Tue, March 24, 2009
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Gearing up for F1 car racing season

2009-03-24 02:52:53 GMT2009-03-24 10:52:53 (Beijing Time)  Reuters

Start your engines.

There are just days to go until the new Formula One season begins with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

And it's all change for 2009.

The BMW Sauber F1.09 - and all of the other cars are completely new.

And the drivers will be steering their way through a whole new set of rules - designed to lower speeds, boost overtaking and cut costs.

Electronic devices have been made simpler and cheaper, plus the cars are only allowed to use eight engines during the season's 17 races.

All this shows how even Formula One has been hit by the global economic crisis - which triggered Honda's exit from the sport.

The F1 team bosses met in Geneva at the start of March to agree on how to save money and develop the sport in future.

They want to cut costs by 50 percent in 2010 compared with 2008.

For world champion Lewis Hamilton, unveiling the McLaren MP4-24, thoughts are turning to defending his title in Melbourne:

SOUNDBITE: Lewis Hamilton, Formula One World Champion, saying (English):

"Finally I've got number one on the car. It is a very proud moment. And it will be really cool having number one on the car for a whole season. It's the best."

But the championship has changed since Hamilton clinched the title in Brazil.

And the new kid on the grid is the Brawn GP team - created from the former Honda F1 team.

It's owned by Ross Brawn, the former Honda team principal and Ferrari technical director.

Brawn has the two former Honda drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello on board - and the two Brawn GP cars will fill the final places in the 20-car grid in Melbourne.

They've looked very fast in testing - surprising many.

If Brawn can turn this speed into performance on the track - some say they could secure a podium place in Australia.

With a new team - and a bunch of new rules - this season it looks like anything could happen.

Joanna Partridge, Reuters

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