F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 1, 2005

Monteiro exposed F1 perk
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) F1 rookie Tiago Monteiro looked around the room at a pre-grand prix function in Melbourne, and exposed another perk.

''It's a good part of the job,'' Portugal's hero smiled, nudging an elbow in the direction of a scantily-clad girl.

But just three days before his track debut at Albert Park, is the 24-year-old - a former Champ Car driver - nervous?

''To be honest,'' Monteiro - a Jordan rookie like teammate Narain Karthikeyan, who also visited Melbourne Zoo on Monday - answered, ''I don't think it's really sunk in yet.

''A month ago I didn't even know I'd be here.

''Right now I'm just getting used to the heat, the nice weather -- I feel ok at the moment.''

Webber broke speed limit
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) Mark Webber admitted he broke the special speed limit in Sunday's grand prix blast across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Supposedly limited to 90km/h, onlookers said the 28-year-old Australian often appeared nigh on double that during the stunt.

He winked: ''I think we did about 91.

''We did budge over (the speed limit) maybe a fraction.''

Webber also confessed that the Williams team could be better prepared ahead of the weekend's season opener in Melbourne.

''Sure,'' he said, still in Sydney on Monday prior to heading for GP city. ''We are probably one of two or three teams that would like to be a bit better prepared.''

He said even a podium would be asking a lot, but vowed to spray a bottle of champagne 'at some point' during the 19-race year.

''There are new bits due on the car already,'' Mark vowed.

Schu's in Oz
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) Seven time world champion Michael Schumacher touched down in Melbourne on Monday.

The 36-year-old driver admitted he isn't sure whether Ferrari, or speculated rivals McLaren or Renault, will lead the pace at Albert Park.

''We will find out,'' the German smiled, ''on the track.

''To be honest, I can't wait (to find out).''

Just prior to boarding the Australia-bound jet, Schumacher admitted that racing last year's albeit modified car may prove a disadvantage.

But he added: ''We wouldn't have decided to do it if we didn't believe it is the best thing.

''This is a compromise, but I am sure some others would be delighted to have our compromise!''

Trick squad to skip GP
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) Something will be missing from the weekend's tenth Australian grand prix at Albert Park.

Traditionally at the F1 opener, the lauded stunt pilots of the 'RAAF Roulettes' squad wow the crowd from above south Melbourne.

Often, like a year or two ago with Kimi Raikkonen, a GP driver is strapped in for the ride.

But a department of defense spokesman said the shows have been cancelled due to other 'commitments.'

Last month, a PC-9 Roulette had to make an emergency landing in Tasmania following a distress call, and another was grounded when it started to leak fuel.

Meanwhile, a month earlier, one of the squad's planes crash landed after a mid-air collision with another Roulette.

BAR 'not a winner' - Sato
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) BAR is not ready to win a grand prix, Japanese team driver Takuma Sato admitted in Melbourne.

He told reporters on the banks of the Yarra that Honda-powered '007' might be up to the task of beating Renault, McLaren and Ferrari -- by June or July.

But he also denied that Michael Schumacher should be considered anything other than favorite for victory at Albert Park.

''He is, and they (Ferrari) are, still the number one team,'' said Taku, 28.

Russia GP 'coming' - Mr. E
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) Russia will soon host a grand prix, F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone has promised.

The 74-year-old vowed to bring the fabled championship either to Moscow or St. Petersburg, the birthplace of new Jordan owner Alex Shnaider.

''It won't take forever (to arrive) because I won't be around for ever,'' he said at the newly-sold squad's pioneering launch in Red Square last Friday, ''and I want to see it!''

Ecclestone is reported to have attended meetings during his short visit to the country.

He added: ''There are hurdles to overcome but also the will to get it done.''

'I aim to win' - Fisichella
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) Giancarlo Fisichella is itching to win Sunday's season opening Australian grand prix.

The Roman, after three mostly torpid years at Jordan and Sauber, is back at Enstone, with the since re-named Renault team.

And they've produced, despite some lingering reliability doubts, arguably the quickest car for 2005, and one suited to the new single tire regulation.

''Albert Park is not my favorite circuit,'' the highly-rated 32-year-old said, ''but for the first time I'm hoping to fight for the win.''

Technical director Bob Bell agreed that Renault seem to have 'closed the gap' to eternal champion marque Ferrari.

But he noted: 'Their big advantage is reliability, as they are racing a known car in Melbourne.''

Ralf must 'adapt' - Toyota
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) It's up to Germany's Ralf Schumacher to 'adapt' to the new Toyota car.

That's the opinion of team president John Howett, responding to speculation that their highly-paid 29-year-old recruit is struggling to handle the TF105.

He added: ''But, anyway, we think the Melbourne car, with a new rear wing, suits him better.''

Sauber unsure
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) Sauber aren't sure where they'll line up on the Albert Park grid.

At the end of a mixed winter period for the Hinwil team, technical director Willy Rampf refused to speculate how the C24 will go at the Australian opener.

''It's going to make the grand prix exciting,'' he said, ''because we'll find out too.''

1997 champion and team recruit Jacques Villeneuve is a fan of the Melbourne layout, but also isn't sure what to expect.

''Nobody does,'' the French-Canadian added, ''but everybody wants to start off on a high note.''

Teammate Felipe Massa, meanwhile, is convinced that the Ferrari-powered C24 is a 'good' car, despite Villeneuve's recent 'slow' comment.

Ferrari to dominate - Haug
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) Mercedes' Norbert Haug denied that Juan Pablo Montoya is too coarse a driver for Ron Dennis' well-polished McLaren team.

He said Colombia's 29-year-old is 'not Rambo.

''I mean, Michael (Schumacher) is no softie, either,'' the German told a Frankfurt newspaper.

On the topic of the Australian grand prix, meanwhile, Haug denied that Ferrari have been sandbagging in the winter and expects the scarlet team to dominate.

He said: ''Behind Ferrari, it's going to be very close from position three to fourteen, in my opinion.''

EJ defends 'unripe' lineup
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) Eddie Jordan has rejected criticism that recruiting an all-rookie F1 line-up is necessarily a mistake.

The team founder, who recently sold out to a billionaire, defended Alex Shnaider and sporting director Trevor Carlin's decision to hire Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro.

EJ said Jordan's 1997 line-up (Giancarlo Fisichella and Ralf Schumacher) looked similarly unripe.

''They nearly won the first race,'' the Irishman told the Guardian.

''These kids would never get the chance in F1 had it not been for Jordan's philosophy.''

He also said hiring men like India's Karthikeyan 'opens up new markets' for F1.

Brit F3 'no longer best'
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) British F3 is no longer the best stepping stone to grand prix racing, Dr. Jonathan Palmer warned.

The Englishman, a former F1 driver and now owner of several UK-located circuits for junior formulae, admitted that the Euro F3 championship is now a better bet for youngsters.

''(British) F3 is not in its best condition,'' Palmer, also manager of former F1 and current Champ Car star Justin Wilson, told sportinglife.com.

McLaren's 'huge' advantage
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) McLaren have been given a 'very significant advantage' for the 2005 season, according to F1 rival Renault.

The silver team, because it finished fifth in last year's championship, is allowed to run a 'third' car during Friday free practice at grands prix.

But Bob Bell, Renault technical director, noted that - with new regulations, in particular - the other big teams are left with 'very limited track time.'

He said Pedro de la Rosa, in the spare MP4-20, will 'collect information' for McLaren-Mercedes 'without worrying' about tires or the engine.

Meanwhile, with a dirty track on Friday, other teams - Renault colleague Pat Symonds continued - may be 'reluctant to run' at all.

And it's not just Renault worried about the 'third car' benefit. While Michelin will have three Friday cars, including McLaren and Toyota, Ferrari supplier Bridgestone can only count on Jordan and Minardi.

Indian 'kamikaze' - teammate
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) The fastest Indian on wheels is also a bit of a 'kamikaze' pilot.

That's the assessment of fellow rookie and Jordan teammate Tiago Monteiro, who attended a pre-grand prix function in Melbourne yesterday.

''He's really talented,'' Tiago said, referring to Narain Karthikeyan, 28.

Portugal's driver added: ''He can be very quick on a single lap, but a lot of people said he can sometimes be a bit too aggressive, crashing a lot.

''But I know he'll work on that.''

More teams to win - Michael
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) Ferrari, but also McLaren, Renault, Williams and BAR, will regularly win grands prix in 2005.

That's the claim of Williams' technical director Sam Michael, asked about the sweeping wave of regulations to strike F1 from Sunday's Melbourne GP.

The aerodynamic, tire and engine regulations represent the biggest change in F1 since the narrow-track, groove-tire formula landed in 1998.

Canberra-born Michael said: ''I think you'll see quite a big state of change, particularly over the first five or six races this year.

''You're going to see a lot more cars winning.''

'Where'll EJ be?'
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) Where'll Eddie Jordan be, when - on Sunday afternoon - the fifth red light is extinguished on the Melbourne F1 gantry?

Even he doesn't know.

The Irishman, who has sold his grand prix team and vowed not to travel to Australia for the race, is off on a mystery holiday with his family.

He told The Guardian: ''My wife said to me 'We're going away ... somewhere that doesn't have a TV'.

''I'll have to wait and see where it is.''

Speculation says the Jordans are off to Dubai for a golfing trip.

EJ, however, promised to attend 'some' races in 2005.

He said the day of the F1 'entrepreneur', surviving thanks to a shoestring rather than a car manufacturer, is over.

Nick 'better than Webber'
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) Just as Ralf Schumacher paid German compatriot Nick Heidfeld a compliment, Nick returned the favor ... with a oblique backhand.

29-year-old Ralf, who drove for Heidfeld's new employer between 1999-2004, said he reckons the Moenchengladbacher is 'faster' than BMW-Williams teammate Mark Webber.

But, outlining a future ambition for the championship, 27-year-old 'Quick Nick' said he is now Germany's 'number two' after Ralf's elder brother, reigning title winner Michael Schumacher.

Heidfeld said: ''Ralf needs time to work well with Toyota.''

FIA tempt more boredom - Ron
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) McLaren's Ron Dennis has warned spectators not to expect much action when F1 practice kicks off at Albert Park on Friday.

The team principal said the controversial 'one-engine-per-two-race' regulation will be more conducive to conservatism than excessive car tuning.

Ron told Australia's Herald Sun that McLaren's legitimate 'third' car will 'pound around.

''(But) our race cars will do in the order of five laps on Friday afternoon.

''I'd be very surprised if (the other top teams) do more than ten laps.''

He called the situation 'ludicrous,' and also slammed the governing FIA for tempting even more boredom by banning tire pit stops.

A1 'chaos' in Pakistan
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) Pakistan and India have become the latest to join Sheikh Maktoum's novel 'A1 Grand Prix' world cup-style series.

But a subsequent parade of the green-and-white F1-like car in Lahore (Pakistan) showed off little more than poor organization, as huge traffic jams brought the city to a halt.

Pakistan's Daily Times newspaper said 'no arrangements' had been made to detour cars, and police were 'hostile.'

''(The government) can never do anything properly,'' moaned one resident.

Another, who missed a scheduled flight in the melee, added: ''Events that (should) make people proud, end up making them miserable.''

Alonso alert
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) Fernando Alonso has moved to temper expectation that Renault could blitz the opposition in the Australian grand prix.

The Spanish driver, albeit praising the R25 car, said Albert Park 'is not a perfect circuit' for the new single seater.

Moreover, he's still worried about reliability, following more problems at the last big Spanish test.

Alonso, 23, said: ''Our main priority will be for the weekend to run smoothly.

'(But) I expect Ferrari to still be the number one team.'' He also said McLaren 'looked very strong' in winter testing.

Kimi keeps a low profile
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) Australian grand prix contender Kimi Raikkonen, of Finland, is keeping a low profile ahead of Sunday's big race.

Amid anticipation of a three-team duel for '05 spoils, the McLaren driver said it's 'impossible' to predict what the first podium will look like.

''We've had a good pre-season,'' the 25-year-old remarked, adding that the 'speed is there' in the MP4-20 model.

''What we do know,'' Kimi said, ''is that it'll be an interesting year.''

New teammate Juan Pablo Montoya also set aside any examination about who won the traditional 'winter championship.'

''We've focused on our own program,'' the Colombian said in a McLaren team preview.

One tangible source of optimism, though, lies in the statistic that not a single Mercedes engine failed in the long winter, according to Norbert Haug.

F1 needs 'dictator' - EJ
(GMMF1.NET -- Mar.1) F1 needs a 'dictator', and Bernie Ecclestone's the man for the job.

That is the claim of former team owner Eddie Jordan, who also suggested that the carmakers' GPWC is dead in the water without the 74-year-old.

He told the Daily Mail: ''There is not a single circuit promoter who would not want to be on Bernie's side.

''Without Bernie you do not have a race.''

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