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F1 teams dismiss share flotation idea; Hamilton heads Sepang practice

March 23, 2012 -- Updated 1429 GMT (2229 HKT)
Martin Whitmarsh replaced Ron Dennis as McLaren team principal in March 2009.
Martin Whitmarsh replaced Ron Dennis as McLaren team principal in March 2009.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Formula One team bosses reject the possibility of the sport floating on the stock market
  • F1 supremo is reportedly considering the measure as a way raising much-needed funds
  • McLaren's Lewis Hamilton sets the fastest time in practice at the Malaysian Grand Prix
  • Red Bull's double world champion Sebastian Vettel languishes down in 10th place

(CNN) -- From the outside, Formula One looks like a sport brimming with money, with millions of dollars spent on cars, sponsorship and the rights to host races.

But in reality many of the 12 teams on the grid are struggling to survive, and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is reportedly considering a flotation on the stock exchange in an attempt to raise much-needed funds.

The possibility of such a measure, however, has not been backed by some of the elite motorsport's most influential players -- including bosses of the McLaren and Ferrari teams.

"The fact is at the moment, we all know in this room that there's a lot of Formula One teams that are struggling to survive," McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh told a press conference after Friday's practice sessions for the Malaysian Grand Prix. "Which tells us we're not doing enough, and that's why we've got to keep pushing it."

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Australian Grand Prix: March 18, Melbourne<br/><br/>2012 champion: Jenson Button, McLaren Australian Grand Prix: March 18, Melbourne

2012 champion: Jenson Button, McLaren
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Formula One 2012: The circuits Formula One 2012: The circuits
The 2012 Formula One season sees the introduction of a four-hour limit for races, following last year's rain-delayed marathon in Canada. Charlie Whiting, the FIA's race director, explained the decision, telling the sport's official website: "Should four hours elapse during a future race, drivers will receive a signal telling them they have one more lap before the checkered flag." The 2012 Formula One season sees the introduction of a four-hour limit for races, following last year's rain-delayed marathon in Canada. Charlie Whiting, the FIA's race director, explained the decision, telling the sport's official website: "Should four hours elapse during a future race, drivers will receive a signal telling them they have one more lap before the checkered flag."
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Formula One rule changes for 2012 Formula One rule changes for 2012
Rubens Barrichello makes IndyCar debut

British team Williams became the first F1 team to float on the stock exchange in March 2011, but Whitmarsh's Ferrari counterpart Stefano Domenicali also voiced his concern at the possibility of F1 taking a similar step.

"Thank God that our (Ferrari's) situation is very good in terms of our financial position for the future," he said. "But we know that the situation of Formula One is not so stable.

"We know that there's a lot of struggle around, so we need to put aside our self-interest a little bit to make sure that we can look ahead. Because this is a very critical period where ... we know that it's very tough."

But not all teams agree that spending should be regulated by the sport's global governing body, the FIA.

Austrian-owned Red Bull have dominated F1 for the last two years, claiming back-to-back drivers' and constructors' championships.

Red Bull's team principal Christian Horner welcomed the possibility of further talks on the issue, but hoped a different solution could be found.

"Hopefully with some productive discussion going forward a solution can be found to make Formula One cost-controlled for the top teams, but also make it affordable for the teams in the middle of the grid and at the back of the grid," he said.

There's a lot of Formula One teams that are struggling to survive
Martin Whitmarsh

"The cost of being competitive in Formula One at present is too high. I don't think anyone will dispute that. The debate is how we achieve it."

It was a good day on track for McLaren, as 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in both practice sessions ahead of Sunday's race in Malaysia.

The British driver was on pole position for last weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix and he once again showed his pace, edging out Mercedes' seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher in the afternoon run.

"It's been a good day for me," said Hamilton, who finished third in Melbourne last Sunday.

"We've made a few changes to the balance of the car since the last race and I'm much happier -- but we'll still be making changes to improve our long-run pace, which can always be better."

Hamilton's teammate Jenson Button was victorious in Australia and he was quick again, registering the third-fastest time at the Sepang International Circuit.

Schumacher's fellow German and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was fourth, ahead of Toro Rosso's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo.

Double title winner Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull, who has taken the checkered flag at the last two races in Malaysia, was down in 10th after placing second in the opening session.

His teammate Mark Webber was seventh, one place behind Ferrari's two-time Sepang champion Fernando Alonso.

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