Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
December 8,  2005

Midland make track debut
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.8) With a shiny new paint-job, Midland's 'MF1' team made its track debut at Jerez on Wednesday.

Though ultimately slowest of the fifteen car field in Spain, the red, black and grey interim model - powered by the new Toyota V8 and steered by former Minardi racer Christijan Albers - went through 'all the necessary checks', the team said.

Notably, the interim car featured significant 'JVC' branding, after Midland announced a sponsorship deal with Christijan's personal backer.

Albers' '06 teammate Tiago Monteiro, who will drive on Thursday, watched on, while hopeful Thomas Biagi ran a EJ15B.

''We still have a lot of work to do,'' 26-year-old Albers said.

''We have been trying to get the car to suit my driving style, however this is not easy and it takes time. We had some little issues today but I think this is normal with a new engine and a new package.

''Hopefully it will get much better by the end of the week.''

Team technical director James Key, meanwhile, admitted that Midland also has 'some work to do with Bridgestone on the new tyres ... for next year'.

Briscoe in for ill Panis
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.8) Australia's Ryan Briscoe made a surprise return to the cockpit of a formula one Toyota, at Jerez on Wednesday.

Only recently recovered from an horror Indy Racing League crash, the Cologne based team's former 2004 test driver was a late ring-in after Olivier Panis reported ill.

It is understood that Panis, the 39-year-old veteran, is struggling with kidney stones.

Despite Briscoe's huge recent shunt and hospital stay, Toyota reported that the driver suffered 'no ill effects' after nearly 80 test laps.

His last outing on a track, Ryan's first since the fiery Chicago accident, was in a F3 car.

''It feels great,'' Briscoe enthused after his day ended with engine failure. ''It was good fun to be back behind the wheel of a F1 car again. There's nothing like it. It didn't take long to get back into the swing of things.''

A sunny day in Spain
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.8) Eight grand prix teams kicked off the second major test of the winter off-period on Wednesday.

At Spain's southern Jerez circuit, every outfit except BMW and Scuderia Toro Rosso clocked up the miles at a session that will ultimately extend through to late next week.

Under warm sunshine, Renault's Franck Montagny led the fifteen-strong field in his restricted V10 Renault, ahead of Ferrari tester Marc Gene.

Toyota, Honda, Williams, McLaren, Red Bull and MF1 also ran. Notably, tester Luca Badoer's day with a restricted V10 engine fitted to his F2005 car ended with front right suspension failure.

Honda, meanwhile, unveiled a second 'concept car', fitted with the entire rear end of the 2006 specification machine, shaken down by youngster James Rossiter ahead of Jenson Button's arrival.

Narain in Williams spin
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.8) Narain Karthikeyan enjoyed a mixed track debut for the Williams team at Wednesday's Jerez test.

The Indian pay-driver, who made his grand prix debut for Jordan this year, is in the running to land the vacant 'Friday' seat at Grove in 2006.

Technical director Sam Michael said the 28-year-old 'familiarised himself' with the Cosworth powered interim car, 'carrying out long runs, system checks and calibration work'.

But Karthikeyan also had a spin, forcing him to abandon the Bridgestone tyred car on track.

He redeemed himself, however, by going fifth quickest out of the fifteen on track, even managing to outpace Williams' 2006 racing rookie, Nico Rosberg.

'Rosberg Jr' defends Williams
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.8) Williams' Nico Rosberg has defended his first F1 employer against criticism that the former championship winning team is deep in crisis.

Not only has BMW forsaken the Grove squad, so too has former title sponsor 'HP', while contracted '06 driver Jenson Button spent much of this year wiggling out of the deal.

''Why should it worry me?'' said 20-year-old Rosberg - the son of '82 champion Keke - who is testing at Jerez this week.

Referring to Button's choice to pay compensation to Frank Williams out of his own pocket rather than drive, Rosberg continued: ''It is obvious that I don't know his motives.

''Ok, it gave me my chance to make my debut. So it could not have been better for me.''

Nico referred to Williams' long history of success in formula one. ''There is hardly a team that can surpass their experience and achievement,'' said the German.

''Ok, the engine situation has changed and perhaps the new combination does not look as promising. But that can only be helpful for a young driver.

''Then, expectations will not be so high.''

Rosberg also thinks the new V8 rules might favour Oxfordshire based Williams, with a new Cosworth partnership.

''As everyone already knows,'' Nico said, ''there is hardly a manufacturer with as much V8 experience as them.''

FIA revamp contentious court
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.8) F1's governing body hopes an overhaul of its court of appeal will help to end criticisms that the system is unfair.

The FIA announcement coincided with Williams' signing of the 2008 Concorde Agreement, and amidst the prospect of a series split with as many as five carmakers.

It was revealed by the Paris based body that one of the court's existing judges has stood down, with two new and highly respected lawyers moving in.

The questionable independence of the court has been referred to by the breakaway 'GPMA' as a point of major contention.

The FIA also said that an annual 'Congress' of the court will be held annually, including reviews of the system and possible changes. The first will be held this week.

''(The court's) procedures remain fully independent, transparent, fair, efficient, and an example of best practice in contemporary sports governance,'' read a statement.

Aguri has 'even' chance
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.8) F1 boss Nick Fry has put the odds of an eleventh team making it to the '06 grid at 'better than even'.

Honda's principal, after it emerged that not every team had so far signed a document that would allow 'Super Aguri' to re-apply to the FIA, admitted that the required unanimity is 'an issue'.

The Japanese team, led by former grand prix driver Aguri Suzuki, would use current Honda V8 engines, and - reportedly - even benefit from the carmaker's financial backing.

Fry told the BBC: ''I think there is a better than evens chance they will be on the grid.''

He also suggested that progress at Arrows' old Leafield base is progressing well.

''In terms of physically being able to get on the grid, I think they've got a good chance,'' Nick Fry added.

F1 split on road to repair
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.8) Williams signed up to Bernie Ecclestone's new Concorde Agreement because the F1 chief's new offer is 'a good one'.

That is the admission of the Grove team's chief executive Chris Chapple, although he stopped short of conceding that Williams did it for the money.

'(That) is absolute hogwash.''

Bernie's 2008 commercial deal - also signed by Ferrari, Midland, Red Bull and (inevitably) Toro Rosso - is said to include up to 45 per cent more of the sport's revenue to split between them.

But Chapple insisted: ''If we were doing it for money then we would have done it six months ago when we lost HP.''

He conceded that Bernie and the FIA had not caved in to the 'breakaway' carmakers' every demand, but 'what was left off the list was not enough (to join) a rival series'.

According to Honda boss Nick Fry, Bernie's latest offer is indeed breaking down barriers between Concorde and the carmakers.

He said talks have become 'extremely constructive'.

''I think there will be more movement,'' Fry predicted, ''probably not before Christmas but ... by the time we go to Bahrain next year, I'd hope (the threat is over).''

Alonso ignores title critique
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.8) World champion Fernando Alonso says he is not bothered that, according to many observers, title rival Kimi Raikkonen was 2005's 'driver of the year'.

The Spaniard, now the youngest ever drivers' title holder, reckons denigration of the champion is pretty 'normal'.

''People always say this at the end of a championship,'' 24-year-old Alonso explained. ''When (Mika) Hakkinen won ... they said Michael was best but he did not have the car.

''When Williams dominated in the 90s it was said that Senna would have won in that car.''

Criticism of Alonso's driving this year, though, probably stems from the fact that - after a stellar beginning and end - he feathered the throttle in the summer in order to protect his title lead.

But he insisted: ''I had to think about the big prize.''

Alonso will return to the tracks for a single test day in the south of Spain next week.

Rally star wants Ferrari test
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.8) World rally champion Sebastien Loeb says he has asked for a test in Ferrari's F1 single seater.

The Frenchman told the 'italiaracing' website that he informed countryman Jean Todt that he would 'love' to try Michael Schumacher's racer.

But he hinted that he wouldn't push his luck with the struggling Italian team right now.

Loeb added: ''But I'll push for it again soon, as soon as Ferrari go back to winning ways.''

'STR' to race own car
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.8) Red Bull has calmed speculation that rookie formula one team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, intend to race the 2005 'RB1' next year.

Many observers' alarm bells sounded when the former Minardi team used the current Red Bull car in winter testing at Barcelona last week.

But Red Bull Racing's technical operations director Gunther Steiner denied that 'STR' would race the RB1 in Bahrain.

He told Gazzetta dello Sport: ''The car that debuts in Bahrain will be fully built in Faenza.''

Scuderia Toro Rosso's newly-named lead driver, meanwhile, reckons the Italian-based team can - with Red Bull ownership - rise from the bottom of the constructors' ranking.

''I think there are the conditions to be in the top eight,'' Vitantonio Liuzzi - a veteran of 4 grands prix - told the paper. ''I've found a very motivated team ... with some unsettled business in F1.''

FIA tweak 'knockout' format
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.8) It is understood that F1's teams have been informed about a change to the new 'knockout' qualifying format for next year.

According to a source in the Italian press, a loophole in the proposed regulation had been identified by several concerned teams, and discussed with Charlie Whiting, of the FIA, at the recent technical directors' meeting.

Previously, the top ten cars simply needed to declare how much fuel they were running prior to the final 20-minute dash.

Then, at the end of the session, the car would be permitted to re-fuel to that fuel level for the grand prix.

But it was apparently feared that some teams would declare a high fuel load before the session, then somehow use, or leak, a large quantity of the fuel on the out-laps. In so doing, a low fuel load - and therefore a lighter and quicker car - would be guaranteed for qualifying, but the car could then start the race with a decent fuel load.

The details of how the FIA intend to close the loophole is not known, but it is speculated that the amount of fuel used during the final qualifying stint will be worked out by the FIA by using calculations based on normal V8-spec F1 fuel consumption.

In this way, if a car has 'leaked' its fuel, the team will only be able to re-fill the car based on normal fuel calculations. A very light car for qualifying, then, will still be light for the race.

The news is likely to draw yet more criticism from those who think the 'knockout' format was already too complicated.

Injured Ralf quits test
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.8) Ralf Schumacher pulled out of Wednesday's Jerez test when he complained of pain in his back.

The German driver, 30 - who broke back bones in a horror Indy shunt in 2004 - stopped after running 66 laps in his 2006-spec Toyota before lunch.

A team spokesman said Ralf reported 'some discomfort in his back'.

''In order not to risk aggravating the problem, the team decided to end his test early.''

2006 teammate Jarno Trulli is on his way to Spain to replace the winner of six GPs.

Technical director Mike Gascoyne admitted that Schumacher seems to have aggravated an old back injury.

He added: ''It's not a major problem but ... we did not want to make the problem worse.''

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