F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
December 23, 2004

Rookie to sign for Minardi
(GMM -- Dec.23) Another piece of the 2005 F1 driver-puzzle will fall into place on Thursday when back-of-the-grid Minardi stage a media conference.

It's expected that the hastily organized affair at the Bilderberg Garden Hotel in Amsterdam on Thursday will see Dutch youngster Christijan Albers announced as a new team racer.

Minardi distributed the media alert for an 'important announcement' late on Wednesday.

25-year-old Christijan, who tested a Minardi and Jordan in the pre-Christmas period, is a former German F3 champion and raced for Mercedes-Benz in the tin-top DTM championship in 2004.

He has reportedly found the backing of Dutch media tycoon John de Mol.

Williams' 'major' message
(GMM -- Dec.23) Grand prix team co-owner and principal Frank Williams is all set to spill the beans in a 'major press announcement.'

The event, in central London (England) on January 6, will take place just a day prior to the 2005 F1 car's livery launch in Bahrain.

With the likely confirmation of Mark Webber's team-mate, it's rumored that the second event is designed to ensure adequate media coverage of the new $16m 'Royal Bank of Scotland' sponsorship.

Williams' announcement will be followed by a photo-call and one-on-one interview opportunities with 'other key (team) personnel,' a spokesman revealed.

Sauber clock timely deal
(GMM -- Dec.23) Sauber has signed a new F1 sponsorship deal with Swiss watchmaker Swatch.

It's to promote their middle-price 'Certina' sport brand, but won't involve an on-car presence. Instead, according to a statement, Certina will receive a 'number of marketing services,' and all F1 Sauber staff will wear a sporty Certina.

''Gaining a Swiss company as a partner is always something very special for me,'' said Peter Sauber, whose team is based in Hinwil (Switzerland).

BAR gearbox 'not banned'
(GMM -- Dec.23) British-based F1 team BAR yesterday denied it had to shelve a radical gearbox design following a minor FIA rule tweak.

It was reported that the planned 2005 innovation would have allowed Jenson Button and Takuma Sato to change gear without any loss in engine drive.

However, the Technical Working Group imposed a mandatory 'gap' to separate gear changing.

A spokeswoman told us: ''It is not true that the new BAR-Honda gearbox has been banned for next year.''

She did, though, decline to respond to whether 'any aspect' of the gearbox design had been affected by the TWG clarification.

'Excellent' value in F1
(GMM -- Dec.23) Team sponsors are getting a good deal in Formula One, a report said.

Leading UK-based research group 'Sports Marketing Surveys' said the longer, 18-grand prix calendar in 2004 - despite a lower overall audience - boosted sponsor exposure 17 per cent, and increased sponsor value by 11%.

Independent SMS's 'Global F1 Report' also said on-board car footage helped exposure jump nearly thirty per cent, representing 'excellent' sponsor value.

SMS director Nigel Geach said extra grands prix in China and Bahrain 'compensated' for the lower audience. ''F1 (is) still ... one of the most watched sports in the world,'' he noted.

Schumacher slammed
(GMM -- Dec.23) World champion Michael Schumacher has been slammed after failing to receive in person the award for top German sportsman.

While female winner, rower Birgit Fischer, took her prize, just a taped interview of the 35-year-old Ferrari driver was shown because he is holidaying in Norway.

''He disrespects all of us,'' she said, according to Bild newspaper. Former German football captain Lothar Matthaeus also had a dig.

Boxer Sven Ottke denied the anger is fuelled by wage-jealousy. ''It just shows a lack of respect,'' he commented, while the Rhineland governor Kurt Beck said Michael's antic 'distanced' him from normal people.

In Schumacher's defense, agent Willi Weber said the absence is just about the German maximizing rare spare time. ''This,'' he said, ''has nothing to do with arrogance.''

Red Bull tire deal close
(GMM -- Dec.23) A formal deal between tire supplier Michelin and Red Bull is just a 'matter of time,' according to a spokesman.

The team formerly known as 'Jaguar Racing' ran on the French product at Barcelona and Jerez in the pre-Christmas test period, in a 'temporary' arrangement.

Michelin's spokesperson admitted that a '05 contract with the energy drink-owned outfit is still not signed. ''However, it looks to be all in order,'' he told us.

The spokesman added: ''For now, that is all I can say.''

New F1 'Concorde' posted
(GMM -- Dec.23) F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone has posted a new five-year draft 'Concorde Agreement' to the current Formula One teams.

The deal would involve more revenue from 2008 and a $500 million 'extra payment' that could start flowing immediately, the 74-year-old promised in Germany's Auto, Motor und Sport magazine.

Ecclestone's cash promise and more generous commercial offering comes hot on the heels of the carmakers' (GPWC) negotiation with potential tracks and sponsors about a 2008 'breakaway' world championship.

''I am not afraid,'' Bernie told the publication when asked about the alternate plan of Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Renault. ''Let's wait and see who will co-operate (with them).''

Red Bull deny 'ban' report
(GMM -- Dec.23) F1 team 'Red Bull' has mocked speculation it might have to run an alternate car livery at next year's French grand prix.

The sale of Dietrich Mateschitz's caffeine (and other substance)-filled energy drink is banned in France, fuelling a media report that the country might impose an accompanying cigarette-like ban on advertising at (circuit) Magny-Cours.

But Red Bull has advertised, for example on the Sauber car, in France for about a decade.

''(Red Bull) advertising is allowed on the car,'' said a press officer, ''so (the car) will run with its normal livery.''

Hopeful won Bernie meeting
(GMM -- Dec.23) English up-and-comer Dominik Jackson has 'balls,' according to a leading British newspaper.

F1 hack Kevin Garside reported that the 20-year-old Lincolnshire lad, a regular in Formula BMW, picked up the phone, dialed F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone's number, and requested a meeting.

''(Bernie) ought to have put the phone down,'' Garside wrote. ''Incredibly he didn't.''

The pair are scheduled to meet at Ecclestone's plush London office in the New Year -- so what's Jackson going to say?

''I'm going to tell him how I think I can get (to Formula One),'' Dominik told the Daily Telegraph. ''I'm going to be up front ... and invite Bernie to invest in me ... and possibly open one or two doors.''

Jackson will drive in Formula Superfund in 2005.

Grove 'shootout' to continue
(GMM -- Dec.23) A track 'shootout' for Williams' spare seat next to Mark Webber will continue early in January, it is reported.

Antonio Pizzonia and Nick Heidfeld will go head-to-head at Spanish winter test venues Jerez, Valencia and Barcelona when the Christmas/New Year ban is over, and prior to the launch of the new FW27.

Earlier, a team spokesman admitted that the revelation of the identity of Webber's teammate might now be delayed until the end - rather than the beginning - of next month.

''Heidfeld really showed himself to be worth another long look,'' an 'insider' told UK newspaper The Guardian. ''It's likely to be close and they are both pretty confident.''

Ron - 'I'm amused'
(GMM -- Dec.23) McLaren's F1 principal is 'amused' that the media seems to think fire-plus-ice is an explosive combination.

Woking-born 'CEO' Ron Dennis denied that the arrival of Colombia's Juan Pablo Montoya as 2005 teammate for 'iceman' Finn Kimi Raikkonen could be anything 'but positive.'

He told McLaren's own magazine: ''I'm amused at the attention this subject (their competitiveness) has created -- I'm actually really looking forward to it.''

Dennis said the only antidote to possible fireworks in the silver garage will be 'fair and even handed management.'

He commented: ''(That is) the priority in such circumstances.''

Ron also spoke of the relief felt when 25-year-old Raikkonen won at Spa this year after a miserable early season. ''For an hour or so after the race,'' he added, ''the feeling was great. But we could have won more (grands prix).''

BMW will build top V8
(GMM -- Dec.23) BMW will build a 'benchmark' F1 engine whether it is a V10 or V8, Mario Theissen said yesterday.

The Munich marque vehemently opposed the FIA's imposition of a smaller engine for 2006, but last week - with Honda - pulled out of a three-way (also involving Mercedes-Benz) threat of arbitration.

Theissen, the motor sport director, said in an interview that the change in engine concept has caused 'high pressure' and a cost increase at BMW.

He revealed: ''The development program had to be condensed, (but) we will successfully solve this task.''

Mario, meanwhile, supports the new-for-2005 rule mandating one engine to last for two grands prix. The German said the 'peak' regarding the cost of being a F1 engine maker 'is in the past.'

Power to continue 'F1 push'
(GMM -- Dec.23) Australian F1 hopeful Will Power is likely to drive in the newly-merged 'World Series by Renault' category in 2005.

Not long after a run in the Minardi single-seater in Italy, and despite having returned home, British F3-racing Power was invited to test the 'Draco' car at Paul Ricard (France).

Back in Australia, when asked about the test and next season, Power said the recent tastes of F1 and 'World Series' had made him 'even more determined' to return to Europe in 2005 and 'continue my push towards F1.'

Heidfeld support for FIA push
(GMM -- Dec.23) German Formula One driver Nick Heidfeld has offered support for Formula One's new regulations.

BMW-Williams' race seat hopeful said the FIA ambition to lower costs and reduce the danger - with new aerodynamic, engine and tire modifications - are 'definitely correct.'

''In my opinion it is right,'' said the 27-year-old, advised that some colleagues do not agree. ''Imagine if we hadn't changed the rules since 1980 or even earlier -- nobody would be able to drive the car. You always have to accept some change, even if - as a driver - you are not 100 per cent delighted about it.''

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