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By Andrew Maitland
January 2, 2004


Jordan Can Win The F1 Title: Team Boss
Jordan can win the F1 world championship, according to its ebullient boss.

The Irishman, Eddie Jordan, told the Guardian newspaper that 2003, with a taut race budget, had been a 'big struggle.'

'We ran out of steam towards the end of the year,' he said.

But EJ insists that he's a 'born optimist.'

'This year was a real emotional roller coaster but I've always taken an upbeat view of my involvement in the Formula One business.'

Giancarlo Fisichella, who's off to Sauber in '04, won the Brazilian Grand Prix.

But the biggest disappointment of the year, says Jordan, was that the Ford-powered team couldn't build on the Italian racer's breakthrough.

The rest of the season was pretty bad for the Silverstone-based outfit.

'We were never able to give our drivers the equipment they deserved on a consistent basis,' said Jordan.

'It's bloody frustrating in this business trying to scrape by on a small budget when you can see the top teams operating on perhaps five times your money.'

But there's no real complaining from EJ - after all, his Irish luck got him through the pre-qualifying days of 1991, 'and I'm a lucky sod,' he admits.

'Who says Jordan can't win a championship,' he fires. 'Of course we can.'








Schu Celebrates Birthday In Norway
Michael Schumacher will celebrate his 35th birthday on Saturday.

The six-times world champion is ensconced at his Trysil winter getaway, in the Norwegian mountains, with his wife Corinna and two young children.

Schumacher, a German, will start the 2004 series, in a Ferrari, as the second-oldest driver in Formula One - just behind Toyota's 36-year-old Olivier Panis.

But despite the new wrinkles, Michael's more 'motivated than ever,' according to the Maranello-based outfit's technical director and friend, Ross Brawn.

'In 2004 we're going to see the best Schumi ever,' said the Briton.

He'll also have a sparkling new scarlet racer to drive from the very first grand prix of the New Season, according to Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo.

The Italian told Kicker: 'For us it's settled.'








Junior Stars To Attend Sauber Launch
Red Bull's up-and-coming Formula One drivers will attend the launch of grand prix team Sauber in Salzburg, Austria, in little more than a week.

At Hangar-7, at the Salzburg Airport, Dominique Claessens, Colin Fleming, Matt Jaskol and Scott Speed will watch as the Ferrari-powered C23 is unveiled.

The launch starts in the late-morning on January 12.

Red Bull, the Austrian energy drinks brand, this season will propel their first F1 star onto the grand prix grid, in the form of Jaguar's Christian Klien.

The Junior Team drivers will also spend a week at a performance diagnostics centre in preparation for their 2004 campaigns in lower categories.

Former GP ace and program chief Danny Sullivan is set to attend the launch.

Meanwhile, BMW-Williams will become the first Formula One team to officially undrape their 2004-specification challenger, the FW26, on Monday.








Alonso Still Tuning His F1 Race-Craft
Fernando Alonso is still tuning his craft behind the wheel of a Formula One car.

Voted 'Driver of the Year' by F1 Racing, the 22-year-old Spaniard nonetheless admits he's still got some way to go before he reaches the top of his sport.

'I've got to learn to be tuned into my car, and not to make up its shortcomings by unconsciously changing the way I drive,' he told the magazine.

Alonso, who won his first grand prix in a Renault last season, insists there is 'nothing thought out' about how he attacks the corners and braking zones.

He said: 'I can't explain it. I get behind the wheel, I drive as fast as I can. I adapt. It comes naturally.'

The team's engineering chief, Patrick Symonds, suggests that Alonso should work harder to better apply his supreme talent to the world of Formula One.

'He's got everything it takes to succeed,' the Briton explained, 'but he needs to work harder and get more involved.'

Symonds reckons the best drivers, like Michael Schumacher, aren't happy to 'wait around' and that their success 'doesn't come easily.'

He concluded: 'Drivers have to show the same commitment as all the other team members. That isn't always the case [with Fernando].'








F1 Privateers To Get Financial Boost
Formula One's surviving trio of independently-funded teams look set to receive more money under the provisions of a newly-negotiated Concorde Agreement.

Meanwhile, Peter Sauber - the most competitive of the trio including Minardi and Jordan - insisted that 'not only the small' teams need better financing.

'At the moment,' said the Swiss, 'F1 is a very expensive sport. On the financial side, I hope we can improve on this part.'

Last month, a dispute between F1 carmakers, Bernie Ecclestone and rights-owning banks was settled in the promise of more money for all Formula One stakeholders.

British media reports insist that the new deal could see up to $20 million more in the pockets of each Formula One team from 2008 onwards.

Moreover, cash-strapped Minardi principal Paul Stoddart told Autosport that something may be on the horizon as early as the first portion of this New Year.

'Clearly we are safe for '04, no ifs or buts,' said the Australian.

He added: 'The only way to improve the performance of smaller teams is to make sure they have a bigger slice of the revenue, as is done in most other sports.'








Klien: More Than F1's New Mega Pay-Driver
Mark Webber doesn't really care who his Formula One team-mate is.

'I'm prepared for anything,' said the Aussie. 'It doesn't really affect me.'

That's precisely how an assessment of his next fellow occupant of the Jaguar Racing contender, Austrian 20-year-old Christian Klien, sounds so convincing.

Klien, pronounced 'clean', brings $15m to the seat in Red Bull sponsorship.

That fact has already attracted the wrong attention and criticism for the Ford-backed team in green for opting in favor of cash over sheer natural talent.

Webber, 26, insists that Klien is better than his previous two challengers.

'No mate,' he said, denying the supposed Jaguar priority of cash over talent, 'I really do think he's good.

'He took to the car in the slow and medium-speed corners faster than either Antonio Pizzonia or Justin Wilson. He understands the car.'

Jaguar boss Tony Purnell also rates Klien.

'You have to stand by your decisions, don't you,' he insists. 'I rate Christian and I think he's going to surprise people. He is very mature.'

When the 20-year-old first tested a Jaguar at Valencia, his first time in an F1 car, Purnell was standing at an elevated point, watching the R4 closely.

He said: 'There's a point where you can see most of the track, and I was quite surprised. Frankly, he looked pretty slow and I was beginning to wonder.'

But then he checked the times on the pitwall. 'They were genuinely quick.'








Courtney Out To Remind F1 Bosses Of Talent
James Courtney intends to remind Formula One bosses of his potential in 2004.

The Australian, F3 champion in Japan last year, knocked his grand prix ambitions out in an horror testing shunt whilst driving a Jaguar at Monza in 2002.

His 325km/h crash cost him severe concussion, temporary paralysis, and headaches for six months - not to mention the British Formula Three title.

Courtney, his career in tatters, headed to Japan.

Now, Australian sources insist that the Sydneysider will confirm, in days, his participation in both Formula Nippon and the All-Japan GT series this season.

'If you haven't got $10 million behind you,' he told Motorsport News, 'there's little chance of doing anything unless it is with a manufacturer.'

Courtney says all he can do is 'push and hope my results get me there.'

The 23-year-old reckons he's just as good as many of the newest young-guns who've hit Formula One in the last couple of seasons.

'I think I deserve the opportunity,' he added. 'But for reasons that are out of my control, not of my doing, I'm not there at the moment.'

James will commute from Queensland to Asia throughout 2004.

And after his previous berth as the 'face of Jaguar,' Courtney's new goal is to woo and maintain the support of Japan's biggest racing carmaker - Toyota.

'Open-wheelers give me my prime enjoyment,' he explained. 'But doing [saloon] GT as well will keep Toyota and me happy.'








Schu: Today's F1 Opposition Is Tough
Every success since 2000 has been a bonus, according to Michael Schumacher.

The German, now six-times a world champion, insists that he achieved all his Formula One aspirations when he won Ferrari's first drivers' title since 1979.

'I achieved my goal with that first title [for Ferrari],' Schumacher said. 'Everything since has just been a bonus.'

Michael, who'll turn 35 on Saturday, holds just about every Formula One record in the book, including for most world titles, race victories and series points.

So why would he extend his scarlet contract through to 2006?

'I just love racing,' Schumacher replies. 'I still get goose bumps every time I pull my visor down. I have a brilliant time on the track.'

Currently at a retreat in Norway, the Swiss-based racer also intimates that today's opposition is tougher than when he went head-to-head with Mika Hakkinen.

Some say F1's grid is as rich in talent, with Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber, as it was in the days of the 80s.

'The competition is tough at the moment,' said Schumacher. 'But that just makes things even more exciting.'








The Highs And Lows Of Formula One: Jordan
Eddie Jordan's high-point of the 2003 season was the Brazilian Grand Prix.

There, albeit only confirmed a few days later by errant timekeepers, Roman ace Giancarlo Fisichella defied the odds to secure his maiden Formula One win.

But that high served only in stark contrast with Jordan's season lows.

Even the Irish boss, EJ, admits the 'dramatic low' of the lost, million-dollar legal action against Ferrari sponsor Vodafone.

'We believed we had a commitment [from them] to sponsor our team,' he told the Guardian.

Not only did Jordan lose the case, he got a roasting from the High Court judge.

'I was really shocked by some of the critical comments,' he said, 'and I was obviously concerned about the repercussions for the team.'

And despite widespread disturbance as to the merits of the case, Jordan still has 'no doubts' in his mind as to the sincerity of the action.

'But the verdict did hurt us,' he openly admits. 'That said, people move on and put these things behind them.'








Agent Keeps F1 Doors Open For Villeneuve
Craig Pollock is keeping doors in Formula One open for his champion charge.

French-Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, title winner of 1997, has been booted out of BAR-Honda for 2004 but his agent is determined not to see the dream end yet.

The 32-year-old himself doubts if another factory door will ever open to him.

'When the top teams don't want you, they're not going to want to sign you after a year of doing nothing,' he said on a recent ski event in Switzerland.

But Pollock, former BAR boss and his manager, said he would remain 'in contact' with every single Formula One team during the 2004 championship series.

'We're not in a position to say anything,' he added. 'It's Jacques directing this, not me - I'm just keeping the doors open.'

Pollock insists that possibilities 'in the future' still exist in F1.

'But he's got to want those possibilities,' said the Scot.








Schumacher: 13th Best Sportsman In World?
Australia's Herald Sun newspaper has named Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher only thirteenth on a list of the world's top-50 sports-people.

Respected hack Jon Anderson cited 'recent brilliance', 'marketing appeal', 'longevity', and 'sportsmanship' as crucial factors for his personal list.

With a Thai mother and a black father, golfer Tiger Woods - despite failing to win a major tournament in 2003 - is still number one for Anderson.

He said the American is one of the world's few sportsmen 'capable of moving beyond mere sport to exert an influence.'

Schumacher, the most dominant and successful motor racer of all time, was beaten to the line by such names as Andre Agassi and cricket's Sachin Tendulkar.

Anderson said Ferrari's Michael, from Germany, is still a 'supreme technician in a sport that has as much reliance on machinery as human ability.'

Soccer's Ronaldo was 8th, basketball's Shaquille O'Neal 7th, tennis ace Serena Williams 5th and cycling superstar Lance Armstrong a strong third.

French football player Zinedine Zidane is the second-best sportsperson on earth, according to the Herald Sun's subjective ranking. '

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