Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
October 19,  2005

Todt downplays budget plunge
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.19) Jean Todt has downplayed reports that a waning budget can be linked to Ferrari's '05 downfall.

Although speculation is adamant that - with Fiat's financial problems - the annual Ferrari F1 budget this year is $50-60m lower than in 2003, Todt is keen to quieten the link between money and speed.

''We will never state that we are not getting the results because we do not have the means,'' the Frenchman told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Jean Todt continued: ''We have reached important agreements this year -- Philip Morris, for example, will be with us ... until 2011.''

The Ferrari boss also rubbished suggestions that Michael Schumacher's driving contributed to the red decline. ''We have learned never to underestimate him,'' Jean Todt said of the German champion.

''People who say he is finished know little about motor racing. Ferrari's problems are our problems alone.''

A new 'drain pain' theory
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.19) Organizers of the Chinese grand prix were near-universally condemned after a loose drain cover ruined Juan Pablo Montoya's F1 run in Shanghai.

Circuit designer Hermann Tilke said at the grand prix that the metal cover had not properly been 'locked' into place.

''That's the problem,'' the German architect told ITV. ''Every piece has to be locked ... and it was not done.''

Since then, though, Tilke seems to have revised his opinion, adding that pointing the blame in the direction of Chinese officials 'was not good' for the fledgling venue.

''We're looking into it,'' he now tells crash.net, ''but it may have been that the material used (did not) work correctly.''

Shanghai's indiscretion was condemned with even more vigor because a similar incident - involving a wayward curb drain cover - occurred during the Australian V8 Supercars' visit to Shanghai earlier in 2005.

A clever V10 engine
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.19) Just when you think you've heard it all, you click on the Renault F1 website and hear an exiting V10 engine 'singing' Queen's We Are The Champions.

Click: Here

The French marque might have produced the double title winning 3.0 liter unit in 2005, but independent rival Cosworth reckons that - with Red Bull - it had the most reliable.

A single failure at Spa aside, Cosworth 'made no unscheduled engine changes ... throughout the 2005 race season,'' a boastful statement read.

Even including Renault, Ferrari, Toyota, BMW and Mercedes, some in pitlane reckon Honda's final V10 actually packed the most power.

But engineering director Shuhei Nakamoto expressed disappointment with BAR-Honda's lowly sixth in the constructors' chase. ''It is not enough for us just to be here (in F1),'' the Japanese said.

''We have to work harder, be smarter. Our goal is to win.''

Finally, McLaren-Mercedes exited season '05 with arguably the quickest overall package of all, but Norbert Haug denied that the end of Shanghai triggered a mass holiday.

''There isn't much time to relax,'' Mercedes' boss said. ''Our rival (Renault) used up all its potential this year, we still have room to improve.''

F1 boss wants rule rethink
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.19) Billionaire Alex Shnaider has pleaded with formula one's governing body to help small teams like his compete with carmakers.

The Russian-born Jordan owner, who has renamed the uncompetitive team 'Midland' for 2006, said the current rules make it 'impossible' for a private squad to succeed.

''The rules must change,'' he said.

''The resources the manufacturers have are much greater than a private team, no matter how rich the backers are.''

Shnaider, 36, told PA Sport: ''It doesn't make any economic sense.''

He renewed his denial that 'Midland' is now desperate to sell the formerly yellow-clad team, even though media speculation suggested that Shnaider had been reluctant to spend much money this year.

Team principal Colin Kolles explained that snapping up Eddie Jordan's beleaguered outfit at the last minute had hardly been the ideal preparation.

He told formula1.com: ''We had to work with material that was outdated and stick with a name that was not ours.

''Now we aim to be better next season -- the odds are in our favor.''

Michelin man joins Ferrari
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.19) A senior Michelin engineer will reportedly join Bridgestone-shod Ferrari for the 2006 season.

Gerald Brussoz' new job will probably be related to the development of Bridgestone tires. While it's a blow for Michelin, the likely rule change to re-allow tire changing next year should help to limit the news' damage.

According to sources, 39-year-old Brussoz actually left the company in late August.

Incidentally, Michelin's Pascal Vasselon similarly left Michelin earlier in 2005 and switched to Toyota -- a formula one team that will also be Bridgestone-shod next year.

There is, though, at least some good news down Clermont-Ferrand way. Although Pierre Dupasquier will no longer be found in the grand prix paddock, the 67-year-old will reportedly stick around at Michelin to be a company advisor.

McLaren miss 'Stirling' prize
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.19) McLaren's impressive Woking factory has missed out on winning the coveted 'Stirling' architecture prize.

Instead, the $755m Scottish parliament building bagged the silverware, also beating - among others - a library and the BMW building in Leipzig.

A McLaren win would have been the double for 'Paragon' architect Lord Foster, after he also designed the '04-winner, London's so-called 'Gherkin'.

Still, Stirling's British judges called the McLaren Technology Centre 'breathtaking'.

Rubens on 'gardening leave'
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.19) Rubens Barrichello has found himself on a spot of 'gardening leave' after Ferrari declined to release him to Honda until the first day of the new year.

Maranello based boss Jean Todt paid tribute to the affable 33-year-old in Tuesday's La Gazzetta dello Sport, but indicated that Ferrari intend to enforce his contract through to December 31.

''We had highs and lows like every couple,'' the Frenchman said of Brazil's Barrichello, ''but the highs surpass the lows.''

However, asked if Rubens - who joined Ferrari in 2000 - was now free to slip off to Honda, Todt hastily replied: ''No.

''He is a Ferrari driver until the end of the year.''

Rubens, though, is being released from his 2006 commitment, to go to Honda, without a fuss. Todt said he genuinely 'likes' the departing driver.

''I wish him all the best. He is a very focused, talented driver, strong in the head. The latter is probably his strongest point.''

Barrichello won nine times for Ferrari.

F1 appeal 'high' - report
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.19) Its players often grumble about doom and gloom, but formula one is still racing along nicely, according to an independent market research firm.

'Sports Marketing Surveys' issued a report on Tuesday claiming that interest in the pinnacle of racing is still 'high'.

''New circuits, new drivers and new teams have broadened the appeal to fans and brought new and different audiences to (F1),'' it also read.

''Coupled with closely fought drivers' and constructors' championships, interest has been kept high across the world.''

Fisi was told to 'block'
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.19) Giancarlo Fisichella was ordered to 'block' the McLarens in Shanghai, Renault boss Flavio Briatore has admitted.

Although race-affecting 'team orders' are strictly forbidden, the Italian principal was not shy in confessing the debatably-legal instruction to aid teammate Fernando Alonso's run to the checker and the constructors' world championship.

''We weren't playing around,'' 'Flav' told Autosprint.

''What Fisichella did was a normal thing. I asked him to block the two McLarens and he did it in the best possible way.''

Briatore also admitted that McLaren counterpart Ron Dennis' image-building of the constructors' crown - after Kimi Raikkonen missed the drivers' title - only made him more determined to do the double.

''And we did it by spending less than at least three other teams, which is something I'm proud of,'' he added.

Bahrain to open season '06
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.19) Bahrain has announced that it is likely to play host to the season opening grand prix in 2006.

With Melbourne dodging its traditional date to make way for the Commonwealth Games, the two-year old track at Sakhir - whose inaugural grand prix was staged last year - will in all probability take the early March slot.

A statement issued by the Bahrain International Circuit said it was 'very much looking forward to hosting ... the opening round of next year's Formula One World Championship,' although it cautioned that the date was still subject to FIA confirmation.

Who's F1's top Brit?
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.19) Who is F1's top Brit?

With only David Coulthard and Jenson Button presently waving the Union Jack on the grid, it's a natural proposition posed by British specialist magazine 'F1 Racing'.

JB and DC's on-track rivals, including Felipe Massa, Juan Pablo Montoya and Antonio Pizzonia, plumped for 25-year-old Button, whose affection was courted by both Honda and Williams in recent times.

''Jenson's better over one lap than David,'' said Ferrari bound Massa in a sentiment backed by Montoya. ''He's certainly better over one lap,'' the feisty Colombian agreed.

Of the six drivers asked, only Narain Karthikeyan and DC's mate Jacques Villeneuve picked Coulthard as the better.

'F1 Racing', however, also asked a panel of former F1 drivers, who - collectively - think the ageing Scot is a wiser bet.

''Ask me again when Jenson has won a grand prix,'' said 54-year-old Swiss Marc Surer. Five time winner John Watson added: ''I think David is more of a natural racer than Jenson.''

World champions Niki Lauda and Jody Scheckter, on the other hand, see more spark in Button's blue eyes. ''David's had all the chances he needs,'' said Scheckter, the 1979 winner, ''to win the championship -- and hasn't done so.''

Of all 26 'insiders' interviewed, 12 voted for Coulthard and fourteen for JB.

Legge to test F1 - official
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.19) Minardi has confirmed the rumor that female driver Katherine Legge will test a Minardi late next month.

A statement on Wednesday said the 25-year-old Briton, who won three Toyota Atlantic races in 2005, would slip behind the wheel at Vallelunga.

''It's been a dream and an ambition of mine to drive a formula one car since I was a little girl,'' said Legge, who will also try the controls of a Champ Car this year.

Minardi boss Paul Stoddart, who hands over the keys to the team to Red Bull on the last day of October, says Legge is 'capable of handling the performance of an F1 car'.

''We ... have no hesitation in giving her an opportunity to show what she could do,'' he added.

Melbourne GP makes $130m
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.19) Australia's grand prix in Melbourne generated about $130m (US) in 2005 alone, the local grand prix corporation said.

The Melbourne organizers claimed that the figure originated in an independent report, showing the economic benefit for the state of Victoria.

'AGPC' chairman Ron Walker said the figure was an 83 per cent increase since the first Melbourne race in 1996, but an opposition group - called 'Save Albert Park' - poured scorn on the grand prix' claim.

''It's a gross and ludicrous exaggeration,'' Peter Goad told Melbourne's 'The Age' newspaper.

But the independent 'National Institute of Economic and Industry Research' had compiled the report after surveying nearly 3000 people at the season opener in March.

Subject to FIA approval, Melbourne will host round 3 of the unpublished 2006 F1 calendar next year, on April 2.

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