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By Andrew Maitland
January 19, 2004


Denso Strengthens Toyota Deal
F1 team Toyota has announced a new corporate sponsor - Denso.

The supplier of automotive technologies has been a technical partner of the team since 2002 but now vows more money to get exposure on the Formula One car.

An evolutionary TF104 was launched in Cologne, Germany, on Saturday, boasting Denso logos on the engine-cover and drivers' overalls.

Team principal Tsutomu Tomita said Toyota was 'honored' that the brand opted to strengthen its commercial relationship with the Japanese-owned outfit.








Toyota Aim For First Podium
Four hundred of the world's media flocked to Cologne on the weekend to watch the TF104 car be launched and check-out the German-based team's F1 headquarters.

Toyota build both chassis and engine under the 30,000 square-meter roof.

'Our activities are unique in that we create our car under one roof using our own technology and ability,' said Toyota president John Howett.

New team principal Tsutomu Tomita says the goal for 2004, with the evolutionary TF104, is to get closer to the top-four Formula One teams.

'If conditions are right,' he added, 'also to score our first podium.'

Chief designer Gustav Brunner admits that the new car is a 'logical progression' of 2003's TF103; a competitive racer that failed to live up to its potential.

'We've made steps on the aerodynamics,' said the Austrian, 'and the whole car is lighter and stiffer.'

Brazilian Ricardo Zonta will drive a 'third car' in official practice sessions this season while Aussie youngster Ryan Briscoe has been signed as a tester.








Verstappen Deals Jordan Ultimatum
Jos Verstappen wants to know if he's a Jordan driver - right now.

The Dutchman and manager Michel Perridon are understood to have demanded an immediate answer to the question we've all been asking.

Has the 'Boss' got the Ford-powered drive for 2004?

'There is a probability that Jordan will not accept but that's the risk,' said Perridon. 'If that's the case, we will look for other opportunities.'

Verstappen brings some $10 million in sponsorship but a 'behind-the-scenes' job is not ideal as, under new rules, he's not allowed to test spare cars on Friday.

According to sources, Eddie Jordan's team is not keen on giving-in to Perridon's desire for significant livery-space (for personal sponsors) on the new EJ14.

Verstappen's agent, Raymond Vermeulen, says the reason for the ultimatum is to get the Montford-born star behind the F1 wheel again 'as soon as possible.'

'We want to know where we stand, right now,' he asserted.








Jaguar Face Task To Keep Webber
Jaguar Racing face a couple of related challenges in 2004; upping their game and convincing Mark Webber that he should continue to steer a Leaping Cat.

'Everyone keeps saying Williams are going to ring up,' said Tony Purnell at the launch of a conventional-looking R5 at Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday.

He said: 'They haven't.'

But Purnell, team principal, insists that Jaguar 'definitely' wants to hang onto the Australian who is under contract to the team in green to the end of 2005.

'The atmosphere he brings is very positive,' said Tony.

Webber, 27, may also have a future awaiting him at manager and Formula One principal Flavio Briatore's Renault team.

Jaguar managing director David Pitchforth admits that Milton-Keynes must 'do a very good job' to provide a racing car that is worthy of Webber's talents.

'Only if we can do that,' he said, 'will there be no problems.'








Webber Admits 'Big Team' Interest
In the face of keen interest from a couple of top Formula One teams, Mark Webber on Sunday pledged his allegiance to current employers Jaguar Racing.

The hugely-rated star is linked with alternative futures at Renault or Williams.

'It's a nice pat on the back,' he said in Barcelona, where Mark debuted the new R5 challenger before it broke down on the first installation lap.

He added: 'But this game is so fickle so I'm not waking up each morning thinking about the big teams. But yeah - we have to look at all scenarios.'

Webber, from Australia, admits that he does want to win grands prix in the next couple of years 'and that might be difficult to do [at Jaguar].'

He even admitted the touted interest of eponymous F1 chief Sir Frank Williams.

'You never know,' the 27-year-old smiled, 'but even if I do go there to drive, I'm not about to go and live in Monaco. I'm a country boy, I don't mind tax.'








Jaguar Reveal Modest Goals
Jaguar Racing unveiled a conventional new Formula One challenger at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday without dreaming of immediate grandeur.

Unlike Renault or BAR, the Milton-Keynes operation knows it won't be sniffing the exhaust fumes of the top-four teams like Ferrari or BMW-Williams in 2004.

'We aim to compete with the likes of Toyota, Sauber and BAR this season,' said team principal Tony Purnell in the background of the modest R5.

Purnell says Jaguar aren't ready to take on the 'front guys.'

'But I'd like to think maybe we can put a bit of pressure on them especially as the second half of the season goes along.'

Jaguar was the first team to test on the newly-completed, modified, Barcelona track in Spain when it completed installation laps in the R5 on the weekend.

Spain's F1 circuit boasts a re-asphalted main straight, bigger run-off at several corners and a revised final section of the track in Montmelo.








New Engine Is Just As Fast: Toyota
Toyota's all-new Formula One engine has been designed to last twice as long whilst not affecting overall horsepower.

Technical director of the department, Luca Marmorini, comments on a new regulation demanding double the track-life of an engine in 2004.

'We've tried to increase durability but still maintain the drivability and the performance,' he said of the new RVX-04 which was first fired-up in November.







New Rule Is Pain In Neck: Michelin
A new regulation in Formula One is a 'pain in the neck' for Michelin.

Partner teams must select a single tire-compound for the whole weekend right after Friday morning practice, to ensure they maximise allowed track-time.

'With so little time,' said Pierre Dupasquier, 'we'll have to pool all the data from the teams rather than base our decisions totally on the science.'

It will involve 'theoretical judgements,' said the French motorsport boss, despite the many millions of dollars that Michelin plough into the category.

'On the one hand it's quite interesting,' he continued, 'but on the other we're spending so much but we're not allowed to generate that much useful data.'

Selection on Friday will also be difficult for other reasons, he explained. For example, 'on Friday the track is usually so dirty,' said Pierre.








F1 To Get New Champ In 2004: Webber
Formula One will have a new champion in 2004, according to Mark Webber.

The Australian believes that the four-year title-winning streak of Michael Schumacher will end this season as a generation of younger stars shines on.

'Michael will be deposed,' said the Jaguar ace at Barcelona.

He added, 'I think Kimi [Raikkonen] will give it a real shout and either of the Williams drivers will definitely be right up there.'

Webber says the momentum is now with Ferrari's main Michelin-shod rivals.

'It's going to be a tough year for Michael,' said Mark. 'He scraped it out of the bottom of the canyon last year for the championship.'

Schu's imminent first defeat since 2000 may even quell his love-affair for F1.

Said Webber, 'He won't enjoy it if he loses - it will be tough for him. But it might give him the motivation to come back again and stick around even longer.'








Toyota Trim Formula One Budget
Toyota has cut back on spending at the pinnacle of motor sport.

Since the Cologne-based marque entered the sport in 2002, it has spent an estimated $1 billion to finish tenth and eighth in the constructors' tables.

President John Howett, however, used the launch of a new TF104 racer in Germany on Saturday to combat assumptions that Toyota is again spending big in 2004.

'The name Toyota is synonymous with lean operations,' he insisted.

Howett said, 'We operated comfortably within last year's budget, and this year's budget is actually lower.'

Media reports are claiming that Toyota may have curbed a $400 million budget in 2003 by as much as thirteen per cent in preparation for the new racing season.

'But we do aim to be a top team,' Howett continues, 'so we have a top team's budget. But it is not as large as people may think.'








Jaguar Yet To Sign 'Third' Driver
Jaguar declined to announce a 'third driver' for the 2004 season at the launch of its modest-appearing R5 racer at Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday.

The team had hoped that former Minardi and Jaguar star Justin Wilson would be free, under new FIA rules, to test the spare-chassis on Fridays this season.

'We will have a third car at every race,' managing director David Pitchforth confirmed. 'We have a list, but I'm not going to talk about who is on it.'

American Townsend Bell, who tested alongside newcomer Christian Klien at the circuit late last year, is now favorite to claim it, according to sources.

'We're in negotiations,' Pitchforth continued, 'however in the next two to three weeks we will make an announcement.'








Klien Turns To Legends For Advice
Christian Klien is the 'real deal,' according to his first F1 team-mate.

Jaguar's Mark Webber certainly hopes his new 20-year-old sparring partner does better than his predecessors in getting the most from the sister Leaping Cat.

The 27-year-old deposed Antonio Pizzonia and Justin Wilson in 2003.

'Last year I scored all bar one of the team's points and that killed us for the championship,' said the Australian.

'We need to have two drivers regularly scoring points.'

Klien, from Austria, has never ventured beyond the European continent but reckons two of his country's legends can help him deal with the pressure of F1.

'I spoke to Gerhard Berger about how to handle the pressure,' said Klien. 'He told me whenever I have a question to just give him a call.'

And while he also plans to touch base with triple champion Niki Lauda, Christian is no admirer of F1's pacesetter, German champion Michael Schumacher.

'I'm more a [Juan Pablo] Montoya fan,' said Klien. 'I think he's a great driver and I like his driving style and personality.'








Michelin Didn't Want To Supply BAR
Michelin didn't really want to supply BAR-Honda with F1 tires in 2004.

Under the stipulations of the Concorde Agreement, though, tire suppliers must be prepared to adorn more than half of the grid with race-rubber if requested.

'We're delighted about it,' said a nonetheless reticent Pierre Dupasquier.

He explained: 'We weren't really looking to increase of numbers but it shows that our tires are the number one choice in the sport at present.'

Having six teams to Bridgestone's four, however, could actually pose a problem for Michelin in its quest to finally tie-up the world championship.

Some say Michelin's development will be pushed along faster than its rivals in '04 because it boasts six manufacturer-backed teams to Bridgestone's one.

Dupasquier doesn't necessarily agree: 'So many of our partners can score points that it could actually open up the door to our opposition to win the title.'

He added, 'Let's hope not. At the end of the day we want to win races.'








Do New Rules Tame F1's Horses?
You'd be wrong to assume that just because F1's engine rules have changed ahead of season 2004, horsepower will be down and overall weight will be up.

Cosworth's technical director Nick Hayes said at the launch of the new Jaguar R5 in Spain on Sunday that the new CR-6 V10 doesn't necessary weigh more.

'You can't make those assumptions,' he said. 'F1 technology moves forward so fast you can't use last year's model as a benchmark.'

Hayes declined to reveal exactly what the 90-degree unit does weigh but he did admit that it 'probably weighs a little bit more than it would have done.'

In 2004, each car/driver faces penalty if his single powerplant per weekend does not make it to the start of Sunday's Formula One Grand Prix.

'We are always trying to save weight,' Hayes continues, 'so if you were going to make an assumption, you'd be safer to assume it is lighter still.'

Nick admitted that revs and power-output are also likely to be lower than they would have been if the regulations had stayed the same this season.

'But I think by the end of the season we will have caught up,' he concluded.








Purnell 'Worried' About R5 Progress
F1 team Jaguar is in better shape than it ever has been, according to the man most directly responsible for what its new R5 challenger looks like.

Aero chief Ben Agathangelou says the car incorporates 'less risk' than its predecessors because the team understood the 2003-spec R4 so well.

'We're working in a low-risk, conventional fashion,' he said, 'and that stability has given us a chance to push really hard to make it an improvement.'

Rather than stab in the dark on new innovations, then, Agathangelou - for the first time in his tenure - could 'refine and evolve' the Formula One car.

Team boss Tony Purnell is sure that R5 is quicker than the old racer.

'But I'm really very worried that maybe we make half a second and everyone else makes up one second,' he said. 'That will make us tail-end Charlies.'







Fisichella Denies Sour-Grapes
Roman ace Giancarlo Fisichella has denied sour-grapes that Ferrari opted to extend the racing contract of veteran Rubens Barrichello for a further 2-years.

Observers saw the 31-year-old's swap from Jordan to scarlet-powered Sauber this season as a step closer to realising his dream of one day racing for the marque.

He told Gazzetta dello Sport: 'I'm happy for him and not disappointed for myself, but rather satisfied for the opportunities that will emerge.'








Pressure Lands On Austrian Rookie
Driving quickly is simply not enough.

That's the message whispered firmly in both 20-year-old ears of Jaguar Racing's brand-new Formula One team-mate for Mark Webber, Christian Klien.

'I want to be pushed by my team-mate,' said Webber in Spain.

Klien, from Austria, knows that even a $5 million sponsorship purse courtesy of backers Red Bull won't ease the pressure on his shoulders in 2004.

'I know this is going to be a tough season,' he added at the launch of R5.

'I know less than half the tracks and I am ready to learn a lot from Mark. From the first day, Jaguar have told me that I must score points.'

Boss David Pitchforth deposed fears that Jaguar might be about to stamp on another talent like Klien's predecessors Justin Wilson or Antonio Pizzonia.

'He needs time to settle into F1 as a whole and he'll be given that,' he said.








Celebrity Races To Get Green-Light
Formula One fans may be treated to a Celebrity Grand Prix at races in 2004.

Minardi chief Paul Stoddart, with a fleet of two-seater F1 cars, proposed the idea to his nine counterparts last week as a way to boost waning spectators.

The ten cars, painted in team colors and steered by test drivers, will ferry A-list celebrities around the eighteen grand prix circuits on Sunday mornings.

'It's very interesting,' said FIA chief Max Mosley, 'and it was well received.'

F1 bosses are asking their sponsors this week if the idea is workable and will give Australian-born Stoddart an answer 'within the week.'








Bahrain Running Out Of Time
F1 circuit contractor Cebarco Bahrain has admitted real concern about whether the 89-percent completed track can be finished in time.

Chairman Khalid Abdul Rahim reckons last-minute changes to the track design will make getting the facility ready for an April 4 race-date a close-run thing.

'You might finish the project,' he said, 'but you have to make it operational.'

He says Cebarco has just three weeks to commission a circuit by a process that normal takes 'three or four months' to complete.

FIA officials have also started their own tests to ensure that the first Middle Eastern F1 facility is up-to-scratch for an inaugural race in 2004.

'We were told we'd have three months for the FIA to test,' Rahim continues. 'But they started a month ago. Right now they're looking at crash barriers.'

Meanwhile, renowned F1 race organiser Philippe Gurdjian has been brought-in at the behest of Bernie Ecclestone to oversee the final stages of organization.

The Bahrain circuit is now way over-budget, according to the contractors.








Da Matta Prepares To Pounce
F1 driver Cristiano da Matta is ready to pounce on his rivals this season.

Last season, as a rookie, the former CART series champion from Brazil spent most of his time fitting-in with the F1 fold and learning a dozen new race circuits.

'It was a lot of hard work,' said da Matta, widely regarded as the 'rookie of the season' in 2003, 'but I think I showed my potential.'

2004 will be a different story, said the diminutive ace from Belo-Horizonte.

'At last, I'm on a level playing field to the other drivers,' said Cristiano. 'I will aim for consistency and help Toyota make progress on the top teams.'








French Race Is On, Ecclestone Confirms
The French Grand Prix is on, F1's impresario Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed.

'There will be eighteen races,' said the 73-year-old impresario after a meeting in London late last week with the sport's ten team principals.

Ecclestone confirmed that Magny-Cours promoters had met their financial obligations to the sport and agreed to compensate the Formula One teams.

'The teams have agreed and there's no problem,' FIA chief Max Mosley added. 'They're getting their financial deal. It's really down to Bernie.'

Mosley denied that the entire saga had been a ploy by Bernie, who actually had little intention of scrapping the historic race, to get more money from France.

'No,' he said, 'it was very close. It wasn't completely in place until a day or so ago. The FIA were, however, reluctant to see France come off the calendar.'








Retaining Rubens Was 'Automatic'
Retaining Rubens Barrichello was an 'automatic decision.'

That's the insistence of Ferrari's racing chief Jean Todt who denied claims that a new two-year deal was a close-run deal with younger cockpit-rivals.

'It was virtually automatic,' Todt told the Italian press. 'He has done an extraordinary job and there was no reason not to carry on with a winning team.'








Nothing Wrong With R5: Jaguar
Jaguar Racing has poured scorned on reports that its new R5 challenger, unwrapped in Spain on Sunday, was born with inherent technical 'faults.'

Spokesman Nav Sidhu said there is 'nothing wrong with the car.'

Late last week, chief in green Tony Purnell told this publication after a roll-out in Belgium that he knows 'there are some things that are wrong [with R5].'

Sidhu appears to admit that this may be true but says the press-interpreted description - 'fault' - suggests that the problem does not have a fix.

He added, 'Every single car in Melbourne will have areas which are under-developed. That's the nature of the business.'

Meanwhile, David Pitchforth - team managing director - admits that some of R4's problems have been carried-over into the design of the 2004-spec racer.

'It's better to run something whose quirks you believe you can fix than take a gamble on something new,' he said at Circuit de Catalunya yesterday.








Gascoyne Defends Big-Spending Toyota
Mike Gascoyne has defended new employers Toyota Racing in the face of criticisms that they are spending-big in their quest for Formula One success.

The Briton was lured away from Renault late last year on the promise of an unprecedented engineer's salary; some $7.1 million per season.

He said: 'A lot of people concentrate on our budget.

'But they forget Ferrari, McLaren and Williams have spent years building their teams into winning organizations.'

Toyota are rumored to spend about $400 million annually on their grands prix campaign; although that figure is said to have been trimmed for 2004.

Gascoyne, technical director on the chassis-side of the garage in Cologne, said Toyota are attempting to catch the big-guys in just a few racing seasons.

'And that takes a lot of investment,' he said. 'I think they're doing it in the smart way.'








Senna May Have Driven For Ferrari
Had Ayrton Senna survived a shunt at Imola in 1994, he may well have ended up as team-mate to Michael Schumacher at world-championship team Ferrari.

Scarlet chief Jean Todt said the late, legendary Brazilian was 'interested' in switching from Williams to Ferrari ahead of season 1995.

'I met Senna at the 1993 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, shortly after I had come into Formula One, to talk about signing him,' the Frenchman said.

Todt said he was 'surprised' that Senna was keen on slipping on scarlet gloves.

He added, 'We were nothing like as strong a team then as we are now, so you can actually imagine how surprised I was.'

Todt said Ayrton's interest was 'proof' of the strength of the Ferrari myth.

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