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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 24, 2005


Renault losing F1 advantage?
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.24) Championship leader Fernando Alonso is not convinced that Renault may soon fall into the clutches of improved rivals.

The Spaniard, pipped to provisional pole, is being harried at Imola by McLaren, Ferrari, and even Williams and BAR.

''We thought it might happen,'' Alonso - who, on a 'different' strategy, hardly turned a lap all weekend - remarked.

''We have to be wary of everyone.''

But he added that, historically, Imola - in northern Italy - is not a happy hunting ground for the Flavio Briatore-led operation.

''So even in a bad circumstance we are on the pace. We're extremely happy with the performance we are doing.''








Schu to Imola's defense
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.24) Michael Schumacher leapt to Imola's defense amid claims the Italian circuit is one of the shabbiest in F1.

One observer said the infrastructure at 'Circuit Enzo e Dino Ferrari' is so bad that fans can 'easily climb over the walls and fences,' thus creating a safety risk.

''We have to have these traditional venues,'' Schumacher, five times a world champion with Ferrari, insisted.

''If we only raced on the new circuits, we would forget about (motor racing's) tradition.

''Imola has so much charm.''

Then again, Schumacher, 36, would defend the scene of the annual San Marino grand prix -- he's an ambassador for the tiny republic.








Kovalainen won GP2 opener
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.24) Amid technical and format criticism, F1 star-of-the-future Heikki Kovalainen won the first ever GP2 race at Imola.

Because of car gearbox problems, the race kicked off behind the safety car, and many drivers also complained about braking.

A second, shorter, race will be held on Sunday.

''I had lunch with Renault in the F1 paddock,'' said Kovalainen, a Renault development driver. ''Flavio (Briatore) came past and ... said 'are you going to win?' I said, 'yes!' ''









No Quali agreement
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.24) F1 teams emerged from a meeting on Saturday no closer to ditching the unloved 'aggregate' qualifying system.

At Imola, Ron Dennis - McLaren chairman - hinted that 'someone's performance' would've been affected had Bernie Ecclestone's latest proposal found an unanimous vote.

A change is now unlikely until, at the earliest, July.

''Most qualifying alternatives ... have some bearing on fuel tank capacity,'' Ron told Autosport.

''(McLaren) are not going to ... accept any solution that goes against us.''

For the record, one proposal aired at the meeting was for a kind of 'knock out' format, where - at intervals - the slowest five cars are eliminated.








Renault keep team together
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.24) Flavio Briatore, Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella will all race-on at Renault next season.

Team president Patrick Faure said the Briatore decision was taken 'with the full agreement' of incoming CEO, Carlos Ghosn.

''(He) wishes to maintain the stability of a winning team,'' Faure was quoted in a statement.

Briatore, meanwhile - earlier tipped to leave the sport at the end a 2005 contract - described Renault as his 'last challenge' in Formula One.

''(After that), I leave,'' he told a news conference at Imola.

''We need stability and ... don't want any rumors around.''

Beyond 2006, though, is the realm of Ghosn, imminent successor to Louis Schweitzer, and thought less keen on the grand prix project.







Red Bull no Ferrari 'b' team
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.24) Red Bull Racing will not become a Ferrari 'b' team.

Sporting director Christian Horner denied that the newly announced 2006 and 2007 engine deal has any political import.

''We will carve our own future,'' he told Autosport at Imola.

Some immediately suggested that the Ferrari deal explained Red Bull's attendance, despite the wishes of the 'group of nine,' at a recent FIA meeting.

But Horner said the deal - with 'options' beyond 2007, the end of the current Concorde Agreement - has nothing to do with the struggle over F1's future.

''We are totally impartial,'' he added.

Christian said Red Bull decided to dump Cosworth because it would not be able to match Ferrari's development of the '06-spec V8.








'Better' Bridgestone
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.24) Bridgestone has admitted that it may be able to produce a better F1 tire if it supplied more teams.

Ferrari does the vast majority of development for the Japanese marque, with only back-of-the-grid Jordan and Minardi also on the same rubber.

''It is difficult to say whether (having more teams) would solve our problem,'' technical manager Hisao Suganuma said at Imola.

In 2005, Bridgestone rival Michelin has won every grand prix, while Ferrari struggle with inconsistency, poor first-lap pace and excessive wear.

''We do (currently) collect less data (than Michelin),'' Suganuma continued, ''and with more teams we may have better data.

''(But) we are happy with our test program.''








'Wait for Barcelona'
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.24) Interpret the outcome of Sunday's grand prix at Imola 'with caution.'

That's the warning of Franck Montagny, test driver for world championship leader Renault.

''Imola is a strange circuit,'' the Frenchman said after standing trackside in practice.

''We need to wait for Barcelona, which really rewards good aerodynamics, to really see.

''The cars that are quick (there) will be in for a strong season.''

Interestingly, Montagny observed that McLaren and Ferrari looked best over the chicane curbs, while the Renault looked 'a little (too) stiff.'

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, though, doesn't agree.

The Finn, although quick, said his MP4-20 is 'not the best' over the notorious curbs.








'Ferrari not richest team'
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.24) Ross Brawn has denied that Ferrari have the biggest budget in pitlane.

''We have a good budget,'' the team's technical director revealed at Imola, ''(but) we're not the top -- not exceptional.''

Some maintain that only Toyota conceivably spend more, but Brawn said Maranello are outpaced in the cash stakes by 'several teams.'

''It's not why we've done poorly (so far in 2005),'' Ross maintained. ''(We have) an adequate budget.

''If McLaren or Williams can find more money (than Ferrari) ... good luck to them.''

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