Vitaly Petrov replaces Jarno Trulli at Caterham for 2012

Russian Vitaly Petrov has replaced Italian veteran Jarno Trulli at Caterham for 2012.

Trulli, 37, was under contract to the team but has been dropped after a tough 2011 season and the arrival of Petrov with a substantial sponsorship package.

The move is likely to end the career of a man who has been in F1 since 1997 and won the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix.

Petrov, 27, joins Caterham after two years at Renault, now re-named Lotus, and will partner Heikki Kovalainen.

Team principal Tony Fernandes said the decision to ditch Trulli had “not been an easy one”, adding: “It was one we made to ensure we give fresh impetus across the whole team and with a realistic eye on the global economic market.

“As the first Russian to race in F1 [Petrov] carries the hopes of a huge nation with ease and his talents, experience with one of our current competitors, and insights on and off track will play a huge role in our development as we fight to join the established teams ahead.”

Petrov said: “This is a very exciting day for me.

“I have been training hard all winter and am ready to get back into the cockpit and go to work.

“From what I have seen already, our new car is another good step forward from 2011 and now I cannot wait to see how it feels when we get to Barcelona.”

Trulli joined Caterham – who have raced as Lotus until this year – for their debut season in 2010 but the relationship between the team and driver soured through 2011.

The Italian, who is renowned as a remarkably sensitive driver who needs the car to be to his liking to perform at his best, struggled with the car’s power-steering system.

He was comprehensively out-performed by Kovalainen, and although his form improved when the team were able to fit a modified system with improved feel, he was out-qualified by Kovalainen in 16 of the 18 races they did together last season.

This was especially disappointing for the team as Trulli has been recognised throughout his career as one of the fastest drivers in the world over a single lap.

The Finn was also generally the stronger race performer, although Trulli did finish ahead in the championship on the basis of having one more 13th place finish.

Caterham’s decision is based on two major factors.

One was that the budget Petrov brings – worth several million pounds – is the equivalent of having a new major sponsor, a significant consideration in the current difficult economic climate, especially given that Trulli needed paying a salary.

The other was the usual size of the margin between Kovalainen and Trulli – often nearly a second in qualifying.

Although Petrov is considered only a journeyman, the team believe he should still be able to produce performances at least as good as if not better than Trulli was managing in 2011.

Fernandes – owner of the Air Asia airline and Queens Park Rangers Football Club – has also been putting pressure on the team to become more self-sufficient. They have so far mostly been funded by his businesses.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank Jarno for the absolutely pivotal role he played in the formation and progression of our team since he joined us in December 2009,” he said.

“Jarno knew that when he joined us it would be a very different environment to where he had been before, and when we gave him the package he wanted he absolutely shone.

“It was not an easy decision to replace him, but it was one we made to ensure we give fresh impetus across the whole team and with a realistic eye on the global economic market.

“We will do everything we can to welcome him in, give him a car he can use to showcase his skills, and keep up the rate of development that has seen us go from an empty factory with just four employees to a fully established F1 team in just over two years.”


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Mark Webber insists retirement will be the furthest thing from his mind when he competes in the 2012 Championship.

Many predicted 2011 would be the Australian’s final year in F1, but he signed a new one-year contract with Red Bull midway through the season and now everyone is speculating that 2012 will be his swansong.

The 35-year-old, though, is adamant he won’t be thinking about retirement during the season.

“That’s not the right attitude. The attitude is to focus 100 per cent on the next race. The results are the important thing, not the age,” he is quoted as saying by Autosport.

“I’ve had team-mates who don’t get the results and they are finished when they are 21. It’s a results based industry. If you don’t get the results, you don’t operate with the top teams.”

The Australian is coming off a difficult season when results are compared to team-mate Sebastian Vettel’s.

While the German won 11 races en route to his second consecutive world championship, Webber could only manage one race win.

The F1 veteran, though, is not dwelling on the past season and hopes to start next year with a bang.

“I haven’t started recharging the batteries yet and I’m completely ready to do that,” he said.

“2011 is over, in my view, so it will be nice to start to recharge soon, to spend some time with the family and relax. But I know that I won’t do that for long.

“I get quite impatient to go back racing. Three or four weeks is the limit before I start to get itchy feet so I’m really looking forward to how next year’s car is going to roll out.

“There would be something wrong if you weren’t looking forward to that and seeing how we were going to come up against Ferrari and McLaren.”

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Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn has urged Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone not to lose sight of the sport’s heritage in his pursuit of new territories.

Come 2014, Ecclestone will realise his dream of turning F1 into a truly global sport as the last of the great untapped markets in Russia will finally stage a grand prix.

This weekend it is India that commands centre stage as F1 races on the subcontinent for the first time, and then next year the sport will again attempt to crack the United States.

The fact a second race in America was announced this week, to be staged in 2013 around a street circuit in New Jersey, adds further pressure on an already congested calendar.

Next season a record 20 races are scheduled, dependent on whether Bahrain has overcome its issues and whether South Korea can find the money to continue as a host.

But with the races in New Jersey and Russia, and further events being discussed for Argentina, Mexico and South Africa, it then becomes a question of which grands prix would be axed.

“There are provisions within the Concorde Agreement for teams to agree additional races, particularly those outside of Europe,” said Brawn.

“The teams, within reason, are keen to have extra races especially when they are as important as coming here to India or in Russia or an extra race in North America.

“So we are very supportive of those races and it’s great Bernie has achieved them.

“What we don’t want is to lose important races, and we can all sit here and debate which ones are important, but we don’t want to lose the iconic and historic heritage races.

“They are what makes Formula One so attractive for countries like India, to be part of that collection of races, to be a race like Monaco, Silverstone and Monza.

“If we lose those heritage races, those important historic races, then I think Formula One itself becomes less attractive.”

Not for the first time Brawn has also reiterated the fact 20 races is the limit, otherwise there is too much strain on manpower.

“We have to make sure we can all manage them, can all afford them and structure ourselves to deal with them,” added Brawn.

“The calendar is creaking a bit with 20 races in terms of the team, with three pairs of back-to-back races at the end of next year that means our staff are away for pretty long chunks of time.

“We need to look at how teams are going to be structured to cope with the extra number of races.”

Supporting Brawn’s theory, Red Bull boss Christian Horner said: “I feel 20 is probably the limit.

“It’s great to be going to new venues, like we are here in India this weekend.

“But with new circuits coming up in Russia and the two new ones in America, that inevitably puts pressure on the 20 places on the calendar.”


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Briatore goes to court

Former Renault boss Flavio Briatore will challenge his lifetime ban from motor racing on November 24 in the French courts.

Briatore’s application against motor racing’s governing body, the FIA, was considered at a preliminary hearing at the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris on Monday and the court deemed the matter worthy of a hearing.

Briatore will bid to get his lifetime ban overturned and seek damages from the FIA at the hearing.

Meanwhile, the Football League plan to await the outcome of the hearing before taking any action themselves.

The Italian is a co-owner of Championship club QPR.

Briatore was handed the suspension by the World Motor Sport Council for his part in the Singapore Grand Prix crash scandal of last year and the lifetime ban appears to put him in direct violation of the League’s ‘fit and proper person test’.

The test stipulates that an owner, prospective owner or director of a club should not be “subject to a ban from a sports governing body relating to the administration of their sport”.

A Football League statement issued read: “The Football League has noted the decision by Queens Park Rangers director Flavio Briatore to commence legal proceedings against the FIA in the French Courts.

“Lord Mawhinney, chairman of the Football League, met with Mr Briatore on Friday, where they discussed the recent decision of the World Motor Sport Council.

“Mr Briatore informed Lord Mawhinney of his intention to take legal action against the FIA.

“The Football League will now await the Court decision before taking any further action.”

F1 appeal rules in Brawn’s favour

Motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, has ruled the Brawn GP car, which has taken Briton Jenson Button to two wins this season, is legal.

A panel heard eight hours of strongly worded evidence on Tuesday after complaints that Brawn, Toyota and Williams, use an illegal diffuser.

And the five International Court of Appeal judges said the designs “comply with the applicable regulations”.

All three teams are free to race in the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.

“The decision comes as no great surprise,” said BBC Radio 5 Live Formula One commentator David Croft.

“Already this season two sets of stewards, an FIA president and an FIA race director have thought that the diffuser design of Brawn, Williams and Toyota was OK.

“It’s a sensible decision for Formula One. The FIA’s court of appeal were highly unlikely, on technical grounds, to go against the decision of the stewards. Seven teams are now playing catch up and have to do something about it very, very quickly.”

Brawn GP team boss Ross Brawn said in a statement following the verdict: “We respect the right of our competitors to query any design or concept used on our cars through the channels available to them.

“The FIA technical department, the stewards at the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix and now five judges at the International Court of Appeal have confirmed our belief that our cars have always strictly complied with the 2009 technical regulations.”

Brawn GP currently lead the constructors’ world championship with 25 points, with Toyota in second place on 16 points.

A statement from the Japanese team said: “Our team studied the wording of the new 2009 regulations in precise detail to ensure we interpreted them correctly.

“We also made full use of the consultation procedure with the FIA which was a helpful process to ensure our interpretation of the technical regulations was correct.

“Therefore we had every confidence that the design of our car would be confirmed as legal, firstly by race stewards in Australia and Malaysia and subsequently by the Court of Appeal.”

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McLaren boss Ron Dennis has stated he is “ashamed to be English” after witnessing Valencia successfully stage the European Grand Prix.

Spain’s third largest city made its Formula One debut at the weekend, and in many respects did not let down supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

The circuit weaved through the marina and port which last year was home to yachting’s America’s Cup, although as with any ‘street’ track, overtaking areas were at a premium.

The event was not totally faultless, and it lacked the glitz and glamour of Monaco, while there were few defining landmarks other than the bridge amid the blur of concrete walls and wire fencing which lined the circuit.

rondennis.jpgIt was too much to expect such a new track to be entirely faultless, but the problems were minor, doing Valencia proud 19 months after they staged a lavish £2million launch of McLaren’s car for the 2007 season.

Launching an unexpected attack on England’s failings in hosting major sporting events, Dennis said: “I have to say something a little controversial which I’ll probably regret.

“When I go back into England and I go through Heathrow airport, I’m ashamed to be English.

“Valencia is an area that is not the gateway to their country, and yet the local government showed vision to stage the America’s Cup, to commit all the resources they did to turn it into a world-class venue.

“We also know how they embraced the concept of us launching our car there.

“They made available to us all the facilities that exist in the arts and science park, contributed to the venue, and we were a catalyst to the grand prix.

“To see what they’ve done demonstrates what you can do if you are committed as a government, local or national.”

Dennis feels London could learn a lesson or two from Valencia when it comes to overwhelming support to push forward projects, and to turn run-down areas of the city into futuristic places to be proud of.

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Formula One boss Max Mosley on Thursday won his privacy action against the News of the World.

mosley.jpgThe newspaper, which had accused the 68-year-old son of the 1930s Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley of taking part in a “sick Nazi orgy” with five prostitutes, must now pay him a record £60,000 compensation.

Mr Justice Eady did not make an additional award – which would have been unprecedented in invasion of privacy cases – of punitive exemplary damages.

Mr Mosley, president of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile), did not dispute taking part in the sadomasochistic roleplay at a rented Chelsea basement flat, but said it was consensual and private, with no Nazi overtones.

He said his life was devastated by the March expose and by the newspaper putting secretly-filmed footage of what it called a “truly grotesque and depraved” event on its website, attracting at least 3.5 million hits at the last count.

James Price QC told London’s High Court that the “gross and indefensible intrusion” by the tabloid in its role as a titillating Peeping Tom was made substantially worse by the false suggestion that Mr Mosley was playing a concentration camp commandant and a cowering death camp inmate.

The newspaper’s editor, Colin Myler, said he believed the story was one of “legitimate public interest and one that I believe was legitimately published” and that it was “absolutely not true” that the newspaper had fabricated the Nazi aspect.

Mr Mosley was in court but showed no emotion at the ruling.

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alonso1.jpgFormer world champion Fernando Alonso has admitted that he can leave Renault at the end of the season – with rivals Ferrari a possible destination.

Alonso rejoined his former team Renault during the winter after a torrid season alongside Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, but has struggled with an uncompetitive car in the first two races of this season.

Now the Spaniard, who won back-to-back world championships with Renault in 2005 and 2006, says that if the car remains as it is he will have to look elsewhere, with Ferrari the obvious destination.

“I’m at Renault because we won in 2005 and 2006 and I want to get back to that, if not this year then next year,” he told Spanish newspaper AS.

“But as I have a clause that allows me to leave I will try to be in the best car possible, and it’s clear that Ferrari is one of the best.”

Rumours were rife at the end of last season that the Italian team was his preferred destination, but with current world champion Kimi Raikkonen and second driver Felipe Massa under contract until the end of 2010, his path to the ‘Scuderia’ was blocked.

But now he admits Massa’s under-par performances so far this season, which have seen him retire from both races, plus the fact that Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has made no secret of his admiration for Alonso, has meant speculation linking him to the Italian team has resurfaced.

“It’s early to talk about moves and rumours, but Massa has had two bad races with mistakes and that has sparked speculation,” Alonso said.

“It’s logical, but like I said it’s too early.”

With regard to this season, the 26-year-old has little hope of mounting any kind of championship challenge with Renault after just two races, and has told his fans not to expect anything.

“Take a sabbatical, or enjoy the season for the spectacle of Formula One and not for my chances of success,” he said.

He added sarcastically: “The first place (in the world championship) has got 14 points, and after two more or less average races I’ve picked up six.

“Plus I’m only five points off Raikkonen.”

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