- Alonso says Hamilton better than Vettel
- Red Bull and Force India announce launch dates
- FIA to tinker with DRS zones for 2012 - report
- Williams signs Senna for one season only - report
- New Williams on track for Jerez debut
- Barrichello quiet as longest career reaches end
- 2012 to be 'transition year' says Sutil's manager
- Second HRT driver to pay EUR 6 million - report
- Ecclestone meets with Valencia president
Alonso says Hamilton better than Vettel
Lewis Hamilton is better than Sebastian Vettel, according to Hamilton's former nemesis and McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso.
Like Ferrari driver Alonso, Vettel is now a back-to-back world champion, while Briton Hamilton's only title was won in 2008.
But Spaniard Alonso thinks Hamilton is better than the Red Bull star.
"Lewis is so fast, aggressive, totally focused. He is interested only in victory.
"Sebastian has not quite reached that level," he told Germany's Sport Bild.
"I know he is a two-time world champion, but he is still slightly below the level of Lewis," added Alonso.
According to 1996 world champion Damon Hill, however, Hamilton was not focused enough last season.
"Lewis needs to show that he can manage his private life as well as being a professional racing driver," Hill is quoted by the Sun.
"He will be the first to admit that he had some distractions last season and we will see if he can address those."
Red Bull and Force India announce launch dates
Red Bull will reveal its 2012 car during an internet presentation on the day before the RB8 is given its official track debut.
The reigning champions said in a media statement that the Adrian Newey-inked car will be seen for the first time on the team's website on 6 February, the day before the opening four-day test at Jerez kicks off.
Red Bull said the car will be seen "in a different light" at 1pm.
Meanwhile, F1's sixth-ranked team in 2011, Force India, will reveal its new car on February 3 at 9am at the Silverstone track, located across the road from its Northamptonshire headquarters.
Technical director Andrew Green said the VJM05, whose monocoque has already passed the FIA's mandatory crash tests, will be built and fired up next week.
"There's always a buzz around when it's happening," he said.
FIA to tinker with DRS zones for 2012 - report
F1's controversial "DRS" innovation is staying put for 2012, according to an Italian report.
While many hailed the moveable rear wing flaps' contribution to overtaking last season, others criticised the drag reduction system for compromising the purity of wheel-to-wheel racing.
According to Autosprint, DRS is staying this year.
But the FIA will reportedly modify the number and length of the overtaking zones at some circuits.
"The reason is to facilitate overtaking by extending the zones at those circuits where it proved too difficult, and shortening them where the passing was too exaggerated," the Italian language report read.
One DRS supporter is the Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg.
"The important thing is that we are overtaking - who really cares why?
"However it is good to optimise everything, especially where it has been possible to gain 50 metres (on a rival) by the end of a straight.
"It's better that it (passing) is a bit more difficult than too easy," the German said.
Williams signs Senna for one season only - report
Bruno Senna's new Williams contract is for just one season, the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo claims.
"It will be a pivotal year for my future in formula one," the 28-year-old former HRT and Renault driver is quoted as saying.
The reputation of the great Senna name is also at stake, amid reports the nephew of the late triple world champion Ayrton is effectively now a 'pay-driver'.
The reports say his personal sponsors are taking EUR 14 million to the famous British team, in addition to the millions brought by his teammate Pastor Maldonado.
But Senna and other team figures insist that the driver's talent and potential were the decisive factors, after the Brazilian was put through a series of factory and on-track assessments in the past weeks.
"It was like I was in school," said Senna. "I did technical tests, work on the simulator, physical assessments and things on the track with (racing instructor) Rob Wilson.
"They required an analysis from people inside and outside of the team to consider my potential."
Ultimately, Williams overlooked the other main contenders for the seat, the experienced Adrian Sutil and Rubens Barrichello.
"The team evaluated all of this and took the risk," said Senna, when asked about the comparative inexperience of Williams' 2012 lineup.
"They (the team) have lots of experience and said they believe in us to develop the car. The pressure will be great," he admitted.
New Williams on track for Jerez debut
Williams' 2012 car is on schedule for an early February debut.
That is the claim of the famous team's chief operations engineer Mark Gillan, who said the actual track debut of the newly Renault-powered FW34 will take place during an aerodynamic test before the opening test at Jerez.
"We passed the crash tests before Christmas," he is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.
"The debut is planned for the first week of testing at Jerez in early February. So far, the data looks right - we have been able to achieve all the targets we set."
Gillan said the next goal for Williams, having restructured the team during the course of its dire 2011 season, is for the FW34 to be a regular top-ten finisher.
"I know that making a great leap forward is not easy," he said. "But from what we know about the car so far, there is reason to be fairly confident that we can be back in Q3 regularly and score points from there."
Gillan welcomed the FIA's banning of exhaust blowing; a principle pioneered by Red Bull and also perfected by championship runner-up McLaren last year.
"It (the ban) neutralises the lead that some teams had achieved in this area," he said.
"So the field should move closer together now, at least at the beginning of the season. After that it's a matter of time before someone comes up with the next F-duct or double diffuser."
Barrichello quiet as longest career reaches end
Rubens Barrichello is so far refusing to comment after losing his Williams race seat this week to countryman Bruno Senna.
The news looks set to end F1's longest-ever driver career, with the only other vacant seat for 2012 - at HRT - expected to go to the highest bidder.
O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper contacted 39-year-old Barrichello on Tuesday but found the veteran Brazilian unwilling to talk for now.
"I will speak later, firstly with friendly journalists," promised Barrichello, who since 1993 has contested 326 GPs for six teams over 19 consecutive seasons.
On Tuesday, he told his 1.4 million Twitter followers that the future "is wide open".
Earlier, amid the uncertainty of his situation, he admitted he will take stock of his situation should he be left without a F1 seat for 2012.
"I think at first I won't look for anything. Perhaps I'll just enjoy my family for a year. After that I believe my passion for speed will not allow me to stand still.
"For sure I will not race on the American ovals - I have promised that to my wife," said Barrichello, whose close friend is Tony Kanaan, the Indycar driver, "and I will honour that."
For the moment, an era appears over.
"I'm not sure how many more seasons Rubens could have expected to carry on in Formula One," said 1996 world champion Damon Hill, "although I think he did a pretty good job."
A few years ago, when Honda folded and became Brawn, Senna was considered for Barrichello's 2009 race seat.
Now, the shoe is on the other foot.
"I haven't talked to him," Senna told reporters on Tuesday. "We are good friends and that's the way motor sport is.
"There is nothing personal, and Rubens is a pro. He will understand," said Senna.
He is quoted by O Estado de S.Paulo: "Rubens knows even better than I do that sometimes it's part of the sport that someone comes in and someone has to go.
"We have a great relationship and I'm sure it will stay that way," added Senna.
2012 to be 'transition year' says Sutil's manager
Tuesday's news from the Williams factory was another serious blow to the F1 career of German driver Adrian Sutil.
Having lost his Force India race seat and with a grievous bodily harm trial imminently looming, the 29-year-old was hoping to keep his career alive by replacing Rubens Barrichello at Williams.
Instead, that job has gone to Bruno Senna, making 2012 a "transitional year" for Sutil, according to his manager Manfred Zimmermann.
"The negotiations with Williams were already over in mid December, because there were different opinions," Zimmermann, apparently referring to the desired length of a contract, is quoted in German by Sport1.
It is also rumoured Medion, Sutil's sponsor, has reduced the value of the deal.
Williams' chief operations engineer Mark Gillan said on Tuesday: "I don't want to talk about individual drivers.
"Adrian was part of our plans, but based on everything that was on the table, Bruno was the best choice."
Zimmermann continued: "We still believe that we will be in formula one in 2012. It will be a transition year for us as we are planning long-term.
"Right now we will concentrate on the trial on January 30 and 31," added Zimmermann, referring to the case of Sutil's alleged assault last April on Lotus team executive Eric Lux.
As for Tuesday's news, DPA news agency quotes Zimmermann as adding: "We were not surprised.
"We have not tried anymore with Williams for weeks."
So what's next? "Either there will be a surprise or we will do a plan-B," said Zimmermann coyly.
Second HRT driver to pay EUR 6 million - report
The eventual occupant of the second race seat at HRT - the final place on the 2012 grid - will bring "no less" than EUR 6 million to the table.
That is the claim of the Spanish sports daily Marca, reporting that Dutchman Giedo van der Garde is apparently on pole position to be Pedro de la Rosa's teammate at the struggling Spanish team.
The newspaper said Dutch GP2 driver van der Garde seems to have at least the requisite 6 million in sponsorship but acknowledged that "the list of candidates is long".
"I am still waiting for good news," 26-year-old van der Garde is quoted by De Telegraaf newspaper, "and I'm positive.
"I'm training hard to prepare myself as best as possible," he added on Tuesday.
Some regard the growing influence of 'pay-drivers' as bad news for a premier sport such as F1.
"Whatever happens," said Felipe Massa last week amid rumours he could lose his Ferrari seat, "at least I know I've never had to pay to drive."
Ecclestone meets with Valencia president
Bernie Ecclestone on Tuesday had a "private" meeting with Valencia's government president Alberto Fabra.
That is the claim of the Spanish press, amid reports the Spanish port city might have to accept an annually alternating race date on the F1 calendar with Barcelona as Europe's economic crisis deepens.
EFE news agency said Fabra requested the meeting in London as Valencia "seeks to negotiate down" its contract to host the street race every season.
"There is a willingness to negotiate," confirmed vice president Jose Ciscar, "and we are on the right path".
He predicted there will be "more meetings" to come.
Running the annual race at present is promoter Valmor's Facundo Garcia de la Cuadra, who told Sportspro in an interview that Valencia wants F1 "forever".
But he also acknowledged the possibility of an alternating date.
"That's something we have been talking about in the last weeks," he said. "We will see, that's all I can say at the moment."
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