F1

IMS Australian Grand Prix postscript

2006 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX POSTSCRIPT Alonso, Renault wary of other teams closing gap; Montoya checking '07 options INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, April 4, 2006 - Reigning champions Fernando Alonso and Renault have kicked off the 2006 FIA Formula One ...

2006 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX POSTSCRIPT
Alonso, Renault wary of other teams closing gap; Montoya checking '07 options

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, April 4, 2006 - Reigning champions Fernando Alonso and Renault have kicked off the 2006 FIA Formula One World Championship season, which includes the United States Grand Prix on July 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in superb style.

But Alonso expects the opposition to close in soon.

"I won the first one and this third one," Alonso said after winning the Australian Grand Prix. "Fisi (teammate Giancarlo Fisichella) won the previous race, and I was second. So 28 points out of 30 is a dream come true again (for me) this start of the season. Let's hope it finishes like last year."

After three races in 2005, Renault had scored 36 points from a possible 54, a scoring ratio of 67 percent. In 2006, that figure is now 42 points from 54, or 77 percent.

"I am pretty sure that the little advantage that we saw at the beginning of the championship last year and this year will disappear sooner or later," Alonso said. "The only thing we have to do is to take the opportunities as we are (doing) now and to win these races. And then when the other teams improve and are similar to us or quicker than us, we just have to finish the races, be 100 percent from the drivability point of view, and push the other teams to the limit."

***

Montoya considers options: Juan Pablo Montoya's contract with McLaren-Mercedes expires at the end of this season. He said there is a number of rides available in 2007, including McLaren, Renault, BMW Sauber, Toyota and Red Bull.

"If you look around, there's nothing ... but available seats (for 2007)," said Montoya, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner. "I am focused on this year, and when something comes up for next year and you are happy then you will sign the deal, wherever it is."

***

Speed heads home for break: Scott Speed headed from Australia to California to spend some time with his family after the Australian Grand Prix.

Speed has three F1 races under his belt. He finished eighth in Australia, but officials demoted him to ninth as a penalty for passing David Coulthard in a yellow-flag zone.

***

Alonso clowns around: After winning in Australia, Fernando Alonso danced a jig while holding his hands like ears on his helmet.

"Every race, hopefully, if I win more races, I will do something different," he said. "This was something like a kangaroo for Australia, for the fans."

***

Brabham honored: Sir Jack Brabham celebrated his 80th birthday and the 40th anniversary of his third World Championship at the Australian Grand Prix.

Australian Brabham won three Drivers World Championships, in 1959, 1960 and 1966. In 1966, Brabham became the only driver in F1 history to win the Drivers and Constructors World Championships in a car bearing his name.

The Brabham team participated in F1 from 1962-92.

Jack Brabham also holds a place in the history books of the Indianapolis 500. He entered a Cooper-Climax in the 1961 event, marking the first time a rear-engined car had raced in the "500". He finished ninth.

***

Button's pole: Jenson Button won pole position in his Lucky Strike Honda. It was the third pole of his F1 career.

***

Podium honor: Fernando Alonso's chassis race engineer, Rod Nelson, accepted the winning constructors' trophy on the podium after the race.

"It was a bit dream-like, to be honest, kind of a daze," Nelson said. "I was relaxed, I suppose! I think I'm going to sleep with the trophy in my (plane) seat."

During race, Nelson and Alonso were talking on the radio, and Alonso told Nelson, "I am really relaxed" as Kimi Raikkonen was charging him down. Nelson's laconic reply, "It's pretty chilled here on the pit wall too, mate!"

***

Coulthard's 500: With the point he scored by finishing eighth in Australia, David Coulthard is only the fourth driver in F1 history to earn 500 or more points. Michael Schumacher leads the record books with 1,248 points, followed by Alain Prost (798.5) and Ayrton Senna (614).

***

Senna wins: Bruno Senna, the nephew of the late Ayrton Senna, won all three Formula 3 races held during the Australian Grand Prix weekend. Ayrton Senna won three World Championships and 41 Grands Prix, including the 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990 and 1991 United States Grands Prix.

***

Twenty-two entries: The FIA released a statement saying that 22 teams have filed an entry for the 2008 F1 World Championship.

Along with the current 11 teams, 11 new teams have also submitted applications. While the identity of many of the new teams remains confidential at the moment, Paul Stoddart (Minardi) and Dave Richards (Prodrive) have stated that they filed entries. F1 rules limit the field to 12 two-car teams, so 10 applications will be turned down.

***

Races return to Europe: The first stage of the 2006 FIA Formula One World Championship is over. The first three races, held in Bahrain, Malaysia and Australia, are called "flyaways" in F1 jargon because the cars and equipment are flown to the races.

Next comes the first round of the European stage of the championship, where the cars are transported to the races in trucks. Stage three will be the next "flyaway" with the North American double-header consisting of the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on June 25 and the United States Grand Prix on July 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

***

2006 USGP tickets: Tickets are on sale for the 2006 United States Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday, July 2.

Fans can order tickets online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or at the ticket office at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.

Hours for phone orders and the ticket office are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday, while online orders can be made at any time.

-ims-

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