Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
February 17, 2006
Spa won't be replaced - FIA
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.17) F1's governing body has ruled out replacing the
axed Belgian grand prix in 2006.
Although the stage of nineteen races was originally set for this
year's championship battle, the FIA will reject the offers of would-be
venues like Rio de Janeiro and settle instead for a three week break
between Monza and Shanghai.
''The FIA does not seek to replace the grand prix of Belgium,'' an FIA
Indeed, replacing Spa Francorchamps would be problematic, because the
venue in the Belgian Ardennes - and Bernie Ecclestone - intend to
reinstate the event in 2007.
FIA president Max Mosley said about the 'classic' circuit this week:
''I think everyone realizes that we have got to have it on the
According to Germany's Auto Motor Und Sport magazine, the likely 2007
deal - with Bernie as promoter - will extend for no less than eight
Hockenheim asks Bernie for help
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.17) With the classic race at Spa Francorchamps
already on the 2006 scrap heap, Hockenheim has pleaded for help as the
health of the historic German grand prix continues to diminish.
According to reports in the German press, the Prime Minister of the
local 'Baden-Wurttemberg' region has formally asked F1 supremo Bernie
Ecclestone to intervene as Hockenheim runs out of money.
Among his requests, PM Guenther Oettinger asked the 75-year-old to
reduce his fee - or, at least, slow the annual fee increases - for the
annual German grand prix, the 'Stuttgarter Nachrichten' newspaper
Bernie's actual reaction is not fully known, but the Briton is
believed to have entertained the idea of subsequent discussions with
the people involved.
By 2008, Hockenheim's annual race fee could be as much as $25 million.
A department of the Baden-Wurttemberg government will meet on Friday
to examine the Hockenheim crisis, a spokesman told the 'paper.
Honda clock most winter laps
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.17) Honda has topped a list of the biggest winter
testers in formula one, with a staggering tally of nearly 22 thousand
The Japan-owned, Brackley based outfit - with Jenson Button and Rubens
Barrichello also impressing on the near-daily time sheets - appear a
full four thousand kms clear of McLaren, in the list of total mileage
tallied up since late November 2005.
Renault is third (17,200km), ahead of Toyota (15,000km), Williams
(13,000km), BMW Sauber (11,600km), Red Bull (7100km), MF1 (6600km) and
Toro Rosso (5000km).
The list's two omissions, compiled by Sir Frank Williams' Grove based
team, is Ferrari - the only team resisting a new voluntary test limit
- and Super Aguri, who make their proper track debut in Spain next
While some drivers who wear scarlet might have figured in the running,
then, it is nonetheless Honda's Button (8700km) on top of the list of
drivers who have had the busiest winter, followed by Pedro de la Rosa
(7500km) of McLaren.
JB could lose 'edge' - Mansell
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.17) Jenson Button risks going into cruise control
because he has already made his millions.
That is the fear of countryman and 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell,
who marvels at the Honda driver's huge pay packet despite not having
won a grand prix.
''I didn't start earning big money until after I won the world
championship,'' the 52-year-old told 'The Sun'.
Mansell said: ''You have to ask if that will take the edge off him.''
JB, at the age of 25, is on a long term driving contract at the cost
to Honda of at least $16.5 million a year.
But Nigel Mansell called Jenson's winless record, despite more than
100 career grands prix with Williams, Benetton (Renault) and BAR, a
'monkey on his back'.
Mosley defends Red Bull 'betrayal'
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.17) Max Mosley has defended Red Bull for casting a
controversial vote to axe the single tire rule in formula one for
Renault boss Flavio Briatore recently slammed the Dietrich
Mateschitz-owned camp for 'betraying' the other Michelin teams.
Austria's Mateschitz voted in favor of the FIA president's proposal,
thus appearing to gift rival Bridgestone its favored rule.
Some said Red Bull's move was political, as the team is allied with
engine supplier Ferrari, Bernie Ecclestone - via the 2008 Concorde -
and skiing buddy Mr. Mosley.
But Max insisted: ''Mateschitz voted for it because he thought the
most important thing was the spectacle.''
At his media lunch with reporters in London this week, Mosley backed
his call to axe the single-tire plan by saying that the spectacle of
pit stops had dipped.
Ralf - I want to win
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.17) Ralf Schumacher would like to win the first grand
prix of season '06.
For a private team test, the German was at Vallelunga (Italy) this
week, where teammate Jarno Trulli lapped more than half a second per
lap quicker than him.
However, although the track deficit failed to make him smile in 2005,
Ralf will have been pleased -- JT was at the wheel of Toyota's
Bahrain-spec aero package, while 30-year-old Schumacher steered the
older 'winter' version.
''It is still a little early to be making statements about winning
races,'' Schumacher told the 'Euro Sport Automagazine'.
Ralf said: ''So, what I'm saying is not really a prediction. However:
I believe we can win this year -- and I would like to get started on
March the twelfth.''
Toyota's private run in chilly Italy has been a rather secretive
affair. Any comparisons with other teams' tests at the circuit are
meaningless, because the Cologne squad installed a new chicane at the
end of the straight.
The race-ready TF106 will, however, make its group appearance next
week, at Barcelona in Spain.
''Then we will start to find out where we really stand,'' said Trulli.
Mansell reignites old Piquet rivalry
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.17) Even the passing of two full decades has not
calmed the hostility between former F1 teammates, and champions, Nigel
Mansell and Nelson Piquet.
When publicly rejecting a recent invitation to race in the 'Grand Prix
Masters' series, Piquet - in an oblique reference to front-man Mansell
- said it was designed 'for people who want to live in the past and
make money out of it'.
During a press conference in Oxford this week, 52-year-old Mansell -
who like Piquet is now supporting the career of his sons - had the
opportunity to rebuke the title winning Brazilian.
He said: ''I have known Nelson for a long time.
''If he really said that, then he is probably just jealous that he was
not with us.
''Or maybe he just wants to get under our skin. I think we have been
in this business long enough that we can ignore what Nelson says.''
Six favorites for '06 crown - Alonso
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.17) Reigning champion Fernando Alonso says he is one
of six favorites to wear the 2006 crown.
The Spaniard, who has previously singled out Renault, Honda and
Ferrari as the standouts of winter running, denied that he would enter
the Bahrain opener as the hot contender.
''I will be among the favorites,'' Alonso, 24, told Spain's daily
Marca newspaper, ''but I am not the only one. I think there are six.''
He is probably referring to himself and Giancarlo Fisichella
(Renault), Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello (Honda), and Michael
Schumacher and Felipe Massa (Ferrari), therefore possibly discounting
the challenge of his 2007 team, McLaren, including '05 title runner
up, Kimi Raikkonen.
But Alonso clarified: ''McLaren is not having a good pre season, and
the team seems a little bit down, but it could all turn around if
their car becomes quick.''
On the other hand, the Renault 'R26' looks mighty, with very few
reliability concerns and impressive lap times.
But Fernando said: ''We are still missing a bit of (horse) power, and
we can still keep working on the aerodynamics.''
Renault still leads test race
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.17) Renault remains the force to be reckoned with of
2006, with Heikki Kovalainen logging the quickest lap of the entire
Valencia test on Thursday.
As strong winds played havoc with the five teams present, however,
Juan Pablo put his McLaren within a breath of the Finnish tester's
time, with Williams' Mark Webber appearing next on a list of the
test's stand out runners.
MF1 and Red Bull also ran on the tight twisty layout this week, with
many outfits now heading to Barcelona for the second last week of
major winter running.
In warm Bahrain, meanwhile, Honda and Toro Rosso concluded their
running on Thursday, while Ferrari - where Michael Schumacher again
struggled for laps in the '248' - expelled the public and the media in
readiness for a further five days at the scene of the '06 opener.
BMW Sauber, with Nick Heidfeld proving substantially quicker than
Jacques Villeneuve, similarly concluded testing after a lone week at
Barcelona, to be joined by Scuderia Toro Rosso at Imola early next
Alonso uses Rossi for F1 mind game
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.17) World champion Fernando Alonso is either
unimpressed with MotoGP counterpart Valentino Rossi's F1 forays, or he
is ramping up some mind games with Ferrari prior to kick off in 2006.
Speaking at a news conference in Madrid this week, the 24-year-old
Renault driver said it did not bother him that the motorbike racer
joined the F1 world at a recent test in Spain.
''I'm glad he drove with Ferrari,'' said the Spaniard, ''because it
means they lost valuable time preparing their cars during that show.''
However, Alonso did not criticize Rossi, who - albeit with a more
powerful engine - logged impressive lap times in Spain. But he did
warn that switching to two wheels would likely be 'very difficult' for
''He might finish fifth or even get on the podium some time,'' said
Fernando, ''but I could do the same on bikes if I was given a bit of
time to practice.''
Alonso is the third commentator to muse on the Rossi topic this week,
after Gerhard Berger and Alex Zanardi both said the 27-year-old is
made of the right stuff to succeed in F1.
''I would rather hire him than anybody else at the moment,'' Toro
Rosso co-owner, Berger, told 'Motor Cycle News'.
Former F1 and Champ Car driver Zanardi, however, was quoted as telling
Gazzetta dello Sport that Rossi is not yet ready to change grids.
''I think if he went to Melbourne today he would be three seconds too
slow,'' the Italian told the newspaper. ''But, with the talent he has,
he can be ready with a full year of testing.''
Scott Speed - 'I'm arrogant'
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.17) Scott Speed, the first American on F1's full time
racing grid in thirteen years, is self-centered and arrogant.
That is not the opinion of a daring grand prix journalist, but -
rather - the 22-year-old Californian's own confession.
Red Bull-backed Speed, to debut with the energy drink's junior 'Toro
Rosso' team in 2006, told F1 Racing magazine that he is hardly the
easiest man in the paddock to deal with.
''I think that, fundamentally, I'm self-centered, I'm arrogant and
very competitive,'' he confessed.
''But they're definitely the reasons I've gone so far in racing.''
Although hauled to Europe after winning the famous Red Bull driver
search, Speed has not had an easy ride to the grid -- in 2003 he
pulled out of the British F3 championship to be treated for serious
and painful ulcerative colitis.
Still, some people insist that Speed's biggest problem is his
He told the British magazine: ''Yeah, my personality is sure not easy
to deal with sometimes.
''But I've stopped trying to change it and have realized that the way
I am is what makes me so good in racing.''
Massa urges Ferrari to improve
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.17) Although most observers have been impressed with
Ferrari's winter form, Felipe Massa reckons the team must improve 'a
lot' in the three weeks before Bahrain.
Actually at the scene of the Sakhir opener for testing, Massa led a
field of six on Thursday -- but his mount was a 2004 F1 model with a
Dead last, and more than 2 seconds adrift, Michael Schumacher had
endured yet another day of technical trouble at the wheel of the new
In comments reported by Speed TV, originating in La Gazzetta dello
Sport, Brazil's Massa tried to downplay the significance of the times.
''The important thing here is to find and maintain reliability,'' said
Schumacher's teammate, who noted that the 2006 car will now be fitted
with new parts.
Massa continued: ''At that point, I'm sure, the times will improve.''
Ralf fit after back injury
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.17) Toyota's Ralf Schumacher says he has fully
recovered from a back injury.
The German, who broke bones in his back in a huge Indy shunt in 2004,
had to pull out of a test late last year with renewed back pain.
But, with many kilometres under his belt since then and this week at
Vallelunga, 30-year-old Schumacher told 'Euro Sport Automagazine' that
everything is fine.
''I do not have any complaints about my back,'' Ralf said, ''and I am
training as normal.''
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