Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 February 22,  2006

One F1 lap costs $1300
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.22) Each lap, a formula one car chews up nearly $1300 (US), according to the analysis of a British racing magazine.

March's 'F1 Racing' put forward the staggering figure as the cost of fuel, tires and brake wear over an average lap of a grand prix circuit, putting into perspective the argument in favor of reducing F1 track testing.

Team hospitality, however, is also a hidden expense, with Toyota and Red Bull both spending about $12m each year on entertaining eminent guests.

But while Cologne based Toyota's 2005 budget topped the timesheet at about half a billion, not every team made an imposing appearance in the magazine's investigation.

Now-defunct Minardi, F1 Racing said, recorded a total budget of just $50m last year, which is only a few million more than Ferrari spent on keeping Michael Schumacher on the books.

Renault boss Flavio Briatore denies, however, that money is the only recipe for success.

''We won the (2005) title with the sixth largest budget,'' the Italian told Germany's 'Motorsport Aktuell' magazine.

''It is not just about budget, but efficiency.''

Terror alert for Bahrain
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.22) Australians, like Williams' Mark Webber or Sam Michael, have officially been told to stay away from the scene of the 2006 season opener, in Bahrain.

The renewed warning of the country's federal 'Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade', mirroring a similar American alert, said there is a 'high threat of terrorist attack' in the small Arab island nation.

''We continue to receive reports that terrorists are planning attacks against Western interests in the region,'' read the DFAT alert.

It continued, singling out 'outdoor recreation events' as possible targets: ''These attacks could occur at any time and could be directed against any locations known to be frequented by foreigners.''

'Deutsche Presse-Agentur', however, quoted a Bahraini official as downplaying the warnings, noting that the alerts are not new and are based on assessments of the entire Middle East region.

Rossi undecided about F1 switch
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.22) Valentino Rossi says he still has not decided if he wants to switch from MotoGP to formula one.

The multiple world champion on two wheels told German magazine 'Motorsport Aktuell' that, following his serious group test in a Ferrari and subsequent return to a MotoGP session, he still has 'more fun' on a motorbike.

''It is also a completely different feeling in a F1 car,'' the 27-year-old Italian, under contract until the end of the year, said.

''I am in two minds -- I do not know at the moment what I am going to do.''

Rossi said he wanted to test at Valencia in order to gauge his speed alongside F1's established runners. 'Vale' logged decent lap times, but his car's V10 engine and 2004 bodywork meant that any real comparison is difficult.

Meanwhile, he refused to compare his MotoGP bike with a grand prix car.

''It's like a football player changing to basketball,'' Rossi acknowledged. ''Everything is different -- it's an entirely different world.''

Red Bull's F1 future seems secure
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.22) Red Bull's big-spending formula one foray seems secure, with the energy drink recording a thirsty 29 per cent revenue boost during 2005.

Owned by Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, Red Bull announced annual turnover of (US)$2.6bn, with big jumps in the US, Latin American, German and East Europe markets.

Profit figures were not issued, but a report said the company's net profit - said to increase further in 2006 - 'improved over 2004, which was a very good year'.

Schu plays down '248' car's flaws
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.22) Michael Schumacher has played down recent technical problems with the 2006 Ferrari, insisting that the '248' has shown an impressive turn of speed in very recent days.

On the last day of Bahrain testing on Tuesday, the German - now showing off the car's definitive bodywork - clocked a very notable time, even though he only managed 55 laps.

''It hasn't run completely smoothly,'' Schumacher, 37, admitted, ''and we would have like some more laps.

''But many teams deal with these things at this time of year. On the bright side, our speed is really encouraging, and we hope to continue like this at Mugello.

''I think we have a better package than we did last year.''

Slow debut for 'Aguri' team
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.22) New formula one team Super Aguri endured an awkward maiden test on Tuesday, with Takuma Sato trailing the pace in Barcelona by a disquieting thirteen seconds.

But the Japanese, in a plain white 'SA05' - which is a development of the 2002 Arrows - only turned a few laps before the car broke down, and later on he spun in the wet.

In the afternoon, moreover, 27-year-old Sato again caught a lift back to the pits in a circuit car, after another hydraulic failure.

Williams' Mark Webber led the field in dreary Spain, followed by Kimi Raikkonen in a shiny McLaren. Red Bull and Midland's MF1 team also tested.

In Italy, Scuderia Toro Rosso tested at the Imola track, but - like in Spain - it also rained.

A second 'STR01' chassis will be debuted by Vitantonio Liuzzi on Wednesday morning, according to the Faenza team. Photos courtesy Super Aguri

Another son to race
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.22) Another famous son is steering a fast course in premier motor racing.

17-year-old Graham Rahal, whose American father Bobby led the defunct Jaguar team for a while and even raced twice in F1 in the 70s, will join 'Team Lebanon' in the A1 category.

Apparently, the Rahal family has Lebanese ancestry.

''I'm very proud of our Lebanese heritage,'' said Graham's dad, Bobby.

Another notable American in a cockpit this year will be Eddie Cheever, the 48-year-old who contested 143 grands prix in the 1980s.

Owner of the Cheever IRL team, he will again attack the Indy 500, a race he conquered in 1998.

Alesi steps closer to F1 team role
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.22) Former Ferrari race winner and veteran of 202 grands prix, Jean Alesi, has taken a step closer to a management role in the formula one paddock.

The 41-year-old Frenchman, who also raced for Sauber, Jordan and Benetton and left the sport in 2001, has joined the Japanese 'Direxiv' company as a Senior Executive Director.

Direxiv is a new McLaren partner, and was last year linked with a Super Aguri/Honda-like McLaren 'b team', with Alesi likely for a key role.

''It is exciting for me to work on the management side after so many years in the driving seat,'' said Alesi, who was born in Avignon.

Direxiv is already involved in GP2 and Japan's Super GT category.

80's pop star to sing in Malaysia
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.22) 1980s American pop singer Lionel Ritchie will spice up the second grand prix of 2006, with the 56-year-old set to sing in Kuala Lumpur next month.

On the Thursday before the Malaysian race weekend, he will perform at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, watched on by many invited F1 drivers.

The headline act does, however, come at a price, with a dinner table of ten said to cost anywhere up to $14,000.

Spa loss doesn't hurt Heidfeld
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.22) Nick Heidfeld says he is not too bothered that Spa Francorchamps has been axed from the 2006 formula one calendar.

Although many of the German's track rivals single out the Belgian venue as their favorite, 28-year-old 'Quick Nick' said he is a bigger fan of the winding Suzuka layout in Japan.

''Spa is an extraordinary circuit and a favorite for many drivers,'' Heidfeld, to race for BMW Sauber this year, said, ''but I don't feel this way, hence, the loss doesn't hurt me that much.''

Oz GP hopes to ride sport clash storm
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.22) Organizers of the Australian grand prix hope the event can compete with an upcoming smorgasbord of sport in the city of Melbourne.

For the first time since 1996, the race at Albert Park will not host the season opener this year, after requests to avert a clash with Melbourne's Commonwealth Games next month.

But the GP's new date, the first weekend in April, has thrown up another clash -- the first round of Australia's highly popular 'AFL' football season.

Asked if formula one would have to take a back seat in Melbourne this year, grand prix chief executive Tim Bamford told the 'Herald Sun': ''It depends what happens over the next few weeks as the Games come on and we see what's happening.''

To ensure the big race does not go unnoticed, a mammoth 36m balloon - shaped like an F1 car - was unveiled in Melbourne this week, and will hang over the Commonwealth Games in March.

Bamford said at a launch event in the city: ''We obviously want to maintain the PR and the marketing presence we have, and that's why we're here.''

Ex-Jaguar man leaves formula one
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.22) David Pitchforth, Jaguar's managing director until he was let go by new team owner Red Bull, has accepted the offer of a job with a helicopter company.

After a year out of formula one, during which his Jaguar/Red Bull contract finally ran out in mid 2005, the highly lauded team player from Yorkshire had been tipped to return to the pit wall in 2006.

But David Pitchforth will instead head to work at the Somerset (UK) site of 'AgustaWestland', a renowned helicopter design and manufacturing company.

Glock races for F1 comeback
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.22) Former race and test driver for Jordan, Timo Glock, says he wants to return to the formula one grid.

The 23-year-old German, who raced the yellow grand prix car four times in 2004 with the backing of Deutsche Post, dropped out of the category last year but completed an impressive stint on the American Champ Car grid.

But Glock, who has returned to Europe, told 'Sport-Informations-Dienst' that he hopes to emulate the recent feat of GP2 champ Nico Rosberg.

''I have returned (to Europe),'' he explained, ''because this looks like a better way for me to reach my formula one goal.''

Glock will drive for the 'BCN Competicion' team.

Noting that Rosberg and Heikki Kovalainen jumped from GP2 success to F1 this year, he added: ''I learned a lot in America, but my goal has always been to return to formula one.''

Defending titles is easier - Briatore
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.22) Renault and Honda will probably have the upper hand when 2006 gets racing in Bahrain next month.

That is the declaration of the title winning Renault team's Pat Symonds, who also said McLaren is 'getting there' and Ferrari is similarly 'not far behind'.

The director of engineering, from Britain, added: ''We cannot be sure of the final standings (in Bahrain), but we know we are somewhere near the front.''

Renault principal Flavio Briatore agrees that winter testing has proceeded very well for the Enstone based outfit.

The Italian told 'Motorsport Aktuell': ''The R26 is better than last year's car, which was good enough to win both world titles.''

Briatore suggested that defending a championship is easier than winning the first one. ''It is the others who feel the pressure, not us,'' he said.

''To beat us, they must take risks. Since our car ran for the first time at Barcelona, it has been fast and reliable.''

Renault exit won't slow Alonso - Briatore
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.22) At the end of 2006, world champion Fernando Alonso will leave Renault, but that does not mean he cannot charge for this year's crown.

That is the message of Flavio Briatore, the Spaniard's manager and chief of the Renault camp.

The Italian, 55 - although annoyed with Ron Dennis' tactic to announce the coup so early - told German magazine 'Motorsport Aktuell' that he sees no competitive problem with Alonso and McLaren's early 2007 call.

''Look at what happened with Michael (Schumacher) when we were united at Benetton,'' Briatore said. ''We knew that he would change to Ferrari (in 1996) but he still defended his title successfully.

''Fernando is also highly professional and I know that he will give everything until his very last day with us. That's the way he is.''

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