F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 29, 2005

F1 action around Europe
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.29) Spanish test track Circuito de Jerez burst into F1 action on Thursday.

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, despite an engine failure - led a field of eight, also made up by Toyota, Renault and - slowest - Red Bull, whose Tonio Liuzzi crashed after an error.

''I lost it,'' the Italian admitted.

Renault, who switched from Silverstone after seeing an English weather forecast, gave Fernando Alonso a 'b' V10 to try.

Elsewhere, Ferrari's racing duo chased the lap time of Jenson Button at Mugello (Italy), with Minardi also in tow.

''We found some interesting things with the new aero package,'' said the BAR driver.

Enrique Bernoldi commented: ''It's such a fast and physical track.''

At sodden Silverstone, also attended by the locally based Jordan team (who tried a new gearbox), Williams' new tester Nico Rosberg set the pace.

Jacques Villeneuve, finally, got a day in the Sauber at Fiorano, and will next test in May at Paul Ricard (France).

''(Jacques) concentrated on in-depth setup work for most of the day,'' said engineer Mike Krack at the Ferrari track.

Learning how to crawl
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.29) Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran is learning how to crawl before he walks in Formula One.

The retired driver, a Brazilian, became BAR's new 'sporting director' a fortnight ago.

''I walked through the Imola gate with a clean sheet in my mind,'' he explained this week.

''I did not feel out of my depth.''

The ex-Champ Car champion did, though, refer to the 'complex' nature of a F1 team and weekend.

Does he think he'll adapt? ''It's early days,'' said Gil.

''I'm sure things will become clearer as the weekends roll on.''

One of de Ferran's main tasks is working with drivers Jenson Button and Takuma Sato -- but he won't, for example, be telling them where to brake.

''These are top flight professionals,'' Gil countered.

So will he start to 'walk' at Barcelona, scene of the next grand prix? ''I'm taking it step by step,'' de Ferran explained.

''In (Spain) I plan to do much the same as in Imola.''

Coulthard 'grabbed' Massa
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.29) Felipe Massa's Mum and Dad.

They're probably all that came between Sauber's young Brazilian ace and a black eye.

F1 veteran David Coulthard said he grabbed Massa by the throat after the grand prix in Imola.

''I saw red,'' Red Bull's Scot - who prevented 24-year-old Felipe from leaving the circuit in a rental car - told the Daily Mirror tabloid.

Massa had given DC 'the finger' after more than one clash on the Italian F1 circuit.

''I looked up,'' Coulthard recalled, ''and saw his parents were in the back (of the car). But he continued ranting that I had been unsporting.''

David once gave Michael Schumacher the finger (Magny Cours, 2000). ''I was angry ... and apologized afterwards,'' DC insisted.

''Massa had the chance ... but didn't.''

Mr. E, 'tennis' supremo
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.29) Formula One's Bernie Ecclestone wanted to become 'tennis supremo.'

The 74-year-old Briton and Godfather of modern grand prix racing revealed that he once looked into restructuring the game.

''I think (it) needs a complete change in the way it is run,'' he told The Independent.

''I talked to them but they weren't interested.''

Ecclestone, meanwhile - who has become a pal to billionaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich - denied he has ever contemplated trying soccer.

He said: ''Not football, no.''

Nick 'sits there' - Webber
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.29) Williams' Mark Webber has fumed at claims he should put the pedal to the metal in Formula One.

The Australian angrily told Sydney newspaper 'The Herald Sun' that he is doing 'absolutely everything' to make the BMW-powered car quicker.

''It's not at the level we want to be at,'' Webber, 28, explained.

Webber touched down in Melbourne in March amid expectation he could - in a Grove-built car - immediately emulate Williams' world champion of 1980, countryman Alan Jones.

Indeed, most of the recent criticism leveled at him has originated in the Aussie media.

But Mark Webber insisted he is doing a better job than his only real benchmark -- German teammate Nick Heidfeld.

''Nick just sits there (in a race),'' he marveled. ''I refuse to do that, settle for seventh or eighth. I'm going to try.''

The team's technical director, countryman Sam Michael, also leapt to Mark's defense. ''He is a first-rate racer and worker,'' he said.

''It's down to the team to provide him with a better car.''

Paul's one Alonso doubt
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.29) According to a former boss, Fernando Alonso has yet to demonstrate one key talent on the road to becoming a true F1 great.

''(He) does react to success,'' said Paul Stoddart, who gave a teenage Alonso, from Spain, his first F1 ride.

Lauding Alonso's talent and cool-under-pressure personality, the Minardi owner told Reuters that reigning champion Michael Schumacher's biggest strength is an ability to bounce back from a bad spell.

''From nowhere,'' Paul continued, ''(Schumacher will) just lift himself up and -- bang!''

Stoddart also denied that Alonso, although commanding the drivers' championship, is the 'next' Michael Schumacher.

''I think (Michael's) records are there to stay,'' he predicted.

Erja Hakkinen pregnant
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.29) Before long, double F1 champion Mika Hakkinen will also be a father of two.

The Finn's wife, Erja - whose husband retired from grands prix a year after first son Hugo was born - is again expecting.

Hakkinen, 36, returned to racing in 2005 in the German 'DTM' category.

But, despite an eighth place finish on debut, any chance of a better result for Hakkinen at Lausitz appears unlikely.

Given Mercedes' one-two-three finish at Hockenheim, all five C-Class drivers - including Hakkinen - will be penalized with 10kg of extra ballast.

''It will hardly be possible to score a result as good as in the season opener,'' Mercedes' Norbert Haug admitted.

Mika, Erja and four-year-old Hugo live in Monaco's 'Le Schuylkill' building in Monaco.

Resign, Max - Paul Stoddart
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.29) Unofficial 'group of nine' team spokesman, Minardi owner Paul Stoddart, has renewed a plea for Max Mosley to resign.

The Australian multimillionaire denied the interpretation that the disgruntled mob, including angry carmakers, 'have a problem' with the FIA or Mr. Ecclestone.

''All (we) want is independent governance,'' Stoddart said.

''We think (the governing body) should administer the regulations ... not make them.''

To blame, then, is Max -- the current man-at-the-wheel. Stoddart said every problem in F1 would vanish 'instantly' if the 60-odd-year-old hung up his hat and coat.

Paul said: ''The problem is Max.''

Toyota to struggle in Spain
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.29) Toyota are likely to endure another tricky grand prix at Barcelona.

That's the grim prediction of Ralf Schumacher, who has failed to match the pace of teammate Jarno Trulli in 2005.

Both struggled last weekend, as Cologne often do, at Imola.

Ralf, 29, said: ''On the other hand, Imola is Toyota's least favorite circuit yet both cars drove into the top-eight.''

'Schu Jr', though, lost the final point when stewards deemed a pitlane move against Nick Heidfeld overly dangerous.

He also revealed that Toyota had, like Renault, planned to travel to England to test, until the team saw a weather forecast.

Fisi's alright - Renault
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.29) After a stellar season start, F1 employer Renault has defended Giancarlo Fisichella's apparent slump.

Making it a trio of retirements, the widely regarded Roman smashed into the Tamburello barrier on lap-6 of Sunday's Imola event.

''A mechanical failure at the back of the car is suspected,'' a Renault report claimed.

Runaway championship leader Fernando Alonso, on the other hand, has enjoyed technical bliss.

''Giancarlo is doing a fine job,'' said engineering director Pat Symonds, ''and (is) driving as well as ever.''

Symonds, meanwhile, is undeterred despite Michael Schumacher's superior pace and gladiatorial challenge last Sunday.

''(Ferrari) had a car-tire combination,'' said Pat, ''that was better ... on that day.

''But it does not automatically follow they will have the same advantage in Spain.''

BAR face anxious weekend
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.29) Plagued by the apparent accusation of cheating, BAR face a troubling weekend of preparation for Wednesday's FIA appeal.

A spokeswoman spelt-out the team's position.

''We do not have a second fuel tank.''

Britain's Autosport magazine quoted a 'senior technical guy' who reckons the governing body once circulated a rule clarification that a car is only legal if above the minimum weight with no fuel on board.

''(And) it's been mentioned many times,'' he added.

Moreover, it's believed that BAR, in parc ferme, answered 'no' when asked if any additional fuel was being concealed in the '007' F1 model.

The tank in question, full of racing fuel, was then located.

Williams 'still a top team'
(GMMf1NET -- Apr.29) Sir Frank Williams has thrown an arm around his F1 drivers amid criticism of the team's not-good-enough start to 2005.

Grove farewelled both Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya at the end of last year.

''Mark (Webber) and Nick (Heidfeld) aren't as experienced,'' the team principal noted, ''but they work harder and are more passionate.''

At Imola, the duo greeted the checkered flag but failed - stewards' Toyota penalty apart - to earn a single point.

Wheelchair-bound Williams, though, insists he still runs a 'top team', although it seems to spend every year simply catching up.

''Once again,'' he admitted, ''our rivals have done a better job.''

Australian technical director Sam Michael, meanwhile, reckons the 'walrus nose' debacle of last year put the team back a full twelve months.

''(That) department has been restructured,'' he told f1.com.

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