Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
November 24,  2005

Massa shrugs off 1-year worry
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.24) 2006 driver Felipe Massa has shrugged off speculation that he is merely warming Valentino Rossi's - or Kimi Raikkonen's - seat at Ferrari.

The Brazilian, 24, is under long term contract to the Maranello based marque, but his race deal - to kick off in Bahrain next March - is currently for just a single year.

It has led to assumptions that, unlike Eddie Irvine and - more recently - Rubens Barrichello, he is not being treated as a lasting addition to the Prancing Horse's lineup.

''The fact that I only have a one-year contract does not worry me,'' former Sauber driver Massa told 'Auto Bild', ''because if you don't perform, even a ten-year contract would do you no good.''

Massa, a veteran of 52 grands prix and test driver in 2003, rejected the assumption that he landed the seat mainly due to his existing Ferrari connection.

''With one or two exceptions, I had a good season (in 2005),'' Felipe insisted, ''and have earned this chance. Ferrari don't want a driver that they do not think is fast.''

If Massa is worried about anything, it might be the eminent German in the other red car. But, instead, the Paulista reckons measuring himself against Michael Schumacher is a 'rare opportunity'.

''At last I will know exactly where I stand (in F1),'' he admitted, ''because Michael is the yardstick for every driver.''

Felipe should also slot in at Maranello pretty easily. He knows much of the team from 2003, and speaks fluent Italian.

Heikki's not off to BMW
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.24) Flavio Briatore has scotched the silly-season rumor that Heikki Kovalainen is off to race for 'BMW Sauber' in 2006.

The Renault boss said the highly rated Finn, runner-up behind champion Nico Rosberg for the GP2 title, will be lining up as the F1 team's primary test driver next year.

Italy's Briatore also revealed to 'Autosprint' magazine that Heikki, 24, would then leap onto the grand prix grid in 2007, 'but I don't know whether it will be with Renault or another team'.

''He will do the same testing program followed by Fernando Alonso (in 2002),'' 'Flav' said.

The news is sure to come as a welcome boost to Jacques Villeneuve, as it removes what was considered to be the French-Canadian's biggest threat to keeping his Hinwil ride.

''Kovalainen is the future of F1,'' Briatore continued. ''We are betting a lot on him.''

The Enstone based principal confirmed that Heikki would do 'many test miles' this winter.

Woman on pace for Minardi
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.24) At Vallelunga on Wednesday, Katherine Legge redeemed herself after shunting on her second lap at the Minardi test.

With her 2005 machine repaired after the Tuesday brush with concrete at turn four, Legge - 25 and from Britain - easily outpaced team regular Chanoch Nissany and came tantalizingly close to the best lap of fellow F1 debutant Juan Caceres (Uruguay).

''This is not a PR stunt,'' Legge told the media before her run. ''I earned this test.''

The Toyota Atlantic star lapped 27 times at an 'impressively quick' pace, a statement of the Faenza team read.

Departing boss Paul Stoddart said Legge's lap time proved that 'she's definitely got what it takes to be a F1 driver'.

Thursday will round out Minardi's 21-year history, with Stoddart himself - once a keen club racer - scheduled to complete the last flying lap.

BAR to guard name 'til 2006
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.24) The Honda-owned 'BAR' team will not unveil a new name for 2006 and beyond until January.

While Minardi (Scuderia Toro Rosso), Sauber (BMW Sauber F1) and Jordan (Midland MF1 Racing) have confirmed their fledgling identities, BAR don't plan to follow suit soon.

A BAR spokeswoman revealed on Wednesday that the new, unknown name had been lodged with the FIA by the '06 entry deadline.

''Our team name will be confirmed in the New Year,'' she said.

BAR principal Nick Fry let slip recently that 'Honda Racing F1 Team' is a likely frontrunner, while it is known that the Brackley outfit's 2006 identity will be preceded by the 'Honda' prefix.

The team spokeswoman also would not comment on speculation that long time tester Anthony Davidson is unlikely to stay as 'Friday' driver.

Midland name tech chief
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.24) Jordan's James Key has been promoted to the role of 'technical director' at the renamed MF1 Racing (Midland) team.

A statement said the 33-year-old Briton, formerly 'technical co-ordinator', had served under the team's Jordan identity for eight years.

Key kicked off his motor sport career on Lotus' GT car in 1996, joining the then Eddie Jordan-run F1 squad as a data engineer. ''I am sure his organizational skills and innovative ideas will be of great value to us,'' said Midland principal Colin Kolles.

Ilmor to build MotoGP engine
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.24) Ilmor, the long time producer of Mercedes' F1 engines for McLaren, will reportedly 'design, build and supply' an engine for the MotoGP category.

Speculation is strong that a 800cc Ilmor MotoGP design - ready for the 2007 regulations of motorcycle's top grand prix world championship - is now just awaiting a customer.

'Ilmor Engineering' is an independent company, reborn following Mercedes' intention to buy the formula one division.

The German carmaker, Mercedes, said in June that Ilmor's 'Special Project Group' - at the time focused on IRL and NASCAR - had been sold to Penske, Ilmor boss Mario Illien and the late Paul Morgan's wife, Elizabeth.

''We know what it takes to build a motorcycle engine,'' Illien told 'Motorcycle News'.

'06 rules to 'degrade' F1
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.24) One company, more than any other, is particularly riled at the governing FIA's about-face regarding tire changing -- Michelin.

''We don't agree at all,'' departing competition chief Pierre Dupasquier told the La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

After dominating 2005 under the fledgling single-tire per race rule, with 18 out of a possible 19 victories, Max Mosley has presided over the return of unlimited pit stop changes.

Dupasquier said it will 'degrade the value' of grands prix, but he denied that Michelin only triumphed because the 2005 rules suited them.

''We reaped the fruits of a job started in 2001,'' the French veteran, 68, said. '''Now we must start from zero.''

Renault technical director Bob Bell, however, doubts that Michelin will suddenly be caught up by Bridgestone, simply because the new code almost mirrors the 2004 rulebook.

Last year, Ferrari and Bridgestone dominated with 15 out of a possible 18 victories.

Bell said: ''There is a simple truth in formula one -- you never un-invent technology.

''It is our responsibility, with the other teams, to ensure that ... Michelin develop winning tires for 2006.''

Renault swap to 90-degree 'V'
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.24) World champion constructor Renault will switch from 72 to the more widespread 90-degree V-angle for its engine next year.

Taking advantage of the regulation change from V10 to V8, the Enstone-based grand prix team said the new architecture partly explains the uncommon decision to not build an 'interim' team test car.

Rivals like Ferrari, Williams, McLaren, BMW, Honda and Toyota will all conduct pre-Christmas winter tests with early versions of a V8 car.

''An interim car requires a large commitment of resources to produce a relatively unrepresentative chassis,'' technical director Bob Bell said.

He explained how 'interim' cars demand 'manpower, money' and 'a lot of other resources'.

Not even the smartest engine dyno, however, can replicate actual track running, so Renault will quickly unveil two V8-powered 'R26' cars early in the New Year for tests.

Paffett set for four-day test
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.24) McLaren has demonstrated that DTM champion Gary Paffett's upcoming test is not merely symbolic of his Mercedes link.

The Woking based team said Paffett, 24 and British, will drive not only two days at Barcelona next week, but also at the subsequent Jerez session, on both 7 and 8 December.

It is therefore speculated that a four-day program, in just the first two tests of a busy winter period, might indicate a proper role for Gary Paffett within the F1 camp.

Indeed, it is suggested that - with long time McLaren tester Alex Wurz still linked with the second BMW role for 2006 - Paffett is a natural successor for the seat even if he is to remain in DTM in '06.

Massa moves to Monaco
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.24) Felipe Massa will move from Switzerland in order to be closer to his new team, Ferrari.

The Brazilian, 24, set up his current home near Sauber's Hinwil factory in the tranquil north of Switzerland, but has vowed to relocate to Monaco, a shorter journey to Maranello's F1 base.

''I want to be closer to the team,'' the Paulista confirmed to 'Auto Bild' publication.

Massa, a formula one driver since 2002, also admitted that he misses his family, which lives at Botucatu, Sao Paulo.

''That's why it's fantastic when they come and watch me at races,'' he admitted. ''We don't see each other very often.''

Monaco, however, will afford Massa the same kind of financial incentives as enjoyed in Switzerland. In the little Principality, foreign residents are not required to pay any income tax.

Michelin's future unclear
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.24) Michelin has not yet decided whether to pull out of formula one when the slated single tire rule is introduced.

It is now formally proposed by the governing FIA that the pinnacle of motor racing rid itself of the tire war. Under that regime, Michelin chairman Edouard Michelin has made no secret of his contemplation to leave the grid.

Asked if 'Bibendum' had made any solid plans for the future, though, departing competition chief Pierre Dupasquier said the boss 'hasn't yet taken a position'.

However, the Frenchman is openly scathing of the concept of no tire competition. ''Without it,'' Pierre told Gazzetta dello Sport, ''you miss one of the aspects which make participating in any world championship profitable for a company.''

Renault rule out V10 option
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.24) Renault has categorically denied that it may be among carmakers contemplating sticking with a performance-limited V10 in 2006.

It is anticipated that, should the FIA's restrictions to hamper the performance of the 3.0 liter engines go unchanged, major rivals' fledgling V8 engines could be significantly outpaced next year.

Formerly Minardi, Red Bull's 'Scuderia Toro Rosso' intend to attack the new season with a 'limited' V10, and the prospective Super Aguri team is also tipped to take that route.

''If they go V10,'' departing Minardi boss Paul Stoddart explained on Wednesday, ''they can compensate for any shortcomings in the (2002 Arrows) chassis. If they use a V10 they will be credible.''

Renault's Bob Bell, however, reckons the same option would not be open to a carmaker-backed team. He said the FIA's V10 'concession' is intended only for small teams.

The Englishman insisted: ''It is not on the cards for any of the front-running F1 teams.''

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