Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
November 25,  2005

Stoddart has last Minardi lap
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.25) Paul Stoddart wrote the final chapter in a 21-year history by taking the wheel for Minardi's last ever laps in Italy.

At the Vallelunga circuit near Rome, the Australian ex-team owner steered an emotional string of flying laps in a 2005 car before the last 'Minardi' machine fell silent.

Late on Thursday, Stoddart, 50 - who has sold the Faenza based team to Red Bull - even spared a wave for a small crowd of fans around the track.

''The team now begins a new chapter,'' read a press statement, ''as Squadra Toro Rosso.''

Former Minardi drivers Marc Gene (1999-2000), Gianni Morbidelli (1990-1992), Robert Doornbos and Patrick Friesacher (2005), were on hand to witness the final moment.

''It turned out a more emotional experience than I expected,'' said Paul Stoddart. ''I know I'm not alone in thinking Squadra Toro Rosso will always be Minardi in the minds of so many people.''

Israel's Chanoch Nissany also tested on Thursday.

Legge not ready for F1
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.25) British female driver Katherine Legge says she would not be ready for a race seat in formula one.

The 25-year-old, who this week became the first woman in more than a decade to test a grand prix car in anger, equaled the pace of the five male rookies also at the wheel of a Minardi at Vallelunga.

But asked by 'Gazzetta dello Sport' if she is therefore ready for the big time, she said: ''Not at all. I still need to get lots of experience.''

Indeed, Legge shunted on her first flying lap, damaging the 2005 racer and causing her to wait a day for another go.

She left the twisty circuit near Rome with a bruised finger after failing to take her hands off the wheel before the impact with the wall.

But Legge reckons F1's physical demands are outweighed by the mental effort required. ''What matters is your head,'' she insisted.

Team founder Gian Carlo Minardi, meanwhile, was forced to eat his words, after advising Katherine to 'become a model' following her rookie misfortune on debut.

''She was absolutely not worn out physically,'' said the Italian, ''and I think she can carry on along this route.''

Webber rep took a hit in '05
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.25) Mark Webber's reputation took a dive in 2005.

Although the 29-year-old Australian won't admit that statement, his arrival at Williams - paralleled by so many to countryman Alan Jones' 1980 championship success - has been disappointing.

Not only was the FW27 car not up the task, but underrated German teammate, Nick Heidfeld, grabbed all the plaudits as the season surprise.

Asked about his dimming reputation, Mark Webber admitted in an interview with Britain's Autosport magazine: ''It hasn't improved, has it?''

Webber arrived at Grove from Jaguar, where his qualifying speed was matched only by his determination and race savvy. Before that, he also destroyed his teammates at Minardi.

''I expected to have a lot more podiums (in 2005),'' he now admits. ''We'll just move on -- it's gone, they're not there.''

Not only that, Mark has been involved in his fair share of shunts in his maiden Williams. But he won't take the blame for them all -- particularly the Turkey stoush with Michael Schumacher.

Webber continued: ''He f***ed up, didn't he?

''Ask all the other drivers.''

Race win a 'big step' - Ralf
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.25) Germany's Ralf Schumacher has admitted that race wins for Toyota might be some way off yet.

The Cologne based team, just four years old albeit hugely financed, was undoubtedly the season's most improved. It has led many, notably team bigwigs like Mike Gascoyne and Tsutomu Tomita, to muse that a grand prix win is the '06 goal.

''There is momentum,'' 30-year-old Schumacher agreed in an interview with 'ESPN'. ''That will continue.

''There is a big push going through the company. It's just a question of how long it takes.''

But it's not as simple as all that. Although 2005 netted poles for Toyota, and second and third places, Ralf admits that there is still 'a lot to do'.

''The lap time gap to McLaren ... is five to seven tenths of a second,'' Ralf Schumacher explained. ''To pick that up is not going to be easy.''

Another problem is that, for most of the season, the 'TF105' car simply did not suit the driving style of Ralf, a six-time grand prix winner.

Still, building on the improved 'b' car and racing onto the top step of the podium is definitely the '06 target.

Ralf said: ''It must be ... after what we have achieved this year. But it is a big step.''

Berger foresaw Williams demise
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.25) Gerhard Berger reckons he saw Williams' split with BMW coming.

And the former grand prix winner, once closer than any other observer to the F1 collaboration as joint 'BMW motor sport director', blames the divorce on the Grove team.

''It really is a long time ago that (Williams) built a fast car,'' 46-year-old Berger told Motorsport Aktuell.

He said: ''Williams concerns itself probably too much with the past and is too far behind in the aerodynamic field.''

Without the Grove team, he says BMW can start to win again 'in the next three years'.

1999-2004 Williams driver Ralf Schumacher agrees with Berger's assessment about who was most to blame for the six-year collaboration's demise.

The German said the ultimate split was 'obvious'.

''That's why I decided to go elsewhere,'' Ralf, 30 - now a Toyota driver - explained. ''I don't think it has anything to do with BMW -- it has always been a good engine.''

Regarding another '05 underperformer, meanwhile, Berger sees light at the end of the tunnel. The former Ferrari driver says he holds the red team in 'very high regard'.

''And Michael Schumacher is surely still highly motivated,'' Gerhard explained.

F1 to miss Peter Sauber - JV
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.25) The F1 paddock will miss Peter Sauber.

That's the claim of the first and only world champion to have ever driven for his Swiss team -- Jacques Villeneuve.

Quebec's JV, 34, reckons the cigar-smoking founder, owner and principal - who has sold his Hinwil team to BMW - will definitely 'be missed more than most'.

''Everybody who leaves F1 is missed,'' Villeneuve told F1 Racing, ''(but) Peter Sauber has build a great team. It's small but efficient and he trusted me enough to ask me to drive one of his cars this year.''

It wasn't, of course, always rosy between Sauber and Villeneuve, who underperformed early on and soon was engaged in a slight media slanging match with his boss.

JV reckons 'things got out of control' in the press.

But, hoping to have his 2006 Sauber contract honoured by BMW next year, he also admitted: ''It was never personal and looked worse on the outside than it did on the inside.''

Webber won't 'build' own team
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.25) Multiple drivers' world champion Michael Schumacher 'built' the Ferrari team around him.

It's a story heard often in the F1 paddock.

Jenson Button, goes the gossip, is trying to do the same at BAR-Honda, and 2005 F1 title winner Fernando Alonso is succeeding in making the Renault team his own.

According to Mark Webber, though, Williams is not the place to build a grand prix team around one driver. ''It is very much a Williams thing that the driver is just part of the team,'' he told Autosport.

''It might be a bit harder for me to do it here. To do what Michael did at Ferrari is obviously not going to be possible.''

Webber, 29, hints that Williams-contracted Button's desire to stay at BAR-Honda for the future was all about the team 'environment' he's built.

''I think he would have been disappointed to leave that,'' Williams Mark Webber explained, ''(because) he has built (it) up around himself for quite a few years now.''

Webber thinks Alonso, the Spanish world champion, has also got Renault similarly poised.

''He has got the team how he wants the team,'' Mark said. ''He can tell them what to do.''

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