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The 2008 News Review, Part Four - October to December 09 Jan 2009

Bruno Senna (BRA) prepares to test for Honda Racing. Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 17 November 2008. Green markings on the Bridgestone tyre
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Fuji Speedway, Japan, Friday, 10 October 2008 David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing with the other drivers as he supports the Wings For Life charity at his final GP.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Preparations, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, 30 October 2008 Takuma Sato (JPN) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR3 Formula One Testing 17-19 September 2008. Jerez, Spain. © Sutton Lewis Hamilton (GBR), McLaren, arrives at The McLaren Technology Centre as 2008 F1 World Champion.
Lewis Hamilton arrives in the UK as 2008 F1 World Champion, McLaren Technology Cente, Woking, England, 5 November 2008

As we welcome in the New Year, we take time to reflect on the past 12 months and the year that was 2008. The period of October to December saw some major headlines breaking, both on and off the track. David Coulthard’s retirement from Formula One competition, an historic cost-cutting agreement and that epic championship showdown in Brazil were just a few of them…

Media excitement grows as 2008 GP2 runner-up Bruno Senna, the nephew of the late triple world champion Ayrton, reveals several Formula One teams are interested in signing him. A seat at his uncle’s old team Williams, however, is ruled out when the British stalwart announces both Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima will continue to race for the team in 2009.

As Nick Heidfeld takes to the streets of Seoul for a demonstration run in South Korea, BMW Sauber confirm both Heidfeld and team mate Kubica will stay with the team for another season. And despite publically bemoaning his ‘dark period’ ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen clinches the DHL Fastest Lap Award for the second consecutive year, after racking up an unbeatable 10 quickest times.

Whilst the FIA announces plans to negotiate cost controls with the teams, environmental concerns take precedence with all 11 teams sporting green-grooved tyres at the Japanese Grand Prix in support of the governing body’s ‘Make Cars Green’ campaign. Shortly after, DTM driver Paul di Resta tests with McLaren for two days, sparking rumours of a possible seat for the young Scot.

Just as Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management unveils the Yas Marina Circuit in a unique art exhibition, the French motorsport federation, the FFSA, reveals there will be no French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours in 2009 while potential new venues are being considered for the future.

The FIA announces that ‘significant cost savings’ have been agreed upon following a meeting in Geneva between themselves and the newly-formed Formula One Teams Association (FOTA). The governing body also sets a November 7 deadline for applications to supply the standardised engine and transmission system it plans to introduce for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 world championships.

BMW Sauber boss Mario Theissen gears up for the 2009 title fight early, declaring the team’s preparations as ‘well on schedule’. Ferrari reveal plans to hold a special day of testing, aimed at evaluating young Italian motor racing talent. Mirko Bortolotti, Edoardo Piscopo and Salvatore Cicatelli, the top three finishers in this year’s Italian Formula Three Series, each get a chance to drive the Ferrari at test track Fiorano.

David Coulthard’s RB4 is emblazoned with a special charitable livery, aimed at promoting the spinal research foundation Wings For Life in Brazil. The final race of the Scot’s career, however, ends in misery as he spins out at the start of the Sao Paulo event.

Whilst McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton clinches the drivers’ crown at the Brazilian showdown to become the youngest-ever world champion, Ferrari claim an historic 16th constructors’ title. After a disappointing season, however, Honda’s focus is already firmly on ’09, with the Japanese team announcing plans to give Bruno Senna his first taste of Formula One power at a multi-team test later in the month.

Red Bull also announce an unexpected test driver for the RB4, as they reveal plans to allow five-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb back into the cockpit later in the month. BMW Sauber, meanwhile, are the first team to announce their 2009 launch plans after scheduling a January rollout for the F1.09. New world champion Hamilton returns home to McLaren’s UK headquarters in Woking to pay tribute to those who made his success possible.

The FIA confirm that Formula One engines must last for three Grand Prix meetings in 2009, as part of the governing body’s cost-cutting program. A new calendar is issued, with China moving from its traditional October slot to an April date, and faster, more transparent stewards’ decisions are promised for next season.

Renault announce an unchanged driver line-up for 2009, with Fernando Alonso signing a two-year extension and Nelson Piquet confirmed for a further season. The French team’s third driver Lucas Di Grassi, meanwhile, reveals he will test for Honda later in the month.

Former Super Aguri racer, Takuma Sato, will get another chance to resurrect his Formula One career, with Toro Rosso revealing he will test for the team for a second time. Force India state they have ended their engine-supply contract with Ferrari. Instead they will use Mercedes-Benz engines and McLaren gearboxes in 2009.

Force India also reorganize their management structure, with chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne and team principal Colin Kolles both being sidelined, and team owner Vijay Mallya taking on a wider role. Singapore’s Marina Bay circuit is named motorsport facility of the year at the Professional Motorsport World awards, beating Valencia’s equally new track.

Reigning Formula Renault 3.5 champion Giedo van der Garde, who tested for Spyker in 2007, is invited to test for Renault, as part of his prize for winning the series. McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa, meanwhile, swaps his MP4-23 for a Force India at a multi-team test session; the move reflecting the new technical partnership between the two teams. It is the Red Bull stable, however, who are quickest over the course of the test, with Sato for Toro Rosso and Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull topping the timesheets.

MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi makes his comeback behind the wheel of a Ferrari, testing for two days at the Italian team’s Mugello circuit. Red Bull driver Mark Webber rules himself out of testing for some time after breaking his leg in a road accident during his annual Tasmania Challenge charity event in Australia. Webber collided with a car while riding his mountain bike near Port Arthur.

It’s announced that recent Formula One retiree David Coulthard and former team owner Eddie Jordan are to land new jobs next season as television pundits when the BBC takes over as UK broadcaster. Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz buys back Gerhard Berger’s 50 percent stake in Toro Rosso, returning full control of the team to the energy drinks giant, while LG Electronics becomes a Global Partner of Formula 1™.

Takuma Sato is granted a third testing opportunity with Toro Rosso, while Honda shocks the Formula One paddock announcing plans to sell its team in light of difficult market conditions. Honda Racing CEO Nick Fry remains optimistic that a new owner will be found.

The FIA divulge they are in exclusive negotiations with Cosworth, along with gearbox specialists Xtrac and Ricardo Transmissions (XR), to supply a complete low-cost power train that will be made available to all teams. Plans to introduce standardised engines are one of three options being offered to the teams should they fail to come up with their own viable cost-cutting measures.

World champion Hamilton adds to his silverware collection, scooping the International Racing Driver of the Year prize at the Autosport Awards and receiving a Gold Star from the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC).

After a meeting in Monaco, the FIA and the Formula One teams reach an agreement on cost-cutting measures. The changes for next season, expected to save teams at least 30 percent on their 2008 budgets, include a ban on in-season testing, limiting each driver to eight engines and cuts in aerodynamic research.

Young Dutch driver Henki Waldschmidt enjoys his first official Formula One test after completing a successful two-day run for Toyota in Bahrain. Waldschmidt, born in The Hague, is a member of the Toyota Young Drivers Programme. Force India, meanwhile, confirm they will retain Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil for the 2009.

Hamilton and Ferrari collect their championship trophies at the prestigious FIA Gala in Monaco. Team Germany - comprising Vettel and former world champion Michael Schumacher - retain their title in the Race of Champions (ROC) Nations Cup at London’s Wembley Stadium. And Portugal’s new Algarve Motor Park is christened with both Ferrari and McLaren testing ahead of Christmas at the track.