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Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 February 23,  2006


BMW 'quicker than expected' - Zanardi
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.23) Former formula one driver Alex Zanardi is surprised at the pace of BMW Sauber in winter tests.

The Italian, who drove 44 grands prix in the 90s but lost his legs in an horror Champ Car crash in 2001, said the new Hinwil collaboration has 'got the potential' to succeed in the F1 category.

''Taking a look at the times set in the tests,'' 39-year-old Zanardi said, ''I'd say that the team is quicker than I expected it to be.''

Bologna born Zanardi's last F1 stint was in 1999, at Williams, but he also drove races for Lotus, Minardi and Jordan.

Today, he steers a hand-controlled BMW in the world touring car series, and recalled how 'extremely difficult' it is 'to just be a part' of the F1 world.

Zanardi continued: ''But it's far more demanding if you want to battle at the front end of the grid and win races.''









Yuji Ide makes F1 test debut
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.23) Japanese race rookie Yuji Ide made his formula one test debut at Barcelona on Wednesday.

The 31-year-old, to drive in grands prix alongside countryman Takuma Sato for new Japanese team 'Super Aguri' next month, lapped more than 9 seconds off the pace over 44 laps in warm Spain, until the reworked 2002 Arrows broke down.

At the front of the field was Kimi Raikkonen, whose 2006 McLaren car is finally showing some pace at tests.

The Finn led the field of fifteen, including both Renault racers who endured a difficult start to the day with identical problems on their first out-laps. The team said it was 'small software problems'.

''But it wasn't as bad as it seemed,'' said chief engineer Christian Silk, even though neither blue and yellow car re-emerged until after the lunch break.

Honda and MF1 were also in action, while Williams' Nico Rosberg and Red Bull veteran David Coulthard had a little biff on the way out of pitlane.

Later, DC's Ferrari engine failed.

Toyota turned up to compare its newly-uncovered Bahrain spec bodywork package with other runners, and wound up about a full second off the top pace.

But Ralf Schumacher said: ''It is still early to say where we stand.''

In rainy Italy, BMW Sauber joined Toro Rosso on the Imola track. An STR statement said testing 'was pretty much wiped out' at the sodden venue.









Revamp for Brit GP delayed
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.23) Silverstone's owner has delayed a controversial proposal to redevelop the British grand prix venue, including the axe of historic corners.

The British Racing Drivers' Club held a meeting at the Northamptonshire track on Wednesday, but the expected members' vote was postponed because of significant opposition.

''Members need more information,'' claimed president Sir Jackie Stewart, ''and a longer period of consultation.''

It was reported last week that the Club, Abbey and Bridge bends could all be axed in proposed developer St Modwen's plans for the track.

The controversial scheme would also involve horse racing company Northern Racing, with no experience in motor sport, taking over the running of Silverstone for a period of 25 years.

''Members are understood to have a further six weeks to make up their minds,'' wrote the British broadsheet Daily Telegraph.









Aguri chief to retire in 2011
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.23) He is F1's newest team principal, but Aguri Suzuki says he will retire in five years time.

The owner of new Honda-backed Japanese outfit 'Super Aguri', who raced in 64 grands prix and left the driving seat in 1995, vowed to 'quit everything' when he turns 50 in September 2011.

''I am tired,'' Suzuki, also owner of an IRL team, was quoted as saying by the AFP agency.

''I want to spend my time doing other things.''

Before he exits the formula one paddock, though, Suzuki said he wants to see his Leafield-based Aguri team rise to a top-three finish 'in 2 to 3 years'.









FIA seeks 'standard ECU' supplier
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.23) F1's governing body has ramped up plans for standard car electronics in 2008, by seeking 'expressions of interest' of potential suppliers of a control ECU.

The spend-hungry carmakers don't like it, but FIA president Max Mosley intends to force all teams to fit the same 'electronic control unit' - the 'brain' of the engine, gearbox and other systems - to their racers.

''It will limit the amount of money that can be spent on technology,'' he said recently.

A standard ECU will also be used to log how much mileage a car has done, thereby allowing the FIA to effectively regulate circuit testing.

Mosley added: ''The manufacturers hate it, but that is going to be the rule for everybody who wants to enter in 2008.''

Potential ECU suppliers are being asked to lodge their interest before the end of March.









Not too late for Narain - Williams
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.23) India's Narain Karthikeyan is not too old to one day return to the formula one grid.

That's the pledge of Sir Frank Williams, who has signed the former Jordan racer - and his sponsor Tata - for 2006.

But Williams, 63, said his team's new second test driver has a long way to go.

''Narain is seen as being short on experience, but still very fast, although a bit erratic,'' the Briton told an interview with Hindustan Times, a leading Indian newspaper.

However, at 29, Karthikeyan - presently not a regular on the winter circuits as his race colleagues get priority - would be in his thirties if he ever got another shot at the grid.

But Williams insisted: ''Michael Schumacher is nearly ten years older than Narain, so there is plenty of time ahead of him.

''I do believe that he has the necessary talent.''









Frank, Mark, upbeat about '06
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.23) Sir Frank Williams has delivered an upbeat message about his team's prospects for 2006.

The 63-year-old's new blue and white car, no longer powered by a works engine or backed by a title sponsor, has shown up well on the winter tracks, after the '05 'FW27' slumped to fifth in the team tally.

Some analysts say the new Cosworth V8, although without the financial muscle of the other engine makers, is at least a match for Honda, Ferrari and Renault -- if not superior.

''This year's car,'' Williams said, referring to the FW28, ''is a big step forward compared to last year's (car).

''However, it's too early to comment as there are many unknown factors.''

A weakness last year was aerodynamics, but lead driver Mark Webber revealed that FW28 - with an unique barb on the rear of the engine cover - is 'very aggressive in terms of its aerodynamic design.'

The Australian told 'The Age': ''(The FW28) car has been in the wind tunnel a long time and a lot of effort went into it. I hope that will translate to pace.

''Cosworth made a superb engine for us,'' Webber continued, ''but being an independent operation, I hope we are in for a solid year.''









'SA05' to get aero update
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.23) Super Aguri's 'SA05' car - the reworked 2002 Arrows - will get an updated bodywork package for its grand prix race debut next month.

At the tests in Barcelona this week, although with some tweaks, the car appeared with 'illegal' aerodynamics -- the basis of which was designed to conform with the FIA regulations four years ago.

But we can reveal at least three elements of the package that are set to be added to the all-white car: new endplates for the rear wing, a higher engine cover, and extended 'flick-ups' for the rear of the two side pods.

Chief technical officer Mark Preston is calling the Barcelona SA05 a 'systems car' -- fitted with definitive mechanical and electronic parts but not the race-legal aero.









Max, Bernie, approve Imola upgrade
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.23) F1 powerbrokers Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone have green lighted Imola's $12 million circuit upgrade.

Italian sports newspaper 'La Gazzetta dello Sport' reported that the plan - headed by renowned circuit architect Hermann Tilke - was given the all clear to proceed by both the formula one supremo and the sport's governing body.

The plans for the ageing San Marino grand prix venue in Italy, near Bologna, include a new pit complex, media complex and tweaked layout, including the elimination of the 'Variante Bassa' chicane.

It will be ready for the 2007 race at the 'Enzo e Dino Ferrari' circuit, not this year's running in late April, and completed with the help of government part-funding.

Imola has a contract to stage grands prix until 2009.









Ex-F1 sponsor writes off Ferrari
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.23) A controversial Swedish businessman has destroyed his $1m 'Enzo Ferrari' - one of the world's rarest road cars - in a 200kph smash.

Only 400 of the V12 vehicles were ever built at Maranello, also home of the Italian formula one team.

The red car, torn in two after slamming into a pole in Los Angeles, was owned by 44-year-old Stefan Eriksson, a former executive of the failed Jordan sponsor Gizmondo.

A drunk Eriksson, who has been linked with the Swedish mafia, told police that the driver of the vehicle was a runaway German, but police did not find him.

The Enzo, a model of Ferrari that is also owned by Michael Schumacher, Eric Clapton and Roger Penske, was being illegally raced at dawn against a SLR Mercedes-Benz.

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