F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 3, 2003
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
'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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 -
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,
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
'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
'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
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,
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
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'
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
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
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
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
'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,'
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
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
'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 Scuderia face 2003 with the prospect of five consecutive
Constructors' World Championships and a fourth Drivers' title for
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
'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
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
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
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
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
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
'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
'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
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
'Costs must be reduced as quickly as possible and emphasis put on the
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
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
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
'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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
'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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