F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 18, 2005

Barcelona action to resume
(GMM -- Jan.18) Contrary to earlier speculation, some Formula One winter running should go ahead at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

BAR and Renault packed up and went to Valencia, and Sauber - who intended to move to Barcelona - opted to stay put.

''The ... surface will not allow for a proper evaluation of the proposed ... program,'' read a BAR statement.

But Williams, Ferrari and Toyota vowed to sample the reportedly slippery and unsettled asphalt before making a decision about the week.

A Toyota spokesman noted: ''We'll have to race there for the Spanish grand prix in May.''

Meanwhile, a Bridgestone truck is already at the venue. ''If we, and Ferrari, decide we cannot continue, we will leave,'' a spokeswoman explained.

BMW man 'amazed'
(GMM -- Jan.18) Mario Theissen is 'amazed' that the F1 media is only now appreciating the skill of grand prix veteran Nick Heidfeld.

The BMW motor sport director was instrumental in 27-year-old Nick's elevation to contention as BMW-Williams' 2005 teammate for Mark Webber.

''A few months ago,'' said Germany's Dr. Theissen, ''only a handful would've kicked up a fuss if (Nick) had not found work for 2005. Now, many experts claim he is the latest big discovery.''

He said Frank Williams should have a 'solid basis' for a final driver decision after the current January test sessions.

Ferrari men visit Vatican
(GMM -- Jan.18) Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and Luca Badoer presented a scarlet-red Ferrari F1 to the Pope on Monday.

It's the world's only 1:5 model of the title winning F2004.

''That's different to the last one,'' Pope John Paul II remarked as he also met president Luca di Montezemolo and Jean Todt.

The Pope, now 84 and unable to walk, rode in a Maranello-built road car on a visit in 1988.

''The Church considers sporting activity ... to be a worthwhile educational instrument,'' he later said in a statement.

Montezemolo, in an address, cleverly said the Pope is on 'pole position on the road of humanity.'

Brazil's Barrichello, meanwhile - a Catholic - asked John Paul to bless a photo of his family. ''I've dreamed about this since I was a kid,'' he beamed in a subsequent interview.

BAR proposed 30-day limit
(GMM -- Jan.18) BAR's Nick Fry played down speculation that the Formula One competitor will tear up a nine-team agreement to limit testing to a 24-day program.

The new 'CEO' said Brackley-based BAR actually suggested the 30-day compromise.

But he told the Reuters news agency: ''At the moment my understanding is that Ferrari don't agree with that.

''I think it would ... be better ... if there were agreements between all ten ... rather than nine (teams).''

Briscoe snubbed F1 shot
(GMM -- Jan.18) Australian driver Ryan Briscoe says he could have driven for Jordan in 2005.

But the 23-year-old from Sydney will instead drive a front running Chip Ganassi car in America's oval-based Indy Racing League.

''It was quite a difficult decision,'' he said, ''but I see this as a better ... platform for a better career.

''One day in the future I want to race (in Formula One) at the pointy end of the field.''

Briscoe, who'll also take part in the fabled Indy 500 this year and next, was Toyota's grand prix tester in 2003-4. [Editor's Note:  What is he smoking?  F1 teams don't hire 100% throttle IRL drivers.]

Jordan to lose paint job
(GMM -- Jan.18) If it's sold, the 'Jordan' Formula One team will likely no longer appear with a yellow paint job.

According to speculation, Gallaher - owner of the 'Benson & Hedges' cigarette brand - won't want to pen a new agreement in the increasingly smoke-free world of GP racing, and the new team owner, equally, will be keen to establish a new corporate identity.

'Minardi pay Ferrari'
(GMM -- Jan.18) Believe it or not, minnow Formula One team Minardi's Paul Stoddart wrote a big check to Ferrari -- every year.

''Why?'' the Australian said in the February edition of F1 Racing magazine.

''There's no good reason for it.''

Stoddart said F1's poorest team - and everyone else - is obliged to honor a clause in the current, although highly secreted, 'Concorde Agreement.'

According to the Australian entrepreneur, the FIA says Minardi must continue to pay Ferrari 'in recognition of their historical contribution' to the sport.

50-year-old Stoddart also said a rumor is about that an 18-man squad of Ferrari men actually wrote F1's new technical code.

Brit GP set for sell-out
(GMM -- Jan.18) Despite late confirmation of the 2005 event, tickets are selling fast for July's British grand prix, according to Silverstone.

Managing director Richard Phillips said support for the rescued event has been ''fantastic. Ticket sales are up compared to this time last year,'' he added, ''and some grandstands are already sold out.

''The signs are looking positive for another sell-out crowd.''

Ant's not in a bad mood
(GMM -- Jan.18) England's Anthony Davidson denied he is facing yet another year of mere test driving in a bad mood.

The 25-year-old negotiated for a racing deal with Williams, Sauber and Red Bull, and would have taken Jenson Button's seat had the Briton moved on.

But, even if many of the moves were scuppered by management teams who couldn't agree, Davidson insisted: ''I'm not angry at anyone at all.

''It's pure business -- and all I want to do is race, but here we are again.''

Unlike in 2004, though, Davidson - who turned down a 2005 Le Mans offer because of the BAR commitment - will not this year be able to drive in the spotlight of 'Friday' practices at grands prix.

Williams lose top man
(GMM -- Jan.18) Frank Williams' Formula One team will lose their current Finance Director, we can reveal.

Jeremy Duckworth is leaving to join Haymarket, publisher of the motor racing magazine Autosport, on February 9.

A Haymarket statement said Duckworth had been responsible for 'improving (Williams') financial performance ... as it continues to face the challenges of the (Formula One) industry.'

BAR turn to UK military
(GMM -- Jan.18) Jenson Button may tackle German F1 adversary Michael Schumacher with a military-style efficiency in 2005.

The Briton's BAR squad turned to some of the UK army, navy and air force's 'top people' for advice on how to find a conquering edge, a team source told UK tabloid The Mirror.

He added: ''They told us the types of strategic things (the armed forces) would do.

''It's going to be an interesting season.''

25-year-old JB kick-started the psychological warfare at the launch of a new BAR car, when he fired Schumacher a warning: ''(He) should definitely be more worried this year.''

F1 support for JV ski event
(GMM -- Jan.18) David Coulthard, Damon Hill, Mika Salo, Sir Jackie Stewart and Eddie Jordan turned out in Switzerland to support Jacques Villeneuve's 'Grand Prix 24 Hour' ski event for charity.

Held at the Villars resort, they came to support the marathon relay event co-founded by JV's agent Craig Pollock.

This year, despite thinner than usual snow cover, $300,000 was raised for those charities 'ignored' since the tsunami tragedy, Villeneuve reported.

''Can you imagine me not wanting to beat Jackie Stewart?'' F1 team owner Eddie Jordan joked.

33-year-old Coulthard, meanwhile, defended attending - as opposed to competing in - the 2005 marathon. ''I have to admit,'' said the Scot, ''that my skiing skills do not allow me to ... take part every year.''

Schu 'air bag' for F1 safety
(GMM -- Jan.18) A novel 'air bag' feature around world champion Michael Schumacher's F1 seat may be mandated to boost driver safety, Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn revealed.

Giving the inaugural 'Sid Watkins Lecture' in Birmingham at the weekend, he said the German champion, 36, pioneered the technology -- for comfort.

''(Michael) has these inflatable bags (around the seat),'' said Ross, talking about the safety work of the Technical Working Group. ''He gets in the car and pumps them up.

''He has had a couple of severe rear impacts and he has not suffered any problems.''

Michael's younger brother Ralf, meanwhile, injured his back in a rear impact shunt last year.

Ferrari may 'damage' F1
(GMM -- Jan.18) F1 may be 'damaged' if Michael Schumacher and Ferrari walk the double title again.

That's the claim of BAR 'CEO' Nick Fry.

''There's no doubt,'' he said at the launch of the new 007 car in Barcelona at the weekend.

''I think the teams are concerned that it shouldn't happen. The performance -- the show -- has got to improve.''

Fry added: ''The essence of any sport is unpredictability.''

Webber 'knows' F1 teammate
(GMM -- Jan.18) Oops -- on Sunday, Mark Webber turned red after letting the cat out of a bag on Birmingham's NEC stage.

Asked about the Heidfeld-Pizzonia duel to become his 2005 teammate, the 28-year-old Aussie defied Frank Williams' avowal that a decision is yet to be taken.

He said at Autosport International: ''I know who my team-mate is going to be -- well ... um, I have a general idea about which way it's going to go.

''It's up to the team.''

At the motor sport show, Webber also said a new long-life tire rule may be the end of do-or-die overtaking in F1. ''You cannot afford to (do that),'' he commented, ''because you'll have no tire left.

''We're going to have to use a bit of grey matter.''

The 'monkey' on BAR's back
(GMM -- Jan.18) A performance clause in Jenson Button's BAR deal will point the direction to his F1 career beyond 2005.

'F1 Racing' magazine said in January that BAR may only exercise a contract 'option' on the Briton on July 31 if he has 'greater than 70%' of the championship leader's tally.

The article also said: ''If not ... Williams will be entitled to claim (him for 2006).''

New principal Nick Fry admitted that a monkey is therefore 'very much on' BAR's back to churn out a quick F1 machine for the 25-year-old.

Button, meanwhile, denied that relations between himself and BAR are still strained following August 2004's bombshell.

He insisted: ''(The team) like the fact that I'm pushing hard and looking for that first win.''

'My goal is F1' - American
(GMM -- Jan.18) There's more than one American with a stare fully fixed on Formula One.

24-year-old Ryan Hunter-Reay said he never really contemplated a switch from US-based Champ Car racing to new F1 support category 'GP2' in '05.

But that's not because his ultimate goal is anything other than the very pinnacle of motor sport.

''I'd do (GP2) to learn the F1 circuits,'' he said at Autosport International at the weekend, ''but otherwise I consider it a backward step.

''I wouldn't get (the same support) over here in Europe. But my whole goal is to get to F1.''

'No grudge' with Sir Frank
(GMM -- Jan.18) Their multi-million dollar driver-row ended up at the contract recognition board, but 'no grudge' persists between Sir Frank Williams and David Richards.

That's the claim of the latter, ousted, principal of F1 team BAR.

''It's interesting,'' DR told UK newspaper The Guardian. ''I was in Detroit last week and (Frank) called to congratulate me on my CBE. We had a long chat and agreed to have lunch.''

Richards, then, coughed at Button's claim that Michael Schumacher is no better a driver than Kimi Raikkonen, Juan Pablo Montoya, Fernando Alonso, or - by implication - the young Briton.

''No,'' the Briton answered. ''(Michael's) at a level way above everybody else.''

F1's 'most sophisticated'
(GMM -- Jan.18) BAR co-owner Honda will try not to let the new longer life engine regulation in F1 slow them down.

'F1 project leader' Takeo Kiuchi said the 2005 powerplant, although not lighter, is smaller than its predecessor and has a lower centre of gravity.

''We have increased mid to low-speed torque to improve acceleration at the start and exiting corners,'' the Japanese admitted.

But, the biggest challenge of all, Kiuchi admitted, is the target to 'maintain top power' despite the rule mandating that a 2005-spec V10 last several hundred more kilometres than in '04.

BAR's technical director Geoff Willis, meanwhile, reckons the 007's new gearbox could be 'much more sophisticated' than anything else in pitlane.

Did Grove axe 'twin keel'?
(GMM -- Jan.18) Williams' F1 design team might not have axed the disputed 'twin keel' philosophy in penning the new FW27.

We reported in October that the decision to abandon the design, after one failed attempt (the tusk-nosed FW26), appeared to have been made.

But technical director Sam Michael declined to answer when asked if he'd ordered the hatchet of twin keel.

''I'm not going to tell you,'' the 31-year-old Australian said. He went on: ''(Twin keel) definitely has some strong merits -- people could potentially have written it off too early.''

Sir Frank Williams' Oxfordshire-based team replaced former aero head Antonia Terzi, author of the walrus-like nose, with Loic Bigois.

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