Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
December 7,  2005

Heidfeld - 'I'm no number 1'
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.7) Nick Heidfeld has rejected calls that he will be BMW Sauber's 'number one' F1 driver in '06.

The German, switching with the Munich manufacturer from Williams, will line up alongside Jacques Villeneuve -- who rumor has it is only staying at Hinwil because his Peter Sauber-signed deal was found to be absolutely watertight.

As BMW's favored son, then, surely 'Quick Nick', 28, is to enjoy a Schumacher-like standing?

''I have a three year contract,'' Heidfeld insisted, 'but no number 1 status.''

He added: ''As in every other team I have driven for, it is up to me to establish my position.''

Far from discount the Villeneuve threat, then, Heidfeld hails the fact that his teammate is 'fast' and 'experienced'.

''That is what I have got with Jacques, which is exactly what I wanted,'' he told 'Express'.

However, Nick does admit that the 1997 world champion's early form at Sauber this year was not up to scratch. ''I'm not going to make a secret of the fact that Jacques disappointed me (in 2005).

''I didn't think he would find the speed to catch up later this year -- but his last few races were fairly strong.''

Honda calm V8-V10 fear
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.7) A scandal about V8-V10 equivalency has been downplayed by Japanese F1 team owner and manufacturer Honda.

The company's racing vice president Otmar Szafnauer moved to downplay wild speculation that Scuderia Toro Rosso could be on pole in Bahrain, or that front-running teams may ditch their underpowered V8 to join 'STIR' in running a limited V10 engine.

In initial testing, estimates put Toro Rosso's V10 advantage - even with a rev-limit and air restrictor plate mandated by the FIA - at around the 100 horsepower mark.

But Szafnauer insisted: ''The FIA has reserved the right to change (the restriction) at any time.

''They've said the V10 would never have an advantage over the V8.''

However, he said there was 'no question' that Toro Rosso's V10 is currently quicker than any 2006-spec V8.

But he added: ''I am confident the current imbalance will be sorted out before the start of next season.''

Schu's short break
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.7) The fact that Ferrari's unseated world F1 champion Michael Schumacher has enjoyed his shortest post-season break in seven years is 'nothing major'.

That's the insistence of a spokesman, who played down speculation that the 36-year-old was enticed out of his traditional winter hibernation to help the Italian team out of its crisis.

Not since 1998 has German-born Michael Schumacher tested his red car before Christmas.

''He told us he was available and we thought it would be helpful,'' the spokesman at Maranello HQ said.

Schumacher will drive a V8-powered Ferrari at Jerez (Spain) on two days next week.

CVC eye total F1 buyout
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.7) 'CVC' is in talks to buy the rest of formula one from an American bank.

After snapping Bernie Ecclestone, Bayerische Landesbank and JP Morgan's combined 86 per cent share of the sport, the British private equity group is now shaping up to buy the final 14 per cent from Lehman Brothers.

A 'CVC' spokesman said on Tuesday: ''We continue to seek an agreement with (Lehman).

No figures have been confirmed, but estimates put the total value of the formula one shares at about $1bn.

The value will not have been hurt by a recent study of 'Initiative Worldwide', in which the pinnacle of motor sport was labeled the top global annual television event.

New starts at Grove
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.7) Grand prix team Williams has attracted a new brand to F1 -- Dutch shaving company Philips.

The one-year sponsorship agreement sees Philips take up the obviously minor 'Male Shaving Partner' spot, but it should be viewed as a first step to a possible larger interest.

''We are delighted to have formed this partnership with an internationally acknowledged brand and market leader,'' said Sir Frank Williams.

Also kicking off a new collaboration with the Oxfordshire based team is Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan, who - after debuting for Jordan this year - is expected to shortly be named 'Friday' driver for 2006.

The 28-year-old will test for the newly Cosworth-powered team on Wednesday, as the second major group test of the 'off' period starts at Jerez.

''(He) will test ... pending the announcement of the team's third driver,'' said technical director Sam Michael.

Vodafone to flee Ferrari
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.7) Vodafone could be about to end its $87 million sponsorship of Ferrari, according to reports.

Not long after axing the $16m Manchester United football team sponsorship two years early, the mobile phone operator is also considering pulling the plug on formula one, 'Brand Republic' explained.

The current Vodafone-Ferrari contract has a year to run.

''It follows the team's underperformance this season,'' the press report read.

Other sources indicate that Honda could be about to land the cash, with Brand Republic also admitting: ''(Vodafone) ... is expected to switch its investment to another team.''

A Vodafone spokeswoman admitted that the Ferrari sponsorship was now under review.

It's time to win - JB, Honda
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.7) Jenson Button has brushed aside suggestions that he is growing increasingly frustrated with his status as a winless veteran of 100 races.

The Honda driver said at the Autosport Awards on the weekend: ''It bothers other people more than it (bothers) me.''

In the 25-year-old's defense, he said he had never raced a 'really outstanding' F1 machine.

Jenson told a reporter: ''I know it's the winter and there's not much to talk about -- but can you not talk about it?

''I'm bored of it now.''

But Honda's racing vice president, Otmar Szafnauer, agrees with JB that it is time the Brackley team started winning. He said that is the aim next year 'and a championship ... in 2007'.

''That's the goal.''

V8 swap to benefit Renault
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.7) Renault could benefit more than most from F1's new V8 engine rules, a key team player said.

Engineering director Pat Symonds admitted that the French owned team's title winning V10 route, with an outdated 72-degree architecture and a heavier block, was a bit 'old fashioned'.

''It was heavier than most, it had a higher centre of gravity -- the V8s have leveled the playing field,'' Briton Symonds told 'PA Sport'.

He also insisted that while Renault may be the last leading team to track-test a V8 power plant, the team's 2006 package is actually being debuted 'earlier than usual'.

''We had a hard push to the end of the championship ... so it has been pretty intense.''

Pat Symonds said: ''There's a lot going on. We're very busy.''

Heidfeld 'healed'
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.7) Nick Heidfeld says he is 'completely healed' after his bicycle crashed into a motorbike when training in September.

While already recovering from concussion, Williams' 28-year-old driver broke his right shoulder and damaged a finger in the Swiss collision.

Heidfeld, who has since switched to BMW Sauber, did not race again in the 2005 season.

''My shoulder is completely healed,'' 'Quick Nick' told Express, ''(But) my left ring finger is still causing me pain.

''But it is nothing compared to what I felt in my shoulder.''

Heidfeld, however, smilingly admits that there is one good thing about having to wear a sling around the house. ''For ages I could not change (baby daughter) Juni's diaper.

''At last,'' Nick grinned, ''I caught a bit of good luck!''

V10 lacks power - Liuzzi
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.7) Vitantonio Liuzzi has brought a fresh perspective to the 'V8 versus V10' engine equivalency debate, arguing that his restricted power plant will not be an advantage when the '06 kicks off.

F1's top teams and carmakers are up in arms about Scuderia Toro Rosso, the former Minardi team, which intends to exercise an FIA loophole to dodge V8 engines next year.

It is claimed that STR's V10-powered advantage, despite a 16,500rpm rev-limit and air intake-restrictor, is as much as 90 to 100 brake horse power.

But the Italian team's race driver told Autosprint regarding last week's Barcelona test: ''On the straight, the V8s left me standing.

''The positive thing is that on paper our engine will be more reliable.''

Now, sources are reporting that the argument is not just about engine equivalency, but the carmakers' belief that STR - a well-funded team owned by billionaire Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz - should be compelled to follow suit with the V8-powered norm.

Indeed, the FIA concession was designed to keep the team's cash-strapped former owner - Paul Stoddart - going.

But it is expected that at certain circuits, like the sluggish Hungary and Monaco, the V10's lack of top-end grunt might be compensated by it delivering superior torque.

Honda HQ to stay put
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.7) There are no plans to move Honda's engine-building HQ to the 'BAR' factory, racing president Otmar Szafnauer says.

Although the Japanese carmaker now owns the renamed 'Honda Racing F1 Team', Szafnauer said the collaboration would not follow the Toyota or Ferrari model by building the chassis and engine under a single roof.

'Honda Racing Development' is located at Bracknell, a 60 mile journey from Brackley (UK).

''We've investigated that option,'' he admitted, ''but ... it will stay in Bracknell at this time.

''It is not that far away.''

Vice president Szafnauer also explained that when another Honda-powered team - perhaps 'Super Aguri' - gets up and running, it 'could make more sense' for the engine-building plant to be separated from the works team.

He added: ''In the short term at least, we have no plans of relocating.''

Meanwhile, Szafnauer said Honda's new state-of-the-art wind tunnel would be up and running in the middle of 2006.

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