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F1 Mole | 09:33 UK time, Thursday, 26 March 2009

G'day all. I've been digging around for all the latest gossip ahead of this weekend's season opener in Melbourne.

Who did Red Bull want as their back-up driver? Who will or will not be using the Kers power-boost system? And just who is sending out mixed messages over his future?

It looks as though Brawn GP have secured their first major sponsor in the form of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group. The deal is expected to be completed on Friday and Branson is currently on his way to Melbourne to announce it. (The Times)

Lewis Hamilton has joined the Grand Prix Drivers' Association ahead of the start of the 2009 season, having previously said he was too busy to part of it. (Autosport)

McLaren's poor pre-season performance has led world champion Hamilton to admit that he would "listen to an offer from another team if someone asked me". (Various)

However, the 23-year-old has backtracked on that statement by saying it is "quite cool if you find out other teams are interested in you" and added: "I honestly want to see out my career with McLaren. I do feel it's my family, it's where I am right now and it's where I'm happy." (Press Association)

Ferrari have been mentioned as a possible destination but Felipe Massa says he "doesn't care" where Hamilton may end up. The Brazilian listed a host of names he has driven with and who he may partner in the future and added: "Maybe my father will drive for Ferrari next year." (Planet F1)

David Coulthard could make a surprise return to the grid after being named Red Bull's stand-in driver for the new season. (Daily Star)

Brendon Hartley was tipped to fill Red Bull's back-up seat in 2009

But the veteran Scot, now a BBC pundit, was only third choice for the Milton Keynes-based team. The first preference was reportedly Jaime Alguersuari, a 19-year-old Spaniard, while second in the queue was the New Zealand teenager Brendon Hartley, who has been unable to obtain a mandatory FIA super licence. (Marca, in Spanish)

The future of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne's Albert Park is under threat after local governors declared the hosting of the race as "an outrage". (Various)

Nick Heidfeld will reportedly use the Kers power-boost system at this weekend's Australian GP, but his BMW Sauber team-mate Robert Kubica has said he will not. (Planet F1)

Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug has confirmed that both McLaren drivers will use Kers at Melbourne. (Auto Motor und Sport, in German)

Renault boss Flavio Briatore has held discussions with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone about a possible cap on driver salaries after he slashed Fernando Alonso's wage by 25%. (Daily Express)


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