F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 3, 2003
Firman Lands Spare Jordan Drive
Ralph Firman will line up on the Formula One grid as the
second Jordan Grand Prix racing driver this year, we can
Although the Silverstone-based outfit has yet to confirm the
news, reliable sources insist the Briton is on the verge of
signing a one-year contract to bring his undoubted talent and
several sponsors to Jordan.
Harking from Norfolk, 27-year-old Firman won last year's
Japanese Formula Nippon championship and is due to meet in
London with Eddie Jordan later today to reportedly put pen to
Speculation insisted late last week that Brazilian youngster
Felipe Massa had all but landed the drive alongside rated
Italian Giancarlo Fisichella - but those negotiations
seemingly broke down over the weekend.
The 21-year-old Massa, with a reported $5 million purse in
support from Ford of Brazil and Petrobras, was also
considerably backed by energy drink magnate Red Bull.
But as Eddie Jordan insisted he was not interested in selling
up to Red Bull boss Dieter Mateschitz - and with Sauber
confirming continued sponsorship from the Austrian firm -
sources tipped that Massa was out of the running.
Enter Firman, stage left, with an impressive resume including
the 1996 British F3 title and numerous unconfirmed backers
seemingly including Ford of Ireland.
'He was very methodical and controlled in the car,' said one
BAR insider after Firman recently tested for the Brackley
'He seemed very mature and together in his approach and had
obviously learned a lot from his time in Formula Nippon.'
Speculation also insists that Ralph is heavily backed by
British sponsor Benson & Hedges, the tobacco-firm concurrently
considering a return to the Jordan title sponsor role.
But while Jordan insiders are adamant that Firman is the man,
another Briton, Gary Paffett, is still in the frame to fill
the spare EJ13 racing suit.
Just 21-years-old and the reigning German Formula 3 champion,
Paffett demonstrated his potential with impressive track form
in the McLaren this winter.
'I am ready for Formula One, as a test driver or even as a
race driver,' Paffett told the media yesterday.
'Testing with McLaren has reinforced my confidence. Anybody
looking at my times will realise that I have been going
'If I had the chance to race for a team this year, it would be
very difficult to turn down.'
Paffett's manager, Martin Hines, says all his young charge
needs is the requisite funds to join his British comrades on
the Grand Prix grid.
'If I've got to find the money I will,' Hines said. 'If the
chance is there, Gary deserves it. We're doing all we can.
Red Bull Extend Sauber Deal
Energy drink firm Red Bull and Swiss Formula One outfit Sauber
Petronas will enter their ninth season of collaboration this
The news comes after Peter Sauber and the Austrian company
extended their contract by one year late last week to retain
the Red Bull presence on the C22 racing contender.
Sauber, the Hinwil-based boss, said: 'Together with all team
members I'm delighted that our partnership with Red Bull will
go into its ninth year.
'During this long period, Red Bull has been a fundamental
support for the team and has thus contributed to our success.
'Our main sponsors Petronas, Credit Suisse and Red Bull form a
solid basis for a successful future of the team.'
Accompanying the news came claims that Brazilian youngster
Felipe Massa's speculated rise to the vacant Jordan EJ13 seat
A spokesman for the 21-year-old Paulista who incidentally
raced for Sauber last year before being dumped, said last week
that terms had been agreed for the Jordan drive but no
Reports indicated that Red Bull and Eddie Jordan were
negotiating a sponsorship partnership for 2003, but when the
Irishman declared he was not interested in selling the team,
negotiations broke down.
Massa, a key player for Red Bull in South American markets,
would have taken personal backing from the energy drink
company to Jordan.
Dennis Backs Formula One Future
McLaren boss Ron Dennis has backed the future of Formula One,
despite claims that he vehemently opposed the latest wave of
At the recent meeting of the Technical Working Group, Dennis
sent along Managing Director Martin Whitmarsh to have his
strong objections to the ideas to ban electronic aids formally
But the Woking-based boss insists that he is behind the charge
to protect the future of his sport thrown into question by
fleeing sponsors, declining television figures and collapsing
Reports now suggest that Ron Dennis was one of the architects
of a Bernie Ecclestone-headed 'fighting-fund' for struggling
privateers Jordan and Minardi, both handed $20 million rescue
'We're trying to ensure that 10 teams go to the first grand
prix,' said Dennis. 'We want to find positive solutions for
The McLaren chief says, for his part, he is prepared to roll
out a third racing contender if the grid dips below sixteen
He added: 'As for third cars, every single team understands
its obligations - and is prepared to run a third car if
But far from advocate the introduction of three cars, fighting
funds or bans on expensive traction control, Ron says that all
the sport needs is a decent race.
Season 2002 was dominated and subsequently marred by the total
supremacy of Scuderia Ferrari and Michael Schumacher.
But worse still, says Dennis, scarlet racers Schumacher and
Rubens Barrichello weren't allowed to fight for victory. 'What
F1 needs more than anything else is some racing,' he says.
'And in 2002 there wasn't a race even between two cars! And
that's the difference between last year and when other teams
Observers, for instance, note that McLaren's total dominance
in the late Nineties produced some of the best racing as
teammates Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost fought tooth and nail.
Dennis adds: 'But if you don't have that, then you really do
Jos: F1 Return Far From Easy
Jos Verstappen's return to the grand prix grid was far from
easy, according to the highly popular Dutch racer.
The 30-year-old was dumped by Arrows boss Tom Walkinshaw in
the weeks leading into Melbourne 2002, and forced to sit the
year out on the bench and in court seeking compensation for
But at the ever-frivolous pinnacle of motorsports, says the
man affectionately known as Jos the Boss, the F1 world could
easily have forgotten him.
'Being away from Formula One for a whole year, I think it's
definitely not easy to come back because people forget very
quickly about you,' he said.
'It was really hard to come back.'
In the end, Verstappen had to promise a $5 million purse of
personal sponsorship to Paul Stoddart in order to snare the
slowest ride in pitlane, with perennial backmarking Italian
'We had to look for some sponsors,' Verstappen confirms - the
Montford charger eventually snaring the support of Holland
Media Group, Lost Boys and Trust Computer Products.
'It wasn't easy, especially not in these hard economic times,'
he adds. 'It's not all that good a period in the sport, so
it's really tough to fight back like I did.'
But that fighting resolve, says Verstappen, is what makes it
all the more sweet to drive for Minardi and to 'work with Paul
[Stoddart] together again.'
In the late Nineties, when Verstappen steered a white Tyrrell,
Paul Stoddart's European Aviation group was a sponsor to the
team - and the keen 47-year-old held Jos's pit board.
Verstappen is also in favour of new changes to the sport
including bans on fancy electronic systems including traction
and launch control, and automatic gearboxes.
'Those rule changes definitely will help the smaller teams
because all those big teams have so many people working on
those electronics, so it will be a little easier for us to
He adds: 'But, for sure, the gap will always be there, but I
think it will be smaller.'
Jos is looking forward to driving his tidy new PS03 package,
powered by lauded Cosworth power, without the aid of traction
The highly-popular Dutchman is renowned for his skills in
changeable and wet conditions. 'I think the changes are very,
very good,' he said.
Verstappen continues: 'Get rid of all the electronics - that's
exactly what a Formula One driver needs. That's why we are
Formula One drivers. We need to drive the car ourselves.'
Bi-directional telemetry, allowing engineers to make changes
to the cars whilst they circulate on track, will also be
banned along with a raft of tougher electronics regulations in
Jos says: 'In the past, I think it was much more down to the
car and electronics; if they were well sorted I think you
could go really quick.
'But from now, it will be in the hands of the driver, which is
no bad thing.'
Gene Explains Testing Decision
Marc Gene says the new Friday testing option will limit a
team's ability to develop a Formula One racer.
The BMW-Williams development and reserve driver explains that
his Grove bosses opted against the cost-cutting measure
because it is more honed to the needs of a privateer outfit.
'You can't carry out real development work during this time,
which is why we decided against it,' the 28-year-old Spaniard
'But overall, it's a very good rule, because it aims to
increase the performance density between the small teams and
the top teams.'
The so-called Heathrow Agreement will see participating teams,
including grid stragglers Jordan and Minardi, trade in free
in-season testing for just ten days of track time.
Gene says: 'The smaller teams can only afford about ten test
days as it is. For them the extra hours present a good
opportunity to prepare themselves in terms of brakes, tires
and car set-up.'
But fourth-placed Formula One team Renault - by no means a
cash-strapped independent - have also signed up for the
initiative to allow two hours of additional Friday practice at
all sixteen GP events.
Marc Gene won over the hearts of the guests at the BMW
Motorsport Party in Kitzbuhel at the end of last year, by
proudly displaying his new-found talent to speak German.
Despite his 100 days of testing between January and November
last year, covering 17,426 kilometres, and his attendance at
most of the Grand Prix events, Marc found the time to learn
the language of his engine supplier BMW.
'I was absolutely delighted as well as surprised to receive
such applause for that', he admits with pride as he recalls
the standing ovation at the BMW party.
Williams Pilots Ponder Shoot-Out
Ralf Schumacher is looking forward to the exciting and looming
challenge of one-lap qualifying.
But the German's BMW-Williams teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, of
Colombia, is more cautious of the move to scrap existing
regulations for a single timed lap blast on Saturday
Both men spoke at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday as the
newly-launched FW25 got its first development workout in
'I think the single timed lap is spectator - and sponsor -
friendly,' said 27-year-old Ralf, younger brother to world
champion Michael Schumacher.
He says the new challenge will do away with the questionable
spectacle of previous qualifying rules that often resulted in
20 minutes of no early track action.
Ralf adds: 'And, as in ski jumping, the cameras will now be on
'That's particularly important for the small teams, who hardly
get into the frame otherwise.'
And far from worry about changeable weather conditions mixing
up the racing order, Ralf says 'so much the better.'
'Although I'm sure I'd be really upset if I had to draw the
short straw because of the weather!'
Bogota-born cohort Juan Pablo Montoya, though, is outwardly
more reserved about the looming challenge of one-lap
In 2002, the Colombian scored seven pole positions.
But despite his Saturday afternoon skills, Montoya admits he
still has some way to go before he joins the sport's best in
pounding in a rapid flying lap from the word go.
He said: 'Having just one timed lap favours mentally strong
drivers who can unleash all the necessary forces at the
decisive moment. I think I can do it.
'The luck factor in terms of the weather and so on isn't worth
losing any sleep over.'
Ralf: Brother Will Cruise To Sixth
Michael Schumacher will cruise to his sixth world championship
That is the opinion of his young brother, Ralf, even despite
his Williams team's exciting and innovative new racer, the
The 27-year-old German let his views slip when asked about the
revised points system for 2003, awarding more points to the
lower-placed competitors whilst reducing the gap between first
Ralf said: 'As far as Michael is concerned it will make it
more difficult for him to streak ahead in the championship as
quickly as before.
'But I anticipate Ferrari dominating again in 2003.'
Ferrari won fifteen of the seventeen grands prix last year,
Michael wrapping up the title by the French Grand Prix in late
He adds: 'The later the title is secured, the greater the
interest levels in Formula One. And that's what we all make
our living from, after all.'
Bridgestone Ready For 2003
Bridgestone Motorsport will finalize its basic specification
of 2003 tire shortly.
At the conclusion of three days intensive tire testing in
southern Spain last week, at Valencia's Circuit Ricardo Tormo,
technical manager Hisao Suganuma was buoyed by the on-track
Ferrari, Sauber, BAR and Jordan were all present to evaluate
new compounds and constructions over short, qualifying-trim
runs and then longer endurance training.
Suganuma said: 'We saw some good lap times from all our teams
last week and most of them seemed happy with the constructions
we've been trying.
'We will decide on our basic 2003 specification shortly.'
The Japanese tire supplier won the world championship with
fifteen Ferrari-shod victories last year.
Testing Progress For Renault Team
Renault unpacked two hybrid R23 race cars and several tonnes
of equipment at the Circuit de Catalunya on the weekend for a
long sequence of testing.
Just five weeks out from the season-opening Australian Grand
Prix, the Enstone-based operation will spend the week in
Barcelona before moving on to Valencia - and then back to the
Heavy snow which fell throughout England late last week
ensured the French-owned team's journey south was difficult.
Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso and Allan McNish will take to
the wheel of the R23 contenders from later today and through
until Wednesday afternoon.
During the session, work will focus on tire evaluation,
reliability running for the mechanical components of the R23
and some new developments.
'Our winter testing is progressing well,' admits Pat Symonds,
Executive Director of Engineering.
'We have been able to make lots of progress in the last few
weeks with the hybrid car, and our aim to is to the car as
reliable as possible for Melbourne.
'This means that we won't be focusing on performance next
week, but rather on learning even more about the car and how
Williams Enjoy Big-Three Advantage?
The Oxfordshire-based Williams team are fending off
speculation that they are outright favourites for Melbourne
Observers note that Sir Frank Williams' operation is the only
big-three outfit opting to roll-out its sparkling new
contender on the Albert Park circuit in south-eastern
The FW25 is shorter than its predecessor, and 'derives little
from previous cars,' according to team technical director
'The approach has relied less on iteration, and instead has
called for the generation of new ideas,' he added.
So, given that McLaren will race a developed version of the
older MP4-17 and Ferrari will give its pilots the F2002
championship car, does Williams feel a position of advantage
going into the new season?
'I wouldn't say McLaren and Ferrari haven't put the work in,'
said Williams Chief Operations Engineer, Sam Michael.
Ferrari intends to delay the debut of its all-new racer until
Imola, whilst McLaren may not unleash a revolutionary MP4-17
until the Spanish - or even Monaco - grand prix.
The Australian adds: 'The three of us are traditionally
leading teams, but Ferrari already has a margin from last
But Michael isn't only worried about the world champions, or
the silver juggernaut of McLaren which looks destined for a
He says: 'I can see the new car from Toyota looking strong,
but we're up for the challenge.'
No Team Orders For Williams Pair
Williams drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya will
not be ruled by team orders.
That is the promise of team founder and principal Sir Frank
Williams who brands the tactics of Ferrari in 2002 as
Williams explains: 'The truth is whichever way we do it - have
a number one and two driver who obeys everything he is told or
the other way around - we are criticized.'
Ferrari provoked a storm of controversy last year by swapping
the racing order in Austria and instilling Michael Schumacher
as the undeserved winner of the race.
'Ferrari were rather selfish, you might say, in the way they
controlled Rubens but they were serious about the championship
and they got what they were after.
'At the end of the day they delivered to themselves and to
But Ralf and Juan Pablo, both 27 and billed as similarly
talented, collided at the United States Grand Prix start last
year incurring the wrath of Williams technical boss Patrick
Williams, meanwhile, is still not tempted to take a leaf out
of Ferrari's championship winning book to limit the horizon of
one of his drivers.
'They will be racing each other hard we have no doubts about
that,' said the Grove chief. 'We are racers, that's why we are
Berger Scotches Williams Title Hopes
Gerhard Berger has dashed hopes for a BMW-powered Williams
world championship this year.
The Austrian, joint BMW Motorsport Director, says that
reigning rulers Scuderia Ferrari will continue to paint the
race-tracks scarlet red in 2003.
He said: 'Unless something suddenly goes wrong at Ferrari,
it's unlikely that the BMW Williams team will be world
champions in 2003.'
Williams unveiled an innovative new FW25 design at the Circuit
de Catalunya last Friday, amid boasts of championship
challenges and hopes of taking on Michael Schumacher.
Berger, meanwhile, does admit that his Munich employers at BMW
have designed another benchmark-setting powerplant with the
'We certainly want to see more podium places and wins than
last year,' the 43-year-old adds.
Williams technical director Patrick Head, however, is not yet
ruling out a world championship with his new racer born out of
a 'new generation of ideas.'
He said: 'We expect Ferrari to make another significant step
with their 2003 car but we consider that the FW25 will provide
a much stronger basis to mount a challenge than was the case
But Gerhard Berger, a thirteen-year veteran behind the driving
wheel of Benettons, Ferraris and McLarens, thinks 2003 is more
likely to be spent battling it out with silver rivals.
The Austrian thinks McLaren are looking good particularly
after engine supplier Mercedes-Benz poached lauded engine
director Werner Laurenz from BMW.
Berger adds: 'We will have to keep an eye on McLaren for sure,
especially now that Mercedes has poached some of our
technicians and the team is bound to grow in strength again.'
Montoya Not Ready To Win
Juan Pablo Montoya is not yet ready to mount a challenge for
the world championship.
That is the warning of his team boss Sir Frank Williams as the
Grove team put the first development miles on a bold new FW25
package in Spain on the weekend.
'Juan has got to respect the challenge around him and react
accordingly,' said Williams.
'That is the bridge, the gulf he has to cross, but he has to
work that out himself.'
Montoya, from Colombia, scored seven pole positions but never
once converted ultimate race victory in his second season of
Moreover, the 27-year-old grew visibly frustrated at the
Barcelona launch by the incessant calls of the media that
Michael Schumacher is effectively invincible in F1 at present.
'If we had the car he had we could win the championship as
well,' said Montoya.
'You hear it every five minutes that you need to do things the
way Michael does it - because Michael wins.
'Michael wins because he has got the car with which to win and
we don't. Hopefully we have got the car this year that can
But BMW Motorsport Director Gerhard Berger concurs with his
chassis-building boss that Juan Pablo has some way to go
before he is ready to taste ultimate spoils.
'Juan is one of the most talented drivers I have ever seen,'
'His car control is brilliant, his overtaking is brilliant. On
the driving side he is the same level as Michael.
'For him it is a question of how every weekend he can get the
best out of the car, that is where he is lacking a bit in
experience so maybe he has to work hard on this area.'
Ralf Schumacher, though - Montoya's teammate - insists that
all he needs is a competitive car and the world championship
will be his.
The team agrees: 'It is now up to us to give [Ralf] the car he
needs,' says technical director Patrick Head.
'He has all the experience, consistency and skills required to
mount a championship challenge. That was not always the case,'
Schumacher, from Germany, says: 'As soon as we have a similar
package to Ferrari it is going to be very difficult for them.
'Michael is an outstanding driver but it took Michael five
years to win the championship with Ferrari.'
Ralf Dispels Big Brother Magic
Ralf Schumacher has moved to dispel much of the myth that
surrounds his illustrious and successful racing brother,
While the younger German pays tribute to Michael's patience,
work and talent at the Ferrari driving wheel, he says much of
his dominance can be attributed to the Scuderia itself.
'What Michael has achieved in his career is outstanding,' Ralf
explained as he embarked on the first development training of
the bold and promising new Williams FW25.
'It's not luck that he has achieved it. But there are four or
five drivers in Formula One who are able to win the
championship with the right package,' he adds.
'I pretend to be one of the ones who is really close and there
is no magic about it.'
Ralf points to the rise of Finnish double champion Mika
Hakkinen, who soared to dominant titles from Michael
Schumacher in 1998 and 1999, as an example.
'Look at Mika Hakkinen,' says Schumacher. 'He stepped into the
McLaren when it was down there even behind Jordan and he made
it into a winning team and won two titles.
'It is possible but it takes time.'
He urges that BMW and Williams are not lagging behind a
sensible timeline to return world championship success to Sir
Frank's trophy cabinet.
Ralf adds: 'This is our fourth year with BMW and Michael took
five seasons to get his first championship title with
So he thinks the Maranello stable will stay on top for at
least another year or two.
'Looking at last year, it is only Ferrari that can beat
themselves with an unreliable engine or package,' says the
Facelift For Hungaroring Circuit
The Hungaroring will implement changes aimed at improving
overtaking ahead of its 2003 Grand Prix.
Located just out of Budapest's bustling centre, the tight and
twisty circuit has been criticized by observer and pilot alike
since it hit the F1 schedule with a popular race in 1986.
But although the Hungarian - and Finnish - fans come in their
droves for the annual event, the lack of overtaking
opportunities often spells processional and uninspiring races.
Hungaroring will be extended by just under 400m this year,
including the extension of the final right-hander before the
Furthermore, the front straight will be considerably
lengthened to better allow for overtaking moves into a
re-profiled and extended turn one - wider and tighter for the
It is speculated that the Hungarian organizers have decided to
spice up their track after Bernie Ecclestone warned that at
least one more European circuit will get the chop.
Russia, Turkey and Egypt wait in the wings for a berth on a
new-look grand prix schedule boasting Bahrain and China in
A new grandstand will also be built at the first corner at
The well-organised and attended Hungarian Grand Prix recently
won the 2002 F1 Constructors' Association Award for the best
Be Like Mike, Urges Williams Team
Juan Pablo Montoya could learn one or two things from Formula
One's reigning champion Michael Schumacher.
Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer at title-aspirant team
Williams, thinks even Ralf Schumacher could afford to look up
to big brother Michael for a few tips of racing advice.
'It is amazing what difference a driver can make to a team in
terms of motivation,' Michael said as the first testing miles
were put on the all-new FW25 car on the weekend.
'And that's the difference between our drivers and Michael,'
the Australian added.
Sam recalls paddock stories of Ferrari ace Michael Schumacher
phoning up his team boss at 10pm to find out, for example,
what springs Luca Badoer had on the car on a particular test
day at Fiorano.
'Our guys just do not do that,' the 30-year-old reports. 'But
it is so tight at the front now you have to do it.
'If a driver is informed enough to make his contribution like
Michael, it makes a difference,' he continued. 'They have to
step up to the mark and have a close look at how they do
He says Ralf and Juan Pablo have improved in that realm but
still need to take a 'quantum leap.'
Sam adds: 'You can't just sit back and say it's all down to
the designers to get the fastest out of the car.'
Bur Ralf was quick to jump to his defense. 'I'd be very
surprised if Michael rings anyone up at 10pm when he is at
home,' said the 27-year-old, staring down his seventh year of
'Anyway, if I ring Frank or Sam at that time, they are usually
Juan Pablo was visibly disturbed by all the Schumacher-talk at
the FW25 launch in Barcelona late last week.
'I do not understand all this about Michael,' he said.
'If we had his car, we could win the championship. You hear it
every five minutes that you need to do the things the way
Michael does it because Michael wins.'
Ralf added: 'F1 these days is so complex, how should one
individual do the job which we need 600 people to do. It's
'At the end of the day to always blame the driver and say we
need a Michael Schumacher to win is an easy excuse.'
Da Matta Beats Off Doomsayers
Cristiano Da Matta is refusing to listen to speculation
forecasting a short and unsuccessful Formula One career for
the young Brazilian.
Arriving at the pinnacle of motorsports as a Toyota marketing
favorite and reigning CART Champion, the 29-year-old has so
far failed to set the testing timesheets alight.
But he refuses to pay heed to those doomsayers who predict
he'll go the way of doomed 2002 Toyota F1 drivers Allan McNish
and Mika Salo.
'To be honest I simply don't listen to these stories,' he said
- incidentally just before going fastest on Sunday at the
Circuit de Catalunya in sunny Spain.
'My mind is set on doing the best job I can. If I thought that
I wouldn't be competitive in F1 I would have stayed in the
Da Matta spent 2002 dominating the US-based CART series,
winning seven races from seven dominant pole positions.
He thinks Toyota, though, are a good ticket to Formula One
'Of course, Formula One is the top motorsport series in the
world and I am with a team that has a very big chance of
progress,' he added.
'The chance of being a winner in the next few years is good.'
Last Roll Of Dice For Villeneuve
2003 is Jacques Villeneuve's last roll of the dice, and the
1997 world champion knows it.
'This season is going to be very important,' the
French-Canadian, contemplating his fifth season with the
mid-fielding BAR team, says.
'After four bad years it doesn't matter how hard you drive or
work because there is no result.'
He admits: 'Another year like the ones I have experienced with
BAR and it's going to be difficult to find another seat.'
The outspoken Quebecois arrived on the scene as a rated young
Indycar champion, and by the end of his second season had
conquered the Formula One title with Williams.
But, refusing an offer to join McLaren for 1999 (and for
Benetton-Renault in 2001), Jacques stayed focused on the new
challenge with manager-mentor Craig Pollock at his new BAR
Four years later, Pollock is ousted and setting up a CART team
that may ultimately prove Villeneuve's only premier
Villeneuve, however, is still hungry for continued grand prix
success - and he intends to use 2003 and a tidy Geoff
Willis-designed BAR005 racer as his platform to further
The 31-year-old adds: 'It's not a question of leaving the team
but they might not want me - or I might not want to stay.
'I have always given my best,' he continues.
'I have never lost motivation and I will continue to give 100
per cent until the last day of my contract.'
No Breakaway Without FIA Backing
The proposed breakaway championship, dubbed GPWC, will not go
ahead without the backing of the governing FIA.
Renault President Patrick Faure dropped the hint after
speculation mounted that the rogue manufacturers may attempt
to leave Formula One without the support of the world
'There's no reason we cant work with the FIA,' Faure said of
the Paris-based Federation headed by determined Briton Max
'It would be a big mistake to have car companies making the
regulations. You really cannot have a championship where
competitors make the regulations.'
GPWC, comprised of big manufacturers including Renault, Ford,
Ferrari, Mercedes and BMW, intend to race in their own series
if more F1 income is not forthcoming to the teams.
Grand Prix's competitors presently take only about a quarter
of all Formula One revenue.
GPWC, according to reports, said it would negotiate with F1
impresario Bernie Ecclestone for a new Concorde Agreement only
if 70% of all revenue finds its way into the teams' pockets.
The breakaway group recently commissioned Goldman Sachs to
investigate the possible purchase of Formula One's commercial
rights, held in a trust dubbed SLEC.
'I hope we have a compromise,' Faure, a Frenchman, said.
'We want to work with the people who want to secure the future
of F1 but who don't want to keep the money for themselves.
'We do not want to keep the money for GPWC - we want the money
to go to the teams on an equal, transparent basis.
'Whatever happens, this is how F1 needs to be.'
McLaren boss Ron Dennis, whose Woking operation is 40% owned
by Mercedes, concurs that Formula One's authorities need to
secure the sport's future by forwarding more money to the
He says that the fate of fading privateers including Prost,
Arrows (both defunct), Jordan and Minardi could be secured if
the F1 'pot' is distributed more fairly.
'In respect of the commercial pot of F1, the teams receive
less than 25 per cent,' Dennis said.
'If the teams are benefiting from a larger percentage of that,
some of the pressures on the smaller teams would not be
Schumacher: Road Safety Advocate
Michael Schumacher may be the fastest man on the Grand Prix
circuit, but he is also a keen advocate of road safety.
The five times world champion, whose 2002 triumph encapsulated
eleven wins and the quickest ever title campaign, urges
ordinary road users to buckle up, use baby seats for small
children and secure any loose baggage.
'I love to drive,' Schumacher said in Corriere della Sera
'I love to battle wheel to wheel and try and be first to enter
into a turn, but these are things I do in a race.'
He added: 'Driving on a closed track is completely different
from driving on a normal street.'
Schumacher first became an outward advocate for road safety
when the governing FIA ordered him to head a publicity
campaign - for punting Jacques Villeneuve off the circuit in a
1997 season finale.
He continued in the Italian daily by urging cyclists to wear
helmets and motorists to obey speed limits.
Da Matta Fastest At Barcelona
Reigning CART champion Cristiano Da Matta topped the
timesheets for the first time in his new Formula One career on
Sunday, the Brazilian beating home a field of five.
The 29-year-old was the only Toyota driver in action as the
Cologne-based team kicked off another four-day test in Spain,
at the chilly but dry Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.
Da Matta was on duty at the wheel of the all-new TF103, and
set a best time of 1m17.182 over 57 laps of the 4.73 km track.
The GP rookie, who'll make his Formula One debut in Australia
in just five weeks, worked on mechanical and aerodynamic
'It is my third test at the Barcelona circuit with the team,
but actually my first here at the wheel of the TF103,' he
'After this first day, I can already say that I am happy with
the way the car behaves on this track. I feel it is well
balanced, even more than on the Valencia circuit in the last
'We managed quite a lot of laps and almost went through our
task list for today, despite a few breaks. It is a good
opening to our four-day test here since we have an extensive
technical program to cover.'
Jacques Villeneuve continued to embark on his longest
consecutive stint of Grand Prix testing in a seven-year career
by clocking up miles in his BAR005.
Going second fastest, the Canadian managed 39 laps but was
again hindered by a couple of niggling technical problems with
the new Honda V10.
His team-mate Jenson Button focused on a program of 54 laps to
go third fastest, less than a tenth slower than Villeneuve,
with the 005.
Meanwhile, BMW-Williams pilots Marc Gene and Ralf Schumacher
started development work with the newly-launched FW25,
bringing up the rear of the times.
Sunday At Barcelona:
1 Cristiano Da Matta Toyota 56 1:17.182
2 Jacques Villeneuve BAR-Honda 39 1:18.043
3 Jenson Button BAR-Honda 54 1:18.139
4 Marc Gené Williams-BMW 85 1:18.280
5 Ralf Schumacher Williams-BMW 52 1:19.800
Ralf And Marc Debut New FW25
Ralf Schumacher and dedicated development pilot Marc Gene were
charged with the duty of carrying out the first tests of the
all-new Williams FW25 on the weekend.
On the sunny - albeit chilly - and dry Circuit de Catalunya in
Spain, the pair built on the Friday shake-down of Juan Pablo
Montoya by clocking up more than a race distance for the
promising new BMW-charger.
Schumacher and Gene, although trailing the ultimate Sunday
pace at Barcelona set by Cristiano Da Matta's Toyota, were
able to match the fastest race lap of 2002, set by Michael
Schumacher, by more than a second.
In his 52 laps, Ralf performed a long stint of ten laps, while
Marc completed 85 laps and achieved the top speed of the day
On Sunday, the Spaniard conducted long stints of 18 laps each,
his tally of 85 circuit tours more than any other competitor
Meanwhile, trackside observers noted that Williams used a
special cover for the new car, hiding rear wing and diffuser
from spying pitlane eyes at the Catalan facility.
Williams, based in Oxfordshire, will remain on track with the
new FW25 until Wednesday.
Williams: Poison In The Paddock
Sir Frank Williams often referred to rumored illegal traction
control as 'poison in the paddock' prior to 2001.
But two years ago, for the Spanish Grand Prix, the governing
FIA seemingly admitted it could not police clandestine
wheelspin-limiting systems and legalized electronic driver
Now, though - as traction and launch control again disappear
from the Grand Prix rulebook - Williams is worried that the
poison of cheating could again come knocking.
Fancy electronic systems will be banned by the British Grand
Prix at Silverstone this year.
Williams just hopes the Traction Control Police will be better
equipped than in the previous banned-era of 1993 - 2001, when
rumor ran rife that some teams were cheating.
'I just hope that they can be policed better than they had
been before,' said Williams.
'God forbid it comes back but I believe the FIA is prepared to
include the manufacturers and the teams in satisfactory
electronic controls that really can detect anyone that is not
playing the game.
'The only reason traction control came back in Barcelona in
2001 was because the FIA felt it could not properly be
policed. It wasn't that teams were desperate to have it.
'It will be nice to see some drivers able to exploit their
vehicles better than others purely by talent.'
But Sir Frank predicts that the on-track spectacle will
improve 'usefully, but not dramatically.'
Schu Larger Than Life In Melbourne
Deep within the bowels of a warehouse in Melbourne, five times
world champion Michael Schumacher is literally larger than
Australian-based Zimbabwean-born sculptor Mitch Mitchell has a
passion so burning for the 33-year-old champion that he is
currently working on a three-metre 'stat-schu' of him.
Mitchell hopes the eight-foot statue will be cast in bronze in
time for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, held at
Albert Park, on the second weekend in March.
The clay monument to German driving ace Schumacher - the
result of 16-hours of intensive daily work over a six-week
period - depicts him giving the famous victory salute after
another Grand Prix triumph.
Michael Schumacher will defend triple consecutive Australian
grands prix when he lands back in Victoria's capital in just
five weeks' time.
Feedback can be sent to
Go to our
to discuss this article