F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
November 30, 2004

Michelin fire Vasselon
(GMM -- Nov.30) Formula One's French tire supplier Michelin has fired countryman Pascal Vasselon, it is reported.

He was 'F1 project manager' since Bibendum re-launched the tire war in 2001, but the appointment failed to net a constructors' or drivers' world championship against rival Bridgestone and the might of Ferrari.

Vasselon will move to a non-racing part of the tire maker, perhaps in the United States, according to speculation.

'Happy with Sunday quali'
(GMM -- Nov.30) Mark Webber is happy with Formula One's new-for-2005 qualifying system.

Williams' Australian driver, who this year and last raced a Jaguar, recently blasted the FIA's raft of 'slow down' technical and sporting amendments for next season.

But of Saturday and Sunday morning single-lap qualifying, he commented: ''I don't think it'll really produce too many different results from this year.

''But I do think it's a good move for the fans attending the races -- at least now they'll get some quality F1 action first thing on Sunday and much better than (2004) or what Sunday warm-up used to provide.''

Jordan-Arden sale 'close'
(GMM -- Nov.30) The sale of Eddie Jordan's struggling outfit to F3000 team owner Christian Horner is all but complete, it is reported.

'Jordan' will be renamed 'Arden F1' in 2005, after the 31-year-old's successful squad in the F1 support-category.

Jordan cost Arden around $57 million, the Sunday Times newspaper said.

The UK publication quoted a 'financial advisor' to Arden as saying a deal is 'very close to being signed.'

Irish entrepreneur Eddie Jordan will sell his 50.1 per cent stake to Horner, and the balance - presently held by an Irish consortium - will go to an unnamed Chinese multinational.

F3 trio to test BAR
(GMM -- Nov.30) Formula 3-driving trio Adam Carroll, James Rossiter and Alan van der Merwe will this week test for F1 team BAR-Honda at Jerez.

They're the winners of a 'Young Driver Program' led by F1 race engineer Jock Clear.

''The results (of an assessment at Brackley) were evaluated by a team of experts,'' a team spokeswoman explained.

Clear, meanwhile, denied that the scheme is about finding an immediate 'understudy' for F1 line-up Jenson Button, Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson.

He said: ''It is about developing the talent of the future ... (to) hopefully prepare them for ... Formula One.''

The three winners will each get a full day in Spain. ''(We'll) be looking for the driver (with) the most potential to develop over the next 24 months,'' the spokeswoman concluded.

Fisi's a 'changed' man
(GMM -- Nov.30) Giancarlo Fisichella is a 'changed' man since he last drove a blue Enstone-built F1 car.

The Roman, who steered a Jordan and Sauber in the intervening years since 2001, said he is now more experienced. ''That's very important,'' he said after his first test for Renault.

''In terms of speed, though, I am as quick as ever -- but I've learned a lot (since 2001). Even when I had a bad car I pushed 101 per cent, and that teaches you to give good technical answers to the team -- I know what direction to push in.''

Fisichella also said it was 'easy' for him to re-adjust to the team formerly known as Benetton.

''Half the mechanics are the same,'' he explained, ''and I worked with my engineer (Alan Permane) for four years -- I know him well.''

Red Bull - $63m 'per word'
(GMM -- Nov.30) Red. Bull. Putting those words on the 2005 F1 championship entry-list cost an Austrian energy drink magnate about $63 million -- per word. Per year.

Nigel Currie, of sponsor consultancy firm CSS Stellar, said Dietrich Mateschitz bought Jaguar from Ford so that the 'Red Bull' brand is spoken of in the same tone as words such as Ferrari, Toyota and McLaren.

''The brand,'' he said in UK newspaper The Independent, ''becomes intrinsically linked to the team. Journalists, viewers and commentators will speak and write about the team as Red Bull.''

He said Red Bull's new investment in grand prix racing is therefore more valuable than that of Ferrari title sponsor Vodafone, for example. ''Vodafone is linked with Ferrari,'' said Currie, ''but no one talks about the Ferrari-Vodafone team.''

Aussie asks for F1 'support'
(GMM -- Nov.30) Young Melbourne racing driver Will Davison thinks he has 'what it takes' to compete against Formula One's Michael Schumacher at the pinnacle of motor sport.

He, like fellow Australian Will Power, last week tested a Minardi F1 car for the first time ever.

Davison told local news publications: ''As was the case with (Mark) Webber and (Fernando) Alonso, if you can shine (at) Minardi, then the opportunities for the future are significant.''

He therefore called on the 'financial support' of entrepreneurial companies and individuals to help land him what is known in F1 as a 'pay drive.'

Davison's year in British F3 was cut short due to a shortage of money, and he spent the last few months driving an Australian V8 'Supercar.'

Briscoe 'will not test'
(GMM -- Nov.30) Sydney-born Formula One hopeful Ryan Briscoe will not, as reported, test a Jordan at Jerez this week.

The Toyota-contracted star, who in latter '04 ran for the Cologne-based team as 'Friday' practice driver, was speculated to be part of a subsidy for Jordan's new customer engine deal.

It was, however, revealed elsewhere that Briscoe did talk to Eddie Jordan, but those discussions did not progress far enough.

Speculation in 'Autosport' now suggests that the blonde-haired Australian may turn to a Toyota-powered team in the US' Indy Racing League championship.

So far, ahead of Jordan's first test of the winter period, only Dutch DTM ace Christijan Albers is scheduled to drive a Cosworth-powered yellow car.

'I made mistakes' - Button
(GMM -- Nov.30) English driver Jenson Button has admitted he made 'some mistakes' in the bungled and foiled switch from BAR to Frank Williams' F1 team.

''I think all the people involved made mistakes along the way,'' he told UK newspaper The Guardian.

The contract recognition board agreed with then BAR principal David Richards and BAR's legal team that Button manager John Byfield had been wrong to hawk the 25-year-old talent elsewhere.

Button, though, would still have liked to steer a BMW-powered car in 2005. But in not talking to Richards prior to the dropped bombshell, 'I was misguided,' Jenson confessed.

He added: ''I listened to what people had to say -- I did that, and I thought it was the correct thing to do. Obviously it wasn't.''

Fog foils Ferrari flow
(GMM -- Nov.30) Thick fog foiled Formula One world constructors' champion Ferrari's first Formula One test day this week at private circuit Fiorano.

Luca Badoer had been scheduled to commence a wet-tire run for Bridgestone.

He completed an installation lap but returned to the pit garage to report that visibility was not sufficient.

It is reported that Ferrari will get the program back into gear on Wednesday, with group test driver Andrea Bertolini.

Mark's new 'mindset'
(GMM -- Nov.30) Mark Webber tried a new 'mindset' for size at the Circuit de Catalunya last week.

''I was driving down the pitlane,'' he said of his Williams test debut, ''and I felt it -- wins. This is a team that knows about winning and how to do it.''

The 28-year-old - who has also driven in Le Mans and F3000 - said the FW26 car is the fastest motor racer he's ever steered.

Asked how it's better than last year's Jag, he replied: ''It's just a bit quicker everywhere -- suddenly there's a lap time.''

Webber let slip he's already fielded advice from BMW-Williams' veteran engineer Patrick Head -- ''to 'get as many wins as possible','' Mark relayed with a smile.

GP2 teams to be unveiled
(GMM -- Nov.30) F1's new support category, GP2, is about to unveil the twelve teams set to contest the inaugural championship until 2008.

The announcement will be made Tuesday morning (GMT).

Series organizers also said the 'weekend format' and '2005 calendar' will be exposed. ''We have filled the 12 allocated team positions,'' read a statement.

It continued: ''(But we) may ... extend the field to encompass a thirteenth squad.''

F1's former European support category was F3000.

'Let me shoot-out' - Davidson
(GMM -- Nov.30) BAR test driver Anthony Davidson hinted that his thwarted 'shootout' run for Williams hit the pavement because both sides wanted 'more' from the arrangement.

The diminutive Englishman is still hopeful that the cancelled (by Honda) test at Jerez can be revived. ''This was the big chance I've been waiting for,'' he told British tabloid News of the World.

Should BAR, Honda and BMW-Williams continue to disagree, 25-year-old Davidson will remain at Brackley next year as test driver.

But 'Ant' said he is desperate to get off the test bench in 2005. ''I don't think I can learn any more that way,'' he lamented. ''I just hope both sides ... reach an agreement.''

Coulthard still hunting
(GMM -- Nov.30) David Coulthard will become a Formula One test driver next year if a racing alternative does not materialize -- quickly.

The F1 veteran, replaced by Juan Pablo Montoya at McLaren after nine years of driving service, is still stalking the vacant Williams, 'Red Bull' - and possibly Jordan - '05 seat.

''I've been offered (a) test driver (role),'' the 33-year-old Scot revealed to British media this week. ''(But) as long as there is a chance of a race seat, I must pursue that.''

A Renault spokesman, meanwhile, refused to entertain speculation that DC is bound for Enstone to compliment Franck Montagny's development job. ''(Renault) decline to comment on such matters,'' was all he would say.

Trulli's low target
(GMM -- Nov.30) Jarno Trulli is setting a low target for his first season at three-year-old Formula One team Toyota.

Setting aside the quest for podiums and victory, the Italian driver - who won at Monaco in 2004 - said he would try to finish in the top eight 'at as many races as possible' in 2005, according to Autosport magazine.

He added: ''It would be nice to take a step closer to the top teams, but I am keeping my feet on the ground.

''I know from experience that progress takes time.''

Trulli, who left Renault mid-season after a dispute with team principal Flavio Briatore, also lauded 'good management' at Toyota and singled out fellow former Renault man and technical director Mike Gascoyne.

Berger role ruled out
(GMM -- Nov.30) Former grand prix driver Gerhard Berger is unlikely to take on a role at newly formed Formula One team Red Bull.

That's the admission of owner and the energy drink billionaire Dieter Mateschitz.

He recently hinted that Berger, a countryman and former BMW motorsport director, would be an ideal addition to the Austrian team.

''I don't think so,'' Dietrich said in an interview. ''He could have done it a long time ago with another team but he did not.''

Mateschitz did, though, suggest that 45-year-old Berger has had a 'specialist' input so far in an informal manner.

Lyons 'puzzled' by F1 snub
(GMM -- Nov.30) Ulster hopeful Richard Lyons can hardly believe he is not yet invited to test a Formula One car this winter.

''I keep reading that this driver and that driver have been offered a test,'' the newly-crowned duel Formula Nippon and Japanese GT champion told a British newspaper.

He was quoted as saying in 'Sunday Life': ''There was some interest a while back, but things have gone quiet in the last week or so.''

Richard admitted that American-based Champ Car racing is a more likely option for the 2005 season.

Lyons' manager, David Kennedy, has reportedly lined up a meeting or two with some Champ Car team owners.

''I'm just puzzled that no one wants to put me in (an F1) car,'' he concluded.

Toyota duo 'not perfect'
(GMM -- Nov.30) Toyota's new Formula One pairing is not perfect, technical director Mike Gascoyne admitted in an interview.

He said Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher are both 'very quick.

''Jarno is exceptional over one lap,'' said Mike, ''but in his career he has struggled for consistency in races. He did an excellent job in the first half of 2004 before relationships deteriorated.''

Williams' former six-season driver Ralf Schumacher, on the other hand, is also a 'proven winner,' Gascoyne noted, but the German is often puzzlingly inconsistent.

''There is some evidence (of that),'' he admitted. ''On some weekends (Ralf) seems to dominate his team-mate -- but at other times he seems not to be at that level.''

Gascoyne said it is Toyota's job to put both 2005 drivers in the 'right frame of mind' to perform at the highest level.

Red Bull hunt carmaker
(GMM -- Nov.30) New Formula One team 'Red Bull' is on an 'urgent' hunt for a carmaker partner.

Energy drink magnate Dieter Mateschitz said a private squad - like Jordan and Minardi - does not 'stand a chance' against the spending might of Toyota, BMW or Mercedes-Benz.

But, in the absence of a carmaker - like Ford who sold Milton-Keynes' former 'Jaguar' incarnation - there might be an upside, the billionaire hinted.

He said Red Bull's approach is probably 'more subtle and probably (more) competitive' than a major car manufacturer.

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