F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 19, 2005

Schu's back in dominant mood
(GMM -- Jan.19) At the end of a nearly three-month holiday, Michael Schumacher unleashed a predictably dominant performance as he returned to the F1 test track on Tuesday.

The German, having taken the test team for dinner the night before, lapped a clear 2.2 seconds quicker than nearest rival Mark Webber near Barcelona, although he did work at the wheel of a 2004-spec Ferrari.

''They went back to the (old) configuration,'' said Michael's PR lady Sabine Kehm, ''because the track was so slippery in the morning.''

The seven time world champion commented: ''It felt good to be going again. I really enjoyed it.''

Meanwhile, we can reveal, testing will continue at the Circuit de Catalunya all week, despite some teams fleeing after complaining about the asphalt.

To 'rubber-in' the new surface, organizers ran junior-formula and road cars around Circuit de Catalunya all night.

Albers guns for F1 license
(GMM -- Jan.19) On Tuesday, back-of-the-grid F1 team Minardi endured an icy start to a three-day test at Misano (Italy).

The fog and occasional snow meant little running could be done in the morning, but confirmed 2005 driver Christijan Albers clocked up some miles before a hydraulic problem.

''The team therefore decided to postpone (Nicky) Pastorelli's test until Wednesday morning,'' a statement said.

Albers, the young Dutchman, said it 'felt great' to be on-track for the first time as a signed-and-sealed Formula One racing driver.

He added: ''I've been spending a lot of time in Faenza training and preparing myself physically and mentally for the season ahead.''

Minardi expect Christijan to achieve enough running on Wednesday to qualify for an FIA F1 'super license.'

'BAR should've dumped Button'
(GMM -- Jan.19) BAR and Honda should have dumped team driver Jenson Button for the new F1 season, '64 champion John Surtees said.

The grey haired legend, who also won titles on a two-wheeled motor, reckons the English countryman was lucky to escape punishment after trying (but ultimately failing) to jump ship.

''I don't understand why Honda didn't relegate him to the test team and stick (Anthony) Davidson in,'' John told F1 Racing magazine.

He added: ''Knowing the Japanese, they would have had to swallow very, very hard over that.''

71-year-old Surtees also said he isn't sure that Button, 25, has enough 'fire in the belly' to match other past and potential world champions.

''As for the (constructors' world) championship,'' he continued, ''Honda will arrive there ... but will they arrive with Jenson -- I don't know.''

Sauber to tackle Ferrari?
(GMM -- Jan.19) Sauber will tackle brand new regulations in Formula One as an opportunity to take giant strides forward.

Technical director Willy Rampf said the revised aerodynamic code, as well as rule changes governing engines and tires, could lead to a 'greater shift' in team standings.

''It's no doubt possible (we'll make a leap forward),'' he added in an interview. ''It won't be easy, because to progress further we have to beat at least one of the five works teams and then keep the heavily funded Toyota team in check.''

Rampf also denied that engine supplier Ferrari would be angry if a Ferrari-powered Sauber started troubling a red car or two at the front of the grid.

''It would have no influence on our cooperation,'' he smiled.

Ferrari to launch near HQ
(GMM -- Jan.19) Ferrari will launch their 'F2005' Formula One car on February 21, just a fortnight prior to the start of the new season, we can reveal.

But Maranello's world champion marque won't rock up in Melbourne with the shining new red car. Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello will steer an 'interim' F2004B prior to the new one's debut at the Spanish grand prix (8 May).

Ferrari's F2005 launch will take place near the team HQ in Italy.

Likely '05 rival Mark Webber, meanwhile, praised Ferrari's graduation from underperforming team of the 90's to 'incredible' dominance and 'ridiculous' reliability.

BMW-Williams' Australian driver said: ''I hope we can give them a few sleepless nights next year, because Michael (Schumacher) needs a few.''

New Finance man at Grove
(GMM -- Jan.19) Frank Williams' F1 team welcomed a new 'head of finance' to Grove HQ on Tuesday.

Chris Chapple, having served in Iraq as a member of the Royal Marines, will arrive next Tuesday to replace Jeremy Duckworth, who's off to accept a job at 'Autosport' publisher Haymarket.

Oxford-educated Chapple has also worked for Goldman Sachs, Marconi and Russian company SUAL.

''In the next few years, the future of F1 will be mapped out,'' said Sir Frank, ''and Chris will play an important role in representing the financial interests of the company in these important decisions.''

Warning for David Coulthard
(GMM -- Jan.19) David Coulthard -- you don't know what you're in for.

That's the gist of former Jaguar (now owned by and called Red Bull) F1 driver Eddie Irvine's warning to the 33-year-old from Scotland.

''The smaller teams are just so bad,'' the Ulsterman said on the NEC stage in Birmingham last weekend, ''you don't believe it.''

Irvine, who never got along with Coulthard - the former nine-year McLaren driver - made a similar move from Ferrari to Milton-Keynes' squad in 1999-2000.

He admitted: ''I couldn't believe how bad (Jaguar) were. I'm sure they're not a lot better now.''

Irvine said DC will ask for things he's used to getting at Ron Dennis' ship 'and it just ain't going to happen' at Red Bull. ''You'd be told it'll happen,'' EI recalled, ''but it didn't -- and it's so frustrating.''

Enge to IRL
(GMM -- Jan.19) Former F1 driver Tomas Enge will drive in the US' oval-predominated 2005 IndyCar (IRL) championship.

The Czech, who raced in three grands prix in '01 for Prost, will partner another former F1 runner - ex-Jaguar test driver Tomas Scheckter - in the 'Panther' team.

28-year-old Enge, thrown out of the 2002 F3000 championship when he failed a drug test, drove the last two IRL races in 2004 for Patrick.

Another F1 hopeful, Australia's Ryan Briscoe, also signed a full-time IRL deal for 2005.

''This will be a great chance to show what I'm capable of,'' Enge said.

Honda axed BAR principal
(GMM -- Jan.19) David Richards' BAR tenure ended when Honda moved to buy the Formula One team.

The Englishman, Brackley's former team principal, told the British 'Guardian' newspaper that - contrary to the corporate line - the decision to depart had not been mutual.

''I wish I had longer to finish the work we'd begun,'' he said in the interview.

Richards' company Prodrive were contracted to restructure BAR, with the deal able to be terminated once the team had been sold by owner British American Tobacco.

Richards added: ''As in so many business takeovers, the new owners wanted to put their own people in place.''

He declined to answer, though, whether the very public row involving Jenson Button had anything to do with the Honda axe.

''You'll have to ask Honda,'' DR countered.

Bothersome bumps at Barcelona
(GMM -- Jan.19) Williams' biggest complaint with the resurfaced Circuit de Catalunya F1 track is not a lack of grip.

The UK-based team kicked off a planned test near Barcelona on Tuesday, despite the warning of fled rival BAR who said new asphalt would not offer a meaningful venue for evaluation.

But test team manager Tim Newton said driver duo Mark Webber and Antonio Pizzonia complained loudest about the bumpy track.

''The new asphalt was considerably slippery,'' Newton admitted, ''but grip ... gradually started to improve with the continual laying of rubber.''

He said he's 'in discussion' with track management about bumps at Turn One, Three and Four.

''We won't be able to commence work on tire testing until we've clocked up some more miles and laid some more rubber,'' Newton added.

Ferrari, Toyota and Red Bull also worked at the Spanish venue.

GPWC would be F1 'disaster'
(GMM -- Jan.19) A carmaker-led rival championship would be 'disastrous' for the pinnacle of motor racing, ousted BAR principal David Richards claimed.

The Briton reckons Mercedes-Benz, Renault and co. - even BAR co-owner (and non-GPWC member) Honda - only compete in F1 for selfish and short term gain.

'(So) they're not the best custodians of motor racing,'' he explained to UK's The Guardian newspaper.

Richards heralded the life's work of F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone, and said anyone who claims to be able to duplicate the 74-year-old 'is deluded.'

He also played down speculation he might be a real contender to one day take over when Ecclestone will, inevitably, have to stop.

''It would,'' Dave laughed, ''be a poisoned chalice.''

Mika Hakkinen warned
(GMM -- Jan.19) Mercedes' DTM star Gary Paffett has warned '05 teammate Mika Hakkinen not to underrate the talent of the top German-based touring car category's drivers.

''He's going to be a great measuring stick for ... me,'' the Englishman and F1 hopeful told Autosport in Birmingham last week.

Where the Finn and twice F1 champion of '98 and '99 might go wrong, Paffett suggested, is in overlooking the threat of young guns but leading DTM drivers, such as another Briton and future grand prix prospect, Jamie Green.

Gary Paffett said: ''It's a class championship and very hard to reach the top level of it.

''Mika's going to have to push hard to beat me!''

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