F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 4, 2005

Haug - 'blah, blah, blah'
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.4) McLaren -- bored, or - in scorching Bahrain - just a little hot under the collar?

Mistakes, of course, can happen.

But is Mercedes' Norbert Haug really that tired of all the corporate babble?

''We ... look forward to the start of the European season in Imola,'' the German was quoted as saying in an initial race round-up email compiled by Woking-based McLaren.

The quote, however, ended: ''Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah'' -- and so on.

A subsequent fax, though, had removed the apparently uninterested quote fill-in.

No new car 'regret' - Schu
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.4) Michael Schumacher said he doesn't regret Ferrari's decision to rush the new F2005 car into service.

The German, whose scarlet mount broke down for the first time since July 2001, admitted that Bahrain was a 'bad' result.

''But the car seems competitive,'' Schumacher, 36, added, ''and it should be even more competitive in Imola and later.

''I think it was absolutely the best decision we could take.''

And, although the F2005 ground to a halt with hydraulic failure - and Rubens Barrichello grappled all weekend with non-stop gremlins - Michael wondered whether a simple stone penetrated his radiator.

Despite a new gearbox, Barrichello again pulled over in Sunday qualifying, requiring an engine change, the reinstallation of the old 'box, and a back-of-the-grid start.

The Brazilian then languished to the flag, a lap down, with knackered tires.

Spaniard unfazed
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.4) Ferrari's F2005 will not cause world champion-elect Fernando Alonso to lose much sleep.

The Spaniard, with 'plenty' still in reserve (according to Renault's Flavio Briatore), said he 'doesn't have to worry' about the scarlet challenge -- for now.

''We saw today that eventually Ferrari will be back,'' said the 23-year-old.

'''But the results show that, now, Toyota are the closest.

''Even if Michael (Schumacher) pushed me quite hard at the start, I was pretty certain I could have overtaken him later, as we are so good on the long run.''

Still, Schumacher had a message for the Italian media, already dreaming up clever 'Ferrari crisis' headlines before the Bahraini checker ever fell.

The German said: ''Don't worry -- we're strong and now we have got three weeks to catch up.''

Mr. E - still on top
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.4) A trio of banks may seemingly have wrested control of his empire, but F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said he's still in 'good shape.'

He joked to ITV pundit Martin Brundle on the Bahrain grid: ''I'm staying until I get fired!

''I don't know if I am succeeding -- I'm still here and I'm still chief executive.''

The 74-year-old also claimed that Sunday qualifying, although controversial and widely disliked, is 'now the way people (want) it.'

F1 in mourning for Pope
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.4) Michael Schumacher wore an unfamiliarly dreary face on the Bahraini grand prix grid.

Although now seated in the healthier 'F2005' model Ferrari (and despite later retiring with a rare mechanical fault), the German claimed the atmosphere was 'strange' in the scarlet garage.

The Italian team, he said, mourned the death of the Pope.

''Germans, Italians, we all felt very connected to the Pope,'' the world champion - whose car wore a hastily-painted black nose - explained.

''We visited (him) in January -- it is very sad.''

Italy's Jarno Trulli, meanwhile, looked skyward and pensive as he climbed out of his Toyota.

He said: ''(Pope John Paul II's death) is the reason we did not celebrate on the podium.''

'DC, pack a parachute'
In Al Manama (GMMf1NET -- Apr.4) For two reasons, David Coulthard apologized to Jacques Villeneuve for bumping him out of the Bahrain GP.

First, the pair are friends. Second, Red Bull's Coulthard, 33, had arranged a lift back to Monaco aboard Jacques' plane.

''I didn't mean to do it,'' he said.

''I was desperate to catch Rubens.''

According to a Red Bull source, David 'walked in on' Villeneuve, the French-Canadian, 'while he was having a shower ... to apologize.

''Naked Jacques accepted the apology,'' the RB source added, but offered DC some free advice for the flight home.

''David, you might want to pack a parachute!''

Toyota fear F1 breakaway
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.4) Toyota denied it will necessarily side with Ferrari and the FIA in the argument over F1's future.

In a recent letter to every other non-Ferrari team, the Cologne-based outfit ruled out automatically supporting the other carmakers' 'GPWC' cause.

''We are neutral,'' F1 president John Howett insisted.

''We've seen a split before, in America, so we know it would not be good for our sport.''

Briscoe under fire
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.4) F1-turned-IRL driver Ryan Briscoe has crashed for the third time out of three in 2005.

In the series' first ever street race, the young Australian - former Toyota test driver - led the race for Chip Ganassi, in St. Petersburg, until colliding with Tony Kanaan.

''I think Briscoe was a little silly to turn into him like that,'' English winner, Dan Wheldon, observed.

IRL champion Kanaan, meanwhile, added: ''When people are not fair, they get what they deserve.

'''You want to play hard, we'll play hard.''

Kimi - 'I like a drink'
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.4) McLaren wild boy Kimi Raikkonen does not deny drinking alcohol at a Finnish party last Saturday.

''I'm just a normal guy,'' the Finn - podium getter in Bahrain - told the Finnish media.

''I like going out with friends too.

''I think some people think I should not do that.

''There are probably no more than two or three drivers in F1 who do not drink from time to time.

''What is wrong with enjoying a few drinks with friends?''

Bridgestone bear blame, again
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.4) Tire supplier Bridgestone, like in Malaysia, have owned up to some of the blame for Ferrari's gloomy performance in Bahrain.

Technical manager Hisao Suganuma - in the context of a Sepang thrashing - said the Japanese marque 'clearly made a step forward' in the desert.

But a post-race statement - also referring to Rubens Barrichello's 'tire wear issue' - conceded that more is needed.

On the wear problem, Suganuma added: ''Obviously, we need to work on that.

''We'll do our best for Imola.''

'My fault' - wounded Webber
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.4) Williams' gutted Mark Webber admitted he was to blame for a spectacular high speed spin that dashed a sure maiden podium.

At Bahrain's turn 10, the 28-year-old Australian appeared to lose grip in the left hand sweeper.

''I was pushing really, really hard,'' Webber later admitted, ''and put a wheel on the dirt.

''I couldn't get it back.''

In the slide, Webber flat spotted his Michelins and found the rest of the grand prix difficult 'with all the vibration.

''Pedro (de la Rosa) kept coming at me,'' Mark explained of the late race duel, ''and (eventually) it was his corner for the taking.''

Alonso worried about Imola
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.4) Fernando Alonso insists he is not on a cruise to become F1's youngest ever drivers' champion.

The Spaniard, 23, commands a whopping 10-point lead over second placed Jarno Trulli, while reigning title winner Michael Schumacher sits 24-adrift.

But he's a little worried about Renault's return to Europe.

''It will be new conditions on tracks all the teams know really well,'' said the Renault driver.

''(However) I do think we will be hard to beat.''

Alonso singled out Imola, the next race, and May's Spanish grand prix - at Barcelona - as the R25's toughest imminent tests.

He tempered: ''But I don't see any real reason we can't carry on.''

McLaren to speed up change
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.4) McLaren will 'try' to fast track changes to the MP4-20 car in order to improve qualifying pace.

That's the vow of chairman Ron Dennis.

Again in Bahrain, a silver car (Pedro de la Rosa) collected the fastest lap mantle, indicating that the 2005 design can match Renault's speed.

''But we have to improve our qualifying,'' said Ron, echoing Kimi Raikkonen's similar tune.

Dennis revealed that the likely Imola package was originally targeted for May, at Barcelona.

De la Rosa too speedy?
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.4) Pedro de la Rosa ducked and dived in Bahrain -- without a drivers' license!

It's reported that a court in France cancelled the McLaren tester's road-going permit after he was caught doing 174km/h in a 110 zone last year.

The penalty, which does not affect an F1 driver's FIA superlicense, clearly didn't slow the Spaniard down on Sunday whilst filling in for the injured Juan Pablo Montoya.

De la Rosa captured the fastest lap, and engaged in thrilling battles with Takuma Sato, Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button and Mark Webber.

''I had a great time,'' he said.

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