F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
December 6, 2004

BAR to launch Jan.16
(GMM -- Dec.6) BAR will pull a sheet off the sparkling-new '007' Formula One car at Barcelona next month.

The Brackley-based team said it would officially launch its 2005 championship campaign on a Sunday (16 January), at Circuit de Catalunya.

Continuing team driver Jenson Button, meanwhile, beat Michael Schumacher to take home the Autosport 'international driver of the year' trophy from a London ceremony.

''It's a bit embarrassing actually,'' he said after getting the trophy from Mika Hakkinen, ''because Michael (Schumacher) destroyed us in the championship.''

Ferrari's Rory Byrne accepted the prize for 'racing car of the year.'

Coulthard to test Red Bull
(GMM -- Dec.6) David Coulthard will almost certainly race an eleventh full season in Formula One next year.

The Scot is provisionally scheduled to test the re-painted Jaguar ('Red Bull') car at Jerez this week following a Monday seat-fitting at Milton-Keynes.

Coulthard, 33, admitted a racing deal is close.

''We just need to sign (a contract) now,'' he said at the 'Race of Champions' event in Paris, ''before making the announcement.''

Pressed for when that 'announcement' might take place, Coulthard hinted at a timeframe of less than a full week.

2004 Jaguar driver and Red Bull-backed Austrian Christian Klien is certain to be DC's team-mate.

Michelin teams 'complain'
(GMM -- Dec.6) Ousted 'F1 project manager' Pascal Vasselon revealed that he lost his job at Michelin probably because the French tire maker 'didn't win enough.'

The Frenchman's new job is on non-competition 4x4 and SUV programs in America.

''I want to stay in motorsport,'' he told Autosport.

The magazine cited 'sources' who claim that 'at least two' Michelin-clad F1 teams are 'not happy' about Vasselon's forced departure.

''There are suggestions,'' a report read, ''(that) complaints may be lodged with the tire company ... ''

Bernie fate 'imminent'
(GMM -- Dec.6) 'Supremo' Bernie Ecclestone will imminently learn just how tight his iron grip on Formula One is likely to be in the future.

The High Court in London is set to rule on whether a widely reported challenge of three F1-owning banks has been successful.

An adverse (for Ecclestone) ruling could herald a 'new era of compromise and financial transparency' in the sport, the UK's 'The Times' newspaper reported.

But even if the judge is sympathetic to Bernie's defense, the battle 'will (then) require a trial hearing,' another British newspaper - 'The Guardian' - continued to explain.

Ville still top
(GMM -- Dec.6) Jacques Villeneuve stayed at the top of the time sheet as the majority testing action at Jerez (Spain) wound-up on Friday.

The French-Canadian, in a Sauber, lapped quicker than a couple of scarlet cars and a field of thirteen other grand prix contenders.

''It hasn't been good weather here,'' said Sauber engineer Giampaolo Dall'Ara, ''but we've been evaluating Jacques' driving style and he had more time to acclimatize.''

A day later, just eight cars remained on track, with McLaren's Alex Wurz the fastest. The Jerez action will resume Tuesday.

Trulli had eye surgery
(GMM -- Dec.6) Jarno Trulli had to have minor eye surgery last week.

The Italian missed two days of action at the bumper Jerez test following a visit to the doctor.

''(My eye) was hurting a lot,'' the new team driver said. ''They found a tiny piece of metal in it -- I must have picked it up while I was testing. (The specialist) managed to take it out alright.''

Trulli resumed running on Saturday.

Schu doesn't rule in France
(GMM -- Dec.6) Michael Schumacher may rule the roost at the pinnacle of motor sport, but he failed to become 'Champion of Champions' at the novel event inside Paris' Stade de France.

That crown went to Finnish junior Heikki Kovalainen, who also fended off World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb in the 'Race of Champions' final.

''To beat Schumacher in a Ferrari was really exciting,'' he said of the head-to-head showdown in rally, Ferrari Modena and 'dune buggy'-style cars.

23-year-old Kovalainen, of the Nissan World Series, also won contests against F1 veteran David Coulthard and former Ferrari racer Jean Alesi.

But French duo Loeb and Alesi won the 'Nation's Cup' in front of up to 55,000 countrymen.

Toyota 'stole' Ferrari data
(GMM -- Dec.6) Formula One team Toyota used stolen Ferrari data, Siegmar Raupach revealed.

He is a district attorney in Cologne and involved in the industrial espionage investigation of two former Ferrari - later Toyota - staff.

''We organized a new search (at Toyota HQ),'' Raupach told Gazzetta dello Sport, ''and (policemen) identified the (Ferrari) software in Toyota's current (wind tunnel) computers and software.''

He hinted that a 'short term' solution is unlikely, due to the sheer amount of data in question, but a Toyota statement said the outfit 'never' used the material stolen by accused 'individuals'.

Meanwhile, it was reported that one former aerodynamicist at the middle of the scandal - Angelo Santini - will plead not guilty.

Nick to drive again
(GMM -- Dec.6) 'Quick Nick' Heidfeld has won a second chance to stake a claim for Williams' second 2005 race seat.

''He will run again (this week),'' a team spokesman admitted.

Heidfeld, 27, was - prior to the vetoed test of Anthony Davidson - formerly scheduled to run at Jerez from 9 December.

Ralf quits sex-toy jaunt
(GMM -- Dec.6) Ralf Schumacher has scrapped a planned multi-million dollar investment in a Slovenian chain of sex-toy shops, it is reported.

The German F1 driver said the affair turned into a 'campaign' against him.

He told 'Bild' newspaper after German TV called his wife 'Hard-Cora': ''Being a role model is more important to me.''

Lebanon and motor sport
(GMM -- Dec.6) Lebanon has entered the world of international motor sport.

The country is the latest entrant of the novel 'A1 Grand Prix' winter championship.

''The whole world will see the strength, pride and determination of Lebanon and its people,'' said President General Emile Lahoud at the car unveiling in Beirut.

Mexico, Turkey, Korea and Holland - with former F1 driver Jan Lammers to run the latter entrant - were also named as involved in the Dubai-run 'World Cup' category.

Piquet to test BAR
(GMM -- Dec.6) Nelson Piquet Jr, teenage son of a world champion and the latest prince of British F3, will test for F1 team BAR at Jerez.

He did not win a run-out as part of the driver development program, but after a Brazilian faction of BAR owner British American Tobacco requested it, it is reported.

Piquet twice tested for BMW-Williams in 2004, and will race for the GP2 team that is part-funded by his father next year.

Ant's 'blanket ban'
(GMM -- Dec.6) BAR did not let Anthony Davidson test either a BMW-Williams or a Honda-powered F1 car last week.

The race-hopeful is definitely out of the running for the Grove-based seat next to Mark Webber in 2005, it is revealed.

But Davidson explained that, while the possibility of a Williams drive was still alive, BAR and Honda didn't want their secrets exposed so imposed a blanket ban on Ant's team involvement.

''I guess it's a backhanded compliment,'' a grudging Davidson - set to return to the track at Jerez this week - told Autosport.

GPWC target F1 venues
(GMM -- Dec.6) Spa, the Nurburgring, Hockenheim, Monza, Silverstone and Barcelona are targeted as possible destinations of the 'GPWC' alternate championship in 2008.

The 'breakaway' group of F1 carmakers (including Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes and Renault), made a 'presentation' to the aforesaid grand prix venues last week, but they are unlikely to be easily persuaded.

''(Bernie Ecclestone's influence) is going to be around ... for some time to come,'' a source told the British media.

BAR trio 'blown away'
(GMM -- Dec.6) A trio of young guns were blown away with the power and grip of a Formula One car.

Alan van der Merwe, James Rossiter and Adam Carroll - all in F3 - won the chance to impress BAR at a wet Jerez track as part of the team's young driver development program.

''My first run in the car was awesome,'' said van der Merwe. ''I thought I knew what to expect but I was quite taken aback really.''

Rossiter said the feeling of accelerating and braking in a grand prix car cannot 'be described.'

And Carroll just called the experience ''amazing. You hear people talk about the performance but to experience it for yourself is something else,'' he enthused.

Brief Bits 1
(GMM -- Dec.6) An Indian IT company - Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) - has joined Ferrari's elite group of F1 team partners. ''We only work with excellent companies,'' said Jean Todt, ''because that is what makes Ferrari what it is today.''


Dutch driver Robert Doornbos is in pole position to become F1's next racing rookie. The 23-year-old was selected to test the 'interim' Jordan at Jerez last week. ''I was the pivot on which (the test) hinged,'' he boasted.


McLaren's 'F1 CEO' Martin Whitmarsh praised the grand prix trials of former 'McLaren Autosport BRDC' award winners Jamie Green and Alex Lloyd - as well as McLaren protégé Lewis Hamilton - at Silverstone last week. ''We hope they will have benefited from the session,'' he said.

Di Resta to test McLaren
(GMM -- Dec.6) Paul di Resta will next year test a McLaren after winning the 'McLaren Autosport BRDC' young driver award on Sunday.

The Formula Renault-driving Scot received his prize - including a sizeable check - from countryman and former winner David Coulthard.

Di Resta's cousin is IRL regular and former F1 hopeful Dario Franchitti. ''I want to thank him,'' said Paul, ''for helping me all the way through.''

Zanardi on Letterman
(GMM -- Dec.6) Inspirational former F1 and Champ Car driver Alex Zanardi last week appeared on popular American talk show 'Late Show With David Letterman.'

The Italian, who in 2001 lost both legs after an horror oval shunt at Germany's Lausitz venue, is touring the 'States to promote new book 'My Sweetest Victory.'

Zanardi joked with Letterman - a team co-owner in the IRL championship - about the benefit of having a prosthetic leg or two.

''You save a fortune on socks,' he smiled, 'and you can do ... 'this'.' 38-year-old Zanardi spun his left leg through 180-degrees and joked that he could use the bottom of his shoe as a coffee table.

'I've seen R25' - Alonso
(GMM -- Dec.6) Renault's 2005 car will get going in 'late January,' top team driver Fernando Alonso said.

The Spaniard, who after a four week holiday visited Enstone HQ for a seat fitting last week, is scheduled to return to the test track after Christmas.

''I'll be preparing myself for the (new) R25,'' he commented. ''I'm excited about it and have seen it in the wind tunnel.''

Alonso hinted that Renault may have lost second to BAR in the 2004 constructors' chase because it started working on the R25 'very early.

He commented: ''We expect our choice to pay off next season.''

Schu should go for 'ten'
(GMM -- Dec.6) Michael Schumacher should prolong retirement for a year and go for a 'perfect ten,' according to friend and Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn.

The burly Briton told UK publication 'People' that an unbeatable tally of ten drivers' championships would be 'the icing on the cake.'

But Schumacher, 36 in January, is only contracted at Ferrari to the end of 2006, making nine titles the maximum possible.

Brawn said: ''(Michael) will wake up one day and know that he has had enough. We'll accept that. It won't be too hard to fill his place -- we'd be able to choose. Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso would be the drivers we'd look at.''

BMW back Heidfeld
(GMM -- Dec.6) German driver Nick Heidfeld has won the backing of Williams' engine supplier, BMW.

BMW motor sport director Dr Mario Theissen praised the 27-year-old countryman - who is favored for Marc Gene's vacated testing role in 2005 - after he drove an FW26 at Jerez last week.

''He is young, fast and experienced,'' said Theissen, ''and great when it comes to developing the car.''

Brief Bits 2
(GMM -- Dec.6) Cologne-based Toyota is even more 'German' than the BMW-powered WilliamsF1 collaboration, according to Ralf Schumacher. ''It's making my life easier (than at Williams between 2000-2004),'' he told Autosport. ''We speak English in meetings but in normal conversation we speak in German.''


Jenson Button has claimed he is one of the best F1 drivers at overtaking. ''In fact I'd regard myself as the best,'' he told UK newspaper The Guardian. ''If I've got the right equipment, there's no one better than me.''


A Ferrari F2004, driven - despite the rain - by test driver Andrea Bertolini, was a star attraction at the Bologna (Italy) motor show on the weekend.

Friday is Brit GP 'deadline'
(GMM -- Dec.6) The fate of the British grand prix will have top billing as Bernie Ecclestone sits down with the ten Formula One principals on Monday.

The F1 supremo will have to 'explain why he has not signed a contract' to stage a race at historic grand prix circuit Silverstone next year, according to UK newspaper The Times.

''The row over the British (GP) stopped being about money months ago,'' the article - citing a wider political game and power struggle - speculated.

It is reported that the Silverstone-owning BRDC offered Ecclestone a compromise, 'but Ecclestone has not responded.'

The British grand prix' final deadline is Friday, when the World Motor Sport Council meets to ratify the 2005 F1 calendar.

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