F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
October 20, 2004

'Look out' for Brazil rain
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) Springtime in Sao Paulo will dump rain on the Brazilian grand prix, weather reports suggest.

It had been expected that an unusual season-finale slot for Interlagos on the 2004 calendar would, unlike last April, bring sunshine to the sprawling megalopolis.

''I spoke to some of the Brazilian drivers in Japan,'' said Jaguar driver Mark Webber, ''and they said the weather (in Sao Paulo) at this time of the year is quite similar to what they have in April.

''It could be something to look out for.''

Heavy rain fell at the scene of the Formula One grand prix on Monday and Tuesday, and a seventy per cent chance of showers persist for race Sunday.

'I'm sorry to leave' - Fisi
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) Sadness and anticipation will characterize Giancarlo Fisichella's last blast for the Sauber team in Brazil this Sunday.

The Roman is looking forward to re-joining top-flight outfit Renault next season, but feels sorry about leaving his 2004 employer.

''I will be really sorry to leave,'' the 31-year-old said on Tuesday. ''But that's life - that's Formula One.''

Fisichella describes Peter Sauber's small and independently-run outfit, based in Swiss town Hinwil, as a 'very, very good team.

''Considering it is a private team,'' he explained, ''they do a fantastic job -- good development in the wind tunnel, and one of the best atmospheres I have ever known.''

He thanks the competitiveness of the Ferrari-powered car for the interest shown in him by Renault's Flavio Briatore, and also Sir Frank Williams.

Brit GP is dead - Bernie
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) You've read it before, but the historic Formula One event at Silverstone is finally dead.

F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone revealed on Tuesday that he has told a new grand prix host - probably somewhere in the United States - that talks with the British Racing Drivers' Club have definitely failed.

He told the UK's The Times: ''What could I do? I have got an offer from another country who are looking to build a lovely venue and invest a lot of money in Formula One.

'I have to give them a year's notice to go ahead. If I miss that because I am still messing about with the BRDC, I would be keeping out a country that desperately wants to be in the (championship).''

The 73-year-old's final decision comes only after the BRDC told Bernie that a last and lowest offer - received by the Club in a draft contract last week - was still not acceptable.

Kimi to honeymoon
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) Don't try to phone Kimi Raikkonen in the days following the season ending Brazilian grand prix, he has warned.

''I'm going on a delayed honeymoon with Jenni,'' the deadpan Finn revealed on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old McLaren driver married Mrs. Dahlman-Raikkonen, a former Miss Scandinavia, in the 'summer break' of grands prix and testing earlier this season.

Raikkonen, who was declared winner of the 2003 Brazilian grand prix before the FIA admitted a timing error, will then resume testing duties towards the end of November.

He said: ''Hopefully this time (in Brazil) I will be able to take a good result to end the season with.''

Prost in F1 comeback
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) Former team owner and quadruple world champion Alain Prost may yet return to the Formula One pitlane, according to new speculation.

British magazine 'Autosport' said the Frenchman, whose Prost Grand Prix foray collapsed in 2001, is targeting a 'senior role in a (team) such as Renault or Toyota.'

Perhaps significantly, Prost blasted current Renault chief Flavio Briatore - who may quit F1 management after next season - for the decision to overlook Franck Montagny as Jarno Trulli's temporary race replacement.

''Honestly, I cannot understand Renault's choice and (Briatore's) decision,'' said the 49-year-old, who won his last drivers' world championship for Williams back in 1993.

No McLaren loyalty - Montoya
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) Even though he's joining the team next season, there will be no wheel-to-wheel loyalty if Juan Pablo Montoya races a McLaren in Brazil this weekend.

Interlagos, the closest thing to a home grand prix for a Colombian driver, is 29-year-old Juan Pablo's last of a four-season race stint at BMW-Williams.

He said on Tuesday: ''Our aim (for Brazil) will be to increase our points and maintain the gap over McLaren.''

The BMW-powered team sits thirteen points ahead of Montoya's 2005 employer in the constructors' world championship.

JPM enjoys Interlagos and says a Grove-built car always goes well there. ''Every year I am amazed,'' he smiled, ''to see the queues of fans outside the circuit in the early morning.

''I hope to see some Colombian flags waving.''

FIA stop 'flexible' wings
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) Earlier in 2004, the FIA introduced a new scrutineering test to ensure that F1 teams were not racing a 'flexible' rear wing.

It is understood the new test, putting extra force (50kg) on the rear wing top element, was first used around mid-August (perhaps Hungary).

A technical source explained that a Formula One car would be more efficient at high speed if the elements in the rear wing 'flexed' downward by just a few centimeters.

In the regulations, though, aerodynamic devices that move are deemed illegal.

Doornbos will 'struggle' - EJ
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) New Jordan 'third' driver Robert Doornbos is not ready to race in Formula One, the F1 team owner said.

Eddie Jordan advised the young Dutchman to tread water as a test driver for at least one full season.

''He's going to struggle if he (goes) racing against the most experienced guys straight away,'' said the Irish principal, who is courting Doornbos' Dutch sponsors.

Jordan insisted that his words should not be taken as a lack of confidence in the pay-driving 23-year-old, who lives in Italy.

He told Autosport: ''Really, I don't see how he could have done a better job so far -- jumping into the car without any previous testing.''

Doornbos is hoping for some dry running, unlike at Suzuka, on the Interlagos circuit this Friday. ''It's my last chance this year to show what I can do,'' he said Monday.

Bahrain set to expand
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) Bahrain is targeting a twenty per cent increase in attendance for next April's second-ever Formula One race in the Middle East.

42,000 fans rolled through the turnstiles earlier in 2004.

''We expect this demand to further increase (in 2005),'' said the desert venue's general manager Martin Whitaker.

To further bolster interest in the grand prix, Bahrain has announced two more international motor racing events for 2004 -- a two-day GT festival next month, and in December a Formula Three 'Superprix'.

Bahrain will also expand the track facilities over the next three years. A museum, restaurant, hotel, kart circuit, drag strip and off road facility are all on the agenda.

Renault set for Rally switch
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) Renault Cars' new-for-2005 president plans to switch motor sport funding from Formula One to World Rally, according to speculation.

Following rival Ford's decision to quit after the Brazilian grand prix, whispers intensified that the French carmaker, Renault, is also finding F1 too expensive.

It was earlier reported that Renault commissioned an investigation into the benefits of Formula One, and medium term participation may now depend on the increased sale of road cars.

Renault Cars' current president, Louis Schweitzer, will be replaced next May by Carlos Ghosn, who reportedly favours rallying.

A1 signed 'several' TV deals
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) New open-wheeler championship 'A1 Grand Prix' concluded 'several major television rights deals' at last week's SPORTELMonaco convention in Monte-Carlo.

Up to 25 countries will be represented in the 'World Cup of motor sport' by the time A1, a winter season alternative to Formula One, goes racing in September 2005.

And, at the international sport television convention, 'A1' also 'initiated discussion with further significant international broadcasters,' according to a statement.

''Some deals (were) signed, and many others (are) now in negotiation,'' broadcast director Richard Dorfman - of Football World Cup TV rights fame - confirmed.

An A1 Grand Prix single-seater was on display at the Monaco TV convention.

BRDC 'don't want' Brit GP
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) The British Racing Drivers' Club seemed not to want a Formula One grand prix in 2005, Bernie Ecclestone has explained.

The F1 supremo defended himself against the revelation that he has definitively called off all negotiations to save the oldest event in modern Formula One.

Bernie, 73, said - for example - the BRDC argued vehemently over a contract clause about members' exclusive car parking at Silverstone.

He told The Times: ''You can't sell something to people who don't want to buy. I have to move on. This is not the British Formula One championship, it is a world championship.''

Kimi's no fan of 'two day' GP
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) It seems that Kimi Raikkonen is no fan of the proposed 'two day' grand prix weekend.

The shorter format got an unplanned trial at Suzuka when Saturday qualifying was called off amid a severe weather warning, and rescheduled for race day morning.

FIA president Max Mosley and Ferrari's Ross Brawn signalled support for a format that appeared to offer a better spectacle for fans at the circuit.

But Raikkonen, McLaren's ace 24-year-old driver, said on Tuesday that he is 'looking forward to getting back to the normal schedule' of Friday practice, Saturday qualifying and the grand prix in Brazil.

The Finn added: ''Although, in Japan, it was nice to have a day off!''

Don't blame Schu - Prost
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) Michael Schumacher's incessant dominance is 'an excuse' for a Formula One that is failing to turn on new supporters, Alain Prost has insisted.

The four time world champion admitted that a regular winner each weekend 'is hurting' the pinnacle of motor sport, but reckons the real problem is much more fundamental.

Prost told French TV network TF1: ''The Japanese grand prix was very interesting for the first 14 laps, but after the pit stops you can't understand it any more.''

The 49-year-old former Ferrari, McLaren and Williams star said the advent of 'refuelling' strategy in modern F1 has a lot to answer.

Prost added: ''These rules absolutely must be changed.''

And, on the sidelines, a constant political war about Formula One's financial aspect does not help either, Alain suggested. ''It has people feeling a bit fed up,'' he concluded.

'I'll take sabbatical' - Coulthard
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) David Coulthard has vowed to spend a year on the bench if he fails to land a seat on next season's Formula One racing grid.

In Brazil, the Scot will contest a record 150th grand prix for the McLaren team. ''No driver has driven more (races) for one team,'' engine partner Mercedes' Norbert Haug noted.

33-year-old Coulthard admitted that 'mixed feelings' will dominate his season-ending grand prix on the outskirts of Brazilian megalopolis Sao Paulo.

He said: ''It has been a great nine seasons with the team. I am continuing to try and get a drive next year, but if I don't then I'll try the following year.''

McLaren's 'F1 CEO' Martin Whitmarsh, meanwhile, praised the team veteran as a driver who is always '100 per cent committed' and has 'done a great job for (the team).'

Circuit preview - Interlagos
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) A dull Formula One grand prix is seldom staged on the outskirts of sprawling Brazilian megalopolis Sao Paulo.

Last year, a Jordan car - driven by Giancarlo Fisichella - was belatedly declared winner after torrential rain and a roll call of shunts, not least that of world champion Michael Schumacher.

Interlagos' track surface is bumpy, undulating and abrasive, and notoriously hard on tyres.

It is also laid-out in the rare anti-clockwise configuration, meaning that several fast left-hand corners test a driver's physical preparation -- such as neck muscles.

''You can (also) overtake,'' said Michelin's Pierre Dupasquier, ''in a couple of places. (The venue) has a vibrant atmosphere.''

Teams and drivers are likely to find a particularly dusty track on Friday morning, partly due to the fact that the last F1 race here was held some eighteen months ago.

''Changes in elevation and the tighter infield make wing choice interesting,'' Jordan's James Robinson concluded, ''(and) much will depend on the rain.''

London to save Brit GP
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) With Silverstone unlikely to stage a F1 event in 2005, all hopes will now turn to whether London can save the endangered British grand prix.

City mayor Ken Livingstone was reluctant to push the case for a street race in London while the British Racing Drivers' Club worked to save their historic event.

But the UK's 'Times' newspaper reports that a delegation from Melbourne, host of a similar street grand prix in Australia, visited London to 'advise (Livingstone) on how (a London GP) could be run.'

A provisional London GP track map takes in Buckingham Palace, The Mall and Piccadilly Circus, but would not be ready for a grand prix at least until 2006-7.

Button behaved 'impeccably'
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) BAR principal David Richards is seemingly laying the groundwork of victory in the 'Jenson Button saga.'

The contract recognition board met for nearly 10 hours last Saturday, and will on Wednesday declare if the 24-year-old driver must stay at the team or can switch to Williams next season.

Following a war of rhetoric, though, Richards' disposition seems to have calmed, as he now offers praise for the British driver who has behaved 'impeccably' since the bombshell dropped in August.

''All credit to Jenson,'' he told UK's Daily Mail newspaper. ''In the face of very difficult circumstances he has behaved impeccably.''

Richards added: ''(Button) has been very, very professional and no-one can deny that, as has everyone around him as well.''

Brit GP not dead - BRDC
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) The survival of the British grand prix is 'still under discussion,' Sir Jackie Stewart vowed Wednesday.

The Scot, president of Silverstone's owner (The British Racing Drivers' Club), thus denied F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone's earlier claim that all talks about the historic race's future have been called off.

Britain hosted the inaugural championship grand prix at Silverstone, a disused World War II airfield, in May 1950.

Durand to 'States
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.20) Former Jordan and Prost designer Henri Durand has completed a move from Formula One to America's open-wheeler scene.

He will line up as Red Bull Cheever Racing's 'technical director' in the oval-based Indy Racing League, the team announced Wednesday.

''The Formula One experience Henri brings to this team will help us get where we want to be,'' said Eddie Cheever.

Durand has also worked for F1 squads McLaren and Ferrari.

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