Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 March 13, 2006

No deal after F1 summit
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) Peace is edging nearer, but Bernie Ecclestone and F1's warring 'GPMA' carmakers emerged from a fruitless meeting on Saturday evening in Bahrain.

''We all hoped that the memorandum of understanding would be signed here,'' said McLaren-Mercedes' Ron Dennis in the paddock, ''but not everything ran absolutely as we had wanted (in the meeting).

''However, progress is being made.''

Although it was expected that the deal might be clinched in Bahrain, sources insist that a more likely venue is Albert Park, scene of April 2's race.

F1 moves to hot, wet Malaysia
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) According to a weekend weather forecast, Malaysia could turn on a hot, humid and potentially rainy round two of the 2006 F1 season.

With the Bahraini checker now showing, the circus moves straight on to Kuala Lumpur, scene of the formula one race at Sepang.

''We have experienced some incredible cloudbursts in Sepang,'' BMW-Sauber's Nick Heidfeld mused in Bahrain on Sunday night.

There is a forty per cent chance of rain for all three days of the Malaysian grand prix, culminating in Sunday's race, with tops of 33 and 34C.

Rookie Rosberg in dream debut
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) F1's 'big three' drivers might have hogged the podium, but a 20-year-old debutant arguably had the best day in Bahrain on Sunday.

Nico Rosberg, son of 1982 world champion-turned-spectator Keke, capped off a brilliant drive by overtaking Red Bull's Christian Klien on the last lap at Sakhir.

Earlier, he had battled - and won - against veteran David Coulthard.

In his Cosworth-powered Williams, he also set the fastest lap of the race and - if not for a first corner mistake where he tipped Nick Heidfeld into a spin and lost a front wing - might have beaten Kimi Raikkonen to the podium.

''I can't remember a performance in a first grand prix that was so impressive,'' said triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, in Bahrain representing Williams' sponsor 'RBS'.

Defending his decision to sign the GP2 champion, Frank Williams said last year that Nico's overtaking maneuvers in the junior series had really caught his attention.

Rosberg said on Sunday: ''Everyone always said you can't overtake in F1 but it worked ok for me!''

A beaming team co-owner Patrick Head, meanwhile, mixed his praise with a cheeky reference to the recent wrangling with Jenson Button.

''We've made very certain that our contract is good and safe,'' the Briton grinned.

Luckless Fisi fuming
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) In a mid-race outburst, Renault's luckless Giancarlo Fisichella screamed into his radio as his '06 opener in Bahrain went from bad to worse.

With the team seeming to change everything but his misbehaving V8 prior to the race, Rome's 33-year-old - still with dodgy horse power - then ground to a halt with broken hydraulics.

''We had all night and the morning to fix (the problems),'' he fumed to ITV, ''but unfortunately we didn't.''

Team boss Flavio Briatore, and engineering director Pat Symonds, both apologized to Fisichella.

''I don't believe in luck,'' said the latter, ''but when I look at what happens to Giancarlo, I start to think there is such a thing.''

Clutch cost Button win - Fry
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) Honda's pre-season promise faded in a fit of bad reliability when the flag dropped in Bahrain.

New signing Rubens Barrichello, who struggled all weekend alongside Jenson Button, pounded around in the lower midfield as his gearbox lost a gear.

JB's promising second row start, meanwhile, went begging in a groan of malfunctioning clutch.

''We were genuinely as quick as anyone out there,'' the Briton moaned. ''I was on the line and then nothing happened. I just hope it is something we can fix quickly for Malaysia.''

Team principal Nick Fry thinks that, without the glitch, 26-year-old Button could have challenged Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher for the victory.

Massa sparks Ferrari inquests
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) Felipe Massa's troubled Ferrari debut has sparked off a flurry of investigations at the team.

The Brazilian, who had started from a career-best second on the grid, nearly took out race winner Fernando Alonso at one stage when he dramatically spun.

''We need to find out what caused it,'' said technical director Ross Brawn, who did not want to rule out driver error.

Then, when Massa pitted for new tires, mechanics struggled to operate a rear wheel gun, resulting in a stop of nearly a minute.

Ross Brawn admitted: ''The back-up system didn't work either. We're going to have a careful look and see what caused this error.''

FIA rule cost Schu victory
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) The FIA's new '110 per cent' qualifying rule may have cost Michael Schumacher victory in Bahrain.

Ferrari's veteran driver had expected an extra 2.75 kilos of fuel to be added to his car prior to the race -- which would have been enough for one more lap before his decisive last pit stop in the heated duel with Fernando Alonso.

But, after getting held up in traffic on one 'top ten' qualifying flyer on Saturday, the FIA deleted the lap - and therefore the fuel allocation - because it was not within 110 per cent of his pole position.

''Maybe that extra bit would have been enough to stay ahead,'' principal Jean Todt said.

Schumacher himself was more adamant, reporting that the FIA omission was the 'decisive factor' in the loss to Alonso.

Toyota in crisis after Bahrain shocker
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) Toyota treated the Bahrain grand prix as an emergency 'test session', with formula one's biggest-budget team in crisis with its new 2006 'TF106' package.

Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli were much more than a lap down at the end of 57 laps, while Cologne based engineers move on to Malaysia desperately seeking answers to a deadly lack of grip and pace.

''We don't know what the problem is,'' said Ralf Schumacher, whose Japanese team switched from Michelin to Bridgestone in the winter.

Teammate Jarno Trulli added: ''The harder I pushed the slower I seemed to go. We are simply not quick enough.''

Team principal Tsutomu Tomita called Toyota's 2006 season opener 'shocking'.

FIA slap Nick
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) F1's new permanent steward made his debut reprimand in Bahrain, scolding BMW-Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld after a dice with David Coulthard.

The FIA's Tony Scott-Andrews ruled that Heidfeld, a 28-year-old German, had wrongfully forced the Red Bull driver off the track after completing a pass.

DC cops penalty for Malaysia
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) David Coulthard will start Sunday's Malaysian grand prix from near the back of the grid after his Ferrari V8 blew on the slowing down lap in Bahrain.

''Even if I get pole in Malaysia I will start 11th,'' said the Scot, whose Red Bull team neglected to mention the detail in its post-grand prix press review.

Failing to get a single engine through two complete race weekends results in a ten-position qualifying penalty at the next event.

BMW Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve will also start 10 places back in Sepang, after his V8 expired spectacularly without warning in Bahrain.

It is now the subject of an analysis back in Munich.

Renault deny Ferrari 'flex' protest
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) Renault has backed away from suggestions that the team could protest against Ferrari's allegedly flexible rear wing.

After his driver, Fernando Alonso, beat Michael Schumacher in Bahrain, engineering director Pat Symonds said Renault would 'try to avoid' making a formal complaint to the FIA.

But, suggesting that a more rigorous wing 'flex' test might be required, he told Speed TV: ''I think there are a number of teams wondering where the limits lie.''

Stoddart's airline to make long pit stop
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) Former Minardi owner Paul Stoddart has admitted that his new 'OzJet' airline in Australia could be about to make a permanent pit stop.

The 51-year-old, who last year sold his Faenza based formula one team to Red Bull who re-branded it 'Toro Rosso', announced that he had suspended all OzJet services after failing to win enough support.

50 or 60 staff will be let go.

''It's really, really sad,'' he told ABC Radio.

Mosley rules out 'knockout' tweak
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) FIA president Max Mosley has ruled out modifying F1's new 'knockout' qualifying to make the top ten pole-run less complicated.

Although the 2006 system basically won a thumbs-up on debut in Bahrain, some critical voices moaned about the convoluted 'fuel credit' concept, arguing that most of the final 20 minutes was about burning fuel with mediocre lap times.

Why not, Max - like the rest of the session - make it a low-fuel blast?

''It is more complicated,'' the Briton admitted, ''but if we had let them have empty tanks, everyone would just wait in their garage saving engines.

''You would have a flurry of activity at the end, but for the first ten minutes nothing much would happen.

''At least this way, they have to be on the track.''

FIA to leave V10s alone - for now
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) Although a storm of controversy whistled through the Bahrain paddock, F1's governing body has vowed to stick with the current restrictions for V10 engines.

Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed scored no points in their 'Toro Rosso' cars, but their V10 grunt allowed them to beat a BMW, a Honda and both Toyotas -- all major players in the V8 brigade.

''(Toro Rosso) have about 720 horse power,'' Max Mosley said in Bahrain. ''The best new V8s are about 760.

''We have the ability to further limit the performance of the V10s, but for the moment we don't feel the need.''

Hockenheim puts faith in soccer boss
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) The fate of embattled German GP venue Hockenheim has been put in the hands of a football (soccer) chief.

Rene C. Jaeggi, in charge of a German soccer team, has signed up to be Hockenheim's new managing director in 2007, after debts at the circuit rose to $35m.

However, he did not confirm the appointment. ''I have a contract with FCK (FC Kaiserslauten),'' he told the SID agency, ''and will say something at an appropriate time.''

V8s make F1 one second slower
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) 2.4 liter V8 engines have slowed down formula one by less than one second per lap.

In 2005, Pedro de la Rosa - with a V10-powered McLaren-Mercedes producing 950 hp - raced to a best lap in Bahrain of 1.31.447.

On Sunday, Nico Rosberg's V8 best - with a 760 horse power Cosworth - was 1.32.408.

But while new engines may not have hugely slowed the pack, former Jordan technical director Gary Anderson reckons the change will spice up the on-track action.

''Bahrain showed that the drivers are now willing to have a go and throw it around a bit,'' he told 'Setanta'.

40,000 at Sakhir
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) A crowd of 40,000 watched Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher battle it out for Bahrain GP victory on Sunday.

It's a 6,000 increase over last year, bringing the three-day total up to 77,000 fans.

[Editor's Note: With so few spectators this promoter is profusely bleeding red ink - another in a long list of F1 races that lose money, big money]

Schu rules out Todt's job
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) Michael Schumacher, 37, has denied that he might follow Jean Todt into principals' meetings next season as a formula one team owner.

The Ferrari racer told 'RTL' television: ''Jean spends at least six days a week behind a desk, for twelve to fourteen hours every day.

''I couldn't do that.''

Alonso move not for money - Dennis
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.13) Ron Dennis has denied claims that Bahrain winner Fernando Alonso, 24, only decided to switch to McLaren for 2007 to make more money.

With Alonso currently earning about $7.2 million a year at Renault, is was earlier reported that his new McLaren retainer would be at least double that.

But while that may be true, Ron Dennis revealed to the 'Sunday Mirror' newspaper that Alonso might actually have turned down a mighty Renault counter-offer.

He revealed: ''The reason he came to us was not to do with the money. He would have earned more at Renault.''

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