F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 3, 2005

Webber bites Button
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) Mark Webber declined to take the bait, when grand prix rival and near-'05 teammate Jenson Button questioned the Australian's natural talent.

Williams' 28-year-old driver replied: ''I'm not sure everyone's interested in Jenson's comments.''

But Webber did admit that some of the 'hype' in Australia, about a driver who's never finished higher than fifth in F1, may not be justified.

But he's used to it.

''(The Australian media) have always had me three steps ahead of where I really am,'' Mark said.

''They're very keen on pushing that hard -- I'm a realist.''

Bernie to Minardi rescue
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) Ferrari principal Jean Todt declined to sign a document that would've guaranteed Minardi's participation in the Australian GP.

The Frenchman is calling it a 'matter for' the FIA, but Minardi's Paul Stoddart said it smells more like political retribution.

''He told me that we've said bad things about Ferrari,'' the Australian revealed, 'so 'why should Ferrari help you?'.''

Despite a threat of boycott and legal action, though, the truth is that Stoddart's black racers will probably line up on the Albert Park grid.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone will reportedly fast-track the little team through Thursday scrutineering, giving Stoddart another day to prize Todt's signature.

Minardi mechanics may also take to the 'illegal' PS04B with a hacksaw, Paul added, to make it conform.

''But we'll be miles off the pace,'' Stoddart warned.

F2005 still in action
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) Ferrari continued to flaunt F1's apparently defunct test agreement on Wednesday, by running the new 'F2005' model at Mugello (Italy).

Previously, teams did not test in the week prior to a GP.

But, while the circus prepares for action half-way round the world in Melbourne (Australia), Luca Badoer - still in very chilly conditions - wrapped up the two-day run at the private track, with 107 laps, or more than 500km.

Red Bull bring 'new ideas'
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) Energy drink Red Bull intend to bring 'new ideas' to the old order in Formula One.

Owned by Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, the team bought Jaguar Racing last year and race into 2005 with the youngest F1 chief -- Christian Horner, 31.

He said: ''Hopefully people will identify (us) as a team bringing ... new spirit to F1.''

In a preview statement, Red Bull also revealed that their new Cosworth engine - despite the FIA's longer life rule - is 25bhp and 300rpm more powerful than the Jaguar (2004) V10.

Why Flavio dumped Fisico
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) Giancarlo Fisichella is a favorite to win Sunday's Australian grand prix, but an unanswered question still taunts many F1 insiders.

Why did Renault big wheel Flavio Briatore dump the highly-rated Roman in 2001, only to re-hire him three years later?

''Simple,'' the colorful Briatore, 54, told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

''He is more mature now.

''He's like the older brother of that (former) Fisichella -- completely different.

''He didn't take F1 seriously enough. Now he's fully focused, from the first to the last lap. That's what we want.''

Parade 'fantastic' - Webber
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) A crowd of 150,000 packed the streets of inner Melbourne on Wednesday to watch grand prix cars burn rubber.

''It was fantastic to see everyone ... really smelling it and feeling it,'' said Mark Webber, the local hero who toured the barrier-lined route in a convertible BMW road car.

Webber wins Schu support
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) With four words, Australia's Mark Webber was welcomed to the F1 big league.

''Now is the time,'' said Rubens Barrichello, Brazilian teammate for Ferrari's world drivers' champion Michael Schumacher.

36-year-old Schumacher called 2005 a 'very important moment' in the career of Webber, who joined Williams from Jaguar.

''He can do a good job.''

Barrichello, 32, said Webber's career - first at Minardi - followed a similar trajectory to his own, with junior stints at Jordan (1994-'96) and Stewart ('97-'99).

But Barrichello warned: ''When I went to Ferrari, I had to cope with a whole new style.

''If he can deal with that kind of pressure, on natural ability, then he'll do well.''

'I can win' - Montoya
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) McLaren's new F1 car is capable of winning the first race of 2005, Juan Pablo Montoya said in Melbourne.

The team's new Colombian driver won the last grand prix of 2004, and he said the MP4-20 is an ever better car than Williams' Brazil-spec FW26.

''It's not going to be as easy as all that,'' Montoya, 29, said on a visit to the Phillip Island MotoGP circuit on Wednesday.

''But it could (happen).''

He also said it's 'typical' of Frank Williams' team, for whom he drove between 2001-2004, to unveil an initially uncompetitive car.

''They always come up with the goods,'' JPM added, ''just too late.''

Praise from an old F1 enemy
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) Jenson Button is among the very best in F1 pitlane.

That's the unlikely acclaim of an old enemy -- caustic ex-BAR teammate Jacques Villeneuve.

But the French-Canadian, champion of '97, played down the old spat, blaming it on departed Brackley principal, Dave Richards.

''Jenson's fast and a hard worker,'' said JV, 33.

''He's up there with the best but the next step is to win a race.''

Villeneuve, though, mocked Button's claim that himself, Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya are Michael Schumacher's equal.

He said the seven time champion is 'far ahead.

''No one is more competent than Schumacher,'' said Jacques.

Schu's stingy
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) He may earn nearly $300,000 a day, but world champion Michael Schumacher doesn't dosh out the cash at dinner time.

'Stern' magazine said eight-year-old daughter Gina-Maria, and son Mick (5), each get two euros pocket money per week.

''They have to learn that wealth isn't automatic,'' Ferrari's German driver, 36, said.

Friday should be 'open' test
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa says Friday should become an 'open' day at GP weekends.

The Spaniard, in the third MP4-20 car, will clock up plenty of laps at Albert Park on the first day of F1 running.

''But I would like everyone ... lapping as much as I will,'' he told Reuters in Melbourne.

While the 'third' contingent can go hell-for-leather in the 2-hours of practice, the rest must temper their enthusiasm to save their tires and engine.

De la Rosa, meanwhile, said 2005 is an opportunity to remind pitlane of a feisty racer who drove for Arrows and Jaguar between 1999 and 2002.

'Frank said I'm fat' - JPM
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) Juan Pablo Montoya lost motivation after a four year-tenure at Frank Williams' grand prix team, the Colombian driver admitted.

29-year-old JPM, now at McLaren, said the wheelchair-bound chief spent more time complaining about his weight than complimenting good driving.

''I don't know what they wanted,'' Montoya said at the Phillip Island track on Wednesday.

''I was winning races and working hard but he just whinged about me being overweight.''

Praising Ron Dennis' contrasting outfit, then, Juan Pablo said McLaren gives a driver 'the tools' to get things done.

''(Here) the driver is a lot more appreciated,'' he remarked.

Ron had word with wild Kimi
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen will not be forbidden from spending wild nights on the town, Ron Dennis insisted.

The F1 team principal, though - clearly unimpressed with the Finn's double drunken rampage during the winter - said he had spoken about it 'extensively' with the 25-year-old.

''But I'm happy with the direction in which Kimi is going,'' he told Autosport magazine.

Ron said media reporting of Raikkonen's supposedly often naked escapade in a London lap-dancing club was '90 per cent' fiction.

Watch Red Bull - Schumacher
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) On Wednesday, Michael Schumacher stared in amused awe as Melbourne's Lord Mayor John So puffed into an aboriginal didgeridoo -- and made an appalling sound.

Today, he beat teammate Rubens Barrichello in a game of beach volleyball, alongside Australian Olympians Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst.

''It was fun,'' said the 36-year-old on St. Kilda beach, ''to play with really good players.''

And, asked for a tip for Sunday's Australian grand prix, the German named new entrant Red Bull.

Seven time champion Schumacher said spotted the former Jaguar team in testing and 'they were quite competitive.'

'All we can do is finish'
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) A mere finish is all the shaken-up Jordan team can hope for in Australia, sporting director Trevor Carlin said.

Although 'excited' to be in Melbourne, the young team principal warned that everything is new at the newly Alex Shnaider-owned outfit.

''Hopefully we can be reliable,'' said Carlin, a big name in F3 circles, ''get a bit of luck and finish close to the top-10.''

Not only is Jordan's management new, so too is the customer Toyota V10, and all-rookie driver lineup.

''This is my first visit of any kind to Australia,'' India's Narain Karthikeyan, 28, explained.

No boycott at Oz GP
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) Headed by Minardi's Paul Stoddart, and contrary to an earlier threat, F1 teams will not boycott the Australian GP.

Although the Australian - faced with Ferrari's refusal to sign a widely-reported dispensation document - said a boycott or legal action remained options, he does not want to spoil Melbourne's F1 anniversary.

''I love this event,'' he said on Thursday.

''I would not want to be the one who spoiled the party.''

But Stoddart said Ferrari principal Jean Todt's continuing non-compliance, barring a small, highly-popular team from competing at home, would be the 'biggest PR disaster' in F1 history.

Jean Todt will arrive in Melbourne on Friday morning.

Webber glory may be Nicked
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) Williams' Nick Heidfeld will give Australian teammate Mark Webber a run for his money in 2005, an old rival has warned.

Juan Pablo Montoya, last year's man at Grove and Heidfeld's main foe for the 1998 crown of F3000, said the diminutive German racer nicknamed 'Quick Nick' is widely underrated.

''I think Mark's quite good,'' 29-year-old JPM told a throng of Australian media, ''but I think Nick will surprise a lot of people.

''He's been around for long enough to do a really, really good job.

''There's a lot of expectation about Webber -- we'll see.''

Minardi 'launch' F1 car
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) Small but hugely popular team Minardi 'launched' their 2005 championship campaign inside the Albert Park track on Thursday.

State premier Steve Bracks cut the ribbon, watched on by grand prix chairman Ron Walker and thousands of spectators on a 'free admission' day.

''We're in a fantastic city,'' said team principal Paul Stoddart, born nearby in Coburg.

Plenty of power, say Red Bull
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) By mid-season, Cosworth's F1 engine will be nearly 60bhp more powerful than last season's Jaguar-spec V10.

That's the claim of Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz.

The energy drink magnate and billionaire told UK's The Guardian: ''We should have a new specification ... by the summer.''

That'll be in addition to the 25 horse power advantage found by Cosworth, a company also sold to a new owner by Ford recently, over the winter.

Austria's Mateschitz continued: ''So we feel quite confident about (that).''

Williams retain Petrobras
Melbourne (GMMF1.NET -- Mar.3) Brazilian fuel company Petrobras will be a Williams sponsor 'into the medium term,' the team said in Melbourne.

The brand raced into F1 with Frank Williams' team in 1998, and - according to a statement - will have increased branding on the FW27.

Technical director Sam Michael also explained that Petrobras will supply the team with a new, longer life fuel.

''We are delighted to extend our relationship,'' confirmed Petrobras' F1 program coordinator Rogerio Goncalves.

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