Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
March 20, 2006
Renault is F1's 'best' - Briatore
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.20) Flavio Briatore wrinkled his brow at a reporter
in Malaysia: ''Opponents?'' he grinned.
''Where are they?''
With all the hype of a genuine four-way battle for victory in 2006,
Renault dominated at Sepang with a one-two -- the first for the team
in twenty four years.
''We have the best drivers,'' boss Briatore said. ''We have the best
car. We have the best engine. We have the best engineers.
''I wouldn't want to have to beat us!''
World champion Fernando Alonso, although beaten by his teammate
Giancarlo Fisichella following a team fuel-load error, also sounded
unbeatably optimistic. ''From now on,' he was quoted as saying by
'Bild' newspaper, ''I want to win all the races.''
But Briatore, who will lose Alonso to McLaren in 2007, was also
backing his Roman pilot on Sunday. ''I have always said that we have
two winning drivers,'' the Italian insisted.
He continued to 'Premiere': ''Last year, he was new to the team -- it
takes time, like we see now with (Rubens) Barrichello and Honda.
''This is the best we could do. Everyone says Renault is going to
leave formula one, but winning races is the best answer to that.''
Klien denies blame for Kimi crash
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.20) Angry duo Kimi Raikkonen and Ron Dennis see it
another way, but Red Bull's Christian Klien said his shunt with the
Finn in Malaysia was a 'normal racing accident'.
The Austrian was condemned by the McLaren duo after Raikkonen's race
ended in a Sepang barrier with broken rear suspension.
But Klien, 23, insists that he had a legitimate right to go for
position at turn-four.
''I was alongside him, with half of my car over the curbs,'' he
''I couldn't move further to the right. I haven't seen a TV replay
yet, but from my angle it was a normal racing accident.
''These things can happen.''
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.20) Sepang was Nick Heidfeld's hundredth GP.
To mark the occasion, BMW-Sauber's German driver was presented with a
birthday cake, and a special outfit for his baby daughter, Juni.
Sewed into the front of the outfit were the words: 'Papa's 100. GP'.
F1 'flex' storm rages on
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.20) Controversy about alleged 'illegal' wings
lingered on even after the checkered flag at Sepang.
Although compromise and concessions were reportedly on the table, it
is not certain that Ferrari will agree to change its supposedly
'flexible' front and rear wings, with Ross Brawn even denying that
there is anything wrong with the current FIA tests.
''If you want to win you've got to maximize the set of regulations you
have,'' said the technical director. ''You don't play it safe.''
Team boss Jean Todt elected not to comment, but he did deny that any
backroom 'deals' had been brokered, adding: ''Ask me in Melbourne.''
The fact is, post-race scrutineers affirmed the legality of the '248'
car by officialising the outcome of the Malaysian grand prix.
Moreover, at least two other teams are apparently also running
similarly dubious designs.
'Best' turnout at Sepang
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.20) Organizers of Sunday's Malaysian GP were happy
with the size of the crowd.
Sepang circuit chairman Datuk Mokhzani Tun Mahathir could not give
accurate figures, but he reported that the hills and the grandstands
''I feel it is the best turnout we have seen,'' he added, referring to
the venue that has hosted F1 races since 1999.
Local media estimates claimed that more than 106,000 - last year's
official attendance - cheered the cars on in '06.
Toyota stir after nightmare slumber
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.20) Toyota is beginning to wake from its nightmare
start to the 2006 season.
Although Jarno Trulli struggled with damage to his TF106 car, teammate
Ralf Schumacher was actually on the pace in Malaysia.
Technical director Mike Gascoyne, admitting that the cars' problem is
to do with the way it handles Bridgestone's tires, thinks the German
was capable of more than eighth.
''With a different strategy, I think we could have been fourth on the
grid and he would have been chasing a podium (in the race),'' the
Ralf agreed that things looked better in Malaysia, but reckons the
searing heat helped to generate some pace from his Bridgestone tires.
''We haven't solved everything yet,'' the German - now on his way back
to Europe to test this week in France - cautioned to 'RTL' TV. ''(Like
Bahrain,) Melbourne will be another cool race, so we still have work
No 'team orders' for Massa
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.20) Ross Brawn said Ferrari did not contemplate
imposing team orders at Sepang.
With Michael Schumacher the clear number one at the Maranello based
team, and in light of Ferrari's history, some wondered whether
youngster Felipe Massa would be moved over in the closing stages on
But Brawn, probably also mindful of fans' violent backlash following
Austria 2002, told reporters that team orders would have 'made no
sense' in Malaysia.
But he warned: ''We are only early in the season -- today, Felipe beat
Michael fair and square.''
However, the Englishman also suggested that the pair had not even been
told to 'hold position', meaning that Schumacher would have been free
to attack Massa.
''We made no instructions (to the drivers),'' he confirmed.
Brazil's Massa, 24, also admitted that he was genuinely fighting his
Schu says Oz should be better
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.20) Admitting utter defeat in Malaysia, Michael
Schumacher has advised Ferrari's 'Tifosi' to look forward to the next
grand prix, in Australia.
''Melbourne is a completely different place,'' said the German.
''I'm sure we'll go better there.
''I have to say we just didn't get the car working perfectly here.''
Schumacher, 37, admitted that the tire war between Bridgestone and
Michelin is a 'possible' explanation for the defeat to Michelin-clad
Renault, Honda and McLaren at Sepang.
''Hopefully we'll do better in Australia.''
Asked what he'll do between now and Melbourne, Michael answered:
''I'll stay in this area for an annual honeymoon with my wife!''
Theissen proposes FIA tweak
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.20) The FIA should publish a provisional starting
grid shortly after qualifying, according to BMW's Mario Theissen.
Referring to the immense paddock confusion in Malaysia on Saturday and
early Sunday, the German chief proposed that the governing body revise
its policy to reveal the order just before the race.
With 10-place engine penalties galore at searing Sepang, no-one really
knew what the definitive lineup would be.
Ferrari's press officer wrote his review of Saturday claiming that
Michael Schumacher would start from the sixth row. An hour later, he
had issued another one to the media now with the words 'seventh row'
Theissen is a public supporter of F1's new 'knockout' qualifying, but
he has also criticized the FIA - led by Max Mosley - for its late
decision to go ahead with V8 engines for 2006.
''There were an awful lot of engine failures here,'' the German noted
to the 'sid' agency.
''I think this demonstrates that the time for development for the
engine manufacturers was too short.''
Renault 'clearly' in front, says BMW boss
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.20) Renault is a step ahead of its rivals in 2006,
according to Mario Theissen.
The German, at the helm of BMW-Sauber, said at the conclusion of the
Malaysian grand prix - the first Renault one-two for more than two
decades - that the French carmaker is the 'reference point' for every
other rival squad.
''They are the quickest; they are the most consistent; they were fast
even on different strategies,'' said Theissen, referring to the
performances of Giancarlo Fisichella and teammate Fernando Alonso.
He continued: ''They are clearly in front, but the good news is that
the cars behind them are closely bunched.''
Only Merc's V8 is intact
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.20) Mere weeks ago, who would have bet their bank
that every single engine maker in formula one would have experienced a
failure by the end of round two -- except Mercedes-Benz?
Either in Bahrain or last weekend at Sepang, Renault, Ferrari, Toyota,
Cosworth (Williams), BMW and Honda failed to make it to the Malaysian
checker without losing an engine. But amazingly, following McLaren's
dire winter of unreliability, the V8s in the silver cars emerged from
''Six weeks ago, we were not where we wanted to be with our engine,''
Mercedes' Norbert Haug told 'RTL' TV, ''so I have to thank everyone in
England and in Stuttgart.''
The silver combination should be patted on the back, but it is also
true that - in order to cool the V8 in Malaysia - a large number of
cooling holes had to be opened in the bodywork of the MP4-21.
Demonstrated by Juan Pablo Montoya, it was a significant handicap on
Haug said: ''We were not the only ones, but (yes,) our car was not in
the ideal specification.''
Back in Europe, McLaren will test car and engine upgrades this week.
Loss 'like a win' - Alonso
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.20) Even on a lower rung of the podium, Malaysia felt
like a win for F1's reigning world champion Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard finished second at Sepang after his qualifying troubles,
but he argued that finishing behind Giancarlo Fisichella felt even
more important than beating Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) a week ago in
''These eight points are like a victory to me,'' 24-year-old Alonso
Why? ''Because I have pulled away from my main rivals in the
championship, Schumacher and Raikkonen.''
Indeed, the gap to Schumacher is now 7 points - the same as the gap to
Jenson Button (Honda) - while Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren) is 12 points
Also in the mix, however, is Alonso's teammate, Malaysian GP pole
sitter and race winner, Fisichella, who is eight points in arrears.
But Fernando insisted: ''I don't see Fisi as a rival, I see him as
someone to work together with. Maybe later in the championship we will
Brawn hits back at Rossi jibe
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.20) On behalf of Valentino Rossi, the MotoGP
sensation's potential F1 boss of the future - Ross Brawn - has
returned fire at Fernando Alonso.
Spaniard Alonso, the four-wheeled world champion, said recently that
26-year-old Rossi would 'never' become one of F1's top-5 pilots.
''I don't know how he knows that,'' Ferrari technical director Brawn
said at Sepang, ''because even I cannot precisely judge Valentino yet.
''But what you can say about him is that, with so little experience of
formula one cars, it is clear that he possesses an enormous amount of
Ross Brawn also reiterated that no decision has yet been taken about
whether Rossi will some day soon race a red car in F1.
He explained: ''Some time in the middle of the year, he will decide
what he wants to do.
''After that, we (Ferrari) need to make our decision.''
Bothered Button confronts Speed
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.20) Scott Speed has struck back at suggestions that
he ruined Jenson Button's victory attack in the Malaysian grand prix.
Honda driver JB stridently dropped the rookie American's name when
asked what impediments he faced during the Sepang sizzler.
''That's ridiculous,'' said Toro Rosso's Speed, the first American in
formula one since Michael Andretti in 1993.
The Californian told the Mirror: ''I got a call on the radio and two
corners later I let him by.
''Button lost second place by something like five or seven seconds.
Come on -- I've done nothing wrong.
''Once he calms down he'll realize it wasn't a big problem.''
But Honda principal Nick Fry confirmed that his man was very annoyed,
and even confronted Speed later on.
Nico 'slapped' for Webber squeeze
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.20) He was the toast of the paddock in Bahrain, but
feisty rookie Nico Rosberg got 'a slap on the wrist' by Williams in
Malaysia's searing heat, media reports say.
The British 'Mirror' newspaper suggests that Frank Williams and
Patrick Head were none too happy about the 20-year-old German's
squeeze on teammate Mark Webber on the run to the first corner on
It cost the pair, shoved onto the dirty side of the track, track
position to the fast-starting Fernando Alonso.
Webber, who touched down in Tasmania on Monday, complained: ''Another
few feet and he would've had me in the wall.''
Following his Cosworth engine failure, though, Rosberg - the son of
Williams' 1982 world champion Keke - admitted that he still has
something to learn about taking on a F1 rival.
He said: ''I tried to block Mark but I realized he wasn't going to
lift. I think in GP2 most people would have backed off.''
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