F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 17, 2004
Williams Want Webber
BMW-Williams' bosses are raving about Australian F1 ace Mark Webber.
The Grove-based Formula One team is on the look-out for a new driver
after Juan Pablo Montoya recently confirmed his switch to rivals
McLaren for 2005.
'We've always thought Mark was very good,' said Frank Williams.
Patrick Head, team technical director, added of the 27-year-old
currently under-contract to Jaguar: 'It's fair to say that we rate
Mark very highly.'
Webber also has links to top-team Renault through agent Flavio
Head sees the Queanbeyan-born challenger, Webber, as a bit like Nigel
Mansell, Williams' world champion of 1992 - 'a great charger,' said
OBLITERATED TEAMMATE PIZZONIA
Frank Williams continues: 'In Austria last year, Mark did the fastest
lap of the race on the final lap, even though he was running in
something like eighth.'
Webber obliterated Williams' new tester Antonio Pizzonia as a
team-mate in 2003.
'If he's the best part of a second quicker than Antonio, who was as
fast as our race drivers in testing,' Head mused, 'then Mark must be
pretty damn good.'
Head also lauded Webber's commitment and fitness. 'He drove some
pretty good races last year. He's very committed and one of the
fittest guys out there.'
Sources report that Webber has a crucial clause in his new two-year
deal that would annul the contract if Jaguar does not hit certain
Jordan Slam Verstappen Agent
F1 team Jordan has blamed ultimately-doomed negotiations with
race-driver Jos Verstappen on the 'outrageous' demands of his agent
The Silverstone-based operation issued a statement last night vowing
to 'put the record straight' in the face of criticism from
Verstappen's native Holland.
Jordan said it enjoyed 'excellent negotiations' with the 31-year-old's
main sponsors Trust, courtesy of Michel Perridon, and also Harrie
'However, the hard work of these two loyal sponsors was undone by the
intransigence of Huub Rothengatter, manager of Jos,' the statement
JORDAN WANT SPONSORS
Because Jos backed Rothengatter's obstinacy, the move has been
interpreted as an attempt by Jordan to sign Trust and Muermans as
sponsors without Verstappen.
Jordan continued that Huub, who drove 25 grands prix in the 1980s,
insisted on taking an 'exorbitant commission' on team sponsorships or
an 'outrageous wage.
'At the same time all requests by the team for Verstappen to have a
seat fitting and fitness assessment were rejected,' the team statement
Boss Eddie Jordan, desperate for cash to boost a stunted 2004 budget,
confirmed that he had reached a 'good faith' agreement with
'It isn't good ... for such valuable people to be treated this way by
Schumacher Eyes Jump On F1 Rivals
F1 championship-hopeful Ralf Schumacher hopes to jump ahead of the
field in Melbourne's season-opening Australian Grand Prix in just
The German driver has a highly-innovative BMW-Williams FW26 racer with
which to attack the often bumpy surface before two following 'flyaway'
'If you've got a few points in your pocket before coming back to
Europe it makes life a whole lot easier,' he said in reference to
races in Malaysia and Bahrain.
Ralf, younger brother of champion Michael, has been on the podium
twice in Australia; first in 1999 and then a year later in the first
NOT GETTING OVER-CONFIDENT
He refuses to predict all-out race-victory in 2004, though.
Ralf told us: 'It's hard to predict where we are against the other
teams because you can't really say what has been the actual result
from [winter] testing.'
Schumacher highlighted the importance of damper and spring set-up on
the temporary street-circuit at picturesque Albert Park, south of city
'There are quite a few bumpy bits,' he continued, 'and particularly on
Friday the surface is very dirty and it's very easy to spin the car.'
He concluded: 'The only overtaking point is at the first corner.'
BAR's Pre-Season Pace Is Real: Button
BAR is not artificially flattering its pre-season test pace by
deliberately running on low levels of fuel, according to team driver
Sources in the Honda-powered outfit's F1 rivals reckon the Briton has
also steered to steadily better lap-times by emphasising soft-rubber
Button, 24, said the new 006 challenger is just as radical as top-team
rival BMW-Williams' FW26 even if it does not boast an innovative
'tusked' front nose.
'That's just bodywork you see with the Williams,' he explained.
OTHER TEAMS ARE TRAILING
The Englishman declined to comment on the 'low fuel / soft tires'
observation but insisted that his Brackley-based factory has made big
gains for 2004.
'I think our step is even bigger than I personally anticipated,' said
Button. 'Or maybe the other teams haven't made such a big step - I
But he flatly denied that McLaren might be 'sandbagging' - or
deliberately failing to turn in fast winter times - in a bid to hide
their true potential.
'I don't know,' said Jenson. 'I would doubt that a team like that
would not test in the correct format. No-one wants to drive around
slowly on purpose.'
Montoya: Radio-Row Didn't Trigger Switch
A pre-season spat is shaping-up between BMW-Williams and defecting
team driver Juan Pablo Montoya in the handful of days before the
looming Australian GP.
Technical boss Patrick Head told the press-ranks last week that the
Colombian ace had decided to switch to McLaren in 2005 after a
radio-row in Magny-Cours.
'I think [he] was not impressed at having his knuckles rapped,' he
said, 'and ... the decision to sign with McLaren was taken within a
few days of that.'
Passionately-driven Montoya, 28, says that explanation is rubbish.
LOTS OF THINGS TRIGGERED SWITCH
'No,' the Bogota-born cruiser told us. 'It wasn't like that, just like
that. I was angry but that's not why I'm leaving. It's a lot of
Montoya said the decision to switch ranks could more accurately be put
down to a kind of 'gut' feeling that his dreams can be achieved at Ron
'What I got out of Williams has been fantastic,' he continued. 'Frank
(Williams) has been really good to me. Everybody has treated me really
Juan reckons a change of scene, pure and simple, might extract more
'I think that just by going to a different team, to experience
different people, to work with new people, I can develop even further
... I really believe that.'
Williams Cool Gearbox-Gremlin Fears
BMW-Williams has downplayed the severity of a reported pre-season
technical glitch on its all-new FW26 racer's seven-speed gearbox and
'We did experience some minor problems,' chief operations engineer Sam
Michael confirmed after last week's five-day test at Jerez de la
He said: 'But we think we're making progress towards solving them.'
Grove's chassis team, for the first time since the BMW-collaboration
started in 2000, worked closely with the German carmaker on the new
gearbox / drive-train.
It is more compact, to compliment better aerodynamics, and to make
best use of new long-life engine regulations, it boasts seven speeds
as opposed to six.
NEW PARTS FOR VALENCIA
Michael said the performance of FW26 is 'getting better' and revealed
that a new range of parts will be fitted to the car in-time for this
week's Valencia test.
The new parts are designed to 'run in Australia,' the young engineer
After a five-day Jerez test, Williams has already selected one
Michelin tire-choice for Albert Park and the second will be finalized
later this week.
The Oxfordshire-based team gets running again in Spain on Wednesday.
Mosley Detests F1's Tire-War
Max Mosley detests Formula One's raging 'Bridgestone versus Michelin'
The FIA president wants to see just one supplier of the
four-black-round-things but not only to prevent Michael Schumacher
from being lapped in Budapest.
Mosley, the 64-year-old Briton, thinks his plan would also cut costs
and make it easier for back-of-the-grid teams to compete with their
'The greatest controllable waste of money in F1 is testing,' he told
TESTING IS WASTE OF MONEY
Max said if there was only one tire-supplier, the governing-FIA could
simply introduce a new sporting regulation that reads: 'No tires for
'And that would be the end of it,' Mosley, whose father Sir Oswald
Mosley controversially led the British League of Fascists in the
F1 team boss Sir Frank Williams told this publication yesterday that
the single biggest obstacle to reducing the quantity of testing was
'It fights for it,' he said, 'because it has a track right outside its
But moves are foot, despite the objection of F1's world champions, to
curb the proliferation of track-testing which Bernie Ecclestone brands
Said the F1-supremo: '[Some teams] take 100 people to private
Williams Roast Schumacher
Ralf Schumacher should up his game at grands prix meetings before
asking for huge additions to his annual retainer, according to
Talks over a new race-agreement for the German have stalled because
Ralf, 28, is asking for $24.5 million per season after his contract
expires late in 2004.
According to technical whiz Patrick Head, Schumacher is actually not
very good at 'turning it around' if he arrives at a circuit with a
badly-tuned F1 car.
He said: 'Ralf must get his head around limiting the damage.
NEEDS POSITIVE ATTITUDE
'If the car isn't optimum for the track, [he] needs to immediately
switch into the mode of saying: 'How can I do the least damage to my
'He's got to have positive attitude to it.'
Sir Frank Williams recalled that at some races last season - notably
Japan and Hungary - Ralf was on-fire and would 'pass people as if they
But Schumi Junior is also 'funny,' according to the Grove-based team
'I guess he's not aggressive enough sometimes,' principal Williams
mused. 'But it's easy to be critical. He's fearsomely quick in the
Minardi Vote For Reliability Over Power
Paul Stoddart has deliberately robbed new Minardi steerers Gianmaria
Bruni and Zsolt Baumgartner of about twenty-horsepower on their new
Cosworth V10 engine.
The Faenza-based chief said his decision, based also on certain
'financial considerations,' was made in the interest of boosting
Stoddart, who is a customer of the Cosworth Racing operation,
confirmed in Budapest that he was offered the same-spec 2004 engines
as Jaguar and Jordan.
'Many people noticed that Jordan had a lot of engine failures last
year, but we had only one for the whole season,' said the 48-year-old
'We had a [different] way and went for more reliability,' he
HOPES FOR EARLY POINTS
Stoddart said he was hoping to pounce on one or two early-season
engine dramas of the bigger teams and snatch a few championship-points
He added that a better team-budget in 2004 will allow more money to be
put into areas including research and development, track-testing and
'All the things we didn't do a lot of last year,' Paul noted. 'We
believe we have a nicely balanced budget this year to put money where
need to put it.'
Stoddart said Jordan would be the 'natural' closest-rival of Minardi
Button Predicts Five-Way F1 Battle
Jenson Button is predicting a five-way battle for victory in 2004.
The 24-year-old driver, perhaps the most-impressive pre-season
performer with his new BAR-Honda, said he had never seen a more
competitive situation in F1.
'There are going to be a lot of teams winning races this year,' the
Englishman forecast. 'I think it will be a very exciting first race.
'Looking at testing, it's going to be very competitive.'
He said Brackley-based BAR - with its 006 car - has joined Ferrari,
BMW-Williams, McLaren and Renault in a 'top-five' of teams capable of
BAR IS UNDER PRESSURE IN 2004
'And I think all 10 [of those] drivers can win races.'
Button is basing his prophecy on the results of pre-season winter
testing even if BAR has been accused of running low-fuel and
soft-tires to veil true pace.
Sources confirm that of the ten grand prix teams, BAR is perhaps under
the most pressure as it stares-down its sixth season in the sport
without a race-victory.
Furthermore, engine-partner Honda will review its mere participation
in the series later this year when a five-year agreement with Brackley
comes to an end.
'All the top-five teams have been very close,' Button promised.
'It's very unusual for winter testing.'
Montoya Eyes Albert Park Victory
Juan Pablo Montoya is hoping to avoid a hat-trick of second places
when he accelerates his new BMW-Williams FW26 away from the
five-lights at Albert Park.
The Colombian racer, 28, stood on the second-rung of the post-race
podium at the 'Down Under' season-opener near Melbourne both last
season and the year-before.
In 2003, he spun out of the lead with just eleven laps to go.
'Fortunately,' he told the team website, 'I still managed to finish in
He added: 'As I also came second the year before it would be great to
improve and maybe win this year.'
ALBERT PARK IS FIRST TEST
It might be construed that, after a long winter of pre-season testing,
teams and drivers know their new challengers pretty well by the time
of the first race.
Montoya doesn't necessarily agree.
'The Albert Park track is pretty unique,' said the star who is driving
a final season at Williams, 'and quite unlike any other circuit on the
He concluded: 'More importantly, it is very different from anywhere
that we test during the winter so it's always interesting to see what
the new car is like.'
Minardi Shakes Streets Of Budapest
Back-of-the-grid F1 team Minardi shook the streets of Hungary on
In front of 30,000 fans, the country's first grand prix driver Zsolt
Baumgartner chauffeured eight of his countrymen around city Budapest
in a two-seater F1.
The 'race track' led from the city's Heroes-Square, closed by police.
ZSOLT TO DO FANS PROUD
'It was really great to be able to bring F1 to the streets of my own
city,' said Baumgartner, who was confirmed as one of Minardi's
race-pilots in 2004.
Team owner and boss Paul Stoddart, also at the event, said the
youngster was sure to do his country proud when he races for Minardi
starting at Albert Park.
Minardi's final test of the pre-season takes place at Imola this week.
* In other quick F1 news, McLaren ace Kimi Raikkonen will visit Dubai
prior to the season-opening Australian GP in his capacity as a TAG
Wajdi Abdul Hadi, of TAG Heuer Middle East, said: 'We can expect to
see a lot more of this young man as he has quickly become one of the
Todt Handed Honorary Degree
Ferrari F1 principal Jean Todt now has a degree in mechanical
The University of Florence conferred him the honorary tribute in
respect of the institution's involvement in technology-research in
collaboration with Ferrari.
Rector Augusto Martinelli lauded the number of ex-university students
who went on to work at the winning Formula One team's headquarters in
PREPARED FOR DEFEAT
'Motor-racing has always been my great love,' said ex-rally navigator
He added: 'When I came here in 1993, many people believed - even
myself - that I would not last long. At Ferrari, we have worked hard
to achieve our success.'
Todt said his scarlet ranks were 'prepared for defeat' in 2004 even if
the goal was to extend the 'Ferrari era' which has seen five
Toyota Simulate Grand Prix
Toyota moved to prepare for the upcoming eighteen-race Formula One
season last week by completing a full 'grand prix weekend simulation'
at Paul Ricard.
Team racers Cristiano da Matta and Olivier Panis participated in the
four-day test which was split into free practice, qualifying and the
TRACK ARTIFICIALLY WATERED
'The days ... were very successful for the team,' said manager Ange
He added of the test, which also included a 'wet' day: 'The
infrastructure here allowed us to really organize the days as if we
were in a grand prix.'
Williams Will Look After Montoya
Less than three weeks until the season-opening Australian Grand Prix,
Formula One team principal Sir Frank Williams is a 'worried' man.
What about? Just how strong the opposition in 2004 might be, of
'You never know,' he told the Sunday Telegraph. 'Teams have been known
to conceal their pace in testing and you never get the picture until
According to Williams, his team will be a leading competitor this
But some are questioning the amount of effort Juan Pablo Montoya will
be putting into his final stint at the team before switching to
McLaren ahead of 2005.
Technical chief Patrick Head agrees that it might be an issue.
'If he's not in contention [for the title], maybe. But in truth the
most difficult area will be marketing. I don't think we'll have a
problem on track.'
COLOMBIAN WON'T KNOW SECRETS
Williams confirmed that Montoya will get frozen-out of late-season
'Obviously,' said the Briton, 'he won't get to see what we're looking
at for the future, but he'll get the latest developments. He just
won't know why ... '
Team-mate Ralf Schumacher backed-up his bosses claims that both
drivers are needed in Grove's search for its first world championships
'There's no reason to not look after Juan as good as they do after
me,' he said.
Another Champion's Son Eyes F1
Another son-of-a-world-champion is moving closer to Formula One.
Austrian Mathias Lauda, whose father is triple world champion Niki,
will step-up from the World Series Lights series to F1
support-category F3000 in 2004.
'The move [to Coloni] is a very good one for me,' said the youngster.
NOT WORRIED ABOUT STEP
'I'm not worried that it's a big step up because I've already driven a
few tests and also drove the V6 Nissan car which has a similar
Lauda's first test-session will shortly take place at Jerez (Spain).
Nelson Piquet's similarly-named teenage son recently tested a
BMW-Williams F1 car as did 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg's
seventeen-year-old lad Nico.
Aussie Accents At Albert Park
Take a stroll in the paddock at Albert Park next month, and you'll
notice a lot more Australian accents than that of Queanbeyan-born
Jaguar star Mark Webber.
Paul Stoddart, born not far away from Melbourne (Coburg), introduced
the 27-year-old racer to the field in 2002 for his back-of-the-grid
22-year-old test-driver Ryan Briscoe, who grew up in a Sydney suburb,
is under long-term contract to Toyota Racing and has confirmed his
flight 'Down Under'.
On the pitwall, West Australian Sam Michael is one of the upcoming
names in the pinnacle of motor sport and is chief operations engineer
ONLY SAUBER HAS NO AUSSIES
Bendigo-boy Chris Dyer, a Victorian like Stoddart, helps Michael
Schumacher tune his title-winning car as chief race engineer on the
German's side at Ferrari.
Mike Negline is a lesser-known hero but he is team co-ordinator at
McLaren; he grew up in capital city Melbourne and served an
apprenticeship as a mechanic.
Sydneysider Malcolm Oastler was fired by BAR a few years ago but you
can now find him chatting with Mark Webber as a chief engineer at
Melbourne's Willem Toet is a lauded aerodynamicist at Brackley-based
Jordan To Keep Building Own F1 Car
Eddie Jordan has vowed to keep-on building his own Formula One cars.
A new regulation, tipped to get the go-ahead in coming months, would
sanction the sale of complete-cars from manufacturer-backed teams to
their lesser rivals.
'We don't mind,' said Frank Williams of the touted cost-cutting
But EJ reckons 'doing a deal' with a bigger team compromises
'Much as I would love to do a deal with [McLaren's] Ron Dennis, or
whoever,' the Irishman told F1 Racing magazine, 'I must remain master
of my own destiny.'
SAUBER HAS SOLD INDEPENDENCE
Jordan said Dennis builds 'very good' racing cars.
But he hints that, for example, Peter Sauber may have given up his
chance of winning F1 races by launching the 2003 Ferrari-clone C23
ahead of this season.
'I admire him as one of the finest men in F1,' Jordan told the
'But I wonder if he would ever be allowed to win if it meant beating a
Feedback can be sent to
Go to our
to discuss this article
Back to the top
AutoRacing1 is an
independent internet online publication and is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed
by CART Inc., NASCAR, FIA, FedEx, Nextel, or any other series sponsor.
This material may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed without
Copyright 1999 -
AutoRacing1, Hamilton, NJ