F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 25, 2005

Smith joined Red Bull
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) Mark Smith, formerly of Renault and Jordan, will start work at Red Bull Racing on Monday, a source said.

Following a fleeting stint at Jordan, most paddock analysts expected the Englishman to wind up at Toyota, alongside former Renault colleague and technical director, Mike Gascoyne.

But 43-year-old Smith will in fact assume a 'foremost management role' on technical director Guenther Steiner's RBR tech team, which still features former Jaguar chief aerodynamicist Ben Agathangelou.

Schu may race beyond 2006
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) F1's oldest and most successful driver, seven time champion Michael Schumacher, has refused to rule out prolonging his contract beyond 2006.

The German, 36, said racing on would depend on the similar extension of 'other decision makers', like principal Jean Todt and Ross Brawn, at Ferrari.

The 83-grand prix winner also said he doesn't feel his age, 'which is good, if I want to continue (racing).'

And he can count on the support of wife Corinna, and children Gina Maria (8) and Mick (5) throughout the quest for drivers' title number eight in '05.

Michael said the kids 'watch me on TV' every second Sunday, but only for a lap or two. ''Then they run off and start playing again,'' he smirked.

Rookie daunted by PR toil
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) Racing at full throttle around concrete-lined Albert Park is no problem, according to Minardi rookie Patrick Friesacher.

The Austrian is more concerned about a 'massive' PR program put together by team owner and local Melbourne boy, Paul Stoddart.

''As usual (Paul) wants to make as many people as possible happy with all sorts of events,'' Friesacher told Autosport.

''The driving does not worry me.''

24-year-old Friesacher said Minardi's 2005 objective, but only after the reportedly innovative 'PS05' car is ready in late April, is to 'beat Jordan.'

'Villeneuve' - the movie
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) French-Canadian Jacques Villeneuve will participate in the making of a movie about his life and that of fellow F1 racer and enigmatic father Gilles.

'Villeneuve' will be produced for $30m by Gabriella Martinelli.

''When I started my career,'' 33-year-old Jacques said at Montreal restaurant Newtown, ''... people looked at me like they were seeing my father's ghost.

''(But) I wanted to achieve something myself.''

The 1997 world champion was eleven when Villeneuve Sr died in a brutal 1982 shunt at former Belgian GP venue Zolder.

JV said he's often regarded as resenting his Dad.

'That's totally wrong,'' he retorted. ''He was always my hero.''

Jacques' agent Craig Pollock, meanwhile, said Villeneuve would become a 'consultant' for the 2006 flick, in order to exert some script 'control.'

Rookies win F1 'superlicense'
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) A fax vote of the F1 Commission has green-lighted the 2005 debut of grand prix racing's rookie contingent.

We reported earlier in February that Minardi's Paul Stoddart, for one, questioned the legality of the fax system.

But it was the only way to put Christijan Albers (Minardi), Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro (Jordan) on the Albert Park grid with a superlicense, as the Commission could not have convened prior to the '05 opener.

Team 'reserve' or 'third' drivers, like Toyota's Ricardo Zonta, also did not automatically qualify for a license.

But, oddly, it's understood that Minardi and also Toyota did not actually cast a fax vote.

Webber to win home GP
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) If Mark Webber wins at home next Sunday, so too will countryman Paul Stoddart.

The Minardi team owner said he placed a bet on his former employee winning the Australian grand prix for Williams.

Stoddart told the Sydney Morning Herald: ''I won $100 on the Richmond/Collingwood (AFL football) game last week and (the Webber wager) is similar to that.''

The 50-year-old, though - who gave Webber his debut at Melbourne in 2002 - grinned when he said he would've got better odds had he placed the bet 'before (Mark) was announced as a Williams driver.'

Stoddart said of the 28-year-old driver: ''We're great mates, and if Williams get it together, I think Mark will ... win his debut grand prix.''

Doornbos to test Jordan
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) Although Robert Doornbos thought he had a Jordan race drive in the bag, the Dutchman will test for the newly Midland-owned team in 2005.

Dutch countryman Nicky Pastorelli grabbed the official role, but 23-year-old Doornbos is understood to have signed a test deal, and may even share the 'Friday' role if Jordan unfurl a third car after the initial 'flyaway' season.

Doornbos, from Rotterdam, knows new Jordan principal Trevor Carlin from Formula Three.

F1 in Red Square
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) Grand prix supremo Bernie Ecclestone has traveled to Russia for the launch of the now 'Midland'-owned Jordan team.

While Russian president Vladimir Putin - although invited - cannot attend, Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov will also show up for the event in Red Square.

Meanwhile, we can reveal that - with the Kremlin in the background - a Cossack choir is sure to give the formerly Irish-owned squad a new, authentic Russian flavor.

To be renamed 'MidlandF1' in 2006, the team is owned by Russian-born Canadian Alex Shnaider, who made a fortune in the steel industry.

He remarked: ''We want to portray the progressive image that Russia has today -- modern, intelligent and successful.''

Meanwhile, Ferrari will also launch their new car on Friday, at Maranello HQ, although the 'F2005' will not be taken to the Australian grand prix.

Schu won't win - brother
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) Michael Schumacher will not win next Sunday's Australian grand prix.

That's the opinion of the Ferrari driver's little brother -- Ralf Schumacher, of Toyota.

He told La Gazzetta dello Sport: ''On the podium I see Renault, McLaren and Ferrari, in that order.

''Toyota? In the top ten.''

Ralf, 29, said Renault don't have the strongest engine, but 'the most suitable car' for the temporary Albert Park layout.

He played down any suggestion that Ferrari 'sandbagged' in winter testing. ''For sure,'' said Schu Jr, ''it's not going the way they want.''

And former six-year employer Williams? ''A great engine,'' Ralf remarked of the BMW, but the FW27 is a ''great disaster. They'll do badly.''

Davis left Williams last year
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) Contrary to speculation that Williams' senior aerodynamicist John Davis was 'let go', Patrick Head said Grove's team man left following a 'fixed term' agreement.

A source close to Davis said he 'resigned' in June last year, prior to working 'almost' an entire 6-month notice period and leaving in November.

Head, Grove's co-owner and engineering consultant, insisted, however, that Davis' stay was 'associated (with) the new (wind tunnel) and upgrade of the existing tunnel.'

The former technical director also explained that fired chief aerodynamicist Antonio Terzi left because she had a 'confrontational' approach and was not 'open' enough with Sam Michael.

Head added: ''Sam tried to get (Antonia) to be more included in the whole design process, but ultimately it didn't work.''

Indian may keep helmet design
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) India's F1 rookie Narain Karthikeyan may not, as reported, remove the 'tricolor' from his helmet ahead of the Australian grand prix.

On Wednesday, the 28-year-old vowed to change the design, following a controversial government ban.

But he now says he'll take the patriotic design to Melbourne, and only wear a non-offending alternative if asked.

''I'm not going to (change the design),'' the Chennai-born Jordan driver said, ''unless I have to.''

Sauber's 'strong' car - JV
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve has played down suggestions he is struggling at the wheel of a sluggish Sauber.

The 33-year-old told Portuguese publication 'Sportmotores' that C24 is a 'strong' car.

''And with Michelin (tires) it's even better,'' Villeneuve added, ''but it's still too early to predict how (the car) is going to line up against the opposition.''

The former Williams and BAR driver, who returned from a sabbatical last year with Renault, noted that Hinwil-based Sauber often launch a 'decent' car, and then markedly improve throughout the season.

JV remarked: ''And we're under less pressure than some of the top teams, which is also a help.''

Toyota to 'obey' F1 pact
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) Toyota scotched a rumor it might abandon a nine-team pact to voluntarily limit F1 testing during 2005.

With BAR once thought to also be wavering, Cologne's technical director Mike Gascoyne said the team would 'obey' the so-called 'gentleman's agreement' first mooted in Brazil last October.

Meanwhile, Paul Stoddart, unofficial 'shop steward' for the non-Ferrari Group of Nine, said at Melbourne airport that the 'real' championship this year is for 'second place.'

''(Ferrari) are going to run around and around (the test tracks) while the rest try to reduce spending by running a limit,'' the Minardi owner noted.

''Will they be ahead? What do you think? Of course they will be!''

'Winter' period red flagged
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) F1's 'winter' period ended on Thursday.

At rainy Valencia, a field of three - led by BAR's Jenson Button, who had a Honda V10 failure - rounded out a sodden week at Valencia (Spain).

''It's the end of a hard, three-month period,'' Williams' technical director Sam Michael said.

Team driver Nick Heidfeld and Toyota's Jarno Trulli, who brought out the red flag when some bodywork went awry, completed the time sheet -- just one week prior to opening practice in Melbourne.

''We're all looking forward to getting to Australia,'' said 25-year-old Jenson Button.

BMW laud '05 F1 design
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) BMW's 2005-spec 'P84/P85' F1 engine will top 950bhp before the circus converges on Shanghai in October.

That's the resolve of the German manufacturer's motorsport director, Mario Theissen.

He said in Munich that the V10's performance is 'almost identical' to the 2004 design, despite a new FIA regulation mandating double the mileage.

''We're still able to head for 19,000 rpm,'' Theissen remarked, ''and we're already right ahead of 900 (horse power) again.

''It was an enormous challenge, but they've done a great job here.''

BMW, though, had to scrap the intended and 'really aggressive' 'P85' concept, when the governing FIA announced their two-GP intention.

Heidfeld cracked V10 code
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) German driver Nick Heidfeld's speed, but also clear technical skill, won him a racing role at Grove.

That's the claim of BMW-Williams' co-owner and engineering expert Patrick Head.

He said 27-year-old Heidfeld, whilst locked in a head-to-head 'shootout' with Antonio Pizzonia at a winter test, pointed out an aspect of Williams' BMW engine management that 'immediately gave ... lap time.'

Head added: ''We'd been carrying these things ... for two years, without anyone pointing it out.''

In pure speed, though, PD said Heidfeld and Pizzonia - the younger Brazilian - are neck-and-neck.

''But I think Nick's experience,'' Patrick Head remarked, ''gave him a jump start.''

Toyota hunt future talent
(GMMF1.NET -- Feb.25) Cologne-based Toyota have renamed their driver talent academy 'Toyota Young Drivers Program.'

Headed by Noritoshi Arai, three stars - Franck Perera (France), and Japanese duo Kohei Hirate and Kamui Kobayashi - will feature in 2005.

Of note, Hirate will race in Euro F3 for 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg's own team.

A statement also said that the European driver program will be merged with Japan's own 'Toyota Racing School' version.

''We are now looking to find ... Toyota's racing talent of the future,'' said executive VP of Toyota, Yoshiaki Kinoshita.

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