- Mercedes hints no plans to quit F1
- Mateschitz hopes Webber stays at Red Bull
- Ferrari men know Spain crucial for title
- De Villota not ruling out Friday drive
- McLaren set to race new higher nose in Spain
- Abu Dhabi criticises young driver test shakeup
Mercedes hints no plans to quit F1
Mercedes has dropped a strong hint that it has no intention of racing out of F1 one at the end of this season.
The German marque is currently arguing with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone over the 2013 Concorde Agreement, after only Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull were offered places on the sport's post-floatation board.
Media reports have indicated Mercedes, a supplier of engines and also with its own Brackley based works team, could quit formula one over the spat.
"We are in discussions with the commercial rights holder and we would like to ask for your understanding that we are not currently commenting on these discussions," a Mercedes spokesman told CNN.
In reality, however, Mercedes is already making plans for 2013.
On Tuesday, the team announced that the Swiss watchmaker IWC Schaffhausen has signed up to become a sponsor "from January 2013".
"It is widely recognised that motor sport serves as a testing ground for technologies that ultimately benefit us all," team boss Ross Brawn said in the media statement.
"As the pinnacle of global motor sport, formula one is at the forefront of such development, and that leading role is set to continue in the years ahead."
Mateschitz hopes Webber stays at Red Bull
Mark Webber appears headed for a new contract with Red Bull, after receiving a clear vote of confidence from the energy drink company's chief.
Following speculation the 35-year-old Australian could be headed to Ferrari in 2013, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner insisted Webber "is happy to be here, and we are happy to have him with us".
And the Swiss newspaper Blick has revealed that team owner Dietrich Mateschitz, the billionaire mogul, is also happy with Webber.
"I hope that he keeps driving with us for a long time," the 68-year-old is quoted as saying.
Ferrari men know Spain crucial for title
Ferrari's title tilt could hinge on the competitiveness of the updated F2012 this weekend in Barcelona.
"What I want is to have a competitive car in Barcelona," insisted the famous Italian marque's president Luca di Montezemolo on Tuesday.
"That's what I've asked for," he is quoted as saying by Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.
Ferrari had congregated at its Fiorano test track, to watch Jacques Villeneuve drive the 1979 single seater to mark the 30th anniversary of his father Gilles' fatal crash.
But Montezemolo's disappointment is with the latest Ferrari, which has been heavily updated since the Bahrain Grand Prix three weeks ago.
"Our technicians are confident, but we will have to see how our opponents have advanced too," he added.
O Estado de S.Paulo correspondent Livio Oricchio claimed "Montezemolo knows" that anything other than a big step forward in Barcelona will mean Ferrari has to "start thinking about" its 2013 project instead.
"Now we have to make a quantum leap, to have a car that is more competitive, less difficult to drive, and gives confidence to the fans," Montezemolo is quoted by La Stampa newspaper.
"Let's see how it goes in Spain," he told Rai television.
"I have asked for an extraordinary response from our engineers," Montezemolo is also quoted as saying by Italy's Sky Sport 24.
La Gazzetta dello Sport, meanwhile, quoted lead driver Fernando Alonso as saying: "Our goal is to be world champions in November, and if we are to succeed then we must do better than we have done so far."
Team boss Stefano Domenicali agreed: "We expect a significant evolution that will bring us closer to the step we need.
"The Spanish Grand Prix is definitely open, as is the championship. I say this because we believe."
De Villota not ruling out Friday drive
Maria de Villota is not ruling out appearing during a Friday morning practice session some time in 2012.
The 32-year-old Spaniard made international headlines in March when she signed with Marussia as a test driver.
She subsequently admitted, however, that - despite travelling to all the grands prix with the former Virgin team this year - she is "not the reserve driver".
De Villota, whose father Emilio is a former F1 driver, also clarified in March that she is not contracted to practice on Friday mornings.
But she is not ruling it out now.
"It depends on the team," she told the Spanish news agency EFE.
"I am trying to do all my duties well so that they are happy with me. And I think they are," said de Villota.
"But the car is new and the drivers need the miles to develop it. So it's up to the team (to decide).
"Hopefully it will happen soon, but what happens this year will happen. There may be surprises, but for now I am getting to do a lot of work in the simulator."
Meanwhile, she made a bold prediction when asked which team she tips to win the so-far unpredictable 2012 championship.
"I think that McLaren is very strong," said de Villota.
The last female driver to take part in official GP sessions was the Italian Giovanna Amati, who failed to qualify for three races in 1992.
McLaren set to race new higher nose in Spain
McLaren looks set to run a higher nose this weekend in Spain.
Last week, at the very end of the Mugello test, test driver Oliver Turvey debuted a new front wing that featured a conspicuously higher nose tip.
McLaren, the early 2012 frontrunner but having struggled recently in Bahrain, was the only notable team this year to ignore the new design trend for ugly 'stepped' front noses, introduced as arguably the best solution to new nose-height safety regulations.
The MP4-27's new nose does not feature a step element, but the tip is notably higher than its predecessor.
"Nowadays it is quite a critical part of the car, you're looking to find very small improvements," team boss Martin Whitmarsh said on Wednesday.
As for whether the new nose will be seen in Barcelona, he confirmed: "You may well see it again, yes.
"There's a reasonable chance you'll see it on Sunday."
Abu Dhabi criticises young driver test shakeup
The boss of Abu Dhabi's F1 circuit has criticised plans to run the young driver test at Silverstone later this year.
Originally, the young driver test was scheduled to take place as usual this year at Yas Marina, the week after the Abu Dhabi GP.
But, due to the calendar congestion at the end of this season, the majority of teams have decided instead to go to Silverstone in July, with only the two Red Bull-owned teams sticking with the Abu Dhabi plan.
Lotus team boss Eric Boullier, however, is quoted by The National newspaper as saying the Silverstone plan is "nonsense".
Yas Marina chief Richard Cregan agrees: "If you're a good young driver in the middle of a season, then it's not ideal to be testing a Formula One car midway through the year.
"These guys should be focusing on whatever series it is they are racing, which is why the F1 testing in Abu Dhabi worked so well in the past because it was effectively the end of their season."
He also warned that the earlier timing of the Silverstone test means teams could spend more time trying to develop their cars than on seriously evaluating the next generation of drivers.
"It is first and foremost a young drivers test and it must remain that," Cregan insisted.
"It is a chance for young drivers to get maybe a first chance to drive an F1 car and it is chance for teams to run their eye over a driver and evaluate his performance.
"Developing the car and parts should be secondary," he said.
Abu Dhabi could, however, be back on if Silverstone's weather forecast looks poor, even though as soon as a car has left the pitlane in July, that team will no longer be allowed to change its plans.
Even though Lotus' Boullier thinks the Silverstone decision was wrong, he has vowed to stick with the majority.
"But actually I would like it to rain, so we will go back to the original schedule," said the Frenchman.
Cregan said Abu Dhabi's door remains open.
"We'll still be working to the same standards," he said. "So in that sense nothing changes."