Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 March 16, 2006

JV's BMW boost in disguise
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) Yet another formula one racer will join David Coulthard and Jacques Villeneuve in moving ten places down Malaysia's grand prix grid.

It is reported in the Italian 'Gazzetta dello Sport' newspaper that team newcomer Felipe Massa's debuting Ferrari V8 engine showed signs of damage after the checkered flag in Bahrain, and may need replacing ahead of schedule at Sepang.

With Red Bull's Coulthard suffering a failure after the Bahraini checker, the Massa newsflash means that two of the four new 2.4 liter Ferrari units failed to make it through the first two grands prix of season '06.

Villeneuve's fiery blow-up in Bahrain may be a blessing in disguise, however, with suggestions that BMW has delivered a new-specification unit for him to use at searing Sepang.

''I am impressed with the reaction time,'' the French Canadian said at a PR event near the 'Petronas Twin Towers' in Kuala Lumpur.

''Hopefully we will have an engine to provide us with a better challenge this time.''

Rossi dares Alonso to back-up boast
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) World champion Valentino Rossi has dared his F1 counterpart, Fernando Alonso, to prove he is quicker.

Last month, Renault's Spaniard warned that switching to four wheels would be 'very difficult' for possible Ferrari racer of the future Rossi, but added that - 'given time to practice' - he himself could ride to a MotoGP podium.

Obviously rankled by the comments, Rossi - the 27-year-old Italian - proposed in 'Motorcycle News' that the pair embark on an ultimate motor sport head-to-head to settle the score once and for all.

''I think we should drive a formula one car, a world rally car and a MotoGP bike,'' Rossi said, ''add the times together and then we'll see who is faster.''

Max repeats 2008 warning to teams
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) In a new letter to formula one teams, Max Mosley has warned that the FIA could freeze out those who do not sign up for '08 during a 1-week window later in March.

As the sport moves closer to ending a war with disgruntled carmakers, the Briton nonetheless said a team could take the risk and make a later entry, but will then be excluded from talks about the rules.

''(And a late) entry will only be possible on the basis that the team accepts the sporting regulations as finally adopted and published prior to 30 June,'' Max's letter read.

His March 24-31 sign-up 'window', however, must still be approved by the FIA's world motor sport council, scheduled to meet next Wednesday.

F1's never looked healthier - reports
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) F1 may cost a total of $2.6bn each year, but that figure is covered nearly dollar for dollar by private sponsorship, a specialist magazine claims.

The controversial 'Business F1' title estimates that sponsor income has jumped 25 per cent to $2.5 billion this year, with Emirates, Johnny Walker (McLaren) and Intel (BMW) the highest profile newcomers.

In addition, Britain's The Times newspaper claimed that the sport has never been followed so widely, with the most growth recorded in new Middle and Far East markets.

With great timing, then, is the prospect of the most hotly contested formula one season in decades, with four - and possibly five - teams genuinely hopeful of winning 2006 GPs.

''What's good is it's not like Ferrari or anybody are miles in front of everybody,'' FIA boss Max Mosley notes.

''It's obviously super-competitive.''

Mondini enters 'MF1' spotlight
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) After Markus Winkelhock drove in Bahrain, fellow rookie and MF1 tester Giorgio Mondini will get his first turn at the wheel during free practice this Friday.

The Swiss-Italian is also to be the Midland-owned team's 'reserve' driver in hot Malaysia, a press statement outlined.

''To be honest, I had hoped to get some more test time in the car before coming here,'' said the 25-year-old, ''but I should get up to speed very quickly.''

Toyota ask Bridgestone for softer tires
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) Crisis-stricken Toyota has asked its new F1 tire supplier, Bridgestone, to provide the team with special soft tires, we can reveal.

The Cologne based team found itself in a dire state of speed at the 2006 season opener, even though Bridgestone's Hiroshi Yasukawa suggested that the problem is simply a matter of Toyota 'untapping the potential' of the product.

''We are having trouble heating the tires up,'' German driver Ralf Schumacher confessed to 'Sport1.de'.

''We hoped that it would get better when we got away from the cold (test) circuits,'' he added, ''but it hasn't.''

Technical director Mike Gascoyne, a high salary member of the huge-budget outfit, appeared pale and baffled at the end of the Bahrain opener.

After long race stints, Ralf and Toyota teammate Jarno Trulli's Bridgestones looked brand new.

''It's not their (Bridgestone's) problem, it's our problem,'' Britain's Gascoyne clarified.

The 42-year-old added: ''It's not a lack of downforce -- the car is okay. We just have no grip.''

Peter Sauber in Malaysia
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) A special guest will watch BMW-Sauber in action this weekend -- former owner Peter Sauber.

Now a part-time sponsors' consultant after selling last year to BMW, the 62-year-old Sauber founder was spotted at a PR function in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) on Wednesday.

''It's incredible,'' German driver Nick Heidfeld enthused at the famous 'Twin Towers' in KL, named after team sponsor 'Petronas'.

''It seems like we have even more fans in Malaysia than Ferrari do,'' he grinned.

'Schu will win' - manager
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) Although more than 270 days have passed without victory, Michael Schumacher's manager has advised gamblers to put a few dollars on the resurgent former champion.

Willi Weber told the 'sid' agency that, unlike a week ago, he doesn't think Fernando Alonso will get the better of the 37-year-old in the Malaysian sun.

''We were strong in Bahrain,'' the German said at Sepang, ''but on Sunday, Michael will win.''

Weber continued: ''You should see his determination, and that of the whole Ferrari team -- their only goal is to win their title back.''

Renault's Pat Symonds, however, doesn't see it quite so simply, predicting yet another tight battle that - this time - should feature F1's other highly competitive teams, McLaren and Honda.

Regarding the delicately-poised tire war between Bridgestone and Michelin, the engineering director told Gazzetta dello Sport: ''(Ferrari's Bridgestone) tires allowed them to be immediately fast, while the Michelins were more efficient at the end of a stint.''

''Ferrari is competitive,'' Symonds admitted, ''but they definitely profited from the Bahrain tests.''

German GP is on - spokesman
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) After months of negative headlines, a spokesman said Hockenheim will definitely host the German grand prix in July.

Heidfeld praised despite FIA slap
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) Even though he was officially slapped by stewards, Nick Heidfeld's aggressive racing tactics in Bahrain were applauded by his BMW-Sauber bosses.

Willy Rampf, technical director, called Heidfeld's controversial dice with David Coulthard - during which Red Bull's Scot was forced off the track - 'very good to see'.

''He was very aggressive with David,'' Rampf told Speed TV.

''That was very positive!''

Germany's 'Quick Nick' Heidfeld, 28, was reprimanded but not penalized.

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