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By Andrew Maitland
January 7, 2004


Williams Makes 'Little Contribution' To Team
Sir Frank Williams makes 'very little contribution' to his eponymous F1 team.

The Briton insisted at the launch of a radical-looking FW26 contender near Valencia on Monday that whether the car fires or not has nothing to do with him.

'Perhaps I make no contribution,' the 61-year-old team owner and principal mused to reporters. 'I just come in and potter about.

'Most of what happens here is nothing to do with me.'

His role, then, might be seen more as one of providing inspiration - a figurehead - for the troops?

The wheel-chair bound chief denies even this.

'I can't say I do that - provide motivation or anything,' he said. 'That doesn't occur in my life. I do have [some] influence.'

But WilliamsF1 is not a company that has cheerleading or 'keep fit' classes in the car park every morning, like the Japanese sometimes do, he insists.

Sir Frank added: 'The guys come in to work, do their best and go home usually quite worn out.'

In that respect, then, it was important for Williams to be around at his Oxfordshire team base and factory, in Grove, over the Christmas period.

He said: 'A lot of guys worked over that period, which is hard, so I wanted to be around. Otherwise they might start thinking this is a mug's game.'








Renault Sign New Technical Director (Engine)
Formula One team Renault has added a bit of White to its championship campaign.

Robert White, known in the Formula One paddock as 'Rob' - and formerly chief engineer at Cosworth - has joined the operation as technical director (engine).

The 38-year-old assumed control of all technical activities at the team's Viry-Chatillon base, located in France, from the first day of the New Year.

'He will work alongside deputy managing director Bernard Dudot at the French site,' a spokeswoman explained.

'We are delighted to welcome an engineer of Rob's caliber to the team at Viry,' said Renault F1's managing director and principal Flavio Briatore.

The Italian added: 'His appointment is another key step as we build towards challenging for the World Championship.'

Renault, which lost lauded technical chief Mike Gascoyne to Toyota late last year, has scrapped the innovative but troubled wide-angled V10 concept.

The all-new R24 racer is scheduled for completion early this month.

Principally based in Enstone, United Kingdom, Renault also has a new technical director to head its chassis development - Gascoyne's former deputy, Bob Bell.








Can't Buy Me F1 Success: Stoddart
Cash does not buy Formula One success, according to Paul Stoddart.

The Australian, who runs his Minardi team on a shoe-string, offered the warning to billionaire Roman Abramovich, who may be eyeing the purchase of Jordan.

Sources earlier this week said that the Russian, worth $6 billion, may be prepared to offer Eddie Jordan some $270m for his Silverstone-based team.

An insider said Abramovich will buy the 'best cars,' the 'best technicians,' and the 'best drivers' should he mount a championship campaign in F1.

He added: 'Money is no object.'

Jacques Villeneuve and six-times world champion Michael Schumacher are already being linked to Abramovich's Formula One assault.

Stoddart, however, warned that Formula One is different to football.

'Roman may have done wonders at Chelsea with his open cheque book,' he told The Sun, 'but mountains of cash do not buy instant success in Formula One.'

The 48-year-old referred to Toyota, who - in two seasons of F1 racing - has spent more than a billion dollars to finish 10th in 2002 and 8th last year.

And, 'When BAR came into the sport in 1999 they had a quarter-of-a-billion dollar budget and failed to score a single point,' he added.

Stoddart concludes: 'If you want to be a winner in F1 you need to have a billion dollars to throw away before you can expect results.'








Abramovich Denies Jordan F1 Buy-Out
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is not about to buy F1 team Jordan.

His spokesman, John Mann, said there was 'nothing' in recent reports that the Chelsea Football Club owner was ready to spend $270m on the Silverstone outfit.

Mann told the Evening Standard: 'At the moment Roman is being linked with bids to buy anything from a shopping centre to another football team.

'When anything is up for sale his name is being connected with it and it gets a little nasty after a time.'

The spokesman agreed that Roman 'enjoys Formula One' and even admitted to the Russian's several meetings with Eddie Jordan, the majority owner of the team.

'But that's it,' he added. 'Roman has also met with [F1 supremo] Bernie Ecclestone but that doesn't mean he's going to buy his house.'








BRDC Welcomes Sale Of British Race Tracks
The British Racing Drivers' Club has welcomed the sale of four race circuits this week to a new company headed by former Formula One driver Jonathan Palmer.

Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Cadwell Park and Oulton Park were sold by US giant Interpublic to MotorSport Vision, Palmer's company, it was revealed on Monday.

'The sale secures Brands Hatch and three other circuits for British motorsport in the future,' said Alex Hooton, chief executive of the BRDC.

He hoped the takeover will stop the sale of the tracks to property developers. Hooton also denied that the sale to MotorSport Vision in any way affects Interpublic's rights to stage the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Interpublic has a long-term lease of the Northamptonshire-based circuit of which the British Racing Drivers' Club is landlord.

BRDC says the sale to Palmer, former Williams and Tyrrell driver, will allow Interpublic to concentrate on Silverstone and its Formula One event. 'The deal, in summary, should be very welcome to British motorsport and the industry,' Alex Hooton concluded.






BAR To Launch 006 On February 1st
British-based Formula One team BAR-Honda will launch their 2004 contender on the first day of February, a Sunday, at the Circuit de Catalunya race-track.

A 'concept' version of the car, painted black, is already running on the test tracks featuring the all-new Honda V10 engine and the 006's rear-end.

Technical director of the Brackley-based outfit, Geoff Willis, confirmed late last year that the Honda-powered 006 will start the season in Melbourne.

The early-February launch date will give BAR, run by Briton Dave Richards, only three tests in the run-up to Australia to polish reliability.

BAR has switched to Michelin tires for the 2004 F1 championship.

Following BMW-Williams' launch on Monday, privateer team Sauber-Petronas will become the second Formula One team to unveil its 2004 car next week.

The Ferrari-powered C23 will be unveiled on January 12 in Salzburg, Austria.








Gene Wants Top-Job At BMW-Williams
BMW-Williams tester Marc Gene wants Juan Pablo Montoya's racing job.

The latter ace is off to McLaren-Mercedes in 2005 and Gene, the 'Catalan rocket', wants to re-start a grand prix career that halted in 2000.

Gene, 28, admitted that going from Minardi racer, to Williams tester, to occupying the chair alongside Ralf Schumacher, will be 'difficult.

'Especially when you aren't racing every weekend,' he said.

But BMW-powered bosses were impressed with Gene when he subbed for an ill Ralf Schumacher at the Italian Grand Prix of 2003 and finished a sterling fifth.

'I know the team liked what I did,' he continued to the Evening Standard, 'and I also know I am being considered.'

Gene admits that there are other, more qualified, drivers in the running; like BAR-Honda's Jenson Button or Australian sensation, Jaguar star Mark Webber.

'It's not going to be easy to prove I'm number one for that seat,' he said, 'but to know I am going to be considered is very encouraging.'








Schumacher Welcomes Electronic Bans
Ralf Schumacher has welcomed the departure of launch control from Formula One.

The German said at the launch of a striking FW26 car in Spain that it's a variable that will open up the possibility of 'one more' driver mistake.

'Before, in races, it was quite easy to have a bad start and just say 'well, that's the team's fault'. Not any more. Now it's back in our control.'

But that's no bad thing, the BMW-Williams ace continued.

'What it will do is give viewers less consistent starts,' said the 28-year-old, 'more mistakes. More overtaking. More excitement.'

His teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, agrees - even dismissing the effect that the exodus of fully-automatic gear-changes will have on the 2004 season.

He said: 'When we did it for the first time, shifting gears, it was hard - you're not used to it. But after twenty laps I was used to it again.'

Montoya, the Colombian, warned all eyes to watch the start of grands prix this season. 'It's hard,' he continued of the manual-start process.








New Rules Will Cut F1 Costs: BMW Chief
New engine regulations will succeed in cutting down costs in Formula One.

That's the assessment of BMW motorsport director Dr Mario Theissen who welcomes the 'one-engine-per-weekend' regulation to the category from season 2004.

'It is a correct step in this direction,' said the German, 'although it isn't the case for development costs.'

Theissen reckons the costs of manufacturing won't get cheaper, either.

But as far as the bottom line is concerned, 'the lower number of engines for a race and test season should bring down the costs,' he said.

Dr Mario confirmed that BMW will produce around fifty engines less this season than was the case under unrestricted weekend-use regulations of 2003.

He admitted that revs and ultimate horsepower will drop in 2004.

The final version of the 2003-spec, P83 engine achieved 19,200 revs per minute. 'Moving parts get bigger and heavier,' he explains of the new P84 design.

Theissen said: 'Engine speed falls and with it falls power. I am anticipating a slight reduction in revs, although the goal is to keep it to a minimum.'








Montoya Didn't Want '04 McLaren Swap
Juan Pablo Montoya has rejected claims that he was blocked from joining Formula One team McLaren-Mercedes from this season.

His current boss, Sir Frank Williams, said team rival Ron Dennis' suggestion that he be swapped for David Coulthard this season was 'out of the question.'

But Montoya, 28, didn't even want to complete the switch yet, he insists.

'I didn't want it,' Juan said in Spain on Tuesday. 'I didn't want to go. I think Williams are in a better position to win this year than McLaren.'

The 28-year-old added that while McLaren are changing factories in 2004, BMW-Williams are concentrating exclusively on their car and the world championship.

'You've got to take the risk,' said Montoya. 'I think '05 is the right year for McLaren. This year, they're doing a lot of stuff outside of racing.'







Williams 'Miles Ahead' With New FW26
BMW-Williams is 'miles ahead' of where it was at this time last season.

At a second successive day of running the radical-looking FW26 at Valencia, chief operations engineer Sam Michael lauded the positive comments of drivers.

Sources at Autosport insist that the car is already in the 1-minute 11s bracket at the tight and twisty Ricardo Tormo circuit in the south of Spain.

That's around a second off the pace of the brand-new McLaren MP4-19.

'It was mostly TV work today,' Michael, the Aussie, said, 'but we did get some more runs and the initial comments about the car are very positive.'

The innovatively-sculpted car, and BMW-Williams' throng of drivers, flew to nearby Jerez de la Frontera overnight to start a 7-day development session.








Schumacher Calms Bahrain Threat
Ralf Schumacher has dismissed a terrorist threat for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The German ace put the first lap on the circuit near Sakhir recently and now joins his BMW-Williams boss in calming fears ahead of its inaugural F1 race.

Asked if he had any concerns in light of a recent warning issued by the British Foreign Office, the 28-year-old said: 'No.

'I visit [nearby] Dubai quite often and it's not a problem.'

Schumacher insists that since the September 11 attacks on the United States a couple of years ago, 'almost everywhere' has been at risk of terrorists.

'Perhaps we shouldn't go to America either,' he mused.








'Haves' To Get More From New Engine Rule
Formula One's new one-engine-per-weekend regulation may not be as simple as meets the eye, according to a leading chief at Cosworth Racing.

Technical boss Nick Hayes says there is 'some confusion' with the rule because the interpretation of it by teams is likely to differ up and down pitlane.

He said: 'Teams may decide to do less running over the whole weekend and thereby design an engine with less life overall.

'That might give them significant advantages in terms of performance over a team with an engine built to run in every session of a Grand Prix.'

And what about if a driver suffers a pre-race failure with their powerplant?

'You're demoted on the grid,' he explains, 'but what's to stop you putting in a new engine with a shorter life?'

Hayes told Formula One Magazine that if a manufacturer 'has enough money' it'll be able to bring engines to races with 'all sorts of contingencies.'

That'll fly in the face of the rule's aim of cutting development costs.

Nick Hayes suggests: 'This is something that, at the end of the day, the haves can get more out of than the have-nots.'








Jordan Does Not Deny Abramovich Link
Eddie Jordan has declined an opportunity to stamp on speculation that his Formula One team may be snapped up by a Russian billionaire.

Roman Abramovich has already denied that several 'secret' meetings with the entrepreneur suggest that he'll pay some $270m for his Silverstone-based team.

Earlier this week, a Jordan spokeswoman also refused a point-blank denial of the link, saying only that it is 'positive' to see any interest in their outfit.

Irishman Eddie Jordan told The Independent on Tuesday: 'At this time of year I have many private conversations with many people.'

He added that it would be clearly 'improper' of him to divulge the contents of such conversations.

Ford-powered Jordan, still yet to announce either of its 2004 F1 pilots, admitted to a 'glitch' in its championship campaign of last season.

'We had nine years in the top five,' he told the paper. 'It was a massively disappointing year, and the best thing about it is that it's over.'

Jordan concluded: 'We are aiming to rectify that at full speed [in 2004].'








Money Doesn't Buy F1 Success: Brawn To Roman
Ferrari's Ross Brawn has backed fellow pitlane resident Paul Stoddart in warning that money does not buy success at the pinnacle of motorsports.

The pair direct their caution to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who has been linked with a $270m buy-out of Eddie Jordan's embattled grand prix team.

Abramovich has pumped a quarter-of-a-billion bucks into football team Chelsea.

Brawn told The Sun: 'What he's achieved there has added so much to the sport. It has put a third team up against United and Arsenal.'

Furthermore, Abramovich would be welcomed into Formula One.

'The sport is always looking for new characters,' said the Briton. 'That's why Eddie Jordan has survived for so long.'

But Roman will be 'very disappointed' if he thinks money buys success in F1.

'You need a huge technical base,' Ross Brawn continued, 'and while Jordan have the technology, it would have to be strengthened.

'And that could never happen overnight.'








BMW Back Global Shift In Formula One
Formula One should be a genuine world championship.

That's the opinion of BMW motorsport boss Dr Mario Theissen who says automobile manufacturers definitely welcome the switch from Euro-centric to truly global.

He said: 'It is an extremely attractive proposition to be able to use Formula One to demonstrate our technical expertise to emerging nations like China.'

Bahrain, in the Middle East, will also stage an inaugural grand prix from 2004.

'It enriches the tournament from our perspective,' the German added. 'The North American market is also particularly significant for us.'

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