F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 22, 2005

Rivals slam Ferrari in letter
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) F1's disgruntled contingent have floored the throttle in their row with champion team Ferrari.

With the exception of Ferrari-powered Sauber, the 'group of nine' authored a letter to Luca di Montezemolo condemning Maranello's 'disrespectful' stance on testing.

In an excerpt, and using capital letters, it said Ferrari's recent tactics - including testing during a GP weekend - have caused 'a COST INCREASE.'

The group of nine have vowed to stick to a 'gentleman's' agreement for 2005, where no more than 30-days testing would be done.

Contacted for a response, a Ferrari spokesman insisted that 'it's not fair' that Bridgestone - allied only to Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi - do 'much less testing' than rivals.

Team principal Jean Todt, meanwhile, called the continual politicking ''unnecessary. It's a situation we didn't create.''

Webber wins 'supremo' acclaim
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Mark Webber did a 'great job' in Sunday's Malaysian grand prix.

That's not the claim of Williams' Sam Michael, or partner/manager Ann Neal, but F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone, clearly impressed with the Australian's near podium-run.

''It was great to watch -- he showed what he can do,'' the 74-year-old told the Australian Herald Sun newspaper.

Bernie said: ''He's one of the rising young stars.''

Meanwhile, in the argument with Giancarlo Fisichella over who was to blame for a Sepang shunt, Webber won the backing of teammate Nick Heidfeld.

''It looked like Fisichella had a problem,'' said the German, who followed the duo on track.

''He went to the inside but braked a bit late and went straight.

''It can happen.''

Firman returns to Japan
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Former grand prix driver Ralph Firman has opted to return to Japan.

The 29-year-old Jordan star of 2003 will race a Honda NSX in the Super GT championship -- a category in which he finished runner-up the year before F1.

Firman, who did Le Mans and tested the 'A1 grand prix' car, said he had stuck around in Europe hopeful of lengthening his flirt with F1.

''It was immensely disappointing,'' the Englishman lamented, ''but I intend to return to single seaters ... (in) 2006, including testing or racing again in F1.''

Button's still blazing
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Jenson Button, who slammed BAR and Honda when he exited Sunday's Malaysian grand prix, is no less scathing a day or two later.

The Englishman, prior to leaving for the Paul Ricard test, called blowing an engine on lap three 'not good enough.'

You can see his point -- while most of the field plugged ahead with the same V10 used in Australia, BAR's 'loophole' slide left them eligible for a fresh unit in Sepang.

''You'd have to say,'' Toyota's Mike Gascoyne tried not to grin, ''you wonder if they'll have a lot more (problems).''

Button, 25 - and now likely to effortlessly move to Frank Williams' team for 2006 - added: ''So it's probably the most disappointing race of my career.

''This shouldn't be happening.''

Button derailed Hakk return
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Mika Hakkinen came within a Button of returning full time to Formula One.

The double world champion, who retired a McLaren driver in 2001, revealed in a biography that Frank Williams phoned him on Good Friday 2004.

''He offered me a job,'' the Finn immediately informed wife Erja.

The book, called 'Return of the Champion', said Hakk - now 36 and a little older than Michael Schumacher - met with Williams, but got the impression another driver had entered the frame.

He was right -- it turned out to be England's Jenson Button, who 'complicated' the matter, Mika said, by becoming embroiled in the CRB dispute.

Hakkinen wrote: ''It (wasn't) my thing anymore.

''I'm not going to BAR, Williams or any other team.''

Indian in Bahrain
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) On a fleeting PR visit, an exhausted-looking Narain Karthikeyan toured Bahrain on Monday -- just a day after sweating it out in the Malaysian GP.

The Indian caught a peek of the F1 track, to host the big event in less than a fortnight.

But NK, 28, said that - before then - he'll return to India for the first time since January.

''The track looks good,'' he told local press, ''and I managed to check out changes to the track such as in turn four.''

Asked how he felt after the grueling Sepang event, Narain Karthikeyan replied: ''Okay.

''I've been preparing a lot -- up to four or five hours a day.''

Ron - no driver clash, yet
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Right now, there's no 'fire and ice' conflict down Woking way.

That's the claim of McLaren principal Ron Dennis, who insisted that Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, and Kimi Raikkonen, are getting along fine.

But he warned: ''If we do have to rope them in a bit, I think it's a problem we'd welcome.

''But at the moment,'' Ron added, ''they're too busy trying to win to be spending too much time staring at each other.''

Finland's Raikkonen, 25, however, admitted that it's 'always important' to end up ahead of the only other driver with the same equipment.

''Why? Because he's the only one you can really compare yourself to. But, really, you need to be beating everybody.

''That's the real goal,'' Kimi said.

Ferrari condemned
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) The Italian media united in condemnation of Ferrari's form in the Malaysian grand prix.

'La Gazzetta dello Sport' newspaper called Sepang 'a disaster' and the Prancing Horse 'unrecognizable' in the mist.

'Tuttosport' crowned Renault's Italian chief, Flavio Briatore, and called the 'old' F2004M car 'outdated.

''Ferrari must go full speed ahead to Mugello,'' the article urged, ''to ready the new car for its debut in Bahrain.''

'La Republica' said dark cloud had descended over Maranello, and prepared the Tifosi for at least a 'month of suffering.'

'Corriere' laughed at Ferrari's defeat at the hands of Red Bull, while Spanish newspaper Marca said of Fernando Alonso: 'Here comes the champion.'

Germany's Bild, though, devised the biggest insult -- it caricatured Schumacher as a snail.

Can Red Bull keep it up?
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Red Bull can compete with bigger rivals, even when their car development goes full steam ahead.

That's the claim of Helmut Marko, who answered veteran driver David Coulthard's concern that the dark blue RB1 might fall behind mid-season.

''We're getting an additional thirty horse power or so from Cosworth around Montreal or Indianapolis (June),'' he explained to Sport am Sonntag.

Austria's Marko, a former GP pilot himself, is racing 'advisor' to Red Bull Racing team owner Dietrich Mateschitz.

He added: ''We can get even closer to the teams at the front.''

Coulthard, 33, though, warned that 'the same car' will be shipped to Bahrain, while Ferrari, Renault, McLaren, Williams, BAR and Toyota are likely to bring some improvements.

He insisted: ''The challenge now is how to keep pace with their development.''

Ferrari's wake up call - Todt
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) Jean Todt confessed Ferrari's lack of pace in 2005 with an analogy.

''If we had got a bit sleepy,'' Maranello's team principal said, ''this will wake us up.

''So it's good.''

The Frenchman admitted even he didn't expect the Bridgestone-shod package, though, to be quite so far behind.

But he said: ''It's the whole package (to blame) -- we're in this together.

''Bridgestone are a fantastic partner.''

Meanwhile, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone chimed into the testing row by - perhaps surprisingly - siding against Todt.

''We're trying to cut (testing) down,'' he said. ''And Ferrari are doing the opposite.''

BAR face wait for Imola
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.22) England's Jenson Button will have to wait until Imola for a faster BAR car, we can reveal.

Although technical director Geoff Willis says he's found a fix for the 007's lack of pace, it probably won't be fitted until April's San Marino GP.

''We believe we know what's wrong,'' said Willis, ''and have found something to unlock the car's true potential.''

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