F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
September 22, 2004

McNish to test 'GP2' car
(GMM - Shanghai) Former F1 ace Allan McNish will test the new 'GP2' open-wheeler car in France from this week.

The Scot, who raced for Toyota before becoming Renault's tester last season, is signed to do three sessions at Paul Ricard while regular driver Franck Montagny attends Asian and South American grands prix.

''I'm looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of a single seater again,'' said McNish, who has won the Le Mans 24 Hours.

GP2, supported by French car manufacturer Renault, is set to replace F1's junior category F3000 from next season.

The recently unveiled car has a powerful 600hp engine but, unlike in F1, no traction control or power steering.

Montagny, the Frenchman, this year replaced McNish as Renault's F1 test driver.

F1's 'right' to be in China - Schu
(GMM - Shanghai) It is 'right' that Formula One now has an event in China, world champion Michael Schumacher said on Tuesday.

The German, who landed at Shanghai's international airport for the inaugural grand prix here, said more overseas events make F1 a more genuine 'world' championship.

He said: ''It will be great getting to know the country and its people, apart from racing.''

Ferrari's seven time drivers' title winner has never been to China before, but Schumacher has read reports citing the $304 million track as the most impressive in the world.

''I am looking forward to seeing it with my own eyes,'' said the 35-year-old.

F1's next most experienced current driver, retiring veteran Olivier Panis, claims it is good for 'the image' of Formula One to race in China.

The Toyota-driving Frenchman said: ''Everyone in the business world looks to China and Shanghai is now one of the big business centers with a huge population.''

'I didn't change my style' - Sato
(GMM - Shanghai) Takuma Sato has denied he changed how he drives a Formula One car to tackle, and apparently solve, an engine reliability problem.

Earlier this season, the Japanese's Honda engine was always the one to fail, sparking speculation an overly-aggressive cockpit style was the cause.

''No,'' said the BAR driver in China, ''it was a fundamental mechanical thing.''

Sato said Honda has improved the current V10-spec 'a lot.

''They've sorted out that reliability issue,'' said the diminutive racer known in the paddock as Taku, ''and therefore can now concentrate fully on power.''

The impressive, if often erratic, F1 star also claimed that Brackley-based BAR is coping well with the inevitably distracting 'Jenson Button saga.'

''There may be things going on away from the circuit,'' said Sato, ''but we are fully concentrated. The atmosphere hasn't really changed and that's good.''

Jaguar to build 2005 car - Pitchforth
(GMM - Shanghai) Jaguar chiefs were 'expecting' carmaker owner Ford to pull the plug, managing director David Pitchforth admitted prior to Sunday's Chinese GP.

''It has been an incredibly busy week for us,'' said the Briton in Shanghai.

Pitchforth revealed he is 'disappointed' that, just five months prior to the start of the 2005 season, Jaguar and engine firm Cosworth do not have a backer beyond October.

''(But) it has put everything into focus for us,'' he added. ''Everyone is now working extra hard and there has been some superhuman effort by everyone over the past few days.''

Jaguar will continue to plough ahead with development of a 2005 car 'to (maintain) the value of the company,' Pitchforth insisted.

The first 'interim' model will run at Jerez (Spain) next week, featuring the 2005 transmission and gearbox.

'Don't blame Ferrari' - Raikkonen
(GMM - Shanghai) Ferrari and Michael Schumacher 'deserve' to have beaten all comers this Millennium, last year's title runner-up Kimi Raikkonen said Tuesday.

McLaren's Finn, who stopped in Singapore for a team sponsor event, supported the red squad in the face of criticism they are making Formula One boring.

''They've just done a better job than all of us,'' said the 24-year-old prior to jetting-off to Shanghai, scene of Sunday's Chinese GP.

Raikkonen added: ''You can't say they are doing something wrong -- we just need to work harder and try to beat them every weekend.''

The self-proclaimed 'Iceman' also denied that he and new Colombian team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya, with different but equally feisty personalities, are set to clash in 2005.

''He talks well,'' Kimi said of the current Williams star, Montoya.

''There is nothing between us so the team will be strong, but for sure we will try to beat each other -- that's normal.''

Raikkonen was scheduled to show off a go-kart, but a Singapore downpour moved officials to determine it was 'too dangerous' for the F1 driver.

Filipino lands Minardi test
(GMM - Shanghai) A Filipino driver has moved into contention for a Formula One future, after Minardi offered youngster Enzo Pastor a test drive.

At the 'Sportswriters Association Forum' in the Philippines on Tuesday, the 22-year-old confirmed that 'negotiations' were taking place.

Pastor would be the first Filipino in F1.

He added: ''Of course, I'm excited about the prospect. Who wouldn't be?''

The youngster said he hoped to join Paul Stoddart's Faenza-based squad in November, but a full season of testing was more likely than a race drive next year.

Pastor said a Minardi seat is not cheap.

''We're trying to come up with a funding on that,'' he said. ''We're already negotiating with some probable sponsors.''

Pastor's F1 bid looks to be supported by Asian Formula 3 chairman Ed Pena, who said powering a star to the pinnacle of motor sport has 'always' been an objective.

Glock to replace Jordan's Pantano
(GMM - Shanghai) Regular Jordan racer Giorgio Pantano will not contest the final three grands prix of the season, a team insider confirmed to publications on Tuesday.

The independent F1 team's 'third' driver, Timo Glock - who is supported by Deutsche Post's young driver academy - is set to race in his place.

German-born Glock, 22, stepped in for Pantano when the Italian struck management and sponsor trouble at Montreal, and earned a couple of debut points.

Formal confirmation is expected Wednesday.

Former F3000 star Pantano joined the F1 ranks this season amid high expectations, so his sponsors may have concluded that three more races are not enough to make a mark.

Glock tested the EJ14 at Silverstone last week, in a session Jordan described as 'on track preparation' for the final three grands prix of 2004.

Local fans can't afford F1 ticket
(GMM - Shanghai) Very few locals have been able to afford tickets for the inaugural F1 event in Shanghai, which is a sell-out.

One of the 150,000 tickets cost between $45 to $450, but the average income in China is only around $1000 a year.

Reports insist that few normal spectators can afford to go to the $304 million track this weekend, so sponsors or the 'well connected' will dominate in the crowd.

Meanwhile, the 'Shanghai Daily' newspaper said 'black market' prices for a ticket have blown out to more than $1000.

Other local media insisted, however, that - contrary to the British reports - most tickets were sold to normal Chinese fans.

The track's general manager, Mao Xiao Han, threw down speculation he was 'nervous' ahead of one of the biggest sport shows in China's history.

''This is (going to be) a thrill for the viewers,'' he said, ''and a fresh experience for the drivers.''

'I can win title for BAR' - Coulthard
(GMM - Shanghai) David Coulthard has staked a claim for a BAR drive next season by insisting he would have won a race in Jenson Button's Honda-powered car.

The Scot will leave McLaren in October and his '05 prospects took a hit last week when Jaguar, who made an offer for the F1 veteran, was withdrawn by team owner Ford.

DC's best shot, therefore, remains at Brackley-based BAR, who may have a vacant seat if Button pulls off his desired move to Williams.

Coulthard told The Mail on Sunday: ''I have the highest respect for Jenson Button, whom I regard as a friend.

''But I believe if I'd been driving his car this season I would have won a grand prix or two.''

The 33-year-old, who started his career as a test driver alongside Williams' Ayrton Senna, said he is just 'more experienced' than Button.

''Jenson will win many races in due course,'' said Coulthard, ''but right now I know how to win and hope I'll get the chance to prove it with BAR next season.''

Horner to make Jaguar bid
(GMM - Shanghai) F3000 team owner Christian Horner has confirmed that he will 'probably' make a bid for beleaguered Formula One team Jaguar.

The 30-year-old, who would be F1's youngest team principal, said despite obstacles such as a $48m bond and customer engines, 'it's been done before and it will be done again.'

Horner said buying an existing team would alleviate at least one of the problems -- the mandatory bond to be lodged with the FIA.

''I believe you can run a team reasonably cost-effectively,'' he stated, ''even if there's a million reasons why not to do it.''

He reckons grand prix racing desperately needs, and will appreciate, the shot-in-the-arm that a new young team would provide.

''The interest it would generate,'' said Christian, ''is something F1 that is crying out for, and Arden has a reputation as a winning team.''

But he warned he would only take the plunge if he could guarantee a 'long term strategy' for an Arden Formula One entry.

'I never considered quitting' - Ralf
(GMM - Shanghai) Even after crashing at 300km/h and breaking two back bones, Ralf Schumacher never thought about quitting Formula One.

The German, who is set to return for Williams in Shanghai this weekend, had forgotten 'how much fun' driving a 900hp car really was until he did it at Silverstone last week.

''I have raced for eight years in Formula One,'' said the young brother of world champion Michael, ''and I was taking it for granted.''

A more serious back injury might have landed Ralf, 29, in a wheelchair - or worse - but he said not 'for one second' did he contemplate giving it up.

''I enjoy racing too much for that,'' said Schumacher. ''Motor racing is simply dangerous, but there are many things that are also dangerous.''

Indy race wants later F1 date
(GMM - Shanghai) Next year's United States Grand Prix will take place a week later than originally planned.

Tickets for the Indianapolis event went on sale on Tuesday, with organizers penning a provisional June 17-19 date.

A spokesman said the date, seven days later than listed on Bernie Ecclestone's provisional calendar, is subject to 'FIA approval.'

Speculation said the Motor Speedway want more time to reconfigure the circuit after May's fabled Indy 500, but the shift will have implications for other grands prix.

The Indy spokesman also said the popular 'pitlane walkabout' is scheduled to return in 2005.

'We won't clash' - Villeneuve
(GMM - Shanghai) Jacques Villeneuve has denied he and similarly-stubborn new Formula One boss Peter Sauber may 'clash' next season.

The French-Canadian will return for Renault in Shanghai this weekend but, beyond that, he is signed to drive a Swiss-built car in 2005 and 2006.

''When I first spoke to Peter,'' said Villeneuve, who would have been out of F1 for a twelve full months if he'd missed China, ''there was good energy and lots of respect.''

JV, 33 and a former world champion, said if he can survive the infighting of BAR, ''then I can be patient at a team that is not political at all.''

He denied that, fitness and knowledge-wise, he will be at a disadvantage when the other nineteen cars exit pitlane on Friday.

''I'm fresh,'' said Villeneuve, ''and that is positive, but I do have a lot to learn, and I'll turn to Fernando (Alonso) to get as much information as possible.

''It will be difficult, but that's fun.''

'F1 in Schools' unaffected - Jaguar
(GMM - Shanghai) A team spokesman has insisted Ford's F1 withdrawal will not affect the '2004/5 Jaguar F1 in Schools CAD/CAM Challenge.'

''We see no change to our support of F1 in Schools, as its premier sponsor, or to other community related programs including Jaguar Education Business Partnership Centers,'' he said.

Bernie won't save struggling teams
(GMM - Shanghai) F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has admitted that Ford's F1 withdrawal will threaten Minardi and Jordan.

The struggling privateers are powered by subsidized Cosworth engines, but Ford has vowed to sell the brand - as well as Jaguar - after October's Brazilian GP.

''We have to be prepared for the fact that two more teams might not be around next year,'' said the 73-year-old, ''and that is what I am doing now.''

Ecclestone denied that he might stump up with cash for the Italian and British-based squads, so they can afford to buy more expensive Ferrari or Toyota V10s.

He said: ''I don't see why I should have to pay for two small teams to go racing. That is not my job.''

The head of Formula One Management explained that the most likely scenario, if the grid dips below twenty cars, is that top teams will have to enter a third driver.

Minardi, however, look better placed than Eddie Jordan to hurdle Ford's bombshell, as the Faenza team can race its own supply of old 'European'-branded Cosworth engines as a last resort.

Sauber scuppers driver 'swap'
(GMM - Shanghai) Contrary to predictions, Giancarlo Fisichella and Jacques Villeneuve will not swap seats following Sunday's Chinese GP.

Renault's Flavio Briatore tried to arrange the deal to unite both teams' 2005 contracted drivers ahead of time, but Peter Sauber resisted.

The Hinwil-based team's chief said he 'considered' swapping Fisichella for Villeneuve for Japan and Brazil, ''but we figured it (would be) better to finish the season with Giancarlo.''

Sauber also admitted to 'Motorsport Aktuell' that taking-on the feisty former world champion, Villeneuve, is a 'risk.

''I know he (has) rough edges,'' said the German-speaking Swiss. ''But we worked with Jean Alesi, who was also known to be difficult to deal with.

''We think we will get along fine.''

'Big thanks' to exiting Jaguar - Webber
(GMM - Shanghai) China is an 'amazing place,' according to Jaguar driver Mark Webber, who arrived in Beijing on the weekend.

On sponsorship duties, the Australian - who will drive for Williams next season - took in the sights of the 'Great Wall' and the Forbidden City.

''I'm sure I have only scratched the surface,'' said the 27-year-old on Tuesday.

Webber offered a 'big thanks' to the Jaguar crew already in Shanghai and back in England, particularly after Ford vowed to pull the Leaping Cat's plug in October.

''I'd like to reward them with some points,'' said Mark, ''as they are more than deserving.''

Off track, no tobacco branding allowed
(GMM - Shanghai) Cigarette advertising may be allowed on the track, but there's not a F1-sponsored 'Lucky Strike' or 'Marlboro' to be seen anywhere else in Shanghai.

At BAT-owned BAR's glitzy promotional event in trendy nightspot Xintiandi on Tuesday night, the F1 team's gear appeared in its surreptitious non-tobacco form.

The event, covered by the city's total ban on tobacco advertising, featured bands, a laser show, and $50,000 worth of fireworks.

Meanwhile, Ferrari's Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, as well as FIA president Max Mosley, are scheduled to attend an official F1 party on Friday night.

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