F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 30, 2005

Montoya out until May?
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.30) McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya could miss up to three grands prix with a fractured shoulder.

The Colombian, who fell on a tennis court last week, has been advised to rest the injury for a full five weeks, according to the Spanish 'Marca' newspaper.

With Montoya, 29, flying from Madrid to Miami (USA) on Tuesday, anyway, it's clear he'll sit out the Bahrain grand prix.

Coincidentally, his wife - Connie - is expecting the birth of their first child in a week or so.

McLaren's 'F1 CEO' Martin Whitmarsh, meanwhile, said the team would decide on Wednesday whether Pedro de la Rosa or Alex Wurz will take JPM's seat.

Wurz, the tall Austrian, sat in a hurriedly modified MP4-20 cockpit late Tuesday night.

''I've been told to be prepared,'' de la Rosa told Marca.

Jacques' video-game training
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.30) Sauber driver Jacques Villeneuve didn't even watch the inaugural Bahrain grand prix on TV.

The 33-year-old French-Canadian and Sakhir 'rookie', then, has been preparing for the desert race on a PlayStation.

''I've talked to other drivers and they say Bahrain is fun,'' he said on Tuesday, ''but I don't know what to expect.''

JV can be guaranteed, though, a weight of expectation following a dire full-time F1 return and speculation he might, before long, either walk away or be encouraged to do so.

His biggest complaint, so far, is a lack of testing.

''We made some progress on the setup in Malaysia,'' said Jacques, despite spinning into retirement at Sepang, ''so I'm confident we're heading in the right direction.''

Out to repeat Toyota triumph
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.30) Jarno Trulli will attempt to return Toyota to the F1 podium in Bahrain.

The Italian, in his second race for the Cologne team, notched up the marque's first ever top-three finish a fortnight ago.

''It's hard to know,'' he answered, asked if he might replicate the Malaysian second place.

'''But the car performed so well at Sepang -- let's see if we can consolidate our world championship position.''

Teammate Ralf Schumacher completed a messier event in Malaysia, but thinks he could have joined Trulli on the podium.

The German, 29, said: ''So we're setting our sights a bit higher.''

Priaulx to drive F1 again
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.30) Andy Priaulx will drive BMW-Williams' grand prix car again.

The European touring car champion has been asked to steer the FW26 around Britain's Rockingham circuit in May.

Britain's Priaulx, who tested the car at Valencia in January, will attend the 'BMW Power Festival' late in the month.

He drives for BMW UK in the FIA-run championship.

'Fit' Sato in Bahrain
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.30) Takuma Sato, who missed the Malaysian grand prix a fortnight ago, is already in Bahrain.

The Japanese is 'completely clear' of a viral infection that left him too unwell to race at arduous Sepang, manager Andrew Gilbert-Scott said.

''The doctors say he's fighting fit,'' he told Reuters.

''Now he's going to (Bahrain) to get acclimatized.''

Renault sound warning
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.30) Renault is taking 'nothing for granted,' despite commanding both drivers' and constructors' F1 world championships.

Technical director Bob Bell is expecting McLaren to challenge 'as soon as (they) put together an incident-free weekend.'

''And there is still (Ferrari's) new car to come.''

Bell said a clear picture of the '05 pecking order can only be drawn 'when ... in the heart of the European season.'

Injured Webber 'fine'
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.30) Mark Webber, although still nursing a cracked rib, will be 'fine' for Sunday's Bahrain GP, manager Ann Neal said.

Neal, also the Australian's partner, said Williams' number one driver did the bone and cartilage damage after 'not warming up' for a test run.

But she denied Webber, 28, was ever in doubt for Melbourne.

''The big concern was Malaysia,'' Neal clarified.

So why didn't the grand prix world, obsessed with the minutiae of every detail, know about Mark's injury before now?

Neal said a true-blue bloke 'didn't want to make a fuss.'

Ferrari 'intense' - Schu
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.30) When Michael Schumacher turned up at Mugello last week to try the brand new F2005, Ferrari's multiple world champion sensed something different.

''I noticed a really intense atmosphere,'' the German revealed.

Ferrari, defeated - in equal measure - by Renault, Michelin and others in Australia and Malaysia, will introduce the scarlet racer ahead of schedule at the Bahrain GP.

''These (race) results have stimulated us even more,'' 36-year-old Schumacher continued.

He added: ''Little by little, we'll work our way back to the top.

''Have no fear of that.''

Alonso 'best' - Fisichella
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.30) Giancarlo Fisichella has sent a demoralizing message to Ferrari.

It goes something like -- even with a brand new car, you won't beat me.

The Renault driver and Roman, who won the first grand prix of the year, notes Maranello's rushed debut of the F2005 as a sign of confidence.

''But we've shown we're strongest,'' he told the 'Sapa' agency.

''Now the important thing will be developing the car -- that's where we'll see if we can really fight for the title.''

Fisichella, 32, also elevated teammate Fernando Alonso beyond the talent of men like Ralf Schumacher and Jenson Button.

He said the Spaniard, 23 - although the 'best teammate' he's had - is easy to get along with.

Sauber turn two hundred
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.30) Bahrain is Switzerland-based F1 team Sauber's two hundredth grand prix.

Founded by Peter Sauber, the most consistently competitive independent F1 team, in the 1970's, began in sports car racing, and in 1993 with Mercedes-Benz, joined the grid.

Current driver Felipe Massa, of Brazil, said last year's desert race wasn't a good one for the team who call Hinwil home.

''We hadn't fully sorted the car by that stage,'' he said, ''but I think the C24 should suit the circuit quite well.''

Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Jean Alesi and Giancarlo Fisichella have all raced for Sauber, and Kimi Raikkonen made his debut in the 'C20' in 2001.

Bahrain set to 'sandblast' F1
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.30) Ask a Formula One engineer to sum up Bahrain in a single word, and it's likely to be -- 'sand.'

The middle-of-the-desert location has teams scrambling to, for example, install special filters to protect the engine from the unique intruder, or worried about tire wear.

''Actually the issue wasn't that bad,'' Sauber's Willy Rampf recalled of the inaugural race.

In fact, the biggest problem last year was that a Sunday morning sandstorm made the F1 circuit extremely dusty - therefore slippery - for the grand prix.

Sand used to be a problem at Dutch GP venue Zandvoort, nestled among big coastal dunes.

Red Bull's Guenther Steiner, meanwhile, said fine particles 'sandblast' bodywork and can even erode things like 'radiator cooling fins.

''I hear they've modified the track to minimize the problem,'' the technical director noted.

Ask Renault's Bob Bell for his single word of concern, though, and it's not sand -- it's 'brakes.'

''That was our main worry in 2004,'' he said, ''and wear management will again be a key factor.''

No Bah-Rain forecast
(GMMf1NET -- Mar.30) At least it won't rain in the Bahraini desert for Sunday's grand prix.

But F1 should brace for yet another stinker.

A local weather report said winds will howl during highs of up to 36-degrees on all three days of the race meeting.

''We learnt last year,'' McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen tempered, ''that conditions can change very quickly in the desert -- even during (track) sessions.''

An unexpected drop of rain even fell on Sakhir's inaugural event near Al Manama.

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