Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
November 30,  2005

Wurz in BMW box seat
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.30) It seems that Alex Wurz has found himself in pole position to land the second BMW race seat next to Nick Heidfeld.

The all German-language lineup is the brainchild of Dr Mario Theissen, who will be named as the Munich based carmaker's F1 boss for the acquired and renamed Sauber team.

Wurz, 31 - McLaren's long time primary test driver - told German publication Sport1 at the Barcelona test that he does not want to comment on the talks 'at this time'.

But Mercedes' competition chief Norbert Haug seemed to be preparing himself for the loss of the talented Austrian.

''If Alex should receive an attractive offer to race in F1 in 2006,'' the German said, ''then we will find a solution.''

Waidhofen-born Alexander Wurz is regarded as one of the most intelligent F1 drivers and, due to his test and development skills, is well paid by Ron Dennis' Woking team.

The only real hurdle to his BMW appointment, then, is the existence of Jacques Villeneuve's contract. It is reported that, while the Canadian's 2006 salary is due to be around $3 million, termination of the Sauber deal would cost BMW about $10m.

The 'moose' Toyota
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.30) Toyota's new 2006 car resembles a 'moose', according to some F1 observers.

It is claimed in some quarters that the first incarnation of the TF106, debuted at Barcelona on Tuesday, wears so many bodywork features that it reminds them of a moose's antlers.

''It is clearly an attempt to produce more downforce,'' former grand prix driver Hans-Joachim Stuck told the German daily 'Bild' newspaper.

Indeed, the red and white car features a new wing on the airbox, winglets in front and behind the sidepods, a new front wing -- even a winglet mounted on an aerodynamic 'scoop' in front of the rear wheels.

Ralf Schumacher, set to try the new Toyota in Spain on Thursday, was quoted as defending the Cologne based team's very early 2006 car debut.

''While the others pack new engines into old cars,'' said the German, ''we have the new package already running on track.''

Ralf's Italian teammate Jarno Trulli debuted the car on Tuesday but moaned that - like the 2005 'b' model - he still finds it difficult to drive.

''Maybe we will modify (the suspension) for the next test,'' the 31-year-old told Autosport.

BAR, Renault, to join test
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.30) Honda's formula one team is set to return to the test track on Wednesday, a source close to Brackley based BAR has informed.

While Red Bull, McLaren, Toyota, Toro Rosso, Williams and BMW Sauber are already clocking up the miles at Circuit de Catalunya, BAR-Honda and Renault will get into gear on Wednesday, and run for the rest of the session.

Ferrari is testing alone at Valencia, with only Alex Shnaider-owned Midland 'MF1' not intending to run this week.

F1 on the rise - survey
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.30) Reports of doom and gloom have been downplayed by yet another survey into formula one's 2005 television viewing figures.

'Sports Marketing Surveys' published research on Tuesday with the headline 'Formula One Bounces Back'. It said the second half of last season 'saw TV audiences increasing'.

Moreover, 'Racetrack' - the annual report specializing in awareness and brand image - found that Renault and McLaren have picked up ground on Ferrari. Predictably, Vodafone and Shell slumped in the brand awareness stakes, with Red Bull leaping to second place.

Despite Indy-gate, Michelin - with 18 out of 19 GP wins - 'have seen good gains', as has Renault sponsor Telefonica, the report claimed.

Toro Rosso test Red Bull car
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.30) 'Scuderia Toro Rosso' confirmed that it kicked off winter testing on Tuesday with last season's Red Bull car.

The Red Bull-owned team, acquired from former Minardi owner Paul Stoddart this year, led some observers to recall a clause in the Concorde Agreement that forbids a team from racing the car of a current competitor.

Indeed, the same clause moved 'Super Aguri' to scrap plans to use BAR's 2005 car next year, and is instead looking into running Arrows' 2002 'A23'.

A 'STR' statement said the Faenza based ex-Minardi team - wearing a dark blue and gold livery with Vitantonio Liuzzi at the wheel - begin 'to develop its technology' with the RB1.

''The test gave the team its first chance to experiment with the technical set up of the current RB1 and observe how it handled on the track,'' it read.

The description hints that the first Toro Rosso will be a development of the Red Bull, rather than Minardi, racer.

The statement also insisted that the 2006 Scuderia Toro Rosso car 'is yet to be revealed'.

Scott Speed will drive on Thursday.

Klien puts V10 on top
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.30) Red Bull's Christian Klien put V10 power in P1 as the first winter test spiced up at Spain's Barcelona venue on Tuesday.

The Austrian, driving basically the same 'RB1' car as Scuderia Toro Rosso's Tonio Liuzzi, was powered by a Cosworth V10, not the Ferrari V8 it will use in 2006.

McLaren's V8-powered 'b' McLaren-Mercedes MP4-20, however, proved a near-match, with an only slightly slower time.

The V8 charge then continued with Ricardo Zonta (Toyota), Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren), Jarno Trulli (Toyota), Liuzzi and Nico Rosberg (Williams) in tow.

Former Minardi driver Robert Doornbos' V10 Red Bull was eighth quickest, ahead of Nick Heidfeld, whose BMW V8 - in the 2005 Sauber - again struggled, this time with a 'leak in the fuel rail'. Andy Priaulx rounded out the field.

McLaren is set to take a day off at Circuit de Catalunya on Wednesday, ahead of Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya's track return a day later.

Massa hails knockout Quali
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.30) His may be a relatively lone voice, but Felipe Massa has hailed F1's controversial new knockout qualifying as 'positive'.

The 2006 Ferrari driver enthused at the prospect of running a low-fuel car -- at least for part of the session.

''This is every driver's dream,'' said Brazilian Massa, 24.

He also echoed Ferrari and Bridgestone's sentiments that the return of tyre-changing 'will be useful', and refused to side with many on-track rivals who complain about the loss of engine power in the shift from V10 to V8 technology.

Massa insisted: ''Each year we have been seeing an increase in power that has been difficult to control.''

He denied that driving styles will dramatically change, by saying that he is driving 'more or less the same' with a V8.

Byrne honored
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.30) Ferrari's veteran chief designer Rory Byrne has been honored by the South African 'University of Witwatersrand'.

Byrne, who was born in South Africa, was awarded an honorary doctorate in engineering after giving a speech at the graduation ceremony.

The university lauded the 61-year-old F1 designer from Pretoria for 'putting South Africa on the world map of excellence in mechanical engineering'.

In his speech, Byrne - with a Bachelor of Science - admitted that he never graduated as an engineer. He studied chemistry and applied mathematics at Witwatersrand in '64.

But Byrne, whose current Ferrari contract expires in February 2007 when he is likely to enter full time retirement, admitted: ''Technically, motor racing ... is an engineering exercise.''

Nick to keep eye on old team
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.30) Germany's Nick Heidfeld says he is still feeling the effects of a fractured shoulder.

The 28-year-old, while recovering from concussion sustained in a F1 shunt towards the end of the 2005 season, picked up the injury during a bike ride in Switzerland.

He sat out the last five grands prix of the year.

''When I throw a ball to my dog I still feel it,'' he told Autosport at the Barcelona test, where he is making his debut for 'BMW Sauber'.

Heidfeld said his shoulder is not 'totally 100 per cent' recovered, but explained that 'in the car there is no problem.'

The German media, meanwhile, made much of the fact that Nick - Williams' BMW-powered driver last year - was outpaced by Nico Rosberg on Tuesday.

Rosberg, the F1 rookie, is effectively Heidfeld's Williams replacement, and powered by a customer Cosworth.

'Quick Nick', however, played down the rivalry between his old team - BMW's works partner for six years - and Sauber.

''Maybe I will keep an eye on it,'' Heidfeld admitted, ''that's natural, but I don't want to beat them any more or less than any other opponent.''

The Moenchengladbach-born driver also revealed that 'BMW Sauber' intend to unveil a significant aero update for its unlaunched 2006 car mid-season.

Indy winner said no to F1
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.30) 2005 Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon insists that he chose to stay away from formula one next year.

The Briton, 27, was linked closely with the 'Friday' role at BMW-Sauber, where - speculation added - he might be promoted to the '07 race seat.

Wheldon, though, says his heart was 'never 100 per cent behind' the switch from the US-based Indy Racing League to the pinnacle of motor sport.

Indeed, Dan has signed to merely swap from Andretti-Green to Chip Ganassi's rival IRL team -- including, surely, a healthier pay packet.

''I love to race, and the opportunity to do that wasn't going to be around (in F1),'' he said.

''(F1) just wasn't for me.'' Rumors reckon Wheldon was offered the BMW seat, but with no guarantee of a graduation to the grid thereafter. ''All I can tell you,'' Dan continued, ''is that I chose what I wanted to do.''

He concluded by explaining that F1 is 'not what it used to be'.

''Don't get me wrong, it's still a great formula,'' said Wheldon, ''but there are a lot of drivers paying to drive.''

Mika Salo turns 39
(GMMf1NET -- Nov.30) Former Ferrari and Toyota driver Mika Salo turns 39 on Wednesday.

The Helsinki-born Finn, who battled (but lost) against countryman and double F1 champion Mika Hakkinen for the 1990 British F3 title, debuted for Lotus in 1994 at the Suzuka and Adelaide races.

As a 29-year-old he switched to Tyrrell, before moving to the Arrows team (1998). Salo's big chance, however, dawned in 1999, when he aptly earned the nickname 'supersub'.

First, he filled in for the injured Ricardo Zonta at BAR, before championship-contender Michael Schumacher broke his leg at Silverstone. 'Supersub' Salo was the obvious fill-in, and he would have won at Hockenheim had he not succumbed to team orders to allow Eddie Irvine to pass.

Mika moved to Ferrari-powered Sauber in 2000, before sitting out the following season to develop Toyota's new F1 car. Salo, with Allan McNish as his teammate, gave the Cologne based team it's debut in 2002, but was dropped at the end of the year.

Mika Salo went on to race Champ Cars and sports cars.

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