F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 23, 2005

F1 men dope tested
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) Six Formula One drivers were randomly drug tested after free practice at Imola on Friday.

Both Renault men, Jordan's Tiago Monteiro and Robert Doornbos, Jacques Villeneuve and Red Bull rookie Vitantonio Liuzzi were asked to submit a urine sample by the FIA.

A positive result, like F3000 driver Tomas Enge (who tested for marijuana) in 2002, would carry likely expulsion from the championship.

Williams sign teen Rosberg
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) Sir Frank has opted to keep it in the family by hiring the son of Williams' 1982 F1 champion Keke Rosberg as 'second' test driver.

19-year-old Nico Rosberg, who - when aged 17 - first tried an F1 car back in 2002, will debut in the role next week, at Silverstone.

He'll dovetail the job alongside Antonio Pizzonia with GP2.

''We're delighted to have another talented Rosberg in the team,'' Sir Frank commented.

The Grove-based team also confirmed speculation that BMW touring car driver Andy Priaulx has signed a contract.

A statement said he'll drive at 'additional testing sessions.'

Wurz 'comfortable'
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) Alexander Wurz, standing more than six feet tall, is now comfortable at the wheel of McLaren's cramped MP4-20 racer.

The long serving Austrian test driver, after a grid absence of more than four years, is filling in at Imola for injured regular Juan Pablo Montoya.

''I'm very comfortable (in the car) now, and I'm a race driver now -- so I'm extra comfortable!

''Full stop, no complaint,'' he smiled in Italy.

''I'm also happy just to be away from the test tracks in Spain!''

Believe it or not, Wurz's cheeky ambition for his first grand prix since Malaysia 2000 - in a Benetton - is the podium.

''You don't get a chance like this every day,'' Alex grinned.

'No sleep in F1 - de Ferran
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) Gil de Ferran enjoyed his first ever day on the Formula One pitwall.

At Imola, the Brazilian - former Indy 500 and Champ Car champion - described Friday as 'wonderful.

''I've been going to all the meetings,'' said the new BAR-Honda sporting director, ''trying to understanding how the team works, who does what.''

But de Ferran, who started at Brackley a fortnight ago and attended the Paul Ricard test, warned that grand prix racing is not for the faint hearted.

He smiled: ''Let's say that a lot of sleep is not a luxury you are afforded.''

McLaren has eye on Spain
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) McLaren did not, as desired, succeed in speeding-up a major car overhaul.

Team principal Ron Dennis explained that 'most' of the team and Mercedes' improvements will now hit the MP4-20 next time out, in Spain.

He said at Imola: ''Whatever our performance here, it will be better there (at Barcelona).''

Ron said Woking adopted a deliberate 'conservative' approach to upcoming development.

''We really want to prove (the parts and) make sure they don't have an impact on reliability.''

Dennis revealed at Bahrain that McLaren's main dilemma is getting heat into Michelin's harder tire. He said on Friday that the MP4-20 now appeared 'on top of' the problem.

JPM to skip Spain, too?
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) Juan Pablo Montoya will learn if he is fit to return at Barcelona after testing in a McLaren simulator.

Team 'CEO' Ron Dennis insisted that, although the Colombian's broken shoulder is nearly healed, shrunk muscle tissue 'has got to come back.

''We will (then) determine whether he is fit to race,'' Ron said.

29-year-old Montoya will, of course, be eager to return to the track, but particularly in view of reports that insurance is not covering lost salary.

JPM earns just under $1m per race.

Dennis, meanwhile, confirmed that how Alex Wurz fares at Imola will 'play a role' in whether he or Pedro de la Rosa - if Montoya is unable - will race in Spain and beyond.

Red Bull and Coulthard
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) Red Bull is 'very happy' with David Coulthard.

Thus, sporting director Christian Horner sidestepped media reports that the energy drink-owned team has already settled on Christian Klien and Tonio Liuzzi for next year.

''We won't even be contemplating (2006),'' he said, ''until the latter part of the summer.''

It's understood DC, 34, had dinner with team owner Dietrich Mateschitz (and Horner) on Monday, where the mogul 'reaffirmed' his contentment with the veteran Scot.

DC said Mateschitz's Klien-Liuzzi-in-'06 statement was 'misquoted.'

He did, though, admit to not - at present - having a contract beyond October '05.

Ferrari lack 'magic' wand
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) There is no 'magic' solution to a not-fast-enough Formula One package.

That's the warning of Ross Brawn, who said at Imola that Ferrari and Bridgestone are likely to struggle a little longer.

Things look better in northern Italy, but the technical director hinted that the Japanese-made F1 tire is still not the best in pitlane.

Brawn said Ferrari would also work on finding 'more power and grip.

''It won't be an overnight change,'' the Englishman continued, ''it's going to be a ... hard slog.''

Old adversary Ron Dennis, meanwhile - of McLaren - vowed not to 'write off' the Maranello-based world champions.

''They are much more competitive here,'' he observed at Imola.

''Anyone who wrote Michael Schumacher off would be a fool.''

Michelin go soft
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) Michelin made available a range of softer tires at Imola, the marque's motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier said.

It followed 'specific requests' of teams like McLaren, Williams and BAR, who've complained about the 2005 product's apparent conservatism.

In northern Italy, they're choosing between no less than five different specifications.

Dupasquier, 67, also said he's expecting 'definite rain' before Sunday's grand prix.

An independent report, however, now puts the chance of Sunday showers at just 20 percent.

Yin-Kin to test Minardi
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) Hong Kong driver Marchy Lee Yin-Kin will test next week in Italy, Minardi revealed on Friday.

F1's smallest team is set to travel from Imola to Mugello for the run.

Lee, Formula BMW Asia champion, will drive alongside Christijan Albers, Patrick Friesacher and Israeli tester Chanoch Nissany.

''It will ... give the team a chance to have a close look at him in terms of ... F1 potential,'' Paul Stoddart commented.

''I'm sure (it) will generate considerable interest ... in China.''

Renault trailing power race
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) Renault does not build the most powerful engine in Formula One.

Still, the Anglo-French team is runaway favorite to snare the '05 drivers' and constructors' world championships.

How so?

''The best engine is ... the one that gives ... the best chance to win,'' engine operations man Denis Chevrier told The Guardian.

It's claimed that at least five rivals - Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Toyota, no doubt - pack more punch.

Chevrier, however, grinned to the English newspaper: ''We don't mind ... as long as (the RS25 engine) keeps our car in front.

''I'm convinced that if we keep doing well, (we'll) stay in F1.''

F1 Indian's now 'a man'
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) India's first ever grand prix driver, Narain Karthikeyan, is now 'a man.'

Jordan chief Colin Kolles agreed at Imola that the lean 28-year-old had traveled to Melbourne with below-par F1 fitness.

''He's changed a lot,'' the Midland 'managing director' told Reuters.

Karthikeyan agreed that there is a 'huge difference' in him between then and now.

''And by the middle of the year,'' he added, ''I should be (even) fitter.''

Kolles, meanwhile, made a point of noting that - despite the earlier physical concern - Narain is 'always a little quicker' than teammate Tiago Monteiro.

New Minardi to break down
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) Don't expect to cheer a new Minardi PS05 past Imola's checkered flag.

That's the warning of owner Paul Stoddart, who said he doesn't count on the virginal racer lasting a full race distance.

''(We will probably) lose both cars fairly early on,'' the Australian told Autosport.

''(But) I won't be disappointed -- a car that hasn't been testing ought not to be ... good.''

Stoddart, 50, defended the black car's still-sluggish speed in northern Italy as another side effect of not testing.

But he said the PS05, Minardi's first all-new car since 2002, should be on-song - and perhaps able to beat a Jordan - by the North American double header in June.

Quali summit on Saturday
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) F1 principals will meet at Imola on Saturday to talk about qualifying.

Bernie Ecclestone requested the summit as he is itching to ditch the unloved 'aggregate' format and - maybe - resurrect the classic twelve-lap system last seen in 2002.

Like it or hate it, though, Paul Stoddart - the majority of teams' unofficial spokesman - warned against more 'knee jerk' rule changes.

The Minardi chief predicted: ''I don't think (the meeting) is going to achieve an agreement.''

If it does, though, the teams will demand that the new system go unchanged until the end of 2007.

'Show JV more respect'
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) David Coulthard has lashed out at critics of struggling former world champion Jacques Villeneuve.

The Scot, a long time friend of Sauber's driver, told Reuters he is 'disgusted' at what the media has had to say.

''It's ... diminishing the respect ... he should be given for his achievements,'' Coulthard, similarly aged at 34, said.

Villeneuve, though, is maintaining a remarkably composed attitude, despite speculation he may be ousted - or voluntarily leave - soon.

''It's not affecting me too much,'' said the French-Canadian.

Peter Sauber said on Friday that JV's biggest problem at the wheel of C24 is under braking.

Sato's 'directions'
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) Takuma Sato has denied he needs 'directions' on the run down to a grand prix track's turn one.

During the Bahrain race, TV viewers were amazed when - on a replay - the BAR-Honda driver's radio broadcast revealed engineer Jock Clear frantically describing to Sato the movement of nearby rivals.

But the Japanese protested to Sky Sports: ''It's not directions!

''(Clear) gives me information.''

Sato, 28, said a modern grand prix car - with high cockpit protection - has a blind spot.

''So, (with Clear's information), I can decide if I can squeeze or if I have to leave space.''

Alonso to Turkey
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.23) Renault will fire up Fernando Alonso's Renault F1 car in Istanbul (Turkey) mid next month.

The Spaniard and 23-year-old championship leader is to run at the Sultanahmet hippodrome, a team statement said.

Historic Istanbul will host its inaugural grand prix in August.

''I don't know Istanbul,'' said Alonso, ''but I am looking forward to (the race).''

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