Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
November 9,  2005

Indian misses 2006 seat
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.9) Narain Karthikeyan has counted himself out of the running to stay on the F1 grid next year.

Although the rookie Indian appeared to be a contender to keep his Jordan ride, he has admitted that negotiations with the newly renamed 'Midland' outfit have now ended.

Karthikeyan's revelation adds fuel to speculation that Portuguese oil company-sponsored Tiago Monteiro will line up alongside Christijan Albers.

'NK' said the price of the race drive was simply too high.

''The seat would have worked out between (US) $9.5 million and $14 million,'' Narain said.

Karthikeyan says he did not even seriously propose the price-tag to his Indian sponsors because ''I knew it is impossible to get that kind of money.

''We have been juggling with the figures for some time now and ... it was not working out.

''I have been compelled to tell Midland to look elsewhere.''

If the $9-$14m asking price is accurate, it represents almost twice the amount forked out by Narain's sponsors for his 2005 team seat.

As expected, Karthikeyan confirmed that he had now turned his attention to a 'Friday' practice or test ride with a bigger team like Williams.

Asked if he'd been on the phone to Sir Frank, the Indian rookie replied: 'No comment'.

But he did say: ''Being a test driver in a good car will allow me to showcase my skills better.

''That is a genuine possibility.''

December call for Monteiro
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.9) Contrary to earlier reports, Tiago Monteiro's 2006 race seat will not be announced by Midland until early next month.

A source close to the Silverstone based team owned by billionaire Alex Shnaider confirmed that Portugal's Monteiro, 29, had landed the ride alongside Christijan Albers, but clarified that the news would not officially be exposed until early-mid December.

Winkelhock son to debut
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.9) German hopeful Markus Winkelhock will have a seat fitted at Midland's Silverstone HQ next Wednesday, ahead of his December F1 test debut in Spain.

The 25-year-old, whose late father Manfred contested forty seven grands prix in the 80s before he was killed in a Canadian sports car race in 1985, won three 'World Series by Nissan' races in 2005.

''He is one of the most promising driving talents in Germany at the moment,'' said Midland principal Colin Kolles.

Winkelhock's Jerez run will be his first taste of F1 power.

Bernie eyed to save Spa
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.9) The local 'Wallonia' government in Belgium met on Tuesday to decide how to rescue the financially flaccid grand prix.

Spa-Francorchamps' F1 promoter has filed for bankruptcy, moving the local authority to step up a campaign in the hope of saving one of the sport's most popular and historic stops.

At the Tuesday meeting, economy minister Jean-Claude Marcourt was appointed to open a dialogue with Bernie Ecclestone, formula one supremo.

''He will also talk with other parties,'' a spokeswoman clarified.

Spa's prospects look bleak, though, as not only has the bankrupt promoter failed to stump up with Ecclestone's fixed 2006 race fee, but is also about $18 million in debt.

The Belgian grand prix has a September 17 date on the provisional '06 calendar, with interestingly the only conditional race being Brazil, 'subject to contract approval'.

Kovalainen and Montagny
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.9) Speculation is strengthening that Heikki Kovalainen may appear in a BMW cockpit next year.

It is now reported that Renault, which earlier moved Franck Montagny aside to make room for Finland-born GP2 runner up Kovalainen as tester, is devising other plans.

On the back of rumors that Renault development driver Kovalainen has in fact been released to sign a two-year BMW race deal, Montagny - earlier dumped - says he has now been asked to test for the Enstone based team in December.

It could mean that the Frenchman will again fill the official test drive spot while Kovalainen, 24, earns race experience ahead of a possible Renault return in 2008.

Montagny told the French L'Equipe daily sports newspaper: ''(Renault) told me that it was finished between us.

''But they called me ... to ask if I could drive in December. I wasn't supposed to be with them next year but here I am developing their car!''

'JV' warns Schu-bound Massa
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.9) Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve has tipped 2005 teammate Felipe Massa to shine alongside Michael Schumacher at Ferrari next year.

The French Canadian, 34 and comprehensively beaten by the young Brazilian at least earlier this year, reckons Massa's 2006 objective will be to 'take (Schumacher's) mantle'.

But JV warned: ''He'll have to be on the lookout -- Michael is still strong, you need a lot more than a bad season to catch him off guard.''

Villeneuve and Schumacher endured a tetchy relationship, particularly in the context of their 1997 title clash and crash at Jerez.

But Jacques rejected interpretations that Michael selected Massa to be his new teammate so as to 'destroy' him.

Massa aside, Villeneuve thinks another youngster is in for a tough ride next year -- Williams' rookie, Nico Rosberg.

Like Villeneuve, Nico is the son of a former star F1 driver, but 'JV' thinks the 'bad' situation at Grove might be 'difficult to handle'.

''In cases like this,'' the Quebec-born Canadian - who also debuted at Williams and won the title in his second season - told Autosprint magazine, ''it's often the driver who falls on his face.''

Hermann Tilke defended
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.9) Former driver and grand prix commentator Martin Brundle has defended Hermann Tilke amid suggestions the German is turning F1 into a calendar of mirror-image 'Tilke-Dromes'.

Brundle, 46, rejected that Hermann's latest GP creations - Malaysia, Bahrain, Turkey and China - are all 'identical'.

''It is a valid point,'' the Englishman admitted, but he said Tilke is also constrained by a variety of limiting factors -- such as safety, television and hospitality.

''He is a bit like car designers today,'' Martin Brundle told ITV, ''where he can be boxed into a corner with so many criteria to fulfill.''

Brundle is quite critical of the huge Shanghai (China) circuit, that makes an F1 car 'look lost and insignificant'.

He also said Sakhir and Sepang will 'never' take on the likes of Monaco, Spa and Monza.

And he added: ''The concept of 19 wide, smooth new (tracks) with infinite tarmac run off areas fills me with ... fear.

''But I can cope with a few.''

On the other hand, Turkey's new layout was lauded this year, and Brundle agrees that turn-8 in China is a mighty bend.

''Mega G (force),'' Brundle described of the never-ending corner, ''super fast, skill and daring. (Ayrton) Senna would have been awesome through there.''

Date set for F1 'spy' trial
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.9) A date has been set for the trial of two former Ferrari employees accused of industrial espionage.

The pair are alleged to have stolen aerodynamic design information from the mega-successful Italian F1 team in 2002, before switching to Toyota.

Modena magistrate Alberto Ziroldi ruled that their trial would begin on 28 April '06.

Toyota, who kicked out both employees, always denied that the stolen information had been used for the 'TF103' car.

JV slates 2006 qualifying
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.9) Jacques Villeneuve has hit out at F1's new for 2006 'knockout' qualifying.

The French Canadian and former world champion, who drove for Sauber this season, says the novel concept 'seems very complicated' and might fail to satisfy the spectators.

''In my opinion the spectacle must be simple in order to be popular,'' 'JV', 34, told Autosprint.

Villeneuve described as 'odd' the concept that eliminated cars, on low fuel, will record slower lap times than the late runners, who are carrying more fuel but fighting it out for pole position.

He also isn't happy about the return of tyre changing. ''(It) certainly isn't going to favor Michelin,'' Villeneuve - who has a contract to stay at the BMW-owned Sauber team - told the magazine.

'Time for a change'
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.9) Money, pressure or motivation aside, Adrian Newey says it's simply 'time for a change'.

Thus the 46-year-old explains his newly announced switch from the top of the pinnacle of motor sport - McLaren - to smaller, fledgling Red Bull.

''I am excited by the opportunity to develop the car, team and facilities,'' said the engineer, McLaren's technical director for nearly nine years.

''I have been impressed by (Red Bull's) plans and commitment.''

Cash to catch Midland ride
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.9) World Series by Nissan driver Markus Winkelhock says he will try to impress the Midland team with his Jerez test next month, but admitted that landing a test drive would come down to money.

''For sure they need a paying driver for 2006,'' the German, son of 80s grand prix driver Manfred, admitted.

Schu story scuttled
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.9) Ferrari has lashed out at internet reports that Michael Schumacher not only injured his right ankle playing soccer in Switzerland, but may be out of action for up to two months.

''Michael is in the best of health,'' a Ferrari statement read, ''(and is) at home relaxing ... after a long and difficult season.''

The German's manager, Willi Weber, backed up the claims by telling 'Auto Bild' that Michael is training 'every day' at home in Switzerland. Weber also said Schumacher had dealt with the bad year 'terribly well'.

Speculation, meanwhile, is building that 36-year-old Schumacher has no plans to retire any time soon, particularly with the extension until 2010 of yet another key personal sponsorship deal, this time with the Omega watch company.

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