F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
September 17, 2004

Liuzzi drove a Sauber
(GMM) Sponsor Red Bull was less than happy, but still F3000 champion Vitantonio Liuzzi tested a Sauber at Jerez on Thursday.

The young Italian drove 60 laps in warm conditions.

''He coped with the driving and the ... set-up possibilities astonishingly soon,'' said Sauber technical director Willy Rampf.

Liuzzi, and Red Bull, thought the run was an evaluation for a race drive, but Jacques Villeneuve has locked-out the '05 lineup.

Rampf said Tonio's feedback was 'pretty good.'

Liuzzi himself was delighted to be back in the cockpit but said the morning track conditions were not conducive to a quick time.

''I felt good in the team,'' said the Italian, ''and it was important to do the test, just to get some time in the car.''

Liuzzi, courted by Jean Todt but in line for a 'third' driving role, clocked a time two seconds shy of Michael Schumacher.

Jacques finds pace in Renault
(GMM) After nearly a year on the F1 bench, Jacques Villeneuve got up to speed with a second day in the Renault racer on Thursday.

The French-Canadian, certain to drive the R24 in China according to a source, clocked 66 more laps at the Silverstone (UK) track.

JV, 33, explained a morning problem - similar to day one - was an uncomfortable seat position. ''I moved around a lot,'' he said.

''But we solved the problem so, at last, I could feel the handling and make set-up changes. It was better after that.

''I could attack and I'm pleased with my lap time.''

Villeneuve's was the third quickest lap, just a fraction shy of Kimi Raikkonen, and well clear of sister Renault Franck Montagny.

BAR, Williams and Toyota also lapped in Northamptonshire.

Bernoldi made BAR debut
(GMM) Enrique Bernoldi's brightly-colored helmet scheme returned to the F1 track on Thursday, at the wheel of a BAR.

The young Brazilian, who was a sponsor-backed racer at Arrows a couple of years ago, recently signed for the part-time test job.

He did only eleven laps at Silverstone in the afternoon.

''It felt good to drive again,'' said the boyfriend of tennis star Jelena Dokic, ''even though I had to stop with a problem.

''I felt comfortable in the car.''

When Jenson Button and Takuma Sato are overseas in a couple of weeks, Bernoldi will conduct test work at the Jerez circuit.

''In the meantime,'' he added, ''I'm excited and motivated.''

Bernoldi is managed by renowned F1 agent Didier Coton, who has organized the short contract to contain a two-year 'option.'

Asked how likely a full-time test role is in 2005 and beyond, Enrique replied: ''It is up to (BAR). I will do my best.''

China back down on tobacco demand
(GMM) Despite a total ban on tobacco advertising, F1 cars will race fully-branded around China's track in Shanghai next weekend.

The circuit's advertising manager, Cao Bin, denied the charge that the European-based sport was set to contravene Chinese law.

''(But) we will respect international practices,'' he told AFP.

Shanghai officials said earlier in '04 they would now allow cigarette branding at the race, but appear to have backed down.

Burke Fishburn, coordinator of the WHO's 'Tobacco Free Initiative', said Shanghai did not want to 'push too hard.

''(They) probably could have pushed (harder),'' he admitted.

''But (it) is a new (Formula One) venue.''

'I'm looking forward to China' - Ralf
(GMM) Ralf Schumacher has all but confirmed he is set to return to the Formula One grid following a twelve-week cockpit absence.

The younger brother of champion Michael tested the Williams for three days at Silverstone this week, reporting 'no (back) pain.'

Ralf, 29, set the fastest time of all on Tuesday.

''The car is much better now than when I last drove it (at Indianapolis),'' he said. ''It is much easier to drive.

''It has a lot more downforce.

''I'm really looking forward to the next three races.''

Test team manager Tim Newton lamented a tougher run than usual for the Grove-based team, but was glad to have Ralf's feedback.

''It was good to have (Ralf) back,'' BMW's Mario Theissen agreed.

The motor sport director said Ralf made adjustments to the revised car's 'start strategy' and 'traction control system.'

Jacques to get the nod on Friday
(GMM) Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve will be confirmed as Jarno Trulli's '04 replacement at Renault on Friday or Monday.

That's the word of an authoritative source.

He reported that the French-Canadian, who also signed a two-year Sauber contract this week, was informed of the news on Thursday.

But, if he was, 33-year-old Villeneuve wasn't telling.

Asked what he'll be up to when the green light shines for the start of opening Shanghai practice, JV said: ''You'll find out.

''I guess you'll find out when I find out.''

Amazed that he hasn't already 'found out,' a British hack conveyed his disbelief to Silverstone-testing Villeneuve.

Jacques just smiled, and then laughed ...

He said there'll be 'nothing to lose' if he does race.

''I just feel relaxed,'' said the former CART and Indy 500 champion. ''There's no negativity -- I'll just race, I think!''

Fisi, Jacques, to swap seats after China
(GMM) Giancarlo Fisichella may get an early Sauber release so he can join Renault for the '04-ending Japanese and Brazilian races.

Flavio Briatore tried to convince Peter Sauber, to lose the rated Roman in '05 anyway, to let Fisichella go for the Shanghai event.

But, those failed, talks ensue about the final two grands prix.

According to gossip on Thursday and Friday morning, Fisichella's departure would clear the Sauber seat for Jacques Villeneuve.

The '97 champion is all signed-up to race a Sauber in '05.

Timely Trulli tests Toyota
(GMM) At Monza, Jarno Trulli was a Renault racer.

But by Thursday of the following week, the Italian had left Enstone, signed a new contract, and tested the Toyota car.

''It's happened quite quickly,'' he smiled at Silverstone, showing off an already predominantly-red helmet color scheme.

JT did 80 debut laps, just a few tenths off the pace.

''Formula One teaches you that unexpected things happen. Already it feels good and it's good to work again with Mike (Gascoyne).''

Asked about the TF104B, Trulli didn't give much away.

''Some bits, even at this early stage, seem good, positive, and there are things I am looking forward to helping improve, too.''

He said: ''But it's really too early to judge too much.''

BAR's Button may skip 2005 season
(GMM) Jenson Button may have to spend 2005 on the Formula One sidelines, a 'high ranking' source told the UK media on Thursday.

The source, a member of the Brackley team, predicted that BAR is likely to win the upcoming 'Contract Recognition Board' decision.

But Button won't drive the 007 if he doesn't want to.

''We cannot force Jenson to drive for us,'' the assenting team 'source' was quoted by British tabloid newspaper 'The Mirror'.

''But we (will be able to) stop him driving for anyone else.''

Renault managing director Flavio Briatore, who dumped Button in 2002, also reckons the Geneva board will rule in BAR's favor.

But the Italian thinks JB, 24, will race a Williams.

He told 'Sportautomoto': ''Contractually, he has to stay.

''But (BAR) won't want a driver who does not want to stay. Jenson is not Schumacher -- I wouldn't fight a war for him.''

Williams will likely buy Button with an out-of-court settlement.

Zanardi launches book at Berlin clinic
(GMM) Former Lotus and Williams ace Alex Zanardi launched a biography - 'My Story' - at a Berlin health clinic on Thursday.

It was there, almost three years ago to the day, that German doctors saved the Italian's life after a shock Champ Car crash.

Zanardi lost two liters of blood, and both legs, in the shunt.

''I wrote the book to help others like me,'' said Alex, 37.

The likeable Italian, although once ruling-out a track return, today races a hand-controlled touring car in the European series.

He is presently seventeenth in the standings.

Zanardi smashed the 320i at Imola just a few days ago. ''You can crash at any time,'' he said, ''but I am still having fun.''

Engine marques' 'radical' plan - report
(GMM) Three F1 manufacturers have proposed a radical plan to reduce testing and almost double engine mileage from 2005.

BMW, Mercedes and Honda have threatened to take the FIA to arbitration over plans to compel a one-engine-per-two-races rule.

They're also vehemently against the V8, 2.4 liter idea.

All carmakers met at the FIA's Paris HQ on Wednesday.

According to Autosport magazine, the three manufacturers said a car engine change should only be permitted on Saturday morning.

The same V10, they say, will have to be used between grands prix - including at a test - and on the Friday of the next F1 event.

They also said carmakers should contribute $3m to a customer engine 'pool' for struggling privateers like Jordan and Minardi.

A source said the FIA 'is considering' the carmakers' position.

Zonta to stay in Toyota
(GMM) Ricardo Zonta will still steer a 'third' Toyota on the Friday of grands prix next season, the team said on Thursday.

Along with the Jarno Trulli confirmation statement was the comment that the F1 team 'plans' for the Brazilian to stay.

A spokesman at Cologne HQ also told us: ''(He will also) undertake extensive test duties alongside Panis in 2005.''

''Ricardo has demonstrated a strong commitment ... to the team over the last two years,'' said Toyota principal Tsutomu Tomita.

'''With Ralf, Jarno, Olivier and Ricardo, I think (we) have one of the strongest driver line-ups in F1 for next season.''

A source, meanwhile, said the Zonta confirmation was deliberately 'ambiguous' in order to clear a path for Jarno Trulli's debut.

He said the newly-signed Italian may start racing in China.

Sauber won't test Paffett, Albers
(GMM) Gary Paffett will no longer test a Sauber F1 car.

The British ace, so impressive in German touring car (DTM) series, had been unofficially told to expect the call in October.

Sauber said in a statement earlier this month that the Hinwil-based team is 'planning to invite' another young driver to test.

Vitantonio Liuzzi did laps of Jerez on Thursday.

But with '97 world champion Jacques Villeneuve signed as Giancarlo Fisichella's '05 successor, Gary's turn is off.

Dutch rival Christijan Albers might also have got a Sauber run.

Meanwhile, a source said on Friday morning that Villeneuve, 33, will debut in a Ferrari-powered car in Spain in late November.

Trulli - 'OK, sign Villeneuve'
(GMM) After Monza, Renault managing director Flavio Briatore dialed compatriot and driver Jarno Trulli's cell phone number.

The exchange went something like this ...

Flavio: ''You've cost us (second in) the championship.

''You're not trying any more. We want you out.''

Jarno Trulli, who on Thursday tested a Toyota car for the first time, said he was also keen to 'divorce' the Enstone-based team.

''After a while,'' he said, using the analogy of an unhappy marriage, ''you think 'I can't live in this house any more'.

''(Flavio) said it was my fault.

''But I have been the driver to get most of the results (in '04). I always tried my best -- but the car would not respond any more.

''So I said 'OK, you can sign the driver you want'.''

China is F1's 'most important' flirt
(GMM) Ferrari is hoping Formula One's flirt with China can double the sale of scarlet sports cars in the burgeoning country.

F1 chief Jean Todt recently opened a new showroom in China.

He said: ''China, Russia, India - those sort of places - have huge potential. They could be the countries of the future.''

Ferrari's biggest market is currently the United States.

Based in Maranello (Italy), Ferrari produces around 4500 road cars a year and, in 2004, about 50 of them ended up in China.

Todt continued: ''We are hoping it will be 100 (in 2005).''

Renault's Flavio Briatore said the move to China, with a grand prix in Shanghai, may prove to be F1's 'most important' in years.

''To enter a new market,'' said the Italian, ''you need exposure.

''Now we have the race, we have exposure for (our) sponsors.''

Jaguar talks 'promising' - Davidson
(GMM) With Jacques Villeneuve slotting in at Sauber, Anthony Davidson's best chance of a 2005 seat is at British team Jaguar.

BAR's 'third' driver had been spotted in and out of the Sauber motor home at races, and admits to 'surprise' at the JV signing.

''I'm not disappointed though,'' he told Autosport.

''Sauber was probably my third choice and it felt a bit cold there in some meetings. We've now got to wait (on Jaguar).''

Davidson, 25, admits there appears to be some uncertainty regarding the future of the 'British Racing Greens' about 2005.

But he still says the talks seem 'promising.

''We are also waiting on the (CRB, Jenson Button) decision.''

Nicknamed 'Ant', the diminutive star wonders if Sauber is the right move for Canadian Villeneuve, the former Williams champion.

Davidson used to develop a BAR racer for the feisty 33-year-old.

''(Jacques is) used to a team with lots of funding.

''But if Peter (Sauber) likes a fighter, that's what he'll get.''

Sauber and Villeneuve to 'clash'?
(GMM) There 'might be a clash' between Peter Sauber and Jacques Villeneuve, former Sauber F1 driver Johnny Herbert has warned.

The little Englishman, today a Le Mans racer, drove for Hinwil between 1996 and 1998, and said the boss can be 'quite stubborn.'

He told Reuters: ''But it won't be a bad partnership.''

Villeneuve, the maverick champion of 1997, has been classed a 'trouble maker' in the F1 paddock, but Herbert doesn't buy it.

''I think (Jacques') attitude will be fine,'' said Johnny.

Meanwhile, JV said at Silverstone on Thursday that he was 'happy' when the mud finally hit the fan at former team BAR last October.

''It had been five years of political games,'' he said.

''No matter how hard you try to be positive, you inevitably take some of the negativity in, and it is bound to come out somehow.

''The break I've had was important.''

Button's done a 'fantastic job' - Villeneuve
(GMM) Last year, music fan Jacques Villeneuve said Jenson Button brought little more to F1 than a 'boy band' brings to the radio.

Most analysts at Silverstone agree, similarly, that the French-Canadian will, in '05, bring more than antagonism to the paddock.

Asked, after a second day of testing the Renault in England, if he thinks he might have won a race for BAR in 2005, JV replied -

''I think Jenson has done a fantastic job.

''So ... it would have been hard to do a better job (than him).''

Or, maybe it's just that Villeneuve - fired by BAR last October - and Williams-defecting Button, now have something in common ...

... a BAR-turned-bad connection.

Jacques smiled: ''Maybe he wants to leave (BAR) because of the political aspects of certain parts of the team? Don't know.''

There's no doubt that 'certain part' is chief Dave Richards.

JV and the chief fell-out spectacularly last year, and before, but still he was surprised when Jenson said he wanted to leave.

''It always used to be '(Jenson Button) against me','' said Villeneuve, ''but I guess he thinks he'll do better at Williams.

''(But) maybe BAR has gone political again?''

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