Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 March 17, 2006

Alonso says no to Rossi's challenge
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.17) World champion Fernando Alonso has politely rejected Valentino Rossi's proposal that the pair go head-to-head to settle the question of who is quicker.

Rankled by Alonso's claim that he could join the MotoGP ace on a podium, rider Rossi challenged the Spaniard to a battle waged on motorcycles, formula one and rally machinery.

Asked if he had heard about Rossi's dare, Renault's 24-year-old Alonso said in Kuala Lumpur: ''Yes, but I don't know if he really said it.

''If he did (say it), I will have to say no -- I am totally focused on my job at the moment.''

F1 mag found guilty of libel
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.17) F1's former Jaguar principal, Tony Purnell, has won a libel court action against controversial F1 magazine 'Business F1'.

The magazine, headed by editor Tom Rubython, claimed that Purnell bribed an F1 journalist.

At a forthcoming trial, a jury will consider possible damages to Purnell, the 47-year-old English entrepreneur.

Indian set for cockpit return
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.17) After a long cockpit absence, Williams' second test driver Narain Karthikeyan will return to the wheel back in Europe next week.

The Indian driver is scheduled to steer the new 'FW28' for the first time, before flying out to Australia for round three of 2006.

''I'm really looking forward to it, really excited and I hope I can shine in the test,'' NK, 29, told Reuters.

Toyota expect better weekend
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.17) In Malaysia, Ralf Schumacher thinks Toyota should perform better than the Bahraini nightmare of a week ago.

The German confessed that the catastrophic lack of grip is mysteriously linked to the way the 'TF106' car works with new Japanese tire supplier Bridgestone.

He said on Thursday: ''But we have a different tire here, and the (hot) conditions should be a bit better for us.

''Yes, it should be a lot better,'' Ralf continued.

''For this race, it could be a quick fix. But we also have to admit that we still don't understand the reasons for (what happened in) Bahrain.''

DC applauds Heidfeld penalty
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.17) David Coulthard has applauded F1's new permanent steward for reprimanding Nick Heidfeld after the pair diced on track in Bahrain.

With BMW-Sauber's Heidfeld found in the wrong for driving Coulthard off the track, the veteran Scot said it's the first example of what the Grand Prix Drivers' Association has 'been asking for' in recent years.

''Hopefully now we can have some consistency,'' the Red Bull driver went on to say.

''The stewards felt he was in the wrong because I had the line for the corner.''

34-year-old 'DC', however, admitted that new permanent steward Tony Scott-Andrews had been 'a lot harder' on Nick than - for example - after an incident involving Takuma Sato a few years ago.

Coulthard explained: ''But that's good if it's consistent from race to race. We need to know how far we can push it.''

DC's 'sex in a sauna'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.17) Red Bull ace David Coulthard set pulses racing in Thursday's FIA press conference by likening driving in the steamy Malaysian grand prix to 'sex in a sauna'.

''Unless it was having sex,'' the cheeky Scot told reporters, ''I can't imagine wanting to do anything in a sauna.''

At the Sepang circuit near Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, temperatures rose to a searing 36C. Friday is heading for similarly uncomfortable humidity, while the chance of rain on all three days of the grand prix event still persists.

Renault find Fisi's 'F-word' glitch
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.17) Renault has identified the cause of an engine problem that moved Giancarlo Fisichella to repeatedly swear into his in-car radio in Bahrain.

After the Roman publicly apologizing for turning the live TV airwaves blue, technical director Bob Bell revealed that the 33-year-old's V8 had suffered from a throttle control problem.

''When he was at full throttle,'' the Briton explained, ''the engine was delivering only 90 per cent of its full power.

''That's why we didn't see it in the garage or on the installation laps.''

Fisichella's teammate, championship leader Fernando Alonso, told reporters in Malaysia that he was sure a similar problem won't recur.

Asked if he was worried, the Spaniard replied: ''No. One hundred per cent -- no.''

Schu worried about health of V8
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.17) Michael Schumacher admits he is worried about the health of his V8, after Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa was forced to have his engine changed in between the opening Bahrain and Malaysian GPs.

''Naturally, I'm a little bit concerned,'' the German told reporters at Sepang, knowing that Red Bull's David Coulthard also suffered a Ferrari V8 failure after the Bahraini checkered flag.

However, sources indicate that Ferrari did extensive checks on Schumacher's engine prior to opening practice in Malaysia -- including the use of an endoscope.

Weather conditions in Malaysia were fairly mild as free practice kicked off on Friday morning -- 33C, with just 51 per cent humidity.

No engine change for Montoya, says Dennis
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.17) Responding to his Colombian driver's complaints, McLaren principal Ron Dennis has denied that Juan Pablo Montoya had an engine problem in Bahrain.

Confirming that the 30-year-old would almost certainly race the same Mercedes-Benz V8 in Malaysia, he dismissed Montoya's claim that his engine was up to 7kph slower than teammate Kimi Raikkonen's on the straight.

''His problem was not the engine, his problem was the tire selection,'' Ron told Spanish newspaper 'AS' when attempting to explain Juan's half-second per-lap deficit to Kimi.

Dennis reckons Montoya and his engineers selected a tire that was too soft, while Kimi chose a different option.

Adamant of an engine problem, however, JPM replied: ''We were on different tires, but that was not the real reason (for the deficit).

''You only have to look at the speed traps to see it.''

A quiet morning in Malaysia
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.17) Another quiet Friday looks set to descend on formula one, with nearly half of the race drivers not even setting a lap time in Malaysian morning practice.

In 34C temperatures and bearable humidity, 'Friday' test trio Alex Wurz (Williams), Robert Kubica (BMW) and Anthony Davidson (Honda) set the pace, with Juan Pablo Montoya the quickest racer, after doing just 4 tours.

McLaren teammate Kimi Raikkonen, however, completed only installation laps, as did both Renaults and the BMW-Sauber race cars.

The two Williams and Honda race drivers, meanwhile, did not even change out of their shirts and shorts, leaving the work to Wurz (19 laps) and Davidson (25 laps).

''The (two-race per engine) rules restrict track time,'' moaned Red Bull's David Coulthard, fifth best in the morning after doing 7 laps, ''but isn't the whole point of someone coming to a GP to see the cars out there?''

MF1's Tiago Monteiro, however, is probably the least-pleased racer of all in pitlane, his M16 stopping after 8 laps with suspected Toyota V8 engine failure.

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