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2002 F1 Teams/Drivers

British American Racing
Jacques Villeneuve
Olivier Panis

Ferrari
M. Schumacher
Rubens Barrichello

Jaguar
Eddie Irvine
Pedro de la Rosa

Jordan
Takuma Sato
Giancarlo Fisichella

McLaren
Kimi Raikkonen
David Coulthard

Minardi
Alex Yoong
Mark Webber

Prost
H. H. Frentzen 
Luciano Burti

Renault
Jarno Trulli
Jenson Button

Sauber
Nick Heidfeld
Felipe Massa

Toyota
Mika Salo
Allan McNish

Williams
Ralf Schumacher
Juan Montoya

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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 2, 2003
1


Franchitti Slams Jacques Villeneuve
Scottish race ace Dario Franchitti has hit back at comments made by Jacques Villeneuve that his new career in the Indy Racing League will be boring.

Villeneuve, former Champcar (CART) and Indy 500 winner, told British media recently that: 'Franchitti will find the IRL so boring.'

After several years near the top of the timesheets in the beleaguered CART Series, 29-year-old Franchitti moves with his Team Green and manufacturer Honda into the oval-predominated, rival IRL.

Jacques, who now spends his days racing in Formula One's midfield with BAR, noted of the move: 'From a career perspective he possibly has a better chance of winning a championship.'

The 31-year-old added: 'Or possibly, CART-wise, he couldn't get another contract to stay there, so he had no choice.'

Scottish-born Dario, from Edinburgh, fired back a response to Villeneuve's observations after completing his first test with the 2003-spec, Dallara-Honda IRL car at Phoenix.

'The test was very good,' Franchitti said in an interview with the Racer magazine. 'I really enjoyed it. It's a lot different to what I'm used to.

'On ovals I'm used to low downforce, so to have so much grip was actually a lot of fun - very different. The Honda engine seems good, but I can't say too much about that. But I think the whole package will be very effective.'

On Jacques Villeneuve's forthright words of advice, however, the Scot's eyebrows lowered. 'For Jacques to say that is very strange,' he said, noting that Villeneuve made his name with Team Green in the mid-90s.

'He's not talking from a position of knowledge - he's never driven one of these cars, and he's never been to an IRL race. Basically those comments are assumptions.

'Yes, sure I'm going to miss racing on road courses a lot, but this is still an exciting move.'

Villeneuve often muses that the Indy Racing League, with simple chassis', V8 engines and played out on the ovals of America, has killed premier open-wheeler motorsport in the United States.

He says that CART, with its different styles of circuits and high-performance challengers, is a far more testing arena that should be protected as a trans-Atlantic alternative to F1.

But Dario, facing a new challenge in IRL, says that his very real prospect of winning races in 2003 - and Villeneuve's lack of it - gives him more credibility to muse about the pros and cons of American motor racing.

'As a team we are coming into this new, and that is a challenge, and there are some very strong teams to beat,' says Franchitti.

'But that is part of the fun, and winning is too, and we are working to be in a position to do that from the start.'

He adds: 'When was the last time Jacques looked like winning a race?'

And of the boredom of turning left on bland ovals? 'I can assure you that racing as close as it is here is not boring,' the Scot continued. 'How boring is it to be running around at the back in F1?'

French-Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, staring into his fifth successive year of languishing at the pinnacle of motorsports with BAR, also criticised Dario's Team Green for abandoning CART for IRL.

The outspoken Quebecois even suggested that the team, and others like it, should be barred from returning to Champcars when - and if - it resumes its premier status.

'It's not nice of him to criticize the team that basically put him on the map,' says the Scot of Villeneuve's Indy 500 and CART title-winning outfit of the mid-Nineties.

'Maybe he's just trying to keep his name in the papers.'

In related news, reports are beginning to surface that Jacques' manager and former BAR team boss, Craig Pollock, has snapped up the remains of Bruce McCaw's PacWest (PWR) CART team.

Dario Franchitti toyed with Formula One a couple of years ago, the Scot crossing the Atlantic for a test with Jaguar Racing after Johnny Herbert announced his retirement from the sport.

When he arrived from North America, however, the Scot was disappointed to find an older-specification car shod with worn tires and high fuel loads.

'There were obviously some people who just didn't want me in F1 and they made life as difficult as possible,' said Franchitti.

'The entire test was a complete farce,' he added. 'It was a joke, I might as well not have bothered.'






Albers Stumbles At Final Hurdle?
In the days leading out of Christmas and into New Year's 2003, rising Dutch racer Christijan Albers looked to reside pole position for the second Minardi seat.

The 23-year-old signed a conditional contract with Faenza boss Paul Stoddart last month, dependant only on the conclusion of well-advanced sponsorship agreements and the initial arrival of cold-hard cash.

But that agreement has now expired in the void of a Minardi announcement; leaving the identity of Justin Wilson's 2003 Minardi teammate, once again, unclear.

Sources hint that Minardi pilot-two is being asked by Australian entrepreneur Stoddart to drop a $4 million financial package at the Faenza doorstep; which Albers has reportedly managed.

It has also come to light, however, that Stoddart wants nearly half of that in advance to plough into the final stages of the new PS03 chassis' design, development and construction phase.

'Stoddart is a ruthless businessman,' Albers' manager, Lodewijk Varrossieau, explained of his young charge's anxious rise to the pinnacle of motorsports.

Christijan spent last year racing in the German Touring Car (DTM) series, and also comes highly recommended with Formula Ford and German F3 titles, as well as experience in International F3000 and Minardi F1 testing.

Varrossieau continues to explain the final hurdle to Alber's Formula One rise: 'Stoddart would like to see some money now to invest into the new PS03,' the Dutchman says.

'However, our sponsors do not wish to pay such a large amount of money in advance. They fear an early retirement from the team would cost them too much,' he adds.

If Christijan can pull a deal out of the bag, though, he looks set to sign a three-year deal, just like Yorkshire rookie, 24-year-old Justin Wilson.

'Stoddart would like to contract Christijan for three years,' says Alber's personal manager. 'He thinks Christijan is a star for the future with very good commercial skills as well.'

Albers has secured the backing of Dutch Internet company Lost Boys; but 30-year-old countryman and veteran Jos Verstappen still jostles for the vacant seat having snared the support of Holland Media Group.

Our sources at the little Anglo-Italian team insist that the veteran/rookie line-up of Verstappen and Wilson is, with the right sponsorship backing, the preferred option.

The racer from Montford, with seven years of experience in Formula One including stints at Benetton, Tyrrell and Arrows, said he would know his future in the next two or three weeks.

'I am still very positive, and it looks very likely that I will return,' Jos 'The Boss' Verstappen said. 'I am hoping to announce some good news mid-January.'

Meanwhile, the sister seat at Jordan, alongside Italian superstar Giancarlo Fisichella, is also quietly being touted a distant possibility for both Verstappen and Albers - if the price is right.

But favourite for the spare Jordan drive is now ousted Sauber rookie Felipe Massa, having snared the nearly $5 million support of Ford Brazil.

Our sources indicate that, if Eddie Jordan says no to the hopeful Paulista, he will jump to the head of the queue for the Minardi role.

Time will tell as money speaks loudest for the final seats on Grand Prix grid 2003.






Fisichella Welcomes Sato Departure
Giancarlo Fisichella is, respectfully, welcoming the news that 2002 Jordan teammate Takuma Sato has been ousted ahead of a new racing season.

Takuma, 26, dived into the EJ12 cockpit full of praise; the Japanese had recently wrapped up a dominant British Formula 3 championship and had the steady support of engine partner Honda.

But with Honda's exclusive withdrawal to BAR and Sato's string of rookie errors and accidents, Giancarlo Fisichella faces the imminent arrival of a new Jordan teammate for 2003.

And the highly-rated Roman star says that, for the sake of his Silverstone-based team's future progress, the departure of Takuma Sato is probably a good thing.

Fisichella thinks that Sato's Formula One inexperience and epidemic of racing accidents slowed the development of the Honda-powered, EJ12 package last year.

'I think Takuma is a nice guy, very quick, and he did well, especially in the second part of the season,' said 29-year-old Fisichella.

'But, unfortunately, he had a few accidents, and because of that it was quite difficult for the development. Maybe with a more experienced driver, it would have been better.'

Sato, from Tokyo, accompanies Honda back to the British American Racing reserve and development role, in view of a racing return in 2004.

First in line to snare the sister yellow racing seat, however, is another young rookie who found himself recently ousted due to a lack of experience and on-track errors - from Sauber.

Felipe Massa, just twenty-one years old and even less experienced than Taku Sato, has gained the $4 million support of Ford Brazil and may just take that sponsorship purse to Eddie Jordan in 2003.

This year, the experienced, 35-year-old German Heinz-Harald Frentzen reunites himself with a Sauber racer after six years elsewhere in pitlane.

'He was a lot like Kimi [Raikkonen],' says former team boss Peter Sauber of Felipe. 'But because of that behavior he sometimes drove over his limit and made mistakes,' the Swiss continues.

'I am not saying he wasn't a good enough driver, he was simply too young and immature and that's why we didn't renew his contract.'

Next favorite for the Jordan drive is an experienced ace; the oldest on the grid, in fact, having spent long stints at Ferrari and Jaguar and debuting in a 1993-spec Jordan ten years ago.

Eddie Irvine's continued stay on the Grand Prix grid, though, depends on British tobacco-company Benson & Hedges pumping up title sponsorship and getting first say on the second Jordan pilot.

Then again, Jordan and Benson & Hedges are chatting enthusiastically about a young, hard-charging Irish teammate for Giancarlo Fisichella.

Ralph Firman, 27-years old, won the British Formula 3 title way back in 1996 but drove his talent home with the Formula Nippon title last year and a recent BAR test drive in Spain.

Belfast-lad Richard Lyons, on the other hand, is just 23 but also spent his year impressing in Formula Nippon and the Japanese GT series.

'We are looking at both Ralph Firman and Richard Lyons, and there is also Anthony Davidson to include in that list,' Jordan's head of marketing Mark Gallagher recently insisted.






Katayama: Dakar Rally Tougher Than F1
Former Grand Prix ace Ukyo Katayama kicked off his sandy challenge of the 25th Paris-Dakar Rally yesterday.

The popular 39-year-old, having graced the Grand Prix grid for six years in the Nineties including a final stint at Minardi, got going in the Toyota for his second such off-road event.

And the Japanese thinks that Dakar - including crossing the tough, sandy deserts of Libya and Egypt, and onto Spain - is the toughest challenge of any racing driver's career.

'I achieved one of my life's dreams two months ago when I climbed Everest,' the keen hobby mountain-climber admitted.

'But the Dakar is much tougher than Le Mans and Formula One. For me, it's the toughest race in the world.'

The challenging Rally got into action on New Year's Day with a night prologue from Marseille to Narbonne, and the more than 300 competitors will eventually cover nearly 9000 kilometers.

'This will be a difficult Dakar and not to be under-estimated,' said 2001 winner Jutta Kleinschmidt, the first woman to take the title.

'It will also be a sandy one. The landscape of the three countries we'll be crossing is characterized by sand dunes.'

Favorites for this year's title are former Grand Prix ace Jean-Louis Schlesser, of France, and Hiroshi Masuoka who finished in the top ten after the first 1km sprint in France.

But it was fellow Japanese, Kenjiro Shinozuka, who led the field with a fastest time of one minute and 43 seconds in the Marseille park.

The overall Paris-Dakar winner, who incidentally won't go anywhere near either Paris or Dakar, won't be decided until the 19th when the victor drives into Sharm el Sheikh.

Ukyo Katayama was born in Tokyo, Japan, making his Formula Japan 1600 debut as a twenty-year old before racing in F3, French Formula Renault, and Formula 3000 where he wrapped up the Japanese title in 1991.

He made his Formula One debut with Venturi Larrousse, taking two ninth places before heading to Tyrrell. In 1997, Ukyo rounded out a mixed career at the pinnacle of motorsports with Minardi to go and climb mountains.

In '98, he finished ninth in the Le Mans 24 Hours for Toyota and runner-up a year later.






F1 And CART Ponder 'Strategic Alliance'
CART President Christopher Pook has continued to muse about the benefits of an alliance with Formula One.

Rumblings in both premier racing categories hint that Pook and F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone have enjoyed several high-level meetings of late.

Speculation continues to insist that Ecclestone, 72-years old, is eyeing the purchase of the beleaguered American racing category as it digs its way out of a crisis induced by the rise of oval-based IRL.

But Pook urges that his undeniable talks with the Grand Prix ringmaster relate to building the prestige of the pinnacle of motorsports in America; a crucial market for Formula One.

While Grand Prix racing presently scrapes around in a mini-crisis of Ferrari domination, struggling privateers and waning TV figures, CART was nearly destroyed in '02 as teams, drivers, manufacturers and sponsors fled to the IRL.

'Bernard and I enjoy a very good relationship,' Pook continued. 'I know I can always pick up the phone and talk to Bernard and get input and advice.'

Pook and CART, now turning to the European market and circuits like Spa-Francorchamps and Brands Hatch, stresses that the new direction for his series is not aimed at stealing Formula One's arena.

'Bernie knows that when we come to Europe as another outfit that's in the open-wheel business that we're not going to do anything that's going to be offensive to what he's trying to achieve with Formula One,' he said.

'To the contrary, we want to be complementary to Formula One.'

It is believed that Ecclestone is helping CART break into Europe in return for America's help in promoting Formula One in the States.

In the coming years, CART could take on a role as a 'feeder' category for Formula One by adopting more of a Grand Prix 'look'; including similar engine and chassis regulations.

'Without interfering with his relationships in the United States, we've got to see what we can do to help build Formula One over here,' Pook insists.

'Because it's just too good a product not to be at the top of the ladder when it comes to the USA.

'From my perspective as CEO of CART, when Formula One comes to the United States, our entire family should be focused on making Formula One successful. That's in our best interests.'

Pook hits out at the owner of America's Formula One race, Tony George, for failing to collaborate with CART in promoting the United States Grand Prix.

He says that George is too busy 'running around town with a hammer trying to put nails in our coffin,' to focus on the best interests of Formula One in America.

'If I had my way, I would make sure that every ticket mailing list in the CART series is opened up to selling Formula One tickets for the Formula One race,' says Pook.

Instead of George - owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and architect of rival Indy Racing League series - trying to destroy CART, Chris Pook thinks he should join the push to promote F1 properly.

'We had two and a half million people go to our [CART] races this year,' he says. 'We should be working our tails off to make sure that every single one of the people who went to our races goes to a Formula One race.

'That would be the best thing for us and the best thing for our business.'

He says that the manufacturers in Formula One - including Ferrari, Jaguar, Ford, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Honda - need help to promote their products in their most important market; the US.

And, just as CART and Formula One can benefit from a collaboration, Pook insists that the Indy Racing League is welcome to join their club.

He adds: 'We've got to understand that and if we can help, we want to help. I am convinced if we work together, we will both be far stronger.

'We're better off to work as a team. Strategic alliances are far more effective than trying to row the boat across the ocean on your own, for both of us.'






Giancarlo Eyes Big-Three Future
Giancarlo Fisichella will wait at least another year before joining the big-boys at the front of the Grand Prix grid.

The Italian debuted for Jordan in 1997, poached a year on by Flavio Briatore as he tried to rebuild the post-Schumacher Benetton team.

But as the Enstone operation prepared for a full Renault-takeover at the end of 2001, the 29-year-old Roman was shuffled into the cold as Briatore welcomed protégé Jarno Trulli to the blue ranks.

Fisichella, despite his heralded title as one of Formula One's very best, had no option but to head back to Eddie Jordan's struggling privateer team.

In 2002, Giancarlo Fisichella endured his toughest at the pinnacle of motorsports.

'Disappointing, yes,' he smiled. 'Unfortunately for the first part of the season the package was not good enough. Engine and reliability wasn't good, and even the car grip wasn't fantastic.'

A contract stipulation allowed him to depart yellow shores ahead of the new racing season; with the departure of manufacturer support in the form of Honda, Fisichella was free to go.

'Only in the case that the engine was not a good engine,' the Roman urges. 'But I think the Ford engine is good, very strong and light. I'm quite pleased about that deal.'

Pleased or not, the Ford-deal is not a factory one.

Eddie Jordan has managed to subsidize the expensive customer Cosworth program with the help of Ford Europe, but Jaguar Racing will be ahead of the game with the works powerplant.

But with no openings at Ferrari, Williams or McLaren, Italian ace Fisichella opted to stay put and wait out the season.

For 2004, though, the Roman is eyeing a seat at the top of his sport.

'Maybe in 2004, yes, there might be a chance to go to the top,' Giancarlo Fisichella told Australia's Associated Press.

But with contracts all stitched up for the foreseeable future at Ferrari and Williams, Fisichella concedes that an opportunity in silver looks to be his best option for '04.

He adds: 'It depends on some other drivers.

'I think the two Ferrari drivers and two Williams drivers are there until the end of 2004. So the only place could be McLaren, because Coulthard's got one more year, and then I don't know.'

Whether he steps into a silver cockpit as a 31-year-old, though, depends largely on what Giancarlo can do with a Ford-powered EJ13 this year. 'I have to be strong, to be quick and competitive everywhere,' he says.

'If the car is good and the package is good, I will do it. I feel strong mentally and physically. I just need a good package to show my talent.'

Giancarlo is adamant that the lauded, ultra-light CR3 Cosworth, and a hope-carrying new EJ13 chassis, will go some way to providing just that: 'I'm much more confident for this year,' says the Italian.

'I think the new car will be good. Gary Anderson and Henri Durand are designing it, and especially with the new engine, I'm very confident.'






Zanardi: Williams Will Catch Up In '03
Alex Zanardi is hopeful that Formula One's runners-up can track down the worrying gap to Scuderia Ferrari.

Last year, the Maranello marque took home fifteen of a possible seventeen winner's trophies; Michael Schumacher able to ease off with his fifth Drivers' title after July's French Grand Prix.

But 34-year-old Italian Zanardi, with first-hand knowledge of the resources and gritty determination at his former team Williams, thinks that the Grove-squad may be able to pull something out of the bag in 2003.

Alessandro, who lost both legs in an horrific CART accident at Lausitzring just more than 15 months ago, says that Sir Frank's ranks and drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya may be able to 'do interesting things' this year.

The racing season kicks off in March, and quadruple consecutive Constructors' Champions Ferrari will be favorites; but Zanardi thinks that tires will play a leading role as McLaren and Williams fight back.

'Ferrari will probably start in front,' Zanardi says as the 2003 Australian Grand Prix looms just eight weeks on the horizon.

He continues: 'But I think other squads, in particular Williams, may be able to do interesting things on the track.'

Zanardi joins the chorus of concept that Ferrari's domination of 2002 had more to do with superior - and tailor-made - Bridgestone tires than the undoubtedly consummate F2002.

This year, Williams and McLaren will head French rubber rival Michelin's third year back at the pinnacle of motorsports, and aim to make best use of new-for-2003 bespoke tire rules.

'We have to see how Michelin cope with raising their game,' says Zanardi.

The 34-year-old spent 41 grands prix in Formula One, at the wheel of team challengers like Lotus, Jordan, Minardi and - in 1999 alongside Ralf Schumacher - Williams.

But Zanardi won multiple titles and races at the wheel of a Champcar; a series he says is really teetering on the brink as a crisis takes hold.

'I believe that Formula One is in a crisis to a certain degree but in America there is a true crisis,' he said.

'Nascar, although being all about the show, also doesn't have a clean bill of health,' he adds. 'And the old Indy has lost a lot of points in the war between CART and IRL.'

In Formula One, though, privateer teams are collapsing, sponsors withdrawing, spectators switching off, manufacturers threatening to quit and scarlet cars totally dominating.

But 'crisis', he says, is a word that should be taken with a pinch of salt.

'It is still the best series on four wheels and many people switch on the TV to watch it. If I'm not mistaken,' he adds, 'it is the second most popular sport after soccer.'

Zanardi says that Formula One's position of strength - or ultimate resilience in fending off an economic and sporting dip - can be laid at impresario Bernie Ecclestone's feet.

'He has to be given much of the praise,' the Italian says. 'He is an intelligent person not only in the way he promotes the product but also in the way he has destroyed all the alternatives.'

Alex is sure that the sport's massive public following has highlighted the so-called crisis but also stalled much needed change, such as in returning the focus to a driver's talent.

'The success of the public viewing in the past has also been bad,' he says. 'If the sport did not have such a huge following, then perhaps F1 would have changed many years ago.

'There needs to be something done to recapture the role of the driver. I'm not talking only about overtaking, but also the tactics employed during a race.'

Formula One was hauled into furore last year when the Ferrari pitwall ordered Rubens Barrichello to give up a deserved race win at Austria for the sake of Michael Schumacher's championship-dominating position.

'The new rules should go somewhere to address this issue,' says Zanardi, highlighting the FIA's recent decree that all result-damaging team orders are forthwith banned.

Zanardi's best result in Formula One was a single sixth, at the Brazilian Grand Prix of 1993, and a resultant 20th in the Drivers' chase.






Sato Looks Ahead To 2004 Race-Return
Japanese Formula One star Takuma Sato is already looking forward to his racing return with BAR in 2004.

'I hope you continue to enjoy Formula One,' the 26-year-old rookie told his fans in a New Year message, 'And you can be sure that I will be working hard to prepare for racing again in 2004.'

But before he is expected to burst back onto the Grand Prix grid in '04, the rated, Tokyo-born charger will spend this year steering the British American Racing challenger in a development role.

Takuma Sato soared to a dominant British F3 title in 2001 and, with manufacturer Honda, found his way into the Jordan F1 cockpit last year but spent a little too much time in the hedge.

The crucial element to his 2003 relocation to the reserve-bench, however, was finance as Eddie Jordan seeks to replace a $30 million budget hole in the wake of departing backer Deutsche Post World Net.

Sato, with manager Andrew Gilbert-Scott, tried to woo commercial and corporate Japan but failed to stump up the reported $10 million to keep his berth alongside Italian charger Giancarlo Fisichella.

'It is no secret that the economic conditions in Japan at the minute are not favorable,' says Gilbert-Scott. 'While it would be better to race, I'm positive the BAR move is a very good one for Taku.'

So as 2002 departs and Sato prepares to travel the Formula One calendar as BAR's reserve driver this year, the always-smiling Japanese says: 'I would like to wish all my many fans a Happy and Prosperous New Year for 2003.

'Many thanks again for your valuable support over the past year, it really means a lot to me.'

The diminutive racer's new, three-year BAR-Honda contract paves the way for his probable return to the cockpit in 2004 and '05 as teammate to Jenson Button.

'It's a real shame of course that I will not race for Jordan next year,' said Sato.

He will keep his motivation up, however, by knowing that he'll be pushing on the development of a car that he'll probably race in just more than twelve months.

'That makes it good preparation,' says the Japanese. 'And who knows, there might even be a chance to race in 2003 as I am the reserve race driver.'

And the 26-year-old rookie is in good company as a pilot who took a step back from racing before re-launching a successful Grand Prix career on the F1 grid.

Mika Hakkinen did it in the early Nineties, Olivier Panis spent a stint as McLaren tester in 2000, and Fernando Alonso revives a racing career in '03 after a season as Renault developer.

'It's definitely a good thing,' thinks Takuma. 'It will make me much stronger I think. Formula One cars are full of technology and it takes time to find improvements.

'It's a good opportunity to drive the car a lot.'






Williams To Unveil FW25 This Month
Sir Frank Williams and his hopeful Grove team have penciled the final day of January as the provisional date for the FW25 package launch.

The date, to be confirmed early in the New Year, will see a revolutionary new BMW-powered challenger have its wraps taken off at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.

This year, en route to a distant runner-up in the Constructors' chase, Williams managed just one victory to Ferrari's fifteen, while the race-day deficit stood somewhere in the region of a second per lap.

And those facts, says former Ferrari, McLaren and Benetton driver Gerhard Berger, will not be trampled on overnight.

Berger, now joint Motorsport Director at BMW, says: 'We must draw even with Ferrari from the beginning of this season. I don't believe, however, that we'll be able to overtake and beat Ferrari.

'In any case, we want to challenge them more than last year.'

Meanwhile Sam Michael, Williams' 30-year-old Chief Operations Engineer, is hoping that important gains in the wind-tunnel will make the 2003 package a substantial step over FW24.

'Our main weakness is at the rear end of the car,' the Australian admits, 'And aerodynamics in general.'

Most experts note that the Williams chassis is overly brutal for the rear Michelin tires, often leading to increased wear.

'It remains to be seen what gains can be made on our package for next year, but rest assured that every effort is now devoted to that on-track deficit.'

Will we see a 'radical' Williams contender next year, then? 'There is a fine line between a revolutionary step and a misguided, untried or experimental step,' he said.

'We will walk that line.'

Sir Frank Williams similarly worries that last year's racer was too conservative an evolution on the work of 2001; the team boss now promising that his Grove outfit will not make the same mistake two years in succession.

In 2003, he says, its all or nothing: 'Next year we won't repeat the mistake of not risking enough,' said the 60-year-old chief.

'We'll prove our technological boldness and present a revolutionary FW25,' he says.






No Sixth Title Dreams For Schumacher
Michael Schumacher may be the overwhelming favorite to snare 2003 Formula One glory, but the German ace is not yet dreaming about a sixth world title.

If he follows the title-winning script since the twentieth-century became the 21st, the 33-year-old from Hurth Hermuhlheim will surpass Juan Manuel Fangio's mantle as the most successful F1 pilot in history.

But Schumacher, who'll take the racing wheel of his eighth scarlet Ferrari in March, is not yet planning a spot for his sixth world championship star on his personal cap.

'I'm not a dreamer,' he told ITV pundit James Allen in a television interview. 'I only start thinking about a sixth title when I have it in my pocket.'

In 2002 at least, though, Ferrari easily defended its two previous years of scarlet double-championships by taking fifteen of seventeen race wins and a record-early title bath.

'It has been a fantastic season, with many achievements, with many good races, with lots of emotion,' said the Ferrari ace who wrapped up the title bid in July for the French Grand Prix.

'So it's been a beautiful year.'

Struggling to find the words to elucidate his Ferrari career, though, Michael Schumacher simply refers his listeners to the final stages of the 2002 race at Magny-Cours, and then the champagne-popping celebrations on the podium.

'I think, quite often, the pictures explain more than the words and this is the case for the [2002 championship] win,' he continued.

'If you look at my emotions and the way I have been after the race, crossing the line and on the podium, I think those pictures say more than I can put into words,' he admitted.

But as Formula One fends off a so-called crisis, and spectators lose interest as Grands Prix become the latest PR exercise in scarlet domination, Schumacher faces the obvious observation that his supremacy is bad for the sport.

Schumacher, not surprisingly, is unapologetic: 'I have, for many years, spent time behind dominant cars and I always dreamed about having the dominant car,' he says.

Since joining the Scuderia in 1996, and enduring tantalizingly-close championship failures for the next four years, cars like Williams' and McLaren's have painted the circuits in whitewash.

Therefore, 'I'm not unsatisfied,' the great German smilingly insists of winning eleven races this year.

And it wasn't as easy as we might all believe: at Magny-Cours, for example - when the title was within his grasp - Michael Schumacher felt the pressure to wrap it up for Ferrari.

'Before the race not so much pressure,' he says, 'But driving the race in particular at the end, knowing that if I win the race I win the Championship, there was a lot of pressure.'

With mere laps to run, the leading McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen slid on a puddle of oil and Michael was handed his fifth personal world championship; and third on the trot for his adopted Scuderia.

'What a year it has been,' he says, smilingly shaking his head at the ceiling.

And another, more than likely, will kick off on the dusty roads of South Melbourne in a picturesque Albert Park this March.

But Schumacher is less confident than a racing world already penning '03 spoils to Michael and his team. 'I don't think at all that we have an advantage for next season,' the 33-year-old from Kerpen insists.

'We have important ideas and steps which we absolutely have to put into practice to go forward.'






Fisichella: I Hope We Can Improve
Giancarlo Fisichella is sure all the ingredients are in place for Jordan to take a step forward in 2003.

'I hope we can improve,' says the 29-year-old Roman after a difficult and unrewarding return to the Silverstone-based team last year.

'We are working hard for that.'

Fisichella, from Rome, made his way onto the Grand Prix grid with Minardi but was soon leading the effort for Benetton by 1998.

But as the Enstone team transmuted into Renault last year, Fisichella found himself in the cold and faced with Jordan as his only option to stay fixed on his Formula One dream.

For '03, though, Jordan lose manufacturer-backing from Honda and face the new season with a massive budget deficit. But Giancarlo is adamant that his yellow team are ready to move forward with an impressive squad.

'I really like Gary Anderson,' he says of Jordan's technical director. 'I worked with him when I raced for Jordan in 1997, and he's the man for Jordan,' the Italian continues.

Fisichella also sees French designer Henri Durand as the way forward for Eddie Jordan's ranks who have struggled ever since expanding in late 1999.

Finishing third in the Constructors' chase, Jordan bolstered the workforce and invested in Williams, Ferrari and McLaren-esque expansion aimed at joining the big-three outfits.

70 redundancies in 2002 later, however, Jordan realized it was a mistake.

But Giancarlo Fisichella thinks that the leaner, tougher crew taking Jordan into 2003 is the way to recapture success at Silverstone. 'Henri is a good guy,' he says of the new chief designer - architect of EJ13.

'I haven't talked a lot with him, because he's usually at the factory, but he looks very concentrated, he looks a very nice guy, and he has good experience.'

Outwardly, the loss of factory power and the forced signing of a customer engine program is a significant step backwards for a Formula One outfit; particularly in tough economic times.

But Fisichella, whose contract stipulated that the departure of Honda gave him an 'out' clause, sees lauded CR3 Ford power as a boost to Jordan's '03 chances.

'Honda was very, very disappointing,' Fisichella insists. 'I thought we'd have a better engine, more reliability, even if they did very well in the second part of the season.

'Obviously the weight of the engine was not good, it was too heavy, and even the fuel consumption was too high.'

Jordan's financial woe, however, is more serious an issue.

Nearly 70 Jordan workers lost their jobs in April as Deutsche Post World Net - bringing $30 million with brands like DHL and Danzas - announced that 2002 would be their last with the team.

'That made the future development of the car more difficult,' says Fisichella, 'So I was a little bit sad for that. But honestly we went in the right direction, and we did quite well, even if the results were not so good.'

Six year veteran Fisichella will farewell his Twenties before the new racing season kicks off, but still insists that his career lies with a big-three team like Ferrari, McLaren or Williams.

'I don't know if I'm getting better every year,' he says, honestly. Fisichella smiles: 'In my first year in F1 I did my best season, so maybe I'm getting old!

'But I've got much more experience now, and I know that the future is good.'

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