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
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 reveal.

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 paper.

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 team.

'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 quickly.

'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 year.

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 had collapsed.

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 contracts signed.

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 cost-cutting reform.

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 noted.

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 teams.

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 packages.

'We're trying to ensure that 10 teams go to the first grand prix,' said Dennis. 'We want to find positive solutions for the future.'

The McLaren chief says, for his part, he is prepared to roll out a third racing contender if the grid dips below sixteen competitors.

He added: 'As for third cars, every single team understands its obligations - and is prepared to run a third car if necessary.'

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 have dominated.'

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 have nothing.'

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 unfair dismissal.

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 team Minardi.

'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 compete.'

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 control.

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 July.

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 said.

'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 afternoons.

Both men spoke at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday as the newly-launched FW25 got its first development workout in Spain.

'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 every driver.

'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 qualifying.

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 this year.

That is the opinion of his young brother, Ralf, even despite his Williams team's exciting and innovative new racer, the BMW-powered FW25.

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 and second.

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 July.

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 results.

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 Catalan track.

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 it behaves.'

Williams Enjoy Big-Three Advantage?
The Oxfordshire-based Williams team are fending off speculation that they are outright favourites for Melbourne victory.

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 Australia.

The FW25 is shorter than its predecessor, and 'derives little from previous cars,' according to team technical director Patrick Head.

'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 year.'

But Michael isn't only worried about the world champions, or the silver juggernaut of McLaren which looks destined for a better season.

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 decidedly selfish.

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 their backers.'

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 Head.

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 all here.'

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 P83.

'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 in 2002.'

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 Formula One.

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 win.'

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,' said Berger.

'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,' Head continues.

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, Michael Schumacher.

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 Ferrari.'

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 Kerpen-born racer.

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 pit straight.

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 2003 event.

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 2004.

A new grandstand will also be built at the first corner at Hungaroring.

The well-organised and attended Hungarian Grand Prix recently won the 2002 F1 Constructors' Association Award for the best racing circuit.

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 that.'

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 GP racing.

'Anyway, if I ring Frank or Sam at that time, they are usually in bed!'

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 impossible.

'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 USA.'

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 success.

'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 project.

Four years later, Pollock is ousted and setting up a CART team that may ultimately prove Villeneuve's only premier motorsporting fallback.

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 triumph.

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 motorsport authority.

'There's no reason we cant work with the FIA,' Faure said of the Paris-based Federation headed by determined Briton Max Mosley.

'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 teams.

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 there.'

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 newspaper.

'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 set-up work.

'It is my third test at the Barcelona circuit with the team, but actually my first here at the wheel of the TF103,' he said.

'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 days.

'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 with 293.69kph.

On Sunday, the Spaniard conducted long stints of 18 laps each, his tally of 85 circuit tours more than any other competitor in Barcelona.

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 aids.

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 life.

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.

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