F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
December 15, 2004

'F1 team for sale'
(GMM -- Dec.15) F1 team BAR is for sale.

But the 'Businesses For Sale' listing on the Financial Times' international website is only procedural, a spokesman for current owner BAT insisted.

Administrators will sell 'BAR GP Limited' back to British American Tobacco, so that forty five per cent can then be sold to Japanese engine partner Honda.

''Established highly successful Formula One motor racing team,'' the listing descriptor read.

Administration was sought following minority shareholder Craig Pollock's refusal to relinquish his three per cent slice and (unsuccessful) High Court challenge.

McLaren deny West split
(GMM -- Dec.15) A McLaren spokesperson denied that the F1 team would kick off season 2005 without long time title sponsor West.

''(The cigarette brand) will be on our car for the Australian grand prix,'' she said.

It was earlier reported that, with a Europe-wide tobacco advertising ban to strike mid-year, beverage giant Diageo - with whiskey label Johnnie Walker and $70 million in mind - was likely to replace Imperial Tobacco in late July.

But, for continuity, speculation said McLaren and Imperial's West brand - which is known to have 'renegotiated' the F1 deal for the latter half of 2005 - may want to split immediately.

McLaren's 'optimized' cockpit
(GMM -- Dec.15) At Woking, cockpit designers are trying to squeeze 'third' driver Alex Wurz into a later phase of the new McLaren MP4-20's production.

The 1.82 centimeter tall Austrian - seven and fourteen cm's bigger than Kimi Raikkonen and new team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya - does not fit into the 2005 launch model car.

''I can continue in the MP4-19B for now,'' he explained, ''and I hope I'll fit into the MP4-20 if they are able to build a car for the test team with more space in the cockpit -- but it's not certain at the moment that will be the case.''

A team spokeswoman, meanwhile, admitted that the lack of room for Wurz was no design accident. ''(McLaren) decided to optimize the chassis ... around the race drivers.''

McLaren may lose Mobil
(GMM -- Dec.15) A likely new title sponsor for McLaren aside, a few (million) dollars may slide out of Ron Dennis' office at the end of 2005.

Whilst exploring the end-of-year departure of tobacco sponsor Imperial (West) and probable arrival of beverage brand Diageo (Johnnie Walker), it was revealed that ExxonMobil - through the Mobil 1 brand - may not renew a long term deal.

Moreover, it is believed that during 2004 Mercedes-powered McLaren staged talks with Samsung and Sinopec - even Ferrari backer Vodafone - to no avail.

Schu doesn't score
(GMM -- Dec.15) World champion Michael Schumacher failed to score a goal at Madrid's Santiago Bernie (Spain) soccer stadium - recently evacuated after a bomb scare - on Tuesday night.

The UN-sponsored 'Match against Poverty' featured Real Madrid stars Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane -- which made the amateur F1-driving German, although proficient, a bit 'self conscious.

''But it's for a good cause,'' the 35-year-old told his website. ''I hope (the crowd of 65,000) kept in mind that I'm a racing driver and not a soccer player ... ''

England's David Beckham also played, and eight goals in total - including a penalty taken by retiring rally legend Carlos Sainz - were scored.

Ferrari house to be museum
(GMM -- Dec.15) The birthplace of Enzo Ferrari will become a museum, media reports said on Tuesday.

Fiat and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo is to chair a committee on Thursday to determine which (of eight) projects will be selected to best signify the life of the scarlet marque's founder at via Paulo Ferrari 85.

The great Italian, Ferrari, died in August 1988, aged 90.

2005 will be 'slippery'
(GMM -- Dec.15) A 2005-spec car 'slides -- a lot.'

That is the appraisal of Renault's full time test driver Franck Montagny, who tried an 'interim' 2004/5 blue-and-yellow R24 at Jerez last week.

The Frenchman said: ''What's it like to drive? Slippery!''

Montagny said the new aerodynamic code, offering less grip in a FIA-inspired bid to slow cornering speed, is 'really noticed' in medium speed corners. ''The rear also slides more,'' he added, ''which can be fun for the driver -- but it really slows you down.''

Meanwhile, the new one-tire-for-qualifying-and-the-race rule will mean that the clear-cut task of driving 'flat out all the time' during grands prix is no more, Franck said.

Minardi lecture
(GMM -- Dec.15) F1 team founder Gian Carlo Minardi gave a lecture to students at Milan's Bocconi University last Saturday.

The Italian - along with technical director Gabriele Tredozi and financial director Stefano Sangiorgi - lectured an Economics class as part of a student's final thesis -- about the organization of the Faenza-based team.

''(They) provided a thorough overview of the business of running a motor racing team at the very highest level,'' read a statement, adding that the lecture's transcript may be sent to other universities as course material.

Gian Carlo Minardi commented: '''I hope we imparted some of the personal passion that helps to keep Minardi moving forward.''

McLaren to run 'third' car
(GMM -- Dec.15) McLaren - a 'bottom six' Formula One team in 2004 - plan to run a 'third' car in Friday grand prix practice next year.

A team spokeswoman denied that pressure to leave the smaller teams to exclusively enjoy the advantage had influenced a decision.

''The FIA regulations allow us (to run a spare car),'' she said, ''so where it will be to our advantage, we plan to do so.''

Earlier, we reported that the F1 Commission may consider proposing a rule to disallow former constructors' champions, like McLaren and Williams - irrespective of an 'off' season - from taking advantage of the ruling.

But Frank Williams admitted that an eligible top F1 team would 'be mad' to vote for the amendment.

Malaysia's next F1 star
(GMM -- Dec.15) Roduwan Rashid. He may become the second Malaysian driver to ever race at the pinnacle of motor sport.

The 27-year-old won a Formula BMW test for taking home former Minardi pilot Alex Yoong's first 'F1 Search' title.

A field of ten, at the wheel of go-karts, fought it out in a shoot out-style race last Sunday. Rashid dropped to last in the first corner but took the win at the end after two former leaders spun.

''Two other competitors from the grand final (will also be selected to test the Formula BMW car),'' a statement posted at alexyoong.com said.

Brit GP ticket offer
(GMM -- Dec.15) Silverstone is offering a 'three days for the price of one' ticket deal for the salvaged 2005 British grand prix.

A spokesman said that if tickets are booked before 1 February 2005, a three day general (adult) ticket can be bought from as little as 95 (UK) pounds.

''That's a saving of 100 for a family of two adults and two children purchasing Bronze level tickets before the booking deadline,'' he explained.

In 2004, the Silverstone event - with 100,000 in attendance -- was sold out. A 'Gold 4' seat - in a prime location - is priced at around $430.

DC deal 'could go wrong'
(GMM -- Dec.15) David Coulthard and Red Bull is a 'done deal' -- according to some F1 headlines.

But managing director David Pitchforth, in defiance of team owner Dietrich Mateschitz's quoted optimism, said an agreement with the veteran Scot could still 'go wrong.

He said: ''I've got to say it's 50-50 -- it could still go either way.''

Pitchforth did, though, reveal that negotiations with 33-year-old DC and manager Martin Brundle had reached the point of putting together a contract, and said all driver-evaluation testing was at an end.

''As far back as the Jaguar days we were talking to David,'' he admitted.

''It needs to go through all the right procedures, such as lawyers, now.''

2005 car is 'fun' - Davidson
(GMM -- Dec.15) BAR test driver Anthony Davidson agrees that driving a 2005-spec Formula One car is 'fun.'

Earlier, Renault counterpart Franck Montagny said a reduced downforce, single-tired grand prix machine ''slides -- a lot. (That) can be fun for the driver.''

It also requires a totally different style of driving, English-born Davidson, 25, told Autosport magazine. ''If you go hard right away,'' he said, ''you can really mess up.''

'Ant' added: ''You have to think about saving the tires all the time (now).''

Montagny - 'I can't wait'
(GMM -- Dec.15) Renault is 'quietly confident' about the upcoming 2005 season, French test driver Franck Montagny revealed.

He'll pop in at Enstone HQ on Wednesday to check-up on wind tunnel progress with the unlaunched R25 car.

French-owned Renault finished third - behind BAR-Honda (second) and Ferrari - in the '04 constructors' world championship.

''I haven't seen the R25 yet,'' Franck said in an interview, ''but I can't wait.''

Montagny, who attended every grand prix in 2004 and tested in Europe in-between, holidayed in Morocco after the Brazilian grand prix, before completing twelve days at the pre-Christmas Spanish tests.

Bull's budget 'to increase'
(GMM -- Dec.15) Red Bull's F1 budget will increase beyond 2006, managing director David Pitchforth revealed.

The Milton Keynes-based chief, though, said the coffers for next year - despite flush new ownership - is 'basically similar' to previous Ford-backed ones (estimated at around $120 million).

He explained: ''I want to make sure we build properly. But Red Bull are committed to doing a good job in F1 and ... eventually being in there ... for wins.''

Teams that won grands prix in 2004 (Ferrari, Renault, McLaren and BMW-Williams), all have an annual budget in excess of $380 million, but Toyota spends most.

Pitchforth admitted: ''So we're going to have to (eventually) increase the budget.''

From F1 to MC12
(GMM -- Dec.15) With F1 testing in sojourn, Ferrari-Maserati group factory driver Andrea Bertolini returned to the wheel of a more familiar sports car.

The Italian, alongside Finn and former Ferrari and Toyota racer Mika Salo, moved with the Maserati MC12 program to Estoril (Portugal), where they - with Fabio Babini - lapped a collective 186 times.

''The test will continue tomorrow (Wednesday),'' said the press officer.

Ferrari 'fixed' F1 flaw
(GMM -- Dec.15) Ferrari 'fixed' a lingering car design weakness in 2004, Rory Byrne revealed.

The South-African chief designer, who's retiring at the end of 2006, said in a recent interview that the scarlet team lived with the problem throughout last season.

''We definitely fixed it for this year though,'' he insisted.

Asked by the interviewer for more information, though, Rory continued: ''I'm not prepared to say,'' but he did admit that F2003-GA's cooling was 'one weakness' that compelled a major aerodynamic compromise.

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