F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 7, 2005

Frank to bank on Royal Bank
(GMM -- Jan.7) As predicted in June last year, the world's sixth largest bank - the 'Royal Bank of Scotland' - will race into Formula One in 2005 with Frank Williams' BMW-powered team.

At a media gathering in London, it was confirmed that the multi-year deal - thought to be worth about $15m a season - is bettered only by HP's team backing.

''They join an impressive list of leading global brands who have also recognized the commercial value of investing in Formula One to build awareness,'' Sir Frank commented.

A company representative said F1 won RBS' affection after other possible sponsorships, such as the Olympic Games and in football, were also assessed.

Sir Frank, meanwhile, said the agreement is a coup given F1's 'gloomy' publicity of late.

Nick foiled Pizza delivery
(GMM -- Jan.7) 'Jungle Boy' would have scooped the F1 seat next to Mark Webber for 2005 -- if not for 'Quick Nick.'

Oxfordshire-based team principal Sir Frank Williams said he had felt 'very happy' about the appointment of 23-year-old Antonio Pizzonia, until Nick Heidfeld got a shot in the test-spec FW26 at the behest of engine partner BMW.

''We agreed that it might be sensible to look around,'' he said at a London media gathering. ''If Nick had not been so obvious (then) Antonio would be confirmed already.''

Grove had planned to announce Webber's new teammate on Friday, but Frank said the decision would now be delayed until at least the end of January to give both 'more time' to show off at a testing track.

Frank admitted that Australia's Webber, and Munich-based BMW, favor Germany's Heidfeld. ''Mark, I think, is a little uncomfortable (about Antonio),'' Williams admitted, ''but we'll do what is best, if he is quicker.''

Ferrari in F1 boycott
(GMM -- Jan.7) If either the French or British grands prix were staged tomorrow, Michael Schumacher's Ferrari team would not compete.

It's reported that the champion marque is holding out for a bigger share in the teams' compensation agreement for controversial 18th and 19th races in 2005.

At a media conference in London, Sir Frank Williams admitted that 'there is a threat' to Magny-Cours' and Silverstone's F1 calendar spots scheduled for July.

''Ferrari want more money than the rest,'' the Englishman said on Thursday. ''(FIA president) Max (Mosley) may have to make it a non-championship event but remember that Bernie (Ecclestone) can make things happen better than anyone else.''

A Ferrari spokesman dismissed the speculation as 'completely untrue,' while a source at the FIA said the matter had not been brought to the governing body's attention. ''There will be 19 races,'' the Ferrari man insisted.

F1 help for Asian disaster
(GMM -- Jan.7) Formula One's governing body will coordinate an international effort to raise money for the Asian tsunami disaster.

President Max Mosley has written to the FIA's 160 member clubs in more than a hundred countries asking them to donate to a special relief bank account.

''All donations received will be passed directly to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent,'' said an FIA spokesman.

In addition to Michael Schumacher's personal pledge, F1 tire supplier Bridgestone donated nearly $1m, Toyota the same amount, and Ferrari sponsor Vodafone nearly $2m.

Schumacher's personal sponsor DVAG, meanwhile, pledged a million Euro.

Red Bull to dump F1 principal
(GMM -- Jan.7) Tony Purnell may be dropped as Red Bull Racing's F1 team principal, it is reported.

F3000 team owner Christian Horner, who had been negotiating with Jordan about a F1 buyout, will be elevated to the former Jaguar man's position with an announcement expected soon, the British media speculated.

Reports say a Chinese investor is looking to buy a slice of Dietrich Mateschitz's new F1 squad, but is insisting on an upper management reshuffle.

Managing director David Pitchforth may also leave the team, we have learned. Purnell, though, said the Red Bull billionaire told him that both he and Pitchforth were staying put.

''(Mateschitz's) reputation is that he is a man of his word,'' Purnell told autosport.com.

FIA to inspect F1 venue
(GMM -- Jan.7) The FIA's technical and safety delegate Charlie Whiting will inspect changes to the Malaysian grand prix venue after the weekend.

The Briton, and a delegation, is on the way to Sepang - just out of Kuala Lumpur - to check that Malaysian organizers honored a commitment made following 2004's March event to modify sections of the six-year-old F1 venue.

''It's a routine inspection,'' said circuit general manager Ahmad Mustafa.

He added: ''(We) will have another inspection on Thursday during the race week.''

Sepang International Circuit has been resurfaced at Turn 4 and 12, following the FIA's recommendation. The 2005 Malaysian grand prix will be held on March 20.

F1 website bought
(GMM -- Jan.7) Leading F1 website atlasf1.com has been bought.

Autosport publisher Haymarket will merge the subscription-only publication in a bid to boost autosport.com's similar pay service.

Grove team 'must succeed'
(GMM -- Jan.7) Failure, they said, is not an option.

Sir Frank Williams admitted in a London media call on Thursday that there's 'a lot of pressure' to perform in 2005.

''Companies like the (Royal Bank of Scotland) are providing us with a lot of money to spend and they want to see a return on that investment,'' he said. ''In short, we have to spend more time at the front of the grid.''

30 per cent team co-owner Patrick Head, in Bahrain for the 2005 F1 car's livery launch, admitted that a new regulation code is an 'opportunity' for Ferrari's big rivals to catch up.

He also confessed: ''The pressure is on us but we're up for it.''

Sir Frank said Williams' problem in 2004 is easily identifiable -- ''we didn't build a good enough car; and that's our fault to put right.''

BAR to beam from Barcelona
(GMM -- Jan.7) Want to watch BAR unveil their 2005-spec '007' car live? Then get down to Birmingham's NEC (UK) next Sunday for the Autosport International Show.

The F1 launch will be beamed via satellite from Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

It's reported that Williams' Mark Webber and Red Bull racer David Coulthard will attend the Autosport show in person, as will former F1 drivers Eddie Irvine, Justin Wilson, Allan McNish and '64 champion John Surtees.

Autosport International is one of the world's top motorsport exhibitions, and will feature a F1 car gallery with the entire grid displayed in steel cradles at 90 degrees.

'No cocaine in F1' - FIA
(GMM -- Jan.7) FIA medical delegate Sid Watkins served a knock-out blow to a former Ferrari doctor's claim that cocaine use in F1 is widespread.

The Professor told Autosport that there is 'no way' a driver who is randomly tested could know about - and therefore prepare for - a drug test.

''We've seen no trace of any (drug) in F1 -- ever,'' he added.

Watkins said he'd never even heard of 68-year-old 'Ben' Bartlett, the Italian who made the claim in a magazine in December.

Vague role exciting Klien
(GMM -- Jan.7) According to Christian Klien, the battle to become David Coulthard's teammate at F1 team Red Bull is not too fierce.

The Austrian, who'll turn 22 when the Salzburg-run squad unveils a new car on February 7, has signed a race/test deal for 2005 -- but so too has F3000 champion Vitantonio Liuzzi.

He said: ''I'm very excited about it -- I get to work with the experienced David Coulthard and my friend Tonio Liuzzi.''

Klien, Coulthard and Liuzzi are presently in the south of France for physical preparation and training. Red Bull say they will decide the Melbourne F1 line-up after testing in January and February.

'Nick is BMW-powered driver'
(GMM -- Jan.7) 27-year-old Nick Heidfeld is definitely a BMW-powered F1 driver, the German revealed in Bahrain on Thursday.

There for the 'livery launch' of the 2005 Williams car, German-born 'Quick Nick' said he had signed an agreement that guarantees either a race or testing role in 2005.

''I'm still not sure (about the exact role,'' Heidfeld commented, ''but still it is a good feeling. Now I'm focused on the next one or two tests, where I will have to be on top form.''

BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen is also in Bahrain and agreed that Heidfeld will be part of the F1 line-up with Mark Webber and Antonio Pizzonia. ''We know that both (Nick and Antonio) are fast,'' said the German.

Nick's manager Werner Heinz, meanwhile, said Moenchengladbach-born Heidfeld stands a 'good chance' of snatching the race role from Pizzonia if he outpaces the Brazilian in the three January tests.

Second Dutchman to snare F1
(GMM -- Jan.7) If a collective Holland keeps its fingers crossed, there might be a Dutch duo on the 2005 grid.

Christijan Albers is a confirmed Minardi starter, and countryman Robert Doornbos is in pole position to snare a racing seat at other F1 minnow Jordan.

''I think I am ready for Formula One,'' the 23-year-old said today. Asked what likelihood a Melbourne debut would be, Robert replied: ''It is looking quite good.''

He admitted that he is being asked to bring along a 'big' sponsor, but sees good prospects for the new Jordan/Toyota pairing. ''A lot of people in the team think we can maybe fight for points and move forward,'' said Robert.

If Jordan's part-time-in-2004 'Friday' man does make the graduation to racing driver, then not since 1952 - with Jan Flinterman and Dries van der Lof - will there have been two Dutchmen on the F1 grid.

Jordan no longer 'for sale'
(GMM -- Jan.7) Team buyout negotiations between Eddie Jordan and Arden F3000 team owner Christian Horner have broken down, according to a report.

Grandprix.com said the Silverstone-based Formula One squad may no longer be 'for sale.

''The latest suggestion is that (Jordan) is going to go it alone (in 2005) and wait,'' the internet publication read.

It's also suggested that German incumbent Timo Glock, with a rumored $14m in backing from the DHL Speed Academy, is favorite to join fellow pay driver Robert Doornbos in a yellow car in 2005.

'F1 media got Jag cost wrong'
(GMM -- Jan.7) Austrian billionaire Dieter Mateschitz has denied he paid up to a cool $110 million for Ford's formerly-named Jaguar F1 team.

In his first interview with the British media, the Red Bull 'stimulant' drink magnate said the cheapest thing in Formula One 'is buying a team.'

He told the Belfast Telegraph: ''The real expenditure comes after. The price? Well, I read that I paid unbelievable amounts in one of your British newspapers -- maybe the journalist should change to a different profession.''

60-year-old Mateschitz, who has never married, said he never does radio or TV interviews because privacy 'is quality.

''I don't want to be recognized by everyone,'' he told the paper.

F1 duo back 'Quick Nick'
(GMM -- Jan.7) Williams' race contender Nick Heidfeld has won the backing of a formidable German-speaking duo.

10-time grand prix winner Gerhard Berger, once joint BMW motorsport director, said the German from Moenchengladbach deserves a top-flight go in F1.

''I think most people underestimate (Nick),'' the Austrian told 'Kicker' magazine. ''Up until now he's not really had the chance to show what he can really do.''

Gerhard said the 27-year-old stood out in 2001, when he lined up at Sauber next to a notable F1 young gun called Kimi Raikkonen. ''I think Nick would be a good choice,'' Berger said, although he agreed that he lacks 'charisma' or a strong personality.

30-year-old McLaren test driver Alex Wurz, meanwhile - also an Austrian - said the Heidfeld/BMW combination would make 'a lot of sense.'

He added: ''I think Nick could genuinely become a winner, with a good car and a little bit of time. To be honest, I don't see a huge difference between Webber and Heidfeld.''

Webber's 'winning spirit'
(GMM -- Jan.7) Frank Williams' assessment that new Australian signing Mark Webber is so far 'inspirational' drew a snigger or two at a London media call.

''Ok, that's an exaggeration,'' smiled the surprisingly cheerful F1 team co-owner, ''but you know what I'm trying to say -- we think he's got the shoulder for the challenge.''

Sir Frank said Mark, 28, is popping-in at Grove HQ at least once or twice a week and is willing to spend 'all his time' on the BMW-powered team, and F1.

He added: ''He's got a spirit that says to people 'I'm worth working very, very hard for'. He is very much liked and appreciated for that.''

Mercifully, too, Webber is quick on the winter test track -- but Frank is reserving judgment: ''Let's wait and see how he goes in the first few races,'' Williams grinned again.

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