F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 2, 2004
BAR Unleash New F1 Racer
Brackley-based F1 team BAR unveiled a new Honda-powered Formula One
car at Spain's Circuit de Catalunya race-track near Barcelona on
The outfit, led by David Richards, believes 006 - to be steered by
Jenson Button and Takuma Sato - can launch a 'credible challenge' to
the top-three teams.
Team sources said the new-car is a 'significant evolution' of its
'As we enter the 3rd-year of my tenure, a great deal of the groundwork
is behind us,' said Richards. 'The whole operation is moving forward
Button was the first to drive 006 onto the Montmelo circuit and said
it seems 'promising and stable' even if after just a few laps he's not
Team technical director Geoff Willis lauded the 'extra resource' in
2004 of Honda engineers recruited into the design of the actual
Formula One chassis.
'We are beginning to see [those] benefits,' he said. 'By the time we
go to Melbourne, we would have done about three times as much testing
as last year.'
006's biggest development is the gearbox; a full carbon-composite
main-case and lightweight gears 'which afford a very substantial
Schu Sets Fiorano On Fire With F2004
Michael Schumacher put smiles on the faces of scarlet-clad
F1-personnel over the weekend by setting Fiorano on-fire with his new
The world champion smashed the former time-barrier, set in F2004's
predecessor, and said with every season the Scuderia is getting 'more
precise' with its cars.
'The evolution continues,' he said, 'a little closer to perfection.'
Despite reportedly falling behind in the Bridgestone-Michelin tyre-war,
Schumacher maintained that he had 'no worries' ahead of the new
'This car gives us a realistic chance of fighting for the title,' he
Michael, 35, tested between Friday and Sunday and - on every day -
went quicker and put about 700 kilometres on the odometer 'without the
He added, 'I am satisfied with this first session.
'I immediately got a positive feel from the car.'
* Meanwhile, at Spain's Barcelona track, Toyota developer Ricardo
Zonta concluded an exclusive two-day wet-tyre test with Michelin and
an older TF103.
'All in all we found some very encouraging results,' said the
Heidfeld Seals Sauber-Jordan Switch
Nick Heidfeld has closed the door on the second-to-last seat in
Formula One for the upcoming 2004-season by sealing his switch from
Sauber to Jordan.
The German, who's been on-track for the Silverstone-based team in
recent tests, said the confirmed agreement was a 'big relief' ahead of
his fifth year in F1.
'It was a strange experience doing the tests, especially the last one
in Barcelona, without being officially part of the team,' said 'Quick
Team owner Eddie Jordan refused to entertain speculation about Nick's
race team-mate, even in the face of renewed reports of a deal with Jos
The Irishman said, 'I am carefully putting together a strong driver
pairing to complement our 2004 package and sponsorship portfolio.
'I am optimistic that we have the tools to mount a reasonable contest
against the midfield teams this year. Nick is a very quick driver.'
Heidfeld will steer the new EJ14-car onto the Silverstone circuit on
Wednesday, after spending the weekend at the factory to complete a
Dennis Hints At Coulthard Retirement
David Coulthard's boss doubts if the Scottish veteran will race-on
McLaren chief Ron Dennis said it was more likely that, with the
arrival of Juan Pablo Montoya in 2005, 32-year-old DC will stay at the
team in another role.
'Of course he has a chance of winning the world championship [in 2004]
and he has everything to gain from this season,' said Dennis.
But the Briton doubts speculation that if Coulthard enjoys a decent
season in his silver car, he'll turn his attentions to teams like
Jaguar or Toyota.
Dennis appeared to warn the Twynholm-born star against 'doing a
Villeneuve'; that is, 'going backwards' on the Formula One grids after
a spot at the top.
'If he can't go forwards, with us or with some other team, then he
will stop,' said Ron Dennis. 'But he hasn't taken that decision.
'If he does a good job [this year] then I am absolutely sure he is
going to be employed, possibly by McLaren in one form or another, in
2005,' he concluded.
Pizzonia: I've Got The Job
Antonio Pizzonia reckons he's landed a full-time job at BMW-Williams.
The Brazilian moved to confirm strong speculation whilst testing a
Grove-built car in Spain last week that he had indeed signed a new
'I'm going to be with Williams for the whole year,' he told Autosport.
'I'm happy to be back with the team. I can now help them with results.
If I could help the team to get the championship this year that'd be
Pizzonia, still in his early-twenties, held-down the development role
in 2002 before tarnishing his reputation as a Jaguar Racing rookie
early last season.
His 2003-job would be to support the efforts of principal Williams
tester Marc Gene, who is overworked but will maintain his role as
'My plan is to get a race drive for 2005,' Pizzonia concluded.
Button Wants First-Podium In Oz
Jenson Button has staked a claim for his first-ever podium in Formula
One; and he reckons the deed can be done as early as the season-opener
'If we carry on like this I think we can do it in the first race,'
said the 24-year-old Briton who described the all-new 006 car as 'very
Button's new team-mate is 2003-development driver at Brackley,
Japanese hopeful Takuma Sato whose debut for the Jordan team
two-seasons ago was premature.
'It is one of the youngest driver line-ups but an ambitious one,' said
team chief David Richards, who oversaw BAR's rise to fifth in the
title last season.
Richards likened building an F1 team to 'building a house.'
'We've put the foundations down now,' he said. 'It's time for us to
come above the ground during the season and show our true potential.'
Hands Off My Button: BAR's Richards
My boy's not for sale, so keep your hands off.
That's the stern warning of BAR boss David Richards in the face of
speculated-interest from top-teams including Sir Frank Williams'
'Jenson is not for sale,' Richards said as the new-006 was unleashed
He added, 'There's not even a reason to discuss the situation with
Richards believes that with the stout progress BAR-Honda is making,
Button can forge his future and achieve his ambitions 'right here' at
'We're getting quicker and quicker,' he said, 'we have a contract with
him - so why would Jenson want to move out of here?'
But, still, Button is attracting the 'big team' plaudits.
McLaren boss Ron Dennis said recently: 'He can be a bit of a showman,
and he has made his mistakes - but he did grow up. He is a pretty
Schu To Call It Quits: McLaren Chief
McLaren chief Ron Dennis thinks six-times world champion Michael
Schumacher is likely to complete one more Formula One season - then
call it quits.
The Briton told England's The Observer that all-signs point to that
'If a number-one driver says he is going to stop at a certain point,
what would be the first thing a team would do if they wanted
continuity?' asks Dennis.
Answer - extend the contract on the second driver; as Ferrari have
just done with Schumacher's cockpit-lieutenant, Brazilian racer Rubens
Dennis continues: 'Then they say they are going to concentrate on
developing the technical team and plan for the technical future of the
'You do wonder if this is in preparation for people leaving ... '
But don't get Ron wrong; he wants - needs - Schumacher to stay beyond
'Michael is motivated by failure, not success,' said the boss of the
Mercedes-powered rival to Ferrari. 'Ideally, we want him to keep
Dennis said the 'worst thing' for McLaren or BMW-Williams would be to
win the championship and then people say 'ahh, but Michael isn't there
BAR Threaten Shift From UK To Japan
F1 team BAR might relocate from Britain to Japan, according to David
The F1-principal, currently operating the team out of Brackley, said
local legislation on tobacco advertising could force BAR to move house
ahead of 2005.
BAR employs 450 staff at its current British base.
'The knock-on effects will be significant,' Richards told the
assembled media as the wraps were taken-off a shining new
Honda-powered racer in Spain on Sunday.
Richards said the original plan was to phase-out tobacco advertising
But he says a UK-turnaround will see Lucky Strike logos outlawed as of
July next-year; but only if the Formula One operation is based in
'Foreign teams with foreign sponsors can [keep advertising],' DR
continued. 'It is a disaster in the making. I don't know how it's
going to work out.'
He said if the law stays, 'the whole thing could go to Japan within a
Imola Race Set For Chop
Imola will stage its last-ever San Marino Grand Prix in 2004.
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone said the circuit will 'vanish
from the calendar' after this season leaving Monza to host the sole
Italian F1 event.
'This year is Imola's last,' the 73-year-old told La Gazzetta dello
2004 marks the ten-year anniversary of the death of Ayrton Senna at
But while Italy is set for a chop, Germany - which also stages two
grands prix in the country - can keep both races at Hockenheim and the
Ecclestone continued, hinting that he last-week concluded a new deal
with the latter venue: 'Germany will continue to have two races.'
Bernie, head of Formula One Management, also revealed that Turkey will
stage an F1-race in 2005, India by 2007, and South Korea from the year
Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher - an ambassador for San Marino - and the
mayor of the city cast doubt on Bernie's claims that Imola has gone
under the guillotine.
'He's always saying a lot of things,' said the German. 'Let's wait and
Two-Seater F1 Races Scrapped
Paul Stoddart's mooted plan for 'celebrity' grands prix has been
Media reports claim that the idea to spice up Sunday-action with a
two-seater F1 race complete with celebrities has not got the agreement
of all teams.
Stoddart, who runs the Minardi team, has a fleet of two-seater
He proposed at a recent meeting of team bosses that ten cars be
prepared in the liveries of all Formula One outfits and raced by
testers and former F1 drivers.
But not all sponsors, the media reports claim, liked the idea.
According to Autosport, only four teams actually signed up while the
others either agreed with reservations or didn't get back to Stoddart
Some teams wanted to prepare the Minardi cars themselves, whilst
others had even deeper reservations about associating themselves with
the cash-strapped outfit.
'The pluses are endless really,' the Australian, Paul Stoddart, said
recently. 'I'm confident. No-one else has come up with a better idea.'
Button Talks To Frank Williams
Jenson Button chats on the phone to F1 principal Sir Frank Williams.
But don't read into that, the 24-year-old driver of Brackley-based
team BAR-Honda said before steering the new 006 challenger onto the
Button, born in Frome, debuted as a teenager for Williams in 2000.
Some media quarters are claiming that the English racer is eyeing a
return to the BMW-powered squad as a replacement for McLaren-bound
Juan Pablo Montoya.
'That is untrue,' said Button. 'I do talk to Frank because he is a
'He gave me my first opportunity so I am not going to stop talking to
Bernie Tells Teams To 'Stop Begging'
Formula One's rising costs can be contained, according to Bernie
The pinnacle of motor sport's 73-year-old boss frowned upon claims
that its up to the governing-FIA, or the revenue-takers, to save teams
'The problem is that teams always spend everything they get,' he said.
Bernie told La Gazzetta dello Sport that, for example, rich F1-teams
take 45-tonnes of freight to the grands prix when twenty would be
He added, 'Teams take 100 people to private testing. Crazy stuff.'
But Ecclestone also has little sympathy for the cash-strapped F1
He reckons Jordan and Minardi should sell-up rather than 'begging with
'They should look closely at themselves,' Ecclestone continued.
'Frank Williams, years ago, was in much bigger trouble than Jordan,
but he was able to pull himself up to the highest success. Why can't
Jordan do that?'
And Ecclestone is amazed that Jaguar are still racing at all.
'How much longer can Ford go on this way,' he wondered. 'They have
made a big cut in costs - no wonder they hired a driver with money.'
On his own future, though, Ecclestone warned onlookers not to wait
with bated breath for a spectacular Bernie-retirement. 'I'd get bored
to death,' he said.
Dennis Hopes Montoya Finishes Third
Ron Dennis hopes his new F1-signing finishes just third.
The McLaren chief, who had wanted Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya for
2004, will have to wait a full racing-season before his BMW-Williams
'I believe moving to McLaren will be good for Montoya,' the Briton
Dennis thinks 28-year-old Montoya's approach to racing is very
'It reminds me of Ayrton [Senna],' Dennis added of his late former
'We think we know how to get the best out of him although only time
will tell. Our first priority will be winning the world championship
McLaren, powered by Mercedes, will attack the upcoming season with
drivers Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard before next-year dumping
the veteran Scot.
'[Montoya] will be one of our main competitors [in 2004],' said
Hyderabad In Lead For
Hyderabad still holds pole-position to land a Formula One race.
The Indian city, located in the state Andhra Pradesh, said on the
weekend that it is 'ahead' of possible alternate venues for the Indian
'We are in the forefront and ahead of others,' a source said.
The government then revealed to the press a letter from F1 chief
Bernie Ecclestone vowing to keep negotiations with Hyderabad
'... We have not entertained any meetings with any other parties,' it
Last week, the rival-state of Maharashtra claimed that Mumbai had put
its nose in front in the race for the pinnacle of motor sports from
Sources report that final talks with Hyderabad will take place this
'This round of negotiations will centre around the legal and
commercial aspects of the project and we are studying the documents
sent by F1,' said one source.
Alonso Will Get In F1 Fight: Schumacher
BMW-Williams and Renault will also get in the fight for this year's F1
That's the claim of reigning world champion Michael Schumacher who
said a few weeks ago that Mercedes-powered McLaren pose the toughest
challenge to Ferrari.
'I realise that we are going to have a good fight for the championship
this year,' the 35-year-old told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport
Schu reeled-off his usual rivals - 'my brother Ralf, Montoya, and
But, ahead of 2004, he's also adding a fresh-faced 22-year-old from
Spain, who drives a yellow and blue car. 'Alonso,' the German-born
'After a year of learning, he is now ready to compete at the highest
Silverstone Has No Future: Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone has renewed his warning that Silverstone has no
future in F1.
The sport's impresario, talking to the Gazzetta dello Sport, suggested
that European countries have no chance of competing with the growing
Ecclestone said the future of F1 is in India, Turkey and Korea.
He then likened Silverstone to an 'old house' that needs serious
'I can't see a future for it,' Ecclestone said. 'An old house allows
itself only touching-up - an access road, parking lot ... big deal!'
Bernie said only 'serious reconstruction' would put the circuit,
located in Northamptonshire and scene of the 2004 British Grand Prix,
back in the F1-race.
Firman Wants to Beat Heidfeld
Ralph Firman would love to line-up alongside Nick Heidfeld in 2004.
The Norfolk-born driver, who raced for Jordan last season, hopes to
retain the second yellow-clad seat - Formula One's final vacancy on
this year's grid.
'The news of Nick's signing comes as no surprise,' said Firman.
Eddie Jordan is expected to announce Heidfeld's team-mate by Wednesday
- and Firman confirms that he's still in the chase for it.
'I know [he] has a number of options,' said Ralph. 'The final slot
will go to whichever driver makes the most sense.'
As well as factors such as attracting funding, Firman hopes
'continuity' also comes in to play in the consideration for Jordan's
Team sponsor Benson & Hedges has $10 million to spend at Jordan if the
second-2004 driver is British - Scotsman Allan McNish is therefore
'I hope the cards fall in my favour,' said Firman, who insisted that
he raced and beat Nick Heidfeld in the Macau F3 race a few seasons
* Meanwhile, should Allan McNish miss out on the Jordan seat, he'll
drive an Audi in the inaugural Le Mans Endurance series as well as the
Trulli Itching To Step Out Of Shadow
Jarno Trulli is itching to step out of the shadow of his rookie
The Italian was thoroughly upstaged by 22-year-old Renault racer
Fernando Alonso last season as the Spaniard clocked up maiden pole and
grand prix successes.
'I think what Fernando achieved was great, he had a really good
But Trulli, in his late-twenties, was regarded - by some pitlane
analysts - as the stronger of the blue and yellow-wearing racers at
stages of the 2003-series.
>From Pescara, Jarno was certainly not the luckiest of the pair.
'He's a nice person,' Trulli added of Alonso. 'I work very well with
him. It's just a shame that I lost opportunities that were not my
He concluded: 'You can accept it when you make mistakes, but sometimes
he got opportunities that I lost. But this year I will try to turn the
Webber Will Wait For Future
Mark Webber's future will come to a head in July this year.
The Australian, under two-year contract to Ford-backed team Jaguar
Racing, is also managed by flamboyant Renault team principal Flavio
Williams see him as an ideal candidate to replace Juan Pablo Montoya
Briatore said he was delaying all talks about his plans for the
27-year-old Aussie until the middle of the year, around the time of
the French Grand Prix.
'We will discuss the possibilities,' the Italian told the Sunday
'But at the moment he is not going to Williams.'
Davidson Sows Seeds Of Race-Seat
Anthony Davidson is still sowing the seeds of his Formula One future.
The Briton will drive BAR-Honda's newly-unveiled 006 challenger on all
eighteen circuits of the season in 2004 for official Friday morning
'At least I can show what I can do,' said the racer who debuted by
doing two races in a black Minardi car a couple of seasons ago.
Davidson, 23, believes the 'third' role will be crucial this season in
conjunction with new-rules confining race-drivers to the use of a
'It will be up to me to help them with decisions such as tyre choice,'
He said getting the chance to learn all the circuits on the calendar
takes him 'one step closer' to his ultimate goal of a full-time
race-seat in F1.
I'm Still Flavio: Renault F1 Chief
Flavio Briatore believes he has contributed notably to Renault's
The Italian has overseen the Enstone-based operation's rise from a
take-over in 2000, and from the back-of-the-grid, to fourth-place in
the world championship.
'I think I have put in place a good organization, the right people,
and discipline,' he explained in a newly-published interview.
Briatore's job-description is to take care of the commercial and
strategic sides of the Formula One operation based jointly in England
and France (Viry).
'But I also have worked to create an effective, united group,' he
The flamboyant team chief is fifty-three, and joined F1 in 1987.
But he says, personally, little has changed in the Briatore-approach.
'My methods are still the same,' he said. 'I leave people to get on
with their job and take decisions intuitively. Now, I don't make
'But I'm still Flavio - that is to say, rarely satisfied!'
BAR Flex Exaggerated Muscle?
BAR isn't flexing its often exaggerated-muscle in racing for a fight
with the top-three Formula One teams this season, according to Jenson
The team driver flew in pre-season testing recently.
'The highlight was the [lap] record in Barcelona,' said the
24-year-old driver as he helped the Brackley-based outfit pull the
wraps off a shining new 006.
BAR chiefs didn't hide the fact that the test-car was running
low-fuel, 'but the purpose of the run was to gauge car performance in
that trim,' said Button.
Jenson also believes he'll work well with new team-mate Takuma Sato in
The Japanese replaces former world champion Jacques Villeneuve but,
despite the distinctly 'baggy' overalls to fill, he's feeling
'positive' about the New Year.
'Taku' said, predicting podiums: 'This will be my second full year of
racing in F1 and my first opportunity to build on the valuable lessons
I learnt in 2002.'
'Quick Nick' Looks Ahead To New Races
It was a close-call, but Nick Heidfeld is still a Formula One driver.
The German has, having offered a little through sponsorship to Eddie
Jordan's team, now completed the switch from Sauber to the
'This season is going to be interesting and I'm particularly looking
forward to the new races in Bahrain and Shanghai,' said the racer in
Heidfeld welcomes the push out of Europe and into the wider-world.
'I think it's good for F1,' he added. 'After all it's a world
championship so we should go all over the world. And personally I like
going to new tracks.
'I also enjoy visiting countries I've never been to before.'
F1 To Stage Twenty Races: Ecclestone
Formula One's lengthened annual-calendar could get even longer.
F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who devised the unprecedented 18-race long
2004 schedule, says teams and drivers might be set for twenty future
'We could easily get to 20,' he told the Italian press. 'All we'd need
to do is reduce private testing from 40 to 30 [days] and that would
create two more.'
But even with the speculated addition of new races in Korea, India and
Turkey, Formula One might not have to worry about expanding its
Bernie reckons European races won't be able to compete with their
'Believe me, in the next ten years, Europe will slide down to the
level of the third world in economic terms,' said the 73-year-old
Bahrain Track Nearly Complete
Bahrain's new Formula One circuit is ninety-six percent completed.
Twenty journalists from France, Germany and Britain were shown around
the venue near Manama which will stage the first-ever grand prix in
the Middle East.
Some quarters were worrying that the circuit, with an inaugural
April-4 race-date, would not be ready for the final FIA-inspection
some-time this month.
'As the journalists will have seen, the track is well on schedule for
completion,' said project coordinator Gordon Calder.
He added that Bahrain was 'ahead of all the critical' deadlines.
Feedback can be sent to
Go to our
to discuss this article