F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 3, 2004
F1 Teams To Abandon Europe?
Formula One teams are threatening to walk away from Europe.
FIA's governing president, Max Mosley, said restrictive EU laws such
as to the working-week and tobacco-advertising could cost the
continent its GP-outfits.
'The EU is strangled by unnecessary and excessive regulations,' said
Mosley suggested Europe, and in particular Britain where six teams are
based, might not be the 'right place' for something as 'cutting edge'
as Formula One.
'If possible there are countries outside of the EU who might be able
to make an offer to teams and also provide them with the facilities
they need,' he added.
The Arrest-Warrants debacle, and anti-tobacco advertising laws to come
into effect next-July, will only help to convince the teams to decamp
European Union legislation is also about the limit the working-week to
DUBAI MAKE F1 TASTY OFFER?
Some media reports are already speculating that Dubai might be the
destination for a non-European F1, while Bernie Ecclestone may already
have started talks.
Mosley hinted that 'a country' is offering a small-fortune to host F1
But most analysts agree that Mosley's - and BAR-chief David Richards'
- threats are little more than pushing-power to get sport-exemptions
from the EU-laws.
Button Sets Lap Record On Fire
He might have done it on a simulated qualifying-run, but Jenson Button
has the rest of the Formula One paddock a little more than impressed
with his new BAR.
The Englishman was a clear one-and-a-half seconds faster than the
also-stirring new BMW-Williams of tester Marc Gene at the Circuit de
Catalunya on Monday.
JB's new-record was a full eight-tenths faster than the previous
benchmark, set some twelve days ago - and also by the 24-year-old in a
005 'concept' racer.
Button's new Honda-powered mount, dubbed 006, was admittedly on
But Sauber's Giancarlo Fisichella, who was nearly three-seconds slower
than the BAR in his new-C23, said Button's time was 'very good' no
matter the fuel-load.
FOG DELAYS EARLY RUNNING
This week's busy test at the Montmelo-track near Barcelona started in
very foggy conditions which delayed the action for 2-hours as the
helicopter was grounded.
'We assessed different front wings as well as several cooling
configurations under high-speed conditions,' said Sauber chief
engineer Jacky Eeckelaert.
Ralf Schumacher returned from illness to complete 64 laps, ahead of
the F2003-GA Ferrari of Luca Badoer and then a trio of all-new
Pedro de la Rosa, Alex Wurz and Darren Turner, all driving for
McLaren, could do no more than trail the pace by multiple seconds over
a combined 112 laps.
Renault Vow To Trouble The Stopwatch
F1 team Renault has finalized its testing program for the
The UK-based operation launched R24 in Palermo last week but on
Tuesday the real work begins; a taxing-schedule of pre-season tests to
fine-tune its performance.
Director of engineering Pat Symonds said he now knows on what tracks
and with which components for evaluation the pre-Melbourne
test-schedule would proceed.
'We know exactly what needs to be done before leaving for Australia,'
Reliability is a key issue; for example, at least one race-simulation
will be carried out by drivers Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli per
Tyre development for Michelin has mainly been done with the older R23B
'But this car had very similar dynamic characteristics to the R24,'
Pat said. 'Now, we will be able to pick up the tyre program again with
our new car.'
PERFORMANCE TESTS SET FOR OFF
Finally, but perhaps most crucially, the R24 will be tracked for
'We haven't yet had the time to concentrate on this area,' said
Symonds. 'This will be the point at which we start thinking about
troubling the stopwatch.'
A second R24 chassis will be available from the Imola-test, in
Renault's pre-Melbourne schedule is also set to land in Jerez and
Trust-Branded EJ14 Debuts In England
Cash-strapped Formula One team Jordan's all-new racing challenger hit
the slopes of Silverstone on Monday in the hands of new-signing Nick
EJ14, painted yellow and clearly an evolution of the 2003-spec EJ13,
featured new sponsorship decals such as Lazarus and Jos Verstappen's
main sponsor Trust.
The appearance of the latter, prominently under the cockpit sides, has
re-lit speculation in Holland that their racing-hero has indeed done a
deal to race.
Heidfeld completed a few laps, without problem, in what is known as a
shake-down test; a series of short runs to run through the function of
JORDAN TO LAUNCH ON WEDNESDAY
EJ14 will be launched at the English circuit, just a few meters from
the Jordan factory doors, on Wednesday where it will also get a more
Insiders say the event will be private and low-key in reflection of
Eddie Jordan's privately-owned team's precarious present financial
According to ITV, Heidfeld was 'extremely positive' about the new car
even if a slightly-damp track made performance assessments quite
FIA Wants Shorter F1 Schedule
Bernie Ecclestone wants two-more, Max Mosley wants two-less.
We're talking about Formula One races per-season, after the latter
president of motor sport's governing body said the FIA would like to
cut the schedule down.
Yesterday, F1-supremo Ecclestone said the current 18-event calendar
could cope with two more grands prix if Formula One teams just cut
back on testing.
But as Mosley made his annual-speech in London on Monday, he said the
FIA would like to chop a couple of European races each year to make a
calendar of just 16.
'In the long term it will be difficult to maintain the smaller races
and it is also going to be difficult to have two races in one
country,' he said.
'In the longer term we would prefer to see 16 races.'
LESS TESTING FOR TEAMS
Mosley backed Bernie's plan to cut the agreed number of Formula One
test-days, currently 48 per season, to around the twenty-mark in the
next couple of years.
But he said that wouldn't be done just to free-up space for more
'It is questionable whether you need 20 grands prix,' said Mosley.
Ralf Returns To F1 Action
Ralf Schumacher shrugged off last week's hospital-visit and severe
abdominal pains to return to the Formula One test-tracks of Spain on
The German driver was fourth-fastest of the nine cars and five teams
that unpacked at the Circuit de Catalunya, in Montmelo, for the
Schumacher shook-down a new, third innovative FW26 BMW-Williams
'He finished the day setting up the car,' said test manager Tim
Test cohort Marc Gene, in another new 2004-contender, similarly
completed set-up work but also practiced manual-clutch starts and some
longer grand prix runs.
NELSON PIQUET TO TEST AGAIN
Ralf and Marc will be joined on-track on Tuesday by Nelson Piquet
The teenage star, son of former triple world champion and Brazilian
Piquet, is scheduled to take the controls of a modified
(2003-specification) FW25A chassis.
F1 chief Sir Frank Williams reckons Piquet's first-run in a Formula
One car was a 'bit too soon' but technical whiz Patrick Head is more
convinced of his flair.
'Certainly it was very interesting to operate with him,' said the
Briton after his maiden run. 'I'm more than convinced he has a strong
future [in F1].'
New Jordan Passes FIA Crash-Tests
Jordan's newly fired-up EJ14 Formula One contender has passed the
mandatory crash-tests organized by the governing FIA as a requirement
to race in 2004.
A team insider told British broadcaster ITV that the rear and side
checks went without problem and the only one left is the front-impact
test for the nosecone.
Last month, this publication revealed that fellow independent team
Sauber had failed an FIA-test with its new C23 in the bid to make new
The Ferrari-powered car will sit its crash-exams again in February.
Technical director Willy Rampf says he's 'reasonably confident' that
significant design changes should be made in time for the C23 to avoid
any more problems.
VERSTAPPEN TO TAKE SECOND SEAT?
Meanwhile, speculation has re-ignited that former Minardi driver Jos
Verstappen - a Dutchman - has sealed the deal to team-mate Nick
Heidfeld at Jordan in 2004.
The mostly plain-painted EJ14 was shaken-down by 'Quick Nick' at
Silverstone on Monday bearing 'Trust Computers' logos - 31-year-old
Verstappen's main sponsor.
This, despite news last week that Jos had pulled out of the race for
'It is important that all parties [have] a good basis for a successful
season,' said Trust's Michel Perridon. 'This time, that is not the
Sato: It's Tough To Test
As a race-driver, it's tough to test, according to Takuma Sato.
The Japanese filled the development-role at BAR-Honda last season
after a troubling-debut to his Formula One racing-career a
year-earlier with Jordan.
In 2004, Sato slips on Jacques Villeneuve's baggy race-overalls.
'It was tough for me to be just testing - to be going to the grands
prix but not racing,' the 26-year-old said as he test-drove the new
006 car at Barcelona.
He added: 'It was frustrating. But I was looking at the bigger
JAPANESE WANTS MAIDEN PODIUM
That bigger picture, it seemed, was an eventual race-seat - and it
happened sooner than he expected, in front of his home crowd in the
'I love racing so much,' he said. 'I am excited to be a race driver
Takuma Sato outlined 'at least one' podium as his ambition for the new
season, which kicks off at Australia's temporary F1 street-circuit
Schu About To Breathe His Last: Mosley
Michael Schumacher may be about to breathe his last at the very-top.
FIA president Max Mosley predicts another hotly-contested Formula One
season at the end of which Ferrari's German ace could finally be
knocked off his perch.
'You would always have to say Schumacher is the favourite before the
first race but it may well be someone else this time,' said the
Englishman in London.
Mosley said BMW-Williams' drivers, including Michael's younger-brother
Ralf, look likely to challenge, as does McLaren speedster Kimi
'Even David Coulthard,' he added almost as an afterthought.
SCOTTISH RACER IS 'TOO SERIOUS'
Motor racing's top-chief reckons the aforementioned Scottish veteran
has the talent but perhaps not the competitive-verve to take the title
'It's all in the head,' he said of the McLaren driver who's set to be
dropped by his silver-paymasters at the end of his ninth season with
the British team.
'He's got the ability but he's got to perform too.'
Whether Fernando Alonso and Renault can compete is all down to how
much horsepower the Viry-based engine-builders can squeeze from a new
And Mosley concluded that Toyota are set to be a 'huge force' of the
'They will be one of the top teams in the next two or three years.'
Burti Signs As Part-Time Ferrari Tester
Luciano Burti has signed a new 'part-time' contract to test F1
The Brazilian, who raced and crashed for Jaguar and Prost in 2001,
announced on Monday that he had been asked to remain on-call for the
Scuderia this season.
'This is another great opportunity for me and I'll do my best,' he
ONLY ONE FULL-TIME TESTER
In 2004, Ferrari will attack the tracks with only one full-time
tester, Luca Badoer, who may be asked to drive a Sauber in the
official GP-practice sessions.
'Because Ferrari has such a busy test program and because of our good
work of 2002, they signed me to be part of their line-up as well,'
Burti, from Sao Paulo, said a 'good thing' about his contract is that
when he's not testing Formula One cars he's free to pursue other leads
in motor sport.
'So I am already discussing some other possibilities,' he concluded.
FIA Assures French F1 Future
Formula One's governing FIA has assured the future of the French Grand
Motor sport president Max Mosley said on Monday that the 'traditional'
race had now completely avoided the threat of cancellation as it had
paid its debts.
Asked why Magny-Cours had been earlier left off the
provisional-schedule, the Englishman replied in London: 'Well that was
PROMOTERS 'HADN'T PAID'
'They hadn't paid. That seems fairly simple to me at least. They
couldn't produce a letter of credit and that is why they lost their
Mosley said France was given extra-time and they 'paid at the last
He confirmed that the race is back on the calendar 'without question'
and should run uninterrupted for the duration of a new contract that
stretches until 2009.
Silverstone Owners To Blame: FIA Chief
If Silverstone loses its Formula One grand prix, the circuit owners -
not the British government - will be to blame, according to Max
The president of racing-authority FIA said in London that he had read
reports quoting F1-chief Bernie Ecclestone as saying the Brit-GP is
unsafe beyond 2004.
Ecclestone likened the Northamptonshire circuit to a dilapidated
'I'm not involved in all of this,' Mosley said during his
annual-address, 'because it is between Bernie and [the promoters and
CIRCUIT NOT UP-TO-SCRATCH
He added: 'At the moment it is between him and them.'
Ecclestone wants the British Racing Drivers' Club, who lease the
former airfield to Brands Hatch Circuits, to improve the track in-line
with the best worldwide.
Mosley noted, 'At the moment, they are not there at all.'
But the circuit-infrastructure has improved following minor revisions
in recent years. 'The British government has done its bit there,' said
'But the circuit-owners have not done theirs.'
JB Reveling In Villeneuve's Wake?
Is Jenson Button, the quickest man ever to tour Spain's Circuit de
Catalunya, working better at Formula One team BAR-Honda for any
Some say he's reveling in the absence of 2003 teammate Jacques
'I don't think so,' JB told reporters in Montmelo. 'I don't want to
look too much into the past but I think it's me. I'm more confident
than last year.'
Button started off 2003 with a formidable task; proving he was good
enough to rise from the mire of a middling two-year stint at Renault
... And proving that he belongs at all to his feisty French-Canadian
ASSUMES ROLE OF TEAM-LEADER
'I gained a lot of experience,' the English racer added. 'I don't
think it's because [Villeneuve] is gone. I'm doing everything to make
the team better.'
Button has assumed the role as driving team-leader.
'Just about every day this year I have been with the team or talking
to the team which makes you feel better. I am at the factory a lot
Last year, Villeneuve - who was at BAR since inception - was the
'I would race and test but my team-mate would have the opinions,' said
Button. 'But now I'm spending as much time as I can with the engineers
out of the car.'
Spaniard Lauds Barcelona-Track Changes
Locally-born Pedro de la Rosa has lauded recent-modifications to the
Circuit de Catalunya race-track in Spain as a 'positive' step to
improving the show.
The Spaniard, who grew-up not far from Montmelo near Barcelona, ran
for the first time on the new stretch of road designed to inspire
overtaking on Monday.
He and two other McLaren-contracted drivers, including Austrian Alex
Wurz and part-time tester Darren Turner, of England, also lapped in
new MP4-19 cars.
'At first sight, the modifications are positive,' said de la Rosa, who
last raced in grands prix a full season-ago, for the British-based
CHANGES WILL INSPIRE OVERTAKING
Pedro said more drivers will 'take the risk' of driving on the
inside-line at the new first corner in an attempt to make up positions
at the race-start.
He said the new hairpin reminds him of 'Adelaide' at Magny-Cours.
'It looks safer,' he added, 'and the run-off is larger and more
overtaking will take place, even if maybe it's now more difficult
between Campsa and La Caixa.'
F1 Needs 'Rebels' Like Villeneuve
What's wrong with David Coulthard? - F1's Max Mosley says its all in
'He's too serious,' the Englishman told his annual-address in London.
'He'd need to do something to enliven his image. We need characters,
And what better template than sacked former world champion Jacques
'It's a pity we no longer have him,' Mosley continued. 'He was an
eccentric figure. Rebels can be a nuisance but they are like the
leavening in bread.'
JACQUES HAD GOOD QUALITIES
Mosley said Villeneuve, who was often seen enjoying a barbeque in the
paddock with close friend Coulthard, had an 'interesting view' on
'One might not agree with it,' he noted, 'but you need those views.
'He had a lot of good qualities.'
Jacques, son of the fiery Gilles Villeneuve and never the corporate
player, has been replaced at BAR by Honda's favorite Japanese son
Ralf Unimpressed By Lap Records
Ralf Schumacher is saving his record-shattering speed for Melbourne.
The German star, who returned from illness to go fourth-fastest of
nine runners at Barcelona on Monday, scoffed at Jenson Button's
JB's new BAR-Honda 006 was a full eight-tenths clear of his previous
Ralf, who drove an innovative BMW-Williams FW26 in Spain, told the
Speed Channel: 'Good luck to all these people who keep on smashing lap
'I'm not looking for that now. I'd rather have a lap record in the
BROTHER SET CIRCUIT ON-FIRE
If his elder brother Michael knows how to win multiple back-to-back
world championships, though - as he does - then Ralf might be advised
to take note.
Schumacher Senior shaved several hundredths off the private Fiorano
circuit in Italy on Sunday at the wheel of his brand-new
'This car gives us a realistic shot at the title,' said the German
China Reveal Cheap F1 Tickets
China is offering some of the cheapest Formula One tickets on the
entire racing-circuit for its inaugural grand prix to be held in late
Organisers of the event held in Shanghai revealed prices ranging from
160 yuan ($19) to watch practice or qualifying to 3700 yuan for
top-seats on all days.
About forty dollars will buy you a spot on the grass on race-day.
'Our tickets are relatively cheaper than the other 17 events on the F1
tour around the world,' said Mao Xiaohan, general manager of the
NOT ALL TICKETS TO BE SOLD
Organizers also revealed that tickets will only be sold for
three-quarters of the 200,000 circuit-capacity amid concerns about
safety and transportation.
Mao said around 30 percent of the tickets will be bought by
'We received inquiry calls from some Japanese corporate customers as
early as September,' said Zhou Qicheng, a sales manager with Shanghai
Mao Xiaohan admitted that transportation remains a problem.
'We're considering installing several interim bus-lines, and even an
extension of the metro system in the future,' he told local news
Imola Reacts Coolly To F1-Scrap
Imola has reacted coolly to reports that it has lost its Formula One
F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone said on Monday that the 2004 San
Marino Grand Prix will be the Italian location's last on the sport's
annual race schedule.
Imola mayor Massimo Marchignoli, admitting that the race-contract is
now up, said this is not the first time that Ecclestone has threatened
VOWS TO RE-OPEN F1-TALKS
'We'll see,' said the Italian, 'what we need to do to reopen talks.'
World champion Michael Schumacher, through his ties with Italian-based
team Scuderia Ferrari, is an ambassador for the Republic of San
Asked if he'd miss the race, the German said 'yes, in one sense.
'But Ecclestone is always saying a lot of things. Let's wait and see.'
It's Time To Deliver: BAR's Richards
This season is 'delivery time' for the entire BAR-Honda F1 team.
Brackley-based principal David Richards, who has only overseen the
last two years of team-progress, admitted that BAR has not delivered a
lot to date.
'BAR had a lot of resources and finances put behind it,' the
Englishman noted of the team founded by now-ousted predecessor Craig
Pollock in late-1998.
CRUNCH-TIME FOR HONDA
It's also delivery-time for engine partner Honda, DR asserted.
'[Honda is] so steeped in tradition and performance in the past - they
need to show that the new Honda has that same skill sense and
ability,' said Richards.
The team's newly-promoted leader Jenson Button, who will start his
fifth full season at the pinnacle of motor sport in 2004, is also
faced with a challenge.
'It's delivery time for Jenson Button now too,' said the rhetoric
'He's been put in a position where hopefully all the resources are
there to step up to the mark. And it's delivery time for me and my
Richards said 'regular podiums' and a chance-win are the targets for
McLaren Doubts British-Team Exodus
McLaren has poured doubt on fellow Formula One team BAR's claim that
wayward anti-tobacco laws may force British-based marques to decamp
out of Europe.
BAR chief David Richards said he would consider moving his now
Brackley-based operation to Japan in 2005 to avoid UK-only oriented
But Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren managing director, does not agree that
UK-based teams will commit an offence if they carry cigarette-logos
after July '05.
He told The Guardian: 'We have taken legal advice [on this matter].'
Whitmarsh said his advice doubts any illegality if a TV-broadcaster
shows tobacco-related imagery in the UK of McLaren's cars competing
HAKKINEN COMPETES IN RALLY
Meanwhile, former double McLaren champion Mika Hakkinen finished
seventh in the 1000km Arctic Lapland Rally on the weekend at the wheel
of a Toyota Corolla.
'I must be getting the hang of it,' said the Finn, 'as last year we
Feedback can be sent to
Go to our
to discuss this article