F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 5, 2005

Sauber cancel 2005 launch
(GMM -- Jan.5) Swiss Formula One team Sauber has called off the launch of 2005 car 'C24' in deference to the Asian tsunami disaster.

The Ferrari-powered racer was set to be unveiled in Malaysian sponsor Petronas' home country, in Kuala-Lumpur on 11 January.

It would have celebrated the oil company's ten-year stint at the pinnacle of motor sport, but the event was cancelled 'as a mark of respect to the victims ... and their families,' a team member said on Tuesday.

The spokesman then told us that the new car would simply debut at Valencia (Spain) on January 14, with Brazilian driver Felipe Massa initially at the wheel.

Schu's $10m pledge
(GMM -- Jan.5) F1 world champion Michael Schumacher donated $10 million (US) to the relief effort following Boxing Day's devastating tsunami disaster in south Asia.

The German's pledge, announced by agent Willi Weber on a German TV fundraiser for the UN Children's Fund and German Red Cross, is the biggest so far in the world of sport, and possibly of any individual.

''What happened to so many people is so unfathomable and horrible,'' 36-year-old Schumacher, the Ferrari driver, said. ''One cannot simply blind it out -- we're suffering with them.''

Earlier, the International Olympic Committee pledged $1m, the English Premier League $2m, while German soccer squad Bayern Munich offered $400,000.

The Asian death toll is at 146,000.

F1 got all-clear drug report
(GMM -- Jan.5) A media report will render the claims of former Ferrari (F1) doctor Benigno Bartoletti completely unjustifiable.

The Italian said that almost half of all grand prix drivers snort cocaine to boost reaction time and the feeling of 'invincibility.'

But Germany's 'Sport Bild' magazine will say in Wednesday's edition that more than fifty drug tests were conducted by the governing FIA in Formula One last year -- and all returned a negative result.

Bild said drivers were tested randomly after Saturday qualifying at every grand prix in 2004, and Michael Schumacher - for one - showed negative twice.

Schu buys $32m 'Villa'
(GMM -- Jan.5) 36-year-old Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher has snapped up a huge house in Italy -- for a cool $32.5 million.

The 1926-built mansion, called 'Villa Cassinella' and sold by Carlo Mantegazza's son, is on the shore of Lake Como, near Lenno.

An Italian newspaper said famous Americans Brad Pitt, Kevin Costner and Bruce Springsteen made (unsuccessful) bids for the house.

Swiss-based Schumacher, the seven time world drivers' champion, will reportedly use the house as a holiday retreat.

Klien offered Red Bull deal
(GMM -- Jan.5) Christian Klien has been offered a contract to drive for F1 team Red Bull Racing in 2005, it is reported.

Austrian broadcaster ORF said Klien, as well as F3000 champion Vitantonio Liuzzi, both now have an offer on the table, but the proposed contract would not guarantee a full season of grands prix.

20-year-old Klien, who drove for Red Bull's Ford-owned 'Jaguar' incarnation in 2004 with the backing of the energy drink, reportedly told 'ORF' that he would consider the offer with his manager-father.

Sato's 'ragged' - Button
(GMM -- Jan.5) Takuma Sato is a 'ragged' driver who lacks consistency, Formula One teammate Jenson Button said.

24-year-old Button lashed out at the Japanese's driving style, including a slipshod shunt into Rubens Barrichello at the Nurburgring in May last year.

JB told British broadcaster ITV: ''I'm not sure it's going to change for 2005. I think with that move, he decided half a minute beforehand that he was going to have a go.''

Frome-born Button, though, admitted that 27-year-old Sato's debatable style is catching on with many fans. He added: ''I'm sure people love watching him.

''Taku is quite ragged but, at times, he is also very, very fast.''

Montoya - 'it's not perfect'
(GMM -- Jan.5) Juan Pablo Montoya's January/February test program will been stepped up by McLaren following a lively pre-Christmas period.

The Colombian, who drove for Frank Williams' F1 outfit from 2001 until last October, admitted in an interview that 'not everything' was rosy when he first tried the silver MP4-19B.

''Basically the car is good,'' the 29-year-old commented, ''but we're really going to work on adapting my driving style -- at the moment it's not perfect.''

Montoya admitted that the top of the podium, and the drivers' championship, were the ultimate goals for 2005. But he added: ''Really, it's too early to tell -- right now we're just setting up the car and I'm getting used to working with the team.

''But so far so good.''

Renault set for Jan. rollout
(GMM -- Jan.5) Renault's new Formula One car will debut at Valencia on January 25, we can reveal.

The Enstone-based team, with Fernando Alonso, Giancarlo Fisichella and Franck Montagny all present, is scheduled to roll out the 'R25'-designated 2005 racer at the Spanish venue prior to its official launch in Monaco a week later.

R25 is penned by chief designer Tim Densham and overseen by project leader Axel Plasse.

Next week at Jerez, work - with the older R24 - will resume, as engineer Christian Silk explained: ''We will work on electronic development, to be sure the systems are ready for when the 2005 car begins running.''

Massa to 'improve' in '05
(GMM -- Jan.5) Felipe Massa believes 2004 was a successful year for him in Formula One.

The young Brazilian, who debuted in 2002 but moved to Ferrari to be test driver a season later, returned to Swiss team Sauber last year and insists he did a 'decent job' at the wheel.

Massa said of 2004: ''Only good things happened to me -- I scored 12 points, led my first ever lap in F1, was the guy who overtook most, and helped Sauber finish sixth in the constructors' championship.''

He does, though, hope to improve even more in 2005. ''I'm sure I will,'' said Felipe.

Ferrari-powered Sauber has switched from Bridgestone to Michelin, and Massa revealed that, in winter testing, the car suited the French tyre product 'perfectly.'

He concluded: ''So we expect to take another step forward (in 2005).''

Sauber switch surprised chief
(GMM -- Jan.5) F1 principal Tony Purnell was surprised when Swiss team Sauber announced it would switch from Bridgestone to Michelin rubber in 2005.

The Red Bull, formerly Jaguar, chief said the bombshell could indicate that a French company based at Clermont-Ferrand produces the best tyres in grand prix racing -- even if its rival won more grands prix.

''(Sauber's switch) threw me a little bit,'' Purnell admitted. ''(Jaguar) have never run on Bridgestones, so I don't know, but if you look at the flipside ... Michael Schumacher (and Ferrari) walked away with the (2004) championship.''

Schu outpaced by Frenchman
(GMM -- Jan.5) He may be a seven time F1 title winner, but even Michael Schumacher can't with 'em all.

The German was outpaced in a 'Driver of the Year' poll on Canadian TV broadcaster TSN's website -- by a Champ Car star.

Having secured more than fifty per cent of the vote, Frenchman and '04 winner Sebastien Bourdais walked away with the plaudit, with Ferrari's 36-year-old a distant second after capturing just 32 per cent.

'I was misguided' - Button
(GMM -- Jan.5) It was a 'mistake' to attempt to escape from a watertight BAR contract, British F1 driver Jenson Button admitted.

The 24-year-old told TV broadcaster ITV in a season wrap-up that he had not 'fully' understood that ultimately ousted agent John Byfield tried to thread a needle through a loophole in the bungled move to Frank Williams' outfit.

He said: ''I thought my reasons for wanting to (leave) were correct but I was misguided -- you learn from your mistakes.''

Track compatriot and F1 veteran David Coulthard, meanwhile, tried to temper the criticism that had fallen on the young BAR driver's shoulder in the Button-gate saga. ''We tend to forget,'' said the Scot, ''that Jenson is still only 24.''

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