F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 22, 2005

Spaniard on top
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.22) McLaren's man-Friday, Pedro de la Rosa, topped the test time sheet as pre-Melbourne action entered its final week.

At the Valencia (Spain) track, with the mighty 2005 car to be flown to Australia on Wednesday, he and cohort Alex Wurz ran in the older MP4-19B.

''We spent the day simulating all the running that will take place on the Friday of a grand prix,'' said the Spaniard.

Also in action, Ferrari's race line-up Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello split the BMW-powered Mark Webber.

''Despite strong winds, (he) managed ... 81 laps,'' said Williams' test manager Tim Newton.

BAR and Toyota will join in on Tuesday.

Fisi's team
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.22) A second current grand prix driver is set to feature in the lower formulae.

In the wake of Kimi Raikkonen's Woking-based 'Double R' F3 venture with Bruno Senna as driver, Rome's Giancarlo Fisichella has confirmed plans to set up 'Fisichella Motor Sport' with agent Enrico Zanarini.

The Renault ace's team, to be run by Durango, will initially attack Italian F3000, but the plan is to race into GP2.

''I have founded this team ... to help young Italian drivers,'' the 32-year-old said.

'Fisico' vowed to watch over his junior team's progress at the track 'when I'm free' of F1 duty.

Button's no 'boy band'
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.22) Prickly former teammate Jacques Villeneuve once described Jenson Button as F1's equivalent of a 'boy band' member.

But, best-of-the-(non-Ferrari)-rest crown secured firmly last year, BAR's British driver - in London - conquered any lingering doubt about his seriousness for the sport.

He told the UK's Mirror tabloid: ''(Photo shoots are) quite good fun, something different.

''But that's only as long as it doesn't take up too much of my time.''

At Renault in 2001 and 2002, JB was accused of letting the lifestyle, and freely flowing cash, secure personal pole position.

Now, he scoffs at a Button/Beckham comparison. ''(He)'s in the newspaper every day,'' JB said of the English football player, David Beckham. ''For me that's too much.''

Button will fly to Australia on Friday.

V8 men snub Webber
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.22) Their countryman's in a top contender, but the 'V8 Supercar' field sees no-one but world champion Michael Schumacher winning next weekend's Australian grand prix.

Sydney's Herald Sun newspaper polled 15 of the premier touring car series' Aussie line-up.

''(Webber) is the most dedicated bloke I have ever met,'' said champion Marcos Ambrose.

However, more than 50 per cent plumped for Ferrari's Schumacher. Steve Ellery said he'd 'love' to barrack for Frank Williams' Queanbeyan-born Webber.

''But when it comes to putting money down,'' he added, ''I'd have to pick (Schumacher).''

'We'll suffer in Oz' - RB
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.22) For the first time in half a decade, Ferrari will emerge from a winter of testing without the crown of F1 favorite.

Maranello's Rubens Barrichello admitted that the scarlet team, to race a modified 2004 car at Albert Park next weekend, is not as quick as leading rivals Renault and McLaren.

He told Gazzetta dello Sport: ''We've known for a while (that) we would suffer ... in the first races.

''It won't be easy.''

Renault chief Flavio Briatore agrees that the winter is more or less indicative of true form, permitting rivals some hope of giving Michael Schumacher a harder job than that of a 'taxi driver' in 2005.

''With one arm out of the window,'' the flamboyant Italian smiled of the German's metaphorical style last year.

Mystery at Melbourne airport
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.22) Turmoil struck Melbourne airport on Monday, mere days ahead of the F1 circus' grand prix opener in the state capital.

On Monday morning, an unidentified mystery illness - caused, probably, by a chemical or gas leak - hospitalized nearly fifty people in the Virgin Blue terminal, preceding flight cancellations and an evacuation.

''The source (of the illness) has not been ... identified,'' a Fire Brigade spokesman said.

HANS for Aussie V8
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.22) The controversial 'Head And Neck Safety' (HANS) device has been made mandatory for Australian V8 Supercar racing.

The touring car series' organizer AVESCO said the rule brings V8 up to scratch with the regulations of world motor sport governing body, the FIA.

In F1, every driver had to sport a HANS - attached to the helmet and tethering head to shoulders - from Melbourne 2003.

McLaren's 'humor' weapon
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.22) McLaren's arsenal in 2005 -- a winning driver duo, the sleek MP4-20 car, and ... humor.

Believe it or not, Woking CEO Ron Dennis vowed, this year, to deliberately plant a practical joke here and there, to alleviate 'tension.'

''I will be reintroducing the concept,'' he grinningly told Reuters.

In the 90's, Ron reputedly commissioned Gerhard Berger - a prankster, already - to set to work on champion teammate Ayrton Senna with a string of gags.

This year, McLaren have paired so-nicknamed 'iceman' Kimi Raikkonen with fiery Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, although Dennis claims they're getting on well.

He also said that while David Coulthard and Raikkonen did not gel on a humor level, Montoya and 25-year-old Kimi, of Finland, do.

'We won't win' - Webber
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.22) Williams' 2005 car is not capable of winning the Australian grand prix, Mark Webber has admitted for the first time.

He told Australian media that, as well as still feeling concerned about reliability, the BMW-powered FW27 is behind 'in pace.

''It's not really realistic to say 'we're going to win Melbourne'. We've been aggressive but we thought (the car) would be quicker, honestly,' Mark said.

28-year-old Webber, who grew up near the Australian capital (Canberra), will fly out to Sydney on Wednesday, following a final test day in Spain.

He said he's 'very proud' of the Australian race held annually at the picturesque Albert Park, south of Melbourne.

But he added: ''Once the helmet goes on, I could be anywhere.''

Who's 'graining'?
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.22) Michelin appear to have produced the superior 'whole grand prix' tire for Formula One '05.

Pierre Dupasquier, Bibendum's competition director, speculates that rival Bridgestone - near-exclusive supplier to world champion Ferrari - might be grappling with 'graining.'

''It seems ... we are not as shaken in that field,'' he told French magazine Auto Hebdo.

Oddly, though, it was Michelin - and not Bridgestone - who endured the troublesome wear phenomenon last year.

Dupasquier hinted that the new, longer-life Bridgestone is graining after a quick opening (qualifying) lap, but then re-gaining consistency for the long run.

But the 67-year-old Frenchman remarked: ''We hardly grain (at all).''

Cracking actor
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.22) It can withstand 200mph shunts, but a British actor broke Jordan's 2000-spec grand prix car.

Sally Lindsay, on a diet in UK television soap Coronation Street, sat on the 'EJ10' - originally driven in F1 by Heinz-Harald Frentzen - for a photo shoot in Manchester.

''There was suddenly an almighty crack,'' an 'insider' told The Sun tabloid.

''She looked rather sheepish.''

Schu lucky German - 'Flav'
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.22) Luck helped power Germany's Michael Schumacher to the top of the F1-pile.

That's the claim of Renault principal Flavio Briatore, who - when leading Benetton in the mid 90's - steered the seven time world champion to his first back-to-back title triumph.

''(He) arrived (in F1) at the right time,'' said Italy's Briatore, 54.

''There was no Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost had gone ... that left Damon Hill and Hakkinen, so in a way he was (lucky).''

Flamboyant 'Flav' also told the UK's Sunday Telegraph that Renault can finally 'fight with Ferrari' - against main rival McLaren - for the '05 crown.

And he added, perhaps referring to a team contract that'll expire in a few months' time: ''I'd like to finish the job.''

JPM more 'focused' - Ron D.
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.22) Colombia's Juan Pablo Montoya is already a better driver than in Brazil '04 -- a grand prix he won.

That's the claim of McLaren chairman Ron Dennis, who - having inherited the podgy 29-year-old after a four-season tenure at BMW-Williams - inspired JPM to lose weight.

''He's fitter, his eyes are brighter,'' RD told news agency Reuters. ''You can see that he's got a far more focused approach.''

With the introverted Kimi Raikkonen, though, many anticipate the new pairing to be 'volatile'.

Ron doesn't agree.

The McLaren CEO claims that Montoya now 'understands' that reacting 'as in the past' (ie. when under Frank Williams' control) is not 'constructive.'

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