Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 March 1,  2006

Schu not quitting - Montezemolo
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.1) Ferrari's president thinks Michael Schumacher is capable of reclaiming the F1 title.

Speaking to Italian press at the Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday, Luca di Montezemolo defied suggestions that the 37-year-old German is shaping up to quit the sport he has dominated for a full decade.

''If you ask me,'' the Italian told La Gazzetta dello Sport, ''it does not look like Michael is at the end of his career -- it seems he is at the beginning.''

Montezemolo suggested that a former champion in his twilight years would not be as keen as Schumacher to test all winter.

He said: ''Michael tested personally in Bahrain, today he is at Mugello for a race simulation, he has been in Valencia and Fiorano.

''He is fully concentrated.''

So, Mr. Montezemolo; will your red cars be on top again in 2006, after a Renault and McLaren trouncing last year?

''I always say that we must win,'' he told a reporter, ''but I know that it is not so simple -- everyone must push to the absolute maximum. I am happy that at least we have more normal rules this time.''

F1 car to roar in Arabia
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.1) For the first time ever, a formula one car is to speed on the streets of Saudi Arabia.

On Thursday, Red Bull's Dutch 'Friday' test driver Robert Doornbos will do the deed, according to the English-language Middle East newspaper, Arab News.

''I'm delighted to visit the Kingdom for the road show,'' said the 24-year-old driver. ''I've heard a lot about the hospitality of Saudi people and their achievements in sports.''

Arab News wrote: ''Organizers said ... all safety and other measures have been taken to make the show a success.''

Glock on Aguri list - manager
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.1) German driver Timo Glock was on a shortlist to assume the 'Friday' job at Super Aguri in 2006, his manager said on Tuesday.

Although the 23-year-old former Jordan racer has penned his switch from Champ Car to GP2, manager Hans-Bernd Kamps told 'MSA' that contact was made between him and the new Japanese team some weeks ago.

Although Glock could not 'Friday' test the Aguri car at all F1 grands prix this year, he would be available to drive at rounds before the GP2 championship kicks off in April.

However, reports on Wednesday suggest that Super Aguri will not have a third car ready until later this month, meaning that a 'Friday' driver won't even be needed until the Melbourne race (round 3).

Franck Montagny, likely to be the team's non-driving 'reserve' nominee at the first two 2006 races, and James Rossiter, have also been linked with Aguri's spare test seat.

Berger doesn't want Bernie's job
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.1) Toro Rosso part-owner Gerhard Berger has ruled himself out of the running to one day succeed Bernie Ecclestone as 'F1 supremo'.

Although Bernie, the 75-year-old Englishman, appears in excellent health, relentless speculation puts men like David Richards and Flavio Briatore on a shortlist to steer the pinnacle of motor sport in a post-Ecclestone era.

But 46-year-old Berger, who started 210 grands prix in the 80s and 90s and then was a BMW director until 2003, told the 'Kicker' sports magazine that he cannot see himself in Ecclestone's white shirt.

''It's too big a job for me,'' F1's newest team co-owner smiled. ''Anyway, I am of the opinion that Ecclestone and Max Mosley are doing an excellent job.

''And I hope Bernie leads F1 for many years to come.''

DC fit for Valencia run
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.1) David Coulthard has reportedly recovered from a back injury that put him out of last week's F1 test in Spain.

The Scot trapped a nerve while exercising in the morning, and four laps around Barcelona in the Red Bull car later, he called it a day due to pain.

After extensive physio work, however, 34-year-old DC is apparently back in Spain, to drive at the team's final winter test at Valencia, easing speculation that he could be forced to sit out next Sunday's opening grand prix of 2006.

Aguri tests new 2006 livery
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.1) In a new race livery and with 2006-legal bodywork, Super Aguri gave a sneak preview of its Bahrain debut with a Silverstone shakedown on Tuesday.

With race lineup Takuma Sato and Yuji Ide at the wheel, the pair were driving two predominantly white 'SA05' cars, featuring the word 'Honda' on the rear wing and a striking red stripe from the tip of the nose to the rear engine cover.

Honda and Bridgestone aside, the ex-2002 Arrows' carried minimal private sponsorship logos.

Also at the British grand prix venue was locally-based MF1, but little meaningful work was done by either team as the English skies threw down bitterly cold snow.

''But we did manage to shake down the new car, test out the new gearbox and practice some pit stops,'' said Portugal's Tiago Monteiro.

The weather was better in Spain, where Renault, Honda, McLaren and Williams are also running their last tests before the '06 season, as is Ferrari at Mugello.

New F1 'Safety Car' unveiled
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.1) Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a new formula one Safety Car for 2006.

At the Geneva Motor Show, it was announced that the silver 6.3 liter 'CLK 63 AMG' coupe V8 - with modified brakes, suspension, cooling, weight and exhaust - would debut at the Bahrain opener next weekend.

Bernd Maylander is, again, the full time driver of the 481 hp car.

The road version 'CLK 63', which will be 150kg heavier than the safety car, will not be available until later this year.

German carmaker Mercedes has supplied the safety car for a decade.

Bahrain expects grand prix protests
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.1) Up to nine separate protests are being planned to coincide with Bahrain's '06-opening grand prix next week.

The 'Gulf Daily News' newspaper said four motorcades, four demonstrations and one rally will take place between next Friday and Sunday -- the duration of the third such F1 event in the Arabian Gulf.

The protests, of which at least one will be staged near the Sakhir circuit on race day, will 'demand the release' of men arrested in violent demonstrations in January, the newspaper wrote.

Last week, it was reported that western countries including America and Australia had issued terrorist warnings for Bahrain, advising tourists not to travel to the country.

But one Bahrain activist said: ''We don't want to disturb the events of formula one.

''We are not going to do anything that's not peaceful.''

GP winner's career rescued
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.1) 160 grand prix veteran Heinz-Harald Frentzen's beleaguered motor racing career has been rescued.

After the 38-year-old winner of three F1 races appeared to have exited the DTM category, Audi has snapped him up for 2006.

''He showed what he was capable of in formula one,'' said Audi chief Wolfgang Ullrich, ''(but) in our opinion, Heinz-Harald hasn't previously been able to show his true potential in DTM.''

Frentzen left F1 in 2003.

Schu can win eighth crown - manager
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.1) Michael Schumacher can win an eighth world championship in 2006, according to his manager.

The Ferrari driver's 63-year-old countryman, Willi Weber, told a German newspaper this week that the 'mistakes' of 2005 appear to have been cured.

''It seems that we are well on the way to wiping away the mistakes,'' German Weber told the Stuttgarter Zeitung 'paper.

''So nothing should be able to stop us.''

Weber contradicted reports that Schumacher, 37, is worried about the questionable reliability of Ferrari's new 248 F1 racer.

He said: ''We are probably not right in front (of the field) but Michael feels good about 2006. He sees the potential in the car.

''I can see his enthusiasm. He really wants to remedy what happened last year,'' Weber added.

Schumacher's manager, however, shod no further light onto whether his charge might retire at the end of his 2006 Ferrari contract.

But Weber admitted: ''The topic keeps coming up. Our partners and sponsors also want to know, so we have been fair to them and said Michael will announce in the middle of 2006 what he wants to do.''

Weber, who no longer manages Michael's brother Ralf, also revealed that he will quit F1 when Schumacher does.

Heidfeld can be champion, says BMW
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.1) With the right car, Nick Heidfeld can be formula one world champion.

That is the claim of Dr Mario Theissen, who worked with the German at Williams last year and now leads the 28-year-old at BMW Sauber.

''What he did in 2005 proved to me that, with the right package, he can become the champion,'' Germany's Theissen told ADAC Motorwelt.

Theissen, however, is less gushing about Nick's 2006 teammate, Jacques Villeneuve. It has been suggested that BMW only retained the French Canadian - world champion of 1997 - because cancelling his contract would have cost the carmaker too much.

Referring to JV, 34, the German said: ''He is confident that he can continue to improve.''

Theissen is keeping expectations for BMW's first year as a team owner low, but he insists that the 'F1.06' car is at least better than the '05 Sauber.

''Both drivers say that our car is clearly better than last year's,'' he confirmed. '''The lap times in tests are pleasing, and the car runs quite reliably.''

F1's Indian to start 'academy'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.1) Narain Karthikeyan plans to run an 'academy' to help fellow Indian countrymen succeed in racing.

Williams' new 29-year-old test driver, who debuted in grands prix for Jordan last year, said he would select drivers, 'groom them and help them participate in ... events'.

Karthikeyan told the Hindustan Times newspaper: ''I don't want Indian youngsters to go through what I experienced, hunting for sponsorships and trying to find my way up.

''We're a country of a billion people and I'm sure a lot more racing talent can be found here.''

Narain said he would launch the project 'soon'.

Rossi focused on bikes - Montezemolo
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.1) Luca di Montezemolo has added to speculation that, so close to the new MotoGP season, Valentino Rossi will put F1 on the back burner.

Rossi, 26, reinvigorated gossip of his 2007 switch from two wheels to Ferrari by recently testing - with impressive results - in the company of F1 drivers.

But at the launch of his new MotoGP campaign with Yamaha this week, he hinted that F1 would now take a back seat to bikes.

''Have mercy,'' di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari, joked to inquisitive reporters at the Geneva Motor Show after Rossi was mentioned.

The press corps probed him for an update on Rossi's secretive intentions for the future.

He told La Gazzetta dello Sport:' ''Valentino is an able and intelligent boy, so he can speak for himself.

''I think he is not saying anything at the moment,'' Luca di Montezemolo contemplated, ''because he wants to win in 2006 on his motorcycle.''

Mondini to be MF1's first 'Friday' runner
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.1) Giorgio Mondini will steer MF1's 'Friday' spare car at the Bahrain season opener next week, before handing over to Markus Winkelhock for Malaysia.

The Midland owned team announced the news while the pair tested at Silverstone on Wednesday.

Adrian Sutil will also get a chance to drive in grand prix practice this year, but Swiss-Italian Mondini is to do the lion's share of running, with at least nine 'Friday' appearances.

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