F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 11, 2004
Bridgestone Has Improved Hot-Weather Tire
Ferrari technical chief Ross Brawn has issued an ominous warning for
those expecting the heat of next weekend's Malaysian GP to close-up
The red team's new F2004 ran-off with the Melbourne race but its
superior Bridgestone tire no-doubt enjoyed ideal conditions at the
'It sounds like an excuse,' said Brawn's counterpart at Michelin-clad
Technical director Patrick Head added: 'But the cold temperatures [of
the Australian Grand Prix] meant that these (Michelin) tires did not
work so well.'
Brawn reckons Bridgestone, generally out-paced in dry conditions
throughout 2003, has worked-hard over the winter to improve its tire
for hotter weather.
'We will soon see new developments with our collaboration,' the Briton
told Gazzetta dello Sport, 'concerning tires suitable for high
In testing, RB said the product 'worked well.
'In the last few months they carried out a ... job that will be
highlighted in the next races. I'm confident and happy about our
partnership with them.'
Nonetheless, Brawn admitted an advantage at the unusually-chilly
Albert Park and reckons 'harder times' from Michelin-clad rivals are
undoubtedly yet to come.
'We found perfect conditions temperature-wise,' he added, 'and other
factors that helped us. We want to be the best in the majority of the
'But we won't be able to be the best at every grand prix.'
Toyota Redesign Flawed TF104
Cologne-based F1 stragglers Toyota are busy redesigning the unhurried
Millionaire-salaried technical director Mike Gascoyne did not design
the twice-lapped racer but said a 'total repackaging' would surface by
Imola (April 25).
'[And] we've got several new parts for Malaysia,' he told Motorsport
Gascoyne said one of the main defects of the car, built by a team with
arguably the biggest budget in F1, is that the weight is not
distributed low enough.
He told the British weekly: 'That's what we'll be addressing.'
VERY BIG GAP
An even bigger car-update is scheduled for Silverstone, according to
Driving-veteran Olivier Panis put a brave-face on his double-lapping
at Albert Park last Sunday and insisted the Aussie circuit is not a
'Things conspired against us [last] weekend,' said the Frenchman.
'But the gap to the top teams is very big. Still, the season is long.'
As well as weight-distribution, Mike Gascoyne criticized TF104's
poorly conceived aerodynamics but said programs are already in place
to rectify them.
'Everyone is working flat-out to get us where we should be,' he noted.
'And that's at the front of the grid.'
* Out-of-work former Jaguar ace Justin Wilson is in the final throes
of negotiation for a drive in the rejuvenated Champ Car series of
'I am optimistic that I will be able to confirm that Justin will have
a competitive drive within a couple of weeks,' said his manager
Korea Steps-Up F1 Quest
South Korea has stepped-up its quest for a berth at the pinnacle of
It was announced on Monday that the re-vamped US-run Champ Car series
is to race for the first-time on a street-circuit in main city Seoul
in October this year.
Racing-impresario Bernie Ecclestone, head of Formula One Management,
said recently that South Korea is likely to stage an inaugural grand
prix from 2009.
India and Turkey are also shaping-up to join an ever-globalizing
'Believe me, in the next ten years, Europe will slide down to the
level of the third world in economic terms,' Bernie, 73, said of the
* Jenson Button reckons podiums 'and even wins' are realistic targets
for his new BAR-Honda 006 challenger despite a Ferrari-thrashing at
The Briton said cool conditions had favored the scarlet team's
Bridgestone product and Michelin-shod rivals should once again set the
pace in Kuala-Lumpur.
'Now we've run the car in a race setting,' said JB, 24 - whose team
switched to Michelins this season - 'we know we can make an even
greater step forward.
'Because of the heat, I feel we can do a really great job in
Williams Clueless On Schumacher Saga
Sir Frank Williams has opted-out of speculation that his top Formula
One driver Ralf Schumacher may leave the Grove-based team at the end
of this season.
The Briton told Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper that he is
ignoring the stand-off and unfazed that he might have a second seat to
fill ahead of 2005.
'I don't have the slightest clue how that will turn out,' Frank said.
Schumacher, 28, said Williams thinks he is a 'money-grabber' and
rumours this week, although denied, are slotting him into a Renault or
His manager, Willi Weber, reckons the parties will sit-down for one
final time in Bahrain next month but if an agreement is not reached,
'Ralf will leave.'
'I've heard everything,' Williams continued, 'but I don't read the
articles myself. I never do that - they either anger me or make me
'... so I stay away from them.'
Williams has been criticized in the past for letting good drivers
leave his team; Nigel Mansell in 1992, Damon Hill in 1996, Jacques
Villeneuve in 1998.
And, of course, current charger Juan Pablo Montoya is off to McLaren.
'Aside that I broke my back,' Frank confessed, 'I've made many
'But the biggest thing is that Williams hasn't won a world
championship in seven Formula One seasons. That's bad and something I
have a hard time living with.'
Dennis Faces-Down Retirement
According to speculation, McLaren CEO and principal Ron Dennis is
readying to hand-over the management of his top Formula One team to a
The meticulous Briton, now 57 and after two decades in charge,
reportedly sees his managing director Martin Whitmarsh as the man to
step into his boots.
Fellow team owner and F1 principal Eddie Jordan, of Ireland, warned
before the season kicked-off in Melbourne that McLaren's chief was
'I can see Ron retiring,' he told reporters.
It is interpreted as no more than chance that speculation of Dennis'
retirement is coinciding with a so-called 'McLaren crisis' due to a
pace-less MP4-19 car.
Top-team McLaren is scheduled to move into an impressive new factory,
nicknamed 'Paragon', later this year at a reported total-cost of no
less than $250 m.
BORN IN WOKING
Dennis was born near his Mercedes-powered team's current base in
Woking and started his race-career on the production-line building
Cooper F2 and F3 cars.
In 1981 he gained-control of McLaren and guided the team, with Niki
Lauda, to victory and subsequent titles with French ace Alain Prost in
1985 and 1986.
McLaren-Honda won 15 of the 16 races of 1988 with Ayrton Senna and,
now allied with Mercedes, soared to the top of the tables most
recently with Mika Hakkinen.
* Sauber's F1 drivers jetted directly from Melbourne on Monday bound
for Malaysia, where they are presently doing fitness training in Kota
Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa, with team manager Beat Zehnder
and physio Josef Leberer, were photographed on Tuesday playing tennis
Sources also report that the racers visited the nearby Sabah Museum
which houses an archaeology gallery and an impressive exhibition on
Malaysia's oil industry.
McLaren Form Is Not End Of World: Wurz
McLaren's dismal show of form at the season-opening Australian GP is
not the 'end of the world,' according to Woking's chief team
test-driver Alex Wurz.
The tall-Austrian accompanied a silver F1 show-car to Bahrain this
week and denied to the Gulf Daily News that the championship is now
out of reach.
'We are disappointed with our performance,' said 29-year-old Wurz,
'but we will be back soon. Our target is still the same - to be the
best at the end.'
Alexander, who was world BMX champion in his youth, now heads from the
GEO Exhibition in Bahrain to Spain where he will drive the MP4-19 at
He hit the Formula One race-tracks in mid-1997 when full-time Benetton
driver Gerhard Berger was forced to sit time-out with a sinus problem.
'It was the break I was looking for,' said Wurz. 'It was going well.
'Everyone was happy. But in 2000 I had problems with the car and in
Wurz said he likes test-driving but would 'prefer' to race on the
weekends because he 'misses' the excitement of combat. 'I have a job
to do,' he added.
'Right now we must focus on the problems that are affecting us.
'I still feel this new McLaren car is capable of being as fast as any
other F1 car. Compared to the old car, it is already 1.5 seconds
faster per lap.'
Jordan Braces Fans For 'Tough' Season
Eddie Jordan is bracing his Formula One fans for a 'tough' season of
The Silverstone-based team has the second-smallest budget in pitlane
but he told reporters prior to the Melbourne race that a 'fight-back'
should start in 2004.
'It was great for Giorgio [Pantano] to finish his first grand prix,'
Jordan said after the season-opener, 'and it was in tough
circumstances - so well done.'
As well as the rookie's 2-lap down, last-place finish, however, was
Nick Heidfeld's clutch-failure which drove him into mechanics at his
'I was glad to see that the guys who got run over were safe and in
good shape,' said Jordan. 'As we've seen, this year is not going to be
'I expect a tough season but I think this is a good start.
'I think that for our fight-back, this is promising for the future.'
Heidfeld, 26, expected his EJ14 challenger to be better in
race-conditions but he struggled with Bridgestone-tire graining
throughout most the grand prix.
'We definitely have a good basis to improve,' said the German.
'I think we can find that performance level for the next couple of
Recently-promoted head of race and test engineering James Robinson
notes that Jordan, powered by Ford-Cosworth engines, has got 'plenty
of homework' to do.
'We're eager to see how we can get the most out of the next race,' he
* Business manager Ian Phillips spoke of his 'relief' at Albert Park
that the private team merely made it through a tough off-season to be
BAR Set Pace At Drizzly Valencia
BAR-Honda tester Anthony Davidson was quickest at Valencia on day-two.
The Briton drove a 'concept' car in Spain but lapped faster than
Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello who did only a few laps in the F2004
because of bad weather.
BMW-Williams joined the slippery-fray with full-time tester Marc Gene.
He completed the most laps (88), had a quick spin and one stoppage,
and struggled through a programme of wet set-ups and the testing of
'We're anticipating better weather tomorrow,' said the team's Sam
Toyota turned-out two runners in Ricardo Zonta and Aussie F3 champion
Ryan Briscoe and they went quicker than Franck Montagny in a 2003-spec
The Frenchman shook-down a power-steering development for the R24.
'Franck coped [with the rain] very well,' remarked test engineer
Luca Badoer steered an older Ferrari and slowest-of-all was Pedro de
la Rosa in the struggling MP4-19 (McLaren) who spun early-on with a
* Renault aces Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso have stayed-out in the
Far East to acclimatize to next weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix held
'Malaysia ... should be even better for us,' said the former Italian.
Schu Supports Condemned Qualifying
Ralf Schumacher has offered his support for Formula One's new
The back-to-back, nearly two-hour system was lambasted after the
season-opening Australian Grand Prix for its duration, confusion and
lack of excitement.
BMW-Williams' star, however, doesn't see 'any difference' to last
year's one-car-at-a-time format where the one-lap sessions were
played-out over two days.
'There is less time between the two sessions,' he noted.
'But I'm really enjoying trying to prove myself twice within a few
In the first Saturday session at Albert Park, 28-year-old Schumacher
made it into third position although two mistakes in the second cost
A Williams spokesman insists that 'very few drivers' did better than
the German in the one-lap discipline last season, as he took pole at
three grands prix.
'After a few problems at the beginning of the season,' said Ralf, 'I
managed to improve and maintain my concentration for the single lap
Team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya, however, worries that two-minutes is not
enough time to separate the first qualifying session from the
definitive second one.
'If you do mistakes,' said the Colombian, 'there's no time to do
* Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne agrees that the revised
qualifying format is a 'bit long and drawn out' but says it certainly
poses a challenge.
'Our job is to maximise any given set of circumstances,' said the
Mercedes-Benz To Go It Alone In F1?
German carmaker Mercedes-Benz may be preparing to go it alone in
Respected website grandprix.com is reporting that a head-hunting
agency in Britain has been inviting experienced F1 engineers to join a
The publication said applicants are being told that their employer
would be Mercedes, sparking speculation that it is to take-over the
'McLaren is aware that there is a programme requiring composite
engineers,' boss Ron Dennis was quoted by the internet site, 'but it
is not for Formula One.'
Mercedes-Benz already owns forty-percent of the Woking-based team and
the rest belongs to Ron Dennis, linked to an imminent retirement, and
Dennis said the McLaren-Mercedes collaboration is to run for 'many
* Dr Mario Theissen has claimed that BMW's new Formula One engine, the
P84, 'came close' to reaching the 19,000rpm mark at the Australian
Moreover, 'Few of our competitors covered more kilometres,' he added.
But that does not mean BMW-Williams was happy about a thrashing to
'Should we be able to achieve a similar increase in performance as we
did last year,' the German told Autosport magazine, 'I'm sure we can
close the gap.'
Ferrari Is Bad For Formula One
Another year of Ferrari-domination would be bad for Formula One.
That's the opinion of most GP-pundits, including McLaren's David
Coulthard who spoke for all when he said 'Oh no, not again' when
staring at the timing-screen.
'But you've got to take your hat off to them,' the Scot added.
'They stayed away from the politics [this winter] and quietly chipped
Even DC's silver-clad boss Ron Dennis, well-known for his occasional
bÍte-noir when discussing the Maranello ranks, had nothing but
superlatives in Oz.
'Yes,' he mumbled. 'They're in a different league.'
And so it was put to Ferrari principal Jean Todt: won't another season
like 2002 only turn-off, rather than inspire, the trackside-hordes at
F1 grands prix?
'Yes, yes,' the Frenchman smiled.
He added: 'I don't smile a lot but this gives me a reason.
'It's true that we get criticised because we do too good a job ...
'... Let's hope that we will be criticised for a long time to come.'
Kiesa To Revive F1 Flirt?
It was one of the most fleeting Formula One careers in recent memory.
Nicolas Kiesa, Denmark's proud son, stepped into a vacant Minardi at
Hockenheim last season and steered the black car throughout the five
ensuing grands prix.
Come season-2004, though, 'Nic' is left without an F1 home.
Not only did principal Paul Stoddart opt for the well-funded Zsolt
Baumgartner and Gianmaria Bruni this year, he didn't even offer Kiesa
a testing role.
Those jobs went to highest-bidders Bas Leinders and Tiago Montiero.
'I almost can't follow along anymore,' said 25-year-old Nicolas.
'I've run out of things to say.'
Kiesa's fans, however, didn't give-up on their quest to see a Dane in
A Danish website has followed the example of the previously-embattled
Baumgartner by vowing to raise the $3m NK needs to land a grand prix
'It's a struggle ... when you're from a small country like Denmark,'
Webber Expects Problems In Malaysia
Mark Webber half-expects to grind-out of the upcoming Malaysian Grand
The Jaguar star retired from his home race in Australia last weekend
when a never-before-seen (at the team) problem stranded his R5 car in
Furthermore, rookie team-mate Christian Klien bumped-out of his final
qualifying run at Albert Park when an hydraulic failure damaged the
'It's not good,' Mark told Autosport magazine.
'Maybe we would have found the problems if we'd done more mileage
Webber, 27, said testing is designed to uncover reliability issues and
a 'couple more things' are therefore likely to crop-up in Kuala-Lumpur
'I just hope it's not in the race,' he said while still in Australia.
The Aussie also claimed that Jaguar's Michelins are graining more than
'It's a big weakness for us,' Mark continued. 'We've got to work on
'We're trying to get the whole car kinder on its tyres.'
* One of the worst-drivers to ever grace Formula One, Jean-Denis
Deletraz (1994), has signed to contest this year's Le Mans 24-Hours in
a Ferrari 575.
BAR Won't Abandon Britain
Formula One team-boss Dave Richards has cooled a threat to abandon
A new law in the UK will forbid BAR, and other British-based teams
including McLaren, Renault and Jordan, from racing with tobacco-logos
on its cars.
The Briton warned recently that he might relocate the entire
Brackley-based operation to a country like Dubai to dodge the
'What concerns us is the specific UK legislation,' he started.
'We're not complaining about the sponsorship bans in 2006.
'We're concerned that we won't be allowed to carry advertising in
China, Bahrain, Malaysia - places like that - where it is allowed
after July 2005.'
But the Honda-powered principal now says clarification is 'on the way'
and it is now more of an 'administrative issue' raised by the initial
drafting of the law.
'The government in the UK has almost admitted that,' said Richards.
DR said the ideal scenario would be that BAR runs with tobacco logos
until the end of 2006 giving the team 'plenty of time' to find
* Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne has confirmed that a new
front wing and turning-vanes are scheduled to appear on the TF104 as
of the Malaysian GP.
'We've appointed a project-manager for this car,' he continued, 'which
has freed-up [chief designer] Gustav Brunner to concentrate on our
Wurz Shrugs-Off Quali-Concern
Alex Wurz has shrugged-off concerns that criticised changes to the
single-lap qualifying-format threaten to turn-off legions of the
The Austrian, test-driver at McLaren, said whether or not the Saturday
sessions are more or less boring 'won't help make the sport more or
DIP IN NUMBERS
He told Gulf Daily News in Bahrain: 'To me, F1 is second only to the
'If I were the boss [however] I wouldn't have made these changes.'
Wurz, 29, said all world-sports suffered a dip in fan-numbers a couple
of years ago, and not only in actual venue-attendance but 'in TV
The lanky former racer told the Middle Eastern paper: 'But when we
compared this dip with respect to all sports we found it markedly less
in Formula One.'
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