Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 March 27, 2006

Oz grunt keeps Rubens awake
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.27) Rubens Barrichello spent his weekend watching an Australian 'V8 supercar' race in the southern former grand prix city of Adelaide.

The Brazilian was in town to support compatriot Max Wilson, a regular of the domestic touring car series who grew up on the same street as Barrichello in Sao Paulo.

''Max has a huge talent,'' 33-year-old Rubens told local media. ''I watch him in this series on television.''

He explained that the stopover in Adelaide, where temperatures soared to above 30 degrees, would help him acclimatize also to the Australian time-zone ahead of the Melbourne GP.

And, referring to the V8 engines' deep grunt-like sounds, Barrichello smiled: ''I'm definitely not going to feel like sleeping!''

Barrichello admits to Honda 'struggle'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.27) Rubens Barrichello says it will take 'a bit of time' for him to get up to speed at the Honda team.

The veteran Brazilian has endured an uncompetitive start since switching from Ferrari, but he told reporters at the weekend that the problem is simply adjusting to an entirely different F1 package.

''Team, car, engine, tires, everything was new,'' Rubens, 33, said at a touring car race in Australian city Adelaide.

Barrichello, significantly slower than teammate Jenson Button in Bahrain and Malaysia, admitted he is struggling not only with the switch to Michelin tires, but with Honda's new V8 engine.

''(Button) is very used to the way it behaves -- the drivability,'' he said.

''But I'm quite happy.''

Earlier, to Italy's 'Corriere dello Sport' newspaper, Rubens confessed to finding it 'difficult' to adjust after many years of wearing Bridgestone rubber.

Williams lose chief designer
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.27) Williams' chief designer has left the team.

Jorg Zander only replaced his departed predecessor Gavin Fisher less than a year ago, but the former BAR man has quit immediately for 'personal' reasons, a spokesman said.

''There is no other underlying reason,'' the spokeswoman said. ''He wanted to go back with his family to Germany.''

The team spokesman revealed that a new chief designer would not be sought right away.

''(Technical director) Sam Michael believes the (team) is strong enough to withstand (the loss) in the short term.''

Ron's high praise for Montoya
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.27) Ron Dennis has offered high praise for McLaren's Colombian driver, saying Juan Pablo Montoya is one of formula one's hardest workers.

The silver-clad chief told 'F1 Racing' magazine that he had 'never' seen a grand prix pilot put in more preparation for a new season.

Dennis' praise is in the context of the fact that either Montoya, 30, or 2006 teammate Kimi Raikkonen will have to make way next year for Fernando Alonso.

But, despite revealing an initially 'predictable' reaction to the news that Alonso was en route, Ron said Juan simply got to work.

Ron Dennis explained: ''I'm very sure he'll have a much better season than he did last year.''

Birthday boy DC defends Ferrari
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.27) Birthday boy and F1 veteran David Coulthard has played down claims that Ferrari has been caught 'cheating' in 2006.

The Scot, who turns 35 on Monday, chimed in on the 'flexi-wing' argument by insisting that every formula one team pushes the FIA's regulations to the limit.

''Some might say what they did was against the spirit of the rules,'' Coulthard - powered by a customer Ferrari engine - told Britain's News of the World.

Indeed, the F1 rulebook is deliberately penned without intricate detail, meaning that it is often open to interpretation and having grey areas and loopholes.

'DC' explained: ''Cheating is an ugly word but it you are penalized then that is effectively what you are doing.''

Head warns of test limit side-effects
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.27) Limits on F1 track testing are a disadvantage for smaller teams, according to Williams' co-owner Patrick Head.

The 60-year-old, doubling as an engineering director, agrees that doing less test miles - such as via the current 36-day voluntary agreement - does cut costs.

However, with the FIA looking to regulate test mileage into the future, Head warned that it could escalate the divide between F1's haves and have-nots if not accompanying rules to nullify huge spending in other areas.

''As testing gets limited more,'' the Briton said, ''it puts more emphasis onto simulation tools, and some of those are pretty expensive.''

After the loss of works partner BMW, Sir Frank Williams' Grove based squad should be seen as an independent in the same mould as Red Bull, Midland and Super Aguri.

As an example, Head explained that the FW28's new seamless gearbox had to be 'de-bugged' on the test track because the team no longer has access to sophisticated dynamometers.

Ralf's spat spills into public arena
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.27) A spat between Ralf Schumacher and estranged former manager Willi Weber has spilled into the public arena.

While Weber continues to work with Ralf's brother Michael, the pair split late last year, with Ralf explaining that he is able to handle his own affairs.

However, while both appeared to feign a enduring friendship, 30-year-old Schumacher has now cried 'enough' in a German media interview.

''Too often has (Weber) said negative things about my family and I,'' Toyota's German pilot said.

Weber handled Ralf's racing career for twelve years, including his rise to formula one with Jordan back in 1997.

But, since their managerial split, Weber has been quoted as pointing a finger at Ralf's wife Cora for exercising an adverse influence over her husband's high speed career.

Aussie autumn to shape F1 tire war
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.27) F1's traveling fraternity will discover a new autumnal Melbourne for the city's grand prix this week.

With the race delayed in 2006 to make room for the Commonwealth Games, it will be the sport's first encounter of Australia outside summer.

Indeed, a somewhat warm week will come over overcast on Friday, with temperatures not expected to rise above 17C on all three days of the event.

Elsewhere in the country, a Red Bull driver fitness camp in the Cairns region - featuring Christian Klien and Tonio Liuzzi - was disrupted by the destructive cyclone 'Larry'.

The weather anomaly has caused a few brows to furrow, such as runners on Bridgestone tires who had looked forward to typically good performance in the country.

''We need some heat (for the tires),'' Williams' Bridgestone clad local racer Mark Webber told the Herald Sun.

Also referring to the unique Australian weather, Bridgestone's tire rival headlined its pre-race media document with the words 'Autumn Should Suit Michelin'.

At a mild Albert Park track on Monday, all the F1 cars - which were being stored at nearby Avalon Airport until the end of the Games' closing ceremony - were expected to arrive.

JV to go 'cautious' in Oz
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.27) BMW Sauber will take a 'cautious' approach to Jacques Villeneuve's grand prix at Albert Park.

The French Canadian's V8 engine failed in Bahrain, before teammate Nick Heidfeld endured a smoky exit from the ensuing Sepang race.

However, unlike Heidfeld whose 'F1.06' is fitted with a fresh power plant, 34-year-old Villeneuve will have to make do with his Malaysia-spec unit on the streets of Melbourne.

''Australia is another circuit that's heavy on engines,'' JV noted, ''so we'll have to exercise a certain amount of caution during the weekend.''

Upgrades for Oz
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.27) Williams' FW28 will be fitted with a new specification of Cosworth V8 engine in Australia.

But the team's technical director Sam Michael warned: ''All teams will have improvements for Albert Park.''

The 'Series-3' power plant was tested last week at Valencia, and features a change that addresses the sort of fiery failure that struck Nico Rosberg's 2.4 liter V8 in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, further down pitlane, F1 newcomer Super Aguri has brought a new front wing to Melbourne for its 'SA05'.

Silverstone's soccer clash solution
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.27) Silverstone has dreamed-up a novel solution to the British GP's clash with world cup football in June this year.

Presumably to deter race fans from staying home to watch the England v Paraguay opener, the F1 circuit says it will show the match live on huge screens just after the final laps of qualifying.

It could mean that up to 65,000 grand prix fans will stick around on pit straight, 'Stowe' and 'Abbey' to follow the soccer action.

To accommodate the plan, the start time for qualifying was moved back to 12.30, making room for a 2pm kick-off.

''There should be a fantastic atmosphere around the circuit,'' track boss Richard Phillips said.

F1 tests end in Europe
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.27) Pre-Melbourne grand prix testing wound up around Europe last Friday.

Williams had a windy Valencia (Spain) track to itself, following the departure of Red Bull.

At Paul Ricard (France), McLaren, Renault, BMW Sauber and Toyota encountered a damp track in the morning after overnight rain, while at Fiorano Ferrari wrapped up a test.

Bernie Ecclestone's Paul Ricard circuit at Le Castellet, meanwhile, will host more F1 action next week.

F1 'freeze' summit at Maranello
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.27) F1's governing body has met with Ferrari, Renault and Cosworth to draw up a rule blueprint for a controversial 'freeze' on V8 engine development.

At Ferrari's Maranello HQ, powerbrokers Max Mosley, Charlie Whiting, Flavio Briatore, Pat Symonds, Jean Todt and Ross Brawn sat down to hammer out a five-year ban on V8 development to cut costs from 2008 on.

Significantly, Renault is a member of the rogue 'GPMA' alliance, but F1 boss Briatore is a Mosley supporter and is thought to have actually devised the engine 'freeze' -- originally a 3-year proposal.

Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper said a broad agreement was reached, amid further suggestions that Mercedes, BMW, Toyota and Honda will imminently sign a new 2008-2012 'Concorde' contract.

Conversely, however, John Howett - a representative of at least one other 'GPMA' carmaker (Toyota) - has been quoted in opposition to the 'freeze'.

He said: ''Three years out is quite a long way to freeze an engine after a very limited period of running with it.''

Max heaps praise on 'Flav'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.27) Whilst softly aiming fire at his usual adversaries, FIA president Max Mosley has lavished praise on Flavio Briatore, the 'playboy' boss of Renault.

Max and Italian 'Flav', 55, are long time allies; the pair even attending a recent meeting to endorse Briatore's controversial engine 'freeze' idea to cut costs.

In his regular column for 'F1 Racing' magazine, Mosley said Briatore must appear to his rivals to effortlessly win titles with inferior team budgets.

And, probably referring to regular foe Ron Dennis' diametrically opposite 'Ron-speak' rambling, Max explained how Briatore always 'comes crisply to the point'.

''It's a pity we don't have a few more like him,'' the Briton mused.

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