F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 23, 2004
Ferrari Set For Head-To-Head Test
Ferrari's new F1 racer is set to go head-to-head with its rivals this
A lone Rubens Barrichello ran in the F2004 at Mugello on Saturday but
the test was called off after just twenty-two laps when a torrent of
The Italian team packed up the scarlet car and headed for the 'Enzo e
Dino Ferrari' (Imola) circuit where it will resume test-running on
NOT HIDING FROM RIVALS
BMW-Williams, with its innovative 'tusked' FW26, is scheduled to
unpack at Imola from Tuesday as are top-team rival McLaren-Mercedes
World champion Michael Schumacher denied claims late last week that
Ferrari was 'hiding' from its rivals by staying-away from the majority
action in Spain.
'Testing at home makes sense due to the vicinity of the factory,' said
the German. 'Anyway, our rivals are very welcome to come here and test
* Ferrari chief Jean Todt insists that Maranello is ready for defeat
'The laws of sport state that it is impossible to always win and we
are prepared to lose,' said the Frenchman. 'But we intend to stay at
France Ramps-Up F1 Assault
France is ramping-up its race assault on Formula One.
After a close-call for the running of this season's event in rural
Magny-Cours, organisers have now cut ticket-prices in a bid to attract
You can now buy a ticket for race-day at just 80 euros, down from 100,
and some grandstand seats are up to thirty-percent cheaper than
On Friday, meanwhile, the local Burgundy council voted in favour of a
further two million euros to boost the coffers of the embattled French
F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone nearly canned the 2004 race over money
* F1 tester Franck Montagny visited the Renault Parts Division site
near Paris on the weekend to mingle with staff and sign autographs
ahead of season-2004.
'I am really happy to be here,' said the Frenchman ahead of his
Melbourne debut, 'and to see the reaction of these fellow employees
was a nice experience.'
Renault's Multi-Million Spanish Deal
F1 team Renault's new multi-year sponsorship agreement with Telefonica
is worth eighteen million euros over the first two seasons, according
to a source.
Flavio Briatore heralded the 'boost' to his Enstone-based team's
coffers on the weekend in the form of a branding deal with the Spanish
'It is a significant step,' said the Italian, 'for us to welcome a
major Spanish company such as Telefonica as our partner.'
DEPENDS ON ALONSO
The deal, the eighth new commercial agreement signed to Renault for
2004, depends on the presence of Oviedo-born driver Fernando Alonso,
says our source.
'Our testing pace [with the new R24 car] has been promising,' Briatore
continued in a press statement, 'and we look forward to successful
Alonso, the Spaniard, also signed a five-year personal deal with
It's worth nearly nine million dollars (in total) but its continuation
may depend on which team the 22-year-old is driving for beyond
Spanish media reports insist that the Telefonica deal, which will see
logos on the R24's rear-wing from Melbourne, was held-up over terms
* Toyota racer Cristiano da Matta reported a 'mixed' test-session in
the new TF104 car from last week's work on development in Spain
'We encountered all sorts of small problems in different areas,' said
the Brazilian, 'which was frustrating because reliability has been
good so far.'
Stoddart Predicts Title To Topple
F1 team boss Paul Stoddart touched-down in his native Australia on the
weekend expecting BMW-Williams to topple Ferrari from its
The Minardi owner, however - at the Australian Motor Sport Show in
Melbourne - reckons no-one can stop Michael Schumacher from making it
seven titles in '04.
'I don't think [Williams] can win the drivers' championship because
they would need to have one driver concentrating on it, as Ferrari
will have,' he said.
Stoddart added: 'I think [team drivers] Ralf (Schumacher) and (Juan
Pablo) Montoya will probably split too many races between them.'
DOESN'T RATE RAIKKONEN
The Aussie, born not far from Melbourne, doesn't rate Kimi Raikkonen
as highly as some of the other drivers to line-up on the Albert Park
grid next month.
'I don't think McLaren will have as good a year as many people think,'
said Paul, 48. 'I'm not trying to be funny, I just don't rate Kimi as
He does, however, rate countryman and former Minardi ace Mark Webber.
Stoddart concluded inside the Exhibition Buildings, whilst predicting
problems for the Milton-Keynes based team: 'I think he's Jaguar's
* Sauber has put another three-years on an agreement with
DaimlerChrysler Switzerland for the provision of Mercedes F1 trucks
'... We'll continue hauling our cars and materials to the circuits
aboard the exceptionally reliable and safe Mercedes-Benz Actros
trucks,' said Peter Sauber.
Williams 'Play Hardball' With Schumacher
BMW-Williams' owner and boss has admitted that the Oxfordshire-based
team is 'playing hardball' with a cash-demanding Formula One driver
Sources insist that the German ace is asking for $24.5 million
per-season on a new race contract and has now threatened to quit the
team if he doesn't get it.
'It would be sad (to leave) but I can't allow myself to be treated
like [this] by Williams,' the 28-year-old brother of Michael
Schumacher told Bild.
Sir Frank Williams said the issue is 'purely down to cash.'
He explained further: 'The reason we're playing hardball is because we
are the only team at the front of the grid which is not a public
According to Ralf, Frank has accused him of being a 'money-grabber.
'I can only laugh at that,' said the racer. 'I wanted to sign. We had
a meeting planned in Japan but Frank wasn't there and then he pulled
'On a human level I'm very disappointed with him.'
* Highly-rated young McLaren ace Kimi Raikkonen reckons future
team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya is harder to pass than his current cohort
'Some drivers are harder to get past than others,' the Finn told ITV.
'Michael [Schumacher] is one of them. And Montoya is harder to get
past than Ralf.'
BAR's In Trouble
Formula One team BAR-Honda is in a bit of trouble.
On a recent trip to new grand prix venue Bahrain, the Brackley-based
outfit sent out a press-pack to journalists which included a bag of
But Australian-based F1 reporter Paul Gover, minus his sand, had to
make-do with a terse letter from his country's Quarantine Inspection
The letter said the Herald Sun hack could pay $42 to have his sand
cleaned by radiation, pay to have it returned to BAR, or pay nothing
and it'd be destroyed.
AQIS is not happy with the Formula One outfit.
Spokesman Carson Creagh told local publications in Australia, scene of
F1's season-opener, that five bags of the sand mailed into Oz have
'We'll be in touch ... telling [BAR] not to do it again,' he said.
* 45 Bahraini track-marshals were trained by specialists from
Australia's motor sport confederation (CAMS) in recent weeks ahead of
their inaugural F1 race.
'There are more than 600 marshals registered in Bahrain and we trained
45 senior marshals,' said a spokesman who left Bahrain with the
trainers on the weekend.
Montoya, Kimi, Forecast Gloom For Schu
Colombian rival Juan Pablo Montoya is predicting an end to reigning
world champion Michael Schumacher's four-year run of Formula One
titles this season.
The Williams star told German paper Welt am Sonntag that Schumacher,
who drives for Ferrari, should not expect to claim yet another
drivers' crown in 2004.
'Michael has never experienced really strong opposition,' said the
Montoya concluded: 'That will all change this season because there are
a lot of drivers who want to win races but actually can do it now.'
Juan was beaten to the runner-up prize for last year's Formula One
drivers' championship by a young Finn and his future McLaren team-mate
24-year-old Raikkonen doesn't think Schumacher is any harder to race
against than most of the other nineteen highly-paid chargers on the
'Ferrari have had a good package for many years now and that's what
makes them hard to beat,' the driver known as 'The Iceman' told
ITV-F1's James Allen.
Raikkonen concluded: 'They have a strong car and they know what they
are doing and he's a good driver. You need the whole package together
to beat them.'
* Honda looks to have solved most of its pre-season engine dramas.
'We have been encouraged by the reliability,' said BAR tester Anthony
Davidson at twisty circuit Valencia, 'as we haven't had any major
Tech-director Geoff Willis said two race-spec engines reached their
full grand prix distance in Spain even if some problems struck on the
Union Threatens F1 Season-Opener
A Trade Union is threatening the smooth running of the Australian
The Australian Services Union (ASU) said electrical workers in
Melbourne may not service the Albert Park circuit because of an
industry dispute over wages.
ASU secretary Michael Rizzo said: 'Our bans say if there are power
disconnections, we may not put them on again.'
Grand Prix promoter Ron Walker is, however, unconcerned.
'There are many unions that could bring the [race] to a halt, but it's
never happened before,' he told the Australian Broadcasting
State (Victoria) premier Steve Bracks promised to safeguard the
running of the event by pledging the help of the army in the event of
The ASU's industrial action has already hit factories in south-east
Victorian energy minister Theo Theophanous also vowed that the
government 'would not allow' an industrial dispute to threaten an
international sports event.
Rizzo said there was a 'high chance' that power faults would occur at
* Following a one-year absence from the calendar, F1 teams are looking
forward to returning to the much-loved Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium)
circuit in August.
'It's a challenging venue,' said BMW-Williams' Sam Michael, 'and it's
undulating nature means the cars need to be stiffer to avoid hitting
Pantano: I'm Not Ready For F1 Limit
F1 rookie Giorgio Pantano doubts that he'll be on-the-limit in
The Italian, who raced in F3000 last season, is set to debut a
Ford-powered Jordan at Albert Park but he warned that Melbourne will
be all about learning.
'[It is] probably going to be a case of getting more feeling for the
car,' he told Autosport, 'and then after two or three races I'll
nearly be ready.'
NO EARLY POINTS
The 25-year-old doubts that early-season points are in the offering.
'But if they come,' said pay-driver Pantano, who beat Dutch veteran
and favourite Jos Verstappen to the final F1-seat, 'it will be quite
good for me.'
Boss of the perennially back-of-the-pack Minardi team predicted in
Melbourne on the weekend that Jordan will also occupy the final rows
of the Albert Park grid.
Pantano said: 'It will be difficult to get points, but I must do my
* The Dubai-based A1 Grand Prix series will be launched in March.
Founded by Sheikh Maktoum, the open-wheeler category - to have similar
cars to Formula One - is aiming for a debut in the winter of 2005,
pending FIA approval.
Bridgestone Vow Catch-Up In Tyre War
Bridgestone has vowed to catch-up in the race for Formula One's
The Japanese marque, suppliers to Ferrari, won the championships last
season but most agree that F1-rival Michelin has the upper-hand in
'We have found a way to counter it,' technical manager Hisao Suganuma
He told Autosport: 'That probably will not happen with immediate
effect, but at least by the summer in Europe, we should have some good
solutions in place.'
EDGE IN WET
Where Bridgestone does have an upper-hand, however, is in the rain.
But Fernando Alonso, the Renault-steering Michelin driver, said he has
been 'most impressed' with the evolution of Bibendum's new range of
* Malaysia has shifted into top-gear in preparation for its F1 race
The Sepang International Circuit near Kuala-Lumpur has now been
official closed with manager Ahmad Mustafa saying only F1-preparation
is allowed on the track.
'It is going to be very busy at the track from today,' he said,
'especially with the setting up of the tents and canopies for the TV
and communication crews.'
McLaren Boss To Attend NASCAR Race
Why has McLaren principal Ron Dennis scheduled a trip to a NASCAR
The English F1 boss reckons the US-based stock-car oval series is
'boring as hell' but they've got more spectators at the races and more
He told Reuters: '[NASCAR] is working and yet we've got a much better
'If something is as successful as that then you'd be a fool if you
didn't go and try to understand what the ingredients are.'
KEEN-EYE ON CIRCUS
Most F1 pundits are dismissive of the stock-car technology but Dennis
and managing director Martin Whitmarsh intend to keep a keen-eye on
'... Every single team wants F1 to be bigger by having more things at
the circuit, more things to entertain the public,' Dennis told the
The McLaren chief reckons one of the main problems is in the
financial-ownership of the Formula One series which markets itself as
the 'pinnacle' of racing.
75 percent of F1's commercial aspects are owned by three banks.
Dennis explained that the banks 'don't want to put any money in ...
and are only looking for a way to get their money out.'
* Mercedes-Benz boss Jurgen Hubbert is to be replaced.
DaimlerChrysler announced that Dr Wolfgang Bernhard will take over on
May 1 while Hubbert takes on the role as head of the Executive
Iceman Predicts Zero Points
It's 'unlikely' that a McLaren will reach the end of the Melbourne GP.
That is the new forecast of doom from the Mercedes-powered team's
biggest championship-hope Kimi Raikkonen ahead of next month's 2004
Last week, the 24-year-old Finn was praying for more horsepower.
Now he's telling La Gazzetta Dello Sport that McLaren's all-new and
visually-radical MP4-19 is also sputtering-along in the pre-season
'I don't have big expectations [for Australia],' he said. 'If the car
gets to the finish I think a good result is there but at the moment it
Raikkonen, however, at least showed a new turn of pace during last
week's winter test at Valencia (Spain) when he smashed the new
BMW-Williams' track record.
But Kimi's also keen to play down that rapid achievement.
'We don't know what our speed is like when you put all the top teams
together,' he said. 'One day we're faster, the next the Williams is
Raikkonen said his new F1 racer has 'various' technical problems.
* Silverstone (England) and Imola (Italy) are set to host the final
pre-season Formula One tests of the winter-period before the opening
Australian Grand Prix.
Ferrari's Run To End In 2004: Button
Ferrari's multiple-year run of F1 world championships will end this
That is the forecast of young British hopeful Jenson Button who has
been setting pre-season test venues on fire in his new Honda-powered
BAR 006 charger.
'I don't think Ferrari will win it this time,' he told the Telegraph,
'and McLaren haven't been quite on the pace of Williams, who look very
'The other team who have impressed me are Renault, especially on long
F1 NEEDS REFRESH
Another Briton, former McLaren driver John Watson, agrees that F1
'needs' a new world champion after four successive years with Michael
Schumacher in charge.
'It is a phenomenal record that speaks for itself,' said the Irishman,
'but the sport needs refreshing. But it's very hard to bet against
Jenson Button, meanwhile, still wants his first podium-finish.
'It would be nice to do it in Melbourne,' he said, referring to
Stephanie Sheene's prediction that she'll wave a Briton home after 58
laps at Albert Park.
Button, 24, said: 'We've been quick in testing, but testing can be
deceptive because you don't really know what the others are working
Renault Lose Start-Line Advantage
Renault has lost a crucial advantage ahead of the new Formula One
Previously, the Enstone-based team's launch-control technology was
legendary and ensured Jarno Trulli a fast and easy get-away from the
In 2004, launch-control is banned.
'It's a good challenge,' Trulli, the Italian ace, told ESPN.
'It will be down to the driver now, using the clutch and the
Team-mate Fernando Alonso agrees that losing a technical-edge off the
grand prix start-line is a major blow for a team that had perfected
such a launch-system.
'It's up to us now to improve ourselves,' said the Spaniard, 'and do a
good manual start. We have the traction-control on it, so it is not
MORE WORK FOR DRIVERS
Geoff Willis, technical director at rival team BAR-Honda, agrees that
Formula One's rule makers have succeeded in increasing the work-load
of the driver.
'There is a greater chance of making mistakes,' he added.
Fully-automatic gear-changing is also gone ahead of the new F1 season,
moving grand prix technical teams to educate drivers in the art of
'We'll keep a close eye on clutch-life throughout a weekend,' said
* Just two weeks after closing down F1 Magazine, racing-supremo Bernie
Ecclestone has called-time on his other print publication,
A bid to take-over the magazine was received in recent days, but
Ecclestone turned it down because it didn't agree to take on
Nearly Lost Control: F1 News Shorts
Sauber test-driver Neel Jani nearly lost-control of his Formula One
racer at speeds approaching 300kmh during a street-demonstration in
Bahrain last week.
'It was so slippery out there,' he said after the first five-laps of a
course lined with enthusiastic fans near the under-construction new F1
Organisers called-off the second planned run of another 5-laps.
'It was like driving on a marble floor,' the Swiss teenager continued.
* The final day of testing at Valencia last Friday was hampered by
BMW-Williams' drivers focused on traction-control and manual-start
procedures while F1 rivals Jaguar Racing packed-up and left the track
Two Toyotas and a BAR amassed 19 combined laps in the impossible
Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen does not feel sorry for beleaguered
McLaren team-mate David Coulthard, who is to be shunted out of the
team in 2005.
'I'm sure he will find something to do afterwards,' the 24-year-old
told ITV. 'Maybe his problems were with set-up - the car was quite
difficult last year.'
Alonso: Don't Gamble Much On Me
Fernando Alonso has warned his supporters not to splurge too much in
gambling-cash on his season-opening victory at next month's 2004
Australian Grand Prix.
The Spaniard said last year's main problem with the older R23
car-design was its engine - not powerful enough and prone to
breaking-down in a plume of smoke.
'[The new one] has more power and is more reliable,' Fernando said in
But Alonso admitted that the new-architecture, 72-degree V10 RS24 is
still 'far from the top teams' engines including BMW, Scuderia Ferrari
He added: 'We may suffer [from] that on the tracks with long
Australia's Albert Park venue is one of the quickest on the F1
calendar, so does Alonso think bookmakers can mark him out of the
equation for a second GP win?
'I always go out thinking I can win,' he said. 'But after the
[pre-season] tests with the R24 we can see there are many favourites.
'The races will put everyone in their place.'
Fernando, 22, insists that after two full seasons of racing and a year
of testing, he is no longer a rookie and capable of winning the world
* Jenson Button sees a role-model in world champion Michael
The Briton has been linked with a top-team return to BMW-Williams but
he reckons a more worthy route to success would be in building a
winning F1 operation.
'Michael is the only driver in recent years who's been prepared to
work at doing that,' said the BAR-Honda driver. 'That has got to be
far more satisfying.'
Don't Be Fooled: F1 News Shorts
Don't be fooled by Ferrari, Juan Pablo Montoya has emphasized.
The Colombian, who drives for top-team rival BMW-Williams, says the
racing world should not take note of the scarlet champions' most
recent pre-season test pace.
'They appear to be more than a second off the pace,' said the
28-year-old in reference to Ferrari in Spain, 'but they don't look too
concerned - do they?'
* Jordan planned to give F1 rookie Giorgio Pantano a full grand prix
simulation at Imola late last week but called it off when the rain
came down so heavily.
'We'll do it in Silverstone next week,' said James Robinson, while
observers noted that the slippery day was spent practicing pitstops
Similarly, new Jaguar tester and F3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim was
sent-home from Valencia on Friday when the Spanish session with the R5
Organizers of this year's inaugural Chinese Grand Prix believe more
than fifty-thousand spectators from abroad will join the ranks of
local fans in Shanghai.
* Both of BMW-Williams' drivers are capable of winning the world
That's the opinion of former BMW motorsport director Gerhard Berger
who reckons Juan Pablo Montoya 'would love' to win it but can't afford
to 'ignore Ralf.'
Berger said 28-year-old Ralf, from Germany, is getting 'better and
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