F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 18, 2005

Klien may keep seat
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.18) Red Bull's Christian Klien will not necessarily be demoted after next month's Bahrain GP.

The Austrian, 22, said at Sepang that - if he's quick enough - he could race beyond a speculated three-grand prix stint.

''I want to keep this seat,'' Klien insisted.

''The faster I am, and the better my results are, the harder I will make it to replace me.''

Friday pilot and reigning F3000 champion 'Tonio' Liuzzi, however, is itching for the gong. He called post-qualifying in Melbourne 'boring.'

Jumping to Jacques' defense
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.18) It's a near-lone voice, but Pierre Dupasquier has jumped to former world champion Jacques Villeneuve's defense.

Amid gossip of a Sauber dumping, Michelin's French motor sport director - although denying Jacques' claim of a tire choice problem - said JV 'can still drive' and 'has the will to win.

''Did you see him fight with (Fernando) Alonso in Australia? He has not lost anything,'' Dupasquier claimed.

He said the French-speaking Canadian's 'only' problem is with the C24 car. Rumor puts brake trouble at the top of the pile.

For his part, 33-year-old Villeneuve seemed unfazed at Sepang, and denied he's even read a media report linking BAR's Anthony Davidson to his seat.

He laughed: ''I've had years of practice!

''I don't know ... don't care what's been written. We should be a lot better here.''

Schu's no Rambo - DC
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.18) Michael Schumacher should accept some of the blame for a Melbourne clash with compatriot Nick Heidfeld.

That's the claim of David Coulthard, an old foe of the German.

''He did appear to squeeze Heidfeld onto the grass,'' Red Bull's Scot said at Sepang.

''We don't know if Nick also braked too late, so it's not really fair to call him Rambo.''

Coulthard, 33, said he'd bring up the collision in the drivers' meeting on Friday night.

A bigger worry, as far as DC was concerned, was Schumacher's request - granted by Australian marshals - to be pushed back into action.

David continued: ''It was only in 2001 that a marshal was killed there -- (Schumacher) had obviously paid his valet parking beforehand.''

Ferrari's Schumacher, however, replied by saying only a 'stupid' driver wouldn't have seen the yellow flag.

Put a buck on Kimi R.
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.18) Got a dollar or two to spare?

Finland's Kimi Raikkonen looks like a good bet to win a second Malaysian grand prix.

The McLaren driver said his MP4-20's race pace 'wasn't far behind' the mighty Renault in Australia a fortnight ago.

''And I'd damaged the car so we'd expect to be slower anyway,'' the 25-year-old added.

''I think pace wise we are there -- maybe not right there with Renault but we usually go better here than at Melbourne.''

Sepang may be old car's last
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.18) Ferrari's 2005 car might debut earlier than expected, world champion Michael Schumacher admitted in Malaysia.

The German, who shunted in the first race but did not set the ultimate pace, said 'there's a chance' Sepang could be the F2004 M's last dash.

''We will be better with the new car,'' Schumacher, 36, promised.

''What we do now in testing is crucial, but I'm not worried. I'm pretty relaxed.

''There are 18 races to go -- just one has gone.''

Almost as Schumacher spoke, back in Europe, test driver Luca Badoer steered the F2005 in question at a warm Mugello.

BMW 'rumors' - Sir Frank
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.18) Frank Williams took a fire hose to blazing speculation that BMW appear set to abandon the Grove-based team.

The knighted chief referred to the paddock chatter as 'rumors.

''The facts are quite simple -- BMW are our choice of engine supplier. We have a long-term alliance (and) we're happy.''

Sir Frank, however, is thought to have already commenced talks with Cosworth and Toyota, amid gossip that Munich's disgruntled BMW - with Williams since 2000 - is casting an eye in Sauber's direction.

But he concluded: ''Any close partnership like this will encounter the occasional issue.''

Tire warning
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.18) When Rubens Barrichello first drove a 2005-spec grand prix car last year, 'I thought it was a joke.'

Ferrari's Brazilian admits to initially disliking rules that significantly reduce downforce, grip, and cause a pilot to protect his engine and tires.

''But I've got used to it now,'' the 32-year-old insisted. ''I still enjoy my job.''

But while Melbourne did not really test F1's more durable tires, Barrichello sounded a warning ahead of the notoriously hot Malaysian grand prix.

Michelin-clad rival Jacques Villeneuve agreed.

The French-Canadian, who drives a Sauber, said Sepang - 34 on Friday - would provide a 'better read' on how a driver should tackle a GP in '05.

Briton on F1 brink
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.18) Not only would a decent finish further bolster David Coulthard's bank account, it'd etch him a spot in the grand prix history book.

A sixth (3 points) or better in Malaysia would herald the Red Bull driver as the highest ever British points-scorer.

Scotland's DC said it'd be a 'nice reply' to those who'd written him off after a nine-year McLaren stint.

The milestone would also usurp Nigel Mansell's record, but lag behind those of Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet -- all world champions.

''I still enjoy the thrill of going racing on a Sunday,'' David, 33, continued in Kuala Lumpur, ''even on the bad days.''

'Advice' for Indian rookie
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.18) Cricket's Sachin Tendulkar has given Indian grand prix rookie Narain Karthikeyan a word or four of advice.

''Just do your best.''

The 28-year-old Jordan driver added: ''He just told me to concentrate and 'don't be bothered about what's going on in India'.''

Tendulkar, the lauded Indian batsman, is an avid F1 fan, Ferrari road car owner, and 'good friend' of Michael Schumacher.

After a day on the cricket pitch, he admitted to India's Telegraph: ''I told (Narain) to focus on what he's good at and not get weighed down by expectation.

''I also told him to ignore advice, simply because no other Indian has ever made it to F1.''

Sam M. planning Webber win
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.18) Mark Webber should be wheel-to-wheel with F1's elite by the first European race of 2005.

That's the hope of Williams' technical director, Australian compatriot Sam Michael, whose Grove crew is hard at work to improve the FW27.

''We know there's a lot of work to do,'' Michael told The Australian newspaper, ''and so does (Mark).

''But actually we didn't do a bad job in Melbourne.''

The 33-year-old added: ''We expect to be closer to the front of the pack when we return to Europe.''

Webber, himself, just wants to finish in Malaysia, because 'I never have here.

''A podium would be fantastic!''

Button backs BAR bypass
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.18) Jenson Button will not win Sunday's grand prix in Malaysia, the Briton conceded.

But he does insist that BAR's '007' model should be 'a lot closer' to the front than in Melbourne.

He said at Sepang: ''There's a good chance we could be ... top-5.''

Button, 25, blamed poor aero on the lap time deficit, particularly in traffic. ''But I think we're getting close to solving (the problem),'' he added.

He also lined up squarely behind BAR's decision to slip through the two-race engine 'loophole' in Australia, proclaiming a new engine as 'great.

''I thought more teams would've gone for the switch,'' England's Button shrugged.

Crash-a-holic is F1 'top' man
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.18) Japan's Takuma Sato is in the 'top group' of F1 drivers.

That's the former crash-a-holic's claim.

''I've got more experience now,'' the 2002 Jordan rookie, now with BAR for a second consecutive season, told Reuters.

28-year-old Sato, a podium finisher last year and the most successful Japanese ever in grands prix, said he's set his sights 'higher' for season '05.

''I'm more mature -- definitely.

''I can now use my energy more positively.''

Third car would be 'big help'
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.18) F1 struggler Jacques Villeneuve has urged Peter Sauber to fund a 'Friday' car at grands prix.

Of the bottom six teams, only the Swiss-based crew - and back of the grid minnow Minardi - don't make the most of the third car option in free practice.

Villeneuve, 33 and criticized for racing too slowly in Australia, said a third C24 on the track would 'definitely' help.

''It would be a big help,'' the Canadian added, ''in figuring out what the tires are doing, particularly as we hardly run (before qualifying).

''It would mean we could look at set-up a lot more, rather than just compare the tires over five, six laps or something.

''We came to Melbourne not ready, not really knowing the car.''

New F1 sponsor (or two)
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.18) BAR has a new sponsor -- UK-based Celerant Consulting.

The three-year deal includes 'financial support and consulting services,' a statement said.

Celerant's BAR contract may have come about due to their existing sponsorship of up-and-coming British ace James Rossiter.

And it might not be the only offer on Brackley CEO Nick Fry's desk.

It's revealed that, ahead of August's inaugural grand prix in Istanbul, Turkish beer Efes Pilsen may be negotiating for an on-car sponsorship.

'What clash?' - Schu rivals
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.18) Seven time world champion Michael Schumacher is amazed the media is still talking about a clash in Australia.

''I forgot about it immediately,'' the German, referring to his controversial collision with countryman Nick Heidfeld, said at Sepang.

And, although David Coulthard offered two penn'orth, at least some of Schumacher's other rivals weren't bothered about what happened at turn 3.

''I can't comment,'' said Jacques Villeneuve, ''because I haven't seen it.'' Kimi Raikkonen's only recollection is of blue and red cars in a gravel trap.

36-year-old Schumacher smiled, and shrugged: ''Even when I don't win, I'm in the news!''

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