Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
January 11,  2006

Finn not promised Alonso's ride
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.11) Renault test driver Heikki Kovalainen has admitted that he nearly became a formula one racer for the 2006 season.

It is common knowledge that the 24-year-old Finn, runner-up to Nico Rosberg in last year's GP2 championship, negotiated with BMW-Sauber about a two-season deal (2006 and 2007).

''I was in contact with some teams,'' Heikki confessed to the Motorsport Aktuell magazine.

''However, (Flavio) Briatore decided that it would be better for me if I spent a whole year getting experience with Renault as a test driver.''

It is probably no coincidence that the end of Briatore-run Kovalainen's talks with BMW preceded news of Fernando Alonso's switch to McLaren in 2007.

With the experienced Giancarlo Fisichella in one car, highly-rated Kovalainen is no doubt being groomed to step into Alonso's shoes. Indeed, the 24-year-old world champion also spent a full year as Renault tester, in 2002, before moving into the racing cockpit.

Kovalainen admits that Alonso's departure will probably be good for his career.

''But I can't really say anything about that,'' he insisted, although Heikki did answer 'no' to whether Briatore had already promised him Alonso's ride.

Ferrari 'looking strong' in '06
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.11) If Tuesday at Jerez (Spain) was Ferrari's response to the quit threat of Michael Schumacher, then it was a rather successful one.

On the first test day of 2006, the deposed seven time world champion - in a 2004 car fitted with a new V8 engine - was nearly one and a half seconds quicker than the next best.

''Ferrari is looking pretty strong here,'' said the driver who came closest to Michael's lap time, younger brother and Toyota star Ralf Schumacher.

In late afternoon, 37-year-old Schumacher had a little trip into the gravel, but - by then - he had already made his point.

Renault and Red Bull also made up the numbers in southern Spain, but the real action will kick off on Wednesday. Alex Wurz, for one, arrived at Jerez on Tuesday evening ahead of his debut for the Williams team.

Ferrari-powered Red Bull's first major test with the new 'RB2' 2006 car, meanwhile, got off to a trying start, with David Coulthard stranded out on track with an electronics fault.

Technical director Mark Smith admitted that the new car is struggling with a cooling problem, fixed for the time being by adding some extra holes to the bodywork.

The Scot, DC, was the slowest of seven runners.

New Renault has 'potential' - Fisichella
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.11) Desperate for the inside gossip about 2005 champion Renault's new car, journalists at Jerez discovered that Giancarlo Fisichella had been told not to discuss the 'R26' topic.

The Roman driver took the car through its first 41 laps on Tuesday.

''My first impression is that this is a car with a lot of potential,'' 32-year-old 'Fisi' said in a statement issued by the team.

Although nearly four seconds off Michael Schumacher's pace, he added: ''I felt comfortable straight away. This wasn't a day to go for lap-times.''

Renault's new engine, the last of the carmaker troupe to get a V8 up and running, also ran reliably on day 1, although the odd predictable glitch slightly held up progress.

Schu, Ferrari, head to Italian alps
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.11) After testing on Wednesday, Michael Schumacher will fly from Spain to the Italian ski alps for Ferrari's annual press event at Madonna di Campiglio.

The German, 37, is to be joined by new teammate Felipe Massa and team members including F1 boss Jean Todt.

The event runs until Saturday.

Imola to renovate F1 pits
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.11) Imola, scene of the annual San Marino grand prix in Italy, will enjoy a much-needed new pit and paddock complex.

Work is to begin on the $12 million project at 'Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari', located in the country's central north, after the running of this year's formula one race in April.

Imola has endured plenty of criticism in recent years, not only due to the outdated circuit facilities, but because Italy also hosts a grand prix at Monza.

Even so, the San Marino grand prix is safe at least until 2009, after a new five year contract with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was penned in 2004.

Williams' team manager steps down
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.11) Williams' team manager since 1994, Dickie Stanford, has left the post.

The Briton, a veteran of the Grove team having once been a mechanic on Nigel Mansell's car, has decided to take on a new factory-based position.

Current test team manager, Tim Newton, will take Stanford's job.

'STR' launch official website
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.11) Scuderia Toro Rosso has launched a new website.

The former Minardi team - bought, taken over and renamed by Red Bull - can be found online at www.scuderiatororosso.com.

A simple design, featuring the new team's logo, emphasizes the profiles of 2006 drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi, Scott Speed and 'Friday' star Neel Jani.

Italy's Liuzzi, according to his profile, singles out Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell as childhood heroes.

''More than anyone else,'' he was quoted as saying, ''those two drove for their love of racing.

''In the end, that's the only goal that counts.''

Swiss 22-year-old Jani, meanwhile, turns to the world of skiing for his role models. He reckons the discipline is closely related to motor sport because 'both are about discipline and the right mixture of aggression and consistency.'

Why 'F2004' is still clocking up miles
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.11) Ferrari has moved to clear up a little mystery.

The Maranello based team is running this week at Jerez (Spain) with two cars. The first, driven by Luca Badoer, is the V10-powered 2005 model, rev-limited to imitate new rules.

Steered by Michael Schumacher, the other 'interim' chassis is fitted with a new V8 engine -- but it's the two-year-old 'F2004' machine.

It has raised speculation that Ferrari deem the V8-powered 2004 car to be a better indication of how the F2006 will behave, with tire rules similar to those of '04.

Or perhaps the red-clad team has decided that the development route of last year's car was wrong, and will therefore attempt to resume where '04 - when the team collected fifteen wins - left off.

''Our new V8 engine simply does not fit in the F2005 chassis,'' a Ferrari spokeswoman clarified to f1total.com.

The 2.4 liter power plant, however, does fit in the less tightly-packaged old car.

Fear not, though, if you think Ferrari might tread the familiar pattern of kicking off the new season with an 'interim' car -- which is, this time around, in effect two years old.

The F2006, to be launched late this month, will definitely appear for the first race of the year, in Bahrain. It will reportedly be shaken down at the private Fiorano circuit next week.

'Hannover 96' at F1 tests
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.11) The 'Hannover 96' football (soccer) team popped in to watch progress at the formula one test in Jerez on Tuesday.

The German squad, called '96' because the Hanover-based team was founded in 1896, spent time with Cologne based Toyota and countryman Ralf Schumacher at the southern Spanish venue, while on a training camp.

Like Hannover 96 in the German 'Bundesliga' premier league, 30-year-old Schumacher said the target for 2006 is to collect wins.

So far, the 'TF106' looks like a promising grand prix contender, the two models - the other driven by Ricardo Zonta - only trailing Michael Schumacher's mighty lap time on Tuesday.

''People on the outside expect that we could score one or two victories,'' Ralf - who encountered a technical glitch on the first day of 2006 running - admitted, ''and I do think that should be possible.''

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