F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
October 11, 2004

Renault concede defeat
(GMM - Suzuka) Renault's Flavio Briatore all but conceded defeat in the constructors' world championship after a disappointing effort at Suzuka.

The Italian said the R24 car was simply 'not quick enough' to take the fight to BAR, now holding an almost unassailable second to Ferrari in the carmakers' duel.

''With one race to go (in Brazil),'' said principal Briatore, ''it is hard to remain hopeful. But as long as we have a possibility of regaining the position, we will try to get it.''

1997 champion Jacques Villeneuve was introduced to the Enstone-based team in China to give Renault's title chances a boost, but - again - he struggled for pace.

Both he and Fernando Alonso will test new car parts this week at Jerez.

Overtaking is possible - Sauber
(GMM - Suzuka) Anyone who thinks overtaking is impossible in Formula One didn't watch Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa in action at Suzuka.

That was the claim of their boss Peter Sauber after the Japanese grand prix.

''Together, they proved (it),'' the Swiss-German beamed as the drivers finished eighth and ninth.

''It was great to push hard all the way and do lots of overtaking,'' said Fisichella, ''even after my 'moment' in the Spoon corner.''

Team-mate Massa fudged qualifying, but recovered in the race to, in the young Brazilian's words, 'pull some really good moves!'

Ralf 'had advantage' - Montoya
(GMM - Suzuka) Ralf Schumacher ended up on the Suzuka podium because he crashed in China a fortnight ago, according to team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya.

The Colombian driver said he finished just seventh to team-mate Ralf's second in Japan because he didn't get the luck in final qualifying.

''I was just in traffic (all race),'' he moaned, ''and losing so much time every lap. Maybe this poor finishing position will give me the advantage in Brazil ... ''

Montoya, 29, claims Schumacher qualified well only because he had a drier track - by running later - in the rescheduled morning session.

''(Ralf) had an advantage,'' he concluded.

Williams' Japanese race moved the team further ahead of McLaren in the constructors' chase.

Off the pace
(GMM - Suzuka) Zsolt Baumgartner apologized to his Minardi crew in Japan after spinning off the Suzuka circuit more than once.

The Hungarian, who started from pitlane ultimately after a spin in pre-qualifying, made another mistake after his final pit stop in the 53-lap grand prix.

''I was pushing really hard,'' said Zsolt, ''but that's no excuse -- I caused the guys a lot of extra work this weekend.''

Team-mate Gianmaria Bruni finished sixteenth, but lamented a pace that was about seven seconds a lap slower than the leading Ferrari.

The Italian said: ''We struggled (here) with the package we have.''

Glock struggle
(GMM - Suzuka) Timo Glock is struggling to make an impression as Jordan's new Formula One race driver.

The young German stepped into 'terminated' Giorgio Pantano's EJ14 seat after Monza.

''I had big problems,'' he admitted after the Japanese grand prix at Suzuka, ''and couldn't find a rhythm.

''It was a bad race for me.''

Head of team engineering James Robinson, though, gave Glock a get-out-of-jail-free card given the 22-year-old's total lack of experience at the circuit.

''His first lap around here in the dry,'' said Robinson, ''was lap one of the race today. We feel he came through okay.''

Gnashing of wheels
(GMM - Suzuka) David Coulthard wasn't the only McLaren driver who felt a gnashing of wheels at the Suzuka circuit.

Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen struggled with the car in Japan and smashed into the Jordan of Timo Glock whilst trying to put a lap on the German.

''I was on the inside and he just turned in on me,'' said the Finn. ''He hit me quite hard and damaged my steering a bit, so I was struggling to keep the car on the road.''

Glock said he 'didn't see (Raikkonen's) move coming.'

In Coulthard's case, the Scot was hit by the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello at the final chicane.

DC didn't point the finger, though --especially after wiping Ralf Schumacher out of the race with a similarly optimistic move a fortnight ago.

''Is that payback?'' he wondered.

Rubens, one of Coulthard's old rivals from British F3, also kept the insults to himself, as he branded the shunt a 'racing incident.

''I think I just caught him by surprise,'' said the Brazilian.

Webber can't stand the heat
(GMM - Suzuka) Mark Webber had to retire from Jaguar's penultimate career grand prix when he could no longer bear the heat.

A clearly angry Australian driver pulled into the garage at Suzuka after complaining on the radio of a painfully hot seat.

''So much effort goes in,'' said the 27-year-old, ''and then I have to get out because of something like this. The (right hand side of the) seat just kept getting hotter until it felt like boiling water on my skin.''

Webber, who started third but immediately lost three positions at the start, had cold water poured into the cockpit at a pit stop, but to no avail.

Schu prefers three day weekend
(GMM - Suzuka) Michael Schumacher is the only Formula One driver to have ever won pole position and a grand prix within four hours.

But the German urged the sport's rule makers to ignore suggestions they should apply the two-day format full time.

''It was certainly exciting,'' Ferrari's world champion smiled at Suzuka, ''but I think I prefer the old system -- this one is quite stressful for the engineers and mechanics.''

Saturday, the traditional day for qualifying at a grand prix, was cancelled when a typhoon warning was issued.

Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn called the challenge 'enjoyable.

''In some ways it was,'' said the Englishman, ''just because it was different. And it wasn't as much pressure as we were maybe expecting it to be.''

The only real complaint of Sunday qualifying in the paddock was an unusually 'early rise' from bed.

Button. BAR. Brazil.
(GMM - Suzuka) Jenson Button has one more chance to score a maiden career grand prix win both for himself and F1 team BAR.

The Englishman would like to leave Brackley for Williams next season, but he is keen to make at least one of eleven podium appearances for the team in 2004 a trip to the very top step.

''It's great to be on the podium for a tenth time,'' the 24-year-old said at Suzuka, ''but I still haven't got that win.''

Button surprised listeners in Japan when he appeared to suggest he would rather race in the midfield than be so close, but just out of reach, of victory.

He said: ''It's not the best season to have a quick car, in a way. The Ferrari is outstandingly quick, but maybe we can do it (in Brazil). We're going to try that.''

Brother scorn at Schu 'drought'
(GMM - Suzuka) Michael Schumacher's brother smiled and scoffed at an observation the German world champion has been out of the F1 winner's circle for 'such a long time.'

Sunday's Japanese grand prix win for the Ferrari driver was his first trip to the top step of the podium in two months, or three grands prix.

29-year-old Ralf Schumacher, who finished second to big brother in Japan, said sarcastically: ''Oh yeah -- a long, long time ... ''

Jenson Button, perhaps Schumacher's biggest non-Ferrari rival for the season ending Brazilian grand prix, also laughed at claims that not winning since August indicates a Schumacher 'drought.'

''It's terrible,'' the BAR driver joked sarcastically. ''Maybe he should give up ... ''

Brit GP will 'probably' survive - FIA
(GMM - Suzuka) Formula One will probably travel to Silverstone next season for a 55th British Grand Prix, FIA president Max Mosley said Sunday.

The Briton said despite Bernie Ecclestone's apparent axe of the historic event at Northamptonshire, ''a solution, I think, will be found.''

World motor sport's FIA Council is scheduled to meet next Wednesday, and it could exclude the British GP from the first published provisional 2005 calendar.

But a more likely outcome, Max Mosley suggested, is that Ecclestone has proposed the Brit GP as 'provisional' for July next year.

He suggested that 'traditional' races like Silverstone (which hosted the first ever championship grand prix in 1950) and France, have the support of the governing body.

''But (the race) cannot be at any price,'' Mosley cautioned.

Sitting room only - Bahrain GP
(GMM - Suzuka) Tickets went on sale for the second Bahrain grand prix on Sunday, organizers of the April 3 (2005) race have revealed.

The cheapest ticket will cost about US$100, but prices for a corporate box - about $26,000 in 2004 - will nearly double next season.

Organizers also said all standing spectator areas will be closed for the next Bahrain grand prix, leaving only grandstand tickets available.

At the new Bahrain circuit near Manama on Sunday, a videotape of Michael Schumacher - speaking from Suzuka in Suzuka - was played for the media.

He said: ''The first Bahrain Grand Prix exceeded my expectations.''

Villeneuve exhausted
(GMM - Suzuka) Jacques Villeneuve has admitted that even a year of physical training did not prepare him for the challenge of the Japanese grand prix.

The French-Canadian, even more visibly tired in Japan than after China - his first race in twelve months - said the Renault car got the better of him on Suzuka's never-ending sequence of corners.

''The cars are so fast this year,'' said Villeneuve.

Jacques, 33, also vindicated the fired racer he replaced, Jarno Trulli, who complained for months that the Enstone-built R24 was a difficult car to master.

Villeneuve agreed: ''(The car is) really, really, really, really hard to drive. Eventually I got tired, and it wears you out mentally as well when you are not fast enough.''

A visa problem stopped him from returning to Europe after China, but this time - ahead of the season ending Brazilian grand prix - JV will prepare with a F1 test at Jerez.

All but 'done and dusted' - BAR
(GMM - Suzuka) BAR's second place in the constructors' world championship is all but 'done and dusted,' principal Dave Richards enthused at Suzuka.

With a Japanese podium to mark the team's 100th grand prix, the Englishman admitted rival Renault's challenge - to eclipse a 16-point deficit in the title chase - is now a 'pretty tall order.'

Renault must win, and finish third, in the '04-ending Brazilian grand prix to beat BAR to the coveted championship spot behind world champion team Ferrari.

Bernie and Brit GP
(GMM - Suzuka) Kim Cockburn slammed speculation that her little known 'Brand Synergy' consortium is in cahoots with F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone.

The Suzuka paddock whispered that the group, which brought in 1992 champion Nigel Mansell seemingly to give it a higher media profile, is just Ecclestone's latest negotiating pawn.

Cockburn told UK tabloid News of the World: ''(Bernie) does not have any involvement, financial or otherwise.

''But Bernie does support what we want to do with Silverstone.''

Silverstone's owner, the British Racing Drivers' Club, denied that Brand Synergy has 'saved' the Brit GP when it said on the weekend that no agreement to run the race is signed.

But Cockburn insisted 'an agreement' has indeed been reached (with 73-year-old Ecclestone), and that she is just waiting on the BRDC's own answer.

Ralf back to best - Patrick Head
(GMM - Suzuka) Patrick Head has admitted there is considerable opposition to the decision to let Ralf Schumacher leave for Toyota next season.

Head, director of engineering but also team co-owner with Frank Williams, was in Japan to witness Schumacher - who returned from injury only a fortnight ago - finish second to brother Michael.

He admitted: ''(A lot of people in the team) have asked why have Frank and I not signed him up for next year.''

Ralf, 29, joined Williams in 1999.

Head said Ralf drove a ''fantastic race. He is a very fast driver, very good, and deserves to get these results.''

Schumacher, meanwhile, is happy to return to the Williams cockpit for the final grands prix of the season 'and give them a podium.

''Hopefully I'll do another one in Brazil,'' he said, ''and then leave (the team) in peace.''

Webber wants Williams win
(GMM - Suzuka) Not even Michael Schumacher will stop Mark Webber becoming world champion in a Williams, the Australian driver revealed.

Mark, 27, admitted to UK's People publication that a seven time world champion is undoubtedly a 'tough nut to crack.

''He is still motivated,'' said Webber, ''and has the whole Ferrari team around him. But everyone's beatable and you can't be scared of him -- (Michael) is only human.''

The departing Jaguar star said the drivers' world championship is a realistic target within two seasons at Williams.

He commented: ''I'd obviously like to (win the title) while Michael is still around but first I have to win grands prix and show I can handle the pressure.''

Two day GP format 'no problem'
(GMM - Suzuka) Race day qualifying has found the support of top Formula One drivers Ralf Schumacher and Jenson Button.

The proposed shorter weekend format, featuring qualifying and the race within four hours on a Sunday, got an enforced trial at the typhoon affected Japanese grand prix.

Despite his brothers' opposition, Williams driver Ralf Schumacher said the short format posed 'no problem' for him.

''As long as you don't crash,'' said the German. ''Sometimes you might say 'I need more preparation time' but personally I think it is ok. Maybe having (qualifying) on Saturday is a bit better ... ''

Jenson Button hardly noticed the difference, though, as he popped off to the team's Suzuka base after morning qualifying for a traditional pre-race nap.

He laughed: ''So it felt like two days for me! It's been good, not really much different, to be honest.''

Team sale 'in process' - Jaguar
(GMM - Suzuka) Speculation is persisting that the sale of Jaguar to energy drink magnate Dieter Mateschitz is '99 percent' done.

Team managing director David Pitchforth denied the accuracy of a report at Suzuka, which was apparently based on a badly translated radio interview.

But the rumbling continued as the traveling F1 circus packed up in Japan on Sunday evening, spurred on by the absence of Jaguar principal Tony Purnell.

''There is a (sale) process,'' said Pitchforth, ''that involves banks, lawyers - that is happening as quickly as is possible in the game.''

Jaguar is already sponsored by Mateschitz's drink brand Red Bull, as is team driver Christian Klien.

Meanwhile, Pitchforth revealed that a second 'interim' 2004/2005 Jaguar car will debut at the Jerez (Spain) test this week.

More grands prix in danger - FIA
(GMM - Suzuka) Up to three grands prix will be marked as 'provisional' when the FIA's draft 2005 calendar is published on Wednesday.

The British Grand Prix at Silverstone, France's Magny-Cours event, and the San Marino Grand Prix - staged annually at Italian circuit Imola - may all have an asterisk next to their name, FIA president Max Mosley advised.

But he offered a subtle message to commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone to tread carefully on the future of grand prix racing's more traditional European events.

Mosley said: ''When we do away with races like the French grand prix, then we start to undermine the whole structure of the sport.''

Wednesday's provisional calendar, to be ratified by the World Motor Sport Council in Paris, is always subject to subsequent negotiation, Mosley insisted.

Rubens to get 'no help' in Brazil
(GMM - Suzuka) Michael Schumacher will not help Brazilian team-mate Rubens Barrichello win his home grand prix at Interlagos in a fortnight.

Barrichello, like late mentor Ayrton Senna, was born and lives in the nearby sprawl of Sao Paulo, and said winning Brazil would be like winning the world championship.

''Everybody likes to win their home grand prix,'' said a placid Schumacher after winning in Japan.

''But, I am sorry, I feel like winning one more grand prix this year.''

35-year-old Schumacher, though, predicted that Rubens - who won back to back grands prix at Shanghai and Monza last month - doesn't need a helping hand to win a race.

He said: ''(Rubens) likes a fight and he also likes to win a race by himself -- I am sure of that. But first we have to get to Sunday with a chance to win.''

Coulthard may sit 2005 on bench
(GMM - Suzuka) McLaren are not giving both race drivers equal treatment, departing veteran David Coulthard has revealed.

The Scot admitted he is not performing at the 'highest level' at present because most of Woking's attention is now on continuing driver Kimi Raikkonen.

He said: ''I'm not saying the team is against me, but naturally their resources go into where they're investing for the future.''

Coulthard, 33, does not have a contract to drive elsewhere in 2005 and admitted that spending a season on the bench, like friend Jacques Villeneuve's recent one year sabbatical, is a possibility.

He told Reuters: ''The last two years have been disappointing, but I hope Brazil won't be my last grand prix. I'll do my best (to continue in 2005).''

'Quiet' Schu destined to win - Brawn
(GMM - Suzuka) An 'incredibly focused' Michael Schumacher was never going to lose the Japanese grand prix to a rival, Ross Brawn believes.

Ferrari's technical director said a woeful race at Shanghai, in particular, but also losses at Spa and Monza, made the seven time champion so determined to destroy all comers at Suzuka.

''When things get tough,'' said Brawn, ''(Michael) gets quiet and introspective -- I've noticed it before. It's a very positive thing, actually.''

Schumacher, 35, was not scheduled to return from Asia to do a pre-Suzuka F1 test at Jerez, Brawn revealed.

''He asked (to do it),'' said the Briton. ''He wanted to drive after China, just to polish his driving a little bit, I think, and I think he broke the (lap) record, didn't he?''

'Embarrassing' - Villeneuve
(GMM - Suzuka) '97 world champion Jacques Villeneuve admitted that driving off the pace at Suzuka was 'embarrassing.'

The Canadian returned to F1 amid much fanfare, but has so far failed to near the pace of Renault's Spanish incumbent Fernando Alonso.

He finished tenth, to Alonso's fifth, in the Japanese grand prix.

Villeneuve told Canada's 'Toronto Sun' newspaper at Suzuka: ''The race (was) a little embarrassing.''

Some analysts excused the lack of pace of men like Villeneuve, or Jaguar rookie Christian Klien, as Saturday practice was called off and the grand prix was the first real dry session.

JV also said he and Renault engineers took a stab in the dark on car set-up, but admitted that team rival and former employer BAR simply had a 'faster car' on the day.

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