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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
July 12, 2002
1


Mansell Averts Disaster
Nigel Mansell used quick thinking and a cool head to narrowly avert crashing his private jet.

The 48-year-old Briton, Formula One World Champion of 1992, coaxed his nine-seater Cessna Citation to earth from 15,000 feet after a total instruments failure tested his mettle in ferocious conditions.

Sending out an SOS call, Mansell turned the plane around 'blind', heading back to the Exeter airport he had left 35 minutes before.

Emergency crews and airport officials crossed their fingers as the crippled Cessna groped its way through the wild weather to the main runway, one observer noting Mansell's 'perfect landing' in horrific conditions.

'Most people in that situation could have panicked', said an Exeter official. 'It must have been pretty hairy up there.

'But I suppose Nigel's used to danger. He flew the plane back safely in a textbook performance.'

Noted for his fiercely competitive style, Nigel Mansell is widely lauded as one of the best Grand Prix drivers of his generation. Steering a second-placed title challenge home no less than three times, his determination and talent finally netted a richly deserved championship in 1992, in the all-conquering Williams-Renault FW14.

He retired from Formula One in the mid-nineties after a soured trial at McLaren, last winning at the 1994 season finale at Adelaide.



Bourdais Makes F1 Debut
Young French ace Sebastien Bourdais made his debut in a Formula One car yesterday, the 23-year-old steering an Arrows A23.

Leading the International F3000 series, the youngster rounded 25 circuits of the twisty, tricky Valencia circuit in Southern Spain, his best time just 1.7 seconds shy of Marc Gene's Williams.

As Tom Walkinshaw's Leafield outfit struggle for survival, it is thought that a potential deal with Bourdais and the FFSA (Fédération Française de Sport Automobile) could bring substantial backing to the team.

In the first of a series of track appearances for OrangeArrows, the Super Nova driver will become known as the official test driver for Walkinshaw's team.

Bourdais took over Heinz-Harald Frentzen's car for afternoon running at the Spanish track, running smoothly and without incident in the Cosworth-powered Arrows machine.

Bourdais, easing his way towards netting the Formula 3000 title, has also been linked to the Swiss-based Sauber Petronas team.



Davidson To Test a Jag
Young BAR tester Anthony Davidson is the latest rival charger to accept an invitation from Jaguar Racing to try an R3.

The 23-year-old Englishman, noted for his consummate style in British Formula 3 and BAR testing duties, will take to the wheel of the R3 when the July/August testing ban lifts in early September.

The youngster joins Renault's Fernando Alonso and Minardi charger Mark Webber in the Milton-Keynes pursuits to evaluate potential candidates to replace Eddie Irvine at 'the Cat' next year.

Davidson will become the sixth talent to grace the struggling R3's wheel, regular gunners Andre Lotterer and James Courtney assisting Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa in improving Jaguar's latest concoction.

Renault ace Jenson Button has been strongly linked with a move to Milton-Keynes next year.



Courtney In High-Speed Crash
Australia's James Courtney has emerged unscathed from a frightening crash at the Ascari chicane during yesterday's Formula One testing at Monza.

The 21-year-old, on Jaguar testing duties, was sent careering into the barriers at nearly 280km/h when his R3 suffered a rear suspension failure. Undertaking mechanical testing in the older Jaguar machine, James sat motionless in the destroyed Formula One car.

Within minutes, a safety and medical crew were attending to the F3 charger, Courtney complaining of having whacked his head in the impact. As a precautionary measure, the young Aussie was sent off to hospital upon extrication from the green machine.

'James was undertaking some mechanical testing in an old R3 as part of our development for next year's car,' a Jaguar spokesman said.

'On the approach to the Ascari chicane, a rear suspension failure forced him off the track at high speed but, thankfully, James is OK.

'He is undergoing some x-rays and routine checks and all appears to be well. Pedro and Eddie will continue testing with the revised R3B as planned.'

On his way to the British Formula 3 title for Carlin Motorsports, Courtney is noted particularly for his crushing form during qualifying. Among others, the young charger is being linked to Eddie Irvine's 2003 berth at Jaguar.

After more than an hour of red-flag time, Monza testing resumed at the minimum-downforce circuit in Italy.



Goodwood Kicks Off!
The much-anticipated Goodwood Festival of Speed kicks off later today, six Formula One teams turning out to field contenders in the British hill-climb event.

Williams (Ralf Schumacher), McLaren (Alex Wurz), Ferrari (Luca Badoer), Toyota (Allan McNish), BAR (Anthony Davidson) and Renault (Jenson Button) will all power their latest Formula One machinery up the hill in the ever-popular annual convergence on Goodwood, England.

Noted for its vast array of historic contenders, former drivers Jean Alesi and Jos Verstappen will turn out in tribute to the late Ken Tyrrell, while the great man's protégé, Sir Jackie Stewart, will blast his way up the Goodwood hill in his title-winning 1971 Tyrrell 002.

With this year's 'On the Limit - A History of Heroes' theme, Lord March has lined up an impressive list of former greats to wow the hay-lined course.

'The cars and drivers this year each tell their own story of heroism and competing on the limit,' he explained.

'Our Formula One line-up is exceptional this year and I think this should be a real treat for those who appreciate the history of the sport.'

Sir Jack Brabham, Emerson Fittipaldi, Johnny Herbert, Phil Hill, Alan Jones, Jochen Mass, Sir Stirling Moss, Riccardo Patrese, Danny Sullivan, Patrick Tambay - and an impressive list of others - have all signalled their intention to blast their way along the narrow track in former cars of glory.

Toyota chief Ove Andersson will drive a 1990 Toyota Celica GT4 in a demonstration run, while Renault's technical director Mike Gascoyne will reportedly go for a fast time in a 1985 Renault 5 turbo Maxi.

The Formula One track action adds to a great day's motorsport as motorcycles, rally cars, and GT sportscars lay rubber at Goodwood.



Alex Yoong Is 'Struggling'
Hanifah Yoong, father of Malaysia's first Formula One driver Alex, has admitted that his son is 'struggling' at the pinnacle of motorsports.

In the wake of his failure to qualify at the recent British Grand Prix - his second such disgrace of the season - the Malaysian readily admits that Yoong's Formula One career with Minardi is unlikely to continue into 2003.

'I would say he has improved from when he started although he is struggling', Yoong admits. 'With the latest set back, he now has to overcome the monumental task of picking himself up and get going again.

'This is very difficult as your motivation gets a hammering with a set back this big.'

Having managed his son's career until earlier this year, Hanifah is willing to concur that Alex Yoong does not belong at the pinnacle of motorsports. 'To be absolutely honest, I think he may find himself in CART or in IRL in the States', he said, hypothesising on Alex's next move.

'If worse comes to worst he will do sports cars or British Touring Cars or the European Touring Cars to earn a living.

'But I certainly would like to be surprised by him giving us improved performances for the rest of this year to see him getting another shot in Formula One next year.'

Despite the barrage of national sponsorship which accompanies the Malaysian's Minardi berth, Hanifah admits that Paul Stoddart is unlikely to renew Yoong's contract into '03.

'No, I expect they wouldn't, if we take Alex's performance up till now. But there is no guarantee that he will not churn up some good results sometime before the end of the season. Anything that shows he is making good progress again will influence Minardi to consider re-signing him, I think.'

Hanifah Yoong attends most Grands Prix as a journalist.



Goodbye Spa-Francorchamps?
The much-loved, historic Spa-Francorchamps circuit is in danger of losing its place on the Formula One calendar.

The owners of the challenging track, which first appeared in the inaugural world championship in 1950, fear that the Government's stance on tobacco advertising may force the Belgian Grand Prix out of Formula One.

With China, Bahrain and Russia provisionally gearing for inaugural 2004 events, Belgium's reluctance to exempt Formula One from a national tobacco advertising ban could force Bernie Ecclestone to cut the race from the calendar.

The tobacco ban, which comes into effect in August next year, will mean that all cigarette branding on the F1 cars will be removed; much like the British Grand Prix which is so highly criticised by the F1 supremo.

And, with the Belgian Grand Prix currently sponsored by Marlboro, the Belgian authorities may struggle even to fund the annual event if the Belgian government does not react to pressure to exempt the September Grand Prix.

Spa is widely acclaimed as the last true 'drivers' circuit on the modern F1 calendar, its nearly 7km of challenging curves - and infamous Eau Rouge corner - rewarding the bravest pilots.

The Formula One circus converges on Belgium on the weekend of August 30 to September 1.



F1 Boffins Meet At Silverstone
FIA President Max Mosley has rejected the idea of spreading Formula One qualifying over Friday and Saturday of a Grand Prix weekend.

The suggestion was raised at a meeting of F1's manufacturers and team bosses, the boffins sitting down to discuss the new-for-2004 rule limiting each car/driver to a solitary engine unit per weekend.

At the Silverstone meeting, concerns were raised that limiting each driver to one engine may actually raise the escalating costs of Formula One. The engine manufacturers feel that they will be forced to design and build two V10 units; one to survive 800 kilometres of running, and one less robust unit in the event that a failure occurs.

Additional concerns have been raised by circuit promoters that 'engine saving' may result in less track action over the course of Friday and Saturday Free Practice.

The suggestion that qualifying be comprised of Friday and Saturday action, however, was rejected by the FIA boss. 'We are very much against two qualifying sessions because the qualifying hour has now become one of the stars of the show', Mosley said.

'I believe the viewing figures for qualifying are around 60% of the total who watch the race.'

'If we want people to run on a Friday then a preferable solution would be to make a rule that forced them to complete a certain number of laps on Friday.'

One team insider, however, rejects the idea that F1 teams be compelled to complete a quota of Friday laps: 'Formula One should avoid artificiality', he said. 'The regulations should be kept as liberal as possible. This is a sport, not a circus.'

To help cut costs for Formula One's struggling minnows, the meeting was able to reach a general consensus that the regulations should be freed to allow for 'parts sharing' up and down pitlane.

In the same way as Ferrari sell their engines to Sauber, then, the proposed regulation would allow McLaren, for example, to sell an entire chassis to the cash-strapped Minardi outfit.

'We have an agreement in principle for teams to be able to sell to one other team, items other than the engine and gearbox,' said Mosley.

'It's a sensible process because at present I could go to a team and buy a gearbox but I'd have to design my own suspension, even though it would end up being very similar in dimensions because it would have the same mounting points.'

There is the widely held suggestion that this kind of parts-sharing already takes place in Formula One; albeit clandestinely. Any formal rule, then, is simply an admission that the current regulations are too hard to police.



Jordan-FORD For 2003?
The Ford Motor Company could make a visible return to Grand Prix Racing next year by supplying blue-oval badged Cosworth engines to Jordan.

While the motoring giant owns and finances the Jaguar Racing project, whispers in the Formula One paddock suggest that a deal with Eddie Jordan's Silverstone outfit could pave the way to the demise of the Leaping Cat.

Since 2000, the Milton-Keynes based Jaguar team has steadily floundered to the rear of the grid in their attempt to field a works F1 assault. With the latest disappointment in the form of the heavily-revised R3b package, Ford are reportedly on the cusp of winding up the Niki Lauda-led team.

As the insider reports suggest, the 2003-spec Jordan-Ford team may even become Jordan-Jaguar by the following year, in an attempt to restore the credibility of the failed works 'Leaping Cat' project.

Ford purchased Sir Jackie Stewart's steadily rising Milton-Keynes operation in late 1999, re-badging the team Jaguar Racing. Led by Ulsterman Eddie Irvine, the green team have settled on the rear of the grid for 2002.

Despite Ford's recent showing of wholehearted support for the Jaguar project, the US motoring giant refused to guarantee financial endorsement beyond 2004.



F1 Testing Update
The Spanish air dropped to a more comfortable 29 degrees for Valencia testing yesterday, in what was the last day of running for many outfits until the summer ban lifts in September.

The troubled Arrows team buoyed their spirits by netting the fastest time on Thursday, German ace Heinz-Harald Frentzen steering his A23 three tenths quicker than the Jordan of Giancarlo Fisichella on low tanks.

23-year-old F3000 ace Sebastien Bourdais took to the wheel of the solitary Arrows for his first F1-powered 25 laps, the Frenchman thrilled with his first taste of 800+ bhp. 'That was great', he was reported as saying. 'The power is incredible, but the [carbon] brakes are unbelievable!'

20-year-old Fernando Alonso wound up third for Renault whilst commencing the Enstone team's 2003 development. Technical Director Mike Gascoyne commented: 'Overall, a very successful day for us. The performance testing this morning allowed us to complete our work from yesterday, whilst the afternoon was a normal tyre test.'

Felipe Massa resumed testing for Sauber, the Brazilian rookie netting an impressive tally of over 100 laps of the twisty track. 'It feels as if we have tried every conceivable configuration on the car,' he stated.

'Certainly the work we have done at this test has enabled to improve it for the French Grand Prix.' Giampaolo Dall'ara, Head of the test team, added: 'Today has been highly productive and we achieved a very high mileage which was our target.

'Since this is the last test for a while we had a great deal to get through in preparation for the remaining Grand Prix of the season.'

Thursday At Valencia:
Heinz-Harald Frentzen Arrows 1m.12.505s 41
Giancarlo Fisichella Jordan Honda 1m.12.795s 92
Fernando Alonso Renault 1m.13.260s 75
Felipe Massa Sauber Petronas 1m.13.715s 104
Marc Gene Williams 1m.14.065s 106
Stephane Bourdais Arrows 1m.15.719 25

Meanwhile, the hot and sticky Italian sun continued to pound down on high-speed contenders at Monza. Williams ace Antonio Pizzonia was fastest in his FW24, albeit hampered by technical faults and a spin.

The red flags stayed out for more than an hour after Aussie James Courtney's massive Ascari incident, marshals taking their time to rebuild the shattered tyre wall while the Jaguar driver was sent to hospital for x-rays.

Fellow Jaguar runner Pedro de la Rosa continued work on the heavily-revised R3b, the Spaniard's progress slowed by an engine failure. Toyota's Mika Salo took over from teammate Allan McNish, the Finn continuing work on the TF102 over the circuit's high kerbs. 'We did some work on cooling systems, both related to the engine and the brakes', he said.

'I continued Allan's programme from yesterday, studying how the car handles over the kerbs and working on mechanical set-up in this area, as well as general set-up work for the Monza Grand Prix,' he added.

Another Australian, youngster Ryan Briscoe, turned out in a sister TF102 in his new role as a devoted Toyota tester. 'My car was not set up for any performance running today, instead I concentrated on gaining data and testing data acquisition systems.'

Ferrari continued to run with Luca Badoer and Luciano Burti at Mugello and Fiorano respectively, championship-runaway Michael Schumacher to take over from Burti later today.



Bernie: Silverstone Is Safe
Bernie Ecclestone has attempted to cool speculation that the British Grand Prix could be banished from the Formula One calendar.

After the F1 supremo slammed more than $10 million in circuit improvements after the weekend's race at Silverstone International, tongues began to wag that the 71-year-old was merely paving the way for a shock announcement that the British Grand Prix would get the chop.

With China, Russia and Bahrain gearing for inaugural Grands Prix in 2004, Ecclestone is on the lookout to chop 'three or four' circuits from the current 17-strong calendar.

In the wake of circuit promoter Rob Bain's shock resignation, speculation has reached fever pitch that Formula One is losing patience with the sub-standard facilities and full tobacco-branding ban at the home of British motor-racing.

Despite calling Silverstone a 'country fair masquerading as an international event', Ecclestone told BBC Radio Five Live that the British Grand Prix hold 'A contract for the next 10 years. There's no threat.'

Although Silverstone's race is safe, Bernie remains vocal that things must improve at the 5.14km Northamptonshire track. 'I was lucky to have a helicopter ride because it meant when there was a problem I told my driver to go all the way around the circuit and I could see for myself.

'There were people standing in the road. They had hot-dog stands along the roads blocking vehicles and pedestrians. It was totally disorganised - and organisation costs nothing.'

Referring to Rob Bain's recent resignation, Bernie lambasted the former Octagon chief for poor management of the British GP. 'Octagon has paid more than is commercially viable,' he said.

Octagon pay around $30 million to Formula One Management and the British Racing Driver's Club in order to stage the annual Grand Prix.

A $48 million 'stage two' project at Silverstone International, to imminently commence, will see a new parabolic curve, pit and media complex for the British Grand Prix.



'Thumbs-Up' To New Hockenheim
Former F1 veteran, Jean Alesi, has given an unequivocal thumbs-up to the brand-new circuit layout at Germany's Hockenheimring.

Having severed the traditional blast through the dark forest to a modern-spec, chicane and hairpin laden layout, the Frenchman says that the 4.6 kilometre sprint around the new Hockenheim will inspire an exciting German Grand Prix later this month.

'This is a masterpiece of a racetrack, which I am sure both drivers and spectators will enjoy,' said Alesi after trying the circuit in his Mercedes-Benz AMG Sportscar.

'The new part of the track offers everything a Formula 1 car needs for passing manoeuvres. First they approach the corner with more than 300kph, then they have to slow down to about 80kph.

'The corner is wide enough to allow different lines. I expect an exciting German Grand Prix,' he added.

A new grandstand, which will host an additional 6,500 red-capped Germans, boosts the total circuit capacity to 120,000.

One man especially looking forward to this year's German Grand Prix is home-town hero Michael Schumacher; on course to wrap up his fifth world title in the motherland. 'I hope to do it in Germany', he said.

The feisty Frenchman, Jean Alesi, retired from a twelve-year Formula One career last year, the 37-year-old seeing out his days in a Jordan-Honda.



F1 News In Brief
- Despite Danny Sullivan's assertion that Michael Schumacher could walk unrecognised down Fifth Avenue, American cable network ESPN have awarded the Ferrari star this year's Driver of the Year award. Beating home national tin-top heroes Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick, Schumacher becomes the first open-wheeler driver to net the award since CART ace Jimmy Vasser took home spoils in 1997. Schumacher is the first F1 driver to receive the US-based award, despite Nigel Mansell's triumphs in 1993 and '94 for his IndyCar exploits.

- Speculation is mounting that McLaren tester Alex Wurz is preparing to burst back onto the F1 scene. Since losing his Benetton drive in 2000, the Austrian has happily filled the 'third' driver role at Woking in the hope of kick-starting his failed racing career. In the latest round of rumours, a 2003 Toyota seat - in Allan McNish's place - looks more than likely. Fuelling the rumours have been reports of a lucrative, three-year offer to extend his McLaren berth, no doubt boosting his value on the F1 market.

- Since their embarrassing showing at the British Grand Prix, French tyre supplier Michelin have been working hard on a competitive Intermediate tyre. In changeable Silverstone conditions, Bridgestone-shod competitors trounced the opposition when Michelin runners found themselves stuck with either a slippery slick, or deep-treaded wet compound. Despite Pierre Dupasquier's assertion that Michelin were 'doing a decent job compared to the other Bridgestone runners', a radically new Inter waits in the wings for the next sprinkle of Grand Prix rain.

- How does Eddie Irvine while away the hours between miserable Formula One weekends with Jaguar? With his young daughter, Zoe, on his luxury boat (The Anaconda). Although separated from her mother Maria, Irv maintains contact with the delightful Zoe and the pair can presently be found floating 'Somewhere in the Mediterranean. At the end of the week, I'm heading off to Monza for another test session with the revised car', said Irvine. 'I'm not expecting miracles, but if we can just carry on learning some lessons from it, that will stand us in good stead for the future.'



On This F1 Day...
On this day in Formula One history, seventy-two years ago, the successful Formula One constructor Guy Ligier was born in France.

A former rugby star, Ligier entered Formula One as a privateer but went on to build his own Grand Prix cars from 1979.

Starting 12 grands prix, Ligier's best finish was a solitary point in the 1967 German Grand Prix, driving for Brabham.

Ligier, as a constructor, contested 324 grands prix and quickly earned the nickname 'les blues' in deference to their French national livery. Winning nine Grands Prix and nine pole positions, Guy sold out to Alain Prost in 1997.

Five years later, Prost (nee Ligier) were liquidated under mountains of debt.

Also on this day, in 1987, Nigel Mansell netted a famous tenth career victory in his 100th Grand Prix; at his home Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Driving for the Honda-powered Williams team, Mansell missed out on the '87 title crown by twelve points, to teammate Nelson Piquet.

The Jordan team, founded by Irishman Eddie Jordan in 1991, enjoyed their fiftieth race at the Silverstone event of 1992. Drivers Stefano Modena and Mauricio Gugelmin both retired with blown Yamaha engines.

Dutchman Jos Verstappen - affectionately known as Jos 'the boss', notched up his own fiftieth GP milestone at the British Grand Prix of 1998.

He was driving a Stewart-Ford, in place of the underperforming Jan Magnussen.

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