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

Williams' 'big gap to bridge'
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.7) The Grove team's Australian driver, Mark Webber, is upbeat about Williams' post-BMW era.

After giving 20-year-old 2006 teammate Nico Rosberg a welcoming vote of confidence, Webber, 28, said the outfit run by Sir Frank Williams could recover from a miserable 2005 with the all-new Cosworth-Bridgestone combination.

''There's not a person on the planet who knows what's going to happen next year in terms of the competitiveness of all the teams and the cars,'' he admitted, ''but I think we finished (2005) pretty strongly.

''Okay, we still have a big gap to bridge to the form teams which were Renault and McLaren.

''But there were some positive things to (take) into the winter ... and I'm really looking forward to (engine supplier) Cosworth,'' Webber said.

''I think that we know as a team what we've got to work on.''

Webber confessed that 2005, in which his best result was his maiden podium at Monaco, had been a 'hard' debut at a team for whom compatriot Alan Jones won the 1980 world championship.

He continued to 'AAP': ''A bit of adversity is never welcomed but you've just got to make sure you learn from it.''

De la Rosa wins kart event
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.7) McLaren tester Pedro de la Rosa recovered from a poor qualifying performance to win the 'Race of Stars' charity kart event run by Juan Pablo Montoya on the streets of Colombia.

In the overall standings, Spaniard de la Rosa - although failing to win either race - emerged ahead of F1 team cohort Montoya by finishing in second and third places.

2001 world karting champion Vitantonio Liuzzi, a Red Bull driver in F1, won the second race, while 30-year-old Montoya took the honors in race-1.

BAR-Honda clocks 415kmh
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.7) BAR-Honda test driver Alan van der Merwe clocked an average speed of 415kmh at Mojave airport in California last Friday.

Although unofficial, the F1 speed record attempt - moved from the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah due to heavy rain - proved the team's claim that 400kmh could be cleared by an aerodynamically-tweaked grand prix car.

Friday's runs up and down a runway were billed as a 'shakedown' of parts ahead of a May or June 2006 return to Bonneville for an official effort.

''It was an encouraging day,'' said BAR's deputy technical director Gary Savage, ''and we are confident that we can achieve this speed ... at Bonneville.

''(But) we know that its salt surface is a much more difficult proposition.''

Schu to bite back - F1 talker
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.7) Legendary F1 commentator Murray Walker has dismissed as 'stupid' claims that Michael Schumacher is incapable of returning F1's title trophy to Ferrari in 2006.

The 83-year-old, coming out of retirement for the novel 'Grand Prix Masters' category - featuring Nigel Mansell - at Kyalami this weekend, told 'ITV' that Schumacher's only problem this year was 'Ferrari, and the (Bridgestone) tires'.

''The ill-informed are gleefully pointing out that Schumacher is over the hill and past it,'' the Englishman continued, ''which is incredibly stupid.

''They will have been stung into action,'' said Murray, whose commentary style was once famously described as akin to a man with his 'pants on fire'.

He continued: ''Their pride will have been very badly hurt this season.

''I mean, Italy is Ferrari and Ferrari is Italy and they have both taken a severe knocking.''

Famous for his oxymoronic 'Murrayisms' that 'immediately turn out to be untrue', though, Walker confessed that - as his catchcry declares - anything can happen at the pinnacle of racing.

He grinned: ''I remember at the beginning of 2005 I did a big preview article ... in which I confidently said that you can forget about everybody except Schumacher because he will blow them all away.

''How wrong can you be?''

Bridgestone to bounce back
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.7) Defeated F1 tire supplier Bridgestone thinks it can bounce back to the front of the grid next year.

Although Michael Schumacher and Ferrari dominated with the Japanese rubber marque between 2000 and 2004, F1's seven time title winner won just a single grand prix this season -- the six-car debacle featuring only Bridgestone-shod cars at Indianapolis in June.

''I would say next year we will come back,'' Bridgestone technical director Hisao Suganuma said.

''We can apply this year's experience ... and then find a much better direction for 2006.''

In the tire war against Michelin, Bridgestone came unstuck this season with only a single top team - Ferrari - to rely on to develop for the new 'one-tire-per-race' ruling.

To super-successful Michelin's chagrin but Bridgestone's delight, however, that rule has been scrapped, and tire changing - a feature of Bridgestone and Ferrari's former dominance - is back.

Japan's Suganuma insisted: ''Although we lost this year, we have good data for the future.''

Schu accepts Rossi challenge
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.7) Michael Schumacher has warned Valentino Rossi that the MotoGP champion's specter will not scare him into retirement.

According to near-constant speculation in F1 and motorcycle grand prix circles, Rossi - the dominant two-wheeled Italian - could be contemplating an offer to slip into a red car as early as '07.

But 36-year-old Schumacher, under contract only to the end of 2006, welcomes the concept of the novel challenge.

''If Valentino was at my side, the situation would certainly be interesting,'' the German told 'Motorsport Aktuell'.

''And it would certainly not be enough to push me into retirement.''

Meanwhile, although content to usher in new V8 and tire-change regulations for 2006, Schumacher stopped short of expressing the same confidence about how 'knockout' qualifying might spice up the show.

He said of the unique format: ''We'll have to wait and see.''

Paffett aims for '07 debut
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.7) DTM champion Gary Paffett aims to be F1's newest rookie in 2007.

The Englishman, who drives for Mercedes and will soon test a McLaren as a reward for wrapping up the German category, will surely remain a top 'DTM' driver next season.

But Paffett, 24, said securing a second tin-top crown would be the ideal precursor to a grand prix debut.

''Ok, there might be some F1 testing opportunities around,'' he told 'Crash.net Radio', ''but there aren't really any race opportunities there for next year, and that's what I'm looking for.''

Paffett, who was considered for Jacques Villeneuve's Sauber ride this year, reckons there 'will be some seats available' at the end of 2006.

He therefore expressed reluctance to go the Dan Wheldon or Sebastien Bourdais-route of trying to reach F1 via American series'.

He said: ''Until the point comes where I'm definitely not going to be in F1 then I won't really be looking elsewhere.''

Button 'passed out' at party
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.7) Unlike Fernando Alonso or Michael Schumacher, F1 driver Jenson Button does not spend his annual 'off season' quietly at home.

Indeed, Britain's tabloid newspapers adore the 25-year-old works Honda driver's tendency to throw off the labors of a long grand prix season with a bit of hard-partying.

The 'Mirror' reports that Button passed out at 4am at a party for the recent MTV awards in Portugal. He was 'going full throttle on a boozy night,' read the article.

Another newspaper quoted former fiancÚ Louise as revealing that JB dumped her so he could 'indulge himself' and date 'loads of other women'.

In yet another tabloid, the 'Sunday Mirror', Button was spotted at a hotel after the MTV awards and admitted that he was sharing a room with a 'female friend'.

The BAR driver told the newspaper: ''You're not going to print her name are you? I'm young and I'm having a good time.

''What's the harm in that?''

France hails later race
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.7) Magny Cours has welcomed its later spot on the 2006 grand prix calendar.

The French race has been handed Silverstone's usual date in the middle of July, after traditionally staging the sport earlier in the month.

The July 14-16 date thus coincides with the French 'independence day' weekend. ''We could not have chosen a more prestigious date ... to celebrate the 100 (year) anniversary of the Grand Prix de France,'' said Federation Francaise du Sport president Jacques Regis.

Tickets went on sale on Monday.

In the reshuffle to accommodate the Commonwealth Games and World Cup, Bahrain, Australia, Nurburgring, the North American races and Brazil have also had their regular dates significantly moved.

Field of 14 for GP 'Masters'
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.7) 14 former F1 drivers will race in the new 'Grand Prix Masters' category starting this weekend at Kyalami (South Africa).

Organizers of the fledgling single seater series, for ex-GP stars aged 45 or over, unveiled the entry list confirming champions Nigel Mansell, Emerson Fittipaldi and Alan Jones, but not quadruple title winner Alain Prost.

Rene Arnoux, Eddie Cheever, Christian Danner, Andrea de Cesaris, Stefan Johansson, Jan Lammers, Jacques Laffite, Hans Stuck, Riccardo Patrese, Patrick Tambay and Derek Warwick will also race, the statement said.

Foster's, F1 and 'A1'
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.7) Speculation is mounting that Australia's international beer brand, Foster's, is steering a course away from F1.

It was earlier reported that the brand's title sponsorship of the British grand prix would be withdrawn, and that the Melbourne race was also in doubt.

Reports had indicated that Foster's may turn to international surfing contests. The latest news, however, appears to indicate that motor racing is still on the radar.

At the Eastern Creek (Sydney) track, Foster's announced that it would sponsor Team Australia - run by 1980 F1 champion Alan Jones - throughout the 2005/6 'A1' season.

''This renews an association I had with Foster's when I was driving formula one,'' said Jones.

''This is truly a momentous announcement.''

Significantly, Foster's usually sponsors either a driver or a circuit -- indeed, it is sixteen years since the blue and yellow logo has been seen on a race car.

The Australian public, however, is unlikely to show similar portions of enthusiasm for 'A1', because it is not broadcast on free to air TV.

For the record, Nicolas Lapierre dominated in Sydney, with 51,000 spectators attending the three day event.

McLaren in turnover boost
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.7) Pacesetting F1 team McLaren has recorded a (US) $109 million increase in company turnover over the past 14 months.

The Ron Dennis headed group's total turnover was $406m, compared to about $297m a year ago.

Mercedes-backed McLaren finished runner-up to Renault in both the drivers' and constructors' titles this year.

In other brief news, November 7 is the twelfth anniversary of late triple world champion Ayrton Senna's last F1 race win.

The Brazilian, also in his last race for McLaren before switching to Williams for 1994, beat both Williams cars of Alain Prost and Damon Hill, on the streets of Adelaide (Australia), to the flag.

Notably, potential 2005 F1 team principal Aguri Suzuki was also in the field, placing seventh in a Footwork.

November 7 is also former F1 and Safety Car driver Alex Ribeiro's 57th birthday, while Jonathan Palmer turns 49.

Another quick Coulthard
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.7) There is another 'Coulthard' turning heads in the motor sport world.

Fabian Coulthard, from New Zealand but actually a second or third cousin of the Scottish Red Bull driver in formula one, dominated the Australian 'Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge' held at Pukekohe Raceway (New Zealand) on the weekend.

The 23-year-old qualified quickest and won all three races, smashing the lap record.

In the UK's Sunday Mail newspaper, it was reported that 34-year-old David Coulthard lost $210,000 after pulling out of buying a $8.75 million triple-decker 'super' yacht.

DC's business broker Don McCulloch said the boat, which would have been called 'Highlander II', could have made Coulthard a lot of money, but the grand prix star baulked after construction took more than a full year.

''He left me with a half-built boat and just said: 'I want out','' McCulloch told the 'paper.

The boat is now being chartered in France for $13,000 a day.

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