F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 10, 2004
Barrichello Sets Record In New Ferrari
Another Formula One lap-record has fallen in pre-season testing
despite new regulations designed to slow the efficiency of the
First, Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) and David Coulthard (McLaren)
showed them how it was done by setting a new benchmark at the twisty
BAR's Jenson Button and Takuma Sato then smashed each others'
unofficial records at Circuit de Catalunya as they performance-tested
new and hybrid 2004-cars.
Yesterday, Rubens Barrichello was on-fire over 74 laps in Ferrari's
New regulations in 2004, written also with commercial considerations,
include penalties for poor engine reliability and restrictions to the
But Brazilian Rubens, who endured a couple of damp debut-days in the
scarlet machine at Italy's Mugello track, finally got a sunny sky on
FASTER THAN TWO-YEAR RECORD
... his best-time, 1.18.704, was significantly faster than the old
unofficial record set by team-mate and reigning champion Michael
Schumacher in the F2002.
After Rubens' maiden 3-day test, Ferrari packed the single-seater into
the trucks and powered back to base where another test will start on
Schumacher, 35, is scheduled to resume the development-programme at
Pantano Eyes Jordan Victory
Italian F3000 driver Giorgio Pantano is nearing the chequered flag in
an unusually-protracted race for the final full-time seat in Formula
The 25-year-old will almost certainly line up alongside confirmed ace
Nick Heidfeld in the Ford-powered EJ14 if his sponsors deliver up to
$5m in funding.
Jos Verstappen was ready to offer $10 million, and Benson & Hedges
nearly $6m if a British driver took the wheel - so why has Eddie
Jordan plumped for Pantano?
Team sources hardened speculation that the highly-rated racer is
making the trip to Spain's Jerez de la Frontera circuit this week to
meet with Jordan bosses.
A spokeswoman didn't reveal (know) if Pantano would drive at the test
'We're talking and he's going to come down to see what's going on,'
SPONSOR RETRACTS PLEA FOR BRITON
Experts close to the Silverstone-based team reckon it's likely that
sponsor B&H retracted its offer to release more funds if the
second-driver was British.
The news serves as a blow to Scotsman Allan McNish and Jordan
race-incumbent Ralph Firman Jnr who had hoped to partner a rated
'Quick Nick' on the '04-grid.
Pantano was German F3 champion three years ago, has tested F1 cars
with McLaren, Minardi and Williams, and most recently won races in
Analysts agree that he is talented and the best of EJ's alternate
Jordan Zip-Up New Agreements
Cash-strapped F1 team Jordan has zipped-up a couple of new agreements.
The first signature was that of artificial-intelligence specialist
Scientio Inc., who will supply software to be used in the analysis of
'The first project ... concerns an important area of performance which
over time should reap some interesting results,' said head of vehicle
science James Key.
'FUN' TEAM TO RE-POSITION BRAND
On Monday, an agreement was also announced with TMA - a strategic
marketing agency - for the provision of design services to the Formula
'2004 will see the rejuvenation of Jordan, and a strengthening of [its
unique] brand positioning,' said Mike Hall-Taylor, head of marketing
Fans In For Sterling Season: Williams
Fans of Formula One are in for a peerless brand of grands prix this
That's the opinion of BMW-Williams' chief operations engineer Sam
Michael who is convinced that up to four teams will tussle for the
title throughout 2004.
'It is going to be a hard year, and for viewers of the sport, it is
going to be very close,' said the young Australian, one of F1's
Last season, only 16-points separated the top-three teams, also
including McLaren and Ferrari, in the latter's victorious
But after studying the pre-season form of his rivals this winter,
Michael reckons there may be even less in it for the new-season of
KEY IS NEW-CAR DEVELOPMENT
'I think the key will be how quickly they can develop their cars,' he
Williams' new racer, the FW26, is visually-innovative and was launched
- and tested - about a month earlier than its second place-getting
'We are pushing hard now to be in an advanced state before Melbourne,'
So far in 2004, the British team has already completed twenty-days of
One of Williams' racers, Juan Pablo Montoya, shares his boss's opinion
that McLaren's highly-developed MP4-19 and the new Renault R24 are
both in the fight.
'Ferrari are consistent,' said the Colombian, 'and Renault are
improving. It will be a hard-fought championship with many players -
great for the fans.'
Trulli Completes Half-Marathon
When Jarno Trulli completes twenty-one kilometres of running in a
single day, most Formula One journalists agree he's not going to be
But on this occasion, the Renault racer was just puffed-out ...
... Trulli, from Italy, competed in a half-distance marathon in chilly
and windy Wokingham on Sunday as a compliment to his grueling
pre-season training regime.
'It went pretty well,' the local resident said afterwards.
He added: 'I took it quite easy at the beginning but by halfway, I
realized I was behind schedule, so started pushing a bit more.'
The only real problem was due to the typically-inclement English
'I know it's February,' Jarno Trulli joked, 'but I still wasn't
prepared for it to be quite so cold and windy!'
DRIVES NEW CAR AT JEREZ
On Tuesday, the racer returns to the tracks for 3-days at Jerez in the
recently-launched R24, which was evaluated by team-mate Fernando
Alonso last week.
'Everything looks pretty good so far,' Trulli revealed.
He added: 'The reliability is good and Fernando told me that although
we can make improvements, the car seems quick. I have high
expectations for testing.'
Raikkonen Plays Down Ferrari Link
Runner-up F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen has played down rising
speculation that his future is as Michael Schumacher's successor at
the Italian Ferrari team.
The Finn's McLaren boss, Ron Dennis, said recently that his
scarlet-clad rivals are 'testing the temperature' on potential
driver-replacements for the German.
Moreover, Ross Brawn - technical wizard at Ferrari - mused that of the
rising-wave of F1 young-guns, Kimi 'Raikkonen is the one who impresses
But the 24-year-old suggests that there is little truth to the
'I have a contract with McLaren, and when that expires we'll see what
happens,' Kimi told La Gazzetta Dello Sport. 'But Ferrari haven't even
talked to me.'
DOUBTS IF SCHU IS RETIRING
Raikkonen, who has yet to have an 'option' signed on his McLaren
contract for 2005 and 2006, doubts that 35-year-old Michael Schumacher
is eyeing retirement.
'He's under contract until 2006,' said the quiet speedster, 'and I
don't think he'll quit before then. We'll see - I see no reason to
change out of McLaren.
'I feel really good here.'
Jean Todt, boss of the Ferrari team, mused recently that his
Maranello-based marque is 'active' in the search for the next Formula
One world champion.
'We look at what is happening with young drivers,' said the Frenchman.
Webber: Who Knows What Ford Will Do?
Grand Prix racing-sensation Mark Webber has reacted to theories that
American car-maker Ford, owner of Jaguar, is 'long overdue' to pull
out of Formula One.
Commenting on the signing of the Australian's paying team-mate
Christian Klien, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone wondered: 'How much
longer can Ford go this way?
'They have made a big cut in costs - no wonder they hired a driver
The 73-year-old continued that if Ford was serious about getting to
grips with its opposition, it should pump in more bucks or else 'not
be in it' at all.
WAS ECCLESTONE BEING TOO HARSH?
Webber was asked by a teleconference of Australian reporters whether
he believed the diminutive Englishman, Ecclestone, had been too hard
on the team ...
'... Probably Bernie knows more than what I do about what [Ford] are
up to,' said the speedster. 'Time will tell. No-one really knows what
Jaguar's budget is around $150m - less than half the coffers of
top-teams including world champion marque Ferrari or Mercedes-backed
'It's how you spend your money that makes the car perform well,' said
Mark, 'and what we have is a very healthy budget to do our
championship for this year.'
Webber believes Ford are committed to making Jag-Rac work 'as best
He concluded: 'I'm not really in a position to talk about what their
involvement is going to be. What they do in the future, I think no-one
Finn Confused By Privateers' Plight
Mika Hakkinen is confused about the plight of F1's most-struggling
The retired double world champion, who quit McLaren in 2001, doesn't
know why Minardi are always slowest and reckons Eddie Jordan makes
some 'odd' decisions.
'I don't understand Jordan,' Mika started in F1 Racing magazine.
'It's very sad, because Eddie is a great guy. F1 needs guys like him -
he's a motivator. He's the kind of guy that that gets the best out of
On the other hand, Hakkinen muses, opting to sue Vodafone was 'very
JORDAN ARE INCONSISTENT
He said of the failed action that not only cost Jordan several million
dollars, but a slating from the Judge: 'That wasn't a good idea at
'Like EJ himself,' Hakkinen continued, 'Jordan are inconsistent. But I
guess consistency is difficult to maintain if your best engineers keep
Mika Hakkinen is also confused about back-of-the-grid minnows Minardi.
'My question is this,' he asked in the magazine. 'Why are they always
The 20-grand prix winner, Hakkinen, acknowledges that the Faenza-based
team, owned and run by Aussie Paul Stoddart, is short of money - 'I
But Mika concludes: 'That doesn't explain why they're always so bad.
It's almost as if there's an unwritten law that says they must always
Ferrari Aren't Falling Apart: Rival Chief
Ferrari won't fall apart, a rival F1 team's chief engineer has warned.
Australian-born Malcolm Oastler, who was fired by BAR a couple of
seasons ago, doubts that the pecking-order will shift dramatically
between 2003 and 2004.
Now a Jaguar employee, he said: 'Ferrari did have a patch of less than
dominant performances [last season], but they were strong again at the
The latest Ferrari-headline is that number-two driver Rubens
Barrichello has smashed a two-year old circuit record at Mugello in
the newest F2004 car.
'They're clearly back on form,' Oastler noted. 'There's a lot of
inertia in F1 so I do think Ferrari will probably win the title again
SEASON 'DIP' HIGHLIGHTED STRENGTH
Oastler believes that the Ferrari 'dip' of 2003, which resulted in a
close down-to-the-wire battle for the drivers' title, actually
highlighted their strengths.
He said: 'They didn't disappear into their corners and start slagging
one another off. They rallied. They've obviously got depth in their
The only chance McLaren, BMW-Williams and Renault have of winning the
championship, said the engineer, is if they produce clearly better
'And I think having fewer teams won't exactly help Bridgestone,'
Then there's the 'Michael-factor' - Oastler believes Schumacher's crew
would lie down and let him run over them if they thought it would make
his car faster.
'That's an asset - the way he galvanizes the team - that is hugely
powerful,' said the Aussie, 'and it's way beyond what most other
drivers can comprehend.'
Now 'Iceman' Slams Ferrari Team-Orders
Finnish racer Kimi Raikkonen has backed the recent claims of his
McLaren predecessor that Ferrari's approach to team orders is not good
for Formula One.
Retired champion Mika Hakkinen, whose ex-engineer and trainer now work
for Kimi, said he only agrees with orders to boost the final throes of
Kimi, 24, is linked to an eventual move to Michael Schumacher's
Scuderia, which enraged the racing world in 2002 when it robbed Rubens
Barrichello of a win.
'I wouldn't race for a team where the second driver is
pre-determined,' Raikkonen told Italian sports magazine La Gazzetta
Kimi said he 'couldn't stand' to be forbidden the chance to race on
But, like mentor Hakkinen who tips Raikkonen for the 2004 drivers'
crown, the 'Iceman' doesn't mind team orders if they're used at the
tail-end of a season.
'I can understand helping a teammate if one had an awful season and
the other had a chance to win the title,' the Espoo-born racer,
HAKKINEN WON WITH TEAM-ORDERS
Mika Hakkinen won his first of twenty grands prix because of
Raikkonen's current team-mate, David Coulthard, was moved over by the
Mercedes-branded bosses at Jerez, in late 1997, to give Mika a better
shot at the leader.
'Mika deserved his first win,' Coulthard, the veteran-racing Scot,
said at the time. 'He was faster than me so the team ordered me to let
Webber Geared-Up For Home Grand Prix
Aussie driver Mark Webber is all geared-up for his third home Formula
The Queanbeyan-born star debuted in a Minardi two seasons ago and
completed a 'fairy-tale' weekend by earning an astonishing two points
for fifth place.
'I'm very lucky,' said the 27-year-old Jaguar Racing ace who, with his
nineteen GP-rivals, will start their 2004 campaigns in Melbourne in
less than a month.
He continued: 'Others like Kimi Raikkonen, Montoya and [Austrian
team-mate] Christian Klien don't get a home grand prix so I'm very
fortunate that I do.'
Webber calls the race in Melbourne 'one of the best' on the F1
LOCAL STAR 'STRESSED' IN OZ
'It's probably not the best race for me in terms of off-track
activities,' he smiled - 'I'm stressed a little bit, to be honest, but
it's a phenomenal event.'
Fans at Albert Park, the temporary road-style circuit, are very
knowledgeable, said Mark, and understand the mid-field situation he's
in at the moment.
'I think Melbourne loves sport - they get out and support it and [the
grand prix] gets huge attention nationally as well. It's a great event
But Webber warned a throng of local reporters in an Aussie
'teleconference' from England not to expect a Jaguar-Ferrari 'head to
head' with Michael Schumacher.
'Well, them and us - we're in two different categories,' he said in
reference to the champion Ferrari team. 'We don't often talk about
them at our factory.'
Rubens Admits 'Gap' To Michelin Rivals
Rubens Barrichello isn't buying-into claims that the latest
'Bridgestone versus Michelin' Formula One tire-war is already a
Many analysts agree that the pre-season form of Michelin-shod McLaren
and BMW-Williams is about a second-per-lap healthier than Ferrari's
The Ferrari driver, Barrichello, won't play the guessing-game.
'It's difficult to estimate the performance of two tire companies
without having tried them both,' he told reporters after his run in
the F2004 on Monday.
The Brazilian insisted he's 'not worried' about the allegedly
unbeatable Michelin contest, but appeared to concede a 'gap' to his
Barrichello, after smashing the unofficial lap-record at Italy's
Mugello track, said: 'Honestly, we don't believe the gap is anywhere
as large as some suggest.'
BRIDGESTONE ARE FIGHTING-BACK
The only other reasonably-funded F1 team also running on Bridgestones
this season, Sauber, support claims that the Japanese supplier is
'Last year, the situation was that the [tire] performance was not
always consistent,' said the little Swiss team's technical director
He added: 'But I think they're doing a lot of development work now.'
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