F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
August 31, 2004

Ferrari empire in decline - Ron Dennis
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen's breakthrough win at Spa-Francorchamps might indicate the decline of a Ferrari empire, Ron Dennis said.

The McLaren CEO thinks Kimi, the Finn, is in the mould of countryman Mika Hakkinen, who won two titles in a silver car.

''We've shown in the past,'' he said, ''that Michael Schumacher is not invincible. We have enjoyed periods of dominance, too.''

Another consolation for Dennis is that Ferrari cannot now win all but one of the season's grands prix, ''which we did in 1988.

''Hopefully this is the start of Ferrari's decline.''

Ron admits a Michelin advantage played a hand in the win and confirmed the last four races will also be influenced by tires.

He said: ''I think we can look at more wins.''

'I could have won at Spa' - Alonso
(GMM) Fernando Alonso claims he would have been in contention for the Belgian win if he'd pipped Jarno Trulli to the first corner.

He jumped ahead of Michael Schumacher but thinks he 'could have run quicker' than the sister Renault over the first ten laps.

''I was not fast enough to overtake (team-mate Jarno),'' he admitted, ''but when he pitted, I was pulling away from Kimi.

''Then it was all over.''

On lap 12, oil started to leak from the Spaniard's V10 engine causing him to spin twice. ''For sure it's frustrating.''

Alonso continued: ''The car felt good and I was clearly competitive with Kimi -- I was beginning to pull away from him.

''I guess you never know what might have been.''

Schu's not quitting in '04 - Jean Todt
(GMM) Michael Schumacher's racing boss has chased away new speculation the seven times champion will quit at the end of '04.

Ferrari principal Jean Todt claims the German is 'still young, motivated and very fit' so has 'no reason' to call it a day.

Schumacher, 35, cruised for second place on Sunday to seal the drivers' title at Spa-Francorchamps, his favorite F1 circuit.

He then looked a little somber on the winning podium.

''Michael is feeling good,'' French-born Todt insisted.

''He is in an environment that brings him joy and the feelings he enjoys. To achieve what we achieve does make you reflect.''

Some thought Michael took a more cautious approach to the race, in order to secure the title and contemplate early retirement.

Todt denied the claim, saying Schumacher 'did his best.'

He admitted that if anyone was cautious, it was the Ferrari team. ''We brought a fairly conservative tire (to Spa),'' he admitted.

Jean said: ''Performance brought a certain risk to Spa and we didn't want to take a risk. We would never compromise safety.''

Jordan close to Arab sale
(GMM) Eddie Jordan will find out on Thursday if he has sold his underperforming Formula One team to a group of Arabian investors.

The Irishman, who currently owns 51 per cent of the Silverstone-based outfit, has a meeting with the group planned for Wednesday.

Jordan would sell thirty six per cent of his own share and the complete 49 per cent owned by a group of Irish businessmen.

That would give the Dubai-based group of investors, known only as 'Grand Prix Investments,' eighty five per cent control of Jordan.

They would change the team's name and move its commercial base to the Middle East, but keep Eddie at the helm for two more years.

Jenson Button's manager John Byfield founded the 'GPI' group.

Ferrari to 'experiment' in final races
(GMM) World champion Formula One team Ferrari will experiment with new staff and methods in the last four grands prix of 2004.

With the constructors' and drivers' titles now secure, technical director Ross Brawn confirmed he would indeed 'implement changes.

''Certainly,'' he told a reporter in Belgium.

''We did start to do that, a few changes, here (at Spa-Francorchamps), which made the final result even more pleasing.''

Team principal Jean Todt played down the significance of such changes but admitted it is a good opportunity to test new staff.

Brawn admits Ferrari cannot keep winning forever.

''I don't know why it would stop but it is inevitable,'' said the Manchester-born Englishman. ''We'll try to keep it going.''

The focus, other than team experimentation, for the balance of the season, is getting Rubens Barrichello home for second place.

''He looks fairly comfortable,'' said Jean Todt, ''but still he has to deliver because all the others are fighting very hard.''

F1 needs 'more than a broom' - Theissen
(GMM) More than a broom is needed to remove razor-sharp slivers of carbon fiber from the grand prix racing line after accidents.

That's the call of BMW's Dr Mario Theissen.

The German is worried about what he saw at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday -- three Michelin runners spinning out with cut tires.

''When the safety car is out,'' said Theissen, ''we need special equipment out there, like a vacuum cleaning-road sweeper.''

He said the Belgian GP should cause 'great concern.

''It has to be investigated, whether carbon debris was to blame, or if Spa was just asking too much of the current tires.

''If you want to improve safety, the tires are a key factor.''

Williams' top driver Ralf Schumacher broke two back bones in June when a Michelin tire popped and backed him into the Indy wall.

Michelin to run '05 tire at Monza
(GMM) Williams' technical chief Sam Michael doesn't agree Ferrari and Bridgestone have been handed the '05 title on a platter.

The Australian notes comments of McLaren's Ron Dennis that the FIA's proposed rules are designed with the red marque in mind.

He suggested F1's Japanese tire is more 'durable' than Michelin's so Ferrari will start next season with an 'immediate' advantage.

Sam Michael suggests Dennis' observation is alarmist.

He said Monday: ''We've got a long way to go before Melbourne '05 and six months of test development can change your tire a lot.''

Michael said McLaren and Williams' French rubber partner has worked hard in the test ban to prepare new tires for Monza.

He said one, in particular, conforms with the likely '05 rule.

''So they'll be out there early, which is good,'' Sam explained. ''Michelin has targets for ['05] and they are flat-out on that.''

Silverstone 'nutter' escapes jail term
(GMM) Neil Horan, known also as the 'Silverstone priest,' got a one-year suspended sentence for spoiling the Olympic marathon.

The Irish man, who played chicken with F1 cars last year, was also fined $3600 for tackling the race's leader into the crowd.

A misdemeanor court in Athens convicted Cornelius, wearing a kilt, of violating a law relating to 'extracurricular sports.'

Marathon victim Vanderlei de Lima told news agencies the non-jail term means Horan, a former priest, will 'probably do it again.

''Maybe he will get killed or kill someone else, like he nearly did in the Formula One,'' the Brazilian continued on Monday.

Australia's F1 star Mark Webber sat down in his England home on Monday and 'couldn't believe' what he saw on Olympic highlights.

''I said straight away 'that's the guy!'

''I said he was a nutter last year and my view hasn't changed.''

Jacques' 'not on Toyota list' - Howett
(GMM) Ricardo Zonta is in the running for the full-time Toyota drive next season, team president John Howett has insisted.

Howett, who opted to fire Cristiano da Matta and give countryman Zonta 'a chance' in 2004, said the latter has done a 'great job.

''We thought it was fair to allow him to race in the final six races,'' John said in an interview with 'F1Racing.net' website.

Asked if Zonta might continue in '05, Howett said 'Absolutely.'

The answer throws into doubt persistent paddock rumors that Renault renegade Jarno Trulli has already signed a contract.

Howett said: ''We don't make a secret of it that one of the drivers we are talking to at the moment is Jarno Trulli.''

What about Jacques Villeneuve? -- 'No.

''He is not on our list,'' said John.

F1 fans die on way to Belgium
(GMM) Five Formula One fanatics from Wales were killed in two separate road accidents on the way to Spa-Francorchamps.

'The Sun' newspaper reported that three men, one 34 and two aged 28, died when their car was hit near Rotterdam, in Holland.

In another smash, a 51-year-old and a 53-year-old, also from Mid Wales, were killed when a 20-ton truck ran into their minibus.

F1 set for 19-race calendar in '05
(GMM) There will be an unprecedented 19 grands prix next season, according to an unofficial FIA calendar issued in Belgium.

A new race near Istanbul, Turkey, is set to debut in very late July, adding to the record eighteen events scheduled in 2004.

One source also said the calendar's author, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, plans to introduce a huge 20-race schedule for 2006.

The '05 schedule includes one more, to make four, back-to-back fixtures, but even 18 races 'is a killer,' Paul Stoddart said.

Minardi's principal added he 'fears' more than eighteen grands prix because 'I could see a lot of my guys getting near burn-out.

''We need to think very carefully about the calendar.''

Ron Dennis, Stoddart's counterpart at McLaren, believes back-to-back races don't save money but put the workforce under pressure.

''It really gets at their family lives,'' said the Briton.

Dallara to build F1 car
(GMM) Race chassis constructor 'Dallara' has been commissioned to design and build a Formula One car to be ready for season 2006.

Reports indicate a Russian consortium is behind the project, which may include billionaire and F1 fan Roman Abramovich.

Dallara was involved in the abandoned Honda F1 car project of 1999 when it built the late Harvey Postlethwaite's design.

The firm, founded in '73 by Giampaolo Dallara, has also been involved in F3, sports cars, and the US's Indy Racing League.

F1 hopeful is F3000 champion
(GMM) Like Michael Schumacher, F3000's dominant Vitantonio Liuzzi took his '04 crown by finishing just second at Spa-Francorchamps.

The Italian, beaten in a wet race at the Belgian circuit by Arden team-mate Robert Doornbos, has won six of the series' nine races.

Only Enrico Toccacelo, who failed to score a point at Spa on Saturday, could have beaten Liuzzi to the F3000 drivers' title.

Liuzzi was spotted hopping into F1 team Sauber's pit garage on the weekend, with reports indicating he had a seat fitting.

Sources add the 23-year-old, former kart world champion and the final champion of F3000, may test the car after the Monza GP.

Albers visited Sauber factory
(GMM) 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve was not the only 2005 hopeful to visit Peter Sauber's Hinwil office last week.

This publication can reveal that Dutch driver Christijan Albers, of the German '04 touring car series, also went to Switzerland.

Sauber said last week he was after another 'young, wild driver' to become team-mate to Brazilian star Felipe Massa next season.

BAR 'third' driver Anthony Davidson is also in Sauber's sights, as is Albers' DTM rival Gary Paffett, both young Englishmen.

Albers, 25, will test the Jordan car in December.

''I will be well prepared,'' Christijan told media publications, ''and I want to show the team that I belong in Formula One.''

Renault to give Trulli new car
(GMM) Renault will allocate Jarno Trulli a new chassis as the team work to solve a mysterious handling problem in grands prix.

At Spa, the pole sitting Italian lost the pace after the first pit stop and it 'wasn't the tires,' engineer Pat Symonds said.

''We just don't know,'' Renault's man told Autosport.

''Michelin did a good job and Kimi obviously won.''

Pat said the data has offered no clue into the problem, which Jarno said he's had since he confirmed he was leaving for '05.

Symonds revealed Renault was planning to introduce two new R24 in China, anyway, 'so I think we'll give him a new one for Monza.'

Bob McKenzie 'can wear sneakers' - Dennis
(GMM) McLaren wants English journalist Bob McKenzie to run naked around British Formula One grand prix circuit Silverstone.

In a race analysis after March's Malaysian Grand Prix, the 'Daily Express' hack vowed to do the deed if McLaren won a race in '04.

''If I gamble and I lose,'' said team boss Ron Dennis after Kimi Raikkonen won at Spa, ''I am always prepared to pay the price.

''I expect [Bob] to honor his commitment.''

Dennis advised all Formula One teams to 'excommunicate' McKenzie if he fails to jog around the track in nothing but sneakers.

But he also moved to allay some of Bob's personal fear ...

''I'm sure the English weather will be nice and chilly,'' erupted Dennis, ''so there's little danger of us seeing much, anyway!''

'Schu's no quicker than me' - Raikkonen
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen thinks he can beat Formula One's newly-crowned seven time champion if he has a fast Formula One car.

How can the Finn be so sure? Because he did it on Sunday.

''I don't think Michael is any quicker than me,'' said McLaren's Raikkonen, 24. ''I don't mean he does not deserve the title.

''But he has been lucky to have a very reliable, quick car.

''It makes a huge difference.''

McLaren principal Ron Dennis' eyes filled with tears when a pitlane reporter asked what Kimi's Spa win meant to the team.

''Tremendous. Obviously (I'm) very emotional,'' he spluttered.

''If you look, Kimi's fastest lap was on the penultimate tour of the race. Absolutely sensational. It speaks for itself.''

Both Kimi and Ron congratulated Michael in Belgium.

Schu calls press conference
(GMM) As rumor of a shock Michael Schumacher retirement gains momentum, Ferrari's racing German has called a press conference.

Speculation is doing the rounds that with seven titles now in the bag, the 35-year-old feels he has nothing left to prove in F1.

It's not unheard of for a new champion to want to talk to the press, but Michael does not always stage a post-title media call.

The rumors weren't helped by Schumacher's somber mood after wrapping up a seventh - (and final?) - drivers' crown on Sunday.

So why so quiet ... ?

''Sometimes you just can't believe what is happening, what we have done in the last few years,'' said close friend Jean Todt.

The Ferrari principal added: ''When you love motor racing as much as we love it - this has never happened before. Fantastic.''

Michael's press call is scheduled for the first day of the FIA-organized three-day test at Italian circuit Monza, on Wednesday.

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