F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 16, 2005

FIA close BAR loophole
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) F1's governing body has closed a two-race engine rule 'loophole' exploited by BAR in Melbourne.

An FIA spokesman said 'a distinction will now be made' between an accidental DNF and a BAR-like decision to park healthy cars on the final lap.

As the clarification came post-Melbourne, it is not believed Jenson Button or Takuma Sato would be penalized for running a fresh engine in Malaysia.

But the FIA spokesman insisted that, should a BAR-like anomaly be identified in the future, 'we will require the team ... to explain the circumstances (of the retirement).'

Meanwhile, joining Toyota in criticizing BAR and the loophole, are Sauber technical director Willy Rampf and Renault's Pat Symonds.

''It is not good for the sport,'' said Rampf, ''or the spectator.'' Pat Symonds branded the loophole 'ridiculous.'

Toyota could 'surprise'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) Only 'a matter of time' stands between Toyota and a points-scoring finish in 2005, according to team driver Ralf Schumacher.

The German said 'sheer bad luck' with the weather and a seat-belt drama put him down in Australia.

''It was a missed opportunity,'' Ralf, 29, added.

''My first drive for Toyota was extremely encouraging, also in terms of car performance.''

Meanwhile, the TF105 car will get a new front wing at Sepang, team technical director Mike Gascoyne confirmed.

Schumacher's Italian teammate, Jarno Trulli, is also confident. ''With the new regulations,'' he said, ''we could see some surprises this weekend.''

Albers' sponsor
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) F1 rookie Christijan Albers has a new sponsor -- Dutch magazine 'Veronica'.

The Minardi driver, 25 - also from The Netherlands - will wear the weekly's logo on his orange helmet, a team statement said.

''Through our sponsorship,'' editor-in-chief Peter Contant remarked, ''we express our trust in (Christijan's) talent.''

'Ferrari not fastest' - Brawn
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) Although the 'old' car will race again in Malaysia, Ferrari is plugging away with testing of the shining 'F2005'.

At Fiorano (Italy) on Tuesday, Luca Badoer clocked up an impressive best time of 57.936, despite a former regulation prohibiting F1 testing in the week prior to a race.

A source within a grand prix outfit explained that the preceding rulebook flew out the window when every team (except Ferrari) shook hands on the 'gentleman's agreement.'

Technical director Ross Brawn, meanwhile, admitted that - given the substantial rule changes - running with an old car is a 'bigger compromise' than in earlier years.

''We may not have the fastest car,'' the Englishman conceded, ''(but) we are still competitive.

''And we know that F2005 is a big step forward.''

'Bernie must save F1'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) 'Master broker' Bernie Ecclestone can save F1 from ruin.

That's the hope of nine teams' unofficial spokesman, and Minardi chief, Paul Stoddart.

Given the threat of a carmakers' breakaway, he said in Sydney on Tuesday that the 74-year-old impresario 'is the only one who can unite us.'

The biggest issue, Stoddart suggested, is Max Mosley - FIA president - who is 'politically unacceptable' to GPWC.

Every team, except Ferrari, will meet with Ecclestone - apparently with 'something' to offer - in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

But Paul warned that the 'only way' to avert a 2008 split is if Mosley and Ferrari 'come back to the table.'

Another woman on track to F1
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) Another girl racer is on F1's right track.

Keiko Ihara, a former Japanese model, will next month debut in British Formula 3 -- the last leap to the grand prix grid for men like Takuma Sato and Jenson Button.

''I dream of running on the same track (as) Michael Schumacher,'' Ihara, 31, said in an AFP report.

She'll drive for Carlin, the team owned by new Jordan chief Trevor Carlin.

Ihara added: ''Motor sport is still very much a man's world. But I don't feel any handicap.''

Schu at 'ice' gala
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) How will Michael Schumacher spend Thursday evening in Kuala Lumpur?

The seven time world champion is slated to attend an 'ice'-themed dinner at the Mandarin Oriental ballroom, in the company of the royal family and Prime Minister.

Carmen Electra, Jackie Chan, Jean Todt and partner Michelle Yeoh, Kiss' Gene Simmons and the Black Eyed Peas will also attend, a local paper said.

''We are completely sold out,'' said a spokesman.

Schumacher's F1 rivals, including Mark Webber, Jacques Villeneuve and Narain Karthikeyan, should also be there, we can reveal.

Sauber won't sizzle at Sepang
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) Sauber's driving duo have been talking enthusiastically about an innovative cooling system aboard the new C24 racer.

''It's a good one,'' Felipe Massa revealed at yet another promotional event for Malaysian sponsor Petronas in Kuala Lumpur.

The Brazilian said: ''We've run it in the tunnel and the car maintained most of its downforce.''

Separately, Jacques Villeneuve - asked about the heat and humidity expected at Sepang - bragged about the 'very good' system.

''I just hope the others don't have one,'' the Canadian smiled.

Elsewhere in town, Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan - the first Indian in F1 - openly wondered if he's fit enough for the physically tortuous race.

''Maybe I am not,'' he admitted in a local newspaper.

''But I am fast enough and I hope I can extend my stay in F1.''

Ferrari upset Bridgestone?
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) According to speculation in the Italian media, Ferrari tire supplier Bridgestone is unhappy.

With the Maranello based team now full-throttle on a potential Bahrain debut for F2005, Bridgestone asked for either Michael Schumacher or Rubens Barrichello to return to Europe prior to Malaysia to help develop the car's new, bespoke, tire.

But Jean Todt said no; Schumacher duly holidayed in south Malaysia, and Barrichello home in Brazil -- leaving Luca Badoer and Marc Gene to the testing.

''Badoer and Gene are really good guys,'' 32-year-old Rubens said in Malaysia on Tuesday, ''and it means we could take a break after Australia.

''That's important ahead of a long season.''

Barrichello and Schumacher, however, will return to Europe after Sunday's Sepang race to try F2005 for the first time.

A wet Malaysian GP?
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) The chance that rain will affect the weekend's Malaysian grand prix is rising, a weather report said.

It's a cloudy and dry 34-degrees C on Wednesday, but despite similar heat, scattered thunderstorms will now almost certainly affect first practice.

Rain is less likely on Saturday, but a shower or two could fall on both qualifying and the grand prix, the report added.

''Even in a tropical rainstorm,'' Michelin's Pierre Dupasquier explained on Monday, ''the track temperature at Sepang can be more than 40.''

Mexico, Brazil for 'A1'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) The American continent's Mexico and Brazil will field teams in the new 'A1' world cup category.

Mexican Champ Car (and future F1) driver Mario Dominguez showed off the specially-liveried open wheeler on the old grand prix track in Mexico City.

A1 founder Sheikh Maktoum, in Mexico, also announced that Brazilian football legend Ronaldo had bought the Brazilian franchise.

''It's an honor to represent Brazil in any way I can,'' Ronaldo said in a statement.

A1 will kick off at Brands Hatch (UK) in September.

Indian to Bahrain
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) After Sunday's F1 grand prix, Narain Karthikeyan will travel straight from Malaysia to Bahrain.

The first ever Indian in F1 has agreed a one-day visit to promote the upcoming grand prix there.

He'll meet with 2000 children from Indian schools.

''I'm thrilled,'' he told newspaper Gulf Daily News, ''(to meet people) from India who've made Bahrain their home.''

C24's the problem - JV
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) Sauber's biggest problem was a lack of winter running, struggling team driver Jacques Villeneuve has insisted.

The '97 champion, hazily criticized by Peter Sauber after trailing the pace in Melbourne, pointed to 'problems' honing the C24 car.

''We still don't fully understand (it),'' he claimed. ''We had weather problems (in testing), the car breaking.

''F1 is like any other sport -- training is the key. We just haven't done enough with C24.''

33-year-old Villeneuve, in Malaysia, acclimatized to the hotter weather on Australia's Gold Coast. ''I did a lot of jogging on the beach,'' he told his website.

''I got a bit sunburned, I must admit!''

Give F1 rulebook 'more time'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) Give F1's radical rulebook more time.

That's the suggestion of top men from 'big four' grand prix outfits Renault and McLaren.

Pat Symonds, engineering chief at the former, said - for credibility - 'it's important not to rush into' a change.

''I think we'll get one chance to make a change to qualifying,'' he said, ''and we've not yet seen how it works with constant (weather) conditions.

'''It's still too early to make a judgment, even if I think there are tweaks to be made.''

McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh, similarly, pointed out the 'extraordinary' circumstances in Australia, and a subsequent need to wait a couple more races.

''Then,'' the team CEO said, ''we'll have a fuller understanding of how (it) will operate.''

What's wrong with McLaren?
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) What's wrong with McLaren?

With the possible exception of Red Bull, or BAR, most teams performed true to winter form at last weekend's Australian GP.

But McLaren, earmarked as a possible contender for Ferrari and Renault, never truly shone on the Albert Park layout.

''I agree,'' said Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn.

''McLaren left me a bit puzzled.

''I'm sure their car is very strong, but in the race they never quite showed.

''Why? No idea.

''But I certainly don't expect it to stay that way. Their car is very, very good.''

Stoddart vows quiet weekend
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.16) Minardi will not play Melbourne-like political hardball at the Malaysian GP, Paul Stoddart has vowed.

The Australian businessman dominated the pre-race headlines last weekend, when embroiled in off-track theatre involving Ferrari, stewards, the FIA and a Supreme Court.

''We won't have problems this time,'' the Faenza-based team's owner and principal promised at a news conference in Sydney.

''It's all been well highlighted and what we need to do is leave the politics at the green light.''

Superficially, Stoddart's Albert Park-row hinged on wanting to race an 'illegal' 2004 car, but alleged a wider quarrel with FIA president Max Mosley over the future of F1.

The resolute PS declared: ''If the price for fixing F1 leads to my demise, then I'll pay.''

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