Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
December 15,  2005

Bridgestone still trail Michelin
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.15) In the world of F1 rubber, Michelin - although to quit the sport at the end of 2006 - looks set to maintain its tire advantage over rival Bridgestone.

Sources in Spain report that while guys like Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren) are raving about the performance of next year's compounds, Olivier Panis - returning from illness in a Bridgestone-tired Toyota on Wednesday - moaned about big understeer.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa, meanwhile, reportedly said that the 2006 Bridgestones seem very good at the rear end, but - similar to Panis' complaint - lack front grip.

But Bridgestone test operations manager Kaz Hamamura said recently that the company is not making 'direct comparisons' between teams like Toyota and Ferrari.

''Our main aim is to focus on tire performance,'' he added, ''and not a comparison of lap times.''

At any rate, even if outperformed again in 2006, Bridgestone's wait to return to the top step won't be too long. Technical manager Hisao Suganuma told Autosport that - unlike Michelin - it will stay in F1 beyond next year.

''Whether there is competition or just one make,'' the Japanese said, ''we continue to stay.''

Ferrari call for F1 budget cuts
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.15) Ferrari has called for a radical cut in F1 budgets.

After a long period in which it was the best financed team in pitlane, the Maranello outfit is enduring a decline. Mother backer Fiat is in dire straits, big sponsor Vodafone is about to leave for McLaren, and the Italian team's worst year in the Schumacher era struck in 2005.

Technical director Ross Brawn said Toyota's budget is around the $500m mark, and it was recently revealed that Honda spent even more than that during the year.

''We need to make sure $100m is a more than adequate budget to compete and win in F1,'' the Briton told Autosprint.

Nonetheless, Brawn reckons work at Ferrari this winter has never been as fever-pitched. Work is not only going into the car, tire and engine, but 'improving the organization of the team'.

He added: ''The lesson we've learned from 2005 is that we need to have a more aggressive approach.''

Montoya rules out pitwall future
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.15) Juan Pablo Montoya has ruled out running a grand prix team when his driving career is over.

The 30-year-old Colombian told McLaren's 'Racing Line' magazine that he does not see himself involved in motor sport at all in 20 or 30 years.

''That would be mad, to be honest,'' he said.

''There is no way I'll run a team. You work hard for your money, so why put it on the line?''

Many former formula one winners - like Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Alain Prost, Niki Lauda, Gerhard Berger and Johnny Herbert - turned to either team ownership or leading team roles after vacating their cockpits.

And today's rivals including Kimi Raikkonen and Giancarlo Fisichella have already put money into junior teams.

But Montoya insisted: ''I don't know what I'll be doing 30 years from now, but I guarantee that I'll stop this.''

He does make one concession, though -- 'JPM' might get involved if his baby son, Sebastian, proves a deft hand in a go-kart.

''I will try to help him,'' Juan Pablo vowed, ''if he likes it.''

F1's Webber on top-50 rich list
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.15) Mark Webber has emerged in a list of Australia's biggest sports earners.

The Williams driver earned a cool $6 million ($8m AUD) for his tenth place in the 2005 constructors' chase, according to BRW magazine's top-fifty survey.

Golfer Greg Norman topped the list at $20 million (AUD), with Liverpool soccer player Harry Kewell in second place with a $12.5m pay packet.

Also outpacing 28-year-old Webber is Joe Hachem, who earned $10m this year by playing professional Poker, as well as tennis player Lleyton Hewitt ($12.1m).

Australian dirt bike rider Chad Reed, meanwhile, collected $7.8m by racing in the US.

Michelin quell exit fears
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.15) Departing F1 tire supplier Michelin has moved to quell fears that it could lose interest in winning the 2006 world championship.

At the announcement of the Vodafone deal in Woking, McLaren boss Ron Dennis admitted that French company Michelin is 'disenchanted' with the sport.

''(We) hope (Michelin) will really concentrate on 2006,'' the Briton told media reporters. ''I think there's a strong reason why they would want to succeed if it's their last year.''

But Edouard Michelin denied that his company would lose focus by insisting that the tire supplier will 'do everything possible' to maintain the edge at races.

He said: ''As (it) has always been the case since our return to F1 in 2001.''

Dennis' deputy, 'F1 CEO' Martin Whitmarsh, backed up Michelin's case by reporting that he knows that the Clermont-Ferrand tire marque is fully committed to winning the championship in 2006.

''We will do our best to ensure that they leave formula one on a high.''

F1's future appears bright
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.15) Vodafone and Intel - giant global companies - indicated that formula one is on the road to recovery after months of uncertainty about the sport's future.

Although the 'breakaway' threat is still real, the two firms' long term F1 team sponsorship announcements - involving vast sums of money - suggest that peace is not too far away.

Combined, the deals are estimated at about $500m.

Vodafone marketing officer Peter Bamford said at the McLaren factory that the company's 'own experience and belief' is that F1's future is bright.

But he admitted that no-one has a 'perfect vision' of how the row between F1's current bosses and the disgruntled carmakers will ultimately turn out.

McLaren chairman Ron Dennis, however, also hinted that the sport could be about to seal its future, putting a timescale of three to six months on final talks.

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