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 31, 2003

New Sponsors For Sauber And Williams
The Sauber and Williams grand prix teams have both announced new sponsorship agreements ahead of season 2003.

Sauber, the over-achieving privateer outfit based in Switzerland, has signed a long-term partnership with Vescal, supplier of the concrete core heating at their new ultra-modern wind tunnel in Hinwil.

Peter Sauber commented: 'I'm delighted to be able to welcome Vescal as our new partner, and I'm convinced that the popularity of our team and of Formula One will be an excellent communications platform for them.'

Meanwhile, at the championship-aspirant English team Williams, Swiss watch maker Oris has signed a contract to become an official supplier to the Oxfordshire outfit.

Preparing to launch a new BMW-powered racer in Barcelona late this morning, the Williams FW25 will not feature the Oris logo but both companies will market products in co-operation.

Sir Frank Williams, Grove team boss, said: 'This new relationship is one that gives the team particular satisfaction.

'The Oris brand is a byword for superior engineering quality and a proud heritage, which I hope is consistent with the values that the BMW WilliamsF1 Team aspires to meet.'

Oris, founded in 1904 by Paul Cattin and Georges Christian, is based in Hölstein, Switzerland and has an established relationship with the worlds of sport, music and the arts.

In other Williams news, speculation insists that Munich-manufacturer partner BMW is not yet ready to announce its intentions for the future.

Rumor had intensified that the lauded engine suppliers may succumb to frustration and launch their own Formula One team - but our sources insist this will not be the case.

According to a source at Williams' Grove headquarters in deepest Oxfordshire, BMW are preparing to sign a five-year extension to the present supply arrangement for when the current deal ends in August.

Joint BMW Motorsport Director Gerhard Berger, of Austria, will use BMW's decision to make his own mind up about staying on or hanging up his motorsport hat.

'We want more wins and to fight for the world championship,' he says as Williams ready the all-new FW25 for an internet launch late this morning.

'Last year our goal was to finish second.'

Coulthard Leads Field Of Fourteen
David Coulthard demonstrated no lasting effects of a recent stomach bug by posting the quickest testing time of a competitive field at Circuit Ricardo Tormo on Thursday.

Under sunny skies but disruptive strong winds at the twisty Spanish circuit, the Scot managed only 48 laps but a best lap quicker than the three rival Ferrari contenders.

But it was Heinz-Harald Frentzen and his surprisingly rapid Sauber C22 that came in second best, the experienced German putting in a similar number of laps for a time mere tenths off the McLaren pace.

The 35-year-old went for low-fuel, quick times yesterday as Sauber put to use the optimized mechanical and aerodynamic set-ups arrived by the two German racers so far at Valencia.

Nick Heidfeld circulated in a sister C22.

Jacky Eeckelaert, Head Engineer, reports: 'Unfortunately, we lost track time when both cars suffered a transmission problem before lunchtime, which we analyzed before sending out the cars again.

Frentzen added: 'I felt the car was handling well and responded as expected to the work we have done today with the Team and the second quickest time is the best proof.'

Forming a Mercedes-powered sandwich for Frentzen, however, was the second McLaren of Alexander Wurz followed by the first Ferrari - four-times a 2002 victor, Rubens Barrichello.

The other brand-new blue Sauber of Heidfeld was pleased with his fifth-fastest time after 50 laps, the young German outpacing his illustrious countryman Michael Schumacher by just over a tenth.

Schumacher put in a best time of 1.11.521, and was one of three F2002 contenders on the short Valencia track to clock up a combined tally of 198 laps on tire and electronics tests.

'I like this circuit,' said the reigning world champion, referring to Valencia's tight corners and short layout. 'We have completed some interesting work on aerodynamics and with Bridgestone.'

Giancarlo Fisichella continued to put in the miles at the wheel of his new and initially troublesome EJ13, although less hitches struck on Thursday as the un-liveried racer wound out its second full test.

The Italian focused on engine mapping for Cosworth, general set-up, evaluating brake materials, gearbox work and Bridgestone's tire test program.

Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering, said: 'We have been able to put more miles on the EJ13 and work through a fair amount today with positive results for everything, so we're reasonably happy.'

Fisichella says the bare black racer, which endured a baptism of fire at Barcelona last week, is getting 'better and better.' He added: 'It reacts really well to setup changes.

'I am particularly looking forward to tomorrow's wet-weather test, which is crucial due to the new regulations over tires.'

The Toyota of Olivier Panis was, on Thursday, half a second the better of newly-crowned CART champion Cristiano Da Matta, who has so far failed to even once outpace his new race team-mate on the F1 track.

Panis, the Frenchman, worked on extensive component testing with his TF103 car and aerodynamic set-up.

'We had some small problems here and there,' he said, 'but overall the new parts we have tested have given us good results.'

29-year-old Da Matta clocked up laps in a sister TF103, exchanging information with his team-mate in the morning and adopting some of Olivier's settings.

'I have enjoyed my first trip to Valencia,' the rookie Brazilian said. 'The track is short, but has some nice slow corners, which are particularly good for testing.'

Cristiano will kick off work at the Circuit de Catalunya, just out of Barcelona, on Sunday.

Jacques Villeneuve was more than a second in the shade of the pace at Ricardo Tormo, the Canadian continuing to participate in BAR's relentless testing program.

But the 31-year-old was, once again, hindered by a series of 'minor' technical hitches, although he explained that the new 005 is 'quick along the long, straight runs and it is good on new tires as well, which is encouraging.'

Jaguar's new R4 was steered at Valencia by Antonio Pizzonia, watched on by rated and ultra-professional team-mate Mark Webber who conducted CR5 Cosworth powerplant testing this week.

The Brazilian, nicknamed Jungle-Boy, rounded out the three-day testing by trying different Michelin tire compounds. 'It's good to be back in the car after last week's test session in Barcelona,' commented Pizzonia.

'Mark has done some pretty consistent stuff on the engine and set-up over the last couple of days and my focus today has been on tire testing.

'I'm happy with the way things are going at the moment but we still have a lot of work to do over the next few weeks before we have an accurate picture of where we are leading up to Melbourne.'

Jenson Button steered a second BAR, while the track return of popular Dutchman Jos Verstappen was, for some, the highlight of the day.

The 30-year-old from Montford was nearly two seconds quicker than '03 team-mate Justin Wilson who lapped yesterday, as the Minardi pair made the best of a two-year-old chassis, an equally outdated engine, and slick F3000 tires.

Bridgestone-shod teams - Sauber, Ferrari, Jordan and BAR - will stay on for a wet-test day on Friday.

Thursday At Valencia:
David Coulthard McLaren 1m.10.977s 48
Heinz-Harald Frentzen Sauber 1m.11.109s 43
Alexander Wurz McLaren 1m.11.123s 66
Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 1m.11.308s 96
Nick Heidfeld Sauber 1m.11.418s 50
Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1m.11.521s 62
Giancarlo Fisichella Jordan 1m.11.709s 62
Olivier Panis Toyota 1m.11.931s 63
Luca Badoer Ferrari 1m.12.105s 40
Jacques Villeneuve BAR 1m.12.119s 71
Antonio Pizzonia Jaguar 1m.12.329s 62
Jenson Button BAR 1m.12.404s 62
Cristiano Da Matta Toyota 1m.12.414s 77
Jos Verstappen Minardi 1m.15.182s 47

Minardi Lodge Complaint To FIA
Minardi boss Paul Stoddart has slammed Japanese tire supplier Bridgestone and vowed to lodge an official complaint to the governing FIA.

He said: 'It is with great regret that, yet again, Minardi is forced to deal with the fact Bridgestone has chosen not to supply the team with tires at Valencia today.'

Jos Verstappen, as he made his F1 return after a track absence of fifteen months in the PS01 Minardi, was forced to struggle along on slick, F3000-spec Avon tires on Thursday.

The Australian boss said Minardi's rare three-day test at the Valencia track in southern Spain was ruined by Bridgestone's 'inexplicable decision' not to supply tires to the tiny team.

Minardi has been Michelin-clad for the past two seasons but this year wants to jump ship to the world champion supplier.

But upon arrival at the twisty Circuit Ricardo Tormo early this week, Stoddart was faced with a seven-digit deposit bill and told to pay before Japanese grooved rubber would adorn the black Minardi racer.

Unable and unwilling to pay what he described as 'incomprehensibly exorbitant' fee demands, Stoddart was forced to pull slick F3000 tires, courtesy of Avon, out of the team transporters and run up to seven seconds off the testing pace.

He added: 'Sadly, we are now left with no choice but to make an official complaint to the FIA, as we believe Bridgestone is in clear breach of its obligations under the FIA F1 2003 Sporting Regulations.'

The regulations state that both F1 tire suppliers must be prepared and able to enter normal commercial agreements with up to half the grid each.

Stoddart, the 47-year-old boss, says he's been trying to reach an agreement with Bridgestone since October.

'I think the situation can best be summed up by the fact that, not once during this time, despite repeated attempts, have I been able either to arrange a meeting, or even to speak with [Bridgestone boss] Hiroshi Yasukawa.

'I simply cannot believe that a company of Bridgestone's standing could treat any customer in this way.

'Unfortunately, because of Bridgestone's total lack of communication and cooperation, we have wasted two valuable days of pre-season testing here in Valencia.

'Something that, in the current climate, Minardi could ill afford to do.'

Jacques Enthused By Banzai Challenge
Jacques Villeneuve can hardly wait to shake off the dull grind of pre-season testing and face shoot-out, 2003.

The Canadian, readying for what is billed as his most important season in a seven-year career, says that the looming challenge of one-lap qualifying is a 'fantastic' prospect.

31-years-old, the outspoken BAR racer is presently carrying out his longest stint of testing in Spain since debuting as a fresh-faced Indycar champion in 1996 for Williams.

He hopes to rekindle a waning career by throwing off four seasons of disappointment and rejoining the big-three teams for 2004.

Most of all, though, Jacques Villeneuve just wants to have fun with one-lap qualifying; a distinct regulations change after the previous twelve-lap free-for-all.

'One lap qualifying is going to be fantastic,' Villeneuve enthused. 'It's really exciting.

'It's quite a daunting prospect because you have to do a very fast lap, but you're not allowed to make a mistake because you only have one go at it.

'It really is balls out, too!'

Previously on Saturday afternoons, the field of grand prix competitors were granted a series of chances to build speed and set a best time for the starting grid.

But now, says Jacques, 'you'll just get your massage, get in the car and go for it. Bang! Banzai! It will be like downhill skiing - just one run.

'No practice, you will just go straight into your one run.'

Men like Antonio Pizzonia, Cristiano Da Matta - even 2002 pole master Juan Pablo Montoya - are outwardly worried about the tough new challenge of shoot-out qualifying.

Villeneuve, in contrast, simply says: 'It's going to be great and a lot of fun.

'Before you could do the first run without taking too many risks, just to make sure you got one in. Now you have to go for it and cross your fingers.'

Bernie Hints At 2004 Spa Return
Spa-Francorchamps could make a spectacular return to the grand prix calendar in 2004, Bernie Ecclestone has declared.

Cancelled over a dispute concerning tobacco advertising, the much-loved and historic circuit carving through the Ardennes forest may well feature on an expanded F1 calendar of 18 races next year.

That is the intimation of the sport's commercial boss, anyway, who is hopeful the Belgian government will reverse its stance on new advertising laws.

'We are OK [with the number of races for 2004],' the 72-year-old hinted to Autosport magazine.

'The only thing we may have to do is put one back if we want to run in Spa and if I can convince the teams to have 18 races.'

The recent cancellation of the famous and challenging Belgian Grand Prix was met by sadness and consternation by the F1 fraternity - not least of whom the drivers themselves.

'It is a challenge that we should not have lost,' said David Coulthard. 'It is a shame.

'My grandmother could take the Indy banking flat, but Spa was really hairy, a test, especially Eau Rouge which is totally unique.'

Ecclestone now says he'd like to see Spa-Francorchamps back on the calendar: 'Yes,' he said. 'There aren't any tracks like that any more.'

But the F1 supremo has little sympathy for the Austrian government, who recently imposed a total ban on tobacco-advertising and as a result had its Grand Prix cancelled for 2004.

China and Bahrain will stage new grands prix next year.

Ecclestone said of the Austrian Health Minister: 'As he wanted to come out and screw us in the end, then why should we worry about them?'

Sources hint that the cancellation of A1-Ring's grand prix contract had more to it than mere colorful tobacco logos.

The 2003 Formula One World Championship will be played out over just sixteen events this year, starting in Australia on March 9.

Renault Oppose Six-Race Engine Rule
French F1 constructor Renault will continue to oppose a proposed rule to extend the life of a grand prix engine.

With the raft of recent reform to the F1 world, overshadowed by bans on electronic aids like traction control, FIA President Max Mosley declared his intention to phase in long-life components for 2005 and beyond.

Next year, a rule restricting each car/driver to just one engine per weekend will be mandated.

'One engine per race seems reasonable,' says Renault engine boss Jean Jacques His.

But the proposed extension of that idea, demanding that a single V10 unit last six races by 2006, has Renault riled.

Team President Patrick Faure last week stated that the ratified rule will inspire Renault, and other disgruntled manufacturers, to leave Formula One.

Jean Jacques His, the architect of Renault's innovative but ultimately underpowered and so far unreliable 111-degree concept, agrees.

Strict penalties will accompany the proposed rule: 'To us Formula One is about speed,' said the Frenchman.

'But to go further than that would be going towards some kind of endurance championship.

'It's something to think about and it's a technical challenge. But to make one component last six races but then not inflict that rule on other components, is contradictory.'

JV Not About To Cross Atlantic
Jacques Villeneuve is not about to re-cross the Atlantic and take up a berth on the Champcar grid.

That is the assurance of his mentor-manager - and former BAR F1 team boss - Craig Pollock as the Scot sets up his all-new PK Racing outfit for the US-based CART series.

Pollock has signed BAR tester and close friend of Jacques', Patrick Lemarie, to steer the PK racing entry this year.

But sources had tipped that 31-year-old Villeneuve, the ex-world champion, is eyeing the future role just in case he fails to land a contract elsewhere in Formula One's '04 pitlane.

Pollock insists that Jacques is still a sought-after commodity in the grand prix paddock.

'Jacques is in Formula One today and has every intention of staying in Formula One for quite a few days to come,' he said.

The French-Canadian's BAR contract expires at the end of this year with new boss David Richards already hinting that Japanese tester Takuma Sato may line up alongside Jenson Button in '04.

Richards replaced Pollock as BAR principal after the team's board of directors fired him in late 2001.

CART, though - particularly with Pollock's new team now up and racing - will always be a fall-back option for Mr Villeneuve.

'If he ever did consider coming back across the water he would probably go to the best team - it would not necessarily be PK Racing because I am here,' said Pollock.

Villeneuve won the CART championship and Indy 500 in the mid-Nineties.

Pollock adds: 'In the future, if the Champ car series goes the way that I feel it is going to go, then he might consider coming over.

'But we certainly haven't overly discussed it, not at the moment.'

The PK boss adds that Jacques is a 'great, great believer' in the US-based CART series. 'He actually wants the series to turn around, and I think that's also why he's very happy that I've set this team up across here.'

Craig Pollock concludes: 'I must admit, it would be a dream for me to have Jacques driving in my Champ car.'

Renault V10 Still Down On Power
Jean Jacques His admits that his new-for-2003 Renault powerplant is still considerably down on power.

The French architect of the innovative ultra-wide V-angle, His's team of engineers at Viry-Chatillon have spent most time in recent years solving problems of excessive vibration with the design.

Penned with the ultimate goal of lowering centre of gravity, such a wide angle in the cylinder banks has also culminated in structural problems with the crankshaft and the engine block.

As a result, the Renault V10 is still considerably down on power - even in its revised 2003 guise - as the factory's emphasis is turned to reliability over ultimate performance.

His explains: 'The new engine is still behind on power and we have lacked power for the last few years, but we have improved at the same pace as the other engine manufacturers.

'This showed that our choice of wide vee was capable of improvements. Our challenge now is to improve faster than our rivals.'

Sources suggest that the new-for-2003 unit, still using the reported 111-degree angle, may be up to 100 horsepower down on the pitlane-leaders BMW, teetering on 900 bhp.

'I hope the engine will be more powerful but especially more reliable,' said Renault driver Jarno Trulli, 'which hampered us quite a lot last season.'

Jean Jacques His explains that the chassis dynamics are, in theory, improved by reducing the centre of gravity of the engine.

The Frenchman is the managing director of Renault's F1 engine project. 'That is easy to say, but it is a difficult thing to do as it creates a vibration and structural problems with the crankshaft and the block.'

His adds: 'However, the experience that we have from our past engine reassured us that this was the way to go despite the difficulties.'

The Frenchman says the 2003-specification comprises new solutions, with the entire structure of the engine now radically different to its predecessor.

'From what we have seen over the past two years,' His said, 'the assembly of the open vee angle engine, especially where the upper and lower parts of the engine mate together, puts a lot of stress on the crankshaft and the pistons.

'So we had to redo that area completely. We used different materials, so it is a significant change.'

But with many of the structural problems including vibration now reportedly solved, His will be turning his attention to increasing lagging horsepower and engine revs.

BMW's new P83 revs past the once-thought-impossible 19,000rpm barrier. Renault are said to be heading into the new season at just over 18,000.

'This work we have done to cope with the vibrations was time consuming,' His admits. 'We are still late on the power because of this work we have done.

'The difference between the power output compared to our competitors was not what we would have liked, but it was also not (as bad as) what it was said to be.'

Da Matta Expects Tough Rookie Year
Cristiano Da Matta is in a positive frame of mind as his rookie year of Formula One stares him down.

Dominant in US-based CART racing, the diminutive 29-year-old has so far struggled to match the pace of his experienced Toyota team-mate and reports a few adjustment snags out of the heavy, turbo-charged Champcars.

The Brazilian from Belo Horizonte has been acclimatizing to his new F1 racing realm with tests at Circuit Paul Ricard, in France, and also in Spain for recent Barcelona and Valencia winter training.

'I am quite happy with the progress we have made, although some days have been more productive than others for various reasons,' he said.

He got his first taste of the brand-new TF103 F1 car at a damp Le Castellet. 'I am only just beginning to get a feel for the TF103 race car,' he said.

Cristiano, with his own TF103, clocked up another 78 laps at the tight Valencia track on Thursday.

He said: 'I still have another couple of tests before we head off to Australia for the first race of the season, so I am in a positive frame of mind.'

Yesterday at Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Cristiano got his track deficit down to half a second from Olivier Panis, after the two Toyota pilots shared set-up information in the morning.

But Da Matta insists that he hasn't yet done enough laps in the TF103 to get a complete understanding of the car. 'My initial impressions are very positive,' he offers as a compromise to an extended narrative.

'I can already feel a big difference between the TF103 and the TF102B interim car. I have now got quite a good feel for the new RVX-03 engine having done a lot of kilometers in the TF102B.

'I am pleased and impressed with its power and drivability.

'I drove a Toyota-powered CART car in the States, so I know that the Toyota engineers will continue to make constant improvements to the engine over the course of the season and I am looking forward to making good use of it.'

The Brazilian raced in European F3000 a couple of years ago, so therefore knows a fair proportion of the European race circuits.

But the challenges of Albert Park, Sepang and Indianapolis will be tough for the youngster particularly in the face of new one-shot qualifying rules and less practice time.

He explains: 'I can learn new tracks quite quickly, so I do not expect too much of a disadvantage. Learning the road tracks will be a challenge.'

Da Matta also drove his CART racer at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal last year, and says his Lexus will be a handy tool for learning the streets of Monaco after recently moving to the principality from Miami.

'Of course this year, I am going to have less time to learn the tracks that are new to me than I would have had in previous years because of the new rules,' he says.

'Certainly it will be more difficult at tracks like Albert Park than at circuits I already know, but we have plenty of pre-season tests for me to get to know the car so I am confident.'

2002 Toyota pilots Allan McNish and Mika Salo were dumped by the Cologne-based team at the end of season one.

Jaguar Heap Praise On Mark Webber
Jaguar Racing bigwigs Tony Purnell and Mark Gillan are heaping the praise on Australian driving hotshoe Mark Webber.

The 26-year-old Rookie of the Year - an accolade bestowed of him after an impressive debut season with Minardi - joins the Leaping Cat for 2003 to share a new R4 with Antonio Pizzonia.

Gillan, the Head of Vehicle Performance at the Milton-Keynes based operation, brands Webber the 'most professional' racing driver he has ever worked with.

'I have to say that, of all the drivers I've ever worked with, Mark is the most professional,' the Briton said.

'He's so positive, so systematic, so willing to work hard - and his preparation levels are sky-high. Just fabulous.'

Tony Purnell, new CEO of the Premier Performance Division having taken the job from fired boss Niki Lauda, is similarly impressed with the attitude of his Queanbeyan-born charger.

Webber's rise to the Grand Prix grid was gradual and considerably hindered by the reluctance of Australian corporate support.

But once given a chance by countryman Paul Stoddart in the tidy Minardi car, Webber's talent and experience in Formula Ford, Mercedes sportscars and F3000 - in which he finished runner-up in 2001 - became obvious.

'We've tried to ensure that our drivers are very much plugged into our new way of doing things from the start, and both Mark and Antonio are absolutely with the program in that sense,' said Purnell.

'Mark, who is of course the more experienced of the two in F1 terms, is just so damned professional. He really is extremely impressive from that point of view.'

The pair of leading Jaguar men, meanwhile, don't let the opportunity slide to praise the other young and rookie pilot - Antonio Pizzonia, of Brazil.

The 22-year-old youngster spent 2002 in a F3000 car but more spectacularly stormed to reputation by dominating the British F3 championship a few years ago.

His pace in the BMW-Williams testing mount, comparable and often superior to Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, was also impossible to ignore.

'Antonio is a very quick and talented guy - and that, plain and simple, was the reason for our hiring him,' said Purnell.

The PDD chief continues that both Mark and Antonio are on track towards following in the footsteps of one of the sport's greatest ever, Michael Schumacher.

Tony Purnell says: 'I'm not into prima donnas.

'I've got no time for drivers trying to take control of everything - tests, especially - instead of being part of the team like everyone else.

'And I think both Mark and Antonio are very much aware of the tasks ahead of them, and will approach those tasks in an enthusiastic, co-operative and, above all, professional manner.

'And that's the right way, the only way; after all, however much of a megastar he might be, that's what Michael Schumacher does at Ferrari, even now, isn't it?'

Mark Gillan concurs that egos do not rule his new Jaguar Racing pilots; something that could not have been said for ousted 2002 driver, the self-esteemed veteran Eddie Irvine.

He says: 'There are no egos with either of them; they just want to get on with it and do the job.'

Coulthard: We Will Claw Back
If anyone can do it, we can.

That is the promise of David Coulthard as he outwardly refuses to give his definitive tip for the 2003 Formula One World Championship.

But, ever in a positive frame of mind, the Scot says McLaren's undoubted car disadvantage to Ferrari does not mean he'll be joining the bandwagon of those penning automatic success to Michael Schumacher.

'There is very little doubt that Schumacher will maintain competitiveness,' said the articulate 31-year-old from Twynholm.

'But in Formula One there are ups and downs and McLaren are only down a little bit at the moment.'

The silver-clad team won just a single event last year - the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix with Coulthard at the helm.

But a trim, confident Scot, back at the Valencia circuit after a stomach bug sent him home last week, says that if any team can claw itself out of a present slump, it is McLaren.

'I have absolutely no doubt in my mind whatsoever that will be the case,' he says.

Ron Dennis's Woking-based concern have struggled for form since beating the world with double successes in 1998 and 1999, with Mika Hakkinen at the driving wheel.

'We have beaten him before and he can be beaten again,' David says of the looming challenge with the scarlet juggernaut of Ferrari - Michael Schumacher in form and looking for a fourth consecutive crown.

Coulthard recognizes that both Ferrari and Williams have the jump on his Mercedes-powered outfit: 'This is the least competitive we have been since '97,' he admits, 'but we are still there and still relatively close.

'We know with a little bit extra in certain areas then we will be in a competitive situation.'

McLaren will unveil a developed version of the MP4-17 challenger - the 2002-spec machine - for the opening races of this season, before launching a bold new racer.

But far from simply dusting off the 'old' car, the 17D boasts an all-new aerodynamic kit, a new longitudinal gearbox and revised suspension developments.

'Some people sign contracts they don't honestly believe will make them world champion,' says Coulthard.

'But I believe I have the potential and the ability of doing just that in the right set of circumstances.'

In other McLaren news, Ron Dennis has unveiled a new Automotive Division at his Woking company to take over the activities of McLaren Cars and McLaren Composites.

The Automotive Division will be responsible for the new Mercedes-Benz SLR road-going McLaren, to be launched later this year and built at Woking's new Technology Centre.

Anthony Sheriff joins from Fiat to head the division, moving current managing director of McLaren Cars Andrew Walmsley to resign.

Not All Gloom In F1 Figures
Claims that Formula One is dying amid rapidly declining television viewing figures are exaggerated, an international research company has found.

Sports Marketing Surveys, after studying F1 global television audiences for last year, claims that grand prix figures were down just 8 percent compared with 2001.

In some Central European and Far Eastern markets, in fact, the audiences have actually risen, it continued.

Although live audiences have undoubtedly dropped, SMS found that the overall audience for the sport is the same as it was in 1999, at the peak of a thrilling title battle between Mika Hakkinen and Eddie Irvine.

Furthermore, information published in trade magazine TV Sports Markets showed late last year that while the UK, Germany and Italy had steadily declining audiences, countries like Hungary actually enjoyed viewing increases.

'If you examine the research, the year 2000 was the absolute peak in terms of the global audience for Formula One, yet mid way through 2002 the figures were running ahead of that,' said Jordan's Head of Marketing Mark Gallagher.

'There is no denying that there was a significant fall in the numbers of viewers during 2002,' he added, noting the impact of Michael Schumacher's early championship success and dominance.

He added: 'In many respects it is remarkable how resilient the audience has proven in spite of these issues.'

Gallagher notes that 5.9 million viewers watched the United States Grand Prix on ITV - a high standard by any measure.

Formula One, says the Jordan head of marketing, should enjoy increasing confidence by new FIA proposals aimed at cutting costs and spicing up the track action.

Qualifying, for example, will be played out by granting each competitor a single lap, one by one.

He says the changes should 'boost audiences due to the more unpredictable outcome and revised format of race weekends.'

Despite the air of confidence from Silverstone factory doors, however, Jordan are this season facing one of its most dire financial predicaments in a twelve-year grand prix career.

Team backer Deutsche Post World Net, and $30 million in sponsorship, have departed for '03 leaving Jordan facing the initial races reliant on a multi-million dollar bailout courtesy of Bernie Ecclestone.

Furthermore, sources close to the team now insist that the un-liveried outfit will hit the Albert Park circuit, and probably see out the racing season, without the support of a primary sponsor.

Crybaby F1 Drivers Move To Delay HANS
According to emerging reports, the Grand Prix Drivers' Association has tabled a plan to modify the controversial Head And Neck Support Device.

Mandatory for 2003, the safety harness supposedly protects a grand prix driver from neck injuries by tethering his helmet to his torso.

But after initial testing, some drivers - Jacques Villeneuve and Nick Heidfeld, to name but two - voiced concerns that it may not only be uncomfortable but could risk further injury in side and rear impacts.

The GPDA, headed by reigning world champion Michael Schumacher, has now tabled a plan to the governing FIA to delay the mandatory introduction of HANS until further testing and modifications are made.

But the Paris-based authority insists that all twenty pilots will wear the safety harness at Albert Park in just five weeks, like it or not.

'There is no need to change our mind on using the device,' an FIA spokesman said.

Michael Schumacher reportedly tried a new modification to the system and gave it a thumbs-up whilst pounding in the miles at Spain's Circuit de Catalunya last week.

'We seem to have found a solution,' he said. 'We still need to fine tune it, but it is already a lot better than it has been before.'

But sources point out that drivers with short necks, such as Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen, are limited by HANS in head movement and comfort more than others.

HANS is used extensively in the United States: 'But Formula One requires a lot more head movement than their oval racing,' said Jacques. [Crybaby Jacques of course can't explain why CART drivers use the HANS on all their road courses with no problem].

'Imagine not moving your head at all when you are driving your car on the roads. Now imagine that in a hairpin - it would make you sick.'

Verstappen Flies In F1 Return
Jos Verstappen made an impressive return to the grand prix driving wheel at Valencia yesterday, the popular Dutchman beating his new team-mate's best time by two seconds.

The 30-year-old said: 'It takes a little time to return to a Formula One car after 15 months away and to get back in the rhythm again, but after about 20 laps, I was feeling really comfortable and enjoying myself.

'That was the reason for today's test - to get used to F1 again - and that's what we did.'

The Montford charger said he was happy with his lap times - less than three seconds slower than the next nearest runner - especially considering the PS01 chassis is two years old.

Not to mention, of course, the 1998-originated Cosworth V10 engine and Formula 3000-specification Avon slick tires.

He added: 'I have also confirmed that my fitness level is fine, so all in all, I am very pleased with the whole day. Now Justin and I will just wait impatiently to get in the new car.'

Jos, known affectionately as 'the Boss', headed from Spain to Minardi's Italian headquarters at Faenza on Thursday evening where he is to have the mandatory-for-2003 HANS harness fitted on Friday.

The Dutchman reflected on a successful and enjoyable day, and recalled his fastest time of 1.15.182 set on his 20th lap in a Formula One car since late 2001.

'That lap was on new tires,' he explained. 'We didn't have that many new sets of the Avon tires so an improvement of that time was not possible.

'In the afternoon the wind picked up and that does influence your lap times considerably.'

The struggling team, circulating with a plain black racer adorned only with a team sidepod logo, quietly explained to the media that 1.15.182 is the fastest-ever Minardi lap at Valencia.

'A fast time with tires that are not suitable for Formula One,' Jos smiled. 'It's like I've never been away.'

As Verstappen climbed out of his black racer after 25 laps in the morning, his race engineer - a good friend of Jos's from his Arrows days - patted him on the back and told him 'You are as fast as ever.

'I received a nice compliment of my engineer Greg,' Jos explained. 'It is great to be back and it is an understatement to say I am looking forward to Melbourne.'

Minardi is planning to hit the test tracks in another two or three weeks, with the all-new PS03, Cosworth CR4-powered contender, just prior to the season-opener of Australia.

The Faenza outfit will then launch the new racer on Wednesday, the fifth of March - a day before Friday testing and opening practice for the Australian Grand Prix.

Jos Verstappen's resume boasts stints alongside Michael Schumacher at Benetton, and at Simtek, Arrows, Tyrrell and Stewart. 

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