Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
November 22,  2005

Melbourne bags award
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.22) Melbourne's $20 million formula one grand prix has bagged a major award in Australia.

The race at Albert Park, organized by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, was named 'Best Tourism Operator' at the Victorian Tourism Awards.

''We have twice been voted the best grand prix in the world by the F1 teams' association and awarded the best grand prix venue by officials and team owners,'' said chief executive Tim Bamford.

March's 2005 event was the tenth since the Australian grand prix moved from Adelaide.

Minardi fire last ever test
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.22) A swathe of formula one rookies are helping Minardi to round out a 21-year history this week.

The little Faenza based team previously owned by Paul Stoddart (2001-2005) and Gian Carlo Minardi (1985-2000) is testing for the last time ever at Vallelunga, near Rome.

The test is unlikely to attract criticism for, effectively, joining Ferrari in disobeying the November ban.

Although now owned by Red Bull, to rename its 'rookie' team Squadra Toro Rosso for 2006, the Vallelunga commitment 'has been honored ... to allow a number of young drivers to have their first experience of formula one performance,' a statement said.

To mark the black-clad team's last run, the name of every Minardi employee is featured on the inside of the rear wing endplates of three 2005 (PS05) cars and two (2004) PS04Bs.

On Monday, Chanoch Nissany drove alongside Spaniard Roldan Rodriguez, and Luca Filippi.

2005 racer Christijan Albers has returned from a Midland seat fitting in the UK to drive a two-seater car, as will former teammates Robert Doornbos and Patrick Friesacher.

On Tuesday, Katherine Legge will become the first woman in 13 years to drive an F1 car.

''Honestly, I am a little nervous,'' the 25-year-old Briton told the media on Monday.

Italy's Davide Rigon, hoping to land another World Series by Renault seat for 2006, is also scheduled to run on Tuesday. ''For me,'' he said, ''Gian Carlo Minardi is a legend.''

Spa must run 2006 grand prix
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.22) A scandal has erupted in Belgium concerning the future of Spa-Francorchamps' grand prix.

While the race's promoter is bankrupt and therefore unable to stage the 2006 event, it seems that the local Walloon government also signed an agreement with Bernie Ecclestone, promising to 'guarantee' the race's smooth running.

Former economy minister Serge Kubla denied the news.

''The government always refused to put up a guarantee,'' he told 'RTBF' TV. Former budget minister, Michel Baerden, also denied signing Bernie's guarantee document.

So who signed it? ''Honestly, I do not know,'' Baerden told the Le Soir newspaper.

According to the grapevine, former minister-president Jean-Marie Happart signed 'without reading' the contract. But whoever signed, someone did -- meaning that unless a Belgian grand prix is put on in September 2006, the government will be fined $16.5 million euro, increasing 5 per cent until 2010.

So why is Spa on the 2006 calendar? Because the signed Ecclestone contract states that it is so, and Walloon's legal advice is that a UK court would rule against them.

Alonso not 'Driver of Year'
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.22) Fernando Alonso might be world champion, but he was not 'Driver of the Year' in 2005.

That is the finding of the UK's authoritative 'F1 Racing' magazine, which invites its readers to vote for the awards' winners each year.

While Spain's Alonso, 24, picked up the 'Man of the Year' title, it was Kimi Raikkonen who took home the coveted 'Driver of the Year' plaudit.

F1 Racing said that 43,612 readers voted in 2005.

Kimi's mount, the ten-time winning MP4-20, grabbed 'Car of the Year', with Williams' BMW-powered FW27 just ninth, ahead of Jordan but pipped by Minardi.

F1 Racing's December issue goes on sale on Tuesday.

Macau winner wants F1 role
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.22) Macau (F3) winner Lucas di Grassi is keen to race onto Renault's F1 test lineup in 2006.

The Brazilian, who joins a list of Macau winners including Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, has been a member of Renault's 'driver development' scheme for two years.

''I'm waiting for (Renault),'' he said. ''If I do stay in the program then I won't do F3 any more. I think I have proved I can win.

''Now ... I need to prove that I can drive (in) F1.''

Di Grassi, 21, tested the Enstone based team's F1 car in a Jerez 'shakedown' in September. He is hopeful of sliding into Heikki Kovalainen's part-time F1 job next year, as the Finn is likely to move to the third seat.

He admitted: ''Maybe I can do what Heikki did this year -- some shakedowns and small tests.''

Another Renault representative at the prestigious Macau F3 race last weekend was young Frenchman Loic Duval. He won the pole position but jumped the start and copped a penalty.

Meanwhile, Briton Andy Priaulx - who secured the world touring car title for BMW at Macau - denied that he is in contact with Mario Theissen about a F1 test drive.

He told the Autosport website: ''We've not talked about anything.''

Stoddart sold for $75m
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.22) Former formula one team owner Paul Stoddart sold Minardi for around the (US)$75 million mark.

Melbourne's 'The Age' newspaper interviewed the locally-born entrepreneur as he prepares to launch the new business class 'OzJet' airline with a maiden Melbourne-Sydney flight next week.

Stoddart, 50, reportedly told the Australian publication that he made 'quite a healthy profit' by selling Faenza based Minardi to the Red Bull drink company. ''(The) sales proceeds form a large part of the (AUD)$100 million (US$73.7 million) he can draw on to get OzJet into the air,'' the newspaper article said.

The maiden 'OzJet' flight takes off on November 29.

Liuzzi, Speed, to test 'STR'
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.22) In a major indication of the inaugural 'Squadra Toro Rosso' driver lineup, reports indicate that Vitantonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed will appear at the team's first winter test in early December.

The team, sold by former Minardi mogul Paul Stoddart to the Red Bull drinks company, is slated to debut at Circuit de Catalunya with a brand new livery, the Italian specialist media said.

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