Mike Stevens | Feb 18, 2011

CRAIG LOWNDES: A modern F1 car could pose a threat to the fastest-ever lap at the fabled Bathurst Mount Panorama circuit.

A sponsor-fuelled car swap between McLaren's Jenson Button and V8 Supercar driver Craig Lowndes before the Australian Grand Prix next month has finally been approved by the local council.

Bathurst mayor Paul Toole told the ABC that the event will be the first time a F1 car has lapped the imposing 6.2 kilometre layout.

In a V8 Supercar, it was Lowndes who recorded the fastest ever lap at Mount Panorama - 2:06.801 - late last year.

Australian Lowndes, 36, was Juan Pablo Montoya's teammate at Helmut Marko's F3000 team in 1997, but he has never driven a Formula One car.

"It would be a dream to drive a F1 anywhere, let alone Bathurst," he said before Bathurst council gave its approval for the publicity event.

He said he is confident he can break his lap record.

"You would be very disappointed if you couldn't go sub-2:06 in a car like that," Lowndes said.

(GMM)

 

Heidfeld To Replace Kubica In F1 Renault

Renault has appointed Nick Heidfeld as injured Robert Kubica's replacement for the start of the 2011 season.

"I would have liked to come back to Formula One in different circumstances, but I'm proud to have been given this chance," the 33-year-old German said.

Heidfeld, with more than 170 Grands Prix under his belt, made his debut in the Lotus-sponsored R31 at Jerez last weekend.

"I have a good feeling for the car, which is quite innovative. I'm extremely motivated and can't wait for the season to begin," he added.

Team boss Eric Boullier said he was impressed with Heidfeld's performance at Jerez.

"We always said the priority was to have an experienced driver in the car and we feel he is the ideal man for the job," said the Frenchman.

Beginning on Saturday, Heidfeld will test for two full days in Barcelona.

(GMM)

 

Alguersuari Predicts 'War' With Buemi in 2011

Jaime Alguersuari has predicted "war" with his Toro Rosso teammate Sebastien Buemi this year.

"This year will be war between Buemi and me," the Spanish driver said during an interview with Marca.

Team owner Red Bull's driver manager Helmut Marko has appointed Australian Daniel Ricciardo to be Toro Rosso's Friday runner this season, amid strong indications that he will make his race debut in 2012.

Alguersuari added: "I am surely competing with him (Buemi) this year to be the one who will go to Red Bull (in 2012), with Ricciardo to get one of our seats."

The 20-year-old's comments are at odds with those of Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, who said on Wednesday that it is possible Mark Webber will stay beyond his new one-year contract.

Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, has been musing about a switch to Ferrari.

"I see myself at Red Bull," Alguersuari continued. "I want to win, not be finishing in 17th. I want to be a second faster per lap and braking 20 metres later."

As for his views on the 2011 season, he commented: "For me, the most complete driver is Fernando Alonso. However, Red Bull are able to take advantage with their car.

"I think it will be a game between those two, Red Bull and Ferrari, from the beginning to the end," added Alguersuari.

(GMM)

 

Vettel Free To 'Dream' About Ferrari: Horner

Christian Horner has refused to publicly scold new World Champion Sebastian Vettel for admitting he "dreams" about a future with Ferrari.

With the 23-year-old's contract running towards its expiry and Red Bull openly keen to retain him, Vettel has mused on several occasions recently that he sees Ferrari as an ideal employer at some point in his career.

But even though the young German is a home-grown talent and Red Bull's first champion, and he looks to be sitting in another title-charging car for 2011, team boss Horner said he will not be urging Vettel to keep some of his opinions to himself.

"One of the things we encourage is a freedom of expression and so on, and Sebastian is his own person and he's got his own opinions," the Briton is quoted by Press Association Sport.

"I think any driver at some stage in his career would like to drive for the red team, and we certainly don't hold that against him," added Horner.

He joked that he wouldn't mind if Vettel switches to Ferrari "just before he retires" in "ten years" or more.

(GMM)

 

Kovalainen tips Red Bull to dominate in 2011

Heikki Kovalainen believes Red Bull look set to continue their formula one dominance in 2011.

Although Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber did not set too many headline times at Valencia and Jerez, Team Lotus driver Kovalainen said the underlying speed of the new RB7 car was apparent.

"They seem to have everything under control. It is my feeling that they have not yet shown even half of their full ability," the Finn is quoted by Turun Sanomat.

But the 2008 Hungarian GP winner also thinks Ferrari will have a say in the outcome of the 2011 championship.

"Similar to Red Bull, Red Bull have a strong feeling about them. Williams also did a very good laptime in Jerez.

"With McLaren it's still difficult to say," said Kovalainen, who drove for the British team alongside Lewis Hamilton for two years.

"They came a bit late to the tests and they have had some problems, but at least their car is good looking, it may well be fast," he added.

Kovalainen is more worried about the Mercedes team.

"The body language I have seen tells me that they are disappointed with the car's performance," said the Finn, referring to Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg.

As for Team Lotus, Kovalainen said the "difference to the top (cars) has definitely been lessened.

"The (T128) car feels good in every way. (1982 world champion) Keke Rosberg said our car looks like it belongs in formula one now," he smiled.

"He is right. But we have to remember that we are only a year old, while Red Bull took 6 or 7 years before they started to win. We have a long road ahead," said Kovalainen.

(GMM)

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