F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 18, 2005

Webber might not fly
Don't expect Australia's Mark Webber to stroll toward F1 glory in 2005.

That's ex-BAR principal Dave Richards' warning.

''I think the Australian public, and the Australian media more precisely, have to be patient,'' Richards, who rates 27-year-old Webber, said in Melbourne.

Ignoring the fact that the FW27 does not appear a star in testing, Richards - on Prodrive V8 business - warned that Mark might need a year to get up to speed.

He added: ''I would hate ... the expectation (to) exceed what is realistic.

''My instinct tells me that it isn't going to be an easy year (for him).''

Richards steered Honda-powered BAR to second place in last year's constructors' championship.

Brit TV to snub final quali
In a disquieting hint of a trend, British TV will not broadcast final Sunday qualifying in 2005.

This year, the much criticized single-lap format will be played out over 'aggregated' duel sessions, slated for Saturday afternoon and race-day morning.

But an ITV insider hinted that the network would only show the initial Saturday version in full, with a highlight package prepared for broadcast before the grand prix.

''(It's) no surprise to me,'' Frank Williams told Autosport. ''This format is not good.''

FIA president Max Mosley, meanwhile, played down much hope of a quick change in the format, noting the need for unanimity.

He added: ''(That would) be difficult.''

Webber set for Bridge stunt
As whispered last year, Mark Webber will race Williams' F1 car over the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge later in February.

In a statement, the Grove-based team confirmed that Webber, born and raised near Canberra, would be flagged off by the aptly-named state premier Bob Carr.

'Overdrive' will occur a week before Webber's team debut in Melbourne.

''For me,'' said Mark, ''it's special as it's my home country and I'm very proud that we're able to stage such a spectacle to promote F1 in Australia and around the world.''

In a rare move, the 503 meter, eight lane Bridge will be closed for the half hour Sunday event.

GPWC's next step
The next step in a carmaker threat to abandon Formula One is underway.

This week, the five-manufacturer group met with every F1 team (except Ferrari) where they agreed on the GPWC 'vision' for an alternate championship.

Next up, according to BMW motor sport director Mario Theissen, is the formulation of 'technical and sporting' regulations for the unnamed post-'08 series.

''And also the basic economic environment,'' he quipped.

McLaren take top time
McLaren proved a match for Renault's impressive 2005 car on Thursday, by powering Pedro de la Rosa to the top of the Barcelona test timesheet.

The Spanish tester pipped Giancarlo Fisichella at the post, with Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher - third and fourth - proving that Ferrari is not yet a spent force.

McLaren's MP4-20 will not appear again before Melbourne, while engine chief Norbert Haug said the winter had been a 'very stressful' one.

''A good result in Australia,'' said Mercedes' man, ''would be the best reward.''

Renault's test engineer Christian Silk said: ''Both cars ran pretty much trouble free.''

Red Bull, Williams, Toyota and Jordan - with Narain Karthikeyan still ahead of Portuguese teammate Tiago Monteiro - filled out the 13-car field.

Next week's is the last pre-Melbourne action.

French drought hurting GP
A dearth of Frenchmen on the F1 grid will cost the French grand prix in 2005, according to Magny-Cours' race promoter.

At Suzuka '04, veteran Olivier Panis raced out of F1, marking the first time in nearly forty years that France - Renault aside - is not represented.

''I've talked to the teams and to Bernie (Ecclestone),'' said the Jacques Regis at the French GP launch, ''but what else can I do?

''It's not easy to get a driver in F1.''

Moreover, according to an 'insider', Renault - the French carmaker in F1 - is not keen on putting a countryman, like tester Franck Montagny, at the racing wheel.

He explained: ''If there are no Frenchmen, all the (French) interest is inevitably concentrated on Renault itself.''

Sauber and BMW
Both Sauber and Red Bull have approached German marque BMW about a customer F1 engine supply.

Sauber, we earlier reported - and the most likely to land a deal - are evaluating their options in the belief that Ferrari may opt to work exclusively with Midland from 2006.

''We have not yet made a decision,'' said a spokesman for BMW.

Renault 'ahead' of Ferrari
Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella will travel to Australia later in February with one aim -- to win.

Asked if a podium is a real possibility for his first drive for the team since 2001, the Italian replied: ''The podium?

''We're hoping ... to win.''

At the end of yet another encouraging test week in Spain, Fisichella also told La Gazzetta dello Sport: ''There are ... very comforting signs in that respect.''

Giancarlo's triumphant optimism coincided with Rubens Barrichello, less chipper than usual, and his admission that Renault - and McLaren - are now 'slightly ahead' of Ferrari.

''But we're not panicking,'' the Brazilian added.

Indian scolds 'rookie' attack
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.18) Narain Karthikeyan has scolded critique that F1 team Jordan, with new management, foolishly named an all-rookie lineup for 2005.

Dubbed the 'fastest Indian on wheels', 28-year-old Karthikeyan will be partnered by former Champ Car driver and Minardi tester Tiago Monteiro.

Red Bull's Christian Horner said that snubbing experience would prove a 'mistake' at Jordan.

But Karthikeyan asked: ''Why should 'new' automatically be a synonym for not being successful?

''We are very realistic about the goals we want to reach this year.''

Moreover, Narain reckons the fact that new drivers and teams will speed off the Albert Park grid next month proves that the sport 'is not dead.'

He added: ''Now (F1 is) becoming really global, (and) not only in viewership.''

Another rehash for '05 Toyota
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.18) Even though Toyota's 2005 car just had a major update, yet another will strike TF105 prior to the Australian grand prix.

It's not known whether the new bodywork had already been planned, or will come as a reaction to the package's less-than-shining debut at Barcelona.

On Thursday, Ralf Schumacher tried the car -- and only managed to outpace a couple of tame Jordans.

''We've got some more parts coming for Melbourne,'' a Toyota insider - who also said a lack of grip in the car's rear had not been cured - confirmed.

And for the Malaysian grand prix, we can also reveal, the '105' will have a new front wing.

Schu still calm
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.18) Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello may be getting a little worried, but world champion Michael Schumacher remains calm despite an apparent flogging in winter testing.

The German said at Barcelona (Thursday) that, 'as ever' in mid-February, Maranello HQ hasn't yet put together the definitive Australian GP spec.

''In that way,'' said 36-year-old Schumacher, ''we should wait until the final week to really estimate where everyone will line up.''

Schumacher, who suffered a rare engine failure in Spain, and Brazil's Barrichello, will resume work on Monday, at the nearby Valencia circuit.

He also rejected that Michelin will have the upper hand in Melbourne. ''We know Bridgestone,'' said Michael. ''They always fight, and we know there is always more development to come.''

BAR wrap up at Valencia
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.18) BAR wrapped up an exclusive test at Valencia (Spain) on Thursday.

The Honda-powered team will stay at the twisty 'Ricardo Tormo' facility at the weekend, to prepare for next week's final pre-Melbourne track attack.

''Apart from the wind,'' said Jenson Button, ''overall I am happy with the progress made.''

Honda's Shuhei Nakamoto, meanwhile, announced that a 'further' engine upgrade will be ready for the final test session.

Ferrari 'might be sold'
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.18) According to speculation in Italy, Ferrari might soon be sold or listed on the stock market.

Following yesterday's headline that parent carmaker Fiat separated it from the Maserati brand, it is suggested that the 'next step' could be to sell Ferrari.

''Fiat had their hands tied with (General Motors),'' a fund manager in Milan told The Detroit News. ''(But) the moment they could act, they did.''

The real question, though, is why?

Website grandprix.com suggested that, although selling Ferrari might alleviate some of Fiat's deep debt, the move 'will make it ... difficult (for Fiat) to fund a (F1) program.'

The report continued: ''It (would) no longer be able to spend all of its profits on F1.''

Grove duo 'still friends'
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.18) They might have gone head-to-head for Williams' spare F1 seat, but Nick Heidfeld and Brazil's Antonio Pizzonia (who missed out) are still friends.

When 24-year-old Pizzonia arrived at Barcelona to test last week, he sauntered straight over to German-born Heidfeld -- and shook his hand.

And 'Quick Nick' revealed: ''Even at the launch, when the decision was made, (Antonio) was one of the first to congratulate me. He's a good guy.''

Meanwhile, Pizzonia - nicknamed 'Jungle Boy' - revealed that he's still looking at the Champ Car option for 2005, and may test a racer (perhaps Newman-Haas') 'in the next few days.'

He told website f1racing.net: ''I want to race, but on the other hand I also want to be in F1. I will take my time ... to make a good decision.''

'I'm too aggressive' - FA
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.18) Fernando Alonso has admitted he'll have to adopt a smoother driving style to deal with the long-life tire rule.

The Spaniard, at the wheel, is notably more aggressive than new Renault teammate Giancarlo Fisichella, and subsequently 'much harder' on a set of rubber that'll have to last him a whole grand prix in 2005.

He admitted to eurosport.com: ''I will have to change my ... style.''

Italy's Fisichella, on the other hand, is proving similarly handy with the impressive R25 model, but said looking after a single tire set is a personal 'strong point.'

He commented: ''So I think that I'll have an advantage in the last few laps of (a) race.''

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