F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 17, 2005

Revamped Toyota 'better' - JT
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) Toyota's revamped 2005 car is a step ahead of the initial launch version, Jarno Trulli confirmed.

The Italian racer tried the TF105, with 'totally' changed aerodynamic bodywork, at Barcelona, and gave it a thumbs-up.

''It's easier to drive,'' JT told Autosport, ''and I think it's quicker too, although because of the surface here, and the wind, it's a bit early to say.''

Trulli, though, said TF105 is still grappling with a traction problem, and admitted that the Cologne-built car is - at best - sixth best in pitlane.

Friesacher debut thwarted?
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) F1's newest rookie, Patrick Friesacher, may not face a smooth ride onto the Melbourne grid.

The Austrian, Minardi's newly signed driver - it is reported - might not be granted a 'superlicense' by the governing FIA.

Although the 24-year-old's top four finish in the F3000 championship should have led to automatic qualification, team principal Paul Stoddart might have let a deadline for the license application expire.

It means the F1 Commission would have to grant the application by fax -- a voting system questioned for legality by the Australian entrepreneur.

''We cannot proceed until we receive (Stoddart's) ... clarification,'' said an FIA spokesman.

The 50-year-old Minardi owner reportedly called the story 'b*llocks.'

Fast Fisi on top
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) Renault continued to lay down a challenge to Ferrari's F1 dominance on Wednesday, by smashing the lap record in Spanish testing.

At Barcelona, Fernando Alonso's new teammate, Giancarlo Fisichella, took the headline, although both still grappled with technical drama.

''Things seem very positive,'' said test manager Christian Silk. ''The car is well balanced ... consistent and looking after its tires well.''

Ricardo Zonta's Toyota clocked the second best time, with McLaren, Red Bull, Williams and Ferrari all chasing, and Jordan still trailing the time sheet by some margin.

At McLaren, Juan Pablo Montoya ran for the last time until Melbourne, while Pedro de la Rosa stepped in for Kimi Raikkonen, who - following a huge shunt - returned to Finland.

''I am really looking forward to my first grand prix for the team,'' said Colombia's Montoya, 29.

Raikkonen 'resting'
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) A bruised Kimi Raikkonen returned to Finland overnight to recover from a huge crash due to brake failure in F1 (Barcelona) testing.

McLaren issued a statement that said the 25-year-old is 'fine' and 'resting,' although - having hurt his thumb in the impact - it's believed he had a subsequent medical check.

''I didn't test today,'' Raikkonen reportedly said on Wednesday, ''but Pedro (de la Rosa) was able to complete the program with the repaired car.''

Mexican grand prix back on?
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) The embattled project for a Mexican grand prix near Cancun may be rescued, it is reported.

In light of an apparent environmental dispute at the original site, a leading Mexican businessman and landowner said the circuit could subsequently be moved south west.

Governor Joaquin Hendricks said late last year that Bernie Ecclestone's circus would race on a $80m facility in 2006.

Cancun is Mexico's top tourist spot.

Sauber 'not for sale'
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) Sauber is not for sale.

The Swiss F1 team's owner and principal had to make that declaration following a comment made by FIA president Max Mosley last week.

Max hinted that, following the sale of Jaguar and Jordan, another 'independent' team might also be flogged off.

Peter Sauber said: ''The alternative to independency ... has not changed.''

He insists that, should a car manufacturer knock on the Hinwil HQ front gate, he'd think about it 'very thoroughly.

''(With certain conditions) I would well imagine to go for it.''

Breakaway win F1 team support
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) Every grand prix team (except Ferrari) and car manufacturer met in Cliveden, near London, on Wednesday.

The non-Ferrari contingent turned up to hear the 'breakaway' group's plan for an alternate world championship for 2008 and beyond.

There, they all 'unanimously agreed' on a 'framework' for the future of so-called 'Grand Prix motor racing.'

In a statement, the manufacturers - BMW, Mercedes, Renault, Honda and Toyota - vowed to 'guarantee' from 2006 an affordable second supply of engines for smaller teams.

All parties also agreed that, unlike the 'Concorde' arrangement where Ferrari is granted more income, 'all teams are invited to join on equal terms.'

An impressed Minardi principal Paul Stoddart commented: ''(This) is going to be a long and drawn out battle for the future of F1.''

Reject GPWC, says Jordan
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) As F1's main contingent got together for a key meeting in London, former team owner Eddie Jordan warned them to spurn the rogue GPWC group's flirtation.

The Irishman, who sold out to Russian born billionaire Alex Shnaider, said F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is the only 'credible' option.

He told BBC radio: ''The private teams would have great problems believing that the manufacturers will look after (them).''

Indeed, F1's independent faction - Midland, Red Bull and Sauber (but not Minardi) - did not sign the carmakers' new memorandum of understanding, instead vowing to respond after consultation.

Jordan also said on the 'Five Live' program that Ecclestone, 74, is 'tough' but always cared for the privateer faction '... like a godfather.'

Piquet Jr ready for F1
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) Nelson Piquet Junior, son of the triple world champion, is eyeing a 2006 or 2007 F1 debut.

The reigning British F1 champion, who has tested for BAR and Williams and will race in GP2 in 2005, said only if something goes 'really wrong' will he abandon the grand prix dream.

''My idea is try and win (GP2 in 2005) and then go right into F1,'' Brazil's 'Nelsinho' remarked.

At a joint media gathering in Sao Paulo, the teenager's 52-year-old father also vowed that - once Jr is seated in F1 - he'll return to Brazil, for good.

Nelson Jr added: ''The day I sign a (F1) contract is going to be very special.''

Dominguez set for 2006 ride
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) Mexican Champ Car driver Mario Dominguez says he has signed a 'letter of intent' to race for F1 team Midland in 2006.

He flew to Europe last week and completed a lap in the Midland-owned Jordan, but reportedly turned down an offer to be 'Friday' driver (2005).

Mario, 29, also told US website autoracing1.com that he will not (necessarily) be a pay driver next year, because 'there will be great interest ... from Mexican sponsors.''

Dominguez added: ''However ... I will do whatever I have to do.''

He'll honor a contract to drive for HVM in Champ Car in 2005, while a Jordan spokeswoman denied that a deal with Dominguez 'has been agreed.'

Barrichello getting worried?
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) Rubens Barrichello has all but admitted that Ferrari is struggling for pace in the pre-season period.

Basic blame for the scarlet champions' lackluster showing - the Brazilian and Michael Schumacher were Wednesday's 8th and 12th at Barcelona - is falling at tire supplier Bridgestone's feet.

Fastest of the day, Renault driver Giancarlo Fisichella, lapped a worrying 1.5 seconds quicker than 32-year-old Barrichello.

He said: ''We've still got a lot of tire work to do.

''At the moment, Renault and McLaren look very strong but it's too early to say.''

Rubens, doing tire development and setup work, pointed out that he's not yet tried the Melbourne-spec tire.

Trulli pans Sunday format
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) Jarno Trulli is the latest player to condemn F1's new-for-2005 'Saturday and Sunday' quali format.

Toyota's Italian driver told Autosport that, counting the new tire, aero and engine revolution, it's the 'biggest concern' in the weeks before Melbourne.

Final qualifying will now take place on race day morning, despite an earlier movement to axe the new-fangled system.

JT said: ''The Sunday newspapers won't be able to give the grid order ... and the same will happen with the TV channels.''

For a driver, though, Trulli said the main problem will be that the very first flying lap on Sunday will count for the GP grid.

He added: ''You won't know how the track is ... and if everything is ok with the car.''

'Give Schu the finger, DC'
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) The youngest F1 chief in pitlane has vowed to spice up grand prix racing.

Red Bull's F1 honcho, 31-year-old Christian Horner - who actually raced against Nick Heidfeld and Juan Pablo Montoya in the 1998 F3000 championship - told Reuters that much of F1's fan base is probably bored and 'depressed.

''We've got a different approach and personality than a car manufacturer,'' said Horner, owner of the successful Arden team.

He said a bit of irreverence and personality, like David Coulthard's finger gesture to Michael Schumacher in 2000, would be welcome.

Coulthard, at 33 actually older than CH, is Red Bull's lead '05 star.

But Horner insisted: ''I won't be judged by my age ... I'll be judged on what I do. There has to be a new Ron Dennis at some point.''

Resolute BAR run alone
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) BAR have exclusive use of the Valencia (Spain) test circuit this week.

On Wednesday, day two, Takuma Sato drove the new 007, with teammate Jenson Button - about a second quicker - at the wheel of a black 'concept' car.

Team principal Nick Fry, meanwhile, rejected speculation that the Honda-powered team - runner-up to Ferrari in the '04 constructors' title - had since fallen off the leading pace.

He admitted to Autosport: ''The ones doing the best job, I think, are McLaren, and I don't think we are quite up to their level yet.

''But our target is still to win races.''

Confusion at Catalunya
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) F1's testing contingent is busy scratching its head at Barcelona.

Although the newly surfaced Circuit de Catalunya is now offering more grip than before, it is also displaying an utterly unique characteristic.

With a fresh set of rubber bolted to the F1 car, according to Toyota's Jarno Trulli, the expected lap time just isn't there.

''We're waiting five or six laps to go faster,'' he told reporters, ''and then we're faster still when the tires are even older.

''It's difficult to understand (why).''

The Italian also confirmed that circuit organizers had ground away bumps at turns 3 and 4, but particularly the troublesome Turn 1.

Mosley to crack F1 stalemate
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.17) The FIA's Max Mosley has moved to break a stalemate between Ferrari and every other F1 team.

They're at odds over how to reduce the exorbitant cost of track testing.

The so-called 'Group of Nine' have shaken hands on a 'gentlemen's agreement' to run no more than a 30 day program in 2005, but Ferrari refuse to join them.

F1's world champion, with their private Fiorano track just down the road, would prefer a 15,000km limit, and Mosley - the Federation's president - seems to prefer that option.

But he thinks he's got an ever better idea.

Instead of limiting testing, Max reckons, why not limit the lap-by-lap cost of running an F1 car?

For example, in the infamous (snubbed) London meeting last month, the FIA and Ferrari discussed ways to reduce the number of staff needed at a test.

A possible future regulation might, therefore, be that a driver 'must be able to start (his) car unaided ... with (an) on-board system,' according to the meeting minutes.

Presently, a mechanic (or more) must fire the car with a manual starter.

''The FIA (is) in favor of this for cost saving reasons,'' said the document, adding that it could be imposed in 2006.

The FIA also, inter alia, argued in favor of banning tire warmers, and noted that the use of a standard ECU would similarly reduce staff numbers.

Failing all that, though, Mosley insisted that a 'gentlemen's agreement' will never effectively regulate testing. ''The only way (to do it),'' he said, ''would be (for the FIA) to introduce a rule.''

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