Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 February 9,  2006

A newsworthy day on F1 test tracks
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.9) It was another busy and newsworthy day in the world of F1 testing, with three tracks again hosting grand prix teams.

At Jerez in warm Spain, the first crack in Renault's stellar winter appeared, when a rear wing problem cropped up on Heikki Kovalainen's 'R26' racer.

Although world champion Fernando Alonso topped the times in a sister car, Finland's Kovalainen had to sit out much of the day while the team organized to send the suspect part back to Enstone.

The 2006 car in question will not reappear on Thursday, with Alonso handing over his healthy model to Giancarlo Fisichella.

Honda's RA106 continued to look quick, but - notably - third best of the thirteen runners was Juan Pablo Montoya, in a MP4-21 McLaren fitted with Mercedes-Benz's amended V8 engine.

A team statement explained that the installation of the revised unit, to be steered by Kimi Raikkonen on Thursday, had held up McLaren's maiden test day until 1pm.

Further down the field, Jacques Villeneuve rolled out another new BMW Sauber, while Midland's 2006 'M16' was stranded all day in pitlane, while rumors suggest that it might be veiling a gearbox problem.

However, Portugal's Tiago Monteiro insisted on Wednesday evening: ''I can't wait to get in the new car tomorrow.''

At Silverstone (England), the freezing conditions were playing havoc with the attending Red Bull race team's wheel guns as they practiced pit stops, before an hydraulic problem halted Christian Klien.

Looking ahead, while the Jerez test continues for a few more days, many teams will resurface next week at Valencia, also in Spain.

Ferrari, though - whose Michael Schumacher and the '248' ran again at Fiorano (Italy) on Wednesday - will be joined by Honda and Toro Rosso from next Monday at the controversial Bahrain test.

New 'STR' gets Spanish debut
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.9) Scuderia Toro Rosso's 2006 formula one car debuted at Jerez (Spain) on Thursday, Canadian sports broadcaster 'The Sports Network' (TSN) reported.

Vitantonio Liuzzi did the honors for the former Minardi team, ahead of rookie American teammate Scott Speed's maiden try-out on Friday.

The car, to be dubbed 'STR01', is not a development either of new team owner Red Bull's 2005 car - with which the team has tested so far this winter - or the Minardi.

However, it will still be powered by a performance-limited Cosworth V10 engine, which has been the source of much animosity up and down pitlane.

STR01 is not due to be officially launched until March, just ahead of the opening grand prix of 2006 in Bahrain.

''We're very excited about the new car,'' California's 23-year-old Speed told 'Speed TV'.

He added: ''If everything goes well with it we can score points on a regular basis.''

2002 Arrows looks different - Aguri
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.9) Super Aguri's initial 2006 racer will not look exactly like Arrows' 2002 car, even though it is based on the defunct team's 'A23'.

While work on a bespoke car goes on, the Japanese team is to kick off the new season with 'SA05' -- the Arrows, bought from former Minardi owner and F1 car collector Paul Stoddart, refitted to satisfy new aerodynamic regulations and crash tests, and Honda's customer V8 engine.

''It is impossible to recognize the (Arrows) chassis,'' managing director Daniele Audetto told La Gazzetta dello Sport, according to a translation from Italian.

He said the car's 'entire' bodywork, last raced by Tom Walkinshaw-led Arrows at Hockenheim 2002, has changed.

The Italian sports newspaper also reported that the re-badged A23 is a little heavier than it was in 2002, as it had to be reinforced to allow it to pass more stringent FIA tests.

Audetto admitted: ''We know that we will not be competitive initially, so we will use the first few grands prix to get some mileage and experience.''

Monteiro delay was negotiating ploy
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.9) 'MF1' principal Colin Kolles has admitted that the team delayed announcing Tiago Monteiro's 2006 race seat as a 'negotiating' ploy.

The Midland-owned squad's managing director told 'Motorsport Aktuell' that - while having the option of retaining the Portuguese rookie - other teams were also interested in signing him.

Williams, for one, enquired about 29-year-old Monteiro - sponsored by the Portuguese government - for a test seat this year.

''Naturally you do try to maximize the situation,'' Kolles, also a dentist, admitted to the weekly German-language publication.

He also rejected criticism that Midland's priorities are all wrong, because - out of the twenty confirmed 2006 pilots - only Monteiro and Christijan Albers are what could be described as traditional pay-drivers.

Kolles insisted that MF1 boasts a 'quality' lineup.

Bernie hints that 'GPMA' solution near
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.9) Bernie Ecclestone has dismissed claims that he is losing ground in the battle with F1's disgruntled carmaker group.

The specialist press cheekily said this week that Bernie, the 75-year-old supremo, would have secretly grimaced at the publication of excellent profit figures for his company -- because it meant he had more to spare to appease GPMA's cash demands.

But, amid suggestions that a deal for a new Concorde agreement is nearing, he told the 'Independent' newspaper: ''It makes it more interesting for them to want to do a deal.

''They should be very happy. It is a lot of money and they will be getting a big chunk of it soon.''

Ecclestone also scoffed at claims that Max Mosley's provocative recent comments might only have driven BMW, Renault, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Honda closer to their threatened 'breakaway' series for 2008.

He said of the threatened split: ''They would have done it by now if they were going to.''

Even GPMA's media contact, Xander Heijnen, mused positively about the likelihood of a new commercial agreement with Ecclestone.

''We appreciate the progress made,'' he said, ''and hope agreement on the outstanding issues can be reached soon.''

Piquet pans Speed's F1 debut
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.9) Scott Speed is making his F1 debut in 2006 because he has a cool name, a convenient nationality, and a certain energy drink-backer.

That is the claim of Nelson Piquet Jr, the GP2 driver who has missed out on a F1 opportunity this year despite '05 rivals Speed, Nico Rosberg and Heikki Kovalainen all making the coveted step.

23-year-old Speed, from California, will debut for his sponsor Red Bull's junior 'Scuderia Toro Rosso' team in 2006.

But Piquet, with the same name as his world championship-winning father, told Speed TV: ''Speed got in more because ... he's American and his last name is 'Speed', than for what he did on the track.''

Piquet's father said recently that, despite some contact with formula one teams and tests for Williams and BAR, 'Nelsinho' must win the junior GP2 title in order to truly woo the circus' fraternity.

The 20-year-old, who struggled in the category last year and will return in 2006, agreed: ''I'm completely focused on having a perfect year to earn my way into (F1).

''Without being at least second in the championship,'' the Brazilian added, ''that will be very difficult.''

Spice Girls manager signs Honda F1 deal
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.9) Simon Fuller, famous for making American Idol and the Spice Girls famous, will now get to work on improving Honda's F1 image.

His '19 Entertainment' company has penned a ground breaking five year contract with the Brackley based team, which is now fully owned by Japanese carmaker Honda, aimed at enhancing the squad's image via entertainment.

''This is exactly the direction the teams should be taking,'' Bernie Ecclestone enthused to UK's Guardian newspaper, ''to broaden the entertainment and sporting appeal of formula one to a global audience.''

Fuller's first ideas to uniquely market Honda, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, however, will probably not be seen until next year.

Honda's F1 principal Nick Fry said: ''The competition now for an audience is not just within motor racing but comes from (TV show) Desperate Housewives and Chelsea Football Club.''

Incidentally, Fuller named his company '19' after the 1985 Paul Hardcastle song, which refers to the average age of American soldiers in the Vietnam War.

'New' Toyota to run next week
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.9) An all-new, Bahrain-spec bodywork package for Toyota's 2006 F1 car will be debuted next week.

While Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher were as much as 2.5 seconds off the leading pace at Jerez on Wednesday, their TF106s will look substantially different when they next take to the winter test circuits.

''We are looking forward to seeing how it makes an impact on our progress,'' said test team manager Gerd Pfeiffer.

Although widely reported as a radical and expensive approach to the launch of a new car, Toyota adopted a similar policy last year, according to technical director Mike Gascoyne.

Indeed, the 'TF105' - although ultimately beaten in the development race - got off to a stellar start, with the team hanging onto second in the constructors' for some time.

''This strategy helped us to be extremely competitive at the start of 2005,'' the Briton agreed, ''and we are confident the same will happen this year.''

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