F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 4, 2005

GPWC to present F1 plan
(GMM -- Jan.4) The GPWC group will present a comprehensive plan of their proposed 'breakaway' world championship to F1 principals prior to the first grand prix this year.

UK newspaper The Times' F1 journalist Kevin Eason said the four carmakers - Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Renault - will promise a 'huge cash dividend' and 'complete control' in a bid to woo them out of Bernie Ecclestone's grasp.

''GPWC says it will give the teams 80 per cent (of all income),'' said the report, noting that Ecclestone's present outlay is just 23 per cent.

Zurich-based commercial head, George Taylor, denied on a trip to London that GPWC is just the carmakers' negotiating ploy. ''It is reality,'' he said. ''It has started.''

Meanwhile, a GPWC spokesman said the series' structure needs to be in place 'during 2005' if it's to be ready to race by 2008. He also said a date or location for the F1 principals' presentation had not been set.

Oz city to host GP 'demo'
(GMM -- Jan.4) Melbourne is 'almost certain' to host a London-like F1 street demonstration through the Australian city's CBD in March.

Earlier, we reported that grand prix boss Ron Walker proposed the plan to help celebrate the race's ten-year anniversary.

We have now learned that, following a request of the Australian grand prix corporation, the Melbourne City Council will contribute $100,000 to the 2005 event, pending corporate backing.

The street demonstration, to occur on the Wednesday in GP-week, will cost about $320,000. Ron Walker admitted that participating F1 cars' tobacco liveries may have to be altered.

Priaulx ready for F1 shot
(GMM -- Jan.4) Touring car driver Andy Priaulx will test Williams' Formula One machine on the 27th of January, we can reveal.

The run, we earlier reported, is a 'reward' for the 30-year-old's successful campaign for BMW in the European category last year.

Priaulx's F1 debut will take place at the Valencia circuit in Spain. ''I was at the (Oxfordshire) factory last week,'' Andy said, ''and if I do an exceptionally good job on the day, they might want to use me again.''

He is currently preparing for the test with trainer Ian Potter. ''We're working a lot on my neck,'' Priaulx revealed. ''I don't want to do five laps and then have to say 'sorry, can't do any more'.''

'Ludicrous' F1 cocaine claim
(GMM -- Jan.4) Jean Alesi has laughed at former Ferrari doctor Benigno Bartoletti's claim that almost half of all Formula One drivers snort cocaine.

41-year-old Alesi, the Frenchman who last raced in F1 in 2001, told the GP2005.com website that racing drivers are 'healthy people.'

''One can only laugh at these ludicrous accusations,'' he added.

Jean, now in the German tin-top DTM category with Mercedes-Benz, worked with 'Ben' in 1991 and said the Italian may be using the cocaine claim to 'draw attention' to himself having fallen into anonymity.

Czech driver Tomas Enge lost his Formula 3000 crown in 2002 when he showed positive to marijuana in a FIA drug test.

Want to attend F1 launch?
(GMM -- Jan.4) Desperate to attend Williams' 2005 livery launch on Friday ... ?

The Bahrain International Circuit, to host the BMW-powered F1 team's event near Manama, is selling tickets at Seef Mall, Dana Mall and the airport.

A report in the 'Gulf Daily News' paper said spectators will be seated in the main grandstand and treated to a show including laps by Mark Webber, Antonio Pizzonia and Nick Heidfeld, and other track action.

Schu set for 'different' F1
(GMM -- Jan.4) Asked to sum-up a 2005-spec Formula One racer, Michael Schumacher replied: ''It all seemed extremely slow.''

The world champion, who turned 36 on Monday and is the oldest driver on the racing grid, tried the new aero/engine/tire configuration at a recent Jerez session.

Reports at the time said Schumacher 'hated' the slower Ferrari -- now, he's a little nobler. ''Nothing ever stands still in Formula One,'' said the German. ''I guess we'll all have to adjust to it.''

Asked by Germany's RTL broadcaster if F1 will be better or worse in 2005, however, Michael recoiled that it'll just be 'different.' ''I would say we are likely to go three seconds a lap slower with the (new) configuration,'' Schumacher continued. ''So it will be different but also interesting.''

He also, as F1's elder statesman, admitted to the odd ache and pain now and then. ''But they're only small ones,'' the 2004 title winner smiled.

Klien reveals New Year wish
(GMM -- Jan.4) If Christian Klien had sat on Father Christmas' knee, he would have asked for a 2005 Formula One contract.

The Austrian youngster confirmed that he's now waiting on a birthday wish.

''My birthday is in February,'' the 20-year-old smiled. ''Maybe then?!''

Klien, Jaguar's Red Bull-backed driver alongside Mark Webber in 2004, continued - with 2005 rival Tonio Liuzzi - to test the re-liveried R5 in Spain in November and December. He said Red Bull bosses 'seemed pleased' with his form. ''Now it's up to them to decide,'' Christian commented.

Klien would love to work with Red Bull's confirmed number one driver, the F1 veteran David Coulthard, in the New Year. ''I think he's a great guy,'' said CK, ''very disciplined and fun to work with.''

'Quali's my weakness' - DC
(GMM -- Jan.4) One-lap qualifying is still F1 veteran David Coulthard's biggest weakness.

After a dismal 2003, the 33-year-old Scot said he 'improved' with the novel format at McLaren last season.

He told British broadcaster ITV: ''(In 2003) one-lap qualifying really caught me out. That's still an area I need to improve on.''

DC's ailing career was rescued with a one-year Red Bull deal. He said that, qualifying aside, the 'inherent pace' is still there.

Coulthard explained: ''When it comes to that single lap, if you're not in that relaxed zone then it's possible to lose a tenth or so at almost every corner.''

Todt - 'I may marry'
(GMM -- Jan.4) Ferrari's managing director Jean Todt has admitted he may marry former Bond girl Michelle Yeoh.

The couple toured Malaysia-born Yeoh's home town at Christmas.

''Yes,'' Frenchman Todt replied at a media conference when asked about Yeoh and her huge diamond ring. ''(Marriage) is an option. We are happy together -- so why not?''

Verstappen wants to race
(GMM -- Jan.4) Former Formula One favorite Jos Verstappen intends to race in 2005 -- 'no matter what.'

The Dutchman, who failed to find a seat last year after driving for Minardi in 2003, is still focused on the pinnacle of motor sport, but also the US' Champ Car category.

''The whole picture has to fit,'' he told official website verstappen.nl, ''the team, the car, but above all the money.''

The 32-year-old denied that the dearth of Verstappen-related news in recent times is indicative of his chance of renewing a top single-seater career. ''We are not at a dead end,'' he insisted. ''Our main focus is F1 but we have widened our view to Champ Car too.''

JV also said it is 'excellent' that countryman Christijan Albers will debut for Minardi in 2005.

Schu to help karting world
(GMM -- Jan.4) Seven time F1 world champion Michael Schumacher would like to help make go-karting 'more affordable.'

We earlier reported that the German will front an FIA advisory group to liaise with the karting world.

36-year-old Schumacher said: ''If (karting) is made accessible only to a select few, then that's no help to anyone, especially our sport. We want to change that.''

F1 quali may change again
(GMM -- Jan.4) The format for F1 qualifying may change again prior to the first grand prix of 2005, according to Red Bull principal Tony Purnell.

The Briton, admitting that his own idea for 'mini races' is dead, revealed that not everyone is happy about the proposed Saturday/Sunday-morning system.

Purnell said his 'mini race' idea bit the dust because it could have turned out more expensive. ''There may well have been more crashed cars to repair,'' he confessed, ''but the public would have loved it and, if we're honest, (the teams) would have coped.''

He denied that watching a grand prix is boring. ''I think,'' said TP, ''it's just that a lot of people think (the product) could be better. I think, personally, (F1) could do with being a little bit more unpredictable.''

Button and manager split
(GMM -- Jan.4) Jenson Button's manager, it would seem, has paid the ultimate price for bungling the British racer's switch from BAR for 2005.

John Byfield is leaving the 'Essentially Sport' company as chairman and CEO -- a bombshell that dropped just as it was confirmed that 25-year-old JB had signed a new three-year management deal.

Byfield's temporary replacement is director Duncan Hickman. ''(We have) signed a new ... commercial agreement with Jenson Button,'' he revealed.

Hickman added: ''We have (also) identified the candidate who has been selected to succeed John and we hope to announce their appointment shortly.''

A group spokesman, meanwhile, confirmed that Byfield will 'remain' at Essentially Sport in a lesser role.

Toyota 'demand' F1 podium
(GMM -- Jan.4) Toyota will 'demand' a maiden podium finish from the Cologne-based F1 team in 2005.

Executive vice president Akihiko Saito said Japanese chiefs had admitted that grand prix racing is 'harder than (we) expected.'

He added: ''But that just means it's a challenge worthy of our attention. However, we can't afford to keep going without getting better results -- we have invested too much money in the project for that.''

Biggest-budget Toyota finished just eighth, ahead only of cash-strapped minnows Jordan and Minardi, in the 2004 constructors' F1 championship.

Interestingly, in February last year, Saito said at a media conference in Japan: ''We are aiming for a podium position.''

F1 tire war to rage on
(GMM -- Jan.4) Formula One's tire war is set to rage at least until the end of 2006, it is reported.

Despite the governing FIA and teams' desire to install a 'control tire' situation as soon as possible, the deadline for notice of withdrawal from the championship in 2006 was 1 January (2005).

''(Michelin have) no intention (to withdraw) whatsoever,'' a Michelin official told website atlasf1.com, ''and (we have given) no notice to the FIA.''

A Bridgestone spokesperson, meanwhile, reiterated that the Japanese supplier intended to be in Formula One in the 'long term.'

Massa made special delivery
(GMM -- Jan.4) Felipe Massa personally delivered the overalls he wore in last October's Brazilian grand prix to their new home in Sao Paulo.

The local driver offered the signed memorabilia for auction, with proceeds to go to UNICEF's Crianca Esperanca Foundation.

''(The overalls) were very special to me,'' said Massa, ''as I wore them when I led my first ever lap in Formula One. But I gave it up because I knew the money raised ... would help poor children.''

Francisco Pinto Filho, the overalls' new owner, was delighted after hosting his hero at home. ''From now on I'll support him even more,'' he vowed.

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