F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
September 10, 2004

Villeneuve deal 'not done' - Peter Sauber
(GMM - Monza) Jacques Villeneuve is hopeful of making a return to Formula One next season, with Peter Sauber's Swiss-based team.

The French-Canadian, 33, has praised the German-speaking principal, claiming he 'didn't believe all the crap' about him.

''He is the only one, actually,'' the '97 world champion added.

Villeneuve, dumped by BAR last year, said: ''(Sauber) doesn't get too involved in the politics. He's a very respectful person.''

Asked at Monza if a two-year deal, perhaps involving Jacques selling sponsorship space on the car, was done, Sauber replied:

''No, nothing. It is a possibility, I will say.''

A team spokesman, meanwhile, warned the racing media to step cautiously with headlines, given the track events of next week.

''Wouldn't you agree,'' he asked the media, ''that it's strange we will test Liuzzi if a deal's done? We must watch our money.''

BAR drop legal challenge for Button
(GMM - Monza) BAR will steer clear of the courts after the 'Contract Recognition Board' serves a verdict in two weeks' time.

The F1 team and fellow British-based rival Williams are in a tug-of-war for English driver Jenson Button's service next season.

Button, 24, wants to go to Grove but BAR says it has a contract.

This week, Williams - after a lengthy delay - finally lodged its own Button agreement with the FIA-sponsored 'CRB' in Switzerland.

BAR said in a statement this 'set in motion' the arbitration.

The team also vowed to 'abide by the outcome.'

Meanwhile, if Button is ordered to stay at the Honda-powered outfit, BAR said it would 'look forward' to having him back.

Panis to become Toyota's test driver
(GMM - Monza) Olivier Panis will retire as a Formula One race driver after October's Brazilian Grand Prix near Sao Paulo.

But the Frenchman has signed-on to stay as 'third' driver.

A statement said the oldest driver in pitlane, at 38, decided to retire 'over the summer period' but Toyota wanted to retain him.

''His excellent technical feedback,'' commented F1 principal Tsutomu Tomita, ''will be highly beneficial in a testing role.''

Panis' test role will be in addition to becoming an 'advisor' for the Toyota young driver program, and he'll race if so required.

But he will not test the 'spare' car on the Friday of grands prix as the rules stipulate he is too recently experienced as a racer.

Olivier said he decided to retire 'some months ago.

''I thought about it very deeply,'' the F1 veteran added.

Panis, who debuted for Ligier in 1994, will leave F1 champion Michael Schumacher, 35, as Formula One's oldest racing driver.

Trulli - 'I have a 2005 contract'
(GMM - Monza) Italian driver Jarno Trulli has not been left standing in Formula One's annual game of musical chairs.

Renault's current star said he has a signed contract in his pocket ''but I'm going to have to wait ... to announce it.''

Speculation is adamant, now even more so with Olivier Panis' decision to retire, that the 31-year-old is going to Toyota.

''All I can say is I will be driving next year,'' Trulli said.

Asked if it might be a different challenge to the Monaco-winning one at Renault, he replied: ''It will always be Formula One.

''I will always challenge for a top position.''

Meanwhile, Toyota tried to quell the Trulli-gossip by insisting the F1 team has not finalized a team-mate for Ralf Schumacher.

''(We) will make an announcement,'' a spokesman told this publication, ''once all the relevant details are concluded.''

Schu 'worried' about F1 safety
(GMM - Monza) World champion Michael Schumacher has admitted he is a bit 'worried' about the recent spate of F1 tire failures.

The German, who also shunted his Ferrari at Monza last week, said he is most concerned about what happened at Spa-Francorchamps.

There, at least four Michelin rear tires were punctured.

''There's really nothing I want to discuss (about it) here,'' he said in a news conference at the Italian track on Thursday.

''In the end it is up to the FIA.''

Schumacher denied it would be the right thing to scrap the 'safety car' and stop races after crashes to clear-up debris.

''We have all learned that knee-jerk change is not wise.''

He added: ''The GPDA has regular meetings with the FIA and I think this is productive, not making statements in the media.''

Will a beard make Jarno go faster?
(GMM - Monza) 'Perhaps a beard will make me go faster.'

That's what the journalists at Monza wondered on Thursday afternoon when Jarno Trulli strolled in for a news conference.

The Italian has had a torrid time at Renault of late, even to the point of suspecting the team is sabotaging his final grands prix.

''After the (Spa) race,'' he explained, ''the car was fine, so we don't know what was wrong. That is probably the worst feeling.''

Renault confirmed it has built a brand new car for Trulli.

But, clearly, someone forgot to tell the 31-year-old when he arrived at the 'Autodromo Nazionale Monza'. ''I don't know.''

Trulli added: ''Do I have a new car? I don't think so.''

So what about that beard? Some kind of aerodynamic aid ... ?

''No, no, no,'' JT laughed. ''My hair is a new look but this beard is easy to explain -- I did not have the time to shave!

''I wanted to shave yesterday but I had a football match and I was late, so I didn't do it. I promise I'll do it tonight!''

'I want to keep racing' - Minardi's Bruni
(GMM - Monza) Minardi racer Gianmaria Bruni, from Italy, wants to keep driving for Paul Stoddart's back-of-the-grid F1 team.

The 23-year-old admits it is 'difficult' arriving at every grand prix circuit knowing that second-to-last will be a good result.

''You've (also) got to watch the mirrors all the time,'' said the Roman, ''and watch the blue flags and let the quick guys through.

''It's tough.''

But F1 is still F1 and Bruni has no plans to leave.

''My goal is to stay and show I can do it,'' said 'Gimmi'.

''I can show small things now, because this car is a bit slow, but we have a better engine coming (for 2005), and a new car.

''For sure we should go forward (in 2005).''

Ferrari staff get Monza grandstand
(GMM - Monza) Every Maranello-based Ferrari worker will watch Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello in action this weekend.

Sporting director Stefano Domenicali, born in Imola, said they've been given a free grandstand 'to live the grand prix' at Monza.

''They don't get to come to every race,'' said the Italian, ''but they have the same passion and the same objectives.

''It will be a great sight -- the red grandstand, the flags.''

Domenicali believes Michael Schumacher, already with a seventh F1 title in the bag, may take a 'different approach' to Sunday.

''I'm sure he'll enjoy it,'' he said, ''maybe even more.''

Schu's 'not champion yet' - Ecclestone
(GMM - Monza) Michael Schumacher has denied Bernie Ecclestone's claim he is 'not (2004) champion' until the end of the season.

Ferrari's German has turned-up at Monza with a brand new red cap, bearing seven stripes in tribute of his seventh drivers' crown.

''He is only champion,'' F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone told 'Sport Bild' this week, ''when the FIA confirms it. Not yet.''

Bernie is right -- in 1997, Schumacher had second in the standings taken-away after a clash with rival Jacques Villeneuve.

Schumacher, 35, said he has not seen Bernie's comments but, given the current points table, ''I think I can feel like the champion.

''You (the media) have all said I am the champion,'' he added.

Schu should have waited for crown - Montoya
(GMM - Monza) Michael Schumacher should have waited and wrapped-up the title here at Monza, Juan Pablo Montoya said on Thursday.

The Colombian was astounded when Ferrari's ace drove home second place at Spa-Francorchamps, thus clinching the '04 drivers' deal.

He wondered: ''Why there?

''You had the Olympics everywhere in the newspapers, marketing-wise it was totally not wise. He should have done it here.''

Montoya, 28, was amused to read a transcript of a Schumacher news conference last week at Monza. ''He talked about ... nothing!''

Juan added: ''I guess they needed more press coverage.

''Imagine, Ferrari do it here, home crowd -- but there you go.''

Williams' JPM, off to McLaren in '05, also knocked critics who say he's on the decline after a while as F1's 'next-best-thing'.

''Actually, I don't care at all (how I'm seen),'' he insisted.

''But I think they know nothing. I have done really well in qualifying this year and I'm better than I was back in 2001.

''I think a lot of (the media) who say 'this guy is great, that guy is crap' are stupid. I guess they know nothing at all.''

France at 'low point' in F1 - Lafitte
(GMM - Monza) Former F1 driver Jacques Lafitte claims Olivier Panis' retirement is a low point for motor racing in France.

The six-time grand prix winner of the 'seventies and 'eighties said there were always 'seven or eight' Frenchmen on the F1 grid.

Panis' absence in 2005 will leave ... none.

''It's harder for them to break-in now,'' said Lafitte, now a GP commentator. ''We have to find new opportunities for them.''

Olivier Panis, 38, also admitted that France's decline in Formula One racing has all happened within the past ten or so years.

''It's a shame,'' he told the media at Monza.

The Lyon-born star blames new anti-alcohol and tobacco advertising laws for making it 'too hard' for French rookies.

France must now pin its hopes on Renault tester Franck Montagny, and maybe CART star and former F3000 champion Sebastien Bourdais.

'McLaren are quicker' than BAR - Button
(GMM - Monza) Defecting driver Jenson Button claims rival McLaren have powered ahead of BAR-Honda 'and are doing a bit better job.'

The Englishman, who wants to move to Williams next season, said the team in silver is now more likely to challenge Ferrari.

''I think (Monza) is going to be difficult for us,'' he said.

''I think McLaren will be quick and Renault will be there.

''We are reasonably confident but I'm not getting too excited.''

Button, 24, nonetheless admitted that Brackley-based BAR has made 'real improvements' to the car in the last couple of grands prix.

''So that's good. Honda are working and the team is working and the car is now better to drive. Consistency is the key here.''

Ferrari 'agrees' with '05 plan - Todt
(GMM - Monza) One team not complaining about next year's revised F1 regulations is Ferrari, headed by French principal Jean Todt.

The 'Napoleon-like' team director said Ferrari 'agrees' with the FIA's plan for 2005, to be ratified by the Council in October.

He told Italy's 'Gazzetta dello Sport': ''There is always conflict [about] the best way to exploit the regulations.''

Todt said Ferrari has produced a 'good basis' for the new car.

''[It] will enable us to wait for the right time to race it.''

Davidson 'pushing' for Button's drive
(GMM - Monza) If Jenson Button moves to Williams in 2005, the man in pole position for his BAR seat is countryman Anthony Davidson.

The 25-year-old 'third' driver admitted at Monza that manager Didier Stoessel is still 'pushing hard' at various F1 outfits.

''We're pushing at BAR,'' he told Autosport, ''we're pushing Jaguar, Sauber, Williams ... everywhere!

'We'll see what happens.'

Many F1 pundits have been impressed by Davidson's antics, in free practice sessions, in the 'spare' Honda-powered 006 this year.

'Ant' admitted he was initially hot favorite for Button's race seat when the news first broke that Jenson was off to Williams.

But, with the tug-of-war now in place, he's just sitting tight.

Davidson said: ''I'm pretty well positioned.

''I know the team really well, I'm comfortable, I'm fast. And I like Taku [Sato], so no problems there. I don't see why not.''

Montoya averted huge Monza shunt
(GMM - Monza) Juan Pablo Montoya bid farewell to his Williams testing duties by nearly destroying the FW26 at Monza last week.

The Colombian, who won't test the BMW-powered car again, was sweeping through the Ascari chicane on the final day in Italy.

''It was my last lap and I nearly crashed ... huge!

''A rear suspension broke. It was like, 'see you later!'''

Montoya, 28, admits - at more than 270km/h in the high speed chicane - a brush with the barriers would have been a big shunt.

''Yeah, I thought 'ok, here comes a big bang'.

''I didn't brake, I kept my foot in it, spun.

''I came out somehow. Then I needed the toilet ...''

But, jokes aside, Juan Pablo dismissed an analysis that quite a few shunts at the Monza test indicate the track is too dangerous.

''If you are going to have a failure,'' he did admit, ''you hope it's not Monza -- and then you hope it's not at Ascari chicane!''

Rivals have 'caught us up' - BMW boss
(GMM - Monza) BMW no longer has the stand-out engine in Formula One, the marque's motor sport director admitted on Thursday.

Dr Mario Theissen, who said Monza is the biggest test for an F1 V10 unit, said 'some of our competitors' have caught-up on power.

''And revs,'' the German quipped.

''But I'm convinced our engine still sets the benchmark. We have mastered the challenge of maintaining that power over a race.''

Brit axe will be 'strange' - Button
(GMM - Monza) It will be a 'strange feeling' if Bernie Ecclestone applies an axe to the British GP, English ace Jenson Button said.

Silverstone owner, the BRDC, has put in an offer to promote the motor race for three more years but have yet to get an answer.

A 'no' response will mean Silverstone goes without in '05.

''I don't really know what it will do (to) motor sport in Britain,'' Button told Autosport. ''It's a fantastic circuit.

''And the crowd are definitely enjoying it.''

Meanwhile, Williams has signed-up a new official team supplier -- 'assembly professional' company 'Adolf Wurth GmbH & Co.'

'Wurth' already sponsors in DTM and was an F1 backer in 1984.

'I want to win a race' - Barrichello
(GMM - Monza) Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello is adamant that season 2004 should not pass without adding another career F1 win.

The Brazilian's champion team-mate, Michael Schumacher, has graced the podium's top step no fewer than 12 times this year.

''To be second (in the championship) is only pleasing because it is one better than third,'' Rubens smiled at Monza on Thursday.

''But I would say that I am 'hitting the ball' very well now and I just have to do a good job -- there are four races to go.''

Rubens, 31, said winning just one race - perhaps at Interlagos - would feel better than finishing second in the drivers' table.

Quit talk makes Schu yawn
(GMM - Monza) Why do you keep racing, Michael ... ?

The question was simple enough -- the answer, even simpler.

Ferrari's seven time world champion lifted his hand to his mouth, stretched out his fingers, and mimicked a long, satisfying yawn.

So the German keeps going because he's bored?

''You know what I mean,'' the 35-year-old bristled at English 'tabloid' journalist Byron Young, who writes for 'The Mirror.'

Schu's title-tally, or record list of wins numbering more than 80, means many don't understand why he doesn't call it a day.

Money certainly isn't the answer. So -- what is it?

A huge testing shunt at Monza last week could have killed him, but - unlike his rivals - Mr. Schumacher has nothing to prove.

''First, I don't think I would have died (in the crash).

''Second, I love what I'm doing, even if it's difficult for you to understand. I say it often enough. For me, it is easy.''

Schumacher also denied he is any 'tougher' than the average Joe.

''No. I spend a lot of time making my cockpit safe and comfortable -- and, anyway, the crash wasn't that serious.''

'Risk' is part of F1 life - Trulli
(GMM - Monza) No Formula One driver loses much sleep when he hears about a circuit rival crashing at more than 300km/h.

That's the claim of Renault man Jarno Trulli.

Last week in the Monza test, Michael Schumacher and Olivier Panis ended up in the fence -- even Trulli suffered a tyre puncture.

''We push - develop - the cars hard and then we are surprised when someone has a failure? No,'' said the Italian driver, 31.

Jarno is a member of F1's 'Grand Prix Drivers' Association,' a body set-up to convey drivers' opinions to the governing FIA.

But they won't hear much about Schu's shunt.

Trulli explained: ''This is our job, and risk is part of it.

''Sure, Monza - because it's a bit quicker - is maybe a bigger risk than others, but I am not more worried than anyone else.

''It is true we want to improve the safety next year.''

Montoya's record set to tumble
(GMM - Monza) In 2002, Juan Pablo Montoya crossed the Monza start-line and set the fastest-ever pole position lap time.

That average speed, a tad over 161mph, is very likely to be surpassed at Italy's 'Autodromo Nazionale' track this weekend.

Montoya, of Williams, isn't bothered.

''It's not the goal, really,'' he shrugged on Thursday.

''My focus is racing and getting a good job done.''

The Colombian, 28, claims BAR 'and us (Williams),' are the quickest non-Ferrari contenders for Sunday's Monza prize.

He doesn't think McLaren can win a second in a row.

''I actually think they'll be better in China than here,'' said Montoya, ''and I think we have lost our edge here, too.''

JPM said Michael Schumacher will have a fight in qualifying, ''but they're quicker than us for the race, we think,'' he added.

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