Alonso has learned to keep quiet

Fernando Alonso has said he has now learnt to keep quiet when talking with F1’s journalists. “The less I say, the fewer problems I get,” Alonso said.

A famous Alonso soundbite was him declaring that F1 was “no longer a sport” after he was given a controversial penalty at Monza last season. He has also been accused of being ‘unprofessional’ in some quarters after declaring that the only thing he liked about his new McLaren was the colour.

Alonso has had regular clashes with media in his home country – he has accused them of intruding into his homelife so much that it is difficult for him to now return home. “F1 developed very fast in Spain,” he mulled. “In 2003, the first races were not even on television, but now the transmissions go on for hours. Before, there were maybe 2 or 3 specialised magazines but now there are 15 or 20.”

The Spaniard’s home grand prix at the Circuit de Catalunya is expected to be a sell-out on race day with 145,000 spectators attending.

Ross Brawn will decide his future in July

Ross Brawn has said he will meet with Jean Todt in July before deciding what path he will be taking in the future. Brawn, one of the most respected men currently in Formula 1, is taking a 12 month sabbatical with no contractual ties to any team.

There are numerous rumours about Brawn’s future with many believing a move to Honda is on the cards. Brawn is keeping a fairly low profile over the matter, but has said he will make his decision in July.

“In July I will make a decision,” he said. “Before that, I will speak with Ferrari, and if we do not reach an agreement and I still want to continue, I will begin to think about other options.”

Barcelona Testing, Day 1 Round-up

Focus was firmly on the McLaren team in Spain, with the MP4-22 showing off a radical, new front wing. Driver Alonso played down the significance of the new look, claiming that “everyone’s cars will improve by two or three tenths – I doubt the hierarchy will change too much.” Test driver de la Rosa also played down the new wing, saying that “many other new features” have also been added to the MP4-22. He also added that the “championship really begins now”. Spain is the first lef in the start of the European part of the season, and titles tend to be won or lost on what happens in Europe.

Meanwhile, Ferrari quietly rolled out some new sidepods for their F2007 car, with some F1 followers claiming that the new sidepods are in fact more significant than the MP4-22 wing updates. It is believed that Ferrari’s new sidepods have been reshaped and made smaller to aid a new cooling system for the car.

It seems that Ferrari’s new package is working well for them, with Kimi Raikkonen topping the timesheets on Day One by an impressive 0.7 seconds. His fastest lap was 1:21.194, and he also clocked up the next five fastest laps too. Suprisingly, the second fastest driver of the day was Takuma Sato in the Super Aguri, who managed a time of 1:21.858. The Super Aguri was kitted out with a gearbox upgrade and some new aerodynamics, both of which look like they are working well.

Pedro de la Rosa was third fastest in his MP4-22, followed by Ralf Schumacher and then Nick Heidfeld. Rubens Barrichello finished sixth, suggesting that Honda have made some progress. Honda have had a poor start to the season, and although they were over a second slower than the Super Aguri of Takuma Sato, they appear to be making some headway.

During the testing, there was a lot of drama. Adrian Valles, test driver for Spyker, crashed heavily at Turn 3 late in the afternoon, reportedly impacting at over 240 km/h. His dash-light, a new obligatory innovation for the 2007 season, meant he earnt himself a trip to hospital although he was not seriously hurt. Following some tests, he was released later in the day. The Spyker car has sustained heavy damage but the team are hopeful they can repair the damage in time to allow Adrian Sutil to take over for Day 2 of testing. Mike Gascoyne commented that, “It looks as though he had a problem with the car through Turn 1 and then lost control through 3.”

Meanwhile, Ralf Schumacher turned on the pace and finished top. It later transpired that he had cut a chicane meaning his Toyota was demoted to fourth place.

Williams’ driver Kuzuki Nakajima also brought two red flags out to the session. The first time, he had a mechanical problem, causing the car to stop; the second red flag was for a crash at Turn 9. Williams’ test manager Dickie Stanford confirmed that the car was not badly damaged and Nakajima was unhurt. “He’s OK,” he said. “The car will be fine to run tomorrow.”

Rain is predicted for Day 2 at the Circuit de Catalunya. Should the rain spoil running, team managers will extend the testing by an extra day.

Testing times from Barcelona, Day 1

1.  RAIKKONEN      Ferrari      1m21.194s
2.  SATO           Super Aguri  1m21.858s
3.  DE LA ROSA     McLaren      1m21.906s
4.  SCHUMACHER     Toyota       1m21.983s
5.  HEIDFELD       BMW          1m22.114s
6.  BARRICHELLO    Honda        1m22.655s
7.  PIQUET         Renault      1m22.763s
8.  LIUZZI         Toro Rosso   1m22.771s
9.  COULTHARD      Red Bull     1m22.973s
10. VALLES         Spyker       1m23.699s
11. NAKAJIMA       Williams     1m24.241s
12. VAN DER GARDE  Spyker       1m24.997s

Heineken and Spyker open an F1 sports bar

Spyker F1 have partnered with Heineken to launch a new concept – the first ever Formula 1 sports bar, located in the Netherlands. Heineken have also become the official beer supplier of trackside events organised by the Spyker F1 team during the championship.

On July 1st, further details of this new venture will be announced, including the bar’s exact location and grand opening date.

Marketing Director of Heineken in the Netherlands, Herwin van den Berg, said, “Developing and realising innovative bar concepts is a main priority for our company and this Formula 1 sports bar fits with our ambitions of being the most innovative brewer. Furthermore, the co-operation with Spyker gives us access to the Formula 1 experience with millions of international fans.”

Michel Mol, Director of Spyker, said, “Having Heineken, one of the most international breweries of the world, as a partner for this concept and as a hospitality instrument proves that the marketing strategy of the Spyker team is working as planned. I’m very proud to join forces with such a well known brand; a brand that, as with our team, has its roots in the Netherlands.”

RBS sponsorship of Williams extended

Williams have announced that they will be renewing and extending their current partnership with RBS.

Frank Williams, boss of the Williams F1 team, said, “Williams is very privileged that our partnership with a brand of RBS’s stature has been extended. It is a fruitful relationship that has developed and strengthened over the last two seasons and I look forward to it continuing successfully.”