F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 11, 2004
Button Still Quick As Jerez Test Starts
Jenson Button proved his recent pace in the newly-launched BAR 006
contender was no fluke on Tuesday as, again, he was fastest in a new
week of testing at Jerez.
According to reports, the Englishman was not on a qualifying-run but
he was testing in low-fuel conditions as he outpaced Renault ace Jarno
Takuma Sato, also in a new Honda-powered BAR, was a solid third after
Trulli, the Italian, drove Enstone's new and highly impressive R24
machine and, despite a few niggles, tested suspension and raved about
the car over kerbs.
'We put another 64 laps on the new car,' said executive director of
engineering Pat Symonds, 'and Jarno was very positive in his
Luca Badoer's program at the cloudy circuit, as he switched between
two F2003-GA Ferrari cars, centred on Bridgestone tyres and evaluation
of 2004 components.
McLAREN STILL IN MIDFIELD
McLaren sustained their midfield reign as tester Alex Wurz outpaced
David Coulthard in the MP4-19 as the latter Scot struggled with
Franck Montagny, in an old Renault, worked on the diff and
Jaguar let Christian Klien get comfortable in a new R5 as the Austrian
went quicker than Giancarlo Fisichella, who worked at the wheel of a
'Today Felipe [Massa] rolled out our third chassis,' said Sauber race
engineer Jacky Eeckelaert. 'It's been quite windy but we had no real
The Brazilian youngster was also seen testing different front wings.
Jordan unpacked at the Spanish track with their single-completed EJ14
car and two drivers to share it; Nick Heidfeld and not-yet-confirmed
'One of the changes we made at [the Silverstone roll-out] caught us
out a bit and we needed to backtrack,' said head of test engineering
* Meanwhile, Ferrari's Michael Schumacher is now off to Italian
circuit Mugello having yesterday bedded-in a few new components on the
F2004 at Fiorano.
Another Glitch In Baumgartner F1-Debut
Hungarian rookie Zsolt Baumgartner's debut in the 2004 Formula One
season looked in trouble on Tuesday afternoon as the government
retracted most of its backing.
The youngster's management took the blame for a cancelled deal that
would have given him an extra $4 million to seal his drive at
His lost millions are to be replaced by a little under $300,000 to be
funded by the state-owned company which manages Budapest's Hungaroring
Baumgartner's management insisted that the racer would still sit in a
Minardi after the Faenza-based team agreed to extend a
payment-deadline until late-2004.
HUNGARIAN PUBLIC WAS DIVIDED
The news comes as a second blow to Zsolt's full-time F1 debut
following last month's notice that another backer, oil firm Mol Rt.,
had snatched-back $1.5m.
That money was replaced by a fund financed by his legions of national
Baumgartner's manager Tamas Frank said he had chosen to cancel the
Hungarian government-injection because the country's public was
'divided' on the matter.
Some had criticised Hungary's decision to sponsor a Formula One driver
but leave a massive state budget deficit that has forced cuts in
A spokesman for the sports ministry said the new, smaller, advertising
deal would be compensated by higher ticket-sales at this year's
Hungarian Grand Prix.
Want to Buy Senna's First F1 Racer?
Fans of the late Ayrton Senna are being given a chance to snap-up the
first car ever driven by the great Brazilian in the Formula One world
In 1984, the fresh-faced Paulista - who went on to win three world
championships - debuted in a Toleman-Hart which also finished second
'Lance' newspaper confirmed that Argentinean industrialist Paco
Mallorca, who has valued the single-seater at around $1m, will offer
the Toleman for auction.
This year's San Marino Grand Prix, hosted at Italian circuit Imola,
will mark a decade since Ayrton Senna was so tragically killed during
the event of 1994.
RENAULT AND ELF
In other quick F1 news, Renault lubricants and fuel partner Elf says
it has had to modify its products to meet new long-life
engine-regulations this season.
'We certainly create our products according to specifications provided
by Renault,' explained Olivier Dautrebande, head of the F1 program.
Death Still Knocks On F1's Door: Mosley
Formula One has been lucky to avoid driver-fatalities in the past
FIA president Max Mosley told The Sunday Mirror paper that although
safety has improved, the pinnacle of motor sport should take nothing
'We are all very thankful that it is so long since we last had a
fatality in Formula One,' said Mosley, referring to the tragic loss of
legend Ayrton Senna.
Rookie Roland Ratzenberger also died on that dark Imola-weekend of
SPORT HAS BEEN LUCKY
'We have to recognize that [since then] we have been lucky - and we
can't be sure we'll go on being lucky,' the sport's governing chief
Since 1994, F1 has embarked on rigorous programs for the improvement
of safety in all areas; including to the design of cars, equipment and
'We've succeeded in that objective,' Max, a Briton, continued.
He added: 'But there have been instances in recent years where we have
been very lucky not to have had someone killed.'
Mosley cites Takuma Sato's T-boning in Austria, while one reporter
recalls his relief when, a year earlier, Luciano Burti walked away
from a big-shunt at Spa.
The FIA boss said: 'They could have been a lot more serious than they
No Trust As Pantano Tests New Jordan
Most insider-analysts breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday as
cash-strapped Formula One team Jordan appeared only to confirm their
Italian F3000 driver Giorgio Pantano took to the wheel of the sole
EJ14 car at Jerez and will almost-certainly line-up alongside Nick
Heidfeld this season.
A spokeswoman for the yellow-clad outfit said the 25-year-old, with
about $5m in backing, had touched down at the windy Spanish track to
'learn a little more.
'And we want to learn a little bit more about him,' she added. 'We're
Pantano was third in last year's F3000 series and he's even tested an
F1 at the Spanish track before as he was allowed to re-familiarize
himself on Tuesday.
Confirmed racer Heidfeld, who encountered one or two technical
problems, did 23 laps in the morning before Pantano added thirty-five
more in the afternoon.
VERSTAPPEN'S LOGOS ARE GONE
It is Jordan's first test with its 2004-racer after the same
Trust-branded EJ14 was rolled-out at the team's nearby Silverstone
circuit last week.
Notably, Jos Verstappen's sponsor no longer features on the
Head of engineering James Robinson confirmed whispers that Heidfeld
and Pantano, incidentally a few tenths quicker than 'Quick Nick', were
asked to take it easy.
'We made some changes based on data accrued at Silverstone,' he said,
'but we had to backtrack a little here. We started to work on a
Sources report that Jordan are waiting on confirmation from Pantano's
backers before making an official statement, which is expected before
Friday this week.
Imola To Fight For Formula One
Imola has not disappeared off the Formula One race-radar.
F1 tsar Bernard Ecclestone told media publications last month that the
Italian race-circuit would not host the San Marino Grand Prix beyond
'From 2005,' he said, 'Italy will have only one race [at Monza].'
But Imola mayor Massimo Marchignoli reckons he recently spoke to
Ecclestone on the phone during which conversation he was told the
matter is still 'open.'
MAYOR TO MEET BERNIE
He told Gazzetta dello Sport: '[Bernie] said there is a chance to
continue hosting the grand prix next year. He asked me to meet him in
London next week.'
Imola has staged F1 races since 1980, when Nelson Piquet won the first
event on a circuit modified particularly after the death of Ayrton
Senna 14-years later.
Bernie explained his reasoning for wanting less races on the continent
by referring to Formula One sponsors' desire for 'growing markets.
'And Europe isn't a growing market,' the Englishman concluded.
Pizzonia Returns To Williams: Official
Antonio Pizzonia has returned to top-team BMW-Williams as a full-time
support test-driver for Marc Gene, the Grove-based outfit finally
confirmed on Tuesday.
The Brazilian filled the official role two years ago before accepting
the ultimately-doomed job as Mark Webber's team-mate at Jaguar last
Despite his consequently flecked reputation, though, a spokesman told
this publication that the racer is 'competent' and will perform a
Pizzonia, 23 and from the Amazon-region, started his tenure before
official confirmation with drives in the BMW-powered car at Barcelona
'It feels great to be back working with everyone at Williams,' he
SEES LONG-TERM FUTURE ON GRID
Antonio, who has enjoyed the unstinting support of bosses Patrick Head
and Sir Frank Williams, said his 'long-term future' is as a Formula
He added: 'But my aim for this year is to do everything I can as a
test driver to help the team win the world championship.'
The youngster's best-finish for Jaguar was a ninth at the A1-Ring.
'We saw what this guy can do,' said former BMW motorsport director
Gerhard Berger, 'but I just can't understand what the Jaguar team did
More Praise For New Ferrari F2004
Rubens Barrichello has continued to praise his all-new Ferrari F1
The Brazilian set a new lap record in the car at Mugello earlier this
week and reckons F2004, designed by Rory Byrne, is positive 'in every
He added: '[Designers] have bettered all the F2003-GA's
The 2003-specification scarlet-car won just eight grands prix last
season compared to the almost clean-sweep of victories in the previous
HAS SHORTER WHEELBASE
F2004 is designed to solve certain handling characteristics of the
older car; a shorter wheelbase, for example, is one of its 'most
Barrichello continued to Gazzetta Dello Sport: 'The thing that has
satisfied me the most is its lower driving position, which allows for
a greater sensitivity.'
Born and still with a residence in Sao Paulo, Rubens - in his
early-thirties - softly predicted that BMW-Williams and McLaren may be
toppled in 2004.
'[Renault's new R24] is truly a great car,' he told the magazine.
Webber: Slash F1's Aerodynamics
Mark Webber has dismissed claims that Formula One aces will only be
put-back in the driving-seat if the influence of complicated
electronics is reduced.
Legions of fans and analysts were chagrined with developments in the
political F1-world when plans to scrap traction-control were put on
A common-perception in the sport is that drivers are 'under the
control' of smart electronic boffins sitting at laptops in the back of
Not so, says Australia's leading driver for F1 team Jaguar Racing.
'Electronics is not the issue,' the 27-year-old told reporters.
OVERTAKING IS SO DIFFICULT
'The issue is the downforce. That's the big problem. The braking areas
are so short that it's very hard to get on the inside of other cars
Launch-control and fully-automatic gear-changing is gone for 2004; but
Mark Webber insists that the advent of electronic technology was only
good for F1.
'... Because that filters into the mass market,' he explained.
Webber said if he could recommend one area of attention for the F1
rule-makers, aerodynamics - or lessening its effect on the modern car
- would be it.
Minute-changes to the '04 aero-regs, including a larger engine-cover
and fewer elements on the rear-wing, have already succumbed to
advances in other areas.
Mark said: 'But it's difficult to slash the aero much more because
you'll have cars that are a lot more unstable, and potentially more
unsafe. We'll see.'
Button To Share New BAR Car With 360
Jenson Button has been asked to share his new Formula One
single-seater with three-hundred-and-sixty others, according to the
Briton's BAR-Honda team.
Keen spotters at the pre-season test-tracks of Spain this winter
spotted that a huge list of names is printed on the inside rear-wing
endplates of the 006.
A spokesman confirmed that a forward-facing organization at Brackley
is 'publicly thanking each and every member' of its team-staff with
NOT JUST ONE-OFF STUNT
He continued that all 360 names 'contributed' to the creation of the
And it's not just a one-off publicity stunt, said a team statement.
The roll-of-honor will remain on Button and Japanese team-mate Takuma
Sato's Honda-powered cars throughout the season's voyage to eighteen
Pantano 'Certain' Of Jordan Ride
Giorgio Pantano is '99 percent' certain that his future is yellow.
The Italian tested the newly-launched Jordan EJ14 at Jerez on Tuesday
and just has to deliver on a $5m sponsor-promise to seal his debut in
His appointment would finalize the initial ten team, twenty
driver-strong F1 line-up ahead of next month's season-opening
Australian Grand Prix.
Pantano told La Gazzetta Dello Sport in Spain: 'I want to show the
team that I can drive an F1 car, and that I deserve the job.
'I don't intend to take risks here.'
The 25-year-old, who came third in F3000 last season, said his goal at
Jordan would be to emulate the kind of 'team spirit' built-up by
'After all,' he added, 'it is me needing them. The first objective is
to gain experience in the car and of Formula One, then take the car to
the limit ...
'... and to be close to Nick [Heidfeld].'
TALKS FAILED WITH JAGUAR
Giorgio, 25, also revealed failed talks with Jaguar about 2004.
'I was convinced the seat was mine,' he told the magazine, 'also
because they told me they preferred a driver with a bit of
Pantano has previously tested for Williams, McLaren and Minardi.
He added: 'In reality [Jaguar] were just aiming for the money and
[Christian] Klien offered a lot more of it.'
Honda Won't Pull The Plug: Sources
Honda Australia has cast doubt on recent speculation that its
Japanese-based parent manufacturer is planning to pull the plug on the
Formula One project.
Spokesman Mark Higgins confirmed recent media reports that the current
contract with British-team BAR is scheduled to come under review
Honda's Otmar Szafnauer was quoted as saying a decision would be made
Higgins corroborated: 'The program will be reviewed mid-year because
2004 is the expiration of the current contract with BAR.
'(But) I really can't see Honda leaving F1 without being successful at
OPTION IS NEW TWO-YEAR DEAL
Meanwhile, sources close to this publication reported today that one
of Honda's options is for a two-year extension of the current deal
with F1 team BAR.
'We're committed to Formula One,' F1 coordinator Otmar Szafnauer said
late last season. 'We'll be here. There are no plans at the moment to
McNish Pulls Out Of Race For F1
As Giorgio Pantano edges closer to the chequered-flag, Scottish
hopeful Allan McNish has pulled out of the marathon-race to win a seat
in Formula One.
Media sources report that the former Toyota driver and Renault tester
has signed a deal to return to the world of Le Mans sportscars in 2004
He told the Telegraph: 'Eddie [Jordan] was straight with me all the
way. He's just in the situation of having to take the driver with the
'Circumstances in motor sport dictate that at the moment.'
Our sources claimed last week that sponsor Benson & Hedges retracted a
pledge to release more funding if the nationality of the second-driver
Italian-born Pantano's apparent rise to victory, therefore, should
also be seen as a blow to the hopes of Jordan incumbent Ralph Firman
of retaining his job.
SCOTSMAN RACES LE MANS AGAIN
McNish, 34, is scheduled to again contest the fabled 24-Hour race in
France next season and drive a full-campaign of the inaugural Le Mans
His team-mate for Audi Sport Team Veloqx is another ex-F1 racer,
Baumgartner Debuts Brand-New Minardi
To spite speculation that sponsor-trouble might crush his F1-hopes,
Hungarian ace Zsolt Baumgartner rolled-out Minardi's new Formula One
car on Tuesday.
The youngster turned out in sunny conditions near Italy's Adriatic
coast (Misano) to give the designated PS04B contender its first
An evolution of last season's PS03, the new car performed reliably and
quickly giving the small Faenza-based team reason to
eagerly-anticipate season 2004.
CLOCKS MINARDI LAP-RECORD
Baumgartner clocked 64 laps with a best-time of 1.11.080 - no less
than two and a half seconds quicker than the previous fastest-ever
Minardi lap at the track.
'I'm happy with the behavior of the new car,' said the Budapest-born
ace. 'It is more 'progressive' in its characteristics than the PS03 I
drove last month.'
Owner Paul Stoddart marvelled at the fact that the last time his
black-clad team were at Misano, Mark Webber - in the 2002-spec car -
lapped 2.5 seconds slower.
'We take a lot of heart (from today),' said the Aussie, who praised
the engine from Cosworth that ran reliably despite having nearly
700kms on the clock.
Minardi manager Massimo Rivola confirmed that Baumgartner's Roman
team-mate, F1 rookie Gianmaria Bruni, is scheduled to take the PS04B's
wheel on Wednesday.
Webber Pans New Points System In F1
Aussie driver Mark Webber dislikes the revised points-system in
It might be observed that the new score sheet, which awards points for
the top-eight runners, flattered mid-field teams like his Jaguar
outfit in 2003.
First and second places are now also separated by fewer points under
the system designed to produce a championship that can go all the way
'to the wire.'
Webber, 27, reckons he liked the old system 'a lot more.'
Milton-Keynes' star performer added: 'Top six was a good result [in
2002] but, with the top eight, a lot of people can get points now. But
that's how it is.'
Mark agrees with reigning world champion and mate Michael Schumacher
that the German's six victories in 2003 should have romped him to the
'I think it's quite harsh,' Webber explained. 'Kimi [Raikkonen] won
only one race but was still in with a chance at the last race - it's a
WOULD BE HAPPY WITH EIGHTH
Meanwhile, the Jaguar driver dismissed claims that an evolutionary R5
challenger could well power Mark Webber, at home, to his first-ever
Formula One podium.
'If we finish eighth (in Australia),' he said, 'we may not be happy
with it - but if the big-guns also finish the race, that's a decent
afternoon for us.'
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