Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
January 25,  2006

Ferrari axe Mugello plans
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.25) Ferrari has axed plans to test at Mugello this week, after Michael Schumacher struggled for grip in the new '248' car as it was launched officially on Tuesday.

The world's media converged on the Tuscan venue to catch a glimpse of the newly-liveried red racer, but freezing conditions made it a trying experience for all. And when the next day's forecast looked even worse, Maranello bosses scrapped plans for Wednesday and vowed to take the car to the group test in Barcelona.

Schumacher, 37, will resume running in the warmer country, while teammate Felipe Massa traveled directly to Spain on Tuesday evening to test the V8-powered F2004 the next day.

At Barcelona on Tuesday, Juan Pablo Montoya got his first taste of McLaren's new 2006 car, the MP4-21. In an older car, test driver Gary Paffett crashed.

''The new car feels very similar to last year's car,'' Colombia's Montoya said, ''but a little bit better. It's still very early stages though.''

Ferrari's Marc Gene topped the field of eight in his 2004 model, sharing the track with BMW Sauber, and Robert Doornbos, who got to try the new Red Bull car for the first time, but was slowest.

Schu content with number five
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.25) Michael Schumacher says he is untroubled that, for the first time since 2000, the digit on his car's nose is not the coveted number '1'.

The champion's honor, this time around, belongs to Fernando Alonso, while the seven time title winner must be content with number 5.

''Having a different number is not so long ago that I cannot remember,'' Schumacher, 37, smiled at Mugello during the launch of the '248 F1' Ferrari racer -- whose naming is also a break in tradition.

It could be worse. With '5' on the Benetton, Schumacher won his very first title, in 1994. It has also guided Sir Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, and Alonso, to the biggest F1 prize.

''Honestly, if it is not the number one, I don't care what it is,'' Michael shrugged. And regarding the 2006 car's novel '248' naming, he commented: ''It looks like we want to start a new chapter!''

Schumacher stayed away from making too many observations about the new car at the low-key unveiling, which mainly involved the German turning laps and posing on the start line with team bosses and teammate Felipe Massa, attending his first Ferrari launch in jeans.

''So far, as we have tested in Italy,'' Michael observed, ''the weather has not really cooperated. But I have a positive initial feeling.''

He added that '248', with a completely revised suspension layout, will wear a new aerodynamic package for the first race in Bahrain.

Schumacher continued: ''I think we will be able to fight for the championship with this car. But at this point it is pretty hard to judge.''

Rossi could test at Valencia - Todt
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.25) MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi's next formula one outing could be at Valencia (Spain), Ferrari principal Jean Todt has hinted.

At the launch of the red team's 2006 '248' racer at Mugello (Italy), the French chief did not quell speculation that 26-year-old Rossi could be bound for a four-wheel future.

Todt said: ''Nothing has been decided.

''It's not 100 per cent certain but (Rossi) could soon be doing more testing in Valencia.''

The Prancing Horse's president Luca di Montezemolo, however, denied that Ferrari is already thinking beyond 2006, when Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa's current contracts will have lapsed.

The Italian responded: ''2007? I have asked everyone at this team for maximum concentration for 2006.''

'Schu has two more years in him'
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.25) On the Mugello grid, Michael Schumacher and 2006 teammate Felipe Massa posed for photographers with the new '248 F1' grand prix car.

But much of the world's media in Italy wondered what the faces of the men in scarlet overalls would look like in a year.

Nobody was giving much away, but Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo does not hide that he wants Schumacher to pen a new deal.

''He will decide,'' said the Italian chief. ''For me, I believe he has everything he needs to stay at the sport's highest level for two more years.

''But if he tells us in the middle of the season that he is no longer motivated, we will be sad, but we will understand, because motivation is important not only in sport, but in your life.''

Montezemolo also rejected rumors that formula one is becoming simply too expensive for Ferrari to compete in.

The Italian said: ''This is a sport in which we have always been involved, and in which we always will be.''

Byrne signs to stay at Ferrari
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.25) Long time Ferrari designer Rory Byrne has penned a new two year contract.

Although many in F1 circles expected the 62-year-old South African to retire completely in 2006, he will stay on as a consultant after handing over full control of the design of Ferrari's single seater racers to Aldo Costa.

In fact, even more so than with the unsuccessful F2005, Byrne had little to do with the actual design of Costa's 2006 spec '248'.

But technical director Ross Brawn said: ''Rory has got huge experience and we want to use that.''

England's Brawn, meanwhile, said he wants to stay at Maranello beyond the end of his 2006 contract, but team boss Jean Todt gave nothing away when asked if retirement loomed for him.

Montoya says he's on the market
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.25) Juan Pablo Montoya says he is already looking around for a new formula one team for 2007.

Speculation suggested that, in mid-December, Woking chief Ron Dennis did not take up an option on the Colombian's services beyond this year. It is a concept that Montoya, 30, does not reject.

''I would happily stay with McLaren,'' he told 'Auto, Motor und Sport'. ''Continuity is a very important thing. But the team would first have to show me that they want me.''

Montoya's comments, of course, should be swallowed in the context of Ron Dennis' signing of Fernando Alonso for 2007, and the simple fact that - at the very least - either Juan Pablo or Kimi Raikkonen will have to make way for the Spanish world champion.

Already, the rumor mill has suggested that Montoya could go to Red Bull, but the latest suggestion is that manager Julian Jakobi has now opened talks with BMW Sauber about 2007.

Montoya warned Dennis that he will not wait forever for his decision. ''If I get an offer from Ferrari, Renault or BMW, then I will be off the market.''

'MF1' promises big test program
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.25) Colin Kolles has promised that Midland's newly-named 'MF1' team will embark on a big test program in February.

The Silverstone based squad's managing director told 'Speed TV' - on the one-year anniversary of taking over Jordan - that the not-yet-unleashed 'M16' car will be taken to Jerez, Valencia and Barcelona prior to the season opener in Bahrain.

Kolles said: ''We have 15 days of testing, so there will be a lot to learn. Hopefully the car will be quick enough!''

It's been a busy week at the Russian-owned camp. On Tuesday, Midland confirmed that rising German talent Markus Winkelhock has been signed as a test driver.

''(He) will participate in (the) Friday driver lineup,'' a statement read, ''the full details of which will be announced at a later date.''

It was also announced that the logo of container shipping company 'Zim' will be painted on the 2006 car.

McLaren wants Ferrari sponsor in '06
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.25) Moves are afoot to accelerate F1 sponsor Vodafone's 2007 switch from Ferrari to McLaren.

The Woking based team's 'F1 CEO' Martin Whitmarsh admitted that 'discussions' are presently going on about - presumably - ending the mobile company's 2006 Ferrari association to install the new title sponsor now.

''Certainly we would like Vodafone to be with us this year,'' he said.

But by launching its new car with the Vodafone logo intact on Tuesday, Ferrari suggested that such a shift would be unlikely.

Whitmarsh also attempted to clear up lingering paddock speculation that several McLaren engineers - including aerodynamic chief Nicholas Tombazis - are starting to take up the tasty offers of rival teams.

He said: ''If a team has success, then inevitably other teams start to make good offers.''

Fisichella keeps driver's license
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.25) Despite being clocked at a whopping 148kph in a 60-zone in November, F1 ace Giancarlo Fisichella has kept his Italian driver's license.

The Roman was nabbed by local police speeding home at 4.30am with his wife. Fisichella, winner of two grands prix, said at the time that they were rushing to be with their sick child.

According to new reports in Italy, a judge has ruled that the 32-year-old Renault driver should not be punished beyond a hefty fine.

Fiat does not fund Ferrari - president
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.25) Ferrari is not a works formula one team that is backed by a manufacturer, according to the marque's president, Luca di Montezemolo.

Although Italian carmaker Fiat is commonly viewed as Ferrari's 'parent company', and Montezemolo is also in charge of the Turin-based manufacturer, he said the link between the pair should end there.

''I would like to get this straight,'' said the Italian. ''Fiat does not give Ferrari a single Euro for formula one. All activities for racing depend on Ferrari's resources alone.

''We are a private team.''

BMW had V8 vibration problem
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.25) According to the rumor mill, BMW - perhaps more than most - has grappled with the problem of vibration in its new 2.4 liter V8 engine.

And while the current state of play must remain in the field of speculation and suggestion, BMW Sauber's technical director Willy Rampf has admitted that it was a big problem the team dealt with early on.

''When we ran the P86 engine for the first time,'' the German told Motorsport Aktuell, ''it jumped up and down wildly on the test stand.''

Rampf added that the problem has been addressed.

Seven time world champion Michael Schumacher, meanwhile, inspired a few smiles at Mugello on Tuesday when asked about the noise of the new V8 units.

''They sound, to me, a bit like Tina Turner's voice,'' the German quipped.

Ferrari will let me win - Massa
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.25) Felipe Massa has vowed to charge for podiums, victories and championships in his Ferrari.

For any other grand prix driver, such a 'goal' is not striking. But, as Rubens Barrichello and Eddie Irvine know well, Michael Schumacher's Ferrari teammate is very much a 'number-two'.

But it's a notion Brazilian Massa, 24, plays down.

''Before each grand prix, the objective is to win it,'' Felipe said at the launch of his and Schumacher's new '248 F1' model in Italy.

He added: ''But my first goal this year is to get my first podium. Then my goal is the victory, and afterwards the world championship comes.''

Massa does not think Ferrari will prevent him from winning grands prix.

''I am sure the team will give us both chances to win races,'' he insisted. ''In a top team it is important that both drivers get as many points as possible, because the points count also for the constructors' world title.''

Schu's new rearward view
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.25) At least visibly, Ferrari's new '248 F1' racer is not radical -- unless you're referring to the car's rear mirrors.

It is perhaps the most unique aspect of the 2006 model. Unlike more conventional designs, the mirrors' unusually-long stalks are not attached to the cockpit sides, but to the top of the side pods.

Michael Schumacher denied that it is now harder to keep tabs on what is happening behind the scarlet racer.

''The view is different,'' the German said at Mugello, ''but it's no problem.''

37-year-old Schumacher explained that the mirrors were moved for the '248' car after tests in the wind tunnel showed that it is a more aerodynamic solution.

Also new at Mugello was Schumacher's new 'Deutsche Vermogensberatung' sponsor cap, featuring a Chinese character on the peak, the Italian flag on the left, and the German flag on the right.'

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