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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
December 21, 2004


Ford complete F1 retreat
(GMM -- Dec.21) With another (approx.) $10 million in the cash chest, Ford has completed its total retreat out of Formula One.

Champ Car co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe, who secured F1 engine supplier Cosworth Racing in November, have also bought Pi Group, the electronic racing arm.

''This was a logical step for us,'' Kalkhoven said in a statement. ''Electronics are increasingly important in motorsport and in the automotive industry.''

More than 300 people, in Cambridge (UK) and Indianapolis, Detroit and North Carolina (USA) work for Pi.








Davison out of Minardi race
(GMM -- Dec.21) Australian hopeful Will Davison will definitely not race for Formula One team Minardi next year.

The Melbourne-born star, who recently tested a Faenza-built single seater in Italy, has signed a two year deal to drive for Adelaide-based V8 Supercar squad Team Dynamik, we can reveal.

In 2004, 22-year-old Davison raced in British F3, but ran out of funding mid-season.

He said at the Mallala circuit near Adelaide: ''I think my background in formula racing cars will be a help.''

Dynamik is also in the world spotlight after it tested illegally at the Woomera rocket range. An appeal case will be heard by motor sport's global governing body, the FIA, in Paris at the end of February.








Chinese driver back in saddle
(GMM -- Dec.21) Chinese driver Cheng Congfu tested a Formula Renault car in Spain last week.

That might not seem relevant to the world of grand prix racing -- but the 20-year-old's run was organized and funded by McLaren, and he tested a silver F1 car in September.

Congfu, who tested at Albacete in southern Spain, became the first Chinese-born national to drive a F1 car when he ran at the Brno (Czech) track earlier in 2004.

''This opportunity organized for me by McLaren is key in my continued driver development,'' Cheng commented at Albacete.







Toyota to launch
(GMM -- Dec.21) Toyota will launch the 2005-spec TF105 Formula One car in Barcelona, it was announced.

The event, to also feature all-new driving line up Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher and the first racer overseen completely by technical director Mike Gascoyne, is set to take place on 8 January at Circuit de Catalunya (Montmelo).

31-year-old Trulli, an Italian, is predicting a top-ten start to the new championship -- and even better than that after mid-season. ''Toyota has enormous potential,'' he told Gazzetta dello Sport, ''and should do much better than in previous years.''








Merc-Benz shelve V8 threat
(GMM -- Dec.21) Mercedes-Benz will, like rival carmakers Honda and BMW, shelve a threat of arbitration against the governing FIA's new-for-2006 V8 engine imposition.

Last week, BMW - also on behalf of Honda - announced that the pair would not pursue the legal challenge because it looked like costing too much time and money and would not be in the 'interests of the sport.'

But Stuttgart-based marque Mercedes didn't tow the official line because it didn't want to be seen to have crumbled in the face of FIA-imposed pressure.

A perhaps-significant headline, though, on the official BMW-Williams website read: 'No opposition to new engine regulations.' Authoritative media sources agreed that Mercedes-Benz has indeed now moved away from the arbitration threat, despite no formal confirmation or comment.








Heidfeld got the nod
(GMM -- Dec.21) Nick Heidfeld is likely to be Mark Webber's race team-mate at BMW-powered WilliamsF1 next season, the German media is claiming.

But spokesmen both at Grove (Oxfordshire) and BMW's Munich HQ are adamant that no decision has yet been taken -- and an announcement may now even be delayed until the end of January.

Heidfeld, from Moenchengladbach in Germany, is - according to Die Bild - favored by Williams' engine partner and even Mario Theissen will admit that he is definitely part of the team's plans in one way or another from 2005 and beyond.

Current tester Antonio Pizzonia is the other contender.

Bild said 'Quick Nick' will earn 3m Euro next year, plus a prize-for-point bonus. Both he and the younger Pizzonia will travel to Bahrain early next month for the 2005 livery launch.







'05 not prelude to retirement
(GMM -- Dec.21) David Coulthard has denied he signed a single-year contract to drive for Red Bull because it was the only deal on offer.

The veteran Scot, who raced nearly a decade for top team McLaren, said he - not 'Red Bull Racing' owner Dieter Mateschitz - requested the one-season term.

''I wanted (it) so I can understand how the new team will function and to see how their V8 engine plans evolve,'' he said. ''To me, that freedom to look ahead is important.''

33-year-old Coulthard, from Scotland, revealed that a 'basic agreement' had already been in place up to a fortnight ago, but wanted a chance to test the newly-liveried Jaguar Racing R5 before making a formal commitment.

He also denied that the on-year deal is a prelude to retirement at the end of 2005. ''I intend to be driving in F1 for a while yet,'' said DC.








Montezemolo's own proposal
(GMM -- Dec.21) After threatening to quit F1 and mocking the move to limit track testing, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has proposed a rule-change or two.

The Italian told a German newspaper on Monday that F1 should 'employ a more rational weight formula' and also impose an 'extreme removal of expensive and unnecessary electronics.'

Montezemolo claimed that the agreement of every grand prix team to change the regulations is worthless -- without Ferrari.

He added: ''Nobody should forget that, for Formula One, Ferrari is important. Whatever happens, if someone decides to change something or if he has a new idea, he must come to Maranello first.''








Sato to sell beauty
(GMM -- Dec.21) Formula One driver Takuma Sato will help to sell a line of beauty products.

He's teamed up with Shiseido, the Japanese company that has devised a new range of cosmetic products -- for men.

The 27-year-old star of Honda-powered BAR is to be the contracted 'face' of Shiseido's advertising campaign, and will appear on posters and in television adverts around Japan until 20 January.

The slogan of the campaign is 'How To Win, Beautifully.'







Renault admit BAR defeat
(GMM -- Dec.21) Renault deserved to be defeated as runner-up in the constructors' championship this year, team principal Flavio Briatore has admitted.

The Italian-born 'managing director' - presently at his ranch in Kenya for a driver training camp with Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella - said the actual team goal in 2004 was a successful 'top three' title finish.

He referred to the total switch in Renault's V10 engine configuration following the abandoned 'wide angle' project of 2001-2003.

Briatore told Gazzetta dello Sport: ''Our priority (in 2004) was (therefore) finishing rather than winning. Honestly, BAR did a better job and deserved their runner-up position.''

The flamboyant chief did, though, make a point of saying Renault held the second-placed spot behind Ferrari 'for much of the season.'








Mrs. Ralf's 'worst moment'
(GMM -- Dec.21) Being married to a millionaire Formula One star is not all cash and five-star hotel swimming pools, Ralf Schumacher's wife said last week.

Mrs. Schumacher - first name Cora - told German television's Menschen Bei Maischberger program that the worst moment of her life with a racing husband came last June.

''I just wanted to talk to him and find out he is alright,'' the blonde said, referring to 29-year-old Schu's vertebrae-fracturing and knockout shunt at Indianapolis, ''but it just wasn't possible while he was being treated. I still can't look at the video pictures.''

It's not even a smooth ride in the couple's new Toyota company car, Cora revealed. ''I certainly have the better accident balance,'' she laughed.








Banks hope to avoid breakaway
(GMM -- Dec.21) A trio of banks that own and control the majority of F1's holding company (SLEC) would prefer to avert a threatened 'breakaway' after 2007.

Gerhard Gribkowsky, SLEC and Bayerische Landesbank chairman, said the motor sport market is 'too small' for both F1 and the carmaker-led 'GPWC' to compete with rival world championships.

''A power struggle between the two series would harm both,'' he told Der Spiegel magazine in Germany. ''But I don't think the doors are closed yet.''

Gribkowsky welcomed the somewhat usurped Bernie Ecclestone's recent moves into China and Bahrain, but thinks other stakeholders should also have a say into where new grands prix are held.

He added: ''It would be desirable to go to Russia and India (and) with only two races in North America we are under-represented compared to purchasing power.''







Pity Schu's on cruise - champ
(GMM -- Dec.21) Michael Schumacher might be the number one driver at Ferrari and in all of Formula One, but former champion Alan Jones would like to see him pushed harder.

The 58-year-old Australian, who won Williams' first ever title (1980) when Schumacher was just eleven, rued the fact that 'it's been so easy' for German-born MS since the scarlet team started to dominate in the new Millennium.

''He's had the best car,'' Jones told Autosport magazine, ''and the other guy (team-mate Rubens Barrichello) is not allowed to beat him even on the rare occasion that he's anywhere near.''

Still, Alan voted Schumacher ahead of Barrichello and countryman Mark Webber in a personal ranking of 2004's top F1 stars.

35-year-old Michael might have a head-start, but 'he's put himself in that situation,' Jones reckoned. ''I don't see him losing his grip until he decides to retire.''








Ferrari can't be stopped - JT
(GMM -- Dec.21) Nothing could spoil Ferrari's charge to yet another double championship haul next year.

That's the claim of Jarno Trulli, the Italian driver who last week celebrated with new employer Toyota at a Christmas dinner party near Cologne.

When at Renault in 2004, 31-year-old JT was one of just a trio of other drivers to ever beat a scarlet car to the chequer.

Trulli reckons Maranello HQ could send everyone home this winter and still turn up in Melbourne with a winner. ''They have such an advantage,'' he told Gazzetta dello Sport, ''that they would still be at the front. I'm not sure how much they will dominate but I believe they will be in front of everybody else.''

At the Toyota party, he gave every team member in attendance a bottle from his own wine label. ''I am already part of the family,'' he grinned.








Nick's got a job - BMW
(GMM -- Dec.21) German driver Nick Heidfeld has landed a job at Oxfordshire-based WilliamsF1, the team's carmaker partner has admitted.

BMW motor sport director Mario Theissen said the 27-year-old nicknamed 'Quick Nick' will 'not be sent home' after impressive form on the test track.

According to the excited German media, he's already signed a 3 million Euro deal for 2005, although whether it's as development or race pilot is unknown.

It's reported that Munich-based BMW would prefer a German to be team-mate to confirmed Australian ace Mark Webber. It should also be noted that Brazilian team sponsor Petrobras is similarly pushing rival contender Antonio Pizzonia's argument.

Theissen doesn't rise to the bait: ''What is important is that the fastest one drives.''







'We'll get along' - Ralf S.
(GMM -- Dec.21) Ralf Schumacher is not expecting a thorny Montoya-like relationship with new Formula One teammate Jarno Trulli.

Not referring directly to the spirited Colombian with whom he shared four years at Williams, 29-year-old Ralf said things should be 'a lot easier' in that department at Toyota.

''I think (Jarno) will be a strong teammate,'' said the German, ''so I'm really happy to have him with me. With a teammate like him, it should be a lot easier to move the whole project forwards.''

Italian-born Trulli, 31 - who had a major falling out with Renault principal Flavio Briatore last year - is also sure he'll have no trouble despite sharing a team with a driver not famous for forming close bonds with the occupant of a sister racer.

''We've already chatted two or three times about things,'' JT said recently, ''and we seem to get along okay.''








Banks may 'leave' F1
(GMM -- Dec.21) Despite wrestling control of impresario Bernie Ecclestone's company, three F1-owning banks might decide to 'leave' the sport in 2007-2009.

Gerhard Gribkowsky, the new head of the (SLEC) board and chairman of Munich-based Bayerische Landesbank, told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine that the aim until such a decision is to 'guarantee the sport's long term stability.'

But he admitted: ''At some point the time may come when we say 'okay, we're leaving'.''

In October, a different spokesman at Bayerische confirmed that the bank didn't 'want to go on being (a) shareholder' indefinitely, no matter the outcome of the Bernie court challenge.

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