F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 29, 2005

Tire 'secrets' to Toyota?
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Michelin has downplayed fears that former project manager Pascal Vasselon may reveal company 'secrets' to new F1 employer Toyota.

The French tire supplier's competition director, Pierre Dupasquier, said he's confident his countryman will 'conduct himself appropriately.

''He is, and always will be, a first class engineer,'' Dupasquier added.

In an interview, the Michelin chief also denied that Japanese rival Bridgestone might succeed in luring back an F1 team or two.

''Unless, of course, financial incentives come into play,'' Dupasquier tempered.

''We are very wary -- we have a lot of respect for what (Bridgestone) do.

''They will make progress.''

'Renault can do hat-trick'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Renault can make it three from three at the Bahrain grand prix, last-start winner Fernando Alonso said.

The Spaniard, who won from pole in Malaysia, said - given Giancarlo Fisichella's Melbourne win - the team is 'on a high.

''It's hard to be certain,'' the 23-year-old said.

''But I expect the tires to again be competitive, and I think we can continue to be the benchmark for performance.''

Renault, though, didn't show strongly at the very hard-braking desert location last year.

However, Rome's Fisichella said the R25 is good no matter where it is tested or raced.

But he warned: ''We don't underestimate anyone -- we will have a fight on our hands.''

Bernie's still in charge
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) A trio of banks is now in charge of F1, Gerhard Gribkowsky insisted.

He's a board member at the German Bayerische Landesbank, one third of the group that wrested control in a settlement last week with Bernie Ecclestone.

''(We) will use this influence ... in a constructive and responsible manner,'' he said in a statement.

Less known, however, is that - despite the deal - 74-year-old Bernie will likely remain chief executive, ensuring little change on the front line.

It could be that Ecclestone sees the cease-fire as an opportunity to tempt F1 teams to sign a new Concorde Agreement.

''F1 with Bernie ... is worth far more than without Bernie,'' former team owner Eddie Jordan told The Telegraph.

Montoya may miss Bahrain GP
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) An injured Juan Pablo Montoya could sit out the Bahrain grand prix.

Colombia's McLaren driver fell over whilst playing tennis against his trainer in Spain.

The 29-year-old has a 'hairline fracture' and some tissue damage in his shoulder, a team spokeswoman - who said a final decision about Juan Pablo's participation would be made by Thursday - confirmed.

Montoya will undergo a second scan on Tuesday.

If ruled out, the seat would either go to 'Friday' driver Pedro de la Rosa, or Alex Wurz, for whom McLaren engineers worked on Easter Monday to accommodate his height.

Given that lanky Wurz has not tested the MP4-20, though, the Austrian is more likely to take de la Rosa's 'third' car role.

Mrs. Ralf to race in Bahrain
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Ralf Schumacher's family touched down in Bahrain over the Easter break.

There, wife Cora - holding the hand of son David at the airport - will reportedly take to the F1 circuit for a celebrity 'Mini Cooper Challenge.'

''It's an interesting (F1) race,'' 29-year-old Ralf, grand prix pilot for Toyota, said.

''If the sand from the desert lands on the racing line, you can spin pretty easily, and (the sand) can overheat the engine.''

Toyota future secure, for now
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Toyota's maiden podium result could not have been better timed.

Technical director Mike Gascoyne said he - and the Cologne based F1 team's other key figureheads - attended a meeting in Tokyo after the Malaysian GP.

''There were certainly some ... who were beginning to question the money that was being spent to finish ... eighth,'' he told UK's The Sun.

Gascoyne said the post-Sepang meeting was scheduled to 'bang the table.

''(But) the mood ... changed ... thanks to the result.''

It's reported elsewhere, though, that team principal Tsutomu Tomita and president John Howett face an uncertain future beyond the end of 2005.

Bernie robbed
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Grand Prix billionaire Bernie Ecclestone is now two wheels poorer.

The 74-year-old race 'impresario' had them swiped - causing bodywork damage - from a brand new Mercedes-Benz CLS55 AMG V8 outside his home in Chelsea.

''They probably think they can sell them,'' Ecclestone said, referring to the newly-launched, limited edition car, ''but they probably can't.''

Bernie, who didn't report the theft to the police and even offered to pay the bandit for the wheels' return, said the incident was caught on camera.

Ferrari fiasco not all bad
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Ferrari's fall from F1 grace is not all bad, technical director Ross Brawn suggested.

The burly Briton said losing the first grands prix of 2005 and having to accelerate the new car's debut is 'a stimulus.

''I don't think it will do the team and our (Bridgestone) partnership ... any harm to have our arses kicked for a while,'' he told the British 'Guardian' newspaper.

World champion Michael Schumacher, meanwhile, is not - even with the F2005 - expecting an easy ride in Bahrain.

''But things can change quickly,'' said the German, who shook down the Bahrain-destined cars at Fiorano on Saturday, ''as we've seen already.''

Red Bull form 'no fluke'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Like Renault, F1 rival Red Bull is also eyeing a Bahraini hat trick.

Although victory is not on the cards, the former Jaguar team attained an impressive double points-scoring effort both in Melbourne and Malaysia.

''(Sepang) proved the Australian result was no fluke,'' said team principal Christian Horner.

After Bahrain, Red Bull Racing will return to Europe for a 'testing and development program,' he added.

''Last year,' recalled 22-year-old Christian Klien of the inaugural GP in the Middle East, ''we got caught in a sand storm on the way to the track.

''It was like driving into fog on an Austrian motorway!''

Webber's cracked rib
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Mark Webber contested the Australian and Malaysian grands prix with a cracked rib, he revealed.

Williams' 28-year-old told Australasian Motorsport News that he had to race with the aid of pain killers after doing the damage in February testing.

The magazine reported that an ill-fitting seat, coupled with Barcelona's high speed sweepers, caused a small fracture - and damaged cartilage - in the number-5 rib.

Webber sat out last week's test, also at Spain's Circuit de Catalunya, to fully recover.

Ferrari to cancel F1 run
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) In an apparent conciliatory move, champion team Ferrari will cancel a planned June test at British grand prix venue Silverstone.

According to the nine teams' 30-day 'gentleman's' test agreement (which Ferrari refused to sign), testing is prohibited at a venue if it will host a grand prix within a month.

But Ferrari, despite insisting their own program for 2005 is more efficient than the group of nine's, now say they'll only run at the old Northamptonshire airfield with the agreement of everyone else.

A Ferrari source told Autosport: ''Our etiquette is not to gain an unfair advantage.''

Winning to save Renault
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) A charge to victory should have secured Renault's future on the F1 grid, Louis Schweitzer said.

He's company chairman, but in April will be replaced by the cost-cutting savvy Carlos Ghosn, not a lover of motor sport.

But Schweitzer told France's Radio Classique: ''My successor thinks like me -- if one wins in Formula One, it is necessary to remain there.''

Meanwhile, Renault principal Flavio Briatore said he'd spend 'from now to the end of the season' deciding whether or not to continue in F1 beyond '05.

He told Reuters: ''There is plenty of time to think about (it).''

Sato's back in F1 saddle
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Takuma Sato will be back in the saddle at the weekend's Bahrain GP.

The Japanese, who sat out Malaysia with a viral infection, said he 'can't wait' to again race the BAR-Honda around the desert location.

''Last year, at the same race, I had a strong weekend,'' said Sato, who came fifth to teammate Jenson Button's podium.

Meanwhile, like Toyota, BAR called off the final test day at rainy Paul Ricard last week.

And Honda, given the fiery embarrassment of Sepang, is 'confident' there won't be a repeat in Bahrain, engineering director Shuhei Nakamoto vowed.

He said: ''We've put a countermeasure in place.''

Pizzonia in wall
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Williams' tester Antonio Pizzonia was lucky to walk away from a big shunt at Barcelona's turn nine on Friday.

The Brazilian lost control of the FW27 but Grove said - contrary to reports - the car sustained 'only minor damage.'

On the same day, over at Paul Ricard in the south of France, Renault - testing alone - nonsensed BAR's decision to pack up after finding a damp morning circuit.

''The conditions ... were the best of the week,'' said Christian Silk, test engineer.

F2005 'amazing' - Barrichello
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) The debut of the new Ferrari F1 car in Bahrain will return a smile to Rubens Barrichello's face, the Brazilian predicted.

After a dismal Malaysian grand prix, he tested F2005 for the first time at Mugello last week.

''It's amazing through the high speed corners,'' the 32-year-old driver revealed, ''but also better in almost every area.

''With this car we can really fight the opposition.''

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher won the inaugural Bahrain event by more than half a lap.

A lot, though, will come down to how Bridgestone - outpaced so far by Michelin - can improve.

But Barrichello insisted: ''We can't just blame them.''

Klien made to wait
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Red Bull Racing will decide in Bahrain whether to ask Christian Klien to move over for a trendy hotshoe from Italy.

But although all signs indicate a changing of the guard, the impressive Klien, 22, said it's not a foregone conclusion.

''I think I've done a very good job so far,'' he told the German Sport am Sonntag program.

Christian Horner, Dr Helmut Marko and team supremo Dietrich Mateschitz will meet after the grand prix to determine if F3000 champion (but F1 rookie) Vitantonio Liuzzi should be given a go from Imola.

Klien added: ''It's obvious that I would like to stay where I am.

''But it's not my decision. I've got to wait.''

Stop changing Quali - Schu
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) The biggest problem with qualifying is not the single-lap format.

That's the argument of world champion Michael Schumacher, despite condemnation - and calls for further change - in the Paddock of a complicated, dull layout.

He points out that the real issue is just how often F1's grid-determining session is changed.

Since 2002, it's undergone a shake-up four times.

''It's impossible to please everyone,'' the Ferrari driver, 36, noted. ''On the other hand, it's always easy to complain.

''I think the biggest problem is that we keep changing (the system).''

No engine deal yet - Sauber
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Despite speculation of an imminent BMW deal, Peter Sauber says he hasn't yet signed an engine supply contract for 2006.

And, further dampening the BMW talk, the Swiss revealed discussions with 'BMW, Toyota and Ferrari.'

Sauber have been Ferrari-powered since 1997.

''Nothing has changed,'' he told Autosport when asked for an update on the power situation.

''I would not expect any decision within the next two weeks.''

Schu defends Schu
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.29) Ralf Schumacher has leapt to the defense of elder brother Michael.

Toyota's German driver said the local media's lambasting of Schumacher, 36 - after another poor showing in the Malaysian GP - was not justified.

''As a driver, there's little you can do in that situation,'' said Ralf, 29.

''He didn't do anything wrong -- Ferrari did.''

But, nonetheless, 'Schu Jr' won't be putting a single cent on Big Brother cruising to a sixth consecutive drivers' title.

He said: ''Renault is already too far ahead.''

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