2006 San Marino Grand Prix - Race 4/18

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Schumacher: no decision on future yet

Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher says he hasn't made up his mind about his plans for the future yet.

Schumacher's contract expires at the end of the season and he has yet to decide whether to continue racing or retire.

As speculation continues to swirl, the Ferrari star, the oldest driver on the grid, said he hasn't set a date to make a decision regarding his future.

"I'm pretty sure that once a decision is taken, we'll inform everybody who is willing to listen," Schumacher said ahead of the San Marino Grand Prix.

"I haven't set a specific day or time of the day to make my decision, honestly."
 
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Massa unfazed by Ferrari rumours

Ferrari driver Felipe Massa is unconcerned about rumours surrounding his future after a shaky start to the 2006 season.

Massa made a promising start as a Ferrari racing driver in Bahrain, when he qualified on the front row in Bahrain. In the race, however, he spun off before finishing in ninth place.

The Brazilian put on a strong performance to sixth from the back of the grid in Malaysia, but crashed during qualifying in Australia and was then involved in an accident in the race.

Massa has a one-year contract with Ferrari and the team have said in the past he will have to show his worth if he wants to retain his seat in 2007.

Speculation is rife about Ferrari's future drivers, with reports claiming Kimi Raikkonen has already signed for the Italian squad.

Massa, however, says he is unfazed by the rumours and claims he is just focusing on doing his job.

"I really don't care. I just try to do my job," Massa told reporters ahead of his team's home Grand Prix. "I think definitely the next three races are very important and I think you don't need to really look too much at what people are saying.

"Sometimes people say interesting things, sometimes it is just rumours, so I really don't worry about that."

The young Brazilian admitted he is enjoying being a Ferrari driver and was looking forward to racing in front of the Italian fans.

"I think when you are a Ferrari driver you have pressure in every race," he added. "I think it is amazing to be here in Imola as a Ferrari driver, not many drivers had this opportunity.

"I am really happy to be here as a Ferrari driver in front of the tifosi Italian so in the end I am really looking forward to doing a good job."
 
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Fisichella to get engine boost at Imola

Giancarlo Fisichella's hopes of beating teammate Fernando Alonso in this weekend's San Marino Grand Prix have received a boost with the news that the Italian will get use of Renault's new B-spec engine.

Fisichella's retirement from the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix means he is on a different engine cycle to Alonso, and that has allowed him to get his hands on the new more-powerful power-unit for Imola.

Speaking about his hopes for the race, Fisichella said: "I am going to every race this year looking to score maximum points. I think Renault has an edge at the moment, so we have to aim for the victory at every Grand Prix.

"I have a fresh engine, and a bit more power from the new specification, so that gives me a fantastic chance for this race. We are not underestimating our rivals, because we know that the level of competition is very close at the front. But I believe we have the package to win in Imola."

Denis Chevrier, Renault's head of trackside engine operations, believes the new B-spec engine could give Fisichella a few tenths of a second advantage in qualifying - as well as more pace in the race.

"It is a normal evolutionary step early in the development cycle: we have looked to gain performance by increasing the peak revs, and improving areas like cylinder filling and combustion," he said.

"In qualifying trim, we expect a gain of several tenths of a second and the final dyno tests before the Grand Prix will allow us to determine exactly how much additional performance is available during the race."

Renault had originally planned to introduce the engine at the European Grand Prix next month, but decided to bring forward its introduction because Fisichella could make use of it this weekend.

"His retirement in Bahrain put him 'out of cycle' relative to our development schedule, and we had to take a decision on whether to accelerate the introduction of the B spec, which had been planned for race five," explained Chevrier. "We decided it was important to do so, and have pushed our processes to make it happen.

"However, this early debut may lead us to use to conserve some of the engine's potential performance during the race in order to not compromise reliability. Fernando will receive the B spec engine at the Nurburgring, as per our original schedule."
 
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Haug: Raikkonen still to decide future

Mercedes-Benz have insisted that they are not worried about the fresh wave of speculation suggesting that Kimi Raikkonen's switch to Ferrari is a done-deal - and claim that there is every chance McLaren can retain the Finn in 2007.

Raikkonen has been at the centre of a media frenzy about his future plans, with recent rumours suggesting that confirmation of his deal with Ferrari would even come at this weekend's San Marino Grand Prix.

But after Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt moved to play down the Raikkonen talk earlier this week, Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Norbert Haug has insisted that the situation for his team remains unchanged - and that it is up to them to produce a quick car that convinces Raikkonen to stay at McLaren in 2007.

"Nothing has changed," explained Haug. "Both Kimi and his management have reaffirmed that no decision has been taken yet. And I can hardly imagine that such a decision would be taken behind our back.

"In fact, we remain rather cool, since in the past, many strange things have been written. Just take the story that Michael Schumacher would join us, which was sold as a fact, with the slight catch however that it turned out to be far-fetched.

"I should have actually collected all those stories, also the ones about Kimi and Ferrari, and I should send them out at an appropriate time - let's say next Christmas."

Haug adds that rumours suggesting a deal between Raikkonen and Ferrari was signed as early as last year does not make sense – because of the struggles that the Italian outfit were facing throughout the 2005 season.

"Common sense would demand that Kimi signing a deal with Ferrari as early as last year is not very logical. Why should he do such a thing at a time when he was sitting in the quickest car around and when Ferrari was in a deep low?"
 
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BRDC still warring over Silverstone plans

The fight over the future of Silverstone and the British Grand Prix shows no signs of being resolved ahead of next week's BRDC Annual General Meeting after the warring camps openly moved to criticise each other.

The fate of Silverstone is set to be voted on at the AGM of Silverstone's owners the BRDC next Friday, after a previous attempt to rubber-stamp a proposal to have the track redeveloped by St. Modwen was delayed to allow more time for members to consider the idea.

Those plans have been rejected completely by a faction of the BRDC led by Harry Stiller, however. They believe their own plan, which has the blessing of Formula One commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, is much better for the future of the circuit.

And although there had been hope last week that Ecclestone's involvement would perhaps be a catalyst to find a compromise solution for Silverstone, the situation actually appears to have deteriorated ahead of a forum at the track today to present the St. Modwen plans again.

On Tuesday, BRDC president Jackie Stewart suggested that Ecclestone's endorsement of Stiller's plans was not as secure as had been suggested - and he revealed that a request had been put forward to delay an EGM vote of no confidence in the BRDC board in exchange for legal fees being paid.

Stewart was quoted as saying by PA Sport: "He (Stiller) suggested he would like the EGM postponed or put off. In return for doing that he would like us to pay his legal costs.

"We do not wish to do so but it gives some idea of the kind of person we are dealing with.

"I am confused by his tactics. I rather suspect he's been told by Bernie that all the things he has said are not reality and he wants more time to pull together the proposal."

Stiller wasted little time in responding to Stewart's comments – accusing the BRDC board of spreading 'misinformation'.

"Whilst there is some element of truth in the reports, the main report is incorrect," said Stiller in a statement he issued on Tuesday.

"I did in fact contact the Chairman last Friday morning in an effort to try and bring about a peaceful settlement to the current differences of opinion between us and avoid further hostility for the sake of the Club and the membership."

He added: "I offered (BRDC chairman) Stuart Rolt the following deal:

"Back the plan we have laid out to the membership, give it full air time at your four forthcoming forums for the members to discuss and ask questions. Give us a day at Silverstone, in May, to present the plan in a proper professional presentation format and, let the members then decide if they would like it to go forward or vote on it if they so wished.

"I would ask Mr Ecclestone to be present at that presentation. Pay our costs to date, which 30 odd members have contributed to. If he agreed to this, I would postpone the EGM.

"The President's attempts to discredit any possibility of this offer of Mr Ecclestone's having any reality attached to it, is purely a figment of his own imagination exacerbated by the failure of the St Modwen plan to have been found acceptable to the membership."
 
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Renault want F1 costs reduced

Renault's new F1 president Alain Dassas says the French squad are committed to staying in Formula One, but only if the costs of running a team are reduced significantly.

"We have already signed up for 2008, which means we want to continue," said Dassas. "Formula One is a passion for a majority of Renault's employees, and the sport is known around the world.

"But we are realistic as well: before committing to the future, every company needs not only good product - which we have – but also sensible cost control.

"By June, we should know the new economic equation. If we have achieved the savings we want, then we will be able to make a detailed commitment for the future.

"The average cost of the big teams' Formula One programmes, is between 350 and 380 million euros, and the highest investments are over 500 million euros. Within that group, Renault ranks fifth or sixth in terms of expenditure.

"We are well below the average spend, but we are winning. That has given other teams food for thought."

Renault, one of the five carmakers involved in the Grand Prix Manufacturers' Association which are planning a breakaway championship if their demands are not met, had already made clear in the past that they will stay in Formula One as long as it made business sense.

"Formula One is an image-builder, particularly in terms of quality, reliability and technology," Dassas added. "It is very difficult to correlate a direct impact on sales, but we know that Formula One builds brand awareness in markets where the brand is weak, and enhances our image where it is strong.

"It is also an important source of internal pride and motivation. Within the company, we have formed a cross-functional team to maximise the exploitation of our success, from marketing to merchandising, to our public roadshow demonstrations, all the way to the product plan."

Dassas, whose team won both titles last year, also highlighted the importance of 2007 for Renault.

"For 2007, we must put a number of key factors in place," Dassas said. "Firstly, our driver line-up and finding a replacement for Fernando Alonso. Secondly, the renewal of Flavio Briatore's contract. This is a key factor, and we will do everything to ensure Flavio stays.

"And finally, we must enter a new phase in terms of our sponsorship. The financial, logistical and electronic sectors are all potential avenues to develop, as tobacco involvement is phased out of the sport."
 
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Ferrari to go seamless

Ferrari is to follow the example of McLaren, Honda and Williams, by introducing a seamless shift gearbox.

Talking to Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung, Ferrari technical director, Ross Brawn, revealed that the Italian outfit's system is already being tested but isn't expected to be used for racing until later in the season.

"We are currently testing our system," said Brawn, "however, it will not be used in the first half of the season.

"Initially we had a very complex system which would have given us high reliability," he continued. "But it was complicated, not maintenance-friendly, very heavy and expensive. Consequently, we the built a simpler one, though this involves certain risks, so we still need some more tests to minimize these risks.

"It doesn't really concern us," he said, referring to when the new system might be introduced, "because we could shorten the shifting times with our current gearbox transmission.

"However, Michael is rather enthusiastic about it," he added.
 
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Newey had a 'bitter battle' at McLaren

Adrian Newey has revealed that he nearly turned his back on Formula One at the end of 2003, after what he called a 'bitter' dispute with McLaren's management over the future direction of the team.

Newey has made no secret in the past of the fact that he believed McLaren should have created an all-new car for the start of 2004, after the disastrous MP4-18A that never raced - but only now has he admitted the extent of his unhappiness at the situation then.

Speaking in the May edition of F1 Racing, which goes on sale next week, Newey hit back at suggestions from former boss Ron Dennis that he was contemplating retirement last year after taking 2.5 months holiday during the season.

"Yes, I had a bit more than the usual holiday time in 2005," said Newey, who was McLaren technical director from 1997 until late last year.

"But, in terms of retiring, the only time I really considered it, to be perfectly honest, was at the end of 2003, during a bitter battle with McLaren about what direction we should take with the 2004 car.

"I became a bit disillusioned with the whole situation. It was all to do with the MP4-19A, which was effectively a rebadged 18A (the unraced car), and I felt there were inherent problems with the 18A.

"We could and, I believe, we should have built the 19B straight away, and, if we'd had the 19B at the start of 2004, I think we'd have had an altogether different season.

"I doubt that we'd have won the championship, but we'd certainly have won a few more races that we did."

McLaren won only one race that year, the Belgian Grand Prix, after struggling to get anywhere near the pace of the dominant Ferrari team.
 
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Nobody was completely ready for V8

No team was completely ready for the introduction of V8 engines at the start of this season, Renault's head of trackside engine operations Denis Chevrier has claimed - even though his engines have been among the more reliable.

"The V8s are still young engines, and I don't think any team was 100% ready for the start of the season," Chevrier said. "At Renault, we had done a lot of mileage in the winter, encountered problems that we had worked hard to resolve, and started the season in a stronger position than some of our rivals. But every manufacturer is still working through the challenges encountered early in the life of a new engine, and nobody can yet say they have solved them all."

"The conclusions we can draw show that engine performance is very similar from team to team," Chevrier added. "There are some small differences in peak revs, for example, but there are no bad V8 engines out there. Now, the challenge is to add performance to what is still a young engine, without compromising reliability. It is not an easy job."
 
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Ferrari to use new Shell V-Power fuel at Imola

Shell has developed a new fuel, Shell V-Power ULG62L/3, for the use of Scuderia Ferrari at Imola. This new fuel formulation has a higher volatility than that of its predecessor. Shell V-Power ULG62L/3 has been developed by Shell's Formula One fuel development team to produce more power for the Prancing Horse.

Mike Evans, Shell's Formula One Fuels Project Leader explains: "This new fuel blend is the result of much research and development between Shell and Scuderia Ferrari. Its introduction in Imola marks the arrival of yet another high performing fuel, which we can add to Shell's vast portfolio of fuels for the team. However, we will of course work hard to develop our products with Ferrari even further over the remaining 15 races."

As for the engine and gearbox lubricants, at the San Marino Grand Prix, Shell will be retaining the following products; engine oil Shell Helix SL-0932 and gearbox oil Shell Spirax L6285. Racing conditions at Imola are generally not known to be the harshest of the season. However, the fast straights and challenging curbs cannot be under-estimated, as they do create a tough operating environment for the engine.

In order to protect the Ferrari engine and create a solid base from which to work and gain points, Shell has sought to be consistent in its choice of lubricant package with Ferrari's suite of Shell Helix and Shell Spirax products..
 
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Red Bull to stun with new HQ

Red Bull is set to stun the formula one paddock yet again with its latest 'Energy Station' motor home.

The energy drink-owned squad struck a posing presence behind the pits in its debut year, but has prepared an ever bigger 'HQ' for 2006 in order to house a second team, Toro Rosso. With Bernie Ecclestone's approval, the new facility - the biggest in the sport - will occupy 40 metres of paddock real estate.

It is currently being put together for the very first time at Imola.

''We are hoping this should leave at least one whole day in reserve,'' the document read, explaining that five days had been allocated for the setup.
 
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Fittipaldi commits to GPM until 2007

Double Formula One world champion Emerson Fittipaldi has committed to Grand Prix Masters for two years, autosport.com can reveal.

The 59-year-old has signed a deal to race in the series until the end of 2007 at least, having been convinced of the series' potential in the maiden GP Masters race in Kyalami last November.

Fittipaldi was initially cautious about racing in Kyalami and didn't confirm his participation until the weekend of the inaugural race because he had concerns about safety.

However, he became satisfied with the cars, circuit and his physical fitness to compete and finished second behind 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell.

The deal will be announced later today at a press conference planned to reveal details of live coverage of the series on Brazilian television station SBT.

GP Masters CEO Scott Poulter is delighted that Fittipaldi has committed to the series.

"It's a really big deal for us," Poulter told autosport.com. "Kyalami convinced him. He was concerned about the safety in the cars and he was a bit cautious but he's seen what we have done.

"He's been training over the winter and looks fabulous at the moment and is really bullish about his chances this year."

Poulter admitted that the tie-up could lead to a race in Fittipaldi's native Brazil in the future.

"We are signing a live TV deal with a company over there and we will obviously look to have a race in Brazil," Poulter added.

This season's first GP Masters race is being held at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar next weekend.
 
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Zandvoort to increase capacity

Organisers of the opening A1 Grand Prix meeting next season in Zandvoort are having to arrange extra seating capacity due to overwhelming demand for tickets.

Organisers say that than 50,000 tickets have been snapped up already for the event in the two weeks since they have been on sale, and extra tickets released this week have already sold out.

The race isn't until October 1, although that hasn't discouraged Dutch fans from buying tickets to see their former F1 star Jos Verstappen race for the A1 Team Netherlands.

Following a meeting with A1 Grand Prix last week, management at the Zandvoort circuit and A1 Team Netherlands agreed to build extra grandstands to help address the shortfall in spectator seating.

"Hopefully these extra grandstand seats will go some way to addressing the huge demand for tickets that we have experienced so far," said series founder Sheikh Maktoum.

"Our expectations are that this race would be received well in Holland have proved to be correct, and I think we can expect a great season opener when A1 Grand Prix arrives in Zandvoort for the race on 1 October."
 
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Concerns about Monza noise issue

Grand Prix Masters organisers expect to know in the next week whether their planned meeting at Monza will go ahead this season.

Many race meetings at the Italian circuit have been under threat because of noise protests from local residents, who succeeded in obtaining a court order last November banning the running of cars without a silencer at the circuit.

The planned round of the Le Mans Series originally scheduled for September has been cancelled, and an Italian F3000 race was cancelled in March at the eleventh hour.

GP Masters CEO Scott Poulter admitted that it is a concern, and will make a decision about their race soon, scheduled for June 18.

"We would still love to go to Monza and are planning to," Poulter told autosport.com. "It would be great for the drivers to have such a nostalgic circuit such as Monza on the calendar. But there is the noise problem and we are getting close to the event.

"We are in written communication with the organisers and are awaiting exact clarification on the situation. We need to know where we stand before we get into the cost phase of the event.

"We need an unequivocal guarantee from the circuit that there are no noise problems and we will be able to race."

The Italian Formula One Grand Prix will go ahead as scheduled on September 10 because the local council has granted a 30-day exemption to the order.
 
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F1 set for chilly Imola

Imola can expect a chilly and changeable weekend of weather for the circuit's 26th grand prix.

Although rain was forecast for the town in the Bologna (Italy) province on Wednesday, it should ease to a morning shower by Friday.

More showers, however, could fall on qualifying Saturday, but the race itself is heading for a cloudy top of about fourteen C.

''We could face cold conditions,'' said Toyota's Ralf Schumacher, ''but you never know what the weather will bring there.''
 
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F1 TV Viewership in India Doubles Without Karthikeyan

India is not missing Narain Karthikeyan, according to the country's local press.

The 'Economic Times' reckons that, even with Karthikeyan's failure to remain on the grid in 2006, TV viewership in India has nearly doubled.

Chennai-born Karthikeyan became the first Indian to race grands prix last year, in his rookie stint for Jordan. In 2006, he is Williams' second test driver.

But the 'Times' contended that F1 viewership at the moment is 'comparable to test cricket', a sport which is extremely popular in India.

''We have grown the F1 viewership at the rate of an impressive 27 per cent year-on-year,'' said RC Venkateish, boss of India's formula one TV broadcaster, ESPN.
 
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Carlin ready to buy Penske factory

Carlin Motorsport looks set to boost its credentials as a prospective Formula 1 team by buying Penske Racing’s factory at Poole in Dorset.

Former Jordan sporting director Trevor Carlin revealed last week that he was one of the 22 hopefuls who have lodged entry applications for the 2008 world championship.

The Briton said at the time that he was confident of marshalling the necessary human, financial and technical resources to make the step up from F3 and the Renault World Series to F1.

He added that “we have also agreed the purchase of an established facility in the south of England for design and specialist production” to supplement the existing Carlin factory at Aldershot.

Autosport reports that the facility in question is the Penske Cars factory, famous as the manufacturing site of the American team’s succession of Indy 500 and championship-winning Indycars in the 1970s-1990s.

Roger Penske has been consolidating his various racing operations – in NASCAR, the IRL and sportscars – under one roof at Mooresville, North Carolina, in recent years.

Since his team stopped building its own Champ Cars in 1999 and then switched to the IRL (where chassis development is highly restricted) in 2002, Penske has been considering selling the under-utilised UK site.

If Carlin's plan to purchase the factory goes ahead, he would take on 25 staff who work there to add to the 60 based at Aldershot and would have a ready-made facility capable of building F1 cars.

This is likely to be a major asset in his quest to be selected for the 2008 championship.

The entry list is heavily oversubscribed and Carlin is vying with the likes of ex-F1 team principals Eddie Jordan, Paul Stoddart and Craig Pollock for a place on the grid.
 
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Ferrari F1 Team to Allow Full Engine Revs at Imola

Imola will be a 'very important' race for Ferrari, sporting director Stefano Domenicali has admitted.

The Italian, actually a native of the region near Bologna, suggested that after the red team's winless start to 2006, it is a crucial time to start accelerating for the title.

''It will be very important for us to perform well in Imola and we are all aware of that,'' he said.

Ferrari has prepared a significantly upgraded '248' racer for its first home grand prix of the year -- new tyres, new suspension, new bodywork, and a fix for the engine's weaknesses.

On this final point, it is speculated that - after a rev-limit of 18,000rpm for Melbourne was imposed - more than 19,000rpm will finally be unveiled in San Marino.
 
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New flavour of the month for Flav

Renault boss Flavio Briatore has been spotted by paparazzi with a new, young girlfriend.

The German newspaper, 'Bild', spotted the flamboyant, 56-year-old Italian on the beach with the Italian, 26-year-old wonder-bra model Elisabetta Gregoraci.

In Bild, the Renault F1 boss said: ''Now I prefer younger girls. At least they say thank you after a dinner. Women over 32 are far too aggressive.''

All I can say is...

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm :D ;) :p :D
 
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Imola's top chicane modified

San Marino Grand Prix organisers have modified Imola’s top chicane for this year’s race.

The Variante Alta, which used to see cars fly across the high kerbs as drivers straight-lined the right-left ‘ess’, has been reprofiled, with the kerbs flattened but the corner radius tightened.

The tweaks are expected to reduce speeds at what was quite a fast, third-gear chicane, making it similar to the left-right Variante Bassa at the bottom of the hill.

After inspecting the circuit by foot on Thursday, most drivers gave the changes a provisional thumbs-up, reckoning the new layout safer than the old one.

Whether it is as spectacular from a viewing standpoint remains to be seen…
 
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