reckons he'll prove his critics wrong this season.

"For sure the general opinion was that I should have quit Formula One. On the contrary I like challenges and I love the sport and I want to prove everyone wrong," he told the official F1 website.

"The management of Force India is very focused and they know what they want. The people out there do not understand it, so it is up to us to show them how things have changed."

When asked about rumours that Renault and BMW had both offered him the role of test driver, Fisichella confirmed that the teams had but "honestly that was never an option for me. I want to race."

Scoring points is also high on Fisichella's criteria for the season and he reckons that Force India have the ability to finish grands prix in the top eight.

"I am looking for points - as many as I can get. Then we will work together with the technical people to gradually improve the car and I want to be their guiding force," he added.

"As for real improvement, I would realistically say that the second part of the season is when I expect that we will catch up. Watch us then."

Airport offers F1 cars along with the duty free

LONDON (Reuters) -Passengers passing through Zurich airport can add a Formula One car to their usual duty-free shopping this month.

A selection of cars and memorabilia owned by Peter Sauber, whose Swiss-based team were taken over by BMW at the end of 2005, will be auctioned off at the airport over a six-week period from February 19.

"This is the first time Formula One racing cars will be up for sale at Zurich Airport," said Patrick Graf, head of marketing retail for the company that holds the government concession to operate the airport, in a statement.

The Sauber Formula One cars to be sold to the highest bidder include ones raced by France's Jean Alesi between 1998 and 1999 and Ferrari's world champion Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn who started his grand prix career with Sauber in 2001.

Even if they never won a race, the cars are unlikely to be easily affordable. The cheapest offering on the Web site is a 1989 Leyton House rolling chassis with a starting price of 37,500 pounds ($73,110).

Trulli demands further improvement

Jarno Trulli completed a successful race simulation at Bahrain on Sunday and showed some better pace at the wheel of his Toyota, but the Italian has still demanded more improvement from the car if he is to be competitive this season.

"We did a lot of laps and successfully simulated a race distance without any trouble," Trulli said after testing.

"We did some set-up work this morning and the lap times show we are moving forward. We still have work to do but we are definitely going in the right direction and that is very positive. I was pretty happy with the car, even during the long runs. Obviously there is still room for improvement so we will study the data and push hard to improve our car."

Bahrain considering night race

Bahrain officials have said they are happy to consider running a night race, if it becomes necessary to do so and that it can deliver clear benefits.

"We're not opposed to the idea, and it is only natural that we have been gathering information about it, trying to determine its advantages and disadvantages," Shaikh Salman told the Gulf Daily News.

"A night race could be quite exciting to watch, and it's something everyone is talking about now that Singapore will be the first to have one,"
Shaikh Salman added. "I have no knowledge of it being proposed for Bahrain, but it is a very interesting concept."
"Right now, it makes most sense more for host countries further east," he said. "Here, it is debatable and we would have to go through lengthy discussions with Formula One Management before we can seriously consider it."

Mark Webber is confident

Mark Webber is confident Red Bull will start the season with the most reliable car it has had for a “long time” after a strong start to testing with the new RB4.

The Australian and team-mate David Coulthard lost out on a number of points-scoring results in 2007 as the RB3 consistently suffered from gearbox-related glitches.

However Webber reckons RBR’s latest design has so far proved to be a clear step forward on the reliability front in testing and the team should start the new season with a less brittle package.

“The reliability has been really encouraging for us, especially from the Red Bull for the Milton Keynes side,” he said in an Australian Grand Prix podcast.

“We've had a few Renault [engine] issues which have stopped us on track but as far as gearbox and a lot of the Achilles Heels that we had last year, a lot of that equipment has been pulled down very well at the end of each night so we're very encouraged by how those components are at this early stage.

“All things being equal we should have at least the most reliable car that we've had for a long time coming into the season, which is good.”

RBR’s chief technical officer Adrian Newey was adamant that he hadn’t taken a more conservative design approach with RB4 in a bid to cure its predseccor’s reliability weaknesses.

An example of this was the introduction of a radical engine cover ‘fin’ on the new car at the recent Barcelona test.

Webber says Newey will continue to be as aggressive in the car’s development as he can be, given the team’s need for a more reliable challenger.

“Adrian has never really been conservative in his whole life in terms of designing cars so we're trying to - I mean, the engine cover looks very, very different but in terms of actually the effects of the car are very subtle in terms of the aerodynamic tuning device that we're trying to play with and we know what it does to the car in certain situations on the track but we're just trying to work out,” he said.

“That particular thing you're talking about is the engine cover so we've been, I'd say, not too adventurous on the sort of the weight saving, all those sort of things have been done very well without a huge amount of risk involved because we need to obviously prove that we can design a reliable car.

“So tricky sort of position to be in and how aggressive we be but Adrian has never really been that conservative.

"With all that taken into account, what does it mean? It means that Adrian is being as aggressive as he can be within reason, without being ridiculous."

Timo Glock says

Toyota's new siging Timo Glock says that while the team's TF108 has been an improvement over its predecessor in pre-season testing, the German fears that its performance may be masked by the relative progress made by rival teams.

Glock indicated in an interview with the Australian media last week that he did not expect to see Toyota move up the grid dramatically in Melbourne next month.

"For us, when we compare the 2007 car with the 2008 car, we definitely made a step in the right direction, but on the other side all the other teams made a step forward as well," he said.

"So at the moment maybe (it) looks like we didn't do a step because time wise we are the same like last year in terms of the gap to the top teams.

"But in the end I think we will see the clear picture... in terms of how much can we develop the car and how much closer we can come to the top teams and make the gap smaller."

Glock says the TF108 is a step forward in every area over the car that Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher struggled with throughout 2007.

But the 25-year-old GP2 Series champion says Toyota expects to unlock more of its potential as the season unfolds rather than make an instant impact.

"There is more stability under braking especially and that could come down to the longer wheel(base) ... but at the end I think we improved everywhere," he said.

"We have completely changed the concept [of the car], especially the aerodynamics and I think Formula 1 is so complex it's difficult to understand it from one day to the other and at the moment that's where we try to work as hard as possible, to understand the car as quickly as possible and to be competitive in Australia but I think that...

"The main difference maybe when can get out of the car over the year and that's what I'm hoping for."

Super Aguri SA08 cleared to race

Super Aguri has confirmed that its new SA08 car passed the FIA’s mandatory crash tests on Thursday – meaning the team has been officially cleared to compete in 2008.

The Leafield-based squad has completed just 10 laps in pre-season testing so far this year, with it forced to cancel a planned outing at Valencia last month as it bids to solve current financial difficulties.

And although the team is still currently in discussions with potential sponsors and investors for 2008, it has kept up the work on its latest challenger and it is now officially passed to race.

“I can confirm that the SA08 monocoque was signed off for racing by the FIA yesterday,” a spokeswoman said.

However there is still no firm confirmation about its driver line-up for the new season.

The Honda-backed squad has previously said it intends to retain both Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson, but that contract negotiations were still ongoing with the pair as the team looks to secure its own future.

When asked by on Friday if it was any closer to finalising the deals, the Aguri spokeswoman confirmed it was “not any nearer”.

Super Aguri is due to officially unveil the new car in Barcelona on February 19.

Mosley: Lewis first targeted last year

Max Mosley has vowed that the FIA will do everything it can to stamp out racism in Formula 1, while also revealing that Lewis Hamilton had first been targeted by Spanish fans in China last year.

The images of sections of spectators abusing the McLaren driver during Barcelona testing earlier this month caused outrage in the UK, leading some to call for Spain’s two races to be axed if there is a repeat of the taunting.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Mosley said the problem should be possible to eradicate quickly if indeed only a minority of fans are involved – but has warned the FIA will impose heavy sanctions if there is a repeat.

“We will do everything we can to stamp this out, we will do whatever it takes,” he said.

“If, as appears to be the case, only a very small number of people are involved, it ought to be possible to stop it immediately.

“If it isn’t, then we have sanctions and we could pull the grand prix.”

However Mosley insists it would have been an overreaction to immediately drop Spain from the calendar without giving its authorities a chance to solve the issues themselves.

“Not to give the Spanish authorities the opportunity to show they can deal with it and ensure there is no recurrence would have been over the top,” he said.

“But it is necessary to make it clear it will not be tolerated, and we have done that.”

The FIA president’s first interview since the controversy erupted also revealed that the Barcelona incident wasn’t the first time in his short F1 career that Hamilton had been the target of racist abuse.

Mosley says that Lewis’s father, Anthony, had told him that Spanish fans had also taunted the Briton during last October’s Chinese Grand Prix weekend.

“Anthony Hamilton told me that there were some people in China who were also appallingly abusive; not Chinese fans, but people who had travelled from Spain,” said Mosley.

“If they went to Australia and did something like that, they could get arrested and we would know their names, and passport numbers, and they wouldn’t get into another country.”

Portugal wants F1 return in Algarve

Portugal is bidding to regain a place on the Formula 1 calendar for the first time since 1996 with the building of a new circuit in the Algarve holiday region.

The country, which last held a grand prix at the Estoril circuit 12 years ago, hopes a new 200 million euro (£149 million) track in Portimao will entice F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone into making a return.

Reuters reports that the new venue, which has already been certified by the FIA and is set for completion in October, says it has already secured one F1 team for a test at the circuit next January.

And a Portuguese government official has said the country is determined to regain a slot on the F1 calendar at the new circuit.

"The Government will do its best for Portugal to become part of the world's main championships," deputy sports minister, Laurentino Dias told the news agency.

"This circuit is prepared to host a range of motor races, from the most modest to Formula 1."

Portugal was axed from the 1997 season following safety concerns at Estoril, which had been a mainstay on the calendar since 1984.

The country had initially held three grand prix during the early years of the world championship, at Porto in 1958 and ’60 and Monsanto, near Lisbon, in ’59.

The new circuit in the port city of Portimao is already due to host the final round of the Superbike world championship in November.

It is set to cover 300 hectares of land between Portimao and the hills of Monchique, with a capacity for up to 100,000 spectators including a VIP tower.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Deeply Sorry

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