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By Andrew Maitland
January 27, 2004


Kimi Says F1 Title Can Be His
Kimi Raikkonen doesn't want to say he's better than Michael Schumacher.

But it doesn't mean the young Finn, runner-up to the ice-cool German in last year's Formula One championship, doesn't actually believe it to be so.

'I think I have a very good chance (this year),' the 24-year-old told F1 Racing magazine. 'I feel confident that I can beat Michael.'

Raikkonen is known in the paddock as The Iceman.

It started when McLaren chief and mentor Ron Dennis told the press that Kimi Raikkonen is even cooler than his Finnish predecessor, Mika Hakkinen.

'It's nice,' Kimi shrugged, 'but I never think like that.'

He happily wears the 'Iceman' sticker on his helmet and merchandise clothing, but Raikkonen adds: 'I don't want to sound like I'm full of bullsh*t.'

Neither does the speedster want to say he's the best driver in the world.

'It's difficult to say, yourself,' said Kimi. 'But I came second last year and I think I can improve on that in 2004.'








No Gasps As Ferrari Unveil Evolution
On a chilly mid-morning in northern Italy, Ferrari unveiled its latest F1 car.

But there was no gasp from the assembled media when a scarlet sheet was pulled off the F2004, the Scuderia's fiftieth single-seater to attack the GP-grids.

'What's important is what you see on the stopwatch at the end of the day,' world champion Michael Schumacher said as he defended the 'evolutionary' design.

But (r)evolution or not, Ferrari expects a tough challenge from nearest rivals McLaren and BMW-Williams - and as an outside chance Renault - in 2004.

Boss Jean Todt said they can 'no longer stand' to see Ferrari in the lead.

'We have great impatience, a real desire to do well,' the Frenchman continued at the team's factory in Maranello. 'It's like starting from zero all over again.'

Ferrari has won the past five constructors' and past four drivers' titles.








Ferrari Confirm: F2004 To Start New-Year
Ferrari has vowed to buck its own self-imposed trend of the past couple of Formula One seasons to start 2004 with a newly-launched scarlet car.

'This year it looks like we will have the new car ready for the first race,' said driver Rubens Barrichello. 'Now that's our wish.'

Technical director Ross Brawn confirmed that it is Ferrari's plan to take the F2004, with numerous similarities to last year's contender, to Albert Park.

'Maybe something will happen,' he admitted. 'We can reconsider, but it would be a hell of a task to get the old car and engine ready for the new regulations.'

He explained that the new-policy was designed because of the novel long-life engine regulations but also because of the 'performance of our competitors.'

The decision to go with the new car was made before Christmas after mock-up crash-tests went well and Ferrari 'wanted to put 100 percent' behind F2004.

'Everything was planned to start with the new car in Australia,' said Jean Todt.








Ferrari Clears Crash-Test Hurdle
Ferrari's new F2004 racer has passed most of the mandatory FIA crash-tests.

'We've passed the critical ones,' said technical director Ross Brawn as the project-named '655' was unveiled at the Maranello factory in Italy.

Brawn revealed that the only test remaining is the rear-impact test, but it won't deter Ferrari's plan of starting the season with the car in Melbourne.

'I'd say that final test is pretty stand-alone,' the Englishman continued.

He added, 'I'm reasonably comfortable we've got past that hurdle.'








Brawn Admits 'Unfinished' F2004
Any gasps from the assembled media upon the Ferrari F2004's unveiling in Maranello yesterday were as much for what they DIDN'T see on the car.

A few days ago, prior to the ceremony near Modena, team boss Jean Todt hinted that the fiftieth scarlet single-seater might boast a 'surprise' front wing.

'Certainly, we did not react aggressively enough to the opportunities presented by the 2003 regulation changes,' admitted technical director Ross Brawn.

'For 2004 we have worked to ensure that we will not make the same mistake.'

But where is the radical front wing, like BMW-Williams' new tusks?

'There will be fairly substantial changes to the aerodynamic components [before the first race,' explained chief designer Rory Byrne.

He added that the wing, bargeboards and rear-aero shapes are likely to be quite-different by the time Michael Schumacher powers out of the Albert Park pitlane.

The pieces will be introduced during February pre-season testing.

'Why aren't they on there?' Brawn quizzes himself. 'Because we've pushed the development of the car and we're still making the pieces.'








Rubens Vows Threat To Ferrari Teammate
Rubens Barrichello has promised to pose a threat to his championship-winning Ferrari team-mate in the race for the next Formula One crown.

'I think I've always been a challenge for him, in a way,' the Brazilian told the press at a low-key unveiling of the F2004 in Maranello on Monday.

Barrichello is still a few years younger than Michael Schumacher but he insists that he's a 'better driver today' than during his first season in scarlet.

'That was my third step in my career,' he said, 'I had Jordan and I had Stewart, I learned with them but I had to change and I think I'm doing a better job now.'

Rubens says winning only happens if you 'believe' and you 'dream.'

'You have to know you can do it,' he claims, 'and that's my status right now.'

But dreams might not be all he needs - Barrichello has Formula One's new points-system on his side, particularly as 'number-two' to 35-year-old Schumacher.

'Someone who finished third in all the races would probably have had the chance to win the championship last year,' he notes, 'so it is wide open (this year).'








Best Tires Will Win F1 Titles: Brawn
Ross Brawn has admitted that tires will win this year's Formula One titles.

The technical director concluded at Monday's launch of an evolutionary-looking F2004 that Ferrari's 'most important' partnership is with Bridgestone.

'What must be understood is that no tire firm can be totally dominant,' he said.

'We will succeed or fail on the strength of our tires.'

Conventional wisdom claims that Michelin, with six manufacturer-backed teams on the books in 2004, has an early edge over its Japanese-based rival.

But 2003 champion Michael Schumacher reminded the assembled media in Maranello that last season, the victorious scarlet car bore the brand of Bridgestone.

'If I'm correct,' he smiled, 'last year I think we won both championships with those tires. So it can't be that bad.

'I think we are ready for the game and I'm as motivated as ever.'

Ross Brawn concluded that Ferrari and Bridgestone will both 'succeed together' and 'fail together. And if we fail, then we need to work harder.'








Don't Discount DC: Schumacher
Michael Schumacher won't count David Coulthard out of the chase for this year's Formula One championship - so why should the rest of the world?

Such was the gist of a message propounded by the German in Maranello yesterday as his Ferrari team prepared to defend their titles in season 2004.

'I know David gets a huge amount of flak and negative press in the UK but within the confines of the F1 paddock he is well respected,' said Schumacher.

Coulthard, after a difficult '03 - especially in qualifying - may be left without a racing home in 2005 as Juan Pablo Montoya touches down at McLaren.

Schumacher admits that DC 'didn't have the best' form last season.

'But I believe he will be one of my main rivals this season,' he asserts. 'He will be fired-up and I can't afford to write him off in terms of the fight.'

The 35-year-old reeled-off the merits of F1's Scottish veteran.

'He is always quick, totally professional, hard but fair, and an excellent driver to race against,' said Schumacher.

'He'll be determined to prove a lot of people wrong.'








Schu Expects McLaren To Challenge
Michael Schumacher expects the toughest challenge to his world championships to come from Mercedes-powered Formula One team McLaren this season.

'However, I don't know about Renault's and Williams' new cars,' said the German.

'I'm aware things can change very quickly in Formula One.'

Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello, of Brazil, agrees that 2004 is likely to pose a 'tough, highly competitive' world championship confrontation.

But he hopes to start it the way he ended 2003; 'with a win.'

So while the harshest test might be in a duel with McLaren, Schumacher also has a cautious eye on F1's youngest-ever race-winner; a 22-year-old from Spain.

Asked if Renault's Fernando Alonso is a contender, he said: 'It looks like it.'








Schu To Kick-Start F2004 Program
Michael Schumacher will kick-off development on Ferrari's all-new Formula One challenger at the Fiorano test track late this week.

'It's always been like that,' said team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who - while Schumacher settles into F2004 - will be doing tire-work in southern Spain.

German-ace Michael's job will be to sort-out 'all the small glitches' that inevitably grumble to the surface when a new car runs for the first time.

Only a single F2004 is ready to test, the Brazilian admitted.

'By the time we get to February, the middle somewhere, we'll have two cars and we'll be able to do a lot of testing,' said Rubens Barrichello.

He insists that he's not perturbed about his shorter test-programme.

'Apart from the seating position,' he explains, 'if the car is faster you adapt to it very well and quickly - whether it's understeering or oversteering.'








Ferrari Defend 'Tusk-Less' New Racer
An assembled few expected Ferrari's new F2004 to feature tusks.

BMW-Williams plonked the front-end innovation on their newly-launched FW26 and Jean Todt hinted recently that the new single-seater would have a radical nose.

'Some people thought we would have something like that,' smiled Michael Schumacher, 'just because Williams came up with something new.

'But that doesn't mean [Williams] are more prepared.'

Ferrari's team principal, Todt, declined to re-live his pre-launch boasts about noses and just claimed that titles are not won or lost 'because of front wings.'

'[Williams] got a lot of media attention because their wing was different,' said the Frenchman, 'but we do a lot of development in the wind-tunnel.'

Todt hinted that 'tusks' have already been tried in the Maranello tunnel.

Meanwhile, Schumacher wondered just how long the FW26 will be tusked.

'It will be interesting,' said the German, 'to see how long it goes that way and whether other teams go the same route or not.

'It's an innovation, but at the end of the day it has to be quick.'








Badoer May Run Third Sauber: Ferrari's Todt
Ferrari test-driver Luca Badoer is allowed to drive a third Sauber in the official practice sessions at grands prix this season, Jean Todt has confirmed.

A story last week hinted that Ferrari, led by Todt, might pay their bottom-six 'customer' team to run a spare-car in 2004 as allowed by new regulations.

Sauber's new C23 racer bears a striking resemblance to the 2003-specification F2003-GA and is powered by a Ferrari-made engine and gearbox.

The participation of Italian-born Badoer in the official practice sessions would also help Ferrari gather data as both teams run on Bridgestone-made tires.

Badoer, 33, is allowed to be a Friday-test driver as he hasn't turned a wheel in an actual grand prix since 1999, when he doubled as a Minardi racer.

'Luca is able to test the third car for a team that is between fifth and tenth place (in last year's championship),' Todt said in Maranello on Monday.

The Frenchman said whether Ferrari actually does it 'is speculation.'

He added, 'But if we decide to do it, we can.'








Schu Slams F1 Points-System
Michael Schumacher has renewed his criticism of Formula One's new-for-2003 points-system which strives to reduce the margin of the winner.

Last season, F1 runner-up Kimi Raikkonen got within two-points of Schumacher's sixth drivers' title by consistently finishing races in the top-eight.

But he only won a single grand prix to Michael's six.

'I knew Kimi was a very good racing driver, he had a good car and was very consistent,' said Ferrari's number-one driver and champion, Schumacher.

But the German questions whether a driver with 'so many second positions' should actually wind-up at the final race of the season within sight of the title.

Michael wondered: 'Is that correct or not correct? I have my own opinion. It's nothing to do with Kimi. Regarding him I think he will do a very good job.'








Schu: Too Early To Plan Beyond 2006
Can't you just go and bother someone else?

That was Michael Schumacher's plea at Maranello yesterday as the press continued their agitating-campaign of speculation regarding his eventual F1-retirement.

Before the 35-year-old renewed his Ferrari contract mid-last season, rumours were rife that he would hang up his scarlet helmet at the end of 2004.

But even armed with a new through-to-2006 agreement, Michael is still harassed.

'Last year, when we were discussing terms for 2006, there was a lot of discussion,' Schumacher told the media as Ferrari launched F2004 in Italy.

'They said: What is he going to do? - is he going to extend? Blah, blah, blah.'

Michael thought his new deal would cease the speculation; but now the racing media want to know what he's got planned beyond 2006; or perhaps even earlier.

'I think it's a bit too early,' Schumacher continued. 'What am I going to do? It doesn't matter. I don't intend to think about anything other than racing.'








Ferrari Reveal Radical Gearbox
One of the most radical elements of Ferrari's evolutionary new Formula One racer, the F2004 - unveiled in Italy on Monday - is under its scarlet skin.

Sources report that new materials were used in the construction of the gearbox.

'The fundamental change is in the casing,' admitted car designer Rory Byrne.

The South-African said that in the past, Ferrari used a cast-titanium case for the Formula One transmission - 'now we've got a hybrid material one,' he said.

Byrne continued: 'It's another step in improving structural efficiency and reducing weight. We're introducing much more composite-use into the casing.'

But while Ferrari boast about new materials, it is believed that McLaren might be about to unleash an even more radical gearbox-innovation on the F1 grid.

Their MP4-19's twin-clutch gearbox, apparently to be ready by the 2004 season-opener, enables gears to be changed without the momentary loss of power.








Barrichello: McLaren Our Biggest Threat
Rubens Barrichello agrees with his Ferrari team-leader that Mercedes-powered Formula One team McLaren look likely to pose the sturdiest threat in 2004.

'I think the McLaren is going to be a very good car,' said the Ferrari driver.

But why is silver likely to be a more dangerous colour than blue and white? Mostly because Ron Dennis' Woking-based lads know the MP4-19 so well.

Barrichello continues: 'It's like a year-old car. It was never used in 2003 but it's a car that they are going to develop quite a lot now.'

The '19' is based heavily on McLaren's un-raced 2003 test-car, MP4-18.

'If they are going to be the toughest one, I don't know,' Rubens said. 'But Kimi [Raikkonen] was the closest challenger last year. Let's wait and see.'








Schu Believes New Format Is 'Fairer'
Michael Schumacher believes Formula One's new qualifying format is 'fairer'.

The German, reigning world champion since 2000, was forced throughout last season to be the first one-lap qualifier on the track on Friday afternoons.

'I'm a lot happier (with the revised system),' Michael told reporters.

In 2004, the first-car out for Saturday-only qualifying will be the winner of the last grand prix - not the championship-leader, as during last season.

'If the circuit is in good condition it should be ok,' he continued, 'but if not then you could still be a track-cleaner. But it is a fairer system.'







Ferrari Aim For 'Little News' In 2004
Luca di Montezemolo was happy, not perturbed, when his Formula One drivers said little about their chances for a new title-challenge in 2004.

The president of Ferrari, on-hand at Maranello for the launch of a new racer, said he hoped media agencies struggled for eye-catching news this season.

'It is more news when Ferrari are beaten than when they win,' said the Italian.

His logic is sound; it is easier, for example, to remember who was lapped by Fernando Alonso in Hungary than to recall which driver triumphed in Barcelona.

Both times, it was Ferrari's eventual champion, Michael Schumacher.

Montezemolo smiled: 'We will try to give as little news as possible and win as often as we can. When drivers don't say much it's a good sign.'

He reckons when F1 aces talk too much 'they invent things.

'How they drive is what matters. It's going to be a hard fight and a difficult year. But I want to have the same conclusion (as last season).'








Brawn Checks Out Bridgestone Centre
Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn headed to the outskirts of Rome (Italy) last week to check-out Bridgestone's European technical centre.

The event signified an 'increasingly open exchange of technical information' between the two companies in Formula One, according to a spokesman.

Meanwhile, Brawn explained: 'Today was all about meeting and talking to young engineers and getting a closer look at the technical facilities here in Rome.

'It is an important visit not only for our relationship, but also to understand Bridgestone's capabilities,' the Englishman continued.

Later, Brawn put his skills to the test on the wet-handling track after a few laps in the passenger-seat of a Fiat Group car with ex-F1 ace Stefano Modena.








Jaguar Prefer Reliability Over Speed
Jaguar would be happier to start the season with reliability rather than speed.

Chief engineer Malcolm Oastler said an 'evolutionary' R5 challenger means more time has been spent on fine-tuning the new Formula One car ahead of 2004.

'Originally, we set out to give R4 a light-rub,' said the Australian.

He added, 'But with the added time we have been able to extensively redesign quite a few areas of the car and still retain the proven systems and parts.'

Recent reports after initial tests, however, indicate that the R5 is not developing in the right direction and may even sport serious aerodynamic flaws.

Ex-BAR man Oastler said his main job before Melbourne is to ensure R5 is robust.

He explained, 'At some circuits last year we were very quick but couldn't translate that into points. At other circuits we were off the pace.

'We can't afford for that to happen if we want to improve in the championship.'








Pizzonia Set For BMW-Williams Return
Antonio Pizzonia is heading for a return to the BMW-Williams test-role.

The embattled Brazilian filled the position in 2002 before emerging triumphant in the race to partner Aussie Mark Webber as Jaguar team-mate last season.

By the fourth race, he was in trouble; by Hockenheim, he was out.

Some publications are musing that either son of former F1 world champions, Nico Rosberg or Nelson Piquet Junior, are favorite to land the official role.

But our sources insist that Pizzonia, also known as 'Jungle-Boy' in F1 circles, may have already signed a contract to cover the position during season 2004.

Spaniard Marc Gene is in dire need of a 'second' support test driver.

'Sometimes it was six days running [in a row],' said Gene, 'and that's too much. As far as I know, [the bosses] have [already] made a decision.'

Youngster Pizzonia returned to the cockpit of a Grove-built car in early October (2003) and was praised by BMW-Williams' chief operations engineer Sam Michael.

'12 months out of a Williams has done nothing to slow Antonio down,' he said.








Ferrari Admit Close Sauber Link
F1 team Ferrari has admitted a 'close' relationship with rivals Sauber.

Last week, reports did the rounds that Sauber's new C23, which boasts a Ferrari-made engine and gearbox, was a 'direct copy' of the Maranello-built F2003-GA.

'You know we share information,' Ferrari chief Jean Todt admitted on Monday at his team's new-car launch. 'We have our engineers talking to one another.'

Todt mused confidence that supplying Sauber with same-spec engines this season and - for the first time - the gearbox, will 'help them be more competitive.

'And we can also share some more information together,' Jean, who insisted that Peter Sauber still pays for the privilege of Ferrari custom, continued.

Speculation is also doing the rounds, partly confirmed by Todt at the F2004 launch on Monday, that Ferrari might pay Sauber to run a third-car on Fridays.

Jean Todt noted, 'Don't forget [Sauber] are also using Bridgestone tires.'

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