F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 25, 2005

Button dodged Imola exclusion
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) Podium-getter Jenson Button escaped disqualification at Imola on Sunday after stewards found that his BAR car was underweight.

The '007' model remained in the scrutineering bay long after Italian dusk, as stewards conferred heatedly with members of the British team.

A stewards' statement said that when the fuel was drained from the Honda-powered contender, it fell below the minimum 605kg limit.

''After hearing the explanation ... and studying ... documentation ... (the stewards) decided that the matter requires no further action,'' an FIA statement added.

The Formula One regulations state that a car must be above the minimum weight 'at all times.'

One goal, 'to win' - Alonso
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) Fernando Alonso described tussling on track with Michael Schumacher as 'the best fight' he's had in Formula One.

The Spaniard and championship leader successfully defended the lead in the closing stages at Imola, even though Schumacher's Ferrari was a faster car.

''He was more than a second (per lap) faster than me,'' said FA, 23.

''I slowed down a little in the middle of corners so I could be on the throttle earlier than him.

''It worked well.''

The Renault driver denied he ever thought about protecting his commanding drivers' lead and settling for second place.

''I had one picture for the race,'' said Alonso. ''To win -- and now I feel top of the world!''

Schu 'disappointed'
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) Michael Schumacher was left to rue what might have been after chasing Fernando Alonso to second in Sunday's San Marino GP.

''I'm happy in one way,'' said the Ferrari driver, with easily the fastest car at Imola, ''and a bit disappointed in another.''

In the morning, he slumped to thirteenth on the grid after a qualifying error. ''I hit a bump,' Michael explained, ''locked the brake and off I went.''

The German said: ''I think, definitely (we would have won, if not for the mistake).

''At least we have stunning pace.''

Schumacher, 36, also patted Bridgestone on the back for going from 'bad publicity' to unveiling a better tire in Italy.

ITV 'sorry' for F1 blunder
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) British F1 fans cursed their TV screens as Imola's thrilling late-race battle reached a climax.

As Michael Schumacher harried race leader Fernando Alonso with three laps to run, broadcaster ITV switched to a 3-minute ad-break.

The action returned on the final tour.

After the race, the network was bombarded with complaints.

''I was absolutely disgusted,'' one viewer told 'The Sun' newspaper. ''I think ITV should give F1 back to the BBC.''

Executive producer of the F1 broadcast, Neil Duncanson, apologized but defended the ad-break as a contractual obligation.

''The advertisers pay top dollar,'' he said.

Reports said ITV had delayed going to a scheduled commercial break when Jenson Button briefly led, and again when the Schumacher-Alonso duel began.

When the latter did not resolve, though, eventually ITV was 'forced' to leave the action, a source told Autosport.

''I can only assume the producer is a football fan,'' English F1 legend Sir Stirling Moss told The Guardian.

Zanardi back in F1 car
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) Alex Zanardi returned to the cockpit of a Williams at Imola.

The heroic Italian, who in 2001 lost both legs in a Champ Car shunt, may again drive one of Sir Frank's cars.

Zanardi, who raced for the team in 1999 before returning to America, sat in the cockpit in the Imola garage to see if he could safely fit.

''I'm not afraid nor will I get emotional,'' the 38-year-old told an Italian newspaper.

'(I) fit almost perfectly. It will be real fun.''

Ferrari chief slams quali
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) In a hark back to Monza last year, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo aimed fire at Formula One.

This time, in the Imola paddock, the Italian slammed Sunday qualifying and the price of a ticket to attend a grand prix.

''The interest (in F1) is less,'' he said, ''but now no-one can blame Ferrari's domination.

''I read the Sunday morning newspaper and do not know who is on pole position -- this is ridiculous.''

He said he supported the return of 12-lap qualifying.

''Ferrari is back,'' di Montezemolo also claimed at the circuit named after Enzo Ferrari.

'Red Bull-Ferrari' - mogul
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) 'Red Bull-Ferrari.'

That's how we'll refer to Dieter Mateschitz's F1 team from next year.

Unlike rival Sauber-(Petronas), or Prost-(Acer), Red Bull will not sell the engine moniker to the highest bidder.

''We will be called Red Bull-Ferrari,'' the energy drink magnate confirmed in the Imola paddock.

''We aim for more than the usual customer-supplier relationship.''

Also making the trip to Italy for the San Marino grand prix, meanwhile, was an irate Kevin Kalkhoven, who had no idea Red Bull would dump Cosworth.

Conceivably without a team to supply in 2006, he had flown to Europe to talk about post-2005 with Mateschitz and RBR management.

Mercifully, KK had also penned a meeting with Jordan/Midland.

Other Cosworth-powered team Minardi intend to race next year with a rev-limited V10 unit.

JB - 'staggering' Schu
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) 'Just staggering.'

That's how bewildered podium winner Jenson Button described the pace of Michael Schumacher's Ferrari at Imola.

''Everyone was lapping at a similar pace,'' the BAR driver marveled, ''except Michael -- a staggering performance.''

Schumacher, 36, barreled past the Englishman as Williams' lapped pair tussled and threw up a bit of dirt.

JB thought momentarily about trying to re-pass the champion.

''But there was no use,'' he explained. ''I just hoped he would catch Fernando and you never know (what could happen).''

Alonso had engine problem
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) The secret is out -- Imola winner Fernando Alonso tackled the entire weekend with an engine problem.

All event, Renault insisted that the Spaniard's near-total absence from the practice track was due to trying a 'different strategy.'

''I guess we can now (reveal the full truth),'' 23-year-old Alonso said in northern Italy.

''From Friday we ... had some problem.''

The V10, also used to win in Bahrain, was turned-down during the grand prix. ''I did not expect to win,'' FA added.

Engine chief Denis Chevrier, meanwhile, said the fact that Fernando could win with a used and unwell engine is 'another expression of (his) huge talent.'

'Bridgestone are back'
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) Bridgestone are back, according to Michael Schumacher.

''They have suffered a lot of (bad) publicity lately,'' Ferrari's German said after nearly winning at Imola on Sunday.

At one stage during the San Marino grand prix, Schumacher's F2005 car lapped two seconds a lap quicker than anyone.

''I think we can say the Bridgestone was the better tire today,'' technical manager Hisao Suganuma remarked.

But Ross Braw, Ferrari's top technical man, warned the Japanese marque not to get carried away.

He said the challenge now is to make the rubber product 'work properly' at every venue.

''It's clear that (Bridgestone) have upped their game,'' Michelin's Pierre Dupasquier - admitting more tire wear than usual - acknowledged.

Carroll won 'GP2' race two
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) Ulsterman Adam Carroll won the second 'GP2' race at Imola.

The grid, after Saturday, started in 'reverse' order, forcing race-1 victor Heikki Kovalainen to fight through the field to the podium (third).

Former Minardi driver Gianmaria Bruni finished fourth for Coloni, ahead of sixth placed Nelson Piquet Jr.

Ralf's 'perfect pitstop'
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) Toyota vowed to appeal the stewards' decision to penalize Ralf Schumacher for an incident in Imola's pitlane.

In the battle for the final point, the Cologne-based team released their man in front of Williams' Nick Heidfeld, who explained how he had to 'brake hard' to avoid a crash.

But Toyota principal Tsutomu Tomita said the relevant regulation's wording is 'vague.'

''(And) a number of similar incidents ... have gone unpunished.''

Ralf's 25-second penalty, the equivalent of a drive through, moved him from eighth at the flag to eleventh.

Clearly, though, 'Schu Jr' rejected the stewards' view that the move had been 'unsafe.'

''We had such a perfect pitstop,'' the 29-year-old German - before the penalty was applied - commented, ''so a big thanks to all the guys.''

Imola 'til 2009
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) Imola will remain on Bernie Ecclestone's F1 calendar until 2009.

Despite speculation forecasting the demise of the ageing San Marino grand prix venue, the first of two annual races in Italy, it was confirmed on Sunday that SAGIS - the promoter - has agreed a deal with the 'supremo'.

It is also reported that the historic 'Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari' will be resurfaced, and security re-vamped.

Imola, near Bologna, has hosted the pinnacle of motor sport since 1980.

'Flav' to block new quali
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) Renault's Flavio Briatore sided with McLaren in vowing to block an immediate change to qualifying.

The Italian told 'RAI' television that scrapping the 'aggregate' system, although unpopular, might give 'advantages' to the opposition.

''So (for the moment) we keep it,'' the team principal said at Imola.

Installing a new qualifying system would require unanimity.

Critics muted, for now
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) Imola, where he returned to the pace, will - for a while - mute Jacques Villeneuve's critics.

But the Canadian insisted his smile in northern Italy had nothing to do with 'proving' himself.

''In a week or two, after another bad day, the rumors will start again,'' he shrugged.

''This will just make things easier internally. I've had a hell of a time so far this year.''

Teammate Felipe Massa, however, moved to temper Jacques' celebration by claiming that - had he, like JV, started further up the grid - Sauber would be cheering more than a sixth place.

''If you compare our pace,'' said the young Brazilian, ''I (would have) done a really good result.''

Bernie would rather be Frank
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) Believe it or not, Bernie Ecclestone would rather be Frank Williams.

The 74-year-old and billionaire F1 'supremo' - who used to run Brabham - owned up to envying team bosses like the knighted Sir Frank, or McLaren chief Ron Dennis.

''They go to Imola and know if they've done well,'' Ecclestone told The Independent.

''(But) in (my) job, everything is long-term.''

Mr. Ecclestone (real first name Bernard), though, says that - unlike them - he wouldn't be jealous. ''A lot of what's going on now,'' he said, referring to the GPWC affair, ''stems from the fact that they are terribly jealous.''

Imola sparked 'new' F1 era
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.25) The final twelve laps at Imola heralded a 'new era' in Formula One.

Fernando Alonso, the young charger on a road to novel glory, coolly fended off every trick in the book tried by Michael Schumacher -- the old guard.

Alonso, 23, isn't sure he sees it like that.

''I think we just had a fight,'' he shrugged. ''One fight and nothing much more.''

Indeed, had Kimi Raikkonen's silver McLaren not broken down, the epic 'Alonso v. Schumacher' might have been a modest run to second and third.

Seven time champion Schumacher, too, is keen to play down the significance of failing to muscle past the mere winner of four grands prix.

''The only difference between then and now is that Fernando has a car he can compete with.

''It's not a secret that myself, Fernando and Jenson (Button) are good drivers, and there are others, like Kimi.

''If they have the right car, they fight.''

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