F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
November 26, 2004

Ralf 'getting used' to car
(GMM -- Nov.26) Ralf Schumacher is getting used to a new Formula One team and car in Barcelona.

The German driver, who since 1999 raced a Williams at grands prix, told us that the Spanish session is all about 'getting used (to Toyota).'

''He is reacting positively to his new team,'' said a Toyota member at the Circuit de Catalunya, ''and to the overall package -- the team is encouraged by (Ralf's) motivation and performance. The first test for any driver with a new team is about acclimatization.''

29-year-old Schumacher, meanwhile, stopped short of predicting too much about the 2005 championship.

''I'm going to wait until I drive the new car before talking about next year,'' he said, commenting that the first 'proper' test of the winter will occur at Jerez next week.

Quick Nick and a Bull
(GMM -- Nov.26) Austrian Formula One driver Christian Klien has denied he already signed a Red Bull Racing contract for the 2005 championship.

The 21-year-old, who'll turn twenty two before the year opening Australian grand prix, is this week testing the silver-and-blue-liveried former Jaguar car at Barcelona.

''No,'' he told reporters when asked if a race drive is sealed, ''but it looks pretty good.''

Milton-Keynes' new team owner Dieter Mateschitz, and continuing F1 principal Tony Purnell, spent all day at the Spanish GP venue Thursday.

The former, an Austrian billionaire, admitted that Tonio Liuzzi is in pole position for the sister drive, but said experienced German Nick Heidfeld also 'has a chance.'

Williams' qualm with BAR
(GMM -- Nov.26) Williams distanced itself from the new inter-team tussle over Anthony Davidson by insisting that BAR applied an 'extensive' list of conditions for the shootout run.

Earlier in 2004, the two fought tooth-and-nail over another BAR racer and Englishman, 25-year-old Jenson Button.

BAR said it and Honda called off diminutive Ant's scheduled Jerez session because Williams insisted upon 'unconditional arrangements.

''We only asked BAR to consider that should Anthony be awarded a race drive,'' a spokesman told us, ''he be allowed an option to remain (him) as a race driver in 2006 if BAR were unable to offer him a seat.''

Williams said it had no qualm with BAR's 'extensive' list of conditions, just the incorrect claim that it was to blame for the cancellation.

2-seat action at Misano
(GMM -- Nov.26) On Wednesday, Minardi's bumper F1 test took a day out as the two-seater program got into full swing.

Driving-quartet Christijan Albers - who tested a single-seater car on Thursday - Patrick Friesacher, Zsolt Baumgartner and Nicolas Kiesa gave rides to more than forty passengers.

''The majority ... were (from) Bridgestone, Superfund and The Global Group,'' said a team statement.

2003 team racer Kiesa commented at Misano (Italy): ''This is my sixth time driving the Minardi two-seater this year.''

At the Bologna (Italy) motor show next month, the two seater Minardi will return.

'Wet'-tire day
(GMM -- Nov.26) Formula One tire supplier Michelin will stage a simulated 'rain' day at the Barcelona test on Saturday.

''We will be running,'' a Renault team member told us at Circuit de Catalunya.

Another wet-tire day, which sees special water tankers dump thousands of liters of rain on the track at intervals, will be run at the next Jerez outing, we can also reveal.

Master Massa
(GMM -- Nov.26) A newly Michelin-shod Felipe Massa, in the Sauber, emerged quickest as a field of fifteen filled the Barcelona track on Thursday.

He led a couple of red-and-white Toyota runners, with Jarno Trulli just ahead of 2005 team-mate Ralf Schumacher, with Williams' new driver Mark Webber fourth and Red Bull's Vitantonio Liuzzi next.

''We are happy that the change (from Bridgestone) to Michelin went without a problem,'' said Peter Sauber, who attended the session. ''It seems the car and tyre fit together very well.''

Ferrari had three drivers in action -- two (Luca Badoer and Marc Gene) in Spain, and Andrea Bertolini back at Fiorano.

GPWC 'will go ahead'
(GMM -- Nov.26) Nothing will stop four disgruntled Formula One manufacturers from leaving the world championship at the end of 2007.

British magazine 'Autosport' quoted a source within the group who said not even a sympathetic outcome in the court battle involving F1's Bernie Ecclestone could change the mind of the 'GPWC.'

Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Renault previously outlined a threat to split and set up an alternate 'pinnacle' category to start in 2008.

Dutchman drives Minardi
(GMM -- Nov.26) Dutch touring car driver and F1 hopeful Christijan Albers set a blistering pace when he got behind the wheel of a Minardi at Misano.

The 25-year-old, who'll test for Jordan next week, lapped an easy five tenths faster than the other youngster on track -- Pastor Maldonado, of Venezuela.

''I've got a sore neck now,'' Christijan smiled on Thursday, ''but it's good to be back in a Formula One car.''

Albers' day consisted of just twenty laps, and only eight of them were timed.

Maldonado's taste of F1, meanwhile, was his first. ''I just didn't expect such power,'' he enthused, while team founder Gian Carlo Minardi hinted that one of the drivers tested at Misano this week has 'a future' on the F1 grid.

Mark's right 'attitude'
(GMM -- Nov.26) Mark Webber's 'attitude' is just right for winning grands prix, countryman and Williams' technical director Sam Michael said.

The 31-year-old engineer, who was born in Western Australia, watched over Mark's debut in a BMW-powered car at Barcelona.

''(He) was complimentary about the car,'' said Michael, ''and immediately got down to serious work with his new engineers.''

Sam said Webber already looks 'competitive.'

Bjorn left Red Bull
(GMM -- Nov.26) Bjorn Wirdheim - who is in Barcelona - will not, as scheduled, test the Red Bull 'RB1' car at the Spanish venue on Friday.

In fact, the Swedish driver - told he hasn't a chance in heaven of landing the race seat in 2005 and speculated to have been offered a mere 'secondary' test car - asked to leave the team formerly known as Jaguar.

''He was released from his contract,'' a Red Bull spokeswoman confirmed, ''so that he can pursue other opportunities.''

Former F3000 champion Wirdheim, who will try the PKV Champ Car again in December, was Jaguar's 'Friday' tester throughout 2004.

Renault to gain 50 hp
(GMM -- Nov.26) F1 team Renault will throttle-on an extra fifty horsepower in 2005.

Despite a longer-life engine regulation next year, a team source told Autosport that the RS25 V10 is 'smaller, lighter and already more powerful' than the Brazil-spec unit.

''This should put us in a good position,'' he added.

A fifty horsepower gain is even more significant in the context that other engine makers - like BMW, Toyota, Mercedes and Ferrari - appear content to retain a similar (to 2004) power output next year.

Schu won't drive 'til '05
(GMM -- Nov.26) Formula One's world champion won't be back in the saddle until the New Year.

Sabine Kehm, media rep for the soon to be 36-year-old Ferrari star, said Michael Schumacher will steer a racing car just one more time in 2004 -- at Paris' Race of Champions.

Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni, meanwhile, told Reuters that Schumacher's likely return-date is something around mid-January, after the traditional Marlboro ski event at Madonna di Campiglio.

Bridgestone to nab Red Bull
(GMM -- Nov.26) New F1 team Red Bull may have failed to land a Michelin tire contract for 2005.

Christian Klien and Tonio Liuzzi are running on the French product at the Barcelona test, but a tire spokesman admitted that it is part of a mere temporary deal.

It is known that Michelin don't really want a seventh Formula One client -- and Japanese alternative Bridgestone, although with Ferrari on the books, is almost desperate for a fourth.

''We are helping (Red Bull) run in the current test,'' the Michelin spokesman told us, ''but no contract has yet been signed.''

Honda reveal title thrust
(GMM -- Nov.26) BAR and Japanese equity partner Honda intend to win the Formula One constructors' world championship in 2006.

To demonstrate Honda's commitment to the cause, it has pledged $40 million towards a brand new wind tunnel at the team's Brackley (UK) HQ.

''We fully intend to win a number of races next season,'' Honda's vice president Otmar Szafnauer told Autosport magazine.

BAR technical director Geoffrey Willis, meanwhile, revealed that the 006's award winning and pioneering carbon fiber gearbox will be taken a further step forward for 2005.

American F1 team 'on ice'
(GMM -- Nov.26) Red Bull's ambition for an 'all-American' grand prix team is on ice until an American carmaker takes the Formula One plunge.

''It would not be credible and authentic,'' RBR team owner Dieter Mateschitz said at Barcelona on Thursday, ''without that.''

Meanwhile, Austria's first billionaire all but confirmed that Christian Klien will again line-up as a F1 driver in 2005.

''(But) he will have to prove himself (in the 2005 championship season),'' the countryman warned.

Whether F3000 champion Tonio Liuzzi will be taken on, though, is a different matter entirely. Ruling out David Coulthard's aspiration, Mateschitz admitted that Nick Heidfeld is the 'only' experienced driver Red Bull is looking at.

'McLaren' award
(GMM -- Nov.26) A Briton will be given a nudge on the road to Formula One by winning the annual McLaren Autosport BRDC award.

The Grosvenor Hotel, in London, will host the event on 5 December.

''(Winning) brings you to the attention of everybody in motor sport, including the Formula One teams,'' said Jenson Button, a former winner - like David Coulthard - of the cash prize and McLaren test.

The six 2004 nominees, including female racer Susie Stoddart, are all aged between 18 and 21.

(GMM -- Nov.26) Giancarlo Fisichella is unfazed even after departed Renault driver Jarno Trulli warned him of likely unequal treatment at the F1 team.

Fisichella, who last raced a Mild Seven-blue car in 2001 under the Benetton banner, admits that incumbent Fernando Alonso is likely to be the 'toughest team-mate' he's ever faced.

''He also knows the car well,'' the Italian told La Gazzetta dello Sport, ''which is an advantage (for him). ''But I know that our cars will be identical, and the fact that his manager (Flavio Briatore) is also the team boss will have no effect.''

The 30-year-old also explained that he was slow in Barcelona testing this week because the car setup was Alonso's. ''He uses the steering very aggressively,'' said GF, ''while I am much more gentle.''

GT in Bahrain
(GMM -- Nov.26) The desert in Bahrain is once again reverberating to the groan of motor racing engines.

The novel 'GT' festival kicked off at the purpose-built F1 venue.

Mini Coopers, as well as historic and International GT categories, made it a day 'for everyone,' according to general manager Martin Whitaker.

''The GT cars looked stunning in the dark,'' he said, albeit lamenting that qualifying had to be cancelled due to a late program and poor light. ''It reminded me of the Le Mans 24 Hour.''

Jos in a Minardi
(GMM -- Nov.26) On Friday, Dutch hero Jos Verstappen will return to the wheel of a Formula One car.

But the former Minardi racer's run will be in one of the team's two-seater machines.

Jos' 2003 team-mate Nicolas Kiesa - as well as current driver Zsolt Baumgartner - are also scheduled to drive at Misano (Italy), a statement revealed.

Meanwhile, a source close to Portuguese hopeful Tiago Monteiro - who tested a Minardi at Misano - said F1 'continues to be an option' for the 2005 season.

''Anything can happen,'' he added.

'We didn't gag Montoya'
(GMM -- Nov.26) Juan Pablo Montoya's former F1 team denied it 'gagged' the Colombian from talking to the media as he drove a McLaren for the first time.

A Williams spokesman said the decision was entirely 'McLaren's ... prerogative and initiative.'

He explained that Montoya, like other departed 2004 team driver Ralf Schumacher, are under Williams contract until the first day of next year.

''In fact, they still have some driver days this year for (our) sponsors,'' said the Williams man.

He did admit that McLaren are being a 'little bit sensitive,' but said even new Grove driver Mark Webber - under contract to a defunct (Jaguar) team - wasn't allowed to make a direct comment in the Barcelona test report.

McNish in DTM
(GMM -- Nov.26) Former F1 driver Allan McNish will race in the German DTM touring car championship next year.

The Scot is signed to steer a new Audi.

Double former F1 champion Mika Hakkinen - as well as ex-grand prix stars Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jean Alesi - also similarly switched to the premier tin-top category.

Gearbox glitch
(GMM -- Nov.26) The life of Williams' all-new 2005 gearbox did not get off to a good start at Circuit de Catalunya.

Earlier in the week, test driver Antonio Pizzonia put it through just six laps in an entire day.

''He was running in the interim car,'' said technical director Sam Michael, ''with a number of developments. We have scheduled to resolve (the gearbox glitch) by the time we reach Jerez next week.''

Meanwhile, on Thursday, BAR's striking 'concept car' - with a new Honda engine and gearbox - played up in the hands of Jenson Button.

French driver Franck Montagny, in an interim Renault, also struggled for reliability.

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