F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 6, 2004
Montoya Quickest At Barcelona
Juan Pablo Montoya showed-off in his new Formula One race-car on
Thursday by setting the fastest time at Spain's Circuit de Catalunya
The Colombian, over 51 laps in the innovative FW26 BMW-Williams, beat
Fernando Alonso's new light-blue and yellow Renault as he worked on
chassis set-up items.
'We are achieving all our reliability targets and even though we're
satisfied, we can always look to make progress on performance,' said
Renault's Pat Symonds.
Nelson Piquet Junior continued to familiarise himself in the older
Williams car and made 'a good contribution,' according to chief team
engineer Sam Michael.
Further down the timesheets, however, Olivier Panis rounded out
Thursday in Spain testing hospital-food after he speared backwards
into the turn-3 barriers.
And David Coulthard and Alex Wurz's times continued to reflect the
gloomy faces of the McLaren pitwall-technicians as they rounded out
the field of nine.
Most teams return to action at the nearby Jerez circuit from Tuesday.
OTHER F1 TEST-ACTION
Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher concluded Ferrari's test at the Imola
race-track in sunny Italy on Thursday after putting just 25-more laps
on the new F2004 car.
And Nick Heidfeld added 67 laps to the new EJ14 Jordan's mileage in
very wet conditions at Silverstone as the team uncovered a potential
'The car stopped on the circuit twice, both times with the same
problem,' said the German driver. 'But I think it can be sorted out
Ralf Denies Affair-With-Model Claims
Married 28-year-old Formula One driver Ralf Schumacher has accused a
busty-model of lying after she said they had a three-year 'on and off'
'Jordan', real-name Katie Price, told co-stars of the ITV hit I'm A
Celebrity - filmed in Australia - that she had affairs both with Ralf
and David Beckham.
Ralf, brother of world champion Michael Schumacher, told German newspaper Bild that he met the model only once at a PR event for former team
Jordan back in 1998.
'Her claims about what happened in the years after that are just
lies,' he said.
Schumacher told the paper: 'The truth is, we never had anything.'
Katie Price's agent, however, said Jordan's claims are true. 'She used
to fly out to Germany a lot to visit him,' he told reporters in
RALF AFFECTED BY GOSSIP
Last year, the BMW-Williams driver was affected by other attacks in
gossip magazines such as claims that he was gay and his wife Cora was
having an affair.
Ralf's manager Willi Weber explained: 'He can't just cut it out when
newspaper stories say those things. He's human - of course it affected
Verstappen Stubs Out Jordan Talks
Dutch veteran Jos Verstappen has, for a second and apparently
'definitive' time, pulled out of the race for the last-vacant seat on
the 2004 Formula One grid.
After more talks between Jordan and his sponsor Trust Computers,
Verstappen's management has decided to end all negotiations, claimed a
report on his website.
'Despite all parties doing their best, some contractual obstacles
couldn't be agreed upon,' read the report.
Trust's marketing manager Muriel Wouda said the company had done its
'utmost' to reach a deal but insisted that fans had seen the last of
their logo on the EJ14.
She added: 'There might be an opportunity later this season whereby
Jos Verstappen could get a seat in Formula One.'
Verstappen, 31, claimed not to be too disappointed.
'We have done what we could,' said the racer who similarly sat-out
He continued, 'Despite all the time and effort we have not been
successful in getting a mutual agreement on all contractual matters.'
JORDAN RENEW SPONSOR DEAL
Meanwhile, Eddie Jordan has called it a 'privilege' to announce a
renewed sponsorship agreement with RE/MAX Europe for another single
Formula One season.
Panis Sent To Hospital After Crash
For the second day running, a Formula One driver has woken up
expecting to test a new racer but ended up testing the food at
Catalunya's General Hospital.
Olivier Panis, when doing 130mph, speared his Toyota design into the
turn-three barriers on Thursday and was airlifted to hospital for
Still at the nearby hospital was Sauber's Felipe Massa, who stayed
overnight under observation having rolled his C23 machine into a ball
at the first corner.
Eyewitnesses say Panis, the oldest driver in F1, lost control of his
car at the fast right-hander and smashed backwards after skipping over
DID NOT RULE-OUT DRIVER ERROR
A Toyota spokesman could not immediately rule-out driver error.
Panis, dazed, removed himself from the car and walked over to an
ambulance for the trip to the circuit medical-centre where he
complained of blurry vision.
A hospital spokesman said the 37-year-old Frenchman would be held
overnight for observation but Toyota added that he'd be fit to return
to his car next week.
'He doesn't have any injuries, so [doctors] tell us,' said team
spokesman Silke Albus who also insisted that there was no
structural-failure on the TF104.
But he said Toyota would undertake a 'full investigation' into the
Renault Set To Turn-Up The Wick
Renault, having put an early-emphasis on reliability, are about to
start chasing all-out performance from its new-architecture RS24
Formula One engine.
This week in Barcelona, Fernando Alonso fronted the 72-degree design's
third track outing and the Spaniard added a full race-distance to its
'We still do not have the definitive 'A' spec Melbourne engine,' said
Mathieu Dubois, head of the Viry-Chatillon engine test team.
Three intermediate versions, X, Y and Z, are already making progress
and the 'Z' - in Alonso's car on Thursday - carried several
MELBOURNE-SPEC TO RUN AT IMOLA
The first Melbourne-spec engine will run at Imola on 17 February, said
So, between now and then, engineers will start to turn-up the wick on
'So far, [performance] has not been a priority,' Dubois continued,
adding that currently the focus is on achieving a 'perfect'
relationship with the chassis.
Alonso and team-mate Jarno Trulli are also fine-tuning their
New rules in 2004 mean that all F1 aces must change gear manually -
'An error of just 300 rpm when changing gear can cost several tenths a
lap,' said Mathieu.
Jordan Express Interest In 'Tusks'
Jordan is the latest Formula One team to express an interest in the
innovative front-end design of BMW-Williams' all-new 'tusked' FW26
Chief designer John McQuilliam, at Silverstone for the first-run of
his new EJ14, said he usually takes only a fleeting glance at his
rivals' F1 products.
'I take a look at the photos on the internet,' he told British
broadcaster ITV's Formula One website, 'but I don't get too distracted
by other cars.'
McQuilliam said trying to copy another car's aerodynamics is not a
good idea because, when replicated in another wind-tunnel, it often
results in less speed.
'Every team develops the car differently and what works for one car
does not necessarily work for another one,' said John whose EJ14 has a
FW26 NOT-SO RADICAL
He hints that the Williams' 'tusk design' is not as revolutionary as
'When you think about it,' said McQuilliam, 'it's not that different
from what we've got. It's not going to be a night-and-day difference
But he concluded: 'If we did see something that did that, then we
would have to get thinking about doing something very quickly.'
Bernie Calms Jordan-Abramovich Link
Bernie Ecclestone has stamped again on claims that Russian billionaire
Roman Abramovich recently made a $300 million bid to buy Eddie
Jordan's F1 team.
'It's not true,' the F1-supremo told the Financial Times.
Abramovich, who owns football club Chelsea, hosted 73-year-old
Ecclestone and Irish-born Jordan at one of his team's soccer-matches
late last season.
'Eddie was going anyway and I was invited along,' Bernie explained.
The newspaper asked what the trio talked about. 'Nothing,' Ecclestone
replied. 'There was never, ever any fear of Abramovich investing in
PUT BEGGING-BOWL AWAY
If there was a bit of discourse between Ecclestone and Jordan,
however, it was most likely to have pivoted around the latter's recent
perception as a 'beggar.'
'These guys need to think a little bit about what they're doing and
how they're spending their money,' Ecclestone said, referring also to
He concluded, 'They're perceived to be beggars, which is not our
McLaren To Unveil 'B-Spec' MP4-19
The McLaren car that races in the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix
this season will not be a MP4-19, according to the Mercedes-powered
Ron Dennis said his team, some-time during 2004, is planning to
introduce a B-version of the silver racer currently clocking up
pre-season test miles.
McLaren has devised four such significant development steps this
Dennis told Autosport: 'The 19B will be significantly different from
the car we have in the first grand prix. We have got a very ambitious
MERCEDES ENGINE PROBLEMS
The magazine also reports that McLaren's plethora of new-engine
problems at Barcelona this week has resulted in Mercedes shipping-out
Pursuing the trend of the last week or so, McLaren racer David
Coulthard and tester Alex Wurz were basically slowest-of-all runners
in Spain on Thursday.
Austrian-born Wurz said after one slow-day at the Circuit de
Catalunya: 'The car felt so good in Valencia. But today I just
couldn't get the flow going.'
Massa Checks-Out Of Hospital
Sauber ace Felipe Massa was given the 'all-clear' before he
checked-out of a hospital in Barcelona (Spain) following his horror
180mph F1-shunt on Wednesday.
According to the young Brazilian, doctors have ordered him to rest at
home for the next few days, but he is scheduled to return to the
track-fray in Jerez.
Sauber's next session at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit, also in
Spain, is scheduled to start on Tuesday the 10th - and Massa will
drive, said a spokesman.
22-year-old Felipe told his website: 'I explained that I have been
asked to test next week and [the doctors] told me I'm free to drive
without any restriction.'
Massa, from Sao Paulo, said he lost the new C23 under braking at
DID NOT FALL UNCONSCIOUS
'It spun several times and hit the barriers hard. I called the team by
radio, got out of the cockpit, took my helmet off and waited for the
And contrary to some reports that Felipe lost consciousness in the
airlift-helicopter, the speedster said he sat seated for the entire
'I think it's just rumors from the journalists,' he smiled.
Honda To Axe Formula One Project?
Japanese engine manufacturer Honda is to decide later this season
whether or not to continue ploughing the millions into BAR's Formula
A current contract expires in late 2004 and a review will take-place
'By Silverstone [a] decision will be made,' said Honda's Otmar
In spite of a disappointing four seasons since returning to the grand
prix grid, Szafnauer told Autosport that the 2004 powerplant is
'It's lighter and will be more powerful in Melbourne than it was in
Suzuka last year,' he insisted. 'We have set ourselves some pretty
'We have got a month to meet them all and I think we will.'
CRUNCH-TIME FOR TEAM PARTNER
BAR chief David Richards, acknowledging a raft of pre-season glitches
on the new long-life V10 specification, agrees that it's
performance-time for his partner.
'[Honda is] so steeped in tradition and performance in the past that
they need to show that the new Honda has that same skill, sense and
ability,' he said.
Bernie: Schu To Keep-On Racing
F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone reckons Michael Schumacher will
Why? Because the German star has got 'nothing else to do.'
Schumacher, who has won the past four drivers' championships for
Ferrari, signed a new contract through to the close of season 2006
earlier last season.
But most analysts doubt he'll drive long enough to see the end of it.
'I think it depends how he goes,' Ecclestone told the Financial Times.
IN FOR EVEN TOUGHER SEASON
He added: 'I think if he gets consistently blown away by the young hot
shoes, maybe he'd think about [retiring]. But he loves his racing.'
In terms of making it a seventh personal title-triumph this season,
however, Bernie warns Schu to expect everything except an easy ride to
'I do think he'll have an uphill struggle,' said Ecclestone, 73.
He concluded, 'Last year was better [for F1] because his rivals were
better. I think this year will be even better.'
Eddie Irvine On The Run
If an English police-officer spots former Formula One playboy Eddie
Irvine, he won't ask for an autograph - he'll slap him with a set of
District Judge Nicolas Evans has ordered local police to arrest the
38-year-old ex-grand prix driver on sight following yet another
failure to attend court.
In July last year, Irvine was pulled-over doing 50mph in a 30mph-zone
in London's Hyde Park - on a scooter without a license or relevant
FAILED TO ATTEND COURT - AGAIN
Evans retracted an earlier pardon of the former Ferrari driver's
failure to attend court when 'The Swerve' didn't show-up for
sentencing on Thursday.
A court spokeswoman said of the Ulsterman: 'The warrant remains
outstanding and Mr. Irvine will be arrested at the earliest
According to British sources, Eddie is not in the United Kingdom.
Bridgestone To Come-Out Fighting: EJ
Contrary to popular perception, Formula One tyre-partner Bridgestone
can pose a threat to on-pace rival Michelin this season, according to
The F1 team-boss reckons the Japanese brand, also supplier to Scuderia
Ferrari, will not succumb to its pre-season pace and should 'come out
fighting' in 2004.
MORE TO COME FROM TYRES
Team ace Nick Heidfeld switched camps, from Sauber to Jordan for 2004,
but he remains shod by the rubber that stuck Michael Schumacher to the
'I think they've made some good improvements,' said the 26-year-old
whilst testing the EJ14 at Silverstone this week. 'Hopefully there's
more to come.'
Bridgestone is still perceived to have an upper-hand in wet
Eddie Jordan also said that unlike BAR, who switched boots from
Bridgestone to Michelin late last season, his team will remain loyal
to the champion-marque.
Sato Can't Wait To Try New BAR
Takuma Sato can't wait to try his all-new Formula One racer.
The Japanese set a new lap record at Barcelona this week at the wheel
of the older 'concept' car while team-mate Jenson Button got to grips
with the new one.
'It was my first opportunity to do a performance run,' beamed Sato.
'It was good to see such high performance and I was very happy with
'It's a great feeling to record a fastest lap.'
Technical director Geoffrey Willis lauded the young driver's lap in
the concept-car and said it represented 'good progress' in terms of
TO GET FIRST-TASTE AT JEREZ
Sato will get his first-taste of the newly-launched 006 at Jerez from
'We are all excited about the new car, which was very quick straight
away,' the former Jordan ace, and BAR-replacement for Jacques
* In other news, Ferrari has signed a three-year licensing agreement
with toy-company Lego, paving the way for the development of Formula
One car models.
Button Not Frustrated By Over-Hyped Stars
Jenson Button understands the F1-hype of Fernando Alonso and Kimi
The British racer is also in his mid-twenties but seldom perceived as
among the 'new generation' of F1 stars fixing to steal Michael
Mark Webber and Juan Pablo Montoya also have less experience than
Button, but the aforementioned racing-pair are similarly viewed as
F1's future champions.
'It doesn't frustrate me,' Button told Autosport. 'It's just people's
The BAR leader doesn't understand the hype about Webber 'but I
understand Alonso and Kimi because they've both won grands prix.
They're both in top teams.'
LUCKY TO LAND ON TOP
Alonso and Raikkonen might be good, but they were also lucky, says
'They came in with teams that were very strong. I didn't.
'But I got so much experience driving bad cars that when you finally
get a good one it's a great feeling. I think it's the best thing to
Button expects to land his first podium-finish with his newly-launched
'It's not about proving anything to anyone,' said the Frome-born ace,
'but it would be good for the team, because of the amount of work
that's been put in.'
Jordan Cools Threat Of UK-Snub
Team owner Eddie Jordan has likened moving his Formula One operation
from England to somewhere-in-the-Middle-East as moving house to
The Irishman told Reuters that he had indeed received a few offers to
decamp abroad and avoid a raft of looming and restrictive European
But he doesn't think it will come to that.
EJ therefore seemed to prove theories that his, BAR chief David
Richards', and FIA boss Max Mosley's threats are little more than
political-prods at the EU.
'I think that sense will prevail,' Jordan told the news-agency.
He added: 'I can't possibly ever get my head around thinking that I
would have a Formula One team in my name somewhere other than at
STOP COMPLAINING, SAYS ECCLESTONE
F1 mogul Bernie Ecclestone told Jordan and BAR-Honda to stop
complaining about EU-laws and just 'get on with Formula One' via The
Times newspaper this week.
'We've got to make the best of what we have got,' said the Briton.
Bernie reassured the racing-world that while Britain may not stay at
the centre of F1-politics for much longer, it should retain its
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