F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
September 15, 2004

Villeneuve to race Renault
(GMM) Jacques Villeneuve will almost certainly race the final three grands prix of the season in a blue and yellow Renault.

The out-of-work '97 world champion, dumped by BAR late last year, is at Silverstone on Wednesday to test Jarno Trulli's R24 car.

He had a seat fitting at the Enstone HQ on Tuesday afternoon.

A Renault spokesman said last night of the two-day run: ''(Jacques) will begin acclimatizing to (the car) on Wednesday.''

Managing director Flavio Briatore, meanwhile, would only say the French-Canadian, 33, 'might' join the F1 team starting in China.

Underperforming Jarno Trulli, meanwhile, is reportedly 'delighted' that he can join his new team (Toyota) even earlier.

Villeneuve, who is thought to have been Renault's second choice as substitute, has targeted a full-time return for Sauber in '05.

Renault wanted Giancarlo Fisichella, who's still tied to Sauber.

A spokesman for the little Swiss-based team said: ''(Giancarlo) will be driving the remaining races of the season (for us).''

Trulli to race Toyota in China
(GMM) Fired Renault driver Jarno Trulli may not have to sit the final three grands prix of season 2004 on the Formula One bench.

It is reported that the Italian, no doubt with a Toyota contract in his pocket, may start racing for the Cologne team in Shanghai.

Trulli, 30, was spotted at the team's German HQ earlier this week and may have completed a seat-fitting to replace Ricardo Zonta.

On Tuesday, Trulli's management met with his former agent and Renault boss Flavio Briatore to discuss the '04 contract 'break.'

The highly-rated F1 ace, though, is far from unhappy.

''From now, this evening,'' Jarno Trulli said late on Tuesday, ''I am part of a new team and I will begin there very soon.

''I am satisfied as Renault accepted all my demands.''

It is expected that the only delay in the Toyota confirmation is a legal conclusion to a long-term management deal with Briatore.

Ralf quickest on F1 return
(GMM) Ralf Schumacher made a spectacular return from back and head injuries on Tuesday by blitzing a F1 test field in England.

The German, who missed six grands prix after a huge shunt at Indianapolis, was a full second clear of the next challenger.

He completed more than 165km in wild weather.

''I couldn't be happier,'' the 29-year-old said in the evening.

Ralf said he felt 'no pain' at all, indicating that fractured vertebrae have healed and all should be clear for a China return.

He added: ''I felt confident and could push hard.

''I am also delighted with how the car has progressed since the middle part of the season. I got up to speed very quickly.''

Five other teams also commenced running at Silverstone, while Ferrari and Sauber started a test session at Jerez, in Spain.

Panis won't make F1 return
(GMM) French F1 veteran Olivier Panis will retire as a race driver after 71 laps of Brazil's Interlagos track next month.

But the 38-year-old won't have a long face.

''I'm happy,'' he insisted on Tuesday. ''It was a tough decision, certainly, but one I made after a lot of thought.''

Panis has signed a new two-year deal as Toyota 'third' driver.

He said the job will be 'quite well rounded,' as reserve at all grands prix, and also heavily involved in the car's development.

''Toyota is still a young team,'' said 'Olive', ''and I think we will be successful in the future. It is a good environment.''

Panis was McLaren's test driver in 2000, but he dismisses any suggestion that, like then, this is to claw-back onto the grid.

''No,'' he said firmly. ''This is to help the team progress.''

He was also asked if wife, Anne, is happy with the retirement news. ''I think so,'' Olivier smiled. ''It has to happen.

''I saw Eddie Irvine and Jean Alesi at Monza.

''They came to me saying 'Welcome to the club!' ''

Sauber end Ferrari gearbox deal
(GMM) Ferrari will continue to supply customer Formula One engines to Peter Sauber's independent Swiss grand prix team.

Technical director Willy Rampf said Sauber is 'very happy' with the V10 unit, re-badged by team petroleum sponsor as 'Petronas.'

He added: ''It absolutely makes sense for us to continue.''

2005 will be the ninth year of the Sauber-Ferrari collaboration.

Rampf said continuity in engineering is 'very important,' but revealed that Sauber will not use a Ferrari gearbox next year.

''This year's solution was an exception,'' he explained.

''All of our former cars were fitted with Sauber gearboxes, and specialists have already started to work on the C24 gearbox.

''Retaining in-house competence, we believe, is essential.''

Rampf hinted that taking a Ferrari gearbox for 2004 meant making 'general' adjustments to the unit more difficult than usual.

F1 to introduce '05 safety changes
(GMM) Formula One's ten technical directors have agreed 'unanimously' to introduce a raft of new safety proposals.

Their 'Technical Working Group' met at Monza on Sunday and agreed on a '05 package to take to the F1 Commission and World Council.

A FIA statement said the meeting was 'very constructive.'

Following a spate of tire punctures, teams have agreed to coat carbon pieces with an 'outer skin,' in a bid to reduce debris.

''Tests,'' said a spokesman, ''showed covering endplates, barge boards (etc) ... can reduce debris by as much as 80 per cent.''

But BMW director Dr Mario Theissen suggested that carbon should be banned from suspension parts, to eliminate debris 'shards.'

''You could use steel or titanium,'' said the German.

''If everyone used it, it would not raise a competition issue.''

Furthermore, 'tethers' to keep wheels attached to cars - made of metal in '05 rather than fiber - will be four times stronger.

And a F1 car's side headrest will be thicker.

Horner confirms F1 'buyout' talks
(GMM) Arden chief Christian Horner has confirmed reports he is now more likely to buy an existing F1 team than start a new one.

The 30-year-old, whose F3000 crew dominated the final campaign in the support category, is seemingly in talks with Eddie Jordan.

He said on Tuesday: ''I want to move on into Formula One.

''That route (now) has to be through an existing team.''

Jordan was linked with a Dubai-based buyout consortium, but those talks are now lagging and, it is believed, may have stalled.

Horner, who started 'Arden' to promote his own driving career, said the FIA's $48m bond scuppered any hope of starting a team.

Minardi to get government cash boost
(GMM) Minardi look set to receive an Italian cash boost.

The little Faenza-based Formula One team 'should not be ignored,' the Italian Automobile Club's president Franco Lucchesi said.

He told 'La Gazzetta dello Sport': ''(Gian Carlo) Minardi has been brave, and he even, at one point, put assets at risk.''

Often dwarfed by fellow Italian team Ferrari, Minardi may receive some funds from the 'Ministry of Innovation and Technologies.'

Lucchesi said the cash-strapped team, the poorest and F1's most threatened, is still a centre of 'research and experimentation.'

''(We believe Minardi should) get some gratification.''

Meanwhile, Ferrari started a test at its Mugello track on Tuesday, where sports car driver Andrea Bertolini will also run.

F1 carmakers to meet in Paris
(GMM) Ferrari will not fight 'slow down' changes to next season's grand prix cars, company president Luca di Montezemolo has vowed.

The Italian said he 'totally agrees' that aero, engine and tire regulations should be changed to reduce the speed of Formula One.

''Normally when you lead a championship,'' said Luca, ''you oppose any change. But I think, the speed, it is too much.''

Montezemolo's statement comes just a day before the engine carmakers stage a crucial meeting about 2005 and 2006 in Paris.

They were invited to meet at the FIA's headquarters.

At least three of the manufacturers have threatened to take the governing body to court if it mandates a 2.4 liter, V8 formula.

$48m bond not to blame - Max Mosley
(GMM) FIA president Max Mosley has denied that a mandatory $48m bond is making it impossible for new teams to enter Formula One.

The Briton earlier hinted at scrapping the formality.

''When he looked at getting rid (of it),'' said Arden F3000 owner Christian Horner, ''we were looking very seriously (at F1).''

He claims the only option now is to buy an existing F1 team.

Mosley admits the dearth of new teams at present is one of the 'unhealthier' aspects of the current pinnacle of motor sport.

''We need the (private) teams again,'' said the FIA's chief.

''They've always been the backbone of Formula One.''

Mosley said 'at least four' new teams want to come into Formula One, but denied that the $48 million bond is stopping them.

''They don't have to find cash,'' Max said. ''They can put up a bank guarantee and any potential Formula One team can do that.

''The real problem (for them) is finding an engine.''

BAR relishing Renault chaos
(GMM) BAR is relishing the chaos at F1 rival Renault.

Tech chief Geoff Willis said Jarno Trulli's firing, and arrival of old BAR driver Jacques Villeneuve, is 'good' for the team.

But he denied that a similar melee on BAR's own driver front, with Jenson Button wanting to leave in 2005, had affected them.

''We want to secure that second place in (the title),'' said Willis, ''and I'm sure Jenson wants as many points as he can.''

He said a few developments are being tested at Silverstone.

''I think we're quicker than Renault,'' Willis added, ''and we've knocked back the suggestion that we're starting to stagnate.''

'I don't care about Montoya' - Raikkonen
(GMM) Finnish grand prix driver, Kimi Raikkonen, doesn't 'care' who has been signed to drive the other silver car next season.

The 24-year-old, lauded as an 'heir' to Michael Schumacher, will be paired at McLaren in '05 with Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya.

Asked if a team-mate is important, he replied: 'No.

''The real challenge is to beat (Schumacher).''

KR was on a crusade at Monza last weekend, devoted to highlighting that a title challenge relies on a 'reliable' car.

''(McLaren) can only win a championship,'' said the young-faced star known as the 'Iceman', ''if the car does not break down.

''(Schumacher) has been lucky,'' he told a group of journalists, ''that (his) car never breaks. He has done a good job.''

Montoya, he said, won't change a thing for Kimi Raikkonen.

He added: ''I'll be the same, I will work the same.

''He'll be on his side of the garage, I'll be on mine.''

BAR can hang onto second - Richards
(GMM) David Richards is confident BAR can hang on to second in the constructors' championship until the '04-ending grand prix.

Brackley's chief said the 006 car has been quick 'everywhere.

''(And) the last three races should suit us,'' he claimed.

Richards said there is 'no disgrace' in finishing second to the two Ferraris, as team driver Jenson Button did Sunday at Monza.

He added: ''(Ferrari's pace) is a great lesson for us all.''

And, far from criticise the red team for making F1 too 'boring,' he said rivals should sit back, ''observe, and learn (from them).

''At least we're going in the right direction,'' DR claimed.

'Gentlemen, start your 2005 cars!'
(GMM) Independent team Sauber has warned track rivals such as Minardi to start designing a car for the 2005 Formula One season.

Technical director Willy Rampf said that while new regulations have not been set, ''we assume (they) will go into effect.''

Earlier, Minardi's Paul Stoddart said a definite set of '05 regulations may come 'too late' for Faenza to build a new car.

He said the team 'can't afford' to get the design wrong.

Rampf, meanwhile, revealed that Sauber's C24 was started in July.

He said the 2005-spec racer will be the first Hinwil-built challenger to be designed completely in the new wind tunnel.

Rampf revealed that Sauber's aerodynamicists have some 'very interesting ideas' which are being tested in the facility.

''I am convinced (C24) will be competitive,'' he concluded.

Panis as F1 team manager?
(GMM) Retiring grand prix driver Olivier Panis harbors 'no plans' to move from the racing cockpit to the F1 pitwall.

At 38, the Frenchman said the time is right to stop motoring, but some reckon the eleven-year veteran would make a good F1 manager.

Asked if he'd consider it, Panis replied: ''I never say never.

''But at the moment, no.

''I will say that the guy I most respect in this business is Bernie Ecclestone. What he has done in F1 is unbelievable.''

Meanwhile, as F1 moves on to Shanghai for the inaugural Chinese GP, Panis reveals he went to the city just after Melbourne '04.

''I didn't go into the circuit,'' he explained.

''But the city is amazing -- it will blow people's minds.''

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