F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
February 26, 2004
Schu Slides To Imola Record
Those who thought Michael Schumacher and Bridgestone-clad Ferrari
could be written-off in 2004 sat up in shock when test-times were
printed on Wednesday.
The German, driving Maranello's new F2004, blasted to a new circuit
record at Imola (Italy) some one-point-three seconds faster than his
Second was David Coulthard, in the innovative McLaren-Mercedes MP4-19,
who tested a new front wing but lost time when he stopped with a
BMW-Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya followed, the Colombian star at the
wheel of the 'tusked' FW26 that has been earmarked as a true
challenger to Schu's title.
35-year-old Schumacher's new benchmark is a full eight-tenths quicker
than the previous-best established by Spanish sensation Fernando
Alonso in a Renault.
But keen analysts are still playing-down the significance of the
Bad Italian weather is influencing the final-day timesheets and on
Wednesday the freezing track started off wet before more heavy rain
pounded down after lunch.
'The track was very icy this morning,' said BMW-Williams' Sam Michael.
'But the day was productive and we've covered some more ground before
Rubens Barrichello worked on tires in an older Ferrari, while Toyota
race-drivers Cristiano da Matta and Olivier Panis rounded-out the
times at Imola.
Cosworth Revives DFV
F1 engine-supplier Cosworth Racing is to resume manufacture of the DFV
Conceived by Keith Duckworth in 1966, the DFV was the most successful
engine in the history of F1 and will be produced again to service
classic GP events.
Cylinder blocks, heads and sumps are to be available from early
The DFV was lauded for its low weight, power, driveability - and
WON FIRST GRAND PRIX
It's F1 debut was in a 1967 Lotus and, there in Holland, promptly won
its first of 154 career grands prix and would later be used for Indy
and Champ Cars.
DFV stands for 'Double Four Valve' and is experiencing a renewed lease
of life in classic events such as the Thoroughbred GP series,
according to a statement.
* Former GP winner Jean Alesi is scheduled to turn laps at Bahrain's
new circuit late next month in the 'Silberpfel', originally driven by
Juan Fangio in 1955.
Trust Without Verstappen
F1 team Jordan has done a deal with Dutch sponsor Trust Computers.
The two parties hooked-up when a race-drive involving Jos Verstappen
was on the cards, but Jordan blamed the resultant failed mess on agent
Rookie Giorgio Pantano duly earned the second EJ14 seat.
Eddie Jordan publicly slammed former F1 ace Rothengatter in a move
interpreted to re-open the negotiating table with Trust in the absence
On Wednesday, at Silverstone circuit, Jordan's new EJ14 racer ran with
decals bearing the name of the computer-company on its front wing and
Sources report that Michel Perridon, Trust chief, has signed-off on a
single-season sponsorship that is much smaller than the earlier
A Trust spokesman refused to confirm, or deny, the newest development.
'If any possibilities [in F1] arise,' Perridon told the media
recently, 'Trust ... won't miss the boat again because [of the] high
demands of management.'
Schumacher Should Retire
If Michael Schumacher fails to win a fifth successive drivers' world
championship this season, he should hang up his scarlet helmet with
That's the opinion of his first grand prix boss, Eddie Jordan.
The Irishman, EJ, touched down in Melbourne for the year-opening
Australian Grand Prix and forecast Juan Pablo Montoya as the heir to
'I have a feeling that the guy who beats Schumacher this year could be
Montoya,' he said with reference to the Colombian-born ace who drives
MONTOYA TO SUCCEED
Jordan told the AAP that Montoya needs to 'get out of the blocks
quickly' and start putting points on the board as early as the Albert
And if Michael is beaten, '[he] should retire with as much dignity as
possible,' said the Silverstone-based principal, 'because he's a great
Jordan gave Schumacher his break at Spa in 1991 but the German
immediately switched to Benetton where he wrapped up double success in
Since 2000, he has scored every drivers' world championship, and last
season surpassed the record-busting mantle of Juan Manual
Eddie hints that another big-shot is facing-down retirement.
'I can see ... (McLaren chief) Ron Dennis retiring,' he hinted.
Teams Prepare For Season-Opener
Three British-based F1 teams are finalizing preparations for the
season-opening Australian Grand Prix at nearby Northamptonshire grand
prix circuit Silverstone.
Englishman Jenson Button led a field of three on Tuesday at the wheel
of the older 'concept' BAR car painted in black and on a
Tester Anthony Davidson drove the new Honda-powered 006 on Wednesday.
Privateer outfit Jordan, meanwhile - based across the road -
wrapped-up its final winter test on Wednesday with Giorgio Pantano and
Timo Glock in EJ14s.
Glock, the German 'third' driver, shook-down the Ford-powered car
he'll steer in Friday's official practice at the Australian Albert
Park track late next week.
'We had the full race crew there doing live refuelling,' said the
team's tech-head James Robinson, 'which gave everybody some good pit
F1 air-freight leaves for Melbourne on Friday morning.
Jarno Trulli and Renault were in action on Tuesday but Spanish racer
Fernando Alonso concluded his pre-Oz preparation with a shunt which
caused front damage.
* At the Monza circuit on Wednesday, F1 pilot Ralf Schumacher drove a
BMW GTR M3 in preparation for the marque's entry in the Nurburgring
and Spa 24-Hour races.
Schu Cool On Head-To-Head Win
Michael Schumacher played-down the significance of emerging easily
fastest in a much-vaunted head-to-head Formula One test-session with
The German obliterated the Imola lap-record on Wednesday by eight
tenths and put on-track challengers McLaren-Mercedes and BMW-Williams
firmly in the shade.
But he told Autosport: 'You can over estimate lap times like this.
'This is the fourth test for [our] car and the first show-down with
the other teams. We have shown that the car is not slow ...'
Schumacher, however, warned that the F2004 has now completed a 'lot of
laps' in the lead-in to Australia's season-opener, all-set to take
place in ten days.
F1's 35-year-old said Ferrari is 'better prepared than last year,'
even though the Italian world champions are landing at Albert Park
with a brand-new racer.
In 2002 and 2003, the scarlet marque faced Melbourne with a year-old
Earlier, on Tuesday, Schumacher was shaded by younger sibling Ralf who
demonstrated that Ferrari have a foe in the visually-innovative
But, because of the rain and snow, Schu Jnr kept his optimism under
Ralf predicted, 'Ferrari will still be the team to beat.'
F1 Bosses Fear Arrest Warrant
The European Arrest Warrant issue has Formula One's team bosses
Silverstone-based chief Eddie Jordan told the Independent that it is a
'very serious and contentious' topic that threatens to immediately
affect grands prix.
'I understand issues like terrorism,' he said, 'but it should not be
so onerous ... that it [discourages] people from going about their
Jordan explained that if the Ayrton Senna-saga was to be replicated in
2004, Williams bosses Patrick Head and Frank Williams could be
imprisoned in Italy.
'Because of the warrant,' he added, '[they] could be forced to plead
FIA president Max Mosley agrees that the EAW is a 'very serious
problem' but reckons it will not be that difficult to resolve in terms
of Formula One.
Bernie Ecclestone, ringmaster of the F1 circus, isn't so convinced.
'It's bloody dangerous for everyone,' said the Englishman. 'There's no
need to commit an offence, you're taken to jail and kept there until
He played-down a threat of boycott but urged countries to assure F1
bosses that the Warrant would not apply to their sport in the event of
a fatal crash.
Dixon Close To Formula One Deal
Reigning IRL champion Scott Dixon is nearing a race-deal in Formula
The New Zealand star is looking 'pretty good' in talks for a drive in
the premier series for 2005, according to his mother who spoke in
Glenys Dixon added that a contract will probably be signed within
'It's up to the team to make the announcement but there might be a few
bits and pieces coming out in the near future,' Mrs Dixon told local
She didn't reveal the name of the team but said it was a 'strong' one,
while sources close to this publication reckon Toyota demonstrated
interest in Dixon.
'The team has kept in touch,' said Glenys.
23-year-old Dixon touched-down in the Formula One race-paddock late
last season and conducted meetings with Ferrari, BMW-Williams and
He drove a Toyota-powered IRL car to title-victory in 2003.
Chris Amon, probably the best driver never to win a Formula One race,
was the last regular New Zealand star to grace the grand prix series -
Dixon has consistently expressed a disdain for oval-only motor racing.
Brother Drives For Best Team: Schumacher
Ralf Schumacher is boasting of his chance to this year, at the wheel
of an innovative BMW-Williams, steal title-victory from his
The German, six-years the junior of 35-year-old Michael, said one-week
out from the start of the new F1 season that his team is in a 'very
He told Gazzetta dello Sport: '[We're looking] better than we ever
have done. We are convinced that our package is ready for victories
right from the start.'
Ralf tried to take his brother's trophy in 2003 but the Kerpen-born
star is willing to admit that BMW-Williams perhaps wasn't fully
prepared for the fight.
'[But] I'm particularly confident this year,' he maintained.
Schumacher, however, played-down the significance of beating his elder
brother in a test at a freezing and snow-disrupted Imola circuit
earlier this week.
On Wednesday, just to complete the vague turn of events at the final
pre-season session, Michael was much faster than the FW26 in the
Ralf said on Tuesday: 'In these conditions, how can we understand the
relative potential of our cars? It's impossible.
'I haven't even looked at the F2004 but Ferrari remain the team to
The 28-year-old German dismissed those who are scratching the
victory-hopes of McLaren-Mercedes and Ralf also raved about the
test-pace of British team BAR.
'I honestly think that they could fight for victory at some races,' he
Montoya Ready For McLaren Challenge
Juan Pablo Montoya has responded to criticism of his future-switch
from F1 team BMW-Williams to McLaren by likening it to a natural
desire for a new challenge.
The Colombian told reporters, whilst testing the 'tusked' FW26 at a
freezing Imola circuit on Wednesday, that being a race-driver is 'like
any [other] job.
'You want the job, you get it and then you do it, trying to give your
Juan, Williams test-driver in the late-90s, then spent a couple of
winning years in the US-based Champ Car series before Sir Frank signed
him on for 2001.
But Montoya, 28, told Associated Press that after four years of
wearing blue and white overalls in Formula One, he wants to 'try
'You can only do something for a certain time,' he continued.
JPM, who'll partner Kimi Raikkonen in 2005, said: 'That can happen
after a certain stage. You've reached the point where you want to try
Williams' technical boss Patrick Head, however, told the media
recently that Montoya's decision to leave the team was taken after a
row during the French GP.
'I was angry,' Juan admitted, 'but that's not only why I'm leaving.'
Todt 'The Worrier' Turns 58
F1's Ferrari principal Jean Todt celebrates his 58th birthday on
The Frenchman, whose father was a local doctor, was born in Pierrefort
(1946) but Todt turned his early adult focus to co-driving on the
After rally-navigating, Todt's leadership skills came to the fore as
boss of Peugeot and it netted him two world championships and double
In 1993, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo made Jean an offer.
'It was a controversial decision,' said the Italian. 'He was a
Frenchman. He didn't know F1. But here we are many years later with
many Ferrari records.'
Todt, who has signed-on as Ferrari chief until the end of 2006,
recalls the day he joined the Scuderia which had tumbled from success
to its 'lowest point.'
'It was a disaster,' he explained, 'and I nearly didn't leave France
because I knew the fans and the media immediately just wanted to get
rid of me.'
But this Frenchman, initially battered by the media corps, was
'I set a goal,' said Todt, 'and achieved it. People forget where we
started - they thought we'd never succeed but now people complain
about our success.'
Most F1-observers see Todt as a worrier; seldom celebrating the last
grand prix victory but always thinking hard about the obstacles to the
'There's always something to worry about,' Todt smiles. 'After a race,
I'm right back in the anxiety of the next one. For me, it's just a way
Montagny Moves House
Renault's new Formula One tester has moved-house to Oxford (England).
Franck Montagny, the Frenchman who'll help test the new R24 this
season, swapped an apartment in warm and sunny Barcelona for
freezing-cold and raining UK.
'Oxford seems cool - I'm looking forward to getting to know it,' he
Montagny was motivated to move so, like local residents Fernando
Alonso and Jarno Trulli, he's closer to Renault's headquarters in
Franck clocked 10,000km in the older R23 this winter, but he's going
to have to wait a few weeks before he's allowed a first-shot at the
controls of R24.
'So Fernando and Jarno can prepare for the season,' he explained,
'they've done the driving [in R24]. But I'm learning from them and
can't wait to begin work.'
Montagny reckons he'll get a 'slightly strange' feeling next Sunday.
'I'll be on the sidelines,' he said, 'but as soon as the race starts,
I'll be the biggest fan. I'm looking forward to getting out to
Jordan Slams Working-Hour Limit
Eddie Jordan has backed-up the British motor sport industry's recent
condemnation of a European Commission-led desire to restrict working
The Formula One boss said a proposed 35-hour week in Britain is
A report issued by the 'National Motorsport Employers Group' reckoned
the Working Time directive would be negative for all motor sport
He told The Independent: 'Successful teams were founded on people's
willingness to work as long as it takes, fifty or sixty hour weeks.
'To them it is absolutely vocational.'
F1 AS HOBBY
Jordan has previously said that unlike factory workers or garbage-men,
mechanics and F1 team personnel love their job and consider it a
'hobby' or 'passion.'
'With a 35-hour week you will have to send quality people home and run
second shifts,' he added. 'This will jack up your wages bill.'
Worse still, there's a risk that bigger teams, to counter the limits,
will turn to poaching qualified, experienced people from the smaller
outfits like Jordan.
Eddie concluded: 'How does that help us?'
* Formula One circuit Silverstone, owned by the British Racing
Drivers' Club, is to resubmit a planning application for a hotel /
management training centre.
Schu Wards Off Retirement Talk
Michael Schumacher has once again shot down claims that he's eyeing
His first F1 boss Eddie Jordan said on Wednesday that the 35-year-old
German, world champion for four years running, is likely to call it
quits after 2004.
Michael asked German reporters: 'What's wrong with liking what you
Schumacher, who has a Ferrari contract until 2006, is often asked how
he can be so calm under pressure and smooth in difficult
Observers marveled at the tranquil, stationary German as his F2003-GA
erupted in flames during a re-fuelling procedure en route to victory
in Austria 2003.
And the champion is always crowned as Formula One's 'rain master.'
He said: 'There's nothing easier than finding yourself in difficult
circumstances with the solution in your own hands.
'When's it's not in your hands, that's when it's difficult.'
* Top-team McLaren has extended a long-term association with sponsor
Schuco, one of the world's leading suppliers of system technology and
'The 2004 F1 season,' said CEO Ron Dennis, whose team is scheduled to
move factory later this year, 'again promises to be interesting and
F1 Title Won On Test-Tracks: Engineer
It's sometimes overlooked, but Christian Silk insists that world
championships are won not just in grands prix, but also on the
development and test-tracks.
The chief testing engineer, whose employer is Renault, said he works
'extremely closely' with the Enstone-based race team on coordinating
'The driver's own race engineers come to the tests to ensure
continuity,' he revealed, 'and we're in direct contact with our
counterparts on the race side.'
He said the test team does the race team's 'homework.'
'We cover all the bases to ensure they can use their time as
effectively as possible at the races.'
The pre-season F1-focus turns very much to the test tracks but next
Sunday's Australian GP does not mark an end to the test-team's
'We will be testing with the R23 between the flyaway races,' Silk
explained, 'and our pace of development will be constantly high
throughout the year.'
He reckons Renault's testing 'efficiency' took a step-up last season
when the F1 outfit was a participant in the 'Heathrow' agreement which
Silk added: 'This year, we'll combine the extra running we now have
available, with this improved efficiency, to take our work a further
Yoong On Search For F1 Star
Alex Yoong is at the helm of a search for the next Malaysian F1
The Kuala-Lumpur born ace, who infrequently steered a Minardi in 2001
and 2002, has launched a monthly go-kart challenge to begin on March 6
Dubbed the 'Alex Yoong F1 Driver Search' and supported by a local
insurance company, it will serve as a talent-scout programme in view
of Formula One.
The search is open to amateur drivers aged seven and above.
'Participants will be given an hour-long briefing by Alex Yoong before
the race on tips to minimise track times,' according to a statement.
The ultimate winners are set to earn a test-drive with German
manufacturer BMW and one of them will be selected to attend a racing
course in the country.
* Toyota sponsor Denso has unveiled a new line of unique iridium-based
spark plugs that may be used in Formula One by the Cologne-based team
Schu Not Keen On 'Superstar' Status
World champion Michael Schumacher is not keen on his 'superstar'
Friend and Formula One boss Jean Todt reckons the best and most
successful people in the world remain completely normal - and he says
Schu is the best.
Jean continued: 'He doesn't like [his status]. He's not spoiled by the
fame. When he's at home with his family, he takes his daughter to
The Ferrari principal, who turns 58 on Thursday, relished the
challenge of, in 1996, attracting Schumacher from the
hugely-successful Benetton F1 team.
'Everyone said he wouldn't come because Ferrari is no good,' he
smiled. 'But Ferrari is something special and Michael has always
enjoyed a challenge.'
Todt said he and Schumacher have created a 'special' friendship.
A source close to Michael revealed that at a recent grand prix, the
35-year-old German stayed at the circuit, talking to engineers, until
eleven at night.
'Michael's a very straightforward, honest person,' Jean says. 'He's
humble and even shy, but people on the outside don't always appreciate
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