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Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
January 5,  2006


New McLaren heads for January debut
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.5) McLaren's 2006 spec formula one car, MP4-21, will taste its first tarmac in mid January.

The Woking based team's managing director, Jonathan Neale, revealed that the new silver racer will then test in 'every available week' prior to the Bahrain season opener.

He also said reliability would be the focus in the winter phase. ''90 per cent of the car components have changed from (last year's) MP4-20,'' Neale added.

Reliability was the runner-up team's Achilles heel in 2005, with the season's quickest man Kimi Raikkonen often mechanically halted in his quest for the big prize.

Jonathan Neale continued that after looking at reliability, the team would then 'start to look at phasing in upgrade packages'.

''A series of performance upgrades will be bought on line before the cars leave for the first grand prix,'' he said, ''and then continue throughout the season.''









Alonso's a bearded winner
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.5) World champion Fernando Alonso is a clear winner, according to the popular BBC motoring TV show 'Top Gear'.

Renault's 24-year-old Spaniard, who incidentally became the sport's youngest ever title winner last year, was handed the prize for having the 'silliest facial hair in motor sport'.

With his little beard under his bottom lip, Alonso pipped David Coulthard (with designer stubble) and Jenson Button (who late in 2005 fashioned a trimmed beard look), to the post, an amusing report on the Red Bull Racing website informed.









Age is Schu's new weakness - Irvine
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.5) Former world champion Michael Schumacher faces a challenge to ever outpace young rivals Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen again.

That's the claim of the 37-year-old German's former Ferrari teammate, Eddie Irvine (1996-1999), who nonetheless puts all three F1 chargers in the same league as the late and great Ayrton Senna.

''Michael's problem is that he knows the other two guys have got an ace because they are in their 20s,'' the blunt Ulsterman told Motorsport News.

''I think that's going to be his weakness from now on.''

Irvine, however - who retired at the age of 37 in 2002 - doesn't necessarily think that older drivers are any slower. ''Michael isn't getting any slower,'' Eddie insisted.

He added: ''He's up against guys who are half his age and have twice the balls. He wasn't like Senna, he takes calculated risks. He's not a great poker player.''

Even so, 2006 should be a ripper, Irvine reckons. He says that in Schumacher, Raikkonen and Alonso, F1 has the best triplet ever seen on the racing grid.

''These guys are right there in the Senna league.''









Rubens won't move from Monaco
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.5) Rubens Barrichello says he will not move from Monaco in order to be closer to his new F1 team.

Although he also keeps a home in Sao Paulo, the Brazilian - during the season - is mainly based in Monte Carlo, just a short journey to his former Ferrari squad.

But even with his return to an English-based team, the 33-year-old said he is not worried about the longer trek from effectively the Italy-France border, to Honda's camp in Brackley -- not far from British GP venue Silverstone, Northamptonshire.

''The journey to Brackley will be a little bit longer than at Ferrari,'' Barrichello said, ''but as the team tests a great deal in Spain, I don't think I'll have to adjust all that much.''

Rubens debuted in F1 in 1993 for Silverstone-based Jordan, moving in 1997 to Stewart -- where Milton-Keynes based Red Bull is today located.

''I hope I can help move the team forward,'' Rubens enthused, ''and see if I can fulfil my dream of winning the championship.''









Setback for novel 'A1' series
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.5) Motor racing's novel 'A1' single-seater racing concept has taken a setback with the death of Dubai's ruler.

Emir Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, whose nephew Sheikh Maktoum founded and runs the so-called 'world cup of motor sport', has died of a heart attack while on a horse race business trip to Australia's Gold Coast in Queensland.

It has moved the A1 series' organizers to cancel the upcoming Indonesian round of the championship, even though a new date for the race is being devised.

''While difficult logistically, we felt it important to observe a respectable period of mourning for this beloved family member of our founder,'' A1 CEO, Tony Teixeira, said.









'RB2' set for proper test debut
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.5) After a December 'shakedown' in England, Red Bull's brand new 'RB2' racer will make its debut proper at the group Jerez test next week.

From Tuesday, David Coulthard - who enjoyed the Silverstone honour last month - and 2006 teammate Christian Klien, will get two days each at the new wheel.

After that, the Red Bull test team - like most of the F1 fraternity - will spend the rest of the winter period commuting between Jerez and other Spanish tracks like Barcelona, according to a report on the team's website.

'RB2' is among the first three definitive 2006 cars to be already clocking up the miles, with Toyota getting the best head start, and Renault set to unveil the R26 at Jerez on Tuesday.

Later in January, Toyota will also be the first to officially launch a car (14th), ahead of BMW Sauber, on the sixteenth of the month.









First Aguri to be 'SA106'
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.5) F1's likely newest team, Aguri Suzuki-led 'Super Aguri', will adopt a familiar philosophy for the designation of its new cars.

Although it is not clear what Arrows' old 'A23' racer will officially be re-named, we can reveal that the first definitive Honda-powered Super Aguri chassis - presently under construction at Leafield - will be the 'SA106'.

The designation emulates Honda's works team, which reverts this year to the traditional Honda numbering of the sixties. The final works Honda car in 1968, for instance, was the RA302, while the 2005 iteration is 'RA106'.








'The car in front should be a Toyota'
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.5) Former BAR principal David Richards claims that Toyota should have tasted the top step of the grand prix podium by now.

The Briton, who remains in charge of his 'Prodrive' racing company, and is supremo of the world rally arena, is critical of hugely funded Toyota's slow rise to F1 success.

''Toyota have been in F1 for four seasons, plus one testing season,'' Richards told F1 Racing magazine, ''and should be battling at the front.

''The fact that they aren't must mean that some serious questions are surely being asked.''

Cologne based Toyota, however - with debatably the biggest budget in pitlane - enjoyed a better season last year than it had before.

Although that first win is still missing, Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher collected five podiums, two pole positions, a fastest lap and even led 92 kms.

'DR', however, isn't sure exactly what cylinders aren't firing at Cologne, but pointed out that the senior management - Tsutomu Tomita and John Howett - are somewhat new to F1.

He said: ''(Technical director Mike) Gascoyne has been around a long time ... but whether it was Tyrrell or Jordan or even Renault, he's never been in a situation where a championship winning car was expected of him.''

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