F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
December 29, 2004

'F1 squirrel 'wreaked havoc'
(GMM -- Dec.29) A little squirrel 'wreaked havoc' at Ferrari's Maranello HQ, according to a media report.

The Financial Times' website said red-jacketed staff discovered the animal living in a banana tree.

Ferrari's squirrel 'ran rings' around employees for a month before being caught. ''Perhaps (the squirrel) could teach the other F1 teams something,'' the tongue-in-cheek editorial speculated.

Sepang appoint Saatchi
(GMM -- Dec.29) The Malaysian grand prix has appointed one of the world's top advertising agencies to promote the F1 race near Kuala-Lumpur.

UK-founded 'M&C Saatchi' edged out all competitors to the Sepang account, it announced in a statement.

''We had barely a month to come up with a creative pitch that encapsulated the heart and soul of (F1),'' managing director Lara Hussein commented.

M&C conducted surveys and found that there are three distinct groups at grands prix or tuned-in to the races -- fanatics, fence-sitters and those who prefer to watch from an arm chair.

Among M&C's other clients are the London 2012 Olympic bid, Foster's, Reuters and UK newspaper The Mirror.

Pantano in Minardi frame
(GMM -- Dec.29) The race to become Christijan Albers' 2005 teammate at F1's smallest outfit is heating up.

With Renault tester Franck Montagny staking a claim, we can now reveal that dumped Jordan driver Giorgio Pantano is also in the running to steer a Cosworth-powered black car.

A financial dispute meant the 25-year-old left Eddie Jordan's Silverstone-based team after the 2004 Italian grand prix.

''I think I still have something to show,'' said the Italian, ''and I never had the chance to show it at Jordan.'

Pantano noted that Minardi had successfully 'boosted' the thriving F1 careers of men like Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber. ''It's something I want to seek,'' he added.

GP also confessed to 'conversations' with Champ Car teams but said nothing 'solid' had been offered.

Montagny drive secure
(GMM -- Dec.29) Franck Montagny has denied that a possible drive at Minardi had marked an end to his official Renault test job.

We reported on Tuesday that the Frenchman had been 'in contact' with Paul Stoddart's back-of-the-grid squad.

But 26-year-old Montagny, based in Oxford (England) also insisted that he is scheduled to resume duties for Flavio Briatore-led Renault in January.

''Regardless of what anyone says about that,'' Franck added, ''that is good -- no, excuse me, it's very, very good!''

McLaren warn Chinese hopeful
(GMM -- Dec.29) Chinese hopeful Cheng Congfu has one season to prove he can make the grade in F1.

The 20-year-old became the first Chinese natural to try a grand prix challenger in the summer, but Woking-based team McLaren warned that, for Congfu, next season is crucial.

''He wants to continue racing in the (British Formula) Renault series,'' said McLaren's business development director Stuart Seymour, according to the Xinhua agency, ''but he needs to be consistently successful (in 2005).''

McLaren will fund Cheng's '05 campaign, but have already spent a 'big sum of money' on the youngster, Xinhua also reported.

'I can win title' - Button
(GMM -- Dec.29) BAR may be his second choice, but British F1 driver Jenson Button reckons he could challenge Michael Schumacher for the 2005 world championship.

''Some people might say I'm too confident,'' he admitted in Autosport magazine.

Despite wanting to switch to Frank Williams' BMW-powered team for 2005, 25-year-old JB still thinks Brackley-based BAR has the ability to prepare him a winning car next year.

Button also denies that Dave Richards' departure will necessarily have an adverse effect on the team. ''(David) was helpful,'' Jenson admitted, ''but so were a lot of other people -- especially the engineers.''

He's keen, too, to sketch his own influence on BAR progress. ''I think I'm (driving) smoother than I was,'' said Button, ''because I've had so much confidence in the car.'

Webber wants 'immediate' win
(GMM -- Dec.29) Mark Webber does not intend to perform a gentle transition from Formula One's midfield in 2005.

Williams' newly-signed Australian, who in a three-year career never stepped onto a post-grand prix podium for Minardi and Jaguar, said he intends to win 'immediately' when the new season dawns in Melbourne next March.

28-year-old Webber's best finish in F1 is a fifth. ''Straight away I want to be up the front,'' he said when asked about 2005. ''That's what we're striving for, and I assume the championship is even harder to get.''

Mark said he used to root for Frank Williams' Grove-based squad when staying up late to watch grands prix on TV as a youngster. ''I hope I can add another chapter to (Frank and Patrick Head's) successes in the years ahead.''

Webber added: ''I love the no-nonsense manner they go about everything.''

Lego Ferrari F1 on sale
(GMM -- Dec.29) The first products of Ferrari's new three-year licensing agreement with Lego are on the toy-shop shelf.

A 22-block piece depicting a post-grand prix podium ceremony features models of Michael Schumacher and teammate Rubens Barrichello, complete with liveried helmet and name lapel.

Also available is a 1:24 (19 centimetre) scale F2004 single seater, powered 'by a strong pull back motor,' according to the Lego catalogue, with authentic sponsor logos.

Finally, Ferrari fans can get close to the pit action with the F1 garage set. Six mechanics depict refuelling and tyre changing, and the kit can also be modified to simulate the start grid.

Motor racing legend dies
(GMM -- Dec.29) An Australian-born motor racing legend has died, aged 83.

David McKay won the 1960 Australian touring car title, and, later in the decade, entered open wheeler cars in the country for the likes of F1 world champions Graham Hill and Sir Jackie Stewart, and Chris Amon.

According to a report of the Australian Associated Press (AAP), McKay - who died of cancer - was also 'well connected with (Ferrari founder) ... Enzo Ferrari.'

He later became a journalist, editing the motoring edition for Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper and 'Motor' magazine.

Switzerland-based McKay returned home to Sydney and died on December 26.'

Byrne 'safe' - spokesman
(GMM -- Dec.29) A Ferrari spokesman confirmed that Formula One car designer Rory Byrne is 'safe' following the devastating tsunami that killed more than 68,000 people in south Asia.

The South African-born engineer, with a scuba diving school on the Thai coast, emerged from the near unprecedented Boxing Day disaster with his family and property intact, Maranello's PR person reported.

The spokesman also said: ''We kept in contact with him throughout the weekend.''

Meanwhile, Ferrari principal Jean Todt, holidaying in Malaysia with movie star girlfriend Michelle Yeoh, also escaped the deadly tidal waves caused by the huge underwater earthquake, it is reported.

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