Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 March 2,  2006

Renault to set '06 pace - Schumacher
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.2) Renault is likely to enter the season opener in Bahrain next weekend with the quickest 2006 car.

That is the overwhelmingly solid feeling in the F1 test paddocks -- and Ferrari's Michael Schumacher does not argue.

''Behind them,'' the 37-year-old German told La Gazzetta dello Sport whilst testing at the Mugello track in Italy, ''I see Honda, (McLaren)-Mercedes and us.''

Schumacher insisted that Ferrari has designed a better car for 2006 than its unsuccessful predecessor.

He said: ''Our approach has been the same, but last year we were clearly not well enough prepared.

''This year we seem to have a very good machine.''

Winkelhock, not Mondini, to drive in Bahrain
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.2) Despite telling the press that Giorgio Mondini would reside the 'Friday' car in Bahrain, MF1 now says Germany's Markus Winkelhock will be given the debut privilege.

Winkelhock will then hand the keys over to Swiss-German Mondini for Malaysian practice, the Silverstone based outfit informed in a statement.

It is expected that Adrian Sutil will also get the chance to steer the third car on a Friday or two later in 2006.

''I'm sure (Winkelhock and Mondini) will help us develop the car to its maximum potential in preparation for the opening races,'' said the Midland owned team's boss Colin Kolles.

Montagny pens Aguri deal
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.2) Franck Montagny, Renault's former French tester, will be the 'third' driver for the newest formula one team in Bahrain and Malaysia.

Super Aguri said in a statement that Montagny, 28, penned a deal this week to accompany the Japanese outfit to the first two rounds of 2006 -- even if he won't turn a wheel.

Franck will be merely 'on stand by', the statement read, because a third 'SA05' car will not be ready to run in practice.

Montagny's Aguri tenure is then likely to conclude prior to the Australian race, as he intends to switch to the American Champ Car series.

In Bahrain and Malaysia, however, he will provide 'valuable experience and technical knowledge,' said the fledgling F1 team.

Ferrari unsure about winter end
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.2) Ferrari has not decided whether to conclude its winter test preparations at Mugello on Thursday, or whether to keep driving and wrap up in Italy a day later.

On Wednesday at the circuit, Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa - in new '248 F1' cars - encountered rain and very cold weather, limiting their running to a handful of laps each.

Schumacher said on Wednesday: ''However, there was lovely weather yesterday, and we could complete a problem free race simulation.''

At sunny and warm Valencia (Spain), meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen got McLaren's final winter test into blistering form, as the Finn set the fastest ever V8-powered lap of the tight and twisty track.

The Finn tempered: ''But testing is very different to being on the race track. We will find out where we really are performance-wise in Bahrain next week.''

Also in Spain, Honda, Red Bull, Toyota and Williams turned test laps.

Richards' company to build F1-style HQ
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.2) David Richards' speculated grand prix team for 2008 stepped up a gear this week, as the former BAR boss unveiled plans for an impressive F1-spec factory.

The Briton's renowned 'Prodrive' company outlined its intention to build the base - called 'Fulcrum' - in Warwickshire, a county in the centre of England.

Prodrive said the factory 'could become the location for a new British F1 team', with room for a staff of 1000.

Richards' pronouncement is interestingly timed. The 52-year-old was at the Geneva Motor Show this week, reportedly to stage talks with a carmaker about his F1 project.

Also in Geneva on Wednesday, however, was FIA president Max Mosley, who addressed a letter to F1's existing teams - many of which are threatening to race in their own series - warning them that a one-week window for 2008 team entries would open at the end of March.

''We very much hope that all the current participants will ... submit their entries in due time,'' Mosley wrote.

Speed targets teammate scalp
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.2) American rookie Scott Speed's priority for his formula one debut will be to beat his teammate.

The 23-year-old, from California, will - in Bahrain next Sunday - become the first United States-born driver since Michael Andretti to contest a grand prix.

However, at the Red Bull junior team - called Toro Rosso - Speed admitted that wins and podiums are not level-headed targets.

''Perhaps next year I will set more ambitious goals.

''Naturally, I want to show up well against my teammate,'' said Speed, to be joined in the sister car by Tonio Liuzzi.

Amid all the controversy about engine equivalency, though, Scott declined to predict how his V10-powered racer will fare.

He told a teleconference with journalists: ''Actually, I think we will be disadvantaged. V8s are the future of F1 and we will lose a year of valuable development.

''It is true that our reliability could look good at the start of the year, but it won't take the V8s long to catch up.''

Mosley revs up pressure on F1 rebels
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.2) In a letter to F1 principals and manufacturers this week, Max Mosley has confirmed that a one week window to sign up for 2008 will open and close between March 24-31.

The FIA president's probable intention is to put pressure on the rogue GPMA group - made up of Renault, Mercedes, Toyota, BMW and Honda - to end their threat of a 'breakaway' championship.

In the letter, Mosley explains that he wants to impose the early 2008 window so that participating teams have time to help 'fine tune' the 2008 regulations.

But, particularly with speculation rising about alternate teams - like David Richards' 'Prodrive' - the Mosley letter could be interpreted as a warning to carmakers that they run the risk of losing one of F1's twelve garage slots for 2008.

Max wrote: ''The FIA very much hopes that all the teams and manufacturers competing in this year's championship will also enter for 2008.''

Brit GP official jailed
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.2) A former official of the club that owns British GP venue Silverstone has been jailed for stealing about $900,000.

51-year-old Stephen Beattie, ex-'finance controller' of the BRDC who was fired in 2004, stole money by illegally making out dozens of checks in his name.

But, in Northampton Crown Court, Silverstone - located in central England - also did not win a clean bill of health. A defense lawyer described the circuit's financial affairs as a 'shambles'.

Beattie, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to forty three months in jail.

''You saw (the BRDC) as an organization that ... you could just steal from,'' Judge Charles Wide QC told him.

Coulthard must earn '07 seat
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.2) David Coulthard and Christian Klien should watch out -- Red Bull's cockpits are certain to be two of the more desired driver destinations of the future.

With the lauded brain of Adrian Newey now steering the technical ship, a strong budget and a top class Ferrari engine in tow, team owner Dietrich Mateschitz suggested that the pressure should be on the 2006 lineup.

''I am positive that David will want to prove himself worthy of the first Newey (Red Bull) car,'' said the Austrian, referring to 2007.

Mateschitz, 61, suggested to Austria's 'Salzburger Nachrichten' newspaper that - when the first proper Newey-penned Red Bull racer will debut - driver lineup will become crucial for 2007.

''Of course, we hope the car will be very fast, so we cannot allow the driver to be the weakest link in the chain,'' he told the 'paper.

Mateschitz's comments come after recent speculation that Juan Pablo Montoya and Jarno Trulli - or even Michael Schumacher - might be interested in negotiating with the energy drink owned squad.

He continued: ''Ideally, our junior drivers will become the Sennas and Schumachers of the future for us. If not, we will have to look around on the market.

''But at the moment it is too early to say.''

'Fiorano' unveiled
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.2) Ferrari's newly launched 12-cylinder road car is named after the racing marque's formula one test circuit.

The origins of the name 'Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano' needed little introduction for F1 fans as the veil was lifted at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland.

'599', incidentally, is a reference to the nearly six-liter engine.

The striking two-seater supercar packs a whopping 620 horse power punch, going from 0 to 100kph in 3.7 seconds with a top of 340kph.

Rossi saga is 'ok' with Massa
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.2) Felipe Massa says he is not bothered that the rumor mill seems to have discounted him as a long term Ferrari prospect.

The 24-year-old Brazilian hasn't even turned a wheel at a grand prix for his new team, but speculation is already rife that Valentino Rossi or Kimi Raikkonen are more likely '07 seat contenders.

And, with Michael Schumacher to possibly extend his Ferrari tenure for another two years, Massa does appear at the rear of a long Maranello shortlist.

Looking on the bright side, though, the Sao Paulo-born racer reckons the Rossi fracas is at least giving him room to breath in his new 2006 role.

''For me, it is ok that everyone talks about Rossi,'' Massa - on a one-year Ferrari contract after three years at Sauber - told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

''It means I can just calmly focus on what I have to do.''

Toro Rosso livery set to stun
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.2) Toro Rosso's top-secret 2006 race livery will blow the F1 world's socks off, rookie driver Scott Speed says.

The former Minardi team, taken over for 2006 by energy drink Red Bull, ran the undisclosed paint-job behind closed doors at Paul Ricard (France) this week, but is not set to show it to the world until the official launch next week.

In a teleconference, 23-year-old Speed - the junior team's American rookie - gave a sneak preview of the radical livery.

''It looks really sensational,'' he enthused.

''(It) will give everyone an enormous surprise, I promise you!''

Until now, the Toro Rosso car has tested in a Red Bull Racing-style livery, with a gold nose.

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