Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 February 8,  2006

Schu is 'unemployed'
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.8) In the country he resides, formula one's highest earner - Michael Schumacher - is officially unemployed.

Because motor racing is not recognized in Switzerland, the German has registered formally as an unemployed foreigner, according to the German 'Tageszeitung' (TZ) newspaper.

Even though his annual income tops more than $50 million, the 'unemployed' label means 37-year-old Schumacher only has to pay annual charges based on an income of US$300,000.

New Merc V8 could lift McLaren form
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.8) According to numerous media reports, McLaren will soon test a redesigned version of its 2006 2.4 liter V8 engine.

The reports, citing information of Autosport's website, claim that Mercedes-Benz has prepared a new specification of the troubled FO108S unit, which has so far proved uncompetitive and unreliable on the test tracks.

With reportedly 50 or 60 more horse power, it could be ready for this week's Jerez test, where all McLaren drivers - Kimi Raikkonen, Juan Pablo Montoya, Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett - will run.

Woking-based McLaren confirmed on Tuesday that it would test at Jerez, in coastal Spain, from Wednesday, with Montoya and de la Rosa to kick off driving.

If Mercedes' new power plant does not debut this week, it should then be ready for Valencia, scene of the next test.

Three venues for F1 test action
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.8) Three different test venues, in three different European countries, hosted formula one action on Tuesday.

At Jerez (Spain), Alex Wurz led a field of eight - made up of four separate teams - as he tried Williams' new FW28 for the first time.

''I feel quite comfortable with it already,'' said the Austrian 'Friday' driver.

Honda, with both 2006 race drivers present in new cars, trailed the 32-year-old's pace, followed by two TF106 Toyotas.

Christijan Albers gave Midland-owned MF1's 2006 runner, the M16, its maiden group debut, despite rumblings in pitlane of a gearbox problem.

The new car, anyway, proved about a second per lap quicker than teammate Tiago Monteiro's '05-spec Jordan.

Although a little damp, a freezing cold Silverstone (England) track actually proved ideal for Red Bull Racing, which has struggled to run its new 'RB2' elsewhere due to an overheating problem.

Robert Doornbos steered the revised car, while at Fiorano (Italy), Michael Schumacher put 121 more laps on Ferrari's new '248' model.

Renault to get Bahrain update
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.8) New bodywork will be fitted to Renault's already impressive 2006 car, R26, prior to the opening grand prix in Bahrain.

The championship winning team's Technical director, Bob Bell, said it will be the first of regular development steps for the car that is already dominating the winter tracks.

He confirmed: ''We aim to have new parts on the car at every race. An update package just before Bahrain will bring us a good performance gain.''

BMW banned for cheating ... by Google
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.8) German carmaker BMW, owner of the new BMW Sauber F1 collaboration, has been banned from leading internet search website google.com.

According to widespread reports, BMW was cheating the system by using hidden software to promote www.BMW.de higher in search results.

''(It's) a violation of our ... guidelines,'' claimed Google engineer Matt Cutts, ''specifically the principle of 'don't deceive your user'.''

Industry experts, however, believe that the banning will only be temporary, citing other big companies that have been banned, warned, and then reinstated.

Indeed, a google.com search on Wednesday morning returned a result for 'bmw.de', while it did not late on Tuesday.

BMW spokesman Marc Hassinger, however, said less than one per cent of visitors to BMW.de access the site via Google.

Albers wants maiden podium
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.8) Christijan Albers has outlined an audacious target for his second season on the formula one race grid -- the podium.

The sponsored Dutch driver, 26 - who has graduated after his rookie Minardi tenure to Midland's MF1 outfit - said every driver should either set an ambitious goal or 'stay at home'.

But Albers admitted: ''To be really realistic, we definitely should go for the points.''

He said he noticed straight away at the Jerez test track last year that even the 2005 Jordan was 'much better' than his Minardi, and the brand new 'M16' that he is testing at the circuit this week seems even quicker.

BMW's JV expects 'great' season
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.8) Jacques Villeneuve expects to put his dire 2005 full-time return to F1 behind him this year.

The French Canadian, who won the 1997 title as a 26-year-old, hinted that the problem last season was not personal, but simply due to the Sauber racer.

''Last year, I knew almost immediately that it would be a difficult season,'' JV, now 34, told 'Radio Canada' this week.

With the newly BMW-owned and powered 'F1.06' car, however, Villeneuve sees the imminent season - to kick off in Bahrain in just over a month - turning out differently.

He says his previous problems with the Sauber have 'disappeared' ahead of 2006.

''With this car,'' JV reported, ''I can brake where I want and still make the apex. The difference is just enormous.''

He told Radio Canada that if he is up to speed in 2006, he would be available to race for the team again in 2007.

''I am having fun with my driving again and enjoying going to the limit,'' Villeneuve added.

Jacques is a renowned opponent of driver aids such as traction control, so the advent of V8s - and therefore less power - has made F1 less reliant on electronics.

He confirmed: ''This is a positive development for me.

''I think 2006 could be a great year. I would like to pay back the confidence BMW has put in me.''

Hockenheim boss fired
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.8) German GP venue Hockenheim's crisis is speeding from bad to worse, with reports that circuit managing director Jurgen von Glasenapp has been fired.

The local 'Mannheimer Morgen' newspaper in Germany did not give the reasons for his departure, but he was already on leave after a legal investigation was underway surrounding the seizing of documents in his possession.

The documents, now held by the public prosecutor's office, reportedly relate to possible irregularities regarding Hockenheim's upgrade in 2002, and ticket sales.

Haug rejects Flav's 'no class' blast
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.8) Norbert Haug has fended off criticism of McLaren's early signing of title winner Fernando Alonso.

Renault chief Flavio Briatore, whose departing Spanish charge wrapped up the title less than two months earlier, recently panned McLaren counterpart Ron Dennis for having 'no class' in announcing the 2007 deal before Christmas '05.

But Haug, competition director for McLaren's engine partner Mercedes-Benz, denied that the coup was announced maliciously, or as a sort of 'tactic' to devalue Renault's title achievement.

''I don't think you can hide contracts that have been signed,'' the German told Motorsport Aktuell.

Haug added: ''We want to be open and honest with the public and the media.

''If people think we have bad intentions, then I cannot help that.''

Norbert Haug also denied that the early signing could backfire and destabilize the McLaren team, because neither current driver - Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya - feels secure and wanted.

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