Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
 March 29, 2006

Ferrari could struggle in Oz - Brawn
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Ferrari could be in for a tough weekend in chilly Australia, the team's Ross Brawn has warned.

Brawn, technical director, is concerned that - with the race a few weeks late due to the Commonwealth Games - weather reports suggest an autumnal top of about 20C in Melbourne on the weekend of the grand prix.

''I can imagine us having a few difficulties,'' the Briton told Motorsport Aktuell.

Bridgestone-clad Ferrari's '248' was competitive in Bahrain, less so in hot Malaysia, but it is no paddock secret that the Japanese-made tires work better on a warm track.

Part of Bridgestone runners' problem might be that, when the Albert Park-spec tires were selected nearly two weeks ago, the weather forecasts were calling for sunnier skies. Sources suggest that the tires might not be soft enough to cope with colder weather.

Indeed, fellow Bridgestone runner Toyota - more competitive in the Malaysian heat - admitted, through president John Howett, to being a 'bit worried' about a cold Melbourne.

'No pressure' to repeat title - Alonso
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Championship leader Fernando Alonso says he feels 'no pressure' to repeat his 2005 formula one drivers' title this year.

Before switching to McLaren for 2007, the Renault-driving 24-year-old is hot favorite to beat rivals including Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen to the 2006 crown, after notching up a victory and a second place so far.

''I am focusing on the championship with no worries in my mind,'' the Spaniard told reporters at an event for F1's Renault drivers in Tokyo (Japan) before flying to Australia.

He said on Tuesday: ''I don't feel pressure from anybody. As world champion, I don't have anything to prove. (Instead,) I can really enjoy the races.''

Despite losing his ace charge to a rival team, Renault boss Flavio Briatore agrees that Alonso is just as 'hungry' to succeed again.

''I haven't seen any change in him at all,'' said the Italian. ''If anything, he is more mature (but) he's the same guy.''

Webber cools fury at rookie comrade
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Mark Webber says he is no longer angry about a dodgy move pulled by teammate Nico Rosberg in Malaysia ten days ago.

Williams' veteran driver was pushed to the pitlane wall on the Sepang start line by the 20-year-old German; an incident that saw the rookie scolded by the team and both drivers passed by the Renault of Fernando Alonso.

After the race, 29-year-old Webber was furious.

''It was a little bit close,'' he told the Herald Sun in Melbourne this week, ''but when you put your helmet on you take things to the edge.

''Fair play to him for having a crack at it.''

Webber could probably be excused for being frustrated by Rosberg. With a stagnating reputation to recover, Nico - the son of 1982 champion Keke Rosberg - has been a sensational story of the 2006 season.

''Nico has turned out to be superb,'' Webber admitted, ''(but) at the end of the season we'll see who's had the best year.''

Schu's relief at Ferrari revival
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Michael Schumacher says he is relieved that, in 2006, Ferrari is no longer a midfield proposition in formula one.

Last year, the red marque - despite previously winning five drivers' and six constructors' titles on the trot - failed to win a single grand prix except the Bridgestone-only Indianapolis shambles.

With the new '248' car, however, it has not been a dominant return to form, with a second place in Bahrain and a less impressive performance in Malaysia.

But Schumacher, who by the way has appeared topless in a new advert for a mineral water sponsor, expressed relief that Ferrari is at least a contender again.

''That is a good feeling, and probably more than we were expecting after last year,'' said the 37-year-old.

''We are happy about it, and I am sure the fans are too, as they suffered just like we did but kept supporting us.''

Germany's Schumacher is bullish about the Melbourne race, having won the event four times between 2000-2004.

He said: ''It has always been a good track for us, so I am expecting a better result here than in Malaysia.''

F1's 'embarrassing' Fridays
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Ferrari does not particularly like F1's 'Friday' car provision, but Ross Brawn thinks without them in 2006 the sport would be 'genuinely embarrassed'.

How so? In the context of the two-race engine penalty rule, and the brand new 2.4 liter V8s, crowd favorite Mark Webber - and other main players of the formula one circus - will hardly turn a lap at Albert Park on Friday.

Instead, names including Markus Winkelhock, Robert Kubica, Robert Doornbos and Neel Jani - relative unknowns even to some regular fans - will rack up the miles; and not even race on Sunday.

Webber told the Herald Sun: ''There is a huge chance I won't even drive.''

Williams' Australian driver said putting valuable miles on fragile engines, given the penalties for failures and some teams' option of running a 'Friday' pilot, would be 'senseless'.

New qualifying here to stay - Bernie
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Bernie Ecclestone says F1's new 'knockout' qualifying is here to stay.

''Basically, it is a success,'' the F1 supremo told Kicker, probably tempering his enthusiasm with the possible need for a tweak or two following the first few GPs of 2006.

But the 75-year-old Englishman said: ''You can't keep changing (the format) every 5 minutes.''

In the same interview, Ecclestone outlined his desire to reduce testing to a maximum of six days per year, and make Friday a four hour test day at grands prix.

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