Domenicali: Ferrari disappointed by Schumacher exit

Stefano Domenicali has admitted that Ferrari has been left disappointed with Michael Schumacher’s decision to race for Mercedes GP in 2010.

Next season will see Schumacher come out of retirement to lead an all-German line-up alongside Nico Rosberg, a move which ends the German’s fourteen year association with Ferrari.

Given the great success of these years – which saw Schumacher play an influential role in the Scuderia’s return to the forefront of Formula One, while collecting five drivers’ titles along the way – Domenicali has admitted that it was disappointing to see the German leave.

“A marriage is not based on formal aspects,” Ferrari’s team principal told La Stampa newspaper in an interview. “In his head he had the desire and he wanted to tackle a new sporting challenge, and Ferrari had no openings.

However the Italian concedes that the return of the seven-times champion will be good for the sport.

“His return is great news for Formula 1: he will increase the interest in the championship, attract new audiences and improve the show,” he added.

Domenicali also believes that Italian fans will not forget Schumacher’s great achievements at Ferrari and will show their appreciation for the German at Monza next year.

“I was surprised to receive so many letter from fans who were ‘disappointed’, to put it mildly. The Italian Grand Prix is far away: I’m sure that Ferrari fans will be grateful. History cannot be erased.”

These comments come less than a day after Piero Ferrari, the only living son of Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari, stated that Schumacher had not betrayed the Maranello-based team and called for the German to not be ostracised by the Tifosi.

“It’s true that we were a bit disappointed, because Michael had become our symbol,” Ferrari told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“I wouldn’t use that expression [betrayal], even though obviously we would have preferred him to stay with us. But he wanted to race and the conditions weren’t there for him to do it once again with Ferrari.”

Button awarded an MBE

Jenson Button has been awarded an MBE by the Queen. “To be recognised by Her Majesty The Queen and the British people is a tremendous honour for me,” The F1 World Champion commented.

“The past 12 months have provided me with such an exhilarating journey. We literally started with nothing, but had the belief, determination and passion to take on the world and succeed.

“Everybody at Brawn GP played their part – and it was down to their expertise, dedication and hard work that we were able to achieve so much.”

Button’s team boss at Brawn GP, Ross Brawn, was also honoured – although this time with an OBE, for more than 30 years service to motor sport.

Stefan GP reveal 2010 testing plans

The mysterious Stefan GP has revealed details of its plans for next year if the team fails to win a slot on the grid for the 2010 season.

Although the team is still pushing ahead with its 2010 entry, after signing preliminary agreement with the former Toyota team to use its car and other facilities, its place looks increasingly unlikely with all of the new teams reported to be on target to make the season opener in Bahrain.

Instead Autosport has learned the Serbian-based outfit will now use 2010 to test, as the team remains outside the current Formula One Concorde Agreement and is not bound to any restrictions.

To fund these proposals the team hopes to establish a young driver development programme, allowing the current crop of F1 entries to test their young proteges for a fee.

“We will offer teams, who are changing drivers during the season, or even young drivers themselves, the chance to test our car so they can gain experience,” said the team owner Zoran Stefanovich. “It will be purely a commercial operation.”

Ecclestone backs Vettel for 2010 title

Sebastian VettelBernie Ecclestone says he is relishing the prospect of Formula One’s young-guns coming up against the experienced Michael Schumacher and has tipped Sebastian Vettel to capture next season’s world championship.

According to the F1-Supremo, Schumacher will have a number of rivals next season with the 22-year-old Vettel being the more prominent of them all.

“There are several – [Lewis] Hamilton, [Fernando] Alonso… But I will say this now: Vettel will be the next world champion.” Ecclestone told the German newspaper Bild.

However Ecclestone is more than confident that the 41-year-old Schumacher will pose an ominous threat to the younger drivers.

“Without a doubt, the young ones will want to beat him,” he said. “He will make sure of that. That’s the appeal of all of this.”

Ecclestone also reiterated his belief that the 2010 season has the potential of being a classic, with the return of Schumacher and the strength of the field in general.

“I was of course a little surprised – I didn’t really expect that he would drive for Mercedes, but now I’m just simply very, very happy,” he added.

“He wouldn’t have come back had he not been thinking of victory. He really does seem very motivated.

“It is good for everyone, very good actually. For the media, for the fans and for the sponsors – but I cannot express it in numbers. It is impossible to calculate.

“Don’t forget, next year we have four current or former world champions in the shape of Alonso, Hamilton, [Jenson] Button and Schumacher on the starting line. I can’t remember the last time that happened.”

Donington Park fails to find a buyer

Donington Park race track has failed to find a buyer. Administrators for the circuit had been trying to find a buyer after the previous leaseholder, Donington Ventures Leisure Limited, went bust in November with debts of £20 million.

Several parties expressed an interest in the circuit however no formal agreement could be reached. The lease now reverts back to the owners, the Wheatcroft family, who will decide the future of the track.

Donington Ventures Leisure had won a 17 year contract to host the British Grand Prix however they were unable to raise all the funding required. Parts of the Donington Park track have been changed in preparation for the F1 races however the work has not been fully completed and the course is currently not suitable for holding races.

Briatore confident of Schumacher success

Former Renault team principal Flavio Briatore believes that Michael Schumacher is more than capable of winning in 2010 and that the German would not have returned if he himself had not thought so.

The Italian, currently undergoing an appeal against his lifetime ban from motorsport, overseen Schumacher’s first two world championships at Benetton in 1994 and 1995.

“I think it’s a good thing for F1 (that he’s returned),” Briatore told Gazzetta dello Sport. “Knowing him, I think he’s reflected on it for a long time, and if he’s decided to come back it’s because he’s convinced he can still be quick.”

Briatore is adamant that Schumacher retired too early from Formula One and that his comeback was more-or-less inevitable.

“I’m convinced that, had he been physically fit, he would have come back last season already with Ferrari,” he claimed. “Michael belongs to that category of racing drivers who just can’t have a normal life, who can’t stay away from racing.

“And besides, I’ll repeat an old idea of mine: when he quit three years ago, he wasn’t ready to retire, he could have been competitive for two or three more seasons.”

Although the Italian is sure that Schumacher will be fit enough to compete at the highest level, he could not predict that the 41-year-old will challenge for the title next season and believes that much will depend on Mercedes GP’s overall package.

“Well, I don’t know that,” he added. “For instance I believe that Ferrari will be extremely strong next year with Alonso and Massa.

“If you have a race-winning car, it doesn’t matter much.

“The last season demonstrates this clearly, because the driver who’s become world champion is certainly not the best on the scene.

“I’ll just say that Ross [Brawn] knows him well and that Mercedes has always chased him. But then I repeat: the car is fundamental.”

Happy Holidays from would like to wish all of its visitors a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

This year’s Formula One season was truly unforgettable, with action and controversy both on and off the track. From Double-Deck diffusers and lie-gate in Melbourne to Jenson Button clinching the World title and Abu Dhabi hosting the sport’s first day-night race, 2009 certainly had its moments.

Next season will surely be just as exciting with the return of Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso in a Ferrari and the intriguing battle shaping up between Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton –  World champion team-mates together at McLaren.

Will all of the new teams make it to Bahrain? Will Formula One race in South Korea? Who will be the proposed F1 commisioner?

Just some of the many questions that will be answered this coming year.

Rest assured, with the anticipated pre-season tests only weeks away, will do its upmost to continue to bring you the latest news, opinion and award-winning forum.

Ecclestone: “Jaw-dropping” season in store

Bernie Ecclestone believes that next season’s World Championship will be “jaw-dropping” with the recent return of Michael Schumacher having a massive boost for the sport.

Although the on-track action of the 2009 season was largely overshadowed by the political wranglings between the teams and the governing body as well as the untimely manufacturer pull outs, Formula One remains in rude help – thanks to Jenson Button’s move to partner Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, Fernando Alonso’s move to Ferrari and of course the return of the seven-times champion.

According to Ecclestone these events prove the strength of Formula One and predicted a classic season next year.

“I always said that Formula 1 is a strong brand,” Ecclestone told the official F1 website. “It has demonstrated time and again that it can pull itself up by its own bootstraps. And yes, all indications point to a jaw-dropping season. Fans will love it.

“I think it is fantastic for Formula 1 that [Schumacher] turned into a comeback kid. But at the same time I also think that it’s good for Michael.

“When drivers have put in many years they sometimes lose focus and motivation – probably that was one of the reasons for his retirement in 2006 – but now he has again put all his strength together and has a 100 per cent motivation level and that will give us many exciting races in 2010.”

The FOM-chief is also confident that Michael Schumacher will be as strong as ever in 2010 and fight for the World title.

“Forget about winning races – I have him on my bill for winning the championship,” Ecclestone replied when asked if he thought Schumacher would be a winner next year.

“He will be of immense value for the team to push the development of the car. We have all seen in the past that he was never satisfied unless the car was in perfect condition. With his drive for the optimum and his deep technical understanding he will save the team precious time.”

No buyer for Donington park

Administrators have confirmed that they have failed to find a buyer for the 150-year lease on Donington Park.

The previous leaseholder, Donington Ventures Leisure Limited hit financial problems in November after failing in their bid to stage next year’s British Grand Prix and with debts around £20m, a new lease holder was sought.

Despite several interested parties a deal could not be reached and therefore the lease has returned to circuit owners, the Wheatcroft family.

As a result of the failed Grand Prix bid, the Leicestershire circuit now sits in a precarious with the planned track extension not complete or acceptable enough to compete on.

Today’s news comes weeks after the British Superbike Championship, a staple on Donington’s calendar for a number of years, was cancelled with other series expected to follow suit unless investment is found.