F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 12, 2004
Bahrain Scraps F1 'Tent City' Plan
Bahrain has put a novel plan to accommodate nearly two-thousand
Formula One fans in a massive desert 'tent city' on hold for at least
Project chief Rayan Kazerooni told Gulf Daily News that there now
wasn't time to get everything organized ahead of April's first-ever
race in the Middle East.
'It has been shelved, but we are going to do it next year,' he said.
'It has been put on hold because of the late time - we have to market
it worldwide. We will be addressing it immediately after the first F1
Kazerooni's plan, given a shortage of hotel rooms in the tiny country,
was to erect five separate 'tent' camps in Sakhir each capable of
hosting 300 people.
'We will review the plans in May,' Kazerooni, who is also business
development manager at the Bahrain International Circuit, told the
B & B NETWORK ALSO CANNED
Appeals to local residents to allow F1-visitors into their homes has
also been scrapped because time has run-out before the looming 2004
Bahrain Grand Prix.
Kazerooni said: 'All parties were supportive from the demand and
supply side, but when you look at what is involved there is nowhere
near enough time.'
F1 Doomed If Costs Aren't Cut: Ecclestone
Formula One faces certain-doom if its competing Formula One teams
cannot cut costs immediately, according to the sport's president
The 73-year-old told journalists in a telephone hook-up from London
that car manufacturers won't stick around if their investments aren't
'If we don't reduce the costs dramatically, the current car companies
in F1 who are at the top may say, 'We've spent enough and we're
'We've got to come up with some ideas this year. It's just that
Bernie believes cash-strapped teams like Minardi and Jordan will never
claw their way up the grid unless the big-budgets of McLaren and
Ferrari are reduced.
'To get the regulations changed in order to bring down the costs of
the McLaren team to somewhere near Jordan would be attainable and
easy,' he explained.
BIG TEAMS NOT INTERESTED
But the cash-laden pacesetters aren't interested in change, he said.
'They've got an awful lot of money invested, and as long as they have
it, they'll spend all they have to win,' said Ecclestone.
But he revealed that the FIA was currently working on a plan to cut
costs via the technical rules; an engine-formula slash from 3.0 to 2.5
Minardi Spread Wings To Asia
F1 backmarker Minardi is set to expand into Asia.
The little Italian outfit announced on Wednesday the formation of
'Minardi Team Asia' following the signing of an agreement with Eurasia
As well as maintaining its F1 presence, then, Minardi will help enter
Asian drivers in the Formula BMW Asia and Asian Formula 3 series this
Headquartered in Hong Kong, Eurasia Motorsport will run cars in both
series in Minardi's distinctive black, white and red colors.
'There has often been talk of F1 teams helping to popularize
motorsport in Asia, but up until now, nothing has been done,' said
Minardi boss Paul Stoddart.
ASIAN DRIVER TO ENTER F1?
The Australian chief said, given the population of Asia, a young
driver will almost certainly be uncovered via this program and urged
onto F1's road.
>From a commercial perspective, the plan is to give Minardi's F1
sponsors the opportunity to be associated at a regional level in the
global Asian market.
Stoddart met Eurasia's Piers Hunnisett through former Malaysian ace
'Minardi Team Asia will announce its 2004 driver line-up in the near
future,' read a statement issued by the back-of-the-grid Formula One
Montagny To Finally Draw Breath
Next week, Franck Montagny will finally get time to draw breath.
The Frenchman, signed late last year as Renault's new official tester,
has been at every pre-season session for the Enstone-based team so far
'I've driven over 7500kms but there are still plenty of little things
I need to learn each day,' he told reporters from his latest
test-venue - Jerez (Spain).
Finally, Montagny has been scheduled a breather early next week.
'I'll watch from the pits,' Franck confirmed, 'and that will give me
time to take a step back, analyze and understand. It's a bit like a
JARNO AND FERNANDO ARE DIFFERENT
But he's already learned a lot - like just how different race pilots
Fernando Alonso, of Spain, and F1 veteran Jarno Trulli, the Italian
'We leave the hotel in the morning and you can be sure Jarno's already
at the track, and he stays until nine at night. That's his way of
Montagny says youngest-ever winner Alonso, however, needs more time to
'That's my way too,' he continues. 'That's how we perform at our best.
Working with both of them teaches me new things every day. It's
Physically, Franck says he has adapted to driving Formula One cars
even if his seating-position isn't yet perfect at the wheel of 'his'
older R23 chassis.
'My shirt collar has gone up a size,' he laughs, 'but my back's a bit
sore because the seat isn't perfect - it's made me realize how
important it is.'
Most important is that Franck's times are comparable to Jarno and
'It's nice,' he smiles. 'It may take me a bit longer to get there than
those guys, but that's just a question of experience - driving F1 is
Button, BAR, Still Reigns At Jerez
Jenson Button continued his reign at the top of the testing-timesheets
on Wednesday as fifteen Formula One runners circulated at Jerez in
The BAR ace was trailed by Franck Montagny in an older Renault,
Button's team-mate Takuma Sato and BMW-Williams ace Ralf Schumacher in
the innovative FW26.
A race-simulation for Sato ended when a front-wheel fell off after a
'Both [Ralf and Marc Gene] concentrated on set-up work,' said Tim
Newton, who confirmed that Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya will replace
Gene on Thursday.
Jarno Trulli, also on a race simulation, was next-best in the R24
followed by the first of McLaren's two drivers, Kimi Raikkonen, in the
JAGUAR RUNS OZ-SPEC AERO KIT
Australian ace Mark Webber tried Jaguar's definitive R5 aero-package.
'We didn't do enough laps,' he said, 'but this car is better than the
Ferrari had Luca Badoer on a big tyre program, ahead of Christian
Klien and Sauber's Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella who both had
Jordan's likely race line-up of Nick Heidfeld and Giorgio Pantano
continued to share the single EJ14 contender and brought up the times
after 75 total tours.
* Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher continued development on the new
Ferrari F2004 at Mugello while Minardi wrapped-up a session at the
nearby Misano track.
Bernie Not Sorry About 'Beggar' Remark
F1 president Bernie Ecclestone has refused to apologize for calling
Australian-born Minardi chief Paul Stoddart a 'beggar'.
It was reported mid last-season that the 73-year-old impresario had
taken a stake in the Faenza-based stragglers in a last-ditch attempt
to save the team.
First, Ecclestone denied this in a telephone hook-up with Aussie
SUPREMO DIDN'T BUY MINARDI STAKE
'I made certain guarantees for them,' he said, 'but I didn't buy
'The idea of a beggar is true. I said it's not good for people like
Paul to walk around looking like they're begging, it's no good even
And from a business point-of-view, said Ecclestone, it's even worse
because Minardi will never claw-up the F1 grid if backers aren't sure
of their strength.
Bernie added: 'I said to Paul, 'You've got to shake things up'. I
think he's got a budget now that's going to be ok and he should start
building the company.
'But he shouldn't be walking around looking for handouts.'
Ralf Fighting Over Money: Frank Williams
Eponymous team principal Sir Frank Williams has revealed that fights
over money stalled contract-renewal talks with Formula One racer Ralf
He told British broadcaster BBC that the German-born star's current
contract, which expires at the end of this season, will be reviewed
'Ralf is our preferred choice,' Frank told the website.
Williams continued: 'Once the second half of the season is underway we
will see where we are in the championship and get back to fighting
over the money.'
Last month, 28-year-old Schumacher - who won two grands prix last
season - denied that delayed talks with Williams had anything to do
GERMAN COULD LEAVE TEAM
His manager Willi Weber clarified that the dispute is about exposure
of lucrative personal sponsors and serious enough to see Ralf leave
'If we can't find a way to continue together,' said a source close to
the Austrian-resident, 'Ralf will look for another cockpit in Formula
Toyota advisor Ove Andersson said he would 'seriously' consider Ralf
Schumacher if the highly-rated driver came knocking on the
Cologne-based team's door.
Bruni Shines In New Minardi
MISANO, Italy: Gimmi Bruni lopped a further second-and-a-half off
Minardi's former record at the Autodromo Santamonica on Wednesday in
the new PS04B car.
The Roman took-over from 2004 teammate Zsolt Baumgartner on the
Adriatic coast and clocked 64 laps in the Cosworth-powered racer
whilst testing tyres.
'The new chassis is very good,' said Gianmaria, 'and I'm happy with
the small innovations. I feel happy with the time I set and I look
forward to Imola.'
Team chief Paul Stoddart noted that Baumgartner and Bruni covered
almost two full race distances in the plain-painted black car without
'Reliability is something that all F1 teams will be striving for in
2004, so the indications from this test are very positive,' he said
after the 2-day test.
Minardi's final pre-season session takes place next week at Imola.
AIRPORT MISPLACED CAR-PARTS
Meanwhile, at the busy Jerez tests, Jordan aces Nick Heidfeld and
Giorgio Pantano endured a trying day as development miles were put on
the new EJ14.
A spokesman said airport and airline baggage handlers 'misplaced for
an entire day' small but significant car-parts sent from the
Head of engineering James Robinson thus defended Italian race-hopeful
Pantano's sluggish times over his series of 'reconnaissance laps' in
F1 To Crown New Champion: Bernie
Ice-cool Finn Kimi Raikkonen is the young man to halt Michael
Schumacher's run of four consecutive Formula One drivers' world
championships this season.
That's the earnest belief of F1 supremo and president Bernie
Ecclestone who actually doesn't think the sport (necessarily) needs a
'What Schumacher has done has been very good for us,' said the
73-year-old. 'It's good to have a superstar. When people think
Schumacher, they think F1.'
Bernie reckons Schumacher and Ferrari, who are likely to succumb to a
pre-season tyre-deficit to pacesetters Michelin, will struggle to do
it again in '04.
'With my dollar,' he told journalists, 'for what it's worth, I'll back
WEBBER TO EMULATE SCHUMACHER
Ecclestone also told the swarm of Aussie reporters in a phone link
from London that their own racer, Mark Webber, is one of the very best
in Formula One.
'I don't think we've seen the best of him,' he added of the Jaguar
star who has been named as a likely candidate to join BMW-Williams as
early as 2005.
Bernie said: 'If he was in a Ferrari, how much better would he be?'
The Briton concluded that he 'suspects' Mark has the ability to
emulate the feats of F1's German-born champion, Schumacher, in
motivating his entire team.
Jordan Expect Pantano Deal
Giorgio Pantano is '99 percent' certain, and now potential employers
Jordan-Ford are reporting confidence that the Italian will race a
yellow F1-car in 2004.
Sources hinted that the F3000 ace would feature on a press-release
naming Nick Heidfeld's team-mate late on Wednesday, or at the latest
Jordan's director of business development Ian Phillips told new agency
Reuters: 'We are now just waiting for everything to fall into line.'
He added that the 25-year-old's management had told F1's
Silverstone-based team that guarantees on driver-sponsorship should be
in place by late Wednesday.
WAITING ON CASH GUARANTEES
Phillips said: 'Until that is in place the deal is technically still
not done of course, but we are confident it will be.'
The Jordan man denied reports as 'inaccurate' that Pantano brings a
backer-purse of up to $5.5m, but he is believed to have the support of
Internet sources believe the money is coming from a well known
Scottish ace Allan McNish pulled out of the race for the Ford-powered
race drive as he announced on Wednesday that he'd contest the Le Mans
'I would have loved to have raced with Jordan,' said last season's
Renault tester, 'but I've always believed in what I can do and not
what I can buy.'
Button On Pole For Williams Return
Jenson Button is favored to land Juan Pablo Montoya's
soon-to-be-vacated F1 seat and complete a return to the BMW-Williams
team he left three years ago.
British broadcaster BBC is reporting that the 24-year-old BAR-Honda
grand prix driver's management has held 'initial talks' with old boss
Sir Frank Williams.
Williams said of the racer who's currently setting the testing pace:
'Jenson is obviously a very fine driver but I wouldn't admit to talks
if I'd had them.'
UNLIKELY TO LEAVE BAR
Button was shifted out of the Grove-based team after his debut season
in 2000 and is now under firm-contract to David Richards' BAR squad,
said Patrick Head.
Williams' tech-chief added: 'Drivers want a fast car and the money
they would like. If he gets that at BAR, he would probably have little
reason for leaving.
'But we would regard him high on the list of contenders if he was
Melbourne To Lose Season-Opener In 2006
Australia will not open the Formula One world championship of 2006.
That year's 18th Commonwealth Games, to be staged in the same
Victorian city of Melbourne, is set to relocate the race at Albert
Park to later in the F1-season.
F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, author of the annual grand prix calendar,
said a draft plan for the 2006 series is already drawn up with
Melbourne at the start.
SOURCES PREDICT LATE-RACE
'The contract is clear, and we didn't know what was going to happen in
2006,' he explained, 'so it's something we need to have a look at
Sources already predict that, to assure decent weather in the Southern
Hemisphere country, the 2006 grand prix will be held very late in the
'There are a few other events that need to be taken into
consideration,' Ecclestone continued. 'They've also got dates fixed
they're happy with.'
Ford Are 'Silly' About Jaguar Project
Bernie Ecclestone reckons car-giant Ford is being 'silly' about its F1
The sport's supremo wonders why the American manufacturer, which
offers an incomplete budget for Jaguar Racing, are happy to run at the
back of the field.
'I really don't know,' he told Australian journalists.
Jaguar's budget for this season, around the $160 million mark,
compares to the nearly $400 million annual fares for
championship-rivals Ferrari and McLaren.
'Ford have got to decide what they want to be,' said Bernie, who notes
that since the Leaping Cat started racing in 2000, it has scored only
MARQUE HAS ALWAYS FALLEN-SHORT
He added: 'Do they want to be competitive or do they want to race the
private teams? It seems a little silly to me that they're not where
they should be.'
73-year-old Ecclestone, president of the Formula One Management group,
says Ford has always fallen short 'at the last dollar' when it came to
'It's simply a case of how much they're prepared to pay,' he
concluded. 'They have never, ever, created the budget that is
necessary to get the job done.'
Ecclestone expressed an ardent desire to see Ford's US-owned rival
manufacturer General Motors in F1. 'Maybe they're working on it,' he
offered as a hint.
Switzerland To Lift Ban On F1 Racing
With one swift and timely stroke, Switzerland could instantly become
one of the most attractive destinations for a future Formula One race.
British media sources are reporting that the country's National
Council has taken the first steps towards ending a nearly fifty-year
ban on motor racing.
Reports said The Swiss Traffic Commission voted 14-8 in support of a
motion to remove legislation that has forbidden all competitive
track-action since 1955.
The ban came down after the tragic Le Mans accident of the same year
in which a Mercedes-Benz race-car flew into the crowd and killed
around 80 spectators.
WILL BUILD F1-STYLE CIRCUIT
The publication has learned that once motorsport is allowed in
Switzerland, it would almost certainly build a circuit capable of
hosting F1 grands prix.
Presently, the only race-circuit of note in Switzerland is at
Lignieres, on a mountain plateau, but it's only about a mile long and
not suitable for F1.
Switzerland is not part of the European Union and therefore the
looming ban on tobacco advertising in 2005 could make a Swiss Grand
Prix very attractive.
Webber Eye Williams Seat
F1 guns Giancarlo Fisichella and Mark Webber are on a list of
potential candidates for the spare BMW-Williams seat of 2005, the team
Technical director and team-partner Patrick Head described Roman-born
Fisichella, under two-year contract to Sauber, as 'a very talented
He added of Webber: 'He has a contract with a team which has certain
clauses in it. We will have to see if those are met. He's obviously a
But Englishman Jenson Button, thanks to his nationality and Sir Frank
Williams' affection for him, is probably in pole-position for Juan
Pablo Montoya's seat.
Asked why Williams favored JB over Fisichella, who thrashed him at
Benetton in 2001, Head said the 24-year-old showed well against
Jacques Villeneuve in 2003.
'... and against Jarno Trulli at Renault in 2002,' he continued.
COULTHARD NOT A CANDIDATE
McLaren veteran David Coulthard drove a Williams in 1994 and 1995 but,
even though he'll be available next season, he's not really in with a
Head told the BBC: 'There is a vacancy and we're ready to be
'But there has to be a question-mark about the number of years in
which David has been outperformed by a team-mate in terms of points at
the end of the year.'
There Are No Alternate 'Supremos'
There are no alternate 'F1 supremos,' according to Bernard Ecclestone.
The 73-year-old president of Formula One Management warned his
detractors not to bother limbering up for his high-powered job until
he has called it a day.
'As long as I'm here,' he told a teleconference, 'it would be
difficult to put anyone around me that would be meaningful.'
Bernie said viable hopefuls will step into his shoes 'as soon as I'm
RETIREMENT WILL CROWN SUCCESSOR
He added: 'But if you went out right now to try and choose a person,
it would be very difficult. This is the kind of job you sort of have
to grow into.'
Ecclestone has been at the pinnacle of his series since the 1980s but
started life as a used-car salesman before stepping into F1 by
fronting a team.
So, having fended off triple heart-bypass surgery and seemingly all
disbelievers, what could topple Mr. Ecclestone from the top of F1's
'I'd be happy to hand my gloves in and stand down if I don't feel I'm
delivering, or I don't feel able to do what I should be doing,' he
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