F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 14, 2005

Villeneuve 'irritated'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) Jacques Villeneuve has admitted to being 'irritated' by the media's current analysis of the 1997 champion's life at Sauber.

The French-Canadian told a Q&A with his spokeswoman that he doesn't 'want to comment' on website and newspaper reports.

''It can be dangerous to give answers to things like that,'' said JV, 33, possibly referring to Peter Sauber's implied criticism of his driving in the Australian grand prix.

Villeneuve added: ''Saying things like (that) ... serves no purpose.''

He suggested that poor tire choice and a lack of grip colored his sluggish pace at Melbourne.

''I had soft tires and Felipe (Massa) was on hard,'' Jacques said. ''We now know better.''

Jerez: Renault cap last day
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) Renault's Franck Montagny last week topped the final (Friday) day at F1 test venue Jerez.

He outpaced runners for BAR and Williams, as well as Luca Badoer's brand new F2005 model Ferrari.

BAR tester Anthony Davidson, who crashed earlier in the week, suffered a Honda failure in the morning, but only Enrique Bernoldi's car was fitted with the 'latest spec' engine.

''I hope the team ... will be able to use this information in time for Malaysia,'' England's Davidson, 25, said.

''The circuit was wet during the morning following overnight rain,'' a Renault statement read, while - given the weather - McLaren and Toyota decided not to run at all.

F1 action won't return to Jerez until June.

Webber to 'squeeze' DC
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) Williams' Mark Webber was not surprised when an energy drink-liveried car beat him to the checker in Melbourne last weekend.

The Australian driver, who worked for Red Bull's prior (Jaguar) incarnation in 2003 and 2004, said the team 'guys' are 'disciplined.

''I saw a lot of what was being prepared (for 2005) before I left,'' Webber, 28, told Autosport.

He insisted, though, that his FW27 was actually quicker than David Coulthard's Red Bull.

In fact, Webber said DC - at one point - gave him 'a squeeze' in a tussle with a backmarker. ''That's fine,'' Mark grinned.

''So long as he doesn't mind me returning the favor.''

Sauber in action
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) Sauber's grand prix car fired into life at the Twin Towers in Kuala-Lumpur at the weekend.

Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Seri Abdullah Hj
Ahmad Badawi was on hand to herald team sponsor Petronas' 10-year anniversary in Formula One.

''The track here is very, very difficult,'' said Canadian team driver Jacques Villeneuve, enduring a busy promotional week in the country.

''The heat is a real shock to the body, and also hard on the car.''

Want to be an F1 hack?
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) Think you've got what it takes to become a Formula One journalist?

You might, then, be interested in the Red Bull Driver Search's new 'Chris Economaki Junior Journalism Award.'

A statement said the award is designed to 'motivate and encourage' budding journalists, but also to promote the search for an American F1 driver.

To participate, write a feature about 'karting, open wheel racing, Formula One, fitness and training, and the Red Bull Driver Search,' the statement added.

It then 'must be published' in some form, with the prize being a trip to Indianapolis in June.

Chris Economaki, 84, is a legendary American racing reporter.

Minardi in cash boost
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) Minardi has 'renewed' a link with the Russian 'SMP Commercial Bank'.

Following an earlier alliance including Russian driver Sergey Zlobin, the backmarking Faenza-based team said in a statement that SMP would 'support ... transactions' in Russia.

''This represents a significant marketing development,'' said founder Gian Carlo Minardi, who is hoping the deal might open an 'important' market.

Pecking order to be unveiled
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) Malaysia will reveal the true F1 '05 pecking order.

Williams' Mark Webber said rain during the first flat-out, low-fuel qualifying session in Melbourne last weekend veiled every team's ultimate pace.

''When it rains (in Malaysia),'' the Australian driver warned, ''it really rains!

''But if we get a consistent weekend, we'll get a good idea of where everyone stands.''

It's just above 30-degrees C outside Kuala Lumpur on Monday, with some rain expected mid-week, but a weather forecast predicted a very hot, but probably dry, weekend.

Schu to blame - Flav
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) Seven time champion Michael Schumacher's rivals should take the example of ... Nick Heidfeld.

That's the perhaps puzzling view of colorful Flavio Briatore, chief of the Renault team.

He told Germany's Welt am Sonntag that Heidfeld, Williams' driver and Schumacher compatriot, made a good attempt to pass Michael's Ferrari last weekend.

''Not enough people take a risk against him. (Schumacher) makes mistakes when he is under pressure,'' said Briatore.

The Italian, then, put at least some blame at Schumacher's door.

He added: ''It looked like he did not do everything he could to prevent the accident.''

F1 innovation in Bahrain
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) In 2005, Bahrain will go all-out to retain the governing FIA's 'best organized grand prix' plaudit.

Following the Middle Eastern country's inaugural event last year, a statement said the circuit had dreamt up some innovative additions to the spectacle for the April 1-3 race.

For one, a tethered hot air balloon will give spectators a 'bird's eye view of the circuit.'

And, on Thursday night of GP-week, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone will attend the launch of a so-called 'laser show.'

A statement said lasers will 'criss-cross the circuit' all weekend.

It'll create a 'spectacle not seen at any other Formula One venue,' the statement continued.

New car 'better' - Badoer
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) Ferrari's new F2005 car is better than the current 'M' model.

That's the claim of Italian test driver Luca Badoer, who drove the unraced machine at Jerez last week.

He'll resume at Fiorano on Tuesday, and then at Mugello - also in Italy - throughout the Malaysian grand prix weekend.

''Then we'll find out how much better (the car is),'' Badoer told Autosport magazine.

''Sincerely, it's really beautiful.''

Bridgestone's Hisao Suganuma, meanwhile, said F2005's tire degradation is 'so much better' than the Malaysia-spec 'old' car.

''As soon as it is ready,'' the technical manager added, ''we would like to see it race.''

EJ - 'I didn't want Schu'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) Eddie Jordan did not want to give seven time world champion Michael Schumacher his debut at Spa back in 1991, the retreated F1 team owner admitted.

He told F1 Racing magazine that, with the imprisoned Bertrand Gachot's seat vacant, the more sensible sub was Sweden's Stefan Johansson.

''I chose Michael because he could pay,'' EJ said.

''I told Stefan, 'If I can get money for this guy, he's in'.

''I'd have preferred an experienced driver ... to bring the car home, to be honest.''

Jordan also implied that Bernie Ecclestone, instrumental in Michael's immediate (and controversial) switch to Benetton, used Schumacher to 'crack' the German market.

DC in bearded lesson
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) 'It's hard to get a tan through a beard!'

The words belong to David Coulthard, the Scot who gave trendy Red Bull a distinguished debut with fourth place at Melbourne last weekend.

Speculation said the marketing-savvy energy drink brand's owner, Dieter Mateschitz, ordered DC spice up a grey McLaren image by cultivating the designer stubble.

David, 33, trained ahead of the traditionally tough Malaysian grand prix in hot weather.

''Sepang is one of the most physically demanding races,'' he said.

''I'll be trying my best to bring home more points. You're only as good as your last race.''

BAR men to race new engine
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) After a bitingly disappointing round one, BAR is desperate to make their '007' go quicker at the weekend's Malaysian grand prix.

Technical director Geoff Willis said 'performance concerns' were the main topic at last week's post-Australia test in Spain.

''We're now more confident in our performance,'' he said, also finding comfort in Sepang's likely higher track temperature.

''After last year,'' driver Jenson Button, 25, added, ''the result clearly wasn't the way we wanted to start the season.''

Willis also confirmed that Button and teammate Takuma Sato, both retired deliberately at Albert Park to open a two-race rule loophole, will each sport a new Honda engine for Malaysia.

'Phew -- no Swiss GP!'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, not known for a love of off-track F1 work, is glad there is no Swiss grand prix.

Sauber's French-Canadian, in Malaysia, is part of a huge promotional program this week - including an F1 demo in Kuala Lumpur - to mark local sponsor Petronas' ten-year F1 involvement.

''I guess it's lucky,'' JV, 33, smiled at a news conference in KL on Sunday afternoon.

''I love Switzerland but the team is based there, so we can just concentrate on Malaysia being our home grand prix -- it's enough!

''There is added pressure.''

'I'm a good driver' - Indian
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) Narain Karthikeyan's goal is to be recognized as a 'good driver.'

Unlike some, perhaps with championship ambition, the 28-year-old - India's first ever in F1 - is not even dreaming of the winner's podium.

The Jordan driver just wants to butt out a label that money, more than talent, won him a spot on the world's quickest track.

''After my debut in Melbourne,'' he told India's Telegraph newspaper, ''a lot of people are now recognizing my talent.''

Karthikeyan, though, admitted that EJ15 is not an 'ideal' vehicle.

More overtaking in F1?
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) Question: will Formula One's new aerodynamic/tire regulations lead to more overtaking?

The answer depends on who you ask -- Sauber's Felipe Massa, or former teammate Nick Heidfeld.

Massa, the 23-year-old Brazilian, subscribes to the theory that reducing downforce 'will help' spice up the action.

''I think we could see a lot of overtaking,'' he told his website.

But 27-year-old Heidfeld, Williams' new recruit, doesn't agree. The German, on the team website, said sitting behind another car now leads to an even more chronic loss of grip than before.

''Therefore it remains difficult,'' he said. ''I suspect there won't be much of a change.''

FW27 speed 'fine' - Sam M.
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) Williams' new FW27 did 'a lot better' than technical director Sam Michael thought it would at the Australian grand prix.

The 33-year-old, guarded in the week prior to Melbourne, hinted that BAR - but particularly McLaren - were tipped to be much faster at the first race.

''Lap time wise, we were fine,'' he told Autosport, explaining Mark Webber's P5 as in part due to getting stuck behind Red Bull racer David Coulthard.

Sam, though, warned that the BMW-powered car is not yet a winner.

But he added: ''You can say we were about 25 seconds (behind Renault) in Melbourne.

''That's closer ... than I thought we'd be.''

Jim Clark to race again
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) The late Jim Clark, an F1 legend, will race again.

German track Hockenheim, to stage the first 'international historic grand prix' in April, has named the event 'The Jim Clark Revival.'

In 1969-1985, an event of a similar name honored the legendary Briton who, in April 1968, died in an F2 crash -- at the Hockenheimring.

The track will invite former Formula 2 drivers from the era to race, 'including FIA president Max Mosley.

''It would be wonderful if the tradition of the Jim Clark Race could be revived,'' a statement continued.

How Fisi nearly lost Oz GP
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.14) Melbourne GP winner Giancarlo Fisichella nearly spent the race weekend at a Roman hospital bedside, it's revealed.

According to a column on autosport.com, the Renault driver's son, Christopher, fell ill with a stomach ailment just as Dad touched down in Oz.

Fisichella 'wanted nothing more than to rush back home,' the column stated, and Renault duly put 'third' driver Franck Montagny on standby.

Ultimately, though, wife Luna told Giancarlo to stay at Albert Park, and little Christopher is now 'feeling much better,' the column concluded.

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