F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
October 23, 2004

Paddock talk - Interlagos
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) As expected, F1 drivers found a very dusty track at Interlagos in opening free practice. ''It was too easy to put a wheel wrong and just spin off,'' said Brazil's own Ricardo Zonta.

Furthermore, some resurfacing work here appeared to do more harm than good. Ralf Schumacher said the bumpiness was 'massive'. The Williams driver added: ''It makes setting the car up and choosing a tire very difficult.'' Other drivers, though, thought the resurfacing may have helped grip levels.

Want to know how Jordan's new 'Friday' tester Robert Doornbos (13th) lapped nearly a second quicker than rated team-mate Nick Heidfeld at Interlagos? At the end of the session, he tried a low fuel qualifying set-up. ''I'm happy,'' said the Dutchman, ''also because my sponsor Muermans is here this weekend.''

Kimi Raikkonen blamed a 'not too good' set of Michelin tires for an afternoon spin at the circuit. ''There is no doubt that Ferrari will be strong here,'' said McLaren's Finn, quickest behind the red cars, ''but I believe we will be able to battle with them.''

FIA publish new regulations
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) Formula One drivers may use only a single set of tires for qualifying and the race next season, the FIA said on Friday.

A statement issued by F1's governing body outlined a radical set of 2005 regulations because teams failed to reach agreement on their own plan to slow down the cars.

Other rule changes are to the bodywork, such as a higher front wing and a smaller rear diffuser, while harder tires will reduce cornering speeds.

Engine power, meanwhile, will suffer due to an extended 'one engine per two weekends' regulation.

And, in 2006, the FIA said a 2.4 liter V8 engine formula will be introduced, dropping power by as much as 300 horse power.

The statement said F1 carmakers 'promised' in 1994 that power would not go above 650bhp following the death of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola.

Jordan to skip 2005 season?
SAO PAULO (GMM - Oct.23) Struggling Formula One team Jordan might ask if it can 'sit out' the 2005 world championship.

It is understood that, given Ford's failure to honor the last of a three-year engine supply contract, the Silverstone-based team is appealing to the FIA as a victim of 'force majeure.'

Jordan's director of business Ian Phillips acknowledged that failing to turn up is not allowed under the terms of the binding Concorde Agreement.

He told Reuters: ''But we don't have an engine -- so what else do we do?''

Phillips, though, said 'Plan A' is to be on the Melbourne grid in about four months' time.

Paddock talk 2 - Interlagos
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) They sang, played music and chanted 'Rubinho' -- it brought a smile to the face of Friday's fastest near Sao Paulo. ''We now have to keep our cool,'' said Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello, ''and improve the car even more. I'm very happy.'' World champion team-mate Michael Schumacher struggled all day in traffic.

BAR's David Richards paid tribute to Friday tester Anthony Davidson as the young Briton completed the season as it had started -- competitively. ''I want to thank him for his unfailing focus,'' said the team principal.

Just to highlight the rate of progress in just eighteen months in Formula One, Minardi's Paul Stoddart noted that Gianmaria Bruni's Friday lap time (20th) was 'nearly four tenths quicker' than last year's pole position. But Michelin's Pierre Dupasquier noted: ''I suspect fuel loads are playing at least a part in (this).''

Anthony Davidson's spare BAR car was painted 'freehand' by renowned UK graffiti artist David Oates in the Sao Paulo paddock on Wednesday. ''The hardest parts were the (aerodynamic) flick ups,'' said the 28-year-old, who spent six hours on the job.

Unhappy with V8 engine rule
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) Max Mosley's 2.4 liter V8 engine formula for 2006 was not met with content by some manufacturers in Sao Paulo on Friday.

It is already reported that Honda, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are planning to take the governing FIA to arbitration over the alleged illegal regulation reform.

Otmar Szafnauer explained that Honda's main objection to the shift is the resultant loss of design 'freedom.

''That's what makes (F1) interesting for us,'' he said at Interlagos. ''I hope we have enough time to find a compromise before (the regulations) are implemented (in March 2005).''

BMW's Mario Theissen has no problem with the longer-life rule, but maintains the 'legal argument' that the FIA cannot tinker with the V10 formula until 2008.

Bigger car numbers
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) Believe it or not, one of the most discussed topics at Bernie Ecclestone's meeting of F1 principals on Friday was -- the size of car numbers.

The 73-year-old F1 supremo would like a grand prix car's racing number to be bigger, or at least more easily distinguishable, from the 2005 season.

''Almost 20 minutes was given over to the subject,'' read a Daily Telegraph press report. ''Meanwhile the British grand prix hangs by a thread.''

Forget a sabbatical, DC
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) If David Coulthard fails to find a spot on the 2005 Formula One grid, the Scot's career will be over.

That's the belief of countryman and former triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, who rubbished Coulthard's idea of a one-year 'sabbatical.'

''It's not realistic,'' he said. ''(Nigel) Mansell tried but couldn't do it -- it's a sharp edge you're on in F1 and once you're out, it's almost impossible to get back in.''

But Stewart, also president of the Silverstone-owning British Racing Drivers' Club, lauded 33-year-old 'DC' as one of the most 'skilled' drivers on the current F1 tour.

He added: ''(David has) has trouble with the new qualifying, and I don't know whether he's going to recover from that -- he's had plenty of time (and) he hasn't done so far.''

Toyota to rescue Jordan
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) Toyota is likely to pull ailing grand prix team Jordan from the very brink of F1 extinction.

Team president John Howett told Reuters on Friday that Toyota may now be 'definitely prepared' to supply a customer engine program to a smaller team in 2005.

Howett said the FIA's newly-announced imposition of a 'one engine per two weekend' rule for next season had been the decisive element.

''But we've probably got one week (to resolve a deal),'' he told the news agency in Sao Paulo. ''It will compromise our own program if we really don't decide right now.''

Bernie backs unofficial Brit GP
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) Bernie Ecclestone has described the concept of a non-championship grand prix at Silverstone as a 'cracking' idea.

The F1 impresario is adamant that talks between the BRDC and him about a proper race are now definitively off.

73-year-old Bernie commented: ''They could do that for two years and buy time to improve and upgrade the circuit for re-inclusion in 2007.''

An unofficial British grand prix would involve a private deal between the track-owning BRDC and Formula One teams, six of which are based in England.

'Pizza-boy doesn't deliver'
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) Mark Webber is secretly hoping Frank Williams does not hire Antonio Pizzonia to be his 2005 team-mate.

The pair raced together at Jaguar in 2003 -- and Australian-born Webber thrashed the young 'Jungle Boy' until he was fired.

But Williams' test driver improved his stock in 2004 by racing impressively in Ralf Schumacher's injured shoes, and is still regarded highly by Frank and F1 partner Patrick Head.

27-year-old Webber said in Sao Paulo: ''(Antonio) is still vulnerable to inconsistencies. He can get frustrated. It sounds obvious, but he did not do a good job at all at Jaguar.''

Pizzonia annoyed Mark when, earlier this season, he accused Jaguar of giving 'better equipment' to Webber in 2003.

''That's bull,'' Webber said on Friday. ''He was going to blow me away at Jaguar and he just didn't. We had the same chances.''

New Jag is 'gorgeous'
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) Jaguar's 2005 car is 'gorgeous,' according to team managing director David Pitchforth.

Of course, it will never be seen in British Racing green, because - this weekend - the team and carmaker Ford are racing out of Formula One.

Pitchforth told newspaper The Times: ''The guys have been fantastic and any buyer would be proud to take them on and what has been built at Milton Keynes.''

In the running to buy Jaguar are, according to sources, energy drink Red Bull, Korean manufacturer Hyundai, and new-for-2006 Russian team Midland F1.

'05 rules 'sensible' - Brawn
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) The FIA's new regulations are 'sensible,' according to Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn.

''We're trying to go faster, but every now and then you need to slow us down,'' the burly Englishman said at Sao Paulo.

Next year, drivers will have just one (harder) set of tires to use in qualifying and the whole race, and a single engine must last two entire grand prix weekends.

Brawn predicted that the tire rule will lead to teams and manufacturers developing simulation techniques to 'predict' the performance of a new compound.

He explained: ''It won't be practical (for teams) to test each tire for 500 kilometers.''

FIA won't budge
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) There will be no 'compromise' regarding the 2005/2006 technical regulations, FIA president Max Mosley has declared.

Honda's Otmar Szafnauer said the marque was not happy with engine restrictions and the V8 formula for 2006, but remained hopeful that further negotiations may take place.

''No,'' Mosley declared on Friday. ''I sat down (with Honda in China) but we could not find agreement -- these are the approved rules.''

Testers want F1 debut
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) A couple of current 'Friday' drivers have staked a claim for a Formula One race debut next season.

Minardi's Paul Stoddart said Belgian team tester Bas Leinders did a 'exemplary' job in the role in 2004.

''It was his last run today,'' the Australian principal said in Brazil on Friday. ''We wish him every success in his quest to become a full time F1 driver next season.''

A few more dollars, meanwhile, will put Robert Doornbos on the Melbourne grid next March, the young Dutchman revealed at the Brazilian circuit Friday.

''Maybe,'' the Jordan tester, who is sponsored by Dutch companies Muermans and Burgfonds, smiled at Interlagos.

Todt visits hospital
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) Ferrari F1 principal Jean Todt visited Sao Paulo's renowned 'Hospital das Clinicas' on Thursday.

In his role as Ambassador of San Marino, the Frenchman popped in on a ward of children recovering from chemotherapy.

''He gave all the children (there) a model of last year's Ferrari single seater,'' said a source in the Brazilian city.

'I'll race for free' - DC
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) David Coulthard has offered to drive for Williams in 2005 -- and not get paid.

''If they want to pay me only when I score a point, then I'll do that,'' the unemployed-after-Brazil McLaren veteran announced.

The 33-year-old, who debuted for Williams in 1994, is amazed that drivers like Antonio Pizzonia and Nick Heidfeld are more likely than him to take the seat opposite Mark Webber next season.

''They've achieved nothing,'' the Scot - who would almost certainly have joined a Ford-backed Jaguar team in 2005 - remarked.

He added: ''I find it perplexing that I am having to lobby so hard to lay out my stall and show I still want to (race).''

'Third' car rule
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) Another point of discussion in Friday's F1 principals' meeting with Bernie Ecclestone was the possible introduction of 'third' race cars in 2005.

It is understood that some top teams expressed the desire for a third car's driver to be eligible for points towards the drivers' world championship.

Presently, a third car would not score points for either the drivers' or constructors' championships, nor would it be eligible to earn a podium finish or see the driver in the FIA press conference.

The rule would be invoked if the 2005 race grid falls below ten two-car teams.

Jordan to lose title sponsor
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) F1 team Jordan may suffer a knock out punch if the latest paddock whisper in Sao Paulo is true.

It is suggested that Eddie Jordan's embattled squad will lose the title backing of tobacco giant Gallaher International after the Brazilian grand prix.

Gallaher promote the Benson & Hedges cigarette brand in Formula One, giving Jordan its distinctive bright yellow livery, through the nine-year sponsorship collaboration.

Pizzonia to get the nod
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) Antonio Pizzonia is 99 per cent guaranteed a race drive at Williams next season, the F1 paddock whispered raucously at Sao Paulo.

The team's technical director Sam Michael only intensified the speculation by denying that going for a man who was fired by Jaguar a little more than a year ago would be 'a risk.

''I don't think so,'' said the Australian.

Michael is also unfazed about reuniting the young Brazilian and confirmed team driver Mark Webber, who do not get along.

He added: ''Really, the main thing you ask about a driver is 'is he quick?' and Antonio is definitely in that category. He's definitely on the list and we will make a decision on that in due course.''

BMW's Dr Mario Theissen made a point on Friday of putting German driver Nick Heidfeld's name in the hat.

The Munich-based marque obviously favors a German, but Theissen insisted that 'nationality is not the priority -- performance is.'

New rules to 'clash'
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) Max Mosley's new Formula One rules are a very bad idea, BAR-Honda technical director Geoff Willis said Friday.

He said limiting drivers to one engine per two races and one set of tires for qualifying and the grand prix will limit weekend running but necessitate more testing.

''The two (rules) are going to clash,'' the English engineer predicted.

Jenson Button's 'headache'
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) A big 'headache' awaits Formula One drivers after 71-laps at Interlagos this Sunday, Jenson Button has claimed.

The BAR driver said, despite resurfacing work here near Sao Paulo, the track has never been 'so bumpy.

''Turn one is very bumpy,'' said the Englishman, ''and also turn six and the last corner. I'm sure we'll cope but there'll probably be a few headaches at the end.''

Toyota must 'deliver' in '05
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) F1's newest and richest team, Toyota, must start 'delivering' the goods next season, technical director Mike Gascoyne has admitted.

At Sao Paulo, the Briton said it would be unacceptable if the cars in red and white spend yet another calendar of grands prix in the lesser half of the grid.

He revealed: ''There's absolutely no doubt about that. But I think we will (succeed).''

Gascoyne said the recent addition of Jarno Trulli - like Mike, also a former member of Renault's squad - gave everyone at Toyota a big 'lift.'

Toyota started 2004 with an entirely different driver line-up -- gone are Cristiano da Matta and Olivier Panis, replaced by Ricardo Zonta and JT for the last GP.

Gascoyne said: ''Jarno, in particular, has added a lot to the team.''

Montagny 'just missed out'
INTERLAGOS (GMM - Oct.23) Franck Montagny 'just missed out' on Jarno Trulli's temporary Renault race drive, Pat Symonds admitted on Friday.

Four time world champion Alain Prost criticized the Enstone-based team last week for opting for 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve over a rising French star.

Also, conventional wisdom converged that putting a driver with real testing miles in a car he's going to race was always going to be a better bet.

''It was a really close call (between Jacques and Franck),'' Renault's director of engineering revealed.

He said: ''Franck, I'm sure, would have done a great job.''

Symonds admitted that Renault may have 'underestimated' the challenge of putting French-Canadian Villeneuve, who sat a year out in 2004, in the car at 'such short notice.'

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