F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 7, 2003
F2003 Set For Melbourne Debut
Ferrari will kick off the looming Grand Prix season with a
sparkling-new, F2003 scarlet challenger.
German ace Michael Schumacher, heading into season '03 defending
triple back-to-back Drivers' Championships, said that repeating the
trend of last year by taking the old car to Australia would be a risk.
'If we wanted to take a risk, we could use the old car,' said the
33-year-old from Hurth Hermuhlheim, presently preparing for his eighth
year at Ferrari with a Christmas break in Norway.
Last March, the Maranello-marque headed down-under, and then to
Malaysia, with a development of the championship-dominant F2001.
The plan paid-off at Melbourne with better adaptability to the
changeable Aussie weather, but Ferrari was defeated at Sepang at the
hand of Williams' new FW24.
'But we don't want to take the risk,' Schumacher continues, adding
that the Prancing Horse will need to take more bold steps forward if
it is to maintain its position of strength.
In 2002, Ferrari pilots Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello - first and
second in the season's Drivers' standings, snatched fifteen of the
possible seventeen Grands Prix victories.
'We're sure that our competitors are more motivated than discouraged
when it comes to catching up with us as quickly as possible,' five
times world champion Michael Schumacher continues.
But Ron Dennis' Woking-based team are seemingly following Ferrari's
trend of '02 by taking a re-developed, hybrid version of its old
MP4-17 contender to the first flyaway races of this season.
The silver, Mercedes-powered outfit intend to unleash a
fully-developed, radical new contender on the Grand Prix track at
Imola, in April.
Schumacher explains Ferrari's decision to push the new F2003 along to
be ready for Melbourne: 'We've heard that at McLaren-Mercedes they're
doing something completely revolutionary,' said the German.
'Despite the face that it won't be ready for the beginning of the
season, we have got to go to the limit of what is possible, because
what we've already done is possible and can therefore also be done by
'For that reason, we're hoping for and working on another step
forward,' the world champion concluded.
Good Sponsor News For Jordan Team
Jordan Grand Prix has announced the extension of a long-term sponsor
partnership with global athletic brand Puma.
'At a time when many sponsors are re-evaluating their involvement in
Formula One,' said Martin Gänsler, Vice Chairman PUMA AG, 'we are
demonstrating our full confidence in Eddie and his team with a
Eddie Jordan's Silverstone team were left reeling by the loss of
nearly half their annual budget recently when major backer Deutsche
Post World Net and other brands departed.
Commentators noted the ousting of Takuma Sato for a yet-named,
sponsor-backed driver - and Jordan's conspicuous pre-Christmas testing
absence - as symptomatic of serious financial difficulties.
But, as a sign of rising fortunes at the now Ford-powered outfit,
companies including Damovo, Benson & Hedges and Puma are sticking by
the team in yellow even in tough times.
Our sources strongly hint that B&H are looking to return to title
sponsorship and that Eddie Jordan, Silverstone boss, is courting at
least one more 'considerable' financial backer.
'We are very proud of our association with Puma and I am delighted to
extend the partnership,' confirmed Eddie Jordan, Chief Executive of
Jordan Grand Prix, presently concluding corporate arrangements for
'Puma's products are very stylish and of the highest quality, giving
us an important ingredient in ensuring that the entire Jordan Ford
team will be superbly turned out when we start the new season.'
The new contract runs for three years and will provide the Jordan team
with Puma team wear, footwear, and accessories.
Puma branding will be featured on the race wear of the drivers and pit
crew, as well as the uniforms of all mechanics, engineers and team
'Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport,' adds Gansler, Puma
'And Jordan Grand Prix adds great value thanks to the flamboyant team
personality and their uncanny ability to perform under any condition.'
Puma performance racing shoes, to be worn by Giancarlo Fisichella and
his soon-to-be announced 2003 Jordan team-mate, were first used by
various drivers and teams in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Established in Herzogenaurach, Germany, in 1948, Puma distributes
products in over 80 countries.
Amid intense media speculation surrounding the vacant '03 Jordan Grand
Prix drive, the Silverstone outfit urged last week that its Irish boss
was 'concentrating on sponsorship agreements.'
Earlier this year, when Jordan got word of Deutsche Post's - and
subsidiary sponsors DHL and Danzas - intentions to depart for the new
season, EJ laid off nearly 70 Silverstone staff.
And the news continued to worsen when FIA President Max Mosley hinted
that 'one or two' of the remaining independent outfits - of which
Jordan is one - were looking shaky for season '03.
In the last twelve months, straggling privateers Prost and Arrows have
succumbed to financial peril and disappeared from the Grand Prix grid.
Outwardly, though, the team in yellow are looking forward to a better
2003; particularly lauding the novel customer Cosworth Racing engine
program and the branding-help of Ford Europe.
'Jordan is currently finalising launch plans together with Ford and
team sponsors,' the Jordan spokesperson continued, 'and preparing to
unveil the team livery and driver line-up.'
Sources indicate the Ford-badged Jordan EJ13 will see its official
launch in mid-January, following initial track tests.
Berger Warns BMW To Build Own Chassis
Gerhard Berger, joint BMW Motorsport Director, has issued a blunt
ultimatum to his Munich-based employers.
The ten-time Formula One winner, who hung up his helmet in 1997 before
taking on the BMW challenge, warns that he'll consider full retirement
if the engine-builders extend the present supply contract with
Berger, born in Worgl, wants BMW to go it alone as a full Ferrari or
Toyota-esque works operation.
Formerly a driver for Benetton, McLaren and Ferrari, Berger told
Austrian television that he will decide his future in motorsport
before the new season kicks off in Australia this March.
Sources indicate that the Austrian's warning of retirement is serious
as he eyes more time with his growing family.
But what he does beyond August of this year, adds the 44-year-old,
depends entirely on the future aspirations of BMW. 'It depends on what
is going to happen after 2004,' he explained.
Berger adds: 'If BMW decides to build its own Formula One car that
would of course be a brilliant challenge and I would sit straight down
to negotiate with BMW.'
The German manufacturer has only contested two Grands Prix, in the
early-Fifties, as a full works constructor - a novel one-off project
at their home Nurburgring circuit.
But BMW spent several years as a Grand Prix engine supplier - notably
with Gerhard Berger at the wheel of a Munich-powered victory for
Benetton in 1986 - despite never taking ultimate championship spoils.
The manufacturer returned to the pinnacle of motorsports in 2000 after
signing a five-year contract with Sir Frank Williams' outfit.
Three years on, however, the BMW board are reportedly frustrated that,
despite building better engines than Scuderia Ferrari, the world
championship is still eluding them.
And Berger, pushing for a new challenge, says he's no longer
interested in overseeing BMW's Formula One foray as a mere engine
He says: 'We have already built the best engine in Formula One, so our
job is 90 percent done. So that would mean a challenge is lacking.
'I'm not doing this job for the money but because motor sport is my
WilliamsF1 finished a distant second to Ferrari in both world
championships last season, Ralf Schumacher - lead German pilot -
managing just one race victory in a one-two with team-mate Juan Pablo
Montoya in Malaysia.
Dr Mario Theissen, joint BMW Motorsport Director, said the Munich
manufacturer is weighing up its options as the end of a contract with
Williams looms in late 2004.
'There are all kinds of options, from leaving Formula One completely
to doing our own car,' he said, hinting - 'and the board is not in
favor of leaving Formula One.'
Williams chassis technical director Patrick Head, however, warns that
BMW has not yet attained a level of perfection in Formula One, even
despite its mantle as builder of the most-powerful V10 unit.
He warns they still have some way to go with reliability: 'They are
aware of the fact that we had six engine failures during the year -
and you're not to compete against Ferrari with that record.'
Sir Frank Williams has made his own feelings well known, saying: 'If I
had my own way, I would sell shares in the team to keep BMW as a
partner for ever.'
Despite reports indicating otherwise, BMW is not expected to reveal
its future ambitions until well into season 2003 - although Berger's
plans, anticipated soon, should give a good indication.
Ferrari Engineer Cautious For '03
A leading Ferrari engineer has warned his pitlane rivals to prepare
for another year of scarlet pace-setting in 2003.
'I do think we will be strong,' he told the Australian media. 'How
strong? We will find out.'
Chris Dyer, telemetry engineer to world champion Michael Schumacher,
says that the substantial track-gap from the Prancing Horse to McLaren
and Williams will not be curbed with a scarlet slump in form.
'I think it will come from the other teams stepping up their game,'
said the Bendigo-born Australian, who stood in as the great German's
race engineer at Monza and Suzuka this year.
'I don't think we'll get worse, I just expect everybody else to get
better,' he added.
After four consecutive Constructors' championships and three Drivers'
mantles for Ferrari since 2000, the electronics guru admits he often
finds himself wondering when the Ferrari reign will end.
'You look around and think the wheels are going to fall off one day,'
Ferrari took home fifteen wins this year; Schumacher wrapping up his
fifth title - and third on the trot - by the end of July.
Dyer adds: 'People keep telling us we have to enjoy it because it
won't last and we know that everybody out there wants to stop us.'
The Aussie engineer, who started his career in V8s and Formula Holden,
joined Ferrari two years ago having progressed from an
engineering-role at Tom Walkinshaw's Arrows team.
At the United States Grand Prix last year, Ross Brawn having recovered
from a back injury and Luca Baldisseri re-taking his berth on the
pit-gantry, we spoke to Chris Dyer.
We asked the Bendigo-born engineer what his role in pitlane is: 'It's
what you might describe as data acquisition, particularly related to
telemetry,' he said.
The Australian, however, was adamant that the Scuderia's dominance is
not destroying the sport.
'I think questions like that are best answered by the press, not us,'
he says without a hint of impatience.
'I mean, ask the spectators here this weekend if its boring, or if the
sport is dreary and unexciting.
'I think it's a non-issue.'
As it happened, of course, Ferrari's pilots incurred another
mini-furor when Michael Schumacher attempted - and failed - to stage a
dead heat as Indy boss Tony George waved his checker.
Murky Kirch F1 Finances Deepen
The murky financial depths of the bankrupt Kirch Group have continued
to burrow as new reports cite evidence of suspicious financial
German giants Kirch obtained a majority share of Formula One's
commercial rights, held in a trust dubbed SLEC, but succumbed to
insolvency late last year.
Now, adding to ever-growing legal complications surrounding their
insolvency, a fax has been leaked to a German newspaper evidencing an
irregular $121.9 million transfer into Kirch's F1 subsidiary, Formel
Formel Eins Beteiligungs is the subsidiary that controls Kirch's stake
in Formula One.
Worse still, the transfer is dated just before Christmas - months
after Kirch was declared bankrupt.
The leaked fax indicates that the Credit Suisse cash was intended as
payment for a $120m loan the bank gave Kirch in 2001. It continues
that the money was used to enable Kirch to acquire SLEC.
Neither Kirch nor Credit Suisse are available for comment on the
revelations, but sources tip that the bank transfer is more than
likely 'discordant with the terms of repayment' of the loan.
Testing Resumes For Lone Williams
The wail of Formula One engines returned to Spanish skies yesterday as
BMW-Williams kicked off season 2003.
Grove racer Ralf Schumacher and full-time tester Marc Gene were the
first Grand Prix pilots to grace the New Year on Monday at Jerez de la
Frontera, clocking up nearly 130 combined laps.
Second in last year's Formula One championships, Williams got their
ultimate '03 ambitions rolling with the first of a four-day test in
wet, but drying, conditions.
27-year-old Ralf, from Germany, managed 83 laps with a best time of
1.20.832 whilst Gene resumed work in the hybrid version - fitted out
with new P83 powerplant, gearbox and drive-train - FW24.
The Barcelona-born Spaniard put in a best lap time of 1m22.110 after a
reliable 43 circuit tours.
Ferrari transporters, and tester Luca Badoer, arrived on Sunday night
in preparation of a testing resumption at the Spanish coastal circuit
And French-owned, Enstone-based Renault F1 will kick off season 2003
with Jerez testing on Wednesday.
Davidson Holds Winner's Trophy Aloft
Whilst Williams got back to work with Formula One action in Spain, the
only other Grand Prix track activity took place in England.
But British American Racing testers Anthony Davidson and Darren
Manning were fighting it for supremacy on a track of distinctly
different character to Spain's Jerez de la Frontera.
Unlike their usual 900-horsepower, Brackley-designed mounts, Ant and
Darren were battling for the title of Auto Express Pegasus Slot Car
Challenge Champions on a 40m long, Scalextric and Ninco circuit.
23-year-old Davidson, from Herts Hempstead and having made his Grand
Prix debut in a Minardi last season, set the pace and won the first
four races from nearest competitor Mark Higgins, a rally driver.
Darren Manning, another Briton, was left trailing behind after
confidently declaring, 'I'm going for glory or bust!'
He ended up in the B Final, racing with Minis, but didn't fare much
better and ended up seventh out of the eight competitors.
In the final, 'Ant' sped off into the distance. 'If only the real
thing was this easy,' he laughed, stretched to point out the
differences between his slot and F1 mounts.
At the end of the day, Anthony Davidson held the spoils aloft and was
awarded a majestic little trophy. 'Fantastic,' the diminutive racer
'I'm not going to say it beats driving and F1 car at the Belgian Grand
Prix, but it's the first trophy I've won this season!'
McNish Predicts More Ferrari Dominance
Allan McNish has predicted another year of dominance for the
Maranello-based world champions, Ferrari.
The Scot, who graced the Formula One grid last year as a rookie Toyota
pilot, will spend his year elsewhere as he lines up IRL or sportscar
opportunities after being dropped.
'It's going to be Ferrari all the way,' says McNish, 32-years-old,
from the Scottish town of Dumfries.
Last season, world champions Ferrari added to their tally of three
consecutive Constructors' and two Drivers' championships with another
double victory; their most dominant in history.
'Michael Schumacher will dominate again unless he breaks a leg and
then it will be Rubens Barrichello who will win,' says a forthright
McNish, who still has very little to reveal about his '03 plans.
'McLaren and Williams have made steps forward but at the end of the
day it will be Ferrari.'
The Scot predicts that countryman and fellow Scot David Coulthard,
actually a year younger despite more than seven years extra F1
experience, will snare 'Top Brit' honors in 2003.
Meanwhile, Renault man Jenson Button, at the wheel of several on-track
scraps against Coulthard last year, moves down the grid to the
restructuring British American Racing crew for '03 and beyond.
'David Coulthard is our best hope of a British win now,' says McNish.
'But in a few years, BAR and Jenson Button will definitely be up
Allan adds, after a few days break for the festive season, that he's
'raring to go,' for the looming new year of racing.
'I am hoping that in the very near future I will be able to make an
announcement about my plans for 2003 and I must thank you all for
being so patient and encouraging,' he told his fans.
McNish enjoyed a taste of 400km/h in an Indy Racing League test with
Penske and Toyota in the weeks following his final Japanese Grand Prix
Both 2002 Toyota pilots, despite ending the fledgling Cologne-based
team's debut season in tenth place on the Constructors' chase, were
dropped ahead of the new F1 race year.
Brackley Pursue Regular '03 Podiums
When aerodynamic whiz Geoffrey Willis found his way to British
American Racing, he found a 'much bigger challenge than anticipated.'
Willis, whose departure from Grove is described by Sir Frank Williams
as a 'major blow to the team,' took up the unenviable mantle at BAR as
a technical director replacement for the sacked Malcolm Oastler.
'Behind the scenes, we got stuck into an unimaginable pile of work in
the technical departments,' says Willis - who says Brackley was in
disarray when it came to designing and developing a Grand Prix car.
'However, we have begun to see improvements from our reorganization
earlier in the year,' he adds.
But the fate of a disappointing 2002, Geoff Willis continues, was
sealed when the old design team churned out the disappointing BAR004.
'The performance of the chassis is largely determined at the initial
design so we were restricted in our ability to improve it to any major
extent,' he says.
Willis adds: 'However, we made a good step forward with our mechanical
reliability and introduced a number of performance improvements.'
Similarly, engine partner Honda started the season with undoubtedly
the heaviest, most underpowered and unreliable works V10 in pitlane -
but by season's end were battling it out in the top half of the grid.
'Honda have certainly made progress, particularly towards the end of
the season, and this gives us great encouragement for the potential of
our partnership,' says tech boss Geoff Willis.
Better still for BAR, they no longer have to share the factory Honda
collaboration with Jordan who turn to customer Cosworths in '03.
'Our strategy for 2003 is to build a solid, reliable car, capable of
regular points finishes,' says Willis. 'The steady progress we have
seen this year gives us the momentum we need to go on and achieve
1997 champion Jacques Villeneuve's final year at BAR will be seen out
alongside new charger Jenson Button, from Renault.
Wilson: Share Scheme Yet To Pay Off
Minardi rookie Justin Wilson is yet to collect a dime from the novel
scheme to sell shares in his future earnings.
The 24-year-old Yorkshireman, who'll make his Grand Prix debut on the
Melbourne Albert Park circuit in just over eight weeks time, earned
the Minardi drive by dreaming up the innovative plan with manager Dr
Wilson said: 'Officially nobody is on board yet. It is not really set
up yet but we have got a lot of people interested.'
Reports in the British press detail that Justin, standing at six foot
three and known affectionately as the Flying Giraffe, has promised
Minardi boss Paul Stoddart 3.08 million Euros, or $3.2 million, for
the racing seat.
Veteran Ulsterman Eddie Irvine, former long-time Ferrari and Jaguar
driver, called the move a 'brave, but brilliant' one.
The rookie Englishman, Wilson, is hoping to recoup the lucrative
pay-drive portfolio by selling shares in himself like a champion
'We all know the multi-million dollar salaries that drivers can earn,'
explained his manager Jonathan Palmer, winner of the F1 championship
for naturally-aspirated cars in 1987.
Wilson's rise to the Grand Prix grid escalated when he won Palmer's
novel Formula Palmer Audi series in 1998, and fully-funded F3000 seat
as a prize.
In 2001, the young Sheffield racer conquered the circuits of Europe by
winning the International stepping-stone category to F1 from runner-up
'The potential is to come up with schemes whereby people who invest in
drivers can then get a return later on, and that's what we're doing
with Justin,' Palmer adds.
'People that put money into Justin on an enterprise investment scheme
will be in line for a 200 percent return on investment if he's
successful,' the medically-trained Palmer concludes.
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