F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
July 17, 2002
Tire War Heats Up
The frenetic tire war is set to heat up this weekend in Nevers,
both Bridgestone and Michelin unveiling new compounds to
tackle the ultra-smooth, sizzling tarmac at Magny-Cours.
Japanese constructor Bridgestone, who supply the pace-setting
Ferrari juggernaut, point to rear tire degradation as the key
to French Grand Prix competitiveness. 'Last year the track
temperature rose to a searing 51 degrees', recalls a
'The main feature of Magny-Cours as far as Bridgestone is
concerned is rear tire degradation,' said Bridgestone
Technical Chief Hisao Suganuma.
'This comes as a result of high temperatures combined with the
particular type of corners which demand good traction as
drivers accelerate early, especially out of the slow
As a result of Magny-Cours' unique tarmac, Bridgestone will
unveil two new dry compounds which Ferrari assisted in
evaluating last week.
'Clearly, our main aim towards being competitive at
Magny-Cours is to minimise rear tire degradation and to find a
high level of heat durability,' Suganuma added.
'We had a good result there last year and based on that we
have developed even better tires for this year's race. Our
option tire is likely to be the best choice in high
temperatures since it will offer better consistency and
balance; the primary specification will be more appropriate if
it is cooler.
For French manufacturer Michelin, contemplating their second
'home' grand prix since returning to Formula One Racing, all
heads have been down to solve the competitive problems
encountered last weekend at Silverstone.
'We drew two conclusions from what we saw there,' says
Motorsport Director Pierre Dupasquier. 'For reasons that
aren't yet clear, the bad news was that in dry conditions Juan
Pablo Montoya was unable to outpace Michael Schumacher's
Ferrari, despite having the same material at his disposal that
had allowed him to take another brilliant pole position.
'The good?', the Frenchman quizzes. 'The wet- and
intermediate-tire performance of Michelin-equipped cars proved
to be very competitive against those of teams that
traditionally excel in such conditions using our Japanese
You sure, Pierre? 'I'm obviously not including Ferrari when I
say this, because its cars were two to three seconds per lap
quicker than all the others - again for reasons that remain
unknown to us.'
While Michelin make the short trek from Clermont-Ferrand to
Nevers this weekend, Dupasquier adds that the French
manufacturer will 'Take the same approach to every race and
must treat Magny-Cours as a track just like any other.'
For the dry, Michelin teams will be offered two compounds of
grooved rubber; one from the 'middle' range of tire-softness,
and one brand new. 'A recent test session highlighted its
effectiveness,' reports Michelin.
'In addition, if the weather should take a turn for the worse
we have a new intermediate tire for our partners to try,'
Dupasquier hastens to add.
Michael Schumacher beat his younger brother home last year at
Magny-Cours, although the 27-year-old Williams driver netted
Michelin-clad Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya is targeting his
fifth successive qualifying triumph this weekend, despite the
fact that his best finish from the top spot is third.
Schumacher Happy To Wait
In an astonishing feat of dominance, Ferrari ace Michael
Schumacher stands on the cusp of his fifth world championship
this weekend; at the July 21 French Grand Prix.
While a Magny-Cours triumph would seal unprecedented triple
back-to-back Ferrari titles, and equal Juan-Manuel Fangio's
five championships, the German is, for once, content to
postpone ultimate spoils for another couple of weeks.
Because a week later, at his home grand prix at the
heavily-revised Hockenheimring, Michael Schumacher could wow
his scarlet army by notching up his championship in Germany.
'We will try to take it at Magny-Cours, because I would like
to win the race,' Schumacher reports. 'But that on its own
might not be enough to win the championship, as it does not
only depend on me, but also on what the others will do.'
Should Michael win the race, next-best points scorers Rubens
Barrichello and Juan Pablo Montoya would need to either retire
or finish out of the points to secure the Ferrari ace's title.
'So it does not really matter if it waits until Hockenheim,'
While 'pressure' seems a far off phenomenon for the ice-cool
German, Schumacher is not expecting a walk in the park on the
slippery, ultra-smooth Magny-Cours tarmac.
'This time of year it is usually very hot and that is the
factor that most influences the car's behaviour', the German
adds. 'The track surface can be slippery and the tires react
in a different way to usual. That means it won't be an easy
After a week at Fiorano and Mugello, Michael Schumacher and
his superlative F2002 took another step forward. On the
weekend, the German set a new lap record at the Scuderia's
private testing circuit.
'We are making a lot of progress and we learned some important
things from the test,' the 33-year-old said. 'We are confident
and happy with the package at our disposal for France.'
While the 051 engine, light-weight gearbox and superb
aerodynamics have played their part in Ferrari's
scarlet-painting of 2002, Michael Schumacher is willing to
attribute the lion's share of praise to their Japanese
'We have just done a better job,' he said, 'especially as far
as the tires are concerned. Our partnership with Bridgestone
is exceptional, because the tires are perfect for our car and
that is a basic advantage because the tires are a vital
'However, in general, our success comes from the fact we work
hard and in a constructive way and this has brought its
rewards both in terms of reliability and speed.'
Wurz Set For Racing Return
McLaren tester Alexander Wurz reports that his Formula One
racing future rests with one of three potential employers.
Fulfilling the third-driver role at Woking since 2000, the
lanky Austrian is eager to return to 'unfinished business' at
the pointy end of motorsport since his Benetton ousting in
Despite a hefty, long-term offer by Ron Dennis to stay in his
silver overalls, the Austrian is adamant that in 2003, he will
be on the Melbourne grid.
'My future will be with one of three teams, with one of them I
am very close already, but the key question now is timing,'
'I will see how things develop over the next 10 days and then
will quite likely make a decision before Hockenheim.'
Wurz was seen in deep and lengthy discussion with Toyota chief
Ove Andersson at the recent British Grand Prix, any move to
Cologne no doubt set to displace rookie Allan McNish.
While Toyota seems the likely option, Jaguar's Eddie Irvine
and Jordan's Takuma Sato are similarly far from secure for
next year's racing season.
'The annual F1 silly season has begun for 2003 contracts, and
the market is currently in limbo though waiting for the first
moves to kick off,' he explains.
'There are a few seats being targeted by a lot of drivers and
others will only be filled once these prime ones are gone. It
seems that it is the teams rather than the drivers who are
Wurz debuted for Benetton in 1997, subbing for an unwell
Gerhard Berger. Instantly, the Austrian outqualified teammate
Jean Alesi in France, before finishing a superb third at the
following Silverstone race.
Should Wurz return to the racing seat, he would vacate a
McLaren berth renowned for re-staring the careers of slumped
Formula One drivers. Last year, sacked Prost driver emerged
from the silver testing role to take up an impressive role at
Arrows Cars Missing Again
The troubled Arrows Grand Prix team are heading for a repeat
of their recent Silverstone crisis; reports having emerged
that the Orange-clad cars are once again missing from the
Formula One paddock.
After emergency negotiation with Ford and Cosworth bigwigs
granted them power for the British Grand Prix, team chief Tom
Walkinshaw is thought to have failed in eking out a long-term
solution for the Leafield team during the course of the last
The majority sale of the team, to a consortium headed by Red
Bull, was blocked by shareholders Morgan Grenfell when it
became unclear exactly what was changing hands. Without the
outstanding $7m to pay to engine suppliers Cosworth, Arrows
narrowly averted missing the Silverstone grid.
With a little help from Bernie Ecclestone, Walkinshaw brokered
a short-term deal which saw Arrows avoid a $500,000 fine for
missing a grand prix. In a new twist to the harrowing tale,
however, early paddock pundits have noted the conspicuous
absence of Arrows' car transporters at Magny-Cours.
When contacted for comment, all Arrows' spokesperson was able
to divulge was that 'Discussions are still going on and there
are no conclusions as yet'. With pre-race scrutineering set to
take place tomorrow morning, it is widely thought that Arrows
will request another extension to this deadline.
As media speculation reached melting point late last night,
however, Tom Walkinshaw was able to confirm that the
Cosworth-powered A23s were recently dispatched for
'We will do all in our power to compete at the weekend,' the
Scot said. 'We have new investors waiting to step in and
secure our future, but we still have to come to agreement with
'Negotiations are detailed and complex but we don't intend to
give up. We need more time. We want to do a deal that will
satisfy everyone concerned. We are still in discussions with
all parties and are now moving into the time-consuming due
diligence process with some of the potential investors.
'We'll keep on trying and hope that common sense and
responsibility prevail. We'll keep you informed.'
The deadline for the next engine payment to Cosworth is later
Egypt Eye 2004 Grand Prix
Egypt, the land of the pyramids, are predicting a 'late 2004'
date for their inaugural round of the Formula One World
'We are determined to have a circuit in the 6th October
District, which is within viewing distance of the great
Pyramids,' said Ashraf Mahmoud of Egyptian Motorsport.
Joining fellow Middle-Eastern nations Dubai and Bahrain in
Grand Prix aspirations, construction will imminently commence
on an International-standard circuit hinted at costing more
than $100 million.
'Realistically, we will be ready to host a round of the FIA
Formula One World Championships in late 2004.'
If Bernie Ecclestone's plans come to fruition, Egypt will join
Russia, Bahrain, China and Turkey on an ever-expanding 2004/5
Formula One calendar.
The F1 supremo has already warned that 'three or four'
existing European races will lose their grand prix to make way
for the new additions.
F1 Fun With Alex Wurz
Alex, what's your favourite film? 'The Usual Suspects, I like
Favourite football team? 'The F1 driver all-star team.'
The most ridiculous rumour you've heard about yourself? 'None
What was your career low point? 'Qualifying down in 18th at
the British Grand Prix in 1999. That was not much fun, I
remember it well.'
Who do you most dislike? 'Some people are annoying, but
there's no-one I would say I actually hate.'
Where is the best F1 nightlife? 'Argentina (Buenos Aires).
It's a shame we don't go there any more.'
What is the worst road car you've ever driven? 'One with no
petrol in it!'
How much is a pint of milk? 'In Austria, its a little over $1'
Your favourite pop group? 'It varies from classical to noise,
but I like modern music.'
Any pets? 'I have two cats who are as old as my motor racing
career - 14 years.'
Jaguar and Minardi To Join Forces?
Minardi ace Mark Webber has let slip that his recent Jaguar
test could forge the way to a 'Win for everybody.'
Referring to himself, cash-strapped Minardi chief Paul
Stoddart and boss of Jaguar Niki Lauda, the 25-year-old
Australian continued that 'Paul and Niki were very keen for me
to have a run in the car.'
Reports emerged at the time of his single day of Barcelona
testing that a customer supply of Cosworth V10s could somehow
find their way into the Minardi for 2003. While Stoddart would
be unable to field the $20 million price-tag, Webber comments
that 'There is a way in which Niki and Jaguar can benefit from
this as well.
'It is difficult to give you any more than that', the
Australian rookie smiles, 'But there's no doubt a few things
at Jaguar that might help Minardi in the future.'
Asiatech, who currently supply Minardi with free V10 engines,
are accelerating plans for a full assault on Formula One and
are not expected to continue their relationship with the
Faenza team next year.
'There are a few reasons Paul and Niki wanted me to test the
Jaguar,' Webber continues. 'I might win out of the situation,
Paul might win out of it, and Niki and Jaguar too.'
None the wiser? Watch this space...
Does Fisichella Lack 'Energy'?
Martin Brundle thinks that Jordan ace Giancarlo Fisichella
does not put 'Enough energy and passion' into his Formula One
The former McLaren and Jordan driver, now a British race
commentator for ITV, says that despite the Italian's undoubted
talent behind the wheel, a lack of dedication will always
relocate him to the middle of the Formula One grid.
'He is one of the very best drivers in Formula One', said
Brundle - Chairman of the British Racing Driver's Club - at
Silverstone last weekend.
'He just doesn't seem to put enough energy into it, in my
Fisichella, after a four year stint at Benetton (now Renault),
was forced out of the team this year by Flavio Briatore's
young protégé Jarno Trulli. Accepting a three-year offer for
Eddie Jordan's Silverstone operation, the 29-year-old has
voiced his disbelief that McLaren opted for Kimi Raikkonen
over him this year.
'I think they just don't like Italian drivers', said the
Roman, continuing that his skill and experience far outweigh
the benefits of the young Finn. Martin Brundle, referring to
Fisichella's untapped potential, has another theory.
'I think Fisichella could have achieved so much more with the
talent he possesses. But you just don't see the passion and
energy that there needs to be from a top line driver.
'I feel quite strongly about that', the 43-year-old Englishman
Fisichella debuted at Minardi in 1996, forced out of the seat
in the second half of the year with a lack of finance. In
1997, he burst back onto the scene alongside a rookie Ralf
Schumacher, at Jordan.
Despite netting a maiden pole in 1998, the Italian's
score-card remains conspicuously void of a Grand Prix triumph.
F1 News In Brief
- Italian ace Jarno Trulli says that beating McLaren duo David
Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen is a realistic target for the
weekend's racing at Magny-Cours. Driving for the steadily
improving Renault team, the 29-year-old is confident that the
R202's good front end, stable braking and superb traction
means that points are a real possibility for the teams' home
Grand Prix. 'We had a very competitive qualifying performance
at Silverstone,', he adds, 'So I hope we are getting closer to
McLaren,' he said. 'We should be very close by the end of the
- We extend the very best of wishes to BAR's chief mechanic,
Alastair Gibson and his wife Carolyn on the birth of their
first child, William Alastair. At the recent British Grand
Prix, Alastair refused to join his wife in hospital as Jacques
Villeneuve and Olivier Panis soared to BAR's first points of
2002; but little William held off until Dad had recovered from
the reported 'wild' celebrations on Sunday night. Now that's
what I call devotion to Formula One...
- The organizers of Australia's Indy 300 have invited Alex
Zanardi to be 'Grand Marshal' at this year's race. Held on
Queenland's Gold Coast in October, the former CART and F1
driver won his last ever motor-race at the event in 1998.
Heading towards a brilliant return win, the Italian nearly
lost his life at the inaugural Lausitz race in Germany last
year, the impact leading to the amputation of both legs above
the knee. Attending his first event since the crash, Zanardi
waved the checkered flag last weekend at Toronto.
- BAR tester Anthony Davidson will test a Team Green Lola
ChampCar later today at Elkhart Lake. The young Briton is
among contenders for a berth with Barry Green's CART operation
for 2003, and has the support of BAR's financiers British
American Tobacco who sponsor the team through their KOOL
- Michael Schumacher sent a clear message to his rivals that
the all-conquering scarlet juggernaut will continue to roll in
2002. Testing at Ferrari's private Fiorano facility, the
German set a new lap record of 57.476 seconds; the time nearly
a second quicker than his previous best.
- If you see Takuma Sato's EJ12 whiz by in the traffic with a
few parcels on board, it might not be your eyes deceiving you.
In support of their Jordan Honda title sponsorship, DHL
recently commissioned delivery vans in the UK, USA, Hungary,
Austria and Belgium to be emblazoned with side views of the
team's EJ12 Formula One cars. These vans will be in operation
throughout the current Formula One season.
- The issue of Repetitive Strain Injury has risen again,
Professor Sid Watkins allaying his belief that 'The great
majority of the [F1] field is suffering' with the ailment.
Accompanying painful hand joints and a tingling sensation in
their fingertips, many F1 drivers incur the injury because of
vibrations transmitted by the steering wheel and constant
button-pushing. The FIA doc, however, has told the elite
pilots not to worry: 'This is only the muscular equivalent of
blisters - no serious long-term damage.'
- As the F1 world converges on Magny-Cours for the French
Grand Prix, some reports in the French media are hinting that
Paul Ricard could make a return to Formula One racing. Toyota
currently lease the track for private testing, while FIA
President Max Mosley is thought keen to see the
mountain-circuit return to the Grand Prix calendar. Paul
Ricard hosted the F1 circus 14 times between 1971 and 1990.
- 21-year-old Swede Thed Bjork has abandoned his sportscar
berth to take up Ryan Briscoe's F3000 seat at Nordic Racing.
Briscoe, official test driver for the Cologne-based F1 squad,
was pulled from the seat so as to concentrate on his F1
duties. 'It felt good to be back in a single-seater,' said
Bjork. Briscoe, a 20-year-old Aussie, finished 11th and 15th
in his debut German F3 races at Lausitz last weekend.
On This F1 Day...
On this solemn day in Formula One history, we pause to
remember the brilliance of Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio.
The outstanding Grand Prix driver of the 1950's and one of the
best of all time, his five championships look to be equaled in
the coming weeks by a modern great; Michael Schumacher.
Winning 24 grands prix between 1950 and 1958, he won the
championship in 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957. In his final
year of F1 competition in 1958, Fangio competed in only two
races before retiring after the French race at Reims, for
He died in 1995, aged 84, on this seventeenth day of July.
On this day in 1977, American tire giant Goodyear notched up
their one hundredth grand prix win.
Shod with Goodyears, the late and flamboyant James Hunt
steered his McLaren-Ford to the famous accolade, after
starting from pole..
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