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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 9, 2004


Jaguar Needs Stewart: Former Champion
Jaguar Racing needs its founder, according to a former Formula One champion.

Retired star Mika Hakkinen says the present set-up at Milton-Keynes is nothing short of confusing because it doesn't boast a 'charismatic' leader at the helm.

'There's been no continuity,' the Finn told F1 Racing magazine in reference to previous figureheads in British Racing Green including champion Niki Lauda.

Hakkinen thinks Sir Jackie Stewart, who sold the operation to Ford near the turn of the new millennium, could 'turn the team around' if he took over.

FLYING PRAISE FOR MARK WEBBER

One thing that is right at Jaguar, however, is Mark Webber.

'He looks good in the wet which is always a good sign,' said Mika. 'He's got a lot of good qualities. He's professional - which is what Jaguar need now.'

Hakkinen also predicted that countryman and McLaren successor Kimi Raikkonen will push Michael Schumacher all the way to the finale for this season's crown.








Panis Feels Good Despite Big Crash
Olivier Panis checked out of hospital feeling 'pretty good.'

The Frenchman destroyed his new TF104 Toyota F1 car on the high-speed Turn Three at Circuit de Catalunya when trying to take it full-throttle on Thursday.

'I'd gone through flat out in the morning,' said the ten-year grand prix veteran, 'but as I tried to correct oversteer, the rear went and that was it.'

Panis, the oldest driver in pitlane, was airlifted to hospital but insisted that 'everything was fine' and he actually checked back to the circuit after lunch.

LAUDED NEW-CAR PROGRESS

Readying to start his second year at the Cologne-based team, Olivier downplayed suggestions that his new car is not on the pace by lauding progress at the test.

'The base we have with the TF104 is really good,' he said, 'and we know what we need to achieve together to continue to improve the performance.'

Team-mate Cristiano da Matta says he's pretty happy with the pace of the car.

'We've made steps in every area,' said the Brazilian. 'The car is certainly reliable which we showed by completing a race distance on all four days I ran.'








New Ferrari Is 'Better': Barrichello
Ferrari's new car is better 'in every area,' according to Rubens Barrichello.

Number-two to world champion Michael Schumacher, the aforementioned Brazilian got his first try at the controls of F2004 at Italy's Mugello track last week.

'My first impressions are positive,' Rubens told reporters, 'even though it might be a bit early to say. But I think we have made improvements everywhere.'

Barrichello, in his early-thirties, completed just 56 laps - in the rain - on Friday but got a few drier-tours the following afternoon en route to a 1.21.270.

He admitted that he couldn't 'push the limit' on Bridgestone's intermediates.

'But I think the new engine seems more powerful anyway,' Rubens added.

RENAULT TO POSE CHALLENGE

Barrichello also suggested that Renault may throw out a challenge to the widely-lauded 'big three' grand prix teams this season with their newly-launched R24.

'McLaren's times have not been thrilling,' he said at Mugello, 'and (the Williams) FW26 seems fast over a single lap but less impressive on longer runs.'

Rubens, however, believes that Renault's car, to be steered by Fernando Alonso in '04, is fixing to be fast over one-lap and 'very consistent' in race-trim.








Webber: New Jag Is Up To Scratch
Mark Webber has poured cold water on a fire of speculation that his new Formula One charger, the Jaguar R5, is riddled with technical imperfections.

The Aussie said one or two 'issues' have been fuelled-up by the press corps.

'It seems like [they] know a lot more than we do at the moment, which is interesting,' he joked in a telephone conference with Australian journalists.

Webber said two new R5's will run at Jerez, Spain, for testing this week.

He did confess a few technical snags, including 'just not enough mileage, and small things like pipes, brakes and things that stop long runs on the car.'

BOSS APOLOGISED FOR REMARK

But Webber reckons team-boss Tony Purnell put his foot in it when he told the media about some 'fundamental' flaws that needed fixing on the new Leaping Cat.

'I read it and I thought 'that's interesting',' said Webber.

The 27-year-old racer concluded: 'I also think Tony was massively misquoted. He even sent an email to everyone here at Jaguar apologising for what happened.'








Hakkinen Pans So-Called F1 Chargers
Former double world champion Mika Hakkinen has lashed out at a clamoring band of so-called young 'driving sensations' on today's Formula One racing-grid.

The Finn, who hung up his helmet two years ago, insists that youngest-ever GP-winner Fernando Alonso is not in the same class as compatriot Kimi Raikkonen.

'I haven't seen anything that justifies the level of hype that has surrounded him so far,' Hakkinen told F1 Racing Magazine.

'He's quick, but is he Kimi-quick? Is he Michael-quick? I'm not convinced.'

BUTTON AS 'NEXT SENNA'?

Jenson Button, too, is not as quick as a lot of people think he is.

Hakkinen continued: 'He's obviously fast, but is he super-fast? He debuted in 2000 and straight away the British press called him the 'next Senna'.

'I have to say that was ridiculous - how could they know?'

24-year-old Button's BAR team-mate Takuma Sato is 'far too wild,' according to the Flying Finn, as is new Sauber grand prix racer and Brazilian Felipe Massa.

Even some of the sport's more established names, like BMW-Williams aces Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, are not living up to their hype, said Mika.








Briton Unlikely To Land Jordan Ride
A German and an Italian have their noses in front of a couple of Britons in a fascinating race for the final full-time seat on this season's Formula One grid.

With the decline of Jos Verstappen, Timo Glock - with plenty of backing-bucks - is probably more likely than F3000 ace Giorgio Pantano to drive for Jordan.

Both promise more than $10 million to the team in personal sponsorship.

Meanwhile, British media sources claim that Verstappen's management was making 'impossible demands' relating to space on the EJ14's livery for their logos.

DECISION EXPECTED THIS WEEK

Other sources suggest that Scottish and English stars Allan McNish and Ralph Firman have been relocated to no more than 'also-runs' in the intriguing race.

Initial assessments reckoned that British sponsor Benson & Hedges would release more money for Jordan if a local-hero raced alongside Nick Heidfeld in 2004.

But British hack Alan Henry is quoting a source who claims that McNish and Firman should cross more than just their fingers if they want the yellow-ride.

Eddie Jordan's driver-decision is expected in the next few days before Friday.








Kimi Worried About New McLaren
Kimi Raikkonen still doesn't know how good his new F1-racer is.

The Finnish star, tipped to drive to glory in 2004 by countryman Mika Hakkinen, reckons the all-new MP4-19 challenger is struggling in the set-up department.

He told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport: 'In testing at Jerez and Valencia (the McLaren) went really well, but at Barcelona we started having problems.'

A trio of silver cars spent most of the week at the bottom of the timesheets.

SOLUTIONS ON THE WAY

But Raikkonen, 24, insists that solutions are on the way for the problems, which may relate to the integration of Adrian Newey's new car with the V10 Mercedes.

'When we get the new evolution [engine],' he continued, 'I'm sure things will be fine. That's what I hope because last week we had trouble matching Williams.'

Some F1 analysts, meanwhile, reckon the latest round of silver 'sandbagging' may be a deliberate attempt to lure McLaren's rivals into a false sense of security.








Malaysia Expect More Spectators
Malaysia is expecting a bigger turn-out for this year's Formula One race.

The impressive circuit, located at Sepang not far from capital Kuala-Lumpur, predicts a 25 percent increase - 30,000 more patrons - over 2003 figures.

'We are expecting about 120,000 fans this year,' said general manager Ahmad Mustafa in Malaysia, 'and I believe the target can be achieved.'

One of the initiatives to stimulate sales for the 2004 Malaysian Grand Prix, to take place on March 19 - 21, is a 50 percent discount for students.

SAUBER SIGN NEW PARTNER

In other quick F1 news, Swiss team Sauber has a new local supply-partner.

'SUPAG Spichtig und Partner AG' will supply the team with large Xerox plotters, scanners and folding machines for immediate use in the new $55m wind-tunnel.

And F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has pulled the plug on 'F1 Magazine.'

The Briton took over the publication as an official series in 2002 but it did not fare well against established competition like F1 Racing and Autosport.








Drivers Praise New Williams Racer
Juan Pablo Montoya only has words of praise for his new Formula One racer.

The Colombian will see-out his tenure at BMW-Williams in 2004 but he doesn't intend to let a genuine shot at the world title slip through his fingers.

'This is an excellent car as it reacts well to the set-ups and it seems to be very competitive,' he said after another busy five-day test at Barcelona.

Montoya added: 'This gives me great confidence about the coming months.'

ON RIGHT TRACK WITH FW26

German team-mate Ralf Schumacher is also impressed with FW26's pace.

'The car handles very well,' said the 28-year-old, 'and, without going into detail, I can say we are definitely on the right track.'

Williams launched '26' much earlier than last season to ensure that development would be well underway by the time it lands in Melbourne for the first event.

'I can already say that with this car we'll be able to fight for the championship,' a feisty Juan Pablo Montoya concluded.

Dr Mario Theissen, meanwhile, said the new BMW-V10 engine - designed for long-life regulations - completed the full 5-day test without a 'single problem.'








Hakkinen Slams Ferrari 'Team Orders'
Mika Hakkinen loathes Ferrari's anything-goes approach to team orders.

He notes that his former championship rival, Michael Schumacher, has a distinct edge over fellow racers because scarlet pitwall-decrees always go in his favour.

But the Finn, Hakkinen, would like to see Ferrari be more compliant in response to the highly-controversial sphere of asking a racer to move over for another.

He told F1 Racing: 'I'm all for it when the season gets critical, especially if one driver has a much better chance of winning the championship than the other.'

The retired champion, however, roasts any team - especially one with a mammoth budget - which chooses to operate with a policy of team orders from 'race one.'

MOVE OVER COULTHARD

In 1997 (Jerez), Scotsman David Coulthard was asked by his McLaren chiefs to move over and let Hakkinen slide past Jacques Villeneuve for his first F1 win.

This season, Mika reckons DC is in with a shout of the title.

'Especially now that McLaren have signed Montoya,' said the Flying Finn, 'he'll want to prove a point - he's a potential champion this year, no question.'








Alonso: New Car Faster Than Old
To spite new regulations that should ensure the opposite is true, Fernando Alonso reckons his new Formula One racer, R24, is faster than the old Renault.

The Spaniard said his newly-launched car performs better in 'every area' and proved it by going quickest at the busy Barcelona tests last Wednesday.

'When a car is quicker,' Alonso told reporters, 'you don't question it.'

SHOULD GET EVEN BETTER

But even though Williams, Ferrari and McLaren were left in his wake, 22-year-old Fernando says the car-improvements will keep coming in the run-up to Melbourne.

'...to the chassis, the engine, the tires and of course the driver,' he smiled.

Alonso won't be back at the wheel until Renault tests at Imola in a fortnight.








Pizzonia On Top As Test Winds-Up
Just two teams and three cars were left to fight it out for top-spoils as a busy week of Formula One testing in Barcelona found a conclusion on Friday.

Antonio Pizzonia was quickest in the new FW26 Williams chassis ahead of 'team-mate' Juan Pablo Montoya who also steered the innovative BMW-powered racer.

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta rounded out the times in his new Toyota, watched on by veteran team-mate Olivier Panis who sat-out the final day after a shunt.

'It has been an extremely productive week, quite possibly the most productive we have had so far,' said the Brazilian who worked on setup and tires in the TF104.

TEAMS TO TEST IN JEREZ

Montoya, in the 'tusked' Williams, completed long-runs in the afternoon while Pizzonia, the former Jaguar racer, focused on engine and gearbox reliability.

Most F1 teams will unpack in nearby-Jerez this week, starting Tuesday.








F1 Stars With A Lot To Prove: Mika
A swarm of Formula One drivers have a lot to prove this season, according to retired McLaren star and double world champion Mika Hakkinen.

The 'Flying Finn' reckons it's about time Jarno Trulli got noticed.

'It's strange,' Mika told F1 Racing magazine of the Italian who'll start his 3rd year at Renault. 'Whenever I think of Jarno, I think 'What happened to him?'

Trulli, nearly thirty, has been in F1 since 1997 but Hakkinen reckons its about time he started showing-up near the front of the field at the end of races.

'He's almost F1's invisible man,' said Mika. 'But in karts he was brilliant.'

HAS TESTING HELPED MASSA?

Is young charger Felipe Massa just 'fast and wild,' like Takuma Sato?

Mika won't be surprised if a year spent testing alongside Michael Schumacher has failed in polishing the Brazilian youngster's rough driving-style.

'He won't have learned much about running close to other cars, will he?'

And all the pressure might just get to crash-laden rookie Christian Klien.

'He's 20,' said Mika - 'not a baby but not grown up. I hope the [Jaguar] people around him give him good advice because he could be out of F1 very quickly.'








Piquet Pleased With Second F1 Test
BMW-Williams and Nelson Piquet were satisfied with the young Brazilian's form as he returned to the wheel of an older FW25A chassis in Barcelona last week.

The 18-year old F3 ace drove two days alongside Grove's experienced line-up and produced a best time six-tenths faster than junior testing rival Nico Rosberg.

'Considering it was my first run here, I am satisfied with my performance and think that Williams are satisfied too,' said Piquet, son of the world champion.

ADAPTED BETTER TO CAR

Chief engineer Sam Michael lauded Nelson's good times and 'feedback.'

And Piquet, referring indirectly to Sir Frank Williams' observation that maybe he's still too young for F1, said he adapted better to the car this time round.

'Well, this time I knew the car,' said Nelsinho, who competes for a Formula 3 team in Britain owned and chiefly financed by his triple F1-champion Dad.

He concluded: 'I was a lot more confident, less nervous and achieved more.'








Webber Doubts BAR's Test-Pace
Mark Webber has cast doubt on BAR's stonking pace in pre-season testing.

Honda-powered stars Takuma Sato and Jenson Button devastated the old lap record in Barcelona last week but is their speed genuine, wonders the Australian ... ?

'If we're talking about podiums,' the Jaguar driver told local journalists during a teleconference, 'then BAR are probably more likely than Toyota.

'But I assure you BAR aren't where they are testing now, that's for sure.'

27-year-old Webber reinstated Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and Renault as the 'top four' teams likely to share podiums, wins and the world championships in 2004.

'And Renault will be a lot closer than people think,' he hinted.

AUSSIE TO SLIP-ON BLUE OVERALLS?

Webber might even swap green overalls for a set of blue and yellow ones in the next few Formula One seasons, he let slip to the congregated reporters.

'First I have to perform, otherwise no-one will want me,' he laughed. 'Renault helped me get here, so we'll make the decision together. There are options.'

Sources confirmed that Renault has an option on the Aussie for 2007 and 2008.








Disappointed To Have Lost BAR: Suganuma
Tire supplier Bridgestone is disappointed to have lost partner team BAR.

In an odd turn of events, the Honda-powered British outfit has managed to irritate both of Formula One's rubber-manufacturers ahead of season 2004.

Bridgestone, because they wanted BAR's development-miles; and Michelin, because they didn't really need BAR's custom to add to an already strong team line-up.

'BAR were a good team from the tire development point of view,' said a frustrated technical manager at Bridgestone, Hisao Suganuma.

Ferrari is now Bridgestone's only manufacturer-backed, and well-financed, team.

'We have to live with that and work harder to develop our tires with our other teams,' said the Japanese whose marque is seemingly already losing the tire-war.

DID BRIDGESTONE LOSE 2003 TIRE-WAR?

But Suganuma doesn't agree that Bridgestone lost last year's duel with Michelin.

'We struggled more compared to '02,' he confessed, 'but we still won! We will have to make some reactions against [Michelin] if we want to dominate again.'

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