F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 21, 2005

Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.21) ''Not my fault,'' Giancarlo Fisichella declared after a jarring shunt with Mark Webber.

Replays of the Italian's slip-sliding, late braking effort, though, moved Malaysian grand prix stewards to investigate -- Fisichella's tune in the post-race Renault statement duly changed to 'racing incident.'

Stewards then issued him with a 'warning.'

32-year-old Fisi's boss, though - visibly furious on the pit wall - later patted him on the back for having a go.

Flavio Briatore said: ''I feel bad for Fisico.

''We don't blame him -- we're happy to have a driver pairing like that.''

Williams' Webber, albeit livid, agreed that Giancarlo doesn't often cause an accident.

But he said, overtaking or not, Fisichella was ''massively in the sh*t. He was finished.''

Mr. E enjoying Ferrari crisis
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.21) Politics aside, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is enjoying the latest Ferrari 'crisis.'

''That wasn't bad, was it?'' the smiling 74-year-old reportedly said after watching Renault, in Malaysia, again trounce the field.

He said it, for now, vindicated the decision to tinker with qualifying, as well as the technical regulations.

''Let's see what happens next,'' Mr. E suggested, ''before we think about making changes.''

Bernie hypothesized that previously dominant Ferrari's rivals may finally have pulled their collective finger out.

And, although Fernando Alonso trumped Sepang, he'd love to see Giancarlo Fisichella take on Ferrari for the world title.

''Italian strikes Ferrari!'' Ecclestone proclaimed, predicting the news headline. ''Terrific!''

'I'm VERY angry' - Button
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.21) ''I'm VERY angry,'' Jenson Button, asked if flaming out of the Malaysian grand prix had angered him, fumed.

''We've made a huge step back in every area,'' the red faced Briton, retiring within half a minute of Anthony Davidson's similar blow-up, added.

It's as if the weekend spate of Honda engine problems, married to an undoubted loss of car performance, tipped the loss of temper at boiling Sepang.

JB, 25, continued: ''Not good enough.

''Engineering a three lap engine is not hard,'' he said, mocking Honda's attempt at the new two-race regulation.

''What's most frustrating is I know it's not going to change soon.''

For the record, Honda insist a remedy is just a matter of devising a better 'countermeasure' to the oil leak flaw.

F2005 or no F2005?
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.21) Sunday's embarrassing defeat may motivate Ferrari to accelerate the Bahrain debut of their F2005.

Although a formal decision is yet to be taken, it's understood Rubens Barrichello set off for destination Mugello within an hour or two of the end of the Malaysian GP.

Michael Schumacher will join him in trying the car on Wednesday.

''We've got three days of testing scheduled,'' principal Jean Todt admitted.

''After that, we'll make a decision.''

Speculation at Sepang, though, said Ferrari may not rush the new model, because the biggest problem is not the 'old' one.

Technical director Ross Brawn had said on Friday: ''It depends ... whether the new car would have made a difference to whatever result we get.

''Tires are so important.

''It's possible that, although we were not competitive, the car would not have made a huge difference.''

Title in danger - Schumacher
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.21) Right now, no one can beat Renault.

With that in mind, a perspiring Flavio Briatore lit a cigar to celebrate the second win - out of two - in 2005.

He said in the sweltering Paddock: ''I don't see the competition.

''(But) I'm sure it's coming.''

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher backed up his old boss' view by referring to a 'big gap' between the scarlet team and Renault.

''If (the gap) is still there after five or six races,'' said the seven time world champion, ''then we won't have to talk about the championship.

''I don't expect a giant leap in Bahrain.''

Schumacher concluded: ''I'd love to have the new car, but if it's not ready, it's not ready.''

Alonso a 'danger'?
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.21) Renault were the dominant force in Australia and Malaysia, but Bahrain - round three - could be tougher.

That's the prediction of Sepang winner Fernando Alonso, who admitted he 'never pushed' his R25 to the utter limit during the grand prix.

He said: ''Obviously we look strong but the competition is tough.

''Bahrain was not a perfect place for us last year -- I think we will suffer a little bit.''

Alonso, 23, also fended off criticism that he may have posed a danger to himself and rivals on Sunday by driving whilst dehydrated and exhausted.

The Spaniard could hardly stand up on the podium.

''Well,'' he said, ''I stood up after I stopped the car and obviously your blood pressure falls -- it's just normal.

''Maybe it was a bit worse here than usual.''

Nick 'happy' in Schu's shadow
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.21) In Malaysia, Williams' Nick Heidfeld stepped out of the shadow of Germany's most famous racing duo.

But the 27-year-old from Moenchengladbach, albeit delighted with a podium, is happy to remain F1's quiet achiever.

''I'm not in F1 to win the limelight,'' he said at Sepang when queried about the Schumacher-effect.

''I'm happy to be in the shadow and finish on the podium.''

But that doesn't mean he intends to relinquish the track to Schumacher, or Ferrari -- particularly when the latter is struggling for pace.

Nick Heidfeld said: ''I think it's a different situation for them; they're not used to it.

''It'll be interesting to see how they handle it.''

Bridgestone accept blame
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.21) Bridgestone has accepted some of the blame for Ferrari's dire performance in the Malaysian GP.

Tire competitor Michelin, through Pierre Dupasquier, 67, called the race 'a very disappointing one' -- for Bridgestone.

And, although it's notoriously difficult to squeeze either criticism or confession out of an F1 tire marque, Hisao Suganuma admitted Bridgestone 'was not up to our usual standards' at Sepang.

''Admittedly, our tire performance was not enough,'' he added.

''We will react as quickly as possible.''

DC is Britain's best
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.21) David Coulthard is Britain's highest ever F1 point scorer.

The Scot's sixth in Malaysia unseated 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell -- and DC even took a shorter time to achieve it.

Only Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher - all world champions - have more points.

''The only thing missing is the title,'' Red Bull's Coulthard, 33 and with a long McLaren stint behind him, admitted.

Schu holds no German grudge
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.21) Michael Schumacher proved he doesn't hold a grudge.

Ferrari's German, at the end of a sweltering and fruitless Malaysian GP, heralded countryman Nick Heidfeld's 'classy' podium performance at Sepang.

A fortnight ago, the pair collided, and on Friday Schumacher, 36, was embarrassingly compelled to say sorry.

He added: ''It was a super result -- I'm really happy for Nick.

'''We used to train together on a go-kart track and now he's driving circles around me!''

Schumacher's younger brother Ralf, though, denied that a 19:1 vote against Michael precipitated his apology in a drivers' meeting.

''If there had been a vote,'' said the Toyota driver, ''it would've been at least 19 to 2.

''Whoever said that is talking rubbish.''

Heidfeld added in Malaysia: ''Michael and I are still friends.''

Trulli's team target top tier
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.21) Jarno Trulli's second place in Malaysia was no fluke, Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne has insisted.

In fact, the Englishman now has an eye on the Cologne-based marque's first grand prix win.

''This is the first Gascoyne car,'' Italy's Trulli said after sipping champagne on the podium.

''It's absolutely better than the old one.'' There'll be no resting on laurels, though.

Gascoyne said: ''Now we need to push on -- we need to win some races.''

Jarno isn't sure the TF105 is quite up to Gascoyne's ambition, but he said it'll be aerodynamically updated at 'every race' to October's in Shanghai.

''If we keep this up,'' he warned, ''there's no reason we can't be a regular front runner.''

Toyota rub a little salt
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.21) Toyota couldn't help but rub a little salt in arch rival Honda's Malaysian wound.

The Japanese giant, a career best second at Sepang, issued a statement after the race boasting that all four Australia-spec V10s made it to the subsequent race's checkered flag.

Honda, by contrast, have suffered a fiery spate of embarrassing failures.

Toyota, angered when BAR-Honda exploited the DNF 'loophole' in Melbourne, also supplies customer engines to back-of-the-grid F1 team Jordan.

Toyota president John Howett said: ''They didn't do the sport a favour.''

F1 set for youngest champion
Kuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET -- Mar.21) A cautious Fernando Alonso is refusing to speed too far ahead in predicting that he can become the youngest ever drivers' champion.

''For sure,'' Renault's Spanish driver said after winning in Malaysia, ''we are the best now.

''There are even some big steps (on the R25 car) coming.''

Alonso, 23, clocked up the first milestone on Sunday -- he's the first ever Spaniard to lead the drivers' championship.

He added: ''Just to be where I am is a dream for any young driver. But now I've got to stay here for the whole season.

''I don't know where or when, but I hope to one day win the title.

''Definitely, while Ferrari are not strong, we need to keep winning.''

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