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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
November 19,  2002
1


Two More Teams Set To Crumble?
FIA President Max Mosley has warned that two more Formula One outfits may be about to succumb to financial turmoil.

'We are just keeping our fingers crossed that they will all be there in March,' said the Briton.

Alain Prost's Guyencourt team crumbled under debts late last year, and British constructor Arrows disappeared from the circuits this July and are in serious doubt as to their immediate future.

But the already stressed Formula One world might be about to lose up to two more privateers with tiny Anglo-Italian team Minardi and cash-strapped Jordan Grand Prix facing tough times.

Responding to a question about whether the Australian Grand Prix grid will boast a full grid, the FIA President said 'It would be nice to have 22 (starters), but I think 20 is more probable as the number.'

For the balance of season 2002, Formula One boasted just twenty cars but the loss of two more teams could reduce the Albert Park grid to just sixteen contenders, or eight Grand Prix outfits.

'It is not necessarily because of the Arrows situation, but because there are another team or two that are not 100 hundred per cent in good shape,' adds Mosley.

Paul Stoddart's Minardi outfit nearly hit the pavement mid-season with a dispute over FIA prize-money. The 47-year-old Australian now says that his black racers will only appear in '03 if a group of four F1 teams drops an arbitration case.

'Something like that will completely wipe us out,' promised Stoddart at the time.

Now, the Australian chief is telling the Australian media: 'We will be here (Albert Park in March), but only if we sort one or two things with sponsorship and what-not.'

Eddie Jordan's yellow ranks, on the other hand, are still reeling from the loss of primary backer Deutsche Post World Net and the resultant $40 million sponsorship black-hole.

Jordan sacked 50 workers - some 25 percent of its total workforce - earlier this year when it first heard of the impending sponsorship loss.

But the Silverstone team insists: 'Deutsche Post leaving us was a big blow - but it was certainly not critical.'

Max Mosley continues that the long-term survival of privateer teams depends heavily on the governing FIA successfully getting the sport's escalating costs under control.

'And we've not been as successful as I would like us to have been at getting down the costs,' he admits. 'The problem has been to get agreement among the teams.'

The Technical Working Group will meet in early December to find unanimity in changing the Formula One cars for season 2002. Expensive trappings like bi-directional telemetry and traction-control are top of the list.

'If it goes on getting more and more expensive, then I think manufacturers that are not currently in it will be inclined to say it's perhaps not as good value as they would like,' adds Mosley.

The FIA chief even hints that some existing F1 manufacturers might eventually decide to halt their Grand Prix racing if the costs continue to spiral.

He says: 'So I'm keeping the pressure on all the time on the teams to do a large number of things.

'There are several things which could be done which wouldn't interfere with the spectacle, or the sporting contest, at all but would make it significantly cheaper.'

Strong speculation on the rumor mill this week, however, is that manufacturer Audi is indeed involved in the reported Arrows buy-out.






Ecclestone Welcomes Webber Rise
Bernie Ecclestone has applauded the rise of Australian speedster Mark Webber to the Jaguar Racing seat.

'Everybody is really behind him,' says the diminutive F1 impresario, head of Formula One Management. 'Everybody is hoping, hoping, hoping he is going to get the job done.'

The 72-year-old also welcomes the return of young Spaniard Fernando Alonso from the Renault development role to the 2003 Grand Prix grid. 'It's good to see some new faces,' says Bernie of the 21-year-old.

Alonso debuted for Minardi last year but will field a top-four contender next year when he lines up alongside Jarno Trulli for the Flavio Briatore-headed Enstone outfit.

Bernie adds: 'Because - like our regulations - maybe some of the old timers have been around - and maybe I'm one of them - too long, and maybe we should be thinking of doing something else.

'So I think it's always good to keep some new faces around.'

26-year-old Mark Webber, who harks from Queanbeyan near the nation's capital of Canberra, joins a list of Australian Grand Prix hopefuls who rose from the island continent to the top of the F1 pile.

Mark hopes to follow in the footsteps of triple champion and constructor Sir Jack Brabham and 1980 Williams world champion Alan Jones as those Aussies to conquer the F1 world.

The youngster makes the graduation from an impressive rookie season with pitlane minnows Minardi to the works-backed, Ford-owned Leaping Cat, which endured a dismal season in 2002.

But Bernie thinks that one of his old drivers, Jag chief and triple world champion Niki Lauda, has the wares to restore the green team to the upper echelons of world motorsport.

'Niki doesn't like being in the position they are, so they are doing their best,' says Ecclestone who owned and ran the Brabham team in the Eighties when Lauda was a Grand Prix pilot.

The red-capped Austrian now heads the Jaguar Racing project as team principal and boss of Ford's Premier Performance Division.

Ecclestone continues of Jaguar's prospects: 'They've got a new engine next year, which hopefully will be reliable and hopefully will have a lot more power, although this year's engine has not been that bad.

'The chassis they've obviously been working on like everybody else. (Eddie) Irvine put up one or two good performances this year when they got things right, so there is no reason why they shouldn't do well.'

But the 72-year-old supremo has a warning for those who expect Mark Webber to improve on his stunning fifth position and two highly-popular points at the Australian season opener this year.

He might be in a better-funded team for 2002, but podiums are - according to Formula One's ringmaster - highly unlikely. 'If anyone thinks that Webber is going to be a superstar, that's not going to happen,' he warns.

'If you think he is going to be on the podium three times or four times next year you can think again although I hope I am wrong.'

But Bernie concedes that the world of Grand Prix racing has not yet seen the full potential of the young Australian. 'But even in the Jaguar, we still might not see the best of him, perhaps.'

The 72-year-old thinks it would be nice to see all of Formula One's up-and-comers in the consummate, race-winning Ferrari.

'If Ferrari would take their cars for a week somewhere and let everyone drive the cars, you would soon sort out the guys that are good and those that aren't, because the good guys can more or less get into a car and show their stuff.'

Season 2002 kicks off at Australia's Albert Park setting, just South of Victorian capital Melbourne, next March.






Sauber To Launch In February
The Swiss-based Sauber Petronas team will launch its all-new C22 Formula One contender on February 9 next year.

Headed by founder and boss Peter Sauber and an all-German 2003 driver line-up of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Nick Heidfeld, the unveiling will take place in Zurich-Oerlikon, close to Zurich airport.

A press conference will follow the launch in co-operation with the 'Mövenpick
Art on Ice' show in the 'Hallenstadion' in Zürich.

Sauber, with their headquarters in Hinwil, finished a solid fifth in this year's Constructors' World Championship behind only Ferrari, Williams, McLaren and Renault.

In 2002, the privateer outfit wound out the year a best-ever fourth.

But Nick Heidfeld says 'I think that we can be proud to have reached fifth position in the World Championship for Constructors.'

'We can expect some good surprises with the C22,' the 27-year-old German charger adds.

Heidfeld lines up for his third year at Sauber next year, to be joined by the team's most successful-ever pilot Heinz-Harald Frentzen who debuted for Sauber in 1994.

35-year-old Frentzen harks from the same German town - Moenchengladbach - as his younger Sauber teammate.

'I look at my new contract with Sauber Petronas as a reward for not having stopped racing,' says Frentzen, the third oldest current Grand Prix pilot behind Eddie Irvine (37) and Olivier Panis (36).

The German was controversially fired by his Jordan team in July last year, and has since spearheaded the final throes of ailing teams Prost and Arrows before signing for Sauber for the full 2003 season.

Frentzen re-debuted for Sauber at the United States Grand Prix in late September as a forerunner to his full return in 2003.

He adds: 'It has not taken me a long time to discover that this team has developed very well.'

The C22, again powered by year-old Ferrari engines, is set to take a brave step away from the nimble concept of the previous two Sauber challengers.

'All the knowledge that we have gathered in the past years will be incorporated in the design of the new C22,' says boss Peter Sauber.






Arrows Update: Court Protection Stalled
Struggling Formula One team Arrows has had its application for administration frozen by the London High Court.

Last week, the Leafield-based team announced it had signed contracts for sale with a consortium known only as German Grand Prix reportedly working on behalf of investors from the United Arab Emirates.

But Arrows added that an impending winding-up petition, headed by engine supplier Cosworth and former driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen, meant that it had sought 'The protection of the Court.'

The British team added that application for administration would be sought merely to 'Provide the time it needs to achieve Completion on the deal.'

However, lawyers for Arrows said yesterday they would adjourn the administration petition until Mr Justice Lightman discovers if existing Arrows creditor Morgan Grenfell has a security over Arrows's assets.

Morgan Grenfell has been the source of consternation since Arrows struck trouble around July of this year, first taking out an injunction against the team's sale and now delaying Arrows' protection from the Court.

The hearing will now be heard from December 9 at the London High Court, and could result in Morgan Grenfell seeking the appointment of an administrative receiver over Arrows' assets.

It is expected to last ten days and will chiefly see Justice Lightman decide if Morgan Grenfell was given guarantees from Arrows' boss Tom Walkinshaw to recover any financial shortfall.

'It is a matter of great urgency for the parties and creditors generally to know whether or not this security is valid,' Lightman said during Monday's hearing.

Arrows lodged its official entry and $300,000 deposit for the 2003 Formula One World Championship, but as we speak has no engine, sponsor, drivers or guaranteed berth in pitlane after missing six races last year.

Engine supplier Cosworth intend to chase unpaid debts, chief sponsor Orange has withdrawn its support, and lead driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen penned his name on a winding-up petition.

But Oliver Behring, a spokesman on behalf of the German Grand Prix investors, insists that the governing FIA will accept Arrows' entry in next year's championship.

Dubai's Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, involved in the airline industry and an owner of racehorses, is thought to be chiefly embroiled in the Arrows takeover.

'Arrows has agreed and signed Contracts with German based investors for the introduction of substantial new equity into the Team,' said Arrows last week in a statement.

'Until we reach Completion, the terms of the deal must remain confidential.'






Bernie To Sponsors: Keep The Faith
Bernie Ecclestone has urged Formula One's sponsors to continue backing the struggling privateer outfits.

'There's room for the small teams, but I think the sponsors need to look at it in a different way to how the Vodafones and the Marlboros look at it with Ferrari.'

The 72-year-old's plea comes after governing FIA President Max Mosley's warning that Grand Prix racing could be set to lose yet another handful of privateer outfits before season '03 kicks off.

Minardi and Jordan are rumored as being in danger of following Prost and Arrows into the financial doldrums.

Ecclestone, F1 impresario and head of Formula One Management, adds: 'The sponsors need to look at the little teams and think, 'We are not going to win but, you know, we can get an awful lot out of it'.

Former champion and team owner Sir Jackie Stewart notes that Formula One is quite possibly the best platform in the world to globalize a product.

But Formula One, coupled with a waning global economy, has been further rocked by the worrying decline in television audiences thanks in part to the waning spectacle at the head of the field.

Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and their Scuderia Ferrari turned off millions of casual sports viewers this year as they painted the entire championship scarlet red.

But the little Englishman, Ecclestone, thinks that new rules for qualifying, for a start, will give better coverage for the lesser Formula One sponsors. 'In qualifying at least,' says Bernie, 'They will get the same coverage.'

Each car will embark on a single flying lap from 2003 to make up the Grand Prix starting-grid.

Undoubtedly, the two shaky privateer teams hinted by Max Mosley are Anglo-Italian pitlane minnows Minardi, run by Australian entrepreneur Paul Stoddart, and Silverstone-based Jordan Grand Prix.

The latter team, run by eponymous Irish boss Eddie Jordan, last week announced the loss of some $30 million in title sponsorship.

Ecclestone says that Formula One Management will assume the role of host television broadcaster in 2003 and, accordingly, will spent more time giving F1's privateers better value for money.

'In the race, the way we are going to set that up, we will also be going down the field a bit more than hanging on to the leaders, whoever they may be,' he said.

At the F1 Commission meeting last month, Formula One unveiled a five-step plan for reform that included a novel way of saving money: a voluntary proposal to limit expensive in-season testing.

Participating teams, who must agree to a 10-ban in-season limit, will be given an extra two-hour session at the Grands Prix events on Friday.

'If I was running the team, I think rather than test on a circuit where we are not racing immediately, I'd rather have the two extra hours,' says Bernie Ecclestone.

'I would be coming to Melbourne with my team and I would have two extra hours over some of the others. So it's a big, big, big advantage.'

At least three teams must sign up to the proposal by December in order for it to be ratified.






F1 Plans The Return Of Slicks
FIA President Max Mosley will attempt to push through another raft of reforms for Formula One in December.

The Briton, all team bosses and technical directors will meet to discuss changes to F1's Technical Regulations; the code of rules dictating the actual formula for building a Grand Prix car.

Mosley's plan is to promote a myriad of changes that stab at Formula One's escalating costs without damaging the racing spectacle. 'The idea is to make our championship significantly cheaper.'

The basic outline of Mosley's 'perfect' World Championship is for the return of slick tires - more mechanical grip - but the vast reduction in the car's aerodynamic efficiency.

'In a perfect world we would have bigger tires, more grip, more mechanical grip as they call it, but much less downforce,' explained the FIA chief.

But he adds: 'The problem is if we were to allow the tires, the engineers would come forward with proposals for the downforce.

'And our experience over the last 34 years has taught us that it doesn't work; they always get more back over the winter than they give up in the summer.'

The FIA President, therefore, concedes that December's meeting of the Technical Working Group is likely to be a non-event as any changes require total unanimity.

That is, each stakeholder effectively has the power of veto.

And Mosley adds that nearly every proposal will be met by at least someone who stands to personally suffer from the change.

'The teams are going to have a look at the proposal but I'm dubious as to what will emerge,' he said.

Mosley adds: 'Usually when the teams do this nothing much comes out of it because there is always someone that's got a vested interest in some particular rule.

'Even, you could say, whoever has got the most money has a vested interest in not reducing costs.'

The meeting will be held in early December.






Stoddart Considers CART Assault
According to emerging reports, Minardi boss Paul Stoddart is seriously considering an assault on US-based CART racing.

The 47-year-old Australian, who owns and operates the tiny Anglo-Italian Formula One team, is reportedly encouraged by moves to curb the cost of entering a Champcar team.

Stoddart is toying with the idea of setting up a one-car outfit for the American series for 2002 F1 driver Alex Yoong, with the backing of Malaysian companies.

The Minardi chief was quoted as saying that a CART project would be considered 'if the right deal, with the right funding' came along.

In conjunction with a raft of recent cost-cutting measures, a full season of CART racing is said to now be possible on a budget of just $6 million for season 2003.

An example of CART's push to drive down costs is a freeze on aerodynamic development for major components through to the conclusion of 2003.

'CART continues to act in the best interest of our sport in facilitating cost cutting measures going forward,' says CART Vice President of Racing Operations John Lopes.

A great proportion of the CART world is side-stepping to rival oval-series Indy Racing League next year, including engine manufacturers Honda and Toyota, lead drivers Michael Andretti and Dario Franchitti and teams Chip Ganassi and Team Green.

The Minardi team or Paul Stoddart was unavailable for comment.

But 26-year-old Alex Yoong, who struggled through his first full year of Grand Prix racing with Minardi, makes no bones about his desire to head Stateside for CART.

'There's no hurry to make the announcement,' said the youngster from Kuala-Lumpur. 'It's a comfortable situation and there's no shortage of offers.'

Stoddart recently hinted that he was searching for a novel approach to keep the Malaysian on his books: I'm a bit funny with drivers,' he said. 'Once they've driven for me, they sort of become a bit of the family.'

He adds: 'If Alex can get something else that he wants to do then I'll help and support him to do that.'






Blundell Swaps Four Wheels For Two
Former Formula One pilot Mark Blundell will try out another form of motorsport this winter; the British Winter Supermoto (motorcycle) Championship at Brands Hatch.

The 37-year-old Englishman, hot on the heels of his disappointing debut at the Rally of Great Britain, will mount a 640cc single cylinder CCN Supermoto bike with the help of Jack Lilley Racing early next month.

Blundell will embark on an intensive test session to reacquaint him with the challenges of on and off-road bike racing.

'As a youngster, I enjoyed my motocross career and have always loved riding motorbikes, so when I was offered this opportunity I jumped at the chance to get back out on track on two wheels,' he said.

The Briton swapped two wheels for four at the age of 16 when he emerged as junior Motocross champion.

His car-racing career took him to the heights of the sport with stints at Tyrrell and McLaren, but he now returns to his roots all these years later.

'Having competed in the Rally GB with my great little MG ZR, I'm used to slipping and sliding in mud, although I hope I don't end up covered in the stuff next month,' he smiled.

Blundell was devastated to retire from the Rally through the forests of Cardiff with transmission failure, but is buoyed by the lure of his next challenge.

He says: 'The Supermoto format of combining motocross style off-road racing with the tarmac on-track element really appeals to me.

'It's got an extreme element with the mud, dirt tracks, peaks and troughs providing the thrills, but also has the technical side with the track racing needing precision and strategy.

'Supermoto is big in the States and is rapidly gaining in popularity in Europe. It's been described as rally cross for bikes, so it should produce lots of stunning action and be a great spectacle for the fans.'

Blundell moved his premier career across the Atlantic when his Grand Prix career faded in 1995, winning races in the US-based CART series.

Mark beams: 'As I've now done rallycross in a car, I just have to have a go on a bike!'

Without a grand prix drive in 1992, Blundell shared the winning Peugeot at Le Mans. But he raced 61 times at the pinnacle of motorsports, finishing a championship-best tenth in 1994 (Tirell) and 1995 (McLaren).

The British Winter Supermoto Championship heads to Brands Hatch for the race on 8 December.






Jordan Tackles African Adventure
What does Eddie Jordan do in the Formula One winter break? Find new sponsors? Put his feet up on a tropical isle? No - the eponymous team boss heads to Africa for a 400km bicycle marathon.

It may sound more like punishment than a winter sojourn, but ever the adventure-seeker, Irishman Eddie Jordan rode through the African wilderness for a Charity Cycle ride organised by CLIC (Cancer and Leukaemia in Childhood) on the weekend.

Eddie, a patron for the Charity, together with his wife and a few friends, began the 'Kenya Cycle Challenge' on 11th November and finished this Sunday after a grueling 404 kilometres over five days.

Starting in Nyeri, the cycle passed through villages, across savannah plains and through a tropical rain forest to Kakamega before ending at Kisumu for a well-deserved dinner and rest.

'It was fun but very tough,' said Eddie when he got home, 'And I won't tell you how sore I am and where!'

The funds raised go straight to CLIC to continue providing support for the families of children who are terminally ill with leukaemia or cancer.

The African adventure was not Eddie's first on a bike; the Silverstone F1 team boss took part in a similar charity cycle challenge in Spain last year and successfully completed the full 400km distance.

The Flamboyant Eddie Jordan now heads back to Britain where his team continue the task of wooing vital sponsors for the impending 2003 Formula One World Championship, set to kick off down-under next March.

Last week, the yellow-clad team disconsolately announced the departure of Deutsche Post World Net and, accordingly, some 40 percent or $30 million out of their entire F1 budget.

'And therefore, as you would expect, we are in negotiations with new sponsors,' said Jordan last week.

Benson & Hedges take up the new mantle as Jordan's principal sponsor and are embroiled in negotiations aimed at stepping up their financial support of the mid-field team.

French telecommunications giant Orange, having recently severed ties with ailing constructor Arrows, is also touted as a possibility for Jordan.

Popular veteran Eddie Irvine, fresh from his three-year Jaguar Racing career, is expected to grace the sister EJ12 next year alongside Italian ace Giancarlo Fisichella.

2002 pilot, 26-year-old rookie Japanese Takuma Sato, is widely expected to follow engine-supplier Honda back to BAR as a tester.






Montoya Returns To Native Colombia
Formula One superstar Juan Pablo Montoya has returned home to his native Colombia for a week of promotional events.

The 27-year-old, from the troubled nation's city of Bogota, will embark on a round of public appearances and work for local sponsors before 'Returning to Europe to start working on the 2003 (Williams) car.'

Montoya, at the end of his second year of Grand Prix racing, finished 'best of the rest' in 2002 with third place in the Drivers' chase behind the untouchable Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello.

Despite taking home the solid third-placed mantle, Juan Pablo insists that his Grove-based, BMW-powered Williams team needs to 'step up its game massively' if they are to compete with the scarlet juggernaut next year.

If Grove are planning 2003 as their championship year, says Montoya, they will have to unveil a Williams contender that is 'every bit as good as the Ferrari.'

'We've got to step up our game massively technically,' said Montoya, who failed to add to his 2001 Italian Grand Prix victory this year but soared to a superb seven pole positions.

Only five times world champion Michael, with eight qualifying triumphs, fared better on the Saturday afternoon challenge.

'The equipment we had was not quick enough - plain and simple - in the race,' the feisty, no-nonsense Colombian added.

'If Williams wants to win, we have to have the speed of Ferrari next year.'

Williams' technical chief, Patrick Head, concurs that the challenge for Grove is to produce a package for 2003 that is 'in absolute terms' better than the next Ferrari contender.

BMW-WilliamsF1 wound out the year a mammoth 129 points shy of the Italian-based Scuderia in the Constructors' chase.

'On the chassis side, the difference is big,' admits the Briton. 'We have to identify the cause and not just produce a car that is as good as Ferrari's this year.

'We have to try to produce one in absolute terms that is as good as we possibly can.'

Williams' engine partner, Munich-based German giant BMW, are lauded as presently building the best, highest-revving and most powerful powerplants in pitlane.

But Juan Pablo Montoya warns: 'If you look at the split times throughout the year, Ferrari is now right there with the engine.'

Juan Pablo will again - for the third consecutive season - accompany German charger Ralf Schumacher at the wheel of the 2003-spec, FW25 BMW-Williams.

Formula One, 2003-style, kicks off at Albert Park in early March for the Australian Grand Prix.






Testing Rules Will Catch On: Mosley
FIA President Max Mosley is confident that Formula One's new testing restrictions will catch on.

He said: 'On reflection, the front-running teams will probably feel that the advantages to be gained from being able to test at every single Grand Prix circuit outweigh the current practice.'

While smaller privateer outfits Minardi, Sauber and Jordan look like the only ones seriously toying with the 10-day in-season testing ban for 2003, Mosley is confident that the system's advantages will soon become apparent.

'At the moment, all the signs suggest that the big teams have no intention of signing on,' Mosley adds.

But at least three teams must opt for the plan to allow private testing at the seventeen Grand Prix circuits before the World Motor Sport Council meets in mid-December.

Mosley adds: 'This is something nobody has been able to do ever before; to have your test driver running at the track on Friday, to run your new components and still get the 10 days of completely free testing elsewhere.'

The governing authority thinks that the plan, voted through the F1 Commission at Heathrow Airport last month, will cut costs but also prove a benefit over the almost completely liberal - and massively expensive - testing.

'You get to use all sorts of simulation technology and still have the ten days, and get the experience of the Grand Prix circuits before practice,' explains Max.

'That might just outweigh the current practice of going around and around and around.'

So far, Paul Stoddart and his struggling Minardi outfit are the only ones fully committed to the new regulation but Sauber and Jordan are showing indications of signing on.

'We don't know who will sign up for it, nor do we know how big the effect will be,' admits Mosley.

The FIA chief, however, thinks that the front-running teams will eventually decide that two hours additional running at the Formula One venues on Friday mornings is more valuable than infinite running at Jerez or Valencia.

'My suspicion is that more will sign up for it than currently think they will,' he adds. 'Provided you meet the safety precautions and the normal safety rules, you can really do as you like.'

Co-BMW Motorsport Director Gerhard Berger has already avowed Williams' intentions to continue their full-blown approach to track testing.

'We will continue to use every opportunity,' he said. The Austrian added that 'Only the smaller teams will use the Friday idea.'

Stoddart says he will be using the opportunity as a novel revenue-raising measure by fielding up-and-coming drivers in return for sponsorship.

'You will probably find drivers from a certain country running and having a go,' says Mosley.

'It will be a really interesting mix.'

Pending the participation of at least three Grand Prix teams, the innovative Friday testing plan will debut at Melbourne's Albert Park next March.






F1 News In Brief
F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone was last week bestowed an award for 'Entrepreneurs whose innovative accomplishments have positively influenced the business world, thereby achieving international recognition'. The 72-year-old accepted the award in Vienna as part of Men's World Day, a global initiative based on supporting the cause of peace, freedom and tolerance. Other winners - in different categories - included Pope John Paul II, actors Jeremy Irons and Christopher Lee and film producer Roman Polanksi.

Williams' first world champion, 1980 victor Alan Jones of Australia, was married on the weekend on Daydream Island. The 56-year-old married Amanda Butler-Davis, the mother of his two 20-month-old twins Jack and Zara, in a private ceremony. Jones won 12 times in Formula One and still puts in the odd appearance in Australia's great endurance touring-car race at Bathurst. He retired from the pinnacle of motorsports for good in 1986 after the dismal failed Lola-Ford revival.

A little known Belgian by the name of Philippe Adams is celebrating his 33rd birthday today. Adams hit the Formula One scene with a home debut at Spa in 1994, driving for the ailing Lotus team. He qualified last and spun into retirement, but re-emerged a few weeks later for the Portuguese event. This time, he qualified second-to-last at the twisty Estoril - but finished last and was lapped four times.

The Shanghai branch of global bank HSBC has extended a $40 million line of credit to Shanghai International Circuit Co. The company will construct a Formula One circuit for their inaugural Chinese Grand Prix in 2004. The $300 million Shanghai circuit is being built in Anting, an industrial town north of the city. The Kingdom of Bahrain will also hit the Grand Prix calendar in 2004 with their Sakhir track; the first such event in the Middle East.

According to a study by Swinburne University, Michael Schumacher is the overwhelming favourite to win the Australian Grand Prix and 2003 World Championship. Carried out by the university's Sports Statistics Unit, over 20,000 simulations and 1.16 million laps of the Albert Park circuit showed that Schumacher and Ferrari have a 41% chance of victory in Melbourne. The caution, however, comes with the fact that the study's predictions are based on historical data and do not take account of any improvements by drivers or teams over the off-season...

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