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Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
January 20,  2006


JV likes new BMW racer
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.20) Jacques Villeneuve gave BMW Sauber's new 'F1.06' car the thumbs up after driving it for the first time on Thursday.

The 1997 world champion, who matched teammate Nick Heidfeld's best time of 1.12.4 at the Valencia track in Spain, said the white, blue and red racer 'felt really good'.

''After the first day in a new car you can tell if it will be competitive or not,'' the French Canadian revealed.

''This one felt fast.''

Honda, Toyota and Williams, meanwhile, continued to plug around the Spanish Jerez venue, with Jenson Button emerging just ahead of new teammate Rubens Barrichello as the pair went toe-to-toe for the first time at a test venue.

The formula one winter circus will now move to yet another track in Spain - Barcelona's 'Circuit de Catalunya' - for next week's action.









McLaren to debut 2006 racer
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.20) McLaren's 2006 contender will probably appear for the first time at Barcelona next week.

While the exact day of the MP4-21's debut remains unknown, it is expected that the car will be tested at the scene of May's Spanish grand prix, at the upcoming major winter test.

The Woking based team will then test the Mercedes-Benz V8-powered car in every test week prior to the first race of the season, before a bodywork update is fitted ahead of Bahrain.

''90 per cent of the (new car's) components have changed from the MP4-20,'' McLaren's managing director Jonathan Neale said this month.









Mansell returns to Silverstone in '06
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.20) Three times in his career, 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell victoriously took the checkered flag at his home track in Silverstone.

Now, in 2006, the 52-year-old will be given an opportunity to repeat history, with August's 'Grand Prix Masters' single seat race.

In 1987, 1991 and 1992, the former champion won at Silverstone. ''Racing a thoroughbred grand prix car in front of a home crowd will be a surreal and mighty experience,'' Mansell said.

Italian grand prix venue Monza was also named as part of the five-race 2006 calendar, after Mansell won the series' original event in South Africa.









Imola to revise F1 layout
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.20) San Marino grand prix venue Imola is planning a major circuit upgrade, according to reports.

Canadian sports broadcaster TSN said on Thursday that the Italian track is making the $12m investment in order to retain its annual spot on the F1 calendar.

The plans involve the elimination of the Variante Bassa chicane, and the addition of a new pit and paddock complex.

English newspaper 'The Guardian' added that Imola mayor Massimo Marchignoli is hoping for project approval in late March, so that construction may be completed in time for the running of the 2007 race.









Herbert on Midland and Monteiro
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.20) With Max Biaggi's test run, and official confirmation of the Tiago Monteiro drive still lacking, confusion continues to surround the second seat at Midland's MF1 team.

But the Silverstone based team's 'sporting relations manager' Johnny Herbert has hinted that - internally - nothing is confused.

In an interview with crash.net, the British former F1 driver backed the definitive 2006 lineup -- Christijan Albers and Portugal's Monteiro.

''Tiago's consistency was his main thing,'' 41-year-old Johnny Herbert said, ''and that is very, very important in racing, as it's where you get your points.''

Midland, which took over the Silverstone-based Jordan team before the start of last season, came in for a lot of criticism in 2005, amid suggestions of a lack of desire to develop the car and the failure of the management to strike a chord with the media.

Herbert, whose main role is to improve MF1's image with British hacks, added: ''I think we've got on top of that, and now, with the new car coming, it's a fresh start for everybody.''









Ferrari not in strife - Todt
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.20) Ferrari is not in dire financial straits, team principal Jean Todt says.

Major $40m per-year backer Vodafone will jump ship to McLaren next year, sparking suggestions that - with carmaker parent Fiat also in strife - the team in red will approach the next few years with less weapons.

But the fact remains that Altria has ramped up its Marlboro backing, and Todt penned tasty new Concorde Agreement terms with Bernie Ecclestone. In addition, a sponsor announcement or two is due in the coming weeks.

The French boss insisted: ''I've read on many occasions that Ferrari might not be able to support our programs in the future.

''All this is false and does not correspond to reality.''

Todt reckons many of the 'Ferrari-in-crisis' whispers in pitlane are stirred up by 'competitors' who are keen to keep the Maranello based team in unrest.

Todt, however, insisted: ''We are going to have the means necessary to tackle future championships.''









Bernie meets with Hockenheim boss
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.20) Hockenheim chief Dieter Gummer has met with Bernie Ecclestone in London.

According to the 'Stuttgarter Nachrichten' newspaper, the talks this week centered on the future of the German grand prix, after the venue ran into financial turmoil.

It is not known what was discussed in the F1 supremo's English office, but the 75-year-old has been linked with taking over the promotion of the race.









F1 run was 'unique' event - Biaggi
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.20) Motorcycle racer Max Biaggi says his formula one test drive this week was an 'unique' event.

But the 34-year-old Italian warned the grand prix world to start getting serious about his four-wheeled foray if he appears again in 'MF1' colors.

In a translation by this publication of comments to Gazzetta dello Sport, Biaggi said: ''All possibilities are still open, on two and four wheels.''

And in England's 'Mirror' newspaper, Max was quoted as saying that the nine-lap Silverstone test was ''all about checking if I feel comfortable in a F1 car.

''At the moment, it is too early to say.''









Alonso buys Swiss mansion
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.20) World champion Fernando Alonso has celebrated his 2005 title, and future multi million dollar switch to McLaren, by buying a two-storey mansion in Switzerland.

In picturesque Chateau-d'Oex, in the Vaud region, the 24-year-old Spaniard has set up camp, after several years of living near Renault's English factory.

His new house is a huge, white 'chalet' with sets of majestic outdoor steps leading up to the front entrance. A photograph of the house reveals at least five upstairs bedrooms.

Alonso becomes the seventh notable F1 personality to live in Switzerland, including Jacques Villeneuve, David Coulthard, Kimi Raikkonen, Nick Heidfeld and Jarno Trulli. Quadruple world champion Alain Prost also has a Swiss home.

The country is attractive to high-earning F1 drivers, as the emphasis is on direct - rather than income - tax.









F1 stars race skidoos in Austria
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.20) Six F1 drivers headed to the World Cup downhill ski event in Kitzbuhel, Austria, this week.

David Coulthard, Christian Klien, Robert Doornbos, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Scott Speed and Neel Jani - that is, every driver with a 2006 Red Bull contract - traveled to the scene of the daunting 'Hahnenkamm' slope.

The Red Bull and Scuderia Toro Rosso stars, however, did not join the professional skiers on the terrifying slope, but instead staged a race on 125 horse power skidoos.

For the record, Californian racer Scott Speed won, ahead of Klien and Robert Doornbos.









Schu wives hit the headlines
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.20) With their speedy husbands in F1's winter shadow, this week Corinna and Cora Schumacher have found themselves in the headlines.

Corinna, seven time champion Michael Schumacher's wife, has appeared in the 'Bunte' magazine, featured for her work with the animal rights group PETA.

A horse lover, Corinna sponsors a program in Turkey to rescue horses that are used to pull heavy carts in searing heat.

''We buy neglected horses from people, exchanging them for pickup trucks,'' the 36-year-old told the magazine.

28-year-old Cora Schumacher, meanwhile - the much less introverted wife of Michael's younger brother Ralf - is featured in an Austrian magazine as wanting to have a career in television.









Gascoyne questions STR's actions
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.20) Mike Gascoyne has expressed concern that Scuderia Toro Rosso's winter test car is the Red Bull racer from 2005.

The Toyota technical director, who also criticized the former Minardi team's intention to use a performance-limited V10 this year, told Reuters that he questions the actual legality of Faenza based STR's agenda.

''Under the Concorde Agreement it is quite clear that each team has to be a constructor,'' the Briton told the news agency.

Gascoyne said: ''If one guy owns two teams, that's still two separate teams.''

But while that is undeniably true of actual grands prix, very few FIA regulations actual police teams' procedures at private tests.

Moreover, the second Dietrich Mateschitz-owned camp do intend to construct an all-new car for 2006, and one that is neither based on the 2005 'RB1' Red Bull car, or the Minardi.

''The (STR) car that debuts in Bahrain will be fully built in Faenza,'' Red Bull Racing's technical operations director Gunther Steiner said recently.









Ron Dennis won't quit - Richards
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.20) For the past one or two years, the odd rumor has done the rounds that McLaren boss Ron Dennis is eying retirement.

The Briton, and 30 per cent owner of the entire McLaren Group, will turn 59 this year, but whispers of him stepping down and watching his Woking team operate from a distance are usually digested with a pinch of salt.

Ron's right hand man, Martin Whitmarsh, once said that he imagines his boss being 'Zimmer-framed' to his pit perch.

It is an image that Dennis' former counterpart in team principal meetings, ex-BAR boss David Richards, probably shares.

Richards told F1 Racing magazine that he doesn't believe occasional paddock gossip that Ron might quit.

''He's still probably the most competitive person in the paddock,' he said. ''I know he sometimes talks about wanting a quieter life, but that's different from actually doing it, isn't it?''

DR added: ''I think his hand will remain firmly on the tiller for some time.''









Malaysian GP targets crowd of 120,000
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.20) The Sepang circuit has targeted a crowd of 120,000 for the eighth Malaysian grand prix in March.

At the race's media launch in Kuala Lumpur this week, chairman Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir said ticket prices had been slashed to as little as about $15 (US) for a three day pass.

''We are confident of coaxing 120,000 spectators to watch the race live,'' he told the Malay Mail newspaper.

Only 7,000 tickets have been sold so far, but Mahathir insisted that it is a 200 per cent increase over last year.

Student tickets, meanwhile, have been dropped to just $7. Mahathir said: ''You don't get an opportunity to see the best drivers in the world at such cheap prices.''

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