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Eddie Irvine
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Takuma Sato
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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 27, 2003
1


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 & Hedges.

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 dad.

'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 go.

'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 last year.

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 control.

'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 view.

'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 conditions.'

'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 Giancarlo Fisichella.

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 driver.

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 achieve them.'

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 times.

'This is where we have to improve, work is the word. But we are on the right track.'

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 wait.'

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 forward.'

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 us.'

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 wage.

'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 1993.







McNish To Toyota: Go Easy On Da Matta
Allan McNish has urged his former Toyota team to go easy on his new racing replacement.

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 2003.

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,' says McNish.

'It would surprise me if they were not stronger but Renault will be stronger too.'

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 team.

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 highest earners.

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 Ferrari.

'I wanted to drive for Jordan and prove a few things to a few people,' says Irvine.

'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 Ferrari.

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 else.'

Lead German driver, Ralf Schumacher, is reportedly recovered from a pulled back muscle and will be ready to take the FW25 racing wheel next week.

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 this year.







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 it.'

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 perfect way.'

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 serious.

'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 World Net.

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 Frenchman says.

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 championship.'

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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