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Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
December 23,  2005


Schu is Ferrari 'future' - president
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.23) As speculation spirals that Kimi Raikkonen is on his way to Ferrari in 2007, the Italian team said on Thursday that it wants to renew Michael Schumacher's deal.

''He is not only the current Ferrari,'' team president Luca di Montezemolo said in Maranello, ''he's the future.''

The Italian's comments come after a week of speculation that, with Schumacher's deal to run to an end next year, Finn Raikkonen is set to take on the mantle as the grid's best.

But Montezemolo insisted: ''With Michael's commitment and talent, he's still the best.''

Schumacher's reluctance to sign a 2007 contract has been the source of much gossip in the F1 paddock. Moves to other teams, negotiations for a bigger salary, and indications of retirement, have all been theories of the press.

''Only Michael can decide about his future,'' Montezemolo continued. ''In the summer he will decide.''

Schumacher will turn 37 on the third of January.









BMW's 'long road ahead'
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.23) New owner BMW is working hard to make Sauber a big grand prix team.

Motor sport director, and likely 2006 team principal, Mario Theissen, reports that six months after the purchase from Peter Sauber, fifty new employees are soon to start work at 'BMW Sauber'.

The ultimate target is for the recruitment of 50 more.

''On January third we will see as many as 20 people turning up for their first day's work,'' the German said.

The Munich based carmaker is also about to lodge a planning application for an addition to the main building at Hinwil (Switzerland), with construction scheduled to start in June next year.

In addition, BMW Sauber has now sold most of the sponsorship space on the 2006 car, which will be rolled out at Valencia (Spain) on 17 January.

But Theissen warned: ''We don't harbor any illusions.

''There's a long road ahead and we will negotiate it with perseverance and circumspection.''









Mosley no fan of F1 'knockout'
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.23) F1's new 'knockout' qualifying system for '06 has a very high profile opponent -- president of the FIA, Max Mosley.

The 65-year-old Englishman reckons the novel but already controversial format, to replace three-year-old single lap qualifying, ''is going to be very tough to understand.''

''It's going to be like me when I watch American football,'' he told the French L'Equipe daily newspaper.

''I can watch it, it's a great show, but I don't have the slightest idea what's happening.''

Unlike many in pitlane, Mosley was actually a supporter of the former system, which saw each driver complete a single lap, one by one, with race levels of fuel.

''Perhaps it was not much fun for the people in the stands,'' he admitted, ''but on television it was really good. You knew exactly what's going on.''

Under the new regime, all twenty cars will run for 15 minutes, until the slowest five are knocked out. This will be repeated, until the quickest ten fight for the last 20 minutes.

But the system has been criticized, because while the slowest ten will have run on low fuel, the top half of the grid must do their final laps with race levels.









Alonso debate rolls on
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.23) The debate about Fernando Alonso's bombshell switch from Renault to McLaren goes on.

High profile paddock players have been divided over the wisdom, and even the morality, of the Spaniard's surprise split from a title winning team to Ron Dennis' arguably quicker camp.

Red Bull principal Christian Horner thinks the move has set in motion a 'fascinating' silly season next season.

He told England's The Guardian newspaper: ''I think the driver market in 12 months' time will be more fluid than at any time over recent years.''

One guy not blown off his chair by the McLaren press release, however, was Dennis' 1996-2004 driver, F1 veteran David Coulthard.

''This business is all about long-term planning and investment well down the line,'' said the Scot. ''So, no, I'm not surprised.''

Dennis' long time ally Sir Frank Williams, however, was just as surprised as the rest of the racing world. But the man who signed 20-year-old Nico Rosberg for 2006 did not seem disappointed that the new world champion is off the market.

Frank said: ''Surprise won the day but there are plenty of new young drivers on the horizon.''









'STR' to launch in March
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.23) The team formerly owned by Paul Stoddart and called Minardi - 'Scuderia Toro Rosso' - will launch a new F1 car for 2006 in Bahrain.

Taken over by energy drink Red Bull in November, the Faenza based squad will join its sister team in unveiling a racer just ahead of the season opener, to be held in March.

The car is to be called 'STR1' and is seemingly an unique development based on Red Bull's '05 car.

Team boss Franz Tost admitted earlier this week that Toro Rosso is 'pushing very hard' to get the car ready for the first race next year.

Milton Keynes-based Red Bull Racing held a staff Christmas party in nearby Bedford (UK) last Saturday, with David Coulthard, Christian Klien, Robert Doornbos and Christian Horner all in attendance.

Also there, was the Ferrari powered 2006 'RB2'.









Penske eyes cut-price F1
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.23) The famous 'Penske' name is again being linked with a future in F1.

Roger Penske, the IRL and NASCAR team owner in America - a 13-time winner of the Indy 500 - has told Bernie Ecclestone that if budgets can be cut to about $100m a year, he is 'interested in fielding a formula one team,' England's The Guardian newspaper wrote.

Penske, whose F1 team in the mid-70s even won a grand prix, is clearly referring to the FIA's newly unveiled 2008 regulations, which are yet to be ratified by the world motor sport council.

FIA president Max Mosley told France's L'Equipe on Thursday: ''A big private team, very well known in America, recently told Bernie: 'We want to join F1, but only if we can do it with a budget of 80 million dollars'.''

Mosley added that are three or four others who are similarly just waiting for F1's costs to fall, and a couple more who are less serious.

Another prospective privateer entrant would be former Benetton and BAR boss David Richards, who - speculation says - would attack F1 with his 'Prodrive' team name.

But he warned in F1 Racing magazine: ''If formula one carries on like it is, it won't be worth me being involved.

''You might as well hand the title at the start of the season to the team with the deepest pockets.''








Duckworth website
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.23) A special website has been set up in memory of legendary Cosworth co-founder Keith Duckworth.

Established by his son, Roger, the website - keithduckworth.co.uk - allows visitors to leave a message of respect for Duckworth, who died aged 72 on Sunday.

His father was 'admired for not accepting what you are told is fact,' Roger wrote, while Duckworth 'taught all those close to him to think.'









Bridgestone not guaranteed '08 contract - Mosley
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.23) Bridgestone is not guaranteed the honor of becoming F1's control tire supplier for 2008 and beyond, Max Mosley has cautioned.

Although the Japanese marque, because of Michelin's withdrawal, will almost certainly be the only tire supplier in 2007, the official post will be put out to tender to the world's biggest racing tire companies, 'including Pirelli', the FIA president told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport.

''We'll consider the technological level of the (supplier), its proposals and its costs,'' he told the 'paper.

''Then we'll decide.''









Cow manure could power F1
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.23) F1 fuel must contain nearly 6 per cent 'biological' material, according to a rule hidden away in the new 2008 technical regulations.

So-called 'biofuel' is made up of things like agricultural waste, fish and plant oils, alcohol -- even cow manure.

In the '08 regulations, the Max Mosley-led governing body explained that the rule would make the sport 'keep ahead of developments in fuel for road cars.'

''I think it's long overdue,'' said former German formula one driver Hans-Joachim Stuck in the 'Bild' 'paper.

The regulation should be ratified by the FIA's 'world motor sport council' on March 22.









Michele Alboreto
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.23) On Friday, former Ferrari F1 driver Michele Alboreto, of Italy, should have marked his forty ninth birthday.

The veteran of 194 grands prix, winner of five, died whilst testing a Le Mans sportscar in April 2001.

Alboreto also drove for teams including Tyrrell, Arrows, and Minardi in a F1 career from 1981 to 1994. Intriguingly, he started racing in 1976, in the Italian 'Formula Monza' category -- with a car he designed himself.

In a Tyrrell, he gave the famous 'DFV' its last of 155 grand prix wins.

Alboreto also won the 1997 Le Mans endurance race, but died at the wheel of an Audi R8, after a tire failure in Germany.

''His death hit me very hard,'' said Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo. ''Michele was still competing, moved by a great passion.''

Quadruple champion Alain Prost added: ''I knew maybe three, maybe four true gentlemen in my career.

''Michele was one of them.''

Also celebrating a birthday on 23 December is Bertrand Gachot, 43, the former Belgian grand prix driver who raced 47 times in F1 and won Le Mans in 1991.









Rossi must do more testing - Ferrari
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.23) Valentino Rossi must commit to several months of F1 testing if he seriously wants to make a four-wheel switch.

That's the insistence of Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, who has reportedly offered the dominant MotoGP champion a future at the Italian team.

Rossi, 26, has already tested several times in Ferrari's single seater, triggering intense speculation that he is lining up to race in Michael Schumacher's place from 2007.

Montezemolo said in Maranello on Thursday: ''If he should decide to come and test with us for at least a few months in succession, we can see whether he will be successful (in F1).''

Who will drive for Ferrari beyond 2006 is definitely an issue for the scarlet team, which admits that it must up its game. After all, Schumacher might retire, Rossi might stick to motorcycles, and Kimi Raikkonen might decide that he doesn't want to join up.

''We did not do a good job (this year),'' the president admitted. ''We did a bad job of interpreting the new rules.''

Luca is therefore a definite fan of the 2006 rules, including the return of tire-changing, and the unique qualifying shake-up.

''The drivers and the car should finally count for more,'' Montezemolo said, referring to his criticism of what he had described as a 'tire' world championship.

''And in 2008 the rules will change yet again, to reduce costs,'' Luca also explained, ''which is absolutely correct.''









JV not 'favored' driver, says BMW boss
(GMMf1NET -- Dec.23) On the eve of Christmas, BMW Sauber has given Jacques Villeneuve a dubious vote of confidence by revealing that he is not the team's 'favored driver' for 2006.

After looking in to scrapping the French Canadian's 2006 contract, and negotiating with potential replacements including Alex Wurz and Heikki Kovalainen, team boss Mario Theissen has said that Villeneuve's teammate Nick Heidfeld 'was our favored driver.'

''When it came to Jacques,'' the German BMW motor sport director explained, ''we took our time in making a careful assessment of his performance.''

34-year-old JV, despite being a former world champion, endured a trying full-time return to F1 with Sauber in 2005.

Theissen insisted: ''The start of this year was difficult for him for a number of reasons, but then as the year went on he made significant progress.

''We believe he's going to improve further.''

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