F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
October 19, 2004

'05 car will be better - Renault
(GMM - Oct.19) Renault will unveil a car capable of taking the fight to Ferrari next season, technical director Bob Bell has promised.

''I think so,'' he said on Monday, ''and (it should be) better optimized in many areas.''

The current R24, also outclassed by the BAR-Honda - and, now, probably also the 'B' McLaren and revised Williams - is faster than the 2003 version, but more difficult to drive.

Bell said the team, now settling for third in the constructors' championship, spent the balance of the season trying to resolve those car problems.

But he insisted: ''We have learned a number of important lessons about the vehicle characteristics that will be applied next year.''

'More torque than F1' - McNish
(GMM - Oct.19) A GP2 car has 'more torque' than anything Allan McNish drove at the pinnacle of motor sport, according to the Scot.

He raced a Toyota in 2002 and tested for Renault a season later, but was tasked with tire development in the new support-series' machine at Paul Ricard last week.

McNish said the less-powerful-than-F1 engine nonetheless has torque that is 'significantly greater (than) you'll find in an F1 car.

''Initially it was raw and quite aggressive,'' he said, ''so we had to smooth it out a bit.''

Renault's current tester Franck Montagny, who is heading the running of the car that will replace F3000 in 2005, also said the latter has a 'lot less grip' than F1 in quick corners.

''But in medium and slow corners,'' said the Frenchman, ''the (GP2 car's) grip and braking are really similar.''

Ralf eyes podium in team finale
(GMM - Oct.19) After six years, Ralf Schumacher would love to leave the Williams team with a 'strong' result.

The German, like team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya, will contest his final grand prix for Sir Frank's BMW-powered team on the outskirts of Sao Paulo on Sunday.

''Suzuka was a great result,'' said the Toyota-bound star, who finished second to brother Michael Schumacher in Japan a fortnight ago.

''I really hope we can follow it up with something else (in Brazil) -- it is definitely possible with the car we have at the moment.''

Montoya, 29, is going to McLaren after the final race of the 2004 season. ''It's hard to believe that (Brazil) will be the last (race),'' said the Colombian, who traveled to Rio on Monday for a PR appearance.

Beer conflict
(GMM - Oct.19) Mark Webber's move to Williams in 2005 may almost have cost him a loyal personal sponsor.

Williams' agreement with beer backer Anheuser Busch, who promote the 'Bud' brand on the FW26, does not allow for team or driver exposure of direct rivals.

Australian-born Webber arrives at Grove from Jaguar Racing on a 'Fosters' contract he has held since days in F3000.

To resolve the conflict, Fosters have proposed to Williams a similar solution to the one sought at Mark's current team, who enjoy (beer brand) Beck's cash.

At Jaguar, Fosters agreed - to avert the beer clash - to promote its 'Wolf Blass' (wine) brand. It is unknown if Fosters will renew Webber's backing beyond April next year.

BAR will win Button tussle
(GMM - Oct.19) If rhetoric or confidence counts for anything, BAR will win a contractual tussle for Jenson Button.

The contract recognition board met for a second (and final) time in Milan on Saturday and a ruling is expected some time on Wednesday.

''We are not considering our options for replacing Jenson,'' BAR team principal David Richards told UK newspaper The Guardian, ''because we don't believe we will have to.''

A Button 'insider' was quoted in another newspaper ('The People') that the Englishman will 'refuse' to drive a BAR next year even if the CRB rules that he cannot move to Williams.

But JB retorted in The Sunday Mirror that his desire to quit BAR has nothing to do with unpaid points bonus payments that are due to him.

''This is about being more competitive and being in the most competitive car and team I can be in,'' he insisted.

Home race is 'crazy' - Zonta
(GMM - Oct.19) Racing in front of fervent Brazilian fans is a help, not a hindrance, home hero Ricardo Zonta has said.

The racer from Curitiba, which is about 400 kilometres from Interlagos (Sao Paulo), had to watch the recent Japanese grand prix on TV.

''It makes a massive difference when you are a Brazilian racing in Brazil and you can really notice it,'' said Ricardo, set to replace the newly retired Olivier Panis alongside Toyota debutant Jarno Trulli.

Zonta said the home crowd at GP venue Interlagos (meaning 'between the lakes') is unique.

''They cheer when we go out of the pits -- they scream our name and do things we don't get anywhere else,' he revealed.

Meanwhile, Ricardo's father - who runs a successful company in Curitiba - has hired buses to take his employees to Sao Paulo for the GP weekend.

'Problems' for Brit GP deal
(GMM - Oct.19) Bernie Ecclestone's draft contract for a 2005 British grand prix has 'some fundamental problems,' according to the British Racing Drivers' Club.

Chief executive Alex Hooton received the promoters' agreement last Wednesday, which is for a one-race deal with an option for six more years.

He revealed: ''We are looking at it but (the contract) has some fundamental problems.''

The BRDC want a two-year contract.

Ecclestone, the 73-year-old commercial rights holder of grand prix racing, imposed a December deadline for the BRDC but the matter will be closed earlier than that (end-October).

The wait, now, is for an answer of the UK's East Midlands Development Agency, who the BRDC want to purchase parts of the Silverstone site to help fund track improvements.

'I want to race for Toyota'
(GMM - Oct.19) One day, Ryan Briscoe hopes to win the world championship -- in a Toyota.

The Sydney-born Australian moved to clarify his intentions following Toyota's confirmation that he will not be retained as a test driver in 2005.

''In a few years, then yes, I want to be a Toyota driver,'' he told us on Tuesday. ''Prior to that, my manager and I are looking elsewhere (for 2005).''

A pay-drive at privateer teams such as Minardi or Jordan would cost 22-year-old Briscoe around $5 to $10 million. ''It's not easy,'' he concluded.

Briscoe will complete his duties as Toyota's 'third' driver this weekend at Interlagos, where he has driven before in F3000.

Trulli expects 'better' GP
(GMM - Oct.19) Jarno Trulli is expecting a better weekend at the Brazilian grand prix, he said Tuesday.

The Italian debuted for Toyota at Suzuka a week ago but admitted that quickly getting up to speed added 'pressure' to the business of going quickly in a grand prix car.

He said: ''The main hindrance (in Japan) was the lack of running (due to the conditions).''

Toyota principal Tsutomu Tomita, meanwhile, admitted to 'disappointment' and 'frustration' at the team's season.

''But it's only our third (year) in Formula One,'' the Japanese tempered, ''and we're coming up from the bottom. Jarno will gain further experience with our team at Interlagos.''

'I won the race' - Fisi
(GMM - Oct.19) Brazil has hosted one of the highlights of Giancarlo Fisichella's life -- ''Last year, I won the race,'' he smiled for those who might have forgotten.

''I've always done well there,'' said the Italian, who won the race in a Jordan, but this weekend will steer a Sauber around the challenging circuit near Sao Paulo.

He added: ''I like the Brazilians -- they are so enthusiastic.''

Likewise, Eddie Jordan will never forgot Fisichella's win - although awarded belatedly by the governing FIA - from eighth on the grid in torrential rain.

He recalled: ''I remember thinking 'this strategy is crazy' -- a little bit of luck came into it, I admit. But I treasure that win because anyone would say it is impossible at the moment for a private team to win a grand prix.''

It will rain
(GMM - Oct.19) It will almost certainly rain at some point during the season-ending Brazilian grand prix weekend.

A revised weather report said Monday's late showers will only intensify on Tuesday, and now a seventy per cent chance of rain persists ahead of grand prix Sunday.

''Heavy rain is always a distinct possibility (near Sao Paulo),'' noted Michelin's program manager Pascal Vasselon.

Last year, in the Brazilian rain, a scrap yard of Formula One cars - starring Michael Schumacher's Ferrari - collected at Turn Three after a river started to run across the track.

That series of shunts on inappropriate wet-tread tires compelled the introduction of the 'extreme weather' product, which can be ordered for use by the FIA.

McLaren, Dubai in 'exclusive' talks
(GMM - Oct.19) Mercedes-Benz will not offer a customer engine deal to any team other than Team Dubai F1, Norbert Haug said Monday.

The German, motor sport director for the marque, admitted that both McLaren and its engine partner are in 'exclusive' talks with the United Arab Emirate's Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

He told UK newspaper The Guardian: ''I can confirm that we are negotiating with Dubai F1 in respect of a supply of engines and a technical cooperation with McLaren-Mercedes.

''Both sides have agreed on exclusivity of those negotiations.''

The Dubai F1 group, set to lodge a $48m new-team bond with the FIA, is headed by 'Grand Prix Investments', but it does not - contrary to reports - involve Jenson Button's manager John Byfield.

A McLaren spokeswoman, meanwhile, said no further details will be available until a press conference in Dubai 'following the Holy Month of Ramadan.'

'We could beat' Renault zip
(GMM - Oct.19) Renault is amazed that, three years after a blue car first stunned with the speed of its getaway, no rival has equaled the team's start system.

Asked why Ferrari is usually thrashed off the line by a car built at Enstone, technical director Ross Brawn said if he wanted, '(Ferrari) could do' a Renault-like system.

''The only problem,'' he explained, ''is this would compromise us on other parts of the lap. Renault have chosen to go one way, we've chosen another.''

Brawn's analysis suggests that the Renault car achieves a fast getaway simply with fundamental weight distribution and suspension settings, rather than anything more tricky.

Pat Symonds, Renault's executive director of engineering, reports much 'pleasure' at Brawn's possibly flawed interpretation.

He explained: ''And I've got to say I'm (also) very surprised that no-one has managed to match, three years on, what we are doing at the start of a race.''

Sort out the bumps - Heidfeld
(GMM - Oct.19) A logo reading '03.04.05' will adorn the Jordan engine cover at the Interlagos circuit this weekend.

The code represents the now-confirmed date of the second Bahrain grand prix, and the last in a series of messages funded by the new F1 host in 2004.

''After an acclaimed inaugural (Bahrain) event,'' read a statement, ''the 2005 (race) is gearing up to be an even greater success.''

Jordan driver Nick Heidfeld, meanwhile, likes the Brazilian grand prix venue near Sao Paulo, and even got on the podium there back in 2001 (Sauber).

The German said: ''I just hope (organizers have) sorted out the bumpiness of the surface this time -- they always seem to be trying things to improve it.''

Ford 'won't be back' - Webber
(GMM - Oct.19) Mark Webber is desperate to mark Jaguar's last ever grand prix with a positive result.

After Brazil, carmaker owner 'The Ford Motor Company' - which is trying to sell the team and Cosworth - will quit Formula One.

''It's also my last grand prix for the team before I move to Williams (in 2005),'' said the Australian driver.

He said Ford's withdrawal is 'sad' for Formula One, especially as the gravity of such a decision means that Ford probably 'won't be back for quite a while, I think.'

Jaguar MD David Pitchforth insists that 'team morale' is still high at Milton-Keynes even if the Leaping Cat is pouncing out of F1.

He said: ''Everyone has the pride and motivation to complete the season with style in order that we finish well and impress our future owner.''

'Webber will race' - Jaguar
(GMM - Oct.19) Jaguar has dispelled any lingering doubt that minor skin burns could keep Mark Webber out of the F1 cockpit in Brazil.

''Mark is fine,'' confirmed the team's 'head of vehicle performance' Dr. Mark Gillan.

Webber, 27, had to retire in Suzuka a week ago when a mysterious heat source under the R5's seat made driving too painful.

Jaguar investigated the cause and determined that an 'internal cockpit chassis fixing had come loose', allowing hot air from the engine to enter the cockpit.

Mark Gillan vowed: ''We have re-designed this feature to prevent a repeat of this failure.''

Webber qualified third at the Brazilian venue near Sao Paulo last season.

'I'll help Rubens' - Schu
(GMM - Oct.19) Michael Schumacher has vowed to 'help' team-mate Rubens Barrichello at the Brazilian's grand prix this weekend.

With a seventh drivers' championship in the bag, speculation suggested that Ferrari might convince the German to give Rubens a boost near the city he calls home.

''Rubens is a very good driver, so I'm not sure he needs my help -- or anyone's help,'' 35-year-old Schumacher said prior to leaving for Brazil.

Michael denied that Ferrari would prepare for the last event of the season any differently. ''(And) Rubens and I will drive our own race. This doesn't mean I won't help Rubens if an opportunity arises,'' he said.

Even so, he wants to win.

Schumacher smiled: ''What could be a better way to go into the winter break?''

Champion Finn
(GMM - Oct.19) Occasional Renault tester Heikki Kovalainen is the new champion in 'World Series by Nissan.'

At Valencia, the Finn secured the open-wheeler title but missed out on a win to rivals Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro.

''It's not the way I wanted to win (the title),'' Kovalainen lamented, ''but still I am very happy for myself and the (Pons Racing) team.''

The final Nissan race of the season, before the series becomes 'World Series by Renault' in 2005, takes place at Jerez on November 7.

'Smaller step' in '05 - BAR
(GMM - Oct.19) BAR is unlikely to take yet another 'quantum leap' in the F1 pecking-order next season, team principal David Richards has warned.

With second place in the world championship all but in the bag, the Briton denied that he is already targeting an earlier-than-planned title bid in 2005.

''We haven't set any specific targets for next year yet,'' Richards insisted, ''(but) next year (will) probably be a series of smaller steps.''

He also urged staff at Brackley against 'complacency' despite their probable justification in claiming to be the second fastest team in Formula One.

Richards said: ''I don't believe that we would (become complacent).''

Button's right to switch
(GMM - Oct.19) Jenson Button is right to want to ditch BAR for Williams, Jordan's Ian Phillips has said.

The Silverstone-based team's commercial director told UK newspaper Guardian that Williams, not BAR, 'know how to win races and world championships.

''This is a big moment for Jenson,'' he said ahead of Wednesday's highly-anticipated decision of the contract recognition board.

Others in the F1 paddock rightly refer, however, to the fact that BAR has generally outpaced Sir Frank's BMW-powered squad in 2004.

So why would JB want to move?

''Sure,'' said Phillips, ''but (BAR have) yet to win a race, let alone a championship. You can see things from Jenson's point of view.''

Button, 24, told the Sunday Mirror on the weekend that he thinks he can 'beat Michael Schumacher' with the 'right equipment.

''I have done everything,'' he said, ''except win a race. I am now desperate to do that.''

Massa 'didn't cope' in Brazil
(GMM - Oct.19) Felipe Massa can admit he didn't 'cope with the pressure' of driving in Brazil back in 2002.

''It was difficult,'' he said on Tuesday. ''I really felt it and I was just learning about Formula One.''

Massa, Sauber's now-22-year-old Brazilian driver in 2004 and also 2005, drove a 'bad race' when he debuted for the same team at Interlagos and crashed into Mark Webber.

And he confessed he is still likely to feel the squeeze of performing for legions of countrymen this weekend.

''I do feel it, lots of pressure,'' Felipe continued, ''but it also feels great to be at home -- I always hoped one day to do what Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna, my role models, did in Brazil.''

Unlike in 2002, Massa now has two seasons of racing - and a stint as Ferrari test driver - under his belt as he heads for home.

He admitted: ''I'm sure that will help.''

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