Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
March 23, 2006
Four venues host F1 running
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.23) In the fortnight gap between Malaysia and
Australia, formula one testing is taking place at no less than four
different European tracks.
The majority of action is concentrated at Paul Ricard (France), where
- after a rainy Tuesday - Renault's Heikki Kovalainen set the pace.
Also on Wednesday, Pedro de la Rosa tried a new-specification
Mercedes-Benz V8 for McLaren, in a MP4-21 car also featuring other new
bits for Melbourne.
BMW-Sauber is also in action, as is Toyota, who have brought race
drivers Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli back for the pre-Australia
At Fiorano (Italy), Luca Badoer resumed Ferrari's test programme,
while Narain Karthikeyan (Williams) and David Coulthard (Red Bull)
circulated at the Spanish Valencia venue.
Honda is working alone at Vallelunga, where Rubens Barrichello has
been asked to run following his disappointing start to 2006.
A new hotel for Coulthard
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.23) David Coulthard's empire is expanding, with work
starting on a new budget hotel in Edinburgh (Scotland) this week.
The Scot and Red Bull driver, who owns a string of hotels including
the plush 'Columbus' in Monaco, co-owns the new addition -- a
132-bedroom 'Dakota' set to open in January next year.
MF1 play down poor start
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.23) Team principal Colin Kolles has played down
Midland (MF1)'s poor start to the 2006 season.
The Russian squad's Romanian-born chief highlighted the improvement of
Malaysia over the first Bahrain race, despite his M16 cars fighting
with four-year-old 'Super Aguri' racers at Sepang.
But he admitted: ''Hopefully our performance will improve in
Australia, where we'll have new parts.''
Much of the Toyota-powered car's problem is an aerodynamic deficiency,
where even the '02 Arrows proved tough to pass.
But Kolles said the first 'MF1' car is at least better than its dated
Kolles added: ''We do need to improve in order to help our speed on
the straights, but the gap to the front isn't 4.5 seconds any more.
''You don't arrive (in F1) and overnight you're there.''
Late GPMA move fails to foil Max's vision
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.23) Enmity between F1's carmakers and FIA president
Max Mosley resumed in Europe this week.
At 10pm the night before Wednesday's meeting of the world motor sport
council, the GPMA alliance - including five manufacturer-owned teams -
faxed a letter to the FIA's Monaco office; even though Max was in
Paris for the meeting.
It highlighted 'concerns' with the 2008 rules, asking the council to
consider implementing their ideas rather than ratify the controversial
The council, however, basically ignored the GPMA appeal, Mosley noting
in a reply that 'none of you attended' meetings in 2005 'to discuss
the 2008 regulations, despite repeated invitations to do so'.
So, in one stroke, the draft 2008 rules became law.
As well as a three-year engine 'freeze', the F1 calendar will be
expanded to a maximum of 20 races, the 10-place grid penalty replaced
with a 15kg 'ballast' scheme, and the $48m new-team bond axed.
Also in 2008, testing will be cut to 30,000km per team, spare cars
banned, parc ferme conditions in force all weekend, and gearboxes will
have to last four races.
Rubens 'deeply disappointed'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.23) Ferrari refugee Rubens Barrichello says he is
'deeply disappointed' with the dreadful start to his new Honda career.
''I didn't expect it to be like this,'' the Brazilian told German
media, ''but I am still hoping to get it right and win with this
So bad was Rubens' pace in Bahrain and Malaysia that the Brackley
based team has hauled him back from the southern hemisphere to test
this week at Vallelunga (Italy).
Even so, in the 'TV Movie' magazine, the 33-year-old found time to
muse about his old Maranello sparring partner, multiple champion
''I would call him a friend, even if we don't telephone each other
daily,'' Rubens said.
'Equal' Fisi eyes Melbourne repeat
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.23) Giancarlo Fisichella has denied that his
Malaysian GP win indicates that he will be favored over departing
teammate Fernando Alonso in 2006.
With Spaniard Alonso, 24, bound for McLaren at the end of the season,
some wondered why Renault did not take advantage of his heavy fuel
load at Sepang and aim for victory with a one-stop strategy.
Does the apparent discrepancy hint that, unlike in 2005, 33-year-old
Fisichella is now enjoying the good life?
''No,'' the Roman categorically told La Gazzetta dello Sport. ''The
team treats us exactly equally -- our cars are identical and no one
thinks about 2007.''
Indeed, a Renault source explained that Alonso did not attempt a
one-stop at Sepang because of concerns that the Michelins would not
last such a long stint.
But Fisichella agrees that his blue and yellow 'R26' is a step ahead
of Renault's rivals, including - he says - Ferrari, Honda and McLaren.
''It will still be a close contest,'' the Italian insisted, ''and I am
sure that we will not win every grand prix.
''But at the moment, our car-engine-tire package seems a step ahead
and I think I can win again in Melbourne.''
Nico 'not surprised' to outpace Webber
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.23) F1 rookie Nico Rosberg says he was not surprised
to outpace qualifying specialist and experienced teammate Mark Webber
Although exiting the race with engine failure, Williams' 20-year-old
youngster started from a highly laudable third on the grid.
''I didn't expect to get as high up as that,'' Nico told his column
for team sponsor Castrol, ''so that was a bit of a surprise.
''But I wasn't surprised to be ahead of Mark.
''We have always been similar (in pace) in testing, I fully believe in
myself, so why shouldn't I be ahead?''
Toyota target podium revival
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.23) Toyota's Mike Gascoyne reckons his drivers could
still end up on the post-race podium in 2006.
Despite the Cologne based squad's dire start with its uncompetitive
TF106, the technical director - to oversee his race pilots' progress
at the Paul Ricard test this week - insisted that Malaysia represented
a step forward for the Bridgestone-shod package.
Gascoyne said: ''If you look at our race pace (at Sepang), we were not
that far from Ferrari, who I am sure are looking at podium places.
''So we should also be able to do it.''
Another Schumacher hits the race track
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.23) Another Schumacher is now a full time race driver
-- Ralf Schumacher's wife, Cora.
The 29-year-old blonde, who honed her racing skills in the Mini
Challenge, has reportedly penned a one year contract - worth $600,000
- to drive a 280hp, 260kmh machine in the 'Seat Leon Supercopa'
category; a support series for 'DTM'.
In one swift stroke, then, Mrs. Schumacher has become one of the
highest paid racers in Germany, outpacing men like formula one rookie
Nico Rosberg, who - according to 'Bild' newspaper - is making about
$420,000 this year.
''I will save the money,'' Cora vowed. ''Finally I can buy Ralf and
(son) David presents with my own money!''
Walker missed F1 'enormously'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.23) F1's Murray Walker, 82, says he decided to return
to the sport he loves because he is happier at a race track.
The legendary Englishman, who will be a Honda F1 ambassador in 2006 as
well as a contributor for broadcaster BBC, quit for good four years
''Well, I did miss it, more than I expected; and I had expected to
miss it enormously,'' Murray, visiting former Australian GP host city
Adelaide for a domestic V8 touring car event, said.
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