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
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
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
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
''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
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
''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
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
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
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
''(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
'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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
''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
''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
''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,
''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
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
''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
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