F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 6, 2004
BMW-Williams Unveil Radical FW26
BMW-Williams became the first Formula One team to officially unveil
its 2004 challenger on Monday when the wraps came off a
The car, with a drastic 'tusked' nose-job, was presented at the
Valencia track in Spain and then rolled out by drivers Juan Pablo
Montoya and Ralf Schumacher.
'I am fascinated to see how all of this works together,' said Ralf,
'and it would be fair to say that my expectations are very high.'
Montoya, of Colombia, said the Oxfordshire-based team would now spend
two months in Spain to hone the car in preparation for the first race
of the season.
Chief designer Gavin Fisher was immediately pressed on the innovative
design of the FW26, particularly in relation to the extraordinary
The concept is in tandem with a twin-keel monocoque design.
'It has challenged us throughout its development and there is
certainly a sense that today is a more significant launch day than in
previous years,' he said.
Chief engineer Sam Michael said the new Williams had been launched so
early because in 2003, the team suffered by having little time to
develop the FW25.
'The reason we are here unveiling the FW26 in order to bring our test
programme forward really doesn't need any more explaining,' said the
Schumacher and Montoya, as well as the entire test team, now fly to
nearby Jerez to commence the FW26's first major track session of the
'Our ambition can be nothing other than winning most races, steal
Ferrari's crown and add another Championship title to the record,'
said Frank Williams.
Renault Would Welcome More F1 Races
Flavio Briatore believes Formula One should curb the endless cycle of
'I still believe we're doing too much,' said the managing director of
Last season, Flavio's was one of several teams which opted for the
'Heathrow agreement' - a design to cut down on testing costs for
In 2004, that opportunity is gone.
Briatore added: 'We proved that efficiency is as important as the
sheer number of days you run. Our rate of progress matched the top
The flamboyant Italian insists that F1's business is racing, not
'Races are what people come to watch,' he adds. 'Personally, I would
welcome more races and less testing, but there are other people who
BAR Sign Two-Year Deal
F1 team BAR-Honda has signed a two-year deal with British
communications firm STL as an official supplier.
STL's services will include data transfer from races back to Brackley,
and management of the full telecommunications system at the team
'We are delighted to be consolidating our relationship,' said BAR's
head of IT, David France.
Meanwhile, team driver Jenson Button will head an all-star line-up at
the Autosport International when he opens the show in Birmingham on
'I'll be opening the show the day before I begin testing again,' the
23-year-old driver explained.
Ex-F1 Ace Blamed For Fading Player's Star
Former F1 ace Enrique Bernoldi is being blamed for the fading star of
one of tennis' brightest young players.
Jelena Dokic has pulled out of the ASB Classic in Auckland this week
citing 'personal reasons.'
Reports insist she has been dumped by her boyfriend of 18 months, the
Brazilian Bernoldi, who last drove in Formula One for the now-defunct
Arrows in 2002.
Dokic is too heartbroken to play, according to Australian sources.
Bernoldi, 25, had been credited with helping Jelena break away from
her domineering father, Damir, from whom she is now estranged.
Dokic fell from four in the world ranking last year to fifteen after a
succession of mediocre results.
She's also lost her endorsement deal with the clothing company Fila.
Jordan Diffuse Billionaire-Buyout Claims
British F1 team Jordan-Ford has raced to diffuse rising speculation
that it is to be bought-out by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
Team chief Eddie Jordan was spotted in Roman's Chelsea football club
director box at a match against Newcastle a couple of months ago.
Since then, the pair have had several 'secret' meetings, according to
'Eddie's interest is in the security of the team and making it as
competitive as possible,' said a spokeswoman for the Silverstone-based
grand prix team.
She added: 'Other than that, it is positive to see the level of
interest in Formula One and in our team. That's a good thing.'
Jordan is the only F1 team with any driver vacancies for 2004, amid
conjecture that former world champion Jacques Villeneuve might be
lining up a cockpit.
Abramovich, worth $6 billion, may also be hell-bent on wooing
six-times world champion Michael Schumacher to one of his F1 seats,
Montoya Not Chasing Money To McLaren
Juan Pablo Montoya has denied claims that he's off to McLaren-Mercedes
in 2005 because they can offer him a fatter pay-packet.
The Colombian admitted that he's 'never been happy' with the fact that
his BMW-Williams team-mate, Ralf Schumacher, earns more money than
'But that's not the reason I'm leaving,' he told reporters at the
Valencia launch of a radical new FW26 challenger on Monday.
Juan insists he's not bitter about how Ralf got his good deal.
'It was good timing,' he added. 'I was struggling, not getting what I
needed out of the car. Ralf did well to get a better deal.'
Speculation puts his new McLaren salary at around $20 million per
'You would be surprised,' the 28-year-old smiled. 'I could have earned
more money here. I have got enough money to live with anyway.'
Montoya just wants a new challenge for his fifth season in Formula
'It was an emotional decision to leave because I am very close to
Frank,' he continues. 'At least I know where I'll be driving for the
next five years.'
Williams Target Titles
Not since 1997 have Sir Frank Williams and team cohort Patrick Head
raised a glass of champagne in toast of a Formula One world
'It has been the longest period in our history without winning a
title,' Head, technical director, admitted at Valencia yesterday as
the FW26 was launched.
Head said the innovative, and far from beautiful, 'tusk-nosed' car had
been built with the aim of beating Ferrari to the mantle in 2004.
Defecting driver Juan Pablo Montoya, too, is committed to the
'I still see myself as a BMW-Williams driver,' he said, despite his
already-confirmed switch to British rivals McLaren-Mercedes for season
He added: 'I want to win the title and I don't care if I have to beat
Ferrari or McLaren to do so. I am here to win, simple.'
F1 Bosses Downplay Economic 'Crisis'
A couple of Formula One team principals have moved to downplay the
scarceness of sponsorship opportunities in a waning economic climate.
In recent months, considerable press has been given to a cash 'crisis'
at the pinnacle of motor sports, linked to the failure of
Top-team BMW-Williams, however, secured a number of new partnerships
'In my opinion, there are always opportunities to exploit, you just
have to look for them,' said the team's head Sir Frank Williams at
F1 can also now look increasingly to Asia, the Englishman continued.
'A whole new market of potential commercial opportunity is opening
up,' said Williams, highlighting new-for-2004 grands prix in Bahrain
Williams insists that F1 has to adapt to changing economic contexts.
He added: 'Our commercial team maintains a flexible approach to new
business by ensuring we offer a competitive package for a potential
Enstone-based Renault has just welcomed a new lucrative sponsor to the
'And there will be more sponsors before the start of the season as
well,' said managing director Flavio Briatore.
'I think that overall, the environment is very healthy for Formula
The Italian notes that F1 costs a 'lot of money,' and exploring new
markets in new countries is 'part of getting a good return on that
Palmer Buys Brands Hatch Circuits
Four racing circuits in Britain have been bought by a new company led
by former Formula One driver Dr Jonathan Palmer.
The tracks, formerly owned by Brands Hatch Circuits, have moved hands
so that parent company, US giant Interpublic, can focus exclusively on
Interpublic's Andrew Waller said: 'We believe that our sale to
[Jonathan's] company will help to safeguard the future interests of UK
Palmer, also known as manager to former Jaguar star Justin Wilson and
a trained medical doctor, said racing and the motorsport business has
'dominated my life.'
MotorSport Vision, his company, has two other partners.
The tracks include Brands Hatch in Kent, Snetterton (Norfolk), Oulton
Park (Cheshire) and Cadwell Park (Lincolnshire).
Last year, Sir Jackie Stewart lashed out at media claims that he and
fellow world champion Nigel Mansell were eying the beleaguered British
Ralf And Juan Pleased With FW26 Roll-Out
Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya reported good impressions with
their first taste of the radical FW26 challenger at Valencia late
Montoya, 28, was the first on track, and amassed a total of 14 tours.
'The car doesn't feel a lot different from last year's,' he said,
'which is a very good start and I think we have an excellent potential
The Colombian said he felt comfortable and could push the car from the
New bodywork rules impose less downforce and make the car more
difficult under braking, Montoya reported, but despite that,
'everything feels just right.'
The similarly-aged Schumacher, meanwhile, echoed Montoya's sentiments
that FW26, despite its innovations, feels 'similar to the old car.'
He added: 'Of course this day doesn't tell us much about the
performance - I only completed three laps. It's far too early to make
Tomorrow, Montoya will be joined at Jerez de la Frontera by team
tester Marc Gene to start a seven-day maiden test of the BMW-Williams
German-born Schumacher joins the action later in the week.
Piquet, Pizzonia, To Get Second Chances
Nelson Piquet Junior will get another shot at the wheel of a
At the launch of the radical FW26 in Spain on Monday, team chief Sir
Frank Williams admitted that teenager's maiden F1 outing was a 'bit
'He was a little bit young,' the Englishman explained.
Piquet, nicknamed 'Nelsinho', is the 18-year-old son of the former
Formula One world champion.
Williams said the team would 'call him again' but he didn't know when.
'Probably this year,' said Frank.
Patrick Head, Williams' technical director, confirmed at the Valencia
launch that Piquet will get a 'second run in the car.'
Keke Rosberg's teen son, Nico, impressed with his times at the
Head continued of Nelsinho: 'Certainly it was very interesting to
operate with him at the test. I'm more than convinced he has a strong
Formula One future.'
The technical whiz also confirmed that former test driver Antonio
Pizzonia, who bombed at Jaguar last season, may return to a
development role in 2004.
FW26: Not A Thing Of Beauty
FW26 will not be the handsomest Formula One racer on the 2004 grid.
The car, to make best use of a new twin-keel chassis design, features
an innovative 'tusk' nose aimed at channeling air more efficiently.
'I don't think it's very pretty,' admitted Sir Frank Williams.
Team partner Patrick Head, however - also technical director - rued
that Frank's biggest concern will be the 26's reduced bodywork for
The FW26's nose, as a result of the innovation, is far shorter.
Head added: 'However, having known him for a long time I can assure
you that he'll be happy if it's fast.'
Patrick Head also believes the BMW-powered machine is 'not a thing of
French GP Is Unlikely: F1 Team Boss
France is unlikely to feature on this season's Formula One calendar.
That's the opinion of team chief Sir Frank Williams, who confirmed at
the launch of his FW26 racer that he was 'planning' for a full
schedule of 18 grands prix.
'Even though I can't see how France can pay the teams for it,' he
Sources predict the cost of an 18th race, not accounted for in the
secreted Concorde Agreement, at around the $20 million mark for the
French Grand Prix.
The FIA has cautioned that France's race is 'subject to the agreement
of the teams and the ... conclusion of a [new] contract with Formula
But FFSA president Jacques Regis has already told reporters that the
federation 'can't afford to make any supplementary payments' to grand
Sir Frank Williams is a rare foreign recipient of France's Legion
d'Honneur in recognition of his Formula One team's former triumphs
Montoya Hits Back At Ferrari's Brawn
Juan Pablo Montoya has hit back at Ferrari's Ross Brawn over claims
that the Colombian racer will endure a 'difficult season' at
Montoya, 28, is already confirmed as a McLaren driver in 2005.
He said at Valencia on Monday that if he were 'standing in Ross
Brawn's shoes, I would say exactly that to wind everybody up.'
Juan Pablo claims that he is a 'big threat' to Ferrari and Michael
He added, moving to simplify his joint-employment with Sir Frank and
Ron Dennis: 'I want to win races with the team I am with, and right
now I'm with Williams.'
Brawn, however, insists that Montoya is stuck in the middle of a
McLaren 'strategy' aimed at destabilising British rivals BMW-Williams.
Ralf: Stalled Talks 'Not About Money'
Ralf Schumacher has delayed contract talks with Formula One team
BMW-Williams for at least the first three months of the 2004 race
The German, in Spain for the track debut of the FW26, said he had
instructed a halt on negotiations for a new deal 'because it was
lasting too long.'
28-year-old Schumacher's current contract expires later this season.
His manager Willi Weber rejected speculation that the stalled talks
related to money by recently explaining a dispute over exposure of
'I wanted to focus on my driving,' Schumacher added.
Asked where he saw his racing future, Ralf continued: 'Right now, I
'But at the end of the day, if we can't find a way to continue
together, I'll start looking for another cockpit but that's far down
He expected the stall to last three months, in order to focus on the
'most important' phase of the 2004 world title, for which he expects
to fight for.
'But even if it takes all year I don't mind,' he said of resumed
negotiations. 'It's not about the money, the money is not a problem.'
Ralf Gnarls Tusks At F1 Racing Brother
Ralf Schumacher sees a 'tusk-nosed' BMW-Williams car as his best
chance of beating Ferrari-driving brother Michael to the Formula One
'He is still there and he will try to win,' said the 28-year-old in
'It's pretty obvious. Why should it be different this year? But yes,
if you ask me, I think if we were going to win it in any season, this
Schumacher also commented on team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya's switch to
'I like Juan as a person,' he insisted, despite widespread reports of
a long-term spat with the similarly-aged Colombian.
He said: 'I understand and respect his decision.'
Ralf noted that Montoya had an opportunity to drive for 'another great
team' under 'maybe better conditions and I respect that.'
Williams Still Upbeat About Bahrain
Sir Frank Williams is still upbeat about the 2004 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Recently, the Englishman said he was 'sanguine' in the face of a
threat of terrorism in the Middle East issued by the British Foreign
At the launch of a new BMW-powered F1 racer on Monday, Williams added:
'Security one reads about, but I still take an optimistic view.'
He added that WilliamsF1 would 'monitor the situation' closer to
Briatore Welcomes Long-Life Engine Rule
Flavio Briatore has welcomed long-life engine regulations to Formula
In 2004, each car/driver combination faces the threat of sanction
should his single allocated V10 powerplant not make it to Sunday's
grand prix grid.
'I think it's a step in the right direction,' said the Italian,
managing director at the Enstone-based Renault team.
Briatore said the regulations will 'save money' in the long term.
'Having said that,' he continues, 'meeting the regulations will be a
challenge for everyone this year.'
F1 teams will tiptoe a design-compromise in making engines more
robust, and able to last about twice the track mileage, against
maintaining ultimate performance.
Moreover, Renault has radically altered its engine design
Back at Enstone, Renault is hard at work on finishing the 2004 car,
R24. 'What I can say is we are optimistic about the engine,' Briatore
In '04, the V10 unit will feature a 72-degree, rather than wider, vee-angle.
'And those of us who have seen the new car in the wind tunnel,' said
the flamboyant team principal, 'are very excited indeed about the
Barrichello Has Not Signed Deal: President
Ferrari's president has denied reports that Formula One driver Rubens
Barrichello has signed a two-year extension to his racing contract.
Luca di Montezemolo said 'as far as I know, he hasn't.'
The Italian added at the American Detroit Motor Show that there was
'nothing new' to add about the status of the Brazilian ace's contract.
As of today, it is due to expire at the close of season 2004.
Just before Christmas, Montezemolo insisted that if Rubens extends his
already four-year stay at the Scuderia, 'we will announce it.'
'I have nothing to add to what I said then,' he concluded.
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