F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
October 9, 2004

Grand Prix cancelled?
(GMM - Suzuka) With Saturday at Suzuka called off as a 'super' strength typhoon approaches, speculation is now entertaining the possibility that the grand prix will also be cancelled.

Although weather conditions should have improved by Sunday mid-morning, it is unknown what will be left in the wake of the phenomenon that is expected to bring with it winds of up to 200km/h.

More than forty people have been killed by typhoons in Japan this year.

But even if Sunday clears to reveal a 'Friday like' day at the circuit, BAR driver Jenson Button suggested a decision to stage a race would be a marginal one.

''In the second session,'' he said after Friday practice, ''it was really wet -- the circuit was drenched. It really was dangerous.

''I nearly ran into the back of a Minardi at one point. I just didn't see him.''

Minardi may race 2001 car in 2005
(GMM - Suzuka) Minardi has found the support of only six rival F1 teams after a request to run the 2004 car next season, principal Paul Stoddart revealed in Japan.

The Australian owner is asking that, due to the lack of a settled technical code for 2005 and uncertainty over an engine deal, Minardi be allowed to run the current car.

''I am not going to name and shame,'' he said in reference to the two or three teams who are not yet supportive, ''but there's an incredible temptation to do so.''

If Stoddart finds unanimity in the team principals' room, Minardi then need 'dispensation' from the governing FIA.

He continued: ''Worst case scenario is we build a car to 2005 regs with an engine that is cobbled up into it -- we will be slow.''

If Minardi is not allowed to run the current car next season, the most likely outcome is that the 2001-spec car - designed to fit Minardi's own 'European' V10 - will appear again.

'I won't retire' - Coulthard
(GMM - Suzuka) Jenson Button 'holds the key' to racing veteran David Coulthard's future at the pinnacle of motor sport.

If Williams wins a contractual dispute to run the young Briton, 33-year-old Coulthard is a contender to slot into his place at BAR.

''I don't know (what's going to happen),'' McLaren's departing Scot admitted in Japan.

But he did suggest that Williams will not have an opening for the nine-season McLaren veteran, even if Button is ordered to stay at BAR.

Coulthard also denied that, even if he fails to find a spot on the 2005 grid, he'll hang up his famous blue and white helmet.

News from the ... hotel - Japan
(GMM - Suzuka) Given Friday's conditions, F1 teams did not have to select a dry tyre compound early on Saturday morning, a source in Japan revealed. The decision will be made prior to Sunday's early pre-qualifying session.

Jordan arrived at Suzuka this weekend with a different race engineering team. ''It's an opportunity,'' said chief James Robinson, ''to get our younger engineers in there.'' Regular third car engineer Oliver Knighton is engineering Timo Glock, data engineer Peter Bonnington worked on Robert Doornbos' spare car, and Glock's former engineer, Dominic Harlow, is taking on a 'more senior role.'

'Third' drivers such as Ryan Briscoe (Toyota) and Bjorn Wirdheim (Jaguar) didn't run on Friday in case the race drivers need extra 'extreme' weather tyres in Sunday's race. ''We couldn't even consider using intermediates,'' said Australian Briscoe. ''Usually I help the team by running,'' joked Wirdheim, ''not by staying in the garage!''

Ferrari will not be unhappy if the skies are still raining on Sunday. ''Michael (Schumacher) managed some very good times on the (wet) Bridgestone tyres,'' said technical director Ross Brawn. ''But even if it's dry, we are strong in unusual situations.''

Local hero Takuma Sato felt bad for his loyal fans on Friday who sat in the rain all day to watch ... not much F1 action. ''I feel so sorry for them,'' said the Japanese. ''If I could do something about (the weather), I would!''

Webber to get early Jaguar release
(GMM - Suzuka) Mark Webber will start testing for Williams in the days immediately following this month's season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.

His current team, Jaguar, confirmed at Suzuka - on a torrential Friday - that the decision had been taken in order to 'support (Mark) in his career.'

Webber, 27, will however remain under contract to Jaguar Racing - which is being sold by paymasters Ford - until the final day of 2004.

He'll therefore test the Williams car 'in plain overalls,' read a statement, and may also be asked to carry out PR obligations for Jaguar.

Webber used the b-spec Jaguar car on Friday, but - given the woeful conditions and lack of dry running - he has asked that his single engine be moved into a usual chassis for qualifying and the race.

Schu 'relieved'
(GMM - Suzuka) Michael Schumacher is relieved he isn't fighting for the world championship at Suzuka.

The German, who wrapped up drivers' title number seven six weeks ago (in Belgium), said: ''Imagine you have to fight ... in these conditions.

''That would be very tense. As it is, I can relax and take things as they come.''

Teams were told to stay in their nearby hotels on Saturday, as the Suzuka Circuit was closed as a 'super' typhoon approached from the south.

Toyota rule out customer engine
(GMM - Suzuka) Toyota will not supply customer engines to Jordan or Minardi next season, F1 principal Tsutomu Tomita said.

The two privateer teams have lost an affordable Cosworth supply for 2005, but there was talk of Toyota coming to the rescue with a $9.5 million deal.

''It's too late for 2005,'' said the Japanese at Suzuka.

Tomita said a customer supply may be available in the future, perhaps in 2006, but with two months to go until a New Year dawns, 'it is impossible.'

Button brake won't break BAR's bank
(GMM - Suzuka) BAR will not suffer financially due to the probable loss of key British driver Jenson Button, team principal David Richards insisted.

Earlier in 2004, Richards said sponsors were almost falling over themselves to get involved with a rising team that is building a trendy and youthful image.

''Nothing has changed,'' said DR in Japan.

In fact, the English chief said another sponsor - to add to one-race backer Epson (in Japan) and the recently acquired Ray-Ban cash - may get on board before the season's end.

Richards denied that any major sponsorship deal at BAR is contingent on Button being in the cockpit in 2005.

He said: ''That wouldn't be the way to do things.''

BAR to win a race - Schumacher
(GMM - Suzuka) World Michael Schumacher believes it is 'realistic' to expect BAR to win either the Japanese or Brazilian grand prix.

The German said Brackley's Honda-powered team has been 'strong' in 2004 and quite often the difference between BAR and Ferrari has been a better scarlet 'strategy.

''Things could easily change,'' Schumacher said.

'No regret' in Villeneuve deal - Sauber
(GMM - Suzuka) It was a 'good decision' to sign a two year contract with 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, Peter Sauber insisted at Suzuka.

Despite observations that the French- Canadian is not up to speed in a front running Renault, Sauber said he does not regret asking the 33-year-old - who may bring several million in personal sponsors - to Hinwil.

''I am glad we are driving with him,'' the German-speaking Swiss said, ''for him and for us.''

Prior to the deal with 33-year-old Villeneuve, Sauber had arranged a test with F3000 champion Vitantonio Liuzzi.

The young Italian still completed the single day run, even if the race seat had been filled.

Sauber said: ''We promised him a test, and I think it was nice for him, even if it is hard to show your talent in a short time.''

Jordan slams Ford
(GMM - Suzuka) Eddie Jordan has broken his silence and lashed out at Ford over the withdrawing manufacturers' treatment of the struggling Formula One team.

The Irishman is 'angered' that, after a long relationship with the marque as engine supplier, he got seven minutes' notice prior to Ford's decision to quit the sport.

He told British newspaper 'Guardian': ''It's now almost too late to build a sophisticated car around a new engine.

''Ford have behaved appallingly,'' said Jordan at Honda's end of season party. ''I can't get an appointment to talk to anybody (about) it. This is a very sad state of affairs.''

The latest speculation is that F3000 team (Arden) owner Christian Horner has offered to buy part of the Silverstone-based Jordan operation.

EJ said he would sell the team if it meant it could survive.

Brit GP to move to Donington?
(GMM - Suzuka) The British Grand Prix could be moved from Silverstone to 'Donington Park' next season, according to a consortium working to save the embattled event.

Kimi Cockburn, of the 'Brand Synergy' group, said if negotiations with the British Racing Drivers' Club fail, 'we have the funding' to move to Plan B.

''Wherever the race is,'' she added, ''we will have to build a new pits and paddock complex. It does not make any difference whether it is at Donington or Silverstone.''

Donington last hosted a grand prix in 1993, which was famously won by Ayrton Senna in the rain.

Another source in the 'Brand' consortium, meanwhile, said Silverstone was 'definitely' the target and the track-owning BRDC may be offered 'equity' if it agrees a deal.

Tobacco liveries to go
(GMM - Suzuka) Ron Dennis in jail? It could happen if the UK-based McLaren team, for example, runs with 'West' stickers beyond July next season.

British Formula One teams are now awaiting clarification on legislation that, currently, will make it a criminal offence to paint a car in tobacco colours, even outside the European Union.

''Potentially,'' said Brackley-based principal of BAR, David Richards, ''we (have) to remove the advertising after July next year at all races worldwide.''

At the end of 2006, F1's tobacco companies have agreed to voluntarily withdraw.

'There will be a Brit GP' - Stoddart
(GMM - Suzuka) If Paul Stoddart had to bet his bank, he'd put the lot on Britain still hosting a Formula One grand prix next season.

''There will be a race,'' said the Minardi principal in Japan. ''Why is this all happening? One word -- politics.''

BAR's David Richards is also now 'very confident' a solution will be found to keep the historic event at Silverstone.

It was expected that the F1 principals would find a solution on the race, such as agreeing to an eighteenth grand prix in 2005, at Suzuka this weekend.

But those talks have been delayed as attention turns towards saving the Japanese event from the wreckage of 'super typhoon number 22'.

An agreement must, though, be found by Wednesday's calendar-ratification meeting of the FIA's World Motor Sport Council.

Stoddart warned that, at a cost of $2 million per extra race, the teams 'need to be compensated' if the Brit GP is to return.

Midland to race in battle 'to survive'
(GMM - Suzuka) F1's new-for-2006 team, Midland F1, are joining Minardi and Jordan in the fight for mere survival, Paul Stoddart warned at Suzuka.

Following the announcement that Russian-born businessman Alex Shnaider plans to spend $100 million a year towards success, Minardi's chief warned that there is no quick route to the front of the grid.

''I don't believe the (team) franchises have a value (any more),'' he said. ''When we lost Prost and Arrows, and now Jaguar, it became a battle just to survive.''

Brit GP axe not 'acceptable' - BAR
(GMM - Suzuka) It will not be 'acceptable' if the final Formula One calendar is published without a British Grand Prix.

That's the comment of UK-based F1 principal David Richards, who said the home race's loss - as well as considerations of history and nostalgia - would be felt most harshly in the 'commercial' department.

''You've got to have the traditional events,'' he added in Japan. ''I'm sure (BAR) are not alone in this -- we need to find a solution.''

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