F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 4, 2003
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
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,'
'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
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
'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
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
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
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
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
The German explains: 'I said at the end of 2000 that I just race for
'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
'That's what he has to work out first. We will talk about that in
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
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
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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