WHAT'S HAPPENING IN FORMULA ONE IN 2006 INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, March 3, 2006 - There are plenty of interesting changes and topics to keep an eye on in the new Formula One season that kicks off Sunday, March 12 in Bahrain and includes the United...
WHAT'S HAPPENING IN FORMULA ONE IN 2006
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, March 3, 2006 - There are plenty of interesting changes and topics to keep an eye on in the new Formula One season that kicks off Sunday, March 12 in Bahrain and includes the United States Grand Prix on Sunday, July 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
*New drivers: Three rookies are in the lineup this year. Scott Speed, the first American driver in F1 since Michael Andretti in 1993, drives for Scuderia Toro Rosso. Germany's Nico Rosberg, son of 1982 World Champion and two-time United States Grand Prix winner Keke Rosberg, drives for WilliamsF1. Japan's Yuji Ide drives for Super Aguri.
*Familiar face: Seven-time World Champion and four-time United States Grand Prix winner Michael Schumacher is back for his 16th F1 season and his 11th with Ferrari. He said he will make a decision later this year whether he will continue racing in 2007.
*Switching teams: Several drivers have changed teams in 2006. Felipe Massa has switched from Sauber to Ferrari. Rubens Barrichello has switched from Ferrari to Honda. Nick Heidfeld has switched from Williams to BMW Sauber. Takuma Sato has switched from BAR-Honda to Super Aguri. Christijan Albers has switched from Minardi to MF1 Racing.
*Contracts expiring: The contracts for quite a few drivers expire at the end of 2006, which means that there will be plenty of intrigue and rumors of drivers switching teams or hoping to stay put for 2007.
Among those whose deals come to an end this year are: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren-Mercedes), Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren-Mercedes), Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), Jacques Villeneuve (BMW Sauber), Mark Webber (Williams-Cosworth), Jarno Trulli (Toyota) and David Coulthard (Red Bull Ferrari).
*New teams/new names: With the added entry of the new Super Aguri F1 Team, there are 11 teams competing this year.
Three other teams have new names and or/owners. Having acquired 100 percent of BAR, Honda renamed it the Honda Racing F1 Team. BMW bought Sauber and renamed it BMW Sauber. The Midland Group, which acquired the Jordan team a year ago, has renamed it MF1 Racing. Red Bull, new owners of Minardi, renamed it Scuderia Toro Rosso, which is Italian for Team Red Bull.
*Shootout qualifying: The previous qualifying system with drivers going out one at a time for a single, timed flying lap has been replaced with a new three-part knockout format.
All 22 drivers head out and can run as many laps as they want in the first 15-minute session. The slowest six cars are eliminated and fill the bottom six places on the starting grid.
All times are erased, and a second 15-minute session knocks out the next group of the six slowest cars that fill 11th through 17th on the grid.
Again the times are erased, and then the final 10 drivers go into a 20-minute shootout session. They can run as many laps as they want, and the top 10 grid places are determined by their fastest lap times.
To add a twist to the pit strategy plot, the top 10 cars must start the race with the same amount of fuel that was in the car before the final qualifying session. The remaining 12 cars may be topped up with as much fuel as the teams want to add before the race.
*Youngest World Champion: Fernando Alonso became the youngest World Champion in Formula One history after clinching the 2005 title at age 24 years, one month and 27 days. The previous record holder was two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, who won the championship in 1972 at age 25 years, 8 months and 29 days.
Alonso turns 25 on July 29, so if he wins the title again in 2006 he will go into the record books as the youngest ever World Champion and the second youngest.
*Tire changes return: Last year, a driver had to use the same set of dry-weather tires for qualifying and the race. In 2006, changing tires during race pit stops is again permitted.
A driver is limited to seven sets of dry-weather tires per race weekend. The seven sets may be of no more than two different specifications, and a driver may use only one of those specifications for qualifying and the race.
A driver is also limited to four sets of wet-weather tires and three sets of extreme wet-weather tires per weekend.
*New engines: The cars this year are fitted with 2.4-liter V8 engines that replace the 3-liter V10s used previously. Horsepower drops from more than 900 to about 750.
Teams that do not have access to a competitive V8 may run a "restricted" V10 that is limited to 16,700 rpm and fitted with a 3.034-inch (77 mm) air inlet restrictor. Scuderia Toro Rosso, which has American driver Scott Speed in its lineup, is the only team using a V10 in 2006.
Like last year, a driver must use the same engine for two complete Grand Prix weekends.
*Grand Prix centennial: This year marks the 100th anniversary of Grand Prix racing.
While other auto races had been held as early as 1894, the first "Grand Prix" was staged in 1906 in Le Mans, France. The race was run over two days with six laps each day around a 65-mile track. Hungary's Ferenc Szisz won, driving a Renault.
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.