UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX NOTEBOOK
Teams rest before intense January testing; New team joining grid in 2006
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2005 - After a period of intense testing in December at tracks in Spain and Italy, the Formula One teams are taking a holiday break before work resumes in January as they continue to prepare for the upcoming 19-race FIA World Championship season that includes the United States Grand Prix on July 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Among those testing was Californian Scott Speed, who next year will become the first American to compete in F1 since Michael Andretti in 1993. Speed and Italian teammate Tonio Liuzzi drive for Red Bull's new F1 team, Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Many of the teams tested with the new 2.4-liter V8 engines that replace the 3-liter V10s in 2006. The new engine rules have been introduced to cut speeds for safety reasons. The V8s produce approximately 20 percent less power than the V10s that had an output of more than 900 horsepower.
"It's hard to compare the V8 with the V10, but I was expecting a bigger loss of power and more vibrations," said 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve who will drive for BMW in 2006. "It was not too bad and actually quite nice to drive. In fact, you do feel a little loss of power, but it doesn't make driving less fun. The speed in the corners seems to be the same while you are going slower on the straights.
"Nevertheless, the driving will still be exciting and physical. Hopefully since we are all going less fast on the straights this will give us a bigger tow and this could mean more overtaking in the future."
New team: The Super Aguri F1 team is poised to enter the 2006 World Championship. Having failed to get all the paperwork completed by the Nov. 15 entry deadline set by the FIA, Aguri needed agreement from all the current 10 teams to file a late entry. That goal has been accomplished.
"I am very happy to be able to announce that all 10 F1 teams have approved our late entry to the Formula One World Championship," said former F1 driver and team principal Aguri Suzuki. "I would like to thank all of the teams for approving our late entry and assure them that the Super Aguri F1 team will cooperate and do our best to reach your expectations. We appreciate your support, and we will not let you down."
Suzuki raced in 88 Grands Prix between 1988-95 and achieved one podium, the first by a Japanese F1 driver.
Suzuki also fields a team in the IRL IndyCar® Series.
McLaren signs Alonso: 2005 World Champion Fernando Alonso will drive for McLaren-Mercedes in 2007. Alonso has raced for Mild Seven Renault since 2003 and remains with the team in 2006 to defend the title.
"To become part of a team with such a desire to succeed and passion for performance is a dream come true for any Formula One driver," Alonso said of joining McLaren. "I'm very excited about 2007 and the fantastic opportunity to drive for Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes. It will be a new beginning for me and a tremendous challenge.
"Obviously, I will be sad to leave Renault, but sometimes possibilities come along which are just too good to miss. I'm pleased that we are able to make this announcement already now as it will allow my current team and I to focus 100 percent on defending the World Championships next year."
McLaren's current driver lineup of 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen remains unchanged for 2006. The team has yet to announce which driver Alonso will replace in 2007.
"We are in discussions with our current drivers regarding the 2007 season," said team principal Ron Dennis. "Both Juan Pablo and Kimi are extremely talented, professional and competitive Formula One drivers, and they have and will continue to concentrate on our joint challenge for the championships."
Schumacher gets back to work: Seven-time World Champion and four-time United States Grand Prix winner Michael Schumacher usually takes a long vacation at the end of the F1 season. But, after an uncompetitive 2006 season, he was anxious to get back to work and thus tested with Ferrari in December.
"When I came home from racing in China, I did not feel the way I expected to feel," Schumacher said. "I had no need for a vacation and no desire to rest. Quite the opposite, in fact.
"Instead, I began my preparation training for the next season. Through the winter I have been in regular contact with Maranello and stayed permanently in touch during the tests. This only made me want to drive again even more."
Toyota switches to Bridgestone: Panasonic Toyota Racing will run on Bridgestone tires in 2006.
"After a rather successful 2005 season, our sights are now set even higher up the grid, and we feel that Bridgestone is ideally suited to the technical demands of F1 in the future and will be the best match for our 2006 car," said Tsutomu Tomita, the chairman of Toyota Motorsport. "Toyota is serious about winning in F1, and we feel that the switch to Bridgestone tires is the best option in the medium-long term."
New title sponsor: Mobile telecommunications giant Vodafone has signed a long-term contract to become the title sponsor of McLaren in 2007. The official name of the team will be Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.
Kovalainen joins Renault: Renault has signed Finland's Heikki Kovalainen, 24, as its test/reserve driver for 2006. Kovalainen finished second in the 2005 GP2 series behind Nico Rosberg and ahead of Scott Speed.
"He has demonstrated that he is a talented, aggressive driver in the GP2 series, and he has impressed our engineers during his tests with the team," Renault team principal Flavio Briatore said of Kovalainen. "The test driver's role will be crucial during 2006 as we develop our V8 engine through the season to defend the World Championship."
2006 USGP tickets: Tickets are on sale for the 2006 United States Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday, July 2.
All 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.