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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
November 20,  2002
1


Button Relishes Villeneuve Duel
Rising English sensation Jenson Button is relishing the prospect of lining up alongside an ex-world champion next year.

The 22-year-old, moving from Renault to BAR for at least the next two years, will share a Honda-powered 005 with French-Canadian speedster Jacques Villeneuve.

'I think we can work together well, and we need to work well together to move the team forward,' says Bicester-born Jenson. 'And I think Jacques will be up for it, I really do.'

2002 will be Button's fourth season of racing at the pinnacle of motorsports, and Villeneuve will be his fourth feisty team-mate.

And some quarters of the racing world think that little Jacques will be out to psychologically destroy the relative newcomer. 'I don't think it's going to be like people think,' Button told Autosport.

Button says that the media merely uses the impending partnership as an excuse for a story: 'I think Jacques is quite a straightforward guy, and we can work well together,' he smiles.

'I'm not worried about anything. A lot of it is talk more than anything else.'

Button debuted for Williams in 2000 before moving aside for Juan Pablo Montoya last year. He headed for Benetton-Renault, where he endured a dismal season and a complete thrashing from team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella.

But Jenson dismisses former technical director Mike Gascoyne's opinion that he is not world championship material.

'That's obviously my aim - to beat everyone on the grid,' Button continued to the British publication.

'Jacques obviously wants to be quicker than me, like I want to be quicker than him. But if we work well together we'll move everything forward, and then when we've got opportunities to win races, we'll kick each other's arse, I'm sure.'

Jenson is willing to admit that qualifying is still his weak point in Formula One. This year, the Briton lost out to team-mate Jarno Trulli on Saturday afternoon a worrying twelve times out of seventeen.

'He's good over one lap, very good,' says Button of his Italian team-mate. 'He always seems to get it out of the car on the last run in qually, whereas I think I push too hard, and I normally go slower.'

Button admits that qualifying is 'Something I need to work out.'

He adds: 'Qualifying is important, and people always go on about it, but it doesn't score points and get you a bottle of champagne to spray over everyone!'

The cheerful Englishman missed out on a deserved debut podium in Malaysia this year when his suspension broke in sight of the chequered flag.






Murray Welcomes F1 Reform
Commentating legend Murray Walker has joined the chorus of support for Formula One's new regulations.

At the F1 Commission meeting last month, the sport of Grand Prix racing introduced reforms like shoot-out qualifying and points reform in an effort to spice up the waning track spectacle.

'Everywhere I go people are asking me what I think about the new regulations,' says the 79-year-old Briton as he embarks on a whirlwind promotional world tour for his new autobiography.

'The answer is that I think the new qualifying rules and the revised points system make a great deal of sense and will have a beneficial effect on the weekend's sport,' Walker told ITV.

'But they won't stop Ferrari and Michael from winning and nor should they.'

Walker stood vehemently opposed to what he called 'ludicrous' plans to apply weight penalties or force driver swaps.

'If they had voted in the daft proposals to apply weight penalties for success and to switch the drivers about from team to team I'd have emigrated,' smiled Walker.

He says that the way to halt Ferrari's utter dominance is not to force its world champion driver into a Minardi, but for Williams and McLaren to pull their socks up.

'The others must try harder and do better - especially Williams and McLaren who are the teams most likely to do so,' he said.

'But they don't need me to tell them. They know already and the very best of luck to them!'

Walker's autobiography is titled 'Unless I'm Very Much Mistaken' and has taken the broadcasting great to Australia, New Zealand, the States and all over Europe and Britain.






Albert Park Strengthens Resolve
Melbourne's Albert Park Grand Prix circuit has further strengthened its dedication to safety ahead of the 2003 season-opener.

In the opening laps of the 2001 Australian Grand Prix, the BAR of Jacques Villeneuve collided with Ralf Schumacher's Williams at turn three, catapulting the Canadian against the safety fence.

A spectator-control marshal, Graham Beveridge, was struck on the chest by the flying wheel of Villeneuve's 003 after it penetrated a tiny escape-hole in the street circuit fencing.

Ahead of next year's event at the picturesque parkland setting just South of Melbourne, 5 metre-high safety fencing will be erected around the entire circuit as one of the final measures in the coroner's report.

'We've now implemented virtually everything the coroner recommended,' Grand Prix chief executive Steven Wright said of the more than six million dollar circuit upgrades for season 2003.

'This also includes the introduction of a safety risk manager.'

The coroner, investigating the death of the marshal, originally noted that Beveridge's death could have been avoided if better safety measures had been enacted before the 2001 event.

He said the accident was entirely foreseeable and thus rendered the 2002 Melbourne event provisional for most of last year.

In 2002, several areas of the street circuit - including the crash zone at turn three and on the approach to turn six - boasted higher fencing and the offending driver escape-holes were removed and replaced with sturdy 'cage-like' structures.

In addition, higher fencing was erected on the pit-straight and above the pit gantries.

The 2003 Australian Grand Prix, at Albert Park South Melbourne, will be staged from March 7 - 9 next year.

Michael Schumacher has won the past three events on the temporary street circuit, and Ferrari the last four.






Russians To Test-Drive Minardi
A number of young Russian hopefuls will take to the wheel of Formula One Minardis as part of the team's new alliance with the country.

The Anglo-Italian team founder and former owner, Gian Carlo Minardi, yesterday returned from a week-long trip to Moscow during which he attended a number of meetings with senior members of the Russian motorsport community.

Minardi was also honoured to visit the Kremlin as a private guest to mark the Anglo-Italian team's dedication to new sponsor, Gas Company Gazprom, and 2003 test-driver Sergey Zlobin.

'I had an excellent welcome in Russia, where I quickly came to realise how popular the team is as the result of its links with both Gazprom and Sergey Zlobin,' commented Gian Carlo Minardi on his return to Italy.

'Media attention was high throughout the visit, and I enjoyed meeting with members of the Russian press on several occasions.'

Gian Carlo took the opportunity to announce Minardi's intention of evaluating a number of young Russian drivers, some of whom have already made 'initial contact' with the team.

Minardi added: 'We were also able to reveal that we have spoken with some potential new sponsors, who are interested in using Minardi as a promotional vehicle.'

The tiny team's founder also headed to Gazprom's headquarters where a Minardi F1 car was displayed.

'I was to explain to (Gazprom) that the Minardi team is looking forward to providing a high-profile promotional vehicle for this impressive Russian company.'

The Russian company hit the Minardi livery in the final throes of season 2002, with a partnership that extends into next year including the test-driving services of 32-year-old Zlobin.

'As a result, we anticipate pursuing new marketing activities and events that may well go beyond the immediate sphere of Formula One,' says the Italian.

Minardi was particularly moved to have been invited to the Kremlin as a private guest. 'It was a very special honour and a unique experience, for which I must sincerely thank our Russian hosts.

'We look forward to building on the strong relationships that have been established as a result of this very enjoyable trip.'

Minardi sold his ailing team to Australian entrepreneur Paul Stoddart at the end of season 2000.






Firman Lands Formula One Chance
Newly-crowned Formula Nippon Champion, Englishman Ralph Firman, will test a Honda-powered BAR on 15 December.

The 27-year-old Briton, who conquered England's coveted Formula Three championship way back in 1996, will join the Brackley-based team in Barcelona where he will take to the wheel of this year's 004.

'We congratulate Ralph on his success this year and are delighted to offer him a Formula One test,' said BAR boss David Richards.

He added: 'As Japan's top series, Formula Nippon is widely recognised as one of the best proving grounds for future talent. BAR will continue to monitor the Nippon series as part of our ongoing evaluation of young drivers.'

When Firman's impressive F3 career failed to land him in Formula One, the talented Briton headed for Japan where he first won races in the Japanese GT Championship as well as Formula Nippon.

This year, the youngster's experience culminated with the three-litre, single-seater Nippon title, racing for the team run by former Tyrrell and Lotus F1 driver Satoru Nakajima.

Firman was born in Norwich, England but today resides in Tokyo. He has contested the Formula Nippon series since 1997 after winning the British F3 and prestigious Macau Grand Prix with Paul Stewart Racing.

In recent years, British F3 has produced champions like Antonio Pizzonia (2000), Takuma Sato (2001), and in the past Rubens Barrichello (1991) and Mika Hakkinen (1990).

Jenson Button and Anthony Davidson are the latest young Englishman to use British F3 as their Grand Prix stepping-stone.






Rubens: Thumbs Up To Shoot-Out Qualifying
Ferrari ace Rubens Barrichello has added his voice to a growing chorus of approval for Formula One's new shoot-out qualifying.

From 2003, each driver will be afforded just one flying lap on Saturday to count for the grid in an attempt to curb the effectiveness of the qualifying process and thereby spice up the Grand Prix action.

'The one lap for qualifying is a good idea,' said the 30-year-old Paulista as he recharges his batteries at home in Brazil.

'Not just because of the enjoyment of having to put 101% effort into the single lap, but also because we will be alone on the track with no traffic.'

On several occasions this year, Grand Prix pilots had their qualifying spoiled by slow-driving traffic and Rubens thinks the new rules have tackled that problem.

He says: 'It was getting to a point in several qualifying sessions where we often had problems running with other cars on their warm up or slow down laps.'

But FIA President Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone's real ambition is to see more mixed-up grids in order to spice up the monotony of two consummate Ferraris streaking into the distance.

Even Michael Schumacher, they say, could be stuck in a rain shower during his designated flying lap or even make a crucial mistake relocating him to the rear of the grid.

'It will be interesting to see how it works out, because there is always the chance that it might rain for part of the qualifying hour, even if that was not the case very often in the past,' Rubens continues.

'Once in a while, I guess it will shake up what we have come to accept as the usual grid order and that will certainly make the race fun for the spectators.

'I think this will also mean more people will be interested in coming to the track on Friday and Saturday.'

Most commentators agree, however, that the shoot-out format will probably favour Formula One's experienced pilots - like Schumacher and Barrichello - over young guns like Antonio Pizzonia or Fernando Alonso.

But 'I think a lot of people will be waking up at 3am over here in Europe to see how it pans out in Australia,' says Max Mosley.

The Albert Park organisers, meanwhile, are raking in record demands for pre-booked grandstand tickets for their 2003 Australian Grand Prix.

An Australian Grand Prix Corporation spokesman told us: 'The new rules are great. We are totally in favour of that, as we are the Friday test sessions.'






Bernie Wakes From Digital Dream
Bernie Ecclestone has, according to solid reports, abandoned his Digital dream by ditching pay-per-view Formula One coverage.

'What we've produced is very, very good,' Bernie said of his Digital coverage earlier this week. 'But for what people expected to pay, I was shattered to find that they didn't, and haven't, and wouldn't.'

The rising reports explain how the 72-year-old will not make his failed Digital-feed available to pay-tv networks, like Britain's Sky, next year after mere thousands signed up for the superior Grand Prix coverage.

Bernie's Digital F1 project boasted multiple channels, unlimited on-board car cameras, statistics, exclusive interviews and data pages.

But viewers in Germany, Italy, France and the UK chose mainly to stick to the continuing free-to-air feed.

Since 1997 - when Digital was launched - Ecclestone has deprived the free-to-air public of the digital trappings like extra on-board cameras in the hope that they would flee for pay-per-view.

Instead, however, armies of casual viewers merely turned off the waning television spectacle as Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and their consummate Ferrari motor-cars dominated the screens.

Ecclestone is now willing to concede that his pay-per-view experiment, five years down the track, has failed and will not continue to fund it from season 2003.

'Pay per view does not work,' the F1 impresario disconsolately mused at a press conference this week. 'And nobody knows why.'

But to spice up the television spectacle next year, Bernie and Formula One Management will assume the role of global host broadcasters and make available the digital equipment for the free-to-air F1 fan.

'The fact that with all of our experience now and the equipment we have, we can now feed that into the free-to-air television so everyone will be getting a much, much, much better show,' Bernie said.

'There will be a lot more to see.'

Free-to-air viewers were given a sample of the digital coverage for the United States Grand Prix this year; but Bernie says those additional camera angles and better data coverage were just the tip of the digital iceberg.

'That was still a little bit watered-down,' he said.

Although Bernie's venture is said to have been worth some $100 million, the 72-year-old has, as ever, come out trumps. It is claimed that most of the costs were absorbed by French TV company Canal Plus and German broadcaster DF1.

The superior Formula One coverage will debut next March for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.






Honour For Ferrari President LDM
Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has been awarded the 'Man of the Year' honour by authoritative British weekly Autocar.

The Italian, who headed the team as principal in the 70s before taking the mantle as President, was bestowed the honour at the annual 'Autocar Awards' ceremony at the Marquee in Battersea Park.

For the 2002 edition, the judges were unanimous in selecting the scarlet chief: 'It's people who build success, not committees or processes,' came the plaudits for di Montezemolo.

'Our Man of the Year rejoined Ferrari 10 years ago when it was in very poor shape. He took it by the scruff of the neck, transformed the road cars, overhauled the racing division, and you can see the results.

'And Ferrari makes magnificent cars again - look at the new Enzo.'

Ferrari's Formula One Scuderia has soared to the past three Drivers' world championships with Michael Schumacher and four consecutive Constructors crowns (1999 - 2002).

'And if that wasn't enough,' the judges' verdict continued, 'He has revitalised Maserati's name and its cars - we're now seeing the results of that on Britain's roads.

'Under Luca's charismatic leadership, Ferrari has exceeded the Tifosi's wildest dreams, built the world's greatest car and, through heavy investment in research and development facilities, laid the foundation for a new generation of innovative road cars.

'He understands the importance of the legend, of the romance of Ferrari, yet at heart he is a pragmatic rationalist and smart enough to understand that balancing these elements is perhaps his greatest management strength'.

Ferrari responded by commenting: 'This award represents a significant achievement for Mr. Montezemolo and all the people working within the Ferrari Maserati Group.'






Webber Ponders Pizzonia Challenge
Australia's Mark Webber is relishing the chance to go head-to-head with rising Brazilian superstar Antonio Pizzonia at Jaguar Racing next year.

'I'm going to have to be on top of my game and I hope I will come out of it a better driver,' he said.

The 26-year-old makes the progression from the backmarking seat at countryman Paul Stoddart's Minardi team, taking up residence as the Leaping Cat's lead-driver.

But, sitting alongside him in the sister R4 next year, will be ex-F3 champion and BMW-Williams test driver Antonio Pizzonia.

The 22-year-old, affectionately known as Jungle Boy due to his Amazonian heritage, comes highly recommended after matching the track-pace of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya this year.

Mark adds: 'Williams don't suffer any fools. He's got a huge amount of knowledge of what makes these Formula One cars tick.'

Webber, from Queanbeyan near the nation's capital, knows that the Pizzonia challenge will stand in stark contrast to his 2002 team-mate, Malaysian rookie Alex Yoong.

On the fourteen qualifying occasions between Webber and Yoong this year, Mark came out on top every time.

'There is absolutely no question about it that Antonio is obviously a different calibre to Alex,' said the Australian.

'Alex did the best that he could this year in trying circumstances with no testing and a very small team, but we are in a totally different situation now.'

Antonio came through the ranks in Great Britain's highly-competitive motorsport industry: conquering Formula Vauxhall, Formula Renault, Formula Three and Formula 3000.

'And he has been working with Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher this year at Williams,' says Mark Webber.

'So there are going to be weekends where it's going to be extremely tight between us.'

Mark, contemplating just his second season at the pinnacle of motorsports after finishing second in the 2001 F3000 chase, thinks that Pizzonia's speed is matched only by his intelligence.

'He's a very, very quick guy - and very, very intelligent,' he says emphatically.

'I'm happy to have somebody like him in the other garage to push me because at the end of the day that's why I worked so hard to get to Formula One.

'Obviously to be the best you have to race against the best, so I'm looking forward to the challenge.'

The youthful and inexperienced Jaguar Racing line-up replaces outgoing pilots Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa.

Last year, the combined ages of Jaguar's veteran driver line-up was 68. For 2002, with 22-year-old Jungle Boy and the relatively untested Mark Webber, it is twenty years younger at 48.

But Webber is doubtful that youthful verve will prove enough to break into the regular points-finishing top eight next year. 'We would like to move forward from what has happened here this season,' he says.

'But it's going to be very, very competitive in the mid-field of Formula One, just inside the top 10 or around that area.

'But I do want to be racing competitively with some strong guys, and that's the next stage of my career.'






Walker Defends Schumacher And Ferrari
Murray Walker has strongly defended the utter dominance of Scuderia Ferrari and five times world champion Michael Schumacher.

Walker - the 'voice of Formula One' having commentated on television and radio for the past 50 years - thinks that the sport is witnessing a truly historic era that should not be dismissed as boring.

'People who are getting fed up with Michael Schumacher ought to realise that the man is a living genius, the like of which has been seldom seen in the history of motor racing,' said the 79-year-old.

'People who are watching him now ought to rejoice in the fact that they are able to watch him.'

The German, Schumacher, soared to eleven wins this year and the quickest-ever championship campaign in Formula One's history. As a result, hordes of fans switched off their television sets citing the waning track spectacle.

But Walker says that F1's doomsayers 'irritated' him and should look for some perspective in the sporting and personal achievements of the most successful pilot in motorsport.

He says: 'In years to come there are going to be people talking about Schumacher with reverence, so I say make the most of it.'

The charismatic and excitable Briton praises Ferrari for emerging from the depths of crisis to a world-dominating position.

'Ferrari, having been in the abyss for years, have done everything right, they've got the right people, the right facilities, and spent a mint of money on getting Michael Schumacher, who's the best driver in the world,' he said.

'And it's not going to last because that's the nature of Formula One,' he continued to the BBC.

When Murray started covering the sport professionally in 1949 it was Alfa Romeo who dominated the sport, then Ferrari, and then the silver Arrows of Mercedes-Benz.

Walker continues: 'More recently it was Williams, then McLaren and now it's Ferrari.

'For one reason or another they have all gone into decline and have been caught and that will happen to Ferrari.'

Murray stood vehemently opposed to what he calls 'ludicrous' proposals of driver swaps and success-ballast, and is delighted that such absurdity was voted down at last month's meeting of the F1 Commission.

'That would make a mockery out of Formula One and turn it from a sport into a pure spectacle - and at the moment it is both a genuine sport and a great spectacle,' he said.

But he is saddened by the demise of privateer teams like Prost, Arrows - and possibly close friend Paul Stoddart and his tiny Minardi team.

'I'm naturally sorry because (Arrows boss) Tom Walkinshaw has tried very hard to get the money that the team needs.

'One of the big problems in F1 now is that you need not just millions of pounds but tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of pounds or you are not going to be able to win '

Murray Walker, an unashamed Michael Schumacher fan, still holds Argentine pilot Juan Manuel Fangio aloft as the greatest pilot in the sport's history.

'It is a gigantically contentious subject because it's impossible to prove that one driver is any better than another,' he said.

But five times world champion Michael Schumacher, riding the crest of a wave, is a very close second. 'I feel that if Schumacher goes on in the manner he has been going then he will be my number one.

'A lot of people won't agree with me, of course, but that's the beauty of the sport.'

Walker retired from the commentary box at the end of last year, and has spent 2002 promoting his Autobiography.






Jordan Accepts Blame For Turmoil
Eponymous team boss Eddie Jordan says he only has himself to blame for the Silverstone-team's state of affairs.

Last week, the yellow clad outfit announced that 40 percent of next year's budget had walked out the door in the form of German backer Deutsche Post World Net.

The $30 million shortfall put into perspective some 50 redundancies - a significant 25 percent of the total Silverstone workforce - at Jordan earlier this year.

The Irish boss admits that a string of poor season-performances since 1999 can be traced back to a new Jordan approach to hit the big time with front-runners Ferrari, Williams and McLaren.

'We tried too hard,' the Irishman concedes. 'In the last three years we thought we belonged in the top three and needed to have the resources of McLaren and Ferrari.'

Heinz-Harald Frentzen won two Grands Prix for Jordan in 1999, propelling the Northamptonshire-outfit to a strong third in the Constructors' chase.

As a result, Jordan invested in infrastructure and personnel rivaled only by the sport's big hitters. 'But we're not a corporation,' says the Irishman of his mistakes since the late Nineties.

'Jordan is one of the old independents,' he told ITV. 'And I worry for the future of the independents, the privateers. I worry for the colour and the future of the sport.'

Earlier this week, FIA President Max Mosley 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.

Conventional wisdom pointed the finger at perennial stragglers Minardi and Jordan; whose 2003 budget is $30 million lighter after brands like DHL and Damovo depart the Silverstone portfolio.

'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,' added Mosley.






Jenson Keyed-Up For BAR Debut
Jenson Button is keyed up for his impending rise to the Brackley-based British American Racing team.

The young Englishman - still 22 despite staring down the barrel of his fourth year at the pinnacle of motorsports - says that an eventual championship charge is his new goal at BAR.

'I'm very excited,' he told British magazine Autosport. 'I don't know them very well, but I'm really looking forward to working with them, and the whole team seems to be excited about next year.'

Button was wooed to the Honda-powered, Brackley-based outfit when Renault opted against retaining his solid services. 'I think everyone believes in Dave Richards - I do - and they're getting some very good people on board,' he says.

The Briton also thinks that Japanese manufacturer Honda - focusing their exclusive services onto BAR from next year - are 'Going to do a very good job.'

But above all, young Jenson has faith in new team boss David Richards. 'He's a very straightforward guy, which is a good thing,' says Button. 'He also downplays it all.'

Richards' company, Prodrive, runs the successful Subaru team in World Rally while he acts as the Bernie-equivalent in premier rallying as a kind of 'supremo'.

Button says of Richards: 'He's not one of these guys who goes there and says, 'We're going to be the World Champions,' and then you don't do it. He's more likely to say, 'We'll be in the top three,' and then win the championship.

The youngster adds: 'He's good like that, he doesn't get overexcited about things.'

Button has signed for two years at BAR, with options for two more. The Englishman will also be re-united with former Williams man, Geoff Willis, who is the brains behind the new BAR005.

'He's a good guy, and I like him a lot,' says Jenson of Willis. The 22-year-old Englishman debuted for the Williams team in 2000.

'That's why I think it's such a good team,' he adds. 'There's no one bullshitting like there can be in other teams. No one's getting overexcited, everyone knows what the deal is and what it can be.

'It's the same as Williams.'

Jenson Button remains under long-term contract to Sir Frank Williams.






McNish Admits Future In The States
Allan McNish has all but confirmed that his immediate future does not lie at the pinnacle of motorsports.

The 32-year-old Scot made his Formula One debut this year for fledgling Cologne-based team Toyota. With Mika Salo, the Dumfries-born charger embarked on a comprehensive testing campaign in '01 before debuting at Melbourne in March.

But, despite a solid first year in Grand Prix racing after more than a decade's experience in premier motorsport, McNish will not be retained by Toyota for season 2003.

The little Scot, who was forced to miss the season-ending Japanese Grand Prix after a heavy qualifying shunt, is forced to contemplate next year either in American-based IRL or Champcars.

He said: 'I'm not at the point of making any announcements at the moment. But there's two things really.'

The Scot recently tested a Toyota-powered Penske IRL car at the California Speedway and has revealed offers from the world of sportscars.

'The IRL looks like a strong option in terms of racing but on the other side CART seems to building up again as a series,' he told British sports network ITV.

'So I've got to make sure I make the right decision.'

McNish adds: 'I'm trying to look at which is the best way to go as any decision I make is going to be at least for two years.'

But the Dumfries-born charger thinks that he was fortunate to be given the chance of gracing Formula One with Toyota Racing.

'Ove (Andersson) and his team are an excellent group of people and I enjoyed working with them,' the 32-year-old said.

'As for my first year in F1, I think I've done a solid job with strong performances, closely mirroring the efforts of my team mate, Mika Salo, who has been driving in F1 for a few more years than me.'

McNish's most recent motorsport triumph was the American Le Mans win on the streets of Adelaide, in 2000.






Jordan Deny Claims Of Collapse
Northamptonshire-based Jordan have scotched claims that they are on the brink of collapse.

Yesterday, FIA President Max Mosley mused that more privateer teams might be about to follow Prost and Arrows into demise.

The Briton stated that 'One or two are not 100 hundred per cent in good shape. We are just keeping our fingers crossed that they will all be there in March.'

While Paul Stoddart's struggling Minardi team are openly hesitant about their future, Jordan's torrid state of affairs was fully revealed last week when Deutsche Post World Net and $30 million of backing walked out the door.

But a Jordan spokesperson has now confirmed that the team has paid its $300,000 entry fee and are confident of finding new sponsors to fully fund their 2003 Formula One season.

'There is absolutely no question that Jordan will not be racing next year,' said the Jordan spokeswoman.

'I'm not very happy about where this story has come from,' she added, referring to Mosley's ambiguous statement about struggling independent teams.

She adds: 'I don't know what teams Max Mosley is talking about, but people have obviously jumped to conclusions after our announcement last week about Deutsche Post World Net.

'But we knew for while that was going to happen and we've been in discussions with other companies and are in negotiations with new sponsors.'

British tobacco giant Benson & Hedges become Jordan's biggest backer with the departure of DHL, Deutsche Post and Damovo, but the team are hoping to further step up that involvement.

'We are concluding a deal with Benson & Hedges and we are negotiating several other deals to get the budget we need,' she said.

B&H are thought to be requesting the services of a 'prominent British driver' before pumping up their involvement, with Jaguar refugee Eddie Irvine the obvious choice.

Italian ace Giancarlo Fisichella will stay strapped to the sister, Ford-powered EJ13.






Arrows Future 99 Percent Secure?
Oliver Behring has put Arrows' chances of taking to the Australian Grand Prix grid next March at more than 99 percent.

Behring, the man behind potential Arrows buyer German Grand Prix Racing GmbH, added that more than 50 million Euros had been pumped into the company by United Arab Emirates investors for a 60 percent stake.

Tom Walkinshaw's ailing British team disappeared from the circuit after this year's German Grand Prix of Hockenheim citing force majeure but clearly in financial turmoil.

Behring revealed that Arab investor Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, the chairman of the Emirates airline in Dubai, is the major investor in the German Grand Prix deal.

'In my opinion,' said Behring, 'Arrows will take the start in the first race. Chances are 99.95 percent.'

Last week, Arrows announced that it had 'Agreed and signed Contracts with German-based investors for the introduction of substantial new equity into the Team.'

But it warned that in view of complications with present equity owners Morgan Grenfell, Arrows had 'Sought the protection of the Court in order to provide the time it needs to achieve Completion on the deal.'

Arrows applied for Administration in the London High Court, but had the application delayed by Morgan Grenfell after it claimed that securities over the team's assets had been promised.

With just over three months until Formula One reconvenes at Australia's Albert Park for season 2003, Arrows has no engine supplier, chief sponsor or drivers.

It has, however, submitted its $300,000 deposit and entry for the 2003 Championship but is not guaranteed a berth in pitlane.

Our sources hint that 'at least five' teams are questioning the validity of Arrows Grand Prix's right to race under the Concorde Agreement.

The Leafield-based operation contravened the unanimously-signed document by missing six races last year.






Barrichello In Great Shape For '03
According to the Brazilian F1 ace, 30-year-old Rubens Barrichello has seldom been in better physical shape.

'I have actually lost more weight now than I did during the season,' the Paulista reports from his native Brazil.

'Physically, I'm in great shape, for whenever I have to get back in a Formula One car, although I am not sure when that will be.'

The Ferrari man, who won several times this year despite sharing the consummate scarlet F2002 with world champion Michael Schumacher, is training for a triathlon race to keep busy during the long winter break.

'I am competing in a triathlon race; running, swimming and cycling,' revealed the Brazilian. 'Running is probably my strongest discipline out of the three and swimming the weakest.

'I had 20 lessons and pretty much stopped swimming when I was six! But I'm looking forward to it.'

Before he dived into the pool at home in Brazil, however, Barrichello was in Misano (Italy) for the Ferrari Days event where he, team-mate Michael and test-drivers Luca Badoer and Luciano Burti showed off the F2002s for ardent Tifosi.

'Misano was a great way to end the racing year in front of all our fans and the atmosphere was fantastic,' said the Scuderia Ferrari driver. 'Since then, I have been home in Brazil, having an enjoyable, but very busy time.'

Rubens immediately headed home to see family and friends but spent the first week of his break dedicated to the Paulista's first love - karting.

The Brazilian, for the fourth time, mounted a successful campaign for the country's most famous 500 mile endurance race at the Granja Viana karting facility in Sao Paulo.

The 30-year-old's winning team featured countrymen Tony Kanaan, of CART fame, and Formula One rookie, Felipe Massa.

Rubens says: 'It sounds like an easy sort of competition, but every champion from every category of racing in Brazil gets together the best equipment and drivers to try and win.

'Just like with Ferrari, part of the secret of our success was our good preparation which meant that throughout the 500 miles race we never broke a single part.'

He adds, however, that he did have a collision with another kart 'Which dropped me to eighth of the 64 runners.'

Barrichello will again line-up alongside Michael Schumacher as an official Ferrari pilot for the next two years.






F1 News In Brief
Former F1 and CART star, Alex Zanardi, will compete in the 'Champions Kart Race' next month at the Bologna Motor Show. His opponents will include, amongst others, Stefano Modena and motorcycle ace Troy Corser. The occasion will mark the first racing experience for Zanardi since he nearly lost his life last year in an horrific CART accident. The 34-year-old Italian had both legs amputated above the knee, but his progress on prosthetics is encouraging.

Charismatic Italian marque Maserati, owned by Formula One champions Ferrari, will make its official racing return by competing in the 2004 FIA GP Championship. The marque last competed in F1 in 1957, winning the drivers title with Juan Fangio. 'This is an important day,' said Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo.

Formula One's pilots will, for the first time, vote for who they think cut the mustard in 2002 with the inaugural Drivers' Driver of the Year award. The plaudits will be handed to the winner at next year's Grand Prix Party in January, with each 2002 Grand Prix pilot getting one vote. Other new awards up for grabs at Birmingham's NEC will be Best Circuit and the Special Safety Award. The annual awards, known as the Bernies, are made of gold and depict the little F1 impresario himself.

Speculation of Jacques Villeneuve's return to CART racing can now be put to bed as Team Player's Forsythe Racing has confirmed Paul Tracy and Patrick Carpentier as drivers. 'I've driven for some great teams since I've been in the CART series,' said Tracy, 'But as a Canadian driver I'm extremely proud to be joining a Canadian team.' Fellow Canadian Patrick Carpentier, a two time winner in 2002, lines up for his sixth season of Forsythe racing. Villeneuve was reportedly offered some $50 million to make the switch from F1.

Alan Brown, a Briton, contested eight Grands Prix in the early Fifties and turns 83 today. His best finish was secured on debut, at the Swiss Grand Prix where he placed fifth. Stefan Bellof, of Germany, raced twenty times in the Eighties but was killed in a sports car race at Spa in 1985. His 45th birthday would have been celebrated today.

On this very day in 1960, British favourite Sir Stirling Moss pounded home Lotus' first-ever win at the pinnacle of motorsports. To mark the occasion, Innes Ireland came home second in the sister Lotus-Climax at America's Riverside circuit.

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