Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 March 8,  2006

Kimi expects Bahrain struggle
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.8) McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen has admitted that he is likely to struggle to beat Renault and Honda in the first grands prix of 2006.

At a PR function in Finland prior to leaving for Bahrain, the 26-year-old was quoted by the 'Deutsche Presse-Agentur' (DPA) agency as anticipating a tough start to the season.

''If you go on winter testing,'' the Finn reportedly said, ''then Renault and Honda are very, very fast. McLaren, however, will be right on their heels.''

Raikkonen admitted that 'substantial problems' had afflicted development with Mercedes' new V8 engine, but added: ''These (engine problems) are now under control.''

New qualifying 'complicated' - Trulli
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.8) Jarno Trulli has described formula one's new knockout qualifying system as 'complicated'.

But Toyota's Italian driver, 31, tempered his criticism by insisting that the new system is still fundamentally a challenge that rewards pace.

''(It) will be a bit more complicated than last year,'' Trulli said, ''but it still boils down to producing a quick lap just when it matters.''

The 'knockout' format will basically result in slow cars being eliminated in stages, but the complications arise when considering finer details like fuel loads.

For example, a driver just outside the final ten can refuel for the race, but drivers in the top ten must start the race with qualifying fuel.

Midland's sporting director Adrian Burgess admitted: ''It's difficult to say at this stage how the whole thing is going to unravel.''

DC eyes 2007 Red Bull seat
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.8) David Coulthard has vowed to push for a seat at Red Bull in 2007.

The Scot, whose career was rescued by the energy drink-owned squad at the end of 2004, said he is now doubly motivated to prove he is good enough to steer an Adrian Newey-penned car next year.

While Newey - who has previously worked with 34-year-old Coulthard at Williams and McLaren - is already a fixture at Red Bull, his full influence will not be felt until the 'RB3' is up and racing in season '07.

Newey, 47, has penned cars that have won more than 100 grands prix and thirteen championships.

Coulthard told the BBC: ''My motivation is to be in an Adrian-influenced Red Bull in 2007.

''Within a few months we should start to feel (his) influence, but of course next year will be the biggest step because it will be part of an integrally-designed package.''

Although Coulthard admits that he played a role in persuading Newey to leave McLaren, a side-effect is that top drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya and even Michael Schumacher are now linked with possible moves to the Milton-Keynes based team.

DC quipped: ''But that's part of the business.''

'Mumm' sticks with F1
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.8) French champagne brand 'Mumm' will continue to be sprayed on formula one podiums throughout 2006.

The bottle with the 'Cordon Rouge' became the official champagne of the sport in 2000, after Moet & Chandon pulled out.

Three 'Jeroboam' (three-liter) bottles of Mumm are sprayed by the top finishers at every grand prix on the calendar, except in Bahrain where a non-alcoholic alternative is used.

''Shaking champagne and spreading it on people, this is something I don't think people will accept,'' a Bahrain spokesman said before the inaugural race in 2004.

Mumm is also served exclusively in the F1 paddocks.

Bridgestone still lagging - Lauda
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.8) Ferrari supplier Bridgestone has not yet caught up with formula one pacesetter Michelin.

That is the opinion of triple world champion and former Jaguar chief Niki Lauda, who has observed that - after losing 95 per cent of all grands prix last year - Bridgestone is again behind its French rival.

''To me, that is the big question,'' the Austrian told television broadcaster ORF.

''How well is Bridgestone prepared?

''At least their development should now move faster, with Toyota and Williams there to help.

''But on long runs, for the moment it looks like they are five to eight tenths (per lap) away from the Michelin cars, at least in the cold of winter testing.''

Lauda, 57, added that - in qualifying - Bridgestone is missing about half a second per lap.

He continued: ''If I am right, it is looking very good for the Michelin cars for the first two or three races.''

Schu tipped to reclaim title
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.8) Most German F1 fans think Michael Schumacher will bounce back from defeat to win the 2006 world championship.

German pay-tv channel and F1 broadcaster 'Premiere' conducted a survey in which 65 per cent said the 37-year-old Ferrari star would beat off Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen's challenges to lift the drivers' trophy.

Alonso and Raikkonen each got 13 per cent of the vote, followed by Ralf Schumacher (4%), Juan Pablo Montoya and Rubens Barrichello (2% each).

While that may appear like a vote of confidence in Schumacher Sr, a year ago Michael scored 93 per cent of the vote when the survey was asked whether he would defend his 2004 triumph.

Schu to become movie star
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.8) Seven time world champion Michael Schumacher is all set to become a movie actor.

The 37-year-old Ferrari driver, along with football stars David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane, will appear in the new film 'Asterix and the Olympic Games', based on the comic book.

Filming of the movie, to star Gerard Depardieu, will kick off in June, in Valencia -- home of the famous Spanish F1 test track.

With a reported budget of nearly $100m, the movie - a joint production of France, Spain and Germany - is apparently the biggest ever in European history.

Alonso not moving for money - Haug
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.8) Norbert Haug has rejected suggestions that world champion Fernando Alonso will only switch to McLaren in 2007 because a bigger pay packet awaits.

It is a near-fact that, after earning $7.2 million at Renault in 2006, 24-year-old Alonso will take home about double when he wears silver gear next year.

But Haug, 53, told the 'Sport-Informations-Dienst' (sid) agency that better pay is not the reason for Alonso's move.

''He comes (to the team) because he sees in us the best competitive option for the long term.''

Ralf slams Kimi
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.8) Ralf Schumacher has aimed fire at a 'cool' F1 rival -- so-called 'iceman' Kimi Raikkonen.

30-year-old Schumacher, who drives for Toyota, was asked by the German 'Stuttgarter Zeitung' newspaper what he thought of McLaren's monosyllabic Finnish star.

''People call him 'cool', because he doesn't say anything,'' Ralf, the younger brother of world champion Michael Schumacher, said.

''But if I ran around the paddock behaving like him, people would call me the most arrogant idiot of all time.''

In the same interview, Ralf also suggested that his brother's presence in formula one has always been a 'hindrance rather than a help' in his racing career.

Sato can feel Aguri car 'flex'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.8) Japan's Takuma Sato has warned fans to play down their expectations ahead of his Super Aguri debut this weekend.

The 28-year-old suggested that the 'SA05' racer - a minor development of defunct Arrows' 2002 car - will be significantly off the leading pace, especially in quicker bends.

''In testing, I can feel the chassis flexing,'' Sato told 'Motorsport Aktuell' magazine.

''It is not as rigid as a current car.''

Leafield-based Super Aguri, led by Aguri Suzuki, is apparently targeting Imola (April 23) as a possible debut date for the brand new SA06 car, but mid-May's Spanish GP is understood to be more realistic.

Sato also explained that he hasn't even properly tested the SA05's '06-legal bodywork, which is expected to propel him and rookie teammate Yuji Ide to within six or seven seconds of the pace.

''I have driven the (Bahrain-spec) car,'' he told the publication, ''but I never really got the tires up to temperature.''

F1 doesn't cost too much - Fry
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.8) Formula one is not too expensive, according to Honda principal Nick Fry.

Countering FIA president Max Mosley's plea that the sport cannot sustain $500m a-year budgets, the Briton said the sport has a 'firm bottom line'.

''You could say it is a measure of the sport's conspicuous success that such levels of investment have been sustained for so long,'' Fry told the Guardian.

In the same newspaper article, Mosley accused carmakers like Honda and Toyota of turning F1 into a 'spending competition' that threatens the very livelihood of the sport.

But Fry argued that the FIA president's cut-price rules blueprint for 2008 and beyond stabs at the heart of F1's technological core.

He said: ''I think the spectators are fascinated by the level of technology deployed in F1.''

DC says V8s make F1 'F3-ish'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.8) Grand prix veteran David Coulthard has lamented the dawning of F1's V8 era, suggesting that the pinnacle of the sport has become 'F3-ish'.

''If people talk about (that),'' the Scot told the BBC, ''that's because it's the kind of scenario you have in F3.''

Like in the junior open wheeler series, 34-year-old Coulthard says a 'power slide' has become a thing of the past in formula one, after the V10 formula bit the dust at the end of 2005.

''You've gone from a car that ... has a bit more power than grip,'' he said, ''to one that's got more grip than power.

''I liked the V10 formula. But what does it matter really what I think? It's what we have.''

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