F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 27, 2003
Eddie Jordan Wants Young Blood
Eddie Jordan has admitted that Felipe Massa is first in line for his
spare racing seat.
'We are talking to Felipe Massa and a few young British guys about a
possible move to Jordan,' the Irish team boss said.
Massa, the 21-year-old Brazilian, has secured the lucrative backing of
Ford Brazil after losing his seat at the Sauber team.
Jordan will be powered by Ford-branded Cosworth powerplants this year,
but are also looking to satisfy the demands of British sponsor Benson
Eddie says: 'Massa is a young guy who, if he gets another chance at
it, will do a pretty good job.'
The Silverstone-based chief says that 37-year-old Ulsterman Eddie
Irvine failed to land the role for three reasons; firstly, his
exorbitant salary demands.
Jordan added: 'Eddie made it clear that his three-year contract with
Jaguar was his final shot at it and that was his big-money pay deal.
'It would be hard for someone to come from that kind of situation and
take a big pay cut, particularly if things started to go wrong.'
Secondly, says Eddie Jordan, Irvine often clashed with sponsors who
sometimes interpreted his abrasiveness as a conflict of interests.
'Some sponsors loved him, but some thought that what Eddie displayed
was not good for a team.
'Me? I personally loved the guy and I thought he was great. Benson &
Hedges felt the same - but it just wasn't to be.'
But Jordan also says that he doesn't want his youthful and exuberant
team to become known as 'the graveyard employers.'
The popular Silverstone outfit, over the years, has introduced names
like Michael Schumacher, Giancarlo Fisichella, Ralf Schumacher, Jarno
Trulli - even Irvine himself - to the sport.
Jordan said: 'I go back a long way with Eddie, and I raced with his
'From my point of view there were a lot of reasons to make a deal
possible - but now I'm building a team for the future.
'You could say that it would have been nice for him to end his career
here, but I want the team to be known as one that brings young drivers
through into the sport.'
Irvine was the oldest driver in pitlane and would have marked a decade
on the grid in 2003.
EJ adds: 'He was one of the best characters in F1 and he will be
missed, but the sport is bigger than any one driver. I don't think
that we should get too carried away, because personalities come and
'Eddie was very different from the rest and I understood him because
we are both Irish, but some people didn't like him.'
Bernie Eyes Control Of British GP
Bernie Ecclestone is closing in on the speculated takeover of troubled
brand Octagon Motorsports.
The 72-year-old F1 supremo, critical of Octagon's running of the
British Grand Prix in recent times, has seemingly reached an agreement
to take control of the arm for a nominal fee of $1.
Britain's annual Grand Prix is held at Silverstone International.
The new CEO of Octagon Worldwide insists that the waning plight of the
motorsports arm has not damaged the parent company brand.
But he refused to rule out its sale as he conceded that Octagon
Motorsports' waning plight 'certainly does not help the brand.'
Rick Dudley added: 'With regard the outside world, I believe people
recognize the difference between our motorsports activity and what we
do on the more traditional sports marketing side.
'There have been some questions in the UK perhaps more than in the US.
I think it has had little to no impact on our image over there.'
Octagon Motorsports lost the US corporation Interpublic more than $58m
The Ecclestone deal, tipped to be confirmed before Formula One heads
to Australia in six weeks time, will see Bernie take over British
tracks including Brands Hatch, Oulton Park and Snetterton.
But it will also give him the 15-year lease on Silverstone; a deal
unlikely to get a veto from the British Racing drivers' Club as Bernie
is tipped to pump in the cash for a total facility refurbishment.
Ecclestone famously branded the 2002 British Grand Prix a 'country
fair masquerading as a world class event.'
New Bans To Affect F1 Tires?
The imminent banning of traction control will have little effect on
Formula One's tires.
That is the view of Bridgestone's technical manager, Hisao Suganuma,
who does admit that slightly harder compounds may return to the grand
prix grid when Silverstone hosts the new ban.
'This is only very recent news,' said the Japanese when faced with a
question about Formula One's new drive to cut costs and return the
sport to the driver.
'Our current tires have been developed for running with traction
'Compared to previous years, say 2001, our compound now is probably a
bit softer so we may need to go harder with the compound.
'But it is difficult to say at the moment as the durability of our
compounds has improved. At some stage though, we will try to run
without traction control to see the effects on our tires.'
Bridgestone, the world champion tire supplier since 1998 and winner of
fifteen races last year, denies that it will be compelled to run
parallel development programs to deal with the new rules.
Traction and launch control will continue to grace the grand prix cars
until July for the British Grand Prix.
'We probably won't need to adjust the construction either,' he adds.
Suganuma says that the re-banning of traction control will not affect
the balance of the grand prix car.
'Once a car is balanced with one construction, then it should be
balanced without traction control,' he says.
The biggest issue at Bridgestone Motorsport just six weeks from the
season-opener, however, are new rules on wet weather tires.
In 2003, the Japanese manufacturer and French rival Michelin will be
allowed to supply just one compound of wet rubber only.
'This is a big issue for us,' he says. 'A big issue as in, a big
challenge because that is what motivates us from an engineers point of
'It will be tough but enjoyable. However, it is very difficult to make
one super wet weather tire to cover the whole range from wet to damp
'We need to search which range to concentrate on for our tires.'
Ralph Firman Still In The Running
According to hardening speculation in grand prix circles, young
Brazilian ace Felipe Massa is mere days away from confirmation as
Jordan's second grand prix driver.
But reigning Formula Nippon champion Ralph Firman, at 27 years old, is
also in the running as British sponsors Benson & Hedges continue to
push for a young local hero.
'I'd love to be in Formula One, it's what I've always dreamed of,'
said Firman, also a GT racer and F3 champion of 1996.
'It would be great to race against guys like Juan Pablo Montoya, Nick
Heidfeld and Jarno Trulli who I raced against in Formula Three.'
But he admits that Massa, with a reported $6 million in Ford of Brazil
backing in tow, is in 'plum position' to take the EJ13 ride alongside
Firman heads back to Japan early this week and, as we speak, is all
set to race in the GP and Formula Nippon series again in 2003.
He says: 'We'll see what happens.
'I think Massa is favorite. He has heavy backing, but perhaps nothing
has been officially signed yet.'
Massa, from Sao Paulo, debuted for Sauber in 2002 but lost his ride
after showing quick but erratic form.
'Massa and Ralph are very much in discussions with us,' said Jordan's
director of marketing Mark Gallagher.
'The discussions are coming along and it's pretty imminent - maybe
Tuesday or Wednesday [this] week.'
Trulli Supports Electronic Bans
Jarno Trulli has backed the return of the Formula One car to the
The Italian Renault pilot said: 'Cars are far too easy to drive now. I
say give the car back to the driver.'
To drive down costs and spice up the track action, FIA President Max
Mosley took the initiative and moved to ban electronic aids like
traction control and automatic gearboxes from this July.
29-year-old Trulli, preparing to start his second year with Renault
and sixth at the pinnacle of motorsports, thinks the championship
could eventually be his with the French-owned marque.
'It would be nice to win it with Renault,' he said.
But he is expecting a hard time from rated new hotshoe team-mate
Fernando Alonso, who joins Enstone as race pilot this year.
'Having said that,' he adds, 'I got a hard time from Jenson Button and
this will be no different.'
Sauber In Pain Over Telemetry Ban
Peter Sauber, as one of the last remaining privateers on the Formula
One grid, is in full support of the FIA's push to drive down costs.
In the last twelve months, grand prix's pitlane has lost two outfits
and looked in danger of bidding farewell to a couple more.
For a start, then, FIA President Max Mosley has moved to ban
electronic aids including traction control and automatic gearboxes
from the British Grand Prix in July.
Sauber said: 'I have supported Max Mosley's intentions and goals right
from the beginning, and I can accept what needs to be done in order to
The Swiss chief, however, is left with mixed feelings as the looming
ban on fancy bi-directional telemetry systems accompanies the
disappearance of other driver aids.
Based in Hinwil, Sauber has invested more than $2 million in a new
two-way telemetry system for the striking C22 - an electronic
innovation that is now effectively defunct.
Peter Sauber adds: 'The two-way telemetry ban is particularly painful
for us, however, because we have just invested in such a system.'
But he welcomes the plan to impose parc ferme conditions on the F1
garages between qualifying and the race: 'I think it's a really good
idea to allow only 'restricted' work on the car after qualifying.
'This makes it impossible to use special qualifying cars or engines.'
Sauber, the best equipped privateer in pitlane, finished fifth in the
world championship last year and is readying to unveil an
industry-leading new wind tunnel.
Hakkinen Promises More Rally Racing
Mika Hakkinen has promised to return to the Rally racing wheel after
completing his first Arctic Lapland event.
Crossing the line in 30th place some 10 minutes after victor Janne
Tuohino, the former double Formula One champion said: 'This will not
be my last rally.'
The event was staged in northern Finland on icy roads, and was the
33-year-old's first foray behind the wheel since retiring from the
pinnacle of motorsports in 2001.
He added: 'It seems I enjoy driving more and more.'
Hakkinen's two world titles came with British constructor McLaren, in
1998 and 1999.
Sauber: Toyota To Spring Surprise
Peter Sauber admits that aerodynamics on his new C22 racer leaves
plenty of room for improvement.
The un-liveried blue contender hit the circuit in Barcelona recently
and last week turned heads with impressive pace at the twisty Valencia
track in Spain's south.
But even in spite of its championship-winning 051 Ferrari [Petronas
branded] engine, the Swiss-made car is still a second-class citizen
when pitted against a Williams or McLaren.
'In a new car, the most important point is aerodynamics,' Sauber told
Swiss media. 'It's aerodynamics are most responsible for the lap
'This is where we have to improve, work is the word. But we are on the
Based in Hinwil, Sauber is also a mere second best when it comes to
grand prix tires.
Scuderia Ferrari, the world champion marque, takes preference over the
design of the Japanese rubber boots. 'Bridgestone's development
depends almost exclusively on Ferrari,' said Sauber.
'Being number two with the Japanese company, we can't do anything but
Fifth in the constructors' chase last year, Sauber has been the team
at the front of a highly-competitive Formula One midfield for the past
few racing seasons.
But the Swiss-German boss is expecting a tough race in 2003 as BAR,
Jordan and Toyota threaten to steal their mantle as best of the rest.
'Renault seems to be damned fast,' he said of the French-owned outfit.
'Jordan is still a question mark, BAR surely will make a step
And he warns the racing world not to forget about a fledgling grand
prix team with the biggest budget in the history of the sport.
Sauber says: 'In its second year, Toyota will surprise more than just
The Hinwil operation are nearing completion of an industry-leading
wind tunnel project at their Swiss base.
Fisichella Sad To See Irvine Go
Giancarlo Fisichella is disappointed that Eddie Irvine will not be
sharing his EJ13 racer this year.
The 37-year-old Ulsterman, Irvine, declared last week that he would
not be gracing the grand prix grid in 2003 after financial talks with
Jordan broke down.
Fisichella, the only contracted Jordan driver, said: 'Eddie would have
been a great choice because I rate him highly as a driver and because
of his experience.
The 30-year-old Roman added: 'We would have worked well together and
helped the team to move forward.'
Eddie Jordan revealed that he couldn't afford Irvine's exorbitant
salary demands as he already pays Fisichella a multi-million dollar
'He was certainly not going to drive for free,' said the Irish boss.
'We have had to look at our budget commercially and build the car for
the future and not just for now.'
Jordan added: 'He knew what we needed for him to drive, but we just
couldn't meet his demands.'
Eddie Irvine started his career for the Silverstone-based team, in
McNish To Toyota: Go Easy On Da Matta
Allan McNish has urged his former Toyota team to go easy on his new
The Scot drove sixteen races for the fledgling Cologne outfit last
year but was dumped at season's end for lackluster qualifying form.
But now, as newly-crowned CART Champion Cristiano Da Matta gets to
grips with his new red and white mount, McNish says the young
Brazilian has the wares to show his true talent.
'You can't say Cristiano da Matta is not a quick driver - he has just
won a very competitive championship - but this is a totally different
ball game,' Allan said.
Da Matta won seven races from seven poles in Champcar last year, but
is struggling to find his feet on Formula One's grooved tires in both
fast and slow corners.
Several tests into his grand prix career, Cristiano is still multiple
tenths - and often whole seconds - off the track pace of his new
team-mate, Olivier Panis.
McNish, 32, adds: 'He is struggling just a bit at the moment but in
time he will get to grips with it.
'It's not for me to say how Cristiano da Matta will get on in 2003 but
he is a good strong driver.'
Allan drove the interim Toyota car, dubbed TF102B, near the end of
last year and says that Toyota are eyeing a stark improvement for
The Cologne team scored just two points in their debut season: 'Having
driven the interim Toyota car it looks on paper as though it will be
better than what they had before so I'm sure they are moving forward,'
'It would surprise me if they were not stronger but Renault will be
McNish will see out the year as a Renault driver, hitting the track at
every grand prix event for Friday testing.
Make Or Break For Minardi Testers
Friday testing is the 'opportunity of a lifetime' for up and coming
young Formula One hopefuls.
That, at least, is the opinion of Minardi boss Paul Stoddart who
intends to use the new Heathrow Agreement initiative to give young
pilots a chance on the grand prix track.
The 47-year-old Faenza boss will pump up his budget by accepting
sponsorship contributions from young local stars in return for a
Formula One mount for two hours on Friday mornings.
'For a test driver it's the opportunity of a lifetime,' Stoddart said.
'They're going to be out there with the best of the best with all the
world's media watching and the spotlight upon them.
'For them it will be make or break time.
'They can make their career and they will be in front of the people
that matter, people from other teams will see them and even if they
don't see them they will notice the timesheets.
'It's a big opportunity.'
Stoddart says either Sergey Zlobin or Matteo Bobbi will take on the
full-time job whilst several young stars also get their chance.
For example, we hear that Australian ace James Courtney has landed the
ride for the impending Melbourne race and experienced American Bryan
Herta is front of the queue for the Indy ride.
After teetering on the brink of extinction towards the end of last
year, Paul Stoddart now says his little Anglo-Italian team are raring
to go for a secure 2003.
'The team at the moment has enough budget to compete in and complete
the year,' he said.
'Having said that, if anyone out there wants to sponsor us and give us
some money, then we'll put it to good use!'
Irvine: I Would Have Raced For Free
Eddie Irvine says he was prepared to forgo a salary if it meant
landing the spare Jordan racing seat.
The Ulsterman announced his absence from the 2003 grand prix grid last
week after failing to agree financial terms with the Silverstone-based
But he insists that Eddie Jordan even rejected his offer to drive for
free after several years of holding the mantle as one of the sport's
He said: 'From the start money has never been the issue.
'I have always tried to earn a reasonable wage from the sport but when
a team has no money in the kitty it become a pointless exercise.'
Irvine was dumped by the Jaguar team at the end of last year after
earning more than $10 million every season at Milton-Keynes and
'I wanted to drive for Jordan and prove a few things to a few people,'
'Jordan would not have had to have paid me a bean. I was prepared to
look for personal sponsorship and to sell space on my overalls and a
small part of the car.
'I could not have been fairer than that.'
In the end, he says, the Silverstone-based team insisted that Irvine
dip into his pockets and pay for the drive.
The 37-year-old continues: 'The one thing which I wasn't going to do
was to pay the team for the drive. That was never on.'
Eddie, affectionately known as 'The Swerve,' leaves behind four wins
and a nine year career in Formula One.
Williams To Launch Radical Racer
BMW-Williams will target the world championship as it launches the
radical new FW25 challenger in Spain this Friday.
Technical Director Patrick Head says that, with three years of BMW
collaboration behind them and five years since tasting ultimate
spoils, the looming season represents Williams' best chance to beat
And while the FW25 will be a more adventurous design, the veteran
technical guru rules out introducing an untried, revolutionary model
of racer to the Formula One circuits.
'You are very heavily limited by the regulations now,' Head says.
'That precludes things that are hugely radical.'
For 2003, though, we are likely to notice a generally new flavor of
racer at the Williams launch.
'There has been a generic resemblance between the FW22, 23 and 24
series,' Head adds, 'and this year's car will not be a continuation of
exactly that theme.'
Williams finished a distant second in the title chase last year,
winning just one race to Ferrari's fifteen.
But Head says the BMW-Williams collaboration will be equipped to
challenge the scarlet mantle in 2003. 'Quite clearly we have been set
quite a steep challenge,' he admits.
'But of the people who are going to give Ferrari a run, and going to
challenge them, I'd be putting our money on us as much as anybody
Lead German driver, Ralf Schumacher, is reportedly recovered from a
pulled back muscle and will be ready to take the FW25 racing wheel
Reports suggest the 27-year-old is back at work on a tough training
scheme at his Salzburg home after spending a few days resting.
He will share the BMW-powered, radical racer with Juan Pablo Montoya
Schumacher Unfazed By Gizmo Bans
World champion Michael Schumacher is unfazed by the looming challenge
of racing without driver aids.
Since mid-2001, the German ace won everything Formula One has to offer
as launch control, traction control, bi-directional telemetry and
automatic gearboxes returned to the grand prix grid.
But even before that, says Michael, he was winning world championships
and setting records at the pinnacle of motorsports.
'In 2000 we won the world championship without the technical gizmos
and in 2002 with all the electronic gizmos,' Schumacher said.
'It doesn't really matter, as long as everyone is treated in the same
way. I will drive a car that is sanctioned. I don't really care about
But he says he would prefer to drive the electronically-adorned car
because it allows him to set up his racer in a 'more neutral and
The German, though, says that Ferrari are likely to emerge triumphant
in the face of revamped regulations.
'Every rule change in fact helps the team which has coordinated its
work best,' he says.
Ferrari won fifteen of the seventeen races last year. He adds: 'I
would say that this applies to us.'
Williams Switch Off Electronic Aids
BMW-Williams are already hard at work on the impending challenge of
racing without traction and launch control.
The Grove outfit took the opportunity of turning off electronic
gizmos, including the automatic gearbox, at last week's Valencia
testing with Marc Gene and Juan Pablo Montoya.
'Both drivers undertook a full program of traction development, during
which they have conducted some runs without traction or launch
control,' confirmed Chief Engineer, Sam Michael.
Formula One will race without the help of driver aids from July of
this year, starting at the British Grand Prix of Silverstone.
Jordan Denies Free-Eddie Claims
Eddie Irvine did not offer to race for free, Irish team boss Eddie
Jordan has insisted.
After declaring that he would not be gracing the grand prix grid this
year, the 37-year-old Ulsterman urged that his services wouldn't have
cost Jordan a bean as he offered to go without a salary.
Irvine said: 'I was prepared to look for personal sponsorship and to
sell space on my overalls. I could not have been fairer than that.'
But eponymous team boss Jordan denies that claim, adding that
negotiations with the ex-Ferrari and Jaguar star were never very
'I don't think that we were close to signing Eddie at all,' he said.
'And he was certainly not going to drive for free.
'We have Giancarlo Fisichella, who is an expensive driver and we had
to look at our budget commercially and build the car for the future
and not just for now.'
According to sources, Irvine was willing to drop his $15 million
salary to just under $1 million.
But Jordan made it clear that Fisichella's teammate would need to
bring cash to the racing wheel.
'He knew what we needed for him to drive, but we just couldn't meet
his demands,' said Eddie Jordan.
'To be truthful in the last couple of months I had put Eddie to one
side and if it was going to happen then fine, but I was concentrating
on other things.'
Jordan are yet to sign a title sponsor for season 2003, in the wake of
a $30 million budget loss in the form of outgoing backer Deutsche Post
Felipe Massa is favourite to land the spare racing seat, a formal
announcement provisionally scheduled for Wednesday.
Breakaway Group Willing To Compromise
Renault F1 CEO Patrick Faure has revealed that GPWC are prepared to go
all the way and split from Formula One.
Comprised of the French manufacturer, Ferrari Group, Mercedes-Benz,
the Ford Motor Company and BMW, GPWC have threatened to race in their
own series no later than 2008.
'We have finalized a solution for the future, we have an organization
agreement for Formula One replacing the Concorde Agreement,' the
The secretive Concorde Agreement binds the ten grand prix outfits to
the race-tracks whilst awarding them a quarter of the revenue earned
by Formula One's bosses.
But GPWC, says Faure, wants more.
'We are not fighting a war, we want the majority of the money
generated by Formula One to go to the teams, that's all,' he says.
'It is simply the way it is going to happen in Formula One in the
future. It is impossible that it doesn't go this way now. There was
the first era, there will be a new one now.'
He goes some way to admitting that GPWC is merely a negotiating ploy
to scare Formula One into agreeing terms with the rogue manufacturers.
GPWC has commissioned Goldman Sachs to look into finding a solution
with the banks that control 58 percent of Formula One's commercial
rights, dubbed SLEC, held in trust.
The banks gained control of SLEC after the Kirch media empire
collapsed last year.
The disgruntled F1 manufacturers could simply buy SLEC and therefore
rake in more Formula One commercial revenue. 'If we can find a
solution like this,' says Faure, 'I think it will be extremely good
for Formula One.
'If we can't find it, we'll wait for 2008 and then we'll launch our
GPWC will meet with all F1 teams in February to explain its business
plan; but Patrick Faure hopes solutions will be found so as to simply
re-negotiate a more equitable Concorde Agreement.
'I have the feeling now that things are very clear,' he says. 'I am
not pessimistic. I hope we will have a compromise.'
Button Left Disillusioned At The Top
Jenson Button is running out of people to trust after just three years
in motorsports' top category.
But the 22-year-old Englishman, from Frome, has admittedly enjoyed
less than a smooth introduction to Formula One since debuting for Sir
Frank Williams' squad in 2000.
At the end of year one, he was shuffled off to Benetton where he found
a dismal B201 contender and a thrashing from Giancarlo Fisichella.
Dumped at the end of season two by a caustic Flavio Briatore, the team
- now Renault - gave him a goodbye in the form of harsh words by the
sport's 'bulldog'; technical guru Mike Gascoyne.
As he settles into a new, long-term role at BAR, the young charger
admits that the Renault treatment left him hurt and disillusioned at
the pinnacle of motorsports.
'It hurt,' he said of the decision to replace him with rated Spaniard
Fernando Alonso. 'It shows just how pathetic some people are in F1,
and that speed and ability aren't the only things that people want.'
Button says he now trusts very few people in pitlane.
'A lot of the people in F1, you think you trust, and the next day they
turn around and say something about you, and it shocks you to start
with, especially at Williams.
'Not in the team at Williams, but a lot of things happened that I was
shocked at - the politics in F1, and when I moved to Renault, it got
worse. I still don't trust a lot of people.'
The Englishman's next challenge in Formula One, however, is not likely
to get much easier.
He faces a year alongside ex-world champion Jacques Villeneuve at the
Brackley-based BAR team, with the Canadian racer already voicing his
lack of respect for one Jenson Button.
'I find it insulting that people will compare him with me,' the
Canadian said. 'Who is Jenson Button? - He has never done anything.'
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