F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
July 23, 2002
Button Joins BAR
As expected, English ace Jenson Button will grace the BAR
cockpit from next season.
The current Renault driver, recently told his services would
not be required beyond 2002, joined BAR boss David Richards at
a London Hotel where a four-year deal was announced.
BAR-Honda called Jenson the first step of their 'long-term
plans', adding that an initial two years are confirmed with
options for a further two seasons of Formula One racing.
While neither current BAR driver was confirmed as the
22-year-old's 2003 teammate, Richards made it clear that
Jacques Villeneuve 'is contracted until the end of 2003', and
that he and Button will 'make a nice line-up.'
What's more, continued the Brackley team principal, Button
'was one of the drivers Jacques was quite keen to have.
'Beyond Jacques' current contract, which runs until the end of
next year, we are in further discussion,' said David Richards.
'Jacques and Jenson are not dissimilar in personality.'
David Richards continued that Jenson Button fits with the
team's 'future objectives' to win the Formula One World
Championships. Whilst adding that a driver-change will bring
'fresh impetus' to the struggling team, the Briton adds that
Jenson has 'an extraordinary talent which now needs to be
nurtured in the right environment in order for it to flourish.
'In the current Formula One climate, we are fortunate to have
the stability of long-term funding and a strong, developing
relationship with Honda,' Richards continues. 'Our agreement
with Jenson will enable us to carry that stability through to
our driver line-up and, as we move forward, I have every
confidence that he will play a pivotal role in gelling the
The man himself said he was 'thrilled to be joining BAR.'
'The past few weeks have been very exciting and I've been
flattered by the enormous attention I've received,' said the
always-smiling Jenson Button. I've had a whole range of
opportunities open to me but after careful consideration of
what would be best for my future, BAR provided me with an
excellent opportunity to progress and ultimately, I hope, to
achieve my ambition to be World Champion.
'David Richards has talked me through the long-term strategy
for the team in great detail and I have been very impressed
with the strength of the partnership with Honda.
'I have no doubt that, together, we can all look forward to
some very exciting times ahead.'
Button Defends BAR Decision
Jenson Button has defended his decision to join the struggling
British American Racing outfit.
Since BAR principal David Richards announced a four-year deal
with the Englishman last night, the British media is already
stating their concern that a long-term stint with the Brackley
team will 'cost Jenson Button success.'
Although World Champion Jacques Villeneuve's career has
stagnated since joining BAR in 1999, Button is confident that
the Honda-powered team represents his best chance to be 'world
champion of the future'.
'It is not at all a gamble,' the 22-year-old said in London.
'This team is going to improve, definitely in the next few
years. I know it has got good people on board, especially I
know Geoff Willis whom I worked with [at Williams in 2000].
'Obviously I don't know what the package is or what they will
do for next year as it is all new, but you have to trust the
team and I do trust David Richards, especially after you see
what he has achieved in the past. Here is a team which is
going to be the world champion in the future.'
The Englishman was even moved to explain why he did not 'take
up the option' of returning to the front-running BMW.Williams
team next year. Before the British Grand Prix, Jenson
reportedly told a reporter that 'I can return there if I want
'We had long talks with Frank [Williams] and there is not a
contract, not something that gets in the way. There isn't a
contract,' the Englishman reaffirmed.
Button burst onto the Formula One scene in 2000 after a
promising year in British Formula 3. Signed to a one-year deal
with two further years of team options, Sir Frank and the
BMW-powered squad stand on the cusp of announcing Ralf
Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya for 2003 and beyond.
In the meantime, however, Jenson Button has six final races to
run with Renault. Although he is on the way out, the
22-year-old believes that Renault will treat him fairly and
'Although I might not test anymore!' he smiled. 'So I will
have to do my best for them.'
Spanish whiz-kid Fernando Alonso replaces Button at Renault
A Novel Solution For Panis?
David Richards has diffused talk of having dropped Olivier
Panis by revealing that a 'novel solution' may be found for
the BAR driver line-up.
At a London press conference yesterday, the new team boss
confirmed Renault-refugee Jenson Button as having signed a
long-term contract with the team, while Jacques Villeneuve 'is
contracted to the end of 2003.'
'There is always a good element to stability and consistency
but I felt a need to change the driver line-up,' said Richards
In spite of the logical conclusion that 36-year-old Olivier
Panis will need to find alternative employment, Richards adds
that a solution is being looked at to 'make everybody happy.'
'At the moment we have a range of ideas and there may be a
unique set of circumstances which may unfold in the next few
weeks, which might possibly make everybody happy,' Richards
In reality, there is nothing cryptic to David Richards'
comments. Either the highly-talented and on-form Frenchman
will be relocated to a test-driving role, or Richards is
hoping the FIA and Max Mosley accelerate plans to introduce a
third driver for each top team.
The 'third car' idea has been raised with the ever-increasing
likelihood that Formula One may lose another two or three
teams in the near future. Should the grid dip to below sixteen
runners, the unanimously agreed Concorde Agreement stipulates
that a third-entrant can be mandated. Ahead of the mandatory
change, we predict, might come a period of 'voluntary'
'I like to think of Jacques Villeneuve in the long term, and
at the same time Olivier has been excellent and we might be
able to share our ideas and there just may be a novel solution
'The whole profile of the team has been looked at and we are
working on how the team is presented and you might see some
new things in the future, but I can't say any more than that.'
One respected British journalist, who writes for a major
daily, told us exclusively that he might have cracked David
Richards' cryptic clues; 'One solution', he told us, 'is that
BAR enter all three drivers in next year's championship.
'There might only be two cars, but a small rule change could
see the drivers rotated from one race to the next. Villeneuve
and Button, hypothetically, could race in Australia, and then
Panis and Villeneuve in Malaysia. For Brazil, Button comes
back in to partner Panis.'
A round of raucous laughter - on our behalf - segued into this
further quip. 'No, its not absurd,' he adds. 'Just look at the
early or mid-nineties. Five or six drivers were rotated on and
off in those days.'
The FIA introduced a regulation in 1995 which restricted each
team to two permanent drivers. 'Force majeure', or
uncontrollable circumstances, are the only grounds for driver
swaps. Unless the FIA change their minds...
Richards has told reporters off the record that the decision
over Jenson Button and Olivier Panis was one of the most
difficult of his career. The opportunity to snare the 'Best
British driver for the future' in his British team, however,
was too great.
'I was taken aback and stunned that Renault would drop Jenson
Button for 2003', said Richards.
Not as stunned as a great proportion of the racing world to
see Olivier Panis possibly nudged into retirement...
Ralf's 'Quick Pint' With Brother
One man conspicuously absent from Michael Schumacher's
extended championship celebrations on Sunday night was little
Although delighted with his elder sibling's equaling of Juan
Manuel Fangio's 45-year record of five world championships,
the Williams driver headed home to Austria after a 'quick
pint' with an emotional Michael Schumacher.
'This is obviously something absolutely amazing and
magnificent,' Ralf said of his brother's fastest-ever world
'It is well known that we are always happy for one another. It
was pretty obvious that he'd get the title, and unfortunately
I was not in the position anymore to intervene in the race for
'Michael and the Ferrari team have had a great season.
Congratulations to Michael.'
Having left baby-son David and wife Cora at his Austrian
mansion, though, Ralf had other things on his mind on Sunday
evening at Magny-Cours.
'I will have a pint of beer with my brother but then I want to
go home as soon as I can,' the 27-year-old German said.
'I really want to see my family.'
Bridgestone Join Celebrations
While Luca Montezemolo, Jean Todt, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne
celebrated Michael Schumacher's fifth world championship at
Magny-Cours on Sunday, another man with his arm around the
great German was Hiroshi Yasukawa.
As director of motorsport at Ferrari's Japanese tire partner,
Bridgestone have no doubt played their part in the dominance
of Scuderia Ferrari and the quickest-ever championship
campaign in Formula One history.
As well as notching up the Driver's title chase, the French
Grand Prix was the eighth Bridgestone win of the ten 2002
events; and even when Michael Schumacher didn't win, he graced
the podium with his Bridgestone cap.
Bridgestone are eager to join in the France celebrations while
they quietly hail their ninth successful world championship
campaign since hitting Grand Prix racing in 1997.
'The fact that the championship has been won in record time
and at our competitor's home race is a bonus to what has been
a magnificent year for our collaboration,' said Yasukawa at
'Bridgestone's strong relationship with Ferrari has developed
over the past four years to the extent that, this year, our
engineers have worked more closely with the team than ever
before. I would like to thank my friend Jean Todt for his
support for this technical collaboration that has included
exchange visits by staff between Tokyo and Maranello.
'The sharing of vital information on both sides led to the
development this year of a magnificent car, the F2002, with
the best tires which worked in harmony with the car.'
President and CEO of the Bridgestone Corporation, Shigeo
Watanabe, passed on his congratulatory note from Tokyo. 'My
thanks go to everyone involved, in particular Ferrari
president Luca di Montezemolo and Mr. Jean Todt for their
unerring support of our program, and to our own staff both in
Japan and the UK for their hard work and dedication.
'I would also like to take this opportunity to send my
personal congratulations to Michael Schumacher on a
record-equaling fifth World Drivers' Championship and for
achieving this latest title earlier than any other driver in
modern Formula 1.
'Bridgestone's success in Formula 1 is extremely important to
the image of our company around the world as we strive to
develop our technology.'
Four More Years In Schu?
Far from hang his helmet up at the end of the year, Michael
Schumacher is eyeing another four years at the pinnacle of
While rumours of the great German's impending retirement
persist, the Ferrari driver's manager has revealed that
negotiations will imminently commence which could see the
Ferrari/Schumacher relationship edge on until 2006.
Speaking about Schumacher's current contract, which see the
German at Ferrari until the end of 2004, Willi Weber told
German newspaper Bild am Sonntag: 'Yes, it could be that we
will extend the contract with Ferrari until 2006.
'I don't see any reason at this moment why Michael should
retire in two years.'
While 'Statistics do not really mean a lot to Michael', the
German manager adds that equaling the great Juan Manuel
Fangio's five titles left Schumacher an emotional man at
'Catching Fangio meant a lot to him', Weber continued. 'And
next year he will try to fly past Fangio. That would be
wonderful, he really deserves it.'
While the great Argentine netted championship glory in 1951,
1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957, Schumacher's run of five titles
started in 1994 and 1995 before a four-year draught
characterized his early career with Ferrari.
In 2000, 2001 and 2002, however, the Kerpen-born 33-year-old
painted the Formula One world a distinct shade of scarlet red.
Interestingly, Michael Schumacher has already scored nearly
three times the number of Grand Prix victories, with 61, as
the late Juan Fangio who drove to his final 24th victory at
the 1957 Grand Prix of Germany at Nurburgring.
For 2003, however, Michael Schumacher is targeting a sixth
world title 'just for the pleasure' of competing at the top of
'I have the desire to make it six but not because that would
beat Fangio, just for the pleasure of getting more wins,'
'We are in such good shape team-wise and performance-wise that
we can keep this performance for much longer and keep having
Renault Look To Future
With their newly-announced driver line-up of Jarno Trulli and
Fernando Alonso, Renault are targeting the top step of the
podium for the 2003 season.
While consolidating fourth in the Constructors' chase remains
the goal for the remaining six races this year, team boss
Flavio Briatore has branded the Enstone team's achievements so
far as 'satisfactory.'
'The objective set by our Chairman at the beginning of the
season was to finish fourth in the championship,' said the
imperious Italian. 'Given how young the team is, I personally
found that a bit ambitious but we are currently in fourth
position after what has proved a satisfactory start to the
'Having said that, a big gap separates us from the top teams
and we will have to work even harder if we are to close it.
Renault came back to Formula 1 with the intention of winning,
not just to take part. The team is young and we still have a
great deal of work to do.'
While Englishman Jenson Button is off to find a future with
British American Racing, Renault's common driving link to 2003
remains 29-year-old charger Jarno Trulli. Personally managed
by the team boss, Trulli retains the support of compatriot
'Jarno has brought a great deal of experience to the team',
continues Flavio. 'His understanding of technical matters is
of an extremely high standard and his technical feedback is
very detailed. This has enabled the car to progress. He has
also demonstrated on a number of occasions this year that he
is very quick.'
With the expected - but nonetheless curious - decision to drop
Jenson Button for next year, Flavio Briatore says that the
22-year-old's driving abilities were never in doubt.
'First of all, I want to stress that Jenson has done a very
good job this year. I chose him in 2001 because I knew he was
a talented driver. As the team progresses, we have to be sure
that our drivers match our ambitions.'
While Button remains under contract to Sir Frank Williams and
the BMW-powered squad for 2003, Renault plumped for
Development Driver Fernando Alonso who forms part of the
Enstone team's 'long term solutions'.
'Our choice of drivers for 2003 is based on the future,' he
Briatore Supports Three-Car Plans
Flavio Briatore is supporting any moves the regulatory body,
FIA, might impose to safeguard the future of Formula One
The Renault team principal, asked whether he would support a
move to allow the sale of parts to smaller teams, commented
that 'We produce a great deal of components and there is scope
for economies of scale.'
According to the proposal by FIA President Max Mosley, the
Formula One's major players would be granted permission to
sell whole chassis, suspension geometries and other small
components to reduce the escalating manufacturing costs for
Bernie Ecclestone warned earlier this year that 'two or three'
Grand Prix outfits are likely to fall by the wayside by the
end of 2002; Paul Stoddart's Minardi operation and Arrows the
latest teams in undoubted financial peril.
Should Arrows or Minardi fold, the notion of introducing a
third-car per team has been suggested as one way to boost the
waning Formula One grid. Briatore, as team chief of one such
'big four' team, remains supportive of such a move.
'Each team has three drivers who are obliged to be at the
track from Thursday to Saturday,' the Italian said. 'Why
shouldn't they race? That would enable more nationalities and
more talented young drivers to take an interest and become
involved. It's a good idea.'
One such talented young driver is Sebastien Bourdais, the
Frenchman currently leading the Formula 3000 chase and having
caught the eye of Briatore when he tested for Arrows last
Commenting on Bourdais' link with Renault, Briatore comments
that 'No, I am not surprised because he is a very talented
young driver. I have seen too many talented young drivers to
be surprised now.'
Whilst fielding questions on a range of Formula One related
issues, the Renault boss showed support for the FIA's
sanctioning of Scuderia Ferrari following the Austrian Grand
'Above all, we have to recognize that the FIA effectively
sanctioned Ferrari with a fine for failure to respect the
podium procedure. However, what I said after Austria was that
the show counts as much as the result.'
Briatore was vocal in his support for harsh race bans or
points-deductions to punish Ferrari's race-destroying
imposition of team orders.
'We cannot forget about the spectators or, worse still, treat
them with disdain. To my mind, the Nürburgring result proves
that Ferrari has taken that onboard.'
Mosley Tours Paul Ricard
FIA President Max Mosley has branded the heavily-revised Paul
Ricard circuit 'The reference and model' for future motor
As rumors continue to circulate that the high-altitude
circuit, situated in Southern France, could re-emerge as the
home of the French Grand Prix, Mosley was taken on a tour of
the Le Castellet track last week saying it was 'Much more
impressive' than he could have imagined.
Collected from the new first class international Airport by
circuit-brains Philippe Gurdjian, Mosley stood in pitlane and
boasted about the high-tech track which will imminently become
the latest sanctioned testing venue for the Formula One teams.
'This is much more impressive than anything I could have ever
imagined,' said the FIA President. 'One truly has the feeling
of entering into the future, where everything is guided by
'With the work done here, Paul Ricard has reached the summit
in terms of safety, logistics and technology. The medical
centre is extraordinary and the technology involved on the
circuit is clearly beyond anything that currently exists.'
Currently used privately by fledgling F1 team Toyota, Mosley
continues that Paul Ricard will soon become 'An asset for the
world of motor sports. With the construction of two hotels and
the renovation of the airport at close proximity, the teams
will definitely have everything necessary to carry out tests
in the best conditions.
'This new tool will and must become the reference and model
for the motor sports race tracks in the world'.
Paul Ricard hosted the French Grand Prix 14 times in the
seventies and eighties. The last Paul Ricard race was staged
in 1990 before the Formula One circus moved on to Magny-Cours.
The circuit was built atop a flattened French mountain.
Former Champs Hail 'The Best'
Jody Scheckter, the last Ferrari champion before the Italian
marque's current reign, has branded Michael Schumacher the
best driver of all time.
Beating home teammate Gilles Villeneuve for the 1979
championship, the South-African says that Schumacher's
record-equaling feat of five world titles elevates him above
the likes of Ayrton Senna, Jim Clark or Alain Prost.
'If you look at his record, not only is it five times but he
missed out by a little bit on a couple of other occasions,
like when he broke his leg (in 1999), so it could have been
eight times,' Scheckter told Radio Five Live.
'It doesn't mean much comparing one era with another but if
you look at his record, for what it's worth, he's the best of
Jaguar boss Niki Lauda, who soared to triple crowns in 1975,
'77 and '84, has no doubt that Michael Schumacher's talent far
outweighs that of Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio.
'Schumacher is immensely superior to Fangio,' Lauda told
Italian newspaper La Republica.
'He drives like a God. He's a perfect driver, the greatest of
Michael netted his 61st Formula One triumph, his fifth world
championship and the record for the fastest title campaign, on
Sunday at Magny-Cours.
For the record, the German's French Grand Prix victory was his
sixth at the Magny-Cours circuit in Central France.
Irvine: Schu Deserves It
Former teammate Eddie Irvine has joined a steadily growing
list of luminaries queuing up to hail Michael Schumacher's
fifth world championship.
Gracing the sister Ferrari in Michael's non-championship
winning years of 1996 to 1999, the 37-year-old Ulsterman says
that Schumacher thoroughly deserves to win the title in the
quickest ever time.
'I think he deserves it', said the now Jaguar driver. 'He
could have had nine or whatever by now!'
Far from join those complaining about the early declaration of
world champion, Eddie believes that Formula One has more to
offer than the ultimate Driver's title race. 'It doesn't
matter that it's settled', he continues.
'I've never watched F1 just looking at the championship, I've
always watched every race as a race. I think people
overestimate the championship. It's an extra, but it's not
Whilst praising the efforts of Michelin at their home race at
Magny-Cours on the weekend, Irvine says that his
heavily-revised R3b was staring down the barrel of a
'The Michelins were the best tire here. We were on a two-stop
strategy, and we would have beaten Jenson Button for sure. He
had to stop one more time and I didn't.'
With twenty-laps to run at the French Grand Prix, Eddie Irvine
suffered a rear-wing failure at over 300km/h on the run down
to Adelaide hairpin. While team chief Niki Lauda has ordered
an investigation, the 37-year-old reveals that he was
suffering a vibration problem all weekend.
'I had a bit of a vibration in my car all weekend', he
confirmed. 'But they don't know what it was.'
While losing a rear wing is among the most dangerous failures
on a Formula One car, Irvine says that the long back straight
was 'The perfect place for it to happen.
'As well as the big gravel trap there, it's also where the
maximum load is, so it's more than likely going to happen
After qualifying a season-best ninth at the medium-downforce
Magny-Cours track, this weekend at the all-new Hockenheimring
could relocate Jaguar back to the rear of the grid.
'The car is better, for sure', Irvine adds. 'The next race
will probably require maximum downforce, so we could be
struggling a little bit.
'But we'll wait and see.'
F1 News In Brief
BAR test driver Anthony Davidson impressed the CART world with
a consummate performance in a recent test for Team Green.
Lapping the sweeping curves of Elkhart Lake, the Briton
completed 200 miles in a Lola chassis to the praise of team
manager Kyle Moyer. 'Anthony is a really smart driver,' he
'He has a great feel for the race car and he adapted well to a
Davidson lapped to within a second of runaway ChampCar title
leader Cristiano da Matta.
On This F1 Day...
A trio of ex-Formula One drivers are celebrating a birthday on
this twenty-third day of July.
American-born Jim Hall and Canadian John Cordts are both
blowing 67 candles out today after brief careers as Grand Prix
Hall, however, was the constructor of the revolutionary
Chaparral cars as well as a talented driver whose best finish
was a fifth place in the 1961 Grand Prix of Germany.
Held at the daunting, 14.19 mile Nordschleife circuit at the
old Nurburgring, Hall drove his Lotus-BRM to fifth after
John Cordts entered and retired from his one and only home
Grand Prix in 1969, driving a Climax-powered Brabham.
Held at Mosport Park, Cordst qualified nineteenth before
retiring after just ten laps with an oil leak.
For the record, the works Brabham-Ford duo of Jacky Ickx and
Jack Brabham soared home for a one-two.
Also born on this day, in 1947, was Swedish driver Torsten
Palm. Also a one-race wonder at the 1975 Grand Prix of Sweden,
Torsten is brother to the rally driver Gunnar Palm.
Torsten Palm turns 55 today.
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