- Whiting says 2012 exhaust layouts 'legal'
- New deal for Schumacher possible admits Zetsche
- Caubet says Renault helps Red Bull run light
- Legal dispute could derail F1 at the Nurburgring
- HRT owners eye sale to richest man Carlos Slim
- Force India reserve Bianchi to race Formula Renault
Whiting says 2012 exhaust layouts 'legal'
Charlie Whiting has given the 2012 cars at the Jerez test this week an early clean bill of health.
It was reported the FIA's technical delegate decided to attend the opening test of the 2012 pre-season amid speculation the teams may have overstepped the mark with their new exhaust layouts.
Exhaust-blown diffusers have been banned for this season, but the early signs were that teams had been clever in their interpretation of the new rules to maintain an aerodynamic benefit.
"At the moment they're all legal," Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, following Whiting's inspection of all the team garages on Wednesday, quoted the Briton as saying.
Red Bull's Adrian Newey also played down all the speculation about 2012 exhaust interpretations, insisting there is unlikely to be a "bright idea" from this year's restrictive rules similar to the double diffuser or blown exhaust innovations.
"We do not see any big differences between all the possible solutions," he said. "The rules are very specific and very restrictive."
That could, of course, be great news for Red Bull's rivals, particularly with the FIA having also clamped down on flexing front wings -- another area perfected recently by Newey.
"That rule change," said Newey, referring to the halving of the allowable wing flex for 2012, "came very late.
"The result is that the wing has gained a lot of weight, making it harder to achieve the optimum weight distribution."
Newey said the FIA's new stance on wings was "probably" powered by the violently fluttering components on Ferrari's car late last season.
Indeed, between Ferrari and Red Bull, there already appears some tension.
Spain's Marca newspaper claims Newey suspected Ferrari's initial exhaust solution on the F2012 was not legal.
Then on Wednesday - the day of Whiting's pit visits - the Maranello based team hastily cut into its exhausts and fairings, ostensibly to meet the new rule about top visibility.
"Honestly," Ferrari designer Nikolas Tombazis said, "I haven't seen anything out of the ordinary. We have analysed what everyone is doing and I do not see a great innovation that we have not studied already."
The saga will continue to run.
"They will still be able to use the exhausts (aerodynamically) this year," predicted Remi Taffin, engine supplier Renault's track boss.
"So we will see changes in this area in the Barcelona testing and probably also in Melbourne," he is quoted by France's Auto Plus.
New deal for Schumacher possible admits Zetsche
Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche on Thursday indicated he would like Michael Schumacher to extend his Mercedes GP contract beyond 2012.
Seven-time world champion Schumacher's existing three year contract, dating back to his decision to return to F1 in 2010 after a three-year sabbatical, runs out this year.
Zetsche is quoted by Seddeutsche Zeitung newspaper as saying Mercedes is fully committed to F1, with an "engagement for the long term".
As for involving 43-year-old Schumacher in those plans for 2013, Zetsche admitted it was "an attractive possibility".
"He is still a motor sports icon," he added.
Schumacher said at the Jerez test this week that while he might not have a title-winning car this year, Mercedes will build one in the future.
"We have to build our way there. I'm confident we can do that, in future, but let's take it step by step," said the German.
As for the possibility of a new contract, Schumacher answered: "I never gave any prognosis about my career. The right time will come to discuss my future."
Caubet says Renault helps Red Bull run light
Renault is a secret to Red Bull's recent success in F1, the French carmaker claims.
The common perception, however, is that the energy drink-owned team has dominated the sport in recent years despite Mercedes-Benz actually supplying a more powerful 2.4 litre V8 engine to Red Bull's rivals.
"The Mercedes engine is indeed about 15 horsepower more powerful than ours," confirmed Renault Sport F1's Jean-Francois Caubet.
"But in terms of driveability and fuel economy, it is our engine in front. So when it comes to the bottom line, we are a little bit better than Mercedes," he claimed to Germany's Sport Bild magazine.
The most crucial factor, Caubet claimed, is the engine's fuel economy amid the backdrop of the recent ban on in-race refuelling.
"Because our consumption is lower, Red Bull can start the races with 15 to 18 litres less petrol in the tank than the competition," he said.
"That makes a big difference."
Another factor is Sebastian Vettel's driving, he agreed, with the back-to-back world champion having a "very fuel efficient" style, and being "extremely interested in the data".
"They are both key factors when the driver wants to use the engine perfectly," said Caubet.
Legal dispute could derail F1 at the Nurburgring
The future of the German GP at the Nurburgring looks set to race into the courts.
The Rhineland-Palatinate state this week said it intends to cancel the circuit operator's lease, arguing that a bright future is "not possible" with the existing tenants.
Minister Roger Lewentz said he wants to personally take over the negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone about the future of the F1 race.
But according to the SID news agency, the operator Nurburgring Automotive GmbH (NAG) has announced it will fight back, including demanding "substantial amounts" from the government for the wrongful action.
"There is no reason for this extraordinary step," NAG's lawyer is quoted as saying.
The company's spokesman said the situation is crucial to Germany's future on the F1 calendar.
"Already, there are many candidates waiting for a (race) date to be available," NAG spokesman Karl-Heinz Steinkuehler said.
"Without the Nurburgring, formula one would make probably only a guest appearance every two years in Germany, at the Hockenheimring," he warned.
The minister Lewentz, however, said the government is ready for a fight, despite hoping for "an amicable solution" to the dispute with the operator.
"If not, a lengthy legal dispute cannot be ruled out," he said. "We consider ourselves well prepared."
HRT owners eye sale to richest man Carlos Slim
HRT's tumultuous history could be set to continue, if a report in an authoritative German newspaper is right.
Die Welt claims Thesan Capital, the Madrid-based investment company that bought the Spanish team from Jose Ramon Carabante last year, is already on the lookout for a new buyer.
Originally known as Hispania, HRT was actually founded as Campos by former Spanish F1 driver Adrian Campos when the FIA opened up the grid ahead of the 2010 season.
Die Welt claims that the latest owner Thesan's desire to sell follows the departure of team boss Colin Kolles, who left with almost every one of the team's 120 employees back to his Greding based company.
Kolles also took all of HRT's technical equipment back to Greding, Germany, leaving the team on a desperate struggle to be ready for the forthcoming season.
Nonetheless, HRT announced on Wednesday it is establishing a permanent base at the Spanish tennis open headquarters Caja Magica in Madrid.
But Die Welt claims the team may soon be sold to Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world who already backs Sauber through Sergio Perez and his Mexican companies.
Force India reserve Bianchi to race Formula Renault
Jules Bianchi will split his time between the F1 and Formula Renault paddocks in 2012.
The former GP2 driver has been signed by Force India to replace the team's reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg, who has stepped up to the race seat this season.
Like Hulkenberg last year, Frenchman Bianchi will practice on numerous Friday mornings in 2012.
He will also race in the Formula Renault 3.5 series, it emerged on Thursday.
Bianchi, also under contract to Ferrari as a development driver and managed by Felipe Massa's manager Nicolas Todt, will drive for the Tech 1 team.
"This is a very important season for my career and, as a young driver, it is vital to have the opportunity to race in a competitive series such as this," he said.
"I want to thank Ferrari and Force India for having given permission to grasp this opportunity."