F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 28, 2005

Oz actor for grand prix
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) Hollywood actor Heath Ledger, an Australian, will attend March's F1 opener in eastern capital Melbourne, we have learned.

An insider telephoned to let slip that the Sydney-based star of 'Candy' and 'Ned Kelly' is a guest of the Grand Prix Corporation's ten-year anniversary event, and could also have a 'role with Mark Webber.'

We previously revealed that 70's heartthrob Bo Derek would watch the action at Albert Park, scene of the Australian grand prix since 1996.

Bearded Scot on top
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) David Coulthard, sporting a bearded look, came close to a lap record at near-freezing Spanish test venue Valencia on Thursday.

The Scot, in the '04-spec Red Bull, was trailed by Williams' tester Antonio Pizzonia, whose slower time nonetheless shaded the earlier showing of team rival Nick Heidfeld.

As wind conditions improved, Fernando Alonso took the new R25 round for third best, ahead of Toyota's Jarno Trulli. BAR ran Takuma Sato - whose Honda V10 failed - in the field of ten, which also featured ETCC champion Andy Priaulx.

Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella, still slower in the older version, will try the 2005 Renault car on Friday.

''Fernando is pleased with the handling,'' said chief Renault test engineer Christian Silk.

Montoya in new McLaren
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) On Thursday, Colombian F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya got a taste of McLaren's new F1 model at Circuit de Catalunya.

The 29-year-old, in the private session near Barcelona, said the maiden run in MP4-20 was affected by Spain's unusually cold weather.

''I saw the (new car) for the first time Monday,'' Montoya revealed, ''and I've been looking forward to getting my hands on it ever since.''

On JPM's first out-lap at 9am, the temperature was minus-2 (c). ''We waited an hour or two for (the track) to warm up,'' Juan Pablo explained.

''I've been able to start learning about the feel of the car, which so far is positive.''

Grove set for Monday line-up
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) A spokesman for Frank Williams' BMW-powered F1 team confirmed that a 2005 teammate for Mark Webber will be announced on Monday, at the Valencia launch.

It's understood that technical director Sam Michael will work through the weekend on a 'presentation' of contending duo Nick Heidfeld and Antonio Pizzonia's head-to-head test efforts.

Williams, and team co-owner Patrick Head, will view the presentation on Sunday, prior to traveling to Spain for the FW27's debut.

For the record, Pizzonia's best Valencia lap time on Thursday - albeit not in a head-to-head match up - shaded Heidfeld's earlier Endeavour by more than half a second.

''I wanted to break the record,'' 'Jungle Boy' was reported as saying. ''I hope everything is going to be okay.''

Junior duo on road to F1
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) Nico Rosberg's race to emulate a legendary father will turn another high-speed corner in 2005.

The German-born teenager, son of Finland's 1982 world F1 champion Keke, has signed a contract to drive in support category GP2 for 'ART Grand Prix.'

Newly-formed team ART is run by Nicolas Todt -- another famous son. The Frenchman's Dad is Ferrari principal Jean Todt.

''Nico ... is one of the most talented drivers of his generation,'' said Todt Jr.

Rosberg contested the highly-competitive F3 EuroSeries in 2004.

Minardi wail in Amsterdam
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) The Netherlands' Formula One driver Christijan Albers steered a Minardi through the slim streets of Amsterdam on Thursday.

''I wanted to do a donut,'' he told Dutch website f1racing.net, one of Albers' new sponsors, ''but the streets were so packed with fans.''

The youngster pulled up outside Cineac, a trendy nightclub, where a swath of more Dutch sponsors - who vowed to support Albers' imminent debut at the pinnacle of motor sport - were unveiled by team owner Paul Stoddart.

Minardi, and 25-year-old Albers, return to Misano for another test session next week.

Karthikeyan and Jordan
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) India's Narain Karthikeyan has wandered into contention to become the next rookie in F1.

He's renewed an old Formula Three acquaintance with former boss Trevor Carlin, now sporting director at Midland F1, Jordan's new team owner.

28-year-old Madras-born Karthikeyan, who won twice in the 2004 Nissan World Series, would be the first ever Indian-born grand prix driver.

And, with private backing but also that of India's Motor Sports Association, Narain has already tested F1 cars for Jaguar, Jordan and Minardi.

Main sponsor 'Tata' had more than $10 billion in total revenue last year.

Moreover, Midland has business interests in India, and Bernie Ecclestone is equally keen to tap into the market of the hugely populated region.

Firman fixed on F1
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) Ralph Firman will not give up on the F1 dream.

The 29-year-old, who in 2003 drove a Jordan, since raced in lower formulae and the Le Mans 24-Hour, whilst helping the new Dubai-based 'A1' championship develop their single seater.

But England's Firman said F1 is the 'main priority' for the future. ''Maybe ... a testing role,'' he said in a BBC report.

Firman won the Formula Nippon championship in 2002.

BAR, again, to foil F1 pact
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) Formula One squad BAR-Honda may again rupture an agreement to limit in-season testing in 2005.

Despite new confirmation that a 30-day 'gentlemen's-agreement' is settled, BAR CEO Nick Fry said his signature is just a 'means' of enticing Ferrari to also join up.

If not, BAR and Honda may - again - recoil, he warned.

''It would make a mockery of (Formula One) if one team is out there testing with no limits,'' Fry told Autosport.

Earlier, teams like Toyota and Williams said the nine teams' game had been to embarrass the non-cooperative champion marque into following suit.

'No more buzz' for F1's Ant
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) Mere 300km/h F1 testing is beginning to bore Anthony Davidson.

The 25-year-old, with a burning desire to finally find a racing berth, neared a role with Sauber, Jaguar (Red Bull), BAR and Williams for 2005.

Now, the long time BAR tester is linked with Midland-purchased Jordan.

''Sometimes (testing) can be boring,'' Davidson admitted to ESPN. ''After three days (testing), all you can think about and dream about is going home. The speed doesn't give (me) a buzz anymore.

''It's like a job, work.''

Nicknamed 'Ant', the diminutive Englishman - who said he came 'really, really close' to a 2005 grid spot - is however determined to stick around until it finally happens.

Why 'Jordan' in 2005?
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) Why won't Midland F1, who - contrary to some reporting - bought 100 per cent of Jordan, change the team's name ahead of season 2005?

Canadian-Russian team owner Alex Shnaider, CEO of the scrap metal dealing Midland Group, said the fact that 'Jordan' will race on this year is illustrative of the fact that nothing much will immediately change.

''We don't have time (before Melbourne) to really change anything to the car or the team,'' he told Autosport.

''So we decided there's no point changing the name.''

In 2006, Jordan - to subsequently enjoy a bigger budget this year - will become 'Midland F1' and enter a Dallara-built single seater.

Priaulx in F1 debut
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) On Thursday, Andy Priaulx - the European touring car champion - tried a grand prix car on for size.

Technical director Sam Michael said the British driver handled his 64 laps 'well.' BMW motor sport director Mario Theissen concurred that Andy's run had been 'pleasing.

''If it hadn't been for technical problems,'' said the German, ''he would have been quicker.''

Priaulx lapped 3.5 seconds off the leading pace, but only a second or so slower than F1 ace and countryman Jenson Button, in the new BAR.

He said his neck didn't trouble him at all, either. ''I'd like to have achieved a better time,'' Priaulx added, ''but just as I went out on a fresh set of rubber ... someone had an incident.''

Will Honda go the distance?
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) Although they deny it, Honda's RA005E (2005) Formula One engine still has not notched up a complete two-grand prix distance (1000km) in winter testing.

At Valencia on Thursday, Takuma Sato's V10 example blew up -- on the second flying lap. It's the third new unit to do so.

Meanwhile, at the twisty Spanish circuit, Williams' 2004 car - the 'interim' FW26C model - ran for the last time ever.

Technical director Sam Michael said the Grove-based team is 'in the middle' of the build period for the new BMW-powered FW27, that'll be launched on Monday and debuted at Valencia next week.

No Sauber scandal - JV
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve says new regulations will restore the importance of experience in Formula One.

The French-Canadian, who struggled to get back up to speed late last season, said grands prix will be more about 'strategy' than a string of flat-out laps in 2005.

He said good drivers, this year, will race whilst considering the effect of their driving style on engine and tyre wear.

''We're going to have to connect speed with intelligence,'' said the 33-year-old, ''so the drivers' responsibility will increase.''

He added: ''That's good, if you're experienced.''

JV's also enjoying a team atmosphere where, unlike BAR, 'dirty laundry' is not aired in public. ''At Sauber,'' said Jacques, ''there's no media scandal -- if there's a problem, it's dealt with internally.''

Stoddart will miss 'JJ'
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) Minardi's Paul Stoddart will miss Eddie Jordan.

He may have called the flamboyant Irishman 'JJ' (Judas Jordan) instead of the more widespread EJ, but Stoddart said he and Jordan got on well.

''He's a hell of a character but ... I am a little bit lonely now,'' Paul told Reuters.

Lonely? The Australian thinks the arrival of Midland cash may accelerate the yellow team and leave Minardi unaccompanied at the very back of the GP pack.

He added: ''Perhaps (we may have) a very minute budget compared to the nearest rival.

''We've got to get real -- we've got to lift our game.''

TF105 'is better' - Panis
(GMMF1.NET -- Jan.28) Toyota's new F1 car is an improvement.

That's the claim of retired team racer and Frenchman Olivier Panis, who's still a test driver.

The 38-year-old, who left Michael Schumacher to be the oldest driver in grands prix, tried the fledgling TF105 model at Valencia this week, but did not impress the timing sheet.

He said of the Cologne-built car, though: ''Mechanically it's better.''

''We'll have to see what the (Melbourne spec) aero kit is like,'' Olivier told Autosport, ''but (the car is) more stable -- the rear is definitely better than last year.'

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