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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
November 4, 2004


Bernie - 'Africa is on'
(GMM -- Nov.4) The first South African grand prix in more than a decade will take place no later than 2010, Formula One 'impresario' Bernie Ecclestone revealed Wednesday.

The 74-year-old told Cape Town's Die Burger newspaper that a deal is not 'a question of if -- it's only when.'

He said plans, presently involving a private consortium which is keen to secure around 50 percent government investment, are 'well advanced.'

Consortium head David Gant released a statement on Tuesday confirming he will apply for a 'license' to stage the grand prix 'in the early part of (2005).'

It is reported that renowned Formula One circuit designer Hermann Tilke will visit Cape Town in December.








Jordan in Beijing
(GMM -- Nov.4) Eddie Jordan visited Beijing this week to meet a potential Chinese buyer for his beleaguered Formula One team.

Local newspapers said the Irishman met with Guo Jie, president of Huabin Group and head of a consortium of Chinese businessmen.

''We have been toying with the idea (of buying a Formula One team),'' said a Huabin spokesman, ''but (only now are) we ... seriously pursuing (it).''

The spokesman, Luo Jifu, admitted that China's inaugural grand prix, held in Shanghai in September, alerted the Chinese community to the 'huge commercial (benefits)' of Formula One.

Guo Jie also bid for Jaguar, but the spokesman said carmaker-owner Ford 'insisted' that Cosworth be included in any deal. ''So we shifted our focus (to Jordan),'' who he said are 'more accessible and hopefully cheaper.'








Jag sale to Red Bull 'close'
(GMM -- Nov.4) Red Bull is close to finalizing a deal with Ford to buy Formula One team Jaguar Racing, an authoritative London newspaper said on Wednesday.

The 'Financial Times' cited sources claiming the energy drink company is allowing negotiations to get as close as possible to the November 15 deadline, despite Ford's warning that a 'serious' alternate buyer is on the hook.

Ford, according to the newspaper, faces a several hundred million dollar-bill if the sale is not completed by the cut-off date for 2005 FIA team entries.

It is also claimed that US corporate legislation would hold Ford accountable for the loss of 350 jobs at Jaguar's Milton-Keynes HQ.

One of Red Bull's demands, said the media report, is that Ford pick up the bill for some of the F1 team's running costs next season.







DC 'ran out of puff'
(GMM -- Nov.4) David Coulthard ran out of puff in his last grands prix with McLaren because he knew he wasn't wanted beyond 2004.

That's the veteran driver's latest claim as he continues to campaign for the last top drive in Formula One next year -- at BMW-Williams.

''I can't deny I haven't been up with Kimi in the second half of the season,'' 33-year-old Coulthard told the BBC. ''But you've got to be mentally and physically well prepared and that's very difficult to do in (that) situation.''

Coulthard, who actually debuted for Williams a decade ago, said he would be unlikely to argue about money with team owner Sir Frank.

He said Spa-Francorchamps, where he damaged the silver car in a 190mph scrape but refused to retire, demonstrated a 'commitment' to continue in F1. ''In the cold light of day,'' said DC, ''it (was) absolutely ludicrous (to not retire).''








Arden and Jordan
(GMM -- Nov.4) Christian Horner is still talking to Eddie Jordan about the sale of the financially troubled Formula One team.

We can reveal that the Arden F3000 team chief, Horner, traveled to Russia late in October, ostensibly to re-connect with old contacts who may be keen to back a new project at the pinnacle of motor sport.

Arden used to enjoy the sponsorship backing of Russian oil giant Lukoil.








Big loss for Oz GP
(GMM -- Nov.4) Australia's Formula One race cost taxpayers nearly $42 million since 1999 to cover growing losses, the Grand Prix Corporation revealed Wednesday.

The AGPC's annual report demonstrated a loss of nearly $13 million in 2003-4 alone, but - in the text - said 'benefits to the state of Victoria,' such as to the Melbourne economy and worldwide exposure, should be also considered.

Premier Steve Bracks, who tabled the report in parliament, commented that the Australian grand prix is 'great' for Victoria's 'reputation as a state.'







Kimi's team
(GMM -- Nov.4) Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen and his personal manager Steve Robertson are planning to start their own Formula 3 team.

A spokesman for Carlin Motorsport admitted that their head of engineering, Anthony Hyatt, will leave in 2005 to run 'Raikkonen Robertson Racing.'

It's reported that the team will run with a Mercedes-Benz engine and be based in Woking (Surrey), just like 25-year-old Raikkonen's Formula One employer McLaren.

Ironically, Raikkonen never raced in Formula 3, but Robertson did -- against another talented Finn, Mika Hakkinen, in the early 90's.

'Raikkonen Robertson' will contest either the British or Euroseries F3 championship.








Heidfeld to test Williams
(GMM -- Nov.4) German driver Nick Heidfeld would accept a test driving role with BMW-Williams next season.

The 27-year-old raced a Jordan throughout 2004 but nearly stepped in to replace injured countryman Ralf Schumacher after he crashed at Indianapolis (June).

A Williams test was scheduled in the summer, but Eddie Jordan scuppered the deal. ''I would like to work (with Williams) next year,'' Nick told a German news agency.

He added: ''If the only option is as test driver, then that would also be okay.''

Heidfeld's manager, Werner Heinz, said the priority was to organize a new test run in 'late November.

''He has a chance at Williams,'' the German told Die Welt newspaper.








'Ferrari will be fastest'
(GMM -- Nov.4) A fresh set of 2005 F1 regulations will not slow Ferrari down, former team world champion Niki Lauda said Wednesday.

The Austrian great, who did it twice for Maranello in 1975 and '77, claimed it is likely the 'best team' this century will still be the best despite significant car modifications.

''There is no doubt,'' he told German newspaper Bild, ''that Michael Schumacher will come back strengthened and motivated like always.''

55-year-old Lauda also hinted that Ferrari's main rivals, Williams and McLaren, may not get the best out of 2005 due to questionable driver line-ups.

He said McLaren's pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya is 'spectacular' but also ''unpredictable. I look forward to the duel.''

Sir Frank Williams, meanwhile, 'made an error' in letting both 2004 drivers, Montoya and Ralf Schumacher, leave the Grove-based team for 2005, according to Niki Lauda.







F3 back to Monaco
(GMM -- Nov.4) Formula 3 will once again support the Monaco grand prix in 2005.

Euroseries' organizers have negotiated with the Automobile Club du Monaco to stage a race alongside the Formula One fixture next season, after a seven year absence.

''Europe's strongest series for up and coming racers will enhance the grand prix supporting program immensely,'' commented ACM president Michel Boeri.

The F3 support race will be staged on Saturday afternoon.








Rossi and Ferrari - 'we'll see'
(GMM -- Nov.4) Valentino Rossi may one day win grands prix in a Ferrari, the Italian marque's president Luca di Montezemolo hinted this week.

Italian-born Rossi, MotoGP champion, said at Valencia on the weekend that any aspirations to try a four-wheeled category had been put on the back burner at least until 2007.

''We will see,'' countryman Montezemolo told Italian media Wednesday. ''(Valentino) is a great champion and Ferrari always thinks ... to the future.''

Interestingly, 25-year-old Rossi's 2007-delay would coincide with the end of seven time world champion Michael Schumacher's current Ferrari contract.








GP2 car 'quicker'
(GMM -- Nov.4) Next year's GP2 car is already quicker than the soon-to-be redundant F3000 racer.

At a F3000 test in Barcelona (Spain) this week, Renault's F1 tester Franck Montagny, in the new Dallara challenger, was a couple of tenths clear of Patrick Friesacher, who steered the 2004 series' chassis.

Incidentally, Austrian-born Friesacher is understood to have been asked to Minardi's big Misano test later in November, and may also be targeting a Jordan run.

1982 F1 world champion Keke Rosberg's son, meanwhile - Nico - was impressive at the F3000 test, at the wheel of a Christian Horner-owned Arden car.







Oz debut for MP4-20
(GMM -- Nov.4) McLaren will start next season with a brand new car, the Formula One team's principal Ron Dennis has revealed.

He denied that the Woking-based outfit would follow world champion Ferrari's lead by rolling out a modified 2004 car for the first few 'flyaway' grands prix.

''I don't think we have the luxury of just fine tuning what we have,'' said Dennis, whose MP4-19 model managed just a single win - in Belgium - this season.

The governing FIA has introduced a significantly modified aerodynamic, tyre and engine rule package for 2005.

Dennis said the most likely scenario is a new car for Melbourne and a major 'update' around mid-season.








Webber cool on F1 reform
(GMM -- Nov.4) Australian driver Mark Webber is not enthusiastic about Formula One's raft of 'slow down' rule changes for 2005.

The highly rated 28-year-old, who will test a Williams for the first time later in November, said all racing drivers 'love the grip.

''Maybe the races (next year) will be more interesting for the fans,'' he said in a report on the BMW-powered team's website, ''but most definitely not for the drivers.''

Webber, meanwhile, denied he is losing sleep over the contract recognition board's recent decision to block the signing of Jenson Button as his 2005 team-mate.

But he nonetheless urged Sir Frank to find a 'strong' driver to steer the second FW27. ''When you drive for a top team,'' said Mark, ''(that) is vital.''








Wirdheim - 'no plans yet'
(GMM -- Nov.4) Jaguar test driver Bjorn Wirdheim is considering a race role in a different category for 2005, the Swede admitted Wednesday.

The former F3000 champion, though, denied that a deal in Champ Car is already all but tied up.

''I've no plans for next year at the moment,'' he said.

Wirdheim is scheduled to complete Jaguar's first test sessions of the winter period, 'if they go ahead,' but is not contracted beyond December.

He is, though, keen to race - as opposed to merely test - next year.

''First of all I'm going to wait and see what happens with Jaguar,'' said 24-year-old Bjorn.







Aim to 'shame' Ferrari
(GMM -- Nov.4) The notorious nine-of-out-ten 'cost saving initiative' was designed to shame Ferrari into also signing up, an unnamed Formula One principal has admitted.

It was reported in Brazil last month that the almost unanimous proposal, also signed by Bernie Ecclestone, is basically targeted to nullifying Ferrari's test-track advantage.

''We believe that if enough pressure can be brought to bear on Ferrari,'' the anonymous chief told Autosport, ''they will have no other option but to sign up.''

The matter is sure to return to the headlines early next week when Ecclestone and F1 principals meet again at London's Hilton Hotel.

A Ferrari spokesman, though, denied that Jean Todt will be cornered into agreeing a package he does not believe in. ''We will submit our own proposals,'' he said.








Todt's son to run team
(GMM -- Nov.4) The son of Ferrari principal Jean Todt will run a support-category GP2 team in 2005, we can reveal.

Nicolas Todt's outfit, with links to French F3 team ASM, will be based near Paris and receive funding from Ferrari F1 sponsor Vodafone.

Jean's son is also manager of Felipe Massa, the Sauber ace and former Ferrari test driver, and owns a prominent Formula One website.








Montoya 'had fun' in '04
(GMM -- Nov.4) Formula One racing is not boring, Colombian grand prix driver Juan Pablo Montoya said.

The 29-year-old ace urged television cameras to focus away from 'those red cars' at the front and hone-in on thrilling midfield action.

''I actually had fun in a lot of races (in 2004),'' said Montoya, who will switch from Williams to McLaren next year.

He insisted: ''It was exciting down the field.''







Engine deal 'would be positive'
(GMM -- Nov.4) Supplying a small Formula One team with engines may be a positive move, Renault's director of engineering Pat Symonds insisted.

He said forging a cut-price deal with Minardi or Jordan, for example, would assist Renault's push for the world championship 'in the long term.

''They'll get the engine,'' Symonds revealed, ''and, of course, carry out some of the track development (for Renault). It might have some affect on us.''








'Let's test less' - Gascoyne
(GMM -- Nov.4) Toyota's Mike Gascoyne has urged Formula One principals to agree to cut testing at a London meeting next Tuesday.

The technical director admitted personal disappointment when, last month, chiefs failed to get all ten signatures on a document after a series of similar meetings in Brazil.

''If you ask me,'' said Gascoyne, ''the easiest way to reduce the cost of running a Formula One car would be to run it less -- that is something we have to look at.''

Mike Gascoyne also expressed sadness that the words 'Jaguar Racing' will not be painted atop a pitlane garage when Formula One resumes racing in Melbourne next March.

''Lotus, Tyrrell and Brabham have all gone too,'' said the Briton, ''but Formula One survives. It's just a great shame, especially for the workforce.''

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