Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
October 18,  2005

'Schu set for second shocker'
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.18) Former German F1 driver Hans-Joachim Stuck doubts that Michael Schumacher can reclaim the drivers' championship in 2006.

The 54-year-old, who drove 74 grands prix in the seventies, reckons Ferrari might struggle to adapt to the new 2.4 liter V8 engine regulation.

''Ok, new rules always mix things up again,'' Stuck told the Bild newspaper, ''but if I'm honest, I think Ferrari's comeback is a few years down the track.

''Ferrari do not have great experience with V8 technology and mother company Fiat's money is drying up even more.''

He said: ''Hopefully I'm wrong!''

Seven time title winner Schumacher, though, insists he is at least still motivated to push like mad next year, even if he might retire at the end of the season.

''After an experience like this,'' said the talented German at his embarrassing '05 finale in Shanghai, ''my desire is probably even bigger.

''There is only one goal -- to get the championship back.''

Disagreeing with Stuck, meanwhile, is new world champion Fernando Alonso. Asked if Schumacher will be the man to beat in 2006, the Spaniard replied: ''Of course.''

But Ferrari boss Jean Todt warned that the red marque is going to require more than a change in the second car for 2006. The exit of Rubens Barrichello, and the arrival of Felipe Massa - the Frenchman warned - won't be enough.

''If they don't have a good car with good tires,'' Todt said, ''then you can change the blood all you want -- it will not make them any quicker.''

Fisi is Renault 'weakness'
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.18) Clean-sweep title winner Renault had 'only one weakness' in 2005 -- Fernando Alonso's Roman teammate, Giancarlo Fisichella.

That's the opinion of former 70s and 80s grand prix driver, Patrick Tambay. The winner of two grands prix reckons 32-year-old Fisichella had the confidence knocked out of him early this year.

Fisichella scored 75 points less than drivers' champion Alonso in the 2005 F1 standings.

''Perhaps the technical problems at the beginning of the season affected his confidence,'' said 56-year-old Tambay, who drove for the works Renault F1 team in the mid-80s.

He told the French daily 'L'Equipe' newspaper: ''Maybe it's time Renault tried its luck with a French born driver.''

Renault president Patrick Faure admits that a French driver at the wheel would 'be a bonus', but pointed to a current dearth of home grown talent.

Renault has let French F1 test driver Franck Montagny leave. ''Just being French,'' Faure told the Reuters agency, ''isn't good enough.''

Bernie doubts F1 'breakaway'
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.18) Bernie Ecclestone reckons the carmakers' 'GPMA' group is not really serious about wanting to split from formula one.

The sport's supremo told the 'Bloomberg' agency that, three years after the initial 'breakaway' threat, the alliance comprising BMW, Mercedes, Renault, Honda and Toyota has done little to put plans for a new series into action.

Ecclestone said in Shanghai: ''I'd have thought ... they'd have done something by now, rather than having just meetings. I don't honestly think they want to break away.''

GPMA bigwig Burkhard Goeschel, of BMW, told a German newspaper recently that Bernie's current system is 'sitting on a thin branch.'

But Bernie suggested that a brand new race series, especially with the historic F1 brand still going, would be a big risk. ''Lots of series start all the time,'' the Briton warned, ''and disappear.

''It's taken us 30-odd years to get where we are.

''I think our 'branch' will be all right.''

V10 gets fitting send-off
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.18) F1's V10 engines got a fitting send-off in the Shanghai pitlane.

After Fernando Alonso dominated the grand prix finale, with Renault's title double secured, the Enstone team dimmed the lights in the garage and performed an odd ritual ahead of the '06 V8 dawn.

Mechanics from Williams, Red Bull, McLaren BAR and other teams joined the Renault guys as an engine mechanic fired up Alonso's victorious V10 and revved it up to the sensational sounds of 19,000rpm.

''To see our friends and rivals join with us for the moment was perfect,'' said Renault engine man Denis Chevrier.

''We all share the same enthusiasm for going racing.''

World champion Alonso, 24, had tried to capture the same spirit on the way to parc ferme, when he floored the throttle whilst in neutral down pitlane.

''My engineers were telling me to go on the throttle in pitlane because it was the last V10 race in formula one,'' the Spaniard said in China

Unfortunately, as he killed the engine and hopped out to greet Flavio Briatore, the bodywork around the exhaust caught fire.

Girl racer gets F1 test
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.18) Katherine Legge will reportedly become the first female driver in nearly fifteen years to test a F1 car.

The Toyota Atlantic rookie is slated to get behind the wheel of a Red Bull-owned Minardi at the end of November.

Legge, a 25-year-old Briton, will steer the 'Squadra Toro Rosso' car at Vallelunga (Italy), TSN.ca reported, and would be the first woman since Giovanna Amati in 1991 to feel the power of a F1 machine.

Earlier this year, the former Formula Renault and British F3 driver, Legge, trounced the boys at Long Beach, and also won in Edmonton and San Jose.

Barrichello backed to beat Button
(GMMF1NET -- Oct.18) Rubens Barrichello will probably have the edge on 'Honda' teammate Jenson Button in 2006.

That's the belief of triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, who ran Barrichello - the 33-year-old Brazilian who switches from Ferrari - at his own team in the nineties.

The Scot told the Mail on Sunday: ''I think Rubens is much more together right now.''

''Rubens has got the peripheral lifestyle right ... and he has won races, so he has broken that barrier. Rubens knows how to be world champion.''

In a sign of his commitment to both Honda and formula one, however, Button says he will not be following the examples of Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso by immediately starting a long holiday.

''On Tuesday I start work again,'' said the 25-year-old, who is off to Brackley HQ to check out progress for next year.

''The championship has got to be our aim.''

Toyota 'must win' - Gascoyne
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.18) 2006 will be Toyota's fifth year in formula one, so the winning must start, according to technical director Mike Gascoyne.

The so-nicknamed 'Bulldog' claims that Toyota, the Cologne based team which is the most recent to have started a team from scratch, could have won a race this season -- with a bit of good luck.

''I think we've proved we know what we're doing,'' he concluded, ''but we've got to start winning some races. It has got to be possible next year.''

Gascoyne also reckons Toyota threw away third place in the constructors' championship, claiming that the red and white car was quicker than Ferrari's.

And he insisted: ''We have to make the same step again.''

Red Bull call off search
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.18) Owning no less than two formula one teams, Red Bull has decided to scrap its 'search for an American F1 driver' program.

Four years into the search, a Monday statement said the program had 'successfully placed' an American at the pinnacle of racing -- Scott Speed.

''With its primary goal complete,'' the statement read, ''the Driver Search will not continue to operate in its current format for 2006.''

Red Bull's 'search' program started in 2002.

Williams decision due 'soon'
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.18) Antonio Pizzonia will stay at Williams as 'Friday' test driver next year if he is not given the nod to race full time.

With Nico Rosberg looking favorite to slide into the seat alongside Mark Webber, Brazilian Pizzonia's race performances while substituting for Nick Heidfeld do not appear to have bolstered his hopes for the drive.

25-year-old 'Jungle Boy' said: ''I was quite confident last year and this year I am not really thinking about it.''

He added: ''I think they will make a decision - if it is not already made - soon. I have been with the team for a long time so they know what I can do.''

20-year-old GP2 champion Rosberg, meanwhile, admitted to 'ITV' that he is probably not 100 per cent ready at the moment to make his grand prix debut.

The German born son of Williams' 1982 champion, Keke Rosberg, insisted: ''But after a winter's testing I would be (ready), definitely.''

An eerie F1 parallel
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.18) An ill-fated NASCAR race at 'Lowe's Motor Speedway' on the weekend evoked an eerie parallel with what happened at another American venue - Indianapolis - earlier in 2005.

In June, seven F1 teams and Michelin enraged its American crowd when only six cars proved to have tires safe enough to contest the grand prix.

But, just as Ralf Schumacher had suffered a high speed tire failure in practice, tires exploded left, right and centre in Saturday's tin-top race.

Reports say the Lowe's circuit, located in North Carolina, had 'ground' the high speed oval track. Similarly, a near identical 'grinding' process had been carried out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway prior to the disastrous F1 event.

At Lowe's, moreover, NASCAR told teams - half way through the race - that tire pressures should be at a certain minimum level. Michelin did a similar thing in June.

''We talked about a lot of options,'' said NASCAR president Mike Helton, ''including the possibility of having to shorten the race.

''But we never got to that extreme.''

The Lowe's circuit chief, meanwhile, said the entire track would now be resurfaced.

Germans switch Schu off
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.18) 1.6 million fewer Germans tuned in to watch Michael Schumacher's embarrassing finale to the 2005 championship.

Dethroned, the 36-year-old German and Ferrari driver was not short on spectacle in Shanghai as he crashed with a Minardi on a warm-up lap and then terminally spun behind the safety car.

But, still, 6.94 million spectators were watching RTL's live coverage, in contrast to 8.54m a year ago, when Schumacher was reigning champion.

''It is obvious that the viewers have reacted to a less-successful Michael Schumacher and his Ferrari team,'' RTL spokesman Matthias Bolhoefer told 'Auto, Motor und Sport' magazine.

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