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Takuma Sato
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Ralf Schumacher
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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
July 13, 2002
1


Ralf Tours New Hockenheim
German-born Ralf Schumacher has joined a growing list of Formula One stars to give the heavily-revised Hockenheim circuit a resounding 'thumbs-up'.

Cut from its traditional 360kmh blast through the dark forest, the home of the German Grand Prix now stands at 4.8 kilometers with several overtaking opportunities; particularly into the brand-new hairpin bend.

Ralf, home-town winner of last year's Hockenheim event, enjoyed a special treat as he was ferried around the new circuit by its architect; Hermann Tilke.

'The new circuit layout is certainly better and provides a greater challenge to the drivers,' the 27-year-old commented.

While the deep forest gave the old 'ring much of its character, Ralf - for one - is happy to find the trees replaced and overtaking opportunities in their place.

'You now don't have to drive into the woods on senseless unending straights anymore', the Williams driver continued. 'There are definitely two places to overtake, the second corner after the start/finish line and the new hairpin.'

This year's July 28 German Grand Prix is part-two of a frantic Formula One double-header starting this weekend, at France's Magny-Cours.



Yoong: I'm Not Quitting
Minardi rookie Alex Yoong has hit out at Internet reports speculating that he may be forced out of Formula One.

An interview with the 25-year-old's former manager and father, Hanifah Yoong, revealed that Alex may need to earn a living in touring or sports cars next year, after a constant failure to perform including two DNQs.

According to the interview, the Malaysian said he would be 'surprised' if Alex could turn around his form and continue driving with Paul Stoddart's team in 2003.

In a rapidly released press release, Alex urges that a barrage of Internet sites 'Simply took my father's words completely out of context. That has nothing to do with what I think or what I have planned.'

'What he (Hanifah) said was just what he felt I may be thinking. And his feeling that Minardi may not renew my contract is just a speculation based on the results so far and it has not come from myself or the team.

'As far as I am concerned, I am just concentrating with the work I need to do and to do the best I can for the rest of the season. The news report that I will quit is just rubbish.'

The struggling Malaysian added that, for now, his attention is completely focussed on improving his on-track performance; starting with the task of qualifying for the French Grand Prix on Friday.

He quickly adds that Minardi have until November to exercise their option on him for 2003, while urging the Malaysian media to show a little support. 'I cannot understand some of the reports that have been written', he adds.

'It's not as if Malaysia has a dozen F1 contenders standing by waiting to get in this year as Brazil has. I don't see the Brazilian press discouraging any of them from going ahead. But some media in Malaysia are just so negative that it seems they would be gratified to see me go.

'In order to succeed one must not be afraid of failure. I will carry on till there is no possibility to continue.'

Paul Stoddart hinted after Yoong's Silverstone faux pas - a qualifying time outside of 107% - that another such failure will spell the end of Alex Yoong's flirt with Formula One.



Toyota Target Top Four
Formula One's newest team, Cologne-based Toyota F1, are targeting fourth place in next year's Constructors' World Championship.

With an impressive first ten Grands Prix behind them - including two top six finishes - the Japanese giant say that Sauber and Renault will be realistic competitors when Formula One resumes in 2003.

Gustav Brunner, chief designer of the tidy little TF102, says 'I would like to be challenging Renault for fourth next year'.

The Cologne-based designer was seen in discussion with McLaren 'third' pilot Alex Wurz at last weekend's British Grand Prix, fuelling speculation that the Austrian could join Mika Salo behind the wheel of the TF103.

33-year-old rookie, Allan McNish, is most likely to remember 2002 as his brief Formula One sojourn.



Another Flying Finn!
Can Formula One handle yet another Flying Finn? Silverstone Formula 3 winner, Heikki Kovalainen, has his fingers crossed that the paddock respond with a resounding 'yes'!

Contesting the British F3 series this year, the Renault-powered youngster from Finland joined teammate Fabio Carbone as guests in the Renault F1 garage last weekend at Silverstone. Despite his undoubted speed, the young ace admits that a few more results are needed to woo Flavio Briatore and his first F1 test.

'That is Renault's decision, it is not up to us,' he said when asked if a blast in the R202 was on the cards. 'I think that we have to try to get the results first, try to win a couple of races in F3, and try to show that we are worthy of giving a chance.'

While sister series F3000 is recognized as the 'closest thing' to Formula One, young chargers Jenson Button and Takuma Sato are among the latest breed of F1 pilot to jump straight from F3 to F1 cockpits. While the precedent stands, Heikki thinks that 2003 is a more realistic date to target the Formula One test track.

'But if we do well and score good results then I am sure that at some time - maybe not at the end of this year but it's a long-term contract - so at some point, hopefully, they will give us a chance.'

Spearheading the Renault Driver Development Program, Kovaleinen is under long-term contract to the French manufacturer.



Montoya's 'Formula Ford' Tactics
Renowned Formula One commentator Martin Brundle has called Juan Pablo Montoya's defensive Silverstone driving 'Formula Ford tactics' which belong in the lesser formulae.

As the rain began to fall, even Bridgestone's dry tire immediately proved superior to Williams' French-treaded Michelins. A charging Michael Schumacher made his first vain attempt to pass the Colombian at Vale.

'Montoya is paying too much attention to his mirrors and not enough attention to the braking zone,' said Brundle on ITV as Montoya ran wide. 'He was forced to go super-defensive on the exit, leaving Schumacher just enough room into Club.'

Into the long right-hander at Club, Juan Pablo squeezed Schumacher to the outside before closing the door. 'And he then has to go defensive again up at Abbey because Michael has the acceleration.'

As the duel wound to a close, Michael Schumacher decided to call his agenda to overtake the Williams ace a day. 'I didn't want to collide with him', said Schumacher afterwards, 'Because that was the way we were heading.'

'Montoya seems very happy with those kind of Formula Ford tactics', continued Martin Brundle, 'Which is something we see in the lesser formulae. But he really wants to defend.'

Martin Brundle was disappointed at the end of 1996 to lose his Jordan seat to young gunners Giancarlo Fisichella and Ralf Schumacher. Contesting a mammoth 158 Grands Prix, he finished in every points-scoring position except first.



F1 Testing Update
Formula One testing for the impending double-header at France and Germany continued on Friday; Valencia, Monza, Mugello and Fiorano hosting the majority of outfits.

Young Renault ace Fernando Alonso set the pace at the Southern Spanish circuit of Valencia, the 20-year-old completing 47 laps for the Enstone team.

1.5 seconds adrift was Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais, the F3000 charger completing 71 laps on his second day of testing for Arrows. Marc Gene continued Williams' relentless testing program, the BMW-powered Spaniard third after a mammoth 108 laps of the twisty layout.

Meanwhile, at the minimum-downforce circuit at Monza, Toyota rookie Allan McNish notched up the fastest time in Italy. Despite an engine failure after just 21 laps, the Scot pipped Williams' runner Antonio Pizzonia in the FW24.

Eddie Irvine resumed work behind the wheel of the troubled R3b package, while BAR continued their two-car Monza assault with Olivier Panis and Anthony Davidson.

Nearby at Ferrari's private Fiorano circuit, Michael Schumacher leapt back into action in the F2002. Completing 164 laps with scarlet tester Luca Badoer, the German's fastest time was a rapid 57.476 on a tire, aerodynamic and engine program.

Friday At Valencia
Fernando Alonso Renault 1:11.872 (47)
Sebastien Bourdais Arrows 1:13.217 (71)
Marc Gene Williams 1:13.352 (108)

Friday At Monza
Allan McNish Toyota 1:23.012 (21)
Antonio Pizzonia WilliamsF1 1:23.121 (77)
Eddie Irvine Jaguar 1:23.580 (65)
Mika Salo Toyota 1m.23.720s (65)
Olivier Panis BAR 1:24.035 (62)
Anthony Davidson BAR 1:24.624 (76)

McLaren chose to see out the final week of testing before September alone, at the French Paul Ricard circuit.

Kimi Raikkonen, David Coulthard and Alex Wurz turned out with two MP4-17 chassis', testing what has been described as some 'Reasonably big development items'.

'We were quite surprised at the amount of damage which was sustained over what seemed a rather innocuous kerb,' said McLaren Managing Director Martin Whitmarsh after an off-track excursion by Raikkonen.

'We have a busy week testing what I might describe as some reasonably big development items.'



Brawn Eyes Top Ferrari Job?
Ferrari's highly-rated technical director, Ross Brawn, could step into the top role at Scuderia Ferrari when Jean Todt calls it a day.

The large Englishman, widely regarded as a major player in the Italian marque's rise to the upper echelons of Formula One, says that although his current contract expires in 2004, he cannot see himself stopping.

Should Brawn stick around after the 'dream-team' of Michael Schumacher, Rory Byrne and Todt presumably walk away, the talented strategist could well find himself steering the scarlet ship as Sporting Director from 2005.

'I am very happy at Ferrari,' said Brawn. 'My current contract runs until the end of 2004, but I don't see why that should prevent me from continuing beyond that date.

'I can honestly say that I am the happiest I have been in my career.'

Nigel Stepney, Race Technical Manager, would be favorite to fulfill the technical director role.



Ralf Looks For French Win
The BMW.Williams team are expecting a return to form at this weekend's French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours.

After a gripless, wet defeat at the Silverstone circuit, a developmental step from tire partners Michelin represents a glimmer of hope that the Grove team can return to the top-step.

After 27-year-old charger Ralf Schumacher's consummate drive from pole position to second-place last year at Nevers, the German is targeting more of the same for 2002.

'The new aero package and our hard work testing tires and traction control have pushed us forward and have made us more competitive,' he said. 'We are improving step by step and the same should be true at Magny-Cours as well.'

While big brother Michael can wrap up his fifth title crown with a dominant win this weekend, Ralf Schumacher is restraining brotherly-love as he goes for glory.

'To be honest, I don't feel like congratulating my brother on his World Championship victory in France', he smiled. 'I would prefer to delay this as much as possible!'

BMW Motorsport Director Gerhard Berger is willing to put aspirations of glory aside in place of strong consolidation of second place in the Constructors' World Championship. 'Beating McLaren is the main thing', said the Austrian.

'The new aerodynamic package we used for the first time in Silverstone should help us as well as the tests which are focused on the tire development in order to perform more consistently in the race.'

Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams' second driver, retired from second place in last year's French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours.



F1 News In Brief
- BMW Motorsport Director Gerhard Berger has revealed that the 2003 V10 unit, the successor to this year's powerful P82, is progressing ahead of schedule. 'We began to develop the engine for the 2003 season at the beginning of this year, and we will certainly be able to use it this season,' the Austrian said.

- Former F1 driver, Carlos Reutemann, has stepped down from contention for the Argentine Presidential elections. 'I've always said I'm not a candidate,' said the 60 year old. 'I'm not a candidate for anything. It's a question of consistency, which I have always shown.' After partnering champion Alan Jones at Williams in 1980, Reutemann is now the highly-popular governor of the Santa Fe province in the troubled nation.

- McLaren will reportedly announce their 2003 drivers at the German Grand Prix. While Mika Hakkinen retains an option to return to the driving seat, Ron Dennis is now thought adamant that David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen represent the way forward for Woking. While Alex Wurz is targeting a Toyota berth, however, Dennis has reportedly offered the Austrian a 3-year contract with a massive pay-rise to remain principal test driver.

- Young F3000 ace, Sebastien Bourdais, has chalked up a career milestone this week; his first test in a Formula One car. At the Valencia circuit, the Frenchman completed two days behind the wheel of the Arrows A23, whilst admitting that Flavio Briatore has offered him a run in the Renault when the testing ban lifts in September. The youngster currently leads the International F3000 title ahead of Czech charger Tomas Enge.

- The sale of BAR has hit the rumor mill once again, majority owners British American Tobacco reportedly calling in investment firm Goldman Sachs to review their stake in the Brackley team. BAT's stake is thought to be around the $400m mark, while former boss Craig Pollock is also on the lookout for a buyer of his 25% share. When asked about this, Pollock responded with: 'It's no secret what my stance is on this. If an interesting offer was made, it would be given the attention it warrants.' Japanese engine partner, Honda, is favorite to take the majority stake in BAR.

- The Cologne-based Toyota team have reportedly made an approach to Sauber technical director, Willy Rampf. According to Autosport, the Japanese giant have offered him a 'big money' offer that Sauber simply cannot match. Toyota's chief designer, Gustav Brunner, was similarly headhunted from the Minardi team last year. According to our own sources, Rampf is 'seriously considering' the offer of double his Hinwil pay-packet.

- The proposed 'breakaway' series, GPWC, are making inquiries into whether Formula One's current teams can sever their links with the Concorde Agreement before 2007. The move seems to suggest the series' intention to launch an assault on Formula One before the current agreement expires. According to our sources, there is 'No way out of Concorde. That is the most fundamental aspect of the agreement; that it is binding and promotes stability until 2008.'



On This F1 Day...
On the thirteenth of July, we celebrate the birthday of the late and very great Alberto Ascari.

The Italian, who would have turned 84 today, spearheaded Scuderia Ferrari's first assault on the modern World Championship in 1950, eventually netting double titles in 1952 and 1953.

One of the greatest drivers of all time, Ascari's career included a record nine straight wins in grand prix racing. His last seasons were ruined by Lancia's unpreparedness, although he did win the Mille Miglia in 1954.

After surviving a crash into the harbour at Monte Carlo, he was killed in a testing accident at Monza in 1955.

Today, the Italian is immortalised at Monza's final twisting chicane, the turn forever to bear his famous name.

Sharing Ascari's birthday is modern Italian hero, Jarno Trulli. Turning 29 today, Trulli burst onto the scene with Minardi in 1997 after multiple World Karting titles.

A two-year stint with Prost eventually led to a Jordan seat, where bad luck and unreliability was outshone by his fascinating ability in the hour-long qualifying session.

Currently at Renault, Trulli's best Formula One finish is a second-place scored in 1999.

Former star Thierry Boutson turns 45 today. Born in Belgium, the 162 grand prix veteran drove for several teams between 1983 and 1993, his best finish coming in 1988 in the Benetton-Ford, finishing fourth overall.

Boutson won three grands prix and one pole position.

On this day in Formula One history, Emerson Fittipaldi netted his one hundredth grand prix start in the 1980 British race. Nelson Piquet scored his 20th pole at the 1986 Silverstone Grand Prix, while Alain Prost celebrated his century of starts at the same race.

At the 1997 Grand Prix of Britain, at the Northamptonshire circuit known as Silverstone International, Sir Frank Williams' famous Grand Prix team scored their 100th Formula One victory.

Jacques Villeneuve, who took home that year's championship, was at the wheel.

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