F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
September 24, 2004

China is lesson for Europe - Briatore
(GMM - Shanghai) China's ultra-modern F1 circuit is an example of how Europe must now follow the lead to get ageing facilities up to scratch.

That's what Renault chief Flavio Briatore said at the $304m circuit in Shanghai.

''What we see here is fantastic,'' said the Italian. ''We have Malaysia, we have Bahrain as well -- they are much better than Europe. Some of those circuits are now looking really, really bad.''

Briatore, who later launched a scathing attack on the touring F1 media, said Bernie Ecclestone should invite the promoters of 'Magny-Cours and Silverstone' to the Chinese Grand Prix.

He reckons there are now six or seven tracks in Europe that are no longer suitable for Formula One. ''But we pay the same price, anyway,'' he rankled.

Jaguar's Tony Purnell tempered Briatore's comments by insisting that most of the European circuits are now two or three decades old. ''You can't redo them every week,'' he said.

'Mellow' Jacques
(GMM - Shanghai) Jacques Villeneuve insists he has 'mellowed a bit' and no longer harbours ill feelings for old rival Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button.

The returning French-Canadian clashed memorably when he beat Michael Schumacher to the 1997 title, but the pair met up in Monaco this season.

''It was very cordial,'' he smiled in China.

''Michael has achieved a lot and this year has been very impressive. There is no reason to be under bad terms again.''

Villeneuve, meanwhile, disliked '03 BAR team-mate Jenson Button from the outset, mocking him - among other things - as F1's contribution to the 'boy band' movement.

Now, starting a three-race stint for Renault, he says: ''I'm happy for him actually. There's no point being enemies with everyone. When someone's done a good job, you can say it.''

One vendetta that does still burn, however, is with Brackley principal David Richards, who tainted JV's paddock reputation and didn't keep him at the team for 2004.

Starting in China, Jacques' task is to help Renault beat BAR to second place in the constructors' world championship.

''It's not bitterness or anger,'' said Villeneuve, ''but that would be fun.''

Minardi will survive - Paul Stoddart
(GMM - Shanghai) Bernie Ecclestone earned the ire of Minardi's Paul Stoddart in China by predicting that the Australian will not plonk two black cars on the 2005 grand prix grid.

Ecclestone, F1's so-called impresario, said Minardi and Jordan - also powered by Cosworth who are losing the backing of Ford - are going to 'find it not easy to survive' the winter.

''It doesn't look too healthy,'' he added.

Stoddart, the aviation mogul, fired back that Bernie may be king of F1, but he has 'no right' to weigh-in on the future of a private enterprise.

He told Reuters: ''What happens to Jordan and Minardi is Jordan and Minardi's decision alone.

''Yes, ... Cosworth have made it very, very difficult but I can assure you that Minardi will be on the grid in 2005 in Melbourne.''

Unlike Jordan, Minardi has its own - albeit particularly aged - supply of Cosworth F1 engines, which it raced back in 2001.

Asked if he'd do that again, Paul replied: ''If we have to ... so be it.''

Jag won't sell to a 'chancer' - Purnell
(GMM - Shanghai) There are not one or two buyers lining up for Jaguar, according to team principal Tony Purnell, there is 'masses of interest.'

He said in Shanghai on Thursday that, following Ford's decision last week to sell the Milton-Keynes based outfit, he is helping 'sift' through the realistic buyers from the 'chancers.'

''I think one has to be fairly confident that a solution will be found,'' Purnell continued.

Purnell said Ford and HSBC, who has been commissioned to handle the sale, will not sell to a buyer who can not demonstrate a more than one-year plan for the team.

He added: ''There is no interest in taking a chance with someone who is hoping for a sponsor on a wing and a prayer and goes bust halfway through next year.''

Purnell admitted Ford's decision to quit Formula One was a 'brutal' one.

''When you look back, there are always better ways to handle any situation, but hopefully this will turn out well for the employees.

''I think that if we don't find a sort of keen new owner it says much more about the health of Formula One as a business than anything to do about the present players.''

Jaguar must be sold before November 15, which is when an application to the FIA must be lodged to compete in the 2005 championship.

F1 makes 'mockery' of health policy
(GMM - Shanghai) Formula One is 'making a mockery' of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, health experts said on the eve of China's inaugural grand prix.

Colleagues at the London School of Hygiene, with support from the Mayo Clinic, have written in 'The Lancet' that the 'very staging' of the event in Shanghai is a 'triumph' for tobacco companies.

China's market is undoubtedly the biggest for global cigarette brands, with one in three of the world's smokers in the country.

The health writers have studied secret documents belonging to BAR's owners British American Tobacco, who have moved to maximise exposure in Shanghai by reverting to the more popular '555' branding.

'No-one speaks English' in China - Montoya
(GMM - Shanghai) 'No-one speaks English.'

Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya is blown away by grand prix racing's newest host nation -- The People's Republic of China.

The Colombian said: ''I have been wandering around the city with a little card in my pocket, which says: 'Please take me back to the hotel.'

''When I've finished what I'm doing I show it to my personal taxi driver and off we go.''

Montoya, who turned 29 on Monday on a PR visit to the 'Great Wall', arrived in the country last Saturday.

''I phoned Connie and said 'the cities are the same as anywhere in the world', but the Wall is something else. Then I saw the track.''

Like everyone, Williams' JPM is impressed by the $304m circuit's infrastructure, but, if he has a criticism, it's that the team buildings are too 'spread out.

''You lose a bit of the intimacy of the paddock,'' he said. ''But I suppose it should be a different atmosphere, as China is so different to Europe.''

Ford bombshell 'blew me away' - Jordan
(GMM - Shanghai) Formula One team owner Eddie Jordan said he found out he'd be without an engine in 2005 just fifteen minutes before the rest of the world.

The Irish team has spent $38 million in the past two years on a customer Cosworth deal, so was left a little rankled when Ford's Richard Parry-Jones dropped the bombshell.

''It was out of the dark,'' said Jordan in Shanghai. ''(I think) someone should have told (us) in advance, so we could give some notice to (our) sponsors.''

EJ said, just a fortnight ago, Jaguar's Tony Purnell met with Jordan sponsor Deutsche Post and told them the Milton-Keynes based team would be known as 'Ford' in 2005.

''I don't know what happened,'' Eddie continued, ''but obviously (it was) a complete change of tack.

''It completely blew me away.''

Jordan said Purnell is preventing him from talking to the press about the matter, but vowed to fight 'tooth and nail' to get the yellow team to Melbourne next March.

Sauber on mission to land sponsor
(GMM - Shanghai) Peter Sauber, like most Formula One rivals, is on a mission to land a Chinese sponsor.

''It's very important for us,'' said the Swiss in Shanghai, ''because this race is very important for F1.

''There's a fair chance we will get more.''

Sauber, one of three surviving privateer teams, highlighted the importance of China when, on Friday, he approved a curious press release for Malaysian sponsor Petronas.

The 'announcement' proudly boasted of the oil company's 'involvement' in the inaugural Grand Prix, consisting mainly of trackside advertising.

''(Petronas) is also hosting its guests and business partners at the hospitality suite at the Circuit,'' read the statement.

Briatore attacks F1 journalists
(GMM - Shanghai) Renault chief Flavio Briatore launched a puzzling assault on Formula One journalists on the eve of China's inaugural grand prix in Shanghai.

The flamboyant Italian lost his cool when asked how Jaguar and Ford's withdrawal in 2005, and the possible demise of Minardi and Jordan, might impact Renault.

''Here we are in China,'' he barked, ''and you're talking about Jordan's problems, and Cosworth's problems.

''Instead of being excited about coming here, you (journalists) try to turn things around -- I'm not here just to talk about problems.''

Grey-haired Briatore, fabled in tabloid magazines for his failed courtships of supermodels, said F1's journalists are guilty of 'jealousy.

''I think this press conference is completely disgusting,'' he fumed. ''I'm sick and tired of it.''

F1 hopeful beats off the girls
(GMM - Shanghai) Getting almost as much attention as the grand prix stars - particularly from the girls - in China's F1 paddock this weekend, is a 21-year-old who won't even be driving.

Ho-pin Tung, who actually grew up in Holland and has a thick Dutch accent, wants to become the first Chinese to race against Michael Schumacher.

He's here as a guest of Williams, whose BMW-powered car he tested earlier this season, and also to promote his own sponsors.

''Quite a lot of people want to talk to me -- especially the girls,'' he laughed on Friday.

Tung races in the German F3 series.

Saying goodbye will be hard - Ralf
(GMM - Shanghai) Ralf Schumacher's fearless return to Formula One after a back-shattering crash in June has been helped by a curious aspect of human physiology.

''I can't remember (the shunt),'' the German laughed, just prior to getting into the Williams in Shanghai and going second quickest in opening Friday practice.

Ralf, 29, said he has seen video replays of the 300km/h backwards-slam into the banked Indianapolis wall. ''It looks like I was lucky,'' he admitted.

''But it won't change anything. I love racing too much.''

Schumacher will leave Williams, at the end of a six-year tenure, after next month's Brazilian GP, for Toyota -- and he admits saying goodbye to the Grove crew will be 'difficult.'

He'll be partnered by fired Renault driver, the Italian Jarno Trulli, at Cologne next season.

''He was better than Alonso this year so I was surprised when they let him go,'' said Ralf. ''He's an uncomplicated person, and very nice, so I'm very happy that he is my team-mate.''

Cosworth to double engine price tag
(GMM - Shanghai) Cosworth will continue to supply customer Formula One engines to Jordan and Minardi next season, if the cash-strapped teams agree to twice the normal price-tag.

Eddie Jordan said he phoned Ford-owned Jaguar's team principal Tony Purnell about 2005 late last week and was told of the proposed arrangement.

EJ's current Cosworth bill is $19 million (a year), so the doubled price would blow-out to $38 million in 2005 if Jordan agreed.

He said: ''I can't see how that would work. Cosworth say it has to be that price because Ford are no longer putting the money in to develop (the engine).''

But asked if he could guarantee he'll have an engine and put two yellow cars on the Melbourne grid next March, Jordan answered: ''I'm not prepared to discuss that.

''For sure I won't go down without a fight.''

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone thinks the sport can do without Jaguar, Jordan and Minardi, when he said big teams running three cars each may make the brand 'better.'

Jordan retaliated: ''It's difficult to motivate (your) staff and attract interest when the leader of your championship says things like that.''

Villeneuve to 'motivate' Alonso - Briatore
(GMM - Shanghai) Flavio Briatore's 'contribution' to 'talking about positive things' in Formula One is a driver who can shoot as quickly through a chicane as he can from the hip.

The Italian manager of F1 squad Renault blasted the media for dwelling on the 'negative' aspects of the sport by diverting attention to his signing of former world champion Jacques Villeneuve.

Williams' title winner of 1997 will drive the next three grands prix in a blue and yellow car because regular racer Jarno Trulli was fired.

''It's good news for all of Formula One,'' said Flavio, ''because now that the championship is decided, nobody wants to ask any more 'is Michael (Schumacher) winning this race?'

''The news is Villeneuve.''

Briatore said that for the past four grands prix, fired Trulli - off to Toyota in 2005 - had been making 'less effort' than team-mate Fernando Alonso.

''I have 800 people working for me,'' he added, ''and I'm pushing everybody to make a fast car, and this is what you see -- I had to act. I need Jacques in the points, and to motivate the team, to motivate Fernando.''

Team support for 20-race calendar
(GMM - Shanghai) A couple of leading figures in the Formula One paddock are supporting Bernie Ecclestone's quest for 19 races in 2005 and as many as 20 a season later.

Departing Jaguar's principal Tony Purnell said even in spite of the problems in F1, grands prix attract 'massive publicity.

''People want to watch races,'' he said, ''so the solution seems to be 'give them more.'

''I think that's the way it's heading.''

There has been considerable objection to a longer-than seventeen race calendar, which is the maximum under the terms of the unanimous and binding Concorde Agreement.

But Purnell said a 20-race schedule would allow for new circuits like Shanghai, Malaysia and Bahrain, but also out-of-date venues like European races in Britain and Italy.

Renault's Flavio Briatore, meanwhile, said Formula One should halve testing, and add more races.

''Our job is racing,'' said the Italian, ''so we need to cut testing, because that costs a team exactly the same money as racing.''

Briatore to the rescue? No.
(GMM - Shanghai) Flavio Briatore has ruled out reviving the 'Supertec' operation to provide affordable customer engines for embattled F1 squads Jordan and Minardi.

When Renault quit grand prix racing at the end of 1997, the Enstone-based team's now current boss did a deal to supply year-old Renault engines under a new banner.

So, might he get the endangered privateer teams out of the mire this time, given Ford's withdrawal of engine backing for V10-building company Cosworth?

''The timing is different,'' Flavio said in China. ''Renault gave a year notice, so you know what you are doing. (This) situation is really difficult.''

Briatore said in 1997, Renault asked if he might buy 'Renault Sport' and gave him several months to think about it and find a customer.

''I'm (now) too busy as well,'' he continued, ''trying to win second place in the championship. I don't really have time to do that.''

Davidson had signed Jaguar deal
(GMM - Shanghai) There may be no-one more disappointed about the demise of Jaguar than BAR's 'Friday' test driver Anthony Davidson.

The diminutive Briton, who went fastest of all in opening practice at the virginal Shanghai track, is understood to have signed a 2005 race contract with the team.

But on Friday last, Ford - making decisions without the knowledge of Jaguar Racing colleagues - vowed to pull out of Formula One after next month's '04 finale.

Davidson, 24, said in Italy a fortnight ago that Sauber - who gave a drive to Jacques Villeneuve - was only his 'third choice' behind Jaguar and BAR.

The hunt is now on for a new owner for Jaguar, with principal Tony Purnell admitting there is 'masses of interest' in the team.

'I'm to blame' for team woe - Jordan
(GMM - Shanghai) Eddie Jordan has retreated from his 'manufacturers are killing us' stance to admit the small F1 teams are to blame for finishing last in grands prix.

In the aftermath of Ford's decision to quit Formula One, leaving Jordan and Minardi without an affordable engine deal, EJ turned down an opportunity to blame carmakers' spend-thrift habits.

''The problem with small teams,'' said Jordan, ''is their own. It's my obligation to find the commercial way (for the team).''

Eddie said that, ten years ago, it was easier for a smaller team to find sponsorship, but admitted that putting a 'cap' on the big teams' budgets is not the answer.

''They can spent what they want,'' said Jordan, ''it's a free world. You can't blame them. I have failed to find the right level of sponsorship for Jordan.''

Jaguar's Tony Purnell, however, sympathises with teams like Jordan and Minardi because they have to go out and 'buy' a $20 - $30 million engine every year.

''If you have to spend that much on the engine,'' he said, ''it's not a good story to tell the sponsors. There's no room for the independents until that is resolved.''

Bernie gives TV fans 2005 preview
(GMM - Shanghai) Television spectators will get a sneak-preview of the future this weekend as Bernie Ecclestone's company broadcast the inaugural Chinese GP.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that local Chinese broadcaster CCTV was asked to relinquish the rights, as their techniques and equipment were not up to the job.

But Bernie, head of numerous F1 companies, said Shanghai will be a case of getting 'everyone happy with us doing it.

''We did Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain,'' the 73-year-old said in China, ''we're doing this one and we'll do probably half of the races next year.''

Shanghai christened
(GMM - Shanghai) Formula One christened China's spectacular grand prix circuit on Friday with two one-hour practice sessions.

Friday-only BAR driver Anthony Davidson, and a striking blue livery, was quickest of all in the morning session, with F1 returnee Ralf Schumacher not far off the pace for second.

Davidson, 24, then went quickest again in the afternoon, this time with BAR team-mate Jenson Button second and a couple of McLaren cars not far in their wake.

World champion Michael Schumacher's wings were clipped near the close of the first session when his normally bullet-proof Ferrari ground to a halt.

The German, 35, helped a marshal push the scarlet racer up pit lane to the garage, and he recovered to just eighth quickest in the afternoon.

Jacques Villeneuve, who has not raced in grands prix since late September last year, had a quiet first session and a little spin in a left hand bend.

The Canadian, who did a lot of laps (25), was fifteenth at the end of the day, but - importantly - only a couple of tenths slower than highly-rated Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso.

Jaguar's Mark Webber also spun it round.

''Obviously the track is still building up its grip,'' said the Australian, ''and we were chasing that to an extent.''

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