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By Andrew Maitland
January 13, 2004


Sauber Unwrap 'Pragmatic' New F1 Racer
Swiss F1 team Sauber unveiled a handsome but 'pragmatic' new grand prix racer, the C23, at Salzburg Airport in Austria on Monday evening.

With two new team drivers in Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa, team chief Peter Sauber says the goal for 2004 is to 'clearly increase' performance.

'How well we'll do this primarily depends on how quickly we'll be able to translate the results of our wind tunnel work to the race track,' he said.

Technical director Willy Rampf admitted that the new car, with design similarities to last year's Ferrari, is also deliberately simple.

Sauber has resorted from its ground-breaking twin-keeled design, adopted by Williams for 2004, to Ferrari's more conventional single-keel car.

Rampf said because the impressive new wind-tunnel won't be ready for a few more weeks, 'this solution made sense to us more than any other.'

Interestingly, the C23 - for the first time - will be powered by the same type of engine as Ferrari and the world champion marque's seven-speed gearbox.

On Wednesday, Roman ace Fisichella will drive the C23 for the first time.

'I take the fact that this date coincides with my 31st birthday as a good omen,' the former Jordan driver smilingly added of the scheduled test at Valencia.

Team-mate Felipe Massa, 22, drove for Sauber in 2002.

'I've learnt a lot during my year as a Ferrari test driver,' said the Brazilian, 'and am ready, now, to apply this knowledge to the race track.'








Brand-New Jaguar Runs For First Time
Jaguar's new R5 contender took its first steps on Monday.

The car, initially steered by Australian star Mark Webber, undertook its preliminary shakedown at team owner Ford's Lommel testing facility in Belgium.

Less than a week from the formal launch and public track debut, the aim of the Lommel session was to complete systems checks, according to Tony Burrows.

The test team manager explained after the first couple of runs with the R5 that everything appeared to 'look okay.'

He added: 'We'll get through today (Monday) and make sure it changes gear and the drivers point out any abnormalities.'

Austrian Christian Klien also got a turn at the R5's controls, he confirmed.

'If that's all okay we go on to Barcelona,' said Burrows, 'and launch the car next weekend and hopefully have a good three days of testing.'

He concluded: 'It's good to come here as it's private and you can run up and down and make sure everything's working.'








Verstappen Visits Jordan Factory
Racing veteran Jos Verstappen touched down at Jordan's Silverstone headquarters on Monday for a seat-fitting and a sneak-preview of the new EJ14.

The Dutchman isn't yet confirmed as a 2004 starter but he's on pole position for one of the Ford-powered drives, according to widespread media reporting.

Fuelling the speculation is the 31-year-old's main sponsor, Trust Computers, who jumped the gun on the Verstappen signing late on the weekend.

A photo of the yellow EJ13 Jordan, wearing Trust logos, was posted on the Trust website on Sunday evening, and later blacked out with a question-mark.

This publication's sources insist that, despite Jos' manager's belief that a deal is several weeks away, an official announcement is imminent.

Estimates put Verstappen's sponsorship coffers at some $10 million.

Verstappen drove a Minardi in 2003 and warned his fans 'not to read too much' into his visit to Eddie Jordan's factory in Northamptonshire on Monday.

Jos and his manager, Raymond Vermeulen, paid only a 'friendly visit' to the factory, according to the racer known by his supporters as 'The Boss.'

'Eddie called me to visit the factory,' said Verstappen, 'to see the progression that the EJ14 has made. Of course I accepted the invitation immediately.

'We will absolutely not sign a contract tomorrow,' he insisted.








McNish Pleads For Formula One Drive
Allan McNish is still pleading for a Formula One race-drive.

The Scot, who tested a Renault car last season, insists that he has the 'experience and the speed' to haul Jordan-Ford back up the grid in 2004.

Nick Heidfeld, Jos Verstappen and Ralph Firman are all vying for the drives.

McNish told The People: 'Jordan need a driver who can run the team like Michael Schumacher does with Ferrari.'

The 33-year-old reckons a cash-strapped independent team can afford to take on one paying-driver, but Jordan also needs 'someone who can get you the points.'

He continued, 'Formula One is based around money, but you can come off worse if there is not the talent within a team to snatch the vital point here or there.'

And with so little time until the start of the new season in Melbourne, McNish is also the best bet to settle in fast, according to the little Scot.

'You can't be taking your time to gel into a team,' he added. 'I have been around long enough to fit into situations quickly.'

And Eddie Jordan would also be a great team boss.

'He's a former racer so he knows what it takes to do well,' said McNish, who debuted for Toyota in 2002, 'and I think that we could work well together.'








Jordan Left 'Breathless' By Bahrain
F1 boss Eddie Jordan was left 'amazed' by Bahrain's new grand prix circuit.

The Irishman, head of the Silverstone-based team, paid a visit to the facility near the deserts of Manama this week and said it 'exceeds words.

'I am breathless actually,' said Jordan of F1's first Middle Eastern stop.

Organizers said in a statement that the track is 89 percent completed and will be inspected and approved by FIA officials on March 7.

EJ added, 'I was tremendously impressed with the work that everyone in Bahrain has done in building this magnificent circuit.'

On track, the first layer of tarmac is already down and engineers are now at work on the final second and third layers.








Why Williams Opted For Revolution
F1 team BMW-Williams could have taken an evolutionary route with their new FW26 challenger; and it may even have won them the world championship.

Instead, the radical and innovative 'tusked' car was unveiled in Spain.

'You cannot stand still or relax your development pace for a single minute in Formula One,' Williams' chief designer Gavin Fisher explains.

He said the sport's history is littered with teams who thought they'd made the big-time only to find that the game has moved on without them.

Williams has not secured either F1 title since 1997.

In that way, the FW26 could have been a straightforward evolution of the FW25, a racer with which Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher won four grands prix.

'It undoubtedly would have been a quick car,' Fisher agreed.

But whether it was quick enough to power to the world championship would have been too dependent on the relative performance of the other teams like Ferrari.

So Williams ensured that development was pushed as 'far as it could go' rather than let it be constrained by the basic work of 12, perhaps 18 months earlier.

As well as its tusks, FW26 also boasts a new seven-speed gearbox.

'Because of the one engine rule,' said technical director Patrick Head, 'it will allow some stress to be taken off the engine.'








New Williams Finishes First Grand Prix
Only Ralf Schumacher and boy-faced Australian tester Ryan Briscoe were left to duke it out on a foggy Jerez de la Frontera track on Monday.

Schumacher, the German, clocked up a successful - and significant - full 90 lap race simulation in the radical all-new BMW-Williams FW26.

Briscoe, in a Toyota TF103B, nearly matched Ralf's pace but set his best time on low fuel and new Michelin tires (a qualifying simulation), according to reports.

Running, particularly in the chilly morning, was curtailed as the medical helicopter was deemed unable to take off or land in the heavy fog.

Briscoe completed 107 laps.

'Despite the poor weather conditions this morning, Ralf successfully completed a full grand prix race simulation in the FW26,' confirmed Williams' Sam Michael.

He added, 'So we've had another positive day.'

Third driver Marc Gene will re-join Ralf on Tuesday for the last of a seven-day test, during which both drivers will perform wet-tire testing with Michelin.

BAR-Honda will also re-join the test, according to sources in Spain.








Sauber Announce Two New F1 Sponsors
A new Formula One car was not Peter Sauber's only boast at the Red Bull 'Hangar-7' in Salzburg Airport on Monday.

The Swiss welcomed two new sponsors to his Hinwil-based operation.

'The presence of seven automotive manufacturers has made the competition in Formula One fiercer than ever,' said Sauber.

'But we're ready to accept this challenge.'

Ready also are 'Sokhna Port' and 'Tai Kang Life', unveiled as new sponsors to the Swiss team on the ten-year anniversary of the Sauber/Red Bull alliance.

Sokhna Port, with its logistics centre on the coast of the Red Sea near Cairo, makes use of the latest state-of-the-art IT technologies.

Their logo is located on the front nose of the handsome new C23.

Sauber, meanwhile, also commence an alliance with China in '04 by introducing one of the populous country's six biggest life insurance firms to their livery.

In 2003, Tai Kang Life's total assets amounted to $2.67 billion, and its logos are placed on the car's rear view mirrors.

'I'm delighted that we've been able to gain two new partners,' said Sauber.

He added, 'Only thanks to our strong and loyal sponsors are we able to pursue a forward-looking strategy as an independent team.'







Sauber Slams 'Third Car' Driver Ruling
Sauber won't make use of a new Formula One regulation designed to help the bottom-six teams, its boss and owner confirmed in Austria on Monday.

Asked about 19-year-old 'test driver' Neel Jani, Peter Sauber said he's 'not going to be a real test driver because we don't need it.'

Bottom-six outfits, including Sauber, are now allowed to field the spare car and an additional driver in the official practice sessions at grand prix meetings.

Jani, a Swiss, won't even do a lot of non-race track testing.

'We will use our normal drivers to do the tests,' said Sauber. 'We will have two cars only on Friday. Maybe we will change this but I don't know yet.'

Earlier, reports indicated that the privateer Hinwil-based operation simply couldn't afford to run a third car in the official sessions in 2004.

Sauber, however, slammed an FIA ruling which prohibits stars with more than six grands prix under their belts from joining the Friday test action.

'I don't understand it, it's a joke,' said the Swiss-German. 'Maybe there's only one or two [top] teams that push [for] it.'








New Sauber Fails FIA Crash-Tests
Sauber's handsome and noticeably more compact C23 Formula One racer has failed the FIA-imposed, mandatory crash tests, according to Willy Rampf.

The Swiss team's technical director said Hinwil had worked hard to make 'everything smaller' on the new car 'and I think we paid the price for it.'

Rampf continued, 'The 2003 season soon made us realize where our weakness was.'

Sauber has opted against its innovative twin-keeled chassis design for 2004 in favor of Ferrari's more conventional approach; with a single-keel monocoque.

C23 has obviously taken other design leafs out of the scarlet book, such as rounded sidepods, aero flip-ups ahead of the rear wheels, and the curved nose.

'The car will have to wait for the wind tunnel,' said Willy Rampf, 'so our challenge was designing a good car which is able to be developed much further.'

One innovation to be looked at in the new $55m tunnel is BMW-Williams 'tusks'.

Rampf concluded: 'I think everyone will be looking at that again.'

The Ferrari-powered C23 will sit its FIA exams again in February, 'and we're reasonably confident we can make the changes that are necessary, said Rampf.








Fisichella Wants To Beat Old Team In '04
Sauber versus Renault; that's how Hinwil's new driver Giancarlo Fisichella sees the 2004 Formula One world championship at the front of the midfield.

The Roman, dumped by Flavio Briatore's team in 2001, says with the newly-launched C23 it is a 'realistic' target to aim for the pace of Renault.

'There is no way we can fight with the top three,' said Fisichella. 'My goal for this year is to have a good car - and most importantly, a reliable car.'

He added, 'We're going to work very hard on the reliability in the winter.'

The Italian also confirmed that, with Sauber's close collaboration, he will 'definitely' test a Ferrari car at some point during the new race season.

He said the 2003-spec Ferrari engine 'feels good, but we have to wait and see on the new one.

'It's very drivable,' Giancarlo added. 'I look forward to using the 2004 engine, but I am even happier about the use of the Ferrari gearbox.'








Fisichella Pleased With Ferrari Look-Alike
Formula One's 'drivers driver', Giancarlo Fisichella, is perhaps as close to being a works Ferrari driver as he'll ever get.

In 2004, with the C23 Sauber, he'll have a Ferrari-powered racer, with Ferrari look-alike aerodynamics, a Ferrari gearbox - and a Ferrari-groomed team-mate.

Felipe Massa, 22, was Maranello's second tester in 2003.

'He can pass on lots of useful engine information to us,' said the 30-year-old, 'and also what he has learned from their way of working.'

But as well as working with Felipe, Giancarlo's target is to trounce him.

'I'll do my best,' the Italian smiled. 'He's quick, but I feel very confident physically and mentally - as confident as I have ever been.'

The former Minardi, Benetton and Jordan star also played down speculation that another race-win - like his rain-soaked triumph in Brazil - is on the cards.

'If Brazil is wet again, maybe we can repeat the result,' Giancarlo joked. 'But anything can happen. Otherwise it's probably not too realistic.'








Sauber Was Right To Dump Me: Felipe Massa
Felipe Massa has likened a year at Ferrari to a year at University.

The young Brazilian debuted in 2002, at Sauber, but was dumped at season's end because his undoubted pace was overshadowed by often erratic errors.

'I'm very happy to be back,' he smiled in Austria on Monday.

Ferrari, with a long-term contract on the Brazilian and strong links with Sauber, hauled Felipe back to Maranello for a season of testing.

Massa said, 'Working with Michael [Schumacher] and Rubens [Barrichello] was great for me. I did 15000kms and I have to say it was a great experience.'

Peter Sauber described the rookie as 'very fast' but too young for F1.

He added on Monday, as he launched the new C23: 'His technical expertise was not good enough for Formula One.'

Felipe Massa admits that he probably made too many mistakes in 2002.

But he added, 'You do learn from them and last year, I think the team would say, I made very few mistakes - a few spins and that is really it.

'I saw how Ferrari worked and the drivers talked to their engineers. Michael [Schumacher is] a great driver; very technical and concentrated.'

And now he thanks Peter Sauber for sending him back to school.

'I think he was maybe right in one sense,' the Paulista smiled.








Sauber Praise For New F1 Line-Up
Peter Sauber praised his new Formula One driver line-up.

Gone are the steady Nick Heidfeld and Heinz-Harald Frentzen; replaced by the rated Giancarlo Fisichella, of Italy, and former Ferrari tester Felipe Massa.

'For me, [Giancarlo] is one of the top six drivers in the sport,' said Sauber. 'I am convinced he will help us move forward significantly on the F1 grid.'

He added, 'Signing him has made an old wish of mine come true.'

Massa, 20, first drove a Sauber in 2002 but was moved on at the end of the season because his technical skills were not up to speed.

Sauber said the Brazilian's raw speed was never in doubt.

'It was clearly evident,' said the team boss, 'during his first collaboration with our team. I think what held him back most was his age.'








Fisichella To Step Up Grid With Sauber
Giancarlo Fisichella has reinforced his intention to use a drive at Ferrari-powered Sauber as a stepping-stone to greater things.

'The dream for me is obviously to drive in the future for one of the three top teams - Ferrari, McLaren or Williams,' said the Roman.

Asked whether he's got one eye on Juan Pablo Montoya's soon-to-be vacated BMW-Williams drive, Fisichella replied, 'Of course.'

So why sign a two-year contract with Peter Sauber?

'I've spoken with Peter about that,' Fisi explained, 'and he said if there's a good offer, 'it is not a problem'. I can go.'

Fisichella will debut the new Sauber C23, launched in Austria yesterday, on Wednesday at the Valencia circuit - his 31st birthday.

'I take that as a good omen,' the Italian told reporters in Salzburg.








Bahrain F1 Track Nears Completion
Organizers of the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix have moved to stamp out fears that the circuit near Manama won't be ready for an April 4 race-date.

A statement issued yesterday reports that the desert-setting in Sakhir, scene of the first GP in the Middle East, is '89 percent completed.

'Work has been in operation around the clock,' organizers said.

The circuit will be inspected by Formula One's governing FIA officials on March 7, where it should gain approval to stage a grand prix the following month.

Gravel traps, barriers, race control facilities, garages and the medical and press centers are in the final stages of construction, a spokesman confirmed.







Klien Sponsorship Overstated: Red Bull
Once again, the racing press has got it wrong, according to Christian Klien's chief backer in Formula One, Red Bull.

Widespread reporting put the 20-year-old's sponsorship coffers, courtesy in the main of the energy drinks brand, at around the $10-15 million mark.

It's actually around half of that, says Helmut Marko, Red Bull chief Dieter Mateschitz's motorsport consultant; a paltry $4.5 million.

Red Bull were initially prepared to spend up to $10m, according to new reports, but Jaguar Racing only had about $5 million of car advertising space available.

Marko told Business F1: 'If you saw the potential for logos [at Jaguar] you would realise the figures in the press aren't anywhere near the actual figure.

'It is nowhere near US$10 million or $15 million.'

Earlier, Jaguar boss David Pitchforth insisted that despite the Klien signing, the fabled Leaping Cat logo would continue to dominate on the new R5 car.








'Ferrari' Is Most Common Word On 'Net
The most common word entered into search engines around the globe is 'Ferrari'.

That is the recent finding of one such internet website, Google.com.

It said, in its annual 'Year-End Zeitgeist', that among 55 billion keyword searches in 2003, the six-letter combination 'Ferrari' was the most common.

A search of the word today reveals that of the ten entries on the first page of Google, about half refer to the world championship-winning Formula One Scuderia.

In winning the internet race, Ferrari overtook the most famous brand names on the planet, Microsoft and Coca-Cola, according to a statement.

'What emerged from the research was that the favourite pastime of the online population was admiring the elegant Prancing Horse models,' a spokesman added.

Last year, too, Ferrari was revealed as the most searched-for brand on the web.








Brand Races To Help F1 Kick Smoking Habit
For the first time in Formula One's sponsorship history, a company is charging full-throttle to butt out - rather than promote - cigarettes.

NiQuitin CQ is a sponsor of the BMW-Williams team and it supports all government legislation and pro-health messages to encourage smokers to kick the habit.

'Banning tobacco advertising has been proven to work, and we support any government policy [to that effect],' said Mark Dickinson, marketing manager.

Countries including Belgium, Austria, France and Canada have all been in danger of losing their F1 grands prix due to tough anti-tobacco advertising stances.

The brand's sponsorship in Formula One has been well received within the public health and grand prix environments, NiQuitin CQ's Mark Dickinson continues.

'We are continuing to promote pro-health messages within F1, to inspire smokers to quit, who have previously been bombarded with pro-tobacco messages.'

Despite a 20-year-old ban on cigarette advertising, surveys show that most children still think smoking is advertised on TV, due to sports sponsorship.

Sir Frank Williams, principal and owner of the Grove-based Formula One team, said WilliamsF1 is 'proud of its non-tobacco stance.'

Williams, with NiQuitin CQ, will race Phillip Morris and Reemtsma-backed F1 teams Ferrari and McLaren to the world championship titles in 2004.








Wilson May Re-Charge Career In America
Justin Wilson may cross the Atlantic if he can't re-start a Formula One career.

The 25-year-old, who raced for Minardi and Jaguar in 2003, is waiting impatiently for Formula One's bosses to discuss a new ruling on test drivers.

Under new-for-'04 rules, Wilson is too qualified to test a bottom-six car.

If, however - as it appears likely - the ten F1 principals cannot agree to scrap the stance, Yorkshire's F1 pilot may try Champ Cars or the Indy Racing League.

'We will know a lot more this week and after that we should have a good indication of what direction to work on,' said Wilson.

F1's ten bosses will meet in London on Wednesday to discuss the rule.

He added, 'We will wait and see what comes out of the meeting and it would be nice if they would change the rule but there is no guarantee.

'Every now and again you hear positive noises but you are not sure if it is going to make a difference or not.'

Wilson said he cannot afford to 'hang around waiting' for too long.

'I want to get on with it and get started as I am frustrated not having a drive or anything. I think at the minute it would be better to stay testing.'

Justin reckons he favours the old CART series over oval-based IRL.








FIA Won't Save F1 From Folly: President
The FIA has better things to do than save F1 bosses from their own folly.

That's the hard-hitting new stance of the series' governing president Max Mosley who insists that it's up to the teams to cut costs in Formula One.

'We can produce and ask for ideas but the teams themselves have got to recognise that they have allowed the costs to get too high,' he told Autosport.

Max emphasised that the FIA would not, and cannot, apply cost-cutting discipline through new rules like bans on technologies such as traction-control.

'We can have a bit of a go in World Rally,' said Mosley, 'but we can't in F1 because of the Concorde Agreement.'

Last January, the Paris-based Federation Internationale Automobile tried to force through technical changes in F1 including bans on certain electronics.

Max said, as thanks, the FIA got hauled to arbitration by McLaren and Williams.

'It was gentle application of existing rules,' said the Briton, 'but it produced arbitration. We don't need it. We've got better things to do.'








New Jaguar Is Evolution
Jaguar's new Formula One car is evolution, not revolution.

Managing director David Pitchforth told Autosport: 'It [the R5] is an evolution focusing carefully on areas that needed attention.'

It might be evolution, but it's also all-new, he insisted.

'But it has lineage to its predecessors,' said the Briton. 'Everything changed on the car is based on fact.'

Aussie Mark Webber, for his second full season at the 'Cat, will be partnered at the wheel by pay-driving Austrian team-mate, 20-year-old Christian Klien.

The R5 will be unveiled at Barcelona this Sunday, followed by a 3-day test.








Jordan Admit Verstappen Visit
F1 team Jordan-Ford has confirmed a visit by Dutch hopeful Jos Verstappen.

The 31-year-old racer touched down at the Silverstone-factory on Monday afternoon for talks with team owner Eddie Jordan, according to reports.

Verstappen, Minardi driver of 2003, also had a seat-fitting in a mock-up of the new EJ14 race car, sources insisted.

'Eddie has had some preliminary discussions with Jos and the discussions will be continued over the next few days,' business director Ian Phillips confirmed.

'The Boss' brings nearly $10 million in sponsorship to his F1 employer, Britain's authoritative newspaper The Guardian reported on Tuesday.

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