F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
October 5, 2004

Fans urged to save Silverstone
(GMM) Fans of the British Grand Prix are using an online petition to urge Bernie Ecclestone to reinstate the axed Silverstone race.

The petition is addressed to the 73-year-old's 'Formula One Management' company following last Thursday's news that an offer to promote the race in 2005 was not accepted.

''Britain is the home of motorsport,'' read the petition's prefix, ''(and) Silverstone is buried deep in tradition.''

At time of publication, the Brit GP petition - run by free online petition service PetitionOnline.com - was nearing 1800 signatures.

''The (British GP) will be a tragic loss to Formula One,'' said the 'comment' on one signature, ''since it is home to several ... teams and always provides some of the best (racing).''

To add your signature to the petition, go to www.PetitionOnline.com/11688523

Webber to race b-spec Jaguar
(GMM) Mark Webber will race in a new lightweight car this weekend as Jaguar reaches the penultimate grand prix of a five-year team career.

The Australian driver, in his home country this week for a bout of pre-Japanese GP training and holidaying, is set to drive the 'R5b-06', which was debuted by team-mate Christian Klien in China.

''The guys (in the team) have all really pulled together over these last couple of weeks,'' said Webber, 27, apparently referring to Ford's recent decision to pull out of F1 after the final GP in Brazil.

He added: ''I would like to reward them with points before the season ends.''

A team statement said the 'focus' back at Milton-Keynes has been the 'fine tuning' of Webber's b-spec Jaguar chassis.

''(Suzuka) is a tough track,'' Webber continued, ''but (it) allows us to really test ourselves.''

Sato feels home race 'pressure'
(GMM) Japan's Formula One hero Takuma Sato does not know Suzuka as well as many racing people imagine.

The little 27-year-old, who scored points at his home track for Jordan in 2002 and on BAR debut late last year, started a busy week of pre-race PR in Tokyo on Monday.

''I did most of my junior racing in Europe,'' 'Taku' smiled, ''not in Japan.''

Sato will be a busy boy leading up to Sunday's big race - interviews, photo shoots and television appearances dominated Monday's tour of the Japanese city.

Asked if the week will disrupt his mental and physical preparation for the grand prix, Takuma replied: ''I am busy, obviously -- very busy, and there is also some extra pressure. But the support here is so great, you can really feel (the fans') energy.''

Senna to drive uncle's F1 car
(GMM) Bruno Senna will drive a Lotus Formula One car, raced by his late uncle in 1986, around the Interlagos circuit near Sao Paulo later this month.

The demonstration run, to coincide with the final grand prix of the 2004 season in Brazil, was - according to a source - suggested by F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone.

In April, Sao Paulo-born legend Senna's old F1 team-mate Gerhard Berger demonstrated the Lotus at Imola, which claimed the great racer at Tamburello corner in 1994.

Following a decade-long family ban on motor racing, 21-year-old Bruno Senna recently debuted in Formula BMW in Britain.

Bernie's dog 'should be put down'
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone is in trouble - but, this time, his rivals are not the ones at the working end of the F1 impresario's grand prix-chopping axe.

British media reports are claiming that his dog, named Brulee, has attacked other dogs and local residents in Chelsea (England).

Some neighbors say Brulee, a chow, should be put down.

''There's only been three attacks that I know of,'' Ecclestone, 73, said in London's 'Evening Standard' newspaper.

''It's a petty neighborhood argument and typical of the people in (Chelsea Square).''

The latest row appears to have been sparked by an incident last week, in which neighbor Alan Nash - a banker - had to have a tetanus injection after being bitten on the leg.

The Chelsea Square Garden Association, chaired by Nash, has written to Bernie threatening to revoke his right to use the garden.

Montoya and Mercedes
(GMM) Juan Pablo Montoya became more acquainted with future employer Mercedes- Benz at the weekend, as a guest of McLaren's F1 engine partner at Hockenheim.

The Colombian, still racing in BMW-branded Williams overalls at grands prix, headed to the German circuit to cheer brother Federico's progress in a Formula BMW car.

But Montoya, set to switch to McLaren around Christmas time, was actually an official guest of Mercedes as the marque competed in the German touring car (DTM) main event.

1982 world champion Keke Rosberg and 2002 Toyota driver Allan McNish were also spotted at the circuit.

Montoya was obliged to return from Asia to Europe in between the Chinese and Japanese grands prix, but was not invited to test the FW26 as Williams has ceased Juan's development program.

He retired whilst leading the Japanese GP last year. ''I've always done fairly well at Suzuka,'' said Montoya.

''The track should suit the Williams car, so I'm pretty confident of a good result.''

Brit GP shortfall 'was $1.4 million'
(GMM) Richard Caborn has denied that a more than $5 million shortfall scuppered Silverstone's British Grand Prix for 2005.

Rather, the UK sport minister said the track-owning British Racing Drivers' Club refused to stump up with a 'petty' $1.4 million that ultimately came between the race and F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone.

What's more, he said, 73-year-old Bernie has agreed to 'split the difference' to ensure that Britain does not have to go without a 'jewel' in its motor sport schedule.

Caborn scoffed at the miserly $1.4 million as approximately 'what Michael Schumacher earns every minute' he is at the wheel of the red Ferrari.

Asked if the government would be coming to the rescue, the sport minister bluntly replied: 'No,' whilst implying that Silverstone has already received enough.

Israeli tests Jordan car
(GMM) 41-year-old Chanoch Nissany returned to the wheel of a year-old Jordan car at the F1 team's local Silverstone track last Tuesday.

The F3000 test driver, who lives in Budapest but is an Israeli national, did more than 100 laps on the shorter 'National Circuit' layout in central England.

Nissany drove 'consistently strongly throughout the session,' said a Jordan spokesman.

The last time Chanoch tested the Jordan, in July, it was pointed out that team owner Eddie Jordan was in talks with a Dubai-based buy-out consortium.

Button laments Brit GP axe
(GMM) The loss of the F1 race at Silverstone will be a disaster for current and future British drivers, Jenson Button said.

The English star of Brackley-based Formula One team BAR, and (probably) next year Williams - which finds an HQ in Oxfordshire - hopes parties see sense on the exclusion of the British GP for 2005.

Button, 24, told UK newspaper 'Mirror': ''The greatest feeling, apart from winning the world championship, would be to stand on the top of the podium at Silverstone.''

The circuit-owning British Racing Drivers' Club, though, said Bernie Ecclestone wants the BRDC to sign either a seven or five-year contract to promote the race.

''We really would be betting the bank (if we agreed),'' said chief executive Alex Hooton.

He commented: ''(Bernie) wants us to commit to a loss making position at a time when we have not got planning permission for a major redevelopment.''

South Africa GP 'on track' - spokesman
(GMM) Plans to bring Formula One to South Africa in 2007 are still on track, a bidding consortium's spokesman reported.

David Gant, representing the 'Omega Consortium', said the body will apply to Formula One Management to stage a race in Cape Town.

''Everyone we have had discussions with recognize the economic benefits (of a grand prix),'' he said on Monday.

He said Omega is now 'seeking financial partners.'

''A number of countries are very keen to host (an) event,'' Gant commented, ''but we are aware of the very strong support for Cape Town amongst the Formula One decision makers.''

Africa is the only continent in the world, except Antarctica, that does not host a round of the world championship.

But Gant warned that the consortium must quickly make 'meaningful' progress, during a 'respite' of an expired FOM deadline, to get detailed plans of the race bid to Ecclestone.

Ferrari show 'no fatigue' - Schu
(GMM) A record-breaking lap at Jerez last week proved that Ferrari and Michael Schumacher have not run out of steam, despite already tying-up both F1 championships.

Unlike most grand prix drivers following last Sunday's race in China, German-born Schumacher chose not to dodge the jetlag and flew back to Spain for a pre-Japanese GP test.

''Tests like that are fun,'' he said.

Schumacher, 35, smashed the unofficial lap record at the sunny southern circuit. ''(Doing that),'' he added, ''makes you feel like you are making progress as a team.''

The seven time world champion said despite 'winning everything' in 2004, he and the Maranello-based team is showing 'no signs of fatigue.

''We're all full of ideas and drive,'' he explained, ''and there's no stagnation at all.''

For Japan, Schumacher - who had a bad race at Shanghai - targeted his first win since August, on a circuit (Suzuka) he singles-out as one of two or three personal favorites.

New venues 'threaten F1' - Surtees
(GMM) 1964 world champion John Surtees is concerned that China, Bahrain, Malaysia and Turkey threaten the 'sustainability' of modern Formula One.

The 70-year-old, who is involved in the British franchise of series 'rival' A1 Grand Prix, said in London this week that the aforementioned venues are built with sizeable government aid.

''Vast undertakings (like that) can be created,'' said the two and four-wheeled champion, ''but they also have to be maintained and made to work.''

He worries that, in a week that - effectively - saw Turkey steal Britain's place on the grand prix calendar, 'commercial organisations' can no longer justify a similar capital investment in F1.

Surtees said he would have 'hated' to have missed the old challenges of the original Nurburgring, Monza, Spa-Francorchamps and Watkins Glen (USA) circuits.

He asked: ''At what cost are we moving with the times? Does it mean the traditional venues have to disappear?

''Some of the best racing, recently, has happened at Silverstone, but the British Racing Drivers' Club can't compete with the Chinese government.''

F1 demise will not affect Olympic bid
(GMM) The loss of the British Grand Prix will have no impact on London's bid for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Former UK minister Kate Hoey said last week that Silverstone's failure to keep its grand prix on the Formula One calendar does not bode well.

She commented: ''We can't go on year after year having this (uncertainty about Britain's ability to host a major event).''

In response, Mike Lee - who is the communications director for Britain's Olympic bid - distanced premier motor racing from the 'Olympic' sports.

He said: ''The finances and current dynamics (of Formula One) have a particular history.''

PM asked to bail out Brit GP
(GMM) Sir Jackie Stewart has appealed directly to British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a last-gasp effort to save the country's embattled Formula One race.

The Scot, who is president of the track-owning British Racing Drivers' Club, said in a letter that a modern F1 venue cannot survive without government support.

UK sport minister Richard Caborn has already ruled out direct government funding for the Formula One event in Northamptonshire.

But Stewart said, in the letter addressed to Downing Street policy advisor William Perrin, that 'simply no money' comes back into the sport from 'Mr. Ecclestone's large rights fees and (commercial) contracts.'

''Almost every other grand prix in the world,'' he continued to write, ''is supplying the finances to build exciting, glamorous and expensive facilities.''

Triple world champion Stewart's efforts are unlikely to be rewarded, though, particularly as Richard Caborn said 'some people would' label the BRDC's recent actions as resulting from 'gross stupidity.

''It is unacceptable to me,'' he added.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, meanwhile, called on the local businesses in South Northamptonshire to make up the difference, which may be as little as $1.4 million.

Trulli - 'I am more motivated'
(GMM) Jarno Trulli will use a race debut for Toyota this weekend to 'iron out' any problems ahead of a full time campaign in 2005.

Fired by Renault after Monza following a string of lacklustre performances, the rated Italian has been fast tracked into Cologne's F1 line-up.

''It will be a big challenge, these two races,'' said the 2005 team-mate of Ralf Schumacher on Tuesday.

''But I am more motivated than ever before.''

Trulli, 30, has spent just four (test) days in the Toyota cockpit, but thinks racing in Japan and Brazil will be a 'useful' head start ahead of next year.

Toyota's home grand prix is also a milestone for another reason this weekend, as the German-based squad notch up their 50th grand prix.

''I cannot believe how quickly the time has gone,'' said principal Tsutomu Tomita, ''but we have matured (since 2002) and I'm sure it won't be long before we can reduce the gap to the front running teams.''

Panis ready for 'emotional' exit
(GMM) Olivier Panis will race in his final grand prix at Suzuka on Sunday.

The Frenchman, who debuted for Ligier more than a decade ago, will step aside after Japan so that Ricardo Zonta can compete in his home (Brazilian) event.

''I love Suzuka,'' said Panis, ''and this race will be quite emotional for me. I will miss the excitement of racing but I will still have an input in the future.''

Panis, 37, has signed to be Toyota's 'third' driver in 2005 and 2006.

The Japan GP line-up of Panis and new Toyota driver Jarno Trulli, meanwhile, reunites the 'good friends' who were team-mates in 1998 and 1999, at Prost.

On Sunday, Panis ran the TF104 car at Toyota's Tokyo (Megaweb) showroom. ''It rained,'' Olivier smiled, ''but everyone enjoyed my donuts and wheel spins!''

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