Fisichella wants to remain at Renault

Despite a disappointing 2007 season, Giancarlo Fisichella is confident of remaining at Renault for the 2008 season. The 34-year old Italian has been with the team since 2005, however his contract runs out at the end of this year.

Having won two championships in a row, the 2007 season has been a bit of a disappointment with Renault unable to match the pace of the top two teams. Despite the difficulties, Fisichella is hoping to retain his driver s seat for the coming season.

“We started the season with a car that wasn t great and still we haven t got the pace,” Fisichella remarked. “I m doing my best and I am working really hard, and for that I am expecting, once again, to be confirmed for next year. Soon we ll know, but I don t know when.

“I m happy. On this aspect, everything is under control and I am looking forward and really want to race for Renault next year. And I m quite confident. I ve done my best but unfortunately the car hasn t been so good.”

BMW clear the air but keep Heidfeld in suspense

BMW Sauber F1 Car 2007BMW Sauber drivers Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica have settled their differences after colliding with each other on the first lap of the European Grand Prix.

“We had a meeting today which was more about discussing how to avoid this in future than about clearing the air,” team boss Mario Theissen explained. “Obviously you clear the air at the same time, but the main issue was to come to an understanding about how to avoid this for the future.”

At the time, Polish driver Kubica was not happy with the incident, laying the blame firmly at the feet of his team-mate. “Someone who crashes into two cars within 20 laps won t last long in F1,” he allegedly remarked.

“He didn t tell me that,” Heidfeld responded to reporters. “I have seen a lot of things in the magazines which were not true, so as long as he doesn t tell me, I don t comment. We cleared the situation internally and that s as much as we are going to say about it. There is no tension. We get on very well but on the circuit, we fight against each other very hard. That is simply because he is a quick driver and from time to time, we see each other on the circuit.”

Although Heidfeld is doing well this season, Mario Theissen has said he will have to wait until after the summer before his future is secured. “We are in positive discussions but it s not sealed yet,” Theissen explained. “Don t expect anything during this weekend it will probably be after the summer break.”

With Sebastien Vettel having recently moved across to the Toro Rosso team, it is probable that BMW Sauber s 2008 line-up will remain the same.

Schumacher unclear on future

Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher is unclear as to his role within the Ferrari team. Schumacher, who retiring from racing at the end of the 2006 season, has attended several grand prix this season, however his official role at the scarlet-clad team has yet to be made public.

Speaking to Autosport, Schumacher said, “Ferrari and myself have not found a clear line yet, but we do not see ourselves under pressure to finalise something. I have to admit that my knowledge is restricted by time I would have to freshen up constantly in order to be of help. I see many former drivers who try to comment on what is going on but they are struggling. They are simply no longer deep in the business any more.

“I really cannot say that have I found fresh challenges that would excite me so far. At Ferrari, there are constantly new opportunities coming up but I could not pinpoint what exactly would be right for me. There is one thing I adore however helping to develop road cars. That is a lot of fun and I believe that I can be of help.”

Brawn denies breakaway team

Following claims from former Ferrari employee Nigel Stepney that Ross Brawn was to lead a breakaway team, Brawn himself has denied he had any plans to defect from Ferrari to join another team.

Ross Brawn is currently on a year s sabbatical following a long stint as technical director at Ferrari. On Tuesday, Nigel Stepney claimed that Brawn acted as ringleader of a small group of disgruntled workers who wanted to take their skills elsewhere.

“Ferrari is the only team or group with whom I have discussed by future,” Brawn began. “All the press articles that link me with other teams are either inaccurate or just speculative. After 30 years in motor racing, I wanted to dedicate some time to my family and to pursue personal ambitions that I have been unable to do. After ten fantastic years, the people and the culture of Ferrari and Italy are in my heart Ferrari is my team.”

Dennis speaks out over spy saga

McLarenChampionship leaders McLaren have accused Ferrari of running an illegal car at the beginning of the 2007 season and making grossly misleading statements in the espionage scandal that is still ongoing in an attempt to tarnish the reputation of McLaren.

It is the first time since the spying saga began that McLaren have publicly released their detailed version of events. Ron Dennis has chosen to do so in a long letter to Luigi Macaluso of the ACI, the full version of which is available on the McLaren website.

Dennis has defended his team saying that their only knowledge of confidential information was that which was leaked by former Ferrari employee Nigel Stepney regarding the illegal floor device Ferrari ran at the Australian Grand Prix. Dennis said that Stepney acted in the interests of the sport by bringing the matter out into the open and McLaren, also acting in the interests of Formula 1, chose not to protest the result of the Australian Grand Prix, even though Ferrari won because they had an illegal competitive advantage. Dennis also claimed he told Coughlan not to contact Stepney again, however they met up in Barcelona on April 28th.

Dennis feels that Ferrari have gone to extraordinary length to try to maximize the damage to McLaren since it was discovered that Coughlan was in possession of confidential Ferrari information. He has ruled out anyone else within the team being aware of the dossier, and has denied that any Ferrari details have found their way into the design process.

“McLaren s reputation has been unfairly sullied by incorrect press reports from Italy and grossly misleading statements from Ferrari,” Dennis wrote. “It would be a tragedy if one of the best world championships in years was derailed by the acts of one Ferrari and one McLaren employee acting for their own purposes wholly unconnected with Ferrari or McLaren.”

Driver woes at Toro Rosso

Franz Tost, team principal at Toro Rosso, has denied allegations that he grabbed driver Scott Speed by the neck after an argument at the European Grand Prix.

Speed s Story
After the race at the Nurburgring, Speed claimed that he had been jerked back and forth after an argument broke out in the pitlane. “There were a couple of people who saw,” Speed explained. “He grabbed me right below the neck – on the fireproof t-shirt – and jerked me back and forth, let go, and then pushed me into the wall behind where the cars are.”

Tost s Version
Tost has said he grabbed Speed by the shoulder, not the neck, and said that the American driver had been very critical of the team after his pitstop during the race was delayed following torrential rain.

“When Scott came to the pit wall after going off the track, he complained about the very bad performance of the team because of the delay he suffered during the pit-stop,” Tost explained. “By contrast, I firstly asked him why he went off and then I tried to explain to him that he was the one who actually caused the chaos but he didn t listen to me.

“He carried on wanting to know why the team took so long to change his tyres when he came into the pits. It seemed like that was his only worry, while mine is, most of all, that the team are not put in doubt and their job not denigrated. There was a reason why the pit-stop lasted that long in his in-lap, Scott overtook our other car, that of Vitantonio Liuzzi, in the last sector. The GPS fit on our cars did not show that Scott had overtaken Tonio, cutting through the chicane just before entering the pitlane. The GPS maybe didn t have enough time to catch the move.

“The team there, who were expecting to see Tonio coming in, were left dumbfounded and were unprepared. Scott overtook his teammate by avoiding the chicane and I think he would have had to give back the position to avoid a penalty it he stayed in the race. That s why I got upset I was annoyed by his attitude; by the fact his only worry seemed to blame the team.

“I mean, he went off track he made a mistake. I make mistakes every day as well, that s not the problem, but I can t tolerate that he casts a cloud over the work of the team. That s why, when he turned around to leave, I followed him and grabbed him by the shoulder. While I m talking to you, I said, you can t leave like this, . I deny having grabbed him by the neck, while it s true that, once I had calmed down, I apologized to him.”

After the incident, Speed did test for the team at Mugello, however he has subsequently been dropped with Sebastien Vettel taking over his race-seat. Speed s manager has said that Speed has not been released from his contract and his future with the team will be announced after this weekend s Hungarian Grand Prix.

Berger fails to back Liuzzi
Gerhard Berger has declined to comment on the future of his second driver, Tonio Liuzzi. There are strong rumours in the F1 paddock that Champ Car driver Sebastien Bourdais is looking to take over Liuzzi s F1 seat in 2008.

Liuzzi is a protégé of Helmut Marko, as was ousted driver Scott Speed. Last month, Berger questioned Marko s judgement when he remarked that he had never experienced a pair of drivers such as ours .

Berger would only comment on the fact he is happy that they managed to come to a deal with BMW Sauber over Sebastien Vettel. “First things first,” he said. “In the past ten days we have been trying very hard to secure Vettel. We absolutely wanted him.”

Vettel replaces Speed

Toro Rosso have confirmed that Sebastien Vettel, newly transferred from the BMW-Sauber team, will be racing at the Hungarian Grand Prix, replacing American driver Scott Speed. It is reported that Vettel will earn around $165,000 for finishing the season with the Toro Rosso team. It is also thought he has managed to negotiate a $400,000 a year deal for the 2008 season.

“For me, this is a dream come true,” Vettel said. “It hasn t sunk in yet that I am now a proper race driver in Formula 1. I am aware that the car is not the best one, so I can t really say what I will be able to do with it.”

Speed, however, has not been released from his contract. So far, he has yet to pass comment in the media about being dropped from the team. His manager, Glen Hinshaw, has said confirmed that Speed has not been released from his contract and that further details regarding the team and driver s ongoing relationship will be released after Sunday s race in Hungary.

The news will not be welcome to Sebastien Bourdais who many had linked to Toro Rosso as a possible replacement for Speed for 2008. “As of right now, I m trying to pursue everything I can in the F1 World and we should have some news pretty soon,” Bourdais explained.  It seems that Bourdais only chance with the STR team is if they decide to drop Tonio Liuzzi at the end of the season.

Espionage case goes to the Court of Appeal

Ferrari will get the chance to tell their side of the story after FIA president Max Mosley has decided the espionage case should be sent to the Court of Appeal. The decision will come as welcome news to the Ferrari team, with many team members publicly fuming over the decision not to punish McLaren at the meeting last week.

Mosley s decision came after Luigi Macaluso, president of Italy s automobile federation, wrote a letter criticizing the World Motor Sport Council s decision not to punish McLaren despite finding them guilty of possessing confidential Ferrari documents.

Mosley replied to Macaluso s letter saying the matter would be taken to the Court of Appeal and Ferrari would be given the chance to tell their version of events. Ferrari themselves were unable to appeal the decision as they were only invited to the hearing.

Your letter suggests that the outcome may have been different if the Council had given Ferrari further opportunities to be heard beyond those that were in fact offered,” Mosley wrote in his letter. “Because of this and the importance of public confidence in the outcome, I will send this matter to the FIA Court of Appeal under article 23.1 of the FIA Statutes with a request that the Court hear both Ferrari and McLaren and any other championship competitor who so requests and determine whether the decision of the WMSC was appropriate and, if not, substitute such other decision as may be just.”

It is understood that the appeal hearing will probably be heard towards the end of August in Paris.

Stepney: I was set-up

Former Ferrari man Nigel Stepney, accused of giving away confidential information to rival team McLaren, has said he was set-up.

Talking to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Stepney said, “I did not take any designs away from Ferrari. Someone passed on the designs but it wasn t me. I do not want to involve other colleagues. I know one part of the story, not all. Ferrari know the whole story.”

In April, Stepney is alleged to have sent a 780-page dossier to McLaren s Mike Coughlan. Stepney denied any wrong-doing however a subsequent search of Coughlan s house revealed Ferrari documents. Ferrari fired Stepney and McLaren suspended Coughlan.

Last week, the FIA found McLaren guilty of breaching the international sporting code but failed to dole out any punishment.

Stepney is also facing criminal charges in Italy for attempted sabotage after a mysterious white powder was found in the fuel tanks of the Ferrari cars, six days before the race at Monaco. It is alleged that traces of the powder were found on a pair of Stepney s trousers.

“I didn t put it there,” Stepney said. “They put the powder in my trouser pocket while I was taking a shower.” As to who they refers to, Stepney didn t say.

Stepney has also claimed that he was not the only disgruntled employee at Ferrari. It is thought Stepney was disappointed not to be promoted to technical director when Ross Brawn went on sabbatical. Instead, he was given a job away from the race-track. He claims that one he realised he was falling out of favour, he realised he was not the only one and that members of several teams were thinking about forming a breakaway team with Ross Brawn as leader.

Stepney has now said he has found a new job, away from Italy and unrelated to Formula 1.

BRDC vote to redevelop Silverstone

At an EGM meeting yesterday afternoon, members of the BRDC overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Club s plans to redevelop Silverstone s facilities.

In light of this agreement, if terms can be agreed with Formula One Management, the BRDC should be able to get a contract extension beyond 2009. The agreement also enables Silverstone to realise it s owners ambition for the circuit to become more than an F1 track to remain at the heart of all British motorsport.

Damon Hill, president of the BRDC, explained, “This vote is a great result for the future of British motor sport. The BRDC’s Master Plan is not only important to Silverstone and its continued hosting of the British Grand Prix, but also the development of the sport in this country.

“We can only continue to develop exciting young stars like Lewis Hamilton if we have the best facilities at which to nuture such talent. Having won the British Grand Prix myself I know how special it is for a driver to win their home Grand Prix, so we would very much like, as a Racing Drivers’ Club, which the BRDC is, for that opportunity to be there for future generations.”