F1 Spotters Guide

2002 F1 Teams/Drivers

British American Racing
Jacques Villeneuve
Olivier Panis

M. Schumacher
Rubens Barrichello

Eddie Irvine
Pedro de la Rosa

Takuma Sato
Giancarlo Fisichella

Kimi Raikkonen
David Coulthard

Alex Yoong
Mark Webber

H. H. Frentzen 
Luciano Burti

Jarno Trulli
Jenson Button

Nick Heidfeld
Felipe Massa

Mika Salo
Allan McNish

Ralf Schumacher
Juan Montoya

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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 24, 2003

Trying First Test For Jacques And Jenson
Jenson Button and Jacques Villeneuve endured a trying first test with the all-new BAR 005 contender in Barcelona this week.

The Brackley-based team were the first to get development of a new contender in full swing by running two chassis.

Button, the 22-year-old British newcomer to BAR, got going early in the week at Circuit de Catalunya but struggled to clock up the miles with persistent mechanical and hydraulic gremlins.

The Englishman said: 'I've lost quite a bit of track time over the last two days but the car is performing well when we are able to get some laps in so we just need to spend more time with it.

'It's early days yet so I'm sure we'll be able to make a lot more progress in Valencia next week.'

Team-mate Jacques Villeneuve, the outspoken Canadian embarking on a fifth season at BAR, completed his first three-day test since 1999 but was similarly hampered with mechanical and engine problems.

The 31-year-old also worked on improving his seat position to increase visibility, and continued to adjust to the controversial but mandatory-for-2003 HANS safety harness.

Jacques, though, is relatively happy with the new chassis: 'The car is better everywhere,' he said.

He added that the revised Honda engine is lighter, but not more powerful. 'We are still down on power, it lacks punch,' said Villeneuve.

Back to the Geoff Willis designed 005, he added: 'The fact that it's got more downforce and the weight distribution is lower helps mainly in the high-speed corners.

'It's very stable in high-speed corners but also much more nimble, so you can carry more speed into the slow-speed corners and when you start accelerating it doesn't snap as much as it did last year. I'm quite happy.

'We are just waiting for bits now so we can work on the set-up.'

Honda chief Shuhei Nakamoto, though, is far from happy. For the Japanese manufacturer, reclining into an exclusive BAR engine partnership this year, early problems on the new V10 have been persistent.

'It's been a frustrating three days as we've had some engine problems and other difficulties, so I'm not too happy,' he said.

'However, it's not unusual to have problems at this early stage and we did gather some useful data. We are now focusing on improving things for next week's test in Valencia.'

Jacques Villeneuve, Jenson Button and Takuma Sato will turn out at the twisty Spanish track next week, for a four-day session.

Quick Nick Turns Heads At Valencia
Kimi Raikkonen returned to the top of the order with the fastest testing laptime at Circuit de Valencia on Thursday.

But the 22-year-old, McLaren driving Finn - setting the quickest time of the week - was not the talk of the day as the impressive pace of Nick Heidfeld, steering the all-new Sauber C22, came in second.

The German said: 'Apart from the engine problem just before lunch we had another good day with the car and gathered plenty of fresh data that will be analyzed in Hinwil prior to our next test back here in Valencia.'

Conditions stayed sunny and dry but gusty winds returned to the Ricardo Tormo facility late in the afternoon.

27-years-old, Heidfeld managed 71 laps in a day punctuated by a rare Petronas engine failure - the powerplant supplied by Ferrari having featured in the consummate, fifteen race-winning F2002.

Nonetheless, Nick was able to spend the morning validating all the aerodynamic data gathered with Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the previous two days.

'Unfortunately our program was interrupted just before the lunch break after 42 laps when we experienced an engine problem, which has still to be investigated,' said senior engineer Jacky Eeckelaert.

'We were able to change the engine, however, and Nick resumed running this
afternoon to complete a tire test with Bridgestone.'

Marc Gene was next best in his interim Williams, the Spaniard continuing to clock up the miles for BMW's new P83 powerplant.

In another FW24, race pilot Juan Pablo Montoya, the Colombian, lapped solidly for 84 circuit tours. 'It was a fairly routine day, nothing outstanding,' reported test manager Tim Newton.

'We ran tire tests with both drivers in addition to chassis and brake work.'

Newton lauded the efforts of the hard-working Grove test team on the penultimate day of a relentless three-week schedule. 'They will continue again at Barcelona after the new car launch next Friday,' he added.

Gary Paffett, the young Englishman who won the German F3 championship last year, was called in to work for McLaren after David Coulthard picked up a stomach bug.

Thursday At Valencia:
Kimi Räikkönen McLaren 1m.10.647s 62
Nick Heidfeld Sauber 1m.11.778s 71
Marc Gene Williams 1m.12.735s 62
Gary Paffett McLaren 1m.12.896s 54
Juan Pablo Montoya Williams 1m.13.072s 84
Alexander Wurz McLaren 1m.13.120s 18

Schumacher Smashes Record At Barcelona
Michael Schumacher got into full stride in his testing overalls at Barcelona on Thursday, the world champion German smashing the unofficial lap record.

As his Ferrari colleagues Rubens Barrichello and Luca Badoer joined him for a striking one-two-three on the pecking order, Michael surpassed the McLaren mantle of David Coulthard set just last week.

The lap record at Circuit de Catalunya has fallen by 0.6 seconds since December, demonstrating great strides in performance in the off-season.

Observers say the 33-year-old, not usually interested in testing records, was curious to see if he could match the Woking squad's pace after saying on Wednesday 'Judging by the times set by McLaren, they're looking good.'

The scarlet trio focused on a program of Bridgestone tire and electronics testing, as well as a durability test with Schumacher.

Next best on the timesheets was the new-car duo of BAR teammates Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button; the pair - both hampered by technical faults - separated in pace by three tenths.

'I've lost quite a bit of track time over the last two days but the car is performing well when we are able to get some laps in,' said Button, the 22-year-old Briton.

'So we just need to spend more time with it.'

Mark Webber and Antonio Pizzonia, the all-new Jaguar Racing driver lineup, came in for sixth and seventh best as the Australian Rookie of the Year continued with CR5 Cosworth development whilst Antonio took to the R4.

'Whilst we are content with what we have achieved so far,' said a Jaguar spokesman, 'there is still a considerable amount of work and development to do before we are happy.'

Italian Jordan man Giancarlo Fisichella rounded out the times as he finally got some laps in with the troublesome new EJ13.

But the all-black challenger still didn't behave on Thursday as Fisichella spun off the circuit on the main straight after a rear wing failure; adding to the earlier engine fire and gearbox delays in Barcelona.

'I don't think it has been as bad as it looks from the outside,' technical director Gary Anderson said after his Roman charge managed just 20 laps.

On Wednesday, nearly the whole day was lost when spare parts went missing at the Barcelona airport. 'This is what building a brand new car is like,' the Irishman adds.

'And as you try things out it's not unusual that some of them don't work.'

Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1.15.016 84
Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 1.15.739 67
Luca Badoer Ferrari 1.16.436 38
Jacques Villeneuve BAR-Honda 1.18.187 33
Jenson Button BAR-Honda 1.18.512 24
Mark Webber Jaguar 1.18.527 49
Antonio Pizzonia Jaguar 1.18.653 63
Giancarlo Fisichella Jordan-Ford 1.19.812 20

Fernando's Torture As Renault Test Driver
2002 was torture for Renault's new grand prix pilot, the fresh-faced Spaniard Fernando Alonso.

Speaking after making his track debut in the gleaming R23 racer at Circuit Paul Ricard yesterday afternoon, Alonso said it was tough sitting the year out as mere Renault tester and reserve driver.

'It was torture,' he admitted with a smile.

'Just like every other driver, I live to race. Having said that, I knew it was a temporary situation, and I learned a lot last year as test driver.'

Alonso, from Ovierdo, debuted impressively for Paul Stoddart's Minardi team in 2001 but was whisked away by personal manager - and Renault boss - Flavio Briatore last year.

Briatore, who calls Alonso 'the next Michael Schumacher,' wanted the youngster to taste life at the giant, manufacturer-based team before throwing him into the racing waters.

Fernando attended every grand prix of 2002, but never once joined the racing action: 'I now know how the team works, and certain things are now just automatic for me,' says Alonso.

'That's already an advantage for the new season. Jarno [Trulli] and I use similar set-ups as well.'

The 22-year-old says he is determined to prove he deserves his place on the Formula One grid. 'I want to do well, but also take things one step at a time,' says the Spaniard.

'I will be out to learn first and foremost.'

He'll try to learn as much from Italian team-mate Jarno Trulli, a Formula One driver since 1997, as possible. 'He has a great deal of experience in F1,' says Alonso of the Pescarolo-born racer.

2003 will be Trulli's second at Enstone: 'I will try to benefit from that and I'll be ready to take any opportunity that comes my way.'

Alonso concludes: 'The main objective however is to take Renault forward; my personal ambitions come second to that.'

Villeneuve: The Honda Engine Lacks Punch
Jacques Villeneuve has put the onus of responsibility on Japanese engine manufacturer Honda to improve its product in 2003.

The Canadian, pleased with the new Geoffrey Willis designed 005 BAR challenger, said the new Honda V10 is still down on power.

Villeneuve, 31, commented: 'The chassis is really quite good, but the engine lacks punch, it's down on power.'

He said podium aspirations were realistic for the new season; but only if Honda - not having won a race or championship since 1991 with McLaren - step up their game.

'The chassis is good enough for the top three,' he said. 'Now, it all depends on Honda.'

In spite of the boasts from the Japanese company, Villeneuve insists that the new V10 has no more power than the 2002 unit.

'The new engine doesn't have more power than the one we had at the end of last year,' he said.

'It is lighter, that is one thing, so we do have an advantage without the extra pounds.'

Jacques, powered by Honda for the past three seasons and pleased to find the company's exclusive efforts for 2003, said Honda's engine reliability was also not up to scratch.

He added: 'For now, our engine lasts for half a race, no more.'

The Quebecois rounded out three days at the Circuit de Catalunya, his first back-to-back extended test since 1999, with encouraging words about the 005 chassis despite a difficult week.

He had his first chance in the 005 on Tuesday, but complained early on that the HANS harness and low seating position made it impossible to see the exit of the Catalan corners.

After finding a better driving position, a mechanical problem mid-morning confined the car to the garage but Jacques was able to resume running in the afternoon in dry conditions.

A Honda engine problem paused the car at the side of the track, Jacques completing just 14 laps in his first day's running with a best time of 1:19.748.

Jacques had a better second day, completing 56 laps without any major problems. On Thursday, the Canadian's morning run was interrupted by an electrical problem.

Villeneuve said: 'The car is better everywhere. The fact that it's got more downforce and the weight distribution is lower helps mainly in the high-speed corners.'

Schumacher Sad To See Irvine Walk Away
Michael Schumacher is sad to see former team-mate and fellow Formula One veteran Eddie Irvine forced to hang up his helmet.

The five times world champion, sharing a Ferrari cockpit with the 37-year-old Ulsterman for four years in the late Nineties, rued the news as a 'piece of glamour' robbed from the sport.

Irvine wrote in his Sun newspaper column that Jordan, his only remaining option for 2003 after he was dumped by Jaguar, were 'forced to look for a driver who brings extra funds.'

The nine-year grand prix veteran said he could only bring 'speed, reliability and greater experience' to the Silverstone-based team at which he made his 1993 F1 debut.

Schumacher said Irvine's retirement was 'really a shame'.

The German added: 'When Eddie and I were driving together at Ferrari we got along very well and had a lot of fun, very unlikely because we are so different.

'I think it is not only me who will miss him - there will be a piece of glamour disappearing from Formula One.'

Ironically, perhaps, Eddie Irvine says his best memories from a life spent racing at the pinnacle of motorsports was a period when Michael Schumacher was laid off with a broken leg.

The Belfast-lad took up the mantle as Ferrari number one and challenged reigning champion Mika Hakkinen for the title: 'That really was a fantastic season and a very emotional one,' he recalls.

Irvine won four grands prix in Formula One - all in 1999. 'It was a real roller-coaster year which gave me so many thrills.

'I know I didn't win the championship but it was still great battling for it.'

Irvine refused to call the 'sad day' in his Grand Prix career a retirement: 'You never know what can happen,' he insisted.

Sunday Warm-Up To Be Held On Saturday?
Formula One will sport one or two dramatic revisions to its weekend timetable this year, FIA President Max Mosley has tipped.

As a reaction to new one-shot qualifying, the Briton admitted that the traditional Sunday morning warm-up may be relocated to Saturday afternoon.

This year, cars will be confined in parc ferme conditions under strict supervision between qualifying and the race, ensuring that packages are not modified to become one-lap specials.

As a result, 'One of the things being suggested now is that you treat the qualifying as part of the race,' said Mosley, a Briton.

'So perhaps before qualifying there is a 15-minute warm-up which replaces the Sunday morning session.

He added: 'We might have both - two short warm-ups, but with qualifying moving to 2pm so the teams can use the extra time as race preparation.

'We will see what the teams want to do.'

Our sources indicate that the teams are happy with the proposed changes giving them more time to work on the cars.

The TV broadcasters are also happy as qualifying is moved back to avoid clashes with lunchtime.

Wing Failure Caps Dire Week For Jordan
Jordan has endured one of the most frustrating and troubled car debuts in recent history at the Circuit de Catalunya this week.

Even the Silverstone-based team was forced to describe the EJ13's maiden voyage at the Barcelona track as 'remarkable for its interruptions' including engine fires, lost components, and a rear wing failure on Thursday.

Giancarlo Fisichella was travelling at over 300km/h on the Spanish front straight when his rear wing fell off. 'The rear beam wing broke when it was highly loaded on the main straight,' explained Gary Anderson.

EJ13 is the Director of Engineer's new baby, powered by lauded CR4 Cosworth engines for the first time.

'The failure was caused by a combination of things,' he adds. 'What we do know is that it is a stronger component than we used last year and we are doing some modifications tonight which will increase the strength.

'New components will be completely revised.'

Jordan, still reeling from the recent loss of main sponsor Deutsche Post World Net, are the last team to hit the pre-season testing circuits and amassed only a handful of laps all week in Barcelona.

Anderson, though, insists that it has 'not been as bad as it looks from the outside - this is what building a brand new car is like and as you try things out it's not unusual that some of them don't work.'

He adds: 'A few of our problems have been self-inflicted in getting some of the new systems up and running. Some others are more fundamental but we are on top of each one as they happen.'

Other than that, the Irishman adds, British Airways and EasyJet were not helpful in Jordan's quest for valuable track mileage as they lost car components on two different occasions.

Fisichella's EJ13 broke down early in the week and was stranded for almost an entire day as replacement parts made their way from Northamptonshire to south eastern Spain.

'That cost at least one full day of testing,' says Anderson of the airport discrepancies.

As ever, though, Jordan can take solace in the fact that they are experiencing EJ13's problems now rather than in the second weekend in March.

There, for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, the EJ13 will hit the racing circuit for the first time.

Furthermore, Jordan's participation in new Friday testing means they only have ten days in '02 - other than at the race weekends - to iron out EJ13's problems.

'Each day is precious,' Anderson admits, 'but if you are going to have problems it is better to have them now rather than later.

The engineering head is still optimistic: 'Yes I am,' he says, 'We are working through our test plan which is set to give us a better understanding of the car and not just lap time.'

Fisichella fell to the bottom of the testing timesheets on Thursday, some four seconds off the leading pace after only 20 circuit tours.

Anderson concluded: 'We have a lot of work to do but that is our job and we are getting on with it in the best way we know.'

Jaguar Far From Happy After First Test
Jaguar Racing are far from happy after the new R4's first three-day test session at the Circuit de Catalunya this week.

'We walk away from Barcelona with an encouraging first impression but nevertheless we are still far from clear where the R4 stands relative to the competition,' said spokesman Nav Sidhu.

The Milton-Keynes team embark on the New Year after a dismal season 2002 and comprehensive managerial and engineering restructure.

'The R3C is continuing its development program concurrently and is focusing on the new engine and other 2003 parts,' Sidhu, Manager of Communications, continues.

'Whilst we are content with what we have achieved so far there is still a considerable amount of work and development to do before we are happy.'

Antonio Pizzonia, the 22-year-old rookie, took over the controls of the all-new R4 on Wednesday and Thursday as Mark Webber continued behind the wheel of the R3C.

The Brazilian endured a massive Cosworth CR5 engine failure on Wednesday, and was struck with hydraulics issues yesterday.

Nonetheless, Pizzonia completed a satisfactory 63 laps of the circuit, and commented: 'Today has been an okay day.

'The aim of the Barcelona test has been to shake down the Jaguar R4 and get as much mileage on the car as possible and learn as much on the new car, the new engine and new Michelin compounds as possible.'

With the new season a little over a month away, there's little respite for the team who move on to Valencia for another three-day test session next week.

Coulthard Struck Down With Tummy Bug
David Coulthard was forced to cancel his scheduled week of Valencia testing when he was struck down with a stomach bug.

His Woking-based, McLaren team drafted in German F3 Champion Gary Paffett, the young charging Englishman, to fill the Scot's boots as he recovers.

A McLaren spokeswoman insists Coulthard's illness is 'no big deal.'

He adds: 'David just had a bit of an upset tummy.'

The 31-year-old from Twynholm was one of just two drivers, with Williams' Ralf Schumacher, to beat either Ferrari driver on the seventeen grand prix race-tracks last year.

The spokeswoman continues: 'He was not feeling 100 per cent and there was no point taking any risk so we flew out Gary for Wednesday's test.'

Coulthard will be back at the wheel at the twisty Ricardo Tormo Circuit of Valencia next week.

Formula One Fondly Farewells 'The Swerve'
Eddie Jordan and Allan McNish are just two of a growing army of Formula One pundits to fondly farewell Eddie Irvine.

McNish, Toyota's 2002 race driver and this year a Renault tester, said: 'Every sport needs characters, and there's no doubting that Eddie was a character.'

The Scottish ace continues that Irvine, the nine year Formula One veteran and oldest man in pitlane (37), is irreplaceable.

He says: 'For one, the driver parades will certainly be quieter without him!

'We need those sorts of personalities in F1. It always makes things more entertaining.'

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari team-mate to the outspoken Ulsterman for four years, says Irvine will take a piece of Formula One's glamour through the paddock turnstiles as he retires from Formula One.

Irvine spent nearly a decade at Jordan, Ferrari and Jaguar Racing.

'I think it is not only me who will miss him,' said the 33-year-old German, not usually one for sentiment.

Eddie Jordan was forced to close his Silverstone factory doors to Irvine as he searches for a pay-driver to add to the '03 budget.

Our sources indicate that Irvine was willing to drop his $20 million salary demands to less than $1m for season 2003 - but he refused to become the next paying driver in order to stay in his grand prix cockpit.

Irvine debuted at the Japanese Grand Prix of 1993 for Jordan, scoring a point in his first race.

Jordan, the Irish team boss, said: 'It's a sad day for F1 that Eddie can't continue.

'He started his F1 career with Jordan and scored points on his debut. Since then, with Jordan, Ferrari especially and Jaguar, he has shown great style and lots of character.

'He's done well out of F1 and the sport has been richer for his colorful and intelligent presence.'

Flavio Briatore, the flamboyant Italian Renault boss, added his words of despondency that Formula One's days with Eddie Irvine are over.

In the past years, the sport has lost characters including Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Gerhard Berger, Mika Hakkinen and Jean Alesi, giving rides to more and more 'robots' who tow the corporate line.

Flavio added: 'It is a big loss. In F1 you need people with character - the public doesn't like robots.

'If I see some of these young kids without their overalls on, I don't recognize them.

'You need characters - you need a Montoya, you need a Villeneuve.'

Briatore Rejects GPWC And Supports Change
Flavio Briatore is the latest grand prix kingpin to reject the sentiment of GPWC and support changes for Formula One.

Splitting from the rogue manufacturer group's reaction that Formula One teams should vehemently oppose any reform to the technical regulations, Briatore said that the sport is 'getting back to reality'.

He joins Mercedes and BMW in distancing himself from the hostile GPWC statement of last week.

Led by FIA President Max Mosley, Formula One moved to ban traction and launch control, fancy telemetry systems and automatic gearboxes from July of this year.

The flamboyant Italian boss, Briatore, said that measures to curb escalating costs and inspire better track action were welcome additions to the Formula One code.

'It is good because we are making the driver drive the car again,' said Briatore, watching on as Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso made a track debut with the new R23 in France.

He added: 'The car will no longer be driven by the electronics. The fans want to see the drivers driving and they want to see the cars sliding.

'I believe that in the last three or four months Formula One stopped being a sport and everyone was talking about the economic situation.'

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone backed any move to get Formula One out of the financial review and into the sport sections.

Flavio agrees, even opting to split from the GPWC decree that Formula One should remain an undiluted arena for technical excellence.

GPWC, the proposed alternate championship to Formula One, intends to race from 2008 with the support of Renault, Mercedes, BMW, Ferrari and Ford.

But the Italian thinks F1 is a sport first, marketing tool second:

'The public don't care that it takes 2,000 people just to put a car on the grid. We are sometimes away from reality. We need to get back to reality.'

Far from heated meetings with team bosses, technical directors and FIA Presidents, though, Briatore says he has found a more effective way to spice up Formula One.

He said, laughing: 'I think for Formula One it would be fantastic if Michael Schumacher went on vacation to America for three years!'

Jordan In No Hurry To Fill Vacant Seat
Eddie Jordan is in no rush to sign a racing team-mate for Italian charger Giancarlo Fisichella.

Yesterday, 37-year-old veteran Eddie Irvine - strongly linked to the drive - ruled himself out of the equation as he refused to become the sport's next pay driver.

Sources indicate that the Silverstone team may be searching for a pilot with more than $15 million in sponsorship to help replace the lost Deutsche Post World Net dollars.

With Irvine out of the frame, Brazilian youngster Felipe Massa - with the new support of Ford Brazil - steps into pole position for the yellow Jordan Grand Prix seat.

'I can't comment on any particular driver but we are still in contact with a number of drivers,' said a team spokeswoman for Jordan. 'Nothing has been finalized yet.

The spokesman points out that Jordan has until the Thursday in Australia - March 6 - to either name or change the nominated race drivers.

But she admits that 'it would obviously be preferable to have it sorted out before then to give the other driver a chance to test the car.

'However, Eddie (Jordan) wants to make sure he gets the best package possible regarding drivers and commercial support.'

McNish Ready To Step In And Race
Allan McNish will be fighting fit and ready to race if either Fernando Alonso or Jarno Trulli fall foul to injury this year.

The 33-year-old from Scotland moves into the Renault testing role in 2003 - but will attend each race and test on the Fridays - after debuting for Toyota last year.

At the end of a mixed, but ultimately solid, first season at Cologne, McNish was dropped and unable to take one of the vacant Minardi or Jordan drives due to a lack of sponsorship.

'I'm in a different position to before, but I wasn't able to take funding to the seats available so this was a good deal,' he says.

Sources tip a $1 million salary for the Dumfries racer, and ex Le Mans winner, in 2002.

He told reporters at the track launch of the new Renault R23 in southern France yesterday: 'I've a lot of racing years ahead of me.'

McNish says he'll be ready to rumble if the Renault race pilots are either injured or sick. 'I'll certainly be very ready if circumstances require me to step in and drive the car,' he says.

'My Formula One career certainly hasn't stopped. This is an extension to it.

He tested for the team, in its Benetton guise, in the early Nineties, and insists Renault have made strides forward over last year in the aerodynamics department.

McNish added: 'In terms of aerodynamics they have made a big step forward and we all know aerodynamics are absolutely crucial.

'This team definitely has potential. There's no reason why they can't move up - they ran in the top three at times last season.'

Renault want at least four podiums and to challenge Williams and McLaren in 2003.

R23 Is First 'Real' Renault: Gascoyne
The all-new R23 is the first 'real' Renault contender, technical director Mike Gascoyne has insisted.

The famous French name returned to grand prix racing as an engine supplier in 2001 after last tasting the world championships with Williams six years ago.

But, having bought the Benetton team outright, Renault launched a full chassis/engine project last year and finished fourth in the constructors' world championship.

Gascoyne, however, says that 2003 will be the first serious charge for multiple podiums and the sport's top two since leaving Formula One as a full constructor in the Eighties.

He watched on as Jarno Trulli took the R23 through its first track paces at the Circuit Paul Ricard yesterday afternoon, in southern France: 'Like any parent, when you see your baby for the first time it's tremendously exciting.'

2003 marks the first real collaboration between Renault France, based in Viry and producing the innovative 111-degree V10, and Enstone, the British-based chassis builders.

Gascoyne adds: 'This is a car we have produced together. It's the first real Renault.

'We are confident in it, and it was just exciting to be here and watch the car being run for the first time.

'We are very proud with what we have achieved with the aerodynamics.'

He continues: 'It was the most intense design time we have had to produce a new car. Work on this car began at the end of 2001 and we've been working 24 hours in the wind tunnel to be here.'

Fernando Alonso, the young and impressive Spanish driver, also got behind the wheel of the R23 in Le Castellet as he prepares for his F1 return.

Minardi Set For Switch To Bridgestone Boots
Paul Stoddart's Minardi team will switch from Michelin to Bridgestone tires for the 2003 season, we can reveal.

When asked if a contract had been signed with the tiny Anglo-Italian team, Michelin F1 boss Pierre Dupasquier said: 'As far as I am aware, Minardi will be with Bridgestone.

'There is nothing between Minardi and us,' he added at the track launch of Renault's new R23 in southern France.

Minardi were shod with French-made boots last year but, far from the Williams, McLaren and Renault deals, had to pay for the privilege.

Furthermore, Australian entrepreneur Stoddart was reportedly bemused, at best, to learn that Michelin supplied various news agencies with claims that Minardi essentially tarnished their '02 track reputation.

The French-based supplier represented in a table of statistics that, if Minardi's results were removed from the 2002 track times, Michelin would almost invariably emerge with the best average laptimes.

Ferrari won a dominant 2002 Formula One World Championship double with Japanese-made Bridgestone tires.

'We are actively seeking to conclude a deal with Bridgestone,' said Minardi team boss Paul Stoddart. 'However as no deal has yet been concluded we cannot say for certain.'

The 48-year-old, however, adds that either one of Bridgestone or Michelin are compelled to supply the Faenza team with tires under the provisions of the Concorde Agreement.

'The rules state that both companies must supply tires to six teams if requested to do so,' said Stoddart.

Stoddart hopes to have a deal with Bridgestone inked before next week, when Justin Wilson and Jos Verstappen are scheduled for their first Minardi tests.

McNish: Irvine Should Give Up For Good
Scottish racer Allan McNish reckons Eddie Irvine should call his motorsport career a day.

The 37-year-old Ulsterman disconsolately reported yesterday that, after failing to land the Jordan drive, he had 'decided not to race in Formula One this year.'

But he refused to call the setback in a nine-year Formula One career full retirement. 'You never know what can happen,' he insisted.

McNish, Renault tester this year but Toyota debutant in 2002, thinks that Irvine should settle into the quiet life for good if he's not prepared to pay for the privilege to race.

Allan says he'd give his eye-teeth to have the budget required to snap up the final seat on the Formula One grid.

Irvine, after four years at Ferrari and three at Jaguar with a salary topping $20 million, could easily afford to finance the Silverstone return.

The Scot said: 'I've know him since 1987, since I started racing. One thing is for sure - the driver parades will be much duller now.'

The 33-year-old says that if the racing fire was still burning in Eddie's heart, he would have pulled out his checkbook and kept competing at the pinnacle of motorsports.

Jordan refused to give in to Irvine's high salary demands, even despite reports that the figure had dropped below $1 million.

'If you want to get up in the morning and race cars then winning Le Mans is great, if you have the motivation,' says McNish.

'If you are tired of getting up in the morning and tired of testing in the cold and rain at Silverstone then it's probably best to give up and do something else.'

Irvine said he would spend 2002 managing a portfolio of more than 40 real estate properties whilst hopping from houses in Miami, Milan, Dublin and his luxury yacht.

Renault Target Four Podiums With New R23
Renault has set an ambitious target of four podiums for the coming season, as a promising new R23 racer made its track debut at Circuit Paul Ricard yesterday.

At the French track in Le Castellet, 600 international media listened in as Chairman of the French team, Patrick Faure, revealed his plans to curb the advantage of Williams and McLaren.

But for at least one more season, says Faure, the world championship will be Ferrari's.

'Today, we are ready to step up a level,' said Patrick Faure, in the moments before Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso put the first miles on R23 in front of Renault affiliates and sponsors.

'Our wish is to get closer to McLaren and Williams on the track. We are also looking for four podiums this year.'

He admitted they are ambitious targets, but added: 'We owe it to ourselves to meet them if we intend to compete with the best from 2004 onwards.'

Flavio Briatore, team principal and managing director, echoed the determined targets by referring to 'perfect co-ordination' between Enstone and Viry-Chatillon, and a 'well balanced' driver pairing.

'We have a strong team which can also count on the benefits of Renault's technology via the Technocentre,' said the Italian.

Renault, just days after the official launch and announcement of the continuance of the Mild Seven title sponsorship, also confirmed the renewal of its co-operation with the TotalFinaElf group.

'This new step continues a historical partnership between the two companies which has been characterized by success, be it technical, commercial or sporting,' said a team statement.

'The two groups shared values of high technology, daring and innovation, will continue to support their ambitions.'

At lunchtime, the presentation of the new R23 was also graced by a fly-past from eight French Airforce Alphajets above the pit straight.

Fernando Alonso, the team's new and promising Spanish race driver, said the R23 was already impressing despite not yet boasting the definitive Melbourne-spec aerodynamics package.

'It's a great car to drive,' said the 21-year-old, 'and I think it's going to be a great season for us.'

Jacques Warns: Formula One Will Die
Formula One will slide into extinction if the powers that be don't shape up.

That is the ominous warning of outspoken ex-world champion Jacques Villeneuve, presently heading back to Monaco after testing his fifth new BAR contender at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The 31-year-old welcomed new changes to the rulebook including shoot-out qualifying and bans on fancy and expensive drivers aids including traction control and auto transmissions.

But he said if they are not effective in spicing up the waning track spectacle and rekindling interest in the sport, 'Formula One is going to die.'

Jacques says Formula One team bosses, and even FIA President Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone, 'can't see beyond the end of their noses ... everyone pursues their own ends to the point where they're going to destroy F1.

'Then they'll find themselves with nothing and they won't understand why.'

The French-Canadian's latest verbal judgment comes after slamming new BAR team boss David Richards and 2003 cockpit cohort Jenson Button.

'I find comparisons with Button insulting,' said Jacques as he completed his first three-day test with BAR since 1999.

'People are putting us on equal footing,' exclaimed the 1997 champion who beat Michael Schumacher to the title. 'He has never done anything.'

Villeneuve has won 11 races at the pinnacle of motorsports, plus titles in Champcar and the Indy 500: 'I don't see why I should go down to his level,' he adds.

He adds that new English boss Dave Richards, coming in twelve months ago as a replacement for manager and friend Craig Pollock, is out to destroy his image and reputation:

'David Richards came in the middle of the BAR project and had a complete disregard for what had been done before,' he says.

Villeneuve concluded: 'Instead of respecting the contract that I had signed, he provoked uncomfortable situations.'

Brief: Russian GP Off, Bernie Wants Slicks
Russia will use the area previously designated for a Formula One track to host a golf course, hotel and yacht marina.

Moscow's deputy mayor, Iosif Ordzhonikize, told media agencies that the city government would scrap the Nagatino Island F1 project and instead offer it to Podolsk.

Podolsk is a neighboring region about 35 kilometers south of Moscow.

In other news, F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone is still outwardly perturbed about Formula One's use of grooved tires and will stay firm on the future return of slicks.

'Slicks are what everyone really wants,' the 72-year-old said. 'We need to find other ways of limiting lap speeds, such as less aerodynamic downforce, so that the cars are more drivable and talent counts again.'

Slicks were banned in 1998 as a way to cut cornering speeds, but some suggest that laptimes merely stayed the same whilst overtaking became more difficult.

The F1 supremo, and head of Formula One Management, backed moves to remove fancy electronic systems from the cars as the sport tries to 'get back to a drivers' world championship rather than a technical world championship.'

Traction control and automatic gearboxes are just two changes set to land on the F1 tracks from this year's British Grand Prix.

Bernie says: 'The world championship should not be decided by electronics.'

Meanwhile, ex-Minardi racer Alex Yoong said an announcement on his future in the US-based Champcar series was due soon.

He revealed today that there was no shortage of offers to join CART, but the budgets that various teams need him to bring was a problem, as his Malaysian sponsors would prefer to be involved with Formula One.

'We are presently working very hard on getting the budget and I am still hopeful of getting to the starting grid for the first race on February 23rd,' said Yoong from his Kuala Lumpur home.

'The present delay may turn out to be a blessing in disguise and I won't lose any sleep over it.

'If it doesn't happen, there will be opportunities later and maybe elsewhere.'

The 26-year-old Malaysian said his real target was getting back into Formula One by 2004, when China organizes her first Grand Prix in Shanghai.

'But if there is a year's delay, it's OK,' he added.

Renault's Wake-Up Call At Spa-Francorchamps
Last year's grand prix at Spa-Francorchamps was both a wake-up call and turning point for the fledgling Renault F1 team.

At that Belgian race, both Enstone chargers retired with a V10 engine failure, moving Renault France Managing Director Jean-Jacques His to ask a lot of questions and shake up waning quality control.

His, based at the engine building facility in Viry-Chattilon, rejects the claim that he was tempted to throw in the towel at any point during 2002.

Renault finished fourth behind the big-three efforts of Ferrari, Williams and McLaren last year, but persistent reliability concerns were a matter of consternation at the outfit.

He explains: 'The double retirement at Spa because of engine problems upset me, especially with the problems with quality control during the middle part of the season.'

Yesterday, His was on hand at the Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France to watch the all-new R23, powered by his own innovative 111-degree engine, make its track debut.

Early this week, the package was launched in Switzerland: 'The internal assessment after the problems of Spa led us to find lots of different areas of progress,' he adds.

'The RS22 benefited from this at the end of last year, and the RS23 will take this even further.'

Jean-Jacques, then, is able to promise better performance and reliability from the new unit, which maintains its super-wide V angle but is different in nearly every other area.

He explains: 'Following our post-Spa shake-up, we achieved a good level of reliability and with that, more power. The final evolution of the RS22, in Suzuka qualifying spec, demonstrated that.

'Our priority is to have good reliability. If you start from a solid base, the work on performance brings real benefits.'

Jordan EJ13 - Unlucky For Some?
In the weeks leading up to the track debut of Jordan's new car, numerous pundits wondered if they would tempt fate by calling it EJ13.

Formula One has a long-standing fear of superstition; ever wondered why no driver is ever allocated the racing number 13?

Most drivers have little routines - getting into the car from one side only, or special gloves or colored underpants - and even Jordan dabble in a little luck-making by often running four-leafed clovers on the yellow contenders.

So, as Jordan farewell a disappointing 2002 and stare into 2003, it was more than a modest surprise to some when Jordan rolled out the sleek, unbranded new package at Barcelona designated with the unlucky-for-some number 13.

Gary Anderson, the team's director of race and test engineering, explains why Jordan decided against being superstitious.

'Who knows,' said that Irishman. 'It might be our lucky number. And, then, if we didn't use it, we'd be missing out.'

EJ13 is the thirteenth Jordan racer since the entrepreneurial boss, Eddie Jordan, launched the first 191 in 1991.

The new, Cosworth-powered racer made its development debut at Circuit de Catalunya this week amid engine fires, mechanical glitches, lost components at Barcelona airport and rear wing failures.

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