Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
September 27,  2005

Alonso's Spanish trick
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.27) As well as offering a bit of F1 history, newly crowned 2005 champion Fernando Alonso demonstrated some Spanish culture on the Interlagos podium.

The 24-year-old Renault driver explained that his little ritual with champagne and his trophy on the top step was actually a tribute to a traditional Spanish custom.

''In my region, the typical drink is a sidra (cider),'' he said on Monday. ''When you drink it, you have to pour it from high in the air -- it was a little bit of home to bring.''

Technical director Bob Bell, meanwhile, heralded a demonstration of fair play in Brazil's formula one pitlane, after most McLaren mechanics popped into the Renault garage after the podium to shake the hands of the winning side.

''What makes F1 so special,'' he explained, ''is the beating heart of every team. There is immense mutual respect between the two (teams).''

Red praise for blue defeater
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.27) Italy's Luca di Montezemolo has offered a sporting 'well done' to Renault and Fernando Alonso, despite Ferrari losing the F1 crown after a 5-year run.

''Alonso deserved to become world champion,'' the Ferrari and Fiat president told Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, ''and Renault, especially - but not only - for its reliability.''

Montezemolo, who has been recently critical of Ferrari's tire supplier Bridgestone, also complimented French rival Michelin.

And, turning his attention to the Ferrari slump, he added: ''I hope for maximum effort by all (team) suppliers (in 2006), especially manufacturers of tires, which are essential.

''I knew the time would come when we wouldn't win, but I know my men and know they cannot wait to get started again.''

Renault boss Flavio Briatore will no doubt happily accept the plaudits, but he also remembers the doomsayers and doubters from when Renault lurched back onto the scene in 2001 and spent the year racing Minardi.

''Everyone thought we were bullshitting,'' said the Renault, ''but now they all shut up.''

Munich to host F1 talks
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.27) Heralding, or mourning, Fernando Alonso's Renault triumph will be put to one side this week as the formula one power-players head to Munich for more 'breakaway' talks.

The Wednesday (September 28) date was originally set aside as Michelin-shod teams' appeal against the FIA's Indy-related 'guilty' verdict, but it is now being used as a forum for either getting serious about 2008 or finding a way forward with Bernie Ecclestone and a new Concorde.

It is now widely predicted that at least two more presently 'GPMA'-allied teams, probably Williams and Renault (but possibly Toyota), are on the verge of switching to the Ecclestone camp. With Red Bull's purchase of Minardi, that would leave just McLaren, BMW, BAR and Toyota - a minority of four - planning to split.

Alonso not going home
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.27) Fernando Alonso has reportedly turned down a swathe of requests to return home to help Spain celebrate with their own F1 world champion.

The shy 24-year-old, plastered on billboards all over the country and arguably the most famous Spanish sportsman, lives in Oxford (England), because living a normal life out of the intrusive media glare had become impossible back in Spain.

''I have nothing really big planned for Spain,'' Oviedo-born Alonso told the Marca newspaper. ''We thought about it but our plans attracted too much political interference.

''I have decided not to go (to Spain).''

Fernando will, though, be home in Asturias late next month when he collects his new 'Prince of Asturias' award.

Schu to test in France
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.27) Former world champion Michael Schumacher will bounce back into action in France this week.

The 36-year-old, who flew back to his home in Switzerland - with Jean Todt, incidentally - from Brazil, is to test the seemingly improving Ferrari F2005 at the Paul Ricard circuit in the south east of the country.

German born Schumacher is provisionally scheduled to run at the Maranello based team's final test of the season on both Thursday and Friday.

He admitted that beating Toyota to third in the constructors' championship may not mean much to him, but is 'very important' for Ferrari.

''If we lost (the position) our garage would go further down the pitlane next year,'' Michael Schumacher insisted, ''but more importantly would damage the image of the team.''

'Alonso not F1's best driver'
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.27) Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya are both 'better drivers' than 2005 world champion Fernando Alonso, McLaren boss Ron Dennis reckons.

''(That) may sound like sour grapes,'' the Englishman told Autosport, ''but it's the way I feel.''

Dennis says the F1 world can not properly gauge Renault driver Alonso's talent because he's been driving conservatively and protecting a big championship lead lately.

He added: ''Our drivers certainly have better equipment but personally I feel they're also better drivers.''

24-year-old Alonso, though, offered nothing but a cold shoulder to any skeptic of his talent. ''I don't care about people who don't like me.''

The Spaniard added: ''I always try to tell the truth and sometimes that's hard because in F1 the truth is told maybe 50 per cent of the time -- but I tell the truth. Sometimes people don't like it.''

Pizzonia to keep '05 seat?
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.27) Antonio Pizzonia is confident of retaining Nick Heidfeld's Williams seat for Japan and China.

The Brazilian had been expected to move aside for Germany's 'Quick Nick' for the season ending Asian finale, after reports that Heidfeld was on the road to recovery.

25-year-old Pizzonia, though - in contention for the full time ride in 2006 with Heidfeld off to BMW - said he was 'confident' of staying put.

''I don't see any reason why I shouldn't do it,'' he remarked.

''As far as I know Nick is not fit, but I really don't know.''

Also divergent to reports that Nick is fighting fit and keen to return, was Williams' confirmation that Pizzonia and Mark Webber would do all the testing this week at Jerez.

Pizzonia, nicknamed 'Jungle Boy', crashed at the first corner in Brazil, but had matched Webber's pace in qualifying to within half a tenth.

DC also had Michelin hitch
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.27) Like Toyota's Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard has also complained of a Michelin tire problem in Brazil on the weekend.

Although it was reported that Schumacher's complaint related to an old tire-spec being mistakenly fitted, 34-year-old Coulthard suggested that it was more a case of a bad batch being taken to Sao Paulo.

DC said that, after qualifying, he wanted to revert back to practice tires, but stewards needed a letter from Michelin stating that there was something wrong with the qualifying set.

''(Michelin) were uncomfortable to do (that),'' Coulthard told 'Speed TV', ''so we stuck with (the tires).''

Coulthard also revised his account of the first corner clash, in which he originally pinned the blame on Mark Webber's Williams teammate Antonio Pizzonia. But he now says: ''(Webber went) from the inside of the circuit towards the outside -- he moved most.''

'Maybe I'll do F1' - Rossi
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.27) Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo is calling for an end to constant speculation linking Valentino Rossi with a switch from MotoGP to the formula one team.

The Italian told the 'AGI' agency that he has 'heard enough -- it is up to him now.

''(Rossi) is a great champion and he will know what to do.''

After scotching claims that he will test once a month in 2006, though, 26-year-old 'Vale' will not be thanked by Montezemolo for yet again reinvigorating the near incessant 'two wheels or four' gossip.

Although Ferrari have kept the data top-secret, Rossi has revealed that he put in a best lap time at Fiorano of 59.1 in his first test, and a highly credible 57.5 in the second.

''A lot of people lost their money,'' Valentino smiled to the UK's Guardian newspaper in reference to mechanics taking bets that he wouldn't beat the sixty second barrier.

And, to the newspaper, he is no longer so guarded about whether he might do the F1 switch.

''It is the ultimate challenge -- a crazy challenge,'' he said. ''Maybe (I will do it). But I have to decide what is best.

''I have won on Honda and Yamaha so maybe it is interesting to win with a third team ... but I could also start F1 or rallying. I love rallying much more (than F1).''

Champion doubts 'Alonso era'
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.27) A record-busting 13.5 million Spaniards tuned in to Telecinco's coverage of Fernando Alonso winning the world F1 championship in Brazil.

Although Spain did not even show F1 on television before the local hero started his meteoric rise to title glory, shy and quiet Alonso, 24, does not think he has started a 'new era' after years of the dominance of Michael Schumacher.

''No,'' he said plainly.

''Sometimes my name will be in the newspaper, sometimes Kimi (Raikkonen), sometimes (Jenson) Button, Juan Pablo (Montoya).

''It depends.

''This year was my year, luck was with me, but in the next races or next year, it may be different.

''McLaren and Renault were strong this year but who knows what teams will be strong in 2006. Ferrari dominated last year and nobody imaged that they would be nowhere now. We all start from zero.''

Meanwhile, Alonso's physical trainer has paid tribute to one of the hardest off-track workers in pitlane. He says the contrast between the scrawny 19-year-old at Minardi (2001) and the champion of today is very stark.

''Now, Fernando has the neck of a boxer,'' Eduardo Bendinelli told Spain's El Pais.

Alonso won't race forever
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.27) Fernando Alonso does not see his career stretching on forever.

Unlike seven time title winner Michael Schumacher, who is 36 and contemplating signing a new deal to go beyond his 38th birthday, Alonso - the youngest ever world champion - is rather more fond of planning an early bath.

''My career won't be that long,'' said the Spaniard, twenty four.

He told the El Pais newspaper: ''I started in formula one at the age of 19, earlier than many other (drivers).''

The problem for Renault-driving Alonso, is that winning the drivers' world championship was the big goal -- the ultimate daily motivation.

''This is a dream come true,'' he admitted.

''But I am 24 and after this I think there is not much to do. I am the youngest world champion in formula one and now I need to find new targets because this one is over.''

McLaren testers 'vulnerable'
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.27) Ron Dennis has warned McLaren testers Alex Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa to be wary of the race drive offers of rival teams.

Experienced Wurz, 31 - in particular - is strongly linked to the new works BMW team, but Dennis, the McLaren-Mercedes principal, said other teams might not have the best interests of the current Woking pair at heart.

Ron wonders whether Wurz and de la Rosa are attractive options simply due to their in-depth knowledge of what is now the quickest car on the grid.

''I do feel they are a little bit vulnerable,'' he told Autosport, ''(of) being pulled into another team, sucked dry of information and then discarded.

''I and they will be mindful of that if those opportunities present themselves.''

Asked if either Austrian Wurz or Spain's Pedro de la Rosa had been offered a ride for 2006 elsewhere, a coy Dennis said: ''It is too early to know.''

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