F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
September 25, 2004

News in the Paddock - Saturday 1
(GMM - Shanghai) Formula One drivers singled-out the seemingly never-ending Turn One as the most challenging corner on the Chinese circuit. ''It's fantastic, really,'' said veteran Olivier Panis. ''It's quite complicated and it took me a while to find the best line -- you have to be very precise through there.''

Jaguar, to be sold after the Brazilian GP in a month, made available a new chassis in Shanghai, dubbed R5b-06, and put in the hands of Christian Klien. ''(It's) part of our continued development programme,'' said the Austrian. Head of car development Dr Mark Gillan said the new car uses 'new layout technology.'

Rubens Barrichello is just one of the Formula One flock baffled by the road rules, or apparent lack of them, here in Shanghai. ''Half the (F1) grid should be Chinese,'' joked the Ferrari driver, ''because on the road they are mad. They say Brazil has bad traffic ...'' Ralf Schumacher said the Chinese traffic is ''a mess. It's dangerous just to cross the street.''

Shanghai should boast overtaking opportunities in Sunday's inaugural grand prix, thinks Williams returnee Ralf Schumacher. ''The long corners offer good opportunities on (the) exit,'' said the German. ''Hermann Tilke has designed it well.''

Many F1 stars highlighted a potential hazard for Sunday's big race at the virginal Chinese circuit -- pitlane. ''It's so slippery,'' said one driver, ''so I hope the mechanics get to work on it otherwise they might be knocked to the other end of the pitlane.''

Carmakers are 'damaging' F1 - Mosley
(GMM - Shanghai) Manufacturers' spent-thrift habits are 'damaging' Formula One, the president of the governing FIA said in China on Saturday.

Max Mosley reckons the way Fiat, BMW and Mercedes, to name a trio, have been 'pouring money' into partner teams' coffers in recent times, has led the pinnacle of motor sport to 'trouble.'

''When you see the boss of a big company on the pit wall in a silly jacket,'' said the Briton, ''then you know there's trouble. They are doing at 60 what we all did at 30.''

Mosley said carmakers, like Ford has just demonstrated, 'come and go' in F1 as they please, thus justifying moves to protect the interests of the teams who want to be there - like Eddie Jordan's and Paul Stoddart's.

New circuits have 'less feeling' - Alonso
(GMM - Shanghai) Coming to a state-of-the-art circuit like Shanghai's is 'nice,' but drivers still want Formula One to retain the challenge of the 'historic' venues like Monza and Silverstone.

Renault youngster Fernando Alonso said the current schedule, with a mix of new and less-modern tracks, is 'good.

''These types of tracks,'' he said in China, ''are safe and nice, so it's good to come here and open the doors of Formula One.

''But at the same time we like to race on historic circuits. The old ones are maybe less safe and not as good facility-wise, but they also have a little bit less feeling and legend.''

News in the Paddock - Saturday 2
(GMM - Shanghai) Jacques Villeneuve returned to competitive duty just about on Renault cohort Fernando Alonso's pace, but the French-Canadian said he still needs to work out how to get the best from a new set of tyres for a qualifying lap. ''That's one of the areas I'll concentrate on today,'' he said early Saturday morning.

Winner of the F3000 event at Spa, Robert Doornbos, said a 'dream came true' when he powered out of pit lane as a Friday test driver in China. ''Inside my helmet,'' said the Dutchman, who debuted for Jordan, ''I had a big smile on my face.'' Robert suffered an engine problem at the end of the day, but the biggest blow was a $3750 fine for speeding in pit lane.

An engine failure at a brand new track is a double blow, disappointed BAR-Honda driver Takuma Sato lamented in China. Not only will the Japanese be demoted ten grid-places, but ''I couldn't complete a timed lap. I've lost crucial running time.'' David Richards excused the failure as Honda are 'continually extending the boundaries of performance.'

The particularly 'green' Shanghai tarmac resulted in chronic understeer and tyre graining, Bridgestone's Hisao Suganuma admitted in Shanghai. ''But we are not having blistering,'' said the Japanese, ''which is a good sign.''

Ferrari's technical director, Ross Brawn, admitted Michael Schumacher did not find a 'good balance' in opening practice. But overnight work appears to have paid off because, in the final practice session on Saturday prior to qualifying, the German and team-mate Rubens Barrichello went one-two.

F1 'failed' Ford - Paul Stoddart
(GMM - Shanghai) Formula One 'failed' Ford and Cosworth, Minardi's Paul Stoddart - without a subsidised engine deal for next season - said in China.

The struggling team's owner suggested some are being harsh if they believe the car manufacturer has done the sport a disservice by opting to pull out and sell Jaguar and Cosworth.

''(The news) shook the sport to its core,'' said the Australian, ''and, as a result, there (is) much speculation concerning the future of F1's independent teams.''

But Stoddart denied that Minardi has been left without an engine for 2005, as it signed a contract with Cosworth prior to the manufacturer's withdrawal, but the team also has a supply of old V10 powerplants.

He insisted: ''There is no doubt whatsoever that the team will be lining up in Melbourne (2005). It is not Ford and Cosworth that have failed F1, but F1 that has failed Ford and Cosworth.''

'Why can't we be friends?' - Schu
(GMM - Shanghai) F1 drivers Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve, it seems, are no longer enemies.

The pair's uneasy relationship reached a climax at Jerez, in 1997, when - at the title decider - Schumacher deliberately steered his Ferrari into Jacques' Williams-Renault.

But, as the French-Canadian returns to active service in Shanghai this weekend, he said the old nemesis' 'met up' in Monaco in May and now share a 'cordial' acquaintance.

''So far we've only spoken through the press to each other,'' German-born Schumacher, 35, insisted on Friday. ''I have not met him yet at all.

''(But) put it this way -- the past is the past and we live in different times. Maybe now there is a chance that we might get on better.''

News in the Paddock - Saturday 3
(GMM - Shanghai) Signifying the importance of the inaugural Chinese GP are a huge number of corporate guests in attendance at Shanghai this weekend. Williams have 700, McLaren 500, and Ferrari more than 600 guests.

Michael Schumacher was not happy with his Ferrari on Friday. ''We still have to adapt it to the demands of the track,'' the German said after practice, whilst in the morning he broke down with a 'software' problem. But it all looked better prior to qualifying ...

Renault's pre-Shanghai simulation techniques proved less than perfect. A team source said overnight modifications were made to the gear ratios prior to Saturday practice and qualifying.

Michael Schumacher has signed a personal deal with Ferrari's new sportswear supplier Puma. The German will wear the brand's racing boots starting in China.

An official Formula One shop, to sell clothes, models, banners, games and souvenirs, was opened in Chinese city Beijing on Friday.

Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve has done a deal to wear TAG-Heuer logos on his helmet while he races for Renault in China, Japan and Brazil, the watch maker's Jean-Christophe Babin said on Friday.

Swiss lift Formula One ban
(GMM - Shanghai) Switzerland has voted to scrap a ban on motor sport, a representative in the parliament's lower house said.

The majority of the 200-member chamber accepted a move initiated by Swiss People's Party member Ulrich Giezendanner, in a bid to one day return Formula One to Switzerland.

Motor racing was banned in the country after a Le Mans accident in 1955 killed 80 spectators, but lawmakers believe the new move would boost an ailing tourism industry.

A Formula One-style track is being considered for construction at a disused military airfield near Interlaken.

Trulli 'lost motivation' - Alonso
(GMM - Shanghai) Jarno Trulli is still a friend, but Renault driver Fernando Alonso has thrown his support behind the Italian's departure and replacement Jacques Villeneuve.

''(Jacques' lap time) is quite close to me,'' said the 22-year-old, ''so he's done better than I thought. A very good job.''

Team chief Flavio Briatore reckons Trulli, not in China this weekend but perhaps a Toyota ring-in for Japan and Brazil, put in 'less effort' in the six grands prix since July.

Alonso thinks Jarno 'lost motivation.

''But who knows. Maybe he did, when the team announced their drivers for next year. Who can know? The atmosphere was not perfect -- from both sides.''

News in the Paddock - Saturday 4
(GMM - Shanghai) Ralf Schumacher is barracking for the survival of F1 stragglers, Jordan and Minardi, to avoid the onset of three-car top teams. ''The last thing we need,'' smiled Williams' German, ''is three Ferrari drivers on the podium every time.''

Fernando Alonso would not mind if the F1 calendar expands to 19 grands prix next season, and 20 by 2006. ''I enjoy being in the car,'' said Renault's Spaniard, ''so I say we should do less testing and more races. It would be good for Formula One.''

Michael Schumacher was not worried when only a small Chinese crowd turned up on Friday to watch the Formula One practice action. ''As far as I know there is a sell-out for Sunday,'' said the Ferrari driver, ''so I guess people's focus is on the race.''

Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve described the $304 million Shanghai circuit as ''gorgeous. Maybe it's because I haven't raced yet in 2004,'' said the Canadian, ''but it is a very, very beautiful track. It has a little bit of everything - like an old layout.''

Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya's many hours in a Shanghai-track simulator no doubt helped him acclimatise to the real thing quicker than F1 rivals -- his first lap on Friday was 1.5 seconds faster than any rival.

Good to be 'home' - Villeneuve
(GMM - Shanghai) For the first time in a full calendar year, Jacques Villeneuve felt like he had come 'home' when he took the wheel of a Formula One car at Shanghai.

The '97 champion had not driven a grand prix contender, in competitive anger, since last year's United States Grand Prix, the event before he quit Brackley team BAR.

''(Renault) have made it easy for me to come back,'' said the 33-year-old in Shanghai. ''They've made me comfortable and under no pressure -- just down to work.''

Villeneuve is on the pace of highly-rated team-mate Fernando Alonso, even if - unlike JV - the Spaniard has driven the R24 in the preceding fifteen grands prix.

''That's always a good sign,'' said Jacques, ''but it has taken a while to get there. ''I can use Fernando's benchmark and work from that.''

Villeneuve said he felt no physical effects 'at all' of the 12-month cockpit absence after a 45-lap programme on Friday.

Rossi might race 'third' Ferrari
(GMM - Shanghai) Motorbike champion Valentino Rossi has emerged as a leading candidate to race a 'third' Ferrari next season.

Up to three teams might leave Formula One after Brazil, compelling top squads - such as the reigning champions - to make up the numbers by fielding another car.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo reportedly said Rossi, the flamboyant MotoGP rider, from Italy, could be a 'good choice.'

Current scarlet charger Rubens Barrichello said he had 'no idea' the team was considering the bombshell.

Rossi, 25, tested an F1 car earlier this season, and Rubens was at the circuit to watch. ''He ran very well,'' said the Brazilian, ''but he'll need lots of time to get up to speed.

''I'm a big fan, though, and if he can do (in a car) what he does on a bike, then we are all in trouble.''

Former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve agrees that Rossi would need a lot of testing and up to half a season to be physically prepared. ''F1 hurts,'' said the Canadian.

''If you haven't driven a car before, then one winter (of testing) would not be enough. He would need a lot of mileage.

F1 to try next Flying Finn
(GMM - Shanghai) Yet another 'Flying Finn' will grace the Formula One track before the year is out.

UK Formula Ford champion Valle Makela, it is reported, has been offered a test drive for the Jordan team.

The 18-year-old's racing boss, Andy Kidby, said an 'unnamed' Formula One team has made an approach, but the most likely destination next season is the support 'GP2' series.

''The (F1) test is a chance of a lifetime,'' said Kidby, ''and I am confident Valle will deal with it very well.''

China is 'best' ever track - Mosley
(GMM - Shanghai) China has built the 'best' Formula One track ever seen, president of the FIA, Max Mosley, said in Shanghai.

''Absolutely,'' the Briton replied when asked if China has surpassed all others. ''They've done a great job.''

The city, through the $304 million investment in the state-of-the-art facility, has earned a seven year contract to stage grands prix and Shanghai 'deserves it,' Max added.

Meanwhile, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has touted Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo as a potential future candidate for the top job.

Luca is head of Italy's industry group Confindustria and also president of Fiat.

F1 opens the airwaves
(GMM - Shanghai) F1 drivers' radio conversations will be broadcast on television starting in China.

Bernie Ecclestone's company is in charge of the broadcast in Shanghai and believes transmitting radio waves will spice-up the TV spectacle.

A 'monitor' will select excerpts from live radio streams, check for inappropriate language, and beam the message a few seconds later.

''Every idea is a good idea,'' said Eddie Jordan, while Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn said opening up the radio waves will 'be fascinating.'

The technology is already proving valuable for journalists, who heard Juan Pablo Montoya scream 'there's something wrong with (my) car' in Saturday free practice.

'I hadn't signed Jag deal' - Davidson
(GMM - Shanghai) Anthony Davidson has denied earlier speculation that he'd signed a Jaguar contract prior to Ford's announcement that it would pull out in 2005.

The young Briton, who was fastest in both of Friday's practice sessions at Shanghai, admitted that his management was 'in talks' with the Milton-Keynes squad.

''It looked quite promising,'' he was quoted by Autosport magazine, ''but we hadn't signed anything. ''It's all up in the air (now) and I don't know what is going to happen.''

If Davidson, 25, doesn't land a race seat next season, he has a safe testing contract at the Honda-powered BAR team.

Meanwhile, at the Paris motor show, Fiat president Luca di Montezemolo said a team of Ferrari technicians had been put together to design an affordable Fiat road car.

Lyons could race Jordan in Japan
(GMM - Shanghai) A sillier-than-usual silly-season in Formula One is set to get even sillier with reports that Ireland's Richard Lyons might race a Jordan at Suzuka.

Autosport magazine said the 24-year-old, who has contested Japan's premier Formula Nippon category in 2004, has almost raised the requisite $500,000 for the one-off seat.

Germany's Timo Glock is in the yellow car in China, after regular racer Giorgio Pantano's contract was terminated, but he might not have the budget for Japan and Brazil.

Compatriot Eddie Irvine, who retired in 2002, debuted at the Suzuka track back in 1993, hitting Ayrton Senna for good measure.

''We'll just have to find someone for (Lyons) to hit,'' his advisor, David Kennedy, joked.

Meanwhile, FIA president Max Mosley said in China on Saturday that, contrary to speculation, there will only be seventeen grands prix next season.

'It's Rubens' turn to win'
(GMM - Shanghai) Chinese pole sitter Rubens Barrichello has denied he is driving better just because the world championship is all tied-up.

''For sure, no,'' said the Brazilian, who won his first race of the season a fortnight ago at Monza, just prior to going out and doing the fastest lap around Shanghai.

World champion team-mate Michael Schumacher spun his Ferrari at the first corner in final qualifying and will start the Chinese GP from the back of the grid.

Barrichello admitted that the attention of 'everyone' has switched to his side of the garage ever since Schumacher, from Germany, wrapped up the title.

''People sort of said, 'okay, now it is time for Rubens to win.' But I'm driving the same, not doing anything wrong, but pushing hard.''

But, even if he could do the double on Sunday in Shanghai, Rubens said nothing would beat winning the race - like mentor Ayrton Senna did - near his home in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

''Not even winning the whole championship,'' he said on Saturday, ''would beat that.'

Massa's doing a good job now - JV
(GMM - Shanghai) Jacques Villeneuve said racing alongside Felipe Massa in 2005 will be 'great,' even if he had no praise for the rookie Brazilian a couple of seasons ago.

''I was critical of him,'' the French-Canadian said in Shanghai, ''but I was critical of many people.''

Villeneuve, the former world champion who is racing in Renault colours this weekend, will drive for Peter Sauber's team in 2005 and again in 2006.

The 33-year-old said a rookie often makes mistakes in his first season. ''There's nothing long with criticising mistakes,'' said Jacques.

''Felipe seems to be doing a good job now, he has driven the Sauber for a while, so it will be good.''

Montoya to test McLaren by Christmas
(GMM - Shanghai) Juan Pablo Montoya hopes to drive his first test in a McLaren 'before Christmas.'

The Colombian, who qualified his Williams just eleventh in Shanghai, will race for Ron Dennis' Mercedes-powered squad next season.

He has already tested the Williams car for the final time, and revealed that both F1 teams are 'talking about' when Montoya should be released.

Montoya, 29, said: ''I still have PR commitments with Williams until the end of the year.''

Team boss doubts Jaguar sale
(GMM - Shanghai) Minardi's Paul Stoddart doubts if Jaguar can find a buyer.

In reality, the Ford-owned team only has until November 15 to lodge an entry with the FIA for the 2005 world championship.

''Eddie (Jordan has) had six serious buyers,'' the Australian told Autosport, ''and I've had twenty three buyers look at Minardi in four years.''

Jaguar principal Tony Purnell said in Shanghai that there is 'masses of interest' in Jaguar, reinforcing confidence a Milton-Keynes-built car will race in Melbourne.

Stoddart concluded: ''The problem (with Formula One) is not that there is not enough money, but the way we are managing it is very bad.''

He said energy drink Red Bull magnate Dieter Mateschitz has had 'two goes' at buying Jaguar, ''so why would (he) do it now?''

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