Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
May 11, 2005

Nick blinks at Button talk
(GMMf1NET -- May.11) Williams' Nick Heidfeld has shrugged off talk that he will likely be replaced for 2006.

Unlike teammate Mark Webber, the 28-year-old German is on a one-year contract and will - speculation says - get the chop if Jenson Button completes his much vaunted switch from BAR back to Grove.

''I don't feel under any pressure,'' the former Prost and Sauber star told Britain's Evening Standard newspaper.

Until now, 'Quick Nick' has raced knowing that test driver Antonio Pizzonia would take over if he didn't perform.

But Heidfeld, from the go, vowed simply to drive quickly.

Indeed, Nick - from Moenchengladbach - reckons that with a grand prix win in the bag, boss Sir Frank Williams would be loath to dump him.

He admitted: ''If you don't perform then you're out. But if I do well I will have no problems.''

F1 back in action
(GMMf1NET -- May.11) Formula One testing blasted off once again around Europe on Tuesday.

At Ferrari's private Fiorano (Italy) track, test driver Luca Badoer - to today hand over to Michael Schumacher - kicked off work ahead of Monaco.

The only other Tuesday action centered on the rarely used Vallelunga venue, also in Italy.

Grove-based Williams, running Antonio Pizzonia and - about a second slower - part time tester Andy Priaulx on Tuesday, intend a three day test there.

''(Vallelunga) bears the closest resemblance to Monaco,'' said test manager Tim Newton, who added that Williams is new to the circuit.

To commence on Wednesday, many teams - like McLaren, Toyota, Sauber and Renault - have traveled to Paul Ricard (France).

'I'm treated fairly' - Fisi
(GMMf1NET -- May.11) Giancarlo Fisichella has denied he is treated unfairly at title-leading team Renault.

After yet another letdown at Barcelona, this time while leading championship favorite and teammate Fernando Alonso, it was suggested that the Roman is not enjoying identical equipment.

''Everyone supports me,'' the 32-year-old told Autosport, ''and no one wants my car to break.''

Fisichella put it down to 'bad luck' that, while he failed to finish three races, Alonso ended on the podium each time.

Principal Flavio Briatore also cackled at speculation that he would order a superior car for protégé Alonso.

''It's much more difficult to make two different cars than ... two identical cars,'' the flamboyant Italian, 54, bristled.

'Don't write me off' - Schu
(GMMf1NET -- May.11) Write Ferrari off at your peril, seven time world champion Michael Schumacher has warned.

The German admitted that another failure to perform at Barcelona on Sunday put one more dent in a championship assault.

''But anyone who writes us off,'' he warned, ''doesn't know us.

''I'll say it again -- the season is long and there is a lot of room for things to happen.

''Of course, (Spain) wasn't the best thing for the title. But we are not out of the running.''

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen soared to Circuit de Catalunya victory, but his boss - Ron Dennis - vowed to keep the champagne tightly corked.

He remarked: ''Ferrari may find something, Bridgestone may come up with a better tire.

''What you mustn't do is underestimate your competition.''

What to say to a King
(GMMf1NET -- May.11) Question: what do you say to a King?

Or, on a Formula One podium in Spain, what did the King say to you?

''Nothing really special,'' Spain's man-of-the-moment Fernando Alonso said after finishing second at Barcelona.

''He said 'keep it up, because we enjoyed the race', something like that,'' Renault's 23-year-old revealed.

King Juan Carlos I, who once rode in McLaren's two-seater F1, also whispered a word in winning ace Kimi Raikkonen's ear.

''He came to see me before the race as well,'' said the Finn.

''He's a nice King.''

Wheldon and F1
(GMMf1NET -- May.11) Dan Wheldon. It's an English name likely to be heard more often in the Paddock of the future.

While he tears up the Indianapolis 500 practice track, the 26-year-old retains a lofty desire to make it to the pinnacle of racing.

He shares a manager, Julian Jakoby, with McLaren's former Indy 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya, who - despite the Colombian's absence at Bahrain and Imola - still met with several grand prix teams.

Wheldon countryman and DTM driver Gary Paffett, meanwhile, has outlined a similar desire to find a future on the Formula One grid.

''I know,'' he said in the German media, ''that I will some day drive in grands prix.''

Ferrari boss slams F1 rules
(GMMf1NET -- May.11) After aiming fire at Bridgestone, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo slammed F1's new rules.

The Italian, faced with the deepest scarlet crisis in a decade, said the sport is now too focused on tire performance.

''The championship is more for tires than for cars,'' he panned.

Maranello based Ferrari have not lost a drivers' title since 2000, or a constructors' trophy since 1999.

Di Montezemolo said the current rules are 'not suitable' for Formula One racing.

''(And they are) efficient in limiting our excessive power.''

But team principal Jean Todt urged against panic and pledged to work with Bridgestone to mount a challenge.

He insisted: ''It is obvious (the) new rules were interpreted better by our rivals.''

May 11
(GMMf1NET -- May.11) Alain Prost won McLaren's 50th grand prix exactly nineteen years ago (Monaco, May 11 1986).

In 1997, the fabled street race inside Monte Carlo - won by Ferrari's Michael Schumacher - was also held on May 11.

Finishing second was current Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello -- then in a Stewart.

Also in the field were five other drivers who still pedal at the pinnacle of motor sport.

A 24-year-old Giancarlo Fisichella finished sixth in a Jordan, while soon-to-be world champion Jacques Villeneuve (Williams), Ralf Schumacher (Jordan), Jarno Trulli (Minardi) and David Coulthard (McLaren) all crashed.

Montoya's injury upside
(GMMf1NET -- May.11) Juan Pablo Montoya's 'tennis'-induced injury did have a considerable upside, the 29-year-old McLaren driver revealed.

Sitting out Bahrain and Imola with a broken shoulder, the Colombian admitted at Barcelona, allowed him to spend the first few weeks of baby son Sebastian's life at home.

''The best thing,'' Montoya told f1.com, ''was that (he) was able to get to know his father.''

Wife Connie gave birth to their first child on April 11, a fortnight or so after Montoya's own hospital stopover.

''Normally the test program ... is so demanding that privacy gets a little short,'' Juan Pablo continued.

''So I really enjoyed being (at home).'

Even so, Montoya was glad to be back in his silver cockpit in Spain, and swung a forehand at any suggestion that fatherhood might quell the desire for speed and danger.

''I'm a racer,'' he said at Barcelona. ''Here is where I belong.''

Ralf's back - teammate
(GMMf1NET -- May.11) Ralf Schumacher has leapt back onto the pace, Toyota teammate Jarno Trulli reckons.

Trulli, sweaty and exhausted after Spain, praised the German's drive to fourth place in light of a problematic start to season '05.

''I had to fight so hard to keep ahead of him,'' podium-winner Trulli - who had a fiery scare during a pitstop - added.

''I wasn't going to let that (fire) stop me getting on the podium.''

But Jarno said Schumacher, the younger brother of F1's world champion and a six-year Williams veteran, 'also deserved' to spray some champagne.

''Ralf was really quick,'' JT continued, ''and (he) could have had the third place as well.

''I had to push all the time.

''It is why I think (Barcelona) was one of the best races of my career.''

BAR would have protested
(GMMf1NET -- May.11) BAR believe that six of its nine F1 team rivals also ran a potentially underweight car at Imola.

A document released publicly by the banned Brackley squad revealed how team manager Ron Meadows had, in the event that BAR's fuel system was deemed illegal at the circuit, prepared multiple protests.

''We believed,'' Ron wrote in a court submission, ''that (their) fuel systems ... were similar to ours ... and would have ... contained fuel after being weighed.''

He added, however, that no other car's fuel system - although near identical - was also checked by the FIA for illegality.

Meadows' protests, though, never saw light of day as stewards deemed the 007 system legal -- until the FIA appealed.

Alonso to win - Berger
(GMMf1NET -- May.11) Fernando Alonso or Kimi Raikkonen. World championship leader and last-start winner.

But who's the best of F1's new generation?

The Austrian 'Sport on Sunday' publication asked former ten time grand prix winner and driver, Gerhard Berger.

''They're completely distinct,'' the 45-year-old - also a former BMW motor sport director - said, ''but both first class.

''I think Alonso is capable of becoming the 2005 world champion.

''He is incredibly mature for his age and the way he kept Schumacher behind at Imola was impressive.

''He hardly makes a single mistake.''

Berger, meanwhile - who drove for Ferrari, McLaren and Benetton until 1997 and showed up in Barcelona - noted that, unlike Alonso, McLaren's Raikkonen often makes a mistake.

'''But he is also super-quick,'' Gerhard hastily said of the runaway Barcelona winner.

''Even if the McLaren is for now the quicker car, I think Alonso can maintain his ground.''

Wirdheim 'surprise'
(GMMf1NET -- May.11) A Champ Car is 'more challenging' to drive than its F1 counterpart.

That's the claim of former Jaguar 'third' driver Bjorn Wirdheim, who switched to the American based category for 2005.

''Compared to F1,'' the Swede - a former F3000 champion - revealed, ''the difference is huge.''

Wirdheim said his Lola Champ Car, prepared by the HVM team, is 'so much heavier' than the grand prix single seater.

''It's easier to control,'' he added, ''but needs more driver input without all the electronics or power steering.

''I think it's more challenging as you have to do all the shifting manually, blip the throttle, use the clutch.

''A Champ Car is very similar to a F3000 car.''

What he didn't really expect at the Long Beach opener, though, came in the drivers' briefing.

''That was the biggest surprise,'' Bjorn revealed, referring to a rule prohibiting on-track 'blocking'.

He added: ''That is totally different to the racing in Europe.''

Red KO in F1 fight?
(GMMf1NET -- May.11) Flavio Briatore is 'sad' that Ferrari appear out of the hunt for the 2005 championship.

''Having Ferrari at the front,'' the Renault principal said, ''is always good for F1.''

At Barcelona on the weekend, the duel was cast between Flavio's title leading Renault outfit, and McLaren's winning driver Kimi Raikkonen.

''I'm sad for (Ferrari),'' Flavio continued, ''but I'm convinced Michael (Schumacher) will win some time.''

That may be the case, Raikkonen's boss - Ron Dennis - agreed, but the world championship will soon be out of reach.

And, he hastily added, for McLaren, too.

''It's really not just about winning races now,'' Ron said. ''(Alonso) has got to have a few DNFs to curb his championship a bit, with us winning.''

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