F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
December 16, 2004
Minardi's Merry wish
(GMM -- Dec.16) Smallest team Minardi endeared itself to the F1 print
media on Wednesday when it sent out by fax and email a Merry Christmas
('Buon Natale') card.
A picture of a speeding Xmas tree - and the signatures of Paul
Stoddart, Gianmaria Bruni, Zsolt Baumgartner and Gian Carlo Minardi -
carried the message 'Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuova ('and Happy New
'F1 viewership in decline'
(GMM -- Dec.16) Less people tuned-in to Formula One in 2004, a
UK-based marketing communication agency has found.
'Initiative' said despite the increase in grands prix from 16 to 18,
and a six per cent total increase, average TV viewership actually went
down compared to 2003.
A total audience of 800 million watched Michael Schumacher dominate
title number seven, the report said, but China's new race - for
example - was the 'second least popular' of all.
''The challenge for F1,'' said Initiative, ''is how to increase its
global appeal without losing audiences in ... established markets such
as Europe and South America.''
The report, highlighting the importance of time zones but also 'hero
factor' in individual GP countries, added: ''F1 has the potential to
be the world's most popular annual television event.''
Boris Yeltsin and F1
(GMM -- Dec.16) Boris Yeltsin will be marketing director at new
Russian-backed Formula One team Midland.
He is the 23-year-old grandson of Russia's first president, Yeltsin
Alexander Radunsky, referred to as Midland F1's 'controlling partner'
by a Russian newspaper, told ITAR-TASS news agency that Yeltsin Jr
will work 'with (western) sponsors and promotion organizations.'
Yeltsin was educated in Britain and America and speaks fluent English.
''(He) is the ideal man for this job,'' Radunsky told the Kommersant
newspaper, admitting that the family name is 'such a great brand.'
Midland founder Alex Shnaider, meanwhile, told Kommersant that the F1
project should help Midland - a steel production group - to secure
lucrative contracts in the West.
No 'interim' no drawback
(GMM -- Dec.16) F1 team Renault has denied it will be disadvantaged in
deciding not to build an 'interim' 2004/5 test car.
So far, the Enstone-based outfit ran at the pre-Christmas sessions in
Spain with a modified R24, unlike - for example - main rival BAR's
method to mate the 2005-car's rear end to a 'concept' or 'hybrid'
''There are pros and cons to both methods,'' said chief test engineer
Christian Silk, ''and it is a question of how you choose to allocate
He said, in fact, that Renault did plenty of on-track work for next
season with the 2004 car -- such as running a revised aero kit and
developing the new R25's electronic hardware and software.
Schu bought Jordan
(GMM -- Dec.16) Seven time world champion Michael Schumacher has
snapped up a Jordan F1 car -- and that's not even an April fool-style
The 35-year-old German, according to a report in the UK media, bought
the very Ford-powered 1991-spec '191' he used to qualify seventh on
debut at the Belgian grand prix.
Ferrari's Schumacher also tested the car at Silverstone prior to the
Spa-Francorchamps event. ''I'll never forget him coming around Stowe
(in the 191),'' Eddie Jordan told Autosport, ''with all four tires
By the very next grand prix, though - at Monza - a 22-year-old Michael
had switched to Benetton and finished fifth -- a controversy that
would lead to the establishment of the Contract Recognition Board.
Schu convicted of 'F1 murder'
(GMM -- Dec.16) With a respected British newspaper in the Judge's
chair, Michael Schumacher was convicted of 'F1 murder.'
The Times of London hack Simon Barnes said Ferrari's seven time world
champion 'murdered his sport' with a 'thousand cuts of excellence.
''It was a rare case of death by genius.''
Barnes said politico-financial news such as Bernie Ecclestone's court
battle or the rise of the disgruntled carmaker is F1's 'dance of
But why - unlike in other sports, like tennis or MotoGP - should
Schumacher, for all his dominance and success, be branded a 'killer'?
The Times said Schu robbed 'the humanity' from the sport. Simon Barnes
argued that, because the best driver is at the wheel of the best car,
'no-one is interested.'
Worse still, he said, team-mate Rubens Barrichello is 'required to be
a lackey ... a gopher ... '
Minardi court trial began
(GMM -- Dec.16) A court trial involving Formula One team founder Gian
Carlo Minardi began last week, it emerged.
The Italian, as well as continuing financial director Stefano
Sangiorgi, is charged with illegal financial activity relating to
sponsorship deals in the mid-90's.
''Unluckily not everyone is clean and bleach-washed,'' he told website
atlasf1.com, ''so we got involved. I hope we'll come out of it
Minardi, who sold the team to Paul Stoddart in late 2000 but remained
at Faenza as an employee, admitted in Italian (he does not speak a
word of English) that some wrongdoing may have occurred in a bid to
keep the popular outfit 'alive.'
Juan Pablo's on a diet
(GMM -- Dec.16) The amply-proportioned Juan Pablo Montoya has lost
about five kilograms since winning the year-ending Brazilian grand
Spanish newspaper 'Marca' said the 29-year-old Colombian commenced a
diet and exercise program in November at the behest of new F1
employer, McLaren's Ron Dennis.
Marca said Juan, formerly of Williams, must lose another two kg's
before the Australian grand prix on the first weekend in March.
He's on a low-carbohydrate diet and completes two hours per day of
aerobic and weight training.
''Complaints about my weight have followed me in my career,'' Montoya
- nicknamed 'The Fatman' by friend and fellow Latino Rubens
Barrichello - said, ''but I usually feel pretty good when I climb out
of my car after a race.''
BAR man eyes Ferrari future
(GMM -- Dec.16) One day, BAR's Geoff Willis would 'love' to work for
world champion Formula One team Ferrari.
A key vacancy or two at Maranello may open up when designer Rory Byrne
and - possibly - technical director Ross Brawn choose to call it a day
at the end of 2006.
''I've got no plans to change jobs,'' Brackley's current technical
director told British F1 broadcaster ITV, ''but I have an Italian wife
and one day we intend to live in Italy.''
In the immediate future, though, Willis - a former Williams man - said
he is planning to win a world title with Honda and BAR.
Ferrari owner in dispute
(GMM -- Dec.16) Ferrari owner Fiat is trying to make GM (General
Motors) buy the Italian marque's financially troubled auto division.
Reportedly, Fiat has a 'put option' on a four-year-old contract to
compel the world's largest carmaker - who will now request mediation -
to do just that, but they failed to find agreement.
GM owns ten per cent of Fiat. A spokesman said the carmaker reserved
the right to seek a 'legal remedy' following mediation.
Albers in America
(GMM -- Dec.16) Dutch F1 hopeful Christijan Albers may turn to
American-based Champ Car racing next year.
The DTM racing youngster tried a Jordan and Minardi in the
pre-Christmas winter period, but flew to Florida (Sebring) this week
for a run in a Derrick Walker-prepared racer.
Spotters said he drove 100 laps in a Dutch computer sponsor
''I think I've been handed an unique opportunity to get acquainted
with this series,'' he told own website christijan.com.
New Euro 3000 champion Nicky Pastorelli - another Dutchman - also
tried the Walker entrant.
Shake-up at Renault
(GMM -- Dec.16) There's been a major shake-up at Formula One team
Renault's parent carmaker.
A statement said the changes were a precursor to the imminent arrival
of incoming Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn. ''In this way,'' chairman Louis
Schweitzer told French paper Le Figaro, ''there (will) be no
uncertainty in the team.''
Sales and marketing chief Francois Hinfray is gone, as is industry and
technology VP Pierre-Alain de Smedt and long-serving Renault man
Georges Douin. Patrick Blain and Jean-Louis Ricaud are on the way in,
In addition, Patrick Faure is also to lose his spot on the executive
committee, as well as his job as executive vice president -- but he'll
remain president of Renault F1.
Want an ex-Schu F1 Ferrari?
(GMM -- Dec.16) Want a pair of 1969 Ferrari F1 driver Chris Amon's
racing overalls? How about the very 1990 Ferrari car steered by
quadruple world champion Alain Prost?
Then get yourself to the 'Ferrari Gstaad' auction - hosted by UK
auction house Bonhams - at the Palace Hotel in Switzerland, on
Saturday (18 December).
Also up for grabs are a pair of goggles worn by Alberto Ascari in
grands prix, and the very last overalls worn by 10-GP winner Gerhard
Berger (Adelaide 1995) in his Ferrari career.
If F1 cars are your thing, though, there's also a 1995-spec 412 and an
ex-Michael Schumacher F399 (1999). It's all yours -- if you've got a
spare bank account with more than $1.3m in it.
According to Bonhams, the F399 is 'maintained by the (F1) factory' and
is presently having a 'routine engine rebuild.'
Dominguez signed Midland deal
(GMM -- Dec.16) A Mexican is well on the road to Formula One.
New-for-2006 Russian-backed F1 team Midland's founder, nationalized
Canadian Alex Shnaider, told Kommersant newspaper that he is
negotiating with 'one Mexican driver.'
Undoubtedly, it's Champ Car ace Mario Dominguez, whose manager
revealed earlier in December that he's signed a 'preliminary' contract
with an F1 team.
Shnaider commented: ''It looks like (a Mexican driver) will be racing
A potential title sponsor for the Midland entry may also have been
weeded out of the woodwork. Boris Yeltsin Jr's mother is married to
Valery Okulov, chief of Russian 'Aeroflot' airlines. Shnaider said
they've been chatting.
Repsol keen to return
(GMM -- Dec.16) Oil giant Repsol is reportedly eager to return to
Formula One as a sponsor.
We reported in September that the Spanish firm contacted Ferrari as a
possible successor to their current Shell deal.
It also emerged around the same time that Spain's McLaren test driver
Pedro de la Rosa placed high on Eddie Jordan's list of 2005 race
drivers after Repsol pledged $10m if he landed a grand prix return.
Now, the English media says Repsol and former Jaguar team 'Red Bull'
are close to agreeing an oil/petrol-supply sponsorship contract for
2005 and 2006.
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