F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
July 19, 2002
Button: My Mind Is Made Up
Jenson Button says that an official announcement on his 2003
Formula One plans will be issued within days.
As the World Championship circus contemplates round eleven at
the Magny-Cours circuit, however, the 22-year-old lets slip
that his 'mind is made up,' over who to drive for.
Currently with the Enstone-based Renault team, the Englishman
has been widely tipped for an ousting in favor of Spaniard
Fernando Alonso. While Flavio Briatore hinted yesterday that
Button may be retained for '03, the man himself is not
prepared to give away any clues. 'You will know in the next
few days', Button said.
'Hopefully after the weekend we'll sort of know where we are.
It should be before Hockenheim.'
With Jaguar, Toyota, BAR, Renault, Williams - and now Sauber -
all in the frame, Jenson Button is preferring to keep his lips
sealed on the eve of an imminent announcement. 'I'm not
commenting on what team it is,' he said with a smile.
Neither would the cunning ace be tricked into revealing 'what
color they are, or which tires they're on!'
'I think the teams I'm talking to are teams that have got very
good possibilities in the next couple of years,' he added.
'You've got to look at what they've got on board.
'It's fair enough saying you're going to be a world champion
in four years but if you haven't changed anything from four
years ago it's not going to happen. It's very important to
choose a team that you know is moving forward and have got
good people on board that you know are going to do a good
Refusing to be drawn on color or tire supplier, a keen
reporter turned his attention to team nationality: 'I want to
win races, it doesn't matter what country the team is from,'
'It's obviously nice being with a British team because it
makes it a lot easier to work with the engineers.' For the
record, the British-based teams on Button's short-list are
Jaguar, BAR, Renault and Williams.
As we went to press, however, news began to emerge that Button
had taken a little trip to Switzerland en route to the Nevers
region for this weekend's French Grand Prix. As the story
continues, Button was followed by one intrepid journalist to
the Sauber team's Hinwil base.
Confronted with the revelation, Button found salvage in a dose
of wry British wit. 'I was very low on chocolate at home and
thought I'd better go and get some.'
'There's nothing to be worried about,' Button reiterated to
the collected media in the Magny-Cours paddock. 'It's going to
be positive for me whether it's here, there or wherever.
'There are other very good options out there, so I'm not
worried or upset.'
Williams Meeting Targets
Dr Mario Theissen says that progress at the BMW-powered
Williams team is 'exactly reaching' all pre-season targets.
The BMW Motorsport Boss, watching over the Grove team's 61
points and solid second position in the Championship, adds
that the target for the remainder of 2002 is to consolidate
their berth behind Ferrari.
'After our long-term planning we're now exactly reaching our
target,' Theissen revealed.
'Prior to the season we defined the second place as our
target, and after ten races we are second in the Constructors'
Championship. And we don't want to lose that position.'
While 2002 is running according to plan, BMW and Williams'
focus is beginning to switch to the next logical step;
fighting for ultimate spoils next year.
'The optimum overall concept of vehicle and engine has been
formed already at the very beginning of the development work,'
'That phase for 2003 is already history, what is next is
reliability, and after that comes increase in performance. Of
course our aim is always to increase performance. Already now
our present engine is very powerful, and for many people it's
the most powerful in Formula One.
'As far as the new engine is concerned - just wait and see.'
De La Rosa Remains Calm
Pedro de la Rosa is throwing his support behind the struggling
Jaguar team, the Spaniard confident that R3b represents the
'correct way forward.'
Despite pre-Silverstone hype, the heavily-revised package
failed to deliver on the promise evidenced in wind-tunnel
testing. Comprising new front and rear wings, bargeboards and
aerodynamic additions, the all-improved Jaguar lined up on the
penultimate row of the grid for its debut at the British Grand
While driver Pedro de la Rosa admits that many Leaping Cat
personnel are 'slightly disillusioned' by their Silverstone
form, the Spaniard remains buoyed by the fact that R3b is
generating 'so much more downforce.'
'I think it clearly is a correct way forward,' he said at
Magny-Cours. 'I know it was not so obvious in lap times, but
all the numbers from the wind tunnel are much better.
'We could not somehow illustrate those in the times. At the
moment we do not why we could not do that. The car is
generating so much downforce now, but we need to have that
aero effect in corners.
'That is where we really have to improve. So it is something
mechanical we have to work on, at least that is my opinion. It
could be the suspension we need to look into, I really don't
know. We have to somehow understand whether it is only an aero
problem or a mixture of aero and mechanical.'
As hopes raise for a significant improvement at this weekend's
French Grand Prix, de la Rosa remains realistic that not
enough track mileage has been gathered so as Jaguar even
'understand' the heavily-revised aero-package.
'I think we have to test more,' he said. 'We need more mileage
to understand it. We have to know the package more to find a
solution. This is only our first step and we know we cannot
change any more at the moment. We have to make use of what we
While the Leaping Cat continue to flounder, de la Rosa's
resolve remains calm and focused upon moving the Milton-Keynes
team forward. 'I am not screaming and shouting for somebody to
be fired,' he said.
'My job is to drive, go quick and give information on the car.
However, there is no bad ambience at all in the team,
especially after Silverstone.
'I cannot deny there had been some tense moments in the past,
and the people are slightly disillusioned after Silverstone,
yes, but the atmosphere is genuinely good.
'I did not see anyone fearing (for their jobs). We had gone
through a phase like that, but not this time. The team knows
this modification is good and so we have to work hard to
realize that in lap times.
'I believe in the team, and what they can do. There has been a
big change within the team but those changes are good. It is
important that the team becomes one, all working together in
'Everyone has to be on the same frequency and when there is a
change in personnel, it cannot happen overnight. It takes
sometime to have a harmonious ambience. It is vital we work
with the same people. I feel finally we have very good people
together. There is a lot of expectation.'
While patience is not usually a virtue of a Formula One driver
with ultimate championship ambitions, Pedro de la Rosa's
admirable fortitude is severely strained after ten rounds
without a point. 'Being patient is very difficult,' he said.
'Not only I have to drive quickly, sometimes, often in
difficult times, it is part of my job to pull the team
'We have to keep the strength, we have to be brave and strong,
then the team will follow you. I think it is up to me to
maintain the team spirit. If the driver is demoralized the
team will be demoralized too.
'There are lots of people in the team and it is a team job. We
need all of us heading in the same direction. I could be
feeling totally fed up inside, but I have to keep smiling
outside. It is pretty tough. I have total confidence though.'
So, Pedro; I suppose R3b's dismal debut at Silverstone has
only added to the mounting pressure at Milton-Keynes? 'More
pressure?' he quizzes.
'That is not possible!'
Montoya Holds Off Decision
Feisty Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya has countered strong
speculation that he has signed a lucrative extension to his
As he bagged an impressive fourth consecutive pole position at
last weekend's Saturday blast at Silverstone, rumours appeared
to harden that Montoya had agreed upon a new two-year deal -
including a hefty pay increase - that will see him remain at
Grove until 2004.
While Sir Frank's offer is no doubt on the table, Montoya is
choosing to keep his signature disclosed until certain
'expected events' materialize for 2003.
'I have signed nothing yet,' Montoya said at Magny-Cours.
While the 26-year-old Colombian is not expected to jump ship,
he is no doubt as keen as anyone else to see out the rumors
involving Michael Schumacher and an early bath. According to
the tabloid hype, the great German could well hang up his
helmet when the inevitable fifth title is sewn up.
Which could, of course, leave a pair of rather attractive
scarlet shoes ready to fill. And Juan Pablo Montoya, already a
favourite of Ferrari President Luca Montezemolo, would be
first in line - and contract-free - to join the Scuderia's
Sir Frank, however, will not keep an offer dangling for all
eternity. If our sources are to be believed, Juan Pablo
Montoya will either accept or refuse the offer in question by
next weekend's German Grand Prix.
Another issue here is believed to be money. While Ralf
Schumacher currently enjoys the spoils of a lucrative,
more-than-$10 million per year salary until '04, pole-master
Montoya is unlikely to accept anything less than equal the pay
of his teammate.
As we speak, Montoya's fat pay-packet is less than half that
of his German counterpart. And Sir Frank Williams is renowned
for his resolve in keeping his drivers wanting in terms of
2004: The End Of F1?
Formula One's car manufacturers have accelerated plans for the
breakaway Grand Prix World Championship, the series now tipped
to raise its head in 2004.
While the unanimous Concorde Agreement - which governs Formula
One - stipulates competition until 2007, the eager
manufacturers have reportedly been deep in negotiation with
Bernie Ecclestone with a view to prematurely terminating the
The manufacturer consortium, comprised of Ford, Renault,
Mercedes, BMW and Fiat (dubbed ACEA), plan to abandon Formula
One's uncertain future and 'unfair' distribution of revenue
practices in an all-new World Championship.
There are those, however, who view GPWC as an elaborate
attempt to merely pressure Formula One into reform; this news
thereby simply another facet to the 'wake-up call' to the
administrators of the sport.
While 2007/8 is the logical start-date for the new series, the
manufacturers are outwardly keen to launch GPWC - and its
higher revenue potential - as soon as possible.
Head of Motorsport at one such manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz,
refused to be drawn on the new speculation. 'It's absolutely
premature to discuss that,' Norbert Haug told Autosport at
'There are processes going on, and this early that doesn't
happen in the public domain.
'I think there are positive developments in the pipeline, but
it is nothing we can share with the public.'
Formula One's commanding supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, is
thought to have been offered a similar role in the new
Bruised Brain For Jag Tester
Young Jaguar tester James Courtney has spoken about his
terrifying shunt at the high-speed Monza circuit during the
Throwing his R3 into the 180mph entry to Ascari chicane, the
Australian's mount suffered a rear suspension failure which
sent him careering towards the arm-co barriers.
'I remember the right-rear corner dropping and then the next
thing I was shaking my head and coming to and there were
people all around me,' the 21-year-old recalls.
'I couldn't move my right arm and that's when I started
The youngster was carefully extricated by the trackside
medical team and whisked away to the Monza medical center and
nearby Italian hospital. Cleared of any serious injury, James
escaped from the shunt with concussion and severe bruising.
The whack of his head, however, has left a bruise on the left
side of Courtney's brain. 'Because of that the right side of
my body wasn't functioning properly,' he reveals. Blurred
vision and dizziness remain as remnants of his Monza shunt.
'My right eye is still playing up but I'm told that it should
be okay in the next couple of days. I'm extremely lucky.'
The Aussie met with FIA medical delegate, Professor Sid
Watkins, earlier in the week hoping for clearance to race in
this weekend's Formula 3 race at Rockingham.
Courtney is on his way to snaring the famous British title in
Q & A With Williams Boys
Q & A with Williams contenders, Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf
Questions For Juan Pablo Montoya:
Juan, who was your biggest rival in motorsport? 'My biggest
rival is my teammate Ralf. In general, though probably
What's the weather right now in Magny-Cours? 'Sunny skies.'
Is Rubens the 'nicest guy' in F1? 'No, I am.'
Do you miss the cart ovals? 'Yes I do, they were a lot of
Do you miss Colombia? 'Yes, I miss Colombia a lot.'
How many speeding tickets have you got so far? 'Nobody knows,
and they probably never will.'
Who were your heroes when you were growing up? 'Senna.'
Which is your favourite race of the year? 'Japan and
Why do F1-drivers earn a lot of money? 'Because not a lot of
people can do it.'
It seems to me that you and Barrichello are good friends, is
it so? 'Yes, we are really good friends.'
Have you ever driven a Ferrari? 'Yes, I had one when I was in
Would you ever want No. 1 status within a team? 'I don't
really think you need that. If you have a good team you do not
really need that.'
Who is the most 'under rated' driver in F1? 'Fisichella.'
What's with the new chrome helmet? 'I started using the chrome
helmet in CART, and with my chief mechanic there I used to
decide which helmet to use. I think it looks better at the
How hard was the transition from CART to F1? 'It was pretty
hard, especially at the beginning and learning to balance the
Which of the remaining races this year are you most looking
forward to? 'Spa, Monza, Indianapolis, and Suzuka.'
Do you think Williams will win the championship next year? 'I
think Williams has a good chance next year of being world
Do you miss CART racing? 'Yes, I do miss some of the guys and
the people in CART.'
Questions For Ralf Schumacher:
Ralf, what are you currently driving for a road car? 'A BMW
Do you think that Ferrari's main advantage is the Bridgestone
tires? 'It is the package as a whole, and Bridgestone is
certainly part of it.'
Do you ever watch the big screen at the chicane at Magny Cours?
'Yes, it is perfect, and there is time enough to watch it.'
Who is your best mate - besides Michael - on the current F1
grid? 'There is none.'
Will there be an FW24B? 'No there will not be, we are fully
concentrating on next years car.'
Which of the remaining races are you most looking forward to?
'Looking forward to Monza and Indianapolis.'
How is your relationship with Juan this year? 'The
relationship has become better than ever. My team is very open
and we have a very good working relationship.'
How's the weather in France? 'The weather is beautiful at
present, I hope it stays that way.'
How do you find married life? 'Life is wonderful, and I am
just a very happy married man.'
Are you going to win this weekend? 'Hopefully soon, we are
working on it. The car will be faster towards the end of this
Would you like to win the championship while Michael is still
in the sport? 'Since he is the best and won the World
Championship the last 2 years, it would be wonderful if he
were still around.'
Are you able to beat Ferrari this weekend? 'We never know, we
try our best. But with the different circuits you never know
Who has been the biggest help to you in reaching the top of
F1? 'My manager Willi [Weber].'
What do you think of Magny-Cours? Is it a favourite track? 'It
is one of my favorite tracks. I enjoy the fast corners.
However Magny-Cours itself [the place] is a little bit
Did you enjoy the Goodwood Festival of Speed? 'I enjoyed it
very much because I was fascinated with the old cars. I have
not decided yet whether to return next year.'
Courtesy HP and BMW.Williams
BAR 'Standing Straighter'
Jacques Villeneuve has called BAR's experience of a
double-points finish at the recent British Grand Prix like
'waking up and splashing cold water on your face.'
Their first such top six finish of the year, BAR jumped from
dead last on the Constructors' table to eclipsing the
achievements of Minardi, Toyota and Jaguar. With optimism
buoyed at the team's Brackley base, the French-Canadian
reveals how 'much happier' BAR appear going into this
weekend's race at Magny-Cours.
'It just made everybody happier, so it's easier to work,'
Villeneuve commented of the strong fourth and fifth at
'It's like waking up and splashing some cold water on your
face. It was needed, it's been a very hard season since the
beginning and it looked like we weren't going to score any
points until the end of the season.
'That was bad, it was very hard for everybody to carry so now
everybody is standing a little bit straighter and it's easier
Having unveiling a revised Honda-powered 004 contender at the
June 9 Canadian Grand Prix, Villeneuve says that progress is
slow but sure at British American Racing. 'It wasn't huge but
it was enough to jump a few positions in qualifying,' he
'We're in that middle part of the grid where it's very close
with the lap times, and it was the first time this season we
managed to be in front of both Saubers. We use the Saubers as
a reference for us so that means we've made progress, and the
car was competitive throughout the whole race, wet and dry.
'So all the work we've done worked', he quips. 'We had the new
suspension in the last race and they worked well and we spent
a lot of time working on the electronics as well.'
Villeneuve is ten races into his fourth season of racing with
BAR; and let slip, this weekend, that year number five is just
around the corner.
'I'm staying next year', the 31-year-old quipped.
Michael Talks Down Title Hopes
Michael Schumacher is talking down his chances of netting an
historic fifth world championship crown at this weekend's
French Grand Prix.
With a mammoth gap to second-placed contender, Ferrari
teammate Rubens Barrichello, the German points out that
ultimate success at Magny-Cours would require the 'helping
hand' of his nearest rivals.
'Personally, I don't think I can, because my rivals would have
to give me a big helping hand,' the 33-year-old German says.
'But I start the weekend in a good frame of mind, because I
can have absolute confidence in the car-tire package at our
'In addition, I also like the country atmosphere and the quiet
of the area around Magny-Cours. As you know, I am not very
keen on cities!
The German great insists, however, that winning the
championship at the French Grand Prix is not 'too much of a
'I don't expect anything like that to happen. I will race as
normal and obviously try to win the race, that's the target
and then we will see what will be the result in the end.
Whether it happens here or another time, I don't think that is
really important to me.
'What matters for me is that it does happen in the end.'
In an ominous warning to his race-winning competitors, Michael
confirms that Bridgestone's new Magny-Cours tires should make
the current performance gap even 'more comfortable.'
'So far, I think we have certainly had the better car than the
rest and it has been in the tires,' he adds. 'We have just
completed a very good test with Bridgestone who brought along
some more new tires for this race, which should make the
situation a little bit more comfortable.'
A fifth title crown would equal the astonishing feat of Juan
Manuel Montoya, who notched up his fifth world championship -
his third in successive years - in 1957.
No Rally Challenge For Schu
Michael Schumacher has turned down Colin McRae's offer of a
'Rally versus Formula One' charity challenge.
With the Scottish ace's 25th victory in the recent Kenyan
Safari Rally, he threw down the challenge to his Formula One
counterpart, world title leading Michael Schumacher.
McRae proposed a race of both racing worlds, posed to answer
the long-standing dispute which litters the pubs of the world:
which is the most talented breed; F1 or Rally drivers?
The race would consist of a short blast in the F1 monster
followed by a forest time-trial in a World Championship Rally
car - all for charity, of course.
While Schumacher is willing to admit that the lure of World
Rally seemed interesting in the past, the German says that,
nowadays, 'I'm not so much into it.'
'But maybe one day when I have time enough I would like to do
it in a safe place,' the German said at Magny-Cours. 'I'm
certainly not interested in going through the forest and
risking my life.'
Ahead of his home Grand Prix next weekend, however, Schumacher
has confirmed his participation in the highly-competitive RTL
charity football match. 'I have always enjoyed that one,
specifically, yes, because there are professional players
'To play with professionals is great fun because it's more
serious, it's good fun, but the level of playing is much
higher and you get the ball in such a nice way.
'My own standard comes up too so I quite like these sort of
The heavily-revised Hockenheim circuit plays host to the
German Grand Prix next weekend.
Schu Denies Two-Team Weakness
Michael Schumacher has denied claims that Scuderia Ferrari's
undoubted performance gap can be attributed to the team's
custom-made Bridgestone tires.
In fact, the quadruple world champion is adamant that McLaren
and Williams benefit from their co-operative effort to develop
French tire rival Michelin's Grand Prix tire.
'As usual, life is never perfect and it is the same situation
here', said the German ace. 'Being one top team means there is
a lot of workload only on us, which sometimes means you miss
out on certain things because you can't do all of it.
'Whereas when you have two top teams, like Michelin does, you
have a better chance, because sometimes you don't spot things.
In the past we did have an advantage of having two top teams.'
While Schumacher points out the advantages of a double-pronged
developmental assault on tire development, the Ferrari star is
willing to concede the benefits to the exclusive relationship
'We can do other things more specific to our car, which maybe
equalizes the situation,' Schumacher admits.
'But sharing the information can help because you get a lot of
experience and therefore you can continue to improve faster.
It is not only a disadvantage, even if for Michelin it does
currently look like that.
'I think the reason is that Bridgestone as a company is so
good is because they use their tire very well and therefore
perform very well. It is not really coming from the reason
that we specifically work with Bridgestone'.
The Japanese tire company have carried Ferrari's superlative
F2002 package to no less than eight victories in the ten
Grands Prix of 2002.
F1 News In Brief
- Mika Salo, Jacques Villeneuve, Pedro de la Rosa and Felipe
Massa have all confirmed their intention to stay at their
respective Formula One outfits for 2003. Mika Salo (Toyota):
'I'm staying where I am. I have a contract for next year. I
had a three year contract and next year is the last one.
Jacques Villeneuve (BAR): 'I'm staying next year.' Pedro de la
Rosa (Jaguar): 'Same.' Felipe Massa (Sauber): 'I'm hoping to
stay. I have a one year contract and they have an option for
two more years. I don't know yet but I hope to stay where I
- Jacques Villeneuve says that 'something new' will debut on
Honda's new V10 unit this weekend at Magny-Cours. When asked
if there were any modifications to the Brackley outfit's 004
contender, the French-Canadian said 'No, not at this point.
Actually there's something on the engine that we haven't
tested yet but it looks promising so we will find out this
- Felipe Massa has admitted to making 'a lot of mistakes'
during last weekend's British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Spinning his Sauber at the very first corner, the Brazilian
lets slip that he 'had a headache after all the spins! I made
a lot of mistakes but that's part of learning. I hope we're
not going to see that again.' According to a source close to
the Hinwil team, Peter Sauber was less than impressed with his
drivers' performances at Silverstone.
- Luca Badoer was back behind the wheel of the Maserati Trofeo
at Ferrari's private Fiorano circuit late in the week. The
Italian lapped just over 20 seconds off the Formula One
record, completing 103 laps without incident. The powerful
machine will be used in a one-make racing series to commence
- Pedro de la Rosa has denied any knowledge as to who his
Jaguar teammate will be next year. While Eddie Irvine and
Jaguar both ponder their wholly unlikely future relationship,
the Spaniard is reporting that 'Whoever is alongside me, I
have no problem, though I have no idea at all who it will be.
I have worked with several drivers in the past so it does not
make any difference. Let's just say that I am contracted to
drive for 2003.'
- After food poisoning marred his British Grand Prix weekend,
Toyota ace Mika Salo says that he is 'over the stomach
infection that affected my weekend at Silverstone.' The
35-year-old Finn sat out Friday Practice while he recovered
enough to participate in the remainder of the weekend. 'I did
very little for a couple of days, except drink lots of fluid
and eat plenty of protein and carbohydrates,' he explained.
- Ralf Schumacher has flatly refused speculation that a
heavily-revised FW24B contender will debut later this year.
'No there will not be,' the German Williams driver said. 'We
are fully concentrating on next years car.'
- Jacques Villeneuve says it would take something 'really,
really extreme' to push him out of a 2003 BAR drive. 'I don't
see any reason for me not being back with BAR next year,' the
French-Canadian said at Magny-Cours. 'I feel at the moment I
am definitely with the team next year.'
- As the sun rises over a warm Magny-Cours circuit, the future
of Arrows Grand Prix is still less than clear. While the
French Grand Prix action kicks off later this morning, a
dispute with shareholders Morgan Grenfell still threatens to
fold the Leafield-based team. 'The situation now is dependant
on one of our shareholders with whom we are still in talks,'
said a team spokesperson. 'We don't know yet what will happen
On This F1 Day...
On this day in Formula One history, the fabled Italian marque
Scuderia Ferrari notched up their 300th Grand Prix start.
At the 1958 Grand Prix of Britain, held at the 4.71km
Silverstone circuit, Peter Collins led home a scarlet one-two
with Mika Hawthorn in second place.
A talented and sporting driver, the British ace was killed in
the German Grand Prix just two weeks after his Silverstone
Seventeen years later, on the very same day, at the very same
Grand Prix venue in Northamptonshire, Ferrari drivers Niki
Lauda and Clay Regazzoni notched up the Scuderia's 700th F1
start. Lauda finished the race eighth, while Emerson
Fittipaldi won in his McLaren-Ford.
At that same race in 1975, Tom Pryce netted his first pole
position for the Shadow team. A highly promising Welsh driver,
Pryce was killed when a marshal ran into his car at Kyalami
two years later.
On this nineteenth day of July, one hundred years ago today,
Chet Miller was born. Dying at the wheel in 1953, the American
contested just two F1-spec Indy 500 races in 1951 and 1952.
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