Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
August 2, 2005

Button defends 'integrity'
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.2) Jenson Button took the rare step on Monday of issuing a personal statement after 'Buttongate II' revved into top gear in Hungary.

It is in reaction to press reports identifying his desire to disregard a 2006 Williams contract with his lack of 'honesty and integrity.'

The statement said the BAR racer, in China this week on PR duty, is 'particularly upset' that Sir Frank Williams indicated they have not yet met face to face for talks.

JB's management revealed that a meeting took place on 12 July, where Frank Williams said: 'From what you are saying it sounds like you don't want to be here next season'.

Jenson replied: 'No, I don't.'

The statement questioned the 'validity' of the contract, but confirmed that Button, 25, was actually paid by Williams in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004.

As well as Bernie Ecclestone, though, Frank has found more support in the form of McLaren boss Ron Dennis, who says Button should honor his word.

''If I try to find a way to resolve (a contract),'' he said, ''it is behind closed doors.

''The negotiation of a mutually agreed settlement is not the subject of public debate.''

Ferrari on August track
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.2) While the other teams honor a voluntary August ban on testing, Ferrari returned to the Monza (Italy) circuit on Monday morning for a four day run.

Luca Badoer covered 110 laps.

Ferrari boss Jean Todt had explained that the test, to be followed by a further session on the private Fiorano circuit, is to 'prepare the tires for Turkey and Monza.'

Pole and early pace might have been an improvement for Michael Schumacher and the Scuderia in Hungary, but the French principal said there is much work to go to get up to speed with Michelin clad rivals.

''We are better (than before) in qualifying now,'' Todt said, ''and better at the beginning of the race. The next step is to maintain that pace.''

With regards to the titles, though, he is less optimistic.

''If this was February, then we would be full of hope,'' Jean explained. ''But we are thirteen races into the season.''

Driver summit 'constructive'
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.2) Max Mosley held a 'constructive' meeting with up to fourteen F1 drivers in the south of France.

On Monday, the group discussed lagging safety at tests, 2008 regulations, the granting of super licenses, overtaking and qualifying formats.

''(It) was very constructive,'' said the FIA president in Nice.

''The discussions covered a wide range of topics.''

It is believed that the biggest news to be passed on was that team bosses have vowed to share the financial burden, perhaps as much as $620,000 every year, of improving the level of safety and medical facilities at tests.

Herbert to keep racing
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.2) Johnny Herbert will not hang up his helmet despite snaring a management job at F1 team Jordan.

The former grand prix winner says his role, mending broken relations with the press, will not get in the way of his on-track ambitions, like a shot at the US's NASCAR circuit.

''It's something I have been working on for a year,'' Herbert, 41, revealed. ''Racing is still part of my life.''

The Romford-born star, who last competed in F1 for Jaguar in 2000, also denied that he wants to test the Jordan.

He added: ''It's been spoken about but I don't think it should be (what) I am trying to do.''

Always-chirpy Herbert said he does not see his new yellow shirt as a ticket to a spot further up the F1 management chain.

''I don't think I am the right character to take control of a team,'' Johnny admitted.

Ferrari to let Rubens go
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.2) Ferrari will not prevent Rubens Barrichello from leaving the team at the end of the season.

As speculation of a BAR switch heated up in Hungary, scarlet principal Jean Todt said he would now stage an urgent meeting with the Brazilian driver 'to make him happy.

''If Rubens tells me he would be happier somewhere else,'' said the diminutive chief, ''then I want to ... make him happy.''

Todt hinted that the Barrichello situation is something of a priority for him.

He added: ''It ... will happen in the coming days.''

A prized commodity inside Ferrari is the apolitical and harmonious environment; something obviously threatened by 33-year-old Rubens' purported desire to leave.

Indeed, the experienced racer told Gazzetta dello Sport that Nelson Piquet's Hungarian bombshell has 'created problems' in the team.

Jean Todt now replies: ''I give priority to things that make us win -- I'm not interested in pressure and tension.''

Door 'still open' for Sato
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.2) Takuma Sato will find himself with lots of time to spend with his first child next year if current speculation about his future at BAR turns out to be true.

The 28-year-old Japanese appears to be on the bad end of 'silly season' banter at present, after a year spent underperforming alongside Brackley teammate Jenson Button.

BAR CEO Nick Fry denied talk that Sato's job has 'gone already.'

''Far from it,'' the Briton added in Hungary, ''(but) he does need to put in decent performances for the rest of the year.

''The door is still open.''

Sato's is an interesting spot in the F1 paddock. Many believe his job is 'protected' by Honda, now a part owner of the Formula One squad.

But Fry insisted: ''We've got to have two drivers that can regularly score points, it's as simple as that.''

Even with 'Buttongate II' in full swing, a driver announcement at BAR is anticipated within the next month.

New quali 'agreed' - reports
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.2) A radical new qualifying system will be installed for the start of the 2006 season, it is reported.

Several media outlets claim that team bosses have now agreed to scrap the current single-lap format in favor of a sort of 'knockout' competition, which gives each driver a maximum of four laps.

The first lap will be completed in an initial 15-minute period, when - at the end - the five slowest cars are eliminated and locked in positions sixteen through twenty.

A second quarter-hour will determine grid slots 11 to 15, before a final shootout for pole and the top spots. A five minute gap is to separate each block of action.

The format will probably be run with low fuel, but David Coulthard has already emerged as an opponent of what he describes as yet another 'handicap system' in motor racing.

''I don't agree with that,'' said the Scot.

''I'm surprised Minardi and Jordan are agreeing to it -- they will be the first ones out and will get no TV (exposure).''

Indy-like farce avoided
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.2) Champ Car avoided an Indy-like F1 farce at the weekend despite turning up at the new, and near-unusable, San Jose circuit.

Drivers complained that the street layout was bumpy and narrow, and that a lack of runoff - and obstacles like rail tracks - made it too dangerous.

In response, the organizers and circuit came up with a novel solution -- a chicane. They also moved back walls and fences, and patched up sections of the bumpy asphalt.

Eventual winner Sebastien Bourdais contrasted Champ Car's handling of the situation with the recent six-car US grand prix disaster.

''Whoever is responsible,'' the Frenchman told Speed TV, ''it doesn't matter. You have a duty to the fans. The difference is (we) made it possible.''

Another key difference, though, is that - in the Champ Car scenario - circuit changes were in the interest of the entire field, not one group.

At Indianapolis in June, the erection of a chicane was vetoed by the governing body because it would unfairly have penalized Bridgestone-shod teams, who had no problem safely steering through the banked oval corner.

Turkey GP 'nearly sold out'
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.2) Turkey's first grand prix, to be raced later this month, is nearly sold out.

The local 'Zaman Daily Newspaper' quoted Istanbul Chamber of Commerce president Murat Yalcintas as letting it slip on a final examination of the new $187 million circuit.

''Most of the tickets have already been sold,'' the Zaman report said.

Yalcintas added: ''The contribution of this track to Turkey's promotion is tremendous. It is one of the biggest investments for Turkey.''

The circuit is located in Tuzla, outside Istanbul city centre.

F1 can also brace for another Budapest-like sizzler at the inaugural Turkish GP. On Tuesday, a top of 32-degrees is expected, but temperatures should slip even higher this month.

'Ferrari back on track'
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.2) After a period in reverse, Michael Schumacher says Ferrari took a 'step in the right direction' at Budapest last weekend.

He scored the team's first pole of the season and crossed the line second in the thirteenth race of an otherwise near fruitless season for the champion marque.

''From where we were (at Hockenheim), to here,'' said Schumacher, 36, ''we're happy.

He added: ''It's been a hard job in the last few months so this is at least a little present for everyone's effort.''

The crux of the speed-up was a brand new Bridgestone compound, and favorable (hot) weather for single lap performance. The tire, though, still didn't stay fast for the entire grand prix.

Germany's Schumacher admitted: ''As soon as I knew the McLarens were gone, I started to look after them a bit.

''Anyway, it's a step in the right direction. We still have to improve, work even harder, and see if we have found a trend rather than just a good package for one track.''

Liuzzi to try MotoGP bike
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.2) Everyone knows that Red Bull is keen on the occasional driver swap.

The energy drink-owned F1 team will, though, take the concept to a new level when current 'Friday' driver Tonio Liuzzi swaps his mount with Suzuki MotoGP rider John Hopkins.

Hopkins, the Red Bull sponsored American, will try the 'RB1' grand prix charger at Snetterton (UK), ahead of Liuzzi's go on the MotoGP monster.

''Tonio is a big fan of bikes,'' Red Bull boss Christian Horner told Autosport of the special event.

Klien set for Turkey, Monza
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.2) Christian Klien will retain his race seat at least to the Italian grand prix checker next month, Red Bull said on Tuesday.

In a statement citing 'recent speculation in the media,' the Dietrich Mateschitz owned squad confirmed that the young Austrian had also been given a guaranteed ride for Turkey and Monza.

It will extend Klien's recent run to six grands prix, after 'Friday' tester Vitantonio Liuzzi raced four times between Imola (April) and Nurburgring (May).

In total, Klien will have steered eleven races to Liuzzi's four by the end of Monza, with four still to run.

Liuzzi, the reigning F3000 champion, will remain 'Friday' driver throughout Klien's next stint, the Milton Keynes based team also confirmed.

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