F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 24, 2004
BAR Tops As Final F1 Tests Begin
Takuma Sato, the Japanese Formula One driver, failed to cede BAR's
recent occupancy at the top of the times as the pre-season period
nears an end.
The Honda-powered star, albeit driving in the older 'concept' car, was
faster than both grand prix team rivals - Renault and Jaguar - at
Jarno Trulli ran-in two new gearboxes and shook-down the R24 cars in
readiness for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in now less
than a fortnight.
His Renault test-cohort Franck Montagny was next-best, in an older F1
racer, on his first visit to the Northamptonshire venue as he worked
on front suspension.
Sources at the circuit said Spanish ace Fernando Alonso will join his
race team-mate Trulli on Tuesday to conduct pitstop practice in the
new Renault car.
'This week is really about checking everything is in order before
leaving for Melbourne,' said engineering chief Pat Symonds, 'and we
are on track so far.'
Jaguar's new 'third' driver Bjorn Wirdheim was slowest in the R5.
READY FOR HEAD-TO-HEAD
At the Imola (Italy) circuit, to be the scene of the other final
pre-season action this week, Rubens Barrichello worked at the wheel of
a Ferrari F2004.
The Brazilian is set to be joined on-track (Tuesday) by top-team
Formula One rivals BMW-Williams and McLaren in the first such
'head-to-head' this winter.
Under cloudy skies, Barrichello lapped 98-times at the 'Enzo e Dino'
facility after moving from Mugello, where snow flurries and rain had
World champion Michael Schumacher, to relocate Barrichello to an older
F2003-GA machine, also joins the development action on Tuesday.
Michelin Predict Another Bridgestone Title
Just as Bridgestone reported renewed confidence for season-2004,
French F1 tire-rival Michelin is expressing doubt that one of its
drivers can be champion.
Competition chief Pierre Dupasquier told the Italian media that
Ferrari's Michael Schumacher looks likely to cruise to an easy seventh
'[He can] easily win the title,' the Frenchman told La Gazzetta Dello
Sport, 'by coming fourth in every grand prix while our drivers take
points off each other.'
Dupasquier fears that Bridgestone, supplier to only one top-team, can
- unlike Michelin - effectively focus their sole-efforts on Ferrari
There are, on the other hand, six manufacturer-backed F1 teams on
Still, pundits and analysts alike agree that Bibendum appears to have
produced the best new grooved dry-weather F1 tires ahead of the
There is an element of doubt, Dupasquier hinted.
'Ferrari has so far only tested by themselves,' he said, 'so this
doesn't allow us to really judge the work of our Japanese competitors
'But I think they've really improved their performance over a single
lap, even if the same thing doesn't seem to have happened over longer
Dupasquier also warned that Michelin, trounced in the wet at
Indianapolis last season, has produced a new line of rain tires that
are on 'another planet.'
Schumacher Denies Quit Threat
Ralf Schumacher has denied ever threatening to quit F1 team
The German told Bild earlier this week that there was 'a chance' he
would abandon Grove after talks regarding a new race-deal stalled over
'... I can't allow myself to be treated like that by Williams,' he
Schumacher, 28, says media publications misinterpreted his intentions.
'All I wanted to do was to ... counter press reports that implied that
I was only interested in money,' Ralf wrote on his personal website.
He said: 'I'm sure everything ... will just work itself out.'
The Williams-Schumacher saga completes a double-whammy for Sir Frank's
squad as team-mate to Ralf, Juan Pablo Montoya, is itching to defect
for McLaren in 2005.
Schumacher said he never-once told Bild that he was going to break a
'My words [should not] be taken as a threat,' he continued.
The Kerpen-born star had complained to the Sunday-published newspaper
that Williams failed to turn-up at a scheduled meeting at Suzuka last
Sources report that Frank had a chest-infection in mid-October.
Ralf reckons Williams knows he would happily cut his current salary
Sir Frank isn't being drawn on the issue, reminding British
publication The Guardian that he 'never' makes comment about drivers'
Stoddart Laughs At 'Beggar' Remark
Formula One minnow Paul Stoddart laughed-off claims that he is a
Already in his native Australia for the season-opener, the Minardi
chief reacted to Bernie Ecclestone's advice that he should stop
pleading for cash hand-outs.
'The idea of a beggar is true,' Ecclestone told us. 'It's not good for
people to walk around looking like they're begging. It's no good even
Bernie also denied ever taking a money-stake in the Faenza-based
Stoddart, 48 and a multi-million dollar aviation tycoon, laughed when
asked in home-city Melbourne if he was offended by the
'You should hear how I describe Bernie,' he smiled at Australian
Paul concluded: 'I'm not stupid enough to tell you [what I call him].'
TWO-SECONDS PER LAP
The Italian-based F1 owner said Minardi had picked-up around two
seconds per lap with its new PS04B challenger, set to debut in next
month's Melbourne opener.
'But unfortunately, everyone else has probably done so as well,' he
Stoddart, who brought Mark Webber onto the F1 circuits in 2002, also
hinted that countryman Ryan Briscoe, the Toyota tester, might have a
future at Minardi.
Motor Sport Condemns Working-Hour Limit
The motorsport industry in Britain has taken a significant formal step
in condemning the European Commission's desire to restrict long
A report issued by the 'National Motorsport Employers Group' reckons
the Working Time directive would have a 'negative impact' on all motor
The Group met at Stoneleigh Park and appealed to individual motor
sport companies to express their views on the matter through the
After the meeting, an unnamed member of the Group explained how
'further implementation' of the EU law would place 'undue
restrictions' on companies.
'As responsible employers,' the source said, 'we value our staff and
have no need for further legislation to compel us to treat them with
The EU says the directive is designed to protect the 'health and
safety' of European workers by limiting long hours and 'disruptive
EU Commissioner for Employment, Anna Diamantopoulou, said she
appreciated freedom of choice but strives for a solution that
'balances' all interests.
The directive seeks to limit workers to a 35-hour working-week.
F1 team chief Eddie Jordan reckons most of his employees at
Silverstone work at least 60 hours a week because motor racing is
their 'passion and their hobby.
He asked: 'How can you possibly justify spending millions on a wind
tunnel when you are restricted to the hours someone can work? It's
DC Not Motivated To Win: Rival Boss
David Coulthard is unlikely to challenge for this year's F1 title.
That's the frank opinion of back-of-the-grid team principal Paul
Stoddart who has been chatting to journalists after touching-down in
Australia for the GP.
Asked if DC, the veteran driver of McLaren, is really a genuine
challenger for the 2004 drivers' world championship, Paul said: 'I
don't think so.
'I can't see the motivation. He knows he is being replaced.'
Stoddart, the principal and owner of stragglers Minardi, said everyone
in Formula One knows that Coulthard is to make-way for Juan Pablo
Montoya in '05.
Where there is no doubt of a genuine charger, however, is in the boots
of 48-year-old Stoddart's Aussie compatriot and Jaguar star driver
Paul said the 27-year-old is 'one of the greatest talents' in F1
He told Australian journalists: 'If he does end up at Williams, I
believe that he will be world champion as early as 2006. Maybe 2007.'
But what about F1's perennial world champion, Michael Schumacher?
Stoddart is adamant that Webber and his charging rivals will de-throne
the German because, with six titles on his CV, Schu's got 'nothing
left to prove.'
'Schumi won't last forever,' said Paul, 'and I'm not being
Jordan Supports Malaysian Driver
Eddie Jordan is pushing-on the race career of a young Malaysian
21-year-old Fairuz Fauzy visited the Irishman's Formula One team
headquarters at Silverstone this week where he earned the
'endorsement' of Jordan Grand Prix.
The former Asian kart ace made the recent move to the United Kingdom
to contest the competitive British Formula 3 series, 'which is a big
step,' said Jordan.
EJ added of the Kuala-Lumpur born driver, now based in Northampton
just down the road from Formula One venue Silverstone: 'I wish him all
the very best.
'I'm confident Jordan will find opportunities to bring him on in the
Fauzy insisted it is 'good for Malaysia' to have a driver involved in
'And it's also good for Jordan to have an involvement with a Malaysian
driver,' the youngster smiled whilst sitting on the new yellow EJ14 in
'I look forward to developing my relationship with the team.'
* British F1 broadcaster ITV has replaced its lost million-dollar
support of coverage-sponsor Toyota with the country's 'The Daily
'F1 is a superb fit with the Telegraph,' said marketing director Mark
Dixon who also confirmed reports that the deal is worth around 4.5
Coulthard Is McLaren's Number Two
David Coulthard has been asked to act as McLaren's 'number two' F1
The Scot, who does not have a silver seat beyond this season, is
charged with the role of helping team-mate Kimi Raikkonen win,
according to a former ace.
1982 season runner-up John Watson, from Ireland, reckons McLaren has
done away with its equal-status policy on drivers, 'even though they
won't admit it.'
He told The Mirror: 'They claim to have equal number one status but in
reality they know Kimi gives them the better chance of winning the
'That's why he's staying next year and David isn't.'
Finnish-born Raikkonen told the media last week that Ron Dennis,
McLaren CEO, gives both drivers equal status and that ideal is
represented in his contract.
Watson doesn't appear to disagree with the 'one driver' philosophy, so
demonstrably successful for Ferrari and Michael Schumacher's string of
He added: 'It was clear [when Kimi joined McLaren] that he represented
the team's future. It will not be David's job to be world champion
58-year-old John Watson said BMW-Williams' genuine attitude in
allowing its F1 drivers to race is to be admired, but it could cost
them the world championship.
'They have the team and the car, but the driver side of things is
highly unpredictable,' he said, adding that it plays into the hands of
Montoya On Target For F1 Title
Juan Pablo Montoya's quest for an F1 championship has never looked so
The Colombian has an apparently matchless new BMW-Williams FW26 racer
with which the attack for race-victories should begin from the opening
race in Melbourne.
Montoya reckons a win was not a reasonable target for last year's
'Unlike last year [in Australia], we can fight for victories from day
one,' said the 28-year-old. 'We have a great car and I'm as proud as
anyone at the team.'
On Tuesday, the Grove-based team starts its final test before
Australia at the Imola (Italy) circuit in a novel head-to-head with
rivals McLaren and Ferrari.
Team sources say the test will focus on FW26's set-up options for
But Montoya reckons the biggest ace up his sleeve might be Michelin
'Tires are very important,' he said, 'and the tests have shown that
we've got better and better, which is going to be a great help.'
One of Juan's biggest obstacles to success is his BMW-Williams
Former BMW motorsport director and ex-F1 ace Gerhard Berger reckons
2004 is shaping-up to stage a 'constant battle' between Montoya and
'I'm sure it's going to be a closely fought championship,' said the
McLaren Working On Technical Bugs
While top-team rivals focus on how to best set-up their cars for
Melbourne this week at Imola, McLaren are still ironing-out technical
bugs in the MP4-19.
Reporters wanted to know why Finnish ace Kimi Raikkonen had to leap
out of his Mercedes-powered car when it caught fire at the most recent
'A wire broke,' the monosyllabic 24-year-old shrugged, 'causing a fire
during a pit stop simulation. The mechanics could not work on the
Kimi said McLaren was 'too busy' with a race-simulation for team-mate
David Coulthard, perhaps highlighting the frenzied focus on pre-season
Raikkonen reckons his visually-radical car 'often has various'
Kimi added, while a spokesman confirmed his participation in this
week's final Imola session, 'We need to solve those before
concentrating on its speed.'
The runner-up world champion, Kimi, is worried about the 19's ultimate
'To be honest we don't know [how quick it is],' he said. 'Ferrari are
always testing in Italy with their new car, but I'm certain about
'Renault has also shown to be fast and reliable.'
Raikkonen, nicknamed 'The Iceman', likes the Albert Park track for
Australia's season-opener but he isn't sure if the McLaren will last
the race's 58-laps.
Webber: New Racer Is Up To Scratch
F1 star Mark Webber has poured cold water on suggestions that his new
Jaguar R5 challenger is not up to the task of competing for consistent
points in 2004.
The Australian's former (Minardi) boss Paul Stoddart said earlier this
week that the team in green looks likely to fight with him for the
grid's lower positions.
'It's fair to say the car didn't run as reliably as we would have
liked straight out of the box,' admitted Webber, 27, just two-weeks
out from his home opener.
But Webber said the most recent car-preparations have been
'Since we've had a second R5 [chassis] up and running,' said Mark,
born in Queanbeyan, 'we've been able to build on the reliability quite
He said the new car is 'definitely much better' than its predecessor.
It's also showing all the signs of a car that is able to be dialled-in
and balanced, in terms of chassis set-up, at any of the eighteen
Webber, and rookie team-mate Christian Klien, amassed a full six
grands prix distances in two days whilst pre-season testing at Spanish
'It gave us superb information,' said highly-rated Mark Webber, 'for
both (engine partner) Cosworth and ourselves as we head into the first
BAR's Knocking On 'Top Four' Door
BAR is knocking-on the door of the top-four F1 teams, according to a
Backmarker Minardi chief Paul Stoddart told reporters that the battle
for 'best of the rest' behind Ferrari, BMW-Williams and McLaren should
be hotly contested.
Last season, Brackley-based BAR finished fifth, 62 points behind
But the Honda-powered squad, particularly in light of stonking
pre-season test pace, is likely to close - and even exceed - that gap
to finish fourth in 2004.
SURPRISE OF YEAR
Stoddart said: 'It's going to be a real toss but I think BAR will be
the surprise of the year. It's going to be an interesting season of
The Australian told reporters in his native Melbourne that midfielders
Sauber, Renault and Toyota will all be 'thereabouts' in the battle for
And tyres are likely to play a 'massive part' in this year's
Certainly, BAR driver Jenson Button expects a big step forward in
'The team are progressing all the time,' said the Briton on a recent
break from smashing pre-season lap records in his new 006 Formula One
He added: 'But there's no point in putting extra pressure on ourselves
by saying we're going to be on the podium from the very first race [in
How Does BMW Build Best F1 Engine?
How does BMW build arguably the best V10 engine in Formula One?
Motorsport director Dr Mario Theissen will tell you that it's not just
about the P84's architecture and design, but what goes on
behind-the-scenes in Munich.
'I think mainly [our advantage] is in the specific design of certain
areas of the engine,' the German said of the new long-life unit to
debut in Australia.
'But if you look it's about team effort, competence ... the approach
BMW, with a new five-year works supply arrangement to British-based
WilliamsF1, has built up a team of about two hundred-and-fifty
engineers and technicians.
Most of them are long-term BMW people, 'which is very important to
Theissen continues: 'We didn't want to hire people who are just
committed to F1, we wanted to build up a team of people who are
dedicated to BMW and Williams.'
Less than ten percent of the BMW workforce has worked for another F1
The engine-manufacturer is also good at playing hardball, as Frank
Williams and Patrick Head will testify to in reference to the new
contract extending to 2009.
Theissen said the 'tough' talks were designed to strengthen the
partnership, which now includes a joint project for the development of
'I think both sides realized that we hadn't harnessed the resources
available to us to best effect in the past,' sole director Mario
Close-Call On Bahrain Track Completion
Bahrain's new F1 circuit will be ready just 48 hours before its
Local media reports in the Middle East revealed that two days before
it is handed-over to the FIA, the third layer of track tarmac is set
'The circuit is in its final stages,' said Housing Minister Fahmi Al
Jowder denied speculation that Bahrain looked likely to miss all
circuit-deadlines and that city-infrastructure could not cope with the
'We have many ... projects which will help in the [race] operation,'
Circuit contractor Cebarco Bahrain will use the two-days between March
5 and the deadline - the Australian Grand Prix - to clean-up the $150m
'We have worked very hard to ensure that the project is ready on time
and is up to the government and people's expectations,' Fahmi Al
F1 team Jaguar has announced that Pioneer has stayed-on as a sponsor.
'We're aiming to be a world class technology company,' said managing
director David Pitchforth, 'and Pioneer's support will help accelerate
* F1 boss Jean Todt was in Modena last Friday to present prizes to
drivers and teams who participated in Ferrari Corse Clienti's various
'... Customers are important,' said the Frenchman, 'as they tackle a
wide variety of events with passion and enthusiasm for the marque.'
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