F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
September 2, 2004

Ralf is fit to race
(GMM) Contrary to reports, Ralf Schumacher didn't fail a medical examination but was cleared by doctors to race in the Italian GP.

Williams' German was told at the 'SportKlinik' hospital on Tuesday that back bones fractured in June have now fully healed.

The clinic's Johannes Peil said the problem, which will put the 29-year old out for another two weeks, relates to 'insurance.'

''I should say no more,'' he commented Wednesday.

Sir Frank Williams didn't want to elaborate much further but confirmed that doctors and an 'insurance company' hold the key.

The Formula One boss hinted Ralf may have been allowed to race if he'd signed a waiver renouncing all potential insurance demands.

But Williams added: ''I (also) don't want, in the case of another accident, to see [Schumacher] end up in a wheelchair like me.''

Ralf's manager Willi Weber said an insurance policy was based on the doctors' initial advice of a 12-week rehabilitation period.

Schu's not stopping
(GMM) Michael Schumacher is not retiring.

The newly-crowned seven times world champion confused media agencies early this week by calling a surprise press conference.

But at the Monza circuit during lunch of the first day of testing in Italy, the German star soon put his fans' worst fears to rest.

''I heard that I was here to announce (my retirement),'' he laughed at journalists. ''Well, sorry, you now know I'm not.''

Asked how, after thirteen seasons and seven F1 drivers' titles, he finds the motivation to keep going, Michael replied: ''Easy.

''I love it -- it's in my blood to fight and try to win.

''That's just what I live for.

''As soon as the young boys start to beat me, then I'll stop.''

All ten teams test at Monza
(GMM) All ten Formula One teams and eighteen drivers turned out at Monza on Wednesday to signal an end to the six-week test ban.

Red cars were quickest, led by new seven-times drivers' champion Michael Schumacher, and trailed by BAR, Williams and Renault.

Michelin and Bridgestone runners spent much time analyzing tire selections for next Sunday's Italian GP, to be held at the track.

''A few niggles,'' admitted Renault engineer Christian Silk.

Back-of-the-grid team Minardi are making a rare test appearance, and on Wednesday ran a revised-spec Cosworth CR3L V10 engine.

''A big thanks to Bridgestone,'' said Minardi's senior engineer Andy Tilley, ''for making the test tires available to us here.''

Meanwhile, over at Ferrari's nearby and similarly sunny Fiorano track, team test driver Luca Badoer commenced a Bridgestone test.

Schu's not crafting 'Yawn-ula One'
(GMM) Michael Schumacher is not turning the pinnacle of motor sport into 'Yawn-ula One,' the German's media assistant has said.

Sabine Kehm rejected the taunt of bored journalists by claiming the Ferrari driver's dominance has been magnified this F1 season.

''He is something unique,'' she said. ''F1 has never seen this before but everyone does forget all his other years (in F1).''

Kehm noted the 35-year-old's fierce drivers' title duels of the 'nineties with Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Mika Hakkinen.

One of Michael's staunch supporters, though - Australian F1 ace Mark Webber - admits it's only 'human nature' to be bored in '04.

''Of course (fans are going to be bored),'' he admitted.

''But he's like Michael Jordan -- a guy who comes along and does it his own way, and sets a benchmark. He's changed the sport.''

Webber, 28, is adamant Schumacher is 'inspiring' for up-and-coming drivers and an 'incredible ambassador' for Formula One.

Jordan sale complete
(GMM) In a meeting on Wednesday, Eddie Jordan concluded the $90m sale of his Formula One team to a group of investors from Dubai.

A spokeswoman at Silverstone, though, retained radio silence, albeit admitting Jordan was 'following' reports in the F1 media.

''As always,'' she added, ''(Jordan) is interested in finding sponsors and partners who can help [us] invest in [our] future.''

Britain's 'Telegraph' newspaper, meanwhile, reported that EJ admitted last Friday the team's survival depended on its sale.

The agreed deal will see Eddie retain a 15 percent stake in the re-named team and remain as principal for at least two seasons.

F1 car is 'not too quick' - Ron Dennis
(GMM) Not many team bosses and no Formula One drivers think today's grand prix car is too quick, according to Ron Dennis.

''I happen to be one,'' the McLaren CEO admitted on Wednesday.

Dennis already thinks the '05 changes will favor Ferrari but he also claims they won't improve the show or reduce running costs.

He admits the aero tweaks will cut speed, but said changing the rules will also further widen the gap between F1's rich and poor.

''We don't need Formula 3000,'' Ron mocked, ''we need close F1. Lots of rule changes will have exactly the opposite effect.''

Fewer fans watch qualifying - report
(GMM) General television numbers may be up, but Formula One is suffering from its attenuated single-lap qualifying format.

New figures indicate that all ten teams may have more even coverage, but average air-time is actually down by 20 percent.

Moreover, sports marketing firm 'TNS Sport' found in a published report that overall viewing is down 15 percent for qualifying.

TNS also said small teams don't really benefit from the new format because less people are tuning-in to the opening laps.

Renault chief Flavio Briatore still believes good races, but also Michael Schumacher, are the keys to Formula One's popularity.

''I'm convinced [Schumacher] is good for the sport,'' he said.

''He gives us a lot of publicity.''

Sauber drive unlikely, Villeneuve admits
(GMM) It's looking increasingly unlikely that Jacques Villeneuve will find a seat anywhere in the Formula One pitlane for 2005.

The Quebecois was not retained at BAR for this season but has been in contact with the team since Jenson Button vowed to leave.

JV, 33, recently also visited Sauber's Swiss HQ.

He denied reports that Peter Sauber is 'totally negative' about the '97 champion but confirmed no discussions were taking place.

''(Peter) let me come to the factory,'' Jacques told 'La Presse.'

''But I'm having no real talks -- nothing at all.''

Kimi tactic was not 'unfair' - Brawn
(GMM) Ross Brawn has denied McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen engaged in 'unfair' racing tactics en route to victory at Spa-Francorchamps.

Ferrari's technical director said Kimi's was a 'perfectly valid tactic' to creep almost to a stop at the end of a Safety Car.

''Our tires were taking a while to heat up,'' said Brawn, ''and it was particularly bad in the first laps after those periods.''

Ross confirmed Michael Schumacher was not irked at the McLaren ace's tactic to slow right down and then dash after Blanchimont.

''No, he wasn't, I think -- not at all.''

Brawn said: ''Every driver has to maximize his advantages and minimize his disadvantages -- we do that too, of course we do.''

Williams 'must improve' - BMW's Theissen
(GMM) Bad times have brought Williams and engine partner BMW closer together, the team's technical director Sam Michael said.

Grove-based Williams is now the only 'big four' team yet to pick up a win in '04, but Sam is adamant the FW26 is getting better.

''We've made a lot of changes recently.

''It's obviously a long road but we still have that strength in depth and we know what areas to repair for next year's car.''

BMW's motor sport director Dr Mario Theissen said real top grand prix teams are those that 'don't give up' when the going's tough.

But he admitted Williams 'has to improve' and close the gap to Ferrari if it wants to challenge the world champions in future.

Theissen said the dearth of race victory, with the last one now more than a full season ago, is not Williams' biggest problem.

''The main issue is to get closer to the fastest car,'' said the German. ''This is the first year we've been behind our target.''

'I expected a fight' - Schumacher
(GMM) Michael Schumacher expected a fight for this year's Formula One world championship, but instead found a season of dominance.

The German, crowned drivers' champion for the seventh time at Spa, said pre-season fear of a close battle was not media veneer.

''What a lot of you felt,'' he told a pack of journalists at Italy's Monza track on Wednesday, ''I really felt as well.

''We launched the car and were careful -- we expected a tough fight. It turned out the most competitive year I've ever had.''

Schumacher, 35, also admitted that - thirteen seasons into his F1 career - some 'symptoms of wear' are now starting to be felt.

''No question about it,'' he admitted, speaking in German.

''Some body parts aren't working as well as before. But it is just a physical thing rather than mental or psychological.''

New tire rule to inspire passing - Michael
(GMM) New tire regulations in 2005 may lead to more overtaking.

That's the claim of Williams' technical director Sam Michael who disagrees 'the show' has been totally left out the '05 package.

He said not much passing happens just after a pit stop because, despite heavy fuel, a driver has 'strong grip' from new tires.

''So he can easily keep a rival behind,'' the Australian added.

But the new tire rules, to offer fewer tires per driver at a grand prix, will put a driver back out on track with a worn set.

It'll make overtaking him 'a lot easier,' Michael claimed.

World champion Michael Schumacher, meanwhile, believes the new aero rules - to reduce downforce - may also lead to more passing.

''But F1 is so complex,'' he admitted, ''that no-one really knows. All we can hope is that we find a good direction.''

Keep Eau Rouge 'safe' - Mark Webber
(GMM) Play with the 'bus stop' as much you like, but don't mess up 'Eau Rouge', Mark Webber urged organizers of the Belgian GP.

The rated Australian was quoted on the Jaguar Racing website as advising Spa-Francorchamps to keep the notorious sweeper 'safe.

''You're playing with your life through there,'' he said.

''You can't have a barrier at the top because a shunt would look like an airplane crash -- they have made the right compromise.''

In other brief news, F1 team Renault has announced a long-term partnership with 'Tridion,' an internet content management firm.

And on Sunday, Renault 'third' driver Franck Montagny will help show-off the new 'GP2' car to the public on the streets of Lyon.

''I'll have a go in the car,'' said the Frenchman, ''just before jumping into the Renault F1. The people will be impressed.''

Panis sees road back to BAR
(GMM) The oldest driver in grand prix racing, Olivier Panis, has admitted he might be left without a Formula One seat next season.

He's currently in a mid-field Toyota but president John Howett said talks were taking place to see 'Olive' in a non-race role.

''I hope I can stay,'' Panis, 38, told 'F1Racing.net'.

''If not, I'll see what other teams can offer me. But I do not want to race for a slow team -- so I might choose a test job.''

Panis raced a BAR in 2001 and 2002 but had to leave when Jenson Button joined highly-paid team-mate Jacques Villeneuve for '03.

So with the former now seemingly out of the picture, does Panis see a road back to Brackley next year? ''Why not?'' he admitted.

''BAR would not be where they are without my input.

''Now the car is very good and I still have some good contacts.''

'I'll help Rubens to second' - Schu
(GMM) Michael Schumacher has vowed to help team-mate Rubens Barrichello secure second for Ferrari in the drivers' title.

The German claims the pair have been 'completely free' to duel until now, and also that Rubens is capable of doing it himself.

''But if it is necessary,'' said Michael, ''if I see a way to help him score more points, then absolutely. I would help him.''

In 2002, when Schumacher similarly tied-up the drivers' crown with grands prix to spare, he gave-up the right to the spare car.

He also dismissed speculation Ferrari might use the advantage of the final four races to 'experiment' with '05 car components.

''If there are any changes,'' said Schu, ''they'll be small.

''You can't just pull a new car out of a hat.''

Meanwhile, it was confirmed Michael will attend the 'Ferrari Racing Days 2004' event at the Nurburgring track this weekend.

He'll do a few laps in last year's F2003-GA.

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