Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
January 30,  2006

Montagny turns back on F1
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.30) Renault test refugee Franck Montagny looks set to leave his formula one dream behind.

The Frenchman, although making the odd appearance in a blue and yellow car this winter, says he has all but given up on landing a race drive in the category.

Montagny, 28, tested for Champ Car team 'PKV' at Sebring, in Florida (US), last week.

''I am here because I want to race in this series in 2006,'' he said.

''I'm not thinking about F1 any more. I did everything I could to get a chance (to race), but I never got one.''

Montagny tested alongside another PKV hopeful, Katherine Legge, who recently became the first woman in more than a decade to test a F1 car (Minardi).

The Indianapolis-based team is expected to make a decision about what drivers to sign shortly.

Schu says Renault 'team to beat'
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.30) Michael Schumacher has singled out Renault as the team to beat in 2006.

The seven time world champion is upbeat about his own scarlet camp's prospects, but reckons Renault - the reigning drivers' and constructors' champion - is the 'team to beat' with its new 'R26' racer.

''They seem very well prepared, very fast, very consistent,'' the German told reporters in Barcelona late last week. ''Honda is also making a good impression, but we (Ferrari) are also pretty content with our work.''

Interestingly, Schumacher, 37, did not even mention McLaren, the 2005 pacesetter but believed to be struggling with Mercedes-Benz's first V8.

On Ferrari's prospects, meanwhile, Michael is bullish but not gushing. ''The car is quite reliable,'' he said of the newly-launched 248 F1. ''We have some little issues to look at, but nothing major.

''In terms of speed, we should be able to fight again for the championship -- and after last year that is the most important thing.''

BMW exit not good for team, says Williams
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.30) At his team's 2006 launch last week, Sir Frank Williams said winning is 'like oxygen'.

It was a theme that resonated down the ranks, designed to sell the concept that - despite the departure of a works manufacturer - Grove HQ still houses a top formula one outfit.

But Nico Rosberg, the 20-year-old racing rookie, sidestepped the corporate line by suggesting that Williams has indeed stepped down a rung or two.

''The fact that I am with a team that was not right at the very top last year can help me,'' the German said, ''because expectations are not quite as high.''

He added: ''But obviously I hope that we can go up very quickly.''

Even Sir Frank himself, however, can admit that things have looked rosier from the desk of his Oxfordshire office. Animosity aside, he admits that the loss of BMW would not be good for any team.

''Losing a works contract does not give you an advantage,'' he croaked, ''but I think we will still be capable of springing a few surprises this year.

''I don't think we'll be as bad as some people think.''

Webber says team issues resolved
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.30) Mark Webber's previously rising F1 reputation took a hit in 2005.

Moving to Williams, the Australian driver was tipped to emulate countryman and 1980 champion Alan Jones' feats. But not only was he disappointed with the FW27, Webber attracted often negative comparisons with his former teammate, Nick Heidfeld.

He also got himself involved in a fair share of on-track incidents.

''If I don't win a race this year,'' the 29-year-old said at Grove last Friday, ''all the guys will start calling me (tennis') Tim Henman.''

But not only did Mark underachieve in his own eyes in 2006, he admits that some forthright conversations with team chiefs Frank Williams and Patrick Head were held.

''We sat down together ... and sorted it out,'' Webber insists. ''In the end, you have to be honest with each other, and I know that.''

But he denies that, Heidfeld style, he is concerned about being pushed by a rising teammate. This time around, it's 20-year-old rookie, Nico Rosberg.

Webber said: ''I have no complaints about that. It's always good to have the best possible yardstick to measure your performance against.''

Sato admits Super Aguri 'relief'
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.30) Takuma Sato has admitted to feeling 'relieved' by news that Super Aguri will officially be given a spot in the 2006 pitlane.

The axed Honda driver's comments are seen as the strongest indication yet that he is bound for the fledgling outfit, but he insisted that no contract has yet been signed.

''I was anxiously waiting for the official announcement,'' the Japanese, who turned 29 on Saturday, said in a statement.

But 'Taku' Sato cautioned: ''We have still not announced my part in the team, so please wait a little longer.''

Williams sees end to 'GPMA' threat
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.30) An end to the dispute that has cast grey clouds over F1 is nearing.

That is the opinion of Sir Frank Williams, the last team principal to have signed up to Bernie Ecclestone's new post-2008 Concorde Agreement.

Apart from Ferrari, Red Bull's teams and Midland, every other F1 player is still aligned with 'GPMA' and the threatened exit from the grid.

However, asked if Mercedes, Renault, BMW, Honda and Toyota will ultimately tow the line, Williams, 63, said: ''My own opinion is that I would think so.

''I am aware of less chatter than three or six months ago. There is a little belligerence from one or two of the usual quarters but I think they will get together soon.''

Grove is F1 'lifeline' - Karthikeyan
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.30) Narain Karthikeyan admits that his fourth driver role at Williams is a F1 career 'lifeline'.

The Indian driver nearly swung out of the sport's revolving doors at the end of 2005, after falling out with his debut employer, Jordan.

However, even if the more coveted 'Friday' seat went to someone else, Karthikeyan - whose personal sponsor Tata takes up residence on the FW28 race car - reckons testing for the famous Williams team will at least keep his name swirling in F1 circles.

''If you drop out of formula one,'' he said, ''you can find it very difficult to go back in.''

The 29-year-old hinted that being in a top team, even if only visible at deserted test circuits, is better than plugging away at grands prix with a lowly F1 straggler.

''It is better to be able to show your talent, like I did (in team testing) in December,'' Karthikeyan insisted.

Cosworth aim to stay in F1
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.30) According to near unanimous F1 speculation, Williams is likely to switch from Cosworth to Toyota V8 power after season '06.

The 2007 deal could see semi-works 'Lexus' badged Toyotas take up residence in the FW29 car.

Independent England-based Cosworth, however, don't entertain the gossip, but insist that convincing Sir Frank and his men that their engine is the best bet will be a priority this year.

''My job,'' said Cosworth chief Tim Routsis, ''is to deliver the sort of performance that makes it bloody hard for them to want to go anywhere else.''

Although not able to compete with the financial might of the carmakers, Cosworth is a renowned V8 engine specialist, and - hinting also at Mercedes' problems - new test driver Alex Wurz says he has never experienced higher revs at the wheel of a race car.

''I have driven the Mercedes (V8) engine quite a while ago, so I am sure they have improved,'' said the Austrian.

''I don't want to compare, simply because I don't know enough about what the McLaren guys are doing right now.''

Who, and what, is an '06 winner?
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.30) With six weeks until the green light in Bahrain, the buzz in formula one at present is 'who will emerge on top?'.

Under the V10 regime of 2005, McLaren-Mercedes had the quickest car, even if Renault won both titles. Ferrari, in contrast, struggled on beleaguered Bridgestone boots, while Honda-powered Jenson Button notched up his 100th GP without a win.

Even if a definitive picture is not yet clear, 2.4 liter V8-spec 2006 looks like a different ball game entirely.

''I would be surprised if Jenson did not win a race. He needs one and I think he would deserve it,'' said Sir Frank Williams, who engineered a $30m deal to let Honda keep their man.

The Grove based chief singles out Honda and its 26-year-old driver as a potential 2006 force.

Asked about testing, Williams said: ''The number of laps Honda does each day is frightening. It looks like the Honda we used to know.''

Williams' experienced driver Mark Webber, however, isn't believing everything he reads on the formula one wire. Renault's Fernando Alonso, and Juan Pablo Montoya - the similarly Michelin-shod McLaren ace - are saying that they think the French tire supplier's dominance is over.

But Australian Webber, having switched to Bridgestone, isn't so sure.

He said: ''I think they are putting pressure on Michelin -- we still see it the other way round.

''I think it's a bit of propaganda.''

Red Bull can win in '07 - Berger
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.30) F1 team Red Bull Racing can expect to be winning grands prix in 2007.

That is the claim of team owner Dietrich Mateschitz's Austrian countryman Gerhard Berger, the former ten time formula one winner.

46-year-old Berger told Austria's 'Trend' magazine that Mateschitz did everything right in the first year after taking over the failed Jaguar team.

And, credibility retained, Red Bull now resembles a winning team, with former McLaren trio David Coulthard, Adrian Newey and Peter Prodromou all set to again start shining.

''In 2007 they will be playing a game that they can win,'' said Berger.

Wurz wants to race again
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.30) Alex Wurz wants to race.

It is speculated in F1 circles that the Austrian all but landed the 'Friday' drive at BMW Sauber for 2006, but the Munich carmaker refused to guarantee his eventual race return.

So, in the end, he went to Williams, but refuses to talk post-2006.

''I have agreed with Frank (Williams) not to talk about that,'' said the 31-year-old test driver, who after five years switched from McLaren.

Wurz is thought to have made the Williams move in order to rejuvenate his racing career, even if it means waiting a year.

He suggested: ''If I don't race, I'm not going to slit my wrists. But that's the aim.''

Rossi 'brave' to test F1 mettle - Webber
(GMMf1NET -- Jan.30) Valentino Rossi will have nowhere to hide when he tests alongside the world's best formula one drivers this week.

That's the claim of Williams' Mark Webber, one of the swathe of grand prix stars who - in Valencia (Spain) - will be keen to compare their lap times with those of the MotoGP champion, in a V8 Ferrari.

''He's quite brave,'' the Australian said in England late last week, ''throwing himself out there with the rest of us -- but he's always surprising so who knows.''

Webber, 29, even suggests that some of his rivals will not be impressed with Rossi's bag of MotoGP titles, when it comes to sharing a formula one track with the flamboyant Italian. In fact, due to his rookie status, Rossi's car will be carrying a permanently flashing light from the moment he takes to the track on Tuesday.

Mark said: ''But at least it's not like this guy we had in Budapest last year, the Israeli guy, that was a joke.''

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