F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 24, 2005

Karthikeyan helmet banned
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) The government has banned India's first ever grand prix driver, Narain Karthikeyan, from using his patriotic helmet livery in F1.

It decreed last week, citing an existing 'flag code', that all Indian sports stars - including cricketers - may not bear the 'tricolor' on clothing or equipment.

''I have to follow orders,'' nonplussed sport minister Sunil Dutt told a Pakistani newspaper.

28-year-old Karthikeyan, who'll debut for Jordan in Melbourne next weekend, wore a helmet design depicting the Indian flag's tricolor in winter testing.

He vowed to change it, saying: ''(It's) the government's loss.

''We're only doing the country proud. I can probably sell that (helmet) space to sponsors and make a lot of money, so it's their loss.''

'Ferrari won't be beaten'
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) Paul Stoddart does not agree that Ferrari will be defeated by either Renault or McLaren in next Sunday's Australian grand prix.

The Australian owner of F1 minnow Minardi said the scarlet squad would again easily secure both drivers' and constructors' championships in 2005.

He said in Melbourne that Ferrari's 'selfish' decision to snub the other teams' test limit had put them out of reach.

''They are doing (it) against the other nine,'' Stoddart remarked.

''It's sad that (Ferrari) aren't interested in the sport, they're only interested in Ferrari.''

He dismissed Ferrari's apparent defeat in winter testing as sandbagging. Stoddart added: ''They're going to wipe the floor with everyone.''

Williams 'must' take Button
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) Williams 'must' re-hire Jenson Button if the English driver's BAR-Honda team do not deliver the goods in 2005.

We earlier reported that Honda co-owned Brackley can only exercise their 'option' on the 25-year-old if, by July 31, he has amassed 'greater than 70 per cent' of the championship leader's tally.

But Frank Williams now reveals that, should the BAR option perish, his BMW-powered camp 'must take' JB, who - in return - 'must come' to Grove.

Williams' intended re-employment of Button, who debuted for the team five years ago, was in '04 blocked by BAR and the contract recognition board.

Schu - 'I doubt myself'
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) Michael Schumacher is riddled with 'self doubt.'

The German admitted that, despite claiming the drivers' F1 title a record seventh time last year, he still doubts himself 'whenever I sit in a car.

''And at other times too.''

36-year-old Schumacher, though, told Germany's Die Zeit newspaper that he believes a healthy dosage of doubt is helpful.

He added: ''I think it's part of my make-up.

''I don't take it too far, I doubt tear myself apart over it. I know when the doubting has to stop.''

One realistic doubt, though, is Schumacher's admission that the Ferrari era could end at any moment -- like now.

He admitted: ''But the season is 19 races long, we must take it as a whole; so actually I'm quite confident.''

'No BMW deal yet' - Sauber
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) Sauber has not agreed a deal to use BMW engines next season, a spokesman insisted.

Contradicting Sir Frank Williams' earlier claim, he said the independent team's owner, Peter Sauber, is still talking to 'several manufacturers.'

The spokesman added: ''A decision (has) not been made.''

BMW motor sport director Mario Theissen agreed, telling Reuters that 'nothing' is yet agreed or signed.

And, apparently also confirming Red Bull's interest in the Munich-built engine, the German continued: ''We are talking to several teams.''

Interestingly, Sauber - based in rural Switzerland - this week signed the GPWC's memorandum of understanding, while current engine supplier Ferrari are committed to the new Ecclestone/F1 'Concorde' agreement.

Sato's a 'rookie' again
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) Japan's Takuma Sato was 'rookie of the year' of 2004.

Although the BAR driver actually debuted for Jordan in 2002, French motoring magazine L'Automobile saw fit to honor the feisty 28-year-old.

''It is great to receive recognition from journalists and the public outside Japan,'' Sato said at a Paris ceremony.

L'Automobile president Christophe Veyrin-Forrer said Taku's 'fighting spirit is great for' F1.

Final F1 run affected
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) On Wednesday, dismal English weather again thwarted Renault's F1 test effort at Silverstone.

A statement said the locally-based team left the track without doing 'any further running.'

Conditions weren't a lot better at Valencia (Spain), where Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, Toyota and BAR are running their final pre-Melbourne test.

Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher led in the heavy rain, but Williams' test team manager said the track was 'too wet' to collect meaningful data.

Indeed, Jenson Button (BAR), Alex Wurz (McLaren) and Ralf Schumacher (Toyota) all turned up for duty, but hardly turned a lap.

Keep an eye on DC - Frank W.
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) Keep an eye on David Coulthard's 'Red Bull Racing team' in 2005, Sir Frank Williams has suggested.

Williams, who gave the Scot his debut more than a decade ago, said the 33-year-old is the 'right man in the right place.

''David's not in Michael (Schumacher's league and he never was,'' said the wheelchair-bound F1 principal.

''But he can do (Red Bull) the world of good.''

Sir Frank said the former Jaguar team's new 'RB1' car looks 'very good' in winter testing. ''It's quick,'' he added.

''They're not to be laughed at.''

Sunday quali to proceed
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) F1's controversial 'aggregate' qualifying system will not be overturned ahead of the Australian GP.

This week, the governing FIA published the official weekend timetable for 2005, featuring Sunday morning qualifying.

The timetable said 'qualifying 1' is to occur on Saturday afternoon, with the definitive session slated for the morning of the grand prix.

Team owner to test F1 car
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) F1's newest team owner may test his own grand prix car later in 2005.

Alex Shnaider, the Russian-born steel magnate whose 'Midland'-run team will launch the new Jordan in Moscow on Friday, said he'd love to sample the 900bhp car's power.

''Maybe at (a) testing session,'' he told Reuters in Russia.

In the interview, Shnaider promised at least $100 million per-year for the venture, but said the longer term goal was to attract sponsorship.

Tobacco giant Gallaher, meanwhile, is expected to stay on the yellow livery in 2005, but, instead of with B&H, through eastern label Sobranie.

''F1 is not like soccer,'' Alex said, playing down a comparison with Chelsea FC tycoon and countryman, Roman Abramovich.

Onus on TV land - Raikkonen
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) Kimi Raikkonen says it'll be up to TV companies to make sense of F1's new 'aggregate' quali format.

McLaren's Finn does not believe the Saturday-Sunday structure will be 'a lot' different to last year -- for a driver.

''But I don't know,'' he wavered, ''(about) the spectator.''

From 2005, the grand prix grid will be determined by adding together the single lap time achieved both on Saturday and race day morning.

Raikkonen, 25, added: ''Hopefully (they'll) find a good way to show it.''

Nick's not worried
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) Nick Heidfeld is not worried about losing his 2005 seat to Williams' test driver Antonio Pizzonia.

Team principal Sir Frank Williams said this week that, should the former Prost, Sauber and Jordan driver fail to perform, Brazil's broken-hearted 24-year-old would take over.

''I don't worry about it,'' German-born Heidfeld told Autosport at the Valencia test.

''I will perform.''

The 28-year-old noted that every top driver on the grid is under constant pressure to perform, and said Grove's testing role - at least - is secure.

Line-up 'too pricey' - team
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) Williams' Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya F1 line-up proved too pricey to retain, team co-owner Patrick Head revealed.

The former technical director, now an engineering advisor, said the new commercial deal with BMW involves the receipt of 'very much less' money.

Head said: ''We could not afford those two drivers (anymore).''

Schumacher, 29, moved on to cash-laden Toyota, and Colombia's Montoya will line up next to teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

Head hinted, though, that the latter expenditure can not be 'justified' by McLaren. ''('It's) a very, very large (monetary) figure,'' Patrick implied.

Fending off criticism of possibly too weak a 2005 line-up, therefore, Head defended: ''I don't share that view.

''It was probably time to move on, anyway.''

'Team, driver to blame'
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) Teams and drivers, not the tire maker, will be most at fault if they run out of grip near the end of a grand prix in 2005.

That's the claim of Michelin's 67-year-old competitor director, Pierre Dupasquier.

''I'm sure drivers and engineers will have an inclination to blame their tires,'' the Frenchman told Autosport.

This year, a single set of rubber must last throughout qualifying and the entire grand prix.

But Dupasquier, although both Michelin and rival Bridgestone have had to design a more durable product, said the real burden is on the team and drivers' ability to skillfully tune their car.

He added: ''Clearly, some ... will manage this better than others.''

Newey to take sabbatical
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) F1 designer Adrian Newey, once touted for a re-switch from McLaren to Frank Williams' team, is set for a 'year off.'

That's the revelation of the wheelchair-bound principal, who tried to lure pitlane's highly rated technical director - a former staffer - back to Oxfordshire for mid-2005.

But Sir Frank said this week: ''He said he's going to ... find his life again, and then come back to F1, or do boats.''

Englishman Newey has long harbored an ambition to design a yacht for the fabled America's Cup.

Hinting that McLaren's technical director may be experiencing F1 burnout, Williams added: ''I would imagine that (doing boats) is less stressful.''

Heikki to test again
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) Heikki Kovalainen, the youngster who beat Michael Schumacher to the recent 'Race of Champions' crown, will return to a grand prix cockpit next month.

The 23-year-old Finn, to contest GP2 with champion team Arden in 2005, will drive the R25 at Jerez (Spain), at Renault's next F1 test.

He's also the star of Renault's 'driver development program.'

FIA president 'corrupted'
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) Despite speculation to the contrary, a nine-team pact to reduce testing in 2005 is intact.

That is Frank Williams' claim, the team owner saying even BAR and Toyota - thought wavering - had realized sticking together is the 'best way of surviving.'

The so-called 'group of nine' is locked in a war about the future, with the FIA, Bernie Ecclestone and Ferrari on the other side.

But while Frank admitted that Bernie used to be the main enemy, he aimed fire squarely at Max Mosley when probed about F1's ills earlier this week.

''If it was (Ecclestone) running it, it'd be fine,'' Williams said. ''(But the FIA president) will not leave things along.

''There is no evidence that Max is corrupted by money, but he is corrupted by power.''

A1-Ring restored
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.24) The Styrian government will rebuild the demolished former Austrian grand prix venue, it announced.

A1-Ring felt the bulldozers' sting when Red Bull and F1 magnate Dietrich Mateschitz vowed a billion dollar circuit upgrade.

But the project hit the dirt when opposed by local environmentalists, although Austria's richest man subsequently offered to foot the repair bill.

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