Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
September 22,  2005

Lauda praise for '05 champ
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.22) Niki Lauda has extended high praise to near-inevitable 2005 champion Fernando Alonso.

The 24-year-old Spaniard could wrap up the duel with Kimi Raikkonen in Brazil, and Niki Lauda - the former triple drivers' title winner - says Fernando is 'an absolutely perfect driver of the new generation.

''He makes nearly no mistakes and always knows what to do,'' Austrian Lauda told the APA agency.

Lauda, often called 'the computer' when he won his championships in the 70s and 80s, relates to young Alonso's ability to 'use his head' during a GP, such as settling for a result when a win, for example, is not necessary.

Bernie hits out at A1
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.22) Bernie Ecclestone has criticized rival open-wheeler category 'A1 grand prix', just days before its kick off at Brands Hatch.

The F1 supremo, whose staunch (Australian GP) ally Ron Walker may legally challenge the series' use of the 'grand prix' descriptor, claims that Dubai organizer Sheikh Mohammed bin Hasher Maktoum al-Maktoum reneged on an agreement.

Bernie says he offered 'advice' to the 28-year-old, but - according to the Indianapolis Star newspaper - only on the understanding that A1 was a series for veteran drivers in Asia, featuring an all-England team.

''Since then they've forgotten what we agreed,'' Ecclestone, 74, said.

''Now they don't want any help.''

Indy confirms 2006 F1 race
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.22) Although June's farcical six-car race is still a woundingly fresh memory, Indianapolis will host an event in 2006, United States grand prix organizers said Wednesday.

July 2, a couple of weeks later than usual, is the tentative date, a statement revealed.

''Despite the cloud that lingered over the race, we never stopped working on 2006 and promoting formula one racing in the US,'' Speedway president Joie Chitwood remarked.

The future beyond the next race, however, is less clear as Bernie Ecclestone's USGP contract runs out in 2006. ''I have to focus on the short term,'' said Chitwood, dodging the question. ''Now is not the time.

''We'd love to see a future. The investment we made in F1 was not just for a couple of years.''

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will also expect a pretty smooth-running 2006 grand prix -- and, definitely, no tire-related fiasco.

Chitwood added: ''I would assume that all the participants for (the) event will be as prepared as humanly possible.''

He also hit out at the attitude of F1's drivers, citing the example of an unnamed 'top driver' who always refuses to accept an invitation to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Chitwood also insisted: ''We will do the best we can working within the constraints placed on us by the FIA and FOM.''

Sato 'not surprised'
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.22) Japanese driver Takuma Sato says he is 'disappointed' but 'not surprised' after getting the BAR boot for the 2006 season.

The 28-year-old is the clear loser at the end of 'Buttongate II', but may be retained as a test driver next year.

''I am obviously very disappointed with the news,'' Sato said after Jenson Button's successful campaign to stay at BAR alongside Rubens Barrichello next year was confirmed, ''but not surprised.

''I have many thoughts about the situation and have my own opinions, but now is not the right time for me to comment.''

Takuma's contract runs out at the end of the year.

China to host F1 conference
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.22) Grand prix supremo Bernie Ecclestone will headline a F1 'global business conference' in Shanghai (China) next month.

It will take place on the Friday of practice for the second F1 race in the country.

Also among those present will be Renault boss Flavio Briatore. ''China and Asia represent the future of formula one,'' said Bernie, 74.

300 specially invited Chinese company CEOs, and executives from major advertising agencies, will make up the audience.

Montoya's no 'killer'
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.22) Kimi Raikkonen is 'a killer,' but his McLaren teammate, Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, is not.

That's the claim of retired 10-time winner Gerhard Berger, who worked with 30-year-old Montoya when BMW motor sport director a few years ago.

''Raikkonen is really good; he's a killer,'' the Austrian and former McLaren teammate of Ayrton Senna, told Autosprint.

''Montoya, in my opinion, is not.''

46-year-old Berger, who also drove for Ferrari and Benetton and came third in the championship on three occasions, agrees that JPM is fast.

''But he makes mistakes, he doesn't make the most of his chances,'' Berger told the Italian magazine. ''He will never be a number one, he will be an eternal number two.''

Gerhard reckons the way Raikkonen, 25, has beaten Montoya this year justifies the Finn's big McLaren salary.

''A guy like him should be paid around 20 million dollars per year,'' Berger said.

Symonds covets teams' trophy
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.22) Renault's Pat Symonds does not agree with his formula one team boss that the drivers' world championship is the only prize worth winning.

Recently, with young charge Fernando Alonso closing in on his first F1 triumph, outspoken 'Flav' claimed that no one remembers who wins the separate constructors' trophy.

''From a personal point of view,'' engineering director Pat Symonds said this week, ''I am always very proud to win the constructors' championship.''

As far as he is concerned, the constructors' prize is 'a symbol' of the whole team's contribution.

But that's not to say that he doesn't see the value of the drivers' trophy. Symonds agrees that, in terms of image, that is the one to win.

The Briton added: ''Everybody remembers the world champion driver, not the world champion team. But within the team, there is a very strong drive to claim the constructors' title as well.''

Ultimately, while Alonso can now protect his drivers' lead with relative ease, the carmakers' prize will probably fall to faster rival McLaren.

Late Renault V8 is 'shrewd'
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.22) Flavio Briatore has defended Renault's seemingly late track debut of a 2006 V8 engine.

Rather, the team principal reckons keeping current testing of the 2.4 liter unit in the Enstone factory is 'shrewd'.

Most other F1 rivals have now appeared at test tracks with early or prototype versions of new engines for 2006 rules.

''Building a hybrid car ... is useless,'' Briatore told Italian magazine Autosprint. ''What's the use (when) you can do (it) on the test bench without moving people and equipment?''

The Italian boss did, however, reveal that Renault would run a V8-powered R25 car at two tests after the current season is over. Briatore insisted: ''But the new engine will come with the new car.''

Renault is no doubt looking forward to the change of engine regulations, as its current V10 - the only remaining 72-degreee design on the grid - is heavier and still a little down on top power.

Ralf reckons on rainy race
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.22) To find out what the weather's like in Brazil, what better to do than refer to a man-on-the-spot.

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota driver, arrived in the sprawling city of Sao Paulo on Monday.

''I wanted to come early to adjust to the time difference,'' the German told his website.

So, with weather forecasts looking pretty glum for the weekend of racing, how did Schumacher, 30, enjoy his week ahead of round seventeen?

''Yes, the weather has been pretty inconsistent,'' the younger brother of Michael Schumacher answered. ''I think we could see a similar situation to Spa two weeks ago.''

Ralf, though, probably wouldn't mind another spattering of rain -- with a better strategy, he might have won in Belgium with his TF105.

''I definitely hope (the weather) is not as chaotic,'' Schumacher smiled, ''as the last one!''

While Ralf told his wife that he was off early to Brazil to adjust to the different time-zone, there might also have been another reason -- great steak.

Schumacher, a meat lover, says he has never been to a country that cooks it so well. ''You can find good restaurants,'' he reported, ''practically at every corner.''

Flavio's 'no party' policy
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.22) Renault's Flavio Briatore has reportedly banned any team members from organizing - or even being prepared for - an impromptu party in Brazil this weekend.

If Fernando Alonso's only title rival, Kimi Raikkonen, fails to score five points or more in Sao Paulo, the 24-year-old Spaniard could sit out Interlagos, Japan and China, and still become world champion.

But, still, Briatore - the party-loving Renault boss - has ordered a strict 'no party' policy.

''I want no planning, no preparing of any celebration,'' he said this week, ''because I am superstitious.''

Alonso, too, is remarkably cool considering he is on the cusp of slotting into the formula one history book as the youngest ever drivers' champion.

He reported: ''I'm not nervous.

''Sure, I'm really close to the world title but I'll treat this race like any other.''

Briscoe vows to race again
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.22) Former formula one tester Ryan Briscoe is out of hospital and back on his feet after an horrifying and fiery IndyCar shunt.

The 23-year-old Australian, with broken collar bones, bad bruising and contusions, was back at team Chip Ganassi's HQ on Wednesday and hopes to re-take the wheel in a couple of months.

He denied that the Chicago flip on September the 11th had quenched his thirst for racing.

''Racing is what I love,'' Briscoe, who last year tested Toyota's F1 cars, told the Australian Herald Sun newspaper, ''and I want to do what I love.''

Lauda queries Red Bull move
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.22) Former triple world champion Niki Lauda has doubted the wisdom of Red Bull's decision to buy Minardi.

From a marketing point of view, the 56-year-old thinks Austrian countryman Dietrich Mateschitz has played a good card in setting up a 'rookie' team.

But in terms of winning the world championship, or merely establishing a decent F1 effort, Niki - the former Jaguar boss and aviation businessman - is less convinced.

''If I had a team in a period of build up,'' he advised, ''I think I would not distract myself with a second team.''

In an interview with the 'APA' agency, Lauda also urged energy drink company Red Bull to leave Minardi at Faenza (Italy) for the time being.

He said it would not be wise for Red Bull Racing, located at Jaguar's former Milton Keynes factory, and Red Bull Rookie (Minardi) to share a base.

Lauda, who raced 171 times for teams like Ferrari and McLaren, added: ''They should use synergies only once the number-1 team is really established.''

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