F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 6, 2005

New logo for Williams' F1 car
(GMM -- Jan.6) A new logo will strike Williams' F1 livery in 2005, the team announced.

A statement explained that Swiss watch maker 'Oris SA' will 'upgrade' its existing agreement so that, in 2005 'and beyond,' it has an on-car presence on the new BMW-powered FW27.

Oris joined the Oxfordshire-based F1 outfit in 2003. CEO Ulrich Herzog said the partnership has had 'tangible' results so far.

Sir Frank Williams, meanwhile, said the deal is 'validation' of Formula One's value. ''I thank them for their continued support,'' the team co-owner and principal commented.

The team also confirmed on Wednesday that Draxlmaier Group, and clothing manufacturer W.L. Gore & Associates, have both joined as official suppliers.

''We already have existing relationships with both companies,'' BMW motor sport director Mario Theissen explained.

Klien, Liuzzi, sign RB deal
(GMM -- Jan.6) Christian Klien and Vitantonio Liuzzi have both signed one-year contracts to drive for F1 team 'Red Bull Racing' in 2005.

The former Jaguar squad said it had not decided whether the Austrian or the rookie Italian would kick off the new year in Melbourne alongside confirmed teammate David Coulthard.

A Red Bull spokeswoman revealed that the 'identical' contracts include an option for renewal, and that team management in Salzburg (Austria) would make a decision about Melbourne after test runs in January and February.

21-year-old Klien, and Liuzzi (23), are both backed by the fizzy drink magnate Dietrich Mateschitz.

Webber in Bahrain
(GMM -- Jan.6) Mark Webber strolled through the international terminal at Bahrain Airport on Wednesday night ahead of Friday's 'livery launch.'

Frank Williams' F1 team will unwrap the 2005 paint job, and a major new sponsor, at the grand prix venue near capital Manama. The 28-year-old Australian driver (Webber) will be accompanied by likely teammate Nick Heidfeld, and seat contender Antonio Pizzonia.

Team co-owner Patrick Head and BMW motor sport director Mario Theissen were set to arrive in Bahrain on Thursday morning, a local media source said.

Germany's Theissen will then remain in Bahrain on the weekend to open the new 'BMW Performance Centre,' ahead of the inaugural Formula BMW Asia championship.

Heidfeld told to 'open mouth'
(GMM -- Jan.6) Nick Heidfeld is good enough to become Germany's 'number two' of Formula One.

That's the claim of former triple world champion Niki Lauda, who agrees that the 27-year-old from Moenchengladbach is now in pole position to become Williams' second driver in 2005.

The Austrian said: ''Nick's only problem is that he always sells himself short -- he must learn that sometimes you can open your mouth.''

Lauda, also a former F1 principal at Jaguar, said Heidfeld has the natural talent to join world champion Michael Schumacher as a winning grand prix driver, but only if 'BMW put a good car together.'

Quali 'may change again'
(GMM -- Jan.6) Paul Stoddart has admitted that the format for F1 qualifying may change again prior to the Australian grand prix in March.

Asked if the Saturday/Sunday aggregate system would go ahead as announced, the Minardi owner said 'nobody knows.'

Stoddart, an Australian, told Motorsport News: ''We can't keep changing ... every year. If you did that in football, you'd have chaos on your hands.''

He said the single-lap format is preferred by smaller teams including Minardi and Jordan, but vowed to trade-in the guaranteed airtime for 'stability'.

''We can find a compromise,'' Paul said, suggesting that some want a return to the 12-lap format, ''but the most important people in this sport are the 300 million who get up day and night to watch our races.''

Speedy American in GP2
(GMM -- Jan.6) American hopeful Scott Speed will drive in Formula One's new support category (GP2) in 2005.

The 21-year-old Californian, champion in Euro and German Formula Renault in 2004, has signed a contract with newly-created team iSport International.

''It's a big step up,'' he said in a statement, ''and that's exactly what I am looking for as a driver trying to make it to Formula One.''

Speed is backed by the Red Bull search for a US-born F1 driver.

Schu's bodyguard dead
(GMM -- Jan.6) One of Michael Schumacher's bodyguards was killed in the Boxing Day tsunami in Phuket (Thailand).

The seven time world champion's PR lady and biographer, Sabine Kehm, said Burkhard Cramer (and, presumably, his two sons) died following the scale-9.0 underwater earthquake in south Asia.

German-born Schumacher, with a total estimated (annual) income at around $100 million, donated $10m to the UN and Red Cross' relief effort.

He said: ''The dawning of the New Year has not been as joyful for us this year because of the catastrophe in Asia.''

Ferrari firm on F1 benefit
(GMM -- Jan.6) According to Jean Todt, the nine-team agreement to limit testing in 2005 was a direct attack on the constructors' world champion.

The Ferrari principal told Autosprint magazine that his colleagues sat down in Sao Paulo last October to discuss 'where (Ferrari) can be damaged the most.'

The resultant agreement to limit in-year testing to 24 days, Jean Todt added, aimed to curtail Ferrari's advantage in having exclusive use of the private Fiorano circuit.

French born Todt asked rhetorically: "Why should we lose it -- just to please others? We have to please our shareholders, our clients and our fans, but surely we do not have to please our competitors.''

He also confirmed that Ferrari will be represented at the upcoming FIA and teams' meeting (Jan. 28). Jean said: ''It will be the most important day of the year for F1.''

'I wanted Button to leave'
(GMM -- Jan.6) Only one member of the BAR-Honda F1 camp wanted Jenson Button to win a ticket to Frank Williams' rival squad for 2005.

His name is Anthony Davidson. Brackley's 25-year-old test driver would have won a promotion and lined up alongside Japanese teammate Takuma Sato on the Melbourne grid.

The Englishman told Autosport: ''It's nothing against Jenson -- any racing driver would be the same if he sees an opportunity like that coming up.''

Davidson, who raced twice for Minardi in 2002, then watched a second racing shot go begging for 2005 when engine partner Honda blocked the 'shootout' run in a BMW-Williams.

'Aggressive' R25 - Fisichella
(GMM -- Jan.6) Giancarlo Fisichella will touch down in Melbourne knowing that he's never been in better physical shape.

Renault's returning driver revealed that he is already training hard for the 2005 grand prix season. ''I've been going for a month now,'' the Roman-born star - who'll turn 32 next Friday - said in Rome.

He confessed: ''I've never trained at this time of the year before.''

Fisichella said 2005, after a previous stint at Enstone in 1998-2001, would be the start of a 'new era' for him. ''I feel content, calm,'' he stated.

''I am with a top team who know how to win and want to win more,'' Giancarlo continued.

He even snuck a sneak-peak at the new R25 in the wind tunnel just prior to the New Year break. ''It looks nice,'' Fisichella reported, ''aggressive, with many new things on it.''

Blessed Schu applauded
(GMM -- Jan.6) Germany applauded Michael Schumacher's unprecedented donation to the Asian tsunami relief effort.

National newspaper 'Bild' said the $10m pledge proved that the 36-year-old F1 champion, often criticized for being too cold and arrogant, 'has a giant heart.'

The Berliner Kurier newspaper called him 'Schumi the Great.'

Meanwhile, in a recent edition of a Swiss publication, Schumacher admitted that he often goes to church, and believes in God.

He was quoted as saying: ''I believe He watches out for me in the difficult times. I thank God for all the beautiful moments that I have experienced so far in my life.''

Prost rejects Schu comparison
(GMM -- Jan.6) Alain Prost says it is impossible to compare him with current F1 world champion Michael Schumacher.

The four time title winner, who last lifted the drivers' crown in 1993, said not only did the former era boast vastly different cars, but he and Schumacher enjoyed 'a different status' within their F1 team.

''First of all, this is two different generations,'' said the Frenchman, ''so we should stop. But, if we want to talk about it, Michael has always been the number one driver in his team, while I never had that.

''Our careers were totally different.''

49-year-old Prost also said the mere skill of driving in grands prix is completely different today than in the 80's and 90's.

He added: ''Now, we talk about a strategy conceived by the whole team, but in my time the driver did most of it alone. In my time, a F1 driver was a calculator, not (just) a sprinter.''

'Tire rule to topple Ferrari'
(GMM -- Jan.6) 2005 will be a 'giant chance' for Ferrari's F1 rivals to finally challenge for the world championship, Niki Lauda said.

The triple drivers' title winner and former Ferrari steerer said new regulations always indicate a golden opportunity to topple the pacesetter.

''Above all I see the new tire rule as a chance for them,'' the Austrian said of the rule limiting each driver to a single set of rubber for both qualifying and the grand prix.

When it comes to developing a brand new F1 tire, 55-year-old Lauda continued, Michelin - Ferrari and Bridgestone's competitor - have a distinct advantage for 2005.

He explained: ''They have much more data, for example of Mercedes, BMW, Honda and Toyota, while Bridgestone has only Ferrari. And we know that tires dictate victory and defeat.''

Juan befriended Kimi
(GMM -- Jan.6) Juan Pablo Montoya will make a special effort to get along with new McLaren teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

Not famed for his relationship with Ralf Schumacher at Williams, the 29-year-old revealed that Finland's Raikkonen was 'one of the few drivers' in F1 that he befriended last year.

''We have a lot in common,'' said the Colombian, ''and both of us enjoy riding motorbikes, for example.

''We have always made an effort to talk in the driver's parade, even more so since we knew we were going to be working together.''

Perhaps predicting a fiery pairing, though, McLaren's management opted against pitting Kimi against the new boy in pre-Christmas track running. Montoya said he supported the decision because it meant he could work on settling in 'without being compared' to the more experienced incumbent.

Tough tenure awaiting Webber
(GMM -- Jan.6) Williams' new F1 driver Mark Webber is looking forward to taking himself to the limit in 2005.

The super-fit Australian defended his earlier statement that nothing short of grand prix victory is a worthy target for his fourth Melbourne appearance in March.

''If you only set yourself small tasks,'' the 28-year-old insisted, ''then it's not very challenging.''

Webber revealed that he is expecting a tough tenure with the BMW-powered collaboration. ''I know there will be days when I will think 'Jeez, I'm really under the pump here'.''

Mark added: ''But when you get your breath you think, 'yeah, this is why I'm here -- to consistently test myself against the best'.''

F1 to help tsunami effort
(GMM -- Jan.6) F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has been asked to support a combined effort of the international sporting world to help rebuild tsunami-struck south Asia.

French sport daily newspaper L'Equipe is behind the initiative, and also requested the involvement of FIFA, International Rugby, the NBA, NFL, PGA Tour, ATP Tour and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The IOC's Jacques Rogge is already calling L'Equipe's initiative a 'magnificent idea.'

Drug claim 'comical' - Webber
(GMM -- Jan.6) Mark Webber branded a former F1 team doctor's claim that cocaine use in the sport is widespread 'utterly ridiculous.'

The Australian said he'd never heard something as untrue or 'totally comical' since he lurched onto the grand prix scene with Minardi in 2002.

''Every driver I know is more than happy to give a drug test at any time,'' said the 28-year-old, also a director of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, ''and the FIA do just that.''

Webber said he'd be happy to be part of 'even more regular' drug testing in the future. He added: ''And I'm sure every other driver would be too.''

Asked if he'd ever heard anything about cocaine use in F1, Mark replied: ''Never -- absolutely never.''

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