Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
January 12,  2006

Jerez test shifts into top gear
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.12) Nine teams shifted into top gear at the first major test of 2006 on Wednesday.

Every confirmed entry for the new season, with the exception of Midland's 'MF1' who will run in England, collected the laps at Spain's cloudy Jerez track.

It was an eventful day. Ralf Schumacher ended his day with a trip into the gravel, 'but no harm was done,' he said.

Italian teammate Jarno Trulli, returning from his winter break, ran only in the afternoon in the same car. He hopes for big things in '06.

''Hopefully we can win a grand prix this year,'' Trulli, 31, quipped.

On top of proceedings, however, was McLaren's Pedro de la Rosa, but with a limited V10 engine. Next best was Michael Schumacher, but his V8 was coupled with the more effective bodywork of the 2004 Ferrari.

Third -- Ricardo Zonta, in the ever-impressive Toyota TF106.

''If you compare our car to others running in a comparable spec,'' said the Brazilian test driver, ''we're very quick.''

In the Red Bull garage, Adrian Newey watched on as David Coulthard - enduring a troublesome start to the life of his 2006 car - smoked past the pits with a Ferrari V8 engine failure.

Among other incidents, Michael Schumacher's day in the 2004 Ferrari ended with a clutch problem.

In a newer car, Luca Badoer was noted with a big antennae on the airbox, reportedly used to collect aero data. Williams' Nico Rosberg stopped with a smoky rear at 3pm, and Grove team cohort Alex Wurz also spent time at the side of the Spanish track.

Massa wants maiden win
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.12) Felipe Massa launched his first season as a Ferrari driver on Wednesday by hoping for a maiden grand prix win.

''I would like a few podiums,'' Michael Schumacher's new and young teammate said at the team's annual press event in the Italian alps.

''Maybe even a win.''

Among the journalists at Madonna di Campiglio, some wondered whether the 24-year-old should be aiming a little higher in 2006. Schumacher, for example, will no doubt be wanting the title.

''But I am just starting,'' he said, ''even though (the title) is my goal. But if I am just behind Michael, then that is ok.

''When I raced go-karts, he was my hero. I dreamed to one day drive against him. It is incredible that it is happening now.''

Massa even had to defend himself from the suggestion that his ties to team boss Jean Todt's son, Nicholas, went some way to explaining his appointment as successor to Rubens Barrichello.

''Obviously it helps when you know people,'' he replied. ''But we know that Ferrari only signs drivers who are good.''

Monza appeal heads to court
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.12) Monza hopes to overturn a legal order that threatens the running of the Italian grand prix.

The circuit near Milan wants to settle the matter out of court, after an appeal in an Italian civil court commenced on Wednesday. The hearing is scheduled to sit again in north Italy on March 7.

Late last year, after the complaint of local residents, it was ordered that motor racing at the 'Autodromo Nazionale di Monza' be sufficiently quieted-down, or face bans.

Rubens set for life at Honda
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.12) On Thursday, Ferrari refugee Rubens Barrichello will get his first taste of life at the wheel of a works Honda.

The Brazilian, who since 2000 has steered a scarlet car in more than 100 grands prix, is scheduled to drive a V10-powered 2005 'BAR' at Jerez (Spain), before taking the controls of the interim V8 car.

Thursday will also mark world champion Fernando Alonso's first go in the new Renault racer, after teammate Giancarlo Fisichella gave 'R26' its track debut on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Until now, the Spaniard has been driving the 2005 car in southern Spain, with which he won 7 grands prix and become the youngest ever drivers' title winner.

''Obviously I am really waiting to try the new car,'' Alonso, 24, said. ''It looks very good, and quite similar to the R25 from the outside.

''I hope the R26 will be similar to drive as well.''

Schu to be immortalized on ski slope
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.12) Seven time world champion Michael Schumacher will be immortalized in the Italian alps on Thursday.

The German flew from southern Spain, where he has been testing Ferrari's new V8 engine, to the 'Madonna di Campiglio' ski resort on Wednesday evening.

After meeting the press on Thursday, a section of the resort's famous ski-run will be named after the 37-year-old driver.

In his recent lengthy interview with 'Der Spiegel' magazine, Schumacher said he had opted for a winter of testing - rather than a long break at his Norway retreat - because of Ferrari's lack of results in 2005.

''We never again want as miserable a season as the last one,'' he said.

Schumacher, however, played down suggestions that Ferrari - with mother company Fiat in crisis - are having to scale back the annual spend.

He said: ''Sentences like 'Sorry, we can't afford that', have never been uttered in our executive offices.''

But Michael clarified that he won't necessarily quit Ferrari if he fails to win the 2006 championship. ''It wouldn't be a disgrace,'' the German said, ''to come in second after a tough fight.''

Renault revise Jerez program
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.12) Despite the team's original schedule, 2006 test driver Heikki Kovalainen will not test at Jerez this week.

Renault officials confirmed at the southern Spanish venue that the Finn, tipped to drive the 2005 car in Giancarlo Fisichella's place on Thursday and Friday, will now only run at next week's winter test.

Instead, Italy's Fisichella will stay at Jerez de la Frontera, making his Spanish schedule - like teammate Fernando Alonso's - a four-day dash.

Getting into action at the former grand prix circuit on Thursday, meanwhile, is Mark Webber (Williams), Christian Klien (Red Bull), Scott Speed (Scuderia Toro Rosso) and Marc Gene (Ferrari).

V8s give fans less - tester
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.12) Although the grumbles are now generally getting quieter, there is still some serious opposition to the dawning of formula one's less powerful V8 era.

McLaren tester Pedro de la Rosa, from the beginning, has been staunchly opposed to the ridding of V10 grunt.

The Spaniard worries that both drivers and spectators have been robbed of something special.

''F1 has to remain at the pinnacle,'' de la Rosa, 34, told daily Spanish newspaper 'Marca'.

''All we are doing with the V8s is offering drivers and fans less.''

For the man at the wheel, Pedro says driving a 750hp V8 is 'much simpler' than the highest-spec 950 horse power monsters of late '05.

After driving a rev-limited V10 at Jerez on Wednesday, he added: ''Physically, V8 is easier.

''Young drivers, who are coming into formula one today, have a much simpler task. It's like saying to a marathon runner, 'Run each kilometer in 3min 20s rather than 3m 15s'.''

At the Madonna di Campiglio press event, however, Ferrari counterpart Marc Gene - to test at Jerez on Thursday - played down the gravity of the V8 problem.

The Spaniard said: ''I don't think it will force people to change their driving style and I don't think the fans will notice a difference.''

V8 Merc not facing re-design - McLaren
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.12) McLaren has moved to explain why rev-limited V10s, not Mercedes' 2006 V8 engines, were fitted to the orange winter cars at Jerez on Wednesday.

As the interim MP4-20B pulled out of the Spanish garage in the morning, a whisper rattled up pitlane that - faced with poor reliability in the November/December period - the German engine maker had decided to pull the V8 and hurriedly redesign it for the start of '06.

Not exactly so, a team statement contended.

''Engine production is focused on the V8 for the (2006) MP4-21 (car),'' McLaren clarified, ''which has different mountings from the one used in the MP4-20B.''

Because of this, however, McLaren will only resume on-track V8 testing with the debut of the new 2006 machine some time later this month.

Toyota try to hush F1 rumor mill
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.12) Toyota has reacted to paddock speculation linking both Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher with the Cologne based F1 outfit.

First, the rumor mill suggested that McLaren's 26-year-old Raikkonen could be Toyota-bound, on a supposed $120 million deal.

And, just in recent days, Schumacher's manager Willi Weber referred to the Toyota slogan 'Nothing Is Impossible' in hinting that the German could switch camps at year's end.

''The team confirms its commitment to both Ralf (Schumacher) and Jarno (Trulli),'' Toyota's press statement insisted, ''and to the continuity that is a key part of its development.''

The statement added that driver negotiations concerning '07 and beyond would be dealt with 'at a later date'.

Even under Toyota's own roof, driver talent is no scarcity. The team announced this week that Dutchman Henkie Waldschmidt and Martin Plowman, of England, have been added to the 'Young Drivers Program'.

The appointments involve funded drivers in Formula Renault seats.

''We cannot guarantee that (they) will become F1 drivers,'' said program boss Noritoshi Arai, ''but one of the aims is to seek out the next driving stars and to bring them up step-by-step.''

'06 rules 'will help Ferrari' - Massa
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.12) New scarlet signing Felipe Massa has confessed that the FIA's latest rule changes 'will help' Ferrari.

Speaking to the press at the traditional Ferrari winter event in the Italian dolomites, the young Brazilian referred to the scrapping of the one-tire per grand prix rule.

Under the 2005 regime, Bridgestone-tired Ferrari won just a single race against Michelin rivals -- the all-Bridgestone Indy farce.

''There have not been many rules in recent years that have helped us,'' Massa, 24, told reporters, ''but this does.''

New boy Felipe's opinion is not one that teammate Michael Schumacher openly shares, although he does admit that the red cars will at least no longer run out of rubber at the end of races.

The German, 37, told Der Spiegel: ''But if we're still one second behind in qualifying, changing tires during the race won't do us much good.

''We have to improve on our own strength.''

Massa, however, says that he is already noticing an improvement with Bridgestone's latest breed of '06 tire.

His testing teammate Marc Gene, a Spaniard, agrees with Massa: ''In fact, we are a bit ahead of where we expected to be,'' he explained, ''although there is still work to do.''

Massa 'calm' despite uncertain future
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.12) Brazil's Felipe Massa would be forgiven for feeling a little nervous about the future.

Although he'll line up on the 2006 grid next to Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher, the 24-year-old is widely regarded as a temporary measure on the road to the Maranello squad's future.

In the wings for 2007, the paddock hints, are Kimi Raikkonen and current MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi, while Michael Schumacher could well extend his stay.

''Everyone seems to be thinking of 2007,'' Massa - on an unusual one-year Ferrari race contract - said at Madonna di Campiglio, ''and that's a bit funny.

''But I am calm. When I talk to the people here, Ross Brawn, Jean Todt and so on, they are talking about 2006.''

Massa even suggests that the racing world has become carried away with the incessant Rossi-to-Ferrari gossip, commenting that the Italian is at least a full year's F1 testing from a proper swap.

''He's never even driven go-karts,'' Felipe noted. ''He's a huge talent but he has to decide whether to choose F1 or motorcycling.''

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