Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 March 6,  2006

Schu to decide future 'soon'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.6) Seven time world champion Michael Schumacher says he will decide soon whether or not to quit formula one.

The German, after again testing at a rainy Mugello track last Friday, told 'Bild' newspaper that he still has not determined if 2006 is to be his last year with Ferrari and the pinnacle of motor sport.

''Let me drive a few races (in 2006),'' Schumacher, 37, told the newspaper, ''and then we'll see how it looks.''

He insisted that - to impact positively on his decision - Ferrari must be a 'frontrunner', unlike last season when his red car slumped in the field.

Schumacher added: ''I can be world champion again.''

Ferrari's technical director, Ross Brawn, added that the pace of the team's Japanese made Bridgestone tires - defeated at 95 per cent of grands prix last year - will be crucial.

''The '248 F1' (car) is good,'' said the Englishman, ''but whether we can win or not depends on the tires.''

Bernie, Brundle, criticize Alonso
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.6) Former F1 racer Martin Brundle has criticized Fernando Alonso for 'disappearing' over the winter.

The Briton, who drove 165 grands prix for teams like McLaren, Jordan and Benetton in the 80s and 90s, said in the 'Sunday Times' newspaper that more should be expected of the new formula one champion.

''(Alonso) was criticized by Bernie Ecclestone,'' Brundle told the British publication, ''(and) I agree.

''The sport needs its world champion to get out and about in the (winter).''

According to Brundle, who is today a commentator for British TV, Ecclestone thinks 24-year-old Alonso tasted F1's ultimate spoils at too young an age.

He continued: ''Maybe he is right.

''But it means he will turn up at Bahrain feeling fresh and confident, so what does (Fernando) really care?''

BMW rule out debut podium
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.6) BMW Sauber will not be a front runner in 2006, the team's German driver Nick Heidfeld says.

Heidfeld, 28, reckons Renault and Honda are set to lead the 2006 formula one field in Sunday's Bahrain opener, while BMW Sauber - a new collaboration - trail at least two other teams.

He said McLaren and Ferrari would probably follow Renault and Honda's lead, ''and then a group of closely bunched teams (will follow).

''We will probably be in with that group,'' Nick added.

In Germany's 'Sport Bild' publication, team boss Mario Theissen agrees that the 'F1.06' BMW Sauber car will not be topping any time sheets.

But, with reliability a factor for Bahrain, the German added that cars making it to the checkered flag 'have good chances of scoring points'.

However, he ruled out even a podium.

Theissen said: ''We finished eighth in the constructors' rankings last year. You cannot rise to the top overnight.

''We are on a program of development that will take several years to fulfill. Our main task for the 2006 season is to make a step.''

DC admits Red Bull difficulty
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.6) Red Bull struggled through a difficult winter, according to veteran racer David Coulthard.

In an interview with the 'Sunday Herald', the 34-year-old Scot confirmed that the Milton-Keynes based team will attack the Bahrain opener this weekend without a single race distance on the unreliable 'RB2' car.

Coulthard said: ''It's not been going the way we wanted.

''If we finish the race in Bahrain, that will be the first race distance we have completed.

''However, in 1998 (McLaren) had not completed a single race distance yet we lapped the field in Melbourne.''

Red Bull's departing technical director, Gunther Steiner, agrees with Coulthard, telling the 'APA' agency that the RB2 has not 'come as far as we would have liked' in the winter period.

''We had engine overheating problems,'' Steiner said, referring to the new Ferrari V8 unit.

Nico's Dad to take 'back seat'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.6) F1 rookie Nico Rosberg's father has vowed to take a back seat in 2006.

Williams' world champion of 1982, 'Flying Finn' Keke Rosberg, has been a huge influence on son Nico's junior career, but said he would only be seen in the background at grands prix.

He told the 'Observer' newspaper: ''Nico is not accessible because he is busy and I am accessible. (But) I don't want to become a media guy, wobbling around telling the world what he thinks. I want to stay out of it.''

Ferrari rev-up profits
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.6) The health of Italian sports car maker Ferrari, also a formula one team, is on the rise.

Recent financial reports show that the red marque turned over $1.55 billion last year -- up $140 million on '04.

In terms of profit, Ferrari revved-up to $188.78 million in 2005, which is nearly $23m more than a year ago.

Red Bull's Steiner to leave F1
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.6) Red Bull's Guenther Steiner will leave formula one, the energy drink marque has announced.

The Milton Keynes-based team, now flushed with talent as Adrian Newey and Mark Smith bolster the technical ranks, is shipping Steiner off to America, as Red Bull prepare to tackle NASCAR.

Steiner, 40, will fulfill the same role at 'Red Bull Toyota NASCAR', which is set to debut in 2007. Previously, he has worked for Ford, Opel, and had a brief tenure at Red Bull's former formula one guise, Jaguar.

He commented: ''If, as a European, you are asked to help set up such an ambitious project, you simply cannot say no.''

Steiner will start work across the Atlantic on April 1.

Ferrari had V8 'problems' - Klien
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.6) Just four days prior to opening practice in Bahrain, Christian Klien has suggested that Ferrari is still grappling with car problems.

The Austrian, a race driver for the so far unreliable Red Bull team, suggested that Ferrari had similar engine overheating glitches in the winter period.

''When our car first came out,'' Austria's Klien told the APA agency, ''we could only do two or three laps at a time.''

Red Bull engineers had to redesign the RB2's side pods and radiators to better cool the V8 unit, which will also be used by the Ferrari team.

Klien claimed: ''Ferrari have the same problems as us.''

He insisted that, while qualifying in the top eight is a reasonable goal, reliability is still a major consideration for the Red Bull Racing operation.

Red Bull owner points finger at Ferrari
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.6) Red Bull's junior team - Scuderia Toro Rosso - could upstage its mammoth-budget sister in Bahrain this weekend.

That is Dietrich Mateschitz's warning, as the duel team-owner contemplates Red Bull Racing's problems heading into its second year.

With RBR's overheating and unreliable Ferrari V8, the Austrian billionaire said Toro Rosso's tried and tested - and controversial - Cosworth V10 is sure to be an initial 'advantage'.

''(Toro Rosso) will not have (engine) reliability problems,'' Mateschitz predicted in an interview with the 'Salzburger Nachrichten' newspaper.

He said: ''However, with some time, the V8 will become strong and more reliable, and we will reclaim the advantage.

''But at the very start, Toro Rosso perhaps have a better chance to score points than does Red Bull,'' said Dietrich Mateschitz.

He described the new Red Bull as a 'tidy car' designed by Mark Smith.

But when musing the customer Ferrari V8, Mateschitz pointed to reliability concerns, and warned that the unit's full potential will perhaps not yet be seen.

And he added: ''I think a lot of teams may be having engine problems early on. Perhaps the new Cosworth will be best!''

F1 testers looking Stateside
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.6) Two Brazilian formula one drivers may be contemplating a switch to the Champ Car series.

Antonio Pizzonia, out in the cold at Williams despite racing for the team late last year, and BAR-Honda tester Enrique Bernoldi, will both test for the 'Rocketsports' outfit in Texas (USA) this week.

It is speculated that the Paul Gentilozzi-run squad could become 'Team Brazil' in 2006.

Ferrari is semi-works partner, says Red Bull
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.6) Red Bull Racing's new Ferrari engine deal is a semi-works arrangement, according to owner Dietrich Mateschitz.

The Austrian billionaire told 'Salzburger Nachrichten' that the fee paid to Ferrari for this year's 2.4 liter V8 engine includes the provision of every development update received by the works team.

''So we will always have the most up to date configuration,'' Mateschitz told the 'paper.

McLaren tester helped pen new Spanish track
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.6) Pedro de la Rosa was engaged as a special 'advisor' on the layout of a new Spanish test circuit for formula one.

The McLaren test driver, 35 and from Barcelona, advised renowned F1 track designer Hermann Tilke about the venue that is presently under construction in 'La Palma del Condado' -- in the south of the country.

''Our draft has a two kilometer-long straight,'' de la Rosa told the 'Marca' newspaper, ''but we also have slow curves like Monaco, fast curves like Shanghai, and high curbs like Imola.''

The circuit should be ready for winter testing ahead of season '07.

Built on a 350-hectare site for about $120 million, the test circuit could - like Spain's Barcelona, Valencia and Jerez - become another popular destination for F1 teams.

Schu's not in title hot seat - Lauda
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.6) Michael Schumacher is not a favorite for the 2006 world championship, according to former three-time title winner, Niki Lauda.

Germany's Schumacher, 37, is upbeat about the season with his new '248 F1' car, after losing all but a single grand prix to rivals in '05.

But Lauda, the ex-team principal and racer, reckons Ferrari has improved but is not yet ready to reclaim the spoils.

''If you ask me,'' 57-year-old Lauda told the 'Munchner Abendzeitung' newspaper, ''(Schumacher) is not a title favorite.

''Rather, he has an outside chance, but I do think we he will win a race.''

Lauda backs up the overwhelming paddock sentiment that Renault, Honda, Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes - roughly in that order - will dominate the 2006 pace.

He clarified: ''But Renault has the best car, and Honda is next.''

Fellow ex-racer and commentator, Britain's Martin Brundle, agrees with Lauda that Schumacher might not figure in the final reckoning for 2006's trophy.

He told the 'Sunday Times' newspaper that, 'in equal equipment, Schumacher would not now beat (Fernando) Alonso or (Kimi) Raikkonen'.

Brundle, 46, added: ''(In Brazil and Istanbul last year, Michael Schumacher) looked like a good driver rather than a superb one.

''We are reaching the end of an era.''

Rossi switch unlikely, says Schu
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.6) Michael Schumacher has played down the likelihood that Valentino Rossi could race for Ferrari in 2007.

As speculation about the Italian motorcycle rider's possible four-wheel switch continues to overshadow the racing press, Schumacher - the Ferrari incumbent - told 'Bild' newspaper that the prospect is doubtful.

''To be perfectly honest,'' he was quoted as saying by German daily newspaper Bild, ''this is pretty improbable.''

However, asked if the new improbability hinted at the outcome of 37-year-old Schumacher's expiring Ferrari contract, Schumacher added: ''This has absolutely nothing to do with me.''

Mild weather for F1's desert opener
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.6) Weather forecasters are predicting a mild weekend of racing in the desert setting of Sakhir.

For the opening grand prix of 2006, some had expected scorching conditions in Bahrain, such as last year when the mercury topped the scale at more than 40 (C).

''(That is) probably not on the cards for 2006,'' revealed BMW Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld, ''so the race won't be quite such a strain.''

Indeed, a weather report on Monday called for sunny conditions all weekend. Friday will be warm with a top of 27, Saturday a bit milder with a windy 21, and grand prix-Sunday should stop the clock at just 23 degrees Celsius.

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