F1

New Ferrari; Red Williams; Schumacher investigation

MARANELLO, Italy, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Ferrari team chief Jean Todt said on Wednesday his team had run out of excuses and must win the world championship this year. The Frenchman, who has overseen the rebuilding of the team in ...

MARANELLO, Italy, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Ferrari team chief Jean Todt said on Wednesday his team had run out of excuses and must win the world championship this year. The Frenchman, who has overseen the rebuilding of the team in the last four years, said the time for talking of the title was over and now Ferrari must deliver the goods. Speaking at the launch of the F300 car - the first Formula One car to be unveiled this year - Todt said: "I state it openly today - our only goal must be to win the championship. I know other teams will state the same thing in the next few weeks but, after four years of restructuring, now we have to deliver." Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo concurred. "We have the best structure, a complete staff and organisation and the best driver in the world," he said. "Three years ago we said our aim was to win one race," the president said. "Two or three years ago if you had asked me if we could win the world championship I would have said no. "But now I can say that Ferrari are once again protaganists and our aim in 1998 is nothing less than to win the world champi- onship." "Last year we were beaten by the best car in the world - a car which deserved to win the championship. Congratulations to those who defeated us," di Montezemolo said. "This season, from the first race of the season (the Austra- lian Grand Prix in March) Ferrari will be there." Ferrari finished second behind Williams in last year's championship, winning five grand prixs, former double world champion Michael Schumacher losing out to Jacques Villeneuve after shunting the Canadian's Williams during the final race, the European Grand Prix at Jerez. Schumacher was later stripped of his runner-up position by the sport's governing body for his part in the crash. Ferrari have not won a constructors' title since 1983 and have not boasted a world champion driver since 1979, when South African Jody Schekter claimed it. But with Schumacher about to start his third season with the most prestigious name in motor racing and a new technical and design team firmly established, Ferrari say 1998 is their year. Schumacher avoided any references to his widely condemned crash with Villeneuve, when the German spun off and Villeneuve ended as world champion. Schumacher said he had enjoyed six weeks' family holiday in Scandinavia and helped teach his baby daughter Gina-Maria to walk. "I am very pleased with the car and the team and the effort everyone has made. I am feeling relaxed, motivated and strong and now hope to deliver our target of the championship and to do my best." Di Montezemolo praised designer Renzo Piano for his work on the team's new wind tunnel which was also launched on Wednesday and asked for media objectivity in the treatment of the team in 1998. "Let's all be objective," he said. "Last year there was too much friction and tension and this year we want clarity and objectivity with the rules and in the work of the media." The new red Ferrari featured a range of technical details complying with stringent new regulations for the season by the International Automobile Federation (FIA), including a narrow chassis and grooved tyres. The F300 is 20 cm narrower than last season's model at 179.5 cm. The front has been altered to provide more protection for the driver' legs and new grooved tyres will improve safety but reduce performance. The car has been designed to meet a new severe FIA side impact test and can absorb twice as big a side collision as last year's car. Technical director Ross Brawn said: "I am very happy with it. We have a very good concept and good detail on the car and I am delighted by all our efforts - now we have to start work and try to achieve all our ambitions." Ferrari go into the season with chief designer Rory Byrne working alongside Brawn for the second consecutive year. The two men joined shortly before last season and have since moved Ferrari's technical direction from England to Italy. "One of the strengths of Ferrari is that we make our own engines and our own chassis," Brawn said. "We've brought every- thing in house." Schumacher's team mate, Irishman Eddie Irvine, was similarly upbeat. "For the first year we're going in to a championship having done everything we can," Irvine said. "Williams will be tough, McLaren will be strong but I think this year is the year we're going to deliver."

LONDON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - The Williams Formula One motor racing team unveiled one of the worst kept secrets in the sport on Wednesday when they showed off the new red and white colour scheme for their cars this year. The predominantly bright red design, which makes the car look similar to a Ferrari, is in stark contrast to the mainly blue and white colours the team have run with for more than a decade. The new livery is to reflect the change of title sponsor from one cigarette brand to another. "This event was purely for the sponsors to use in their markets around the world," a Williams spokesperson said. "The car will run at Jerez next week before the launch of the new car at the end of the month." The design was unveiled at a private showing at Pinewood where both world champion Jacques Villeneuve and Heinz-Harald Frentzen were present, although the pair were reported to be far from happy when asked by photographers to shake hands.

BONN, Jan 7 (Reuters) - German prosecutors said on Wednesday they had found no evidence that Michael Schumacher had broken any law by colliding with rival Jacques Villeneuve in last year's European Grand Prix. The prosecutors in Cologne had been asked to investigate the incident by a member of the German public last month. Senior prosecutor Hans Bernhard Jansen said the probe was now complete and no charges would be filed. "An investigation into Schumacher's behaviour has not re- vealed that any criminal act was committed," Jansen told Reuters by telephone. Although the incident took place in Spain and Schumacher now lives in Switzerland, Jansen's department said it was entitled to investigate because the driver is a German citizen. Under German law, prosecutors are normally obliged to inves- tigate any complaints from the public. Motor racing's governing body FIA in November stripped the Ferrari driver of his second place in the 1997 drivers' world championship for ramming Villeneuve's Williams in the season's final Grand Prix in Jerez, Spain. The punishment was widely criticised as far too lenient. Schumacher acknowledged blame for the collision, saying it was the result of a misjudgement made in the heat of the moment. Villeneuve went on to finish third in the race despite the collision and won his first drivers' title.

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