Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
October 14,  2005

Ralf slates 'knockout' plan
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.14) Ralf Schumacher has joined his brother in doubting the wisdom of adopting yet another qualifying format for 2006.

Ralf, Toyota's German 30-year-old, reckons the proposed 'knockout' idea seems even more complicated than the scrapped aggregate system.

''We got rid of that one,'' Schumacher said, ''because you had to add up the two (lap) times. What do they want to do now? Get rid of people after each 15 minutes or something.

''Then some can refuel, others not refuel, cars are weighed -- I don't even know, I don't even understand how it goes!''

Ralf's seven time world champion brother, 36-year-old Michael, agrees that there is no 'perfect solution' to the question of exciting qualifying.

''Everyone has an opinion,'' he insisted, ''and not everyone will be satisfied (with the ultimate format). I just have one thought -- whatever we choose, we should stick with it.

''We are very deeply into F1, but others are not. As soon as you complicate things too much, people lose interest and will switch to something else.

''I think they should think very carefully before changing (it) again.''

Schu - '2005 world champ'
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.14) If you wander one particular Shanghai street market this weekend, keep an eye out for this little gem -- a counterfeit Michael Schumacher cap with the emblem: 'World Champion 2005'.

Actually, after the German's worst F1 season since 1993, just third is not really likely. But, as Ferrari boss Jean Todt confirms, 36-year-old Schumacher won't be bothered if he drops to fourth.

''For a seven times world champion,'' said the Frenchman, ''it's not something of any importance.''

Schumacher has also left his crystal ball in Europe. Asked what China might hold, he replied: ''It could be a bit better, could be a bit worse.''

He also, clearly, hasn't been conversing with Willi Weber too much of late. This week, the famous Schumacher manager told the press that Michael will probably retire after 2008.

''I don't know what he said,'' the German insisted. ''I've been through this many times.

''Nothing has changed -- next year we talk.''

Intelligently, 2006 will probably be a better time to decide about his future than now. Asked what was special about this year, Schumacher said in China: ''Do I have to remember?

''That's not so important to me.''

Peter Sauber's goodbye bash
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.14) F1's 'who's who' turned out in Shanghai on Thursday evening in a stark reminder of the respect commanded by exiting team owner and boss Peter Sauber.

Bernie Ecclestone, Max Mosley, Ross Brawn, Flavio Briatore, Nick Fry, Paul Stoddart, Jean Todt, Giancarlo Fisichella, Mario Theissen and Norbert Haug were among the well wishers at the Swiss' gala dinner for his last race.

Ferrari boss Jean Todt gave a speech, and Frank Williams only failed to show up because he has not traveled to China.

McLaren's Ron Dennis was not present.

Even former world champion Michael Schumacher popped in. ''With a little faith (Peter has) done a great job,'' said the German, who raced Sauber sportscars in the early nineties.

F1 supremo Ecclestone called Sauber, 62, 'one of F1's most dedicated and best loved characters.'

''Of course I'm sad,'' Peter said, ''and there are many people I will miss. I feel moved that so many people have shared this evening with me.''

Rubens aims to be Honda boost
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.14) For the last time, Rubens Barrichello - the quickest race driver in first and foggy Chinese practice - is having to face Michael Schumacher as his F1 teammate.

The chirpy Brazilian, after six years loyally opposite the focus of Ferrari's attention, is moving on for 2006.

Will Schumacher miss him?

''I don't think that's the right word,'' the German said in Shanghai. ''I don't feel like he's going anywhere far away -- he is not leaving the sport!

''I'll probably still see him a lot in the future.''

Rubens is, though - reportedly after a run-in or two with Michael this year - going to BAR-Honda. But 33-year-old Barrichello refused to acknowledge that he's just going to face another similar situation at a team this time built around lead driver Jenson Button.

''Well, they haven't won yet,'' he noted, ''so they need a plus and I hope that is me.''

Popular Rubens says he'll be 'emotional' but 'not sad' when the checkered flag on his career in scarlet finally ends.

''There are memories that I will keep forever,'' he smiled.

JV penalty too lenient
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.14) Juan Pablo Montoya says Jacques Villeneuve's 25 second penalty for punting him out of the Japanese grand prix at Suzuka a week ago was too lenient.

Although Canadian Villeneuve angrily rejects the stewards' decision against him, Montoya - the equally lively McLaren driver - reckons the F1 stewards are 'so inconsistent'.

''In a way he got a penalty, but in a way he didn't,'' said the 30-year-old. ''He finished twelfth, so what does a 25 second penalty matter?

''It's ridiculous that you penalize someone who is twelfth, so he is thirteenth. Wow, 13th.''

Sauber's Villeneuve, 34, is interestingly also unhappy with the Suzuka stewards' call. Straight talking JV says he 'always' accepts the blame if he's done something wrong.

''I find it very, very disappointing,'' he said in China. ''I've seen people put another guy on the grass in the middle of a straight and there's no punishment for that.''

Webber's 'rep' takes a hit
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.14) Mark Webber admits that his reputation would be higher had he not switched from Jaguar to Williams this season.

''My stock has suffered, for sure,'' the Australian said at the end of a dismally second-rate year for the Grove team.

But the rough, gruff and straight-talking 28-year-old is not 'losing any sleep' as he sees rivals like Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso race away into the F1 distance.

Webber roasts the traditionally fickle business of maintaining a reputation in the sport.

''If you win two races you're a legend but you're still the same guy,'' he said. ''You've still got the same undies on.''

Mark hoped and thought that Sir Frank Williams' team could be a silver bullet for his career. But he insists: ''I'm very sure I can win races.

''The championship?

''That's a long way off but I'm very confident I am capable of winning (grands prix).''

Still, some have singled out former 2005 teammate Nick Heidfeld as the more impressive of the pair this year.

''This game is so fickle,'' Mark says, clearly remembering the hype that surrounded his switch to BMW power.

''People say Michael Schumacher is over -- what a load of rubbish.''

Teams' title 'not crucial'
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.14) World champion Fernando Alonso won't mind if Kimi Raikkonen wins the Chinese grand prix, and McLaren steal the constructors' crown from Renault.

The Spaniard says 2005 has been 'perfect' for him.

''If we win the constructors' it's okay, if not, it's okay too,'' 24-year-old Alonso admitted.

''Really (it's) not a crucial point.''

Fernando, although he lifted the drivers' championship with two grands prix to go, has had to face analysis' that conclude Kimi Raikkonen as actually the quicker driver in the quickest car. Most pundits at least give the 'iceman' Finn a 'moral victor' tag.

Raikkonen has already won more grands prix than anyone else this year, but - still - Alonso is assertively sanguine.

''If everything stays like this,'' he said, ''I will have won only one race less than the best car.

''But I'll still try everything to win, but not because Kimi has won more. For me this is not so important.''

Williams to sell F1 cars
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.14) Over twenty Williams F1 cars will go under the hammer in December, team bosses have confirmed.

At the Oxfordshire factory, cars and memorabilia from Williams' 28-year history will be sold after the collection grew 'relentlessly' in past seasons.

Auction house Bonhams will handle the sale of Williams' 'Reserve Collection', including Nigel Mansell cars from 1985 and 1992, Damon Hill's title winning FW18 model, and more recent contenders driven by Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Williams will also offer for sale memorabilia such as the damaged suspension piece from Hill's Adelaide collision with Michael Schumacher in 1994.

Red Bull and Franz Tost
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.14) A likely contender to lead Red Bull's rookie team (Minardi) in 2006 has been named in the German press -- BMW man Franz Tost.

The 'track operations manager' for BMW, and a former Ralf Schumacher representative, is the latest guy touted for the principal role, after former F1 winner Gerhard Berger ruled himself out of contention earlier this week.

Berger, an Austrian and close friend of Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz, told Autosport that he doesn't 'want to be involved' in the company's F1 activities because its 'big motivation is marketing' rather than success.

Rules not to blame - Schu
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.14) Michael Schumacher says both Ferrari and tire supplier Bridgestone should share the blame for his worst ever season in scarlet.

Interestingly, unlike other key players at Maranello including Jean Todt and Luca di Montezemolo, the 36-year-old former champion doesn't point the finger at the F1 rulebook.

''Even if we had been able to change the tires,'' German born Schumacher insisted in China, ''we would have been too slow in qualifying, and we have usually been not quick enough in the first 20 laps.

''I don't think this (single tire per race) rule would have made much of a difference.''

Schumacher admits to some surprise that, together, Ferrari and Bridgestone could not find a solution to the problems -- whether car, engine or tire-(or all) related.

''If you had asked me (earlier) then I would have been confident about finding an answer,'' Michael conceded. ''We have found some new directions but they are taking some time to exploit.''

Schumacher admits that there were times in 2005 when being a grand prix driver was 'not fun'.

But, on the other hand, Michael said he would gladly travel to a twentieth grand prix next Sunday. The famously fit Ferrari driver insists he is not tired at the end of the longest ever calendar.

''In the other direction,'' he admitted, ''I am quite glad it is nearly finished, because at the moment I do not see any sort of quick solution.

''If I had the prospect of some better results coming, just to fight for the victory - not just to win, to fight - I would gladly race some more.''

Bernie buys Swiss glacier
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.14) F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has reportedly paid $3.8m for a glacier ski resort in Switzerland.

The 74-year-old billionaire - apparently with another investor or two in tow - is now the proud owner of 'Glacier 3000', in Les Diablerets near Gstaad, the Canadian 'Ski Press' magazine said.

The resort features state of the art air lifts and a 'stunning gourmet mountain restaurant', the publication said, but 'ran into financial difficulties' after a 1999 upgrade.

'Glacier 3000' is open for skiing from October to July each year.

Small crowd greets F1 action
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.14) A small crowd welcomed formula one back to China a year after the sport debuted at the impressively vast Shanghai venue.

A bit of fog and a few spots of rain lingered over the huge purpose built formula one circuit on Friday morning, as the end of an era in grand prix racing began to close.

Although the exit of V10 engines, and the departing Minardi, BAR, Jordan and Sauber names have hogged the headlines, it's also the last blast for 67-year-old Michelin competition director Pierre Dupasquier, who is retiring.

On the French rubber, Giancarlo Fisichella's recent troubles persisted in Shanghai when the Roman dumped his Renault into the gravel.

In the second practice session, Antonio Pizzonia ended up off the track, while Jarno Trulli's troubles - in the 'b' spec Toyota - were mechanical.

McLaren, as ever, looked like the team to beat.

''I suppose it's going to take some time for the Chinese to learn about our sport and accept it,'' said Michael Schumacher, when asked about the smaller crowd.

''I think what they really need is a Chinese driver.''

The latest paddock whisper, by the way, is that Minardi's new name for 2006 will be 'Toro Rosso' -- the exact Italian translation for Red Bull.

Rubens to try 3-seat Ferrari
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.14) Rubens Barrichello says he will share his last blast in a scarlet F1 car with his family.

The Brazilian, to drive his last race for Ferrari in China on Sunday, will travel to Fiorano (Italy) next week to try Ferrari's new 3-seater car.

''That's going to be the bye-bye to Ferrari,'' the 33-year-old said in China. ''I've wanted to do it for so long -- show them what I mean by 'go fast'!''

Barrichello's grandfather, father, mother and sister will all get a ride in the car - with Rubens at the wheel - which is based on the F2002 single seater but with a passenger located on each sidepod.

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