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Hungarian GP secured until 2006

BUDAPEST, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Hungarian Grand Prix officials signed a new contract with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone on Monday, securing the future of the race until 2006. The deal specified a major overhaul of the Hungaroring track in three or four years, news agency MTI reported. Hungary hosted its first Formula One race in 1986 and the event has grown into one of the country's major tourist attractions.

Panis joins McLaren as test driver

LONDON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Frenchman Olivier Panis, who failed to secure a Formula One drive after leaving the Prost team at the end of last season, has joined McLaren as test driver. McLaren said on Monday that Panis, winner of the rain-hit 1996 Monaco Grand Prix, would start work at the Jerez circuit in Spain on Thursday. ``We have decided that we require a third driver in the Formula One programme to meet the demands of our intensive test schedule,'' said McLaren managing director Martin Whitmarsh. ``Olivier has already impressed us in the car and with his desire to take over this role and we are confident that his contribution will be significant.'' Panis said: ``This is an exciting challenge for me and I am looking forward to helping develop the team's new Formula One car for the 2000 season. Panis made his world championship debut with Ligier in 1994 and has started 91 grands prix.

New Ferrari set to be unveiled on Jan 25

BERLIN, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Ferrari is set to unveil its new car for the 2000 Formula One world championship on January 25 at its Maranello headquarters, Michael Schumacher's spokesman said on Tuesday. ``That's the planned date,'' Heiner Buchinger, spokesman for the team's number one driver, told German sports news agency SID. ``The car will be ready by then.'' The car will be called F320 and will be totally different from the F399 with which Ferrari won this year's constructors' world championship. German former world champion Schumacher will lead Ferrari's challenge and will have a new team mate in Brazil's Rubens Barrichello, who replaces Eddie Irvine. Briton Irvine, who finished runner-up to Finn Mika Hakkinen in this year's drivers' championship, will drive for Jaguar next season. The new season will start with the Australian Grand Prix on March 12 in Melbourne.

Barrichello happy to see his name in red

FIORANO, Italy, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Rubens Barrichello launched his career with Ferrari on Wednesday by driving a few laps of the team's test track and declaring himself delighted to see his name in red. The Brazilian, who has crowned his best season by signing for the world's most glamorous motor racing team, completed six laps of Ferrari's Fiorano track near the northern town of Modena. ``For me it's a great time and a great emotion to see my name written on a red car,'' Barrichello told reporters. ``We are still just testing the car. I feel like I have driven this car for longer because I feel very used to it.'' Barrichello, who will be number two to double world champion Michael Schumacher, is swapping places with Briton Eddie Irvine, who moves to Barrichello's old Stewart team as number one driver next season. Stewart will then race under the new name Jaguar. The Brazilian said he would have a small rib operation on December 18 but he expected to return to fitness immediately. ``I have a small operation which I haven't had time to do yet, on my ribs...By December 20, I should already be able to do some exercise,'' he said. Barrichello said he had felt very at home in the car but had not wanted to ``do anything silly'' on his first day on the unfamiliar circuit, which was surrounded by snow. ``I've got a small problem with the brakes -- I have to brake with my left foot which I'm not used to, but I'm doing fine,'' he added, reading a statement in Italian, English and Portuguese. ``The time I set with my first lap was not that bad but with the problem of braking with my left foot, I feel it could have been a little bit better. But I'm very enthusiastic,'' he said. Barrichello was whisked away from the press after making his remarks so as not to infringe on a deal allowing him and Irvine to begin training for their new teams before their current contracts expire, provided they conduct no promotional activity.Irvine, who lost the world driver's championship to Finn Mika Hakkinen on the last day of the season, said in a newspaper column last month that Schumacher was ``so damn good'' he thought Barichello had no idea what he was letting himself in for. Barrichello finished third twice last season which he ended in seventh place in the world championship standings. Ferrari has given no financial details of Barrichello's deal but Gazzetto dello Sport newspaper has said he would earn $4.5 million a year.

Williams says Zanardi reports are speculation

Italian Alex Zanardi is still officially a Williams driver and reports that he has lost his seat for next season are purely press speculation, a spokeswoman for the Formula One team said. The British Autosport magazine, published on Thursday, reported that the former Indy car champion had parted company with Williams after a nightmare yearthat saw him score no points and regularly fail to finish. German Ralf Schumacher, Williams's other driver, finished the season in sixth place with 35 points. Autosport said the team had not yet confirmed a replacement and jettisoning Zanardi would cost them as much as four million pounds ($6.39 million) in severance pay. The Williams spokeswoman, asked whether Zanardi remained under contract, replied ``that is the situation'' but would not otherwise comment on the magazine report. The team are currently testing at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain with Schumacher but not Zanardi, who has not driven a Formula One car for a monthAutosport quoted Williams technical director Patrick Head as confirming the team were disappointed with Zanardi. ``We're well aware that the reliability on his car was poorer than on Ralf's but we're pretty disappointed,'' he said. ``It's sort of still in discussion. I think things will get sorted in the next week or so. ``A contract exists, so it has to be a joint decision. If we wanted to stop and he wanted to carry on he would be able to carry on,'' Head added. Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, the new CART champion, is seen as a future Williams driver but he told Autosport he could not join the team next season. ``It doesn't sound very logical to sack Zanardi,'' he said. ``I've heard rumours but I'm tied to (CART team owner) Chip (Ganassi). I've got a deal with him I can't do anything about. I'm racing in CART next year.'' Williams are teaming up with German engine manufacturers BMW next season and BMW motorsport boss Gerhard Berger has said they will not put pressure on the team to replace the Italian. ``All driver matters are in the hands of Frank Williams,'' the former Formula One driver said last month

Minardi talking to Ford about engine deal

ROME, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Italy's Minardi Formula One team said on Thursday they were talking to Ford about a possible engine deal for next season. ``An outcome on the deal will be announced next week but nothing has yet been decided,'' said a Minardi spokeswoman. The team used Cosworth-prepared Ford engines last season, when they scored their first point in nearly four years, but the U.S. carmaker announced in May they would only supply the Stewart team with engines in 2000. Since then Ford have taken over Stewart and changed the team's name to Jaguar. Supertec are only supplying two teams -- Arrows and Benetton -- with their Renault-based V10 engines in 2000, leaving Minardi short of options with all the other teams having major manufacturers behind them. Britain's Autosport magazine reported on Thursday that Minardi were poised to reach a deal to run Ford's 1999 specification engines after the intervention of Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone. However a Ford spokesman said the official position, that only Stewart would have a Ford engine next season, had not changed. Jaguar will run with a modified Ford engine next season before introducing their own power plant in 2001. Minardi also said they had confirmed Spanish driver Marc Gene for next season but were not likely to announce the second driver before the New Year. Italian Luca Badoer, who also acts as Ferrari's tester, was the team's second driver last season.

Schumacher still suffering from leg injury

BERLIN, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Double Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher said on Friday he was still suffering from his leg injury sustained in a high-speed crash in the British Grand Prix last July. ``I still have problems,'' Schumacher told reporters at an event organised by a sponsor in the German town of Dierdorf. ``I still can't follow my normal training programme. Nobody can say at the moment how long this will last.'' Ferrari driver Schumacher fractured his right leg at Silverstone and missed all the following races except the last two. The accident effectively ruined his world title hopes. The German will team up next season with Brazil's Rubens Barrichello, who replaces world championship runner-up Eddie Irvine of Britain, now with Jaguar. ``We've got a very friendly relationship,'' Schumacher said of his new team mate. Schumacher and Barrichello will have to wait until next year to drive the new Ferrari F320, which is set to be unveiled at the team's Maranello headquarters on January 25. ``I will resume testing only when the new car is ready,'' Schumacher said. ``There's no need to work on further improvements to the old car. The 30-year-old, winner of the world championship in 1994 and 1995, said Ferrari's goal in 2000 would be to win both crowns after having to be content with the constructors' title this year. ``Our goal is clearly to win both the drivers' and the constructors' world championships,'' said Schumacher, predicting McLaren would again be Ferrari's most dangerous rivals. The new season starts with the Australian Grand Prix on March 12 in Melbourne.