Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 March 19, 2006

Ralf not worried about engine
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.19) Toyota's Ralf Schumacher is not concerned about suffering a repeat of his engine failure during today's Malaysian grand prix.

''Not at all,'' the German replied when asked if he was worried.

''Our engine is probably the most reliable of all.''

Ralf, 30, lines up at the rear of the grid after his grid penalty, but he actually qualified a credible tenth -- and thinks he could have gone even quicker.

''The warm weather is helping us here,'' he admitted. ''We will be testing out at Paul Ricard (France) next week to see how we can maybe work better with our (Bridgestone) tires.''

A 'b' car will then be raced at Monaco in late May.

Kimi's quickest - Wurz
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.19) Williams' chiefs think victory might be within reach at Sepang, but the team's test driver would put more money on his old McLaren teammate, Kimi Raikkonen.

Alex Wurz, who switched from silver to blue overalls for 2006, reckons Kimi's MP4-21 is probably the favorite for Sunday victory.

''I think he has the quickest car at the moment,'' the Austrian told 'Premiere', adding that Kimi's qualifying time probably represents a heavy fuel load.

But while that may be true, 26-year-old Raikkonen wasn't a picture of happiness after qualifying seventh.

''(The car is) okay but (it's) not perfect,'' he said.

Head-scratching at Sepang
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.19) Confusion was the overriding emotion in the media centre and the Sepang paddock as formula one grappled with the concept of today's Malaysian GP grid.

Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault) has pole, but a little further afield, the exact qualifying order is clouded, after the spate of ten-position penalties for unscheduled engine changes.

One example is Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), who qualified fourth. He should drop to fourteenth, but could then bumble back up to eleventh as his brother (Toyota), Rubens Barrichello (Honda) and David Coulthard (Red Bull) suffer similar fates.

And, because other drivers can still change engines on race morning, the FIA will not publish the official starting order until shortly before the race.

''Blame the FIA,'' said the Independent newspaper, which called for the scrapping of the two-race engine rule.

It was even worse for the fans in the grandstands -- the big electronic results tower at Sepang went blank in the qualifying hour after a power surge.

McLaren promise Oz upgrade
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.19) Ron Dennis has promised his drivers an even quicker McLaren for the upcoming Australian grand prix.

The silver team's principal said a significant upgrade for the Melbourne race, to be followed by another new package a race later at the Nurburgring, is planned.

''It is encouraging to know what we have planned,'' said the Briton.

''We want to be stronger at every grand prix.''

Part of the upgrade includes more power and revs for the still-outpaced Mercedes-Benz V8.

Flav, Ron, disagree about new Q format
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.19) Ron Dennis has defended F1's new 'knockout' qualifying system -- because his McLaren team manager thought it up.

While most praise the more exciting concept, the final-ten 'shootout' has faced criticism because drivers spend their time simply burning off race fuel at a modest pace.

''The intention is to make the race entertaining as well,'' said the McLaren principal, ''so what we have gives the slowest twelve cars an advantage.

''It's not just about 'How do we make qualifying as entertaining as possible?' It's also about making the race a spectacle.''

Dennis' Renault counterpart, Flavio Briatore, is a critic of the 20-minute fuel burn.

''It is much too complicated for the spectators,'' the Italian told Merkur Online.

Williams' Rosberg could win
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.19) So you thought Williams' rookie Nico Rosberg did well to qualify third in Malaysia?

Team technical director Sam Michael reckons F1 might soon be praising a youngest-ever GP winner.

''Our strength, really, is our race pace here,'' the Australian said.

''To be honest, we were a lot more concerned about qualifying than we are about the race.''

Schu, Massa, with lots of fuel - Brawn
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.19) Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa will carry heavy fuel loads to the Malaysian GP grid, Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn hints.

The Briton, who revealed that engineers are still getting to the bottom of the engine reliability problem, told 'Premiere' that the heavy race strategy could result in points 'and maybe even a podium'.

''You never know,'' Brawn added, ''(as) there is always the possibility of a safety car or rain.''

For the record, the chance of rain on Sunday is no less than 70%. A high of 33C is forecast.

Montoya finds full power with faulty V8
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.19) In Malaysia, Juan Pablo Montoya outqualified McLaren teammate Kimi Raikkonen with the same Mercedes-Benz engine he described as down on power a week ago in Bahrain.

''Yes, it's the same (one),'' Mercedes' competition director Norbert Haug said on Sunday, ''and it looks okay here, doesn't it?''

In fairness to the Colombian, McLaren did update the unit's engine mapping software.

Monteiro still in pain
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.19) On Saturday, Tiago Monteiro battled on with back pain in Malaysia.

MF1's Portuguese driver pinched a nerve on Friday, but managed to qualify just ahead of the Super Aguri cars a day later.

''I was concerned about the pain,'' 29-year-old Monteiro admitted on Saturday, ''and just when I thought it had gone, it struck again and I could hardly drive.''

He was back on the team's physio table shortly after the qualifying session, and hopes to be fit for the race.

Monteiro said on Saturday: ''I hope the pain will be gone tomorrow.''

Ferrari FRONT wing now under microscope
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.19) The saga surrounding allegedly 'flexible' rear wings has stepped up a gear in Malaysia, with the FIA due to again inspect the Ferrari '248' on Sunday.

This time, Charlie Whiting and Jo Bauer are tipped to be concerned about the FRONT wing, amid suggestions that on-board but also close-up TV/video evidence showed the unique upper flaps moving at high speed.

Meanwhile, clearing up the confusion surrounding today's Sepang grid, the FIA has confirmed that Michael Schumacher will start the grand prix from 14th, David Coulthard 19th, Rubens Barrichello 20th, Felipe Massa 21st and Ralf Schumacher dead last.

Sauber - 'I'm not nostalgic'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.19) Peter Sauber may be watching over his former team in Malaysia, but the 62-year-old said he will not be sitting on the pitwall during today's grand prix near Kuala Lumpur.

''I am not nostalgic,'' the Swiss - who sold his team to BMW last year and remains a part-time sponsor consultant - smiled to the 'Premiere' TV channel.

Alonso 'not favorite'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.19) Bahrain winner Fernando Alonso says he is unlikely to make it a back to back victory after 56 laps in Malaysia.

The Renault driver, 24, will start from seventh on the Sepang grid today, after an electronic glitch and a separate fuel rig problem in qualifying, which saw his car filled much too heavily.

''I am no longer the favorite (to win),'' Alonso said, ''but we will try to get a podium at least and as many points as we can.''

Some paddock observers, however, have mused that the Spaniard's heavy fuel load is nonetheless probably similar to that of the McLarens (5th and 6th), while Williams' two cars - 3rd and 4th - are almost certainly light.

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