F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
July 18, 2002
Panis Ready For Home Race
Frenchman Olivier Panis has touched down in Nevers buoyed for
his home Grand Prix at Magny-Cours.
The 36-year-old, after failing to finish the first eight races
with an unreliable BAR, is hoping to continue the Brackley
teams' form turnaround which saw him and Jacques Villeneuve
net five valuable points at Silverstone.
'It was a very long wait to catch the first point, but I feel
it arrived at the right moment,' said Panis.
'Silverstone was home Grand prix for the team, and the result
is so good for BAR and Honda. Also Bridgestone did a fantastic
job at Silverstone with their intermediate tires. They were
amazing tires! Together we worked so hard to prove what we
can, and now we've finally done it!'
Despite struggling to even greet the chequered flag of late,
the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix winner says he's working harder
than ever to push towards a second Formula One win.
'That's true, and all the time I am pushing forward,'
explained Panis. 'I do like my job. I really want to win
before I stop Formula One, and I fight a lot for that. I work
'I really don't care about whether I finished in the first
eight Grands Prix or not. I know it is not good, but I just
don't spend time dwelling on it. What I want and what I feel
is that I continue to improve the car, and carry on scoring
Even though the changeable Silverstone conditions played into
BAR and Bridgestone's hands, ultimate competitiveness is still
an absent element of the Brackley team's makeup. Panis, all
the while, has been doing his utmost - from the cockpit - to
lift the waning spirits of the BAR crew.
'I know when I am in the car, I am pushing 100 per cent,' he
said. 'I think I pulled the team up when the motivation level
was a bit low. This is the job for the driver, you know. When
the car is bad and the team is not fantastically motivated, it
is the driver who needs to help everybody and pull everybody
'The team did react very well, when we started off quite badly
at the start of the season. It is a good sign. So when we have
a good car, we work even better and harder.'
New team boss, David Richards, arrived with a bang at the
beginning of this racing season. Having shocked the world with
the ousting of Craig Pollock, Richards set about the Brackley
staff with an axe; along with over 30 BAR personnel -
including chief designer Andy Green - under-performing
technical director Malcolm Oastler was replaced by talented
aerodynamicist Geoff Willis.
A move Olivier Panis wholeheartedly supports. 'I am happy to
work with Geoff and all the new staff at BAR now,' said the
Frenchman. 'After David Richards made a huge change in the
organization, I do feel it started working well.
'On the car, bit by bit we improved. The reliability of the
car has definitely improved. Then we had the new aero kits. I
know it is not a huge difference but has definitely helped us.
'I think Geoff is carrying on to next step, which should be
ready for Spa race. It is just great. The team has not stopped
working. There was not any moment where we give up on this
year's car and concentrate on next year's.
'We need to understand why the car is not good enough, so that
we can make sure we have better car next year. Geoff brought
lots of things to the team. He brought his experiences and
lots of ideas for next year.'
This weekend at Magny-Cours, Olivier Panis carries alone the
pride of a nation on his shoulders.
Arrows Dispute Not Engine-Related
The struggling Arrows Grand Prix have made the £1.1m
race-by-race payment to Cosworth for this weekend's round at
According to the Leafield team, however, engines are the least
of their worries as they continue to scrap with major
shareholder Morgan Grenfell.
Just prior to last weekend's British Grand Prix at Silverstone
International, Morgan Grenfell won a High Court injunction
blocking Arrows from participating in any major financial
transactions. With the buy-out of the team by a US-consortium
including Red Bull put on the back-burner, team chief Tom
Walkinshaw was unable to pay the customer engine bill to Niki
As the F1 circus lands for this weekend's French Grand Prix,
however, the Orange-clad A23s of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and
Enrique Bernoldi once again arrived late and were in danger of
missing FIA pre-race scrutineering.
While an Arrows statement claimed that 'All payments to
Cosworth Racing are up to date', it is wholly unclear what
obstacles stand in the way to the team's contesting of the
'The issues we have are nothing to do with Cosworth,' the
statement continued, 'They are to do with one of our
'We are still in discussions and, as we said yesterday, we
will do all in our power to compete this weekend.'
A more than $500,000 fine accompanies non-participation in a
round of the Formula One World Championship, making it
imperative that two Orange contenders line up on Sunday
Tom Walkinshaw has revealed that 'two or three' major
investors are ready to pump funds into the cash-strapped team;
energy-drink firm Red Bull and Craig Pollock, former BAR
chief, blocked by the Morgan Grenfell injunction.
The latest word from Arrows is that 'Discussions are still
taking place.' When asked if Frentzen and Bernoldi would be
racing at Magny-Cours, the team spokesperson replied
'I honestly don't know.'
Schumacher's 'Unchanged Passion'
Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn has reiterated his
belief that Michael Schumacher is 'a long way' from hanging up
his scarlet helmet.
Speculation continues to circulate that the great German will
call it quits after the record-breaking feat of five world
championships is accomplished. Come the end of 2002, goes the
logic, Schumacher will retire to his young family in rural
Damon Hill, former F1 rival, says that upon scrutiny of the
33-year-old, all signs point to imminent retirement. 'I see
something changing in Michael', said the Englishman. 'I think
he could very well retire at the end of this year.'
Schumacher rubbished the Hill-psychology session, wryly musing
that 'Of course, Damon has always been one of my best
One man who can claim this mantle, however, is burly Briton
Ross Brawn, a close working ally for more than ten years.
According to him, Michael could remain at the pinnacle of
motorsports for many more years.
'I see an unchanged passion in him and as well as I know him,
I would say he will still be driving for many years,' Brawn
'I couldn't imagine why he should retire now.'
Even if Schumacher's driving career has an ultimate use-by
date, Brawn thinks that the German could take up a role at the
Scuderia when he does step from the cockpit.
'Michael is of course a very important component of the team,
but I don't know what he wants to do later.
'Maybe take over some job at Ferrari.'
Toyota And BAR Want Wurz
Alex Wurz has revealed that a lucrative, three-year extension
to his current McLaren testing duties is on the table.
Accompanying an additional two offers for racing seats for
2003, the lanky Austrian is quick to add that a return to the
Formula One grid is his 'utmost goal' after two years on the
'I am negotiating with three teams, two of which have promised
me a driving seat,' the 28-year-old told Austrian newspaper
We have it on very good authority that the two seats in
question belong to Toyota and British American Racing; the
latter option throwing into doubt the future of 1997 world
champion Jacques Villeneuve.
The generous offer from Ron Dennis, however, gives some
insight into the rising value of Alexander Wurz.
'McLaren have offered me a three-year contract as a test
driver, pushing the money side of things as well,' he
'But Competing in races is certainly the utmost goal.'
The Austrian says he will make a final decision on what to do
for 2003 within next week.
'I need to make decisions quickly so I can concentrate on my
current job and plan ahead. A decision must be made following
Magny Cours at the latest.'
Wurz debuted for Benetton in 1997, his three year stint with
the Enstone team stagnating when his relationship with Flavio
Rubens Denies 'Gift Win' Claims
Rubens Barrichello has rubbished media claims that Michael
Schumacher will gift him the French Grand Prix win.
According to the Brazilian, reports that hint the great German
will postpone his championship aspirations to his home race
next week are 'complete rubbish'.
'People are saying Magny-Cours should be my race because
Michael wants to take the title in Germany, but I feel that is
complete rubbish,' Barrichello declared.
'In Formula One you win when you can. We know from the results
of testing that once again we will be competitive this weekend
in France. From last year, we know that the Michelin tire used
by our rivals will be very competitive there, so we need to
look after ourselves over the weekend and wait and see what
result we get.'
There is little doubting the logic behind Rubens' reason;
since the Spanish Grand Prix, the Brazilian has arguably been
the class of the Scuderia; beating home his German cohort at
the Austrian and European Grands Prix while out-qualifying him
on no less than four occasions.
Far from 'gifting' him a win, Michael has been struggling
simply to keep up with the amiable Brazilian.
'We cannot go there thinking about the championship anyway',
continues Barrichello. 'We have to concentrate on winning the
While Michael Schumacher focuses on 'when' rather than 'if' he
wins his fifth world championship crown, Rubens is content to
simply get on with the task of driving his Ferrari home to
'For me it is more important to win races,' he said. 'That
pleases me more than the idea of finishing second in the
championship. If you tell yourself that you want to finish
second in the series, that is not really good enough, so as an
individual I take it race by race and try and win as many as
'If, at the end, I finish second then that is fine too.'
And, contrary to popular belief, Rubens is adamant that his
fighting verve against Schumacher will not change when the
scarlet leader becomes world champion. 'My race tactics will
not change if Michael takes the title, because I don't think
you will ever see a risky fight between team-mates,' he adds.
'It has happened in the past with other teams, where the
drivers have agreed that whoever leads the first lap will win
the race. But usually, team-mates should have an easier time,
racing fairly but without taking risks.
'You never fight your team-mate the way you fight the others.'
Panis In Talks With BAR
Olivier Panis has let slip that his management team is in the
process of negotiating a new contract with British American
Despite the talented Frenchman's resolve to contest the world
championship, the 36-year-old is adamant that 'If I cannot
drive a winning car, I want to stay here.
'If I left now, it would be such a shame to throw away all the
effort I have made. My manager is talking to other teams,
trying to find the best option for me, but I want to stay with
While confirming that neither himself nor BAR have an existing
contract option for 2003, Panis added that negotiation is
currently taking place with the Brackley team. 'We are
discussing a new contract,' Panis continues.
'I have worked so hard so I want to see the result myself, not
anyone else. Also I work very well with Jacques, and the team
knows it has two experienced drivers who can bring the cars
home in the points.'
While his first two years with the team have been spent
floundering in the bottom third of the grid, Panis is sure
that, in 2003, a rise to the top four constructors is a
'We will be fighting against Renault, definitely ahead of
Sauber and Jordan,' he said confidently. 'At least that is our
'We have to close the gap to the top. It is not possible to
fight Ferrari but we can fight with Sauber and possibly
Contemplating the weekend ahead, Panis will contest his ninth
French Grand Prix at Magny Cours on Sunday.
Alonso Will Make 2003 Return
According to Flavio Briatore, 20-year-old hotshoe Fernando
Alonso will have 'no problem' finding a Formula One racing
seat for next year.
The talented Spaniard, however, might have to put his ultimate
Renault aspirations aside for at least another year.
Speaking at a Renault team press conference in France, the
Italian team boss gave the strongest indication yet that
Jenson Button will retain his seat into 2003.
'This year the relationship between the team and Jenson has
been super,' said Briatore. 'He's done a super job, he
deserves a top team.'
Given that the Englishman's touted 2003 alternatives are
Toyota and Jaguar - hardly top teams - Briatore's comments
lead to the logical conclusion that team tester Alonso might
be 'loaned out' to a third-party F1 team.
And, in view of his impressive Jaguar test last month,
Briatore hinted that it would be unwise to upset the
impressive charge of current Renault drivers Jarno Trulli and
'Fernando will have no problem,' said the Italian. 'Four or
five teams are interested in him.
'He will be in Formula One next year,' he added. 'We cannot
block a driver like him. If he doesn't get a place at Renault,
he will definitely find a place at another team.'
Briatore loaned the teenage Alonso to European Minardi last
year, Paul Stoddart branding him a 'multiple world champion'
of the future.
Webber Targets 'Next Step'
Minardi ace Mark Webber is targeting a 'tougher' challenge for
his second season of Formula One racing.
Debuting this season for compatriot team boss Paul Stoddart's
KL Minardi Asiatech outfit, the 25-year-old from Queanbeyan in
New South Wales says that an impressive rookie season is one
thing; but he's ready for 'the next step'.
'I'm ready for the next step,' Webber told this month's F1
Racing.' I want that tougher teammate, that slightly tougher
environment. I want more pressure. It might be Minardi or it
might be elsewhere.'
On debut at the Australian Grand Prix, Webber completed a
'fairy-tale weekend' by scoring two points for Minardi. 'In
Australia, an Australian driver, driving for an Australian
team', remembers Webber. 'It could NOT have been better.'
While linked to Sauber and Toyota, the Australian impressed in
his recent one-off test for Jaguar Racing; Niki Lauda and Paul
Stoddart calling the Barcelona outing part of a 'grander
theme' for both teams.
According to our sources, Webber could be loaned to the
Milton-Keynes outfit in return for part-payment of Cosworth
engines for Minardi.
As far as Webber is concerned, however, he is ready to take up
the Formula One challenge away from the final row of the grid.
'I want to be in the position where, this time next year,
people are looking at me and saying, this is our guy.
'I like to compare myself with the best so I gain satisfaction
out of qualifying 1.1 seconds off David Coulthard in Montreal
or passing Olivier Panis at the exit of the tunnel at Monaco.
'I can only hope that other people notice it.'
Sunday Rain For Magny-Cours?
The chance of another wet Formula One race is steadily rising,
the latest reports for the Nevers region in France predicting
patchy Sunday rain.
A stunning, albeit cloudy, 24° beats down on Magny-Cours
today, with the weekend forecast looking for a rise to 27°
come Saturday qualifying for the French Grand Prix.
Sunday, however, remains the questionable day. While a top of
27°C is again expected, respected weather sources suggest that
intermittent showers could threaten sunny skies at the close
of the French Grand Prix.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen drove to victory in the last wet blast
at Magny-Cours in '99, while another slippery showing should
hold Bridgestone runners in good stead after trouncing the
Michelin opposition at Silverstone.
Pierre Dupasquier, Motorsport Director at Michelin, rides into
cloudy French skies more optimistic than last weekend. 'We
have an intermediate tire that should be more competitive than
at the British Grand Prix', he said.
'Although our wet and intermediate tires were still
competitive at Silverstone, we are confident that this tire
represents a step forward for our partners.'
McNish Ignores Speculation
Toyota rookie Allan McNish is attempting to fend off
speculation that his days at the pinnacle of motorsports are
Despite driving smoothly in the Cologne-based team's fledgling
season of racing, the 33-year-old has averaged a lowly
seventeenth in qualifying; significantly down on his more
experienced teammate Mika Salo.
While Jenson Button, Mark Webber, Alex Wurz and others eye his
cosy berth with the Japanese giant, the Scot is doing his best
to ignore speculation which leaves him unemployed next year.
Denying any annoyance at the media claims, McNish told
Autosport that the constant rumors are 'as distracting as you
let them be.
'If you let it affect you, then yes, it is distracting. There
are always rumors at this time of year, but that's a fact of
As the Formula One test teams enjoy July and August off, the
Scot admits that any restriction on track time is 'always a
bit of a handicap when we're not able to gain any more
'However having said that I actually think it might be a good
thing to have a bit of time to restock and work our exactly
where we are and how we can improve from where we are.
'It's like the testing ban at the end of last year - in some
respects it was a positive thing for us.'
McNish is a late F1 bloomer, debuting at the ripe age of 33.
After testing for Benetton and McLaren more than a decade ago,
the Scot earned a living in sportscars; his latest accolade
being the 2000 American Le Mans Series.
Panis Refuses To Blame Honda
Despite Honda's clear performance deficit in 2002, BAR driver
Olivier Panis refuses to hit out at the Japanese engine
In their third season of racing since returning to Formula
One, Honda have failed to deliver the promise expected of the
giant's might. Teaming up with both Jordan and BAR for 2001,
Honda guaranteed a performance step for season 2002.
Ten races into the current season, the V10 unit is as
under-powered and fragile as it ever has been. Olivier Panis,
contemplating his home Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, refuses to
deprive Honda of the respect they deserve.
'I was disappointed, but when Honda explained to me about the
target and the problem they had faced during the winter, I
mean, it is not easy, and I felt they deserved respect,' he
'When things are tough there are two ways to react. You either
cry and stop or continue to move forward. I did the second
one. We work together. We have the same challenge.
'It is true I was let down but if I speak to you now, I want
to say they have done a great job so far.'
While Honda immerse themselves in the task of 'restructuring'
themselves for 2003, speculation is beginning to harden that
BAR will become exclusive recipients of the Japanese power
from next year.
Olivier Panis, the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix winner with
Mugen-Honda power, knows very well Honda's resolve to win.
'They were also very disappointed too, you know,' the
Frenchman continues. 'They were also angry with themselves. It
was not only the driver who was let down.
'I've known Honda for a long time. I know they want to win.'
F1 News In Brief
- Frenchman Olivier Panis has revealed that David Richards is
employing rally-like weather-detection in his new role as BAR
team boss. Speaking ahead of his ninth home Grand Prix, Panis
said that Richards' Silverstone strategy consisted of posting
staff around the 5km circuit, while his own helicopter hovered
overhead. 'It was amazing!' said Panis. 'That definitely came
from his rallying experience. We had plenty of information
where the bad weather was coming from. This did help us a
lot.' BAR scored their first points of the season at the
British Grand Prix.
- While Luciano Burti is often forced to remain away from the
world's Grands Prix, the Brazilian has confirmed that, this
weekend, he is 'going to Magny-Cours to cheer for Michael. I
hope he wins the championship title this weekend and hope that
the whole team has a successful result.'
- Outspoken Jaguar driver Eddie Irvine has slammed safety
standards at the high-speed Monza circuit after colleague
James Courtney's massive testing accident last week. Losing it
at the Ascari chicane, the Australian slammed into the
barriers at an unabated 200mph. Despite complaining of blurred
vision and a stiff neck, Courtney will not miss any cockpit
action in the coming days. 'Many criticize the first corner,
but it is in fact the only safe one', Irvine said. 'The other
corners are dangerous and you risk having a nasty accident if
you have any problems there.' A Monza spokesman denied the
claim: 'The barriers stood up well to the big impact,' he
- Frenchman Jean Todt feels more than a patriotic verve when
he returns to Magny-Cours for his home Grand Prix. As the
Ferrari Sporting Director reveals, 'The place holds a special
significance for me. Both as my home race and also because
this is where, back in 1993, I began my career as head of
- Takuma Sato has been using his spare time to good effect in
the last fortnight, the rookie Japanese traveling to the
Hockenheim and Hungaroring circuits to gain an insight into
the two unfamiliar venues. Despite torrential rain in Hungary,
the 25-year-old did 20-laps in a road-car, saying: 'It's a bit
like a go-kart track, good fun to drive but not the most
difficult F1 track.' His next stop, at the heavily-revised
Hockenheim circuit in Germany, Taku reported that 'The new
Hockenheim track is big, wide and quick!'
- Sir Frank Williams has praised the installation of tarmac
run-off areas at a number of Formula One circuits. According
to the BMW.WilliamsF1 team chief, tarmac areas 'mean that if
you go beyond the limit, you just lose a few seconds and start
again,' thereby promoting overtaking. The Briton continued:
'The first corner at Indianapolis is like that, and it's no
coincidence that you see spectacular duels there. And the new
Hockenheim circuit has been built with this philosophy.'
- Organizers of the German 500, scheduled for September 21 at
the Lausitzring, has been cancelled. The European CART venue,
which filed for insolvency last month, staged their inaugural
race just days after the September 11 attacks last year, and
was the horrific scene of Alex Zanardi's life-threatening
accident. 'We will shift our European focus to other markets,'
CART President Chris Pook said.
- The lucky Silverstone marshal who was handed a pair of
scarlet racing gloves by Michael Schumacher last weekend has
confirmed that he will not be selling the priceless piece of
F1 memorabilia. 'No way!' he was quoted as saying. 'I will
treasure these for ever. Michael was extremely kind and very
- Lisa Dennis, wife of McLaren chief Ron, has released a
children's picture book based on the fictional world of
Formula One racing. Called 'The Adventures of Mac And Lauren'
(get it?), the stories include the tales of a silver racer
called Mac, his English friend Wills, and the passionate
Italians Franco. Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, Juan
Pablo Montoya, Jenson Button, Jarno Trulli and other F1
drivers helped to launch the book last weekend at Silverstone,
amid a swarm of starry-eyed youngsters.
- McLaren-driver Kimi Raikkonen's niggling back injury has
reportedly flared up again as he lands for this weekend's
French Grand Prix. Having slipped a disc while testing late
last year, the Finn aggravated the injury at this year's
Spanish Grand Prix on April 28. Despite some pain, he is not
expected to miss any action at Magny-Cours.
On This F1 Day...
On this day in 1920, 5-times a Grand Prix starter Eric Brandon
was born in England.
Contesting a handful of races for Cooper in 1952, Brandon made
a brief comeback in 1954 at Silverstone, his race and career
ending after two laps.
On this day in 1959, Australian great Jack Brabham netted his
first Formula One pole position. At the British Grand Prix of
Aintree, Brabham brought home both his and Cooper's first
qualifying triumph, before winning the race in style.
Later, the triple world champion would make history as the
first driver to win the championship in a rear-engined car,
and as the first person to win a race in a car he designed.
In that same race, teammate New Zealander Bruce McLaren netted
his first fastest lap. The successful driver founded the team
which still competes at the pointy end of Formula One.
On this day in 1976, Ford powered to their 2000th race entry
at the British Grand Prix, while six years later Keke Rosberg
notched up his first pole position at Brands Hatch.
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