F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
December 14, 2004

Wurz role in doubt
(GMM -- Dec.13) Alex Wurz's plan to tear up the test track this year and earn the affection of a F1 race employer appears to be in jeopardy.

The tall Austrian does not fit in the 2005-spec McLaren MP4-20.

He faced the same problem a year ago, but cockpit technicians at Woking ultimately managed to shoe-horn Wurz, 30, into the '04 model.

''(MP4-20) just has a smaller cockpit (than the 2004 monocoque),'' said a source, ''so we fear that Alex will never be really comfortable (in it).''

It's believed that Alex was in the running for a 2005 seat at countryman Dieter Mateschitz's Red Bull team, but McLaren - with another year on the Wurz deal - stopped the Austrian from leaving.

Speculation, then, is that Ron Dennis' squad will somehow devise a solution to the Alex-doesn't-fit predicament.

Brit GP on sale
(GMM -- Dec.13) Tickets will soon go on sale for next July's salvaged British grand prix.

Organizers successfully negotiated a deal with Bernie Ecclestone to stage a race at Silverstone until 2009, and also to delay next year's provisional GP date for a week to avert a clash with the Wimbledon tennis final.

Race-goers can buy a ticket - starting, if you get in early, at about $180 for a three day general pass - from Thursday.

DC's a 'done deal' - Red Bull
(GMM -- Dec.13) It's all-but-official -- Scottish veteran David Coulthard will race for F1 team Red Bull in 2005.

On Monday, both team owner Dietrich Mateschitz and (separately) managing director David Pitchforth admitted it was best to plump for the experienced former McLaren man.

''Coulthard is a done deal,'' the Austrian billionaire, Mateschitz, told Kronen Zeitung. ''If we were (only) considering him for a test driver role, we wouldn't have even tested him.''

Pitchforth said hiring a 13-grand prix winner was a 'no brainer.

''Most likely, yes (DC will be signed),'' he admitted after Coulthard outpaced team-mate rivals Christian Klien and Tonio Liuzzi at last week's Jerez test.

The 33-year-old driver traveled from Spain to the former Jaguar HQ at Milton-Keynes on Monday for a technical debrief, it is also reported.

Schu up for soccer game
(GMM -- Dec.14) F1 world champion Michael Schumacher is up for a kick of the soccer ball on Tuesday evening.

The charity 'Game against Poverty' will be hosted by Spanish club Real Madrid despite a bomb scare at the venue on Sunday.

Star players Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane are fronting the game, to fund United Nations development projects, and will play on opposing sides.

Honda vow to wow Button
(GMM -- Dec.14) Japanese engine maker Honda has vowed to make Jenson Button world champion by 2008.

The English driver tried to ditch Honda-powered BAR for BMW-Williams ahead of the next campaign, but a watertight contract ultimately left him trapped at Brackley.

But 25-year-old JB's deal expires for real at the end of 2005.

''It is our job,'' said Honda Racing president Shoichi Tanaka, ''to prove to (Jenson) that we are capable of challenging the top teams again.''

BAR finished second - ahead of Renault, Williams and McLaren - to Ferrari in the '04 constructors' championship.

Tanaka told publication The People: ''Jenson wants to race for the best team he can. If we can prove we are faster than Williams I'm sure he'll stay.''

Button beaten
(GMM -- Dec.14) Former GP winner Johnny Herbert raced in his tenth annual 'karting challenge for charity' at a track near London on the weekend.

But, despite the confrontation with Jenson Button, Allan McNish and Robbie Kerr, they all missed out on spoils to a women's team.

Pitlane pundit Louise Goodman, McLaren Autosport BRDC nominee Susie Stoddart, JB's fiancÚ Louise Griffith and his PA Jules Kulpinski (known as 'Penelope Pitstops') tore up the track.

''Jenson wasn't thrilled to have both me and his girlfriend looking down at him from the top step of the podium,'' Goodman smilingly told broadcaster ITV's website.

Herbert donated all cash raised to National Kidney Research.

BAR gearbox banned
(GMM -- Dec.14) Yet another clever BAR innovation has had to bite the dirt.

In October, the Brackley-based team won an award for its fully integrated carbon fiber gearbox.

But the planned 2005 unit, which would have allowed a driver to change gear without losing any engine drive, will now have to be either modified or scrapped altogether.

To prevent such a design, the Technical Working Group said a definite gap (at least 200-300 milliseconds) must separate gear changes from 2005.

Montoya to 'control' pace
(GMM -- Dec.14) The fastest driver in 2005 will not necessarily be the quickest-on-one-lap, according to Juan Pablo Montoya.

McLaren's Colombian recruit reckons new long-life tire regulations mean that drivers need to learn how to 'control the pace.'

He told Autosport of the compromise between lap time and tire wear: ''Whoever does the best job ... will have the best pace.''

Meanwhile, in the same UK publication, Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello said he was looking forward to seeing how his feisty friend and fellow South American will fit-in with Ron Dennis' methodological ways.

''It should be funny to watch,'' the Brazilian laughed.

'I want more' - Quick Nick
(GMM -- Dec.14) Nick Heidfeld has easily adapted to nearly a hundred extra horse power.

The German, vying for Williams' spare spot, tasted at Jerez - for the first time - more than 900 bhp in the form of the current BMW engine.

In 2004, Heidfeld's Cosworth V10 - in the Jordan - produced in the region of 850 horse power.

''The engine is so powerful,'' he remarked after the final 'wet' Michelin session at the weekend, ''but the car is easy to drive. ''When you get used to (the extra power), you just want more.''

Meanwhile, it is suggested that Heidfeld has definitely signed a provisional Williams contract to cover 2005 duties. A source said he wouldn't have been asked to conduct top secret wet tire testing if there was a chance he might go elsewhere next year.

Fiorano for 'fun'
(GMM -- Dec.14) Fiorano stood for 'fun' rather than 'fast Ferrari' at Ferrari's Christmas Party for employees' children.

The F1 test track welcomed the famous Ambra Orfei circus, who put on an 'opera on ice' show.

Santa later gave out Christmas gifts, in the presence of Fiat president Luca di Montezemolo, MD Jean Todt and Michael Schumacher.

Meanwhile, it is reported that ex-F1 driver Max Papis is engaged to a famous name -- FiancÚ Tatiana's father is former world champion Emerson Fittipaldi.

Schu can quit Ferrari - Brawn
(GMM -- Dec.14) Michael Schumacher can retire at any moment, friend and Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn said.

The 35-year-old German driver's contract does not expire until the end of 2006, but RB said the Maranello-based team - with whom Schumacher has achieved so much - will not hold him to it.

''It's only a piece of paper,'' he told UK publication People. ''We wouldn't get in (Michael's) way if he's had enough.''

English-born Brawn denied he is dreading the inevitable 'I'm-calling-it-a-day' phone call from Schumacher, who will turn thirty six next month.

''He's done so much for Ferrari,'' Ross Brawn explained, ''but it would be a shame for him not to be in F1 any more.''

Champ Car's Euro TV deal
(GMM -- Dec.14) Are you a European-based fan of open-wheeler Champ Car racing? If so, here's a slice of good news ...

Free-to-air TV broadcaster Eurosport has won a deal to televise the American category live throughout next year. In 2004, most of mainland Europe had no coverage at all.

''This is a major step forward for Champ Car,'' said CEO Dick Eidswick.

Meanwhile, it is reported that Champ Car's owner has sacked members of top management, including competition director Chris Kneifel, race control's Derek Higgins, marketing man Tom Moser, communications' Wendy Gabers and technical director Lee Dykstra.

Red Bull not rolling in it
(GMM -- Dec.14) Red Bull would like to 'stay in the fight' with top midfield teams Sauber and Toyota next season.

Formerly Jaguar, the Dietrich Mateschitz-owned squad was bought from carmaker Ford in mid November.

Continuing managing director David Pitchforth admitted that, in the sale melee, Milton-Keynes' HQ fell behind in car development.

''I want to build the team as far as getting key positions filled,'' he said on Monday, admitting that hiring David Coulthard would help to make Red Bull more attractive to potential staff.

Pitchforth also said the 2005 budget would be similar to previous Jaguar ones. ''I don't want anyone to think we're flush with money,'' he insisted.

McLaren snap up star
(GMM -- Dec.14) Woking-based F1 team McLaren has snapped up a likely star of the future.

F3 ace Jamie Green, a Briton - who recently tested a MP4-19B as a prize for winning the (2002) McLaren Autosport BRDC award - will race a Mercedes-Benz in the DTM touring car championship next year.

It is now reported that the 22-year-old this week signed a long term McLaren contract.

Brief Bits - Dec.14
(GMM -- Dec.14) David Coulthard will not 'drive for free' in 2005, according to Red Bull MD David Pitchforth. Earlier, the veteran Scot had pledged his talent (particularly to Williams) on a cash-for-points basis. ''I don't expect anybody who works for me to do it for nothing,'' said DP.


Honda bought a 45 per cent chunk of F1 team BAR to demonstrate a long term commitment to the championship. Racing president Shoichi Tanaka told UK publication People: ''People might have thought, as an engine supplier only, (that) we can just up and leave.'' The Japanese also said Honda has made an even bigger step forward for 2005 than it did prior to this year.


Williams' spare seat could go either way, according to contender Nick Heidfeld. The German said he and Antonio Pizzonia appear to have an 'equal chance.' In another interview, he told Autosport: ''The tests did not make me nervous -- not even a small bit, because I believe in my talent. Now I'm just going to go and wait next to the phone.''

Alonso 'matured' in '04
(GMM -- Dec.14) Fernando Alonso says he 'matured' as a driver in 2004.

The Spanish ace did not - like in 2003 - add a win to his tally this season, but he nonetheless insists it was an all-round 'stronger' year than last.

23-year-old Alonso scored four podium finishes in the championship, and reckons three more went begging this year due to 'reliability' dramas.

''Renault moved up another level (in 2004),'' he said in an interview, ''and so did I. 'I have the feeling I put in a more complete performance.''

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