F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
October 18, 2004

Dubai team bound for F1
(GMM - Oct.18) Yet another new team has announced plans to contest Formula One in 2006.

Hot on the heels of a Russian-oriented team's decision to race, is news that a Dubai-based bid is the work of royal family member Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum.

Reports said McLaren and Mercedes-Benz will be involved. ''I can confirm (that),'' a spokeswoman told us exclusively.

She declined to offer more information but said an official news conference is scheduled for November.

The Dubai team is set to lodge the mandatory $48 million bond with the governing FIA to guarantee a new slot in pitlane for 2006.

Al-Maktoum's squad will be known as 'Team Dubai F1.'

Sources also revealed that plans are advanced for an HQ and wind tunnel in Dubai, but the team might rent McLaren's old Woking factory for car manufacturing.

Button's future decided
(GMM - Oct.18) Jenson Button's immediate future in Formula One was determined at a secret location somewhere in Milan.

The FIA's contract recognition board was not disclosing any details of the hearing, held on Saturday, staged to determine whether the 24-year-old driver is allowed to move from BAR to Williams in 2005.

Sir Frank Williams and David Richards, as well as up to three-man legal teams, traveled to Italy for the meeting, and a decision is expected by Wednesday, a spokesman revealed.

British pundit Martin Brundle reckons the CRB's decision could go either way, even if the F1 paddock puts BAR in pole position.

He told website Crash.net: ''I can think of five people saying, categorically, (that he's) staying where he is, and five people who should be in the know telling me he's moving.''

Jacques' last chance
(GMM - Oct.18) Jacques Villeneuve has one more chance to prove Renault were right to sack Jarno Trulli and launch a former world champion back onto motor racing's highest stage.

The French-Canadian has not impressed since leaving a forced sabbatical to help the Enstone-based team beat former employer BAR to second in the constructors' championship.

''Suzuka was a tough race for me,'' he admitted, ''so (Renault) changed the test scheduled to allow me to run at (last week's) test in Jerez.''

Villeneuve, 33, did only a single day at the wheel of the R24, to better get to know a difficult-handling car but also to improve physical fitness.

Interlagos, a fairly high speed circuit, is nonetheless particularly tough on drivers as it is run in the unfamiliar anti-clockwise configuration.

Jacques admits he didn't do as many laps as he would have liked in Spain last week. ''(But) hopefully, it will enable me to run more competitively in my last race for the team.''

GP2 is Bernie's 'back up' plan
(GMM - Oct.18) New F1 support category, GP2, might be Bernie Ecclestone's back-up plan.

A few years ago, organizers of the MotoGP (motorcycle) series discovered the 'GP2' and 'GP1' names had already been registered -- by Bernard Charles Ecclestone.

It is suggested that the worst-case scenario, for Ecclestone, of a group of banks' legal action is that the 73-year-old 'supremo' may lose control of Formula One.

He might then introduce 'GP1' as a rival 'pinnacle' of motor racing, and would - as a bonus - already have GP2 up and running as the driver feeder.

Former F1 ace Allan McNish tested the development GP2 open-wheeler car at Ecclestone's Paul Ricard (France) circuit last week.

''It is quite similar to a F1 car,'' said the Scot. ''It's a bit less powerful and has less performance overall, but (GP2) will be a good stepping stone for drivers to progress to F1.''

Michelin's triple triumph
(GMM - Oct.18) Formula One tire supplier Michelin secured three world championships in a single weekend.

Near Melbourne, Valentino Rossi wrapped up the MotoGP title, while - in Corsica - French driver Sebastien Loeb and Citroen secured the double in FIA World Rally.

''Winning any world title is special,'' said motor sport director Pierre Dupasquier, ''so taking three on the same day is remarkable.''

Michelin, with no F1 triumph to date, entered Formula One in 2001.

Jordan test at UK airport
(GMM - Oct.18) Jordan 'third' driver Robert Doornbos tested a car designed to comply with 2005's regulations at Elvington Airport last Friday.

The Dutchman ran up and down the former NASA runway no less than sixty-one times as the Silverstone-based team collected aerodynamic data.

''I'd hoped for drier conditions,'' Doornbos said, ''in order to train my neck muscles more during acceleration and braking.''

The 2004-spec car also ran near York.

'I'm just like Mike' - Rubens
(GMM - Oct.18) Rubens Barrichello is not 'number two' driver at Ferrari, the affable Brazilian has sworn.

''I am paid to move closer to my target of becoming world champion,'' he told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

The Sao Paulo born ace said the target for season 2005 will be to 'beat Michael (Schumacher)' and win the drivers' world championship.

And Rubens vowed to quit if he ever woke up and thought the seven time world champion is simply a better driver.

He added: ''I am just as fast.''

Barrichello conducted the interview on the eve of the last grand prix of the season, for the first time in Rubens' career at home in Brazil.

The 31-year-old said driving at Interlagos used to make him 'too emotional' but now 'I'm ice cool -- just like Michael.''

Jag could be 'great' - chief
(GMM - Oct.18) Jaguar could be a 'great team' if a serious buyer quickly snaps it up, managing director David Pitchforth said.

Carmaker Ford is selling the team but, as yet, potential buyers have only come relatively close to sealing the deal and the future of all at Milton-Keynes.

Pitchforth's new sales pitch is to laud the quality of the existing staff, as a November 15 deadline for 2005 team entries draws ever nearer.

He said: ''We have a fantastic group of people working inside Jaguar Racing -- the staff are one of (our) strongest assets.''

Sister company Cosworth is also for sale.

Williams axe twin keel car
(GMM - Oct.18) Williams will start the 2005 season with a brand new Formula One car, technical director Sam Michael has revealed.

He confirmed that Sunday's Brazilian grand prix at Interlagos is set to be the current FW26's last race.

''We need to ensure that we finish fourth in the constructors' championship,'' the Australian added.

Sources at the team's Oxfordshire base said a decision to abandon the 'twin keel' design philosophy, after just one car, is definitely made and the FW27 is more like FW25 (2003).

Also having a final outing for Williams near Sao Paulo will be drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, off to Toyota and McLaren (respectively) in 2005.

''Ralf with his confident, analytical approach when leading from the front, and Juan with his fantastic overtaking and raw racing talent resulted in a good combination,'' said Michael.

'Best chance' to win - Button
(GMM - Oct.18) Brazil is the last and probably the 'best' chance for BAR and Jenson Button to notch up a maiden win together.

''I think our car should go better (there) than in Shanghai and Suzuka,'' said the upbeat 24-year-old, who managed a podium result in both grands prix.

Button and BAR principal David Richards might have featured in opposite corners at the CRB hearing in Milan, but the latter agrees that Interlagos is one of the 'best' chances all year to win a race.

He said: ''It would be the result that everyone back at the factory deserves after what has been a truly sensational year for the team.''

Date 'agreed' for US grand prix
(GMM - Oct.18) Next year's United States grand prix should be held on June 17-19, a circuit spokesman said.

A provisional 2005 calendar was printed by the FIA but the guaranteed Indianapolis fixture did not feature a date.

''(The date) will be confirmed no later than the meeting of the World Motor Sport Council on December 10,'' read a statement.

But the spokesman at the Motor Speedway, also scene of the fabled Indy 500, said the 2005 grand prix will almost certainly be staged a week after the other North American race (in Montreal).

''While (the calendar) surprised us, it doesn't concern us,'' Ron Green, who said merchandising for the race already features the June 19 date, said.

He insisted that promoter Tony George and F1's Bernie Ecclestone 'have agreed on (the) date.'

Pizza-boy can deliver - Frank
(GMM - Oct.18) Antonio Pizzonia is 'very competitive' at the wheel of an Oxfordshire-built F1 car, Sir Frank Williams has said.

Amid speculation that Antonio would fill the gap if Jenson Button is ordered to stay at BAR in 2005, the team owner offered high praise for the Brazilian test driver.

Pizzonia, 23, struggled at Jaguar in 2003, but impressed Frank whilst filling Ralf Schumacher's injured boots in July, August and September.

Williams was quoted as saying on the team website: ''All we know is that when he's driving a (BMW-Williams), he's very competitive.''

Of the racer nicknamed 'Jungle Boy', Williams said Pizzonia - quickest on two of the three days at Jerez last week - has 'exactly the same' application whether 'testing or racing.'

Chirac wins FIA prize
(GMM - Oct.18) French president Jacques Chirac is the first winner of the FIA 'World Prize for Road Safety.'

''Wearing seat belts, enforcement of drink driving laws, respecting speed limits (and) better road design are all measures that work if governments have the courage and conviction to apply them,'' said F1's governing body.

Another inaugural award, the 'FIA Gold Medal for Motor Sport,' was presented to Monaco's Prince Rainier.

Ferrari find new winter venue
(GMM - Oct.18) Luca Badoer tested a Ferrari F2004 at the Vallelunga circuit last week to see if it could be a 'viable alternative' for winter F1 testing.

The Italian track may provide warmer weather than Ferrari's own Fiorano and Mugello venues so as to conduct meaningful pre-season development.

Badoer, Maranello's test driver, told La Gazzetta dello Sport: ''I found (Vallelunga) fun and very demanding -- it's a bit like Monte-Carlo.''

The track is near Rome and, on Friday, he lapped the rarely-used (by F1) Vallelunga layout 135 times.

A day later, Luca was back at Fiorano - near Ferrari's Formula One HQ - to do a 'shakedown of electronic solutions that the team will use in the ... Brazilian grand prix.'

Brit GP 'running out of time'
(GMM - Oct.18) The British grand prix is 'running out of time' to secure a race for 2005, Bernie Ecclestone has said.

Formula One's 73-year-old supremo told the weekend's 'Scotland on Sunday' newspaper that, at present, he and potential promoter The British Racing Drivers' Club 'can not agree terms at all.'

He added: 'I pushed like hell to get them to sort themselves out before September.''

Sympathy, though, is not an overriding emotion in Ecclestone, despite the prospective demise of his most historic world championship event.

The Briton said his company gave the BRDC a 'big chunk of money' to build a new pit and paddock complex, 'which they (haven't) done.

''They haven't done anything -- they built a car park or something.''

At present, the true sticking point over a new contract is its duration; the BRDC want a guaranteed two-year deal, and Ecclestone is offering just one.

Bernie explained why: ''If they get their act together, they can take up the option, but if they don't then they are not tied in.''

If Montoya was President ...
(GMM - Oct.18) If Juan Pablo Montoya was President of the World, he would abolish speed limits.

Last year, the Colombian copped a hefty fine - and lost his European driving license - following a 122mph run-in with the French constabulary.

Clearly, he didn't learn his lesson.

He told UK newspaper The Times: ''The whole speed limit thing is ridiculous. The motorway speed limits were brought in during the fuel crisis when cars did about 100mph. Today they'll do over 200, and they are much safer.''

As a political compromise, though, 29-year-old 'President Montoya' would apply a rule whereby speed limits are enforced based on a driver's experience.

He wondered: ''Why not make the speed limit dependent on the skill of the driver?''

Less power in Brazil
(GMM - Oct.18) A Formula One engine is less powerful at Interlagos.

The circuit in Brazil, located just outside the sprawling megalopolis of Sao Paulo, is 700 meters above sea-level.

''The atmospheric pressure, which is usually situated at around 1000 millibars, is (therefore) reduced to around 920,'' said Renault's engine man Denis Chevrier.

An aspirated engine feeds on oxygen, so - if there is less oxygen in the air - the effective combustion will be lower.

Chevrier said an Interlagos-spec V10 is about eight per cent less powerful than at a normal grand prix venue.

Rain in Brazil
(GMM - Oct.18) Even though a typhoon nearly hit the Japanese grand prix, rain has not affected F1 race day throughout 2004.

In Brazil for the season finale this weekend, that could all be about to change.

A wet and windy day will greet early arrivals of the traveling circus just outside Sao Paulo on Monday, and the cloud is expected to stick around all week.

It'll definitely rain on Monday and Tuesday, and forecasters also say clearing weather may succumb to more rain on Friday morning - the first day of practice - and again for the grand prix on Sunday.

Saturday should be mostly clear.

''The weather can be unpredictable in that part of the world,'' BAR driver Takuma Sato said last Friday, ''and the time difference between Japan and Brazil is huge.''

Williams won't pursue Button
(GMM - Oct.18) Williams will not pursue Jenson Button if he is told to stay with current Formula One employer BAR-Honda.

A team spokesman told UK newspaper 'The Guardian' that Sir Frank Williams is happy to abide, rather than fight through an alternate legal process, the decision of the FIA-sponsored contract recognition board.

He added: ''I don't think we would seek to take the matter (any) further.''

Prior to the decisive (CRB) hearing in a Milan hotel on Saturday, whose decision will be published by Wednesday afternoon, the F1 rumor mill said BAR looked destined to win their man.

Former triple world champion Niki Lauda doesn't know which team he would have selected if he'd been in Jenson's shoes.

The Austrian said: ''Either way, it is crucial at this stage of (Button's) career that he ends up in the right place.''

Montoya amazed at FIA summons
(GMM - Oct.18) Juan Pablo Montoya did not attend a safety campaign for the FIA in Costa Rica because 'I was sick.'

The Colombian driver is amazed that the governing FIA has summoned him to December's World Motor Sport Council meeting at Monaco, where the maximum penalty is license suspension.

''I let them know that I couldn't attend and they said ok,'' Montoya told his country's RCN Radio. ''We agreed we would find a new date to make it happen.

''I never said 'I don't want to do it'. Those sorts of things are important and I support them.''

Speculation suggested the Williams driver snubbed the event last October because he was upset with FIA officials for a championship-ending penalty at Indianapolis (2003).

Sato injured
(GMM - Oct.18) F1 driver Takuma Sato visited a specialist in London following a painful Japanese grand prix.

The home town hero was watched, by an on-board TV camera, holding both the left and right side of his lower helmet during the race at Suzuka.

Sato, 27, said he hurt his shoulder in Bahrain (April) and it persisted until late July.

''And (the injury) came up again (at Suzuka),'' he confirmed on Friday.

'We decided not to buy Jordan'
(GMM - Oct.18) F1's newest team simply decided not to buy Jordan, a spokesman explained.

Tim Fulton hinted to the Reuters news agency that Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum's aviation company had indeed been linked with Eddie Jordan's beleaguered outfit.

''We concluded that the acquisition (of Jordan) would never enable us fully to demonstrate our own commitment and excellence,'' he said, ''since success would inevitably have been linked with the existing team's brand and values.''

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Team Dubai F1's advising group (Belgravia) confirmed that plans for a customer Mercedes-Benz engine supply were 'well advanced.'

He said the 2006 'Dubai' engine would be the same specification as McLaren's.

'We've not done well' - Alonso
(GMM - Oct.18) Fernando Alonso reckons he'll be faster at Interlagos.

The Spaniard said Renault is unveiling new parts for the difficult-to-drive R24 at the season-ending grand prix of Brazil.

''We have not done so well in recent races,'' the 22-year-old admitted.

Indeed, Renault slipped to third in the constructors' world championship and only a miracle - or a one-three finish - will redress the balance.

Technical director Bob Bell said he has overseen a suspension modification for the last grand prix of 2004.

But Renault must basically concede to BAR in the title chase. ''(They) have visibly matured as a team,'' said Bell, ''and are now able to capitalize on the performance of their package.''

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