F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 12, 2004

Leinders Earns F1 Super-License
Bas Leinders is well on the way to earning his Formula One super-license.

The Belgian was unable to participate as Minardi's 'third driver' at Albert Park because he had not collated the requisite 300kms of running in a 900bhp racer.

Leinders, 28, did 315kms in a Minardi car at Ferrari's Fiorano test-track on Thursday and has thus fulfilled the on-track requirement of the governing FIA.

A statement confirmed that his license application will now proceed 'through normal channels' so that Leinders can drive in Friday practice all F1-season.

'The weather conditions were not so good,' said Leinders on Thursday.

'There were heavy snowfalls all around the region, and it rained all day here. Apart from the polar temperatures, though, I had a trouble-free day.'

Leinders now travels to Malaysia for the second-round of the GP series.


Minardi chief Paul Stoddart was pleased that his young-tester could now drive a PS04B at race-weekends but slammed the FIA's expensive requirements for the job.

Leinders is a previous winner of the prestigious German F3 championship.

'You price them out of the market by making them do 500,000 dollars worth of testing,' said the Australian whose team runs on the smallest budget in F1.

* Renault has extended a contract with innovation consulting partner Altran, who collaborate with the F1 team in key-areas of the engine-project in France.

Deputy managing director Bernard Dudot signed-off on the deal which he says gives Renault access to 'expertise ... that we don't possess within the team.'

McLaren On-Top At Windy Valencia
Someone forget to tell Pedro de la Rosa that McLaren's new and lapped MP4-19 is incapable of challenging top-teams Ferrari and BMW-Williams this F1 season.

The Spaniard, second-tester at Woking, lapped quicker than Marc Gene's FW26 and Rubens Barrichello's new F2004 in blustery conditions at the Valencia track.

Gene's best-time of 1.10.248 was just 0.050 off his previous-best in Spain.


'We did some traction control work,' said Williams' Tim Newton, 'and set-up evaluations for Malaysia. Antonio Pizzonia will replace Marc tomorrow.'

BAR and Renault continued to lap and both had extremely busy days, the latter's Franck Montagny touring no less than 136 times on dry-tyre and steering-work.

A statement said 'windy conditions' made technical comparisons difficult.

'We had a very busy day, getting two days' testing done in one,' said Renault's chief test engineer Christian Silk, who said an engine-change also took place.

Ricardo Zonta and Ryan Briscoe drove their Toyotas to sixth and seventh places, while Ferrari concluded its program with slowest Luca Badoer and an F2003-GA.

* According to speculation, shamed former F3000 driver Tomas Enge is in talks with the Ma-Con and Super Nova teams about a return to the F1 support-category.

The Czech, who was stripped of his 2002 title after failing a drugs test, said open-wheelers are better than Le Mans to 'progress' to other racing series'.

Barrichello Amused By 'Tusked' Defeat
The talk of the Formula One pre-season was 'that' nose.

BMW-Williams unveiled its radical, tusked-FW26 car and most then expected the outfit to show a clean pair of heels to the more conventional new Ferrari.

'People appeared to be overwhelmed by the nose,' said Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello whose scarlet F2004 crushed the opposition at Albert Park.

He added: 'Commentators thought a car had to look different to be quick.'

Similarly, at the launch of F2004, observers seemed disappointed that it did not appear to tread new technical-ground and reckoned Ferrari were on the decline.


'Everyone reached the wrong conclusion,' smiled Brazilian-born Barrichello whilst testing new-car developments on the scarlet racer at Valencia.

He continued: 'The only speculation that proved not to be true concerned Ferrari. We were faster than people had expected.'

Barrichello, in his early-thirties, is still visibly jet-lagged from the quick turn-around from the race in Australia to a pre-Malaysia test in blustery Spain.

'It's a very long flight,' he sighed, 'but it's part of my job.'

Barrichello brands F2004 as 'more complete' than its championship-winning predecessor and predicts that it demonstrates 'more scope' for improvement.

* Former F1 ace Allan McNish has targeted a win on his imminent return to sports cars next weekend at the historic Sebring 12-Hours race in the United States.

The Scot will steer an Audi R8 on the bumpy airfield circuit but thinks a tough challenge should come from the US-entered Audi. 'My goal is to win,' he said.

Schu Leaves Leg-Work To Team Cohorts
Michael Schumacher has left the 'leg work' of preparing his car for the upcoming Malaysian Grand Prix to Ferrari cohorts Rubens Barrichello and Luca Badoer.

The German already has his feet up near the humid country, on a secluded island called Lankawi, training and acclimatising for the second flyaway of season-'04.

Schumacher, 35, is training with assistant Balbir Singh and is scheduled to travel south to Kuala-Lumpur on Wednesday to start real-work for the grand prix.


He had a bit of doubt as to how the F2004 racer would line-up at Albert Park because the pre-season involves all rivals 'doing their own thing' in testing.

'We attracted the attention of our competitors,' said F1's six-times champion, 'but I knew our statistics and I knew that they we looked very promising.'

Michael calls the new F2004 'simply fantastic' but tempered his enthusiasm by admitting that the chilly Albert Park circuit favoured the team in scarlet.

'We've always had great results there,' he added.

'We're satisfied but it's impossible to judge now the strengths of each team.'

* Numerous pre-race activities in Malaysian capital Kuala-Lumpur have been cancelled to pave the way for a smooth general election, according to reports.

Stoddart Delays Traction-Control Crisis
Paul Stoddart has delayed a threat to throw F1 into 'traction control' crisis.

The Minardi boss told Autosport that he'll give manufacturers 'time to come up with solutions' before he withdraws his support for electronic regulations.

'They say they've got something to tell us that will help ease the situation.'

Stoddart wants the carmakers to honor an earlier written promise to offer-up affordable supplies of customer engines to the sport's struggling independents.


Ford technical officer Richard Parry-Jones reckons a new Concorde Agreement and the re-distribution of income should give manufacturers an environment to do so.

Stoddart added of the pledge: 'I was an optimist and got shafted last year.

'But it's hard to imagine we've come this far for them to let us down again.'

The Australian said pulling his vote for traction-control, which 'does nothing' for the smaller teams, would cause 'massive problems' for his richer rivals.

Team rival Dave Richards, however, is concerned that talks over the GPWC issue and a new Concorde Agreement are taking 'too long' and appear to have stalled.

* Ferrari has never looked more primed to win a Formula One world-title.

Betting-agent Ladbrokes have cut the Scuderia's odds to 4-9 on after dominating the pace at the season-opening event at a chilly Australian Grand Prix track.

BMW-Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya has blown-out from 3/1 to 8/1 for the drivers' championship, while team-mate Ralf Schumacher is out to 10/1 from 3/1 odds.

Toyota Committed To F1
Cologne-based team Toyota has vowed its commitment to Formula One.

President John Howett fended-off claims of numerous big-wigs that giant car-makers tend to 'come and go' as they please according to marketing strategies.

'We're committed in the long term,' he said.


Howett added: 'You only have to come to Cologne and look at the investment that is going on here to realise that this certainly isn't a short-term project.'

Toyota is one of the world's biggest car manufacturers and therefore it might be seen to have a responsibility to help protect the future of the F1 category.

'We see it that way,' said John Howett.

'In the long term we want to look at ways in which we can improve Formula One in a range of ways to ensure its long-term well-being and growth.'

Toyota, like Ferrari, builds both chassis and engine but its TF104 was genuinely outpaced by an under-funded Jordan-Ford car at the season-opening Australian GP.

Brawn Warns Against 'Snap' Format Change
Ross Brawn has poured cold water on suggestions that Formula One should immediately scrap its controversial new back-to-back qualifying system.

The Ferrari technical boss told Reuters there is a technical consideration to the regulation in that teams have designed their cars with the format in mind.

'It's difficult to make snap changes,' said the Briton.

He said each car, certainly Ferrari's, is designed for a certain fuel capacity and a parc ferme rule which requires the lock-up of cars after qualifying.

Ferrari qualified and finished one-two at Albert Park last weekend.

Ross added: 'If you go and change it all again, you throw that out of the door.'


One man who wasn't bored-to-death in the Melbourne garages was BMW chief Dr Mario Theissen, but not because he enjoyed the one hour and 50-minute process.

'I was too busy trying to understand what was going on,' he joked.

'I am not sure if the TV spectator really understands.'

Closer to the race-track, however, was Ferrari's second-placed qualifier Rubens Barrichello, who insists that the first lap on Saturday is 'not so exciting.

'When we had it last year on Friday,' said the Brazilian, 'you push really hard all the time. But now I think there is no point to the first half.'

He said: 'It's not so entertaining.'

Rubens votes for a return to last year's rules, although F1-supremo Bernie Ecclestone wants to see it revert to the '02-format and a one-hour free-for-all.

BAR boss Dave Richards' compromise, however, is for a 30-minute free-for-all followed by a one-lap, car-by-car session which decides the order of the grid.

F1 Finds Rival In ... Swimming
Formula One has found an unlikely competitor in ... swimming.

A design-methodology pioneered by the pinnacle of motor sport has been used by swim-brand 'Speedo International' to create the fastest swim-suit in the world.


Sheffield-based Fluent Europe was commissioned to assist Speedo in reducing a swimmer's passive-drag by utilising its Fluid Dynamics computer-software.

'What Speedo has achieved by transferring motor racing technical design methodologies to ... swimming is probably a first for an Olympic discipline.'

That is the opinion of Fluent's communications manager Dr Keith Hanna.

Rossi To Test-Drive Formula One
MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi is likely to test-drive a Formula One car.

The flamboyant Italian was at Albert Park last weekend and reportedly agreed with F1 team Toyota that a track-test should take-place in the next few weeks.


Autosport magazine reports that as part of the deal, Toyota F1 veteran Olivier Panis will take to the saddle of Valentino's Yamaha MotoGP race-motorcycle.

'My first motorsport experience was in karting,' said 24-year-old Rossi.

'I've done some rallies, but I hope to try an F1 car someday.'

Ford Backs F1 Budget-Cap
Ford chief Richard Parry-Jones has reinforced his belief that Formula One annual team budgets should be capped to help curb the sport's out-of-control costs.

The Briton reckons his proposal could be policed by independent auditors and enforced with the threat of 'draconian penalties' if a team is in violation.

Ford Motor Company owns Jaguar Racing, with a $170m budget that is dwarfed by the big-hitting teams including Scuderia Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes and Toyota.


But any significant change to the Sporting Code must be given the unanimous-nod by the ten competing Formula One outfits - a scenario that is highly unlikely.

'Why would the top teams agree,' asked an insider, 'if the only benefit is for the teams who cannot attract enough sponsorship to compete in the first place?'

Parry-Jones said: 'The skill will be how you spend your [restricted] budget.'

A more realistic cost-cutting measure in F1 is a proposed reduction in track-testing which can cost teams more than contesting the entire grand prix season.

But Ferrari, with its own tracks including at Fiorano and Mugello, are standing in the way of that idea because they have an affordable way to go F1-testing.

F1 Was Fudging TV-Figures
Formula One may have been fudging its television-audience figures.

According to Britain's Marketing Trade magazine, the figures are set to fall sharply following the introduction of a new method for counting TV-viewers.

Formula One Management traditionally compiles the data.

Marketing Trade predicts that Formula One sponsors are going to want a reduction in their contributions to partner-teams if the figures drop as expected.

'TV viewing figures, as published by FOM, have been in the region of 300 million viewers per race,' said London-based Ben Pincus of sponsorship agency The Works.


Under the new system, only half of last year's FOM viewers actually watched the grands prix, and the other forty-percent caught a glimpse on news/sport shows.

German broadcaster RTL, however, is happy with its own audience-numbers.

It says an average of 2.76 million people tuned-in to the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in contrast to the 2.35m who watched the race last season.

What TV-broadcasters are unhappy about, however, is the new back-to-back qualifying system because its duration depends on the length of the GP track.

In Melbourne, the format took nearly two hours but at longer circuits, like Spa-Francorchamps, it could take even more time to get all 40 flying-laps completed.

It is understood that the broadcasters are to present an unified voice in support of replacing the system with something which is also more exciting.

Hopes Turn To 'B' Version McLaren
Following the dire showing of McLaren at Melbourne's season-opener last weekend, attention is already turning to a 'B' version of the new MP4-19 car design.

Team principal Ron Dennis plays-down any hopes which rest on the speculation.

'It's a bit premature to start talking about the B,' said the glum Englishman.

'I made reference to it when talking about our ongoing development programme.'

McLaren driving-veteran David Coulthard reckons the MP4-19 is lacking in every area of performance, such as aerodynamic grip, mechanical grip, and horsepower.


The second-step '19' is not scheduled to appear until at least the Spanish Grand Prix held at Circuit de Catalunya in early May, according to team-insiders.

Dennis admits that McLaren lacks some pace, 'but not as much as people think.

'The world championship is over a whole season, not just one race.'

DC scraped-up the final point at Albert Park while his highly-rated Finnish team-mate Kimi Raikkonen spun out of the race in a plume of Mercedes V10 smoke.

McLaren was the first team to test a 2004-spec car but Coulthard, 32, wasn't fooled by an early show of pace and one or two pre-season lap-records.

'I didn't buy into it,' said the Scot.

'In reality we've been in amongst the field all winter and we need to improve.'

Barrichello Warns Rivals
Rubens Barrichello has warned Ferrari's Formula One rivals to think-again if they're expecting to claw back a tyre-deficit at a hot Malaysian Grand Prix.

The second-placed driver track-tested at Valencia this week and says Bridgestone has found a product with which to compete against Michelin in warmer weather.

He told Autosport: 'We know exactly what tyre we're going to choose.


'We've got a very good compound, and I think it's going to be very strong.'

Ferrari's race-drivers usually stay acclimatised in the Far East, ahead of the race in Kuala-Lumpur, which indicates the urgency of Bridgestone's tyre-tests.

Rubens knows that Michelin-shod teams and various sections of the media are hoping that Ferrari's pace will be challenged in the warm Sepang region.

'I'm afraid I am just going to have to disappoint them,' he smiled.

It's currently 32-degrees at the Sepang International Circuit near KL and weather reports say it should stay in the mid-thirties and humid late next week.

There is also a strong possibility of thunder-squalls, a source reports.

Trulli As 'Launch Control' System
Jarno Trulli may be acting as the Renault R24's launch-control system.

Before the season, engineer-chief Pat Symonds said Renault had perfected the new manual-start procedure based on its superior computer-controlled system of '03.

Trulli and team-mate Fernando Alonso leapt-off the Albert Park line.

It sparked cynicism in the Formula One paddock that Renault may be circumventing the electronic-ban to somehow still limit wheel-spin in the blast to 100kph.

'We did extremely good starts,' Jarno told Autosport.

'It's good to have a good start. We are pretty good at knowing how to be the best at that,' the Italian added, 'but you can't always get it right.'


Another Renault advantage may be in the way the R24 uses its Michelin tyres.

Speculation in Australia suggested that the team was the only Michelin-clad outfit on the grid to use the softest-compound tyre on offer for the race.

'Tyres are crucial, absolutely crucial,' Jaguar's Mark Webber commented.

'I think all the tyres are reasonably similar, but if [Renault] were on the tyre I think they were on, I think maybe they got a bit more out of it.'

Trulli recoiled when asked the same question.

'We had a different choice to everybody else,' he hinted.

'But I can't say much more about it.'

Fisichella Not Keen On Malaysian GP
Giancarlo Fisichella is not particularly keen on the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Roman likes Sepang's challenging lay-out but reckons the high-temperatures, already forecast to stay in the mid-thirties next week, are 'too high for me.'

Fisichella and Brazilian team-mate Felipe Massa are already in the country in preparation for its main oil-sponsor Petronas' important home grand prix.

'It's a very hard track physically,' said Fisichella.

'About three-quarters of the corners are quick so the g-force puts a lot of strain on your neck and shoulder muscles. But Malaysia's a wonderful country.'


Giancarlo says the C23 went well in Melbourne and is likely only to improve as the team and its newly-signed driver learn more about how to set it up.

Massa has fond memories of Malaysia as it's where he scored his first F1-point.

'I really love driving there,' he added. 'Last time I was here I saw a lot of Kuala-Lumpur. I missed it last year so it's really good to be back here.'

Felipe declined to compare the C23 with the C21 he drove at Sepang in 2002 because it is in 'another world. Everything in F1 progress so much,' he said.

Technical director Willy Rampf has cooling on his mind and has prepared a maximum-cool car-package with some more 'emergency cooling' in his pocket.

'Basically we'll have the same car as in Australia,' he said, 'because there was no time to test and the first parts from our new wind tunnel aren't ready.'

The team-drivers will be flat-out with PR activities from this Saturday to Wednesday of next week in events scheduled all-over the country of Malaysia.

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