F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
December 17, 2004

France cut F1 ticket price
(GMM -- Dec.17) Magny-Cours will try to build a bigger crowd at next year's French grand prix by lowering the price of a ticket.

''The sport needs to generate more enthusiasm and attract new spectators,'' racing federation president Jacques Regis commented in a statement.

The event in agricultural Nevers is regarded as one of the more threatened and least popular on the modern F1 calendar, and - like Silverstone - had to fight for a 2005 spot.

Next year, a race day (July 3) ticket can be bought for about $85.

Trial 'won't affect Minardi'
(GMM -- Dec.17) Paul Stoddart's Formula One team will not be affected by a court trial involving founder and current employee Gian Carlo Minardi.

The Italian, and financial director Stefano Sangiorgi, are charged with illegal financial activity relating to team sponsorship deals in the mid-90's.

Stoddart took over in late-2000. ''It's improper to comment when a court case is in progress,'' a Minardi spokesman at Faenza told us.

He added: ''But I can categorically confirm that whatever the outcome of the trial, it will not have any effect on the operation of the ... team.''

Montoya in Miami
(GMM -- Dec.17) Juan Pablo Montoya was the year's best Latin American driver, an award event found.

The Colombian's official website said the new McLaren driver traveled to Miami (Florida) for the ceremony evening.

''Fox Sports highlighted (Juan Pablo's) achievements,'' jpmontoya.com said, which included a win at Sao Paulo and fifth in the drivers' championship for BMW-powered Williams.

The website report continued: ''Juan Pablo will spend a few days more in Miami.''

BRDC take Silverstone
(GMM -- Dec.17) F1 circuit owner The British Racing Drivers' Club is now Silverstone's operator and promoter.

The announcement came after former American leaseholder Interpublic's agreement was formally terminated this week.

BRDC subsidiary Silverstone Circuits Limited, with Richard Phillips appointed managing director in Andrew Waller's place, is now in charge of the Northamptonshire venue, including organization of the rescued Formula One event to take place in July next year.

''(This) gives us complete control over the future of the venue,'' said BRDC chief executive Alex Hooton, ''and ensures that the circuit has a very bright future.''

Sauber snub not sinister
(GMM -- Dec.17) Peter Sauber's F1 team have denied any sinister implication of the Swiss principals' absence from a recent meeting at London airport.

Some media outlets linked politically the Sauber snub with the continuing cold-shoulder of customer engine supplier Ferrari, particularly after Sauber signed the anti-Ferrari testing agreement and then switched to (Ferrari rival) Michelin.

''Peter was simply unavailable due to an earlier commitment,'' a spokesman explained to us. ''The invitation came on short notice.''

New BAR 'must win' - Willis
(GMM -- Dec.17) F1 team BAR 'must start winning' next season, technical director Geoff Willis warned.

The Englishman admitted to British channel ITV that the Honda-powered 006 was perhaps not good enough to finish higher than second or third in grands prix 'on merit' in 2004.

Willis said the new 007 is an 'evolution' - rather than an all-new concept - of the current car.

He added: ''But it's quite a lot more sophisticated -- I've really been impressed by what the design team have done.''

Skeptics say Brackley-based BAR, despite finishing second to Ferrari in the '04 constructors', is not yet worthy of a 'big four-or-five' label. ''I think we can design a better car than Williams or McLaren,'' Geoff counters, ''and in many areas our (current) car is superior to the Ferrari.''

Fisi's 'still motivated'
(GMM -- Dec.17) Renault is impressed with returning driver Giancarlo Fisichella's motivation.

After the pre-Christmas sessions at Barcelona and Jerez, chief test engineer Christian Silk said the Italian - who last raced a mild-blue car in 2001 - performed 'extremely well.'

He added: ''(Giancarlo) has worked very hard -- he is clearly enjoying being back with us. Of course, it helped that we have worked with him before and know him well.''

Renault's new R25 car will run for the first time in late January.

Jani has Red Bull contract
(GMM -- Dec.17) Teenager Neel Jani will no longer test for countryman Peter Sauber's Formula One team.

The Swiss, backed by energy drink sponsor Red Bull throughout his junior career, tested for Dietrich Mateschitz's formerly Ford-owned team at Jerez (Spain) last week.

''(Neel) will not test for Sauber any more,'' said a spokesman at Hinwil, who confirmed that the team's Red Bull sponsorship had also ended.

He revealed: ''(Neel Jani) now has a Red Bull Racing contract.''

Webber is 'third best' in F1
(GMM -- Dec.17) Mark Webber is the third best grand prix driver in the world.

That's the finding of countryman and Williams' 1980 world champion Alan Jones, who ranked the 28-year-old from Australia behind only Ferrari's Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello.

''I can't see a single thing wrong with this guy,'' he said in a personal ranking of 2004's top ten drivers for UK magazine Autosport. ''Who else, other than Michael Schumacher, can you say that about?''

58-year-old Jones said Webber 'carried' Jaguar through 'another shitty year.'

Schumacher, meanwhile - Alan explained - has been the best of all ever since Ayrton Senna died, and reckons Mark, Kimi Raikkonen or Juan Pablo Montoya could only 'give him trouble' if Ferrari drop their game.

JV out to restore 'pride'
(GMM -- Dec.17) Former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve is feeling something he hasn't felt for a while -- he wants to go racing.

The French-Canadian, ousted after a five-year stint at BAR at the end of 2003, returned to the grid with Renault in the latter part of this year.

In 2005, though, he's a full-timer again -- with Sauber.

''I'm finding it easier,'' he admitted to the Australasian edition of Motorsport News magazine last week. ''Sometimes at BAR I had to say to myself 'ok, be professional, do your job'. Now I'm waking up and immediately I just want to be involved.''

The irony, though, is that - despite beating Michael Schumacher to the drivers' title in 1997, Villeneuve is having to prove himself all over again. ''No, I don't think so,'' JV countered.

He added: ''I'm doing this because I want to, not because I have to prove something. I do have pride, all humans do -- and that makes me want to prove something. But it's not the reason.''

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