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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 2, 2004


Late Ferrari On Back Foot
World champion Formula One team Ferrari is already on the back-foot.

The Scuderia's three F2004 race-cars and several tonnes of assorted garage equipment arrived in Australia almost two full days later than its rivals.

Cameras spotted the wrapped-up red cars being hauled out of a 747 at Avalon Airport after the plane was grounded in Singapore with mechanical problems.

Minardi's two PS04B F1 racers hitched a ride on the late flight.

Faenza boss and Melbourne local Paul Stoddart said Minardi's preparations had been affected more drastically than Michael Schumacher's well-oiled team.

'Ferrari already have a lot of their stuff [here] already,' he said.

'But we have everything on that plane. We're losing a whole day.'

F1 HAS ARRIVED

Jordan rookie and Italian Giorgio Pantano accompanied Stoddart to Melbourne Zoo on Monday to cuddle-up with koalas and kangaroos before gracing the F1 paddock.

Minardi's Zsolt Baumgartner was greeted in his garage by his own locals when a troupe of traditional Hungarian dancers shuffled their feet in his honour.

Ralf Schumacher wasn't in a good mood when he touched down at Tullamarine (Melbourne) Airport on Monday afternoon after a BMW-event in New Zealand.

'I've just arrived so maybe we'll have an interview another time,' snarled the BMW-Williams racer whose t-shirt read 'Don't Ever Let Em See You Sweat'.








Wilson Lost Career In F1 Gamble
Out-of-work F1 racer Justin Wilson should not have gambled his career on a five-race contract at Jaguar Racing last season, his former team-mate has claimed.

The Leaping Cat's highly-rated Aussie ace, Mark Webber, said Yorkshire's Flying Giraffe might have got a full-time seat in 2004 if he'd stuck it out at Minardi.

'The poor guy was under a lot of pressure,' said Mark, 'and I could see that.

'I did not change what I was doing. Sometimes Justin was two-tenths off [my pace], sometimes eight-tenths, sometimes twelve (1.2 seconds). That's a lot.'

HAD HIS CHANCE

Webber told reporters in Australia that hindsight is a skilful thing but if he had been offered the same switch mid-season, 'I probably would have done it.

'He's a nice guy but he had his chance. What more can I say?'

Mark, 27, flew direct from Europe to Sydney last week and spent a day in his hometown near Canberra but missed the birth of his sister's third child.

The race-star commented on a speculated move up the F1 grid.

'Clearly there's stuff going on,' he said, 'seats becoming available. '... It does my head in that other guys beat me just because their car is better.'








Millions Give Mike Enough Motivation
Where does Michael Schumacher get his motivation from?

The German-born champion is sick of hearing those words from the mouths of race-journalists but with six titles under his belt he'll forgive it's repetition.

'I love what I do and I have never wanted to do anything else,' he said on arrival in Australia to start his thirteenth full season in the sport.

Some reckon a daily-salary of $140,000 is enough motivation for anything.

'I do get paid,' the 35-year-old smiled, 'so I ask myself 'why should I not be motivated given the circumstances?''

VERY HAPPY

Certainly, Ferrari paymaster Luca di Montezemolo thinks his number-one grand prix driver is worth 'every cent' of his $50 million dollar annual retainer.

'He is paying us in victories,' said the Italian, 'and we're very happy.'

Schumi, though, isn't really comfortable that everyone in F1 - even his good friend and boss Jean Todt - sees him as one of the world's biggest superstars.

'I can't really understand it,' he told Reuters, 'because I'm just a normal guy bringing up his family. Maybe I can drive a tick faster than many others.'

Michael said his 'dream' is to race in F1 but still be able to go unrecognised.








Mosley Moves House To Avoid Arrest
FIA president Max Mosley is moving house in case a Formula One driver is killed whilst driving on any of the eighteen venues on this year's race-calendar.

The Briton said the controversial new European Arrest Warrants legislation might put him in jail if a local European police authority is after a 'scapegoat'.

Max confirmed he is to close the FIA offices in Trafalgar Square and sell his London home to relocate to the principality of Monaco's city Monte-Carlo.

BEST PROTECTION

'This is not a snap decision,' he told The Times newspaper.

'Our advice is that this is our best protection. As long as I am president, I will have to live in Monaco to avoid a law which is not sensible for F1.'

Sources reveal that race-director Charlie Whiting is similarly under-threat.

* David Coulthard reckons Albert Park is a 'quite challenging' F1 circuit.

'With any temporary circuit,' said the McLaren veteran, 'you have a sort of Monaco feel. It's hard on brakes and also quite difficult to overtake on.'

The Scot is adamant that the track is a good 'indication' of a team's car performance, a view backed-up by local star and Jaguar driver Mark Webber.

'We'll have a clear indication on Saturday and Sunday in Melbourne how the next two or three months for us is going to go along,' the 27-year-old said.








BAR Better-Off Without Villeneuve
BAR chief Dave Richards has defended his decision to sack 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve by claiming that the team-atmosphere is now less tense.

The Briton arrived in Melbourne in Monday claiming that he had put a thousand pounds on JV's replacement, Japanese Takuma Sato, to win the Albert Park event.

Richards said 'a tension' existed at Brackley throughout last season.

'Sometimes you don't realise how influential and negative those tensions are until they are removed,' he told reporters at Tullamarine Airport.

PAIN IN NECK

French-Canadian Villeneuve, 32, claimed that 'someone' had convinced the paddock in 2003 that he had no work ethic and was a 'pain in the neck' as an employee.

'So there was a highly negative feeling,' he told a recent press conference.

Jacques' old team-mate, Jenson Button, emerged from the shadows last season to put a world champion in the shade at the wheel of an identical BAR-Honda car.

But the interpretation of his feats 'irritated' this Englishman.

'It wasn't what Jacques said at the start,' said Button, 'but what people said at the end. They said Jacques was losing it - not that I had beaten him.'

Button, now driving team-leader, said Richards 'made it difficult' for both he and JV by claiming that the 24-year-old was the next Formula One world champion.

'[Jacques] didn't like it,' said Jenson, 'but we sorted it. I respect the guy.'






Be Like Mike, BMW-Williams Tells Drivers
Brother Ralf's no Michael Schumacher, according to his Formula One team.

Burly BMW-Williams technical director Patrick Head made a typical pre-season push for Schumacher and team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya to 'Be Like Mike.'

'Our current drivers are very good,' said the Briton.

'But they would know themselves that neither are as integrated in the development of the team as [Ferrari-driving world champion] Michael is.'

Head praised the pants off the 35-year-old's scarlet-clad employers.

FERRARI PRAISE

'I've never seen an act like that in all the time I've been in F1,' he said of Schumacher's Ferrari team, according to the BBC website.

Patrick's partner and team founder Sir Frank Williams says Ferrari's run of five consecutive constructors' world championships has 'raised the game' in F1.

He added: 'They are such a formidable team.'

Patrick Head also extolled six-times champion Michael Schumacher for keeping the Maranello-based winning team together despite offers elsewhere in pitlane.

'Usually in that situation,' he reveals, 'someone pays the golden egg for someone to disappear. But they've all stayed and one has to look to Michael.'

* Ralf Schumacher has never heard of reigning IRL champion Scott Dixon.

The German F1 ace, on a Monday visit to Auckland, was asked what advice he could give to New Zealand's top driver in his quest to strike Formula One by 2005.

'He must be good,' Ralf shrugged at reporters.

Schumacher, who said his two-year old son David would test a go-kart later this year, added: 'If he's won in USA, he should try to come to a top team to us.'








Minardi Chief Issues Friday Ultimatum
Five of Formula One's giant competing engine manufacturers have until Friday to forestall a new 'traction control' crisis at the pinnacle of motor sport.

Minardi chief Paul Stoddart issued the ultimatum when he warned that a promise to offer affordable customer powerplants to smaller teams had not been honoured.

If the pledge does not come, Stoddart - one of ten bosses required to maintain unanimity in tech-regulations - will withdraw his support for traction-control.

Stoddart said the elimination of traction-control would cost team adversaries like McLaren's Ron Dennis 'tens of millions' of dollars in system development.

DOWNRIGHT USELESS

'This ... was agreed as a direct trade-off for the smaller teams supporting traction control,' he told reporters ahead of the weekend's race in Albert Park.

The Aussie, with a miserly annual race-budget of $40m, said traction-control is 'downright useless' for teams who don't have the money to fully develop it.

He concluded: 'You would expect the world's great car manufacturers should be able to honour their agreements. Memory-loss is not good business.'

* Bahrain's new Formula One track in the desert-city of Sakhir has been designed to resemble an oasis, according to its German designer Hermann Tilke.

'We want to show that we're actually in the desert,' he told F1 Racing magazine. 'The cars then disappear into the desert before returning to the oasis.'

The Shanghai F1 lay-out in China resembles the sign 'Shang' meaning 'to rise.'








Rookie Not Warming Minardi Seat
Grand Prix rookie Zsolt Baumgartner has denied speculation that he's only warming a seat at back-of-the-grid Formula One team Minardi for someone better.

The Hungarian told Adelaide-publication 'The Advertiser' that despite problems with his sponsorship he has been signed-on for a concrete full-season.

'My managers were doing the business,' he said, 'but I knew it was all ok.

'I can be thankful for the team that they were very kind.'

HUNGARIAN DANCING

Baumgartner arrived at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne yesterday to the welcome of a Hungarian band, but said he'd do his own dancing on the track.

He admits some frustration that his year is to be spent at the back of the grid.

'It's not good to get yourself frustrated,' the youngster maintained, 'but you just have to race what you have and get the best out of it.

'The main thing is to do well in comparison with the other weak teams.'

Zsolt said that despite having only three pre-season tests for development 'because we were a bit late,' the PS04B is better than last year's car.

* Felipe Massa returns to the scene of his 2002 Australian Grand Prix debut this weekend after a year-out on the bench testing Ferraris for Michael Schumacher.

'I'm so happy to be racing again,' said the young Brazilian, 'and even with new rules like one-lap qualifying I've done some simulation and it will be okay.'








Give Me Sixty Million: Minardi's Stoddart
Give controversial grand prix entrepreneur Paul Stoddart an extra $60 million dollars and the Australian will bring his Minardi F1 team up to speed.

The 48-year-old has had to sign-on two paying drivers for the new season to compliment the smallest annual race-budget in pitlane - just $40 million.

To put the account into contrast, Ferrari and Toyota spend around $400 million a year and even under-funded Ford-owned team Jaguar has $170m to play with.

'Formula one eats money,' Stoddart told the Australian media in Melbourne.

POOR GET POORER

'The rich get richer and, I'm afraid at the moment, the poor get poorer.

'We still have a wicked amount of money on tap but how can we compete on a level footing when Ferrari has about ten times that amount for their cars?'

But even if Minardi's black cars are only 10 per cent the team of Formula One's scarlet pace-setters, they still manage to qualify within a 107 per cent rule.

'We are achieving around 98 per cent of their performance,' Stoddart claims.

He said: 'One could argue that if there was a world championship for the best dollar-spend in F1 we would be twenty-one times world champion!

'If we had $100 million we would be really dangerous.'

* Former Minardi ace Fernando Alonso reckons he will attack this weekend's Australian Grand Prix with more confidence than in his Renault debut of 2003.

'I know what it's all like now,' said the Spaniard. 'Last year I wasn't sure about things but now I feel much more at ease. And we have more power now too.'








F1 Is Bleeding Passion: Former Driver
An ever-corporate Formula One is bleeding passion, according to an ex-driver.

Former McLaren star of the Seventies, Ulsterman John Watson, reckons modern grand prix racing has become too politically-correct and overly commercial.

He told The Guardian: 'I understand the way it has to be but at the same time we need to develop the personality and characters.'

Watson reckons men like discharged ex-Ferrari and Jaguar pilot Eddie Irvine, who's now in exile to avoid arrest for speeding, are a dying breed in F1.

RADIO COLOR

To spice up the Sunday action, the 152 grand prix veteran suggested, F1's governing authorities should allow the public access to the in-car radios.

He added: 'When Montoya tangled with Barrichello in America (last season), I'd have loved to hear that radio traffic, with Montoya effing and blinding.'

Watson said the weekend F1 viewer should look forward to the next grand prix thinking 'I can't miss this one because I know something's going to happen.'

* 1996 world champion Damon Hill has urged embattled McLaren star David Coulthard to scream 'To hell with everyone' and race for his career in 2004.

Hill, who never had a contract that was longer than a single season, told 'The Sun' that his former Williams team-mate needs to become 'totally selfish.'







Schumacher Has Changed In A Decade
November, 1994 to March, 2004.

It's a time-span of nearly a decade but one thing has remained the same all the time - a boy-faced German called Michael Schumacher setting the pace in F1.

One reporter, as ever probing the racer as he touched-down for a new race-season, remarked that Schumacher has undergone a metamorphosis since 1994.

In Australia of that year, albeit on the Adelaide street-circuit, Schumacher seemed to deliberately steer into Damon Hill to secure his first drivers' crown.

A 35-year-old Schumi plays-down the significance of any attitude-change.

MORE CONFIDENT

He asked the interviewer: 'Well, how much have you changed since you were a boy? It's a period when probably everybody changes a lot.

'I am probably more self-confident now, having achieved what I wanted to achieve and even more, and sharing my life with a wonderful family. I'm a lucky man.'

In 1994, the late Barry Sheene - then a commentator for a broadcaster - noted that Schumacher was an aloof 'robot' with no time to spare for interviewers.

Stephanie Sheene, now a widow who will wave the chequer in Melbourne on Sunday, remarked yesterday that her racing-husband had died with 'admiration' for Schu.

Schumacher believes four 'nearly equal' teams will attack Formula One 2004.

'And maybe another team we will have our eyes on,' he added.

* Bridgestone technical manager Hisao Suganuma has revealed that eight new specifications of F1 tyres will be available for partner teams this weekend.

'We have worked not only on compound development,' he said, 'but on improving both front and rear construction performance. The true test starts Friday.'








Raikkonen Isn't Thick: F1 Legend
Don't be fooled, a legend assures the racing world - Kimi Raikkonen isn't thick.

Stirling Moss, again making the trek to Albert Park for the Australian Grand Prix, reckons McLaren's young Finn is as quick as his rival Michael Schumacher.

'I wouldn't be put off by him being an introvert,' the Briton told The Guardian.

'Jim Clark was very quiet and he just happened to be one of the finest drivers there ever was. The great thing about Kimi is that he's very fast.'

Moss, perhaps the best driver of his period never to win a world championship, said 24-year-old Kimi drives 'naturally, effortlessly. You can't teach it.'

FINNISH THING

Another source close to the Woking-based team claims that Raikkonen's - nicknamed 'The Iceman' - reticence is a 'Finnish thing.'

He recalled: 'They're all like that. Hakkinen wasn't a bundle of laughs.'

Finally, Raikkonen - touching down in Melbourne for the season-opener - is happy; the interviews can stop and his imposing driving can do the talking.

'Winning ... takes all the bullshit out of it,' he told the paper. 'It's important to win the title many times but that first title is most important.'

F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone has put his money on Raikkonen, but agrees that a plain-faced, grumpy, monosyllabic race-driver does not a star make.

'You mature to become one,' said the Briton, 'so give him time.'

* Renault F1 ace Jarno Trulli attended a kart race in Geelong (near Melbourne) on Tuesday. 'It is always fun seeing the enthusiasm of young drivers,' he said.








Angry Ralf Was Not Misquoted
Ralf Schumacher was not misquoted by a German publication.

The BMW-Williams star was reported to have angrily hit-out at his Formula One boss in a spat over stalled contract-talks for a new race-agreement.

He told The Guardian on Monday night that his management and Sir Frank Williams had agreed terms on a new two-year deal before the last race at Suzuka (2003).

'The contract was drawn up and I was ready to sign in Japan,' Schumacher told the British publication. 'Then I was told he changed his mind.

'He's a tough negotiator and always tries to get a better position.'

TOUGH NEGOTIATOR

Schumacher, 28, said he was angered by the flip-flop and unilaterally decided to end all talks about a new contract until at least mid-season 2004.

'I'm sure [Frank] has his reasons for taking all these decisions over the last few months,' continued Ralf, 'but I don't really understand them.

'I don't care about next year any more. Everything depends on this season.'

Williams' technical director Patrick Head said earlier this week that he hopes the Grove-based team doesn't lose both of its current drivers ahead of 2005.

Ralf didn't do much to quell the speculation.

He concluded: 'All that matters is that we have a very good car this year. I hope to stay at Williams, but you never know exactly what will happen in F1.'








Ferrari Won't Survive Tobacco Ban
Even Ferrari cannot survive a total-ban on tobacco advertising.

That's the stark warning of Formula One impresario Bernie Ecclestone who said $150 million less money for the Scuderia would cost the champions dearly.

'They would have to give up their wind tunnel,' he told German paper FAZ, 'or one of their test tracks and they'd be on the same level as a team like BAR.'

RATHER QUIT

Ecclestone said Ferrari's executives would 'rather quit' than lose races.

* BMW-Williams driver Ralf Schumacher has promised to race-out of the shadow of his six-times world champion winning brother Michael during the new F1 season.

'What he has achieved is great,' said the German, 'but I am a different person. When he retires somebody will take his place - maybe me, maybe before then.'

* Juan Pablo Montoya is very pleased to put a winter of 'unrewarding' pre-season testing with the new BMW-powered FW26 Williams car behind him.

'It's hard work and you can't even tell where you are,' said the Colombian. 'Only at the first race can you see what everyone else has done in the winter.'

* F1 team BAR-Honda is all-set to slot into the 'surprise of the season' role.

Boss Dave Richards, who is vigorously talking-up driver Jenson Button, said his outfit based at Brackley has 'improved considerably' and 'done its homework.'








Gascoyne Puts New Parts On Toyota Car
Toyota's new Formula One car is already benefiting from the highly-paid input of technical director Mike Gascoyne, who last year held down the job at Renault.

'The car is reliable,' he told reporters ahead of the weekend's opening Australian GP, 'but now we'll find out our true level of competitiveness.'

Gascoyne, from Britain, said the TF104 already has 'several new' aerodynamic parts set to debut on the car from this Friday in opening practice.

Ricardo Zonta will drive a 'third' Cologne-built chassis.

He added that the new aero-parts represent a 'reasonable step forward.'

POINTS FINISH

Brazilian race-driver Cristiano da Matta marks his one-year anniversary as a Toyota Formula One star with the long-haul trek 'Down Under' to Melbourne.

'We should be aiming for reliability and a points finish,' he said.

'I believe I've improved in every area as a driver.'

Japanese Tsutomu Tomita is Toyota's new team principal, taking over from Ove Andersson, the 65-year-old Swede who built the Cologne operation from scratch.

'It is an absolute privilege to be the guiding force,' said Tomita, 'and I hope we can challenge for points at every race starting this weekend in Melbourne.'

* Albert Park never used to be Michael Schumacher's Formula One track.

'But it's quite good, I'd say,' said the German, 'especially for a city circuit. Also the safety improvements which have been done were quite important.'

* Renault's new sponsor deal with Spanish communications giant Telefonica will see the brand feature notably on the R24's rear wing and front-wing endplates.








Button Flattered By Top-Team Interest
English F1 driver Jenson Button is flattered by speculated interest in him.

The 24-year-old started his career at BMW-Williams (2000) but overcame the hassle of two intervening years at Renault to emerge as BAR-Honda's top dog.

Now, there's a vacancy - or two - at a top-team again from 2005.

'All this talk hasn't changed the way that I've worked or feel,' he told reporters ahead of the weekend's opener, 'because people can say what they want.

HAD IT HARD

'It's actually quite flattering when Ron Dennis and Frank Williams have something good to say about you. I've had it hard over the last few years.'

* Michael Schumacher feels 'totally charged up' for the Australian Grand Prix.

The reigning champion relaxed, as he always does, over the winter and even had a day in the south of Italy testing tyres for Bridgestone - in a Tony Kart!

'I kept up my training routine,' said the German, 'but did maybe a bit less in November - about two hours a day. Now I am fully ready to start.'

* Jordan's new head of engineering James Robinson expects the Ford-powered minnows to shape-up 'around the pace of Sauber' come this weekend in Oz.

He said the EJ14, which has enjoyed very few test-days, is 'better than the one it replaces' but warned that the first few races are the best chance to shine.

Robinson was quoted by the BBC as saying: 'Once everyone is back in Europe and locked into reliability, as many as the top 12 places could have gone.'








Trulli Lines-Up Maiden Win
Jarno Trulli thinks his new Renault racer might be on for a win this weekend.

The Italian arrived in Australia early to adjust to the time difference and spent some time in the city and training for the big Melbourne race outdoors.

'It does not bring added pressure just because the management announces big ambitions,' he said at the 'Trulli Karting Drivers' meeting in Geelong.

'Us drivers always push so if you're not giving maximum, why bother at all?'

Everyone in pitlane is wary of Renault's potential pace but Jarno - team-mate to Spanish sensation Fernando Alonso - doesn't really know how fast they'll be.

QUICK EVERYWHERE

'So far,' he said, 'we know the R24 is quick in all circumstances.

'The engine is also performing well. We all dream of starting with a win and maybe this time we'll be closer than ever before. We'll find out Sunday.'

22-year-old Alonso, who'll play tennis in Melbourne with John Fitzgerald on Wednesday, said he would only be happy with a 'podium' this Sunday evening.

* Technical director Bob Bell reckons minor aerodynamic performance developments have already found their way from the test-tracks to the Albert Park package.

'The drivers are highly motivated and confident,' he said, 'and we know how we want to run the car. I can see no reason why we can't aim for podium placings.'

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