Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
October 7,  2005

'Ferrari to start '06 with new car
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.7) For 2006, Ferrari is set to scrap its recent philosophy of starting the next formula one season with last year's 'old' car.

After a near-barren 2005, and the new V8 engine regulations, the Maranello based team has decided to kick off next season with the 'F2006' -- which may even be tested as early as next month!

Germany's 'Bild' newspaper even reports that dethroned world champion Michael Schumacher has agreed to shorten his annual winter holiday period in order to develop the new V8-powered car.

Predictably, the 36-year-old issued a thrifty denial when asked if the 'paper report was true.

''No,'' Schumacher stated, ''not at all.''

'Nothing's changed' - Alonso
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.7) Fernando Alonso may be F1's new world champion, but life for the quiet Spaniard has not changed.

The 24-year-old Renault driver flew from Brazil two weeks ago to Oxford, where - as per usual - he trained and relaxed.

''I didn't do anything special,'' said Alonso, who secured his first drivers' crown at Sao Paulo, ''but I enjoyed my time so much. My family came to see me, some friends, so it was quite easy.

''Nothing's really changed, life keeps going.''

Life does keep going, but when Alonso is Michael Schumacher's age (36), he is not sure he'll still be wheel-to-wheel in formula one.

''I can imagine that if you go six or seven years with not the best car,'' Fernando said in Japan, ''you might retire a little bit earlier than he will.''

Another blow for Kimi
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.7) For the fourth time in 2005, former title contender Kimi Raikkonen will have to start a grand prix ten places too low, after yet another Mercedes engine failure in Japan.

It is, of course, a blow to McLaren's chances of securing the constructors' championship, but - conceivably - Finland's Raikkonen is more preoccupied with a different problem. In the last two or three grands prix, he has been outclassed by teammate Juan Pablo Montoya.

''I think some days he is quicker, other days I am quicker,'' the 25-year-old insisted at Suzuka, ''so I don't think much has changed.''

Colombian Montoya joined McLaren this year but initially struggled with the car and also broke his shoulder. ''I'm still not 100 per cent there with the car,' he told ITV, ''but even like that, we are still beating Kimi.

''It's not easy to beat him, but everybody's human.''

'Schu's still no.1' - rivals
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.7) F1's title challengers have defended Michael Schumacher amid gossip that the dethroned champion has lost some of his speed this season.

Fernando Alonso, who a fortnight ago secured the first non-Schumacher drivers' title since 1999, said the German 36-year-old 'is still Michael'.

''The Ferrari has not been as strong and he didn't get the opportunity to win many races,'' said the Spaniard, ''but for sure next year (he) will be the favorite again.''

2005 runner-up Kimi Raikkonen agrees that one fruitless year does not turn the sport's most successful-ever driver into a dawdling peddler.

''People think he is a bit slower than a year ago,'' said the Finn, ''but I don't think that happens to you so quickly.''

JV drives for his F1 career
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.7) He has a 2006 contract in his pocket, but Jacques Villeneuve knows he is driving for his career in the final races of the season.

BMW motor sport director Mario Theissen has not ruled out honoring the French Canadian's Peter Sauber-signed deal, but says he will keep an eye on how the 1997 champion performs in Japan and China.

''That is a challenge,'' 34-year-old 'JV' told 'Auto Bild' this week, ''that I accept.''

Undoubtedly, Jacques has struggled to keep up with Ferrari bound teammate Felipe Massa in 2005. First, he said he was struggling with the Sauber's electrical systems, then the brakes. Now, Villeneuve points to the tires.

''These 2005 tires are much too hard for my taste,'' he said. ''This is a problem, particularly in the qualifying.''

JV also admits to finding it difficult to adapt to the cash-efficient Sauber way - as opposed to the Williams and BAR-Honda way - of going racing.

But he insisted: ''Sauber has all the potential in place and, with BMW, also now the money.''

Suzuka set to get wet
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.7) A warm and dry Suzuka track greeted formula one on Friday morning, but the weather forecast for the rest of the grand prix weekend is much more glum.

Saturday, according to the local weather men, could be a wet and miserable day, although the outlook for Sunday - race day - is brighter. On Friday afternoon, the sky turned dark.

''I got wet this week,'' Jordan's Indian driver revealed, referring to Wednesday at the Suzuka track.

''We had a good sample of Japanese rain.''

Schu's note to Alonso
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.7) Michael Schumacher has written a personal note of congratulations in the German 'Bild' newspaper to the young man who, in 2005, has dethroned him -- Fernando Alonso.

''Welcome to the club!'' the 36-year-old Ferrari driver wrote, ''but I am already looking forward to the next challenge against you and Kimi.''

Until 2006, Schumacher seems to have given up all hope of making his Ferrari a match for the McLaren and Renault pace.

He revealed in Japan that the F2005 package, with no new Bridgestone tire spec, will stay the same as it was in Brazil for the last two races. But, so long as progress for 2006 is being made behind the scenes, Schumacher doesn't care. ''Whether I'm third, the fourth driver (in the championship), does not matter to me.''

So what's the goal for Suzuka? Victory? ''Ok, I don't that that is a realistic target for us at the moment,'' Michael insisted, ''in fact we would need a little bit of luck to get onto the podium. A podium is the maximum to hope for.''

Button's '100:0' statistic
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.7) English driver Jenson Button will notch up a century (100) of grands prix without a single win.

Set become one of the highest paid formula one stars with his new 2006 Honda deal, the 25-year-old defended himself at Suzuka when faced with his unspectacular 100:0 statistic.

''I don't look at it like that,'' he told reporters. ''I look at it that I'm only 25 and yet I've done 100 races.

''There's no point keeping on talking about it. The best thing is for me to get out there.''

Button and BAR won't, of course, be a pacesetting force around the Suzuka circuit, even if Honda have unfurled a 'Suzuka special' V10 and BAR some new suspension.

''We won't get anywhere near McLaren,'' JB agreed, ''but we might get reasonably close to Renault.''

'We'll blow Renault away'
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.7) Renault will struggle to keep up with the silver-clad pace at Suzuka.

That's the claim of Colombian driver Juan Pablo Montoya, whose McLaren team has won six of the last seven 2005 grand prix.

With Fernando Alonso now wearing the drivers' title crown, many expect Renault's Spaniard to up the pace for the Japanese and Chinese races.

But Montoya, 30, said: ''I think Renault might have a little bit in their hand, but I don't think they've got enough.

''On a circuit like this,'' he told ITV, ''we should blow them away.''

Montoya also joined teammate Kimi Raikkonen and world champion Alonso in backing Michael Schumacher amid speculation that the German is simply not on the pace in '05.

JPM scowled: ''It doesn't matter if you're name's Schumacher, Montoya, whatever, you aren't going to win if you don't have the best car.''

Honda to leave BAR structure alone
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.7) A name change will be the only 'major' overhaul at BAR over the winter period, the F1 team's 100 per cent owner Honda says.

Honda racing development president Yasuhiro Wada insisted at Suzuka that the 'organizational structure, chief executive, technical director and everybody' will stay the same for the 2006 season.

Clearly, though - with founding owner British American Tobacco out of the picture - there'll be no more BAR.

Asked about the new name for Honda's works team, Wada-san replied: ''We haven't finalized the name of the team yet.''

Piston failure for Kimi
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.7) Mercedes' sporting boss Norbert Haug has confirmed that Kimi Raikkonen suffered a failed 'piston rod' in free practice and - for the fourth time in 2005 - will be demoted ten places on Sunday's Japanese grand prix grid.

The Finnish driver, 25, emerged for the second - rain affected - Friday session after the V10 engine was replaced.

It is a blow to McLaren's bid to win the constructors' championship. ''It is not a help,'' Haug agreed to the 'Premiere' TV network, ''but this has happened to us before and we still scored well.

''Ok, it is something that should not happen, but if you win nine out of the last twelve races, it can't be too bad.''

Ferrari run 'Turin 2006' logo
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.7) Ferrari's two 'F2005' cars are wearing 'Turino 2006' logos on the nose cone at the Japanese grand prix in Suzuka.

The logos are in tribute of next year's Winter Olympics in Italy, to be held in Turin.

''(It is) an event which is particularly close to our hearts,'' said team boss Jean Todt.

The 'Turino 2006' logo will remain on the side of the red cars' nose section in China, too.

Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher played down his surprisingly quick pace (2nd) in the rain-affected afternoon session in Japan.

The German reckons he and teammate Rubens Barrichello were the 'only ones' to try new tires before a shower struck.

''There is no reason to think we can be stronger than in Brazil,'' the 36-year-old lamented.

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