Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
September 28,  2005

Vettel stars at last '05 test
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.28) The final in-season tests of 2005 kicked off on Tuesday at Paul Ricard (France) and Jerez (Spain).

At the Bernie Ecclestone-owned Paul Ricard track in Le Castellet, Ferrari's Marc Gene tested Bridgestone tires under cloud.

Lovely weather, however, beamed down on Jerez de la Frontera, located on the southern coast of sunny Spain.

Although many teams will join the action this week, Williams tested alone on Tuesday. In the absence of Antonio Pizzonia, Nico Rosberg - now on the way to Bahrain for the GP2 finale - joined Mark Webber, but the real star of the day was German teenager Sebastian Vettel.

Wearing a Red Bull-colored helmet, the 18-year-old got 25 laps - with a best time about 3 seconds off the pace - as part of his BMW contract.

''The brakes, g-forces and power are beyond description,'' the slight F3 driver marveled.

Renault, McLaren, Toyota, BAR and Red Bull will now join the action.

'Take a hike, F1'
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.28) American animosity against F1 has still not completely subsided, even though the six-car calamity of Indy happened some three months ago.

Journalist Ben Smith of the Fort Wayne 'Journal Gazette' wrote a headline that read 'Who cares?' in reference to news that Indianapolis would honor its 2006 grand prix contract.

''Apparently (Speedway president) Joie Chitwood is a bigger man than me,'' Smith marveled.

''I say (the circuit) should honor its contract by making a paper airplane out of it and sailing it through that non-existent chicane in turn one.

''I think (US GP promoter) Tony George should grab Bernie Ecclestone by the nape of the neck, give him the bum's rush out onto Georgetown Road, and bring in an entity that actually gives a damn.

''At least then George could reasonably be certain he wouldn't get hijacked by petty squabbling.

''(George) dropped an estimated $80m ... to meet F1's demands, and what's he gotten for it?

''A joke and a farce.''

As well as the infamous 19 June farce, in 2002 Michael Schumacher earned the US fans' ire by slowing down on the finish line to let teammate Rubens Barrichello win.

And, referring to tire supplier Michelin's dispute with the FIA, Smith continued: ''That they allowed their differences to ruin the (2005 race) speaks volumes about how much the sport is driven by metastasized egos.

''I say take a hike, F1. I say if you don't want to be here, we don't want you here.''

Minardi and Michelin
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.28) Although Williams and Toyota are off to Bridgestone next year, tire rival Michelin could be set to find another F1 partner in 2006 -- Minardi.

It is understood that the Faenza based squad's new owners, the Red Bull energy drink company, want their 'rookie' team to wear the same French brand as the senior Red Bull team next year.

Red Bull reportedly considers that having two F1 teams on different tire brands would be a hindrance to transferring technology between them.

Minardi's 2006 car is also likely to be a modified version of the current RB1, which was designed for Michelins.

''We are evaluating the situation, but no decision has been made yet,'' Michelin's motor sport boss Pierre Dupasquier - who previously argued that Michelin wanted fewer teams - told Autosport magazine's website.

Longer calendar for 2006
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.28) The extended 2006 formula one race calendar will end in Brazil on 5 November, according to paddock whispers.

With teams and personnel wheezing near the end of an unprecedentedly long 19-grand prix calendar, moves are afoot to at least add a week or two to the schedule's duration.

A November 5 end would, at least, reduce the number of back to back grands prix next year -- there had, allegedly, been some talk of an '06 triple header.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone actually wanted to add a race next year, but has in fact failed so far to get teams to agree beyond the Concorde Agreement maximum of 17 grands prix. Speculation says a 2005-like deal will ultimately be reached for 18 or 19.

''There is no dialogue at this stage,'' McLaren principal Ron Dennis revealed in Brazil.

Williams to confirm Pizzonia
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.28) Williams will reportedly announce some time on Wednesday that Antonio Pizzonia is to stay in injured regular Nick Heidfeld's Grove-built cockpit for the remaining two grands prix of the 2005 season.

According to F1 speculation, the 25-year-old Brazilian - and not young hopeful Nico Rosberg or the allegedly recovered Heidfeld - will drive the BMW-powered car as he did in Monza, Spa and Interlagos.

Japan and China will next month conclude the 2006 calendar.

Meanwhile, Pizzonia's teammate Mark Webber traveled from Brazil to Scotland this week to give a talk at the Tynecastle High School, The Scotsman newspaper reported.

The Australian then moved to Jerez (Spain), where he will complete the team's 2005 in-season test program on Wednesday.

Indian to drive F1 in Mumbai
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.28) Narain Karthikeyan will drive his Jordan F1 car through the streets of Mumbai later this year.

According to the 'Indian Television' publication, the country's first grand prix star will complete the event courtesy of new sponsor Raymond.

''(F1) is now a rage in India,'' said the clothing and textile brand's boss Gautam Singhania, ''and it is a proud moment for all of us to see an Indian make his mark.''

Renault want teams' crown too
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.28) Renault boss Flavio Briatore has denied that he is not interested in winning the constructors' world championship.

After Fernando Alonso tied up his title in Brazil, the team's Italian principal was reminded that he previously said the drivers' trophy was the only one worth winning in F1.

''Renault, which is a big car manufacturer, is very interested in it,'' Briatore begged to differ in the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

Renault, with a slower car than its silver rival, finally had to cede the lead in the 2005 constructors' chase to McLaren at Interlagos.

But Flavio said: ''We don't want to let the other title slip by.''

Renault's F1 president Patrick Faure agrees that winning both titles in a single season would definitively prove that 'you are the best.

''Renault has won nearly everything -- Le Mans, World Rally, formula one as an engine supplier; but we had not won as a 100 per cent Renault car,'' said the Frenchman

'F1 title hasn't sunk in'
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.28) Fernando Alonso, world champion. For the youngest ever formula one title winner, that moniker hasn't sunk in.

The 24-year-old is back in England after doing enough to steal the crown in Brazil, but he admitted to finding it 'hard to believe' that his childhood dream is now reality.

He said in a Renault interview: ''I can't really feel anything at the moment but I think it will come slowly.

''This is the maximum in my life, but I have not had time to think about it yet. I am sure it will happen in the next few days.''

After manager Flavio Briatore placed him as a 19-year-old at Minardi, Fernando joined Renault as a test driver in 2002 and then raced a year later.

To celebrate his blossoming career, 50 thousand Spaniards partied in his home town of Oviedo on Sunday night. ''And even in Madrid as well,'' Alonso also explained.

''I have a missed a lot of things in life, made a lot of sacrifices and worked very hard.''

If you believe England's 'Sun' newspaper, though, it will all be worth it -- Alonso's $3m annual salary is reportedly due to skyrocket to $17.7m, thanks to sponsor bonuses that kick in due to his drivers' championship triumph.

Champion Alonso to attack
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.28) Newly crowned world champion Fernando Alonso has vowed to stop being conservative and charge flat out for victory in the final grands prix of 2005.

The Spaniard admits to driving a little half-heartedly in the second half of the current season to sensibly protect his big title lead.

But, with the drivers' crown now safely on his head, Renault's Alonso reckons he is ready to take the fight to the quicker McLaren in Japan and China.

''I will probably enjoy the races a little bit more,'' he also admitted.

Renault came to Brazil with an updated package, but 24-year-old Fernando concedes that the full potential may not have been totally demonstrated around Sao Paulo.

He admitted: ''We were very conservative in terms of engine revs and things like that, because we really needed to win the championship.

''I think we can now risk a bit more, we can be more competitive.''

Whether adopting a less conservative strategy will actually result in a different outcome, though, is arguable. Alonso says the gap to the McLaren car is 'still big.

''But if you think about when (Juan Pablo) Montoya overtook me in the race, I didn't take any risks -- it will be different now.

''I will be more aggressive with how I use the engine, the tires, every part of the car.''

Ferrari's 'old' tires
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.28) With the scarlet package looking a little quicker in Brazil, many wondered if Bridgestone had given Ferrari a new tire spec.

Actually, exactly the opposite is true -- Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello seemed to take a step forward last week with the Bridgestone tire used a year ago.

This week, Michael Schumacher will be at Paul Ricard to compare yet another brand-new Bridgestone compound with the Suzuka-spec tire from 2004. It is possible that Ferrari, like at Interlagos, will drive the Japanese grand prix with the same tire used last year.

Also at a post-race press briefing in Sao Paulo, Ferrari principal Jean Todt was asked about incessant speculation linking the Maranello based team with MotoGP championship Valentino Rossi.

''We admire him,'' the Frenchman said, ''but what he does is his decision. If he is able to drive a formula one car quickly, if he wants to come, then we will talk to him, just as we talk to other drivers.''

Button rues tire problem
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.28) A third formula one team and driver has joined the queue to lament a Michelin tire problem encountered at the recent 2005 Brazilian grand prix.

First, Ralf Schumacher said his Toyota had been fitted with incorrect front tires, before Red Bull's David Coulthard revealed that his race-spec in Sao Paulo appeared to have come from a bad batch.

Now, Jenson Button - of the BAR-Honda camp - says his set of French-made rubber 'grained' badly during the race.

''It's a nightmare,'' he told Sky Sports, ''because you get no confidence in the car, you can't carry your speed through any corners because you're not sure what's going to happen.

''That didn't go away from the start to the finish.''

Tire graining is when a kind of ripple sets in on the tire surface, resulting in a lack of grip and stability, and arms-full of oversteer, because - effectively - the tire rubber starts moving around.

Button said: ''We took the hard tire as well, because of that issue, and we thought it would be fine.''

Graining, while an issue for the tire suppliers, is also aggravated by an F1 car's setup.

Hakkinen turns 37
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.28) 1998 and 1999 F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen is celebrating his 37th birthday on Wednesday.

The Finn, who raced for the Lotus and McLaren grand prix teams between 1991 and 2001, today drives in the German touring car championship (DTM).

Meanwhile, turning forty two today is French ex-F1 driver Erik Comas, who contested 59 grands prix for Ligier and Larrousse in the early nineties.

Praise for Flavio
(GMMf1NET -- Sep.28) Patrick Faure says the current Renault team only exists in formula one because of Flavio Briatore.

The Frenchman, who is the president of the F1 team, revealed that he told the Renault board in 2000 that he only wanted to take over the Benetton team if Briatore could be installed as principal.

''I think I did it right,'' Faure said in reference to Fernando Alonso's drivers' title.

And, referring to the flamboyant Italian who is in charge, he added: ''Flavio is completely uncommon as a F1 head.

''He has a very special management system and ... is very good at controlling things -- sometimes in special businesses like this one you need special people.''

In Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, meanwhile, Flavio Briatore - perhaps responding to Ron Dennis' claim that his McLaren duo are both better than Alonso - said the Spaniard is 'cooler than (Michael) Schumacher' and 'more mature' than Kimi Raikkonen.

''He's able to manage races better than Kimi. Speed-wise they are equal. In qualifying ... Raikkonen has something more than Fernando, for now.''

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