Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 February 27,  2006

Injured DC not getting married
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) David Coulthard's spokesman has denied that the Scottish F1 veteran is getting married.

Although the 34-year-old only recently split with former fiancÚ Simone, a French magazine has claimed that Coulthard is now engaged to Belgian pit lane reporter Karen Minier.

DC's spokesman, however, told Scotland's 'Sunday Mail' newspaper that the speculation was wrong.

Meanwhile, tabloid gossip is not the only pain in Coulthard's world at present, after the Red Bull driver trapped a nerve in his back before testing in Spain last Friday morning.

''The pain meant he was forced to call it a day (after four laps),'' read a Red Bull statement.

Alonso to nab 'easy' title - Webber
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) Fernando Alonso should romp to an easy back to back championship in 2006, according to a rival.

Williams' Mark Webber has told the Sydney-based 'Australian' newspaper that the young Spaniard, and his Renault team, are ahead of everyone in winter tests.

''I always thought last year would be one of the easiest championships he would have,'' 29-year-old Webber said. ''(But) Looking at what I saw this past week (at Barcelona), he might have an even easier one.''

Australian-born Webber said the only doubt about an easy second crown for Alonso, 24, is his 2007 switch to McLaren, and the possible damage it could have done to his relationship with Renault.

But he reckons the blue and yellow team will be 'dominant' and score 'a lot of one-twos' at least early in the season.

Mark Webber also predicted: ''I'm expecting (Honda's) Jenson Button to win races.

''McLaren might be good in the end (but) I don't think (they will be) in the first part.''

Button proves that V8 is no-slow for F1
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) Max Mosley's quest to drastically reduce the speed of formula one has failed, according to the latest test analysis.

England's Jenson Button, driving the impressively quick 2006 Honda car in Barcelona last week, logged the test's best lap in 1.13.9.

Amazingly, even with twenty per cent less horse power than with the old Honda V10, Button's February 2006 lap time compares to the best he set at Circuit de Catalunya in April 2005 of 1.13.5 -- a mere three tenths quicker.

With softer tires for new 2006 rules, tighter packaging and better aerodynamics with the V10 - and nearly a year of frantic development - Button proved the theory wrong that V8s would dramatically slow F1.

As the Spanish test drew to a close, meanwhile, so too did disappointed BMW Sauber's at Imola, where bad weather reigned all week.

Most teams will now complete their winter testing with pre-Bahrain car shake downs at Valencia (Spain), but Silverstone (England) will also be in use, as will Mugello in Italy.

Finn is fave, bookie says
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) Ignoring Europe's winter form, sports betting outfit 'Sportsbet' has named Kimi Raikkonen as favorite to win the formula one crown in 2006.

At 3/1, McLaren's Finn is ahead of reigning champion Fernando Alonso (4/1) but also Michael Schumacher (3.5/1).

Honda's Jenson Button, however, is a wise bet at 13/1, as is Giancarlo Fisichella (21/1), Mark Webber (51/1) and Red Bull's David Coulthard, at 210/1.

At another betting agency, however - 'Bet365' - Schumacher is the season's favorite at 3/1, followed by Raikkonen (3.25/1) and Alonso (3.75/1).

Former Minardi owner Paul Stoddart agrees that the Ferrari number one would be worth a flutter.

''Ferrari is enormously advantaged by this year's tire rule,'' he told The Australian newspaper, ''but there should be different winners through the year.''

49-year-old Stoddart, meanwhile - who said he was missing F1 'really badly' - is in no doubt about the team likely to take home the wooden spoon.

He said: ''Jordan (MF1) will come last.''

F1 can cope without Schu - Ecclestone
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) Bernie Ecclestone says formula one would cope without current 'superstar' Michael Schumacher.

In fact, the grand prix supremo asserts in the German 'Sport Bild' magazine that - should Schumacher retire soon - the paddock would claim a successor in a mere 'two or three races'.

''No driver, no person, will ever be bigger than formula one itself,'' said the 75-year-old.

Bernie singles out rookie Nico Rosberg, as well as hopefuls Nelson Piquet Jr and Heikki Kovalainen, as contenders for the label of future superstar.

Interestingly, Ecclestone didn't mention Kimi Raikkonen, or reigning champion Fernando Alonso. But the supremo lambastes the latter Spaniard's future McLaren boss, Ron Dennis, for 'stupidly' deceiving Flavio Briatore in the controversial 2007 switch.

JB on road to title assault
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) Jenson Button, although without a maiden win, is gearing up for a drivers' world championship assault in 2006.

The English racer, whose team is consistently named as a standout of winter testing, said Honda is also setting fear in the hearts of rivals by proving so reliable with the 'RA106' package.

''In Bahrain testing I completed 360 laps in three days,'' 26-year-old Button told ITV Sport, ''which is just unheard of, especially for us.''

He said: ''In 2005, (we did) about 80 laps maximum over two or three days, so this is a massive step forward.''

Ferrari and Toro Rosso aside, JB also expects to get a jump on all rivals at the season opener.

Referring to the recent Bahrain test, which the eight unnamed teams decided against attending, he insisted: ''I still don't understand why (they) weren't present (there).

''When we arrive in Bahrain for the race it's going to make a big difference, especially having worked with Michelin so closely and tested tires at the circuit in the right temperatures.''

Kimi still undecided about 2007
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) Kimi Raikkonen has seemingly responded to speculation that he turned down a $72m offer to stay at McLaren beyond this year.

The Irish 'Setanta' broadcaster quoted the Finn, who is strongly linked with a move to Ferrari, as saying that he had 'not decided' what to do in 2007 and beyond.

Raikkonen added: ''But (this indecision) cannot go on for too long.

''At some point everyone needs to make a decision.''

Kimi, 26, denied that he is baulking at the concept of facing off at the silver clad outfit with 2007 arrival Fernando Alonso.

He said: ''I don't care who my team mate is, I am not afraid of anybody. That (fact) will not determine whether I stay (at McLaren) or go somewhere else.''

In the Italian 'Gazzetta dello Sport', Kimi continued that he will wait to gauge the pace of his McLaren in 2006 before making the call.

And he insisted: ''I have lots of options.''

Monteiro better than Karthikeyan - MF1
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) Midland's 'MF1' team has defended dumping Narain Karthikeyan after the Indian's rookie F1 season in 2005.

Sporting director Adrian Burgess suggests that Tiago Monteiro, Karthikeyan's Jordan teammate who has been retained, is a better bet.

''(Narain) would have occasional lapses in concentration,'' Burgess said, ''whereas Tiago wouldn't.''

He also explained why, often, Karthikeyan seemed quicker in qualifying than the Portuguese in the sister car.

Burgess said of Monteiro: ''He likes to get some miles under his belt before he goes all out.

''You knew that as soon as it came to the first race, over a full hour and a half, (Narain) couldn't drive every single lap like a qualifying lap.''

Kolles admits to 'tough' 2005
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) Colin Kolles insists that Midland's MF1 team is 'serious' about succeeding in formula one.

The Romanian, team principal of the Russian outfit based at Silverstone (UK), faced a baptism of fire in 2005, at the helm of a team beset with rumors and a disastrous PR image.

Kolles, a former dentist, also became the target of an adverse media image, lambasted for his confrontational attitude and nicknamed 'Chavski' after wearing a Burberry cap to Melbourne.

Colin Kolles admitted: ''It was tough for us, with people not believing in us ... but that's life.

''Now it's time to move forward, step by step.''

BMW don't expect '06 win
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) BMW Sauber does not expect to win a single race in 2006, according to team boss Mario Theissen.

The German, motor sport director for the Hinwil based team's carmaker owner, said targeting the top step of the podium in the first year after buying Sauber would be 'unrealistic'.

''Winning can't be scheduled,'' Theissen commented, ''you just have to wait and see how your competitors deliver.''

He added: ''But obviously we hope to get as close to winning as possible.''

Ralf still in Schu's shadow
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) Ralf Schumacher says his surname has often been a negative influence on his F1 career.

The German, six years younger than seven time title winner and brother Michael, was quoted as complaining in the 'Daily Ireland' newspaper that much of the paddock has an unconstructive attitude towards him.

''People have always felt that one Schumacher is enough,'' said 30-year-old Ralf, who races in F1 for Toyota.

He added: ''There (has always been) more focus on the teammates I had than the other way round.''

Schumacher, who struggled for most of 2005 against teammate Jarno Trulli, also hits out at the media for pedaling untruths about him.

''The problem,'' Ralf contended, ''is that generally there's only 10 per cent of the truth around.''

Max Mosley to quit in 2009
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) Max Mosley has vowed to quit for good when his current tenure as FIA president expires in 2009.

The 65-year-old, who was recently re-elected to the post unopposed, actually resigned two years ago but was called back amid the pleas of the racing fraternity.

''This is my last term of office,'' he promised to Italian race magazine Autosprint, ''and I already have my replacement lined up.''

England-born Mosley also revealed that he would like to 'lessen my workload' as soon as stability is restored at the sport's pinnacle.

Michelin still in front - analysis
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) Michelin maintains the upper hand in formula one.

That is the finding of German specialist magazine Auto Motor Und Sport, which wrote that rival Bridgestone - defeated at every race except Indianapolis last year - is still struggling to produce competitive tire compounds.

Bridgestone shod Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn was quoted as saying that the 2006 tires' 'construction is good', but that driving a really quick lap is still wearing the compound out too quickly.

Senna to compete in Melbourne
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) Two of the most famous names in world motor sport will unite on Melbourne's Albert Park F1 circuit late next month, according to the Australian Herald Sun newspaper.

Bruno Senna, the nephew of the late Brazilian triple world champion, will race in the F3 support events, courtesy of the 'Double-R' team -- which is co-owned by F1's current pacesetter, Kimi Raikkonen.

Senna's uncle, Ayrton, died when his Williams slid off the track at Imola in May 1994. Before that, his final grand prix win was in Adelaide, the previous home of the Australian GP.

Melbourne will host the third race of 2006, on April 2.

Alonso braces for 'close' '06 contest
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) Reigning F1 champion Fernando Alonso disagrees with Mark Webber's assessment that he will stroll to an easy second crown in 2006.

Williams' Webber said on Monday that Alonso, head of the Renault lineup, could have an 'even easier' run to the world championship than he enjoyed last year.

But on the website of Canadian sports broadcaster TSN, 24-year-old Alonso is quoted as saying that the imminent battle is likely to be 'very close' and fought between Renault, Honda, Ferrari and possibly McLaren.

He commented: ''McLaren are now improving a lot and they could be ready for the first race, so we have to wait and see how every team develops to know who will be the winner.''

Alonso, however - the youngest ever winner and champion in the sport's history - acknowledged that his new 2006 Renault R26 will be 'up there fighting'.

Schu's fitter than ever
(GMMf1NET -- Feb.27) Michael Schumacher will tackle F1's season opener in 2006 in better shape than ever before.

The deposed world champion admitted recently that a failing of 2005 was not doing a 'particularly good job' on his own physical preparation.

''I can do better,'' Germany's Schumacher, the oldest racer in grands prix, was quoted as saying at the time. ''I have to train harder.''

Indeed, he cut his usually protracted winter break short over Christmas, and was spotted at one of several test sessions with little weights attached to either side of his red crash helmet.

And Schumacher now tells the German 'Sport Bild' magazine: ''I am ready (for 2006).

''I have been training for the entire winter.''

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