Mike Stevens | Mar 17, 2011

Bernie Ecclestone insists he still values the Australian Grand Prix.

The F1 Chief Executive's comments follow hot on the heels of those of FIA President Jean Todt, who said in Melbourne this week that the city's race "is important".

With a local debate, fuelled by Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, about the cost of the annual Albert Park event, Ecclestone had said recently that F1 "does not need" Australia.

But the 80-year-old Briton apparently now agrees with Todt that the race is important, and is open to talks with the Victorian state Premier Ted Baillieu.

"Australia is just as important to us as Monaco and has been for an awful long time, so we hate to think that we were going to lose Australia," Ecclestone said during an interview with the Herald Sun.

"We have been together a long time and it's like one of those long marriages; it would be bad to end in divorce," he added. "But if the other partner wishes, we wouldn't start fighting.

"In the case of Melbourne, if the product is too expensive for them then we understand that. And when the contract comes to an end, there is no need to renew it.

"We wouldn't force somebody to buy something they don't want," said Ecclestone.

Ecclestone also admitted he regrets not pushing Melbourne to build a permanent venue for the Grand Prix ten years ago because doing it then "would have been cheaper than today".

But as for whether that could happen now before a new deal is signed in 2015, he answered: "Of course we would (consider it)."

(GMM)

 

Todt Wants Changes To Improve Driver Identification

Formula One drivers should have permanent race numbers that are displayed prominently as in NASCAR.

That is the view of FIA President Jean Todt, who admitted he wanted to make changes to make it easier "to identify a driver" during grands prix.

In an interview with Melbourne's The Age newspaper, the Frenchman also said he would like to see a driver's name displayed prominently on his car.

"Like in NASCAR ... a driver who is arriving in Formula One, he gets a number. He would keep it for all of his career. You could identify a driver with a number.

"At the moment, you don't find the number, you don't find the name," said Todt.

But he admitted it is not simple, even for the President of F1's governing body, to unilaterally instigate a change.

"I don't have the power without creating unnecessary conflict to change something I'm not happy (about)," said Todt.

He explained that teams may object based on needing all the bodywork space for sponsors, while the binding Concorde agreement sets out the conditions for rule changes.

"You need to have some strong ground for changing. You need to have a minimum of positive opinion among the group in Formula One," he said.

"So far, unfortunately, they are not interested, they are quite happy. It will come... it will change."

(GMM)

 

New McLaren A Second Too Slow: Hamilton

McLaren's 2011 car is at least a second off the pace, according to Lewis Hamilton.

After ending the final Barcelona test as the fourteenth fastest driver overall, the 2008 world champion insisted to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport that the MP4-26 is not really two seconds slower than the pacesetters.

"We are not two seconds from the top, even though I never made it out of the 1.22s," said the Briton.

"But in the long runs, the laptimes are okay," added Hamilton.

Asked what he thinks he would have managed in full qualifying trim, he answered: "Low 1.22."

The best time overall in Barcelona was Michael Schumacher's 1.21.2, so a low 1.22 would have placed the McLaren behind Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Sauber, Renault and perhaps even Williams and Toro Rosso.

Auto Motor und Sport said the MP4-26's main problems are the exhaust and "deformation" of the front wing.

"Let's keep our fingers crossed that the guys come up with something," said Hamilton.

The report said the enlarged nose device run on the car last week contained a motor that moved the arms to simulate different wing deformations under load.

Meanwhile, McLaren reverted to what Auto Motor und Sport describes as a "very conventional" exhaust solution last week, following problems with other layouts.

The report referred to F1's banning of the use of an incombustible material called Pyrosic for the entire exhausts, on the grounds that such a solution would have cost EUR 20,000 per car.

(GMM)

 

Overtaking Wing System Not Confusing: Whiting

The FIA insists the new adjustable rear wing systems and their deployment in 2011 will not confuse spectators.

When it emerged this week that the zones at which the gap between duelling cars will be measured will differ throughout the F1 calendar this year, Sebastian Vettel said that will be difficult to "explain" to the public.

But FIA race director Charlie Whiting said the situation will not be confusing.

"There is no reason to suppose spectators will be confused," he said in an interview provided by the governing body.

"Operation of the wing ... is simple, there will be marks on the track to show the area where proximity is being detected and a line across the track at the point where the drivers whose system is armed may deploy it," he explained.

"Furthermore, the television broadcasters will be sent a signal each time a system is armed and this will be displayed to the viewers."

Whiting however admitted that drivers will be able to override the automated arming system in the event of an electronic failure, but that "heavy penalties" will apply for "unauthorised use".

He said the entire system could be tested during practice in Melbourne.

"We will discuss the possibility of using part of a free practice session in Melbourne with the teams on the day before first practice," said Whiting.

(GMM)

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