Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 February 2,  2006

Germany warned about tobacco ads
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.2) Germany has been warned to fall in line with the European Union's laws about tobacco adverts.

Reportedly, the European Commission is concerned that events like the two German grands prix - where cigarette logos are annually displayed on F1 cars and then spread around in the media - contravene the continent's new rules.

After an earlier warning, Germany now has two final months in which to act, with threatened action in the European Court of Justice, and huge fines, to follow.

''There should be no exceptions for sport events, like for example formula one racing,'' said EU health and consumer protection commissioner Markos Kyprianou.

Rossi has the last laugh
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.2) After critics sniggered at his Wednesday spin, Valentino Rossi had the last laugh at the Valencia group test on Thursday by outpacing six regulars of the F1 circus.

Although at the wheel of an inherently quicker 2004 Ferrari, the MotoGP champion went ninth quickest of the fifteen in action, shading veterans like David Coulthard - who had a Cosworth engine failure - Williams' Mark Webber and Jarno Trulli.

Rossi, 26, lapped 55 times, and ended up around a second slower than Michael Schumacher who drive the new '248' car.

''It was a very good performance, we cannot deny it,'' a team spokesman told Reuters agency.

The test day in Spain started out damp, but unlike Rossi's Tuesday debut, the sun did shine, even if it was cold.

After his new car was officially launched on Tuesday, Renault's world champion Fernando Alonso continued to prove the speed of the R26 by going quickest of all, despite an electrical glitch. Also predictably, Honda's Jenson Button came next, ahead of Schumacher.

In fourth was Juan Pablo Montoya, after Kimi Raikkonen's bad cold meant he could not drive the new McLaren model.

F1 talks 'moving forwards' - GPMA
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.2) A long and unpleasant argument about the future of formula one is finally coming to an end.

After noises of compromise started filtering into the paddock, even the 'breakaway' group - made up of five F1 carmakers - now admits that talks with Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA are making strides of progress.

''The negotiations are moving clearly forwards,'' GPMA media contact Xander Heijnen told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, ''and the chance (of a solution) have now increased.''

F1 supremo Ecclestone is also hopeful of a final solution, but he will have done little to appease the carmakers' anger by giving an interview to German sporting magazine 'Sport Bild' this week.

The 75-year-old likened the GPMA row over formula one to a family that cannot decide how to treat an ill relative.

''I am the doctor,'' said Bernie.

He vowed to make F1 a sport that can be tackled for about $60m (US) per year, rather than the current minimum of about $240 million, and called Toyota's estimated $500m-plus annual expenditure - and staff levels of 1000 - 'dangerous' for the sport.

''Cosworth make a competitive engine for $20 million,'' he added, ''so others can too.''

Ecclestone totally dismissed the concept of a GPMA-run 'breakaway' series in 2008.

''(The carmakers) have no chance,'' he insisted.

''They have no right to a greater share (of the sport's revenues) but it is taking them a long time to realize it.''

Renault to 'create' new Alonso
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.2) Renault will not fork out millions to replace departing world champion driver Fernando Alonso.

Team president Patrick Faure says that when the Spaniard leaves at the end of the year, Renault will again unfurl its 'special talent' to find another superstar.

Indeed, waiting in the wings - with an official test berth in 2006 - is one of the highest rated young guns, Finn Heikki Kovalainen. He is following an identical course to that trod in 2002 by 24-year-old Alonso.

Faure admitted: ''And we also have some ideas for the future.

''We prefer to create a star, like we created Alonso, than to buy one.''

Mosley given France's top honor
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.2) FIA president Max Mosley has been made a Chevalier of France's Legion of Honor (l'Ordre de la Legion d'Honneur).

With close formula one ally Bernie Ecclestone watching on at the ceremony, 65-year-old Mosley - a Briton - accepted the honor from foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy in Paris.

''The Republic is tonight paying respect to your services to sport and automobile racing,'' the minister said.

The Legion of Honor was, when created by Napoleon in 1802, initially open only to brave French military men.

But even today, inductees like Paris-based Mosley still receive the small white enameled cross medal, hung on a red silk ribbon.

Ferrari boss Jean Todt, a Frenchman, won the Legion of Honor in 2001.

I'm staying, says Flavio
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.2) Flavio Briatore has refused to commit himself to Renault beyond the close of 2006.

But the F1 team's team principal is a serial signer of one year contracts, and told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport that he is enjoying his job.

''If I do the job well, then I will stay,'' 55-year-old Briatore stated.

''Right now it looks like I do better than Ron Dennis or Frank Williams. And I enjoy it.''

Refusing to rise to the bait of indicating just how long he will keep powering away in formula one, the flamboyant Italian indicated that he could quit 'tomorrow' or in 'ten years'.

Briatore also played down speculation that he doesn't get along with Renault's new chief and CEO, Carlos Ghosn.

Flavio insisted: ''He contributed greatly to the fact that Nissan is today one of the most profitable manufacturers in the world.''

Renault may tip in Fisi's favor
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.2) According to Giancarlo Fisichella, he and Renault teammate Fernando Alonso will both start 2006 from 'zero'.

But it's not really that simple. Firstly, Alonso is champion, and Fisichella a defeated 33-year-old 2005 teammate.

However, with Alonso off to McLaren next year and Renault looking towards the future, Italy's Fisichella might just be credited for having the psychological edge in '06.

Indeed, team boss Flavio Briatore thinks the only element of Fisichella's make up that is not equipped for the sport's title is 'a bit more nastiness'.

''So I should walk around with two daggers now?'' Fisichella joked to Gazzetta dello Sport.

''Being nasty is not me -- all I need is some better luck than I've had.''

Alonso, as well, is confident that Renault will not start favoring Fisichella, just because the Roman is vowing to stick around.

The Spaniard said: ''It is not in Renault's interest to treat us differently. If we want to succeed again, we must support each other as much as we can.''

BMW not a top team - Theissen
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.2) BMW Sauber is not yet a top team, team principal Mario Theissen says.

The German insisted that, for the first year of full ownership by the Munich based carmaker, the idea is to build up a solid foundation throughout 2006.

''This starting phase will last for the whole season,'' he told 'Sport-Informations-Dienst'.

For that reason, you won't hear reference to championships or wins - even podiums - just yet.

Theissen added: ''The unification and development of the team has priority at the moment.''

However, the newly launched 'F1.06', designed mostly by the team led by Peter Sauber last year, is showing signs of being a nifty little GP racer.

''It seems to have noticeably more grip than its predecessor,'' said lead driver Nick Heidfeld.

Canadian teammate Jacques Villeneuve, additionally, says he is able to 'brake later' and 'drive more aggressively' with the new car.

But Mario Theissen insists that 'BMW Sauber' should not yet be considered a top team, even if it is owned by a car manufacturer.

He concluded: ''But we want to become a top team as soon as possible.''

Schu ramps up physical regime
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.2) Michael Schumacher is either a glutton for punishment, or he is ramping up his physical condition ahead of March's new grand prix season.

Ferrari's German, the oldest driver on the grid at 37, was spotted testing at Valencia on Wednesday with weights attached to either side of his scarlet crash helmet.

The method would exaggerate the level of g-force felt by the seven time world champion in corners, thus strengthening his neck.

Schumacher admitted recently that one of his failings in 2005 was not doing a 'particularly good job' in terms of physical fitness.

He said: ''I can do better.

''With age, certainly, things don't get easier -- I have to train harder.

''What happened last year sort of woke me up and pinpointed the areas where I have to improve.

''You can be certain I will be there with 100 per cent preparation (in 2006).''

Two-wheeled row hits F1 stage
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.2) A motorcycling rivalry has spilled into the world of formula one, with Max Biaggi mockingly offering to teach MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi how to drive a four wheel racer.

Biaggi, the axed Honda rider, recently tested for Midland's MF1 team at a sodden Silverstone track, before countryman Rossi joined the group Valencia action this week and spun on his eleventh bend.

''I could have explained to him how to keep a formula one car going straight,'' Biaggi chimed to the Gazzetta dello Sport

Ferrari's five time world champion Michael Schumacher, however, might have brought the pair back down to earth by suggesting that switching from two wheels to four is not nearly as challenging as vice versa.

The German tried a Ducati MotoGP bike last December at Mugello, and ended up about 20 seconds off the real pace.

''Going from two wheels to four, we've seen in the past that this can be done,'' Schumacher said.

Alonso feels 'less pressure'
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.2) Fernando Alonso says he feels less pressure attacking the 2006 season as world champion.

Fending off gossip that his McLaren defection plus the expectation of defending his drivers' title had ramped up the pressure, the 24-year-old reckons he has already proved his worth.

''People always said that I was one of the new talents,'' Spanish-born Alonso said this week.

''So if that is true, sooner or later you have to confirm your reputation before it is gone. I have done that.''

On the 2006 grid, there are only three world champions -- Alonso, the youngest ever, plus Michael Schumacher and 1997's Jacques Villeneuve.

Alonso said: ''So I see it that there is more pressure on the other 19.''

Head confirms Webber 'bollocking'
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.2) Williams' Patrick Head has confirmed that he sat down for a face to face 'bollocking' with Mark Webber last season.

With Australian driver Webber arguably underperforming in 2005, the team's co-owner and engineering director says the trio - completed by Sir Frank Williams - got together to clear the air.

''Mark had come to a team where he expected to have the opportunity to win,'' Head told the Australian Herald Sun 'paper.

''He certainly was quite disillusioned.''

60-year-old Head, with a reputation for grumpy moods and a lack of tolerance for prima donna drivers, revealed that the crunch meeting took place at the Grove factory.

He said: ''The bollocking was in both directions.

''After that, Mark's season got back on track.''

Although neither 29-year-old Webber nor the F1 team in Oxfordshire were entirely happy with Mark's performances last year, Patrick Head suggested that he is a potential winner.

He agreed: ''Mark is exceptionally fast.''

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