Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 March 3,  2006

Fisi aims for new heights in 2006
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.3) Giancarlo Fisichella has vowed to challenge teammate Fernando Alonso for the 2006 spoils.

The Roman, speaking at the launch of his GP2 team in Perugia (Italy), said the new Renault is much more suited to his driving style.

''We are happy with the R26,'' Fisichella, 33, was quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport, ''and very optimistic.

''I would like to be fighting for the very top placings.''

In 2005, Fisichella was not only on the cruel side of luck within the blue and yellow-colored camp, but he was thoroughly outclassed and out-psyched by his Spanish cohort.

But Fisichella insists that the '05 car was built for the world champion.

''It benefited Fernando,'' he explained, ''because he is more aggressive in the corners than me. I have a more smooth and supple style, so I am very confident for the season.''

Teams close to '06 test agreement
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.3) F1 teams are close to signing an unanimous agreement to voluntarily limit in-season track testing in 2006.

According to a report in Germany's specialist 'Auto Motor Und Sport' magazine, five teams' principals have already faxed their signatures, while the other six are likely to soon follow suit.

'AM&S' claims that Renault, McLaren, Ferrari, Williams and Honda have already signed on the dotted line, and that the remaining six will do so.

However, the accord - which did not include Ferrari in 2005 - has apparently been extended from a test limit of 30 days per team to 36. It was earlier reported that, in the absence of every team's signature, no limit would apply at all.

As usual, the 2006 agreement will also feature a total August ban.

'06 winter set to go quiet
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.3) After more disruptive rain on Thursday, Ferrari has decided to stick around at Mugello (Italy) for one last blast of winter testing.

With only Michael Schumacher at the wheel of a new '248 F1' car, the scarlet team will then - like every other rival - pack up and head to Bahrain for next Sunday's season opener.

At sunnier Valencia in Spain on Thursday, Honda's Anthony Davidson signaled a fitting end to the 2006 pre-season by smashing the unofficial circuit lap record set only this week by Kimi Raikkonen.

''I think we'll be strong in Bahrain,'' he said, ''and I can't wait to get back to driving on Fridays again.''

Nearly two seconds behind 'Ant', fellow Briton David Coulthard failed again to collect a single race distance for Red Bull's unreliable new 'RB2' car.

The Scot spun on his own oil after an engine failure, but he was at least quicker than the pair of Toyota race drivers.

HQ could be for F1 team, Richards admits
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.3) David Richards has confirmed speculation that a new factory in Warwickshire (England) could house a 'Prodrive' formula one team.

Although BAR principal until the end of 2004, he admitted to the 'icBirmingham' publication that his motor racing company has been eyeing the pinnacle of the high-tech sport 'for some years'.

''The longest lead times to do (a formula one project) would be building the facilities,'' the 53-year-old quipped.

He added: ''In the event of us going into formula one, this building would mean we have the facilities in place.''

Richards also suggested that whether Prodrive can afford to tackle the sport in 2008 depends on Max Mosley's drive to steer down costs.

''Although we are currently a company with a thousand people with a turnover of $210 million,'' the Briton added, ''we are a minnow.''

FIA orders Malaysian F1 revamp
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.3) The FIA's Charlie Whiting has ordered safety revisions to the Malaysian grand prix venue.

The permanent Race Director and Safety Delegate inspected Sepang this week, and asked organizers to replace overgrown grass at the track's verge with interlocking bricks, according to the local 'Star' newspaper.

''(Otherwise) Charlie said there were no problems with the track,'' said general manager Datuk Ahmad Mustafa.

Reportedly, Whiting was concerned that the grass bulges could have posed a danger to drivers.

Malaysia will stage the second round of the 2006 championship, a week after next Sunday's Bahrain opener.

Star lineup for Bahrain race
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.3) Bahrain has put together an impressive lineup for a celebrity race at next weekend's grand prix opener at Sakhir.

Boris Becker, Lance Armstrong and Michael Johnson will face Martin Brundle, Johnny Herbert and Williams' Narain Karthikeyan at the wheel of sixteen Chevrolet V8 SS Luminas.

Ex-GP star Christian Danner has also been pinged to drive the two 10-lap races, as has 'Pink Floyd' drummer Nick Mason and 'Status Quo' guitarist Rick Parfitt.

'248' could be a winner - Massa
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.3) Felipe Massa has backed Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher's claim that the new '248 F1' car is a potential winner.

Exactly one week before the start of Friday practice at the Bahrain season opener, Massa - the new racer in scarlet - let slip that the top step of the podium is at the front of his mind.

''Like Michael, I am convinced that our car is good,'' the Brazilian - who has never reached the podium in 53 grands prix for Sauber - told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport.

Massa is not so bold to openly pursue the 2006 title, but he does expect to be running at or near the grid's front when he debuts for the Maranello based team on the Sakhir circuit.

He continued: ''It will be important to score as many points as possible in the initial races.

''I want to be in the running, because I believe that it will be possible to win with this car.''

'Alonso exit has not soured Renault'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.3) Giancarlo Fisichella has played down suggestions that teammate Fernando Alonso's early-announced McLaren switch could have affected the atmosphere at Renault.

The veteran Roman, who last year was trounced by his title-winning cohort, insisted that Alonso's decision about 2007 has not destabilized the championship reigning team.

''Everyone must make his own decisions,'' 33-year-old Fisichella told La Gazzetta dello Sport, ''and Fernando came to the conclusion that this was right for him.

''The atmosphere inside the team is still excellent, so hopefully we will both benefit from it, as will the team.''

At the 2006 launch of his own GP2 squad in Perugia (Italy), Fisichella also confessed that he thought Ferrari would be among the front runners at next Sunday's Bahrain opener.

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