F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
July 15, 2002
'Couple Of Weeks' To Button Decision
Jenson Button is scotching claims that a £2 million Renault
pay-cut is an option for 2003.
The 22-year-old, in his second year with the Enstone-based
outfit, admitted recently that he would be prepared to take
less money if it guaranteed him a top-drive. When speculation
hinted at a £2m shortfall to remain at steadily-rising
Renault, however, the Englishman recoiled by rubbishing the
reports as 'Pure speculation.'
As he prepared to blast the R202 up the Goodwood hill, Jenson
refuted claims that he would accept a reduced offer from team
boss Flavio Briatore. 'That's not one of the options so no, I
wouldn't think about it,' the talented Briton said.
'I don't see any reason to, really.'
Despite links to Toyota and Jaguar - including a 'secret'
meeting with Niki Lauda at Milton Keynes - Jenson is firm that
the decision on his future is his alone. 'A lot of people
don't know what's going on for next year or what my options
are so we've just got to wait and see,' he continues.
'I'm not yet thinking about any certain team for next season
anyway, so I've just got to think over the next few weeks what
While many would view the transition to Toyota - or
particularly the struggling Jaguar team - as a step down in
the world of Formula One, Button is adamant that 'It's not
what teams are doing now, it's what they're going to be doing
next year and the year after.
'There's a lot to think about. I think I will know what my
options are in the next couple of weeks and then I can choose
what I want hopefully.'
While Button pontificates on his apparent plethora of choice,
spare a thought for fellow Britons Allan McNish and Eddie
Irvine. Should the Englishman slide into either man's seat,
the duo could find themselves without a home at the pinnacle
Bernie: Arrows Won't Be Missed
Tom Walkinshaw's troubled Arrows Grand Prix team could well
flounder before the year is out, the Leafield outfit
struggling under a growing pile of unpaid bills.
Should the Orange-clad challengers succumb, however, one man
who won't shed a tear is F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. The
71-year-old, master of the Formula One domain, says that it
'Won't make any difference to the sport if Arrows went.'
'Tom is a survivor and the sort of guy we need in the sport',
said Bernie. 'It's a case of him having got his finances a bit
'But when you think of all the teams that have come and gone
over the years, it would not be such a disaster. These things
During Friday Free Practice at the recent British Grand Prix,
the A23s of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Enrique Bernoldi sat
silent as the scream of 800bhp engines filled the
Northamptonshire skies. Niki Lauda, resolute in the Jaguar
garage, clutched at the ECU's which governed Arrows' customer
'Tom always came up with the money late,' Lauda said at the
time. 'But it is now two months' overdue and I can legally not
wait any longer.
'He has not got the engines yet. So what am I to do? I
delivered 100 percent so I want the money.'
A High-Court injunction, sought by Arrows shareholders Morgan
Grenfell, had blocked the teams' sale to a US consortium
headed by energy-drink firm Red Bull. Without the funds,
Arrows appeared doomed.
A last minute 'arrangement' saw Bernie Ecclestone come to the
rescue; a reported loan to the Arrows chief seeing payment
made to Ford and Cosworth. British Grand Prix averted, all
eyes are now fixed on the impending double header at France
and Germany, and whether a similar crisis will arise.
According to our sources, Tom Walkinshaw has set this Tuesday
(tomorrow) as a deadline on whether to continue racing this
year. A heartening sign at Valencia this week, however, has
been the flying A23 of Frentzen and F3000 ace Sebastien
According to a chirpy Heinz-Harald, the Arrows team 'Will be
racing at France and Germany.'
Bernie On Silverstone
Bernie Ecclestone has cleared himself of blame that harsh
post-Silverstone words led to the resignation of Rob Bain.
'I'm not impressed and it's dreadful for the public', the
71-year-old said after his helicopter was forced to land
outside the circuit.
With the help of his chauffer, Bernie Ecclestone became lost
amid 'Silverstone chaos.' 'Nobody knows where they're going or
where they've been. There are no signs, nothing', he scorned.
The F1 supremo continued that Silverstone was merely a
'Country fair masquerading as an international event', despite
some $15 million in access, parking and organizational
For Octagon CEO Rob Bain - the man most directly responsible
for the state of Silverstone International - Bernie's comments
were the last straw. In a shock announcement, Bain stepped
down from his post.
In the wake of criticism that he 'pressured' Bain into
surrender, Ecclestone issued a statement urging that his
comments were constructive and earnest. 'My complaint was not
that my helicopter could not land, because in fact, that was a
blessing,' he said
'If not, I wouldn't have seen the issues I criticized. My
comment to Mr. Bain was why not put up large signs as they
have in shopping malls, indicating where you are, where
entrance and exits are and other points spectators wish to
find - such as toilets, vending machine sites, stalls and
'I understand that he did not resign because of my comments
but because of comments from his employer, Octagon, over a
much longer period.'
The Englishman harked back to his early racing days, praising
the progress made at Silverstone International since 1948. 'As
my fist visit to the track was in 1948 I have seen the
progress since then,' he continues.
'I raced in the support event for the first grand prix of the
F1 championship at Silverstone in 1950 when I slept in my car
the night before to ensure I would be there.
'I checked the new road access with Jackie Stewart on the
Friday before this year's race and was happy with what had
been achieved. My complaint is that not much had been done
inside the circuit and in the public areas.
'I did not say anything about the British round of the FIA
World Championship not taking place in the future because we
have a 10-year contract with the promoter, Octagon. I did say
that if I had to sign the contract, I would think twice about
'I have been surprised by the amount of support I have
received for my observations. It seems there are a lot of
other people who understand the problem. I am happy to be
criticized when I am wrong but not in the defense of the
The next, $48 million 'Stage Two' of improvements to
Silverstone International will see new paddock, media and pit
facilities, as well as a parabolic curve and revised track
Webber Enjoys Tour de France
How does a Formula One rookie spend time away from the world's
race-tracks? Ask Mark Webber, and he'll haul you to the fabled
Tour de France to follow his Aussie compatriots in cycling
A keen cyclist, the 25-year-old earned praise aplenty in his
'Lands End to John O'Groats' marathon with F1 journalist Tom
Clarkson late last year. And, after a week at Wimbledon, the
lean Webber turned his attention to Australians Robbie McEwen,
Stuart O'Grady and Baden Cooke as they pounded Stage 6 between
Forges-Les-Eaux and Alençon in Northern France, this week.
'I was in one of the stage cars yesterday and it was really
exciting,' the Minardi ace smiled.
'I think it's pretty amazing the speeds they can get up to -
and they have to go for hours.'
Unlike the majority of Formula One's 'gym-mad' field, Webber
prefers the smell of fresh air as he keeps up his consummate
'It breaks up the monotonous training', he says. 'You can go
out for a couple of hours and smell the flowers.'
Still under contract to French manufacturer Renault and Flavio
Briatore, Webber is likely to make a leap up the Formula One
grid for '03. Jaguar, Toyota and Sauber are among his options.
Bernie 'Relieves' Jackie Stewart
Sir Jackie Stewart has praised Bernie Ecclestone for
recognizing the improvements made to the Silverstone
International circuit in Northamptonshire.
As president of the circuit-owning British Racing Driver's
Club, Stewart expressed his dismay when Ecclestone's scathing
post-British GP remarks ultimately led to Rob Bain's
Setting the record straight, however, Bernie now admits that
more than $10 million in parking and access renovations have
improved the home of British motorsport.
'I checked the new road access with Jackie Stewart on the
Friday before this year's race and was happy with what had
been achieved,' Bernie reported in a press release. 'My
complaint is that not much had been done inside the circuit
and in the public areas.'
Despite Ecclestone's earlier comments that Silverstone was
merely a 'Country fair masquerading as an International
event', Stewart says he is 'Relieved and pleased' that the F1
supremo accepts the improvements to the Northamponshire track.
'I'm glad that he's perceptive enough to recognize what else
must be done in the future,' said the Scot.
With the 10-year contract to host the British Grand Prix
intact, Stewart says that, with Octagon, the BRDC need to
'continue upgrading facilities for the benefit of racegoers.
'We must ensure we have a venue in which the nation can be
Brundle: Bernie 'Unreasonable'
Martin Brundle remains adamant that Bernie Ecclestone's
damning post-British Grand Prix criticism of Silverstone
International was 'unreasonable'.
Despite the F1 supremo's recent about-face in which he praises
circuit improvements, the British Racing Driver's Club
Chairman says that Bernie's comments were simply the 'final
straw' for Octagon CEO Rob Bain.
'The British Grand Prix survived before him [Bain] and it will
survive after him although we must thank him for his efforts
while he was in charge of Octagon Motorsport', said the ITV
As more than $10 million in circuit access and parking was put
to the test by 60,000 race-going fans, Brundle openly
expressed his dismay that Bernie branded Silverstone a
'country fair masquerading as an international event.'
'I spoke to Bernie after the race at the weekend because I was
pretty disappointed with his comments,' Martin Brundle told
ITV. 'I thought they were unreasonable.
'It would be nice to have little pat on the back from time to
time instead of having our legs cut from underneath us at
every opportunity at Silverstone.'
While Bernie now concedes improvements to parking and traffic
organization, Brundle is willing to take on-board Bernie's
criticism of circuit signage and Grand Prix organization.
'Bernie was actually right about some aspects where not enough
lateral thinking had taken place.'
The 71-year-old's snide remark that Silverstone promoters
Octagon charge exorbitantly high ticket prices, however, did
not slip the cunning Brundle's attention. 'I thought it was
raw of Bernie to say what a bad job Octagon did considering
the money they charge,' the former driver adds.
'His [Bernie's] organization charges huge amounts of money for
the rights to run a Grand Prix because in the world of supply
and demand he has countries lined up to take slots and pay
'He also retains the bulk of the hospitality rights and all of
the TV rights. Octagon have no choice but to charge a lot of
money but this doesn't excuse them sorting out the basics
which, at the end of the day, is the point Bernie was trying
'Unfortunately the whole British Grand Prix and Silverstone is
such a sensitive issue that anything Bernie says is going to
make significant news.'
Martin Brundle, now BRDC Chairman and instrumental in the
total revamp of Silverstone's paddock area, contested 158
grands prix between 1984 and 1996.
Jordan Hope For Points
In 1999, Heinz-Harald Frentzen stormed home to a popular
French Grand Prix victory for Eddie Jordan's modest privateer
Three years on, the Silverstone-based team are just hoping to
turn seventh place at Silverstone into a measly point at the
While Giancarlo Fisichella has the yellow-clad hopes riding on
his shoulders, rookie teammate Takuma Sato is merely hopeful
that his Honda V10 makes the distance at his French racing
'I have never raced at Magny-Cours, although I have driven
there when I visited during the winter with my engineer to
have a look at the circuit,' said the 25-year-old Japanese.
'We had the track to ourselves with a little formula school
car, admittedly in much cooler conditions than I am expecting
at the weekend. The EJ12 is looking good and we are hoping to
have further improvements from Honda, so I feel positive.'
Fisichella, off the back of a string of fifth places starting
at the Monte-Carlo race in May, is hoping for a return to
points-scoring form after the disappointment of their home
race at Silverstone last weekend.
'After our strong seventh place finish at Silverstone, the
team has made great efforts to make the car even more
competitive,' said the Italian after a week of hot, humid
testing at Valencia.
'I am confident about the performance of the car and the
[Bridgestone] tyres at this race.'
TWR Continue With Russian GP
Although Arrows might not be the strongest venture in pitlane,
Tom Walkinshaw remains adamant that his TWR group will
continue with plans for the Russian Grand Prix.
Originally scheduled for an inaugural 2003 race-date, Nagatino
Island's absence from next year's provisional F1 calendar
suggests that 2004 is a more realistic target for Formula
One's first trek to Moscow.
While Arrows threaten to flounder, Tom Walkinshaw's racing
empire [Tom Walkinshaw Racing] retain the contract to build
the Montreal-esque circuit. 'We were doing some manufacturing
in Moscow and came across the possibility of the race,'
explains the Arrows chief.
'From that moment on Bernie has been involved.' Which, in
short, ensures that the marriage of Formula One and the former
Soviet Union will go ahead no matter what future awaits
Arrows, Walkinshaw or TWR.
'As the crow flies its seven miles from the Kremlin',
Walkinshaw adds, referring to the Nagatino Island construction
site. According to our sources, construction is well advanced
on a 16-turn Formula One circuit.
Tom Walkinshaw continues: 'The race will have a similar feel
to the one in Montreal [on the Il Notre Dame], but this has
better access. There's an underground stop and a three-lane
dual carriageway onto the island.'
Despite TWR's undoubted financial strife, which saw Arrows
struggle to make a $7 million payment to Cosworth at
Silverstone, Walkinshaw reveals that the 'very rich' nature of
Moscow will fundamentally finance the operation.
'We are talking a very substantial sum of money for this
project', Walkinshaw adds. 'Moscow, though, is a very rich
city because it produces 45% of the country's government
Ecclestone, the man responsible for negotiating commercial
contracts with potential grand prix hosts, is confident that
Russia will appear 'somewhere on the calendar' before too
'As soon as the circuit is ready', says the 71-year-old, 'we
will be here.'
Ferrari Chief For Government?
According to emerging news reports, Ferrari boss Luca
Montezemolo could find his way onto the front bench of the
In view of Silvio Berlusconi's victory in the Italian
elections mid-last year, the Ferrari chief has reportedly been
offered the role of either Minister for Sport or Minister for
The reports are strengthened by comments made by the Italian
recently that the cycle he began at the Scuderia is now over,
giving him time 'To reflect a bit.'
The scarlet president further revealed that he learned of
Fiat's recent sale of 34% of Ferrari in the newspaper. 'I was
not informed', said an infuriated Montezemolo.'
Luca is revered in his home country, Ferrari's recent world
championship successes and his fabled organization of the 1990
Italia World Cup earning him a special place in Italian
He has been Ferrari President since 1991.
Ralf: World Champ Of 2004?
According to Ralf Schumacher, the charging young German could
be world champion by 2004.
Despite a somewhat disappointing tally of just one Malaysian
Grand Prix victory this year, the 27-year-old reveals that all
is going according to plan for ultimate motorsport spoils.
'Everything has gone very well,' says the BMW.Williams driver.
'I'm in a top team and I'm still in Formula 1 after six years
and not many people have achieved that.
'I've won a grand prix, even if for me I don't think that's a
The younger Schumacher's first F1 triumph came at the Grand
Prix of San Marino last year, before similar feisty drives at
the Canadian and German races.
While he has failed to match 2002 teammate Juan Pablo
Montoya's impressive five pole positions this year, Ralf is
confident that the world championship is still an attainable
'A world championship is something I would like to achieve in
the next two years,' he adds.
Should Ralf join the exclusive club of Formula One heroes, he
would complete the impressive record of the first world
champion brothers. Elder sibling Michael, six years Ralf's
senior, is well on his way to five F1 world championships.
While he has always been supportive of Michael's successes,
however, little brother Ralf is eager to postpone the Ferrari
teams' world title celebrations beyond this weekend's French
'To be honest, I don't feel like congratulating my brother on
his World Championship victory in France', he says with a
smile. 'I would prefer to delay this as much as possible!'
'The new aero package and our hard work testing tires and
traction control have pushed us forward and have made us more
competitive', Ralf continues, pondering his FW24 package for
the French Grand Prix.
'We are improving step by step and the same should be true at
Magny-Cours as well.'
Ralf drove to a steady second place at Magny-Cours, near
Nevers, last year.
Jacques Praises BAR Effort
Jacques Villeneuve is spurring his British American Racing
cohorts to ride the wave of buoyed optimism into this
weekend's French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours.
A steadily improving, heavily-revised 004 contender drove the
French-Canadian and Brackley-teammate Olivier Panis to their
first points-scoring finish of the year at Silverstone.
Whether on the slippery tarmac or round the 160mph Bridge
corner, Jacques Villeneuve felt at ease with his Formula One
mount. 'This was the first race in the season where we felt we
didn't need a slice of luck to be in the points,' he reports,
pondering the impending trip to Nevers.
'The car worked well on the high-speed corners and on Friday
and Saturday it was quick in both the dry and the wet,' he
told Motorsport News.
While the entire team should be pleased and motivated by their
British Grand Prix triumph, Jacques is quick to warn BAR now
to rest on their laurels.
'Everybody in the team needed this result as we've had tough
months since the start of the season,' Jacques continued.
'This will make people happy and usually happy people work
'Frustration is never a good thing - it makes you take wrong
decisions and not work with good energy.'
Jacques and Olivier's five point-haul at the British Grand
Prix catapulted the Brackley team above Minardi, Toyota and
Jaguar in the Constructors' chase.
F1 News In Brief
- The FIA have released details of the official press
conferences scheduled for Magny-Cours. This Thursday at 3pm,
Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar), Felipe Massa (Sauber), Michael
Schumacher (Ferrari) and Mika Salo will join French-Canadian
Jacques Villeneuve (BAR) and home-town hero Olivier Panis
(BAR) in the unilateral media centre. On Friday, team chiefs
David Richards (BAR) and Tom Walkinshaw (Arrows) will sit
alongside Toyota's Ange Pasquali, while Frenchman Pierre
Dupasquier (Michelin) and Jean Todt (Ferrari) join the
- Former McLaren ace John Watson says that an FIA-governed
sprinkler system would spice up the Formula One action.
Rejoicing in the exciting, changeable Silverstone conditions,
the Irishman said with tongue-in-cheek: 'If sprinklers were
used to really wet the track at the start of some races, you
could have the sort of upsets and tremendous overtaking we saw
- According to reports, the tiny Middle-Eastern Island of
Bahrain will soon be announced as the latest grand prix host.
Construction of a Herman Tilke headed, 5.5km circuit kicked
off in January, while news agencies report that progress is
'on time' and heading for a mid-2003 completion date.
- The home of the Austrian Grand Prix, the A1-Ring in Zeltweg,
could be set for a change of ownership. Reports link
energy-drink Red Bull Chief, Dieter Mateschitz, with the full
purchase of the circuit, which would perfectly compliment any
buy-out plan of the Arrows team and the Red Bull-backed search
for an American F1 driver. A buy-out would no doubt change the
name of the circuit, as it is currently owned by Austrian
telecommunications firm, A1. Note our disdain at the logical
- Korean vehicle manufacturer, Hyundai, is being strongly
linked to an assault on Formula One. Plans for an F1 entry
were shelved a few years ago when the Asian economy crashed,
but reports are now beginning to emerge that the project has
jumped back into life with the design resumption of a
prototype test car.
- Scottish Rally ace Colin McRae has thrown down the gauntlet
to his Formula One counterpart, Michael Schumacher. After
taking a record 25th victory in the Kenyan Safari Rally on
Sunday, the undisputed king of the rally-road offered to
settle the long-standing motoring dispute; whether Rally
drivers are better than Formula One pilots. Calling for a F1
race followed by a Rally challenge, McRae said 'The offer is
there. Over to Michael Schumacher'...
On This F1 Day...
Ian Stewart celebrates his 73rd birthday today, the British
driver contesting just a single Formula One Grand Prix in
Driving a Connaught, his race lasted just 25 laps before an
engine failure stalled his Silverstone charge.
Sharing July 15 as a birthday is Thai driver Prince Bira, who
would have turned 88 today.
A Siamese prince who raced on a British license, Bira was a
highly successful private owner both pre- and post-war. He
contested 19 Grands Prix, mostly in a Maserati, between 1950
and 1954, netting a best finish of fourth in the French Grand
Prix of '54.
Prince Bira died in 1985.
On this day in 1961, legendary Formula One constructor Lotus
celebrated their 100th Grand Prix. At the British Grand Prix
held at Aintree, a remarkable eleven Lotus-Climax entrants
netted a best finish of tenth.
In total, Lotus contested 491 Grands Prix, winning 79 times
for seven Constructors' World Championships. The team folded
in 1994 with Mika Salo and Alex Zanardi at the wheel.
Exactly six years later, British constructor BRM contested
their 250th race at the British Grand Prix, while Goodyear
netted their 100th start and Firestone their 20th pole
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