F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 11, 2005

F1 team sale 'complete'
(GMM -- Jan.11) The part sale of F1 team BAR to engine partner Honda is now complete, the Brackley-based squad announced in a short statement.

Previous owner British American Tobacco agreed the deal in November, but minority shareholder Craig Pollock held up a conclusion and forced the company into administration.

A source at BAT, in December, confirmed in a telephone conversation that the team was indeed for sale to other bidders after a listing appeared on the Financial Times' website.

But, now, the joint venture - seeing Honda take a 45 per cent ownership in BAR - acquired the team from Grant Thornton, the appointed administrator.

Under present legislation, UK-based F1 teams will need to stamp out cigarette advertising in July to avoid prosecution.

Salo set for F1 return
(GMM -- Jan.11) Former Finnish F1 driver Mika Salo will return to the wheel of a scarlet grand prix car in 2005, he confirmed.

The 38-year-old revealed that, as part of a new agreement with sister company Maserati's sportscar team, he requested that he be 'guaranteed' at least one test day in a Ferrari single-seater.

Salo, in 1999, sat in for world champion Michael Schumacher following the German's leg-breaking crash at Silverstone.

''I really wanted to put (the Ferrari clause) in my contract and they accepted it -- so I'm very happy,'' Mika - who last drove in F1 in 2002 for Toyota - told the 'Turun Sanomat' publication.

Salo said that, after seeing the Ferrari test schedule, he'll actually be granted more than a single day this year.

2005 Sauber is 'brand new'
(GMM -- Jan.11) Sauber's new 2005 car is not an evolution of the Ferrari-inspired C23, Brazilian driver Felipe Massa revealed.

The youngster, scheduled to debut it at Valencia on Friday following the cancellation of the Swiss team's Malaysian launch, said C24 is 'quite different' to its predecessor.

He added: ''We decided to go for a brand new project -- a new car allows us to improve on the balance, the weight distribution and the chassis stiffness.''

Massa will drive in Spain on Friday and Saturday, before handing over to former world champion teammate Jacques Villeneuve.

The 23-year-old said the Valencia roll-out is just that. ''There is no need to be quick,'' Felipe insisted. ''If everything is well, we will first start with the set-up next week in Barcelona.''

Nick quick in New Year action
(GMM -- Jan.11) Williams' hopeful Nick Heidfeld staked a claim for the 2005 seat next to Mark Webber on Monday by outpacing the Australian ace at Jerez.

Winter/pre-season testing resumed at the sunny Spanish venue following a Christmas break.

Only BAR-Honda also ran at the 'de la Frontera' circuit, although a Toyota truck rolled through the gate around lunchtime.

Test pairing Anthony Davidson and Enrique Bernoldi drove black BAR-Honda 'concept' cars with a 2005 aerodynamic setting. The UK-based team will launch the new 007 at Barcelona on Sunday.

Meanwhile, over at Vallelunga - just outside Rome (Italy) - Ferrari's Luca Badoer kicked off 2005 with a tire and electronic test.

F1 in 'complete turmoil'?
(GMM -- Jan.11) If you regularly read the F1 media's interpretation, you might conclude that the pinnacle of motor racing is in complete turmoil.

But that's now how team president John Howett, who revealed that Toyota conducted more than a single study in 2004 'on the (F1) market', sees it.

He said: ''Our information really shows that F1 is still growing at around five per cent per year -- so there's still a lot to be excited about.''

The feeling of negativity in the grand prix press, surely, is due in part to the sheer amount of 'political' - as opposed to sporting - coverage.

But Howett said that, even politically, F1 is getting there. ''We are working toward a constructive solution for the British and French grands prix,'' he added, ''and also in reducing the costs and testing.

''I think the F1 cup is more than half full.''

McLaren in title sponsor blow
(GMM -- Jan.11) Whiskey label 'Johnnie Walker' have pulled out despite coming close to a Formula One sponsor deal with McLaren or BAR, we can reveal.

We reported in December that the Diageo-owned alcohol brand seriously considered a huge title sponsorship deal to replace McLaren's 'West' (cigarette) branding from mid-'05.

But, according to a source, the Walker pull-out might be due to the legal confusion that could have resulted from the association of a motor racing company with hard liquor.

Schu's set for F1 return
(GMM -- Jan.11) Michael Schumacher returned to Europe from his winter retreat in Norway at the weekend to prepare for a fifteenth championship assault on F1.

Ferrari's traditional ski/media event at Madonna di Campiglio, in Italy, is set to kick off and, after that, the seven time world champion will reacquaint with an Italian F1 test track, we can reveal.

''I have returned to Switzerland feeling well rested,'' the 36-year-old German said. ''We're all set to fight for the title again -- I can hardly wait.''

Toyota to deliver Jordan V10
(GMM -- Jan.11) It's reported that grand prix team Jordan will soon receive their first customer Toyota V10 engine batch.

New technical director Mark Smith said the 'new' EJ15 is basically the existing model, modified to accommodate the engine and the 2005 aerodynamic regulation.

Predicting a slow start, then, Smith revealed that the plan is to develop rapidly from mid-season on.

He said in a Reuters report: ''I would be very cautious about expectations for the first races ... but don't write us off.''

Toyota's engine chief, former Ferrari man Luca Marmorini, meanwhile, said the customer arrangement should be 'positive' for both sides, due to the exchange of running data.

Toyota's early debut drawback
(GMM -- Jan.11) Toyota have denied they will be disadvantaged by spurning the traditional F1 route of testing a 'hybrid' test car in the winter period.

On Saturday, the Cologne-based big spender became the first team to launch a 2005 car, having tested with the older TF104B in pre-New Year running.

''If you bring out the car early,'' said technical director Mike Gascoyne, ''you have more time to run it. Aerodynamically, you do want as much as possible to develop and design so you might want to launch the car late.''

But the Englishman thinks he's on to a best-of-both-worlds solution in launching the car early, for reliability, and then working on the Melbourne-spec aero package in January and February.

He added: ''We will totally re-work the car for Melbourne. It does mean you have to produce more bits, but that's what you do to be competitive.''

'Driver's head is top weapon'
(GMM -- Jan.11) Ask Sir Jackie Stewart, and he'll tell you that 'the head' is the most important weapon in a top grand prix driver's armory.

The world champion of 1969, '71 and '73 said psychology - for example - defines an athlete's discipline, ability to assess risk, and application to physical preparation.

''All twenty guys out there (in F1) are naturally very talented,'' said the 65-year-old Scot, ''but only one or two have that brilliance which is required to excel.''

Stewart said today's truly brilliant driver is seven time champion Michael Schumacher, 'just like in the past it was Fangio, Clark, myself - if you want to say so - Lauda, Prost and Senna, and so on.'

Jackie concluded: ''In all cases, the head made them what they were.''

Sepang F1 given green light
(GMM -- Jan.11) FIA race director Charlie Whiting inspected Malaysia's grand prix venue near Kuala-Lumpur on Monday and signaled a green light for the March 20 race.

Sepang's general manager Ahmad Mustafa said resurfacing work at Turn 4 and 12 was approved 'without complaint.'

He also revealed to local media that, for the first time since Malaysia debuted in F1 in 1999, an open-air rock concert would follow the grand prix in 2005.

Ahmad added: ''It is (part) of a traffic management strategy to help ensure smooth traffic flow after the race.''

Sepang expect a record 120,000 turnout for the 2005 Malaysian grand prix. 101,455 people attended in 2003.

JV to race in ski marathon
(GMM -- Jan.11) 1997 world champion and Sauber driver Jacques Villeneuve, with manager and friend Craig Pollock, will host their 'Formula Charity' 24-hour ski event in Switzerland next week.

It's reported that David Coulthard, Eddie Jordan and JV's former Williams teammate Damon Hill may attend the marathon race, to raise money for the 'Cancer in Childhood' foundation.

''The concept was simple,'' BAR team founder Pollock told Reuters. ''How can we have fun by passing on some of our rewards to others not so fortunate?''

Silverstone 'Academy'
(GMM -- Jan.11) The British Racing Drivers' Club would like to set youngsters on the road to Formula One.

Silverstone's owner launched the 'Motorsport Academy' -- with the goal of training rookies in the art of grand prix driving, also by hosting a junior championship.

''Anyone who knows us understands how motivated we are to provide excellence in driver development at all levels in the sport,'' said manager Ken Bowles.

'A1' set for Asian pledge
(GMM -- Jan.11) New-in-2005 winter open-wheeler championship 'A1 Grand Prix' is set to make a donation to the Indian Ocean tidal wave disaster.

The car will be run in Dubai later in January, and president Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum will pledge every entry fee to the Autodrome to the 'International Tsunami Relief Fund.'

''It's great to be able to bring the (A1) project back to ... my home country,'' he said.

'There's pressure' on Mike
(GMM -- Jan.11) Mike Gascoyne has admitted that there is pressure on him to deliver a fast F1 car for Toyota.

The newly-launched TF105 is the first racer built entirely under the former Renault technical director's stewardship.

''Toyota signed me when I was at a team winning races,'' he commented, ''so they expect me to deliver something. But I'm not nervous.''

TF105 doesn't look outwardly radical, but Mike said new regulations in F1 give chasing F1 teams an opportunity to catch the competition. He added: ''And when the changes are like these, who knows what will happen?''

Meanwhile, team driver Ralf Schumacher predicted that the new car restrictions, including a harder tire compound, should only slow the field by about 'a second and a half.

''I think that later,'' the German added, ''we'll be doing similar lap times (to 2004). F1 is not going to be a lot slower.''

New F1 quali to go ahead
(GMM -- Jan.11) Formula One's new qualifying format is likely to proceed in 2005, as announced.

Despite many player's lack of enthusiasm for the Saturday/Sunday 'aggregate' system, Sir Frank Williams said the only way it can be overturned now is if every team, and (FIA president) Max Mosley, agree.

The team co-owner and principal added: ''I just don't think there's enough energy behind (changing) it. If Bernie thought we had to (change), then he would probably be making a lot of noise about it.''

Grove-based Williams also admitted that Ecclestone, the 74-year-old commercial rights holder, basically dictates the grand prix weekend format, as he liaises with the TV broadcasters.

Jordan to sign pay driver
(GMM -- Jan.11) There are more than a few names on Jordan's F1 driver shortlist for 2005.

A spokeswoman told news agency Reuters that the Silverstone-based squad is talking to 'a lot of different people.'

It's contended that the most likely pairing at the cash-strapped outfit is Germany's Timo Glock, with multi million dollar DHL backing, and fellow pay driver Robert Doornbos, a Dutchman.

The spokeswoman didn't deny that owner Eddie Jordan is on the lookout for a man with a big sack of cash.

But she added: ''There's no shortage of candidates -- we are keeping our options open.''

'Follow our example' - Toyota
(GMM -- Jan.11) Toyota agreed to offer privateer Jordan their (estimated) $10m customer F1 engine deal because it wanted to 'support a smaller team.'

Now, president John Howett is calling on F1's other car manufacturers - BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Renault and Honda - to do the same in time for 2006.

''We think it's necessary,'' he said in Spain for the 2005 Toyota car's launch at the weekend. ''We said that, under the right condition, we would do it -- so we've done it.

''We'd like some others to follow our leadership.''

Howett believes F1 'needs' the smaller teams, like Jordan and Minardi, just as it also needs the manufacturers. He also said the two-race engine rule, and a subsequent cost saving, had made the Jordan offer possible.

Toyota engine director Luca Marmorini, meanwhile, revealed that the decision to supply Jordan was made a little late. ''I think it will be a struggle for them,'' the Italian said. ''(But) I'm sure their car will be ready for Melbourne.''

Toyota V8 design 'finalized'
(GMM -- Jan.11) The design of Toyota's first F1-spec V8 is already finalized, according to engine chief Luca Marmorini.

Next year, the FIA will mandate the 2.4 liter formula.

The Italian said: ''We are already manufacturing (V8) parts -- it's definitely a lot of work on top of our normal work.''

Marmorini also denied that the new two-grand prix per engine regulation in 2005 has compelled a heavier, less powerful and lower-revving F1 design.

''The weight reduction is not huge,'' he admitted, ''but performance wise we're confident we'll go to Melbourne with something more than our end performance (at the 2004 Brazilian grand prix).''

Toyota 'will win' - Trulli
(GMM -- Jan.11) Toyota, in time, will win grands prix, new F1 team driver Jarno Trulli said at Saturday's launch of the 2005-spec TF105 car.

The Italian, ousted by Renault following a mid-season management row last year, is adamant that the Cologne-based rival is on the way to becoming F1's next top team.

''It's just a matter of time and experience,'' he said. ''I don't know how long it's going to take but I am seeing them change their approach and there's a good winning mentality now.''

31-year-old Trulli last worked with Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne at Renault in 2003. The English engineer also worked with other signing Ralf Schumacher, at Jordan, in 1997.

''To be able to say you've got a line-up like that,'' Gascoyne commented, ''is very motivating for the workforce.''

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