F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 4, 2005

Kimi broke own lap record
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) Max Mosley won't be pleased at the outcome of Thursday's F1 test at the 'Tormo' circuit in Valencia.

The 'slow down' FIA president will discover that Kimi Raikkonen's quickest lap, in the 2005-ready MP4-20, is a shade better than the old track record.

World champion Michael Schumacher, meanwhile - in an unmodified F2004 - finished an unspectacular eighth. ''I had an engine problem,'' the German countered.

''I'm not worried,'' he added, apparently responding to speculation that the Ferrari might not be up to Melbourne's task.

Toyota, Renault, BAR and Williams circulated their new F1 cars, while Adam Carroll - another young development driver - got on with trying to land a full time job at Brackley.

Giancarlo Fisichella's Renault R25, sixth, ground to a halt.

But test engineer Christian Silk said: ''We are very pleased with the new car's performance.''

BAR's banned 'box
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.3) BAR-Honda will race an arguably illegal gearbox design in Melbourne.

Some in pitlane reportedly say that the Honda-developed design is a 'continually variable transmission' (CVT) -- forbidden by the governing FIA.

We noted in December that the gearbox would have allowed a driver to change gear 'without losing any engine drive.'

The FIA, then, clarified that a definite gap must separate F1 gear changing.

''There is a break in power,'' Honda VP Otmar Szafnauer countered in Autosport magazine.

''(It's) a lot quicker than before, but (the gearbox is) not CVT.''

Ecclestone (un)perturbed
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) Is F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone fearful of the 'break away' threat?

''All (GPWC) can do,'' the 74-year-old told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, ''is talk about what they want to offer.

''But what do they offer? Nothing!''

Bernie's bona fide anxiety, though, is probably better evidenced by the recent action of staunch ally and Australian grand prix chief Ron Walker.

He, Autosport said, wrote a letter (or two) to every other F1 promoter, urging them to snub any subsequent 'breakaway' advance.

''I've also asked for a meeting with (the F1 Commission-member tracks),'' Ron confirmed, ''to talk about loyalty.''

He also revealed that '98 per cent' of everyone he's written to 'will support Bernie.'

Wurz to aim for F1 return
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) The manager of twice world champion Mika Hakkinen, Didier Coton, has penned a contract with McLaren tester Alex Wurz.

Coton, a Frenchman who also works with Toyota's Olivier Panis, established a new management group.

It's understood that Austrian-born Wurz - on a fixed McLaren contract that may have thwarted the approaches of Jaguar, Red Bull and Sauber - is frustrated that he's been unable to relaunch a career on the F1 grid.

''His racing fire still burns bright,'' Didier Coton told itv.com.

30-year-old Wurz used to manage himself.

Ferrari reign at end
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) Ferrari's F1 reign may be ending.

That's the opinion of returning Renault driver Giancarlo Fisichella, whose speedy new R25 car is startling the paddock in Valencia testing.

''I hope they can be beaten,'' the Roman said. ''It's possible, even though Ferrari are still probably going to be team number one (in '05).''

Renault ended last year in battle with BAR-Honda for the runner-up post, but Fisichella is unsure the squad from Brackley will still be in contention in 2005.

''Really, I think it's going to be McLaren and clearly Ferrari (at the front),'' he noted.

And that speedy R25, of course.

''(The Renault) looks better, it feels better in the corner, it's more powerful. We should have a good year,'' GF beamed.

Sauber tester to GP2
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) Sauber's former test driver Neel Jani will drive in the new 'GP2' support category in 2005.

The Swiss youngster signed a contract with Racing Engineering.

''He'll surprise a few people,'' team chief Alfonso d'Orleans - who'll pit the 21-year-old against teammate and Spanish Formula Three champion Borja Garcia - remarked.

Jordan men at HQ
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) The 'world's fastest Indian' spent the day at Silverstone (UK) on Thursday.

28-year-old Narain Karthikeyan, who'll become the first Indian to get acquainted with the F1 grid in March, visited Midland-owned Jordan HQ to sign a '05 contract.

''It was front page news everywhere,'' he said of the reaction back home, ''which to be honest was a bit of a shock -- but F1 is pretty big in India anyway.''

'05 teammate and fellow rookie Tiago Monteiro, also wearing a bright yellow overall, posed on the factory floor for a photo with sporting director Trevor Carlin.

The Portuguese driver, also 28, will take part in Monday's Jordan-Toyota 'shakedown' at the nearby GP venue, we can reveal.

Ferrari can compete - Schu
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) Ferrari champion Michael Schumacher tried to soften the significance of Renault's turn of testing speed with their R25 model.

Germany's 36-year-old said he 'expected' last year's cream of the crop to again be quick.

''Maybe Renault seem a bit stronger (than last year),'' Schumacher conceded at Valencia.

''But there is also Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Honda to think about.''

The Australia-spec F2004M Ferrari, steered in Spain by teammate Rubens Barrichello, stood tenth (Thursday) on the time sheet of 14.

But Schumacher said the Maranello-based squad, to withhold the F2005 until Barcelona (8 May), can still aim for an Albert Park triumph.

'Best of both V10's'
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) Renault's new F1 engine is the best of two worlds, according to project leader Axel Plasse.

He said the RS25 blends the 'innovative' bits of the scrapped wide-angle project (2001-2003) with the 'more conventional' 72-degree '04 solution.

''We've taken the strong points from each of them,'' said Plasse.

''We kept asking ourself 'which (engine) had the best solution?''

He also confirmed that RS25, despite the doubling of engine life requirements, is nonetheless 'more powerful' than its predecessor, and no heavier.

Woman in race for F1 glory
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) A woman is steering toward ultimate victory in the top British F3 category.

21-year-old Susie Stoddart, a Scot, will drive for former title-winning squad 'Alan Docking Racing' in the premier 'championship' class.

Nominated for the BRDC McLaren Autosport Young Driver award in 2003 and 2004, Stoddart commented: ''I have no doubt I'll aim for wins.''

Antonio Pizzonia (2000) and Takuma Sato (2001) are notable past British F3 champions, as is BAR 'development driver' Alan Van Der Merwe (2003).

Minardi run cancelled
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) The first day of F1 team Minardi's scheduled test at Misano (Italy) had to be called off.

Snow cover was thick at the so-named 'Autodromo Santamonica' on Thursday, fruitlessly attended by '05 signing Christijan Albers and likely F1 teammate Nicolas Kiesa.

The little Faenza-based team intended a two-day run.

India expecting TV boost
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) Hugely populated country India is expecting an equally big boost out of Narain Karthikeyan's grand prix action.

ESPN-Star Sports is the exclusive F1 broadcaster in the region.

''Our viewership is predominantly south India and in metros like Delhi and Mumbai,'' sports 'MD' R. Venkateish said.

The ESPN-Star man added: ''We now expect to go to second rung cities also.''

The population of India is more than one billion.

Nick's 'not no.2' - team
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) Williams' Mark Webber is not a 'number one' driver, Sam Michael said.

They may be Australian countrymen, but Michael - 31-year-old technical director - vowed to uphold Patrick Head and Frank Williams' 30-year tradition.

''They'll each get the best equipment and the best technical support we can possibly deliver,'' he said, referring also to Mark's newly-signed teammate, Nick Heidfeld.

The German driver's salary, though - we revealed earlier - will not be even half that of 28-year-old Webber, who grew up near Canberra (Australia's capital city).

But Sam M. persisted: ''No driver can ever walk away from our team and say he wasn't treated the same as the other (driver).''

Schu 'pleased' for Heidfeld
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) Nick Heidfeld 'earned' a spot in Ralf Schumacher's former F1 team.

That's the opinion of seven time champion Michael Schumacher - Ralf's older brother - who spoke to the media after driving a Ferrari at 'Ricardo Tormo' (Valencia).

''I'm really pleased for Nick,'' Schumacher, 36, said about Williams' recent appointment of the young compatriot.

Michael said he's known the Moenchengladbach-born competitor - 27 and once a F3000 champion - ''for a very long time, and I now regard him as a serious opponent (for 2005).''

Would Sauber sell-up?
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) Jaguar and Jordan did it, and Minardi's Paul Stoddart would do it if handed the right offer.

So would Peter Sauber, perhaps the last 'bona fide' privateer on the grand prix grid, also consider flogging Hinwil HQ to the wealthiest millionaire?

He told an interview with 'Sport1': ''Money alone would not be enough -- you'd also have to consider the 'sporting' element.''

Sauber, in the past, have been linked with a manufacturer tie-in -- for example, German carmaker Volkswagen.

The Swiss chief would have one condition: ''I'd like the team to stay here (at Hinwil) for at least the next ten years.''

BMW and the Heidfeld drive
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) So -- German carmaker BMW pressed hard to get countryman Nick Heidfeld in F1 partner Williams' FW27.


Someone said just that to Antonio Pizzonia, the Brazilian test incumbent and '04 'sub' who missed the seat.

''I'm sure many people whispered something in Frank (Williams') ear,'' the 24-year-old replied (a little) diplomatically.

'''It's not my place to comment. Sure, I have an opinion.''

Pushed for more information, 'Jungle Boy' changed the subject. ''I've got to get over it now,'' he added, ''and get to work.

''It's like anything in life -- sometimes it's good and you're happy, sometimes not. It didn't go my way. But I'm young and Frank told me that my career is only now beginning.''

'Don't look at timesheet'
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) Don't worry about the Valencia time sheet, Rubens Barrichello urged.

He tried to explain how he and champion teammate Michael Schumacher ended up almost two seconds slower than Kimi Raikkonen's leading pace at the bumper Valencia test (Thursday).

''(Ferrari) don't test here often,'' the Brazilian said, ''so the other teams know what type of tire to use while we have to be more cautious.

''I don't think we're in bad shape -- right from the start we are competitive.''

Barrichello steered the 'M'-spec model.

Dominguez to test Jordan
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) Mexico's Mario Dominguez could spend 2005 in a Jordan cockpit.

The Champ Car star missed out on a racing gong, but he could hang around in preparation for a 'Midland'-branded 2006 debut.

According to a report, Dominguez will test the yellow Toyota-powered car at Silverstone next week, and could be signed to drive the spare EJ15 in 'Friday' GP practice.

''Mario spoke with the team,'' manager Henri Luzet told Autosport magazine, ''and they have told him to come to England for the test.''

Bernie's version
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.4) Quiz -- what's your favorite moniker for a Formula One team principal?

Maybe it's 'chief'? 'Team supremo'?

''They're a bunch of idiots,'' slammed F1 'impresario' Bernie Ecclestone.

The 74-year-old, not much over five feet, explained the outburst as his reaction to learning that only Ferrari's 'chief' turned up at a meeting with FIA president Max Mosley.

The 'snub' could be the teams' collective disdain for unilateral deals with Ferrari, or a message that there's plenty of time to think about 2008 and beyond.

Bernie has a different theory.

''They know what whatever Max says,'' the diminutive commander snarled, ''will invariably be true -- and they don't like to be taught anything.''

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