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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 5, 2004


Raikkonen Gets First Taste Of New McLaren
This week, Finnish ace Kimi Raikkonen will get a taste of the car with which he hopes to charge for the 2004 Formula One world championship.

The 24-year-old, having recovered from minor wrist surgery to remove a calcium cyst, is scheduled to drive the MP4-19 at Jerez, in Spain, from Thursday.

'It is looking very promising and should be a good car for next year,' he said.

Raikkonen, runner-up to Ferrari's Michael Schumacher in last year's title charge, has been keeping up to date with the 19's early progress.

'We have done the first testing,' he said of programs steered by David Coulthard, Alex Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa, 'and it looked very promising.

'It did good times and we were the quickest on the last day.'

The four-day McLaren session runs from Thursday (the 8th) to Sunday, with Scottish race team-mate Coulthard and Catalan tester de la Rosa also in action.








Villeneuve In Jordan F1 Drive Link
Following a report by this publication on Friday, speculation is gathering pace that Jacques Villeneuve might lurch back into Formula One in 2004.

The embattled former champion was dumped by BAR-Honda at the end of last season but might now be considering a pay-drive for cash-strapped team Jordan-Ford.

Sources hint that the benefits of a deal are twofold; first, it would ensure that 32-year-old JV is not forgotten by the pinnacle of global motor racing.

And, second, Eddie Jordan would have a novel weapon to woo new sponsors to the team without having to plump for traditional, slow-coach pay-drivers.

Jacques, son of legendary Gilles Villeneuve, won 11 grands prix for Williams.

Moreover, yet another insider hinted that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, a staunch supporter for 'characters' in the sport, is backing the proposed move.

Jordan said last week that it is 'bloody frustrating' to try and scrape along the Formula One main-straight on a budget five times smaller than the leaders.

Villeneuve's manager, Craig Pollock, said last week he was 'keeping doors open' for his charge in Formula One by maintaining contact with all teams.








Schumacher To Quit If Winning Stops
Michael Schumacher will keep racing a Ferrari in Formula One; but only if he can maintain a winning margin.

The German hinted to the Sunday Mirror newspaper that retirement might beckon if another 'scarlet crisis' strikes his Maranello-based outfit in 2004.

'It was very hard for all of us at Ferrari at the start [of 2003] and I would not like to be in that situation again,' he said.

'I much prefer to be winning.'

Recently, the 35-year-old warned that he would hang up his six-times title-winning helmet if a member of Ferrari told him he was no longer on the pace.

Schumacher now insists that Ferrari 'can't guarantee' a competitive car in 2004.

He added: 'It was tough to win the championship last season and I think it will be even tougher this season.

'It is going to be a big fight and very tight again with our main rivals, but I am optimistic our new car will give us another step forward.'

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has already promised Schumacher a 'new car' from the very first grand prix of the new season, in Melbourne.

'I think we can be confident for the new season,' Kerpen-born Michael, who is tipped to climb back into the F1 seat in about two weeks, asserts.








Barrichello Wins New Two-Year Race Deal?
Brazilian racer Rubens Barrichello will steer a Ferrari through to the end of 2006, if a report by Swiss daily Blick is believed.

Blick and its authoritative F1 editor insist that the 30-year-old Paulista recently signed a two-year extension to his current deal, set to end in '04.

Barrichello's sought-after seat in scarlet has previously been linked to young-guns including Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.

Ferrari, sweeping world champions since 2000, moved swiftly to deny the story.

A spokesman told Atlas F1: 'We have not signed anything.'

He continued, 'The speculation is just that. Nothing has changed and we will sit down and discuss things with Rubens when the time comes.'

Key Ferrari members including Michael Schumacher, Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and Paulo Martinelli are all under contract to the end of 2006.








Ralf Still At Odds With Team Over New Deal
Ralf Schumacher does not expect his future in the top category of motor racing to become any clearer for at least several months.

The German, in Spain for the launch of a new BMW-Williams, cannot agree terms with his employers over a proposed new contract through to 2006.

Sources, including his manager Willi Weber, explained that the stumbling block related to terms of the agreement, including deals with personal sponsors.

But Schumacher, 28, hints that it might not entirely be true.

'The real reasons are confidential,' he told reporters in Valencia on the weekend. 'I would not expect anything to happen in the near future.'

Ralf, younger-brother to world champion Michael Schumacher, continued to Germany's Bild publication that stalling the talks were 'my decision.'

Sources continue to insist that Schumacher, Weber and Sir Frank Williams maintain opposite views on how much the rated racer should be paid per year.

Ralf is looking for a $3.6 million pay-increase, according to an insider.

'I want to concentrate on winning races,' Schumacher maintained. 'We will then always be able to reach an agreement if the conditions are right.'






Wilson: Rule-Change To Pave F1 Return In '05
Justin Wilson may not become one of Formula One's forgotten men in 2004.

The Englishman was dumped by Jaguar at the end of last season but now can't even join a bottom-six team as a practice test driver under new FIA regulations.

His manager Jonathan Palmer, however, reckons the rule might yet change.

'It seems there is a reasonable chance the third driver rule will be changed and that is what we are waiting for,' said the former grand prix driver.

Jaguar maintain that a test driving berth for the six-foot-three driver remains open but only pending an FIA u-turn on the restrictive regulation.

Top teams say it is unfair that bottom-six rivals stand to collate more data in the official practice sessions in 2004 with an overly-experienced driver.

Wilson, 25, drove sixteen grands prix in 2003 with Minardi and the 'Cat.

'Although it would be better for him to be racing,' Palmer concluded, 'this may enable him to secure a return in 2005.'








Indian Hopeful To Wait Another F1 Season
Perpetual F1 hopeful Narain Karthikeyan may have to wait yet another racing season before he gets a realistic shot at a Formula One assault.

The Indian, on the weekend, was linked with a last-minute ousting of confirmed 2004 Minardi driver Gianmaria Bruni, according to exclusive sources.

Moreover, media reports indicated that Minardi chief Paul Stoddart was preparing to fly to West Bengal (Calcutta) for talks with Karthikeyan's main sponsor.

'Tata', the sponsor, had total revenues in excess of $11 billion last year.

Roman-born Bruni's consortium of Italian backers, who are promising some $5 million to the back-of-the-grid team, were wavering, according to sources.

Yet another source close to Minardi, however, insisted that the reports were 'wide of the mark' although you should 'never say never' in Formula One.

The source said he had 'no knowledge' of a trip for Stoddart to India.








Trulli Defies 'F1 Curse'
Jarno Trulli reckons his F1 career has been plagued with bad luck.

The Pescara-born ace, to start his third season with Renault in '04, has - in nearly 120 grand prix starts - finished on the podium only twice.

Before that, his form behind the wheel of a racer was impeccable; German F3 champion and numerous world and Italian go-kart series championships.

'It's so clear that I've been unlucky so many times,' said the 29-year-old. 'But I'm sure my luck will change some day.'

Trulli rejects the interpretation that his F1 career is 'cursed.'

'I don't believe that,' he snapped. 'Throughout my career I've always had normal levels of luck - well ... until Formula One.'

If he is experiencing a less-than-normal run of back luck, however, the Italian driver confessed that there's little he can do about it.

'All I have to do is concentrate and stay 100 percent committed,' said Trulli. 'I have to believe. I do believe. I have to trust myself. I do trust myself.'

Jarno started his F1 career in 1997 by leading the Austrian GP for Prost.








Abramovich To Score Jordan F1 Team
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is lining up to score a Formula One team.

The owner of the Chelsea Football Club has had four meetings, in secret, with Silverstone-based principal Eddie Jordan in the past four weeks.

Britain's The Sun newspaper maintains that Abramovich, worth some $5 billion, is prepared to offer the Irish entrepreneur some $270m for the Ford-powered team.

A senior racing insider told the newspaper: 'A deal is definitely on the cards. Motor racing is Roman's number one sporting love.'

The insider continued that once Abramovich has bought Jordan Grand Prix, he will buy the 'best cars,' the 'best technicians,' and the 'best drivers.'

Abramovich has already outlaid a reputed $450 on the Chelsea FC.

He added: 'Money is no object.'

The Sun also insists that Roman has had talks with all three F1 privateers and he may be eyeing the proposed grand prix circuit project in Moscow.








McLaren Tried To Buy Montoya For 2004
McLaren chief Ron Dennis tried to buy Juan Pablo Montoya for 2004.

Sir Frank Williams, on the eve of his team's official launch in Spain, said Dennis offered him 'a fee' for the release of his newly-signed Colombian.

'There was never a chance we would let him go early,' he told the Telegraph. Juan's a winner. Why would we want to oblige Ron?'

Williams said McLaren offered David Coulthard in return for 28-year-old Juan.

'Out of the question,' Frank continued. 'Ron asked if I would be interested in letting Juan go for a fee. Money was not the issue. Winning is.'

Sir Frank called Montoya, despite his 2005 defection, a 'killer in the car.'

He said: 'When he gets in, he can't help himself. You can't waste a season through pique or bad temper, especially when you get so close to winning it.'








Webber: Good Riddance To Friday Qualifying
Mark Webber has bode good riddance to Friday qualifying in 2004.

The Jaguar star was a master of the new one-lap format last season but he won't lament its Friday-passing when the racing gets going at Albert Park this March.

'I don't think it will make a huge change to be honest,' the Aussie said.

'I'm a fan of what they've done actually because the Friday session was a bit of a waste of space last year. Saturday and Sunday will now be awesome.'

The two qualifying sessions will now be staged back-to-back on Saturdays.

Webber, 27, insists that the FIA's regulations, introduced in 2003, were 'good for the racing' and the new changes should continue to spice the grids up.

A new engine rule will also have interesting ramifications, according to Webber.

'It'll change things a lot,' he said. 'Teams won't do as many laps on Friday so that's probably where we're going to have to compromise with that rule.'

Each engine carmaker will have different goals for the long-life rule, he said.

He added: 'What Ferrari and BMW are going to do in terms of power is different potentially to what we're going to want to achieve.

Webber also urged Cosworth to 'step up to the plate' in 2004.







Why Sauber Opted Against 'Cheap' F1 Engine
Peter Sauber has explained his decision to stick with customer Ferrari power.

Some months ago, Mercedes offered a subsidized engine agreement to Formula One's three independently-funded outfits for ten million Euros.

That's nearly three times cheaper than Ferrari's customer deal.

'It's really cheap,' Sauber admitted. 'But on the other hand I don't really know what was offered for that money.'

The Swiss-German wonders how many V10 engines per year would have been supplied; how many rebuilds; is the engine an old or new-specification?

With Ferrari, Sauber knows where he stands.

'To go with them makes me a customer,' he said. 'And they treat me as such. But if I have a subsidised engine then I am no longer fully independent.'

But a common perception in F1 circles is that with Sauber's engine deal comes an expectation by Ferrari that the little team agrees with its political stances.

'No,' Sauber replies. 'But as a result of the very good personal relationships I have, it can happen that we come to the same conclusions on a regular basis.'








Ralf Wants To Win 2004 F1 Title
Ralf Schumacher has outlined his aim of winning the 2004 F1 world title.

The German, whose older brother lifted drivers' spoils since the year 2000, said with the new FW26 challenger it 'has' to be his New Year's resolution.

'Yes, of course we have to go for the title this year,' said Schumacher. 'If that is not our aim, we have a problem.'

BMW-Williams will present its new racer, also with team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya on hand, at the Valencia race-circuit (Spain) later Monday.

Ralf is impatient for the season to start on the first weekend in March because he says his Grove-based team would already be on par with champions Ferrari.

He said: 'We would be able to compete fully with Ferrari and McLaren if the season was to start now.'

Team boss Sir Frank Williams has words of praise for his 28-year-old star.

'Ralf is underrated and just as likely as Juan to be hailed as the new king in a few months' time,' he said.

Montoya and Schumacher will shake-down the FW26 following its launch.








Button Is Future Champion: Frank Williams
Jenson Button is a world champion of the future, according to his former boss.

Frank Williams, who lured the Briton onto the F1 circus in 2000, was asked at Valencia on Sunday if he could imagine having Button back in BMW-branded gear.

23-year-old Button is one of several drivers, including Mark Webber, linked with Juan Pablo Montoya's soon-to-be-vacated seat at the Oxfordshire-based outfit.

'Jenson did himself a power of good last year,' Sir Frank told the Telegraph.

'He got serious. He really got his head down. He was in a very happy, balanced and fair environment, and was treated very well.'

Williams added that there was 'no question' Jenson can build on that maturity.

'He is a world champion of the future,' said the 61-year-old principal. 'In the right team, he could put a championship together.'








BMW-Williams Likely To Lead: Montoya
BMW-Williams are most likely to hit Albert Park in the lead next March.

That's the prediction of team driver Juan Pablo Montoya, in southern Spain this morning for the imminent launch of the next BMW-powered F1 challenger.

'The team has done an excellent job,' said the Colombian, who'll switch to McLaren in 2005, 'and I firmly believe that we will have an advantage in 2004.'

Meanwhile, team-mate Ralf Schumacher insisted that both Williams' Formula One drivers were involved in the technical development of the striking new FW26.

'Even so,' said the German, 'the launch is something special.

'It feels just like Christmas, you know roughly what you are going to get, but you're not exactly sure.'

Countless helpers, this morning, are transforming the Valencia circuit into a suitable stage for the launch of the car, according to a Williams spokesman.

'Opposite the truck park in the paddock,' he said, 'the construction of a marquee for the launch of the WilliamsF1 BMW FW26 is under progress.'








Fisichella, Massa, To Test Ferrari Cars In '04
Giancarlo Fisichella will probably test Formula One cars for Ferrari in 2004, according to his new team boss Peter Sauber.

The Roman has always outlined his 'dream' of racing for the marque but should get the next best thing this season as he contributes for tyre development.

Fisichella will race a Ferrari-powered Sauber in 2004.

Sauber told Autosport: 'For us it is important that Ferrari does a lot of tyre testing this year. If they need Felipe Massa or Giancarlo, they can do it.'

Ferrari and Sauber's tyre supplier, Bridgestone, has - with the defection of BAR-Honda - found itself with only one well-funded F1 outfit on its books.

Sauber, the small Hinwil-based operation, will lend Ferrari - who supply the team with engines - its drivers to aid progress on the Japanese-made tyres.

'We will be doing more tyre testing if it's possible,' said Sauber. 'But that's the problem - we do not have the staff to do a lot of tyre testing.'








Moss: Today's F1 Aces Are Missing Out
F1 legend Sir Stirling Moss reckons today's grand prix aces are missing out.

The Briton, who never won the world title, says Michael Schumacher and his rivals 'might get the money' but they don't get the racing lifestyle of the 50s.

'We had all the crumpet,' Moss beamed to The People. 'You would drive to the races yourself and then have a party at the end.

'And if you didn't go to the party, you wouldn't get your money.'

Sir Stirling, winner of 16 F1 races, says he 'could not think of anything worse' than having a grand prix team and its sponsors 'taking over your life.'

One advantage of the modern era, of course, is driver safety.

But Moss insists that the fact that his racer was dangerous 'for me, made it a lot more special.

'You don't want to die but if you pulled a move it felt fantastic.'

Sir Stirling says the F1 authorities have 'buggered up' many of the world's great Formula One circuits by adding chicanes.






Montoya Will Be Frozen Out Of Car Development
Juan Pablo Montoya will be frozen out of development on BMW-Williams' next Formula One contender as he prepares to switch to McLaren in 2005.

Sir Frank Williams said in Valencia, Spain, this morning that he doesn't expect much aggravation this season despite the ace driver's alternate future.

But he admitted: 'Where we might get aggravation is with his peripheral duties, sponsors and so on.

'And we will limit the amount of information we will give him regarding the 2005 car. He won't be privy to all of the discussions that go on.'

Williams told the Sport Telegraph that he was 'sad' about JPM's switch.

'Why?,' he rhetorically asked. 'Because it will make them stronger and us weaker. But it doesn't matter that it is McLaren particularly.'

Sir Frank has a renowned relationship with McLaren's principal Ron Dennis.

But he would have 'felt the same' had 28-year-old Montoya headed to Ferrari.

Williams admitted that part of Juan's desire to try on Mercedes-branded overalls was stimulated by money, and a row at the French Grand Prix.

'He was annoyed with us at the time,' he said, 'and financially he got a better offer from Ron. He was always annoyed that Ralf has been paid more than him.'

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