Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 February 3,  2006

MF1 confirm Monteiro
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.3) Tiago Monteiro will definitely race for Midland's MF1 grand prix team in 2006, a spokesman said on Friday.

While it is not clear why - unlike teammate Christijan Albers and similarly confirmed test drivers - an announcement was not forthcoming before now, the news from the M16 car's launch is official.

After debuting for Jordan, 29-year-old Monteiro, from Porto in Portugal, was named 2005 rookie of the year, but he is also substantially backed by sponsors.

''With Tiago and Christijan we have a strong driver lineup for our first season as MF1 racing,'' said the source.

It was also confirmed that Russia's Roman Rusinov will occasionally test in 2006, while 22-year-old German Adrian Sutil - who drove for team boss Colin Kolles' F3 team last year - is the team's new 'Junior Driver'.

Tombazis leaves McLaren for Ferrari
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.3) McLaren defector Nicholas Tombazis will return to Ferrari on the first of March, the Maranello based team says.

After technical director Adrian Newey and aerodynamics chief Peter Prodromou vowed to depart the team for Red Bull, Tombazis' much speculated exit is yet another blow for Ron Dennis' McLaren camp.

Tombazis, 38, takes up the 'chief designer' post at Ferrari, with Rory Byrne stepping a little further into the background with the official 'design and development consultant' tag.

Before switching from Ferrari to McLaren in 2003, Tombazis was Ferrari's chief aerodynamicist for six years. He was only recently promoted to become McLaren's 'vehicle project director'.

It was also rumored late last year that Greece-born Tombazis considered a similar offer to join BMW Sauber.

Three drivers to share MF1 seat
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.3) It appears that highly rated German talent Markus Winkelhock, and countryman Adrian Sutil, will share their 'Friday' drive this year with new MF1 tester, Giorgio Mondini.

Ahead of the Midland-owned team's Silverstone launch on Friday, MF1 said the 25-year-old Swiss would get at least nine grand prix appearances in 2006.

Mondini, a GP2 driver in 2005, got his first taste of F1 in December last year, in Fernando Alonso's title winning Renault.

''The new (M16) car looks really good and I can't wait to drive it,'' he said in a statement.

The Toyota-powered car will be shaken down at Silverstone on Saturday, before it is properly tested next week at Jerez de la Frontera.

'I didn't see Rossi' - Alonso
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.3) ''I haven't really seen Valentino,'' said world champion Fernando Alonso at the Valencia test.

The Spaniard, it seems, is the only one.

26-year-old Rossi, the charismatic Italian and authoritarian MotoGP champion, completed his first 'group' F1 test with a third day in a limited V10 Ferrari on Thursday.

While the lap times probably mean little, it is clear that he is no slow-coach, with a better time on Thursday than guys like Juan Pablo Montoya and Jarno Trulli.

''He should give up motorbikes and join us,'' the grand prix series' 1997 title winner Jacques Villeneuve told Gazzetta dello Sport.

Michael Schumacher was also happy to muse about Rossi to the hordes of journalists in Spain -- after all, for once, the spotlight had been taken away from him.

''It been easy for me to just get on with my work,'' he told L'Equipe, even excusing Rossi for spinning on his first lap on Tuesday.

The German said: ''It's easy to skid off on wet tires. For him it would be like driving on ice.''

Rossi himself said he has felt 'at ease' among other runners, and confirmed that he would test again in 2006.

A Ferrari spokesman verified Rossi's claim, but said he did not know when the next test would be.

''Motorcycling now comes into my thoughts,'' the Italian told the Ferrari website. ''Like Ferrari, I have a championship to think about.''

Eight teams test new cars
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.3) The Rossi circus aside, eight F1 teams have their 2006 cars circulating at Valencia this week.

As is becoming a pattern at recent winter tests, Renault and Honda remain at the top of the timesheets, although both teams encountered some technical trouble on Thursday.

Jenson Button's problem was a V8 failure, but new teammate Rubens Barrichello is happy with the new 'RA106' car.

''It is very pleasing to see that the new car is so far very competitive,'' said the Brazilian.

Ferrari continue to show signs of improvement over 2005, while Red Bull, BMW Sauber, Toyota, Williams and McLaren also trial their new cars.

Next week, the winter action moves to Jerez, although Ferrari says it will now take the new '248' back to Fiorano, while Red Bull moves on to Silverstone.

Ralf's new motor home
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.3) Ralf Schumacher will trek to European grands prix and test sessions this year in a $180,000 motor home.

The aptly-named luxury 'Concorde Charisma', which features a double bed, is currently just on loan, as the 30-year-old decides whether it is worth the money.

F1 Britons David Coulthard and Jenson Button are the most famous motor home residents, but already Ralf - the long term Toyota driver - has discovered a drawback of driving his new vehicle.

It doesn't go faster than 140km/h.

Hockenheim crisis deepens
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.3) Luck is not on Hockenheim's side at present, as a legal hazard now joins uncertainty about the future of the German GP.

It was reported in the 'Mannheimer Morning' newspaper that business documents in the possession of Hockenheim managing director Jurgen von Glasenapp have been seized by the local public prosecutor's office.

Von Glasenapp, and possibly another staff member, have also been sent on leave, while the public prosecutor confirmed that an investigation is underway.

Hockenheim chief and mayor Dieter Gummer did not shed any light on the contents of the documents, but he did admit that such a scenario is 'not helpful'.

It us understood that circuit meetings relating to the issue were held on Wednesday, with another due on Friday.

Schu sanguine in Spain
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.3) Although he spent some time at the side of the track on Thursday, Michael Schumacher sounded positive when asked about Ferrari's new '248 F1' car at Valencia.

''At the moment I do not see a reason to be anything but optimistic,'' said the deposed seven time champion.

While many reporters staked out the scarlet garage to catch a glimpse of Valentino Rossi, 37-year-old Schumacher quietly ended up within a second of the pace in Spain.

Brazilian to test Williams
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.3) 24-year-old Joao Paulo de Oliveira will test Williams' F1 car at the Valencia track on Friday.

It will be the Brazilian driver's first taste of F1, after winning the Japanese F3 championship in a Toyota-powered car last year.

Oliveira, backed by Williams' Brazilian fuel sponsor Petrobras, is scheduled for 20 laps in the interim car.

''It would appear to be an entirely appropriate time to offer him his first test,'' said team boss Sir Frank Williams.

$3.6m upgrade at Magny Cours
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.3) French grand prix venue Magny Cours is set for a $3.6m circuit upgrade.

'The Australian' newspaper cited correspondents in Paris as reporting that the facelift will be funded by the local Nievre authorities.

''It's to bring the circuit into line with standard regulations,'' said circuit administrator Gerard Dumas.

The work at Circuit Magny Cours, located 15 kms from the sleepy Nevers town and to be completed in March, is scheduled to begin immediately.

'Aguri' don't expect wins
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.3) The new Honda backed 'Super Aguri' formula one team does not expect to win grands prix for at least 3 years.

''We have to be realistic,'' managing director Daniele Audetto - a veteran of world motor sport - told Autosport, according to ITV.

The ITV report said the team's initial 2006 car, the reworked Arrows A23 of 2002 but with a 2.4 liter V8 Honda, will be called SA05, while a bespoke car will bear the SA06 name.

'SA05' will hit the Silverstone track for a debut test in mid February, mere weeks ahead of the team's inaugural grand prix in Bahrain, but the genuine 2006 contender won't be ready until at least the start of the European season in April.

BMW beat us to Heidfeld - Head
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.3) Departed works partner BMW beat Williams to the services of Nick Heidfeld, according to Grove veteran Patrick Head.

Sir Frank Williams' long time team cohort and engineering director told Autosport - according to ITV - that the highly rated German driver had an option on his 2005 contract to stay in 2006.

''(But) before we decided on our steps forward for 2007 and 2008, (BMW's) Mario (Theissen) had done a deal with him,'' Head said.

However, although Theissen and Head's relationship soured bitterly in the course of last year, it doesn't explain why Williams didn't let BMW do the 2007-2008 deal with Heidfeld, but still pick up his 2006 option.

Head insisted: ''We'd done a deal like that with Juan Pablo (Montoya) in 2004.

''I'm sure Renault will find the same with Fernando Alonso this year.

''It's never easy (working) with a driver you know is leaving.''

2006 is Lucky Strike's last F1 season
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.3) A media source at British American Tobacco has confirmed reports this week that the company will pull out of formula one at the end of 2006.

''There is no change; nothing new,'' the source at BAT's London offices clarified on Friday.

After the firm - continuing to advertise its 'Lucky Strike' brand this year - sold the Brackley based BAR team to Honda, it remained committed to a voluntary 2001 agreement among tobacco companies to exit for 2007.

Philip Morris' (Altria) Marlboro brand, however, will break the pact by remaining in formula one for the foreseeable future with Ferrari.

''It will be sad to end our association (with F1 and Honda),'' BAT marketing director Jimmi Rembiszewski said in a statement, ''but we look forward to our last year of sponsorship.''

Fisi hopes for new Renault contract
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.3) Giancarlo Fisichella says he hopes to sign a new Renault contract in 2006.

On paper, the experienced Roman could accompany Fernando Alonso out of the Enstone door at the end of the year, but Fisichella insists that he sees no reason to leave.

Asked about teammate Alonso's defection for 2007 to McLaren, 33-year-old Fisichella said: ''I was quite surprised.

''I don't understand why, but this is life, he is happy.''

The winner of two career grands prix, but only one in 2005 compared to Alonso's seven, confirmed that he is only officially scheduled to stay at Renault for one more year.

But Giancarlo continued: ''My target is to be with them in the future.

''At the moment I don't know, I haven't spoken to Renault (but) my target is to be with them.''

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