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

Designer leaves Williams
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.26) Williams' chief designer, Gavin Fisher, will leave the under-performing Oxfordshire team next month.

He will be replaced by Jorg Zander, BAR's current transmission chief engineer, who has also worked for Toyota, in world rallying, GT and touring cars.

''I believe we have set the foundation for one of the strongest technical teams in formula one,'' said Williams' co-owner and director of engineering, Patrick Head.

Jorg's first real work will be developing the Cosworth V8-powered FW28. The car will be Williams' first without a works BMW engine since 1999, when the Grove team ran with Supertec power.

Meanwhile, Williams said it had concluded an investigation into the five Turkish right rear tire failures, coming to the conclusion that set-up, bodywork and tire deflection was seemingly to blame.

''A number of precautionary changes have been made to the car,'' a statement read, ''(and) engineers are confident the team will not experience a repeat of the problems.''

Heidfeld denies '06 deal
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.29) Nick Heidfeld has denied weekend speculation that a deal to drive for BMW's new works team in 2006 is already signed.

The German, a season standout for the BMW-powered Williams team this year, could stay put at Grove if Sir Frank Williams takes up a contract option, move with BMW to Hinwil, and is linked to BAR-Honda.

A two-year BMW deal was mooted, even though earlier reports suggested that 28-year-old 'Quick Nick' had signed a similar agreement with BAR.

''I can assure you now that no decisions have been made,'' Heidfeld said on Monday.

10,000 watch Alonso in Moscow
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.29) 10,000 Russians turned out to watch Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella rev up Moscow on Sunday with their Renault F1 car.

The Itar-Tass news agency reported that throngs of onlookers massed the Moskvoretsky Bridge near the famous Kremlin, and Fisichella reportedly told the MosNews publication that speeds of 200km/h were reached.

Another Russian news agency, Interfax, said the Roman driver complained that 'spectators were standing too close.'

RIA Nivisti, meanwhile, reported that Renault's latest Russian trip is 'tied in to the launch of new packaging for Mild Seven cigarettes.'

Lining up to buy F1
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.29) Up to six separate groups are believed to be vying to buy formula one.

One of them, it is reported by The Business newspaper, has approached Rupert Murdoch's satellite TV company BSkyB, whose executive - James Murdoch - told the US and British consortium that he was open to talks.

Hong Kong conglomerate Tom Group is a separate bidding group, The Business added, and there may be up to five others.

In the Sunday Telegraph, Robin Saunders' private equity company was rumored to be one of the five. Elsewhere, a 'Russian billionaire' was named as another keen to snap up three banks' 75 per cent SLEC stake.

It is believed that two of the banks would sell immediately but the third is reluctant, even going so far as to block potential buyers from doing due diligence tests.

No record for Albers
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.29) F1 driver Christijan Albers failed to break the circuit record at Zandvoort on Sunday with his 2004-spec Minardi car.

77,000 turned up to watch the Dutch round of DTM, where Albers had been tipped to eclipse Luca Badoer's record time.

''I didn't really expect to break (the record),'' he smiled, ''but being the fastest Dutchman isn't bad I guess.''

The rookie had traveled to the Netherlands from Monza, where he completed Minardi's rare test at the Italian venue.

''We made a big step forward,'' he had enthused about the pre-Italian GP run, despite going fifteenth fastest out of 15 on Friday and not feeling 100 per cent well.

Alonso leaves Monza on top
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.29) In a drop or two of rain, and in the absence of McLaren, Renault's Fernando Alonso ended the bumper pre-race Monza test on top of the times.

The title leading Spaniard outpaced his teammate, Giancarlo Fisichella, and runners for BAR, Toyota, Ferrari, Red Bull, BMW-Williams, Sauber, Jordan and Minardi.

Alonso's quickest time, though, still trailed the earlier McLaren pace of Juan Pablo Montoya by a significant six tenths of a second.

It was the last time Sauber will test in the 2005 season, with Ferrari engines, and with Ferrari-bound Felipe Massa.

Toyota, for the first time, ran last week with a 'development' car, although Jarno Trulli - fourth on Friday - doesn't really expect to set the grand prix pace.

''Some of the opposition,'' the Italian admitted, ''seem very quick.''

Even slower this week was Cologne cohort Olivier Panis, whose V8 engine - which failed and sent him into a 320km/h spin at one point - left him around 6 seconds sluggish.

The Frenchman said of the 2006 unit: ''The torque in the middle of the rev range is where you notice the main difference.''

Takuma Sato's 'Suzuka special' Honda development, meanwhile, similarly blew up on Friday.

Rossi says he'll test again
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.29) MotoGP sensation Valentino Rossi says he will test Ferrari's formula one car for a third time.

The 26-year-old Italian, sensationally linked with a future switch to the top four wheeled category after twice testing at Fiorano, hinted at a run at Mugello or Barcelona.

''In order to understand if I can indeed be competitive,'' Rossi told the Repubblica newspaper, ''I must also run on a more challenging track.''

Although the Rossi-to-F1 speculation boiled to melting point at the weekend's Czech round of MotoGP, the flamboyant rider continued to play a straight face. ''(Ferrari) called me,'' he revealed, 'and I didn't let such an opportunity slip me by.''

Rossi is reported to have come within 2 seconds of a Michael Schumacher-lap of Fiorano, and was able to predict what changes engineers had made to the setup.

Asked if he thought he drove the F2004 quick enough, 'Vale' replied: ''Yes, I could be fast in formula one as well.''

Zanardi returns to top step
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.29) Alex Zanardi has defied the odds by returning to the very top step of a motor racing podium.

The Italian, who in 2001 nearly died in a Champ Car shunt that cost him both legs, won a World Touring Car race in Oschersleben. It is his first triumph since 1998, the year before he tried to reignite his F1 career by driving for Frank Williams' team.

Zanardi, now 38, races a hand controlled BMW 320i. He led every lap of the Oschersleben race but only just pipped Andy Priaulx.

And, in true Zanardi style, he did a series of victory 'donuts' after taking the checker.

It was a busy weekend for ex-F1 stars in other racing categories. In American IRL, former Toyota tester Ryan Briscoe incensed his rivals by crashing into female driver Danica Patrick - who called Briscoe an 'idiot' on the radio - and also Helio Castroneves.

''It was totally my mistake,'' said the Australian.

Former Jordan driver Timo Glock, meanwhile, handed Champ Car victory to Oriol Servia in Montreal after officials told him to move over after illegally 'blocking'.

''We gave Timo a warning,'' said the US series' Tony Cotman, ''(but) he did it again.''

BMW-less Williams 'can win'
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.29) Mark Webber reckons Williams can win grands prix even without a 'big manufacturer' in the toolbox.

The Australian has confirmed that he will stay under Sir Frank Williams' Oxfordshire based wing next season despite the loss of works BMW power.

''We could have a reliable, solid little package so we could (win),'' said the 28-year-old.

Williams have penned a one year customer deal with fellow British company Cosworth, who - although no longer with the financial clout of a major carmaker like Ford - have a rich history of success in F1 with V8s.

Webber said: ''We've seen massive manufacturers work well and also see them get it wrong.

''There's an argument that you want a big manufacturer, we haven't got it, so let's move on.''

Schu stories squashed
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.29) Michael Schumacher's brow furrowed when, at Monza, reporters asked him about the rumors that see him either at McLaren or in retirement by the end of 2006.

''I don't know why I have to repeat myself so often,'' said the 36-year-old, whose current deal runs out next year.

''Nothing has changed. I am a Ferrari driver and I want to stay here for a long time.''

In reality, the speculation should not be about switches to silver camps, but simply about whether he wants to drive at all. Some cynics say the McLaren link was fabricated by Willi Weber so as to drive up his Ferrari salary.

Schumacher has another theory. ''Perhaps Mercedes want to disturb Ferrari ... ?''

Certainly, the word out of McLaren is no longer hazy. ''Michael Schumacher is not going to come here,'' Ron Dennis insisted to a Finnish newspaper.

Of the Kimi Raikkonen-to-Ferrari link, Dennis - McLaren's chief - added: ''I hope he drives with us forever.''

Schumacher, for sure, will not drive forever. In fact, at the Monza test, he admitted that he has not yet decided what he'll do post-'06.

But the German added: ''I cannot imagine setting a date for my last grand prix, as I am still having so much fun.''

Africa GP layout revealed
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.29) A likely circuit layout for the probable 2009 African grand prix in Cape Town has been revealed.

Autosport published a detailed design of a 17-corner Hermann Tilke-penned circuit that features both slow corners, and a twisty - but high speed - latter section.

The South African bidding consortium's David Gant said a contract with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone could be signed by the end of this year.

Turkey's no Spa - Trulli
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.29) Jarno Trulli has baulked at claims that Turkey's new F1 layout is in the same league as Suzuka, or the fabled 'Spa' in Belgium.

Toyota's Italian driver called the Hermann Tilke-penned 'Otodrom' 'interesting', but can't figure out why much of the pitlane so lauded the 5.3km circuit.

''I found it quite simple to learn and to drive,'' he said.

Trulli said that, unlike some of the truer drivers' circuits on the calendar, a good time in Turkey was 'more down to the car.

''I like circuits where the driver has a bigger part to play.''

Button and Bruce Willis
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.29) Jenson Button's ex-fiancÚ is on the road to getting over her lost love.

The 27-year-old English girl and budding pop star, who was dumped by BAR-driving Button three months before their wedding, has reportedly hooked up with Hollywood action movie hero Bruce Willis.

Willis, star of Die Hard, The Sixth Sense and Pulp Fiction - and a father of three - met Griffiths in St Tropez this month, UK tabloid Sunday Mail said.

'I haven't changed' - DC
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.29) David Coulthard has denied that he has changed since switching from McLaren to Red Bull this year.

The experienced Scot, who will also drive for the energy drink-owned team next year, said the seemingly more relaxed and laid back difference is in the team culture.

''I'm still exactly the same person,'' 33-year-old DC told ITV.

He said the problem with openness, humor and controversy at McLaren is the team's many owners and sponsors.

Coulthard revealed: ''You have to be more considered when you say something (there).''

Red Bull, though, is owned and sponsored, effectively, by one man -- billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz. Moreover, the Austrian was thought to have explicitly told David to relax and grind off a harder edge. A stubble beard, it is thought, was one result.

''If he is not happy,'' David added, ''I know (he) will tell me.''

Schu can't win 'em all
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.29) Michael Schumacher has denied that a lack of success in 2005 has soured his affection for Ferrari.

The German, who has won five of his seven drivers' titles in a scarlet car, said the Maranello marque 'will be great again.

''As in life, you can't always win, and we know this.''

But at Monza, the 36-year-old warned, there will be no miracle turnaround. Whilst testing at the Italian venue last week Schumacher admitted that Bridgestone's 'tire problems' are still 'not solved.'

Where he does not have problems, Michael insists, is in the make up of the Ferrari team. With all the Kimi Raikkonen and Valentino Rossi gossip, Schumacher said he'd be happy with either. ''I have never selected a teammate,'' the 'number one' insisted.

Asked about MotoGP champion Rossi, Michael answered: ''I don't really answer hypothetical questions but I consider (the likelihood of his F1 switch) to be pretty vague.''

Where Schumacher's manager, Willi Weber, might clash with Ferrari over a new 2007-and-beyond contract, is on the subject of money.

It is reported that Weber is chasing a $6m pay rise.

''Absolute nonsense,'' the manager fumed.

Michael, meanwhile, is concerned that top speeds at Monza this year - in excess of 370km/h for Williams' Mark Webber, for example - are too high.

''Going into the second (chicane),'' he said of the scene of a marshall fatality in 2000, ''(Monza) is not very safe.''

'Flav' denies team orders
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.29) Flavio Briatore has denied that Renault imposed illegal team orders in the Turkish grand prix.

Title rival McLaren's test driver Pedro de la Rosa was the most publicly outspoken after Giancarlo Fisichella allegedly let Renault team leader Fernando Alonso pass in the Istanbul race's early laps.

''If others think they need to try and pressure us by saying that, then it is a good sign,'' Briatore - the team principal - said on Monday.

Moreover, 'Flav' said Renault allow pit-to-car radio transmissions, like the one heard in Istanbul, to be aired because the Enstone based outfit 'have nothing to hide.

''Giancarlo is a team player. When Fernando got alongside him, he didn't fight his teammate.

''It is not about team orders,'' Briatore concluded, ''it is about working as a team.''

Asked what Fisichella's goals were for the remaining five races of 2005, the Roman driver replied: ''To try to help Renault win both championships.''

Unlike at recent grands prix, meanwhile, Renault's task against McLaren appears a little less difficult for Monza. Although the blue and yellows struggled for engine power in the past, its 2005 V10 - so crucial on the super fast Autodromo Nazionale - is now as mighty as any rival team's.

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