Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
January 19,  2006

Briatore questions Alonso's wisdom
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.19) After raging at Ron Dennis' handling of the 2007 switch, Renault boss Flavio Briatore has now questioned the wisdom of Fernando Alonso's move to McLaren.

''Choosing where to go so early is a risky move,'' the Italian told Auto, Motor Und Sport.

''At the moment, McLaren are losing more engineers than any other team.

''We will see where they end up in two years' time.''

Briatore, meanwhile, has found an ally in his anger at Dennis' handling of Alonso's move. Former grand prix driver Hans-Joachim Stuck told Germany's 'Bild' newspaper that England's Ron Dennis would 'sell his grandmother' if he could.

''He does not know the meaning of words such as honor, or conscience,'' Stuck, 54, said.

BMW to keep 'Sauber' name
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.19) Fans of the 13-year F1 team Sauber should cheer a shot of good news.

Although German carmaker BMW has bought the Swiss based operation, it appears that the 'Sauber' moniker will not be dropped from the team's official name any time soon.

The Hinwil-based camp will be known as BMW-Sauber in 2006, the team has already stated.

But BMW motor sport director Mario Theissen told Swiss newspaper 'Blick': ''Sauber will remain in the name of BMW's formula one team.''

Biaggi's F1 switch unlikely - 'paper
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.19) MotoGP's Max Biaggi is not likely to switch to formula one, the Italian 'Gazzetta dello Sport' newspaper has reported.

The 34-year-old, ousted by his two-wheeled Honda team for 2006, tested for Midland's MF1 grand prix squad at Silverstone (UK) on Wednesday.

But Biaggi, who also tested a Ferrari F1 in 1999, is more likely to go to Superbikes, the publication said. In sodden conditions, he lapped the track nine times.

''This was a good chance to sit in a formula one car again and go to Silverstone, where I don't know the track,'' Biaggi was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Other media sources suggested that both Biaggi and the Midland F1 team are keen to see MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi beaten in the switch from two wheels.

But, at present, Max is not scheduled to test again for the Silverstone based team, even if he said he would 'love' another run -- 'preferably when it's dry,' Biaggi smiled.

Also on Wednesday, 2006 racer Christijan Albers tested his Midland car, while likely teammate Tiago Monteiro is set to take over on Thursday.

Birthday boy Button on form
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.19) On the day before his 26th birthday, Jenson Button returned to the test track at Jerez and set the quickest lap time.

Despite another very cold start to the day in southern Spain, eight runners eventually graced the circuit, including JB's Honda team, Toyota, McLaren - concluding its two-day test - and Williams.

Toyota's day with two 2006 cars did not run smoothly. Jarno Trulli sat out most of the morning with clutch trouble, while Ralf's TF106 broke down after lunch with a gearbox glitch.

Over at Valencia, also in Spain, Nick Heidfeld put another 68 laps on BMW Sauber's new F1.06 car.

On Thursday, his 2006 teammate, Jacques Villeneuve, will get his first taste of the racer.

'Quick Nick' still on his bike
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.19) Nick Heidfeld says crashing his bicycle and missing several grands prix last year has not put him off riding.

The German, who will race for the BMW Sauber team this year and until at least the end of 2008, broke his shoulder in September last season and did not reappear in his Williams.

''Cycling is definitely still a hobby,'' 28-year-old 'Quick Nick' said at the launch of his new team's car in Spain.

He added: ''But I prefer my mountain bike again rather than the racing bike. It's more fun and also less dangerous riding it in traffic.''

Heidfeld revealed that he is also feeling more relaxed in his F1 garage, because - for the first time in quite a few years - he has a long contract in his pocket.

''Also, it's because I know both Sauber and BMW well,'' he quipped, ''even if I know them both from separate times.''

Ralf would welcome German GP switch
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.19) Ralf Schumacher says he would welcome the concept of switching Germany's annual grand prix between the Nurburgring and financially-troubled Hockenheim.

Cologne based Toyota's 30-year-old German told British news agency Reuters: ''If race tracks can't afford F1 every year ... maybe it's quite a good idea.''

Ralf has won grands prix at both 'home' circuits, so it might have been thought that he would dislike the proposed solution to Hockenheim's near bankruptcy.

But 'Schu Jr' continued: ''It doesn't really matter to me.''

Compatriot Nick Heidfeld, however - BMW Sauber's new three-year pilot - is more perturbed at the thought of a German track dropping off the annual grand prix trail.

''As a German driver I enjoy having two home grands prix,'' he stated.

Zanardi carries Olympic flame
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.19) Alex Zanardi has become the third racing driver to carry the winter Olympic flame, according to Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport 'paper.

The 39-year-old Italian, who contested grands prix in the 90s before switching to American Champ Cars, told the publication he felt 'honored' to get the invitation. Compatriots Jarno Trulli and Luca Badoer have also taken part in the torch's journey to Turin.

Photographs showed Zanardi, who lost both his legs below the knee in an horror 2001 crash, holding the torch in one hand and a walking stick in the other.

F1 teams ink sponsor deals
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.19) Wednesday proved a busy day in the world of F1 sponsorship, with both Williams and Midland's MF1 team announcing deals.

Sir Frank's Grove-based team said it had extended a technical agreement with QinetiQ, the British military technology company, so that the logo would remain on Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg's helmets.

Northamptonshire-based MF1, meanwhile, penned a deal with clothing brand Garcia Jeanswear, in a deal that will put the logo on the team's new grey, black and red car.

Garcia entered F1 with Minardi rookie Christijan Albers last year, and have followed the Dutchman to his new team.

BMW duo vow to get along
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.19) Jacques Villeneuve has vowed to get along with his new F1 teammate, Germany's Nick Heidfeld.

Amid suggestions that Heidfeld's longer BMW Sauber contract is already causing tension between the pair, 34-year-old JV said there is no point getting into a battle with Nick.

''If you're in the middle of the field,'' the French Canadian said, ''then you must work together in order to bring the team success.''

Heidfeld, 28, is no doubt well aware that Villeneuve and Jenson Button clashed memorably at BAR a few years ago, as well as suggestions that JV - the paddock 'rebel' - is a hard man to work with.

But 'Quick Nick' insisted: ''Until now I have had no real problem with Jacques. In fact, in my entire career I have never had problems with my teammates -- and I expect the same with him.''

F1 grandson makes the grade
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.19) He's no son of a world champion. This rising youngster is the grandson of a F1 superstar.

18-year-old Marco Andretti, whose father Michael was once a teammate for Ayrton Senna, is thus the grandson of Mario Andretti, the 65-year-old title winner of 1978.

Marco will debut for his dad's Indy Racing League team this season.

''He's definitely ready for his progression into this type of car,'' grandpa Mario told the USA Today newspaper.

Red Bull plays down new car flaw
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.19) Red Bull has played down the new 'RB2' racer's cooling glitch, insisting that the problem is not unsolvable.

At the recent Silverstone shakedown, as well as in Spain last week, the problem was a major issue, with mechanics forced to cut holes in the car bodywork.

''We always knew that the lessons learnt by running the car early would be worth a bit of pain,'' team boss Christian Horner said in a report on the Red Bull Racing website, ''and I'd say it's looking very encouraging.''

He described the cooling issue as a 'teething' problem. Indeed, the current 'RB2' is due for a total aerodynamic overhaul prior to the first race of the season.

Horner continued: ''The whole point of getting our new car out so early was to learn as much as possible about running with a (Ferrari) V8 well before the start of the season.''

Heidfeld is BMW's 'no.1' - Stuck
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.19) According to team boss Mario Theissen, BMW Sauber has employed 'two number one' drivers for the 2006 season.

But former grand prix driver Hans-Joachim Stuck, the 55-year-old German who raced 74 times in the 70s, reckons actual reality at the Hinwil based grand prix team this year will play differently.

He told Germany's 'Sport1' publication that 28-year-old Heidfeld - on a new three year team agreement - is BMW's chosen son.

''Nick is German and will probably also stay at the team for longer,'' Stuck said. ''I think (Jacques) Villeneuve is absolutely the right choice, but more emphasis will be on Nick.''

Villeneuve's not done with F1 yet
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.19) Not long after the Australian grand prix in April, Jacques Villeneuve will turn 35.

But, even with his BMW Sauber contract set to expire at the end of the year, the French Canadian is not yet thinking about stopping.

''I want to race in formula one for a lot longer,'' Villeneuve told Germany's Sport Bild.

Jacques added: ''I still love the competition, which is where I get my motivation from.''

JV, of course, dropped off the F1 pile at the end of 2003, when he fell out spectacularly with ex BAR boss David Richards.

The 1997 champion clawed his way back onto the grid via Renault and Sauber, and now finds himself with another works drive. But is hasn't been plain sailing, even recently.

Jacques has not won a race since his title year, he underperformed at Sauber for much of 2005, and spent November last year wondering whether BMW would honor his contract.

Through all that, he still wants to win.

''Winning is still the reason that I drive in formula one,'' Villeneuve insisted. ''And the title, as well. I'm not here just to be part of it. I haven't forgotten how to win.''

JV should make an occasional glance over his shoulder, though. In the 'Friday' and reserve post for BMW Sauber this year, is a highly rated, rising talent.

Poland's 21-year-old Robert Kubica said: ''I aim to be around at this team for a long time.''

Schu sidesteps 'Schumi-Ring' talk
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.19) Earlier this month, it was reported that the exclusive naming rights to Germany's embattled grand prix circuit in Hockenheim were up for grabs.

Speculation put the price for the privilege at around $2 million a year, with countryman and seven time world champion Michael Schumacher perhaps asked to dip into his pocket.

At the recent Ferrari press meeting in the Italian alps, an intrepid reporter for the 'Bild' newspaper asked the 36-year-old driver if he had decided to rename the German circuit 'Schumi-Ring'.

''I think 'Bild-Ring' sounds pretty good too,'' Schumacher giggled.

With that part-denial out of the way, Michael - fresh from the Jerez tests - was then asked who he thought might be a major F1 player in 2006.

He said: ''Renault are making a strong impression. They are getting on with their development very steadily and reliably, while the same cannot be said of all top teams.''

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