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Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
November 28,  2005


F1 engines to reignite
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.28) After a six-week lull in most track activity, formula one engines are set to reignite at the first major pre-'06 winter test.

Although Ferrari - not a signatory to nine teams' voluntary test agreement - has already clocked up close to 5000kms since the season ending Shanghai finale, Barcelona will play host to the winter's maiden 5-day session.

Every team except Midland's 'MF1 Racing' and Ferrari are confirmed for the Spanish opener at Circuit de Catalunya.

Ferrari, instead, will test alone at Valencia - on the Western coast - ahead of the majority of teams' move from Barcelona to a third Spanish location, Jerez, in the south.









FIA must green-light F1 sale
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.28) F1's governing body will have the final say about whether the sport's 75% sale is to go ahead.

A spokesman for the FIA, which approved a 100-year lease of F1's commercial rights to supremo Bernie Ecclestone, said the controlling sale to 'CVC' would be discussed 'in due course'.

Sources reveal that this meeting is slated for 9 December.

''The completion of such a deal is contingent on the consent of the FIA,'' the Federation's spokesman confirmed.

''We await full and final details which will be considered by the FIA Senate and World Motor Sport Council.''

Meanwhile, the sale has been hailed as an indication that warfare with disgruntled carmakers' GPMA group is nearing an end. But an insider told Deutsche Press-Agentur (DPA) that it is 'too early to celebrate' peace time.









Flavio pans 'lucky' Rossi
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.28) Flavio Briatore has once again cast doubt on countryman and MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi's ability to switch to F1.

The Italian boss of reigning constructors' champion Renault hinted that Yamaha's Rossi, 26, might have struck it lucky by clocking up decent test times in a Ferrari.

''It's like when you go to a casino,'' Briatore said. ''The first night you might win, but then there's the second night and then the third.

''The world is full of people who can drive fast once.''

Flamboyant and charismatic Rossi, who won his fifth straight MotoGP title in 2005, is being widely lauded for what he could deliver to F1.

Briatore agreed to the Italian 'ANSA' agency: ''A competitive Rossi would be great for F1, but I don't know whether he really is fast.''

'Flav' has previously criticized Rossi for making light of the four-wheeled switch. ''If he really wants to move into F1,'' Briatore urged, ''he should spend a year as a test driver.

''Working in this sport is a serious, dangerous business.''









Richard Burns
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.28) 2001 world rally champion Richard Burns has died.

The 34-year-old Englishman passed away on Friday night after a long battle with brain tumor, diagnosed in 2003.

''There was to be no miracle,'' Burns' family said in a statement, ''and in recent days he lapsed into a coma.''

At Castle Combe in August, Richard Burns attended a parade of the rally cars he drove throughout his career and was 'touched' by the reception.









'Pay driver' era nears end
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.28) The nearing end of the pay-driver era is a 'worrying' phenomenon.

That's the belief of former formula one team owner Eddie Jordan, who also laments the demise of fellow pitlane privateers Sauber and Minardi.

He points out that F1's 'current stars' Michael Schumacher (Jordan), Fernando Alonso (Minardi) and Kimi Raikkonen (Sauber), got their breaks with the now-defunct teams.

Jordan worried in his F1 Racing column: ''Who now will give young drivers ... their first chance?' He rejected the idea that a 'driver bringing money' is a 'bad thing'.

In 2006, Jordan's new identity - Midland - is perhaps the last shop for pay-drivers. Red Bull, including the former Minardi, will bring on its own youngsters, while BMW (Sauber) becomes a bigger fish.

But even Schumacher paid to debut for Eddie Jordan in 1991, and Alonso's Minardi drive carried the backing of Renault and boss Flavio Briatore.

Minardi's departing Paul Stoddart admits that, often, he signed the driver who wielded the biggest sack of cash.

''I'm not denying that,'' the Australian said, ''but the best drivers came through here.''









Midland to upgrade tunnel
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.28) In a sign that Midland is indeed serious about formula one, 'MF1 Racing' will commission a multi-million dollar upgrade of its Brackley wind tunnel.

The team bought by Alex Shnaider from Eddie Jordan, which finished ninth out of ten in its first constructors' championship challenge, will turn the currently 40 per cent model aero facility into 50 per cent.

'Autosport' magazine also said the 18-hour a day shifts would be increased to 24 hours, in work set to kick off around April next year and be completed by mid-season.

The team's sporting director Adrian Burgess said: ''This is a big boost for the team.''

The downside to the plan, however, is that the Brackley tunnel will be out of action while work is carried out. Midland is likely to rent a nearby tunnel so as not to fall behind in car development.









Ferrari 'ready' for fight back
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.28) Beleaguered Ferrari has commenced a mammoth preparation for the 2006 season.

Sources in the Italian media suggest that the Maranello based team - third in this year's constructors' championship - will commit more resources to the development of a race-winning F1 car next year than ever before.

It is a concept backed-up by Marc Gene, who knows first-hand just how much winter testing the red team will execute.

''Ferrari is ready to fight back,'' the 31-year-old test driver told Spanish 'paper Marca.

Gene explained: ''In 2006 everyone goes back to zero with the eight cylinder engines and I do not believe that tires will be so crucial.''

Results and performance aside, however, all might not be well behind the Prancing Horse's gates. Rumors in Italy hint that major sponsor 'Vodafone' - pumping in $41m a-year - has expressed its frustration with Ferrari's '05 form.

All the while, Gene, Luca Badoer and Michael Schumacher's 2006 teammate Felipe Massa have already kicked off the huge winter agenda.

Massa said: ''The engine and the Bridgestone tires feel good.''








Wheldon says 'no' to F1
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.28) Speculation that Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon is on his way to formula one has been deflated by reports that the 27-year-old will stay in the IRL.

It was earlier suggested that Wheldon, an Englishman, had been offered a 'Friday' drive by BMW. But American source 'ESPN' claims that Wheldon will instead take his number-1 from Andretti-Green to Ganassi.

A press conference is scheduled at the Ganassi team's Indianapolis base on Monday.

''Wheldon's manager, Julian Jakobi, tested the waters in formula one,'' the report continued, ''but ultimately committed his client to another year of racing in (IRL) ... rather than settling for a third driver role''.









'GPMA' issue final deadline
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.28) F1's disgruntled band of carmakers, 'GPMA', is believed to have imposed a December 31 deadline on Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA to avert preparations for a 'breakaway'.

Germany's 'Financial Times' quoted BMW and GPMA bigwig Burkhard Goeschel as warning that TV deals and race track contracts are next on the list.

''Then there is no way back,'' he alerted. ''All that's missing is the final decision -- preparations are well underway.''

All the while, urging more signatures on his 2008 Concorde Agreement, F1 supremo Ecclestone insists that his and Bayerische Landesbank's sale of formula one shares is 'super' for F1 teams.

''They should be happy,'' he added, ''we have an investor that has chosen to own its stake.

''Nothing will change other than the shareholders.''

75-year-old Bernie, however, rejected much-vaunted speculation that part of the ultimate plan is to offer some of F1's ownership to the teams.

He insisted: ''They've had plenty of opportunities (for that).''









Toro Rosso in Michelin switch
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.28) 'Scuderia Toro Rosso' will switch from Bridgestone to Michelin tires for season '06.

Although the Japanese company has wooed two teams in the form of Williams and Toyota, Bridgestone is set to farewell the former Minardi team.

It is understood that Dietrich Mateschitz, the Red Bull magnate, requested the change so that his two teams - 'STR' and Red Bull Racing - could both wear French-made rubber.

The news is not yet official, but a Bridgestone spokesman said: ''We will honor our contract until the end of November but, after that, there are no plans to continue.

''I'm sure when the Toro Rosso cars test for the first time it will be on Michelins.''

Renault boss Flavio Briatore, meanwhile, poured scorn on billionaire Mateschitz's purchase of a second F1 squad.

''He's a rich man who's decided to enjoy himself,'' 'Flav' told Gazzetta dello Sport.









Renault's 'courage' - Flav
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.28) Reigning world champions Renault backed the FIA's 2006 changes 'for the good of the sport'.

That's the claim of Flavio Briatore, who bucked the thesis that grand prix bosses are so selfish that rule changes are only supported if they play into the team's hands.

Renault won both titles this year under the novel single-tire regulation, with a V10 engine, and on a grid determined by one-lap qualifying.

All have been changed for next year.

''We had the courage to support changes,'' 'Flav' told Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

The Italian, though, admitted that - of the title challengers - McLaren is likely to suffer most from the return of tire change pitstops.

''They could use the soft Michelins better than us,'' Briatore said.

He explained: ''But I don't think this will give an advantage to Bridgestone ... because Ferrari and Toyota don't talk to each other after that old espionage story.''

''We Michelin teams have agreed to cooperate.''

However, Briatore agreed that the 2006 revolution is unlikely to go far enough in the quest to improve F1's 'show'. He argues, for example, that points should be awarded for qualifying, 'and invert the starting grid, with the best ones at the back.'









McLaren bag award
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.28) McLaren did not win a F1 title in 2005, but Ron Dennis' pristine team factory has managed to bag an award or two.

The 'McLaren Technology Centre' - otherwise known as 'Paragon' - took home the 'Grand Award' at the BALI ceremony.

BALI, for newcomers to the world of high-class gardening, stands for 'British Association of Landscape Industries'.

At a ceremony in London, McLaren's landscaping company - Willerby's - were lauded for mirroring the Woking based team's 'attention to detail'.

A previous winner of the award designed the gardens at Windsor Castle, one of the Queen of England's residences.









Albers backs Friesacher
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.28) Axed Minardi driver Patrick Friesacher deserved his F1 ride.

That's the claim of Christijan Albers, Friesacher's former 2005 teammate, and a critic of fellow Dutchman Robert Doornbos' subsequent Minardi arrival.

Earlier, 26-year-old Albers - who will switch from Minardi to Midland for next season - launched an attack on Doornbos' inability to develop his formula one racer.

Friesacher got the axe after sponsor trouble.

Albers says: ''I think Patrick was doing a good job really. I could work very well with him.

''He contributed a lot and put a lot of hard work into developing the car. It's a shame he didn't have the chance to compete at the end of the year.''

Even without Austria's Friesacher, though, Christijan Albers believes Faenza based Minardi - now owned and renamed 'Scuderia Toro Rosso' by Red Bull - made strides of progress in '05.

''We were competing with the Jordans by the end of the year,'' Albers said, ''(but) they were 1.5 seconds a lap faster in terms of their car.''









Gallaher sticks with Midland
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.28) Benson & Hedges owner 'Gallaher' is expected to shortly sign a new contract to stay with Jordan's 2006 identity, Midland.

Although a Europe-wide cigarette advertising ban fell on F1 this year, Ferrari, Renault and Honda also intend to keep racing with smoke-funded liveries in 2006.

McLaren ended its 'West' association in Hungary (July).

However, contrary to speculation that another tobacco brand has raced away from formula one, Gallaher will - according to sources - sponsor 'MF1 Racing' next year, although probably with the 'Sobranie' label's branding.

It was earlier suggested that Gallaher was only interested in staying with the Alex Shnaider-owned team if a British driver - like Anthony Davidson - was in the cockpit.

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