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2002 F1 Teams/Drivers

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Takuma Sato
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Alex Yoong
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H. H. Frentzen 
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Jarno Trulli
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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 4, 2003
1


Berger Reveals Mystery Savior
Gerhard Berger has revealed the identity of a mysterious savior for his father's financially-troubled trucking company.

'What do they mean by unidentified,' Berger, former Grand Prix pilot and now BMW Motorsport Director, smilingly told Swiss media. 'I saved the company!'

Johann Berger, Gerhard's Austrian father, died in 1997 when his private plane crashed in the Alpine region of Tirol.

'I don't have anything to do with the operative aspect of the company, but I am a shareholder of this company to which, because of my father, I feel emotionally very close.'

Gerhard and his father were great friends; at the time of Johann's death, Berger was still a Formula One driver for the Benetton team and was also fighting a bout of sinus-related problems.

'I was just on my way to Silverstone for the race when I got a call to say that my father had died in a plane crash, so that was just the last straw,' the great Austrian recalls.

'I couldn't race at Silverstone, I had to go back to my Father's funeral and the next race was at Hockenheim.'

The Austrian was also enduring a tough time at his Flavio Briatore-led team and returned to the cockpit for the German Grand Prix at his favorite Hockenheim circuit.

Berger continues: 'Everybody said okay, great, Berger's back, but he's not going to do anything anymore.

'First he's getting to the age when it's going to be difficult anyway, second he's had all these physical problems, third he's just lost his father who he was very close to.

'So - okay - he's here, but he won't be doing much, except lining up at the back of the grid.'

But Gerhard refused to let the media and a swarm of doomsayers trample him out of Formula One. 'I said to myself, 'Shit! This can't be true,' Berger adds.

'I'm going to show them that it's going to be just the opposite.'

He got into the car - full of rage with Benetton as Briatore made it clear he was no longer welcome - set pole position, the fastest lap of the race and stormed home a dominant Grand Prix win.

'I said: 'Under these circumstances, you shouldn't even be able to do a full race distance, no way should you be quick. It was a hundred percent proof to me that everything is in the head.'

Gerhard Berger was born in Wörgl, Austria, starting his working life as a mechanic and later as a driver for his Dad's trucking company.

Johann's transportation firm comprised more than 400 trucks but was teetering on the brink of extinction in tough economic times and industry-damaging local laws.

Berger, joint BMW Motorsport Director since 2000, is toying with the idea of retirement as his young family grows up.






Minardi Entice Manufacturer Support
Paul Stoddart is attempting to attract a major partner for his struggling, Faenza-based Formula One team.

The Minardi boss said: 'As far as equity partners and manufacturers are concerned, we are not in talks with any manufacturers.'

'Yes, we would like to be,' adds the 47-year-old Australian entrepreneur, concerned that Minardi could be next in line to join Prost and Arrows as failed Grand Prix privateers.

'We run on the leanest, meanest budget in Formula One and it would be an asset to any manufacturer, but that's their decision, not mine.'

Minardi, based in Italy, is one of just three independent teams left standing in the Formula One pitlane with Jordan and Sauber.

'I think really what we are looking at here is the question of can the private teams survive and to be honest I don't know,' he adds.

'There are three of us left in Formula One now, we have seen two go in the last 12 months. It's not easy.

'The world as a whole is not perhaps as easy a place to gather sponsorship from as it was in years gone by, but we are fighting as hard as we know how.'

But the Aussie, staring into his third year as a Formula One team owner, thinks that 2003 could represent a turn-around for his tiny outfit.

Stoddart, also owner of the lucrative European Aviation empire, has secured CR3 customer Cosworth power and 2001 F3000 champion Justin Wilson for the new racing year.

A combination, together with an exciting new PS03 chassis, that Stoddart says is the 'best that we have ever had in the 19-year history of Minardi.'

He points out that Eddie Irvine, in his Jaguar challenger, was powered onto the podium with the very same engine unit.

'It's an engine that is obviously a Ford Cosworth, it is an engine that was on the podium in Monza this year, and it gives us incredible horsepower,' he says.

'We are talking about a 70-horsepower increase over the engine we had last year and we are really, really genuinely looking forward to using this engine.

'And, of course, Cosworth is a company that is near and dear to our heart, we know them, they know us, and it should be a tremendous relationship.'






F1 Braces For Regulation Overhaul
Formula One drivers could head into the new racing season without the aid of traction-control and sophisticated telemetry.

Governing FIA President, Max Mosley, has called a last-minute meeting of team bosses this month in which he will try to push through emergency cost-cutting measures.

Mosley makes the move in response to expert analysis that 'one or two' of pitlane's remaining privateers may not see the looming season out; potentially reducing the Grand Prix grid to less than sixteen contestants.

A source revealed to German media: 'Formula One is in crisis. If there are not enough teams, cars and drivers in the sport, public interest will be the cost.

'And that is a real possibility now.'

The meeting could see the forcible outlawing of electronic aids like launch-control, traction-control, automatic gearboxes and bi-directional telemetry.

Mosley thinks the changes would cost little to implement, actually cut down on-going exorbitant expenses for smaller teams, and spice up the on-track action by placing more emphasis on a driver's talent.

It is also suggested that stricter scrutineering rules could be implemented to ensure that bigger teams don't start producing special cars for new, one-shot qualifying.

'We have got to be open-minded about cutting costs,' says BAR boss David Richards. 'A group of people so close to the coal face as the team principals sometimes don't come to the right conclusions.

'And sometimes you need a facilitator from the outside to assist you in that process.'

Max Mosley is said to have been 'seriously disappointed' after last month's meeting of the Technical Working Group that effectively shelved serious regulations change until 2005.

The President is keen to immediately act on in-team whispers that big-four operations are planning special, lighter cars - without radiators, large fuel tanks and brake ducts - for 2003 qualifying.

'So what we're going to do is enforce the rules properly,' Mosley was quoted as saying.

'If you want to have a qualifying car, with qualifying engines and no fuel tank, that's fine - but that's the car you race. So if it's only got a ten liter fuel tank then you've got a problem.'

The meeting will be staged in London, on 15 January.






Button Impresses New Honda Boss
Jenson Button is already impressing new bosses at British American Racing and Honda.

The 22-year-old, who moves from Renault to the Brackley-based team this year, got to know his new BAR cohorts with a first test at Spain's Jerez de la Frontera last month.

And Button, from Frome in England, earned the plaudits of BAR engine partner Honda, through racing manager Shuhei Nakamoto.

'He's a nice kid and his criteria for the engine is not so severe,' the Japanese said after working with Button for two days at Jerez.

'We were testing several things and on one occasion we purposely made the unit less driveable,' he continued to Autosport.

Nakamoto said that Jenson Button handled the less driveable settings better than either 2003 team-mate Jacques Villeneuve, or outgoing French pilot Olivier Panis, could manage last year.

'In the past neither Jacques nor Olivier could drive at that level, but Jenson could,' smiles Shuhei. 'His feedback was good and somehow he drove around the problem to set a reasonable time.'

The Honda racing manager also lauded Jenson's feedback after the initial test for British American Racing.

He says: 'When he said the car or engine is not good, it immediately reflects in his time, which makes it easier for us.

'When drivers' comments and data do not match, then we get confused. He's easy to work with and it does speed up the development process - I think this is going to be positive for our engines.'

And it seems that Button, who heads to BAR as his third team since debuting for Williams in 2000, is similarly enjoying his latest challenge at Brackley.

The youngster 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.

BAR boss David Richards is similarly delighted to see Britain's rising Grand Prix star fit in at Brackley.

And the new team chief is keen to take some of the pressure of a difficult, two-year stint at Renault off Jenson's shoulders: 'I can't comment on what it's been like in the last few years for Jenson in F1,' he said.

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






F1 Can Live Without Arrows, Says Scot
Formula One can live without straggling privateers like Arrows, says McLaren ace David Coulthard.

The Scotsman, responding to reports that countryman Tom Walkinshaw's Leafield team was yesterday placed into the hands of receivers, dismisses fears that the future of Grand Prix racing is jeopardized by the plight of ailing independents.

This time last year, Alain Prost's little French-based, Guyencourt team similarly went out of business, while the future of Jordan and Minardi remains unclear.

'People should remember that Formula One has the third largest global television audience,' said the 31-year-old Scotsman from Twynholm.

'It is still a fantastic market for sponsor's products, and I honestly don't think having only twenty cars is a problem.'

He adds: 'With all due respect to those at the back of the grid, what really matters to most of the viewing public is the race for the championship.'

And that challenge, he says, could be alive and well ahead of the 2003 season set to kick off in just eight weeks on the dusty streets of a public park in South Melbourne, Australia.

'There is definitely a feeling in our team that we could challenge Ferrari next season,' said Coulthard.

'I can't imagine Ferrari will be able to maintain their rate of improvement, so the championship really could close up,' he adds.

But Ferrari, champion of the past seven Drivers' and Constructors' World Titles, is not ready to give up its position of utter dominance maintained in '02.

The Maranello marque soared to fifteen of a possible seventeen race wins last year, as McLaren and Williams work hard to track down that consummate technical superiority.

'The people we've got now are working on their fifth or sixth car and each car has got a little bit better,' burly English technical director Ross Brawn explains.

Five times world champion Michael Schumacher, on the other hand, knows that Ferrari will need to innovate and take risks with the new F2003 if it is to fend off the determined rival challenges.

'I don't think at all that we have an advantage for next season,' the 34-year-old, who celebrated his birthday in Norway yesterday, insists.

'To stand still in F1 is to move backwards. It is clear that the competition are working hard to catch up with us. But we also have to push ourselves to the limit.'






Schumacher Targets Title Number Six
Michael Schumacher has smilingly denied that his five world championships have more than satisfied his ambitions for Formula One.

The 34-year-old German launched onto the world stage in 1991, winning his first race on debut-anniversary at the Belgian Grand Prix and soaring to world championship status by '94.

But it was reported this week that the lauded, Kerpen-born Ferrari driver was not dreaming about a sixth title - sparking media reports that, after eleven years in Formula One, he may be content to rest on his laurels.

The German explains: 'I said at the end of 2000 that I just race for pleasure now.

'And - although that is quite hard to do when the championship is the ultimate plan - this is my target when I go to the races.'

Schumacher wrapped up the 2002 world title in July; his fifth, and third on the trot for Maranello employers Ferrari.

Some might conclude, then, that the world championship goal now means less to Michael Schumacher.

'I didn't say that!' the German exclaims with a smile. 'Six championships would be very nice indeed.'

Beyond 2004, though, the Ferrari champion is undecided.

The German's personal manager, Willi Weber, told the media recently: 'Michael doesn't know if he wants to continue driving after his current contract.

'That's what he has to work out first. We will talk about that in 2003.'






Jordan Insist: No Driver Decision Yet
Silverstone-based Jordan Grand Prix has, once again, scotched rising media claims that the identity of Giancarlo Fisichella's team-mate is effectively decided.

Reports this week indicated that 21-year-old Felipe Massa, with the new backing of Ford Brazil, now resides pole position to climb into Takuma Sato's recently vacated EJ13 cockpit.

But the official line from Jordan insists that, 'Despite intense media speculation concerning various drivers and their possible links with Jordan, the team has made no decision.'

Respected sources, nonetheless, continued to hint that eponymous team boss Eddie Jordan has made Jos Verstappen, with seven years of racing experience, an offer ahead of season 2003.

The Montford-charger recently snared the backing of Holland Media Group, at the same time as Jordan refuses to deny that 'commercial considerations' will play a leading role in the final decision on 2003 drivers.

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.

Irish duo Ralph Firman and Richard Lyons were pronounced as candidates to join Eddie Jordan's outfit, as were Anthony Davidson, Brazilian ace Enrique Bernoldi, Felipe Massa and Eddie Irvine.

Earlier reports even penciled Pedro de la Rosa, recently ousted from his Jaguar seat and carrying a $15 million Repsol sponsorship purse, on the Jordan short-list.

A Jordan spokesperson continues: 'Team boss Eddie Jordan is concentrating on finalizing sponsorship agreements prior to making any decisions or announcements regarding the driver line-up.

'So the stories linking the team definitively with certain drivers are rather wide of the mark.'

Meanwhile, the Silverstone outfit report that work continues on finalizing launch plans and 2003 race-sponsors, and that a new team livery will be unveiled after the EJ13's initial tests in mid-January.

Jordan concludes that 'The car build program is well underway and going efficiently to schedule,' with staff returning from Christmas and New Year holidays feeling 'very excited at how the new car looks.'

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