F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 1, 2004
Stoddart Threatens Spanner In Works
Minardi chief and grand prix racing minnow Paul Stoddart has
threatened to re-insert a 'spanner' into the works of Formula One's
top competing teams.
The Australian, already in Melbourne for the first race, reckons F1
carmakers have not delivered on a promise to offer affordable engines
to private teams.
If that support doesn't come soon, Paul warned that he'll retract his
crucial support for an unanimous vote on electronic aids such as
CUT ENGINE BILL
'I voted it through in the belief that manufacturers would help us cut
engine bill costs,' Stoddart, who pays $22 million for a Cosworth V10
He added: 'This isn't me whining or about our survival.
'We have our finances in place but, if we have to continue paying an
extortionate amount for the engines, there's no money left to develop
Stoddart believes a solid commitment was made on April 29 last year to
cut engine costs to a maximum of ten-million euros (per season) for
He said withdrawing his traction-control support will cause 'major
problems' for the big teams including a new multi-million dollar
* Cologne-based Toyota F1 team has welcomed ESPN Star Sports as a new
sponsor whose logo is set to appear on the side winglets of the new
Four Drivers In The Fight
At least four drivers are in the fight for Sunday's Australian Grand
That is the belief of former 500cc motorcycle ace Daryl Beattie who is
shaping-up as local broadcaster Channel 10's pitlane-commentator at
'I think it'll be a terrific race,' he told television publications.
'All the teams have new cars and a few of them are capable of
Beattie reckons BAR-Honda were the 'standout' of the winter period.
'But how much do you read into that?,' he quipped in reference to
speculation that Jenson Button and Takuma Sato's 006 racer was running
on light fuel loads.
He thinks David Coulthard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen and
reigning champion Michael Schumacher will all be 'thereabouts' this
weekend in Melbourne.
The Australian continued: 'And hopefully Mark Webber has a good
CAN BLAME TIRES
Beattie predicts Ferrari to set the pace in 2004 but if Michael
Schumacher emerges without a seventh crown, he can point the finger at
'It won't be because someone has driven better,' said the retired
rider. 'I feel there's a chance Michelin could upset the odds.'
Daryl's pitlane cohort will be five-times motorcycle champion Mick
* BMW motorsport chief Mario Theissen reckons new long-life engine
regulations should not overly affect maximum output levels from this
year's F1 units.
The German said the P84 should reach 'over 900' brake-horsepower.
How Can Anyone Doubt Schumacher?
How can anyone doubt six-times world champion Michael Schumacher?
That's the question on the lips of his Ferrari team boss and friend
Jean Todt who nonetheless warned that no winning-guarantees exist in
'The results show that Michael is still the best,' said the Frenchman,
'but if the car does not function properly, even Michael cannot work
Todt told the German 'Welt am Sonntag' newspaper that everyone at
Maranello wants to remain in the number-one position it has occupied
since the late 90s.
'Everyone at Ferrari will fight for that,' he said. 'Our new car is
showing great potential and even the tires have improved. We'll be on
F2004 TO DEBUT
The Italian team confirmed at a shake-down test late last week that
the all-new F2004 racer will indeed kick-off the season in the race
Tester Luca Badoer drove the three Rory Byrne-designed cars at Fiorano
which are destined to find their way to Melbourne for the start of
Formula One season-'04.
35-year-old world champion Michael Schumacher, meanwhile, told
reporters ahead of the big Albert Park event that he's no-where near
hanging up his helmet.
'I don't feel my age,' said the German, 'and that's what keeps me
going. I don't do a reflex test every morning - I just look at my
Only Raikkonen Can Beat F1's Veteran
Only a monosyllabic Finn who still looks like a fourteen-year-old boy
can beat Formula One's runaway world champion Michael Schumacher to
the next F1 crown.
That is the opinion of former triple champ and ex-team owner Jackie
The Scot, who was knighted a few years ago, told the Sunday Herald
that McLaren's youngster Kimi Raikkonen has the 'flair and speed' to
win in 2004.
'But most importantly,' said Sir Jackie, 'he has the undiluted
self-belief that he can beat' the man Stewart acknowledges as F1's
'best ever' race-driver.
Despite his praise of the veteran German, Jackie said there is no
denying that the pinnacle of motor sport would benefit from someone
thrashing him in 2004.
Stewart's countryman and ousted F1-ace Allan McNish, though - who'll
contest Le Mans this season - predicts another 'star' of the impending
Formula One season.
The Scot said Renault's Fernando Alonso, for whom he tested the
winning R23 as a Friday driver in 2003, has the 'same rare driving
talent' as Schumacher.
'He showed last year that he is not afraid to mix it with the older
drivers. He'll win more races this year, but the championship might
have to wait.'
Bernie Backs Test-Ban In F1
Bernie Ecclestone is backing a proposed total ban on Formula One
The sport's supremo said grand prix racing can't afford to lose
tobacco cash and slammed teams for spending 'crazy' sums of money on
the development tracks.
'We have to turn off costs,' he told Frankfurter Allgemeinen
'We have to find a way to make it unnecessary for the top teams to
invest crazy sums. Maybe we should forbid tests – that would certainly
save a lot of money.'
Five of F1's ten teams rely on funds from tobacco companies and even
Ferrari's solid budget is reliant on about 50% of it - $150m -
courtesy of Phillip Morris.
'If we lose tobacco sponsorship in Formula One,' said Ecclestone, who
is finding new regulation-free venues on which to race, 'that will be
a turning point.
'People just can't imagine how bad that will be.
'This money isn't replaceable, not even for Ferrari.'
Williams Doesn't Want To Lose Ralf
BMW-Williams does not want to lose long-time Formula One racer Ralf
The Grove-based team will let Juan Pablo Montoya slide to McLaren in
2005 but it 'wouldn't be optimal' to see his team-mate leave,
according to Patrick Head.
Williams' technical director told Der Spiegel magazine that BMW are
promising to transfer 'far less' into the operation's bank accounts
starting next season.
'Thus, we've got to cut costs,' Head noted.
German ace Ralf hit the headlines last week when he angrily claimed
that Sir Frank Williams is portraying him as 'greedy' in negotiations
for a new contract.
DIDN'T FIGHT HARD
Schumacher has now told The Guardian newspaper that he was 'very
surprised' that Williams didn't dip into its coffers to secure the
services of Montoya.
'He is a top driver but they gave him the opportunity to leave,' Ralf
commented. '... Williams didn't fight too hard to keep him.'
Ralf's spokesman Thomas Hoffman, meanwhile, says the stalled talks for
a new drive was a clash between two very 'determined personalities.
'[Ralf] has the same character as Frank,' said Thomas. 'That's why
Hoffman said Ralf 'is not knocking' on Toyota's F1 door.
* Malaysia will allow students into its Formula One event for free.
Sepang track general manager Ahmad Mustafa said the move, to allow
entry on a Hill on Friday and Saturday, was designed to boost interest
in younger people.
Coulthard's Future Starts Here
David Coulthard's future starts here; the 2004 Formula One
McLaren chief Ron Dennis, eyeing the line-up of Kimi Raikkonen and
Juan Pablo Montoya, said the Scot's future is 'dependent' on what
happens from now on.
'He's got a lot to shoot for,' the Briton told F1 Racing magazine.
'I think he'll be very strong - and we'll all be happy if that
strength enables him to secure an attractive future for himself inside
or outside McLaren.'
Coulthard admitted a deficit in single-lap qualifying last season but
reckons his ability to drive head-to-head on Sundays is unrivalled in
'I finished the year as the quickest McLaren and that didn't happen by
'Now I just want to take that forward.'
The veteran also admitted that the 'Montoya' saga - or the strong
speculation that a Colombian from Williams will oust him in 2005 - has
'We should all be used to it,' Coulthard shrugged.
But he's not even entertaining the idea of retirement.
'I've never felt a desire not to go racing,' said the Twynholm-born
star. 'Who knows what opportunities will open up if I do well ...
'... Maybe it would be a good time to say, 'thank you very much and
goodnight', but I can't imagine it. When it comes down to it, I love
what I do.'
F1 Can Survive Schu Domination
Formula One can survive more of Michael Schumacher's domination.
FIA president Max Mosley told Ananova that fans would tolerate a
seventh drivers' crown for the German but only if the championship
'goes the distance.'
'It is good if it goes to the last race as it did last year,' he said.
Mosley said the 'odds are against' 35-year-old Schu making it five
consecutive successful world championships since his first one in
scarlet of 2000.
'But Michael is an exceptional driver,' he added.
'I think he is probably the best we've [ever] seen.'
GPDA LAUNCH SCHEME
* The sport's Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA) has launched a
competition where six winners are to be given a guided tour of the
Albert Park F1 paddock.
Aussie ace Mark Webber unveiled the scheme as a way to 'give something
back to the fans' by urging spectators to buy a pin for charity
'I'm pleased to say there are some other exciting developments to come
on that front in the near future, too,' commented AGPC chairman Ron
F1 Can't Take Its Eye Off 'The Nose'
F1's closest observers still can't take their eyes of that nose.
Sir Frank Williams was reportedly less than enthusiastic when team
partner and technical director Patrick Head showed him the design for
his next F1 racer.
'There was clearly a lot a fuss,' said Williams. 'It's not that
pretty, but it's not ugly either. It's just the front of the car.
'It's all about being adventurous and creative - taking a risk.'
FW26, which incorporates the novel twin-keel chassis design, features
a never-before-seen front section including a nose that appears to
Head admits that the nose is not an 'item of beauty.
'But it came out on top in the wind tunnel tests and that dictates
what you do.'
It wasn't the area that caused most headaches at Grove headquarters,
'The sidepods on FW26 are further back,' said the technical director,
'and that required a tremendous amount of work on the monocoque for
the side impact test.'
* Ralf Schumacher has headed to Australia a couple of days early to
acclimatise to the warmer weather but also just to chill out in the
'On a personal level,' said the German, 'I'm fitter and more
Alonso On The Verge
Fernando Alonso smiles at rumors that he is on the verge of becoming a
real challenger for the Formula One drivers' world championship this
'Of course there are rumors,' said the Spaniard, 'but I promise you I
don't know. Nobody really knows. We can only wait and see.'
Renault's new R24 car, so impressive over long runs in winter testing,
has got many top-team rivals worried that a genuine fourth pretender
'There's no point getting too excited,' said 22-year-old Alonso.
'But we have big steps planned for the fourth race, the seventh and
for later in the season, too. So, if we are on the pace in Melbourne
* BMW-Williams driver Ralf Schumacher has welcomed the return of
Spa-Francorchamps and the Belgian Grand Prix to F1's annual schedule
'It's one of the last natural tracks,' said the German. 'Eau Rouge is
a bit exaggerated, it's now less dangerous, but the circuit does have
a lot of charm.'
Schumacher, 28, worries about the dubious track-safety at Spa.
'The run-off areas are no longer the best,' he said. 'Modern tracks
may be a bit more boring, but generally speaking they're safer and
Rise Of The F1 Privateers: Eddie Jordan
Eddie Jordan has forecast the resurgence of Formula One's privateers.
The Silverstone-based boss has barely scraped-together a budget for
2004 but he reckons the future is brighter because of the nature of
'I see a complete change-around in the future of F1,' he said in
'I have to question what is going to happen with the major
manufacturers because they don't like to finish at the back.
'They need us because total failure is not acceptable.'
Irish-born Jordan says the team's new EJ14 is a 'very quick' and
nimble machine that might just be good-enough for sixth overall in the
'I'm going to stick it out until I win this championship so, I'm sorry
guys, maybe I'll have to be around for a while,' he concluded to
* McLaren is also churning-out an optimistic tune ahead of Sunday's F1
Team veteran David Coulthard, whose team-mate Kimi Raikkonen has been
vocal about the MP4-19's problems, said the silver car 'is going to be
McLaren CEO Ron Dennis added: 'The season is shaping up quite well.
We've had problems in testing but most of the time we've been pretty
* There is a new tyre-regulation in Formula One this season; teams
must nominate their race compounds before Saturday morning's free
'We will have to go through Friday's data with a fine-toothed comb,'
said Michelin's Pascal Vasselon, 'which presents us with an additional
Dixon Denies F1 Deal
Indy Racing League champion Scott Dixon has accused a New Zealand
newspaper, the Herald, of dreaming-up an interview with his mother
According to the publication, Glenys Dixon let slip that her son was
soon to be announced as a 2005 starter in the F1 series for an
'She said she'd never spoken to that newspaper,' Dixon told Autosport
on the weekend, although he added: 'Maybe she knows more [about an F1
deal] than I do.'
Dixon, 23, said: 'I asked her what she had heard. I hope she doesn't
know more than me. I thought maybe she had gotten a phone call that I
didn't know about.'
New Zealand's top racing star promised 'nothing concrete' is signed
* F1 team Sauber is expecting a strong showing at the Australian Grand
Technical director Willy Rampf said the recent Imola test was a good
gauge of the new C23's form in Albert Park and the car 'performed
well' in Italy.
'We'll run the car in the same spec,' he said. 'We have no unsolved
Driver Giancarlo Fisichella said he expected to qualify on the top
* Out-of-work F1 ace Jos Verstappen's management has threatened to sue
former sponsor Trust for trying to do a private deal with Formula One
Schu: No Plans To Slow Down
Michael Schumacher has no plans to start slowing down.
The quadruple-successive drivers' champion is thirty-five years old
but, having signed a new two-year contract to 2006, the fire still
'I have a lot of fun with my racing,' he told The Age. 'I just don't
understand the people who constantly ask me where my motivation comes
Clearly, winning every record in the history-book doesn't sap his
Michael asks: 'If you do something you deeply enjoy, do it at the
highest level, do it with friends around you - how can I not be
And it's not just 900bhp and 5g braking-forces that inspire him - this
Ferrari ace takes-on the new generation of karting stars when the F1
'I need a steering wheel,' Schumacher smiled. 'I'm crazy enough to do
the kart races still. These days even Formula One is just the maximum
fun for me.'
* Schumacher's younger brother Ralf, on the other hand, is still
searching for that elusive first championship but sees this season as
his best chance yet.
'It might be helpful that more teams have the chance of taking a win,'
said the BMW-Williams star. 'It makes a run of wins by one team highly
* McLaren youngster Kimi Raikkonen reckons Melbourne's Albert Park is
not the most difficult circuit on the modern 18-race Formula One
The Finn said: 'Every track has hard corners and the set-up needs to
be right. The barriers are very close so if you go off you're likely
to damage the car.'
Davidson Would Rather Test
Anthony Davidson would rather be out of the Formula One spotlight than
paying to make up the numbers for a back-of-the-grid team like Jordan
The young Briton, who'll test a BAR-Honda on all eighteen
race-circuits this season, insists he is laying a foundation for a
future attack on grands prix.
'This is a brilliant place to learn,' he said before a run in the new
006 racer at a Silverstone shake-down late last week.
'I feel it's better than paying for a drive with one of the lesser
PAID TO LEARN
Davidson, as a Friday tester in 2004, will be paid to learn all the
circuits this season under a new regulation designed to help the
'bottom six' outfits.
'It's a good job at the end of the day,' he said. 'You can't get much
better than it even if I would want to be out there racing.'
German star Timo Glock has landed a similar role for the new
race-season but the former F3 driver is going to have to make the most
of the Jordan-Ford EJ14.
'It's a big deal,' he said, 'and it's going to get me ready for next
* Due to financial concerns, Fiat has shelved plans to float Ferrari.
Tire War To Win F1 Season
World champion Michael Schumacher has predicted that the 'Bridgestone
versus Michelin tire-war' is likely to decide the outcome of the 2004
'I can't predict who is best,' the German said.
McLaren rival David Coulthard, meanwhile, told Gazzetta dello Sport
that 'one engine per weekend' rules seem to be designed beautifully
for champions Ferrari.
'Three days with the same engine is good news for them,' he shrugged.
DC also believes that Formula One's new two-lap qualifying system, to
take place only on Saturday, is shaping-up to be less exciting than in
'Now nobody is interested in Fridays anymore,' said the Scot.
* Fourth-placed F1 team Renault may be able to take-on top-team rivals
including Ferrari, BMW-Williams and McLaren-Mercedes in 2004,
according to its boss.
'We are there,' said Flavio Briatore. 'On paper everybody looks good.
We will see in Melbourne. All the top three look very quick but so do
* Minardi's boss Paul Stoddart has opted against a slightly-better
Cosworth engine specification in 2004 in a bid to maintain his cars'
'We had only one engine failure last season,' said the Australian.
'So we have decided to go for reliability in the hope that a few races
will come our way when people ahead break down. Then we can maybe get
a point or two.'
Webber To Succeed Schumacher?
Michael Schumacher believes Australian racer Mark Webber is just as
likely as another throng of young superstars to succeed his Formula
A 'Telegraph' reporter asked the German if he agreed that Fernando
Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya are the best of the
sport's new generation.
'There is one other you have forgotten to mention,' Michael said.
Clearly, Schumacher's younger brother Ralf, 28, does not agree.
'Webber?!' he exclaimed when told of the identity of the man most
likely to succeed defecting BMW-Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya in
Ralf added: 'Well that would be much easier for me if it's Webber
rather than Button. Sure, fine, I mean it's okay ... if that's what
* F1 veteran David Coulthard 'got wrecked' after last year's race in
The Scot, who drives a McLaren, might have won the Brazilian Grand
Prix if the race had not been stopped early following a massive crash
near the end.
DC told reporters that he drove back to his hotel and drank the
* Minardi chief Paul Stoddart thinks he has got another Mark Webber or
Fernando Alonso on his hands at the wheel of a black back-of-the-grid
PS04B F1 car.
Roman Gianmaria (Gimmi) Bruni is highly-rated by the Australian.
'Obviously we'll struggle but we'll put in a credible performance,' he
said in Melbourne. 'But I think we might just have another little
* German racer Ralf Schumacher has denied speculation that he's
relieved to see the back of his defecting BMW-Williams team-mate Juan
'I have never said that,' he told The Guardian. 'I think it's a shame
to lose Juan and it's even more disappointing that he is moving to a
Button Wants To Win With Schu
Jenson Button would prefer to win his first Formula One world
championship while reigning grand prix pacesetter Michael Schumacher
is still on the grid.
'I want to win while he's still driving,' the English BAR-Honda ace
told The People, 'otherwise people will say I could only win because
he wasn't around.'
24-year-old Button's racing-boss is so confident that JB will be on
the pace in Albert Park that he's broken a life-long abstinence of the
'I have never, ever bet on anything in my life,' said Dave Richards,
'but I thought this one was worth at least a thousand quid, so I did
Richards said he got 66/1 on Takuma Sato and 33/1 on Button.
COLLAPSE IN DESPAIR
* McLaren chief Ron Dennis won't collapse in despair if David
Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen are not on the pace this weekend at the
wheel of the new MP4-19.
'In the next few months,' he said, 'we've got an extremely intensive
development programme which will unfold. It will give us added
* Eddie Jordan is pleased to start his F1 team's 'fight-back' in
'It's a joy to visit,' said the Irishman, 'I adore the atmosphere and
having the track inside the city - it gets the adrenaline pumping like
Likewise, former Jordan star and Sauber's new recruit Giancarlo
Fisichella likes Australia, the city of Melbourne, and the 'quite
challenging' Albert Park track.
'I have a good feeling with the C23,' said the Italian. 'I'm feeling
optimistic we can qualify well and hopefully score some points
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