Racing News and Notes, Dec. 26, 2005

December 26, 2005


We hope you’re all enjoying the holiday season. It was a fairly slow news week on the motorsports front, but here are a few juicy morsels to tide you over until the New Year:


Formula 1:


Hello, I Must Be Going: Recently-crowned World Drivers Champion Fernando Alonso dropped a bombshell on the Formula      1 world last Monday by announcing that he will leave Renault to join the McLaren Mercedes team effective in 2007. This announcement set off a flurry of speculation, not the least of which is what McLaren seat Alonso will take: Juan Pablo Montoya’s or Kimi Raikkonen’s. The general consensus is that Alonso will replace Raikkonen, who will either join or replace Michael Schumacher at Ferrari. Also interesting is the fact that Renault team principal Flavio Briatore is Alonso’s personal manager, although he claimed to have no involvement with or prior knowledge of the deal. Also simmering on the scuttlebutt back-burner is the rumor that Renault will leave the sport after 2007 which, if true, will make Alonso’s move look brilliant in retrospect.


We Got Your New Rules Right Here: The FIA officially published the new rules for 2008 and beyond last Wednesday, rules that are intended to keep F1 budgets in the neighborhood of $100m (bearing in mind that some teams, like Ferrari, Renault and Toyota, are rumored to be spending $500m-$600 per year). In a nutshell (the full text being available at, here are the high points: a) “New technologies which give a team an advantage for one season but which are then adopted by all teams for subsequent seasons at significant expense will be banned after the end of the first season.” (interpret as you will); b) the rear wing will be split in two (to “dirty” the air behind a car and promote passing); c) changes to bodywork that will reduce downforce (to slow down cornering speeds and promote passing); d) limitations on aerodynamic research (to cut costs); engines rev-limited to 19,000rpm; e) standardized ECUs for all engines; f) thicker gear ratios; g) bigger and wider wheels. Still to be approved by the World Motor Sport Council are proposals for: a) a single tire supplier; b) three-event engines; c) four-event gearboxes; d) weight penalties for early engine or gearbox replacement; e) slick tires. From 2009 on only two changes of bodywork will be allowed in a season, and hybrid energy recovery systems will be encouraged. As we’ve said before, if you cut spending in one area, F1 teams will invariably find other places to spend the money. The cost-cutting is supposed to entice smaller, less-well-funded teams to jump into the F1 waters, but don’t hold your breath waiting to see a Minardi- or Jordan-scale team suddenly start whuppin’ up on McLaren, Williams and Ferrari. On the plus side, though, if the new low-downforce bodywork, split rear wings, wide wheels and slick tires will bring us more overtaking, then amen to that!


Super Aguri Almost There: The Super Aguri team has obtained signatures from the 10 existing Formula 1 teams to allow its late entry into the championship. You can be sure that no small amount of arm-twisting took place to make this happen, particularly among the smaller teams who will be fighting for grid positions with them. The team still needs formal FIA approval and to post a $48m bond. Honda announced that it will support the team, making it a kind of “B” team to the works (nee BAR) team (similar to the Red Bull/Scuderia Toro Rosso situation). If FIA gives the go-ahead and Super Aguri comes up with the money, expect to see Takuma Sato in one of the seats. Among those mentioned for the second seat are former BAR tester Anthony Davidson and Super Aguri IRL driver Kosuke Matsuura. The team will be based in what used to be the Arrows team HQ in Leafield, England, and will start the season with what were once 2002 Arrows A23 chassis, updated to current specs, with Honda engines. The team intends to have new chassis ready to go when the tour starts its European swing in the summer.


McLaren Testing Job Goes from Wurz to Paffett: DTM champ Gary Paffett was announced as one of McLaren’s test drivers for the 2006 season, joining Pedro de la Rosa. Odd man out is Austrian Alexander Wurz, who may wind up with the Red Bull squad, which is owned by Austrian Dieter Mateschitz. Paffett, a 24-year-old Brit, drove for Mercedes-Benz in the DTM championship and has been associated with the marque since 1990, when he won a McLaren test drive as part of the Autosport Young Driver of the Year award.

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