Latest F1 news in brief

  • BMW team manager survives cancer scare
  • Williams chiefs play down 2008 landmarks
  • Ferrari drivers predict close title battle
  • Ferrari still quickest, Massa insists
  • Montezemolo continues to fire against McLaren
  • Richards slates Williams over Prodrive snub

BMW team manager survives cancer scare
(GMM) BMW Sauber's long time team manager Beat Zehnder has survived a health scare since the final grand prix of last year.

He is now looking forward to the 2008 season opener, but the Swiss newspaper Blick revealed that Zehnder was diagnosed with a tumor and had his right kidney removed — a similar procedure undergone by Renault boss Flavio Briatore two years ago.

"I am quite okay and the surgery went well," Zehnder reports.

He had to miss many of the pre-season winter tests while ill, but Zehnder said he was kept "constantly informed" about the Hinwil based team's progress with the F1.08 single seater.

Zehnder also told Blick that 32 tones of team cargo will this week commence the long haul trek to Australia for the first race.

Williams chiefs play down 2008 landmarks
(GMM) Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head have passed up the opportunity to get sentimental about their three decades at the helm of the Grove based formula one team.

The British team has been celebrating the 30th anniversary, as well as its forthcoming 500th grand prix this year, with a series of special liveries over the 2008 pre-season period.

To the British news agency Reuters, however, team boss Williams seemed less keen to big-note his outfit's statistical achievements.

"It's just numbers, isn't it," the 65-year-old, who has been confined to a wheelchair since a road accident in 1986, said.

Engineering veteran Patrick Head, meanwhile, who owns the remaining 30 per cent of the currently Toyota-powered team, also distanced himself from the commemorative test paint jobs.

"I have to say I probably would be put down as an old cynic or whatever, but all this stuff is a bit the product of our marketing and media department," he said.

Head said the department was so keen to properly publicize Williams' history this year because the once ultra-successful team is now, among its manufacturer-backed opponents, often considered a formula one "minnow".

"I think somebody in our organization felt that it might be a good idea to remind people that we have been a fairly significant part of formula one for quite a long time," Head said.

Ferrari drivers predict close title battle
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen has played down any suggestions that, as reigning world champion and with Ferrari's rapid new F2008, he could be set to dominate the 2008 season.

The Finn even dismissed the popular media claim that the upcoming title battle could essentially be a two-way duel between himself and McLaren's highly rated British driver, Lewis Hamilton.

"I do not believe that it is only between us two (drivers)," Raikkonen told a news conference this week in Helsinki.

"Ferrari and McLaren each have two cars and two very fast drivers, so it will surely be a very evenly matched struggle," he said.

Both Raikkonen and his teammate Felipe Massa, however, agree that Fernando Alonso looks likely to be out of contention for a third drivers' crown in 2008 after returning to Renault.

When asked who his title opponents will be this season, Massa – addressing a news conference in his native Sao Paulo – answered: "Kimi and Hamilton.

"Thinking about Kovalainen, it is not possible to say 100 per cent at this stage (whether he will also be in the running)."

The Brazilian also has some advice for his rookie countryman Nelson Piquet Jr, who will make his grand prix debut in Melbourne next weekend.

"I see his situation as quite similar to when I started at Ferrari," Massa said. "My teammate then was Schumacher, and his is Alonso.

"So what he has to try to do is be as close as possible to Alonso, and learn as much as he can."

Ferrari still quickest, Massa insists
(GMM) With ten days to go until the first grand prix of 2008, Ferrari's Felipe Massa has questioned suggestions that McLaren's new car moved ahead of the pack at the recent final group test of the pre-season.

Previously, although Ferrari conducted some of its more recent on-track preparations away from the bulk of its opponents, the Maranello based team was widely acknowledged to have produced the fastest single seater.

But to the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Massa insists that the true pecking order may not have changed at all at the recent Barcelona test.

"When your rivals are testing for qualifying conditions, it is obvious that they will be quicker than you if you are testing for the races," the Brazilian said.

"We did qualifying testing the previous week, and I beat the track record. In Australia we will understand (the real situation), for sure," he added.

Meanwhile, 26-year-old Massa revealed that he has no plans to start looking around the paddock for an alternate team, after joining Ferrari as a race driver in 2006.

"I would like to stay here for life," he said.

Montezemolo continues to fire against McLaren
(GMM) Luca di Montezemolo has this week continued his critical rhetoric about McLaren.

After consistently making his feelings known about the British team's conduct amid the espionage scandal last year, the Ferrari president maintained his hard line as he attended the Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday.

Mockingly comparing Ron Dennis' Woking based team to the famous British spy series, he is quoted as saying by the Italian newspaper La Stampa: "I am hoping for a boring world championship, with no courts or James Bonds."

Meanwhile, La Gazzetta dello Sport quoted Montezemolo as referring to the fact that, as Ferrari tackled the 2007 season without Michael Schumacher at the wheel, few experts expected the Italian team to come from behind and win the title.

Again referring presumably to McLaren, he said: "But we did do it in the end, because we had a team and the others did not."

Richards slates Williams over Prodrive snub
(GMM) David Richards has hit out at chiefs of the long-standing British formula one team Williams for getting in the way of Prodrive's grand prix debut.

Prodrive, already in world rallying with Subaru, was slated to enter the 2008 formula one championship after winning the FIA's twelfth entry.

But Grove based Williams threatened to launch legal action if the outfit went ahead with contentious plans to race a full McLaren-Mercedes 'customer' package.

The Prodrive issue was also complicated by the delay over a new Concorde Agreement, with Prodrive's prospective backers reluctant to commit to the sport without a solid commercial document in place.

Richards, however, expresses the most irritation about Williams' opposition.

"It seems to me they are protecting a position which is outdated, and doesn't serve them very well either, when you look at their financial records.

"It's run by people who want to go motor racing, not by people who want to run a business," he told Racer magazine.

Richards said formula one as a whole may live to regret not allowing teams like his to fully explore the 'customer car' business model.

"I think that we'll be sitting down in two years' time missing two manufacturers and saying 'Why didn't we do this?'

"There's no other way of allowing people to come in. And once the (new) Concorde Agreement is written, then it'll be very difficult to change things," he said.

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