2006 Monte Carlo Grand Prix - Race 7/18

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Drivers wary of risky Monaco qualifying

Honda's Rubens Barrichello believes a different qualifying system should have been introduced for the Monaco Grand Prix to avoid dangerous situations.

All 22 cars will run together in a first 15-minute session on Saturday, before the slowest six are removed, and with hardly any space to let faster cars pass, drivers are expecting a very tough session.

Amid fears the new knockout format could pose more of a risk than ever on the tight streets of the principality, Barrichello has voiced his concerns too, saying the Monte Carlo even should have used a different system.

"Honestly, I think we should have a different qualifying (system) here because probably five percent of us won't say anything about qualifying, that we had a free lap, and the rest will all be (talking about) traffic, even in the last session," the Brazilian told a press conference.

"Probably not as much in qualifying three, but first qualifying is going to be like hell, really. You really need to give a lot of space to people on Thursday and see if they remember that on Saturday and let it go, because if somebody goes out of the pits, just thinking about life, it's going to be quite dangerous in a way.

"If you're going to go flat out up through Casino Square, from there on you can give some space."

Italian Jarno Trulli, a winner at the Monaco Grand Prix two years ago, also believes qualifying could be chaotic.

"We are a little bit concerned. We know that Monaco so far has always been a difficult circuit on which to qualify well without traffic and on Saturday, we will be around 22 cars out there," said Trulli.

"I think that's too many to find a good clear lap, especially the first two qualifying sessions, which will be really really difficult.

"We've had some troubles already in the past races and I am sure we will have some troubles during this race and qualifying.

"And we all know that qualifying in Monaco is so important because overtaking is nearly impossible. So I think there will be a big fight in order to find a clear lap and try to play a good strategy, not only for the race but also for qualifying and I'm sure someone will unfortunately pay and some others will be a bit luckier.

"But we will see. For sure I expect a tough Saturday afternoon."
 
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Rossi says no to Formula One

MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi has ruled out driving in Formula One in the near future, ending months of speculation about his plans.

The Italian rider, who has been linked with a move to F1 with the Ferrari team, was thankful to the Italian squad for the opportunity to get behind the wheel of their car several times.

Rossi, however, said he still has unfinished business in in MotoGP.

"No F1, at least for now. I'm staying in motorbikes," Rossi said in a statement to the Italian press. "It's been a wonderful experience from a technical point of view, and especially from a personal one: I was able to meet some exceptional people.

"I thank (Ferrari president Luca di) Montezemolo, (team boss Jean) Todt and the entire team for the great opportunity I was given.

"I feel that my work in motorbikes hasn't finished yet: I still have many stimuli and I will carry on in MotoGP for a while longer. I wish Ferrari will reach the objective they've set for themselves and which coincides with mine: to win the world title."

The 27-year-old has a contract with Yamaha until the end of the season.

Hooray!
 
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Alonso welcomes end of Rossi speculation

World champion Fernando Alonso welcomed the news that Valentino Rossi will not switch to Formula One in the near future.

"Good. Like this we don't talk anything more about him," the Spaniard told reporters at the Monaco Grand Prix, after Rossi had announced he plans to continue racing in MotoGP.

"After four months, maybe this is the last question (I face about him)," added the Spaniard, who had said in the past Rossi was wasting Ferrari's time with his tests.

Rossi had been courted by Ferrari and has impressed in several increasingly serious tests with the Formula One glamour team over the last year.

Ferrari are waiting to hear whether seven times world champion Michael Schumacher, now 37, wants to continue next year and have also been strongly linked to McLaren's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen for 2007.

Team boss Jean Todt said testing Rossi had been a pleasure for Ferrari.

"It was a pleasure giving him the chance to try out a Ferrari racing car," Todt told ANSA. "All those who worked with him were struck by his ability to adapt to Formula One, by his talent and courtesy."

"Now we will follow with great affection his MotoGP challenge, hoping that he can get what he so richly deserves."

Rossi, winner for the last five years in a row in the top category, has endured his worst start to a season and is currently languishing in eighth place after five races.
 
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Schumacher 'sad' about Rossi's decision

Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher says he is sad Valentino Rossi decided to turn his back on Formula One to stay in MotoGP.

"In a way we are sad not to see him here. On the other side, it's understandable," the German told reporters at the Monaco Grand Prix.

"Probably he thinks he knows what he has in his world and it may be a little bit more difficult to know the world of Formula One and how he may adapt to all the different circumstances, although I think he has a very high talent and could have done it in terms of driving.

"But then it's not only the driving, there's a lot of other things besides," said Schumacher.

The Italian's decision not to try and follow in the footsteps of Briton John Surtees, the motorcycle world champion who won the Formula One crown with Ferrari in 1964, ended a long guessing game about his future.

Ferrari are waiting to hear whether seven times world champion Schumacher, now 37, wants to continue in 2007 and have been linked to McLaren's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen.

With Rossi out of the picture, Ferrari's 2007 line-up is likely to be Raikkonen - if the rumours are true - with either Schumacher or his teammate Felipe Massa.

The Brazilian, whose contract with Ferrari ends this season, said he was never pressured by Rossi's decision.

"Valentino has made his choice. He undoubtedly did a good job, but from there to becoming a racing driver - and especially a Ferrari one - there was still a big gap to close," said Massa.

"In any case he's never been a ghost for me. Many said he would have taken my place, but I didn't think he would."
 
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Rossi: It was a pleasure, says Todt

Following Valentino Rossi's announcement that he will not be switching to four-wheels in the foreseeable future, and his public acknowledgement of Ferrari's help, team boss Jean Todt commented on the Italian's decision.

"It was a pleasure giving him the chance to try out a Ferrari racing car," said the Frenchman, according to ANSA. "All those who worked with him were struck by his ability to adapt to Formula One, by his talent and courtesy."

"Now we will follow with great affection his MotoGP challenge, hoping that he can get what he so richly deserves."

With Rossi now out of the frame all eyes are on Michael Schumacher to see if he will remain in F1 for another season, though the German is not scheduled to make a decision until later in the year.
 
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Wednesday's press conference - Monaco

Participating: Rubens Barrichello (Honda), David Coulthard (Red Bull), Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren), Jarno Trulli (Toyota), Alexander Wurz (Williams).

Q. Alex, this is very much your home race; what's it like for you and your family when the race comes to town?

Alexander Wurz: I've been here for nine years, I live here now with my family. My kid is going to school above us here. I brought him there this morning, then went down to the race team. It's kind of a bit strange. I remember four years ago picking him up from hospital when he was born on race day so I have quite some memories.

But at the end of the day, when you live here and the race is coming here, it's actually a pain in the butt because you have no more parking because the guardrails are being built up, it confuses the traffic, everyone gets a bit more stressed, hectic, the prices go up in the restaurants so I prefer the calmer time of December and January.

Q. It's going to get more hectic over the next few days; what's it going to be like for the third drivers tomorrow?

AW: Well, the track usually starts off very slippery here in Monaco so actually we are just vacuum-cleaners for the other guys here, so they have fun on the rubbered-in circuit whereas we are sliding around a lot. I remember from last year the first session is really slow and you have to be very aware of this. One is always really tempted to push but the circuit is getting so much quicker.

Every time you come into the pits and you wait five minutes the other guys go one or two seconds quicker in the first session so that makes it a bit tricky because all the time you want to go out and be quickest, of course. But you have to be aware that the moment to set the best lap time is always at the end of the Thursday, and then it's going be really hectic out there.

I believe everyone is aware that many drivers are a bit afraid of qualifying but in my situation I don't have that problem. I'm afraid of not having enough free track on Thursday afternoon.

Q. What's qualifying going to be like with the slower drivers?

AW: I'm sure all the other four guys here will tell you more about it. I wish I had the problem to have traffic in qualifying but it's not my business at the moment. If I could sit here on Saturday and complain about traffic I would race and that would be fine for me.

Q. Rubens, another year older, 34 yesterday, it's always Monaco Grand Prix time...

Rubens Barrichello: Yeah, it's become a habit! You know when you get older, you don't have to party any more. It's just one more year. But I enjoyed my birthday very much, yesterday. I wasn't working actually so it was nice to be with the family. For the first time, we made a cake. It was OK.

Q. Qualifying seems to be going a lot better now; what about the racing?

RB: Well, in all honesty, I think Barcelona would have been a lot better. Although I saw a lot of people talking about Jenson being held up by me, I don't think there was much truth in that. We had our pace there. He might have gone a little bit faster but it wouldn't have changed his race.

I lost five to six seconds on the way to the pits because of the (fuel) pressure, the fuel wasn't picking up and so when I came into the pits, I still had some fuel left and I stopped, and because they didn't know what the problem was, they kept on putting a lot of fuel in the car, and so I finished with a little bit more than what we thought and the car became heavier.

The pace wasn't there because of that. Otherwise, I think the two cars would have been close to Raikkonen's but there was no way to finish in front of him and that's the story. But I think Barcelona was a step forward in terms of overall pace.

Q. What about here, with a good qualifying position?

RB: Well, qualifying is definitely good and I think the car could actually work quite well here. The problem is going to be just being on the track at the right time. Honestly, I think we should have a different qualifying (system) for here because probably five percent of us won't say anything about qualifying, that we had a free lap, and the rest will all be (talking about) traffic, even in the last session.

Probably not as much in qualifying three, but first qualifying is going to be like hell, really. You really need to give a lot of space to people on Thursday and see if they remember that on Saturday and let it go, because if somebody goes out of the pits, just thinking about life, it's going to be quite dangerous in a way. If you're going to go flat out up through Casino Square, from there on you can give some space.

Q. Now the rest of you in the front row have all won this race before and I know that all of you have said afterwards what a very special victory it is. Can you just talk through how special it is to win here, and why?

David Coulthard: I think it's obvious to everyone who is here that this is a more challenging track because you have less room of a margin for error, and depending on the pace of your car in any particularly Grand Prix, depends on just how hard you have had to push for the entire race.

I think, looking at last year's race, Kimi was able to quite comfortable do the last stint, so he probably wasn't under a great deal of pressure, but if you're having to push the whole time, then you get into a sort of trance when you're driving around here, sometimes being a little bit confused as to whether you're driving through the barriers or round them.

That's the sort of zone you're getting into; certainly I was! So when you come out the other side, it is such a tremendous feeling of achievement. I think every driver would, if he could pick a Grand Prix to win, he would want to win in Monaco.

Jarno Trulli: I agree with David. This is the Grand Prix of the season: the atmosphere is nice - there are so many things. It's got history and as David says, it's not easy to win. It's probably much easier to lose than win and anything can happen. Qualifying is very important, to start in front of the grid, but we've also seen in the past that sometimes it doesn't help.

At the end of the day, you really need to make everything work properly during the race, and try to do your best, and eventually you might win the race if you do it properly, because during the race, you can never give up, you can never slow down, you always have to be concentrated and it's quite a long Grand Prix as well.

It's not easy because you're not actually on a circuit, you're on a street circuit and you don't have any margin for mistakes, nothing, so you're really tied up with what you're doing and you have to make sure you do it right, all the way through the weekend. It's nice because of the atmosphere, so many people. As an Italian as well. Italy's just next (door), there are always a lot of supporters for Ferrari and the Italian drivers.

Juan Pablo Montoya: I think it's a little bit of everything. It's a great circuit and it's got history. It's Monaco, the atmosphere and it's a challenge. What Jarno said is very true: the build-up throughout the weekend is very important and if you have the pace, it's easier to lose the race than win it. For tradition, it's probably the nicest race you can win.

Q. Now Juan Pablo, you've been involved in some charity work today; can you tell us a bit about it?

JPM: It's been going on for the last couple of years to be honest. We look after 2000 children already and it's going really well. We're promoting sports through it and today was really good news because we got $75,000 from the Steinmetz diamond helmet from last year so it's great, it's a really big boost for the foundation and we get a lot of support for it in Colombia too.

Quite a few drivers went for the go-kart race last year and we raised quite good money from it, so it's been going really well. My wife works a lot on it and it's great, it's great to give something back and for me something back to Colombia, my country, makes it very special.

Q. The situation within the team is somewhat complex as we go through the....

JPM: Not really. I think the situation in the team is really quite good at the moment. We are all focused on doing the job we have to do, trying to make the car better. What's happening next year? I don't know, probably Kimi doesn't know, probably nobody knows at the moment and I think the situation that the press is trying to create… it's, you know, oh this and that and who is staying?

Within the team it's very good, you know. I'm focusing and I've been doing a lot of work the last few weeks with the test in Paul Ricard which went really well and I think we're finding our feet a little bit. Yes, we know we need to improve in a lot of areas still but the direction is good and the spirit is good. That is the most important thing.

Q. Jarno we were talking about qualifying a moment ago; what are your feelings about it?

JT: My feeling is similar to everyone here, that we have to qualify on Saturday because we are a little bit concerned. We know that Monaco so far has always been a difficult circuit on which to qualify well without traffic and on Saturday, we will be around 22 cars out there, I think too many to find a good clear lap, especially the first two qualifying sessions which will be really really difficult. We've had some troubles already in the past races and I am sure we will have some troubles during this race and qualifying.

And we all know that qualifying in Monaco is so important because overtaking is nearly impossible. So I think there will be a big fight in order to find a clear lap and try to play a good strategy, not only for the race but also for qualifying and I'm sure someone will unfortunately pay and some others will be a bit luckier. But we will see. For sure I expect a tough Saturday afternoon.

Q. Watching the two Toyotas in Barcelona in the early stages, then the collision; what was happening, what was the reaction?

JT: It was very unfortunate that we collided at the first corner. I think it was a bit of a misunderstanding there between me and Ralf because I didn't expect him to attack me at the end of the straight but anyway, so far the team lets us fight as far as we can. Obviously, they don't like it if the two cars collide together.

At that stage, Ralf was quicker than me because I was on old tyres which were graining and Ralf started with new tyres. It was a bit unfortunate and I just hope we don't have these kind of problems any more.

Q. Was there any consideration whereby you might have let him go through because he was quicker?

JT: We can probably agree… as the drivers, we can probably do something but at the moment, me and Ralf will probably talk together and see what happens, because there might be some occasions, like the last race, where one driver is having a problem and the other is doing well. It's not the first time that that has happened to me or to him so we might swap positions and at the end of the race, we might swap back again.

Q. David, looking forward, what are your feelings about Silverstone?

DC: Well, obviously second home Grand Prix and home of British motor sport! Obviously we would like to be in a more competitive situation than we are right now. Maybe something will change in the Barcelona test next week, but otherwise we just have to go and do the best we can.

Q. Have you got bits and pieces coming for Silverstone?

DC: We've got some test items for Barcelona but obviously they need to be proven. I think it's very unlikely that we're going to find something that is going to elevate us in the short term up to the pacesetters.

Q. Is it possible to catch up to those ahead of you?

DC: Of course it's possible. As I have said to you before, racing drivers have balls but none of them are crystal, so I can't see into the future. But we're working hard like every other team is, to try to develop our package.

Questions From The Floor

Q. (Heinz Prueller - ORF) Gentlemen because it is such a very special Grand Prix and a special circuit, I would like to ask each one of you for your personal opinion -- which is the most critical, the most dangerous and most difficult spot on the track here and what is your favourite overtaking spot, if any?

JPM: Every part of the circuit is different and challenging. You know, you have Casino; that is very challenging; and you have Tabac; and the swimming pool, which is very fast. And dangerous? There is none.

You know, you make a mistake and you hit the wall and that is it. Get out of the car and deal with it. Overtaking is about impossible. If somebody makes a mistake you might be able to pass, but even when they make a mistake they can recover here.

JT: I agree with Juan Pablo. Challenging? It's challenging a bit everywhere because, in a way, it is a street circuit and, so, each corner changes every lap basically. The one, which I like most -- the spot, the corner which I find the most challenging -- is probably the swimming pool, which is a very quick corner and technical and difficult, a little bit everywhere.

(An) overtaking manoeuvre around here is nearly impossible and I remember, last year, I was following one Renault, which was three seconds a lap slower and I found it very difficult to overtake. That's it. That's Monaco.

DC: There are only two corners where you have any room for error, which are into the chicane and, well, into both chicanes! After the tunnel and the swimming pool… And all the other corners are individual and challenging in their own way.

As Jarno says, the swimming pool complex is the fastest section that we have so, you know, you often leave there thinking you could have gone a bit quicker, but like so much of this track you don't really see the corner until you arrive at the apex so that makes it quite difficult and challenging in its own way.

Overtake? I think you saw Nick was able to overtake into the chicane last year and I think a few others did that as well, other than that I think it is very difficult to overtake anywhere else here.

RB: Well, I think it is a very difficult circuit and it is dangerous everywhere probably and it is very special and all because of that… At the beginning of the year, I asked a friend, who races IRL, where he would like to race in Formula One and he told me Monaco. That is because it makes it special.

So, actually this weekend, I am racing his colours in this Grand Prix and I am racing in Indianapolis this weekend - there will be a car there with my colours – and this is just because Monaco is so special and I think Indianapolis is special, as well, that we swapped colours for the weekend. I don't think there is any place for overtaking and it is dangerous everywhere, but it is funny.

Casino Square is probably the best place.

AW: I think that the most challenging parts of Monaco are next to the circuit and not on the circuit.

Q. What do you mean by that?

AW: I can't possibly talk about this because I am married.

Q. (Dan Knutson, National Speed Sport News) For Rubens. First of all, when you say colours, do you mean helmet colours?

RB: Yeah.

Q. (Dan Knutson, National Speed Sport News) And secondly, you can always learn more about the team and the car and the tyres, but where do you feel you are now in that learning process?

RB: I think the team has been working very hard. If people think the results have been sad for me, and I have not been up to it, I could prove that I have been working hard. I was not happy with the brakes to start with and it was only very unlucky that we qualified badly in Australia because of the traffic. Having said that, since then there has been an improvement and it is getting better all the time, but I am still not completely happy with the car in the way that it performs in a race especially with the traction control.

Honda is working very hard and we have been testing new items every time we go to the track and we know the car is fast everywhere we go and we know we have to keep the pace for the race, but I am feeling very good and this is one of the places where I think we can perform very well and in the team everything is running very smoothly.

Q. (David Croft, BBC Radio 5) Good afternoon, gentlemen. Another question for Rubens. I remember you saying, in Australia, that you found it difficult coming into the team with a car that was predominantly set up for Jenson's style of driving. With your improvements in the last few races, have you had to change your driving style?

RB: There is a time when you have to get used to things. It is not just jumping from one car to another. The car had, predominantly, the brakes and the traction control working the same – and you have difference in balance, in the way that you drive the car and the position and everything -- but it was completely different on the brake system. I attack the brakes harder than Jenson and I wasn't feeling the bite of the brakes.

To be honest, it was a bit of a lack of experience within the team. In testing, I kept on saying 'the brakes, the brakes, the brakes' and they said 'ok, for the race, we are going to have new items and everything is going to be good' and, when the race came, everything was the same; and that is why I took so long and, after two or three races, when we tested new components, we actually found something; and then I improved that.

I got used to the car up to a point, but I told them that if the car didn't come my way I was only going to be driving behind Jenson because I had to learn how he was driving the car. So, I am sure that, with the things I have been developing, it will help him eventually win a race as well. So, it is a mountain that we are both climbing.

Q. (Dan Knutson, National Speed Sport News) Juan this is the one time of the year when you guys come close to walls, but in Indycar racing you came close to walls a lot on ovals. How does it compare?

JPM: Well, there is no (nothing to) compare… In America, there are still about six or seven street courses, so, there, it was a normal thing to do a street course whereas here it is the only one we do so ‘pow!' kind of thing you know. It is a shame we don't do more, but it is quite exciting.
 
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McLaren's diamond wheel raises 400,000 dollars

Four charities have been nominated to receive 400,000 dollars following a unique collaboration to create a diamond-encrusted steering wheel for the McLaren-Mercedes Formula One team's 40th anniversary.

The wheel, which includes round, brilliantly cut, white and natural diamonds encrusted into the Mercedes-Benz star, was unveiled here Wednesday in the build-up to this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix.

It is the latest in a series of unusual collaborations between diamond experts Steinmetz and McLaren - last year they created diamond racing helmets, which have now been sold for 400,000 dollars.

The money is going to four charities - The Senna Foundation, Tommy's, Formula Smiles and SOS Kinderdorf International.

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McLaren and Steinmetz add ice to sparkling 40th birthday

Team McLaren Mercedes and Steinmetz unveiled their latest collaboration earlier today in the build-up to the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix. Steinmetz has worked in conjunction with Team McLaren Mercedes’ engineers to manufacture a Diamond steering wheel. The Mercedes-Benz star on both Kimi Raikkonen's and Juan Pablo Montoya's steering wheels have been emblazoned with round, brilliant cut, white, natural diamonds, expertly cut by Steinmetz, creating a visual impact inside the cockpit never seen before.

To announce the creation of the Diamond steering wheels, Steinmetz commissioned the creation of an exact replica of this year’s Team McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 car, made from two tonnes of ice, into which Kimi Raikkonen, the ‘Iceman’, climbed. The ‘Iceman’, in his ice car, with his ‘iced’ steering wheel – a suitable way to announce to the world Steinmetz and Team McLaren Mercedes’ new Formula 1 creation.

Steinmetz, creators of the world’s finest diamonds, and Team McLaren Mercedes are both leaders in their respective fields, which although very different, rely on many similar principles. Flawless engineering, groundbreaking design and unparalleled performance are all traits the partners share in common.

Nir Livnat, CEO of Steinmetz, “We are extremely proud to have worked with Team McLaren Mercedes on such a truly bespoke and unique creation. Not only is it personal to the driver and fundamental in the racing of the car, but it also shows the expert level of patience, craftsmanship and engineering that is necessary for cutting and polishing diamonds. We hope that the steering wheels help the Team McLaren Mercedes drivers steer their way to another victory this year”

This collaboration marks the continuation of the relationship between Team McLaren Mercedes and Steinmetz which began in Monaco, with the creation of Steinmetz’s Diamond Helmets last year. The helmets have now been sold and $400.000 have been raised for four charities nominated by Kimi, Juan Pablo and Ron Dennis; 'The Senna Foundation', 'Tommy's', 'Formula Smiles' and 'SOS Kinderdorf International'.

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Stick with Jacques, GP veteran tells BMW

Former grand prix driver Hans-Joachim Stuck has advised BMW-Sauber to stick with Jacques Villeneuve for the 2007 season.

The 55-year-old German, who contested 74 grands prix in the 70s, insisted that he is 'not surprised' that Villeneuve is keeping up with teammate Nick Heidfeld.

''I've always been a fan of his,'' Stuck, referring to the French-Canadian who in 1997 won the championship, told the Credit Suisse 'emagazine'.

''I believe he is an important part of the team.''

Stuck, son of the great pre-World War II driver Hans Stuck, therefore hopes that BMW resist the urge to replace 35-year-old 'JV' with Friday tester Robert Kubica.

On the other hand, he reckons the F1 clock of 105-grand prix veteran Nick Heidfeld 'is ticking'.

''(Nick) is still waiting for his first win,'' Stuck said, ''and if he doesn't become champion with BMW, he probably won't get another opportunity.''
 
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Montagny confirms extended Aguri stay

Super Aguri sub Franck Montagny has confirmed reports that he will race beyond Sunday's Monaco GP.

The Frenchman, who recently replaced the team's axed race driver Yuji Ide, said on Wednesday that he is set to also appear at the upcoming Silverstone, Montreal and Indianapolis events.

Monte Carlo is the 28-year-old former Renault tester's third race in F1.

'A strong showing in the coming events could see the team extend his contract even further,' a report on Montagny's website said, referring specifically to his upcoming home race at Magny Cours.
 
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Bernie wants a Rossi, says Hill

Bernie Ecclestone was 'unfair' to criticise Fernando Alonso for not doing enough as world champion.

That is the belief of formula one's title winner of ten years ago, England's Damon Hill, who instead shifted the blame onto F1 for producing bland drivers.

Hill told Reuters: ''But I understand what Bernie's saying -- I think he is saying why can't Fernando Alonso be more like Valentino Rossi.''

Indeed, the Bernie-Rossi connection is pretty sound. F1's supremo is desperate for a larger-than-life character in the MotoGP champion's mould, and is actively urging Ferrari or another team to help Rossi make the switch.

Notably, at the Laureus awards on Monday night, Rossi took his 'Spirit of Sport' prize - for raising the profile of the motorcycling series - from Ecclestone himself.

But Hill said that in ultra-professional F1, doing-a-Rossi is harder.

The 45-year-old continued: ''To win at this level requires total dedication (but that) does not bring about a well-rounded personality.''
 
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Button could win Brit GP, says Hill

Jenson Button could secure his first ever grand prix win at Silverstone next month.

That was the rallying cry of Damon Hill on Tuesday, as the new president of the circuit-owning 'BRDC' urged the public to buy tickets for the June race.

With a clashing World Cup and an earlier date than usual, the 2006 British grand prix in just over two weeks is not expected to sell out.

Indeed, the race's promoters are now pleading with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone to restore the mid-July date for 2007.

Perhaps Hill, the 1996 world champion, thinks the prospect of his countryman on the podium will spur a few more ticket sales into action.

'He's under pressure to get that elusive first win,' Hill said at a London hotel, 'and if Honda can move up a few places in Monaco, (Button) could definitely make it on to the podium at Silverstone and maybe even get his first win.

'It's a serious possibility.'

While last year's event sold 100,000 tickets, just 80,000 fans are expected to turn out in 2006.
 
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Ferrari join race to lure Symonds

Another team has reportedly joined a hunt to lure Pat Symonds from Renault.

Honda and McLaren were initially thought to be fishing for the highly-experienced engineer, who was part not only of Renault's recent success, but that of Benetton back in the 90s.

Also lauded for his skills relating to race strategy, the Briton - with the title Executive Director of Engineering' - is now the target of Ferrari, according to the Stuttgart-based Auto Motor Und Sport magazine.

Symonds' time at his current team stretches back to when it was called Toleman, where he was race engineer to a notable youngster by the name of Ayrton Senna.

He later fulfilled a similar role alongside Michael Schumacher, as the German driver won his first World Championships for Benetton.
 
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Ralf Schumacher dampens Monaco prestige

Ralf Schumacher has played down the prestige of the Monaco Grand Prix for formula one's drivers.

The German, a staunch opponent of the street circuit's lagging safety standards, agreed that - for some - the historic event is the jewel in F1's crown.

"For the media and VIPs, Monaco is the ultimate stage," the Toyota driver said. "But for us drivers it is just another race on our busy annual calendar (and) it's not really my favourite track."

Schumacher crashed heavily during qualifying in the Swimming Pool section last year, and had to start the race from the rear.

"There are hardly any run-off zones, and errors are nearly always punished by the Armco," he added.
 
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Red Bull adopt 'Superman' theme

Red Bull is hoping that a red cape and Kryptonite can help its F1 team find form in Monaco this weekend.

The energy drink-owned squad, formerly racing in the Jaguar/Ford guise, will continue the recent tradition of promoting a new movie in the famous Principality.

Last year, a Star Wars theme was adopted, which saw mechanics dressed as Storm Troopers while the car was dressed in a special livery.

In 2006, new Hollywood blockbuster 'Superman Returns' will get the Red Bull treatment, with the team currently putting the final touches on a spectacular adaptation to its huge motor home, which is floating in the Monte Carlo harbour.

The Energy Station's front entrance now resembles the headquarters of Clark Kent's 'Daily Planet' building.

Red Bull and Jaguar also promoted the 'Terminator 3' and 'Ocean's Twelve' movies.

Kevin Spacey, who acts in the Superman remake, is tipped to attend the race as a Red Bull guest.

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Irvine walks out on Soccer Aid

With more of a whimper than a bang, Eddie Irvine has walked out on Soccer Aid, a fundraiser for UNICEF.

Irvine was scheduled to be part of the 'Rest of the World' team that facing an 'England' eleven in a charity football match including such luminaries as Robbie Williams and, erm, some other vaguely famous people.

However, Irvine walked out on the show, to be broadcast by ITV, after being kicked by former Westlife crooner Bryan McFadden during 'training'.

Without so much as a 'goodbye' or a 'thanks for having me, good luck with the game', Irv swerved out of the show.

"You don't enter a horse into the Grand National with only three legs so what's the point?" was the extent of his farewell.

Presumably, the prospect of being tended to by the loving embrace of reputed beau Pamela Anderson will sufficiently console Eddie. Rumours continue to abound that the pair will make an appearance this weekend in the Monaco paddock.
 
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Hakkinen joins Goodwood line-up

Mika Hakkinen has become the sixth former Formula One world champion to agree to be part of this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed.

The Finn will be present at the Festival on two days of the event - Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 July. He is expected to drive a range of Mercedes racing cars up the hill.

Hakkinen is the latest world champion to join a stellar line-up for this year's event - and will join Nigel Mansell, Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Damon Hill, Alan Jones and John Surtees.

Hakkinen currently races in the German DTM championship, which will race 90 miles away at Brands Hatch the preceding weekend.

The Festival's Forest Rally stage is also expected to have Colin McRae, Hannu Mikkola, Petter Solberg, Stig Blomqvist and Bjorn Waldegaard taking part.

Reigning Touring car champions Andy Priaulx (WTCC), Matt Neal (BTCC) and Gary Paffett DTM) will also be present at the event, which runs from July 7 to 9 this year.

"It's just fantastic to have so many champions here at Goodwood this year to celebrate our theme, which is 'Racing for Glory - A Century of Grands Prix'," said Festival organiser Lord March.

"It's great to welcome so many winners of the 'grand prizes' of motorsport."
 
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Riiight, deep breath and here we go....

Montoya offered another year? Better the devil you know I suppose, de la Rosa didn't really shine when he got a race chance last year and neither Paffet or Hamilton really have the racing experience yet. Alonso/Montoya for 2007 and Alonso/Hamilton in 2008 seems a reasonable bet now.

Rossi says no - unsurprising to be honest. I'd like to know how much it's cost Ferrari to woo him and whether they reckon it was good value for money.

Sato calls for big push from SA - good plan, might be quicker than using the engine ;)

McLaren steering wheel - diamond encrusted bits seem to be a McLaren tradition at Monaco these days after Kimi's Ice Man helmet last year. I doubt they'll race it though, could be a bit expensive if Kimi stuffs the car and a light fingered marshall disappears with the wheel.

Ice Man in the ice car - oooo that's gotta be cold :D

Ralf on Monaco - simple solution, if you don't like it, don't drive. Otherwise just shut up you moaning wee so and so.

Mika at Goodwood - Woohoo! Maximum Attack in a W196, can't wait :D
 

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Jaguar did the diamond thing with Ocean's Twelve in 2004 = Disaster, both cars out by the 10th lap.

Red Bull did the Star Wars thing last year, both cars crashed.... Not great publicity really.

Ralf's moaning has got on my nerves the last few years. He was complaning about Spa being too dangerous and not liking Eau Rouge last year. If he hates it so much he should drop out and see what Toyota do ;)
 
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