F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
December 13, 2004

Renault confirm launch
(GMM -- Dec.13) As predicted last month, F1 team Renault will officially launch the 2005-spec R5 car in Monte-Carlo.

A statement said the presentation would take place on 1 February, but once again not in France, because of the country's anti-tobacco advertising law.

It'll be the third time on the trot that French-owned - but Japan Tobacco-backed - Renault had to launch elsewhere.

Dupasquier successor named
(GMM -- Dec.13) F1 tire supplier Michelin has named the retiring Pierre Dupasquier's 2006 successor.

Another Frenchman and current deputy director, Frederic Henry-Biabaud, is to take over as director of motor sport.

A statement said the move would ensure 'maximum levels of continuity and efficiency.'

Michelin also recently announced that F1 project manager Pascal Vasselon was on the move. Nick Shorrock, a Briton, is taking over from January 2005, with Dr. Patrick Cohen to be technical manager.

''I'm happy to see we are putting teams into place ... to whom I can pass the torch,'' said 67-year-old Dupasquier.

Hopeful Heidfeld
(GMM -- Dec.13) Kimi Raikkonen maintained the silver trend at Jerez by making his McLaren fastest on the final proper test day of 2004.

A day later, Saturday, Nick Heidfeld topped a wet Michelin tire test at the Spanish location.

The German, vying for a seat at Williams next season, also lapped impressively in the dry on Friday, only missing Kimi's top spot by half a second.

But Heidfeld was a good few tenths faster than Antonio Pizzonia, his only rival for a Grove pay-check, in the widely reported 'shoot out.'

Technical director Sam Michael admitted that choosing one over the other will not be an 'easy decision.

''They are both very good and very fast,'' said the Australian.

19-grand prix 'challenge'
(GMM -- Dec.13) An unprecedented nineteen grands prix will be held in 2005, the governing FIA announced after a World Council meeting last Friday.

The schedule, to include formerly endangered event Silverstone and also a new one in Turkey (21 August), will also boast a colossal eight races in a ten-week period, and four in July.

Imola returns to an Easter date, Canada and Indy are back-to-back, and the championship will draw to a close after a Chinese season-finale in mid-October.

A three-week break will provide some R&R in April, and again - with a test ban - in August.

Cash-strapped Jordan's official website said F1 teams' logistic teams will already be 'working on the challenge' of a very long schedule.

'No decision yet' - F1 team
(GMM -- Dec.13) F1 team Williams have denied that a decision on who will be Mark Webber's 2005 team-mate is already made.

A spokesman admitted that last week's Jerez test - including a reported head-to-head 'shootout' between candidates Nick Heidfeld and Antonio Pizzonia - had provided 'invaluable information to assist with the (selection) process.'

But he insisted: ''No decision has been taken as yet.''

Technical director Sam Michael agreed with the assessment that 27-year-old Heidfeld, favored by German engine partner BMW and a former Jordan racer, did a 'good job' on a dry and wet track.

''Nick did a good job,'' BMW motor sport director Mario Theissen concurred.

Ralf's first smoke
(GMM -- Dec.13) Ralf Schumacher discovered the sight and sound of a Toyota engine failure last week at Jerez.

The German has switched to the Cologne-based Formula One team after six years at BMW-powered Williams.

Of the V10 blow, 29-year-old Ralf commented: ''It didn't really harm our program because (the engine) was at the end of its life anyway.

''Apart from that it's been a trouble free week.''

Toyota will stage a team Christmas Party in Germany at the end of next week.

Ant's stiff neck
(GMM -- Dec.13) A tired Anthony Davidson woke on Friday morning with a stiff neck.

The Englishman had been blocked from testing either for BAR or Williams since the end-of-season Brazilian grand prix so was a bit out of shape when he finally hit the Jerez track.

''It's been a tough test physically,'' the 25-year-old admitted, ''but I kept up my training during the past seven week period.''

Meanwhile, fellow BAR test driver Enrique Bernoldi headed to the Idiada track on Friday to start a three-day aero and chassis test in an 006.

Silverstone layout to change
(GMM -- Dec.13) Historic grand prix track Silverstone may feature a revised layout after it is redeveloped prior to 2009.

But the circuit owning British Racing Drivers' Club chief executive, Alex Hooton, admitted that changing too much is a risk.

''We've got to be careful,'' he told the BBC, ''because we don't want to lose the individuality of Silverstone.''

Current facilities aside, the Brit GP venue is regarded as featuring one of the fastest and best circuit layouts on the modern Formula One calendar.

Bahrain is 'best' GP
(GMM -- Dec.13) Bahrain organized the best grand prix in 2004.

That was the finding of the governing FIA at the official Award Ceremony in Monaco at the weekend.

Philippe Gurdjian, also of the Paul Ricard test track in southern France, oversaw the completion of the inaugural F1 circuit in the Sakhir desert.

''It was a quite difficult task,'' he said in a statement. ''I am very happy to see the ... Circuit receive the special FOM Prize.''

F1 regs penned 'for Ferrari'
(GMM -- Dec.13) Ferrari will run away with yet another world championship next year, Minardi principal Paul Stoddart said.

''They'll dominate again,'' the Australian sighed, ''because the new regulations have been written for them.''

Stoddart is critical of Ferrari's reluctance to embrace the cost cutting proposals - in particular to reduce testing - of the other nine F1 teams.

He told UK newspaper News of the World that the Maranello team's 'perpetual' dominance 'cannot be good' for the sport.

''(Ferrari) should not be holding out against changes ... just because (they) might not do anything for them. They have to think about the future of Formula One, too,'' Paul said.

Webber and Sydney Bridge
(GMM -- Dec.13) Mark Webber, at more than 200 km/h, speeding across the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge in a Formula One car ...

It may happen - according to Australian media reports - a week prior to the 2005 season opener in New South Wales' rival southern state Victoria.

The NSW government is considering whether to close part of the bridge on February 27 in a preamble to a similar street demonstration in Melbourne a few days' later.

'BMW Australia' made the approach.

London GP 'is on'
(GMM -- Dec.13) A street grand prix in London is on -- if mayor Ken Livingstone can find the cash.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone told UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph that he would sign a deal 'today.

''It could happily run alongside a British grand prix at Silverstone,'' said the 74-year-old chief of Formula One Management. ''It is (just a matter of) finding the money to put it on.''

Livingstone, it is reported, has found the approval of the police and the Westminster Council for a 2006 starting race.

Get set for more reform - FIA
(GMM -- Dec.13) The FIA cancelled last week's scheduled meeting of the F1 Commission because it was still preparing a fresh wave of 'cost cutting' reform.

FIA president Max Mosley called the current situation a 'crisis' and set a date (January 28) for a crunch bosses' meeting.

He told UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph: ''If we don't do something ... we won't get 10 entries (on the grid in 2006).

''We must ... urgently look at (reducing) costs.''

At the FIA Award ceremony in Monaco, Max also predicted that - one year on - Michael Schumacher and Ferrari will be back for yet another drivers' and constructors' F1 title.

F1 calendar is 'too long'
(GMM -- Dec.13) McLaren designer Adrian Newey is concerned that a nineteen grand prix calendar is unfair on already hard-working F1 staff.

He said six back-to-back events in 2005, and four GP's in the month of July, will leave mechanics and other personnel away from family, wives and children for weeks on end.

''Some of our guys are already saying, 'where does this leave us?'' he told UK newspaper The Guardian.

FIA president Max Mosley, at the Award Gala event in Monaco, admitted that an unprecedented nineteen races may turn out to be 'too many,' and did not rule out a shorter schedule in 2006.

''But F1's success dictates it,'' he insisted.

Hakk to join McLaren - report
(GMM -- Dec.13) Former double world champion Mika Hakkinen may return to a F1 car as early as January, it is reported.

The once retired Finn, to race full time for Mercedes-Benz in the DTM in 2005, is rumored to also be on the way to a 'third' driving role at F1 team McLaren.

Website grandprix.com said 36-year-old Hakkinen would test the MP4-20 and then stand-in if Juan Pablo Montoya or Kimi Raikkonen are unable to compete.

''We ... expect to see Hakkinen join the team ... when testing resumes,'' said the authoritative online publication.

Rubinho slams 2005-spec car
(GMM -- Dec.13) Next year's F1 car will be 'more dangerous' than a faster 2004 version, according to Rubens Barrichello.

The Ferrari driver tested an interim '05-spec car - producing less downforce and tyre grip than the 2004 version - for the first time at Jerez last week.

''I was a bit shocked,'' said the Brazilian. ''It's much more nervous, harder to drive, (has) much less grip, and I really don't know how you are going to overtake with it.''

He added: ''For sure, it's going to be a laugh on a dirty track -- cars spinning everywhere!''

McLaren and 'West' to split
(GMM -- Dec.13) It's believed that McLaren have signed a lucrative new sponsorship deal -- with whiskey label Johnnie Walker.

As exclusively revealed in October, the Diageo-owned alcohol brand negotiated with Ron Dennis' Woking-based team and also BAR.

It is now reported in the UK media that a $68 million deal could see the new-to-F1 brand take over as McLaren's title sponsor from 2005.

Tobacco giant Reemtsma's agreement to promote cigarette brand 'West' as title sponsor runs out in mid-2005, according to one newspaper, and will be unlikely - given an imminent Europe-wide tobacco-ad ban - to renew.

''(F1) is only one of the activities we would consider,'' a Diageo spokesperson told Sunday Herald.

Santa at Fiorano
(GMM -- Dec.13) Father Christmas made a special trip to Maranello (Italy) at the weekend.

He, along with Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, attended Ferrari's annual staff Christmas Party near the Fiorano track.

Later, the drivers - along with F1 principal Jean Todt - attended the Italian magazine Autosprint's Golden Helmet awards.

''People are ready,'' said Montezemolo at the Ferrari lunch, ''pens poised, to write a headline saying, 'Ferrari is beaten'. We do not want this headline to appear.''

'We'll keep winning' - Schu
(GMM -- Dec.13) World champion Michael Schumacher reckons Ferrari can keep on winning despite a major regulation overhaul next season.

The Ferrari driver told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport that team rivals will need more than a rule change to 'get closer to us.'

35-year-old Schumacher added at the Bologna motor show: ''Ferrari's advantage lies in working better ... in any condition. Therefore, I'm not worried.''

Now a seven time drivers' champion, German-born Michael will return to the wheel of a scarlet (F2004) grand prix car on January 18, at Fiorano.

GPWC framework 'close'
(GMM -- Dec.13) The 'legal framework' of the carmakers' alternate F1-like championship is about to be signed.

UK newspaper The Independent said the fed-up-with-with-Bernie 'GPWC' group - made up of Ferrari, Renault, BMW and Mercedes-Benz - will sign the crucial agreements next month.

''We are close,'' a source - denying that the recent High Court case involving Mr. Ecclestone had accelerated their plan - told the publication.

The paper also said Honda - and therefore probably Japanese rival Toyota - might soon join GPWC. ''We are keeping an eye on the situation,'' said a spokesman.

Schu on karting panel
(GMM -- Dec.13) F1 pacesetter Michael Schumacher will front an 'advisory group' that will liaise with the international world of go-karting.

The information was confirmed after Friday's meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Monaco.

Meanwhile, French GP chief Jacques Regis was given a job helping to restructure the World Rally championship. He will 'prepare a plan for the next five years' and present it at the next WC.

Rookies may 'share' F1 seat
(GMM -- Dec.13) Vitantonio Liuzzi and Christian Klien may 'share' the second Red Bull car alongside David Coulthard in Formula One next year.

Team owner Dietrich Mateschitz said the idea is 'conceivable' and a decision either way will be made this week.

But he also hinted to Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung that the Coulthard-signing is not a foregone conclusion.

''In terms of marketing,'' he said, ''(two youngsters) would be best. (But) maybe having an experienced driver is more intelligent.''

F3000 champion Liuzzi coughed at the seat-sharing suggestion. ''I think it would be counterproductive,'' the Italian told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

He added: ''I'm (also) considering other options -- there are still seats available at Williams and Jordan.''

Subaru sign Sarrazin
(GMM -- Dec.13) F1-turned-Rally driver Stephane Sarrazin has won a works Subaru drive in the World Rally championship next year.

The former one-off (for Minardi) GP star caused a stir in 2004 when he placed ninth in Germany, sixth in Corsica and fourth in Catalunya.

Subaru is the top team in the FIA championship.

''The intention,'' said principal David Lapworth, ''is to find a future world champion.''

Meanwhile, FIA president Max Mosley said 'Brilliance' - a Chinese carmaker - will race in the inaugural FIA World Touring Car Championship next year.

Wins 'won't be enough' - MW
(GMM -- Dec.13) Mark Webber has been told that one or two trips to the top step of the Formula One podium in 2005 'won't be enough.'

The 28-year-old Australian driver - whose best finish in F1 is a fifth - said he'd sat down with Williams' veteran engineer and co-owner Patrick Head to hear his orders.

''So there's pressure there,'' Webber told Autosport magazine, ''but it's good pressure.''

The former Minardi and Jaguar man also tried to explain why he'd been so vocal about wanting to share a Grove-built car with Jenson Button next year.

''I've never had a team-mate,'' said Mark, who verbally lashed 2005 candidate and former Jaguar cohort Antonio Pizzonia last week, ''who's really pushed me week in, week out.''

Renault to 'lose time'
(GMM -- Dec.13) Renault may not be so quick off the F1 start line next year, it is reported.

Autosport magazine said the FIA has altered the technical rulebook to minimise the effect of superior engineering during a so-called 'manual' clutch start.

Renault's R24 featured a 'lever' clutch that allowed its drivers to 'lock-in' the ideal bite point. It'll be banned in 2005.

''Hopefully we won't lose that much time,'' a source close to Renault told the UK publication.

Red Bull wanted 'Ant'
(GMM -- Dec.13) Even with the solid interest of three F1 teams, Anthony Davidson will have to wait out one more 'silly season' for another shot at the grand prix grid.

The BAR test driver admitted that both Red Bull and Williams were after him for 2005.

''(But) BAR and Honda wanted me so badly that they were not prepared to just let me go somewhere else,'' 25-year-old 'Ant' told his official website.

Davidson said that if BAR don't offer him a racing role in 2006, he's free to go elsewhere.

Brief Bits - Dec.13
(GMM -- Dec.13) The popular 'Race of Champions' will again be held inside Paris' Stade de France next year, we can reveal.


Following Honda and Ferrari's reluctance to sign up to a 24-day test limit in 2005, F1 teams have proposed a compromise of a maximum ten three-day tests (30 days). The matter will be discussed at the next bosses' meeting in January.

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