F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 4, 2004
Sato's Turn To Clock New Lap Record
Takuma Sato carved another blink-of-an-eye out of the newly-set lap
record at Barcelona on Tuesday as the enlivened BAR-Honda team
continue to impress.
The Japanese, albeit driving the mainly year-old 005 'concept' car,
was about six hundredths of a second faster than team-mate Jenson
Nearly a full second behind on Tuesday was Spain's hero Fernando
The 22-year-old was at the wheel of the all-new Renault R24 as he
focused on set-up and the testing of small developments to the car's
Marc Gene and Ralf Schumacher were next in new BMW-Williams', while
son-of-a-world-champion Nelson Piquet Jnr got a second chance in an
Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello completed 71 laps in the F2003-GA, while
a silver-painted McLaren-trio headed by Alex Wurz continued to humbly
Kimi Raikkonen had the indignity of bringing-up the times after just
18 tours, as Sauber's Giancarlo Fisichella and Cristiano da Matta
(Toyota) went quicker.
'We experienced a transmission problem,' said Sauber's whiz Jacky
Eeckelaert as he explained the curtailed programme of fewer than
thirty laps in the C23.
CHAMPION TO RUN AT IMOLA
World champion Michael Schumacher and his sparkling-new Ferrari F2004
flew to Italy overnight to start a test at the Enzo e Dino Ferrari
track near Imola.
Jordan Gets Smokey Cash-Boost
Eddie Jordan hailed a welcome cash-boost on Tuesday as he confirmed
that long-time Formula One team-sponsor Benson & Hedges is staying for
Owned by British-based group Gallaher, the cigarette-brand has
coloured the Irishman's grand prix contenders since 1996 when it
became the title-sponsor.
But Jordan sources clarified that B&H is, like 2003, a 'major sponsor'
for the season and speculation puts their 2003 cash-pot at around the
The announcement will serve as a pep-talk to the hopes of British
drivers Allan McNish and Ralph Firman as B&H prefers a local-star in
the yellow-lined cockpit.
STILL ONE F1-SEAT TO FILL
Jordan-Ford has already signed German ace Nick Heidfeld, with ties to
potential future engine-supplier Mercedes-Benz, as the first of its
But Jos Verstappen is also clearly in the race for the final 2004-seat
as his personal backer's logos were painted on EJ14 as it debuted at
'[B&H] have shown remarkable loyalty to us,' said Eddie Jordan.
He added: 'I'm proud that we will be racing once again in their
distinctive yellow colours and we're looking forward to the season
Nurburgring Wins New F1 Contract
Germany's Nurburgring race-track will keep on staging F1 races until
Speculation had insisted that the event was a prime-candidate for the
chop as the German Grand Prix is already hosted at the newly-revised
Moreover, Imola - Italy's second F1 destination - will lose its race
Nurburgring race-promoters said on Tuesday that the contract with
Bernie Ecclestone, set to expire this season, has been extended for
five more years.
The track in the Eifel mountains stages the annual European Grand
FIA president Max Mosley said earlier this week that Germany and Italy
were unlikely to continue staging two races as F1 continues a
BROTHERS TO KEEP HOME-CIRCUIT
Nurburgring is the closest circuit to world champion Michael
Schumacher and BMW-Williams-driving brother Ralf's German hometown of
'We are very happy to have succeeded in what were very difficult
negotiations,' the track's executive manager Walter Kafitz told a news
conference in Mainz.
Kafitz said Nurburgring was one of the 'top' race-tracks in the world.
Alonso Encouraged By R24 Progress
Fernando Alonso reported contentment at the end of his first
proper-day at the wheel of the aerodynamically-innovative Renault R24
in Barcelona (Tuesday).
The Spaniard, F1's youngest-ever winner, was quickest of all excluding
BAR ace Takuma Sato who stormed to the fastest lap-time on a simulated
Alonso's 1.14.690 bettered a duo of new BMW-Williams FW26s, Rubens
Barrichello's older Ferrari car, and three shining McLaren MP4-19s
after a 71-lap program.
Fernando told reporters: 'The new car has confirmed my good first
impressions from two weeks ago. It behaved as expected and is
consistent on long-runs.
'I am happy with the progress we have made so far.'
CAR RESPONDS WELL TO CHANGES
The 22-year-old racer spent his time working on optimum chassis
set-ups and the results were 'pleasing,' according to a Renault
spokesman at the circuit.
'The car responded as predicted,' he added, revealing that Renault has
now largely completed the first task of establishing R24's basic
Alonso also tested minor engine modifications on the RS24, Renault's
all-new architecture powerplant designed to compliment new long-life
'Fernando's mileage with the R24 today was equivalent to just over a
race distance,' noted executive engineering head Pat Symonds.
'We were pleased to see the car react to our changes as we had
New Jordan Racer Is F1's 'Lazarus'
Eddie Jordan had a spring in his step on Tuesday as he showed-off
The Irishman was present as new-signing Nick Heidfeld put the first
proper miles on his new Formula One challenger at the nearby
Silverstone circuit (England).
'I feel at home,' Nick, who raced a Sauber last year, said after 37
'The car looks good and I've done quite a few laps with no technical
problems at all so I look forward to driving in drier conditions.'
Jordan, team owner and principal, reckons his technical team has never
unveiled a car with such improvements over its predecessor in the
Tech-whiz James Robinson marveled at how quickly the team put EJ14
'I'm happy to say EJ14 is a step forward from last year,' said the
But Eddie warned that only 'time will tell' if enough advances have
been made to pull the yellow-clad team off the back row of the grid in
the 2004 championship.
'I'm feeling optimistic,' he added, thanking Benson & Hedges for its
Sources close to the team insist that since the season-ending Japanese
Grand Prix last October, Jordan came close to joining Arrows and Prost
'I hope we will have a few surprises to come before the season
starts,' EJ concludes. 'We've got a new car and I'm encouraged by what
I have to show off.'
JORDAN AND LAZARUS
The EJ14 bore the word 'Lazarus' on its side-pod on Tuesday.
According to the Bible, Lazarus of Bethany was taken sick, died, and
was buried; but, after having lain in the grave for four days, was
brought back to life.
Ecclestone's Right - And Wrong, Says Stewart
Bernie Ecclestone is right but he's also wrong, according to Sir
The triple F1 world champion, today president of the British Racing
Drivers' Club, said his country should sit up and listen to
Ecclestone's latest warning.
Bernie, F1 impresario, said Europe has 'no chance' of competing for
future grands prix with the growing world economies such as India,
Turkey and Korea.
'However, we cannot agree with Bernie with regard to his observations
on Silverstone,' said Stewart, the Scot and chief of the club that
owns the track.
Stewart explained that Ecclestone is 'one of the partners' involved in
the rebuilding of Silverstone in a bid to retain the historic British
BERNIE INVOLVED IN CIRCUIT REBUILD
In the Italian press, Bernie sarcastically mocked Silverstone's recent
improvements, such as to new access roads and parking lots, as a 'big
But Stewart says Ecclestone's Formula One Management is closely linked
to the next round of circuit-revisions; the rebuilding of the entire
paddock and pits.
'The BRDC has committed its monies to this,' he said, 'and [we] are
currently waiting for ... FOM to confirm in writing their agreement.'
He says Ecclestone's support is crucial to qualified
Piquet Takes Step Closer To F1
Nelson Piquet Junior took another step in his triple world-champion
dad's footprints on Tuesday as he completed another day in a
The teenage Brazilian, who got behind the wheel of an older FW25A
contender, joined Ralf Schumacher and Marc Gene at Spain's Circuit de
A team spokesman at the track near Barcelona said Williams was
'impressed' with the youngster's performance and his 'excellent
feedback' throughout the day.
Piquet, currently a fixture of the British F3 series, completed 67
laps and a best-time of 1.16.431, a little-more than a second slower
than his team cohorts.
TEAM 'IMPRESSED' WITH TEEN STAR
He was, however, quicker than the McLarens of Pedro de la Rosa and
Kimi Raikkonen and grand prix race-regulars Giancarlo Fisichella and
Cris da Matta.
'Nelson joined the test to assist with our schedule,' chief operations
engineer Sam Michael confirmed, adding that the youngster completed
'He [also] spent the day familiarising himself with the circuit,' he
Piquet, better-known to his fans as 'Nelsinho', rejoins the team on
Teams Should Buy And Sell Racers: Mosley
FIA president Max Mosley believes the secretive Concorde Agreement
should be modified to allow Formula One teams to buy and sell complete
Currently, one of the foundation regulations of the championship is
that each outfit must design, build and race a unique car produced by
their own personnel.
'We have to keep at least 10 teams,' Mosley said in London on Monday.
The Englishman said one of the 'only ways' a modern, cash-strapped
circus can achieve this is through affordable engines and reduced
research and development.
He's batting for the survival of struggling privateers like Jordan and
'If it was down to me,' said the Paris-based chief, 'I would open it
up and let the market rip. That would be to everyone's advantage.'
Mosley said the Formula One teams were thinking about his idea.
'It is being discussed,' he confirms. 'In the longer-term
manufacturers must be satisfied with what they get [out of F1] in
relation to what they put in.'
He suggested that a third manufacturer's (engine) championship was one
way to reward F1 carmakers from offering affordable customer supplies
to lesser teams.
WILL STAND FOR PRESIDENT AGAIN
Max Mosley also vowed to stand for another term as FIA president.
'It is early days,' he said in reference to the next-round of
elections not due until late-2005, 'but health and sanity permitting I
will stand again.'
'Unfair' Points-System Is Here To Stay
Formula One's 'unfair' points-allocation system is here to stay.
That was the message of FIA president Max Mosley who said just weeks
ago that it would have been a travesty if Michael Schumacher had lost
his sixth title-crown.
A new system introduced last year sought to reduce the margin of the
race-winner and also confer more runners in the top-eight places with
But it may have crowned runner-up Kimi Raikkonen, who won just a
single race in 2003, champion despite Schumacher's 2003-tally of six
victorious grands prix.
NO MOVES TO RECONSIDER SYSTEM
Mosley confirmed there had been 'no move at all' in the F1 Commission
or by team principals to reconsider the amended system for the
allocation of points.
He even backed away from his claims that the structure is 'unfair.'
'I think it was [Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo] who said it's
unfair. Well, we know that. I don't think it will change.'
But despite the 'downside' of possibly crowning an unworthy champ, Max
insisted that the system makes it more likely that the series will go
down to the wire.
Burti Has Not Signed Ferrari Contract
Contrary to an earlier report by this publication, Luciano Burti has
not signed a part-time contract to test Formula One Ferrari cars
The talented Brazilian told the media on Monday that a new agreement
would allow him to follow leads in other motor sport categories
throughout the year.
ONLY CONTRACT IS WITH BADOER
A scarlet-clad spokesman, however, denied that there is a formal
contract and explained that Burti may be occasionally called-up to
drive as he was in 2003.
'The only driver with a (test) agreement is Luca Badoer,' he told
Maranello's spokesman added that both Sauber race-pilots would be
on-call to test Ferrari cars during 2004 and 'maybe Luciano' will be
used as well.
'But there is no signed agreement,' he concluded.
Ron Dennis Changes Tune Over Schu
Ron Dennis has changed his mind about reigning F1 champion Michael
When the Red-Baron took on McLaren-protégé Mika Hakkinen a few years
ago, Woking-based team principal Dennis didn't like the Ferrari
He said: 'I do have a very different opinion now than I did a few
The Briton thought some of Michael's swerving race-starts were
'questionable' and he more than occasionally got 'on the limit' during
But now, 'I think Michael is a fantastic driver,' said Ron Dennis.
He reckons the 35-year-old has grown-up and is now 'fairer in some of
'There are still moments of indiscretion but [drivers] all have them.'
GERMAN IS SIZING-UP RETIREMENT
Dennis maintains that Michael Schumacher is sizing-up retirement,
evidenced in Ferrari's recent outward-admiration for McLaren's
youngster Kimi Raikkonen.
'They've been testing the temperature on some other drivers,' he
noted. 'That gives you a little bit of an indication.'
Should Schumi win another world-title in 2004, Ron calculates the
probability that he'll continue to grace the circuits a season later
as about '50-50.'
And if he loses?: 'I'd say it would be 20-80 against,' said Ron
Chiefs Slam Touted F1 Rev-Limits
Max Mosley has cast doubt on claims that Formula One technical chiefs
are likely to embrace a wholesale overhaul of the engine-regulations
Most carmakers appear to have walked-away from an earlier undertaking
to support the plight of independent teams by offering 'affordable'
Some suggested, however, that a new Concorde Agreement might be the
perfect opportunity to cut-costs by instilling a cheaper-to-manage
A rev-limited, four-litre V10 configuration was touted as an
easily-affordable route to at least eight-hundred and fifty
'Rev-limits will not work in F1,' said Mosley, the governing FIA's
COSTS WOULD BE PUSHED-UP AGAIN
He said: 'All that would happen is that manufacturers would look for
power in other areas and costs would be pushed up again. It's not the
BMW motorsport chief Dr Mario Theissen agrees.
The German explained to British-based F1 Racing Magazine: 'It would be
very difficult to define an engine formula which really leads to cheap
Mark Webber, Stay Out Of Bahrain
Mark Webber, you've been officially warned - stay out of Bahrain.
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs And Trade (DFAT) pursued the
recent lead of Britain by warning citizens against setting foot on the
Webber and his 19 driving-rivals will race on Bahrain's
state-of-the-art new circuit in April when the desert-location hosts
its first-ever F1 grand prix.
A DFAT spokesman told us that the warning had been devised in view of
'continuing tensions' in the Middle East and the ongoing risk of
'Australians in Bahrain should exercise a high degree of caution and
monitor developments that might affect their safety,' read a section
of the warning.
BUSINESS AS USUAL, SAYS F1 TEAM
F1 team BMW-Williams, meanwhile, continues to fly the flag for F1 in
Bahrain by insisting that the sport should 'run from no-one',
Team owner and principal Sir Frank Williams told F1 Racing Magazine:
'Recently we had a marketing party over there and all combatants
The FIA said the inaugural race's organization was proceeding 'as
F1 Has Abandoned Tobacco-Snub
F1 has turned-away from its earlier commitment to ban tobacco
FIA boss Max Mosley told reporters in London on Monday that the world
of grand prix racing had originally agreed to end its association with
the weed by 2006.
But 'legal advice' of about a year ago moved the Paris-based
Federation to turn its directive into a mere 'recommendation' for
competing grand prix outfits.
Five of Formula One's ten-teams are substantially backed by
ACCUSES UNION OF 'STUPIDITY'
Mosley reckons the European Union's back-flip on the ban, resulting in
an earlier imposition date of July next-year, was to blame for the
He accused the EU of 'stupidity' because F1 teams had all agreed to
the 2006-ban and had therefore signed new contracts with sponsors that
now ran to that date.
'We're now virtually certain to see tobacco sponsorship in F1 going on
until all of us have lost interest,' Mosley told journalists at the
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