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2002 F1 Teams/Drivers

British American Racing
Jacques Villeneuve
Olivier Panis

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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

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Mika Salo
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Williams
Ralf Schumacher
Juan Montoya

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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 3, 2003
1


Five Drivers Clash For Final Seats
Formula One's attention is presently focused on a tricky little proposition; which two hard-chargers will complete the 2003 Grand Prix grid?

'This has been a very funny time in Formula One,' noted Minardi boss Paul Stoddart; in the strong bargaining position as proprietor of the second-last seat in pitlane.

'There have not been many drives available and there's a lot of talented drivers available,' he said.

But while Stoddart once put the short-list of contenders for his Minardi seats at more than twenty, it is now believed that just five men are left standing in a bid to join the ever-exclusive F1 circle.

Christijan Albers has signed a conditional contract to accompany British rookie Justin Wilson to Australia to race the new, Cosworth-powered PS03.

But the 23-year-old Dutchman, with a German F3 title to his name, must complete a demanding commercial portfolio - said to tip the scales at just over $5 million - before the contract becomes valid.

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

'He would like to see some money now to invest into the new PS03,' the Dutch manager continues.

'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.'

While Albers restlessly awaits his looming future, another Dutchman, Jos Verstappen, and Brazilian youngster Felipe Massa are vying for the spare Jordan Grand Prix seat.

But the hopeful pair, eager to rekindle fading or stalled careers, are also viewing the black Minardi as a back-up.

Sources overnight revealed that Jordan has made Verstappen, with seven years of racing experience, an offer after the Montford-charger snared the backing of Holland Media Group.

'Jos is the most talented driver, he is a friend, he is a fantastic guy,' said Paul Stoddart when asked who he'd most like to see at the wheel of Minardi's 'best technical package in 19 years'.

He said: 'Verstappen's management are aware we have a conditional contract with Christian - and Christian's management are aware we're talking to Jos.

'We have signed a contract with Christian as the second driver, but it is conditional. He has to get his commercial terms in place and that's not down to him but his management.'

When the curtain came down on season 2003 at the Japanese Grand Prix in October, veteran Ulsterman Eddie Irvine mused that a return to his former Silverstone-based, Jordan team was his last option for the future.

He has spent four years at Ferrari and three at Jaguar Racing since leaving the Hart-powered seat in 1995; but Irvine now appears the least likely option for Jordan as Benson & Hedges seem to prefer a younger star.

According to our sources, the loss of major team sponsor Deutsche Post World Net - worth up to $30 million - has precipitated a $15 million pay-drive demand from eponymous team boss Eddie Jordan.

But the Jordan short-list is dwindling.

Irish duo Ralph Firman and Richard Lyons were pronounced as candidates to join Eddie Jordan's outfit, but are not widely regarded as true contenders for the Grand Prix racing drive.

British ace Anthony Davidson counted himself out of the running as he refuses to become Formula One's next pay-driver; leaving Felipe Massa in pole position having secured the backing of Ford Brazil.

The 21-year-old Paulista lost his Sauber drive at the close of '02 but comes with undoubted speed and a nearly $5 million sponsorship package.

Failing Jordan, he could grace a black Minardi.






Wilson Turns To Video-Game Training
Justin Wilson is hard at work as his Formula One Grand Prix debut looms just eight weeks on the horizon.

The Yorkshireman will hit the F1 tarmac this March in Australia; the tricky, picturesque Albert Park setting just south of Melbourne to host his first race for Faenza stragglers Minardi.

'I've never even been to Australia, let alone raced at Albert Park,' the 24-year-old Sheffield charger smilingly told us.

'The closest I have come is New Zealand to visit some friends, so it will be an eye-opener without any shadow of a doubt.'

As he spends his days working up to race-fitness in the gym, then, the Flying Giraffe - standing at six foot three - is devoting his night-life to an intensive bout of PlayStation focus.

Formula One will land first in Melbourne, and then Malaysia for the second round in humid Sepang, a short drive from Kuala-Lumpur.

And Justin, a newcomer to both circuits having spent the last two years in F3000, at least wants to know which way to turn the steering-wheel when he powers his PS03 into the next corner.

He said: 'Any track information I can take on board will be very valuable before Melbourne.

'The video games are very realistic and they can give you a real feel for the corners and a rough idea of the layout and what to expect.'

So while nothing can replace the lessons he will learn starting in early March, Wilson's PlayStation and Personal Computer will be an invaluable training apparatus.

'It will be a real help when I get to the circuit and drive round in an F1 car,' he says of his PlayStation training. 'Obviously it's not the same as driving the car around a circuit but I believe it will help.'

The young Englishman soared to a dominant International F3000 title in 2001, beating Jaguar Racing ace Mark Webber to the lauded spoils.

But even he is willing to admit that full Formula One fitness is a little way down the track; particularly as his actual experience at the Grand Prix cockpit can be counted in just over a full F1 race distance.

He adds: 'I am spending a lot of time in the gym; and a lot of that work right now centres around strengthening my neck muscles.

'The last thing I want is for my neck to suddenly go half way through a race.'






Jenson's Pressure To Ease In 2003?
Since a teenage Jenson Button debuted for BMW-Williams in 2000, the Frome-born charger has been under pressure.

'I know that has been the case for the last couple of years in particular,' he admitted, 'but when I'm in the car I don't even think about it.'

But a year alongside the ultra-rapid Ralf Schumacher and gruff technical director Patrick Head, no matter how gentle the rhetoric, spells a difficult introduction to the world of premier motorsport.

Just months later, the boy-faced Button was off to Benetton (later Renault), under the tutelage of flamboyant - and often crotchety - Flavio Briatore.

By the middle of a dismal season '01, Flavio was livid with the young Englishman's poor form. He got a final chance last year, improved, but was ousted with several races left to run.

In March this year, though, Button - still just twenty two - will make his race debut for a third F1 team, with his fourth Formula One team-mate: British American Racing and Jacques Villeneuve, respectively.

So while the pressure looks to stay loaded on Jenson's shoulders, BAR boss David Richards is keen to create a more affable racing environment for his new golden-boy.

'I'm not feeling under any pressure here, which is a different feeling,' Button insisted after making his track debut for the Brackley team just before Christmas at Jerez de la Frontera in Spain.

'When I get into the car all I think about is how to drive it as fast as I can. I really don't think about the outside world.'

David Richards knows that Jenson needs a happy, amiable environment inside which to perform best - something he arguably didn't get at the Enstone-based, Renault team.

'Renault, and Benetton before it, is commonly referred to as one of the more difficult teams for a driver,' notes legendary British F1 commentator, Murray Walker.

Richards, BAR boss for nearly twelve months, adds: 'I can't comment on what it's been like in the last few years for Jenson in F1.'

'I just have a clear view on the environment I can provide for him in this team, right now.'

The toughest challenge for Jenson this year, however, will not originate in the form of team structures or burly bosses. It will come from his BAR racing team-mate; 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve.

'If he doesn't have the pace it will be impossible for me to respect him,' was 31-year-old Villeneuve's - from Canada - first appraisal of his new team-mate.

And while Jenson made his testing debut and team introduction at Spain's Jerez de la Frontera last month, he didn't even share a word with the man some quarters worry will be out to psychologically destroy him.

'He seemed very busy,' Jenson said of his first impressions as Villeneuve's '03 cockpit cohort. 'I didn't talk to him.'

But, Jacques aside, David Richards has gone out of his way to make British American Racing and Brackley feel like home for 22-year-old English favorite Jenson Button.

'I only spent two days with the team before Christmas and I already feel like I've spent a whole year with them,' Button continued to Autosport.

'It's great, everyone is positive for the coming year - they've had a hard time but they've put it behind them.'






Renault To Join Friday Privateers?
Reports are beginning to cement that Enstone/Viry-based Formula One manufacturer Renault are the third team to sign up for 2003 testing restrictions.

Late last year, the governing FIA confirmed that enough outfits - three - had opted to field spare cars and test drivers for an extra Friday track session in return for just 10-days of in-season testing.

According to well respected sources in the British press, the yet-confirmed news will see Renault join struggling privateers Jordan and Minardi in the Friday-morning push to cut costs.

So while most agree that world championship ambition is more compatible with the so-called Suzuka Agreement on unlimited testing, Renault seem to believe an extra, two-hour session on Friday will satisfy their bid for '03 reliability and podiums.

The Enstone outfit, with drivers Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button, finished fourth in the Constructors' chase this year, trailing only big-three outfits Ferrari, Williams and McLaren.

'It gives us more of an opportunity to get ready for the race with the same car and circuit conditions, because they are always different at a test,' said the director of race and test engineering at Jordan, Gary Anderson.

But even fifth-placed privateers Sauber seem to think that unlimited in-season testing is the more sensible option for a team with serious ambitions for Formula One.

'This is the only way to continually optimize the development of the car in the long term,' said Peter Sauber of his decision to keep the Hinwil-based team's unlimited testing on track this year.

'This is a clear commitment to a forward-looking strategy,' he continued. 'Our
decision to continue free testing, rather than being limited to ten test days during the season, points in the same direction.'

While participating Friday-test teams will be allowed to field spare cars and test drivers, the details of regulations governing the 11am, two-hour session will be finalized at this month's team principals' meeting.

It is believed that Renault are keen to increase the 10-day ban to twelve days, and could even be contemplating running four cars and drivers to maximise track time.

The extra Friday session, to be held at all sixteen scheduled Grand Prix events in 2003, is likely to run from 8.45 to 10.45 in the morning.

Enstone sources appear to confirm the Autosport story, said to be confirmed by Renault early next week in a prepared statement.

Other touted Friday participants, including BAR and Jaguar Racing, have all signaled an intention to stay focused on unlimited testing governed by the Suzuka Agreement.

Trulli will be joined by 21-year-old Spanish superstar Fernando Alonso in the R23 this year; while a test-driver is yet to be appointed.

F3000 champion, Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais, is hotly tipped to take the full-time development and reserve role.






Brawn: Continuity The Key To Success
Ross Brawn has declared continuity as the single most influencing factor in Ferrari's utter dominance of 2002.

The scarlet technical director, whose Prancing Horse took home fifteen of a possible seventeen Grand Prix wins last year, says that progress has been continual and uninterrupted by personnel distractions.

'It's just an accumulation of the relationships of people at Ferrari,' he explained to ITV's James Allen in an interview.

'This is my sixth year at Ferrari now, Rory [Byrne]'s sixth year, Jean [Todt]'s ninth or tenth year - and the relationships continue to grow and continue to strengthen.'

World Champion Michael Schumacher has endured Ferrari's trying rise since 1996, stumbling at the final hurdle in 1997 and '98, breaking his leg in '99, before finalising rising to the top for the new millennium.

And since the German broke Ferrari's 21-year drought in 2000, the Scuderia have been unbeatable and rose to the last seven Drivers' and Constructors' world championships.

'The people we've got now are working on their fifth or sixth car and each car has got a little bit better,' the burly English technical guru continues to explain.

'We haven't had to take a step back because new people have come in, and we haven't had to move sideways because new people have come in, and that's very important.'

At rivals McLaren, progress was recently marred by the death of engine man Paul Morgan; the near-departure of technical director Adrian Newey, and the retirement of champion Mika Hakkinen.

Williams suffered the loss of aero-chief Geoff Willis last year, and nearly oversaw the departure of designer Gavin Fisher. And the Grove team are still consolidating success with a new engine partner, BMW, that arrived in 2000.

But the Scuderia's form, no matter how dominant, was not consummate in 2002.

Not only did they lose races in Malaysia and Monaco, Ferrari totally fluffed their one-two, Grand Prix wins at Austria and Indianapolis, incurring the racing world's wrath in the process.

In particular, as Rubens Barrichello sauntered towards the checkered flag for a deserved win at the A1-Ring, scarlet team orders burst into action gifting an unpopular win to Michael Schumacher.

'One of the difficulties is that we're so blinkered,' Brawn says of the PR faux pas. 'I mean, we're very competitive people and we just want to maximize every situation. That's our job, that's our responsibility.

'Every element of the car is maximized, and, in the same way, every situation is maximized to get the most from it.'

To the world championship-defending Scuderia, then, swapping the winning order - with Schumacher first in the title bid - was merely maximizing the team benefits of that situation.

'We didn't expect the reaction,' Brawn admits, 'But on the other side we are enthusiasts, so we don't want to do things that damage Formula One and it was very thought-provoking.'

Rest assured, then, that the public's outrage was not lost on the Maranello marque's Public Relations machine.

'We did take that into consideration for the rest of the season,' Brawn smiles.

But part of the problem last year, say some, was not that Ferrari were dominating but that Rubens and Michael weren't free to duke it out on the circuit.

In 1988, Formula One witnessed a similar show of dominance - but the feisty battles of McLaren team-mates Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost more than made up for the competitive void down the order.

Ferrari, though, insist that their strong in-team relationships form part of the recent successes. 'They're a super pairing and they get along well together, which is nice,' says Ross Brawn of drivers Michael and Rubens.

'That can be underestimated.'

Alain and Ayrton might have excited the crowds with their wheel to wheel confrontations, but Ferrari would argue that the trade-off is in a loss of team atmosphere and communication.

'It creates a good atmosphere in the team, our policy,' he urges. 'It's a very open relationship between the two drivers, between their two engineers.

'They want to beat each other, there's no doubt about that and I think 2002 was the best performance I've seen from either of them since I've been at Ferrari.

'It's encouraging for next season because they're already champing at the bit.'

The Scuderia face 2003 with the prospect of five consecutive Constructors' World Championships and a fourth Drivers' title for Michael Schumacher.






Michael Schumacher: 34 Today
Formula One's most successful pilot in history, Michael Schumacher, is celebrating his 34th birthday today.

Presently enjoying a skiing holiday with his young family and close friend Jos Verstappen in Norway, the Ferrari-driving German last year marked his eleventh season of Formula One - and fifth world championship.

'We are having a wonderful time here, skiing a lot and also playing a lot of football,' he reported from his Norway winter retreat.

Born in Hurth-Hermuhlheim, Michael started racing karts competitively as a thirteen-year old, winning his first title, the German Junior Kart championship, a season later.

In 1987, he stole the German Kart Championship before moving into Formula Konig; a series Schumacher totally dominated as he moved into European Formula Ford 1600.

Duking it out with Mika Salo, Michael Schumacher rounded out 1988 runner-up in Formula Ford.

1989 saw another runner-up mantle for the talented German; this time in his country's Formula Three championship as he finished a point behind Karl Wendlinger and equal with Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

A second year in the series witnessed an epic battle with Finnish superstar Mika Hakkinen; the similarly-aged charger to later join Michael Schumacher with world championships at the pinnacle of motorsports.

Just as the Ferrari versus McLaren battle saw history repeat itself some ten years later, though, Schumacher pipped Mika at the line to win the title and the prestigious Macau Grand Prix.

That accolade was enough to move Michael Schumacher into the World Sports Car Championship, with Mercedes. He won the lauded sports car race at Autopolis in '91 and was second in a one-off Japanese F3000 race.

Then came the moment to mark the beginning of Michael's rise to Formula One history - the pay-drive at Jordan, where he qualified seventh at the daunting Spa-Francorchamps just a stone's throw from his birth-place.

With the paddock utterly impressed, Michael Schumacher was immediately poached by Flavio Briatore and Benetton.

In 1992, he stayed on with the Enstone team and scored his first win on anniversary of his debut at the Belgian Grand Prix. Three third place finishes helped him end the season third overall.

Schumacher again stayed at Benetton in '93, winning once, before rising to the world championship crown a year later.

He took the first four wins from Ayrton Senna before going to battle with Damon Hill after the great Brazilian's death.

But his first championship year, as a fresh-faced 24-year-old, was fraught with controversy.

Michael was disqualified from the 1994 British and Belgian GPs on assorted charges, but took a further four wins and won the title after a contentious collision with Damon Hill in Adelaide.

He became champion again in 1995 before moving on to Scuderia Ferrari; doing well enough to wind up third overall with two wins as the scarlet car was not the pick of the pack and seldom finished.

1997, though, would reunite controversy with Michael Schumacher. He was criticized and disqualified from the championship after swerving into rival Jacques Villeneuve in the final race at Jerez.

But Schumacher otherwise embellished his reputation by winning five Grands Prix in a less than competitive Ferrari.

1998 saw the German again take the title race to the final round, but his six wins weren't enough when a stall on the Suzuka grid forced him to start from the rear of the grid and later retired with a blow-out.

His old rival, Mika Hakkinen, rose as world champion.

Schumacher won at Imola and Monaco a year later; the German relieved to, finally, be in a car seemingly capable of driving a championship year.

But the season, and Michael's ultimate ambition, was thrown off course when he broke a leg in a first-lap accident at Silverstone. He missed six races and, still yet to rise to the title challenge at Ferrari, finished fifth overall.

For the start of the new millennium, though, Schumacher knew he finally had a car to tackle the championship charge of champions McLaren.

Again, the title was close but he wrapped up Ferrari's first world championship for 21 years at Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Further back-to-back championships ensued, leading into 2002 as one of the most dominant displays in Formula One history. Today, Michael Schumacher is a five times world champion; equaled only by Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio.

But even now, as a 34-year-old with a young family, Michael Schumacher can't see himself hanging up his famous scarlet helmet.

'We set out to make this a Ferrari era and to keep this time for as long as we can,' Schumacher recently said.

'I have a Ferrari contract until the end of 2004, and hopefully longer, and in this respect we want to stay as consistent as we are.'

By the end of 2004, it is conceivable - even likely - that Schumacher will be a seven times world champion with a mammoth record of some eighty victories.

'I am quite happy not to win every race,' the most successful driver in the history of Formula One adds.

'But as long as we can do a good job and still fight for the championship then that is absolutely fine.'






Prost: F1 Drivers Are Trained Monkeys
Today's Formula One pilot is either a trained monkey or a robot, according to quadruple world champion Alain Prost.

The failed team boss, whose Guyencourt operation hit the pavement late in 2001, rose as a driver from epic battles with men like Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell.

But he says those glory days are over as modern technology and the demands of manufacturers and sponsors ruin the pinnacle of motorsports.

'The drivers nowadays are trained monkeys,' said the lauded champion, known - in the cockpit - affectionately as The Professor.

He adds: 'Drivers today simply follow the instructions of the engineers and let the computers do all the work. To me it's not a real racing competition any more.'

But worse than traction-control, launch-systems and automatic gearboxes, says Prost, is the manipulation of sponsors and manufacturers rapidly turning Formula One from a sport into a highly-expensive PR exercise.

'These drivers are so much a part of the whole system that they have to keep quiet so as not to harm the image of the team or the sponsors,' the Frenchman, born near St Etienne, continues.

'I don't want to sound old-fashioned, but in the past ten years drivers have become increasingly like robots.'

Prost Grand Prix, bought from ailing French owner Guy Ligier in the late Nineties, collapsed about this time last year as piles of debt grew and sponsors became harder to persuade.

The 47-year-old Prost adds: 'If you take a look at the history of motor racing you will see that big manufacturers are slowly ruining the sport.'

Another privateer, Arrows Grand Prix, looks set to follow Prost into liquidation as vehicle manufacturers like Fiat, BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Renault, Ford, Toyota and Honda take hold of the sport.

'At first, they invest millions, putting pressure on the competition,' says Prost. 'And then they suddenly leave the circuit - but where does that leave Formula One,' he worryingly asks.

'It is vital for F1 racing that the smaller teams stay alive,' he continues. 'The car manufacturers should remain engine suppliers and not interfere in team processes.'

As Formula One finds itself delving further into the grasp of giant manufacturers, though, Alain Prost thinks Grand Prix racing has almost become 'Impossible for smaller teams to compete.'

He says: 'The financial element of the sport is impossible. For example, I wanted to sign on an engineer for $300,000 but a rival team signed him on for $4 million - how can the smaller teams survive like that?

'Costs must be reduced as quickly as possible and emphasis put on the drivers again.'

Prost spend thirteen years in Formula One, wracking up an almost unrivaled 51 race victories and four world championships with teams like McLaren and Williams and a famous stint at Ferrari.

But his next challenge in motorsport will not be at the pinnacle of motorsports. With an annual budget of $50 million, Prost Grand Prix was a Formula One failure.

Across the Atlantic, though - in America's favourite tin-top series Nascar - Alain Prost is once again eyeing ultimate glory.

'With a budget of $10 million you can form a NASCAR team and have success,' Prost insists.

'It's a formula that could tempt me,' he hints.






Williams FW25: No Design Help From BMW
Engine manufacturer BMW did not, as reportedly desired by the Munich-based marque, get involved in the design phase of Williams' new FW25 chassis.

Williams and BMW teamed up in 2000, rising to the podium in their first collaborative race and winding up runners-up in the Championship chase last year.

But with arguably the best, most powerful and high-revving V10 powerplant in Formula One pitlane, BMW executives demonstrated concern and frustration that the gap to Ferrari was so wide in '02.

On the seventeen events on last year's Formula One schedule, Williams could manage only one win to Ferrari's fifteen.

'BMW are aware that they produced a very good engine, and yet they saw Ferrari having an even bigger advantage relative to us in '02 than in '01,' explains Williams' technical director, Patrick Head.

Reports emerged mid-year that BMW had sent a fleet of engineers to Williams' Oxfordshire chassis base to get involved in the design and construction phase of the new-for-2003, FW25 challenger.

But, as Head continues to explain, BMW were denied that intensified involvement in the carbon-fiber concoction cooking behind closed Grove doors at Williams.

'The engine itself forms an integral part of the car's design,' insists Head, refuting that BMW had any more involvement than this.

'The engine is a structural part of the chassis, so it would be incorrect to say that BMW don't participate in the make up of the car.'

Williams will unveil the new FW25 challenger, powered by the impressive-looking, P83 BMW V10, at the Circuit de Catalunya on the final day of this month.

'We're aware of the fact that we missed the target in '02,' Head continues. 'And we're very determined to put that right again.'

The burly chief - an integral part of the Sir Frank Williams-led team since the early Seventies - adds that BMW are right to be frustrated with the still one-second track gap to Ferrari.

'BMW are being told by everybody that they've produced the best engine, and yet they're not winning,' he said, conceding the Munich manufacturer's frustration.

'So, obviously, senior people at BMW are thinking, 'We've got some of the best automotive engineers in the world, so we must be able to help.'

But Patrick Head, technical mastermind, is adamant: 'The basic layout of the car is, and will continue to be, done by Williams.'

BMW, whose contract with Williams expires at the close of season 2004, will decide later this month whether to extend their stay at Grove or go it alone as a separate constructor.

Sir Frank Williams recently lauded the people of BMW: 'They are some of the most intelligent and business-minded with whom I've ever worked with,' he said.

'They use the budget extremely efficiently,' the Briton added, stressing the importance of continuity.

'Since the executive directors decided to join F1, they have been working at 100 percent.'






Receivers Appointed For Ailing Arrows
Ailing Formula One constructor Arrows Grand Prix has called in administrative receivers in a final bid for survival.

PKF's Philip Long and Brian Hamblin, who oversaw the administration and eventual liquidation of Prost this time last year, will take over the management of the Leafield operation after it yielded to financial peril.

The Oxfordshire-based team missed five races last year, therefore nullifying its rights as a Grand Prix competitor including the denial of a 2003 championship berth.

As Arrows enters the period of administration, then, they are without a workforce, engine supplier, sponsors or drivers.

Sources at the ailing team, which laid off its nearly 200 remaining staff in December, say that the leading accountant and business advisory firm will aim to sell Arrows and avoid liquidation.

Some quarters suggest that Arrows would be an ideal ticket into the now very-affordable CART World Series based in America.

Long, one of the administrators, said: 'There has been a lot of interest in Arrows.

'The global brand has an excellent pedigree with more than 25 years of racing experience and will generate a great deal of attention.'

A future for the Leafield concern in Formula One, however, is unlikely.

Team boss Tom Walkinshaw signed contracts with potential buyers from the United Arab Emirates before Christmas which fell through when the FIA denied Arrows a 2003 F1 entry.

Moreover, Arrows Grand Prix face a winding-up order in the London High Court later this month, former pilot Heinz-Harald Frentzen's name topping the petition with more than $1 million in unpaid wages.

The High Court is also hearing a case brought by merchant bank investors Morgan Grenfell, who argue that financial guarantees against collapse are still valid.

Arrows restructured its ailing finances and shareholdings last July; Tom Walkinshaw arguing that, as a result, such guarantees were canceled.

Formed more than twenty years ago, Arrows' nearly 400 Grand Prix events failed to net a single Formula One victory.

The team was established in somewhat controversial circumstances when key members of the Shadow team broke away.

Shadow had been sponsored by the Italian, Franco Ambrosio, who was later imprisoned on charges of financial irregularity.

He became the 'AR' of the Arrows name; the other initials belonging to financial director Alan Rees (R), former driver and subsequent managing director Jackie Oliver (O), and designers Dave Wass (W) and Tony Southgate (S).

In '99, Jackie Oliver sold out to Scottish entrepreneur Tom Walkinshaw. 'If the team goes down, it's sad that the Arrows name will disappear,' he recently said.

'Arrows survived in F1 for a long time despite not gaining any real success. I ran it with prudence, always thinking of survival.'

'Tom tried to make it successful. I kept it going for 22 years, he buried it in three.'






Pantano Takes F1 Dream To America
Italian F3000 ace Giorgio Pantano has landed a drive across the Atlantic with the all-new BC Motorsports CART team.

Pantano, who had looked favorite to land the second BMW-Williams test drive in Formula One, insists that the two-year sojourn in America will not dent his ultimate Grand Prix ambitions.

'My aim is to try and make a strong impression in CART and, like Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya, come back across the Atlantic to race in F1 in a few years,' he said.

'I see this as a step towards F1, not a step away. Maybe F1 has not noticed my qualities in F3000 - so now I must prove myself in CART.'

The young ace finished runner-up to Sebastien Bourdais in International F3000 - the closest thing to European-based Grand Prix racing - this year.

His recent tests in a BMW-powered FW24 were seen as a shoot-out for the fourth development driver role alongside Spanish incumbent Marc Gene.

The Italian outshone his less experienced countryman and cohort, Vitantonio Liuzzi, who some tip is now in pole position for the Williams testing role.

Our sources, however, insist that Williams will make do with the ample '03 line-up of race pilots Ralf Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya, and full-time test and reserve driver Gene.






Verstappen Offered '03 Jordan Seat?
It is believed that Jos Verstappen, the talented Dutch racing driver, has been offered the spare Jordan '03 racing seat.

The 30-year-old from Montford had been strongly linked with a return to premier motorsports with Paul Stoddart's Minardi team, after snaring the support from Holland Media Group.

But when negotiations turned in his young countryman, 23-year-old Christijan Albers' favor, Verstappen and manager Huub Rothengatter took their business to Eddie Jordan who has reportedly offered him some kind of ride.

'We are in contact with all teams where we think they can offer me a chance,' the Dutch racer intimated recently. 'The general public might think that we are only talking with Minardi but that is not true.

'We are speaking with other teams as well. That is all I can say, it is very sensitive.

'We know what we are doing and I will tell you again, although nothing is sure in Formula One, it looks good and I am very positive that I will return.'

Sources hint that Verstappen, whose HMG backing adds up at nearly $6 million, is just a few hundred thousand dollars short of the target set by the eponymous Silverstone team chief.

21-year-old Felipe Massa, the ousted Sauber rookie of 2002, will take $4.5 million in Ford of Brazil cash to a Grand Prix outfit if he snares a drive for the new racing season.

Our sources are tipping a trip to Faenza for the young Paulista as his F1 chances appear to turn from Jordan to Minardi.

Ralph Firman and Richard Lyons, although earmarked as knocking on the Jordan factory door for the spare drive, are not now believed to be serious candidates to complete the '03 F1 grid.






Button: BAR Will Go Forward In '03
After three years in Formula One, rising English sensation Jenson Button knows there is still personal room for improvement in the cockpit.

He debuted as a teenage British F3 star for Williams in 2000, moving on to Renault (nee Benetton), a year later.

'There are some things that keep me very motivated, and one of them is in constantly improving in myself,' the 22-year-old Frome born charger says.

'Qualifying is an obvious area in which I can improve,' he continued to tell British media.

Button endured a dismal racing season in 2001, with the trying Benetton-Renault package. And this year, alongside Jarno Trulli, his Renault form was better but he lost his drive at season's end.

For '03, the Englishman targets a new challenge at British American Racing, alongside former champion Jacques Villeneuve.

'I'm going to learn a lot being with a new team - it's an important year for me and an important year for BAR,' he insisted.

Just as when he left Williams two years ago, then, Button again farewells a team that could well be regular podium sitters ahead of a new Formula One racing season.

At BAR for the next three years, though, Button is not content to sit out his Twenties at the pinnacle of motorsports in the midfield.

'Looking at the performance of BAR in 2002 it wasn't terrible but it wasn't the best,' he admits.

'You really have to trust some people, although that is a very difficult thing to do in Formula One quite often.'

But he trusts David Richards, who is adamant about providing an environment conducive to getting the best out of this young, British star - and potential world champion.

'I trust David, and the people around him at Brackley,' says Jenson. 'He always seemed to bring teams together in the past and I felt it was the place to be.'

This year, when the racing season kicks off in March for the Australian Grand Prix, Button's BAR team will have the first Geoff Willis-designed chassis - the 005 - and exclusive factory Honda power.

Button insists: 'I've arrived here at the right time. It's going to be a positive year, I know that much - but the thing I don't know is exactly how positive.'

He has a good feeling, however, that BAR will make a step forward after four years languishing in the pack. 'We'll go forward, in position as well as the way we work together,' says Jenson.

2003 is Jenson Button's fourth at the pinnacle of motorsports; BAR is his third team, and Jacques Villeneuve his fourth teammate.

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