US GP notebook 2007-02-21

UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX NOTEBOOK Alonso forecasts unpredictable season; Bridgestone sets 2007 tire compounds INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007 - Reigning World Champion Fernando Alonso said a number of different teams and drivers have a...

UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX NOTEBOOK
Alonso forecasts unpredictable season; Bridgestone sets 2007 tire compounds

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007 - Reigning World Champion Fernando Alonso said a number of different teams and drivers have a good chance to win races in the upcoming 17-event FIA Formula One World Championship that includes the United States Grand Prix on June 17 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"What you can see is that our rivals are very strong, too - that the differences are very small, just a few tenths or hundredths of a second," said Alonso, who drives for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. "I think it's going to be a very interesting championship.

"There are four or five teams who could win right now (including McLaren). BMW, Renault and Ferrari ... I think Honda is a little bit behind. As of today, it's very close, and no one knows what's going on because there's a surprise every day (during testing). We'll have to wait until the first race."

The season kicks off March 18 in Melbourne with the Australian Grand Prix.

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Tire policy: Bridgestone, the sole tire supplier in F1 this year, will provide four different types of dry-weather tires.

"The current plan is to produce four specifications of dry-weather tire which, will be known as Hard, Medium, Soft and Super Soft," said Kees van de Grint, Bridgestone Motorsport's head of track engineering operations. "From these four specifications, two will be chosen for use at each Grand Prix."

The rules will require drivers to use both specifications of dry-weather tires in a race when it is not raining.

One of the teams' chief objectives during winter testing is to adapt their cars to the new generation of Bridgestone tires, which for safety reasons are about two seconds per lap slower than the tires used in 2006.

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Intensive testing: All the teams have been testing as they prepare for the upcoming season, and Super Aguri is this only team yet to run its 2007 car. In addition to private tests, there have been three multi-team group tests at the Valencia, Jerez and Barcelona tracks in Spain.

Ten teams begin hot-weather testing this week at the Bahrain F1 circuit with sessions scheduled for Feb. 22-24 and Feb. 27-March 1.

AT&T Williams Toyota and Spyker Ferrari chose to remain in Europe and are testing at Valencia.

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Drivers trade helmets for tennis rackets: American Scott Speed, Mark Webber, Alex Wurz and Nick Heidfeld are among the F1 drivers scheduled to swap their helmets for tennis rackets to raise money for charity.

The drivers will play Australian tennis star Paul McNamee and Jason Stoltenberg and other sports celebrities in the Pit Stop Tennis Pro-Am on March 13. The tournament will take place in Albert Park, which also is the site of the Australian Grand Prix.

Funds raised will go to the Mark Webber Challenge Foundation. Twelve children from TLC for Kids and Very Special Kids will enjoy VIP treatment at the tournament.

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Honda to show new colors: The 2007 Honda RA107 made its track debut Jan. 25. So far the car has tested in plain black livery. Honda will unveil its new color scheme Feb. 26 at The Earth Galleries in London's Natural History Museum.

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New F1 venue: Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, will join the F1 calendar in 2009. The Grand Prix will take place on the man-made Yas Island.

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Schumacher visits: Seven-time World Champion and five-time United States Grand Prix winner Michael Schumacher visited with the Ferrari team during a test Feb. 14 at the Barcelona track. Now retired from driving, Schumacher has taken up an undefined advisory role with his former team.

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Hamilton working hard: Rookie Lewis Hamilton has been hard at work as he prepares to make his Grand Prix debut with McLaren-Mercedes.

"I am at the workshop everyday during the week," Hamilton said. "I am spending as much time as possible with my engineers. Really studying the data, learning as much as possible, and it all seems to be flowing nicely. I am taking it step by step. That is the best way."

Hamilton is the first F1 driver with African-Caribbean heritage.

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Renault seeks tire secrets: While happy with the mileage the ING Renault R27 has been racking up in testing, Renault Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds said the team still has to get full potential out of the Bridgestone tires.

"Back in November, we said that our objective was to learn our lessons by the time we reached Melbourne," Symonds said. "We are not in Australia yet, and we haven't learned all our lessons, either!

"I think we are in a good position in terms of tire degradation, but we have not yet unlocked the secret of getting performance out of the tires on the first lap."

The team is not concerned about the car's performance at the moment, Symonds said.

"No, we are not worried," he said, "but when you are not on top of the pile, then you have to be honest enough to admit it, and knuckle down to try and find the speed."

Renault's drivers this year are rookie Heikki Kovalainen, who replaced McLaren-bound Fernando Alonso, and veteran Giancarlo Fisichella.

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Trulli needs more laps: Jarno Trulli said he needs consistent running in the car before he can properly assess the 2007 Panasonic Toyota TF107.

"The team has been working hard all winter," said Trulli, 2005 United States Grand Prix pole winner, "but so far we haven't been very lucky, and I haven't had a completely clear day of running. We performed well here (at the recent Barcelona test), but there is still work to do.

"We should begin to get a clearer picture of where we stand during the next two tests in Bahrain. Hopefully the weather will be better because what I really need is a full day of running with no interruptions to get to grips with the car's setup."

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2007 USGP tickets: Reserved Race Day and three-day "Season Passes" for the 2007 United States Grand Prix, June 15-17, are on sale to all customers.

Ticket information can be found any time at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com or by calling the IMS Ticket Office at (800) 822-4639 or (317) 492-6700. Ticket Office hours are from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.

-credit: ims

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Jarno Trulli , Michael Schumacher , Mark Webber , Nick Heidfeld , Fernando Alonso , Alexander Wurz , Lewis Hamilton , Scott Speed , Heikki Kovalainen
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams