F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 3, 2005

Trulli's Pope tribute
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.3) Italian F1 driver Jarno Trulli will race today's Bahrain GP with the initial of Pope John Paul II on his helmet.

The Pope has died, aged 84.

''I offer my performance to him,'' said Toyota's top driver.

One of John Paul's last audiences was a January blessing to the Ferrari team, attended by Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello.

Meanwhile, Italian broadcaster 'RAI' asked Bernie Ecclestone to allow the TV channel to delay the telecast of the Bahrain grand prix.

In the wake of the Poland-born Pope's death, all Italian sport events were cancelled.

''An autonomous decision might be interpreted as breach of contract,'' a Rai statement said.

No 'box fear - Schu
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.3) The pace of Ferrari's new car is a 'surprise' to Michael Schumacher, the seven time world F1 champion admitted.

After provisionally qualifying third in Bahrain, he said of F2005's GP debut: ''Honestly, I didn't expect to be here.

''We were so far off in Malaysia that I didn't expect having the new car could make it up.''

Schumacher, 36, said he was not concerned that his gearbox - given Rubens Barrichello's Friday problem - might also play up.

''We've done plenty of testing with it,'' he insisted, ''and we think it's just an isolated problem.

''It's the first time we've seen it, actually.''

Alonso wary of Schu-threat
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.3) He might have dismissed the Schu-threat a day earlier, but Bahrain's quick man is now wary of the new Ferrari.

Fernando Alonso, like Michael, admitted to 'surprise' at Schumacher's top three provisional qualifying.

''Looking at Malaysia,'' said the Spaniard, ''the Ferrari was nowhere ... and now it's top-3.

''For sure they're a rival to care about.''

However, Alonso, 23, warned old Renault teammate Jarno Trulli - second in the Toyota - to stay on his friendly side.

''If he keeps going like this,'' Fernando smiled, ''then maybe we won't be friends anymore!

''I've always said Jarno is the quickest guy over one lap.''

Schu to wear 'amulet'
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.3) Michael Schumacher will continue to wear a lucky 'amulet' despite the FIA edict banning jewelry from the cockpit.

''It's not an issue (for me),'' the Ferrari driver said in Bahrain.

Wife Corinna gave Schumacher, 36, the ceramic charm a month or two after the German broke his leg at Silverstone in 1999.

Ever since, he's been world champion.

''The rule is about crazy piercings or chains,'' a defiant Michael clarified. ''Things that could become a danger.

''People should check before they make up stories.''

Jarno Trulli, meanwhile, said the jewelry rule would not affect him. ''Luckily, I'm not a girl,'' the Italian quipped.

New 'box for Rubinho
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.3) Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello's new gearbox touched down in Bahrain overnight.

The Maranello-based team said - given Friday's failure - that it is allowed to install the unit if it is 'an identical spec' to the damaged one.

The process will, in accordance with the parc ferme rule, be overseen by the FIA, and - all going well - the Brazilian hero, 32, will use it from final qualifying.

''We repaired the (old) gearbox (on Saturday),'' said a spokesman at the circuit, ''but it was a temporary measure.''

Minardi's V10 'loophole'
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.3) Have Minardi found an exclusive engine rule 'loophole.'

Both Christijan Albers and teammate Patrick Friesacher had a fresh Cosworth V10 fitted at the Bahrain circuit.

Their penalty, under the new two-race rule?

A 10-place grid demotion.

They'll, therefore, move from nineteenth and twentieth on the grid to ... nineteenth and twentieth, effectively dodging any (additional) sanction.

Bridgestone better - rival
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.3) Bridgestone has 'upped its game,' Michelin man Pierre Dupasquier admitted in Bahrain.

The Frenchman, Bibendum's motorsport director, is also sure to have kept an eye on the weather channel last night.

After, on Saturday, probably the hottest day in F1 history, the Michelin tires showed sign of unpredicted wear.

Dupasquier admitted: ''I think the tires will be subjected to some grueling punishment.''

Ron's reply to rumor mill
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.3) Ron Dennis said he 'doesn't care' if the injured Juan Pablo Montoya slipped during a forehand, or crashed after a 15-foot motocross jump.

The boss denied it is McLaren's job to interfere in a driver's 'private life' -- and tried to appease the rumor mill.

''(He) told us it was tennis,'' Ron said, referring to the absent Colombian driver's fractured left collarbone.

''If he hasn't told the truth, he hasn't told the truth.

''I don't care if he slipped in the bath or was jumping buses.''

Ron, although optimistic, said he'll know in a fortnight if Montoya will be fit to return at the San Marino GP.

DC can't 'hear' or 'see'?
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.3) In the Bahrain paddock, David Coulthard contradicted his own statement in employer Red Bull's Saturday media release.

In the fax release, he explained a bad qualifying lap as partly due to not seeing the steering wheel 'light' to tell him to change gear.

But he told 'Speed TV' that he couldn't 'hear' the 'beeps.'

The Scot continued: ''I didn't know the radio was on (and) it cancelled the gear change audio.''

It's possible the RBR press officer altered DC's comments so as to conceal the car innovation.

Coulthard said: ''The problem with using the lights is that you can't always see them.

''From here ... it's going to be very difficult to score any points.''

Jacques' not worried
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.3) If Jacques Villeneuve frequented just about any Formula One website, he'd be worried.

Good job, then, that Sauber's struggling French-Canadian doesn't.

''I don't read them,'' he told Toronto's 'Sun' newspaper. ''Friends around me don't understand why I'm not stressed, why I don't worry.

''I just know it'll get better.''

For the record, JV, 33 and '97 champion, is miles off teammate Felipe Massa's pace, and reportedly in danger of losing the job to some young charger.

He added: ''You have to trust in yourself. It will work out.

''I'm happy. It's a bit better already (in Bahrain).''

'Alonso can be champion'
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.3) Conceivably, no-one in the F1 paddock knows 'champion elect' Fernando Alonso better than front-row buddy Jarno Trulli.

The pair, still good friends, raced together at Renault in 2003 and 2004, before a falling out with Flavio Briatore paved a road to Toyota.

Trulli, 30, told Spanish newspaper 'Marca' that Renault's Alonso has the ability to go all the way this year.

''He has the car,'' said JT, ''and the ability to become champion.

''Honestly, he can do it.''

Trulli said he's also getting along quite well with new German teammate Ralf Schumacher -- but they're not friends.

Jarno said: ''I don't have a problem with Ralf. We work well together.

''But he's different ... with a very different mentality, to Fernando.

''I understood Fernando perfectly.''

Ferrari brace for busy break
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.3) If Ferrari team personnel thought they worked hard to get the F2005 ready for Bahrain, they're in for an even harder pre-Imola ride.

Technical director Ross Brawn revealed in Bahrain that a 'range of improvements' for the new car will be tested in the three-week gap and introduced at the San Marino GP.

He also said the all-new front Bridgestone 'is a bit better' here.

''And we've got a few things coming,'' the burly Briton confirmed.

Trulli - 'I won't win'
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.3) He may again be a front row qualifier, but Toyota's Jarno Trulli has point-blank ruled out beating Renault to the Bahraini checker.

''We've still got some work to do,'' the Italian said at Sakhir.

Also tempering the 30-year-old's confidence a little, is a TF105 car that's quick, but not handling quite 'as I like.'

Trulli continued: ''I'm happy, but the job's getting tougher.

''Michael (Schumacher) has the new Ferrari ... it'll be interesting.

''But I never expected to be doing so well when I signed the (Toyota) contract last year.''

'F1 now 'way too fast'?
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.3) Despite 'slower' tire/engine/aero regulations, Williams' Mark Webber set a record-shattering pace at Bahrain.

No low-fuel qualifier got close to the Australian's 1.29.527 set in final free practice.

Last year's best was 1.29.552, clocked by BAR driver Jenson Button. In 2005, he missed his old mark by nearly a second.

In early 2004, Jarno Trulli said F1 was too fast. Presumably, the Italian now thinks F1 is way too fast.

''Well,'' the Toyota star answered, ''I think the new rules are working.

''Imagine, if we'd kept the same rules, how fast we'd be.''

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