F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 2, 2005

'I'm F1 favorite' - Roman
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) Italy's Giancarlo Fisichella has admitted that Renault is 'favorite' to win Sunday's Australian grand prix.

The Roman, 32, said at a team event at race track Calder Park on Tuesday that their new R25 was 'quickest everywhere' in pre-season testing.

Fisichella probably races into 2005 an even hotter prospect than Spanish teammate Fernando Alonso, owing to a smoother driving style for the new tire regulations.

But he admitted that the youngster's fighting spirit may see him through. ''(Alonso) wants to win everywhere,'' Giancarlo grinned.

Minardi 'D-day'
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) Minardi will discover on Wednesday whether it can legitimately race in Sunday's Australian GP.

Locally-born owner Paul Stoddart will meet with Ferrari counterpart Jean Todt in Melbourne, seeking the final signature on dispensation to use the illegal 2004 car.

''Will (Ferrari) sign?'' Stoddart wondered.

''Well, let's see what Australia says if they don't.''

The Australian millionaire also hinted that some teams may side with Minardi and boycott the event, should the little outfit be barred from Albert Park.

It is believed, though, that Todt will sign, preventing Stoddart from having to pursue a local Supreme Court option.

F1 parade in Melbourne
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) Thousands of Australians lined the streets of Melbourne on Wednesday afternoon, for a rare parade of F1 cars.

Headed by Minardi owner Paul Stoddart, the cavalcade - including another black racer, a Williams and a V8 Supercar or two - left from Federation Square on a city loop.

''We've told (the drivers) to take it easy,'' AGPC executive Tim Bamford revealed.

Australia's Mark Webber completed the tour in an open-top car.

Ferrari crush test accord
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) Ferrari broke an F1 test agreement on Tuesday, by amassing more than 50km of 'shakedown' mileage in GP week.

Debuting the new 'F2005' model at freezing Mugello (Italy), Luca Badoer completed 317km -- 267 more than allowed.

''Any tension quickly lifted,'' said the team's Italian test driver, who lapped well off record pace, ''when we saw that everything ran fine.

''I can say that we are satisfied.''

Ferrari's motor sport press office indicated that Badoer would continue at the privately-owned track on Wednesday.

Rain at Albert Park?
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) A revised weekend weather forecast indicates that rain may fall on the Australian GP.

Although Friday and race-day Sunday should be dry, temperatures will be down to 18 with a forty per cent chance of rain on qualifying Saturday.

Nick vows to retain seat
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) Nick Heidfeld's tenure next to Mark Webber will be short if Williams, as desired last year, plump for Jenson Button in 2006.

But the little German is vowing to 'go all out' to prove he deserves the BMW-powered mount.

The 27-year-old told UK's Sun newspaper: ''I don't know what the Jenson situation is.''

Heidfeld, nicknamed Quick Nick, is on a one-year contract, with Williams holding a further two-year option.

The former Prost, Sauber and Jordan driver, meanwhile - often criticized for his introverted personality - said it's taken him 'a long time' to reach a truly top team.

F1 rookie 'not fit enough'
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) Austrian rookie Patrick Friesacher has admitted he is 'not yet fit enough' for F1.

The 24-year-old told Germany's 'Der Standard' newspaper that his neck muscles are not up to the task, and he's also struggling to get used to more cockpit vibration than in F3000.

''I had a sore neck after 95 laps testing,'' he told the 'paper.

Despite conceding the tough learning curve, though, Friesacher - to drive the Minardi alongside Christijan Albers - vowed not to 'finish last.

''I want to finish,'' he said in Melbourne.

Alonso 'better than Webber'
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) F1 driver Fernando Alonso is more 'naturally talented' than Australia's Mark Webber -- but doesn't work as hard.

That's the appraisal of the man who could've been Webber's 2005 teammate, Jenson Button.

He told Australian media: ''That's me looking from the outside.''

25-year-old Button, the Briton who tried to leave BAR last year, worked with Webber at Benetton (Renault) in 2001.

''But I don't know how quick he is,'' JB added. ''His best finish is in a Minardi three years ago.''

Williams' Patrick Head called the Minardi statistic 'remarkable.

''It must be a money on his back.''

Minardi won't run a 'third'
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) F1 team Minardi, despite intending to give the Friday ride to Denmark's Nicolas Kiesa, will not now run a 'third' car at Albert Park.

It's reported that Kiesa, 26 and once favored for the racing berth, could not stump up with the requisite sponsor cash.

Faenza's team owner Paul Stoddart, born in Coburg in Victoria, said he would probably, however, unfurl a spare at the next grand prix, in Malaysia.

Schu fond of 19-race haul
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) Michael Schumacher does not think this year's 19-grand prix F1 calendar is too long.

Ferrari's German, charging for a record-bewildering eighth drivers' title in 2005, said in Melbourne that the average driver won't spend much more time at the wheel of his grand prix challenger.

''When there were less (races),'' the 36-year-old said, ''we'd go straight from a race to a test, but now there's less time for that.

''Now there's less tests and more races -- and I find racing more fun, anyway, of course.''

Oz won't open F1 '06
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) Melbourne will not open next year's world championship, grand prix chief Ron Walker today confirmed.

To avert a clash with the Commonwealth Games here, the tall Australian said he had negotiated a delay of the Albert Park event with Bernie Ecclestone.

He commented: ''I don't think there's enough ... money in the marketplace for two events at one time.''

Melbourne will, however, resume the early March slot in 2007, Ron said, and until 2010, when a five-year option to renew will become available.

F1 axe making life 'fun' - JV
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) According to '97 champion Jacques Villeneuve, the departure of one man has made life in the F1 paddock 'fun' again.

It's David Richards.

The pair clashed memorably in 2003, Villeneuve accusing the ousted BAR principal of sabotaging his image and work ethic via the media.

French-Canadian JV told The Guardian: ''Now he's gone (F1) is positive towards me again ... but I'm sure it'll only take five minutes for them to turn.''

The 33-year-old, returning full time with Sauber in 2005, said there's little room in F1 for a truth-speaker.

''But I sleep well,'' Villeneuve chimed.

F1 'tragic' - Damon Hill
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) Former Melbourne grand prix winner Damon Hill slammed the political infighting that has epitomized F1's winter period.

The 44-year-old Briton and world champion, who retired in 1999, said 'it's sad' that financial rows over the British grand prix and the future of F1 racing dominated the headlines.

''It upsets me,'' Damon told the Australian press.

''When you consider what's been going on in the world over the last few years, (F1 is) so out of touch -- it's tragic.''

Hill also said his former team Williams and Australian recruit Mark Webber are a 'perfect match.'

Duo hope Toyota is 'lucky'
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) Toyota will be lucky to score a point or two at the season opening Australian grand prix.

That's the opinion of new teammate duo Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli.

The latter, a former Renault-driving Italian, said the TF105 model is 'reliable' but not yet a true top-four contender.

''If we're lucky,'' he said, ''we can score some points in Melbourne.''

29-year-old Ralf agreed that a 'solid' points finish is the target. ''But we will have to wait and see,'' said the German, who arrived at Melbourne airport late Tuesday.

Schu - 'I may not win'
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) Michael Schumacher has admitted he may not win Sunday's first race of a long 2005 calendar.

At a press conference in Melbourne, the German said not getting the brand new F2005 until May might damage his and Ferrari's points tally.

''It's a matter of fact,'' said Schumacher, 36.

''But you don't win a championship by winning the first race. You have to have a strategy for the whole season.''

He suggested that Ferrari were so far ahead in recent years because rivals did 'a rather poor job.'

''You don't blame Ferrari,'' said Michael, ''you blame the others -- but it looks like they're doing a pretty good job now.''

Slow lane saves F1 money
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) To save money, some teams shipped racing equipment to the first 'flyaway' races of 2005 by sea.

Ferrari is known to have done it, and McLaren said in a statement that five tones of more generic gear - like tables, generators and wiring - in a 40 foot sea container, set off for Melbourne, Malaysia and Bahrain.

But, because of the time overlap, the team had to produce three identical sets of gear, with the Australia container leaving in January, Malaysia in early February, and the Bahrain batch this week.

27 tones of freight, including the F1 cars, still travel by air.

Sir Frank's not in Oz
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) F1 principal Sir Frank Williams will not travel to Australia for the first GP of 2005.

The 62-year-old Briton smilingly explained to The Guardian newspaper that the Melbourne slight is just part of a bigger plan to 'save money.'

Frank recently sold a Falcon 900 company jet, and team co-owner Patrick Head a helicopter -- with the proceeds contributing to a new wind tunnel at Grove (Oxfordshire) HQ.

''Selling the plane really proved what a racer Frank is,'' said Sir Jackie Stewart.

''F1 is his whole life.''

Fisichella names team driver
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) Luca Filippi will in 2005 drive for F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella's own F3000 team.

''It's the first time I've had to choose a driver rather than be chosen,'' said the 32-year-old Renault star, in real contention for Sunday's Australian grand prix victory.

He said Luca, 20, has a 'real will to win.'

Fisichella Motor Sport will tackle the Italian F3000 category.

Rubens 'sick of losing'
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) 'I'm sick of losing.'

With that dogged catch cry, Michael Schumacher's loyal Brazilian teammate launched into Australian grand prix-mode.

At a press conference in Melbourne, 32-year-old Rubens Barrichello denied he is a cruise-and-collect driver at the wheel of Ferrari number-2.

''I'm not made like that,'' he scoffed.

''I always try to get better and better; I feel I have big respect within the team, and I don't think Michael is unbeatable.

''I'm sorry if I am not modest enough but I don't think the gap is too big (to close).''

Barrichello said a big shake-up in the technical and sporting regulations might also help him eclipse the great German.

'Unique' Red Bull racer
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.2) Red Bull Racing will field an unique F1 car in the 2005 championship.

Team owner Dietrich Mateschitz said RB1's livery is not designed to accommodate much on-car sponsorship.

''We thought, we could either sell large areas (to sponsors), or do nothing but promote Red Bull.

''The pure Red Bull car was so pretty.''

One of the only non-Bull logos on the darker design is that of fruit juice manufacturer Rauch, on the side mirror.

Mateschitz said any other potential sponsors would have to also aim at the 'same target group,' for example 'Nokia, Swatch and PlayStation.'

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