F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 2, 2005

Bahrain changed?
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) Tire supplier Michelin is surprised at how much the Bahrain track surface has evolved in a year.

Pierre Dupasquier said that, in 2004, the inaugural circuit was 'very abrasive.

''This year, much less so,'' said the motor sport director.

''The track is definitely faster.'

Ross Brawn, of Bridgestone-clad Ferrari, doubted the Frenchman's theory, but Jenson Button agreed that a change here and there had made a difference.

''They've changed the dusty areas and replaced (them) with asphalt,'' said BAR's driver.

''It's much better but maybe more abrasive.''

Mercedes, Honda, roast FIA
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) Mercedes and Honda have hit out at the FIA's so-called cost cutting rule changes.

Honda's Otmar Szafnauer said notice of the two-race regulation came so late that last minute 're-designs' were costly.

''Apart from that,'' Ilmor's Mario Illien added in Bahrain, ''we're having to develop a V8 engine for next year.

''Overall the cost will be up.

''With stability, sure, we would have saved money.''

Ferrari's engine rep, meanwhile - Mattia Binotto - dismissed the 'V8' factor as outweighed by the need to reduce speed.

''Ok, it's an extra cost,'' said the Italian, ''but now is simply the time to do it.

''But by doubling the mileage (in 2005) we've saved ten percent.''

Another tire supplier?
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) The FIA's shelving of plans for a single-tire formula may lead to another supplier or two contesting F1.

''I hope so,'' grinned Bridgestone big-cheese Hiroshi Yasukawa.

''I think the FIA have made a very good decision.''

Michelin's Pierre Dupasquier, though, is unsure if the governing body's edict will entice a third rubber maker through the Paddock turnstile.

But the Frenchman, 67, said: ''We're very happy with the decision -- as long as it stays the decision.

''We fought the single-tire idea very strongly.''

Rubens' gearbox en route
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) A fresh gearbox for Rubens Barrichello's new F2005 is en route from Maranello to Bahrain, but may not arrive in time for qualifying.

The Brazilian will practice with a repaired unit, at least, in morning practice, after Friday's terminal problem.

Ross Brawn said the hitch was a 'bearing failure.

'''We've got to keep the (damaged) one together for at least first qualifying,'' the team's technical director revealed.

Ferrari has spoken to the FIA and was assured that, despite the parc ferme rule - and if the new gearbox is identical - it can be changed for Sunday.

The problem, though, cast doubt on the wisdom of bringing a new car to Bahrain if all the spare parts aren't ready.

Brawn admitted: ''It was a risk.

''(But) I can't remember if we've ever had to change a gearbox before.''

No podium repeat - Trulli
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) Toyota's Jarno Trulli has admitted he probably won't finish the Bahrain GP on the podium.

The Italian did it in Malaysia -- the Cologne-based marque's first ever.

''I'm cautious so I think we're not as competitive as we were in Sepang,'' the former Renault driver explained.

''Renault seemed to be extremely strong (on Friday).''

Ask Dieter Gass, though - Toyota's chief race engineer - and he thinks the TF105 is 'as competitive' as a fortnight ago.

Red Bull's 'problem' - DC
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) Red Bull is itching to hit the F1 test track.

Despite impressive form in Australia and Malaysia, the former Jaguar outfit is beginning to fall off the pace.

''We haven't done a lot of testing,'' principal Christian Horner admitted.

However, he said the 'RB1' will get its first update since the winter season at a Spanish test location next week.

''In theory we should be just as competitive here (as we were in Malaysia),'' veteran F1 driver David Coulthard suggested in Bahrain, ''but ... we haven't (tested).

''That's our biggest problem.''

'No problem with JV' - Sauber
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) Question -- how's Jacques Villeneuve feeling? Despondent; depressed; contemplative?

''Slow,'' a curt Craig Pollock, manager and close friend, told Autosport in Bahrain.

Pollock insists it's 'up to' Sauber to give the French-Canadian, 33 and a former world champion (1997), a quicker car.

Even owner Peter Sauber supported Pollock, an old pal from team principals' meetings, in admitting that replacing JV is not the real issue.

He said: ''We don't have a problem with Villeneuve.

''We have a problem with the car. What? It's not fast enough.''

No Ferr-ight for Fernando
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) Championship leader Fernando Alonso did anything but shake in his boots following the Friday debut of a brand new Ferrari.

Renault's 23-year-old said the F2005 did not appear to give Maranello's men a significant boost in Bahrain.

''I didn't see a very dominating car,'' the Spaniard - Malaysian GP winner - sardonically said, ''so we are pleased about that.''

World champion Michael Schumacher, though - Friday fifth and half a second slower than Alonso's yellow and blue car - insisted that the new racer at least hauled Ferrari from deep within the midfield.

''Most likely,'' said the German, ''we will not be fourteenth or fifteenth (anymore).

''I'm sure we'll be where we would like to be before the end of the season -- fingers crossed.''

Rubens' not running
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) Ferrari's Brazilian number two did not practice on Saturday morning in Bahrain.

The team is still repairing Rubens Barrichello's failed-on-Friday gearbox bearing on the brand new 'F2005' F1 model.

A spare, to be fitted for second qualifying and the grand prix on Sunday, is en route to the desert setting from Italy.

''(The broken gearbox) is difficult to fix,'' revealed technical director Ross Brawn, ''because, when it failed (on Friday), it did some damage.''

Klien snubbed earring ban
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) Red Bull's Christian Klien did not remove his banned earring before blasting out of pitlane in Bahrain.

But fear not, those dreading the FIA's wrath.

Despite an earlier edict that jewelry poses a safety threat, a Red Bull team update purported that the FIA 'failed to notify the teams ... in time.

''(The ban) will not be valid until ... San Marino,'' it added.

Klien's 'third' driver cohort Tonio Liuzzi, however, observed the FIA decree on Friday and removed his earring, despite warning earlier: ''They'll have to cut my ear off.''

'Foolproof' on April 1
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) F1 team Renault went April-fool hunting in Bahrain.

In a post-practice media release, the dominant squad claimed it had solved an in-car drink bottle problem encountered by dehydrated winner Fernando Alonso in Malaysia.

''By mounting the carbon fiber cup holder lower in the cockpit,'' said engineering director Pat Symonds, ''we have lowered the centre of gravity ... ''

He said the system would be 'foolproof' for 'April's first race.'

Stewart under siege
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) Beleaguered Sir Jackie Stewart vowed to fight for his presidency of the BRDC.

The former world champion is under pressure to resign from the politically embattled Silverstone-owning Drivers' Club.

'''I think there is dirty work going on,'' said the Scot, who branded a written 'vote' showing waning support 'incredibly badly worded' and 'unethical.'

In the 'Independent' newspaper, though, Stewart vowed to stand down 'if I am (formally) asked' at the next meeting.

Why would Montoya 'lie'?
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) McLaren-Mercedes tried to blast speculation that Juan Pablo Montoya 'lied' about how he broke his collarbone.

The official line, that the Colombian slipped on a tennis court, didn't wash with many in Bahrain.

Rather, reports suggested he either fell off a Harley Davidson, a four-wheel motorbike, or a dirt motorbike.

''If he crashed a motorbike,'' said Mercedes' Norbert Haug, ''why wouldn't he just say it?

''We do not stop our drivers from doing that. We all hurt ourselves from time to time.''

But Jenson Button, for one, said there is an 'anti-danger' clause in his BAR contract.

Scotland's David Coulthard, meanwhile, had the last laugh. ''When fat people start exercising,'' the trim Red Bull driver jokingly told Reuters, ''that's what happens.''

Mosley to 'split' FIA top job
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) Max Mosley will split the role of FIA president, he wrote in a letter to the body's members.

The current chief said the job can 'no longer be managed' by a single man, according to Autosport magazine.

He proposed - and, reportedly, found support for - the idea that the president head a kind of 'government' or 'team' in leading the Paris body.

Despite mostly muted opposition, and now armed with majority support, Max is therefore likely to stand again for re-election in October.

New deal on cards - BMW
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) The likelihood that a second F1 team will drive into 2006 with a BMW engine deal is 'higher than fifty percent.'

That's the revealing claim of the Munich carmaker's motorsport director, Dr Mario Theissen.

He told the German 'SID' agency, though, that - despite strongly speculated negotiations with Sauber - no contract is yet signed.

Meanwhile, Peter Sauber told a Zurich newspaper that Hinwil is on a hunt for 'new partners' following the loss of Red Bull's 10m euro sponsor check.

Switzerland's Sauber also defended the switch from Bridgestone to Michelin in 2005.

''As a Bridgestone customer,'' the 61-year-old said, ''we played second fiddle to Ferrari.

''But with the Frenchmen, everything is transparent -- even the relationship with the other teams.''

How to get lost in Bahrain
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) Even at the wheel of a grand prix car, it's possible to get lost in the Bahraini desert.

Just ask Minardi's Patrick Friesacher.

The Austrian rookie slipped into the support race pitlane during Friday's free practice -- and couldn't find an escape.

''(He) found himself staring into the austere, unforgiving landscape,'' said a jovial British 'Daily Telegraph' reporter.

Friesacher waited patiently while Sakhir's marshals 'created an escape route by removing a series of cones,' a report compiled by Michelin added.

Button still bruising
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) Honda won't hear the end of it until BAR driver Jenson Button is where he wants to be.

The Briton angrily hit out at the Japanese engine maker in Malaysia, where his V10 incessantly played up.

And that race failure, said the 25-year-old, will continue to bite during single-lap qualifying for the Bahrain GP.

''It's a problem,'' he complained, referring to the dusty track, ''that I'm going to have to (qualify) so early on here.

''That's going to hurt me a little bit.''

Teammate Takuma Sato, meanwhile, confirmed he is feeling 'very well' after sitting out Sepang on a drip and with a fever.

''I had a lot of pain and felt really bad,'' the Japanese admitted.

Kimi-drunk tale 'untrue'
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.2) A source at McLaren said wild-child Kimi Raikkonen 'point blank denied' being blotto at a party last Saturday in Finland.

The latest 'Raikkonen-drank-too-much' tale emerged when Finnish performer Kari Peitsamo posted details of the McLaren driver and countryman's unruly behavior on a website.

''The team have spoken to Kimi about it,'' said the source, ''and, although he confirmed he attended a private party, he said what is being reported ... is not true.

''The team is standing by that.''

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