Latest F1 news in brief
by Andrew Maitland
August 31,  2005

Title 'still open' - Kimi
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.30) Title underdog Kimi Raikkonen has vowed to keep charging towards rival Fernando Alonso's twenty four point lead.

Although Renault's Alonso points out that the real pressure is on the chasers, Raikkonen retorted that the battle is nonetheless 'still open.'

''Nobody knows what's going to happen until the last race in October,'' the 25-year-old Finn said ahead of Monza, the quickest race in F1.

While the drivers' crown looks a touch unlikely, there is some good news for the silver camp -- their MP4-20 car is undoubtedly the quickest in pitlane, and the gap in the carmakers' chase is just 9 points.

Kimi Raikkonen, nicknamed the 'iceman', insisted: ''The car has the pace to win, and I am not giving up the fight, so we shall see.''

McLaren's 'F1 CEO' Martin Whitmarsh agrees that both championships are still open, but admitted that Renault 'need to make some errors.'

''It's going to be an exciting seven weeks,'' he added.

The Woking based outfit also revealed that the car's distinctive 'mid roll hoop' winglets will be removed for the Italian grand prix.

Whitmarsh, though, said they'll be back for Spa and beyond.

F1 still Friesacher 'focus'
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.31) Patrick Friesacher has admitted that climbing back into a formula one cockpit will 'not be easy.'

But the Austrian rookie, who lost his Minardi drive to Robert Doornbos after his sponsorship stream ran dry, revealed that he will probably attend the weekend's Monza race - and maybe also Spa - to sniff out a 2006 opening.

''I am working on finding a cockpit for next year,'' Patrick said.

''My current focus is on formula one only. My time with the Minardi team was priceless and absolutely necessary to learn everything about the pinnacle of racing.''

Michelin 'better' - Massa
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.31) Pierre Dupasquier; Hisao Suganuma? Uniquely, there might actually be a man even better placed to muse F1's 'Michelin v. Bridgestone' tire war ahead of the grand prix at Monza.

Felipe Massa, to the chagrin of Michelin's Dupasquier, tried both brands on the high speed Italian circuit last week.

First, he got a sneak preview of his 2006 Ferrari-Bridgestone package when he piloted a scarlet car. Later, the 24-year-old Brazilian reverted back to his regular Sauber-Michelin combo.

Massa said Bridgestone can keep up with the leading Michelin rubber in quick bends like the Parabolica or Lesmos.

''(But) under braking,'' he reported, ''or in the slow curves and when accelerating - if you need traction - Michelin is better.''

If that's bad news for the Japanese camp for the weekend, it got even worse on one day at the test when Ferrari's Luca Badoer experienced a high speed left-rear tire failure. The specification he was testing, it is reported, was set to be introduced at the Italian grand prix.

Instead, technical manager Hisao Suganuma says the marque will again use the dismally slow Turkey-spec tire.

''(It) seemed to work well in the test,'' the Japanese shrugged.

Jordan to 'close gap'
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.31) Tiago Monteiro is hopeful that his luck in a coin toss will translate onto the Monza track.

The Portuguese won a toss, thrown by Jordan owner Alex Shnaider in Turkey, to determine whether Monteiro or teammate Narain Karthikeyan would get to debut the single 'b' car at the high speed race.

''It will not be the easiest track to race the new car,'' the 28-year-old said on Tuesday, ''but we'll deal with it.''

Although EJ15B was long delayed, it does - at least - now appear reliable, with new radiators working well at the test.

A disappointed Karthikeyan, meanwhile, will get his hands on a second 'b' racer in Belgium.

The Indian, also a rookie, added: ''I think we have closed the gap to the bigger teams (with EJ15B). It's a pity I lost the toss but I'll try to do my best with what I have.''

F1 'not for sale' - Bernie
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.31) Formula One is 'not for sale.' That's how supremo Bernie Ecclestone responded to reports of a billion dollar buyout.

In a signed statement issued by Formula One Management, the 74-year-old admitted that at least one 'approach' has been made to three banks that own 75 per cent of the SLEC company.

Bernie owns the rest.

Amid speculation that Ecclestone was pressured by the controlling banks to issue the statement, it read: ''The shareholders are long term investors and have the interest and stability of (F1) foremost in their mind.''

Although Bernie referred only to one 'approach,' up to six have been reported in the media, including names like BSkyB, Tom Group, a Russian billionaire and Robin Saunders' alleged $1.5bn offer.

Ecclestone's denial coincides with a crucial meeting in Milan on Wednesday involving the teams, carmakers and Max Mosley.

Rossi's dad wants F1 switch
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.31) Valentino Rossi's father, former 500cc rider Grazing, has added fuel to the Rossi-to-Ferrari fire by saying it would be 'fantastic' if his son made the four wheel switch.

Rossi Senior said the 26-year-old MotoGP sensation was 'very fast from the first lap' in his tests for the scarlet formula one champions.

''He knew immediately,'' Grazing Rossi added, ''how to drive the car quick enough.''

And, along with Schumacher - whose Fiorano lap record came within two seconds of being eclipsed by the two-wheeled champion - technical director Ross Brawn has lauded Rossi's recent run on the F1 test track.

''You can clearly see,'' the Briton told Auto, Motor Und Sport, ''that there is more than just fun (behind Rossi's motivation to do the tests).''

Monza in F1 ticket 'slump'
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.31) Monza is reporting a 15 per cent slump in ticket sales ahead of Sunday's Italian grand prix.

A year ago, 117,000 thronged through the Autodromo Nazionale's gates to see Rubens Barrichello win. Ferrari and Michael Schumacher had already wrapped up both drivers' and constructors' world championships.

''This (slump) is troubling us,'' Milan Automobile Club president Ludovico Grandi said.

Ferrari's winning drought (Indy aside), after five consecutive years of title triumph, is blamed for the lower attendance, as is the fact that Monza is hosting the race a week early this year.

The Monza test also recorded worryingly low attendance.

Grandi said that, while returns go down, 'costs are going up.' Monza attempted to stave off the attendance decline by lowering 2005 prices.

117,000 watched Barrichello's scarlet win last year, although falling well below the 2000 peak crowd of 160,000.

Davidson 'trusts' Jordan
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.31) It is increasingly likely that current BAR test driver Anthony Davidson will lead a rebranded Jordan team onto the grand prix grid next year.

The baby faced Englishman, who had hoped to race for Brackley based BAR after years of service on the reserve bench, is thought to have won the chance to race for 'Midland' despite not bringing a sackful of backing.

It is rumored that Benson & Hedges might continue with the team next year if a British driver is at the wheel.

''They basically know I'm around,'' he told the Irish Setanta publication.

''I'm available.''

Jordan, owned by Alex Shnaider but led by the caustic Colin Kolles, has taken a media battering in 2005. Links to a team sale, and the fact that little seems to have been invested, have led some to question whether Midland is serious about F1.

Davidson, however, insisted: ''I trust them.

''They are obviously in it for a reason and I think next year will probably be the 'full attack' they planned for.''

Former driver and Jordan 'sporting relations manager' Johnny Herbert, likewise, defended the yellow camp for keeping a low profile this year.

Referring to the fact that the team had to maintain the 'Jordan Grand Prix' identity in 2005, he told Autosport: ''You can't market Jordan because it's going to be no more.

''It's very hard to actually do a damned thing.''

Flav says Renault on F1 pole
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.31) Flavio Briatore has hit back at suggestions that Renault's Fernando Alonso may become 2005 champion despite not having the best formula one car.

The Enstone based team principal insisted that the record books say Renault has done a better job this season.

''Don't forget that Renault has won seven grands prix so far,'' he told the Spanish 'Marca' daily, ''and McLaren six.

''Figures are figures.

''We constructed our advantage in the first part of the season, when McLaren were not well enough prepared.''

Briatore, who said Renault's budget is 20 per cent smaller than the team's main rival, also offered veiled criticism of the silver marque's reliability record, suggesting that the Renault car, too, would be faster if engineers compromised car strength.

And Flavio insisted that he would never, perhaps like McLaren with Adrian Newey - or Mike Gascoyne, who switched from Renault to Toyota - dip too deep into the team's coffers for an engineer.

''I would never pay $5m (for one),'' said the Italian, who forks out a combined $18m for Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella. He exclaimed: ''Nobody is worth that much!''

''We prefer to work hard on our young people within the team. This works well for us.''

Turkey is F1's 'best' circuit
(GMMf1NET -- Aug.31) Jacques Villeneuve clearly does not agree with driving rival Jarno Trulli that Turkey's new 'Otodrom' grand prix circuit is not one of the most challenging on the calendar.

Indeed, the French Canadian and former world champion called the Hermann Tilke-penned layout at Istanbul Park 'the best I've ever driven.

''Except for the last sector,'' the Sauber driver, 34, told his website, ''the corners are fast and difficult -- some are both physically and technically challenging.''

JV's comments are, then, magnanimous. He spun in the notoriously tough turn-8 in qualifying, thus destroying his weekend with a bad grid spot.

Villeneuve is also still pushing BMW to honor his 2006 contract, even though the signature on it is current team owner Peter Sauber's.

Knowing that Felipe Massa is off to Ferrari, he thus insisted: ''You need continuity.

''If you start with two different drivers,'' Jacques remarked, ''you don't know where you're coming from or whether you're making progress.''

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