F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 7, 2005

'Schu weren't my hero'
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) Fernando Alonso has denied he is 'clear favorite' to win the 2005 drivers' F1 championship.

The Spaniard, who'd become the youngest ever winner, told German magazine 'SportBild' that Ferrari and Michael Schumacher are destined to catch currently dominant Renault.

''We have less scope for improvement,'' the 23-year-old warned.

''After years of Ferrari dominance it's difficult to imagine it will all suddenly change.''

Alonso, though, chastised the scarlet marque for snubbing other teams' united vow to reduce testing to 30 days in '05.

''I don't think that's fair at all,'' said FA.

He also denied that seven time world champion, Schumacher, was a childhood hero. ''In Spain,'' he explained, ''we didn't even have F1 on TV.''

Sauber must push hard - Massa
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) Sauber will make a step forward at Imola, Felipe Massa has revealed.

The Brazilian driver said in an interview that new bodywork will be added to the 'C24' model at the San Marino grand prix, held later in April.

It'll be tested at Barcelona.

''We need to push really hard in the aerodynamics area,'' Massa - who has consistently got the better of ex-champion teammate Jacques Villeneuve so far - urged.

He added: ''On the positive side, we've been really reliable.''

Gil to BAR - confirmed
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) BAR have confirmed that Brazilian and Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran is their new 'sporting director.'

The 37-year-old will be responsible for 'BAR-Honda on-event,' a statement explained.

But, contrary to reports, de Ferran - former British F3 and Champ Car champion who will leave a commentary role in the IRL - will not 'replace' new team 'CEO' Nick Fry.

''We knew there was a piece of the jigsaw missing,'' Fry commented.

''There is no substitute for racing experience.''

De Ferran's role will free-up technical director Geoff Willis at grands prix, and leave Fry to provide 'overall leadership.'

Fry added: ''We know Gil can ... get the best out of the racing team.''

Spanish action
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) Pedro de la Rosa got back into a Bahrain-like groove; by making an impression at Barcelona.

The local - Juan Pablo Montoya's injury fill-in - topped the Wednesday timesheet at Circuit de Catalunya whilst simulating qualifying -- but he drove a 19B.

At the 2005 McLaren's wheel was Alex Wurz, the man tipped to get the Imola nod should Montoya's shoulder remain injured.

''We still have to make some changes to the car,'' the tall Austrian reported.

Toyota, Red Bull, Renault, Williams and BAR - every team except Jordan and Minardi - also converged on the Spanish venue.

Jacques Villeneuve continued to languish in the Sauber, while Marc Gene's 2004 Ferrari also failed to impress.

Incredibly, the luckless Giancarlo Fisichella endured yet another Renault engine blow-up, and Williams' Antonio Pizzonia kissed a barrier.

'Go9' to meet in London
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) Formula One's pique 'group of nine' will meet in London on Thursday.

They'll vote on whether to, like Concorde-signed Ferrari, attend a subsequent meeting of the FIA to talk about 2008.

Minardi's Paul Stoddart indicated that the Go9 summit is also to talk about 2008 -- for their own, separate, championship.

FIA president Max Mosley's meeting, with the last one snubbed, is slated for April 15.

''I suspect it ... won't be attended (by the group),'' Reuters quoted the team owner.

BAR 'CEO' Nick Fry, meanwhile, revealed that the group had received no reply to a letter about Ferrari's defiance of a F1 testing limit.

He said: ''And there's no sign (of a) compromise.''

Trulli gave up Schu duel
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) Jarno Trulli backed out of a wheel-to-wheel battle with Ferrari's Michael Schumacher on Lap-1 of the Bahrain grand prix.

Toyota's Italian, who ultimately finished second, had the inside line into the apex of turn two.

''I made a good start and got him at the first corner,'' Jarno said in a team interview.

30-year-old Trulli, though, exited the next bend behind the German's brand new Ferrari.

''Michael is not renowned for backing down,'' JT noted.

''I decided I didn't want to throw away my whole race by braving it out ... and crashing.''

Renault's Fernando Alonso later said he thought the F2005, which broke down on lap-11, was low-fuelled, and therefore desperate for position.

''I think I could have beaten the Ferrari,'' Jarno speculated.

Imola, though - despite a new aero package - might be a different story; Toyota has never done well over the Italian venue's notorious curbs.

Hill 'no' to race return
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) 1996 world champion Damon Hill will not be making a return to racing.

The Englishman, 44, turned down an offer to drive in the new 'Grand Prix Masters' category.

According to Motorsport News, Hill - who won the title with Williams but also drove in F1 for Brabham, Arrows and Jordan - said he's taken 'enough risks.

''I don't want to take any more (and) I don't think fifty year olds should anyway.''

So far, Alan Jones, Emerson Fittipaldi, Alain Prost, Johnny Herbert and Christian Danner are signed up for 2006.

Hakk to debut
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) Back-to-back F1 title winner Mika Hakkinen is ready to debut in the German 'DTM' touring car championship.

This week, the series launched in Hamburg -- in front of 20,000 in the city centre.

''I've been around quite a bit,'' said Mercedes' Mika, the 36-year-old Finn and - like fellow former F1 star Jean Alesi - to drive a C-Class, ''but this is something truly special.''

He'll debut next Sunday at Hockenheim.

Alonso singled out
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) F1 title leader Fernando Alonso, 23, can do no wrong.

The Spaniard, winner of back-to-back grands prix, will receive the annual 'Lorenzo Bandini' award in Brisighella (Italy) next week.

Jenson Button, David Coulthard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Michael Schumacher and Alex Wurz have all previously earned the plaudit.

Finland's Kimi Raikkonen won the '04 prize, named after the leading Italian driver of his period, who died in 1967 at Monaco.

Triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, meanwhile, reckons Alonso has 'come of age.

''(Fernando) is now very mature and assured,'' the Scot told The Guardian newspaper.

''He has matured extremely well.''

At the Bandini ceremony, Jean Alesi, Flavio Briatore and racing journalist Alberto Antonini will also be singled out.

McLaren snub 'radio' feature
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) TV-land may be enjoying the in-car radio feature, but you won't hear a single word from the cockpit of a McLaren or Ferrari.

Woking chief Ron Dennis said in Bahrain that his MP4-20 cars are fitted with an anti-spy 'military standard' encryption system, according to British F1 broadcaster ITV.

''The most advanced of its kind,'' F1 pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz revealed in a column.

The problem, he explained - at least for McLaren - is that the 'complicated' system is prone to failure.

Kimi Raikkonen discovered that at Sakhir -- and, consequently, nearly ran dry.

''I didn't get an answer to one question,'' the Finn said, ''and then the radio didn't work at all so I was close to running out of petrol.

''But luckily I saw the pit board and came in.''

Honda successor named
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) Honda has named a successor for the marque's retiring racing 'president.'

Shoichi Tanaka, 61, will be replaced at UK-based Honda Racing Development by long time company man Yasuhiro Wada.

'Wada-san', formerly president of Honda Performance Development and a motor sport aficionado, is a 30-year veteran.

He's worked before in American IRL racing, and in 2000 was involved in the setting up of Honda's F1 return.

He'll also be on the BAR board.

Meanwhile, ''I'll remain a spectator,'' Tanaka-san smiled.

Bahrain 'easier' - Massa
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) Racing in Bahrain was like blowing a hot-air hair dryer into your face.

That's BAR ace Takuma Sato's description.

''The heat was almost intolerable,'' said the Japanese, who returned to duty after the 'flu of Malaysia.

Bahrain, with a high of 42-degrees C, topped the mercury of humid Sepang.

But Sauber's Felipe Massa said the desert heat bothered him less.

''I felt fine after the (Bahrain) race,'' said the Brazilian, ''and I didn't even sweat too much. Malaysia, with the humidity and a tougher track, was much harder.''

Heidfeld and 2006
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) Williams' Nick Heidfeld has urged Grove to keep up the fast rate of aero development.

The German, openly hoping to keep the BMW powered seat into 2006, said - at this rate - the FW27 car will soon be 'where we want (it) to be.'

Technical director Sam Michael confirmed on the official team website: ''We're (now) focusing on reducing ... drag.''

Elsewhere, 27-year-old Heidfeld's manager Werner Heinz vowed to open a dialogue with Frank Williams about 2006 'around mid season.'

''Nick is making a significant contribution to the car's ongoing development,' said one undoubted supporter, BMW's Dr Mario Theissen.

'I can do the job' - Wurz
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) The best substitute for a still-injured Juan Pablo Montoya at Imola would be Pedro de la Rosa.

That's the belief of Mercedes' Norbert Haug, despite common speculation that contracted 'reserve' Alex Wurz - now snug in the MP4-20 cockpit - would get the gig.

''Without anything against Alexander,'' the German engine marque's competition director stated, ''I see no reason why Pedro should not (drive) again.''

Some criticized the race-rusty Spaniard for one or two iffy passing moves at Sakhir, but Haug said it was a 'joy' to watch Pedro attack.

Wurz, though, insisted he can do a similar job.

''Well done to Pedro,'' the Austrian explained to Sport am Sonntag. ''He did a really great job -- but so could I.''

Scott is Speed 'by nature'
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) Rising American hopeful Scott Speed will wear number '1' throughout the inaugural GP2 championship.

The Californian got the honor by going quickest in the novel pre-season 'qualifying' session at Paul Ricard.

''I am sure he has a big future ahead of him,'' 'iSport' boss Paul Jackson predicted.

Meanwhile, F1 principal Christian Horner only added to speculation that Speed, 22, is hot favorite to take over Tonio Liuzzi's 'Friday' role at Red Bull.

He said Scott is Speed ''by name and by nature.

''We are really very impressed by him.''

Trulli to be a Dad
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) Jarno Trulli could be a father at April's San Marino grand prix.

The Italian's partner is expecting to give birth around the time of the Formula One event on April 24.

''I hope I can be there (at the birth),'' JT, the 30-year-old Toyota driver, told Autosport.

''I won't be home much (in 2005) but I guess Dad only has to be home when the boy's a bit older!''

Trulli also said he's worried about Barcelona, and Imola, where the TF105 racer - recently good enough for the podium - 'might not be very good.

'''We've seen it in the past,'' the former Renault driver quipped.

Back, though, to Bernie
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.7) Fernando Alonso is the 'heir apparent.'

That's the claim of F1's biggest cheese, Bernie Ecclestone.

The 'chief executive' told Autosport that, also with a commanding lead in the drivers' title, Alonso 'stands out' from near rivals Kimi Raikkonen or Juan Pablo Montoya.

Bernie said: ''He's looking like an emerging superstar in the way that Schumacher did.''

Meanwhile, Felipe Massa took exception to Alonso's claim in Gazzetta dello Sport that, himself aside, 'everybody' made at least one mistake in Bahrain.

Sauber's Brazilian insisted: ''I didn't make the smallest error.''

Back, though, to Bernie. He's making it perfectly clear whose side of the persistent political argument he's on.

The 74-year-old said: ''At the recent meeting to discuss rules for 2008, only Ferrari came. Then the (other) teams say Ferrari treated preferentially.

''I find that rather stupid.''

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