Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
January 27,  2006

Rossi to decide about F1 in 2006 - father
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.27) Later this year, MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi will decide whether or not to switch full time to formula one, his father says.

The 26-year-old Italian is set to test alongside Ferrari's Michael Schumacher and other teams for the first time next week, in a move that perhaps indicates the seriousness of his recent formula one outings.

''This is his first real F1 trial,'' Rossi's father, Graziano - a former motorcycle racer - told the Italian 'ANSA' agency.

Although Valentino himself is often cagey about the F1 speculation, Rossi Snr admitted that his offspring was indeed contemplating the switch.

Graziano added: ''I think he'll take until about halfway through this season and then he'll decide one way or another.''

Schumacher also hinted that the bosses at Maranello were similarly serious about Rossi's grand prix potential.

Asked about the motorcycle racer's Valencia test, the German said: ''It's not really a big deal if Valentino is there or not, but it might be different in the future.''

Team boss Jean Todt, however, can probably sense a feeling in some corners of the sports media that the Rossi-hype is starting to bore.

The Frenchman told La Gazzetta dello Sport: ''I would rather talk about whether we can catch up with our new car.''

Frozen gravel traps in Spain
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.27) On another chilly day in Barcelona (Spain), the 2006 season continued to shape up as seven teams put new cars through their paces.

Michael Schumacher got behind the wheel of Ferrari's '248' for the first time in a crowd, while Honda, Renault, BMW Sauber, Red Bull, Toyota and McLaren also ran spanking new machines.

For the record, Felipe Massa - in an older Ferrari - was again the pacesetter, with Honda's RA106 and the new Renault R26 also looking quick, although over-analysing lap times at winter tests is usually pretty futile.

On his first run since October, and winter knee surgery, '05 runner up Kimi Raikkonen went twelfth quickest in the McLaren MP4-21.

''My first impression of the car is positive,'' said the Finnish driver, ''but I will need more track time to find out how great the potential really is.''

Morning progress at the Catalan circuit was held up because gravel traps were actually frozen, while ominous rain clouds moved overhead near the close of play.

Rosberg sponsor joins Williams
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.27) One of F1 rookie Nico Rosberg's personal sponsors, Finnish energy drink Battery, has emerged as a new backer of his Williams team.

The brand's logo will feature on both the 20-year-old and teammate Mark Webber's helmet visors.

Although Nico was actually born in Germany, his father - 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg - is Finnish.

''I've always wanted to have closer bonds with Finland,'' Nico Rosberg - the reigning GP2 champion - said in 2004, ''and find a Finnish sponsor.''

While on the topic of twenty year old racing drivers, McLaren has penned a deal with Dutch youngster Giedo van der Garde, funding his 2006 drive with reigning champions ASM in the 2006 F3 Euroseries.

Former members of McLaren's young driver programme include Nick Heidfeld, Ricardo Zonta and - currently - Lewis Hamilton.

Prodromou to leave McLaren - official
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.27) F1 team Red Bull has confirmed speculation that, just like Adrian Newey before him, aero chief Peter Prodromou has defected from McLaren.

But Prodromou, responsible for the bodywork of the new MP4-21 racer, will not leave Woking until at least later this season.

''Peter (will) join the team as chief aerodynamicist later this year when his contract expires with McLaren-Mercedes,'' a Red Bull spokeswoman said.

Curiously, however, McLaren's 'F1 CEO' Martin Whitmarsh denied earlier this week that any 'important engineers' - Newey aside - were about to leave.

Aguri won't distract Honda - boss
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.27) The newly-confirmed eleventh team for formula one, Super Aguri, will not dilute Honda's focus on its own works grand prix project, Nick Fry insists.

Honda, the giant Japanese carmaker, are supporting Aguri Suzuki's 2006 foray, providing customer V8 engines, sponsorship, and other technical support.

But team principal Nick Fry said Honda can still be totally committed to the works outfit, based in Brackley.

''We need to do the best that we possibly can do,'' the Englishman told British news agency Reuters, ''and we cannot have massive diversion from that.''

Some, however, are querying Honda's support of the Aguri camp, wondering why racing resources should be allocated to what has been described as a face-saving exercise after the dumping of Japanese driver Takuma Sato.

DC involved in Newey switch
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.27) David Coulthard has admitted that he was a mastermind of Red Bull's poaching of Adrian Newey from his former F1 employer, McLaren.

The Scot raced for Ron Dennis' silver-clad team between 1996 and 2004, but didn't think twice when advising his new team about how to reach the front of the grid.

Asked about the rumour that he was behind Red Bull's Newey approach, 34-year-old 'DC' told website formula1.com: ''I was one of the people.''

Coulthard, however, rejected the notion that McLaren's former technical director is already having some influence on the performance of the new 'RB2' Red Bull Racing car.

Newey, after overseeing the design of McLaren's MP4-21 for 2006, started work at RBR on January 9.

''So there cannot possibly be a lot of Newey in the car by now,'' David Coulthard insisted, ''but what I do expect is to see the 'Newey touch' by mid season.''

February test planned in Bahrain
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.27) Bahrain's grand prix organisers have invited all formula one teams to the island nation to test at the track next month.

Ahead of the March 12 season opener at the same Sakhir circuit, at least three teams - Honda, Scuderia Toro Rosso and Ferrari - are believed to have accepted the invitation, while others, like Renault and Toyota, reportedly feel that an overseas test is both too expensive and disruptive.

According to speculation, the idea was apparently jointly devised by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who argued to the teams that winter testing in the Gulf makes sense because of the warmer weather.

Ferrari tested alone in Bahrain for three days in November last year, while every other team adhered to a voluntary test ban for most of the month.

Malaysian F1 team idea fades
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.27) State owned oil company Petronas has backed away from apparent plans to support a national Malaysian F1 team.

Despite earlier noises from within the southeast Asian country's government, Petronas - the long time Sauber sponsor - says the novel world cup-style 'A1' category has quelled the need for an all-Malaysian team.

With nationals Alex Yoong and Fairuz Fauzy at the single seater's wheel, Malaysia fields a team in the new series.

''If you are looking to have a grand prix team by a nation,'' Petronas' Rosman Roslan told 'ESPN Star Sports', ''I believe A1GP is covering that aspect.

''I believe formula one is very much a corporate thing (rather) than a patriotic one.''

Roslan also said that Malaysia is already well represented in the formula one world by annually hosting a grand prix in Kuala Lumpur.

Sparks may fly in new Honda lineup
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.27) Honda won't mind if new team pairing Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello clash in 2006.

Team principal Nick Fry told England's 'The Mirror' newspaper that it would not be a surprise if the British-Brazilian duo don't get along famously.

''I absolutely expect sparks to fly,'' he told the tabloid, ''because they are both competitive individuals.

''But I don't expect either to take advantage at the expense of the other. I won't put up with that because we are a team.''

At the moment, of course, it's not a problem -- the pair happily debuted Honda's new works 'RA106' car at Barcelona this week, and have since taken turns in beating each other at the Spanish test.

But Jenson Button, 26, warned Michael Schumacher's former six-year teammate: ''When we get on the (grand prix) circuits, it will be very different.''

Honda make the most of Rubens
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.27) Honda apparently intend to make the most of new signing Rubens Barrichello, after this week launching a version of the formula one team's internet website in his native tongue.

Honda sources have confirmed that it was no coincidence that the Portuguese language version went live on the same day that Barrichello, the former Ferrari star, tested his new 'RA106' grand prix car for the first time.

The 33-year-old driver has also demonstrated that he is dead serious about challenging for wins this year, by admitting that he lost a full 3 kgs over the winter.

Rubens apparently ramped up his fitness regime, moving team boss Nick Fry to muse that Honda, with teammate Jenson Button and Anthony Davidson in the third car, has perhaps the best F1 lineup.

''You can debate the merits of any one individual,'' the Briton said, ''but I think our three put together is the best team.''

Wurz and 'Direxiv'
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.27) Last year, it was suggested that a 'b' McLaren F1 team could be up and running by 2007, with Japanese company 'Direxiv' as a backer.

It was with some surprise, then, that a keen-eyed observer recently spotted the brand's logo on the helmet of Williams' new 'Friday' driver Alex Wurz.

Wurz, 31, was test driver at McLaren until the end of the 2005 season.

'Direxiv' is apparently a personal Wurz sponsor, and the logo will also appear on his Williams-branded overalls and cap this year.

Interestingly, Alex's wife Julia - a former press officer for Benetton - now works in a similar role at Direxiv.

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