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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 9, 2004

Verstappen Has Signed Jordan Drive?
Jos Verstappen is a Jordan driver in 2004.

That's the growing word on the street as speculation mounts that the 31-year-old Dutchman has actually already penned a deal with the Silverstone-based outfit.

Sources insist that Eddie Jordan's team will spill the beans on Monday.

Verstappen, who drove for Minardi last season, carries a swag of sponsorship from his native country rumored to add up to nearly $8 million dollars.

German ace Nick Heidfeld has signed a provisional deal with the Ford-powered outfit but 2003 driver Ralph Firman is also under medium-term contract.

'I had an intensive relationship with Minardi,' Jos said recently, 'and I hope to meet them again in the paddock [in 2004].'

Eddie Jordan traveled to Dordrecht, Holland, prior to Christmas for talks with Verstappen's main sponsors Trust Computers and Muermans Realty.

'Ideally, sponsorship comes before the drivers,' the Irishman told the press.

Lauda's Old Lambo In The Headlines
Even when he does nothing, Niki Lauda can't keep out of the headlines.

In the Eighties, the former triple world champion owned a red Lamborghini Countach which is now in the possession of an 18-year-old called Navin Patel.

A court heard yesterday that a depressed ex-convict hurled a bench through the super-car's window late last year in order to get himself jailed again.

David Walker, who had left jail only four days earlier, smashed the ring wear and mirror of the Countach because he'd had enough of 'life on the outside.'

'He did what he did to get back to prison,' said his defending lawyer.

Lauda's old 190mph car was sent to Italy for nearly $15,000 worth of repairs to the wing, mirror, and a scratch on the bonnet.

It's new owner, who's been keeping the Lambo at a hotel until he passes his driving test, said the Countach is an 'awesome car.'

And with it's F1-legendary history, 'it's worth twice a normal one.'

Alonso, Trulli, Lap Up Holiday Season
Renault drivers Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso lapped up their last moments of relaxation at Christmas before the grind of the F1 season got underway again.

Trulli, the Italian, went back to Pescara to spend Christmas and New Year's with his family. 'This time of year is very important to me,' he said.

In less than three weeks, the all-new R24 racer will be launched, and Trulli was back on track in Spain from Wednesday at the wheel of last year's hybrid racer.

But on holiday, 29-year-old JT forgets about Formula One. 'We have a good time,' he continues. 'The Trulli family is a happy one ... and a bit noisy!'

He reckons his neighbors know all about their New Year's karaoke.

Alonso, 22, headed off to Oviedo, his home-town in Spain.

'We don't often have the opportunity to get together with all our family,' the youngest winner in the history of Formula One explains.

He said: 'Over the past few years, life has been pretty hectic.

'Even though I'm the focus of lots of attention when we are traveling around the world, nothing is better than a family Christmas in Spain.'

It wasn't just the cheer of their families that warmed these aces' hearts.

Alonso and Trulli received hundreds of Christmas greeting cards. 'It was incredible,' Fernando explains.

Trulli adds: 'Every day, there were loads arriving at the factory for us. It means a lot, and we'll push maximum on track as our way of saying thank-you.'

Fernando Alonso concludes with a toast: 'To some wins in 2004!'

Rule-Change To Re-Open F1 Door For Wilson
Justin Wilson could creep back through Formula One's back-door in 2004.

All ten team principals will meet in London next Wednesday and one of the items on the agenda will be a controversial new rule about third-drivers.

The FIA decreed that aces with more than six grands prix experience in the last two seasons are not eligible to drive in official practice sessions this year.

Wilson, 25, drove for Minardi and Jaguar in 2003 but will not retain either drive in the forthcoming world championship series.

But the Leaping Cat would gladly have him back in green overalls this season as a 'third driver' if team principals unanimously vote to overturn the FIA-ruling.

'There seems to be a belief that this six grands prix in two years limit is going to get dropped,' said Wilson's manager, Dr Jonathan Palmer.

'If that happened it would be great.'

F1's bottom-six teams of 2003 can field a spare chassis and a test driver in the two official practice sessions on the Friday of a grand prix weekend in 2004.

But the big-four outfits reckon their competitors will gain too much advantage should they be allowed to amass track data with an old hand like Wilson.

Men including Allan McNish and Ralph Firman can't run, but McLaren's official 'third driver' Alex Wurz would be free to fill a role at a bottom-six team.

Jaguar's managing director David Pitchforth said the 'ideal scenario' would be to run a third car at race meetings 'and Justin would ideally be that guy.'

Montoya, FW26, Quickest Again At Jerez
BMW-Williams' radical-looking FW26 contender lapped quickest for a second day running at the busy Jerez de la Frontera (Spain) tests on Thursday.

The Colombian, Juan Pablo Montoya, beat his testing cohort Marc Gene to the line by more than five tenths of a second as the Spaniard steered an older FW25B.

Montoya, under overcast skies, worked on set-up and Michelin tyre evaluations.

'We've concentrated on optimizing mechanical and aerodynamic set up options,' said chief operations engineer Sam Michael.

He added: 'The new car seems to be responding so we're making good progress.'

Renault's Jarno Trulli, despite a heavy cold, was third quickest after 133 laps.

His own testing cohort, Frenchman Franck Montagny, was next-best in the 2003-spec R23B machine fitted with the new gearbox and rear suspension geometry.

The Enstone-based team, Renault, focused exclusively on trying new tyre compounds and constructions for Michelin, primarily over shorter runs.

Toyota's Ricardo Zonta outpaced Olivier Panis by seven tenths, and the Brazilian also went ahead of Pedro de la Rosa, driving one of two running McLaren MP4-19s.

Felipe Massa and Luca Badoer, in Ferraris, were next, while David Coulthard - in a second new silver contender - brought up the times after a mere 17 tours.

His factory-fresh McLaren broke down after a serious hydraulic failure.

Ferrari, BAR, Pen New F1 Deals
Formula One teams BAR-Honda and Scuderia Ferrari have both signed new deals.

The Italian marque, steered by world champion Michael Schumacher, announced a technical and commercial agreement with local firm Beta Utensili S.p.A.

Beta, based in Italy, is one of the world's leaders in the manufacture and sale of professional tools and high-quality equipment, said a spokesman.

It will be an official supplier to Ferrari until the end of season 2006.

Meanwhile, British outfit BAR unveiled a technical partnership with Alcon, supplier of high-specification brakes and clutches in motorsport.

Alcon will supply bespoke brake calipers and master cylinders for the team's 2004 challenger, the Honda-powered 006 Formula One car.

The BAR/Alcon association began in '02 when the companies entered into a development project on an innovative F1 brake-caliper design.

The project's success means that Alcon has secured the contract to supply BAR with three different types of caliper on the race tracks in 2004.

'Our aim is to challenge for podium finishes at every race during the 2004 season,' said BAR-Honda technical director Geoff Willis.

Williams Might Have Started New F1 Trend
Patrick Head knows he might have started a new trend in Formula One.

When Tyrrell first revolutionized, by raising, the nose of a grand prix challenger, it didn't take long before the rest of the grid followed suit.

The same can be said for today's curved front wings, or the later-banned 'x-wings' that grew from cars sidepods during the 1998 world championship.

On Monday, BMW-Williams' technical director took the wraps off the FW26 racer; featuring a never-before-soon interpretation on front-end regulations.

Incorporating a twin-keel design, the 26's nose is shorter, and connects to the protruding w-shaped front wing by a couple of tusk-like uprights.

'Obviously the regulations are quite restrictive in terms of freedoms for the cars to be much different,' said the Englishman, Patrick Head.

He admits that the field might start to follow suit once they have discovered exactly why the aerodynamicists at Grove started to think about tusks.

'Certainly with aerodynamics,' Head continued, 'everything is enormously interactive once you have chosen a particular front wing geometry.'

He added: 'But I think its good for F1 if all the cars don't look identical.'

Patrick doesn't know why the solution hasn't been tried before. 'Maybe other people this year will be using that idea,' he predicted.

Head revealed that his tusks posed a problem for crash-test requirements.

Kiesa Wants Longer F1 Career
Former Minardi driver Nicolas Kiesa hopes to prolong his Formula One career.

The Dane drove the final five races of last season with the Faenza-based team but could re-enter the grand prix paddock in 2004 as a development driver.

Minardi, headed by Australian Paul Stoddart, has already signed pay-aces Zsolt Baumgartner and Gianmaria Bruni as its new race pilots.

Kiesa told Autosport at the motorsport show in Birmingham this week that his manager was talking to several teams about 2004 including Jaguar and Jordan.

'I'm working very hard with my backing in Denmark to achieve a drive, at least as a test driver,' he said.

Kiesa continued: 'There are a few drives available, and even a race drive with Jordan, but it's all controlled by money.'

Nicolas' manager is in China working on sponsorship.

The young racer, Kiesa, said talks were taking place with Jaguar, 'although I'm not sure if [my manager is also] talking to Jordan.'

Although a former race ace, Nicolas' haul of five events in 2003 will not prevent him, under new FIA rules, from testing for a bottom-six team this year.

Renault's New Racer To Grow Tusks?
Renault's new Formula One challenger might also grow tusks.

Commenting on the radical-looking BMW-Williams FW26, launched in Spain early this week, engineering head Pat Symonds said the innovation was 'interesting.'

He added in Birmingham: 'It also appears logical.'

Renault, based at Enstone and Viry-Chatillon, will launch their new car, the R24, in Sicily at the end of January.

Symonds said he would assess a similar front-end design in the wind tunnel within a few weeks, 'and I'm sure other teams will try it as well.'

The Briton admitted that the tusk-nosed design, incorporating a much shorter nose section on the Williams, could be adapted to suit the new Renault.

But he added: 'Really you can't look at one part in isolation. You need to understand the whole concept otherwise you won't get very far.'

Richards Stripped BAR To The Core
With the arrival of Dave Richards, F1 team BAR was stripped to the core.

'We had to start again,' said the Briton, salaried team principal at the Brackley-based operation since late 2001, when founder Craig Pollock was fired.

Richards says the Honda-powered team has improved ever since.

'We've put in solid foundations and will keep improving from there,' he added.

So what of the interpretation that last season, despite a handy and well-designed motor-car in the BAR006, was not a stellar season?

'It was steady, I would say,' David told Top Gear.

He added: 'Issues with tires and reliability need to be addressed, but there's a clear trend of improvement.'

BAR has already targeted improved reliability as a core objective of 2004 and moved to tackle the 'tire issue' by switching from Bridgestone to Michelin.

Also CEO of racing arm Prodrive, and chairman of world rallying's commercial rights company ISC, Richards is undoubtedly a busy man in motorsport.

How does he find time to eat breakfast or fasten his tie?

'The reality is that these roles all overlap,' he explained. 'My function is not day-to-day operational stuff; it's about taking the businesses forward.

'And at that level there are many common issues.'

Is there time to separate business from pleasure; companies from racing?

He responds: 'This is business and I have to treat it that way. But I'm fortunate in that it's also a passion for me.'

Brands Hatch Safe From Bulldozers
A quartet of British race tracks will not be sold to developers.

When Interpublic put Brands Hatch and three other circuits up for sale, the only interested parties appeared to be developers looking to demolish and sell land.

Former F1 ace Dr Jonathan Palmer snapped up former GP track Brands, as well as Snetterton, Oulton Park and Cadwell Park, it was revealed earlier this week.

Palmer, also manager of F1 hopeful Justin Wilson, has previously successfully developed the Bedford Autodrome facility near Kent.

The Briton reckons he has 'some pretty good ideas' for his new circuits.

'We are absolutely committed to developing motor racing,' he said on behalf of the acquiring company, MotorSport Vision, which includes two other investors.

Palmer said that through 'innovation and quality', he can revitalize one of the United Kingdom's most exciting sports; motor racing.

Tusked Car Is No White Elephant: Head
Patrick Head has stamped on speculation that his innovative tusk-nosed Formula One car design is little more than a white elephant.

Some commentators are musing that the British technical director of F1 team BMW-Williams might simply have stumbled upon a solution to get heads scratching.

An aerodynamicist for another team mused to a well-known publication that Head may have discovered that the radical design merely had no negative influence.

But why add a white elephant to the FW26?

The former aerodynamicist source claims that it could be a ploy to get Head's design rivals wasting time in the wind-tunnel over the next crucial weeks.

Head stamps on the 'ridiculous' conjecture.

'For us it is a clear advantage, otherwise we would not have gone with it,' the Englishman said. 'If it wasn't better we would not have put it on the car.'

He added that the innovative front-nose was developed out of aerodynamic CFD studies and evaluation in the wind tunnel.

It's also not a styling exercise, he said: 'It is an exercise to maximize downforce and minimise drag,' added Patrick Head.

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