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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 Trulli.

Takuma Sato, also in a new Honda-powered BAR, was a solid third after 81 tours.

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 feedback.'

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 gearbox dramas.

Franck Montagny, in an old Renault, worked on the diff and Melbourne-spec tyres.

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 Sauber C23.

'Today Felipe [Massa] rolled out our third chassis,' said Sauber race engineer Jacky Eeckelaert. 'It's been quite windy but we had no real problems.'

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 Giorgio Pantano.

'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 James Robinson.

* 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 back-of-the-grid Minardi.

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 F1 race-track.

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 fans.

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 housing-loans programs.

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 championship.

In 1984, the fresh-faced Paulista - who went on to win three world championships - debuted in a Toleman-Hart which also finished second in Monte-Carlo.

'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 decade.

FIA president Max Mosley told The Sunday Mirror paper that although safety has improved, the pinnacle of motor sport should take nothing for 'granted'.

'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 1994.

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 warned.

Since 1994, F1 has embarked on rigorous programs for the improvement of safety in all areas; including to the design of cars, equipment and circuit lay-out.

'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 were.'








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 predictions.

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 talking.'

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 Ford-powered car.

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 solution.'

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 this season.

'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 season.

Despite his consequently flecked reputation, though, a spokesman told this publication that the racer is 'competent' and will perform a 'crucial' role.

Pizzonia, 23 and from the Amazon-region, started his tenure before official confirmation with drives in the BMW-powered car at Barcelona and Valencia.

'It feels great to be back working with everyone at Williams,' he said.

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 One race-driver.

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 with him.'








More Praise For New Ferrari F2004
Rubens Barrichello has continued to praise his all-new Ferrari F1 racer.

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 way.'

He added: '[Designers] have bettered all the F2003-GA's characteristics.'

The 2003-specification scarlet-car won just eight grands prix last season compared to the almost clean-sweep of victories in the previous '02 calendar.

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 important' solutions.

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 the back-burner.

A common-perception in the sport is that drivers are 'under the control' of smart electronic boffins sitting at laptops in the back of the race-garages.

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 and overtake.'

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 the gesture.

NOT JUST ONE-OFF STUNT

He continued that all 360 names 'contributed' to the creation of the new car.

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 grands prix.







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 Formula One.

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 Michael Schumacher.

'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 experience.'

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 around mid-season.

Honda's Otmar Szafnauer was quoted as saying a decision would be made in July.

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 it.'

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 pull out.'








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 with Audi.

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 most money.

'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 was British.

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 endurance series.

His team-mate for Audi Sport Team Veloqx is another ex-F1 racer, Johnny Herbert.








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 track-run.

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 Formula One.

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 season's title.

'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 bit strange.'

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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