Racing News and Notes, July 24

July 24, 2006

Here’s the news from the world of motorsports:


Formula 1

Renault Wants Raikkonen: Renault’s team president Alain Dassas told Italy’s Gazzetto dello Sport newspaper this week that signing McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen for 2007 is his team’s “main priority.” Renault, of course, is losing defending World Champion Fernando Alonso to McLaren next year (which, in retrospect, is a decision that Alonso may now regret). It has been widely speculated that Raikkonen is talking to Ferrari, but if Michael Schumacher chooses to continue, he may prefer to keep Felipe Massa as his teammate and not have to deal with such a strong challenger as Raikkonen. If the Ferrari seat is not available, Renault would certainly be a strong fallback position for the Finn. Everything depends on what Michael does, and he says he won’t decide until Monza (Sept. 10). Renault has already signed Giancarlo Fisichella to return, and also has a very fast youngster in Heikki Kovalainen in the wings. Renault, though, doesn’t seem to want to risk its No. 1 seat to a rookie. They may have no choice.


De la Rosa Stays In: Pedro de la Rosa’s seventh-place finish in the French Grand Prix was good enough to keep him in the McLaren/Mercedes-Benz seat recently occupied by Juan Pablo Montoya for next weekend’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheim. All was quiet on the Montoya front this past week, and there was no word on any potential deals in the works to get him into a stock car any sooner, nor whether he might be back in the F1 car before the end of the season. One presumes he’s house-shopping in North Carolina.


Prodrive and Mercedes? All of the big manufacturers in Formula 1 have been “encouraged” by the FIA to provide engines to smaller teams. Ferrari supplies Red Bull, Toyota supplies MF1. Mercedes-Benz was supposed to supply what would have been a new team from a group called Direxiv, which has been active in GP2, but their bid to become the 12th F1 team failed as David Richards’ Prodrive organization got the spot. Rumor now has it that Prodrive might be in line to get Mercedes-Benz engines, and even possibly year-old McLaren chassis, to get started in 2008. Not a bad stepping stone, if it happens.


New Super Aguri Hits the Track: The new Super Aguri team has been getting by thus far this season with modified five-year-old Arrows chassis, but the team’s first bespoke chassis hit the track this week. The team’s new SA06 made its maiden run in a private test at Silverstone this past week with Takuma Sato at the controls.


Testing Update: When the F1 teams aren’t racing, they’re testing. This past week, Jerez was the place of choice for everyone but Ferrari, who tested in private at Paul Ricard, and Super Aguri, who shook down their new chassis at the aforementioned Silverstone test. At Jerez, Honda’s Rubens Barrichello set the fast time of the week with a 1:16.981 on Thursday, with McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen second for the week on Friday with a 1:17.199, with Red Bull’s Christian Klein third-fastest with a 1:17.320 set on Friday. At Paul Ricard, Felipe Massa set the fastest lap of a three-day test on Thursday with a 59.073sec, just ahead of Michael Schumacher’s 59.544 set the same day.


Testing Changes Proposed: Speaking of testing between races, there may soon be no more, if FIA president Max Mosley gets his way. A plan has been proposed that would make each Friday of a Grand Prix weekend a test day for all teams. This would put more cars on the track for more time on Fridays, and reduce costs for the teams who have to transport cars, crews and drivers to test track between races. As part of the plan, the third cars now allowed on Fridays would be discontinued.


Close, But Not Quite: Honda F1’s land speed record attempt at Bonneville got close, but not close enough, to achieve its goal past week. The modified F1 car, running 3.0-liter Honda V10 on Michelin tires and driven by Alan van der Merwe, was attempting to set a 400kph measured-mile record, but came up just short. They did make one run at 400.459kph, but the return trip clocked in slower for a two-way average of 393.613 (244.580mph). The rules set by the Southern California Timing Association mandate that a record speed must be maintained in both directions. Still the team broke a 19-year-old land speed record in FIA Category A, Group II, Class 8, each breaking the previous, and the team pronounced itself satisfied with the work done.

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