F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
September 8, 2004

BRDC make Bernie an offer for Brit GP
(GMM) Silverstone's owner, the British Racing Drivers' Club, has made Bernie Ecclestone an offer to promote the grand prix to '07.

Ecclestone, head of Formula One Management, met with BRDC chairman Ray Bellm on Tuesday and was handed a written proposal.

''(The offer was) made on terms that do not create a profit,'' he said, ''and involve inherent commercial risk for the BRDC.''

He said it's in the 'interest of maintaining' the British GP.

No monetary figures have been leaked, but initial analysis suggests the offer is down the 'lower end' of Bernie's scale.

Former promoter Interpublic skipped town on the British GP earlier this year, leaving Ecclestone with the race's rights.

Ecclestone, 73, said last week Silverstone, located in Northamptonshire, needs to come up to '2004 (standards).

''Not 1996,'' he added, ''or even before that.''

The Club's president, Sir Jackie Stewart, urged Bernie to consider the offer ''for (F1) -- and it's important for us.''

Button accepts Webber challenge
(GMM) BMW-Williams' probable new boy, Jenson Button, has vowed not to shy away from the challenge of '05 team-mate, Mark Webber.

Still scuffling with current team BAR, Jenson is nonetheless relishing the prospect of going head-to-head with the Australian.

''We are both looking forward to it,'' the 24-year-old said in a news conference staged in a plush London hotel earlier this week.

''(Mark) has had a good career, not only in F1 but in other formulas. He's a very serious guy -- very focused on the job.''

Button, still yet to claim a maiden F1 victory, said he would never cower from a contest by hiding behind a lesser team-mate.

''(Williams having) both of us ... is only going to help.''

He added: ''It'll help us, too -- we'll push each other very hard and that is also what the team wants. I know Mark pretty well.''

When JB raced a Renault, Webber was the test driver and Jenson said he had witnessed, first hand, Mark's notable fitness regime.

'Don't blame us' for blow-outs - Michelin
(GMM) F1's Michelin is pretty sure its own 'technical errors' have played little part in a spate of recent rear-tire failures.

As well as three punctures in Belgium, two more tires blew during the busy test at high-speed Monza, scene of Sunday's Italian GP.

Olivier Panis ended up in the barrier but Renault driver Jarno Trulli, suffering a similar problem, made it back to the garage.

Bibendum's motor sport director, Pierre Dupasquier, said 'missing valve caps' were 'clearly' to blame on both occasions at Monza.

A spokesman confirmed it is a team's job to 'check' the valves.

But Michelin suspected sharp curbs caused the blow-outs at Spa.

Dupasquier responded: ''Our own internal investigations have produced nothing that could provide a clear technical reason.''

He said that is 'frustrating' because Michelin can not, therefore, reach a 'definitive ... conclusion' on the topic.

Schu urges Bridgestone tire analysis
(GMM) Michael Schumacher has urged Bridgestone to thoroughly analyze a rear tire failure which caused a huge crash at Monza.

The world champion said an investigation is 'important.

''But I'm not injured in any way, at all,'' the 35-year-old German declared, ''so I'm not going to worry about it too much.''

Michael, who had to lay down on the grass verge after the shunt, said he'd been 'very lucky' to strike the barrier the way he did.

''I hit really hard,'' he recalled.

''So I am happy I am well and ready to go again!''

Schumacher's crash was one of a spate of recent tire failures, although most belonged to rival F1 supplier Michelin's partners.

Rain on the way to Monza
(GMM) The first local weather report from Monza, scene of Sunday's grand prix, indicate rain is also on the way to Italy.

Although it will be sunny and 18 degrees (C) on Wednesday, the cloud should start rolling-in by Friday, when it tops 20 degrees.

The overcast skies look likely to stay dry for qualifying-Saturday, but a few afternoon showers are predicted a day later.

Indeed, the weather for the days after the grand prix, on September 12, appears dim, with heavy rain expected on Monday.

The super high-speed 'Autodromo Nazionale' is now a unique circuit in F1, requiring a one-off low-downforce aero package.

''The (Monza) wings don't work anywhere else,'' Williams' technical director, and young Aussie, Sam Michael confirmed.

Monza, a combination of fast straights and tight chicanes, is also the last European race of 2004 and the toughest on brakes.

''It's a simple circuit,'' said Sauber driver Felipe Massa, ''but it's still a challenge. Monza is also tough on the engine.''

Chinese driver tests McLaren car
(GMM) Cheng Congfu became the first Chinese-born race driver to steer a Formula One car on Tuesday, media sources have reported.

The 20-year-old drove a 2003-spec McLaren (MP4-17D) at Brno, just over two weeks ahead of China's inaugural grand prix of Shanghai.

Brno is situated in the Czech Republic.

Ho-pin Tung, 21, became the first driver of Chinese origin to do the deed earlier this year, when he tested a BMW-Williams racer.

But the German F3 star grew-up in Holland.

Meanwhile, former Minardi driver Alex Yoong - from Malaysia - will debut in Australia's V8 Supercar Championship this weekend.

He'll race a WPS Ford Falcon at Sandown (Victoria).

'I like Kimi' - Ferrari's Todt
(GMM) If Ferrari had to pick Michael Schumacher's successor today, principal Jean Todt would plump for a monosyllabic Finn.

''I like Kimi [Raikkonen],'' the Frenchman told F1 Racing mag.

Todt said he admires the 24-year-old McLaren star, Schumacher's title runner-up in '03, for his natural speed but also his style.

''(He) doesn't make wild statements,'' said Jean, ''or try to raise his profile. I prefer Raikkonen over [Juan Pablo] Montoya.

''(Montoya is) too wild for me -- sometimes unnecessarily.''

Jean Todt admitted Raikkonen, or whoever he might like to put in a scarlet seat for '07, 'might (still) be contracted' to a rival.

He added: ''But I might try to fight (that).''

McLaren's Ron Dennis will be unhappy to hear Todt's comments, but Jean was equally galled at Ron's recent charge of Ferrari 'bias.'

''I think (Ron is) too arrogant,'' said the Ferrari chief.

''Very often he isn't fair -- why criticize people who simply are doing a good job? Some of (Ron's) accusations are ridiculous.''

Monza preview - F1's top three
(GMM) Ferrari - The 'Autodromo Nazionale' is home soil for the team founded by Enzo, but Michael Schumacher expects a fight.

''The fans are great at Monza,'' said the seven-times world champion, ''and also important. I am aiming to win on Sunday.''

The German, 35, shunted heavily at the track in testing.

''There should be a huge crowd,'' Schumacher, 35, added.

Renault - Renault's is not the most powerful engine on the grid, but driver Fernando Alonso believes the R24 car should be quick.

''Our straight line speed was not bad at the test,'' said the Spaniard. ''We should certainly fight for the podium.''

BAR-Honda - Takuma Sato said the 006 is feeling 'very nice' on the high-speed straights and curves of the Italian F1 circuit.

Honda's Shuhei Nakamoto revealed Monza is 'one of our favorite tracks' because the 2004 engine is very strong on power and revs.

Monza preview - F1's next three
(GMM) BMW-Williams - Antonio Pizzonia was nearly quickest of the Monza test, but this will probably be his last race for a while.

''We feel well prepared,'' said BMW's Mario Theissen.

The German added: ''At the Monza test, we worked on set-up and tires, and we will bring increased engine power to the race.''

McLaren-Mercedes - Kimi Raikkonen won last time out at Spa, and the Finn sees no reason why the trend can't continue at Monza.

''Hopefully we'll be at the front,'' said the 24-year-old.

Mercedes' Norbert Haug, meanwhile, said despite the Spa win, McLaren are 'not at all the favorites' for the Italian GP.

Sauber - With a Ferrari-like car and Ferrari engine, the team's Willy Rampf believes the C23 will be quick on the Monza track.

BAR expect tough 2005
(GMM) BAR expect to have a tough 2005.

The Brackley-based team has come-on in strides this season, with drivers Jenson Button and Takuma Sato both netting podium places.

''That may be true,'' technical director Geoff Willis answered when asked if next year will be harder than the stellar 2004.

He said: ''We are a season behind Renault, really, and in a way we are having the same sort of season they had last year.''

Willis reckons Renault are experiencing a little development 'crisis' in '04 and 'we do expect ... the same sort of thing.'

Monteiro aims for Minardi seat
(GMM) Portuguese former Champ Car driver Tiago Monteiro is busy finding a big-enough budget to race in F1 for Minardi next year.

He tested the PS04B at Vallelunga last week to the plaudits of Gian Carlo Minardi, and has now returned home to Portugal.

Monteiro said Tuesday: ''I know Minardi needs some (financial) help, so I'm currently working [on it] here to find the budget.''

Tiago, 28 and born in Porto, has been invited by Paul Stoddart's team to complete a second Minardi F1 test in November, at Misano.

Meanwhile, Red Bull-backed Scott Speed, who wrapped-up the Formula Renault title at Imola, is also thinking about F1.

Asked what the American will be doing next year, Scott replied: ''I don't know -- either GP2 or the World Series by Renault.

''(But) I want to be the next American to try F1.''

Michelin not to blame - McLaren
(GMM) Top F1 team McLaren has absolved Michelin of blame following a spate of tire failures at Spa and at the Monza test.

Although Olivier Panis and Jarno Trulli had problems last week, Martin Whitmarsh said no McLaren driver suffered a blown tire.

The 'F1 CEO' continued: ''We believe the incidents (at Spa) were caused by tire damage resulting from ... the curbs or debris.''

David Coulthard has targeted a Monza podium.

Meanwhile, Ralf Schumacher's Williams-sub Antonio Pizzonia, the Brazilian, will celebrate his twenty-fourth birthday on Saturday.

Monza preview - the rest
(GMM) Jaguar - Mark Webber and Christian Klien, an F1 rookie on the high-speed Italian circuit, both tested at Monza last week.

''It's easier than Spa,'' smiled the young Austrian.

Toyota - Team principal Tsutomu Tomita said Spa was one of Toyota's 'best ever' performances, despite a rare engine failure.

''A broken bearing (caused the failure),'' said the Japanese.

''We've done everything ... to ensure (it) never recurs.''

Jordan-Ford - The little team clocked up 1500 kilometres of running at Monza last week, especially on Bridgestone tires.

Nick Heidfeld ended the final day dead last.

Minardi-Cosworth - As well as running elsewhere, Minardi did two days at Monza in a bid to get closer to its nine F1 team rivals.

''Obviously the others have made progress too,'' said team manager Massimo Rivola, ''but hopefully this work has helped.''

Schu wary of McLaren, Renault
(GMM) Ferrari's Michael Schumacher has chosen Renault and McLaren as rival teams to watch out for in Sunday's grand prix at Monza.

''I think we can challenge for the win,'' said the newly-crowned seven time F1 champion, ''but McLaren have done well in testing.

''Renault, too.''

Meanwhile, on Wednesday night, the Formula One drivers' 'Nazionale Piloti' football team will take on Italian actors.

''It should be great fun,'' said captain Schumacher.

Hill supports 'mini race' qualifying
(GMM) 1996 world champion Damon Hill has thrown his support behind Tony Purnell's proposal to shake-up qualifying next year.

The Englishman, now 43, said 'mini races' to determine the qualifying grid would provide a 'truly gripping spectacle.'

The former Williams and Jordan ace told 'F1 Racing' magazine: ''It would solve a lot of the problems F1 is currently facing.''

FIA president Max Mosley also supports the overhaul, according to reports, which would include a ballot and aggregate race results.

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