F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
December 20, 2004

F1 future is near - Ferrari
(GMM -- Dec.20) F1's future will be decided in 2005, Ferrari and Fiat president Luca di Montezemolo told a German newspaper.

''From 2008,'' the Italian also said in Welt am Sonntag, ''there will only be one (F1-like) world championship.''

Together with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Renault, 'GPWC' is threatening to leave Bernie Ecclestone's set-up for one that shares revenue more generously.

Montezemolo said even the 74-year-old supremo's 'ownership' of the actual 'Formula One' moniker will not dampen their desire to break away, because after 2007 F1's value may 'fall to zero.'

''I don't care what (the championship is) called,'' he claimed.

Kiesa report inaccurate
(GMM -- Dec.20) The conclusion of a report that Nicolas Kiesa is 'unlikely' to return to Minardi next year was based on inaccurate information.

The young Dane, who raced in Formula One at the end of 2003, had - after a year on the bench - been linked again with Paul Stoddart's team.

A team spokesman said last week that the Australian entrepreneur would probably make a selection for 2005 'from among the list of drivers present at (the recent) Misano (test).'

But the report's editorial statement - 'Kiesa did not test a (Formula One car) in Italy' - was simply not true.

On November 24, and again on the twenty-sixth, 25-year-old 'Nic' sat at the wheel of a Faenza-prepared 'F1x2' two-seater machine.

''The (driver) situation remains the same as it was at the time of the recent test,'' said a Minardi spokesman. ''The 2005 Minardi driver line-up has not been decided.''

Date shifted for F1
(GMM -- Dec.20) The date of the popular 'Goodwood Festival of Speed' in England will be shifted to accommodate the recently rescued British grand prix.

Festival organizers said the GFoS has been moved forward a fortnight (June 24 - 26) to avoid a clash with the event at historic Silverstone.

Elsewhere, it is reported that the MotoGP round at Sachsenring (Germany) next year may be delayed a week to avert a similar clash with the German (F1) grand prix at Hockenheim.

Schu's 'no better' than rest
(GMM -- Dec.20) Michael Schumacher is no better than Kimi Raikkonen or Juan Pablo Montoya.

That's the claim of English F1 racer Jenson Button, who said the seven time world champion from Germany is not 'on a different level.

''If (Kimi and Juan) were in the same situation Michael is in they'd be winning straight away. Michael is not unbeatable,'' 25-year-old Button told UK tabloid The Sun.

In the newspaper report, BAR-driving JB claims the dominance of Ferrari allows Schumacher, 36 in January, to 'relax.

''In a lot of races,'' he added, ''(Ferrari) could have lapped the whole field. It seems that if you have a Ferrari behind you he's going to pass you.''

The only consolation, Button hinted, is that Schumacher is prone to a mistake here and there.

DC could earn $40m in 2005
(GMM -- Dec.20) David Coulthard will earn a staggering $40 million at Red Bull next year -- if he wins every grand prix on the 19-long F1 calendar.

It's reported that the Scottish veteran, his career rescued by a one-year contract, is on a $4m retainer with a promised $183,000 per-point bonus.

A single win, then, would be worth nearly $2m.

33-year-old Coulthard hopes his move from McLaren to the former Jaguar incarnation allows him to perform a 'Jenson-like' career U-turn.

''He went to BAR,'' DC told UK tabloid The Mirror, ''and was suddenly doing a good job. To perform you have got to be in the right environment -- if the psychological side wasn't important then team support systems wouldn't matter.''

Stewart and Ford split
(GMM -- Dec.20) Carmaker Ford and Sir Jackie Stewart, after a four-decade collaboration, are about to split.

The relationship started in 1964, when Stewart accelerated a Ford powerplant in grands prix, before accompanying him to team ownership, a role at Jaguar, to the present ambassadorial day.

Ford said it and the 65-year-old Scot would not renew the deal for 2005.

''It's the right time for me and Ford to start a new chapter with new challenges,'' the triple world champion commented, claiming that the 'intensive' time commitment is becoming 'difficult to manage.'

Company founder Henry Ford's great grandson, Edsel B. Ford, paid tribute to Jackie's 'tremendous impact' to the fabled carmaker. ''He has been much more than a consultant,'' he said.

Ralf 'like a woman' driver
(GMM -- Dec.20) He may be one of the highest paid drivers in Formula One, but 29-year-old Ralf Schumacher has trouble in the supermarket car park.

That's not the verdict of a disgruntled shopper on the receiving end of a Ralf-dent -- it's what wife Cora told a German TV show.

''There have been a number of little accidents,'' she said, according to The Sun newspaper (UK), ''that you might expect from a woman driver.''

In Schu Jr's latest scrape, Ralf - still adjusting from the change from a BMW to Toyota road car - reversed into a park and waited for the 'beep' of the (absent) parking sensor.

Cora Schumacher said: ''But we heard a different noise.''

Barcelona 'will be ready'
(GMM -- Dec.20) A brand new asphalt surface at Formula One venue Circuit de Catalunya will be ready for the first winter test of the New Year.

The work in Spain began in November, and should be finished by January 15 -- just a week prior to the resumption of pre-season action.

It's the first time in more than a decade that the venue in Barcelona has had a new surface. A couple of corners will also be modified, it was reported in November, and the oldest grandstand 'G' will be updated.

Schu voted top German
(GMM -- Dec.20) Michael Schumacher is - for the first time since 1995 - Germany's 'Sportsman of the Year.'

The Ferrari driver, who captured title number seven in Formula One this year, beat World Cup skier Rene Sommerfeldt and the Tour de France's Andreas Kloeden to the media-voted prize by a healthy margin.

Schumacher did not collect the award personally as he is on holiday in Norway, according to a media report.

42-year-old Olympic rower Birgit Fischer captured the female prize.

Renault can win '05 title
(GMM -- Dec.20) Renault will contend for reigning champion Ferrari's F1 crown in 2005, according to team principal Flavio Briatore.

The Italian told La Gazzetta dello Sport (Italy) newspaper that the Enstone-based outfit is right on schedule with a three-year plan.

''(In 2004) our goal was to finish in the top three,'' he said from his winter retreat in Kenya.

Briatore continued: ''We'll be competitive in every race (next year).''

He also explained that Fernando Alonso's troubles in 2004 were due to the difficult-to-drive R24 car, rather than the Spanish protégé.

Webber 'coup' - magazine
(GMM -- Dec.20) Mark Webber will write a post-grand prix column for the authoritative Autosport (UK) magazine next year.

The weekly publication described signing Williams' new Australian charger as a 'major coup.'

28-year-old Webber promised to ''tell it like it is. There is not much point in doing otherwise,'' the outspoken charger added.

Mark, born in Queanbeyan (New South Wales) and a former Jaguar and Minardi driver, wrote a column for the monthly 'F1 Racing' magazine in 2004.

Enzo museum to 'resemble F1'
(GMM -- Dec.20) Enzo Ferrari's birthplace will be modified to look like a Formula One car, it is reported.

We revealed last week that the house in Modena (Italy) would become a museum and a committee - chaired by Luca di Montezemolo - would select a project to best signify the founder's life.

One report said a new ceiling at via Paulo Ferrari, designed by UK firm Future System, would be made of aluminum with symmetrical slots to resemble F1 'racing car air vents.'

Inside, V10 engines, grand prix cars and other equipment of the Scuderia will fill the museum.

Bernie will stay - 'F1' bank
(GMM -- Dec.20) Despite losing majority control of Formula One's commercial rights, 74-year-old Bernie Ecclestone will not be ushered out of the grand prix door.

Gerhard Gribkowsky, the new chief of the SLEC board, said a trio of F1-owning banks would be 'ill-advised' to exclude the so-called 'F1 supremo' from the future set-up of Formula One.

''In the course of three decades (Bernie) has built up close ties with the industry,'' Gribkowsky - also chairman of Bayerische Landesbank - told German Der Spiegel magazine.

He added: ''You have got to recognize his lifetime achievement.''

Bernie's future role, though, will have limits, according to the SLEC chief. Gribkowsky said the banks will 'no longer (be) pushed' into taking the most risk but having 'no say' in the running of the sport.

Test limit 'stupid' - LdM
(GMM -- Dec.20) World champion constructor Ferrari will never agree to further limiting the level of track testing.

Also president of Ferrari owner Fiat, Luca di Montezemolo said the desire to curb Ferrari's advantage by banning 'training' is akin to stopping soccer practice and 'manipulation.'

The Italian told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper: ''If I want my team to test for five days a week that is my problem. It's my money -- if I throw it out of the window, that's my decision.''

Montezemolo defended the tough stance by insisting there is a difference between cutting costs - 'a good idea' - and affecting the 'internal decisions' of individual competitors.

He therefore supports the new one-engine-per-two-weekend V10 rule, and the new-for-2006 2.4 liter V8 formula. ''It's a technical challenge ... and at the same time it (will) cost less,'' said LdM.

Red Bull will 'surprise' - DC
(GMM -- Dec.20) New F1 team Red Bull will be 'competitive' in 2005, sole confirmed driver David Coulthard insisted.

The Scot, whose long career was salvaged - for one year, at least - by the drink brand after a lackluster 2003 and 2004 for McLaren, predicted that observers will be 'surprised' following the upcoming launch and debut of a silver-and-blue RB1.

''With the developments I know the team is planning,'' the 33-year-old said, ''things are looking good for 2005.''

Unlike other independent teams like Jordan and Minardi, Coulthard said Red Bull also plan a big winter test program. But he declined to make a round of traditional pre-season 'silly predictions.'

Fisi's 'last chance' - boss
(GMM -- Dec.20) Giancarlo Fisichella left Renault (nee Benetton) in 2001 after a 'purely' financial disagreement.

That's the claim of team principal Flavio Briatore, who also used to manage the countryman racer who has returned to Enstone following a three-year sabbatical at Jordan and Sauber.

54-year-old Briatore confessed that the 're-hiring' of a former team racer does not 'seem logical.'

He also warned in La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper: ''This will finally be (Giancarlo's) big break -- his last opportunity at greatness.''

F1 beaten to Russia
(GMM -- Dec.20) Germany's premier touring car (DTM) category has beaten Formula One to Russia.

DTM organizer ITR announced that a street event in Moscow will be held in June next year.

''To invite DTM to Moscow (was) a great decision for the city and Russian sport,'' said Russia's sport minister Vyacheslav Fetisov.

Other non-German races on the 11-event 2005 calendar include Spa (Belgium), Zandvoort (Holland), Avignon (France) and Istanbul (Turkey).

Former twice F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen, and ex-grand prix star Allan McNish, will drive in DTM next year.

Meanwhile, an historic race for pre-1960 grand prix cars will be held next July on the fabled Porto (Portugal) circuit. Porto last hosted Formula One in 1960.

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