Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 February 14,  2006

Mosley issues 'GPMA' ultimatum
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.14) Max Mosley has warned F1's rogue 'GPMA' carmakers to quickly sign up for 2008 and beyond or risk losing their spots in pit lane.

At a gathering of reporters in London, the FIA president said a window of just ten days would open late next month for McLaren-Mercedes, Renault, BMW Sauber, Honda and Toyota to snatch five of the remaining six garages.

Mosley said he would be 'cold blooded' in the event that private applicants - like David Richards or Roger Penske - submit entries in the window when others do not, therefore possibly leaving at least one carmaker without a slot.

''We are going to stick to twelve teams,'' he said.

Mosley said entries for 2008 will open on March 23, a day after the next meeting of the world motor sport council, and close on about the first of April.

He added that the mandatory $48m entry bond has been deleted, making it easier for smaller outfits to enter.

''There is the possibility that the (entry list) might be oversubscribed,'' said Mosley.

A far-flung week of F1 action
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.14) F1's first ever winter test in Bahrain kicked off on Monday, with Ferrari, Honda and Toro Rosso in action in warm weather.

In a V10-engined 2004 Ferrari, Luca Badoer headed the field of five.

With Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello set to get running on Tuesday, Anthony Davidson and James Rossiter steered the two 2006 Hondas, ahead of Felipe Massa in the Ferrari 248 and Toro Rosso's Scott Speed, last.

Speed, meanwhile, demonstrated one pitfall of quickly moving from Europe to an offshore test track -- his team did not have time to ship the new 'STR01' car to the Gulf, so is making do with last year's Red Bull.

With just a month until the real grand prix action commences at the very same Sakhir circuit, every formula one team will this week be at work around the world.

On Tuesday, Valencia (Spain) gets into gear, with McLaren, Williams, Renault and MF1 to appear.

BMW Sauber is to go solo at Barcelona, while Toyota run a brand new bodywork package at Vallelunga (Italy), and Super Aguri make their 'shake down' debut somewhere else.

'New' '06 Toyota to debut
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.14) Toyota's Bahrain-ready formula one car will be debuted at an Italian test circuit on Tuesday.

Although the 'TF106' was the first of all 2006 cars to hit the winter tracks, every piece of bodywork has been revised in a scheduled aerodynamic update.

Technical director Mike Gascoyne says the approach may explain why Toyota has so far not shone in tests this year.

''Our approach may not enable us to be winter testing champions,'' said the Briton, ''but we hope that it will help us to challenge for podiums throughout the season and ultimately our maiden victory.''

The 'new' TF106s feature totally revamped wings, side pods, rear diffusers, engine covers and floors.

Alonso has driven a Mercedes
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.14) Although he won't switch from Renault until next year, world champion Fernando Alonso has already tested a silver Mercedes.

However, the car in question was a Mercedes-Benz road car, as he made his way to a recent test session for Renault, according to Germany's Sport1 website.

Alonso confessed that the choice of hire car could have been wiser.

''But it wasn't my fault,'' the Spaniard reportedly said in a radio interview, ''it was just what the rental company gave me.''

It has also emerged that a Mercedes-Benz once driven by eventual seven time world champion Michael Schumacher will be auctioned later this month.

The starting bid will be $830,000, for the Sauber-Mercedes C11 that the German steered to fifth at Le Mans in 1991.

Rossi back on four wheels
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.14) After testing a formula one Ferrari, and then returning to his motorcycle, MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi has now steered a Maserati sports car in Italy.

At the Misano circuit, the 26-year-old Italian - who has also driven a world rally car and world championship kart in the recent past - tried 15 laps in the famous marque's 'MC12' model, run by a private team.

It was reported by the Italian 'Motograndprix' publication last week that Rossi was within a few tenths of the top pace.

Symonds expects less running on Fridays
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.14) Pat Symonds thinks top formula one teams will this year do even less running on Fridays than in 2005.

Renault's director of engineering referred to an FIA rule-change that says weekend tire choice does not now need to be made until Saturday.

Previously, the selection for qualifying and the race had to be made on Friday, meaning that - from now on - new sets of F1 tires can be saved.

Symonds said: ''Teams with a third car will run a lot, but for the top four teams, there will be much less activity.''

The longer qualifying format, meanwhile, will only add to the problem, with teams wanting to further reduce practice laps in order to protect engine mileage.

Champs say Schu, Alonso, in F1 hot seat
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.14) Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso are favorites to win the 2006 world championship, according to three former title winners.

Sir Jackie Stewart, who won three drivers' crowns between 1969 and 1973, would put his money on Ferrari's Schumacher, who dropped his first title since 2000 in the previous season.

''It will probably be difficult for him to put pressure on Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen,'' the Scot told Spain's daily 'Marca' newspaper, ''but I think Michael can still teach those two boys a thing or two.''

Scotland's Stewart added that he does not believe 37-year-old Schumacher is 'tired' of doing what it takes to win.

1972 and 1974 world champion, Brazil's Emerson Fittipaldi, agrees that Schumacher has not yet 'spoken his last word'.

But he added: ''If someone at Alonso's age becomes world champion, then he must have huge talent.

''Ferrari, however, will have reacted to their problems of last year.''

Quadruple world champion Alain Prost, meanwhile - nicknamed 'the Professor' in his F1 driving days - gushed about 24-year-old Alonso's intelligence.

The Frenchman said: ''I think he is a great world champion -- he knows when to attack and when to hold back.''

Schu can wear '06 crown - Frentzen
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.14) Countryman and former rival Heinz-Harald Frentzen thinks Michael Schumacher is capable of claiming the 2006 title.

The 38-year-old German, who could be forced into retirement after failing to land a new DTM seat, told 'Auto Bild' that Schumacher could bounce back despite a nightmarish 2005 season with Ferrari.

Asked if Michael, 37, has now missed his best opportunity to retire with dignity, Frentzen told the German magazine: ''Yes and no.

''He did have some ideal opportunities (to retire), but his ability and immense experience is still up to the task of winning with the right car I think.''

Frentzen, however - the veteran of 160 grands prix and a three-time winner - agrees that a new wave of talent is now firmly settled on the grid.

And he said about 2005 world champion Alonso, 24: ''He withstood extreme pressure last year and got the title. (Kimi) Raikkonen and (Jenson) Button are also considered to be superstars.''

Renault to set 2006 pace - Gascoyne
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.14) Renault's former technical chief thinks the Enstone based team is well on the way to successfully defending its 2005 championship feats.

Mike Gascoyne, today technical director at rival Toyota, admitted that the 2006 Renault 'R26' is so far the fastest car in winter testing.

''They look like they want to start 2006 like they finished 2005,'' the Briton told Germany's 'Express' newspaper.

Gascoyne praises Renault not only for building a quick car, but also producing a reliable V8 engine, despite having to change the v-angle to 90-degrees and also despite a late track debut.

He admitted: ''They can go to Bahrain as favorites.''

But although Renault appear in front, Gascoyne warned F1 observers not to write off McLaren, the Mercedes-powered team that has endured a bumpy pre-season period.

''We've seen it time and time again,'' Mike explained, ''that McLaren can turn things around very, very quickly.''

He noted that, after 2005, Ferrari seem to have done just that with the F2005 race car.

But Mike Gascoyne, adding that Honda is also only just trailing Renault, said in reference to Ferrari: ''I don't think they are quite on Renault's pace.''

Honda on hunt for new title sponsor
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.14) Brackley based F1 team Honda has not yet found a replacement for title sponsor Lucky Strike, whose parent company BAT will pull out of the sport at the end of 2006.

While Honda had been linked with Vodafone and Intel, rival outfits McLaren and BMW-Sauber - respectively - ultimately landed the deals.

Honda principal Nick Fry, though, is quoted by the Kyodo news agency as confirming that the team is on the lookout for a title sponsor.

''British American Tobacco will be with us until the end of 2006 as contracted,'' the Briton said, ''so obviously we are looking for people (sponsors) from 2007 onwards.''

Fry appeared confident that a sponsor would be signed to replace Lucky Strike, the cigarette brand that is honoring a previous agreement to stop advertising in sport.

He admitted: ''It's nice to see that a number (of potential sponsors) are interested, though it's too early to say anything.''

'I still talk to Theissen' - Williams
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.14) Despite their business split, Sir Frank Williams says he still talks regularly with BMW's Dr Mario Theissen.

The Grove based co-owner and chief, who will turn sixty four in April, clearly does not bear the same sort of caustic relationship with Germany's Theissen as does partner Patrick Head.

After a six year engine pairing, BMW and Williams parted company at the end of last year, with both citing differences in 'culture' as a major hitch.

''Some people advise me to the contrary,'' Williams told Auto Bild, ''but I still talk regularly on the telephone to Mario (Theissen).''

Williams, to operate Grove as a true independent team in 2006, rejects the notion that he prefers to stay away from car makers.

He insisted: ''It is wrong to say that our culture does not fit in with a manufacturer. But probably Renault, and now the Cosworth people, are easier for us to work with than BMW were.''

It has also been pointed out that, with Alex Wurz on the books as a 2006 test driver, perhaps the Austrian would be a better choice to partner Mark Webber as race teammate.

Sir Frank, then, denies that team rookie and German Nico Rosberg was signed because his title winning father's name might attract backers.

''Absolutely, no,'' Williams said.

''What impressed and convinced me of his potential was his aggression during (GP2) races last year. Watching him overtake was like watching a dancer.''

Red Bull livery to stay blank
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.14) Red Bull's F1 car will not turn into a moving billboard any time soon.

That is the advice of the energy drink-owned team's principal Christian Horner, who told f1.com that a similar sponsor-less livery will be kept in 2006.

Only tire supplier Michelin and Red Bull associate Rauch - a fruit juice brand on the wing mirror - were, apart from the drink's own logo, shown on the 'RB1'.

But Horner said: ''If a suitable sponsor who fitted our brand and philosophy was to show an interest then we'd certainly be open to discussions.''

Team owner Dietrich Mateschitz has previously outlined that any team sponsors would also have to aim at the same 'target group' as Red Bull -- like 'Nokia, Swatch and PlayStation'.

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