F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
October 6, 2004

Sato to race in 2005
(GMM - Suzuka) Takuma Sato will race a second season for Formula One outfit BAR in 2005, team members said in Japan's capital city on Tuesday.

The feisty Japanese, who has often been erratic but quick on the track in 2004, will attempt to complete a hat trick of points-scoring finishes on his home Suzuka circuit this weekend.

Sato, 27, signed a three-year contract with the Honda-powered team in 2003, the first of which was spent in the testing cockpit.

''Our partnership with Honda and local hero Takuma makes this a home grand prix,'' team principal David Richards, who is working to retain Jenson Button as Sato's continuing team-mate, said in Tokyo.

He added: ''Whilst Takuma will rightly enjoy the adulation of his enormous fan base, I have no doubt that both he and Jenson will be very focused on the task in hand.''

Montoya was 'attractive' to Ferrari
(GMM - Suzuka) McLaren signed a contract with Juan Pablo Montoya so early because traditional rival Ferrari might have snapped him up.

Woking's CEO and team principal Ron Dennis put pen to paper with Williams' out-of-contract Colombian even though no vacancy existed for the 2004 season.

But the silver chief didn't want Maranello to eye Montoya as a possible successor for Michael Schumacher, who - despite a longer contract - may retire as early as the end of 2005.

''(Juan Pablo) would have been attractive to Ferrari,'' said Ron, ''and for that reason - as well as for his ability - he was too good an opportunity to miss.''

Montoya, 29, and Finnish incumbent Kimi Raikkonen, will be team-mates next season, as nine-year McLaren veteran David Coulthard is either shown the door or relocated to a third Mercedes-powered car.

Schu arrived early in Japan
(GMM - Suzuka) Michael Schumacher touched down in Japan earlier than usual to adjust to a 'big' time difference.

Ferrari's seven time world champion, who left Switzerland on Monday, said jet lag and the effect of different climatic conditions 'should not be underestimated.

''Arriving too late,'' said the German, ''can mean additional physical stress. Getting acclimatized is important as it allows you to focus exclusively on the race.''

Highlighting both Michael and Ferrari's commitment to the balance of the season, even with both F1 championships in the bag, was a test - and lap record - at Jerez last week.

He finished just twelfth in Shanghai a fortnight ago, an inaugural Chinese grand prix in which Schumacher said 'lots of things' went wrong simultaneously.

''You can look at it this way,'' said the 35-year-old. ''It is probably normal that, for once, everything did not go perfectly. I have no problem forgetting it and moving on.''

Sato to win home grand prix?
(GMM - Suzuka) Takuma Sato said becoming the first Japanese to win a grand prix would be like 'a dream in heaven.'

So what would it be like to do it at Suzuka, scene of Sunday's Japanese race at the drivers' favorite Suzuka circuit?

''I came fifth in 2002 (for Jordan),'' he remarked in Tokyo, ''and sixth last year, and the (fans') reaction was unbelievable - they cheered me every single lap! Winning will be extremely difficult this year.''

But Sato, 27 - confirmed on Tuesday as a continuing BAR driver in 2005 - will not rule out another podium appearance, like the first at Indianapolis this year.

''We always push for a win,'' he added, ''but a podium place is really possible (at Suzuka). That is my aim.''

Nicknamed 'Taku', the little driver - who speaks with a lisp - watched his first ever motor race at Suzuka, as a ten year old boy.

''(Gerhard) Berger won,'' he crisply recalls of the 1987 grand prix, ''in the Ferrari. I loved it. I knew right then that I had to be a F1 driver.''

Brundle to launch book
(GMM - Suzuka) F1 driver-turned-commentator Martin Brundle has written a book.

The former McLaren and Jordan star's account, written with journalist Maurice Hamilton, is of the world's best Formula One and race circuits.

Brundle, 45, retired as a grand prix driver after the 1996 season, joining Murray Walker in the British commentary box and also completing a stint as chairman of the British Racing Drivers' Club.

He will launch the book, called 'Working the Wheel', in London next week.

Martin Brundle was sports car world champion in 1988, won the fabled Le Mans 24-Hour event two years later, and is still an advisor to McLaren veteran David Coulthard.

Fisi expects 'great' Suzuka tire
(GMM - Suzuka) Giancarlo Fisichella is expecting team supplier Bridgestone to have prepared a 'great tire' for their home Japanese grand prix.

The Italian driver, who will contest two last races for the marque before switching to Michelin-shod Renault in 2005, reckons Suzuka is traditionally a 'Bridgestone circuit.

''I think it will suit our Sauber very well too,'' he said Tuesday, ''and I am feeling quietly confident.''

Technical director Willy Rampf, meanwhile, said tire degradation is a concern at the abrasive Suzuka venue.

''(Also) because Suzuka has many corners,'' he added. ''The more you can do to preserve the efficiency of the tires, the better.''

Sauber was competitive on other higher speed circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps, Monza and Shanghai.

''I love Suzuka,'' Fisichella concluded. ''It's maybe the best (venue) after Spa.''

Tropical storm in Japan
(GMM - Suzuka) Following a report of likely rain at Suzuka, it appears that a tropical storm - called Ma On - is on the way to the Japanese region.

Meteorologists say the storm is moving north from the Philippine Sea, and therefore is likely to bring wet weather for all three days of the grand prix meeting.

Meanwhile, organizers of the MotoGP (motorcycle) world championship said Sunday's race in Malaysia has been delayed more than an hour to avoid a TV clash with the F1 action at Suzuka.

F1's Japanese Grand Prix is scheduled to start at 2.30pm, a half-hour later than usual to better accommodate European television broadcasters.

Bridgestone woo Michelin-shod team
(GMM - Suzuka) Williams, Renault and Toyota are all linked with a possible switch from Michelin to Bridgestone next season.

Ferrari's Japanese tire supplier, Bridgestone, have made an approach to all six Michelin-shod Formula One teams, also including McLaren, Jaguar and BAR.

But the (initially) aforementioned three are thought to have responded with requests for more information, according to a source in the British media.

The source said Bridgestone wants at least one carmaker-backed Michelin team to switch camps, to thus contribute to development of next year's F1 product.

New rules in 2005, requiring a Formula One tire to have a longer life, will mean that the quality (and quantity) of winter development is even more crucial to success.

World champion team Ferrari is currently Bridgestone's only carmaker-backed partner.

Montoya unmoved by Brit GP axe
(GMM - Suzuka) Juan Pablo Montoya will not weep if the Formula One bandwagon skips Silverstone next season.

The Colombian, whose next British GP would have been at the wheel of a McLaren, says he turns up to steer a 900bhp car 'wherever (the race) is.'

He said at the Northamptonshire track last week: ''Will I be sorry not to drive here next year? It's always been fun. (But) we go here, we go there - I do whatever they tell me.''

Montoya, 29, said the current circuit's actual layout is not as good as traditional drivers' favorites such as Spa-Francorchamps, or Suzuka.

''(Silverstone is) a great track,'' said Williams' star, ''apart from the last three corners -- long, boring and pointless.''

Montoya's PR day in England consisted of driving a group of journalists and competition winners around Silverstone in a new Mini Cooper.

He said he'd outline a stronger opinion about Bernie Ecclestone's Brit GP axe if it would make a difference. ''It's not my problem,'' said Juan Pablo.

''If my opinion could change it, then I'd probably say (more).''

Tobacco could thwart Africa GP
(GMM - Suzuka) An obstacle to taking Formula One to the African continent in 2007 is the country's prohibition of tobacco advertising.

Spokesman for the bidding consortium, 'Omega', confirmed on Tuesday that the body will apply to Bernie Ecclestone for a race just outside Cape Town.

With the exception of Antarctica, Africa is now the only continent in the world not represented on the annual grand prix schedule.

The spokesman, David Gant, said 'Omega' was hoping the government will allow a South African Grand Prix to run with some sort of reprieve of the tobacco ban.

''(F1) has huge economic implications for the country,'' he insisted.

Gant confirmed that Omega officials have met with government ministers, Cape Town's mayor, and South Africa's motor sport governing body.

'Max and Bernie conspired to axe Brit GP'
(GMM - Suzuka) Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley conspired to spell an end to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Sir Jackie Stewart said on Tuesday.

The triple world champion, who is president of the circuit-owning British Racing Drivers' Club, accused F1's most powerful men of staging a 'vendetta' against the historic race.

''Bernie has got a vendetta going on against us,'' said Stewart, ''and so has (FIA president) Max. I can't take the credit for it because it was going on way before my time.''

Asked why F1's powerbrokers would intrinsically oppose the BRDC, or the British Grand Prix, the Scot said it was definitely not just about outdated facilities.

Jackie explained: ''Look at Interlagos and Monza. What are the toilets like there? (And) you've got to be a mountain goat to get around Spa. (I don't know) what it's about.''

Stewart pleaded to British Prime Minister Tony Blair this week to help save the F1 event, and - if successful - promised the government 'complete (financial) transparency' and a share in the business.

BAR sign Epson
(GMM - Suzuka) Epson will be a one-race sponsor at the Japanese Grand Prix, Formula One team BAR confirmed on Tuesday.

Epson, famous for computer printers, and the Brackley-based squad, see Suzuka as a chance to 'explore and develop' a longer term deal, BAR explained in a statement.

''I am sure that this partnership ... will further enhance our reputation in the Japanese market and beyond,'' said team principal David Richards.

BAR already has Japanese ties with engine partner Honda and confirmed 2005 driver Takuma Sato.

BAR not ready to beat Ferrari - Sato
(GMM - Suzuka) BAR has a long way to go before it can dream of regularly beating world champion team Ferrari, 2005 driver Takuma Sato said on Wednesday.

The Japanese driver, gearing up to race in his home grand prix this Sunday, warned in Tokyo that UK-based BAR need to take the rise to F1's pinnacle one step at a time.

''Before beating Ferrari, we have to catch them,'' Sato, 27, smiled.

''We have to cross the divide which remains quite big. But everyone is working flat-out to close (the gap).''

BAR overtook Renault for second in the 2004 constructors' world championship at Monza, but the 'divide' to winners Ferrari stands at a dazzling 139 points.

Sato, often criticized for erratic and overly aggressive driving, claims he will continue to 'learn and improve' throughout the third of a three-year tenure next season.

''The (early season) reliability problems seem to have gone away,'' he said. ''We struggled in France and Britain but I'm confident we're now back up to speed.

''We should have an even more exciting season (in 2005).''

Schu considers Suzuka changes
(GMM - Suzuka) Suzuka is one of Michael Schumacher's favorite F1 circuits.

The German had a torrid time at the Japanese venue in 2003, though, finishing just eighth to scrape in the drivers' championship at the end of an incident-filled contest.

''I really look forward to (Suzuka),'' said Ferrari's seven time world champion.

''Last year it was a tough race - maybe one of the toughest (of my career). But I really like Suzuka because it is tricky to drive.''

The track underwent some modifications ahead of the 2003 edition, which some drivers said compromised the ultimate challenge of the figure-of-eight layout.

Suzuka's fabled 130R corner, for example, got a facelift, and the 'Prost/Senna' chicane at the end of the lap was eased, with a reduced braking area and quicker entry.

Schumacher said of the changes: ''(The new chicane) makes overtaking more difficult (than before). And 130R is now irregular and consequently more difficult.''

Ecclestone horror at PM plea
(GMM - Suzuka) Bernie Ecclestone has struck back at accusations he cynically plotted the demise of Britain's Formula One race with FIA president Max Mosley.

British Racing Drivers' Club president Sir Jackie Stewart said the sport's powerbrokers have waged a long-standing 'vendetta' against Silverstone and its owner.

''Enough is enough,'' the F1 impresario said on Wednesday. ''I don't mind criticism, but I am being depicted as responsible for all (Silverstone's) problems. This mess has been coming for several years.''

Ecclestone, 73, is horrified at news that Stewart - the former triple world champion - wrote a letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair asking for a hand out.

''I mean, come on,'' Bernie scoffed. ''It's the arrogance of these people which has dragged them into this mess. (The BRDC) needs to wake up quickly to financial reality.''

He said Stewart and other opponents have depicted 'Mr. Ecclestone' as a greedy multi billionaire who doesn't need any more money.

But Bernie said personal issues should be left out of any political or commercial dispute. ''I stayed here (in England) and took risks with my own cash,'' he said.

''Jackie shouldn't argue that he and the BRDC are the innocent parties. If he gets in touch with me, and we manage to thrash things out, there might still be a race in Britain next year.''

Brit GP talks will fail - BRDC chief
(GMM - Suzuka) There is little hope that behind-the-scenes lobbying can save the British GP for 2005, British Racing Drivers' Club CEO Alex Hooton said.

He admitted the Silverstone-owning Club made an offer to promote next year's event that fell below F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone's requirements.

''(It was made) on the basis of a full-house attendance (at the race in) 2005,'' said Hooton, ''and we simply can not go higher than that.''

Further negotiations are now taking place, such as BRDC president Sir Jackie Stewart's plea to the UK government, but Hooton is not hopeful.

He commented: ''My gut feeling is that there won't be a grand prix at Silverstone next year.''

Schu vows to break Rubens' hat trick
(GMM - Suzuka) Michael Schumacher is determined to stop Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello from completing a hat trick of grand prix wins this weekend.

The world champion, who stood on the top step of the podium twelve times in the first thirteen races of 2004, has not won a race since Kimi Raikkonen stole victory at Spa.

''I would like to get back to winning,'' 35-year-old Schumacher admitted in Japan on Wednesday. ''I'm sure Rubens wants to stop me.''

Michael said the 'most important' thing for the penultimate grand prix at Suzuka is that a red car wins. ''We are both here to win,'' Schumacher explained.

''Whether I do it, or Rubens does it, Ferrari is doing it, really.''

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