Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
November 21,  2005

Ralf's five-year F1 deal
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.21) Ralf Schumacher will keep pedaling a Toyota in formula one until the end of 2009, the German driver has revealed.

Although the Cologne based team announced a three-year deal with the 30-year-old starting in 2005, 'Schu Jr' has now told a British magazine that his agreement is actually for longer than that.

He let slip the information when asked if switching to another F1 camp was on his mind.

''At the moment I see no reason to think about moving,'' Ralf told F1 Racing.

''I have a five-year contract and feel pretty lucky to be with this team -- so far it's running better than expected.''

Paddock sources agree that Schumacher enjoys one of the highest annual salaries in grands prix racing, behind elder brother Michael Schumacher. Estimates put Ralf's wage bill at around the $16.5m a year mark, meaning that by 2009 he will have banked nearly $83m from Toyota.

He is presently resting at home with wife Cora and son David.

''We do not get a huge break before the winter test phase begins,'' Schumacher, who lives in Austria, told the magazine.

Speedy Fisichella
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.21) Giancarlo Fisichella has given an ironic twist to his appeal for sensible driving in Rome.

F1's Renault driver, a local in the Italian city, has been nabbed at a whopping 148kph in a 60kph zone, just days after appealing to Romans to slow down following an horror road smash that killed a 16-year-old.

''Go-karts are a better way to let your speed loose,'' Fisichella had told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, ''and to show you are skilful with a steering wheel.''

Reports said Fisichella, 32, had his driving license suspended by police after speeding home with his wife from a party at 4.30am on Sunday. The winner of two grands prix told the Italian press that he was rushing to his child, who had a high fever.

''My wife was a bit agitated after a phone call from our nanny,'' Fisichella explained. ''I am aware of my mistake so I'm ready to pay.''

He will appear in court.

Oz GP cost $19m in 2005
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.21) The Melbourne grand prix clocked up a record-setting bill in 2005.

Reports in the Australian press said March's running of the formula one season opener cost tax payers (AUD) $19 million.

The race's annual report shows a $13.6m loss for the race at Albert park, in addition to $2.8m spent on 2006 and $2.5m on capital works.

A further $5.5m was spent on the MotoGP race at Phillip Island.

The reports come after the grand prix's recent controversial claim that, in 2005, $224m was generated for the economy by the annual event.

''This (is) the fifth year of operating losses for the event,'' read a column in the Melbourne newspaper 'The Age'.

The Australian Grand Prix Corporation, however, claims that the 'economic benefit ... from the influx of international and interstate visitors far outweighs the cost of staging the (grand Prix)'.

F1 car stolen
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.21) Bizarrely, a McLaren formula one car was recently reported as stolen to South African police.

Local media reports said the inactive 'demo' car, on tour in the country, was found a day after it was towed away from a petrol station in Pretoria.

The silver racer was later found in a nearby street.

Still trouble at Spa
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.21) A sword is still hovering above the much loved Belgian grand prix.

Spa Francorchamps has a contract to host the race until 2010, but with the local promoter bankrupt, it is reported that the regional 'Walloon' government wants to renegotiate the deal with F1's impresario Bernie Ecclestone.

In the Belgian press, it was leaked that the race's promoter must pay a fee to stage the annual grand prix, or a fine if the race is not held.

''We are searching for a solution for the grand prix but not at any price,'' said a government spokesman. One option is for Ecclestone himself to promote the Spa race.

The spokesman explained: ''There are two possibilities -- either we organize it or we don't.''

Media reports say the annual fine for failing to organize the grand prix is $16.5 million.

'Jabby' Crombac dies
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.21) The longest serving F1 journalist, Gerard 'Jabby' Crombac, has succumbed to cancer.

The much loved face in the grand prix media centers and paddocks of the world, a Swiss, was a traveling regular even before the modern championship dawned in 1950.

'Jabby', wearer of tweed caps, smoker of pipes and a great mate of Jim Clark, established the French 'Sport Auto' magazine and was the first European Autosport correspondent.

Crombac was also the proud owner of an ex-Clark Lotus Elan S3. As Jabby's famous anecdote goes, he dropped Clark - the double world champion - off at an airport in 1968. ''It's your car now,'' the late Clark told him.

A few days later, Clark died in a shunt at Hockenheim.

Jabby Crombac passed away in Paris.

Ferrari test in Bahrain
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.21) While every other team adheres to a voluntary November track ban, Ferrari has kicked off a three day winter test in Bahrain.

It is the first ever such test at the scene of the 2005 season opener at Sakhir, with Luca Badoer and Marc Gene running on Saturday and Sunday with a F2004 and F2005.

The 2005 car is fitted with a rev-limited V10, while the older F2004 sports a V8 engine. Badoer and Gene clocked up a combined 282 laps on Saturday and also Sunday.

A statement explained that on Sunday, affected a little by rain, the pair worked on 'development of the new engine, in collaboration with Shell, as well as a tire program taking into account the rule changes for ... next season'.

The Bahrain test concludes on Monday.

Tardy V8 'on time' - Renault
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.21) Renault's new V8 is 'on time', engine technical director Rob White has insisted.

The Briton said the current target with the novel 2.4 liter formula is to be 'perfectly prepared' for the season opener in Bahrain next March.

''The engine was fired up this summer on the exact planned date,'' White explained. ''We have since accelerated our work to hit our performance and reliability milestones.

''There is still a lot of work to do, but we are on target.''

Renault, although drivers' and constructors' champion of 2005, has been criticized for opting to leave the V8 on the dyno while most rivals have already clocked up actual miles.

In fact, the '06 Renault V8 won't hit the track until January.

White explained: ''We have planned the project in a prudent, pragmatic way. We are confident we have the correct answer for our team.''

Albers joins 'RoC' lineup
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.21) Dutch F1 driver Christijan Albers has been added to a growing entry list for December's 'Race of Champions' in France.

The 26-year-old rookie, who debuted for Minardi in 2005 but will switch to the 'Midland' camp next year, will team up for a new Benelux entry with Belgian world rally driver Francois Duval.

Paris' 'Stade de France' will stage the popular event on 3 December.

''It's an honor to be the first Dutch driver to be invited and take part,'' Albers said in a statement. ''My aim is clear -- to win.''

Political F1 engines in gear
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.21) The engines may be silent, but in the political game F1 has been a hive of activity in recent days.

At Monaco, the Formula One Sponsorship Forum has been taking place, and sources report that many team principals - as well as, perhaps, Bernie Ecclestone - might have got together for a meeting.

GPMA, the alliance of five F1 carmakers, is getting serious about the long threatened breakaway championship for 2008, and has even launched an official website -- gpma-online.com

A statement on the website said the group 'aim to further develop the sport for the benefit of all stakeholders, and in particular the fans.'

Fry, the Honda F1 principal, traveled from Monaco to Kronberg - near Frankfurt (Germany) - for the Global Motorsports Congress. He warned that the carmakers - also including Toyota, BMW, Mercedes and Renault - are uneasy about the apparent shift away from technology in F1.

He told reporters: ''We do have a concern that the front-running GP2 cars could probably be as quick if not quicker than rear-of-the-grid F1.''

Fry floated the concept that F1 look into starting a parallel championship 'for hybrid vehicles' -- cars that use fuel and electricity for power.

BMW to complete '06 lineup
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.21) The identity of Nick Heidfeld's 'BMW Sauber' teammate for 2006 may be unveiled this week.

Although Jacques Villeneuve claims he has a valid contract, the French Canadian also admits total radio silence between him and the team's new German carmaker-owner.

Likely team principal Mario Theissen, however, denied in Autosport that BMW had frozen out the former world champion.

''We have spoken with (him), but we don't have a decision yet.'' Asked when the decision might be forthcoming, Dr Mario Theissen added: ''I think it is still possible in November.''

It is rumored elsewhere that Jacques might be traveling to Munich for talks with the team.

While probably more aptly linked to exploring the possible buyout of 34-year-old JV's deal, the delay might also be explained by busy times at Hinwil and Munich as 'BMW Sauber' aim for a January launch.

Theissen admitted: ''The phase between signing the contract ... and the real takeover ... is the most difficult.''

Fry hints at Honda's new name
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.21) Deliberately or not, Nick Fry may have let the cat out of the bag at the Global Motorsports Congress in Frankfurt.

Although the newly Honda-owned team has not yet revealed a name for 2006, Fry - the BAR-Honda principal - showed slides on a screen during a presentation bearing the headline 'Honda Racing F1 Team'.

Asked if he had dropped a big hint about the Brackley team's fresh moniker, Fry uneasily replied: ''Maybe, maybe.

''Was that really up there?''

Elsewhere, it is rumored that Honda will drop BAR's corporate black and olive livery trimmings and race with a traditionally Japanese all-white and red '06 paint job.

''The name will be Honda something-or-other,'' Honda operating officer Hiroshi Oshima suggested in early October.

Renault lauds Fisichella
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.21) Renault is '100 per cent behind' Giancarlo Fisichella, the 32-year-old Roman F1 driver insists.

In mere statistics, Fisichella scored one win to champion teammate Fernando Alonso's seven in 2005, slumping a massive 75 points behind the Spanish team leader.

Ask the Enstone based team's PR department, though, and more information lurks beneath the surface. A weekly team media update paid tribute to a 'a driver with genuine resolve and mental strength'.

Giancarlo Fisichella said: ''I am in a team that supports one other in difficult moments. I think I am a better driver than ... a year ago.''

Renault's media document admitted that Fisichella 'endured nearly all of the (team's) mechanical failures' this year, and lauded a 'true team player ready to put the team's priorities ahead of his own'.

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