Ross Brawn has told someone - frankly, it's not important who - that MercedesGP are targeting a win in Bahrain when the Formula One season starts in just over a week. He says that there will be "a big upgrade" in the few days between arriving back at the factory from Barcelona and loading the aircraft to go to Bahrain - where, incidentally, the Australian V8 series ran last weekend in a cloud of dust that turned the TV pictures into the equivalent of watching the race through muslin, a remarkable contrast to the Abu Dhabi race the previous weekend where, under the lights, the cars positively sparkled.
Massa - the man everyone wanted to see on the grid even more than Schumacher's fans wanted him to return - says that Ferrari is not the strongest. His boss, Stefano Domenicali, agrees according to Formula1.Com. He said "Before the tests we thought that there might be four teams able to fight for the title, but from what we’ve seen so far, there might be even more."
That doesn't include F1 icons Lotus. Jarno Trulli has said that the best the team can hope for in the first few races is to battle with Virgin. Lotus is four seconds off the pace and new parts, ordered before testing ended, will not be ready for several weeks. Without realising it, Trulli has just explained the major difference between the front and the back of the grid: when McLaren or Ferrari, etc., want a new part, they model it, test it, build it, fit it. And if it's not ready when the car leaves, it's hand carried on a commercial flight or, in extreme cases, by charter. When Lotus want new parts, the production process is counted in weeks not days, manufacturing in days not hours. Trulli is putting a brave face on it but admits that "to get a point this season would be nice." He's already talking about this season being, in effect, an extended shakedown and practice for the whole team.
That's certainly not what the increasing number of stickers appearing on the Lotus say: Tune Group (which owns, amongst other things, Air Asia - sponsor of Williams - have taken their large stickers off the side-pod. It's been replaced with a giant 1Malaysia sign. For some reason it doesn't carry the same kind of impact as when Malaysia sponsored Jordan all those years ago. But more sponsors' stickers are appearing including Hacket, Malaysian motor screwdriver plant and car importer NAZA and clothing chain Hackett. But the big news for Lotus was yesterday: it has secured sponsorship from US television network CNN. That's great news if it also includes specialist programming about the team - but there's a problem as to how much of the racing CNN will be able to show. For example: in South East Asia, ESPN had the monopoly over showing the Olympic Games. Quoting copyright reasons, the international arm of KBS, the Korean national broadcaster, showed an apologetic message instead of footage when its news broadcasts reported on the spectacular success of the national Olympic skating team. ESPN also has an exclusive deal with F1 covering almost half the world's population. Competition regulators have all said nothing.
For Timo Glock, speaking to F1.Com, the biggest excitement is the CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics). "From the very beginning the numbers have matched the data we’ve got from the track. We had a little update in Barcelona, and again the numbers were exactly as the CFD predicted. The big package will come for Bahrain, and I guess then we will see how good CFD really is." He's five seconds off the pace and knows that he's not going to get off the back two rows unless someone else breaks. "When I remember where I used to brake in the Toyota last year, everything is completely different now."
Amid news that Jose Maria "Pechito" Lopez was formally looking for a drive somewhere other than USGP, that a visit by Charlie Whiting to the teams' headquarters had ended with grim faces, a formal announcement by the team has not, as of this morning, reached its website. But dozens of stories have been published in the past couple of hours (early evening in the USA) saying that the team has "formally announced that it will not be able to contest" the 2010 season - but hopes to be ready for 2011. But it's already laid off staff (some reports say they are on unpaid leave): it paid them late at the end of January and there was every expectation that the February pay-packet would be delayed and the last.
That leaves a hole on the grid. Of course, Serbian team StefanGP which is, in many respects, Toyota restored, are waiting to take that place - if the FIA makes it available. Some rumours suggest that the FIA never expected all the teams to make it and effectively over-filled its optimum grid expecting at least one team to fail.
Bernie Ecclestone has granted fledgling motor racing academy GP Prep, limited rights to use the Formula 1 name. GP Prep, formed by Anthony Hamilton, father of Lewis, is unique in that it will allow trainees to gain experience in recent F1 cars. One consequence of the work going into GP Prep is that Lewis Hamilton and his father have decided that the time has come for a change of management: Hamilton sounds like someone who has just found a long-lost relative: "since I was eight, he's been my manager, we've never had the time for me to do the dad things with him." There is a palpable depth of emotion in Hamilton's words when he talks of being able to spend time with his father just being his father - an incredible insight into the other side of the cost of such single-minded dedication.
Down in Spain, now Adrian Campos no longer owns the Campos team, it has made a request to the FIA to change the name of the team, before Bahrain, to Hispania Racing F1 Team . Poor Lopez is reported to be nearing a reserve driver role with the team, a terrible shame having secured a proper drive with USGP - albeit paid for - and so not trying to find a seat at a critical pre-season time. But Campos has a second seat open - reportedly almost ready for Indian star Karun Chandock - who also happens to be one of the best racing commentators ever as his stints on ESPN have shown as he has consistently shown up the programme's prima donna presenter Steve Slater, a brilliant statistician but whose grip on what is happening on track is frequently somewhat tenuous.
Button has put the kybosh on half of the season for McLaren unless they can get some changes made: he says that both he and Hamilton found it difficult to get pace out of the car in Barcelona "because it was so cold [and] difficult to get the tyres working."
Down at Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz, has one plain aim in sight: "There is no guarantee for the championship, but it is a target," Autosport quotes him as saying.
From the WTF department comes the news that LADA will sponsor Renault. This bizarre piece of news is only odd up to a point: for sure, seeing a Renault car with the name of a Russian manufacturer of vehicles that were renowned for being cheap, indestructible but otherwise utter rubbish - and that was in Russia where the Lada was, basically the only car available for the masses - is a little off-the-wall. But LADA has been making some serious investment and is now producing cars that actually have the prospect of finding an international market. For sure, Russia and the UK, where an estate car model pivoted around the back axle so the front wheels lifted when a full load was inserted, will be an uphill struggle: but much of the developing world is very much a potential market.
And finally: Force India, which had not filed its UK company accounts by the due date, obtained an extension to the 25th February. Using the Jackie Stewart adage that the best racers win in the slowest possible time, the accounts were filed on the last day.