Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 March 22, 2006

Fisi fizzes at Ferrari
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Giancarlo Fisichella has struck out at Ferrari for refusing to give Italian drivers a chance at the scarlet team.

In Milan (Italy) to launch a new 'Fisichella' perfume, the Roman praised countryman and Renault boss Flavio Briatore as 'one of the few' who promotes Italians on the grid.

''Unlike certain teams,'' he told the ANSA agency.

Sepang winner Fisichella added: ''Unfortunately, we (Italian drivers) always get the short end of the stick. If they gave us a chance, Italians would be winning races more often.''

The last Italian national to drive for Ferrari was the late Michele Alboreto, who raced in red until 1988.

Briatore, meanwhile, returned the compliment by insisting that Fisichella would 'deserve it' if he beat McLaren-bound teammate Fernando Alonso to the title.

''In my opinion, he is on the same level as Fernando,'' the Italian told Gazzetta dello Sport.

Fisichella also retorted to Alonso's post-Malaysia claim that his real opponents for the 2006 title are Raikkonen and Schumacher.

''I won the race in Malaysia,'' the Italian said, ''and I have the same car as him. It's ok.

''It's fine -- I'll try to change Alonso's mind!''

BMW, McLaren, to scrap 'flex' wings
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) BMW-Sauber and McLaren-Mercedes will bring new designs to Melbourne after the FIA deemed their 'flexi' wings illegal, it is reported.

The two teams, who earlier banded together with six others to threaten protests against Ferrari's cars in Malaysia, now admit that they had been quietly told to revise bodywork.

A McLaren spokesman agreed that the 'minor' change would be carried out.

''(But) the design is not performance-enhancing,'' a McLaren contact reportedly clarified to Germany's Auto Motor Und Sport magazine.

It is also suggested that the relevant clause in the technical regulations could be revised as early as April.

No driver crisis, says Flav
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Flavio Briatore has moved to soothe speculation that the Renault team is facing a driver crisis for 2007.

Although world champion Fernando Alonso is off to McLaren next year, Briatore - the blue and yellow-clad principal - told Gazzetta dello Sport that test driver Heikki Kovalainen is unwearyingly in the wings.

And, although denying that Renault could never afford Kimi Raikkonen to replace Giancarlo Fisichella, he added: ''You should remember that we don't have to change both drivers.''

24-year-old Kovalainen told f1.com: ''All the signals are all suggesting that (my F1 debut) will happen in 2007.''

Be like Flav
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) It's often a mystery to outsiders, but Flavio Briatore is one of F1's most admired and envied men.

The 55-year-old Italian grinningly revealed to Germany's 'Bild' newspaper that he receives 750 letters a day from fans who 'want to know how to become a Briatore'.

Flavio, although a little chubby and with grey hair, is filthy rich, owns nightclubs and a private beach in Kenya, and is connected with a string of super models.

''He's a charmer,'' confirmed Ralf Schumacher's wife, Cora.

She added: ''I think he's cool. Maybe it's his money, maybe it's his power, but many women want to be with him.

''The life of pure luxury is very impressive to women.

''Luckily I already have the man of my dreams (Ralf). Then again, Flavio is about half a century too old for me!''

Kimi in no rush to sign '07 deal
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Kimi Raikkonen is in no rush to sign a F1 contract for 2007, according to the Finn's manager.

Steve Robertson told the Guardian newspaper that 'several top teams' are shaping up with tasty offers for the presently McLaren-driving 26-year-old ace.

''(But) Kimi is under no pressure,'' said Robertson, in the enviable position of probably dealing with the interest of Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, Toyota and others.

''He doesn't need to be hurried into any decision,'' Raikkonen's manager continued. ''We will evaluate all his options very carefully and ultimately he will make the decision.''

Robertson denied that Kimi's decision would be 'solely' driven by money.

But the racer's countryman, Mika Hakkinen - who won back to back titles with McLaren in his sixth and seventh seasons with the team - cautiously advised the ice-cool Finn to stick with Ron Dennis.

He also told Reuters: ''What Kimi should do (however) is for him to decide.''

JV's new girl
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) After several years with a ballerina from New York, BMW-Sauber driver Jacques Villeneuve showed off a new girlfriend at Sepang.

The Canadian, 34, was spotted holding hands with a pretty brunette in the Malaysian paddock -- and he revealed that she is from Paris and called Johanna.

Petition targets Monza GP threat
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) The fate of September's Italian GP continues to look uncertain, after a civil court last week refused to overturn a ban on noisy cars at Monza.

Although the historic grand prix might be protected, one junior-category event at the track has already been axed.

Now, like F1, the ban also threatens events like touring cars and Italian F3 and formula 3000.

'Drivingitalia.net' has set up an online petition against the court's ruling, which can be signed at http://www.petitiononline.com/m0nz4/petition.html

No Schu talks yet - manager
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Michael Schumacher's manager says he is not yet negotiating with Ferrari about a new contract for the ace driver.

Willi Weber revealed that he is waiting for the seven time world champion to be more clear about whether he wants to keep racing beyond his expiring deal.

''I'm not talking to them,'' the German told La Gazzetta dello Sport, ''because I would first need to know what Michael has in his head about continuing or stopping.''

Frustratingly for the F1 fraternity, Schumacher's uncertainty is holding up the 2007 driver market.

Until the 37-year-old decides what to do, Kimi Raikkonen - the next key player - will also sit tight, condemning guys like Giancarlo Fisichella, Juan Pablo Montoya, Felipe Massa, Jarno Trulli and Mark Webber to the same anxious wait.

Nico admits Webber duel 'mistake'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Williams' Nico Rosberg has owned up to the 'mistake' of squeezing teammate Mark Webber on the run to the first corner in his second GP.

The 20-year-old rookie was reportedly scolded by team bosses after pushing his fellow racer close to the pitwall in Malaysia; a move that allowed Fernando Alonso to pass them both.

He has also spoken to a peeved Webber, 29, about it.

''In the end it hurt both of us,'' Rosberg told his column for ITV.

He said: ''It was my fault.

''I should have worked with him (so) I will change that for the future.''

Schu was prepared to test this week
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Michael Schumacher, currently enjoying his 'annual honeymoon' with wife Corinna on a Malaysian island, says he was prepared to return to Europe to test.

Given Ferrari's pace and engine problems at Sepang, the German told reporters that he had made himself available to the scarlet clad test team during this week.

''That was my intention,'' said Schumacher, who does expect his '248 F1' to perform better in Australia next week.

''But our program is not so intensive that I have to return this time.

''It obviously makes no sense to fly back to Europe if it is not a necessity -- in fact, doing that could even be counter productive.''

Give Rubens time to speed up, says Honda
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Rubens Barrichello should look speedier by the time F1 has returned for the European season, Honda boss Nick Fry has urged.

The experienced Brazilian, signed for 2006 for his knowledge of winning nine grands prix in six years at Ferrari, has so far struggled to even get close to Jenson Button's pace.

But Fry, the team principal, is clearly in no mood to begin comparing 33-year-old Rubens with the lackluster pace of the man he replaces -- Takuma Sato.

''We will get there with Rubens,'' he told the Telegraph newspaper, ''but it's a bit of a hard slog now.''

Fry suggested that the problem is the car, a sentiment backed up by Barrichello himself who has explained that the Honda is a totally different beast to his Ferrari.

''We have to make it a bit more to Rubens' liking,'' the boss admitted, ''(but) he has to adapt his driving style to suit it.''

Button, 26, even suggests that Rubens' problem is related to the weather, after his new teammate once showed reasonable pace in the cold of winter testing.

''It seems that when the conditions are hotter,'' the Briton hypothesized, ''he is struggling a bit more.''

Alonso says no to F1 2019
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) According to many observers, Fernando Alonso is the 'new Michael Schumacher' for F1.

But if his fans are looking forward to seeing a 37-year-old Spaniard still wheel-to-wheel in grands prix, Fernando has warned them to think again.

''I cannot imagine fighting for the championship in 2019,'' the 24-year-old laughed to the 'Times' when asked if he would consider emulating the seven time world champion.

Massa rues lost podium chance
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Ferrari youngster Felipe Massa, 24, will spend the days between the Malaysian grand prix and Australia in Bali.

''I've never been there,'' said the Brazilian, ''and I like to visit new places. I have also heard that it is very beautiful there.''

On Sunday he will fly from Bali to Melbourne.

''I think I did a good job at the last race,'' said the Ferrari newcomer, who rose from the rear of the grid to fifth and even held off teammate Michael Schumacher despite nursing a fading fuel load.

Massa insisted: ''If I had started further up, I think I could have fought for a podium spot.''

Team boss Jean Todt's praise, however, might be interpreted as a little sparing, as he justified not asking Felipe Massa to move over for Schumacher because it's 'too early' in the championship.

''Felipe could not defend his chances in the first grand prix (in Bahrain),'' the Frenchman added, ''so I think he did a pretty good job.''

Todt said: ''He's under a lot of pressure, so it's important that he can demonstrate that he's a very good driver.''

Ferrari's V8 fault nearly fixed
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Ferrari has nearly solved the engine problem that threw its Malaysian GP into chaos, according to team principal Jean Todt.

The Frenchman says the V8's technical glitch, apparently involving the cracking of pistons, should not recur at Melbourne's Albert Park track next week.

Scarlet new-boy Felipe Massa had two engine changes (and penalties) following the opening race in Bahrain, while at Sepang Michael Schumacher suffered a similar fate with his V8.

However, in the race, both cars made it to the checker.

''I think we already did one step forward,'' Todt told reporters, ''(and) I think we've understood a lot of things.

''We have a specific failure that comes from the (pistons but) at the moment we are still analyzing the problems.''

FIA council to meet on Wednesday
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) The FIA's world motor sport council is scheduled to meet in Paris on Wednesday morning.

On the agenda will be Max Mosley's proposed regulations for 2008, but also the controversial FIA president's plan to soon open and close a one-week 'window' for teams to sign up for the new world championship.

STR unlikely to score points - boss
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Earlier predicted as a podium challenger, F1 team Toro Rosso dropped off the radar after a uninspiring weekend of pace at the Malaysian GP.

With the Red Bull-owned team's diminishing pace came a calming of the debate about engine equivalency, following the controversially-V10-powered show of speed by Faenza based STR at the Bahrain opener.

Team boss Franz Tost admitted at Sepang that the part Gerhard Berger-owned squad is unlikely to be a real challenger in the '06 season.

''If the works teams sort out their (engine reliability) problems, we will struggle to finish in the top twelve,'' said the Austrian.

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