F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
November 25, 2004

Familiarly fast - test
(GMM -- Nov.25) 2004 Williams team-mates Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher topped Wednesday's testing timesheet at Circuit de Catalunya.

But they drove, respectively, a McLaren and Toyota.

Thirteen other drivers - and six other Formula One teams - made it the first busy (but sunny) day of the pre-season winter.

Getting on track was former Jaguar team incarnation Red Bull Racing, with likely race driver line-up Christian Klien and F3000 champion Vitantonio Liuzzi at the wheel.

Giancarlo Fisichella made his 're-debut' in the Renault, while Enrique Bernoldi - albeit dead last - rolled out the 2004/2005 all-black 'concept' BAR car.

Troubled re-debut
(GMM -- Nov.25) Giancarlo Fisichella endured a troubled first day back at the Enstone-based Formula One team.

The Italian, who last drove a Mild Seven-blue challenger in October 2001, sat in the garage at Circuit de Catalunya all Wednesday morning while the Renault R24's electrical problem was cured.

''It was ok,'' he said at the end of the day in Spain. ''I eventually did more than thirty laps and started to learn about the car, although it is not yet balanced how I want it for my style.''

Michelin kick-start Sauber
(GMM -- Nov.25) F1 team Sauber and Michelin got off to a flying start at Wednesday's Barcelona testing session.

Peter Sauber's small Switzerland-based outfit, although Ferrari powered, has made the switch from Bridgestone rubber for 2005.

23-year-old Felipe Massa kicked off the collaboration by outpacing no less than eleven other runners - including a couple of notable Japanese-clad red ones.

''Naturally we adapted the car's balance to the new tire,'' said race engineer Jacky Eeckelaert, ''although we'd already run simulations back at Hinwil.''

1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve will debut for the team on Friday.

'Oh no' - troubled start
(GMM -- Nov.25) Australian driver Mark Webber's fledgling career at Williams did not get off to a good start at Circuit de Catalunya.

After a few exploratory laps on Tuesday, the 28-year-old turned up for work a day later in the mood to prepare for a winning 2005.

Instead, the FW26's driveshaft broke. Mark returned to pitlane in a truck.

''When I stopped I thought, oh no,'' Webber told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Mercifully, he ultimately lapped fifty nine times, while testing cohort - and probable 2005 team-mate - Antonio Pizzonia also endured technical trouble.

Montoya's 'settling in'
(GMM -- Nov.25) Juan Pablo Montoya's first lap in a silver McLaren-Mercedes was 'special.'

Press corps at Circuit de Catalunya had little else to write about the fastest-on-Wednesday Colombian, as he is not allowed to be interviewed until New Year's Day.

The 29-year-old is still under contract to Mercedes' arch German carmaker rival BMW and Sir Frank Williams' F1 team.

In a distributed statement, Montoya was quoted as - amongst other things - saying: ''It's been an exciting day. I know a lot of the guys already but I'm struggling to remember everyone's name.''

Test team manager Indy Lall reported that JPM is 'settling in well.'

'Why Bahrain?'
(GMM -- Nov.25) 'Why Bahrain?' That question passed most F1 journalists' lips when Williams said their 2005 team driver line-up and livery would be revealed at the Gulf nation's Formula One track.

''(Bahrain) provides not only the infrastructure,'' said team principal Sir Frank Williams, ''but also the know-how to do this.''

It's undoubtedly the first time a Europe-based grand prix squad will fly to the Middle East to launch a world championship campaign.

A statement issued by the Bahrain circuit insisted that the region's 'excellent climate' in early January, as well as the 'visual appeal' of the desert landscape, were also factors in Williams' decision.

''I'm confident,'' Frank concluded, ''that (Bahrain) can meet the demands of staging (the) event.''

Ferrari 'no' to Scot
(GMM -- Nov.25) Doors at 'Red Bull Racing' and Ferrari have slammed shut for out-of-work F1 veteran David Coulthard.

Earlier, Scotland's former McLaren star said - if a better opportunity didn't show up - he would accept a testing role in 2005.

It was suggested that Ferrari, like Renault, was an option.

But Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni, asked to comment on the speculation, answered by insisting that a new agreement with Marc Gene 'talks by itself.'

Meanwhile, just in case the 33-year-old Coulthard hadn't heard it, Red Bull owner Dieter Mateschitz repeated that the F1 team is 'absolutely not interested' in an unemployed Scot.

BAR block Ant 'shootout'
(GMM -- Nov.25) Anthony Davidson's planned 'shootout' run for Williams has been called off.

Employer BAR-Honda blocked the test because Sir Frank Williams would not guarantee that the 25-year-old test driver - if signed to race next year - could be returned to Brackley in 2006.

''Anthony is one of the team's prime assets,'' technical director Geoff Willis said in a prepared statement.

''We clearly cannot compromise the future of BAR.''

Davidson's demise leaves Nick Heidfeld, who is still scheduled to run at Jerez next month, vying for Williams' spare race place with Antonio Pizzonia.

Former BAR principal Dave Richards, meanwhile, is hopeful the wrangle can be resolved. ''I must say that Williams have been ... perhaps a little unreasonable,'' he told the Guardian newspaper.

F1 Commission 'cancelled'
(GMM -- Nov.25) The governing FIA has cancelled December's planned meeting of the F1 Commission, it is reported.

Website grandprix.com said the FIA believed the meeting would not have been attended by a requisite number of members, 'and ... none of the teams had volunteered any items for the agenda.'

However, it was anticipated that the meeting would have discussed the mooted F1 tire monopoly and the issue of reduced testing.

''I don't understand it,'' the publication quoted an unnamed team head.

'This is Williams' - MW
(GMM -- Nov.25) Williams' FW26 is 'clearly a step forward' when compared to the last Formula One car Mark Webber drove.

''Which it should be,'' said the Australian, who left Jaguar after the 2004-ending Brazilian grand prix a month ago.

28-year-old Webber started a new career at Circuit de Catalunya this week, and lauded the Grove-built car's 'balance.

''(Williams) have the resources, a tremendous amount of history and I can see are very professional,'' he continued.

Webber said: ''That's not to say Jaguar weren't (professional), but this is Williams.''

He also warned onlookers to watch more than just an impressive 'lap time' - like that of McLaren's new Juan Pablo Montoya on Wednesday - over the winter period.

Frank 'did me a favor'
(GMM -- Nov.25) Ferrari is the best motor racing team 'in the world.'

That's the observation of Marc Gene, the Spanish test driver who switched from Williams to the six-time consecutive F1 world champion marque.

''I haven't been here a day but I already feel at home,'' the 30-year-old told La Gazzetta dello Sport as he tested at Circuit de Catalunya.

It's understood that Frank Williams told Marc two months ago that there would not be a place at Grove for him in 2005.

Gene contacted top F1 teams like McLaren and Renault, but Ferrari replied first. ''I don't know why Williams decided what they did,'' he commented, ''but they did me a favor.

''Maybe I could have got a race drive (in 2005),'' Marc said, ''(but) I think it's better to test for Ferrari than drive for an uncompetitive team.''

Ralf S. lauds Toyota engine
(GMM -- Nov.25) Toyota's Mike Gascoyne-tweaked TF104B is a 'better' Formula One racer than new driving recruit Ralf Schumacher had expected.

On Wednesday, the former Williams driver - with sponsor detail whited-out on Ralf's distinctive yellow helmet - made his maiden appearance for the Cologne-based team at Barcelona.

He lapped in Spain sixty two times.

''The engine is very, very good,'' the younger brother of world champion Michael Schumacher remarked, ''and the car has a pretty good balance.''

Albers to also test Minardi
(GMM -- Nov.25) 25-year-old F1 hopeful Christijan Albers will test a Minardi car later in the week.

Next week, it is already reported, the Dutch star of German (DTM) touring car racing is scheduled to line-up for Jordan at the Jerez track in Spain.

But Thursday's single-seater run, for the Faenza-based team owned by Australian millionaire Paul Stoddart, will happen at the Misano (Italy) venue.

Albers' Jordan session is backed by Dutch company and team sponsor Trust, who worked with Minardi in 2003.

''I am glad that the opportunity (to test Christijan) has finally come,'' Eddie Jordan said.

On Wednesday at Misano, Albers' day was spent as a high speed chauffeur at the wheel of a two-seater Minardi.

Justin Wilson and F1
(GMM -- Nov.25) Justin Wilson will not put a lid on his Formula One dream.

The tall English driver had to cross the Atlantic, to American Champ Car racing, last year after he was not retained by Ford-backed Jaguar.

He has now signed a new contract with the RuSPORT Champ Car team.

''I can't say anything (about F1),'' Wilson told a news conference, ''because I can't predict the future. At the minute I'm very happy over here.''

BAR's 'secret' shootout
(GMM -- Nov.25) Formula One team BAR held a 'secret' evaluation of potential young test drivers.

Last week, nine up-and-coming stars - including sons of F1 world champions Nico Rosberg and Nelson Piquet Jr - did physical, mental and verbal tests and drove road cars at Bruntingthorpe, the Motorsport News magazine reported.

''(Takuma Sato's race engineer) Jock Clear has been heading this up,'' said outgoing team principal David Richards. ''The aim is to find the right drivers for the future.''

At least one successful driver from the group - also featuring James Rossiter, Heikki Kovalainen and Macau F3 winner Alexandre Premat - will be tested in a F1 car in the winter and may be signed for 2005, the report said.

Jag deal a 'hard slog'
(GMM -- Nov.25) Stitching up Red Bull's $50m purchase of Formula One team Jaguar from Ford was a 'long and exhausting slog.'

That's the appraisal of Andrew Collins, commercial partner for Laytons, the legal firm that represented the Austrian energy drink.

He told publication 'Legal Week' that the sale was not 'standard' and involved some 'fairly hard ball negotiations.'

'BAR to blame' - Williams
(GMM -- Nov.25) A BMW-Williams spokesman denied the team is to blame for the thwarted 'shootout' run of BAR test driver Anthony Davidson.

Explaining the cancellation of the December 1 run at Jerez, BAR technical director Geoff Willis said Sir Frank demanded 'unconditional arrangement.'

But the spokesman told atlasf1.com that Frank only refused to budge on one issue. ''That we have a call on his services for 2005,' he said, ''with an option for 2006 if BAR were not in a position to offer Anthony a race seat.''

He also reiterated that current test driver Antonio Pizzonia is still most likely to land the racing role alongside Mark Webber.

''Nick (Heidfeld) will have to do something really special,'' said the Williams spokesman.

No Red Bull deal - Michelin
(GMM -- Nov.25) Red Bull Racing have not signed a contract to race on Michelin tires next season.

A spokesman for the French rubber brand explained that Michelin is merely 'helping' the team formerly owned by Ford 'in the current (Barcelona) test.

''We are still in negotiations for a supply in 2005,'' he told us.

On the topic of the other new (2006) F1 teams, the spokesman hinted that whether Michelin sign them up 'could depend' on their 'exact engine status' and 'any pressure' applied by a current team partner.

A Bridgestone spokeswoman, meanwhile, agreed that 'engine partners' would be a consideration in deciding to supply either Dubai or Midland.

Klien a team 'cert'
(GMM -- Nov.25) It is 'certain' that 2004 driver Christian Klien will retain his spot on the Formula One grid next year.

That's the claim of F3000 champion Vitantonio Liuzzi, the other main contender for a seat at the newly re-branded 'Red Bull Racing' team.

While testing a silver-and-blue car in Spain, 'Tonio' was asked if he felt favorite to become F1's next rookie.

Liuzzi, who - like Klien - was a Red Bull-backed junior driver, answered: ''I'm confident, but nothing is certain -- besides Christian Klien.''

Terzi 'won't return'
(GMM -- Nov.25) World champion Formula One outfit Ferrari will not re-hire former team aerodynamicist Antonia Terzi.

The Italian pioneered Williams' much vaunted 'walrus' nose for the 2004-spec FW26, before it - and Terzi, apparently (although it was claimed she 'resigned') - was abandoned.

Terzi joined Sir Frank's Grove-based team from the Scuderia in 2002.

Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni offered an uncompromising 'No!' when asked if she might return to Maranello.

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