F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
July 24, 2002
Villeneuve Or Panis For 2003?
As Jenson Button shook the hand of BAR chief David Richards in
London on Monday evening, the Formula One world began to
ponder the Englishman's duels with Jacques Villeneuve for
As the story unfolds, however, the Brackley-based team are
making it clear that both Jacques and French-charger Olivier
Panis are still in the running for the second Honda-powered
While Jenson Button forms part of the team's 'long-term
plans', clearly 1997 World Championship Jacques Villeneuve -
at 31 years old - is more reluctant to sign the remainder of
his F1 days away on the BAR-gamble.
'I am very happy and very, very pleased that last night we
signed the driver we want to be with us for a very long time,'
Richards said as he introduced Jenson Button at a London
As he made it clear that Jenson was 'the only confirmed BAR
driver' for 2003, the team boss later added that 'I need a two
or three-year commitment from Jacques to really work with us
and bond together as a team.
'I want people who share the same goal and ambition as me -
and that's long-term people who will take the rough with the
smooth. We want a long-term relationship with Jacques and I've
been telling him that for a little time now.'
While Villeneuve holds a valid contract for 2003 - the final
in a lucrative three-year deal penned in late 2000 - Richards
adds that 'We are in discussions with him about what he wants
in the future and what the team needs in the future from him.
'Contracts are one thing but you need to have people who want
to be there. I need long-term commitment. I need someone
working for the team and its long-term success like Jenson
While Richards is keen to retain the driving services of the
French-Canadian, the new team boss is making it clear that
Olivier Panis is more than happy to step into the unfilled
'long-term' seat at British American Racing. 'It all depends
on what Jacques' plans for the long-term are,' he continues.
'There are ongoing discussions. I believe in being very open
with people. I explained to Olivier some time ago that there
were going to have to be some changes.
'We are not talking to any other drivers', he concludes.
The All-New Hockenheim
The Formula One circus is busy setting up shop at the
heavily-revised Hockenheim circuit today, for the second round
of a hectic double-header known as the German Grand Prix.
While the annual trek to the tiny town of Hockenheim - near
Mannheim - has been made since use of the daunting Nurburgring
was discontinued in 1976, a radical layout change to the old
blast through the forest means that teams take a stab in the
dark in terms of preparation for the 2002 German race.
Formerly facilitating minimal downforce and speeds of up to
360km/h, this year Hockenheim looks more like Magny-Cours or
the Nurburgring meaning a 'completely different approach' to
former treks to the German Grand Prix.
Williams chief operations engineer, the Australian Sam
Michael, says that 'downforce, set-ups, tire selection and
strategy' will be an entirely new ball-game this weekend.
'We will also have very few changes to the cars because of the
short amount of time between the two grands prix.
'The new circuit appears to be high downforce with a lot of
slow speed corners, however, there are still two or three high
speed corners and a long straight.
'Traction will be important because of a lot of accelerating
from slow speed in low gears. We will have to do a lot of work
during Friday practice to check brake performance, which is
another unknown quantity on this new track,' he added.
Turn one, the Nordkurve, is unchanged, but this year spits the
Formula One car onto a short straight bound for a 120-degree,
second-gear corner at turn two. Formerly hosting a dense pine
forest, the new section of track leads into a quick chicane at
3 and 4 before entering the only long, sweeping straight.
This year, however, speeds will peak at about 310km/h as a
new, tight hairpin waits for turn six. Taken in first gear at
about 70km/h, the slowest section of track will demand good
traction as a short burst to a right-hand kink waits at 7 and
The third-gear left-hander at 9 leads into a fast, 200km/h
sweeper at ten and eleven, which throws the F1 car at about
230km/h onto the familiar old circuit just prior to Agipkurve.
The stadium-section, comprising the Sachs and Sud-kurves leads
onto the unchanged pit-straight for another lap of the revised
Niki Lauda, Jaguar boss and former triple world champion, won
the first ever German Grand Prix held at Hockenheim in 1977.
This year, however, 'there will be little left that I will be
The Austrian's lead driver, Eddie Irvine, looks forward to the
new challenge of the revised Hockenheim circuit. 'Hockenheim
is a circuit I enjoy racing at because I won here in 1999. The
new track should be a challenge to drive.
'It used to be a very fast race and I hope that some of that
remains. If the weather remains dry it would be to our
advantage, but at Hockenheim it has been known to rain quite
heavily without warning.'
In the sister Jaguar, Pedro de la Rosa anticipates an exciting
race given that Hockenheim is 'a new circuit that no-one has
'I am not sure of exactly what the circuit is going to offer
us, however, as I really enjoyed the old circuit with its
particular character, I can only hope that the new one lives
up to its predecessor.'
Ralf Schumacher, the last-ever winner at the old blast through
the forest, admits to feeling 'a little sad' as he ponders the
new corner-filled layout. 'At least I was the last winner on
the old track, and no one can now take that away from me,' the
'However, the new track is an improvement and there are still
some passing opportunities at the second corner after the
start in addition to the braking area before the hairpin. This
is exciting for the spectators as much as for the drivers.
'At first sight it looks like a track that requires a lot of
grip, but we have got it anyway. In the past everyone always
had the same problem at Hockenheim to find the combination of
high downforce which is needed in the Motordrome whereas very
little was required for the long straights.
'Now this has become much easier and furthermore I think that
after the revision Hockenheim can still be counted among the
very fast circuits.
BMW Motorsport Director shares the young German's grief: 'We
are already shedding a few tears over the loss of the old
straights of the Hockenheimring, where engine power was most
important and last year we demonstrated what we were capable
'Last year we were using full throttle on the 68% of the
circuit, but this year our simulation has shown that it will
be only 60%. This means that in 2001 our drivers were driving
flat out for 66.8 seconds on every lap, which will be now only
Rain At Hockenheim!
As we rolled into the nearby town of Mannheim last night, the
rain was already falling ahead of this weekend's German Grand
Characterized by unpredictable weather, the Hockenheim skies
nearly washed the Formula One circus away in 2000 when rain
lashed down ahead of Friday Practice. This year, for the next
few days at least, rain is forecast for the Hockenheim region.
As the sun rises on the heavily-revised Hockenheim circuit
this morning, a few showers are predicted for the early hours
of this afternoon. Come Thursday, rain should settle in while
a top of 18°C awaits.
For the first day of running at the new circuit - Friday -
local weather prognosticators are expecting morning showers
which should clear later in the day. For qualifying, with a
little luck, the rain should hold off while an overcast 22°
More of the same waits for race-day, the 2002 German Grand
Prix to be played under ever-unpredictable cloud-filled skies.
A comfortable 24°C is forecast.
All-New Medium-Soft Tires
Formula One's tire suppliers, Michelin and Bridgestone, will
roll out all-new compounds of medium-soft rubber for this
weekend's blast at the revised Hockenheim circuit.
Bridgestone technical manager Hisao Suganuma, admitting that
simulation and data from similar circuits is all they have to
go on for this weekend at Hockenheim, says that 'Since there
are more corners in the revised layout, the cars will carry
'We know Hockenheim is similar to Magny-Cours and Nürburgring
in terms of average speed but we cannot say how the tires will
'The new parts of the track seem to be smoother than the old
circuit, but we still need to find out what effect the new
corners have on the tires. This will become clear as the
While heat durability was a concern for the 360km/h speeds of
the old layout, Suganuma continues that softer compounds -
generating more grip for the tight new corners - will be the
order of the German Grand Prix.
'The old, ultra fast Hockenheimring was renowned for being a
power track and one of the fastest on the calendar,' he
highlighted. 'With the new track we can go with softer
compounds but still within the medium range.
'They should be consistent and durable while still providing
the grip required for the slow in-field section.
'Achieving a fast lap will be a matter of grip performance.'
Ferrari Look For One-Two
Now that Michael Schumacher has secured his record-equaling
fifth world championship, Scuderia Ferrari have revealed that
all scarlet efforts will be channeled into Rubens
Barrichello's quest for second.
With just four points separating Juan Pablo Montoya, Rubens
Barrichello, Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard for second in
the Drivers' chase, team chief Jean Todt says that their
objective can now be to complete the ultimate Ferrari one-two.
'We now have a good lead in the constructors' championship,
added to by Sunday's win.
'Our objective now is to wrap up this title also and to help
Rubens who can take second place in the drivers'
championship,' the Frenchman said.
'At the start of the year we never thought we would be world
champions with Michael at the French Grand Prix. Now we can
work towards making the first Ferrari one and two in the
championship since 1979'.
Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve headed an all-scarlet
affair in 1979, beating home the Williams-Ford challenge of
Alan Jones in both the Drivers' and Constructors' titles.
As Michael Schumacher prepares for the annual RTL football
match in Ronaldo's World Cup-winning boots, the German ace
says he is simply 'Delighted to be able to drive more freely
"To come to Hockenheim as the world champion is definitely
something special for me. I'm looking forward to seeing all
the fans and flags while driving on the track."
Toyota Rumors Intensify
Ove Andersson has let slip that 'there is an advantage' in
providing another Formula One team with Toyota power.
Amid claims that Eddie Jordan is in discussion with the
Cologne-based outfit regarding a supply of V10s from 2004, the
Swedish team boss admitted at Magny-Cours that such a scenario
is not 'out of the question'.
With current Jordan partner Honda preparing to pull works
support from the Silverstone team, rumor has it that EJ will
use severance funds to support a customer Cosworth deal next
year before lining up as a Toyota b-team in '04.
While failing to refer directly to Jordan, Ove Andersson
revealed on the weekend that 'It's early days but there is an
advantage in supplying another team with engines.
'It would help us judge our own performance,' he added.
The V10 unit currently propelling Mika Salo and Allan McNish
on the world's circuits is one of the most powerful and
reliable in the Formula One pitlane.
Toyota's 2003 driver line-up has also been an area of
speculation in recent weeks. While Finnish charger Mika Salo
is signed-and-sealed for another year at Cologne, rookie
teammate Allan McNish is not expected to retain his seat into
Given Ove Andersson's Magny-Cours appraisal that the Scot is
doing a 'reasonable job' in the TF102, several experienced
drivers are reportedly lining up for the Toyota drive.
McLaren tester Alex Wurz is considering 'two solid offers' for
a return to the racing seat, one believed to be the berth
alongside Mika Salo. Arrows' Heinz-Harald Frentzen has also
been linked to Toyota, while rumors that he will replace
McNish before the end of the year are no doubt exaggerated.
'There is absolutely no truth in that rumor', a Toyota
spokesman told us.
With Jenson Button's confirmation at BAR from next year,
36-year-old Olivier Panis may have joined the race for a
Toyota seat. Easily a match for 1997 world champion Jacques
Villeneuve since 2001, the Frenchman has arguably snared
provisional pole position for a role at the fledgling team.
As ever, stay tuned.
Heidfeld To Stay At Sauber?
A score of Formula One teams have made offers to German ace
Nick Heidfeld for the 2003 season of Grand Prix racing.
Despite missing out to 2001 Sauber teammate Kimi Raikkonen for
this year's McLaren drive, the 26-year-old German reveals that
'quite a few teams' remain interested in the young charger.
'Quite a few teams contacted me and it's nice to know that
people are interested', he said at Magny-Cours.
While rumors persist that the Cologne-based Toyota team have
made an approach to the young German, Heidfeld refuses to be
drawn by adding 'most of the things you read are just made
'There is a lot of speculation - it is just the silly season.
It is very likely I am going to stay here at Sauber.
'It is not 100 per cent decided but it is very likely I will
stay. Peter has got an option on me and he has to take it up
2002 is the second of Heidfeld's three-year stint at the
Hinwil-based Sauber team.
Heidfeld emerged on the Formula One scene in 2000 after
soaring to the International Formula 3000 title. Signing a
two-year deal with the struggling Prost team, the youngster
was 'let go' by Alain Prost after a dismal debut season of
Recognizing the talent Heidfeld represented, Peter Sauber was
quick to snap up the young German talent. 'I feel very good in
the team,' the 26-year-old from Moenchengladbach says.
'My ambition should be to fight for the world championship one
day. In the short term that is not possible with Sauber, but
at the moment it looks like the best possibility I have.'
As the Formula One world ponders the heavily-revised trek to
Hockenheim this weekend, Heidfeld joins a growing chorus of
drivers saddened by the loss of the 360km/h blast through the
'I prefer the old circuit', he continues. It was a bit
special, like Monza, but you had the combination of high speed
sections with chicanes and then the stadium section where you
had low downforce as well.
'There was the incredible atmosphere in the stadium and then
going into the trees and woods flat out.
'It was very special and I have had some good races there.'
F1 News In Brief
- Despite Jenson Button's signing of a long-term BAR contract,
it appears as if the 22-year-old is still under contract to
Sir Frank Williams and the BMW-powered team. BAR boss David
Richards said on Monday that 'Frank has been more than
accommodating in making everything happen,' while Button added
that 'Frank doesn't want to stand in the way of my future
which is good.' When asked for clarification that the Briton
is now a free agent, Button added that he is only free from
Williams obligations for 'Four years.' JB for Williams in
- Young Ferrari tester Luciano Burti has claimed that
'Michael's victory is mine too.' As the young Brazilian - off
the back of a nightmarish 2001 with Jaguar, Prost and a score
of mammoth accidents - reflects on a wild night of
championship celebrations at Magny-Cours, he commented: 'I am
very happy for Michael, a fantastic driver who really deserves
all the glory he is going through. I was very happy with
Michael's words thanking me for the work I have done,' he
- Rookie Scot Allan McNish has joined a growing list of
drivers to congratulate Michael Schumacher's fifth world
championship success. 'I have to congratulate Michael
Schumacher and equaling a record that Juan-Manuel Fangio has
held since 1957,' the 32-year-old said. 'I know that people
say there are more races these days and that it is a different
era, but it is still a mighty fine achievement. Five titles
are a few too many if you ask me. I would settle for one!'
- Michael Schumacher will grace the very World Cup-winning
boots worn by Brazilian star Ronaldo for a charity soccer
match later today. Schumacher has quite ironically been
invited to wear the boots which effectively ended Germany's
World Cup aspirations. Joined by F1 stars Fernando Alonso, Jos
Verstappen and Pedro de la Rosa, the match is aimed to raise
money for UNESCO while hosting an expected 25,000 Schumi-mad
fans in Mannheim.
- According to our sources, Arrows' car and team transporters
are still at their Leafield base. After deliberately failing
to qualify for last weekend's French Grand Prix, the
cash-strapped team opted to return to England in order to
continue negotiations to sell the team. As the sun rises on
stationary Arrows trucks on Wednesday morning, however, it
appears as if only a miracle will get the Arrows team in
Central Germany before scrutineering at Hockenheim tomorrow.
- With only four days between the French Grand Prix and
opening practice at Hockenheim, Juan Pablo Montoya has
admitted to concern that the same traction and rear-wear
problems will more than likely plague the Williams team in
Germany. 'We are going to Hockenheim hoping that our package
will be able to show a better performance than in France,'
said the Colombian, 'Although we know where the problems are
and we will try to sort them out.'
On This F1 Day...
96 years ago to the day, Italian driver Franco Comotti was
born in Rome.
Born on the twenty-fourth day of July, 1906, Comotti contested
just two formula one grands prix; strangely separated by two
His first race, in the inaugural modern world championship
year of 1950, was contested at the Monza circuit in the
privately-entered Maserati-Milan. His debut race lasted just
His second - and final - grand prix appearance was made in
1952, at the French Grand Prix at Rouen. Driving one of seven
works Ferrari cars, Comotti was the last classified runner
completing just 63 of the 76 designated laps.
For the record, the Ferrari trio of Ascari, Farina and Taruffi
filled the winner's rostrum.
On this day in 1972, American driver Lance Reventlow was
killed in a plane crash.
Heir to the Woolworth fortune, Reventlow attempted to beat the
established grand prix teams with his own Scarab cars with
poor results. He entered just one grand prix in 1960, the
Belgian Grand Prix held at Spa-Francorchamps, retiring after
just one lap with an engine failure.
On this day at Zandvoort in 1966, Australian triple world
champion Sir Jack Brabham scored his tenth win in his own
Brabham made history as the first driver to win the
championship in a rear-engined car (1959) and as the first
driver to win a race, and the championship, in a car he
On this day in 1988, Ayrton Senna notched up Goodyear's 200th
pole position at the Hockenheim Grand Prix of Germany. In a
year which saw the McLaren-Honda's win 15 of the sixteen
races, Senna and Prost led home the Ferrari's of Gerhard
Berger and Michele Alboreto on that 24th day of July.
On that same day, Benetton and Alessandro Nannini netted their
first fastest lap with a 198.89km/h tour of the ultra-high
speed 4.22 mile circuit.
Meanwhile, Williams were celebrating their 350th race entry
(Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese both retiring after
crashes) while Honda scored a one-two in their 250th Formula
One Grand Prix as engine suppliers.
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