Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
January 13,  2006

Rubens back with a bang
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.13) Rubens Barrichello returned to the F1 track with a bang on Thursday, setting a potent pace on his first day as a Honda driver.

The former six-year Ferrari star, who incidentally set his best time with an unlimited V10 engine, could not test in November and December as he was still under contract to the red team.

''It felt good to drive again -- finally,'' Brazil's Barrichello beamed at Jerez in Spain.

He called moving from the Honda V10 to the new V8 - albeit just for a few laps - 'a shock'.

Over in the Toyota camp, technical director Mike Gascoyne was spotted for the first day this week. He only added to growing feelings that the new TF106 will be one of the most competitive cars this year.

''We feel that we are in a good position and pretty confident for the season,'' said the Briton.

What's more, a totally new aero-bodywork package will be unveiled in February, prior to the first race.

At Red Bull, Christian Klien got his first taste of the 'RB2' racer on Thursday, although the car is still playing up in the reliability stakes. On Thursday, the problem was with the transmission.

Schu's future rests with 'F2006'
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.13) Ferrari's 2006 F1 car will be presented to the media at Mugello on 24 January, the Italian based team has announced.

However, although the official 'launch' is to take place at the circuit near Florence, F2006's very first run will actually be staged next week, at yet another Italian track owned by Ferrari, Fiorano.

At the traditional Ferrari press gathering in the Italian ski alps, meanwhile, Michael Schumacher reduced the chance that he could switch teams for 2007 from 99 per cent to '99.9' per cent.

''I just don't want to lie,'' he explained at Madonna di Campiglio on Thursday. Schumacher admits he has entertained the concept of quitting, but told a journalist to 'ask Willy (Weber)' why his manager would specifically mention Toyota.

''He said that, not me,'' Michael quipped.

''No-one wants to put in so much effort for nothing. I have experienced this frustration last season and do not have the intention to have it again.

''If I do (stop), I want to do nothing. I won't have any fixed plans to find out what I really want to do next.''

Merc boss aims fire at Montoya
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.13) Kimi Raikkonen is better than twice world champion Mika Hakkinen. 2007 McLaren driver Fernando Alonso is 'truly an exceptional driver'.

Mercedes-Benz engine chief Mario Illien, however, did not use the same sort of superlatives for the other racer in silver overalls -- Juan Pablo Montoya.

''Losing the constructors' championship was down to Montoya,'' Illien told Italy's Autosprint magazine. ''He should have brought home more points.

''Montoya made mistakes that a driver of his experience should not make.''

'STR' boss plays down V10 row
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.13) Scuderia Toro Rosso principal Franz Tost has played down the importance of the V8-V10 'equivalency' debate.

It is a thorny topic in pitlane these days, with all V8-powered players worried that - even with rev-limits and air restrictors - the team's Cosworth V10 could be the most powerful on the 2006 grid.

''I don't understand it,'' Austria's Tost, formerly with BMW, said. ''Everyone agreed to this regulation but then we only started to hear about (the problem) after Red Bull bought Minardi.''

Indeed, several opponents agree that while cash-strapped Minardi' use of a V10 would not really have been a problem, 'STR' is now a well-funded F1 foe.

But Tost doesn't think the team's V10 will be at such an advantage, anyway.

''At lower speeds there are some benefits,'' he admitted, ''but the V8 more than makes up for it in the straight line.''

V8 is 'more fun' - Schumacher
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.13) Michael Schumacher has abandoned the doomsayers by claiming that V8 engines make formula one 'a lot of fun'.

The German, addressing the media at Ferrari's traditional event in the Italian alps, reckons the 950 hp monsters of 2005 had become too hard to handle.

In recent years, the governing body has worked hard to reduce grip - through bodywork and tire changes - but engine grunt basically continued its upward trend.

''I was very much in favor of the decision (to go to V8s),'' Schumacher said, also praising the effect lower power has on safety.

''In terms of driving, it's like a go-kart now,'' he added. ''Before, you had this monster in the back which was out of control in a way. Now, it is a lot of fun to drive.''

Michael won his first drivers' championship, in 1994, with a (Ford Cosworth) V8 engine, against strong V10 rivals like Williams-Renault.

Merc V8 is not flawed - Norbert Haug
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.13) German engine maker Mercedes-Benz has continued to fend off gossip that serious problems are plaguing its 2006 2.4 liter V8 engine.

McLaren's orange-colored interim cars are sporting older V10 units in Jerez testing this week, after a period of unreliable V8-powered running late last year.

The team contend that the issue is all about a slight mounting point redesign, although persistent rumors rumble-on that the work going on behind closed doors is much more serious.

''We have already completed 6000 test kilometres with the V8,'' Mercedes competition director Norbert Haug insists. ''We do not have any concern.''

The German went on: ''On the contrary, we are further ahead than we expected we would be.''

The facts, however, remain. At the last Jerez test in December, at least three Mercedes-Benz V8s failed. Moreover, a team source at the Spanish tests admitted that it was 'obvious' that it would be better to have the V8 this week.

Haug continued: ''I understand that it is confusing that we are using the V10 again now.

''The truth is, the new car could have been finished a little earlier. We hope it will be ready to test for the very first time at the end of next week.''

Alonso in pain before new car debut
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.13) World champion Fernando Alonso had a mixed introduction to his 2006 F1 racer on Thursday.

The young Spaniard, after his teammate debuted the new car at Jerez in Spain, hopped out of the cockpit before he had even turned a flying lap after feeling muscle pain.

He received treatment for much of the morning, putting Giancarlo Fisichella back at the wheel before Alonso, 24, resumed after lunch time.

''The good news for me is that the new car was still easy to drive,'' Fernando said at the end of the day. ''The performance felt good, although this is the first test with a brand new car and there are still lots of areas to improve.''

Gene 'not obsessed' about race return
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.13) Marc Gene says he is 'not obsessed' about returning to the F1 grid.

The Ferrari test driver, contracted to the Maranello based team until the end of this year, says he will try to find a spot as a racer for the '07 season.

But he told reporters at the Madonna di Campiglio press event: ''Nowadays I'm not obsessed with that thought, while it obsesses a large portion of my colleagues.''

31-year-old Gene, who was born in Barcelona, raced 32 times for Minardi, and also a few times filling in for the injured Ralf Schumacher as Williams' reserve driver (2003-4).

However, he is most in awe of Ralf's elder brother, who he got to know at the scarlet clad Ferrari team in 2005.

''In another team they would call me to replace a racing driver in testing,'' Gene revealed. ''At Ferrari the opposite is true -- all of a sudden they tell me to stay home because Michael (Schumacher) wants to test!''

Liuzzi eyes 'STR' podium
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.13) The HQ may be in Faenza, and much of the staff may still be in place, but the team is definitely no longer Minardi.

Vitantonio Liuzzi, the more experienced of the rookie pair at Red Bull-acquired 'Scuderia Toro Rosso', says he'll be charging for a podium in 2006 -- maybe more.

''It is usual that your teammate is your first enemy,'' the 24-year-old Italian said at the Autosport International Show in Birmingham (UK), ''and my target is to finish on the podium.''

Tonio's teammate will be Scott Speed, the Californian rookie who turns 23 on January 24th.

Liuzzi said the first 'STR' car, which will not be an updated version of either the 2005 Minardi or Red Bull cars, should be ready 'in a couple of weeks'.

''We don't know if we can win races,'' the 2004 F3000 champion continued, ''but we will push hard and try and do even better in 2007.''

Button must deliver in '06 - former boss
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.13) David Richards, who first signed Jenson Button to the Brackley based team for 2003, says the English driver must now start to deliver the wins in 2006.

The former BAR boss accused Button, 25, of making 'hollow promises' on the road to a winless record after 100 career grands prix.

''You can't go on promising and under-delivering,'' Richards told Reuters at the Autosport International in Birmingham on Thursday.

Under Richards' leadership, the Honda works team finished second in the 2004 constructors' chase, while Jenson Button collected a sackful of podiums.

But with Nick Fry in charge last year, the team floundered with the '007' car and was even banned for two races after a run-in with the governing body.

'DR' also criticized the new management for signing such a long term deal with Button. Reportedly, the driver is now tied to Honda until the close of 2010.

Again referring to Jenson's questionable race record, Richards called the decision a 'brave' move that could fail.

'Aguri' still waiting for green light
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.13) Friday the thirteenth will come and go with no word about Super Aguri's official team entry for the new season.

Although the fledgling Japanese team had hoped to get the governing body's green light this week, there is - according to reports - a hold-up that is not related to the successful lodging of the $48 million FIA bond.

As such, no news is expected now until the first days of next week, even if Aguri Suzuki's Honda-powered squad is ultimately expected to get the go-ahead.

Another 'Grand Prix Masters' race
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.13) After the inaugural event last year in South Africa, a second novel 'Grand Prix Masters' race will be staged.

1992 world champion Nigel Mansell will again be the star of the open wheeler contest for F1 veterans, to be held on the 'Losail' circuit in Qatar between April 27-29.

The Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation also revealed that the race would be just one in a ten-race championship in 2006.

Losail is also the scene of world class MotoGP and Superbike races.

Former faces ponder future in F1
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.13) A couple of former regulars of the F1 paddock would love another shot at the pinnacle of motor sport.

Trevor Carlin started off last year as Jordan's sporting director, but he fell out with the Midland management and left the team.

''I am still quite young,'' he said at the Autosport International show in Birmingham (UK), ''and I would like to think I will have another chance at it.''

Another man on the main stage at the motor sport show, meanwhile, was Paul Stoddart, who last year sold his Minardi team to Red Bull.

A renowned F1 anorak, the Australian confessed that he is missing the sport 'really badly' but is unlikely to find a new job.

50-year-old Stoddart, who clashed memorably with the governing body in his five-year tenure, admitted: ''There are not many opportunities for an outspoken former team principal.''

He added: ''As we have seen with Eddie Jordan, I think when you are out of the sport then you are really out of it.''

Schu should quit, says Hakkinen
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.13) Michael Schumacher should quit formula one, according to his former championship rival.

'Flying Finn' Mika Hakkinen, who won his first of two titles in 1998 in a showdown with the German, has chimed into the debate amid the latest speculation about Schumacher's future.

Undoubtedly, 37-year-old Schumacher has contemplated retirement, admitting - for example - on Thursday that he will consult with wife Corinna as he makes a decision for 2007 and beyond.

But Hakkinen, who is also 37 but quit F1 four years ago before returning in the German 'DTM' series, told the Mirror: ''The first time you think 'shall I retire?' you should do it.

''Otherwise it will stick in your mind for the rest of your career.''

Former F1 team owner Eddie Jordan agrees with Mika, telling Autosport that the 'only thought in Michael's head will be wanting to retire as champion'.

Schumacher, meanwhile, has been giving his own brand of advice to F1's next generation. In a news conference in Italy, the seven time world champion said that if Valentino Rossi decided to leave MotoGP and switch full-time to Ferrari, 'he would have options to (do just that)'.

''I guess it is in his hands, if he wants it or not,'' the German added. ''It's up to him.''

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