Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
January 9,  2006

Fisi in favor at Renault
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.9) Giancarlo Fisichella, not world champion Fernando Alonso, will get the first taste of Renault's new 'R26' car.

The Roman, at Spain's Jerez circuit on Tuesday, is set to roll out the 2006 racer, with Alonso - bound for McLaren in 2007 - relegated to the older model.

Fisichella, to turn 33 on Saturday, will also steer the new blue and yellow machine on Wednesday, before his young Spanish teammate finally gets his hands on it on Thursday and Friday.

'Fisi' has already mused that Alonso's team switch could work in his favour, but the Italian veteran also said he is sensing a change in the successful Spaniard's attitude.

''He's always been a good guy, but he is changing,'' he told Britain's Autosport magazine.

Speed's tough road to F1
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.9) Scott Speed's road to formula one has not been easy.

Putting aside the difficulty of an American making it big at the pinnacle of motor sport, the 22-year-old from California has spent the past few years fighting his toughest battle.

Preceding Speed's signing as an inaugural Red Bull-backed driver for Scuderia Toro Rosso, he was struck with ulcerative colitis, a serious and painful disease that causes ulcers and irritation in the colon.

He told the 'Boston Herald' newspaper that the disease is today controlled with medication.

''It's part of this whole thing that's made everything so hard,'' Speed said in an interview.

The first American to reach F1 since Michael Andretti in 1993, however, will not be content to roll around at the rear of the grid.

Speed explains: ''I think realistically my personal goal is to become a world champion. If this year helps me learn and helps me get closer to that, it will be a success.''

Red Bull won't sign Schu or Kimi, yet
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.9) Adrian Newey has rejected speculation that Red Bull's next target is a big-name driver like Michael Schumacher or Kimi Raikkonen.

With both drivers available for 2007, F1's rumor mill is hinting that - with arguably the best technical brain now on board - a superstar at the wheel is the next step.

Newey, switching from McLaren, starts work at Milton-Keynes based Red Bull early on Monday morning.

''Initially we'll want to continue to work with David (Coulthard) and young drivers,'' he told Autosport magazine.

The Briton said it is difficult to attract a top-five driver until a team produces a quick car.

And he added: ''If he's attracted for some other reason, such as finance, we don't want him.''

Pastorelli still with budget trouble
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.9) Dutch driver Nicky Pastorelli has admitted that re-securing his 'Friday' drive for Midland this year is unlikely.

The 22-year-old Dutchman's role, although already confirmed by the 'MF1' team, was thrown into doubt when one of his personal backers pulled out.

Nicolas Kiesa and Tarso Marques have been linked with the seemingly vacated berth.

Pastorelli told f1racing.net that he still has not replaced the missing sponsorship.

''I think when someone would knock on Midland's door with the right amount of money,'' Nicky told the website, ''he will get the job.''

The Hague-born Pastorelli, however, also revealed that he is in talks with a number of potential investors.

F1 set for first test of 2006
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.9) Every formula one team, except Midland's 'MF1' outfit and the hopeful Super Aguri camp, are set to test for the first time in 2006 at the Jerez track this week.

MF1 will test at Silverstone (UK).

At Jerez, the initial four-day session will kick off on Tuesday, with Ferrari, Renault, Toyota and Red Bull in action. They are to be joined by Honda, McLaren, Williams, BMW Sauber and Scuderia Toro Rosso on Wednesday.

Of the nine teams, Renault, Toyota and Red Bull will all be working with 2006-spec cars.

Over the weekend, Michelin will conduct a wet weather test, ahead of another full week at Jerez de la Frontera, to again get going on Tuesday.

After that, the next major group test will be staged at another Spanish venue -- Barcelona.

Doornbos to sit out Jerez tests
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.9) 'Friday' driver Robert Doornbos has revealed that he will not test for his new Red Bull team in Jerez this week.

The 24-year-old Dutchman said in a Q&A on his official website that he would only sample the all-new 'RB2' racer at the upcoming Barcelona session later in January.

''David (Coulthard) and Christian (Klien) will kick off 2006 in Jerez,'' Doornbos - who will return to the track on January 24 - said.

Red Bull's new car is designed by Mark Smith, powered by a new Ferrari V8 engine, and will benefit from the development input of new staff member Adrian Newey.

Doornbos continued: ''I can hardly wait to start testing again!''

Cloud still lingers over Spa
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.9) Although Spa Francorchamps' embattled spot on the F1 calendar recently looked as good as rescued, it now seems that a grey cloud still lingers over the popular Belgian grand prix.

With the race's promoter broke, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had stepped in and would promote the race himself, reports said. But the latest question-mark involves $18m in renovations to the ageing facility, including a new pit and paddock complex, demanded by the 75-year-old.

Although the hold-ups may be related to regional government funding, it is also suggested that the planning stage is simply taking longer than expected. For example, an initial plan was to bulldoze the first 'La Source' hairpin, but Bernie objected.

The latest plan, according to reports in La Derniere Heure Les Sports newspaper, could involve the modification of the final 'Bus Stop' chicane.

Murray Walker to make F1 return
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.9) Legendary F1 commentator Murray Walker will make a return to pitlane in 2006.

The 82-year-old Briton, who hung up his microphone in 2001, has signed to contribute to BBC Radio's coverage of the pinnacle of motor sport.

After calling the first Grand Prix Masters race late last year, Walker - whose commentary style was once likened to having his 'pants on fire' - will front several 'Five Live' radio features this season, and probably attend the odd grand prix.

''Since I retired in 2001,'' Walker told England's The Times newspaper, ''everywhere I go, people ask me, 'Do you miss it?'

''And I say, 'Yes, of course I miss it'.

''If you enjoy doing something as much as I enjoyed it and you stop doing it, you're going to miss it.''

Murray Walker worked for the BBC for most of his career, calling his first British grand prix for radio from Silverstone back in 1949.

Newey to focus on RB3 - Horner
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.9) Red Bull Racing has targeted fifth in the 2006 constructors' championship, and competing with teams Honda, Williams and Toyota.

As team principal Christian Horner outlined his goals for the new season to f1total.com, he also confirmed that technical wizard Adrian Newey will indeed arrive from McLaren to start work on Monday morning.

''Adrian has not been able to influence the RB2,'' Horner said, ''but he will surely play a role in the development of the car in the second part of 2006.''

The Milton Keynes team's boss also confirmed that Newey - chief technical officer - would focus on designing the 2007 racer.

But Horner insisted: ''I'm sure that we will notice his influence in the second half of this year.''

Hockenheim race still in doubt
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.9) The future of Hockenheim's annual German grand prix is still under a gloomy cloud.

Hockenheim is missing about $2m in annual running income, and could run out of cash completely in April 2006 -- four months ahead of the July event.

It was reported late last year that the circuit was likely to be saved from bankruptcy by the local state of Baden-Wurttemberg.

However, the region's Prime Minister - Guenther Oettinger - has told the major daily 'Bild' newspaper that the embattled venue in south western Germany can only be saved by 'private investors'.

Among plans to save the historic race involve sharing the annual privilege with European grand prix venue Nurburgring, or selling the circuit's naming rights.

F1 is 'exhausting' - team member
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.9) An unnamed race engineer has described working in modern F1 as 'exhausting'.

He told the British 'Sunday Mirror' newspaper that he spent just two days per month at home in the busiest parts of the 2005 season.

In 2005, although the Concorde Agreement allows only for a maximum of 17, the F1 calendar featured an unprecedented 19 grands prix -- including a record six back-to-backs.

The engineer explained: ''It's exhausting to bounce around the world, but it's possible.''

However, he suggested that the biggest price of today's long calendars are being paid by 'our wives, girlfriends and children'.

Just last month, McLaren boss Ron Dennis - a staunch opponent of plans to extend the calendar to as many as 21 races - warned that the public, too, is at risk of formula one burnout.

Fisi questions Montagny's Renault exit
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.9) Giancarlo Fisichella has questioned his employer's decision to let team test driver Franck Montagny leave Renault.

The incumbent Roman race driver called Montagny, replaced in 2006 by young Finn Heikki Kovalainen after three years of service, 'the best test driver' he's met.

32-year-old Fisichella said in reference to the ousted Frenchman, who failed in negotiations to land a Midland drive this year: ''I don't know how good he is at racing, but in testing he's the best.''

At last sight, 27-year-old Montagny was courting a race drive in an American Champ Car.

''It's a mistake to lose him, I think,'' Fisichella told the latest edition of Britain's Autosport magazine.

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