Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
June 29, 2005

Michelin give F1 fans refund
(GMMf1NET -- Jun.29) In a $15 million move, disgraced F1 tire supplier Michelin will refund fans' tickets to last Sunday's grand prix fiasco.

The French company, partner to seven of the sport's ten teams, said no to racing without a chicane at Indy after tire failures in practice.

Michelin called the refund, also suggested by FIA president Max Mosley, a 'gesture of goodwill,' for which it is not legally bound.

The move does, though, precede Wednesday's meeting of the FIA world council, where the seven Michelin shod teams face sanctions for contributing to the 14-car no-show.

In a statement, 'Bibendum' also vowed to pay for 20,000 tickets, at a cost of about $2m, to next year's grand prix.

However, the F1 tire supplier's goodwill turned to acrimony as it slammed the FIA for scolding partner teams.

''On ... June 19,'' read the statement, ''(the FIA) had all the means necessary to preserve the interest of the race.''

Chairman Edouard Michelin, in a scathing letter to Mosley, also hit out at 'inappropriate allegations' about the firm's approach to F1.

''Such (allegations) ... may have damaging consequences on Michelin's reputation,'' he wrote.

Formula Frantic in July
(GMMf1NET -- Jun.29) Brace yourself for an unprecedented stretch of Formula One action.

For the first time in the sport's fifty five year history, a single month - July - is set to stage four grands prix.

The tour starts in France, winds through Britain, and comes to a climax in Germany and Hungary.

''Such time constraints add extra pressure,'' Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne insisted.

''Race personnel barely have time to find their feet as they move around Europe,'' he added, ''and ... staff at the factory ... must work at quadruple the rate to develop the car.''

Magny Cours also marks the start of the second half of 2005's longest ever GP calendar.

Mercedes' Norbert Haug agrees that the 19-grand prix schedule is demanding 'huge efforts' from everybody in F1.

''In July alone,'' the German continued, ''40 points in the drivers' championship and 72 points in the constructors' ... can be won.

''That shows how fast everything can change in the ... championship.''

Kimi eyes French feat
(GMMf1NET -- Jun.29) McLaren ace Kimi Raikkonen rolls into France confident of renewing his attack on Fernando Alonso's Formula One title lead.

The Finn, 25, reportedly had to be 'almost physically' held back from Indianapolis' shunned grid as he closes the 22-point gap to his Renault rival.

Kimi said: ''There are as many points available in the second half of the season as in the first.

''I hope to start taking them in Magny Cours.''

Boosting Raikkonen's poise is the fact that his MP4-20, although quick anywhere and now a shade better than the Renault, suits high downforce.

Colombian teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, though, has warned KR to brace for a fight in France.

''My wish,'' the 29-year-old said, ''is to do what I did in Canada -- challenge for victory.''

Toyota pull plug on IRL
(GMMf1NET -- Jun.29) Toyota is steering away from open wheel racing in the United States.  The Japanese carmaker said it would withdraw from the Indy Racing League series after 2006.

Toyota moved into the US cockpit in 1994.

''This (is) simply a decision to move in a different direction,'' said a senior vice president, J. Davis Illingworth.

A statement said the marque, with an estimated $400m annual budget in Formula One, would now review how to 're-allocate' the freed-up resources.

Indy 'embarrassing' - JB
(GMMf1NET -- Jun.29) Jenson Button says he was 'disappointed' and 'embarrassed' to be a part of Formula One's Indianapolis calamity.

On a trip to tennis' Wimbledon tournament in England, the BAR driver offered a 'very big sorry' to ill treated American F1 addicts.

''I was disappointed not to race,'' the 25-year-old told the BBC, ''and disappointed for the fans who turned up to see a race.

''I was very embarrassed by the situation.''

Button, though, defended Michelin and the seven teams' decision to pull into pitlane on the warm-up lap, but lamented that most of the crowd 'didn't know what was going on.'

''It would have been silly to race with the tires we had,'' JB - hinting at widespread tire problems in pitlane - insisted.

''I hope we can go back and put on a good show next year.''

'Middle of nowhere'
(GMMf1NET -- Jun.29) Few F1 drivers are likely to answer 'Magny Cours' to a query about their favorite circuit.

And, after the Red Bull team blasted France and the local town of Nevers, Toyota - to unleash Frenchman Olivier Panis in the 'Friday' third car - followed suit by agreeing that the rural track is 'in the middle of nowhere.'

About 300km south of Paris, Magny Cours is characterized by fast chicanes and a silky smooth asphalt, that is especially sensitive to temperature.

''It's not my favorite track of the year,'' Ralf Schumacher - who won two years ago but sat out the last French GP with an injury - admitted.

''Magny Cours does not pose any unique challenges to the driver.''

However, overtaking is a very real possibility in the hard braking zone from over 300kmh for the tight 'Adelaide' chicane.

''But the rest of the circuit is quite slow,'' said Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve, 1997 champion.

Another driving highlight, meanwhile, is the first sector, encompassing the super-quick 'Estoril' sweeper.

Felipe Massa added: ''I like the quick 'ess' chicane after that. But the last section is a bit Mickey Mouse.''

'F1 rival had Indy advantage'
(GMMf1NET -- Jun.29) Bridgestone enjoyed a head start in preparation for the ultimately calamitous US grand prix.

That, in a letter to its seven partner teams, is the furtive contention of disgraced F1 tire supplier Michelin.

In the email correspondence with teams including McLaren and Renault, the French company explained that it was surprised by the nature of Indianapolis' resurfaced asphalt.

Michelin said Bridgestone, through US brand Firestone, 'participated in the Indianapolis 500,' thus imparting experience of the newly 'diamond ground' banking.

''(Michelin) ... needed to make several assumptions about the surface,'' it declared.

No London F1 parade this year
(GMMf1NET -- Jun.29) London will not host a repeat of last year's pre-British grand prix 'F1 parade' on Regent Street.

''Not as far as I know,'' a spokesman for the Crown Estate, owner of most of the famous English street, told Autosport.

He added: ''I'm sure we would be aware of any plans.''

Hundreds of thousands of F1 fans thronged to Regent Street last July to see their heroes, including Nigel Mansell, fill London with tire smoke.

At the time, the city's West End was mooted as a possible 'street circuit' alternative for the Silverstone grand prix.

Sun to shine on French GP
(GMMf1NET -- Jun.29) Magny Cours should bask in sunshine for Sunday's French grand prix.

Although a shower or two is expected for local driver Olivier Panis' one-off appearance, any remaining Saturday cloud is expected to pass for a warm 32-degrees (c).

''It would have been a big shame to go through the entire weekend without a French driver,'' Panis, 38, said.

Australia's Mark Webber, 28, is also a big fan of the secluded region in rural France.

''The weather is usually good at Nevers,'' said the 28-year-old Williams driver, ''and the feel of the weekend is quite relaxed and low key.''

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