Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 February 13,  2006

Berger won't test 'STR' car
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.13) New formula one team co-owner Gerhard Berger has denied suggestions that he could test the Scuderia Toro Rosso car.

Although the 46-year-old Austrian contested 210 grands prix - winning ten - between 1984 and 1997, he ruled out leaping into the new STR01 racer's cockpit.

''Not at my age,'' Berger laughed to Switzerland's Blick newspaper.

He also revealed that the STR deal with Dietrich Mateschitz was not his only opportunity to return to the grand prix pitlane since hanging up his BMW chief's hat in 2003.

Berger said: ''I received many offers to become a director in large teams. But I am an entrepreneur, so I want to have some fun too.''

He said his fifty per cent purchase of Toro Rosso was hashed out over a drink in Salzburg with his long time friend, Mateschitz.

''Didi said to me, 'I want to buy half of your (shipping) company','' Berger told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, ''I replied 'then I want to buy half of Toro Rosso. So we did it!''

Berger will definitely attend the opening grand prix of 2006, in Bahrain.

New Merc V8 is better - de la Rosa
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.13) Mercedes' redesigned V8 engine is an improvement over the initial version, according to McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa.

But with his engine expiring in a cloud of smoke at Jerez last Friday, the Spaniard told the local 'Marca' newspaper that the team 'still has a long way to go'.

''I did feel an improvement,'' the 34-year-old confirmed. ''I do believe that we are on the right track.''

Sources have confirmed that the updated engine is significantly more powerful than the previous Mercedes V8 spec, but de la Rosa is cautious when musing about engine reliability.

''In the coming tests, the focus will very much be on collecting much more mileage,'' he said.

Like much of the F1 fraternity, McLaren will unfurl at Valencia this week, where Kimi Raikkonen will feature on a four day program.

The Finn said: ''Hopefully we'll be able to complete some more running there.''

Briscoe admits F1 dream in tatters
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.13) Former Toyota tester Ryan Briscoe has admitted that his formula one dream may today be little more than a far flung fantasy.

The 24-year-old Australian, who last year exited the 'IRL' championship with a fiery crash, has signed to drive selected races in 2006 for an Australian touring car team.

''I still haven't ruled it (F1) out as a possibility,'' Briscoe told The Australian newspaper.

''But this year is going to be one of those years when I decide to either keep focused on formula one or decide it is time not to focus on formula one.''

Briscoe was a stand-out in his European junior career, even beating current Red Bull racer Christian Klien to the formula 3 Euroseries crown.

Test concludes at wet Jerez
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.13) F1 test action at Jerez (Spain) concluded on Friday and Saturday.

Both days, however, turned out significantly wet, although on Saturday it was at least deliberate as Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren) and Heikki Kovalainen (Renault) conducted wet Michelin running.

On Friday, however, the rain had stopped in the afternoon, leaving Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella, and Kovalainen, topping a field of twelve, including McLaren, BMW Sauber, MF1, Williams and Toro Rosso, whose Scott Speed tried the new V10-powered STR01 racer for the first time.

''It definitely has less horse power,'' the Californian rookie said, ''and the car tended to oversteer.''

MF1's technical director James Key also admitted that the speed of the Midland team's new 'M16' 2006 car leaves a little to be desired.

He conceded: ''There are a few issues to resolve on the performance side.''

Many F1 teams now move to Valencia, where McLaren's chrome livery will debut, but running will also take place at Barcelona and in Bahrain, scene of the first grand prix in March.

Bahrain test to kick off
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.13) One month before the 2006 grand prix season kicks off at the very same circuit, Bahrain will burst into formula one action on Monday morning.

Ferrari, Honda and Scuderia Toro Rosso are now set up in the circuit's garages, ahead of a rare and controversial offshore test.

Honda and 'STR' will test until Thursday, while Ferrari stay on for a mammoth nine day session in the Gulf State.

Felipe Massa (Ferrari) arrived in Bahrain on Saturday, and Honda's Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello and Anthony Davidson are also in town, according to reports.

''It is important that we test here,'' said Brazil's Barrichello, ''to make sure we are as strong as we can be.''

Button, too, has been quoted as saying Bahrain will be the 'most important test of the year', even if other teams argue that it is an expensive and logistically troublesome way to prepare for the new season.

Gascoyne hopes tire pact is kept
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.13) Mike Gascoyne has admitted that the new agreement between Bridgestone teams could be threatened by the start of the 2006 season.

In the winter test period so far, the pact - which sees Toyota, Ferrari, Williams, MF1 and Super Aguri pool and share their tire data - has run smoothly.

But when the fire of competition kicks off in Bahrain next month, the more competitive teams might be less eager to keep sharing their crucial data with rivals.

''I hope the agreement is kept,'' Gascoyne, technical director at Toyota, said, ''because it is helpful.

''Ok, sometimes you might find something yourself and someone else profits from it,'' he added, ''but we have to see the bigger picture which is that we all get a better tire.''

Gascoyne says the new agreement, distinct from Ferrari and Bridgestone's previously near-exclusive collaboration, is already working well.

He explained: ''I think they realized that they were shooting themselves in the foot by focusing on one team. Ferrari and Bridgestone realized that they needed more data.''

Red Bull budget rivals Ferrari - Flav
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.13) Red Bull could have become formula one's biggest spender, according to Flavio Briatore.

Like rival team McLaren, the Italian's Renault camp has experienced the sour end of what he calls Red Bull's recent 'shopping tour' for talent.

Briatore, 55, reckons Red Bull - run by owner of two F1 teams, billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz - is offering 'extravagant' wages to those switching to his F1 camp.

''In the past we all thought Ferrari spent the most money,'' Flavio told Auto Motor Und Sport.

''Maybe we have to reconsider that.''

Earlier this month, Briatore also hit out at Red Bull for 'betraying' fellow Michelin teams in the vote on '06's tire rules.

He continued: ''They got a lot of sympathy in their first season, but they start to lose that.''

Renault vow to treat Alonso 'equally'
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.13) Renault says Fernando Alonso will be supported 'equally' until the final grand prix of 2006, before he switches to rival McLaren.

It is, however, a sentiment not shared totally by the 24-year-old Spaniard, who says his French-owned employer is likely to freeze him out - and favor Giancarlo Fisichella - if he drops out of title contest.

''In that situation,'' Fernando told the Spanish 'Sociedad Espanola de Radiodifusion' radio network, ''I would expect information and developments to not be the same (as teammate Fisichella) so that I cannot take them to McLaren.''

Alonso, however, added that if he is again fighting for the championship, then he is likely to get full support.

But Renault's Bob Bell, team technical director, said both Alonso and Fisichella can expect total support, no matter how developed the season is.

He insisted: ''That is what you have to do if you are serious about winning championships.''

Gascoyne explains Bahrain absence
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.13) Toyota did not join three F1 rivals at the Bahrain winter test this week for financial and logistical reasons, Mike Gascoyne has explained.

Honda racer Jenson Button has been reported as being surprised that more of F1's eleven teams did not accompany his employer, plus Ferrari and Toro Rosso, in flying into the Gulf region.

But with mere weeks until the circus reconvenes at the Sakhir circuit for the opening grand prix, Gascoyne - Toyota technical director - says it did not make sense to test in Bahrain.

''Naturally,'' said the Briton, ''those teams will get some useful information by testing there.

''But the reality is that it is still just one test, and logistically it means compromising your tests before and after (traveling to and from Bahrain).''

Toyota's other argument, however - the cost - doesn't really seem valid when the Cologne based team intend to launch a 'b' car as early as May 2006.

Gascoyne, at least, denied that an all-new Toyota car - the TF107 - could be ready and racing by the end of the year.

''The plan is to test the TF107 in January next year,'' Mike added, also admitting that a second wind tunnel will soon be operational.

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