Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
October 31,  2005

Surgery for Kimi
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.31) F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen is currently recovering from surgery.

The 26-year-old '05 title runner-up, who drives for McLaren, had planned a post-season holiday with wife Jenni, but called it off when he visited a doctor complaining of pain in his left knee.

It is reported that Raikkonen has undergone an 'arthroscopic meniscal' procedure in Helsinki (Finland).

The surgery involves the removal and repair of damaged knee cartilage. Kimi is reportedly already at home and hobbling about on crutches, and is not expected to alter plans to test the new McLaren MP4-21 in January.

'Bonneville' moves on
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.31) BAR-Honda's washed-out 'Bonneville 400' has been moved from the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah (United States).

After an inch of rain forced the Honda-owned F1 team to cancel the speed record attempt earlier in October, the project will resume this week further West at the Mojave Airport (California), with any return to Bonneville delayed at least until next year.

''It will be an important occasion,'' said a Lucky Strike spokesman of the impending system checks run, ''but ... just part of the journey.''

Wheldon bound for F1 - report
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.31) Indy 500 winner and IRL champion Dan Wheldon is bound for formula one.

That's the gossip in the American press, with 'Speed TV' referring to IRL 'insiders' with knowledge of the Briton's apparent 2006 switch -- possibly to Williams, BMW or Honda as a 'Friday' driver.

''I have not signed a deal with anybody,'' he said in response to the speculation that could see him on the grand prix grid as early as '07.

But, asked if he was bound for Frank Williams' Grove team, he answered: ''That's not true.

''But you're on the right track.''

It's common knowledge in F1 circles that the 27-year-old is keen to make the switch, and his manager Julian Jakobi has widely canvassed the paddock.

Meanwhile, Wheldon's 'Andretti Green' contract is about to expire, but a renewal - or a deal to drive elsewhere - has not yet been penned.

Massa relieved after V8 run
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.31) Felipe Massa has offered a reassuring account of life at the wheel of F1's new V8 formula.

The young Ferrari driver got his first taste of his 2006 stint as Michael Schumacher's teammate with a two-day test at Vallelunga (Italy) last week.

The V8 formula, as opposed to the 3.0 liter V10 format of at least the last decade, is an approximately 200 horse power step down compared to 2005.

But Brazil's Massa, 25, told Gazzetta dello Sport: ''It was fun, I expected worse. I like it.''

He called the early 2006 Ferrari V8 'very drivable' even though it packed less power.

''It's definitely better than I expected,'' Felipe explained. ''With two cylinders less there's a lot less power, but it's fast anyway.''

With less power and (because of the return of tire changing) more grip in 2006, though, widespread fears persist that driving a grand prix car will prove even less of a challenge next year and beyond.

But Massa said: ''In my opinion we'll have fun anyway.

''We'll be able to go fairly fast.''

Webber not concerned
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.31) Mark Webber says he is not concerned that Williams will attack 2006 without works power.

Like in 2002, when the Australian driver debuted for Minardi, he will be propelled by a Cosworth engine next year.

But Webber, 29, insists that the albeit customer-like supplier will build a 'competitive' V8 for the new rules.

''A lot of people are probably wondering how a team like Williams has ended up without a manufacturer behind them,'' he confessed, ''but it's not a concern for me at all.''

BMW might have switched allegiances, but Webber reckons British-based Cosworth 'specialize' in V8 engines.

And he insisted: ''I'm confident that their part of the package will be competitive.''

Rejoice at axed tire rule
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.31) While Michelin rile at the change of heart, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has predictably joined Bridgestone in rejoicing at the return of tire changing in 2006.

''I feel (it) should have been done earlier,'' the Italian told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Uncompetitive Ferrari's argument, all along, is that the 2005-spec 'one tire per race' regulation was unsafe. New scarlet driver Felipe Massa sided with Montezemolo in praising the 'safer' option.

''Nearly everyone this year had problems finishing the weekend with a single set,'' said the Brazilian, who raced with Michelin tires on his Sauber.

''As safety was concerned, it wasn't good, and with more tires it'll be more fun for us.''

However, just in case it is interpreted that only Bridgestone camps welcome the change, Michelin-clad Red Bull driver Christian Klien agreed that it should - at least - prevent the sort of situation seen on Kimi Raikkonen's wobbly Nurburgring car.

And he admitted: ''The (reinstated) rule will also mix up the balance of power.''

Zip your lip, Button
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.31) 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell has lashed out at countryman Jenson Button for ridiculing women drivers' mission for F1.

''I think he gets away with murder at times,'' said the 52-year-old, who will return to open wheel action in the 'GP Masters' series next month.

Honda's Button, who told a men's magazine that boobs and monthly cycles would keep women away from grand prix cockpits, scored a 'home goal' with 'stupid remarks', Mansell contended.

He advised: ''If you can't say the right things, say nothing.''

The former Ferrari and Williams driver, however, didn't leave his disapproval at Button. He called quadruple world champion Alain Prost's apparent decision to stay away from the 'GP Masters' series 'a mistake'.

In the 'Sun' newspaper, meanwhile, Mansell said it is 'unfortunate' that sons Leo (21) and Greg (21) showed signs of moving ahead in motor racing by testing a Formula BMW in Pembrey (Wales).

''I hoped I could steer them away from it,'' he lamented.

Lineup set for 'F1x2'
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.31) A second 'F1x2 grand prix', featuring Minardi's fleet of two-seater F1 cars, will support the 'Grand Prix Masters' series at Kyalami (South Africa) mid next month.

Former formula one drivers Johnny Herbert, Gianni Morbidelli and Marc Surer are scheduled to take a steering wheel, as will Matteo Bobbi, Bas Leinders and David Saelens.

'Knockout' gets wary welcome
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.31) 'Knockout' qualifying is a more complicated format than the one it will replace next year.

That's the claim of Renault technical director Bob Bell, who said the F1 Commission voted for the system because it might stir more public interest.

''But there are some subtle complications within it,'' he warned.

As an example, a driver might be better off qualifying eleventh - to get a free fuel load for the grand prix - rather than tenth, where he will have to enter the final top-ten phase with his race fuel.

Bell said: ''We will need to present the format carefully, to make sure that complication doesn't become confusion for the ... public.''

Red Bull driver Christian Klien, meanwhile, admitted that he will not 'shed a tear' as the single-lap format of 2003-2005 hits the dust.

''I think qualifying will be more exciting from now on,'' he told an Austrian newspaper, ''particularly for the TV viewers, while the (track) spectators will at least have more cars to look at.''

However, at the track, the 60-minute format might be hard to follow in the absence of clearly audible qualifying or on-screen television graphics.

New Ferrari driver Felipe Massa admitted last week that he doesn't yet 'completely understand' the new knockout system.

The Brazilian said: ''But to do some laps with low fuel on board should be more spectacular.''

A particular opponent of the revised system, however, is 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell, who branded it 'sad'.

''The small teams will be penalized,'' he said, ''because if they're not quick enough they're out in the first 15 minutes.

''They need as much time on the track as they can get.''

Renault defend late V8 call
(GMMf1NET -- Oct.31) Renault has denied that the late debut of its first V8 engine will put the title-winning team at a disadvantage for 2006.

The French built 2.4 liter prototype will not run on-track until January, the scheduled debut of the 'R26' car.

Technical director Bob Bell played down the obvious link between the late start and a possible impact on reliability.

''We are not at all complacent about the work involved in making the new package reliable,'' he said, ''but we have adjusted our project timing to take account of this.''

Bell defended the decision, which is starkly unlike those of Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes, Honda and Toyota, to keep the V8 away from the test track so far.

He explained, referring to the fact that the title battle continued until the last race of the season: ''This is the most effective and balanced use of our resources, taking into account the fact we had to develop the R25 until the end of 2005.''

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