Date set for Renault appeal hearing

The FIA has announced that the International Court of Appeal will meet over the 17th to 18th of August to determine the fate of the Renault Formula One team.

The French manufacturer launched an appeal after being suspended for the European Grand Prix by the Hungarian stewards.

The race stewards found Renault guilty of releasing Fernando Alonso’s car from the pitlane, despite knowing that the wheel-nut retaining device was not properly secured during the pit stop procedure.

Once the car returned to the track, Renault was also found guilty of not informing Alonso of the problem or asking the Spaniard to stop, leading to the right-front wheel, of the car, to fall off at turn nine.

The FFSA has submitted the appeal on behalf of Renault.

If the International Court of Appeal rules to uphold the decision then Renault will be suspended from the European Grand Prix in Valencia on the 23rd of August.

Williams progress impresses Rosberg

Nico Rosberg has said that he has been impressed with the progress of his Williams team over the course of the 2009 season, and now believes that the Grove team are among a host of other teams fighting to have the second fastest car on the grid.

“I’m pleased. The team is progressing really well, and we are right up performance-wise. It’s nice,” Rosberg told Autosport.

“Obviously McLaren has made a big jump and they are level with us now, I think. I think we are in a great position, because at the moment we are fighting to be the second best team.

“We are right up there. Red Bull is currently quickest, but then there’s already us and McLaren. We are looking good at the moment.”

Rosberg has impressed this season for Williams and with consecutive fourth place finishes at the previous two races the German is in high spirits.

“I think a lot of if is from understanding [the car], but also development is a factor,” he said in trying to explain Williams’ secret of success in 2009. “We are doing a good job. I’m pushing hard on my direction, which seems to be working well. So I think it’s a combination of everything.

“It’s nice to see because we’ve always struggled in development over the last few years and this year we are really stepping up the game and we are bringing new parts every single time and they are always working for us, so it’s good.”

Schumacher returns to F1 testing

Michael Schumacher is already underway in his preparation for his Formula One return, by traveling to Italy.

The German arrived at the Ferrari factory in Maranello yesterday, where he worked on the static simulator to check the functionality of the steering wheel.

Reports today also suggest that the seven-time World Champion has already made his return to track-testing, by borrowing a Ferrari F2007 and immediately tackling Ferrari’s test track at Mugello.

“There is this test ban in Formula 1, therefore I contacted some of the guys from F1 Clienti if they could give me a car,” Schumacher wrote on his website.

“Although those cars are not current or last year’s ones, I simply like to drive as much as possible, so this is a good option. The next weeks will be totally on preparation then.”

Reaction to Schumacher’s return

There has been widespread reaction, from the Formula One world and beyond, to the announcement that Michael Schumacher will return to Formula One.

It was revealed on Wednesday that the seven-time World Champion would substitute for the injured Felipe Massa at the European Grand Prix in Valencia.

Among those who gave positive reaction to the news was the German’s brother and former Formula One driver Ralf Schumacher.

“He was itching to come back. But no one expected that,” Ralf told German television network N-24. “After all the bad headlines on the sport recently this is absolutely great.

“Nothing better could have happened for Formula 1 than my brother coming back.”

Three-time World Champion, Niki Lauda also gave a similar response, claiming that Schumacher’s return can only be good for the sport.

“The return of Michael Schumacher is such a massive sensation that Bernie Ecclestone should pay him half his wages. Has there ever been anything more exciting in motor racing?” Lauda told the BBC.

“I am not saying that Michael will win because that depends on the speed of the car but I have absolutely no doubts about his ability to perform as well as ever.

“I was 33 when I came out of retirement and he is 40 – but you are what age you want to be. I have no concerns about his reflexes. He will be brilliant.”

Although in agreement with Lauda, Formula One Journalist Maurice Hamilton, issued a stark warning to the 40 year old.

“Schumacher’s canny racing brain, his ability to think of several things at once while driving at 175 mph, will be as sharp as ever but his fitness will not.” Hamilton explained to the BBC.

“No amount of graft in the gym will act as a substitute for time spent in the cockpit.

“It is a splendid story for sport, for motor racing, for F1 – but not necessarily for Michael Schumacher in the long run.”

Of the current crop of Grand Prix drivers, reigning World Champion, Lewis Hamilton expressed his delight at the imminent return of Schumacher and of the possibility to race against one of the sport’s legends.

“I am excited by the possibility of Michael Schumacher’s return to Formula 1 assuming it happens, but my thoughts are still with Felipe and his family following his terrible accident in Hungary,” Hamilton told Autosport Online.

“Michael is one of the sport’s greatest competitors and a legend in his own right and it would be great to compete against him.”

Jenson Button, the World Championship leader, also welcomed Schumacher’s return and believes that the German will be competitive.

“It’s a tough position for him to be in but I’m happy he’s taken up the challenge and it’s very brave of him,” Button told the BBC.

“He’s still young – 40 is not old and he’ll still be competitive.”

Meanwhile, the FIA have confirmed that Michael Schumacher will have to reapply for his mandatory superlicence.

Although the German’s previous superlicense expired at the end of 2006, it is not thought that Schumacher will encounter any problems in the application progress.

“Under normal circumstances Michael Schumacher should get a superlicence,” a FIA spokeswoman told the German news agency SID.

Massa already plotting racing return

Ferrari's Felipe MassaFelipe Massa has already started thinking about racing again, after making progress in his recovery, his personal doctor has proclaimed.

Dino Altman told journalists in front of the AEK hospital in Budapest on Thursday that the Brazilian’s condition was improving all of the time, so much so that he would no longer require any special treatments to aid his recovery.

“No problem with his eyes, as I’ve told you before, it’s okay.” Altman reported.

“He is eating normal food. He ate chicken, today in the morning he had a normal breakfast, some yogurt with nutritional complements, bread, cheese, tomato, and he also had a banana.”

It’s the only thing he is thinking about, it’s his fixed idea. He has no fears at all. He thinks he would be able to race in Valencia.”

Altman also revealed Massa’s initial reaction to the news that his former team mate, Michael Schumacher would replace the Ferrari driver for the European Grand Prix in Valencia.

“He was joking with his friends and his brother,” Altman was quoted as saying. “He was telling us that he heard about the Schumacher news, and he told us: ‘Let’s see if I let him drive the car, because I won’t give up.'”

Altman also said that Massa would soon be released from hospital, but whether he would be taken to Monaco or return to Brazil was still undecided.

Manager claims Kubica is now on the market

Following Wednesday’s announcement that BMW will leave Formula One at the end of 2009, the manager of Robert Kubica has announced that his driver is now on the market.

Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport, Daniele Morelli has claimed that Kubica is now free to drive for any team next season, despite being under contract with the Swiss-German squad until the end of 2010.

“There was no sign inside the team that something like this could happen. We take note of it,” said Morelli while reflecting on Wednesday’s shock announcement.

“Robert was under contract until the end of 2010, but now he’s officially on the market.”

Mosley believes Formula One will survive

Despite BMW’s decision to quit the sport at the end of 2009, Max Mosley remains confident that Formula One can continue to have a bright future, as long as teams’ implement cost-cutting measures.

Speaking to the BBC, Mosley claimed that there would be plenty of potential parties to take the place of BMW-Sauber, if a buyer for the Swiss-German operation could not be found.

“We’ve got three new teams and several more who’d like to come in,” he said.

“If any more manufacturers quit we’ve got people who’d replace them. I think F1 will be very healthy with or without the manufacturers.”

The FIA President, expressed his desire for teams to enforce stricter cost-cutting measures, given the damage that the current recession is having on the World Car-manufacturing industry.

“All of these companies have problems, they’re shutting factories, putting people on short-term contracts and even in most cases depending on taxpayers money, through things like scrapping schemes.

“Team principals who run the teams don’t want their budgets cut but we’re now going over their heads to the chief execs of these big companies saying ‘you’ve got to back us up in efforts to get costs down’, – and I think all the indications are that this will happen,” he stated.

“I don’t know that we’ll get a budgetary cap, but we may get a significant reduction in expenditure.

“Teams are making efforts to reduce but we don’t think they’ve gone far enough or fast enough.”

Mosley also moved to dispel any speculation surrounding the future of Toyota, Mercedes and Renault, claiming that he did not expect any other manufacturer to leave the sport in the short term.

“There are rumours, but there are always rumours, so we don’t pay attention until we get concrete information,” he said.

“All the manufacturers to some extent have to be kept an eye on, as they’ve all come in and out (of the competition) on more than one occasion.

“You always have a worry about a manufacturer as it’s not their core business.

“With somebody whose core business is not F1, there’s always the possibility they’re going to leave.”

Grosjean edges closer to Renault drive

GP2 Series racer, Romain Grosjean, has taken what appears to be another step towards securing his Grand Prix debut, after being asked by Renault to participate in a number of straight-line tests.

Grosjean, 23, has been widely tipped to replace Nelson Piquet Jr, who remains underfire after a lacklustre second season for Renault.

The news comes after an apparent war of words broke out, earlier this week, between Piquet and his Team Principal, Flavio Briatore.

Speaking to Autoprint, Briatore admitted that he expected more from his driver, after Piquet’s woeful Hungarian performance, where the Brazilian qualified 12th and finished 15th, despite his team mate snatching Pole Position.

“I’ve always been fair with my drivers,” said Briatore. “I expected more from Piquet because this is his second year with a full-time drive. He’s done less testing compared to Alonso, but Webber as well tested less than Vettel because of his broken leg, but look where he is now.

“When a driver lacks results, he opens the book of excuses and begins: the fault is the weather’s, a spectator’s sunglasses, a spin on the straight, this and that…

“It’s not true that there’s a technical difference of seven tenths between Alonso’s and Piquet’s car. If that was true, we’d have a car capable of winning the title, and that unfortunately isn’t the case. The technical difference has always been minimal and never longer than one race.”

Briatore’s comments were later countered by Piquet when speaking to an Italian magazine, with the Brazilian claiming that the Renault Supremo has no respect for him.

“Flavio is a business man, but he doesn’t understand s*** about F1,” Piquet was quoted as saying. “He’s my manager, but in his role of team boss he doesn’t respect me.

“He only thinks about money, at how much money he can pocket in everything he’s involved, he’s a man with no friends. Every day everyone asks me what’s going on, so why should I always keep quiet?

“Webber has been in F1 since 2001, he started in a different era, when testing wasn’t limited. He’s probably done more than 20,000 kms in testing, so it’s not a fair comparison. Now the situation is more difficult for a driver with little experience.

“And besides that, I have to fight against Briatore and Alonso himself, who is a fantastic driver. When I wasn’t competitive in qualifying, I was the first to own up to it. But if Briatore doesn’t understand that, what can I do?”

Grosjean’s straight-line tests took place, this week, on the runaway of the Duxford Imperial War Museum in Cambridgeshire.

Ferrari update: Massa takes first steps

More good news from the AEK Hospital in Budapest, where Felipe Massa has been recovering since last Saturday. The driver has had more exams carried out, confirming his continuing improvement. Felipe speaks, can sit upright and was even able to take his first steps. Today he will leave intensive care. From the clinical and radiological point of view everything is going extremely well.

Felipe will stay at the AEK hospital for the next view days, until he can be taken somewhere else.

In the afternoon Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo will come back to Budapest, when he will greet Felipe personally also on behalf of the whole Company and the fans who continue sending best wishes via www.ferrari.com.

Luca di Montezemolo visits Felipe Massa

On Wednesday Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo flew for the second time into Budapest to meet personally Felipe Massa. In this occasion the Chairman has taken to Felipe the dedications and greetings signed by all employees of the Gestione Sportiva department, starting from Stefano Domenicali.

Di Montezemolo also met the family and doctors of the pilot, who further reassured him on the improvement of the state of Felipe’s health.

Source: Ferrari press office.

Schumacher returns to Formula One

Seven-times World Champion, Michael Schumacher has confirmed that he plans to come out of retirement to replace Felipe Massa in time for the European Grand Prix in Valencia.

Following Massa’s tragic qualifying accident in Hungary, speculation had risen over who would replace the Ferrari driver, with Schumacher initially being ruled out by his manager, Willi Weber.

However in a statement issued by Ferrari, the German will now undergo a strict training programme to make sure that he has fully recovered from injuries sustained during a motorcycling accident earlier this year.

“The most important thing first: thank God, all news concerning Felipe is positive. I wish him all the best again,” said Schumacher.

“I was meeting this afternoon with Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo, and together we decided that I will prepare myself to take the place of Felipe.

“Though it is true that the chapter of Formula 1 has been completely closed for me for a long time, it is also true that for loyalty reasons to the team I cannot ignore that unfortunate situation. But as the competitor I am, I also very much look forward to facing this challenge.”

Schumacher has not driven this year’s Ferrari, having experienced his last taste of Formula One during a Ferrari test in April 2008.

However, if passed fit, Schumacher will be given the green light to line up alongside Kimi Raikkonen for Ferrari, around the Valencia streets. A move which will surely see a surge in ticket sales for the Spanish circuit.