Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
February 1, 2006
Rossi's disastrous debut
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.1) If you read and believe Ferrari's press release,
multiple MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi did only one lap at the
Valencia group test on Tuesday because it rained.
But that's only half the story. In fact, the 26-year-old Italian - on
his first flier - slid off a curve with wet tires, and beached his
2004 car in the gravel.
''The track was very wet,'' team spokesman Luca Colajanni explained.
''He just spun off.''
Rossi will try again on Wednesday.
His slippery first of three days in Spain followed the friendly
welcome of countryman and Toyota racer Jarno Trulli, who wrote an open
letter to Rossi that was published in La Gazzetta dello Sport.
In a transcript translated from Italian, Trulli wrote: ''I really did
not expect that you would want to compare yourself against us yet.
''Since I am a few years older than you, allow me to give you some
advice -- don't look at the stop watch, be calm, try to learn how the
car behaves as the fuel goes down, as the tires wear, how a strategy
would play out.
''Hats off to your courage.''
McLaren, Williams and Red Bull were also in action, with Honda pair
Rubens Barrichello and Anthony Davidson setting the fastest times.
Split threat nearing end - Renault
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.1) A feeling of optimism about formula one's
post-2007 future is growing nearly daily, with Renault president
Patrick Faure now admitting that peace is near.
The Frenchman told Reuters that he would not even rule out a
definitive agreement with Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA, to end the
GPMA group's split threat, before the first grand prix of 2006.
''It's not impossible,'' he said.
Faure said at the Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo: ''It seems that now
everybody is conscious that a good compromise ... would be a good
solution for the future of formula one.''
Renault to lose title sponsor
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.1) After a twelve year pairing, Renault (formerly
Benetton) will part with title sponsor Japan Tobacco at the end of
With cigarette advertising bans now sweeping Europe, the brand's Mild
Seven logos - like 'West' at McLaren and Honda's 'Lucky Strike' - will
disappear from the livery.
''Mild Seven will not be easy to replace,'' said team president
Patrick Faure, who admitted that two or three new sponsors will need
to be signed up to replace the lost dollars.
Renault president to retire
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.1) Renault president Patrick Faure will retire at the
end of 2006.
The Frenchman, who said he turns 60 later this year, informed
reporters at the launch of the team's new 'R26' grand prix car in
''I dedicated twenty one years of my life to formula one,'' Faure
Team principal Flavio Briatore's contract, too, expires at the end of
2006, but the fifty-five year-old Italian wasn't giving anything away.
He told reporters: ''This isn't the moment to discuss it. We are
focused on the season ahead.''
Renault's 'future' made Alonso quit
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.1) At the launch of his new title challenger in
Monaco, world champion Fernando Alonso spent the afternoon justifying
his 2007 switch to McLaren to the assembled press corps.
''I am still young,'' the 24-year-old Spaniard said at the Grimaldi
Forum. ''I feel I need a new challenge.''
As ever in formula one, however, there is always more to it. One
reporter managed to squeeze a definitive answer of 'yes' to the
question about whether Renault could have fought harder to retain him.
Many observers say Renault simply wasn't prepared, unlike McLaren, to
treble his salary. Others reckon it is an indication that the team is
not fully committed to the grid.
''Probably (Renault could have done more to keep me) but that's
between me and the team,'' Alonso insisted.
''It was not (about) the money, it was more (about the) future.''
Fernando even managed to slip out the news that his new McLaren deal
is for a guaranteed three year period. ''Maybe at the end of 2009,''
he stated, ''I will need another new challenge.''
Team president Patrick Faure, however, denied Alonso's claim that
Renault weren't too bothered about letting their champion defect. The
Frenchman said Alonso made 'no approach' to team management and that
'no (2007) talks' took place.
''If he was worried about the future he should have asked me. I would
have told him we will be there in 2008.''
Flav slams Red Bull 'betrayal'
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.1) Red Bull 'betrayed' every other Michelin clad
team, Renault chief Flavio Briatore says.
The Italian revealed that Dieter Mateschitz's two Michelin clad teams
voted to axe the 2005-spec 'single tire per race' rule, a regulation
credited for helping the French tire supplier to dominate Japanese
''Somebody betrayed us from within the Michelin family,'' Briatore
told the Reuters agency. ''Red Bull voted against us -- I'm upset.''
Like Bridgestone shod Ferrari, Red Bull has signed the 2008 Concorde
Agreement, and Mateschitz is a close friend not only of FIA president
Max Mosley but also Bernie Ecclestone.
Michelin won 18 of the 19 grands prix last year.
Bridgestone teams sign F1 pact
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.1) All Bridgestone shod teams have signed an unique
agreement to share information and work together this year.
Before Williams and Toyota fled the Michelin camp, Ferrari - with only
Jordan and Minardi also on Japanese rubber - failed to win a single
grand prix on merit in 2005.
Ferrari, Williams, Toyota, Midland and Super Aguri, then, have signed
a document that is apparently titled the 'Bridgestone Users
Cooperation Pact', under which tire development information from both
races and tests will be collectively pooled and made available to the
The problem with such an agreement, of course, is that firstly it
might be seen to most benefit the less competitive teams, while
misinformation and deceit could conceivably become an issue should two
or more Bridgestone teams emerge as F1 title rivals.
While the true packing order in the new Michelin-Bridgestone fight is
not yet known, Williams' technical director reckons he witnessed at
least one advantage of switching tires for the 2006 season.
At the sodden Valencia test on Tuesday, Sam Michael said: ''It was
evident from the lap times ... that Bridgestone have an advantage in
F1 is Rossi 'hobby' - spokesman
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.1) A pair of spokespeople close to Valentino Rossi
have played down the Italian's presence at the group formula one test
in Valencia this week.
The MotoGP champion's Spanish seat in the Ferrari camp has been widely
interpreted as the most serious indication yet that he could switch to
the four wheeled category in 2007.
Indeed, it is a media circus at the southern Spanish venue, with
nearly 150 journalists accredited to attend his 3-day run. They had a
field day on Tuesday, with Rossi spinning on his eleventh corner of
A spokesperson for Rossi's Yamaha team said: ''He's a Yamaha rider
this year and all parties are 100 per cent aware he is testing F1
A spokesman for Rossi's agent, meanwhile, told the BBC: ''Two wheels
is his job, four wheels is his hobby.''
New Honda is a winner, says Rubens
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.1) Rubens Barrichello thinks his new Honda 'RA106'
will be up to the task of winning races.
The 33-year-old Brazilian, who has switched from Ferrari after six
years of being Michael Schumacher's number two, has been one of the
revelations of recent winter tests, and tasted the top of the times on
the first day at Valencia this week.
Rubens, who initially spent a day in the 2005 BAR, told Italy's La
Gazzetta dello Sport: ''The car is good -- better than last year's. In
my opinion, I will be able to fight for victories with this car.
''I am very ambitious and I left Ferrari because I want to finally
Even with the highly rated Jenson Button as teammate, Barrichello -
who won 9 races for Ferrari - is gushing about his new Honda team.
In an exclusive translation of the interview, 'RB' continued: ''With
Honda, I can win. Everything I have seen so far confirms this feeling
-- the people are motivated, the team has the financial and technical
means, and the RA106, from the very first lap, has shown as one of the
World champion to get married
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.1) World champion Fernando Alonso was the centre of
attention at Renault's Tuesday launch.
But, curiously at Monaco's Grimaldi Forum on the Monte Carlo
waterfront, hardly a single member of the world's media noticed a
little detail on his left hand -- an engagement ring.
The 24-year-old Spaniard said: ''I have nothing to say about it.''
Late last year, Alonso was spotted out and about with Raquel Rosario,
singer for the Spanish band Morpheus's Dream. He split with former
girlfriend Carolina in August 2005.
The talented grand prix driver made it clear that he does not enjoy
certain aspects of the media's interest in him.
''It's not possible for me to just go out for dinner in Spain
anymore,'' Alonso explained.
Haug denies driver unrest
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.1) Norbert Haug has attempted to allay suspicions
that not all is well within the silver McLaren-Mercedes camp.
Mercedes' 53-year-old racing chief denied claims of unrest within the
cockpit -- both Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya, it is reported,
may be unhappy and both intending to leave the Woking based team for
''I have spoken to them both,'' Germany's Haug told the 'Sport
Informations Dienst' agency, ''and they said they were concentrating
on what is important for 2006 before thinking about what comes (in the
The alleged driver unrest follows the McLaren signing of Renault's
Fernando Alonso for 2007, and Colombian Montoya's claim that he is
therefore on the market.
Raikkonen, too, is reportedly either already signed up to switch to
Ferrari next year, or now even more motivated to make the move
official. He was quoted recently as criticizing Mercedes' progress
with its new V8.
But Haug says: ''In formula one there is always speculation and always
criticism. The truth is, Kimi and Juan Pablo will do their talking on
the race track.''
Germany's Bild newspaper, meanwhile, claimed that the team's
unreliable 2.4 liter engine will miss rivals' pace by around 20 horse
power at the start of the 2006 season.
Massa to shine alongside Schu - Gene
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.1) Ferrari tester Marc Gene is predicting a close
duel between Michael Schumacher and new 2006 F1 stable-mate, Brazilian
Like Eddie Irvine (1996-1999) and Rubens Barrichello (2000-2005)
before him, the 24-year-old arrives at the Scuderia without a single
win under his belt.
But Gene, the team's 31-year-old test driver from Spain, observes that
Felipe Massa could well give the seven time world champion a harder
time than Irvine or Barrichello ever could.
He told Motorsport Aktuell: ''Barrichello liked a car that
understeered. Felipe, though, can deal with a car with a lively rear
end -- just like Michael.''
Villeneuve ... the singer?
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.1) It's unlikely that Jacques Villeneuve is lining up
an alternate career, but the 1997 champion did recently take his hobby
to a new level.
BMW Sauber's French Canadian 2006 driver is also a dab hand at guitar
playing, singing and songwriting, so he put his talents to the test by
performing live to a crowd at his 'Grand Prix 24 Heures' ski event in
Switzerland (Villars) last month.
According to reports in the German press, the 34-year-old's original
'set' was his stage debut.
''It was fun,'' Villeneuve said, ''but I was rather nervous.
''I had great musicians supporting me, but just in case the nerves got
the better of me, I had the song lyrics close by!
''It went well,'' JV continued, ''everyone stayed for the whole set
and their feedback afterwards was pretty good.''
Schu's the favorite - Alonso
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.1) He might be the reigning world champion, but
Fernando Alonso does not think he should be regarded as the
'reference' for his rivals.
That privilege, the 24-year-old Spaniard insisted, belongs only to
Michael Schumacher, the most successful grand prix driver in history.
Alonso said: ''If Ferrari turn out in races to be as good as they seem
in testing, then Michael is definitely the favorite for 2006.''
Interestingly leaving Renault's 2005 challenger McLaren out of the
equation, Fernando said the 'best teams' of the winter have been
Renault, Honda and Ferrari.
''At least for the moment, these three teams are in front,'' he said.
Alonso also admitted that teams on Michelin tires, like Renault, had
been caught up by the Bridgestone shod camps, including Ferrari.
He said the axing of the one tire per race rule had worked in
''Last year, we had a fantastic (Michelin) tire for the whole race, so
we have perhaps lost this advantage.''
But although Renault's new R26 looks almost identical to the 2005
predecessor, it has leapt ahead in technical advancements for the new
season. For one, the gearbox has shifted from six to seven speed, and
is now made entirely of titanium.
In addition, the cooling system is more advanced, allowing for smaller
radiators and side pods.
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