F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
September 21, 2004

Fisi to sample China on a bike
(GMM - Shanghai) Giancarlo Fisichella will discover the nuances of F1's newest track, in Shanghai, without the aid of horsepower.

The highly-rated Roman said he'll walk China's impressive layout on Thursday, and probably clock up more miles on a bike.

''I never have trouble learning a
new track,'' said the Sauber F1 star.

Fisichella, who'll race a Renault in '05, said a foot or two-wheeled tour of Shanghai will offer an insight to the track's detail.

''It's not just to see which way (the track) goes,'' said Giancarlo, an F1 ace since 1996.

''(It shows you) where the curbs are, what shape they are, what surface changes there are, how big the run-off areas are ... ''

Sauber's technical director, Willy Rampf, thinks the C23 will go well in China, even if the 'main thrust' of aerodynamic work from now 'will be on the ('05 Sauber) car.''

Zonta to race Toyota in China - team
(GMM - Shanghai) Ricardo Zonta will be Olivier Panis' F1 teammate in China this weekend, the Toyota team said on Monday.

It had been rumored that '05 driver Jarno Trulli, who tested the TF104B for the first time last week, may slot into the race role early for the last grands prix of the year.

''I'm really looking forward to Shanghai,'' said Zonta, promoted to Cologne's race seat after Cristiano da Matta got the flick.

China is a big market for a car manufacturer, so Tsutomu Tomita hopes F1's arrival in the country 'will be fruitful to (our) growth.'

The team principal said: ''We'll demonstrate what Toyota is about as we look to increase our sales to the valued Chinese customers.''

F1 cars arrive in China - spokesman
(GMM - Shanghai) For the first time in motor sport history, a full compliment of Formula One cars arrived in China on the weekend.

A spokesman at the Shanghai track confirmed that two separate batches were offloaded from 747 jets and transported to the facility.

Eighteen race cars, including spares and equipment, touched down Saturday, and the other fourteen arrived Sunday morning.

Team crew are already working in the virginal F1 paddock, the track spokesman explained.

Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya visited the 'Great Wall' on Monday, 'a very different way to spend my birthday,' the Colombian laughed.

Michelin tread carefully to China
(GMM - Shanghai) Michelin has minimized the risk of more failures by taking tires 'that have previously been (raced)' to Shanghai.

F1 program manager Pascal Vasselon said the never-ending Turn One is likely to make China the 'toughest' challenge for a tire so far.

''Shanghai has a unique configuration,'' said the Frenchman, ''and (may) put a greater load on tires than anywhere else (in F1).''

Michelin suffered a series of blow-ups at Spa and at the Monza test, a phenomenon some rival sources said reflected a less than cautious approach to tire selection.

Bridgestone's Hisao Suganuma, meanwhile, said in the various fast corners, 'generation of heat' in the tires 'will ... be an issue.'

Alonso psyched for BAR battle
(GMM - Shanghai) Fernando Alonso thinks an aggressive style will help Renault beat rival BAR to second place in the championship.

''I think we can do it, certainly,'' said the Spaniard, despite BAR nosing ahead at Monza.

Alonso, 22, reckons he's an 'aggressive' driver, and urged the team to be as well.

He added: ''It will be a big fight, but we have a good car. Although I haven't finished races lately, I was still very quick.''

Fernando Alonso thinks the newness of Shanghai's track may play into his hands.

''A driver has to be very adaptable at a new circuit,'' he said, ''and I believe that is one of my personal strengths.''

Schu - 'I'm not disadvantaged'
(GMM) The fact that some rivals have already lapped Shanghai's F1 layout will not put other drivers at a disadvantage.

That's the insistence of champion Michael Schumacher, who left for China on Monday.

BAR ace Jenson Button, for one, got a first-hand head start recently by driving a Honda road car through the virginal track's curves.

''There have only been exhibition laps (so far),'' said the seven-time world champion.

He added: ''It will only be on Friday that we can really evaluate the track -- so for everybody it will be the first time.''

Schumacher, 35, said that with the drivers' and constructors' titles in the bag for Ferrari, he can drive the final three grands prix of the season 'without pressure.

''This is ideal,'' said the German star, who has never been to China before.

Williams designer 'seriously injured'
(GMM - Shanghai) Williams' chief F1 designer, Gavin Fisher, has been 'seriously injured' in an off-road motorbike crash, the team confirmed.

A spokesman told this publication that the 40-year-old is 'stable', in a Los Angeles hospital, but cannot return to Europe.

Asked how long Fisher will be in America, the spokesman replied: ''Around three weeks.''

Williams later said in a statement that senior engineer Mark Loasby 'will provide cover' for the recuperating Fisher's role.

Technical director Sam Michael, meanwhile, said he spoke to Gavin on the weekend.

''Thankfully the surgery he underwent immediately after his accident appears to have been successful,'' said the Australian.

Michael denied speculation that the 2005 car's design will now be compromised.

''We have strength in depth in the design office,'' he said, ''(and) much of the fundamental layout work for the FW27 is underway.''

China crucial for Mercedes - Haug
(GMM - Shanghai) Norbert Haug hopes Sunday's Formula One race in Shanghai is the 'most noticed event' in motor sport history.

Mercedes' vice president of racing said parent company DaimlerChrysler will produce 'C and E Class sedans' in China from 2005.

''We (therefore) want to present ourselves in a competitive way to the (spectators) at the race track or on the TV,'' said the German.

Haug said that at recent grands prix the 'B spec' McLaren car had the speed 'to finish on the podium.'

Kimi Raikkonen won at Spa, but he also retired twice, 'which is twice too many,' according to Norbert Haug.

McLaren's F1 'CEO' Martin Whitmarsh, meanwhile, said China will open up Formula One to 'vast new audiences and markets.'

Team driver David Coulthard arrived in Shanghai on Tuesday, 'to enable my body to acclimatize (also) to the time difference.'

Webber tells Williams to resolve dispute
(GMM - Shanghai) Mark Webber has urged 2005 employer Williams to quickly resolve the energy-sapping 'Jenson Button saga.'

The pair will be team-mates next season, but only if the Grove-based squad beat BAR in a heated contractual battle for JB's services.

Asked by 'F1Racing.net' if he's sure 24-year-old Button will occupy a BMW-powered racer in 2005, Mark Webber replied: 'No.

''And I'm losing no sleep over it.

''What worries me is that Williams is wasting energy on this. They need to sort it out ... and concentrate on making the car faster.''

Button is likely to be 27-year-old Webber's toughest team-mate challenge in Formula One.

But the super-fit star said the Englishman is ''just another (team-mate). I like a fast driver next to me,'' promised Mark.

F1 must cut costs, says BMW's Theissen
(GMM - Shanghai) Ford and Jaguar's shock withdrawal from F1 proves that cost cutting is the 'most urgent issue' in the sport.

That is the claim of rival carmaker BMW's director Dr Mario Theissen who said new rules must aim to reduce the massive expense of putting two cars on the grand prix grid.

''The goal must be to avoid increased costs,'' said the German, ''and to cut the cost of racing and testing.''

Curiously, though, BMW is a main opponent of one of the FIA's proposed new regulations, to impose a 2.4 liter V8 engine formula in 2006.

''We prefer to keep the 3.0 liter V10 format,'' said Theissen, ''in connection with an increased engine mileage and restrictions ... in materials and design.''

He thinks retaining the V10 format will save more money for engine makers, because they won't 'be forced to design all-new concepts.'

Jaguar snubbed buy-out offers
(GMM - Shanghai) Ford squandered two opportunities to sell beleaguered Formula One team Jaguar, a British magazine reported.

'High level sources' revealed to Autosport that Red Bull, and later an Asian consortium, were turned away by Ford's powerbrokers.

An article also hinted that Ford's F1 withdrawal might contravene a clause in the secretive 'Concorde Agreement.'

Only 'force majeure,' which does not cover financial issues, is reason enough to pull out before 2007, the agreement's natural end.

Managing director David Pitchforth, meanwhile, said Ford wanted to sell both Jaguar and Cosworth as a 'going concern.'

He revealed that Milton-Keynes will design, build and run the 2005-spec R6 car.

Ferrari with plenty in the tank - report
(GMM - Shanghai) Ferrari strolled to an unprecedented dominant championship sweep in 2004 with plenty left in the tank.

That is the claim of UK newspaper 'The Telegraph' in quoting 'sources close to Ferrari' as saying Ferrari turned-up the engine for the very first time at Monza.

The paper said Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello's V10 units were run 'conservatively' in the first fourteen grands prix of the season.

Sources said only Schumacher's chicane slide in Italy and Barrichello's wrong tires permitted them to switch the engines to the most aggressive 'mapping programs.'

''(The) combination of more revs, more power and Ferrari's peerless race reliability,'' said the report, ''yielded hitherto unseen reserves of performance.''

Poor pace was Trulli's problem - Symonds
(GMM - Shanghai) Renault has refused to admit there was something wrong with fired driver Jarno Trulli's R24 car at Monza.

The Italian's persisting poor form on the circuit moved managing director Flavio Briatore to release the Toyota-bound driver and replace him with Jacques Villeneuve.

Trulli, 30, maintained the problem lay somewhere beneath the blue and yellow racer's bodywork - but Renault disagree.

The team built him a brand new chassis for Monza, while engineering director Pat Symonds reckons Trulli just struggled to cope with the demands of the low-downforce layout.

''It's not easy to drive a very light car (at Monza),'' the Briton told Autosport magazine.

Symonds said Trulli was driving fast until he stopped for a big load of fuel.

''You fill it (up),'' said Pat, ''(and) it never feels nice. That's something a driver has to get used to.''

It's raining in Shanghai!
(GMM - Shanghai) It's raining in Shanghai!

This publication's correspondents at the scene of the Chinese GP say the showers are forecast to continue throughout Tuesday.

Morning showers are then expected to clear by Wednesday afternoon, and no more rain - just cloud - should be the order of the day for the rest of the week in the Far East.

Mostly cloudy but warm (up to 29 degrees Celsius) temperatures should stretch from Thursday, through Friday's opening practice, qualifying and the inaugural race on Sunday.

Returning driver Ralf Schumacher visited Shanghai a year ago when the purpose-built facility was still under construction.

''It's always fun going to a completely new track,'' said Williams' German driver, ''because everyone is equal in their lack of knowledge.''

Stoddart calls 'urgent' F1 meeting
(GMM - Shanghai) Paul Stoddart has urged all fellow Formula One principals to meet in Shanghai this weekend following Ford's shock withdrawal.

The Minardi owner said an 'urgent' summit should be a chance for the threatened small teams to put their case to better funded rivals 'to find a solution.'

If Jordan and Minardi, seemingly without a subsidized engine deal for 2005, also founder, most of their rivals will have to fund a third car to make up the numbers.

''(We've got) to find a solution,'' Stoddart told UK's News Of The World newspaper.

The Australian-born airline mogul, chief of F1's poorest outfit, said the demise of Jaguar is a 'bad day' for Formula One.

He added: ''It's pretty serious if the world's second biggest car manufacturer has to quit. But I am not surprised. I have seen it coming for a while.''

FOM snatch Chinese TV rights
(GMM - Shanghai) Bernie Ecclestone has snatched control of television broadcasting at the Shanghai circuit just three days prior to Chinese Grand Prix action.

News agencies were told on Tuesday that, despite an earlier agreement with Formula One Management, local station CCTV will no longer manage the task.

''We have withdrawn by request of FOM,'' said Zhang Xing, CCTV's F1 chief.

Early speculation said F1 supremo Bernie's FOM advisers thought CCTV's 'techniques and equipment' were not up to the task of broadcasting one of the world's top sports.

The Shanghai circuit's deputy manager, Yu Zhifei, commented that it's 'really difficult' for an 'inexperienced' network to handle F1.

Bernie's group was not available for comment.

It is expected that FOM wants to become more involved as host broadcaster at grands prix next season.

Da Matta's done with F1
(GMM - Shanghai) Even if Michael Schumacher demanded that a five-foot-three Brazilian replace him, Cristiano da Matta would not return to F1.

The former Champ Car champion, dumped as Toyota racer in August, revealed he is totally disillusioned with the pinnacle of motor sport.

Da Matta, 31, has been in hiding in Brazil since Hockenheim, refusing even to field sympathetic calls from replacement Ricardo Zonta, and former teammate Olivier Panis.

He celebrated a birthday on Sunday, and gave a first interview with local Brazilian sport publication 'Superesportes.'

''I have no interest whatsoever in racing in Formula One anymore,'' said Cristiano, ''even if it was in Michael Schumacher's place.''

Asked why, da Matta said there is 'no competition at all' in grands prix.

''Actually, I knew it before I left America,'' said Cristiano, ''but I had to see it for myself.''

He said he did not feel bitter at the Toyota bosses who dumped him, but reckons Zonta's results since Hungary showed that the driver was not to blame.

''(The TF104B) car,'' Cristiano added, ''is actually worse than last year's.''

F1 stars relish Shanghai challenge
(GMM - Shanghai) Formula One drivers relish a new challenge, and that is exactly what they will get in China this weekend.

Ricardo Zonta, who has filled in for Cristiano da Matta since Budapest, said a look at circuit maps indicate Shanghai is 'very slow.

''But you have to drive (a circuit),'' said the Brazilian, ''before judging whether or not it is going to be fun.''

McLaren star Kimi Raikkonen, however - who won in Belgium - has little doubt that China will be a 'great track' to race on.

''I'll look around the track with the engineers,'' said the Finn, ''as soon as we arrive to have a closer look.''

Felipe Massa, who drives a Sauber this year and next, has also studied the virgin layout, on maps and with computer simulation.

''It doesn't take me long to learn a new track,'' said the Brazilian, 23.

''The track seems a mixture of Sepang and Bahrain, but I think it will be quicker than Bahrain, which is good.''

Juan Pablo Montoya hopes Shanghai permits overtaking, while BAR driver Takuma Sato said the layout looks 'physically demanding.'

Toyota's Olivier Panis revealed he will spend the opening practice session 'just to learn the track' without fiddling with setup.

''You have to find your own speed before changing something,'' said the retiring Frenchman.

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