F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
November 23, 2004

Williams launch in Jan.
(GMM -- Nov.23) BMW- Williams will stage an unique two-pronged official 2005 launch in January, the Formula One team announced on Monday.

The identity of Mark Webber's racing team-mate, and a new car livery, is to be unveiled at the Bahrain grand prix circuit in the Middle East on January 7.

Meanwhile, on the 31st of the same month, the public and media will be introduced to the Oxfordshire-built FW27 car, at the Valencia venue in Spain, before it debuts on track.

''More details will be issued in due course,'' said a spokesman.

Gene joined Ferrari
(GMM -- Nov.23) Williams' Spanish test driver Marc Gene will immediately leave the BMW-powered Formula One team and join Ferrari.

The 30-year-old, disillusioned after being left out of consideration for a vacant 2005 race role, joined the world champion Scuderia on Monday, a statement revealed.

''He will work alongside test driver Luca Badoer,'' said a Ferrari spokesman at Maranello.

Gene - who was replaced as the then injured Ralf Schumacher's Williams-sub by Antonio Pizzonia in July this year - and Badoer were once team-mates at back-of-the-grid Minardi.

Earlier, speculation said Gene's main job at Ferrari will be Bridgestone tire testing and new-for-2006 V8 engine evaluation.

Ferrari back on track
(GMM -- Nov.23) World champion F1 marque Ferrari returned to the track on Monday after the post-season testing ban.

Ferrari-Maserati's test driver Andrea Bertolini steered a F2004 car up and down the main straight at Vairano (Italy).

The Italian, who covered more than two hundred kilometres, worked on a 2005-spec 'aerodynamic program,' team spokesman Luca Colajanni explained.

Minardi's Misano run
(GMM -- Nov.23) An Austrian and an Israeli debuted at the wheel of a Formula One car on Monday.

Patrick Friesacher and Chanock Nissany, as well as Portugal's Tiago Monteiro, were in action for Minardi at the Italian circuit called 'Autodromo Santamonica' in Misano.

''I was just amazed at the speed,'' said Friesacher, who was praised by a leading team member, ''and also the braking, but I started to get used to it.''

Nissany said the track was extremely dusty. ''I hope to improve tomorrow,'' he commented.

Next, young Australians Will Power and Will Davison will take to Misano, as countryman and Minardi principal Paul Stoddart fulfils an earlier promise to the duo.

Friesacher - best 1.11.150
Monteiro - best 1.13.240
Nissany - best 1.14.780

Coulthard ruled out
(GMM -- Nov.23) Out-of-work Formula One veteran David Coulthard has been ruled out of the race for a Red Bull F1 berth.

Team owner Dietrich Mateschitz told a German newspaper that the Scot - who spent every year since 1996 at top squad McLaren-Mercedes - is 'not' on the 2005 shortlist.

Austria's first billionaire also revealed he is eyeing German driver Nick Heidfeld, but admitted that BMW-Williams 'are also interested' in the former Sauber and Jordan star.

Red Bull-backed F3000 champion Vitantonio Liuzzi, who - like Bjorn Wirdheim - will test the blue-and-silver car at Barcelona this week, is also high on the list as potential race or test driver, Mateschitz told Bild am Sonntag.

Bernie braves the Bank
(GMM -- Nov.23) A London judge could loosen Bernie Ecclestone's iron grip on Formula One.

Rival lawyers said in court on Monday that SLEC's minority shareholder - the Ecclestone or 'Bambino' family trust - illegally appointed two Swiss directors (who are married) to the board of directors.

Three investment banks, otherwise known as 'Speed Investments', own most of the Formula One business but are suing Bambino for a representative slice of control.

''The banks don't have any rights,'' 74-year-old Ecclestone told Britain's Financial Times newspaper. ''I am the CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Administration -- I own F1.''

Imola's safe
(GMM -- Nov.23) A 'verbal' agreement to keep the grand prix at Imola until 2009 has been struck, a race official said after a meeting in London.

Mayor Massimo Marchignoli met at F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone's plush office building, which is plated in glass, it is reported.

''This gives a major boost to our motor racing tradition,'' the Italian-born mayor said despite earlier speculation that 2004 had been the San Marino grand prix's last outing.

Operating group Sagis' president, Federico Bendinelli, explained that a new five-year contract has not yet been signed.

It is expected that Imola must refurbish outdated track facilities as part of the deal.

'Thrilling' quali - Ralf
(GMM -- Nov.23) Ralf Schumacher is pleased that part of Formula One qualifying will be held on grand prix morning next season.

Williams' former driver, who is in Barcelona (Spain) this week to test a Toyota for the first time, said the new Saturday/Sunday format should be better for the circuit-going spectator.

29-year-old Schumacher added: ''(Fans) will witness more track action and that will be more thrilling for all of us.''

Toyota's new star, who missed six grands prix in 2004 after a vertebrae-fracturing shunt, is also keen to reiterate praise for the governing FIA's plan to reduce speeds.

''The cars have got faster,'' said Ralf, ''but you cannot argue that the show is better. It is time that Formula One slowed down.''

Corruption in KL
(GMM -- Nov.23) A claim of corruption is threatening to mar preparation for next year's Malaysian grand prix.

In Kuala-Lumpur, a local newspaper reported that a complaint was lodged with the 'Anti-Corruption Agency' about an advertising signboard at the Sepang F1 Circuit.

It is claimed that, although an approximately $53,000 tender was awarded for the erection of a new signboard, the old signboard had simply been refurbished.

An internal committee had been set up to investigate the matter, Sepang's media officer Azhar Ghazali revealed.

He added: ''There is nothing to hide in the matter.''

Yoong won't race again
(GMM -- Nov.23) Former F1 driver Alex Yoong will never race again.

A report on the 28-year-old Malaysian's personal website said Yoong, who snapped up the national team franchise in the new A1GP winter championship, 'wishes to concentrate on the business side (of motor sport)' from now on.

''(Alex's) days of racing in under funded and significantly less competitive teams are now over,'' the statement continued.

Yoong - the most recent F1 driver to genuinely fail to qualify for a grand prix - drove for Paul Stoddart's back-of-the-grid Minardi team in part of 2001 and 2002.

Webber to eye podium debut
(GMM -- Nov.23) Mark Webber will be disappointed if he doesn't debut for new team BMW-Williams with a podium finish at his home Australian grand prix.

''Hopefully we can get on top of it pretty quickly,'' the 28-year-old said from Europe through a video link at the launch of the 2005 season-opener in Melbourne.

Webber is looking to triple world champion Sir Jack Brabham and 1980 winner Alan Jones, both countrymen, for inspiration.

''I talk to (Jack) a lot,'' said Mark of the 78-year-old who last won in Formula One in 1966 in a car bearing his own name.

Meanwhile, 58-year-old Jones did the triumphant deed in one of Sir Frank's F1 single-seaters.

Heikki is top Finn
(GMM -- Nov.23) Heikki Kovalainen -- that's the name of the next Flying Finn.

The 23-year-old, who won the World Series by Nissan championship in 2004, was - near Helsinki - named the 'Racing Driver of the Year' at Finland's recent Motorsport Awards.

Previous winners of the accolade include former world champions Mika Hakkinen (1998 and 1999) and Keke Rosberg (1982), and today's grand prix sensation Kimi Raikkonen.

Terzi blamed?
(GMM -- Nov.23) Departed F1 aerodynamic whiz Antonia Terzi was to blame for Williams' poor 2004 season.

That's something you won't hear team co-owner and principal Sir Frank Williams say.

''I'll make no comment,'' Frank told Eurosport when asked for more information about the circumstances surrounding the female Italian's exit earlier in November.

Terzi pioneered the later scrapped 'walrus'-like nose for the FW26, and her 'twin keel' chassis will not be carried over to the 2005 design.

Williams - refusing to agree that the comment might be linked with Terzi's fall from grace - said the FW26 got a major face lift mid-season and it 'began to improve' thereafter.

'Destabilizing' saga
(GMM -- Nov.23) The Jenson Button-saga 'destabilized' Formula One team BAR, exiting principal David Richards admitted.

''Of course,'' he said this week. ''It caught (us) off guard.''

The legal tussle for 25-year-old Button was a factor in Richards' removal of power - by owner British American Tobacco - despite a year to run on the Prodrive agreement, according to speculation.

'I miss F1 driving'
(GMM -- Nov.23) Formula One's former 'wild man' does not miss the pinnacle of motor sport.

Eddie Irvine, who famously drove for Ferrari and Jaguar, said in Ireland last week that 'getting in the car' was one of the only perks of joining Michael Schumacher on the official drivers' list.

''You miss bits,'' said the newly 39-year-old, ''but not much -- not the traveling and the airports and the politics.''

Near his birthplace, Irvine was opening a new 'EI Sport' and go-kart facility. ''I hope to find a future race champion here,'' the owner - who retired as a F1 racer in 2002 - smiled.

Minardi to launch in Oz
(GMM -- Nov.23) Paul Stoddart's Minardi F1 team will launch its 2005 championship campaign on March 3 in Melbourne.

The Melbourne-born millionaire revealed in a video statement at the launch of the Australian grand prix that he agreed to the date so it coincides with a 'free day' at Albert Park.

''(The car will) be unveiled in front of the public,'' a AGPC statement added.

To mark the ten-year anniversary of the grand prix in Melbourne, admission to the opening day - Thursday - will be free, Victorian premier Steve Bracks announced.

He said Mark Webber's Australian driving compatriot, Ryan Briscoe, is 'likely' to also be on the F1 starting grid come grand prix Sunday.

Bahrain want 'double'
(GMM -- Nov.23) Bahrain would like around 'double' the number of European tourists to travel to the Middle East for next April's grand prix.

This year, for the inaugural Formula One event, Gulf Air flew about 1000 passengers on special GP packages to Bahrain.

''We are confident of attracting more visitors from Europe (in 2005),'' leisure marketing manager Mark Senior told local newspaper Gulf Daily News.

No quali in GP2?
(GMM -- Nov.23) F1's new support category might not feature a qualifying session next year.

Organizers of GP2, to replace F3000 in 2005, asked teams if they would be prepared to do just one pre-season 'qualifying' event at Paul Ricard.

After that, grids will be determined on the basis of races' finishing order. A second race each weekend will see the top-eight finishers of the first race start in reverse order.

''You have to question the safety,'' Racing Engineering team chief Alfonso de Orleans told Autosport.

Williams must win - Sam
(GMM -- Nov.23) Formula One team BMW-Williams 'must' regularly win grands prix next year, technical director Sam Michael said.

The Australian, featured in a taped video interview at the launch of the tenth-anniversary Melbourne grand prix, said about $350 million (AUD) had been put aside for the development of seven FW27's.

He admitted: ''We made a few errors in mechanical and aerodynamic design (in 2004) and we corrected some of those.''

31-year-old Michael, whose only slightly younger compatriot Mark Webber will steer one of the Oxfordshire-designed single-seaters, said the 2005 target is to 'beat Ferrari.'

Michelin at 'maximum'
(GMM -- Nov.23) French firm Michelin have ruled out supplying even one more Formula One team with tires.

With a new Sauber deal in the bag, and the likely continuing relationship with Red Bull (formerly Jaguar), competition director Pierre Dupasquier said Bibendum is now at maximum capacity.

''We can do what we are doing now,'' the Frenchman told atlasf1.com, ''because (under a new rulebook) we will not be producing as many tires as we did in 2004. But we cannot produce more than that.''

Dupasquier also revealed that he will attend a meeting of the F1 Commission in Monaco on December 9 as representative for both Michelin and rival Bridgestone.

'I won't buy a F1 team'
(GMM -- Nov.23) Dave Richards' route back into Formula One will not be via team ownership, the ousted BAR principal insisted.

He runs Prodrive, the successful motorsport management company involved in World Rally and the Le Mans project with Aston Martin.

So why not buy a grand prix team and linger on in the F1 paddock?

''You either need to be a major car manufacturer or a crazed multi-billionaire,'' Richards laughed. ''I am neither of them.''

The 52-year-old English entrepreneur also vowed to find a few more spare weekends next season to spend time with the family.

TV deal in Africa
(GMM -- Nov.23) African pay-TV channel SuperSport won a three-year exclusive contract to screen Formula One in Africa.

SuperSport beamed the pinnacle of motor sport around the continent in 2002-2004, but that was under a joint deal with 'another broadcaster.'

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