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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 28, 2004

Ferrari Unlikely To 'Dip' In 2004
One of Ferrari's key rivals has rejected claims that world champion Michael Schumacher is likely to slide down the grid on inferior-tyres this season.

Sam Michael, chief operations engineer at BMW-Williams, says the much-hyped tyre-war will not necessarily go against Bridgestone-shod Ferrari in 2004.

'They'll be the strongest competitor,' the Australian said of Ferrari, who again took the constructors' title last season by a margin of fourteen points.

Observers at the pre-season testing tracks reckon Michelin, who supply Grove-based Williams and other top-teams like McLaren, maintain the edge over Ferrari.

Michael refers to Ferrari's widely-reported 'dip' in form of 2003.

'I think it's unlikely that we'll see another one,' the 31-year-old added.

He continued: 'I would say, actually, the opposite. But I think if you take it as a whole, the grid [in 2004] will be a little closer.'

BMW-Williams are preparing for the new-season quite differently from 2003.

The innovative-looking FW26, with a radical front-end, hit the test-tracks a month earlier than its predecessor to fix an early-season deficit last year.

'So we're hopeful we can challenge straight away,' Sam Michael concluded.

Verstappen Retires From Jordan Race
Jos Verstappen has pulled out of the race for one of the last remaining drives on the 2004 Formula One grid, the Dutch star announced on Tuesday.

'The Boss' told the media that his management has put a full-stop against all ongoing-negotiations with Eddie Jordan's cash-strapped Silverstone-based team.

He said: 'At the moment it is useless to continue.'

Jos, who drove for Minardi last season, revealed that he was handed a contract by Jordan but it 'gave insufficient confidence' of a 'successful cooperation.'

The Montford-born veteran is too-qualified to take up a bottom-six test-drive in 2004 so is therefore likely to sit-out this year's series as he did in 2001.

Jos carries some $10m in personal-sponsorship but his failed negotiations leave Nick Heidfeld, Allan McNish and Ralph Firman in the race for one of the seats.

Rookies Jarek Janis, Bas Leinders and Timo Glock have all tested yellow-liveried EJ13 cars in recent months and may also carry enough cash to acquire the drive.

JV's chief backer Michel Perridon, of Trust Computers, pledged continual support for the highly-popular racer even in the absence of a race-drive this season.

'It is important that all parties ... have a good basis for a successful season,' he said in a statement, 'and ... this time, that is not the case.'

Firman 'Desperate' For F1 Seat
The prospect of Ralph Firman racing a Jordan for a second consecutive season rose again on Tuesday as Jos Verstappen ceased contract-talks with the team.

Firman, the 29-year-old from Norfolk, is favoured by British backer Benson & Hedges but reckons he can shine in his own right given another chance in 2004.

'I'm desperate to stay in F1,' said the star who scored a single point in 2003.

The Englishman, also Formula Nippon champion of 2002, promised to be on the pace from the off this season because none of the grand prix circuits are new to him.

Firman, under long-term contract to Jordan, insisted that he'll remain 'in the frame' for a full-time F1 drive in 2004 until EJ confirms two alternate pilots.

'We are doing as much as we can, so fingers crossed,' he added whilst contending that Eddie Jordan should make a final decision within the space of ten-days.

He admitted that EJ is looking at alternate drivers with 'big money.'

Ralph Firman's main rival for one of the two spare Ford-powered drives must be former Renault tester and Scot Allan McNish, also admired by Jordan sponsor B&H.

Indian States Tussle For F1 Race
Despite the recent claims of a rival state, city Hyderabad still leads the race to land a seven-year contract to host future Formula One grands prix in India.

This publication reported on Monday that Indian state Maharashtra was confident of wooing Bernie Ecclestone's affections away from Hyderabad to the city of Mumbai.

'[F1 officials] have informed us that they will be coming next week for discussions with me,' chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde was quoted as saying.

But state-Andhra Pradesh counterpart N Chandrababu Naidu maintains his own confidence that promoters will still plump for Hyderabad for the 2007-race.

'F1 is not going to Mumbai,' said Naidu whilst also claiming that his officials were in constant contact with Ecclestone and the Briton's F1 race-authorities.

However, Hyderabad officials report 'surprise' that F1 has started talks with Mumbai especially after agreeing to a 'lock-in' period of exclusive dialogue.

Naidu claimed that a Memorandum of Understanding is soon to be signed with F1.

'We are working on it,' he said, in light of a meeting with Ecclestone in London only a few days ago. 'We expect to sign it at the earliest.'

Minardi Opens Testing Account
Formula One rookie Gianmaria Bruni opened his 2004-account with the Minardi team on Tuesday as the cash-strapped minnows started testing at Valencia.

The Roman drove an 'interim' PS04-b car and will hand over to newly-signed team-mate Zsolt Baumgartner on Wednesday, according to a Faenza-issued statement.

Bruni worked on a programme, over 76 laps, including the assessment of various components and software for Minardi's 2004 Formula One single-seater, PS04.

'I am pretty satisfied,' said 'Gimmi' who had a harmless spin in the morning.

He added, 'The car is much better than in Vallelunga, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow, when we plan to do some long runs with the PS04.'

Senior engineer Andy Tilley confirmed that Hungarian Baumgartner, who has yet to get behind the wheel of a Minardi, watched Bruni's progress from the pitwall.

Team owner Paul Stoddart, meanwhile, explained that the data collected at Valencia will help the team finalise the specification for the 2004 Minardi car.

'The test also provides Gimmi and Zsolt with the opportunity to start settling in with the team prior to the first grand prix of the season,' he added.

BAR Promise Button's Title By 2005
Improving Formula One team BAR-Honda can deliver a world championship to British driver Jenson Button by 2005, according to team principal Dave Richards.

The Englishman told British paper The People that Button, 24, is now more mature than in his formative BMW-Williams and Renault days and can 'win the title.'

But Jenson has yet even to stand on the post-race podium, let alone claim a win.

But DR says his young driving-charge will collect both milestones with the '04-spec 006 car before, in 2005, he lines up a first drivers' world championship.

'I want to deliver him the world title,' said Richards.

Frome-born Button has already voiced his expectation to the media that he now expects Brackley to build him a car capable of serving-up decent results.

Richards said he would understand Jenson 'being annoyed' if that didn't happen as soon as this F1 season, which kicks off in Australia in early-March.

He added, 'But we will give him a car capable of winning the championship in the next couple of years.'

Button, albeit on a low fuel-level, smashed the Barcelona lap-record in testing last week. 'Everyone's talking about how fast the Williams cars are,' said DR.

David Richards noted that JB 'took almost a second' off them.

F1 Guilty Of Negligence: Eddie Jordan
Formula One may have already driven immovable nails into its own coffin by failing to get rising costs under control, team boss Eddie Jordan has claimed.

The flamboyant Irishman, who - as a privateer - will contest the 2004 season with a 'meager' $85m budget, accused the sport as a whole of 'gross negligence.'

He said: 'I think we're all guilty of that. It's true that we have done ourselves a disservice by our lack of progress in containing costs.'

Since no less than seven automobile giants got involved at the pinnacle of motor sport, a revolution of technical advance has speared budgets towards the absurd.

2001 and 2002 saw a third of F1's privateer teams, like Prost and Arrows, fail while Ferrari and Toyota budgets bubble to near the half-billion-a-year mark.

But Jordan refuses to blame the richer teams: 'Nobody is without blemish.'

He added, 'We take everything too personally and then think of how to maximize things to our own best advantage. We don't consider the business as a whole.'

Such a view gives credence to FIA president Max Mosley's plea for more power to unilaterally cut costs by introducing new money-saving technical regulations.

'The teams themselves have got to recognize that they have allowed the costs to get too high,' the Englishman told the British media recently.

Rivals Shade Pace At Big Valencia Test
BMW-Williams and Ferrari proved the tyre-war might not be a foregone conclusion in 2004 by shading each others' pace on the first day of testing in Valencia.

In a radical-new FW26, team tester Marc Gene - on Michelins - just managed to pip the scarlet pace of Bridgestone-clad world champion Michael Schumacher.

Having helped launch the new Ferrari F2004 on Monday, Schumacher was on form in Spain on Tuesday - but at the wheel of two older-spec F2004-GA machines.

Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya was third, followed by Bridgestone-clad Sauber's Felipe Massa and another Michelin ace; Jarno Trulli in the eye-catching Renault.

'Today we rolled-out of the second [C23 Sauber] chassis, which basically means that we are testing with a new car this week,' said engineer Jacky Eeckelaert.

Toyota and BAR are fielding runners in Spain, as are Milton-Keynes based Formula One outfit Jaguar Racing who continue to trail the pace with the worrying R5.

F1 Brings Benefits To Bahrain
Formula One will bring countless benefits to Bahrain, according to an expert.

Director of TSE Consulting Lars Pedersen, based in Switzerland, told a gathering in the new GP-hosting nation that economic benefits will 'definitely be there.'

Michael Schumacher and his rivals are set to touch-down for the first-ever race in the Middle East this April, on a $150m purpose-built facility in Sakhir.

Some of the world's most influential businessmen will be on the Gulf-Island nation for the inaugural Formula One event, according to Gulf Daily News.

Pedersen told the publication: 'This alone will provide many opportunities for networking and meeting business leaders.'

F1 will also introduce Bahrain to the world, he insisted.

'When people think of Formula One, they will think of Bahrain. It will create a reputation for Bahrain as a sporty, fun place - a place for young people to go.'

And what better promotional-tool than a free one; and one that should - if everything goes to plan - have the world boasting about how great Bahrain is.

'People saying good things about you is always better than you saying good things about yourself,' Pedersen smiled as he continued at the Sheraton Hotel.

Don't Ask About Horsepower: Martinelli
Don't even bother asking about horsepower, Paulo Martinelli said on Monday.

The Italian, as usual, has designed Ferrari's new Formula One engine which was unveiled in the rear of the evolutionary-looking F2004 car at Maranello.

'We will not disclose a horsepower figure,' he told reporters at the event.

But he insists the new V10 unit, designated 053, has 'enough power' to deal with its rivals but also meet stringent new regulations requiring higher mileage.

The new rules demand that a driver use just one engine for the entire Formula One race-weekend in 2004, meaning nearly double the track-life over 2003.

Martinelli reckons 'great attention' has been paid to ensuring that 053 is still working to its full potential from - to use an analogy - its '40s to its 80s.'

To extend the 'life' to more than 700kms, Paulo strengthened the block and heads with the use of 'new metallurgical solutions' to rein-in any weight increases.

'All moving parts are new in order to prolong engine life,' he added.

Life At BAR To Be 'Tough' For Taku
Life at BAR will be difficult for Takuma Sato, according to the former engineering chief of the Japanese driver's old F1 team Jordan Grand Prix.

Gary Anderson, who's settled into a lesser role at Silverstone HQ, reckons Taku hit Formula One with a 2002-spec Jordan 'a little too early' in his career.

Widespread wisdom has Sato as a 'crasher,' and Eddie Jordan has also mused gloomily about the multi-million damage-bill he left him with after the season.

Anderson doesn't fully agree with that.

'To be honest, all those accidents weren't all his fault. Sato made mistakes, but the team made mistakes too. I'd say it was about fifty-fifty.'

Takuma retreated, with engine-supplier Honda, to a BAR test-drive last season.

Gary Anderson thinks that Sato, with crucial development-miles under his belt, will have 'settled down' and should have a good season as Brackley's new racer.

But it won't be easy to be team-mate to the on-form Briton, Jenson Button.

Anderson continued: 'Jenson is doing a strong job. He's no slouch. We'll have to see if [Sato] can turn his talent into real lap-times and race-results.'

Sato's team chief Dave Richards claims that Takuma's testing times have been 'just as good as Jenson's' and it is 'very positive to have a good young team.'

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