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Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 March 28, 2006


Webber launches new challenge
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.28) In Melbourne on Tuesday, Williams' F1 driver unveiled plans for a second 'Mark Webber Challenge' in Tasmania.

In 2003, the Australian staged an unique hiking, kayaking and cycling contest - with a few celebrities on board - in the rugged outback.

The 2006 edition of the cancer fundraiser will be run in November this year.

Later on Tuesday, 30-year-old Webber will head to Kooyong, to take on F1 rivals like Fernando Alonso at tennis.

In an interview in the city, Mark ruled out winning his first race on the Albert Park layout.

''Well, obviously it would be very spectacular, but we're a fair way off yet,'' he said.

''Renault are the form team at the moment and we've got a lot to do before we start winning.''









JV's jab at 'pointless' Friday
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.28) Jacques Villeneuve is no fan of regulations that turn Friday practice into a F1 farce.

The French Canadian, who won the championship in 1997, warned spectators planning to go to Albert Park on Friday to expect very little action -- unless they're interested in non-race 'Friday' testers.

''Friday is pointless,'' the BMW Sauber driver said, referring to the two-race engine rule that has been exacerbated in 2006 by the doubtful reliability of the new V8s.

Villeneuve, already in Melbourne, told the local Herald Sun: ''It's not really a fair thing for the fans or the teams. The fans come (but) they don't care about third drivers.''









GPMA not dead yet - spokesman
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.28) A GPMA spokesman has rebuked reports that its threatened 'breakaway' championship is now dead.

After BMW, Mercedes, Renault, Toyota and Honda lodged their 2008 entry forms with the FIA, some revelers rejoiced that it nailed the final coffin into a long standing power struggle.

However, although the news is undoubtedly positive, 'GPMA' is yet to put pen to paper on a new commercial (Concorde) agreement, and probably only signed up so as to have a say about controversial new rules like the proposed V8 'freeze'.

Spokesman Xander Heijnen said: ''It is too early (to say). There are some open issues left (to resolve).''









JV's warning for 'amazing' Webber
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.28) Mark Webber's formula one career could stagnate if he spends much more time in the midfield.

That's the warning of 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, who won 11 times before 1998 but has failed to add to the tally in the intervening eight years.

''If you spend too many years in a car that can't win,'' the 34-year-old told 'AAP' in Melbourne, ''the day you're in one ... you're not used to it.''

Canadian JV, however, is a Webber supporter, claiming that the dip in the Australian's reputation is probably related to his 'amazing' qualifying skills.

BMW-Sauber driver Villeneuve said: ''His qualifying (skills are) so good that it makes his racing look not so good.''

But while Mark Webber is a solid feature of the Williams team, Jacques expressed doubt about how his title-winning camp could keep up with its rivals in 2006.

Cosworth-powered Williams got off to a strong start this year, but the real test will be matching the development strength of hugely-funded carmaker teams.

JV predicted: ''I think the longer the season goes, the more difficult they'll find it.''









Schu step-brother finds race spotlight
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.28) Believe it or not, another relative of F1's Michael Schumacher is about to hit the world motor racing scene.

With brother Ralf also on the grand prix grid, and sister-in-law Cora now a money-earning racer, the Schumacher siblings' step-brother Sebastian Stahl is to grace the 'A1' open wheel circuit for Germany.

27-year-old Stahl - predictably nicknamed 'Schumi 3' - is the son of (Michael and Ralf's father) Rolf Schumacher's second wife.

The German 'A1' team, incidentally, is run by Michael Schumacher's long time manager Willi Weber.









Gascoyne joins qualifying dissent
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.28) Mike Gascoyne has backed former boss Flavio Briatore's criticism of the final top-ten portion of F1's new 'knockout' qualifying.

Briatore, Renault chief, proposed this week that rule makers tweak the novel format to eliminate the 20 minute 'fuel-burn' anomaly.

''When everyone is driving around getting fuel down, (it) is not particularly interesting,'' Gascoyne - formerly at Renault but now Toyota's technical director - said.

''That may need readjusting but overall (the format) is definitely an improvement.''









Honda and Super Aguri
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.28) 'Super Aguri' members have eased speculation that Japanese engine partner Honda has reneged support for the fledgling formula one squad.

It was rumored in F1 circles that Honda, the team's V8 engine partner and engineering/commercial sponsor, had got cold feet about associating itself with a 'b'-style outfit.

However, team manager Daniele Audetto, a veteran of the sport, told f1.com that of the current staff of 90 at Leafield HQ, fourteen - or 15 per cent - are dedicated Honda personnel.

He insisted: ''We also have strong support from Honda in Japan.''

Audetto explained that, in addition to engine supply, Honda - with its Brackley based works team also on the grid - contribute electronics, software and engineering support.

''They have been invaluable in the development of the team, in every aspect,'' Daniele added.









Renault duo eye F1's big prize
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.28) Fernando Alonso is feeling bullish about backing up his 2005 triumph with another title.

Renault's Spaniard, who will switch to McLaren next year, said he is confident the two-time winning 'R26' can be just as quick everywhere in the '06 season.

''It is a difficult feeling to explain,'' Alonso, 24, said on the eve of the Melbourne event, ''but having seen what the car can do (in Bahrain and Malaysia), I don't have any doubts that we can win the championship again.''

According to Fernando's boss and manager, however, he might face a new title challenger for the end-of-year trophy; last-start winner and Renault teammate, Giancarlo Fisichella.

Team principal Flavio Briatore admits that '80 per cent' of the Roman's problems last year were Renault's fault.

''He needs the luck, yes,'' said the Italian, ''but that comes when you are strong and take risks, because you believe in yourself.''









Barrichello baulked at Ferrari 'limit'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.28) Honda's Rubens Barrichello says he left Ferrari because the red-colored team did not give him the 'same attention' as champion Michael Schumacher.

The 33-year-old, enduring a difficult start at his 2006 squad, admitted in Melbourne that he decided to leave Maranello because he exhausted the level of support available to him.

''All the attention is on Michael,'' Barrichello explained, ''(but) I worked very hard to overcome that fact.''

He said: ''I think I did quite well, but every year I improved and improved but I got to a limit.

''(And) if they don't give me the same attention I can't do much.''

Rubens said becoming world champion is impossible without a team's undivided support.

He also thinks the red team, after Rubens' dismal final season at Ferrari, can now come good.

''We were always on top,'' Barrichello said, referring to the fact that 2005 was the only season in his tenure in which Ferrari did not win a world title.

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