F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
September 27, 2004

Last news in the Paddock - China
(GMM - Shanghai) Victory in Shanghai secured second place in the drivers' world championship for Rubens Barrichello. ''All year I've been trying to catch Michael (Schumacher),'' said the Brazilian, ''(but) now I'm going through a good phase.'' China was Rubens' second win on the trot.

Bridgestone-shod teams, Sauber and Jordan, complained of chronic tire 'graining' in the Chinese Grand Prix. The first, Swiss, outfit earned three points but Giancarlo Fisichella said the rubber grained ''really badly. It cost me two seconds per lap,', said the Italian. Felipe Massa, who started from fourth, said after two laps the tires grained ''incredibly. I was holding the whole pack up.''

Renault fell further behind BAR in the battle for second in the constructors' championship, but fourth placed Fernando Alonso said Japan and Brazil 'should favor' the R24 more than Monza and China did. ''I am focused on scoring the points we need for that,'' said the Spaniard.

Christian Klien, who retired with suspension damage, said he didn't see Michael Schumacher try a move on him on lap twelve. ''I saw him on the straight, a long way behind,'' said the Jaguar driver, ''but then he was gone and I turned in - and we hit.'' Klien, the Austrian, said he will train in Australia prior to heading to Japan. Schumacher said Klien left the door 'open.'

Olivier Panis' Toyota was left almost stationary on the grid because the 'anti stall' device kicked in 'unexpectedly.' The furious Frenchman said: ''All I can say is we will try to find a solution. It was a terrible shame as we could have done so much better.''

Jag not given 'enough notice' - Webber
(GMM - Shanghai) Jaguar driver Mark Webber said it was a 'big surprise' when he found out, at the same time as the rest of the world, that Ford would pull the team out of Formula One after October's Brazil GP.

The Australian, who had already signed a deal to race for Williams next season, said out of three options, he expected Ford would keep the same cash flowing to Jaguar in 2005.

''The first option was to put more money in,'' said Mark, ''the second to keep everything the same, and the third to pull out. I really didn't expect the third to happen.''

Webber, 27, suggested Ford did not give enough notice to Jaguar employees, or Cosworth-powered privateers Minardi and Jordan, before announcing the pull-out.

''No-one likes to find out their job is on the line,'' he continued. ''It's (a) tough situation for everybody. I really feel for a lot of the young guys in the team, who have wives and children - this could really hit them hard. Personally, I'll be flat out until Brazil for them.''

Mark said Ford's withdrawal has left Formula One in a perilous situation. ''I'm a bit worried about our sport, to be honest,'' he said in Shanghai.

''(F1) was like a rocket ship, just going up and up, so I guess eventually something had to happen.'' Asked who is to blame for the sport's troubles, Mark replied: ''It's a lot of things. Michael (Schumacher's dominance, but) the world's just changed, as well.''

China will have F1 driver - Mosley
(GMM - Shanghai) Soon enough, China will have a Formula One driver. Or, alternatively, Formula One will have a Chinese driver.

That's the belief of the sport's governing body president, Max Mosley.

''This country has an enormous population,'' the Englishman said in Shanghai, ''and it means the potential for someone to become a top driver is there.''

Although car ownership is quite low among China's 1.3 billion citizens, the market is probably the fastest growing anywhere in the world, and is set to be enviable in a few years.

Mosley said: ''When more people own cars, more people will drive, and they will start to think about competing.

''And when Chinese drivers find success on the international arena, the whole country will be behind them and that generates even bigger interest in the sport.''

Formula One teams are already attempting to cash-in on the philosophy -- Ho-Pin Tung has tested a Williams, Chen Congfu a McLaren, and another - Jiang Tengyi - is in the sights of at least one F1 outfit.

Tengyi, 19, was born in Shanghai, and competes in Italian Formula Renault.

Last news in the Paddock - China 2
(GMM - Shanghai) Engineers said 'go', but Williams' returning driver Ralf Schumacher replied 'no'. The German pitted after a clash with an 'optimistic' David Coulthard. ''I was told I could continue,'' Ralf explained, ''but I had lost too much time - I would have been two laps down.''

BAR won't win a race until it sorts out a less-than-perfect start system, Jenson Button lamented in Shanghai. The Briton called his Chinese getaway 'a disaster' en route to second place. ''We're getting closer (to a win),'' he added, ''but the two stop made it hard to push the others.''

Jordan ring-in Timo Glock struggled in Shanghai, the team's head engineer James Robinson said. ''I am sure he will go away from here more the wiser,'' he added. Glock's experience, however, might not even count - Irish ace Richard Lyons is more likely than the young German to race in Japan.

McLaren changed Kimi Raikkonen's Chinese GP strategy in a bid to leapfrog the winning Ferrari. After the race, the Finn - who was eventually also beaten by Jenson Button - said he did a 'short middle stint' that backfired. ''We are here to win the races,'' said the Iceman, ''not finish second. That's why I'm not too disappointed about losing the second place.''

As predicted by some leading F1 figures, China's pitlane proved slippery on Sunday. Minardi driver Zsolt Baumgartner slid into his pit crew during Sunday's inaugural grand prix. ''The brakes locked up,'' said the Hungarian. ''I'm just glad a few bruises were the only injuries.''

Rubens on hunt for rent-a-bed
(GMM - Shanghai) China's fastest driver, Rubens Barrichello, would rather rent a bed on the main straight of the Formula One track than commute to a Shanghai hotel every day.

The Brazilian, who raced to inaugural victory at the $325 million circuit on Sunday, said the traffic in the bustling city is 'absolutely crazy.'

Worse still, with a non-Chinese driver's license, all Formula One pilots had to take a back seat around Shanghai this weekend.

''Next year, I'll find a hotel closer to the track,'' said Rubens, ''or I'll just rent a bed here! They must be good drivers, because ... amazing. They overtake everywhere.''

Second placed Jenson Button agreed that Chinese drivers are 'very different' to Europeans. ''They use every inch of the road,'' smiled the Englishman. ''I don't know if they'd be good racing drivers or the other way around.''

A direct train, from Shanghai to the F1 track - a trip that is currently a one-and-a-half-hour drive - is planned for 2007.

Coulthard investigated
(GMM - Shanghai) Stewards investigated a clash between David Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher in Shanghai, but cleared the Scottish protagonist of any real wrongdoing.

The 33-year-old, though, admitted it was his fault. ''I was following (Ralf), but he didn't seem to want to pass Alonso,'' said Coulthard, ''or even try.''

''It was a risky one, but I had a go. You have to have a go, don't you?''

Coulthard visited Schumacher, who decided to retire the Williams after losing too much time in the pits with a puncture, in Williams' paddock building.

He said their chat was 'cordial.'

Last news in the Paddock - China 3
(GMM - Shanghai) Jacques Villeneuve looked exhausted and said he was 'annoyed' after finishing a lap down and just eleventh in his first grand prix since September 2003. ''I was expecting to be more tired,'' said the Renault driver, ''but it was a hard race. I took a bit too long to get into a rhythm. I know Suzuka really well so (Japan) should be a lot better.''

Shanghai is a physical track, Jenson Button revealed after finishing second in the inaugural Chinese GP. BAR's Briton disclosed that in a high-speed section, ''you don't breathe, so in that respect it's pretty tough.''

Michael Schumacher dispelled a theory that whatever mysterious problem spun him round in qualifying, came again as the German raced in Shanghai. ''I was following Alonso in his slipstream,'' said the Ferrari driver after the grand prix, ''and just lost downforce.''

At Shanghai, Juan Pablo Montoya got a taste of just how much traction Renault's R24 boasts. Twice, the Colombian - in a BMW-powered Williams - overtook Jacques Villeneuve's blue and yellow car. ''But he just passed me back under acceleration,'' said Juan, ''twice!''

Jenson Button might have raced to second, and nearly the victory, but BAR principal Dave Richards was 'particularly delighted' with teammate Takuma Sato's sixth place. ''From the back of the grid,'' said the Briton, ''that was perhaps his best drive to date.'' BAR now have a nine point lead over Renault for second in the constructors', but third place is assured.

F1 can expect 'more' from Villeneuve
(GMM - Shanghai) Formula One can expect more from Jacques Villeneuve in Japan and Brazil, former triple world champion Niki Lauda said in Shanghai.

The Austrian great, whose achievements include setting up an airline and running the Jaguar team in 2002, said Villeneuve - also a former champ - put in a 'normal' performance in his first grand prix in a year.

Lauda told UK newspaper Guardian: ''Nothing special from Jacques (on Sunday), but you have to bear in mind that Formula One is very competitive now.''

Himself once a fearless driver, who still wears the facial scars of a near-fatal shunt in 1976, Lauda reckons the grand prix car has come a long way even since JV's last drive, at Indianapolis, 2003.

''And he doesn't really know (the Renault). He did the right thing to come back now, bearing in mind his (Sauber) contract for next year.''

Villeneuve, 33, looked exhausted after the race -- sweat poured from his brow and his hands trembled due to a physical exertion he has tried to emulate away from the race track.

He was surprised by the race's early pace. ''It used to start slow,'' said Jacques, ''and then increase. That caught me out. I don't think we will have any problems in Japan, though.''

Coulthard has no contract
(GMM - Shanghai) David Coulthard does not know if he'll still be a Formula One fixture when the sport returns to Melbourne early next March.

The McLaren driver had a solid Jaguar offer on the table, but Milton-Keynes' future is now equally unsure after Ford vowed to pull backing after October's season finale.

''I've always lived my life by leaving the speculation to others,'' said Scottish-born Coulthard in Shanghai. ''Either you have a contract or you don't -- and I don't.''

Last news in the Paddock - China 4
(GMM - Shanghai) Rubens Barrichello apologized for spraying champagne on Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo's expensive Italian suit - and eyes - on the Shanghai podium. ''I think I'm the only guy who has ever got him wet,'' the Brazilian laughed. ''I'm pretty happy about that.'' Mercifully, it didn't appear that Luca minded the alcoholic shower when he called Rubens' Chinese pace ''perfect. It shows we have two fantastic drivers,'' the president added.

BAR's acceleration in the constructors' championship tasted even sweeter when Jenson Button overtook second place Renault rival Fernando Alonso in Shanghai. ''It felt great,'' said the English driver. ''Actually, it was easy to pass him.''

World champion Michael Schumacher managed a smile after finishing a season-worst twelfth in Shanghai, a far cry from the helmet smashing anger of Monaco, where he crashed in the tunnel. ''There, it was stupid,'' said the German. ''Here, it's racing. I kept going because you never know how many are going to retire, and you'd feel pretty silly if you're sitting in the garage.''

Trulli to race in Japan
(GMM - Shanghai) Jarno Trulli has a 'good chance' of returning to the grand prix grid for new employer Toyota's home race.

The Italian was fired by Renault after another disappointing showing at Monza, but was released early to Cologne and tested the red-and-white car at Silverstone.

Trulli said he skipped Shanghai because he did not feel comfortable in the first incarnation of his TF104B's seat.

''It depends on how it all goes (at the test in) Jerez,'' said Jarno, ''how I feel. I think I could debut already in Japan.''

The rated racer said he has now spent 'several days' at Toyota's German HQ where a new racing seat was prepared in anticipation of a Suzuka start.

Trulli will try the seat over three days at the Jerez session, in Spain.

Ralf fired?
(GMM - Shanghai) A source inside the Williams team said Sir Frank Williams and engineering veteran Frank Dernie were 'absolutely furious' when Ralf Schumacher gave up the Shanghai race.

The German stopped for a check after colliding with McLaren's David Coulthard, but the car was quickly cleared to the garage because team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya's scheduled pit stop was imminent.

Ralf claims 'too much time' had elapsed before new tires were fitted, making a track return pointless 'as I would have been two laps down.'

But Williams and Dernie do not agree, claiming that anything could have happened in the grand prix' final laps, opening a much-needed points-collecting finish.

For Ralf, the worse case scenario is a relocation to the bench - where he has sat injured since June - and a return to the race cockpit for impressive tester Antonio Pizzonia.

No Chinese driver, yet - Peter Sauber
(GMM - Shanghai) China can forget about putting a national hero on the grand prix grid just yet, Formula One team owner Peter Sauber said in Shanghai.

The German-speaking Swiss said the enthusiastic boasts of young Chinese in junior categories should be tempered as China establishes a place in world racing.

''I don't think so,'' Sauber said Sunday.

''If you look at Japan, the popularity (of F1) is huge out there but even then it took them many years to find a successful Formula One driver.

''The sport is just catching on here.''

Sauber's Formula One rivals, though, are keen to prove him wrong, with new speculation that Hong Kong-born Lee Yin-kin, who stepped on the Shanghai podium in Asian Formula BMW, may test a Williams car sooner or later.

Button's a driver worth thrashing - Webber
(GMM - Shanghai) BAR's David Richards should give up the fight for Jenson Button, the British racer's prospective Williams team-mate - Mark Webber - said in Shanghai.

Button, 24, wants to swap white overalls for BMW-branded ones in 2005, but Richards believes he will still be under contract to BAR when F1 returns to Melbourne next March.

''The fact is, (Richards) can't force (Jenson) to get into the car and drive it,'' said Webber, who was born in Queanbeyan, a town near Australia's capital city.

Mark, who is twenty seven, is looking forward to 'finally' finding a top driver on the other side of the garage, after thrashing team-mates at Minardi and Jaguar since 2002.

''Frank (Williams) phoned me,' Webber continued, 'and said 'I've found you a team-mate' and he said 'It's Button'. I just said, 'How does that work out?' But if Jenson wants to drive a Williams then (Richards) can't stop him.''

F1's contract recognition board will try to resolve the dispute on October 16, in Milan.

Red light for Indian GP plan
(GMM - Shanghai) India's grand prix bid already appeared dead, but a full-stop has been placed after the story with the government converting the proposed track site into an 'IT' park.

Chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy said the former government's plan to bring Formula One to Hyderabad has been scrapped to make available 1000 acres for technology companies.

Schu hasn't lost motivation - Jean Todt
(GMM - Shanghai) Ever since Michael Schumacher wrapped up drivers' title number seven, the Ferrari champion has failed to find the top step of the Formula One podium.

Sunday's Shanghai race was the third in succession that Schumacher, 35, has given away to another grand prix charger.

''I don't want to seem unfriendly,'' said Ferrari principal Jean Todt when faced with the observation, ''but anyone who reads something into this understands nothing about motor racing.''

The Frenchman said the fact that Michael finished second at Spa and Monza, and set the fastest lap of the whole race on the final Chinese tour, shows that Schumacher has not lost motivation.

'We're not against the FIA' - McLaren
(GMM - Shanghai) Mercedes' Norbert Haug has hit back at Max Mosley's claim that carmakers are 'lying' when they say reverting to a V8 engine formula will not cut speeds and reduce costs in grand prix racing.

The German said better tires, not more powerful engines, have contributed most to faster lap times in 2004.

He added: ''It is not right to say it's just the engine.''

McLaren principal Ron Dennis weighed into the dispute by insisting that the qualm with the FIA's proposal is not the philosophy of slowing down the Formula One car.

He insisted that a V8 won't cut costs, and that changing the aerodynamics and the tires are 'enough' to reduce speeds.

''We are not against the FIA,'' he said, despite speculation that Mercedes - as well as BMW and Honda - are preparing to take the Paris body to arbitration over the stance.

Dennis said the Concorde Agreement, good until the end of 2007, provides for total 'engine stability.'

He reckons the 'easiest way' to save money for F1 teams would be to reduce, not increase, the number of grands prix.

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