Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
November 29,  2005

Mateschitz admits Michelin switch
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.29) Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz has confirmed that his newly-acquired 'Scuderia Toro Rosso' grand prix outfit will be Michelin-shod in 2006.

The Austrian billionaire admitted recent speculation that the former Minardi team would switch from Bridgestone. Mateschitz said both Red Bull Racing and the Faenza-based junior team would wear French made rubber.

''We will have Michelin,'' said Mateschitz, who made his fortune in the innovative energy drinks market. ''Bridgestone is a fantastic company and will for sure look better (than in 2005), but the question remains 'when?' ''

However, he rejected the idea that the 'STR' switch was simply about bringing both teams into the Michelin camp by insisting that Red Bull is 'very ambitious' for the novel Scuderia Toro Rosso project.

''We plan to turn this team into really something.''

Elsewhere, it is reported that Clermont-Ferrand based Michelin was forced to accept Mateschitz's request because of a mandatory FIA regulation.

Alonso kicks off
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.29) 2005 F1 champion Fernando Alonso took the honorary 'kick off' at Sunday's Spanish first division football game between the Getafe and Malaga teams.

At the Coliseum, where Getafe won 3-2, the 24-year-old Spaniard - the first from his country to win the drivers' crown and also the youngest in history - wore a Getafe scarf.

Renault driver Alonso was also presented with a special Getafe football jumper, featuring his name above a number '1'.

Midland get new trucks
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.29) Midland has penned a deal with 2006 Dutch driver Christijan Albers' sponsor, 'MAN Trucks'.

The two year contract involves the supply of ten new trucks, to be delivered in 'MF1 Racing' colors next year and used to haul the M16 cars and equipment around Europe.

''Everything is starting to go in the right direction,'' said team principal Colin Kolles. ''We try to build a strong future in F1 and this only works with the right partners.''

'MAN Netherlands' supported Albers, 26 - who will continue to appear in 'MAN' adverts - as he made his 2005 grand prix debut with Minardi.

Heidfeld back on track
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.29) After a three-month break due to injury and probably politics, Germany's Nick Heidfeld returned to the F1 track on Monday.

Following fourteen grands prix for BMW-Williams in 2005, the 28-year-old - who reportedly was struck by a motorcycle in mid-September while recovering from headaches and neck problems - emerged from Barcelona's pitlane in a V8 BMW-powered Sauber.

Heidfeld, despite a problem in the afternoon, lapped 28 times for his new grand prix team.

''I could hardly wait for this first test,'' the Moenchengladbach born driver said.

'Quick Nick' said he noticed the difference in power between the 900hp V10 engine and BMW's new 2006 V8 power plant.

He insisted: ''That's something you just have to get used to. A positive surprise is that the engine vibrates a lot less than I expected.''

Rubens' '11' is JB gesture
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.29) Jenson Button says he will allow Honda newcomer Rubens Barrichello to wear '11' on his car next year, despite the Briton's apparent entitlement to the lower number.

Button, 25, is the incumbent at Brackley based BAR-Honda, so normally would have a claim on the number 11, with Brazil's Barrichello to wear '12'.

For the record, Rubens, 33, finished a point ahead of Button in the 2005 constructors' chase, for Ferrari.

But JB says he discovered that Barrichello wore '11' at significant moments throughout his career -- including his first junior race win and multiple kart titles.

Button told the Honda website: ''I have no particular affinity with any number -- other than '1' of course.

''I thought it would be nice to make the gesture. I just hope number 11 isn't too lucky for Rubens next season!''

Williams to launch in January
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.29) Williams' 2006 car, livery and 'new identity' will be launched at Grove on January 27.

The Oxfordshire based team, having split with works engine partner BMW, unveiled on Monday a 'midnight blue' color-scheme, labeled as an interim paint job for winter testing.

But the real deal, to be raced on the FW28 by Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg in Bahrain, will be unleashed at the team's English headquarters.

A modified 2005 car, with the new V8 Cosworth engine, will debut at Circuit de Catalunya on Tuesday. The Spanish test also marks the team's first outing on Bridgestone-made tires.

A Williams statement, meanwhile, insisted that Andy Priaulx's test run on Tuesday is 'pending the nomination of a full time test driver for ... 2006'.

Red Bull finish tunnel upgrade
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.29) Work on Red Bull's new Bedford wind tunnel is finished -- but the F1 team says it won't be used yet.

After a $4.5 million upgrade of the facility, originally bought by Arrows from British Defense and then sold to Jaguar, Red Bull's Ben Agathangelou explained that the 'RB2' would continue to be tested in the old Bicester tunnel.

''The new wind tunnel is commissioned but it's not ready for use yet,'' the team's aerodynamics boss added.

''We are taking our time to understand it and you also need to gear up the department to run a second tunnel.

''So we have expanded the department.''

The tunnel will be used to develop the 2006 car later next year, when Adrian Newey is a fully fledged team member.

RB2, though, has been penned by technical director Mark Smith, the former Renault man.

F1's TV figures take a dive
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.29) Television viewing analyst 'Initiative Futures' has recorded a decline in formula one figures over the last year.

A report showed that 800 million people, combined, tuned in to the nineteen grands prix in 2005 -- that's a tad over 42 million per race.

But a year ago, in 2004, the same report showed that 43 million watched each grand prix.

There were 18 races in '04, so the overall count is up this year.

There are probably several reasons for the decline; Michael Schumacher and Ferrari's lack of speed, for one, accounted for dips in television viewing in the huge German and Italian markets.

Taking a chunk out of the figures, however, was the ill-fated and disastrous United States grand prix, at which only six cars started the race following Michelin's order for its teams to pull out.

'Initiative Futures' found that as much as 45 per cent of the pre-Indy TV audience in America did not watch any of the subsequent ten grands prix.

Heidfeld eyes wins in '08
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.29) Germany's Nick Heidfeld says he expects to win races in 2008.

The 28-year-old, who is accompanying BMW in 2006 from Williams to Sauber, kicked off winter testing at Barcelona on Monday with 28 laps.

But he thinks the Munich manufacturer, now the owner of the Peter Sauber-founded team he drove for in 2001-2003, need a couple of years in order to race to the front.

''By 2008 I expect to win races,'' 'Quick Nick' said.

His expectations for next year, then, are pretty modest. Privateer Sauber-Petronas finished eighth out of ten teams in 2005, so he thinks 'sixth or beyond' is a reasonable start for BMW-Sauber.

''I definitely want to improve on eighth,'' Nick Heidfeld clarified to Britain's Autosport. ''But the most important thing will be to see continual improvement.''

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