F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 16, 2004
No Substitute For Preparation
There is no substitute for months of physical preparation for the
toughest challenge on Formula One's annual race-calendar, according to
Renault's taught and trim driver is reputed to be one of the fittest
on the grid but even he needs to work hard to specially-prepare for
the hot Malaysian GP.
'The weather conditions are an extreme challenge,' said the Italian.
He and team-mate Fernando Alonso spent the past week in the Maldives
getting used to the physical effort required in similar hot and humid
'But you really can't make a difference in a week,' he smiled.
'This is where your winter preparation really begins to count.'
In the car, the drivers try to keep as cool as possible and always run
with an on-board drink-bottle and probably a bit of
chassis-ventilation near the feet.
'I keep my visor open,' Trulli adds, 'and probably a bit further than
usual in Malaysia to try and generate more airflow in the helmet.'
Jarno praises the Hermann Tilke-designed Sepang International Circuit
but reckons there is not enough run-off down at the Turn One gravel
'I was disappointed in Australia,' he concluded.
'But I hope to be very competitive here. Last year the car was good,
and the R24 is stronger in every area. I believe we can be very
Things Can Only Get Better: Panis
As the song refrains, things can only get better.
That's the hope of Toyota's Cristiano da Matta who looks ahead to the
upcoming Malaysian Grand Prix by recalling a double-lapping on the
streets of Melbourne.
'It's a nice circuit,' the Brazilian said of Sepang, 'and I think its
characteristics should suit our car a little better than Albert Park.'
Sepang, near Kuala-Lumpur, is fast and flowing with two very long
straights which put more emphasis on engine performance - a strength
of the TF104.
'We have been quite strong in that area,' Cristiano agrees.
NEW AERO PARTS
The car has a few aero parts for the Malaysian event but the bigger
developments, such as a revamped chassis, won't be ready until at
'We'll just concentrate on doing the job in hand,' he added.
'And see what we can bring home on Sunday afternoon.'
Driving-veteran Olivier Panis reckons a thrashing in Australia moved
'everyone' at Toyota to roll-up their sleeves and work hard to improve
the car for KL.
'Our development plan is quite intensive,' he said, referring to the
work of test-drivers Ricardo Zonta and Ryan Briscoe at the Valencia
circuit last week.
'Myself, I feel mentally and physically very strong,' added the
'It was a difficult start but we're all as motivated as ever.'
Barrichello Expects Fight In Heat
Rubens Barrichello does not expect Ferrari to run-away with the
The Brazilian was part of an all-conquering one-two at Albert Park but
some hope most of that advantage was thanks-to perfectly suited
'I don't think we will have such a big advantage over our rivals as we
did in Australia,' said Rubens, 'and we can expect it to be a tougher
For the last couple of years in Malaysia, Ferrari had an old-version
car and it - allied with the Bridgestone product - struggled to
keep-up with its rivals.
'But we're going to be competitive,' Barrichello countered.
He said: 'This car runs better in hot conditions than its predecessor.
We're better prepared. The opposition could be tough but we'll be on
Rubens has argued in favor of Bridgestone's improved product on a hot
track and he insists that, personally, he's also looking forward to
'It doesn't bother me,' he said of the heat, 'and in fact I quite
If Ferrari's number-two looks a bit tired in KL, though, spare him a
thought; after Australia, he was off to Spain to test and now he's
back in the Far East.
'In Valencia, sometimes I felt like sleeping,' Rubens smiled.
'But now that I'm here I'm on top form again.'
Villeneuve To Toyota?
Might Jacques Villeneuve find a way back into the Formula One paddock?
Speculation insists that the 1997 world champion, booted-out of BAR
late last year, is in talks with Cologne-based team Toyota about a
role in season-2005.
BMW-Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya, off to McLaren next year, doesn't
think the French-Canadian deserves another shot at the pinnacle of
'If he'd done a good enough job,' said the Colombian, 'he'd still be
'I think he lost a lot of motivation when he went to BAR.'
But even Montoya, who never really got-along with 32-year-old
Villeneuve, admits that the fire probably still burns beneath the
surface of the former champion.
'He probably still wants to win,' he said, 'but he just didn't have
'I'm not sure how hard he was trying - maybe he just backed off too
much, took it easy and suddenly he realised he didn't have a drive in
F1 any more.'
Villeneuve himself is adamant that Formula One is a long-way from his
'I don't miss the politics,' he told his personal website.
'I don't miss the way I was being treated. I'm enjoying relaxing.'
Ecclestone Pursues 'Formula One'
Bernie Ecclestone has renewed his pursuit of 'Formula One.'
The supremo, head of Formula One Management, failed when he first
tried to gain exclusive rights to the use of the trademark including
its 'F1' permutation.
Respected website grandprix.com reports that FOM has stepped-up its
campaign to earn exclusive-rights by shutting down the official
publication 'F1 Magazine.'
The latest edition of F1 Racing, the popular glossy monthly, features
for the first time-ever a notice stating that the term 'F1' is used
It suggests that publisher Haymarket has bought a license from
FOM's previous attempt to secure exclusive rights failed because the
World Intellectual Property Organisation said it could not prove
To gain exclusive-rights, a company must 'acquire sufficient
distinctiveness' to justify the registration of certain trademarks
such as 'Formula One' or 'F1'.
A deal between FOM and F1 Racing strengthens the case of the former as
the Haymarket-magazine is distributed internationally and in numerous
Should FOM achieve exclusive rights, it could demand that any
individual or company using the terms 'F1' or 'Formula One' must buy a
license to do so.
Fisichella: One Of The Best In F1
Giancarlo Fisichella is one of the best drivers in Formula One.
That is the belief of his new-boss Peter Sauber who reckons he has
been trying for 'several years' to secure the services of the
'He's been top of my list,' said the Swiss in Malaysia.
'I'm extremely pleased that I was finally able to sign him.'
Fisichella started his career at Minardi in 1996 and has also driven
for Benetton and Jordan, where he scored his first victory in Brazil
Sauber has less superlatives for Brazilian driver Felipe Massa.
The youngster debuted in a C21 two years ago but was still 'very young
and inexperienced' and was shipped-off to Scuderia Ferrari to hone his
'The situation with Felipe is different,' said Sauber.
'When he [first] drove for us, he showed he was fast.
'But particularly on technical knowledge, there was a way to go.'
Some suggest that Massa, under long-term contract to Ferrari, sits in
the C23 because of Peter Sauber's technical alliance with the scarlet
Fisichella tries to explain his decision to switch from Jordan to
'They had a seat free,' the Italian said, 'and it was worth having a
'The working-relationship with Ferrari was also interesting.'
Massa retired from the season-opening Australian Grand Prix when his
Petronas-badged engine blew-up. 'Maybe it was linked to over-revving,'
Schu Aflame For Next F1 Challenge
Some of Michael Schumacher's closest confidantes reckon the German
world champion has seldom been more enthusiastic about the next
Formula One race.
'This is so true,' said the six-times star after a pre-Malaysia
'I can't even begin to explain it.'
Schumacher, 35, spent a week by the sea following his Melbourne
triumph in the company of his wife and his manager Willi Weber, who
celebrated a birthday.
'These few days have done us good,' the Kerpen-born driver said.
DESIRE HAS GROWN
Earlier, Schumacher's wife Corinna explained how her racing husband
had looked-forward to the season-opener in Australia markedly more
than in previous years.
'During the winter,' said Michael, 'my love for the sport and my
desire to drive grew even more. Maybe it's because I can drive a car
like the F2004.'
He is, however, not going over-board in expectation for the second
race, even if he and team-mate Rubens Barrichello ran-away with the
Albert Park icebreaker.
'In F1 things can change very quickly,' said Schumacher, 'and Malaysia
is a difficult race, very unpredictable with the weather. It isn't our
Sepang is shaping-up as a true acid-test for the Scuderia's latest
'We'll really understand the set-up of the car [there],' Michael
'I have to say that if the tyres function perfectly in the high
temperatures of Malaysia, well ... let's just say things will be
looking decidedly interesting.'
Alesi To Drive Fangio's Car In Bahrain
As reported recently by this publication, former F1 winner Jean Alesi
is to drive an old Mercedes at the new Bahrain International Circuit
later this month.
Mercedes has now confirmed that the Frenchman, who steers a silver car
in the DTM series, will take to the wheel of the W196 on the Wednesday
before the race.
It shall coincide with the opening of the $150 million Bahrain F1
JUAN MANUEL FANGIO
The W196 carried five-times champion Juan Manuel Fangio, the Argentine
race-legend, to his second and third world Formula One titles in 1954
Alesi, now in his late-thirties, retired from Formula One in 2001
having driven for GP-teams including Tyrrell, Ferrari, Benetton,
Sauber, Prost and Jordan.
Bahrain, the Gulf Island nation, hosts its first-ever grand prix on
* On Monday, Ferrari tester Luca Badoer shook-down some 'electronic'
solutions to be used on the F2004 cars at the weekend's forthcoming
Malaysian Grand Prix.
Under clearing skies, the Italian completed eleven laps - four on the
short version of private test-circuit Fiorano - and set a best time of
McNish: Pay-Drivers Devalue F1
Former F1 ace Allan McNish is concerned that inexperienced pay-drivers
are taking the seats of more established stars at the pinnacle of
The Scot, who'll again contest Le Mans in 2004, was in contention for
the Jordan F1 drive but it ultimately fell to the $5m coffers of
rookie Giorgio Pantano.
'We have so many young drivers ... paying for their place in F1,' said
Likewise, F1-rookies Zsolt Baumgartner and Gianmaria Bruni (Minardi)
take a collective $14 million to the cash-strapped Faenza team owned
by Paul Stoddart.
Minardi's 'third driver' Bas Leinders doesn't even have a
McNish told 'Sunday Times' that F1 is meant to be racing's pinnacle
but drivers with little experience are deposing established stars
because they have money.
'It's not right,' said Allan, who debuted for Toyota in 2002.
Last season, 32-year-old McNish held-down the Renault test-driving
role and openly expected to find a new berth on the racing-grid in
time for 2004.
He said the current trend will 'devalue and dilute' the strength of
'It will do that unless major steps are taken,' said the sports car
F1-owners Eddie Jordan and Paul Stoddart offered McNish the chance to
accelerate his quest for a race-drive by suggesting he start
calling-on corporate backers.
'I have never, and will never, pay to race a car,' the resolute Scot
'Once you go down that road, you're finished.'
Klien Heats-Up For Second F1 Race
Christian Klien can hardly believe it's time for his second Grand
'It's come around so quickly,' said the young Austrian, who has spent
the last week training in Langkawi with team-mate Mark Webber and
tester Bjorn Wirdheim.
'I was pleased in Melbourne to be able to finish,' he continued, 'and
get some miles under my belt. The R5 was really good for me at Albert
Klien, however, has heard horror-stories about the heat of
'I'm really starting to understand that your physical and mental
fitness is so important in the fight for finishing the race,' said
His car suffered an hydraulic failure in qualifying in Melbourne but
before Saturday comes-about at Sepang, Klien has to learn a new
Formula One lay-out.
'That's where the other drivers have an advantage,' he admitted.
Klien said Friday-tester Wirdheim's job is to analyze tires for him in
Malaysia so that the Austrian can focus exclusively on getting to know
He concluded: 'I know that getting [championship] points will take
'But if I can work on my qualifying then anything is possible.'
Ron Dennis Comes Under-Fire
Ron Dennis has come under-fire by an army of disillusioned McLaren
Tabloid 'The Sunday Mirror' speculates that the Woking-based CEO has
taken his eye off the ball by devoting too much time to McLaren's new
'There are a lot of disillusioned people in the camp,' said an
After an effective gestation of more than a year, the new MP4-19 hit
Melbourne's race-opener with a two-second per lap deficit to
Driver David Coulthard collected the final point at Albert Park and
highly-rated team-mate Kimi Raikkonen smoked out of the Aussie event
with Mercedes failure.
'They are people who have stood by Ron Dennis for many years,' the
'He's got a real problem on his hands.'
The Mirror's insider claims that Ron is too concerned about style and
He continued: 'Ron seems to have forgotten the fundamentals and lost
sight of the fact that McLaren is supposed to be, first and foremost,
a racing team.'
Rivals Cast 'Envious Looks' At BAR
A few envious looks will be cast in the direction of BAR-Honda this
That's the expectation of Brackley tech-chief Geoff Willis who says
his 006 racer is the result of 'much bolder' design-thinking for the
Formula One team.
'Last year, we built a very solid engineering foundation,' said the
Willis said the 005 car, driven by Jacques Villeneuve in 2003, may
have broken-down occasionally but there was never a case of
'structural' component failure.
'With that level of engineering,' he added, 'it allowed us to be much
'I don't mean risk-taking - I mean pushing the boundaries, being
This year's lead-ace Jenson Button stepped-up his quest for a maiden
podium last weekend by qualifying fourth at Albert Park and driving
home three solid points.
Willis said: 'Now is the time to push some of the limits.'
He said champions Ferrari, with mammoth resources, have raised the
entry-level to the top division of Formula One 'considerably' over the
past few seasons.
'That means the top teams have all had to really push to keep up,'
'And we have to work even harder if we want to join them.'
Rain Set To Fall On Malaysian GP
Formula One might be in store for a wet 'n' wild Malaysian Grand Prix.
This publication's weather source says there is a forty-five percent
chance of scattered thunder-storms in Sepang, just outside
Kuala-Lumpur, this Sunday.
It will hover in the mid-thirties all week and rain should start to
fall in the hot and humid region from Wednesday, where a 34-degree day
The skies are set to be grey and cloudy on Friday, when two hour-long
practice sessions start at the F1-circuit, and afternoon storms are
expected a day later.
It will be a stifling 33-degrees on Sunday, the weather source
'One of the defining characteristics of the Malaysian Grand Prix is
the scorching heat,' said Renault's engineering chief Pat Symonds on
The Briton explained the need for extra car-cooling: 'Careful planning
goes into balancing the considerations of reliability and aerodynamic
* A local Chinese newspaper reported on Monday that the highest-priced
tickets ($450) for the inaugural Shanghai F1 race are already nearly
Just under $20 can buy you standing-room at the Chinese F1 circuit but
the dearest tickets are also the 'most popular,' a distributor was
quoted as saying.
'There are only about 5000 tickets for the best seats,' he said.
Theissen Expected More Blow-Ups
Dr Mario Theissen expected more cars to smoke-out of the
season-opening F1 race.
The BMW director told Autosport that, in the face of new long-life
engine-rules, Kimi Raikkonen's was the only notable top-team
powerplant-failure in Australia.
Theissen puzzled: 'There weren't many, were there?
'Maybe some teams took a conservative approach.
'We'll see how it develops over the course of a season.'
Renault technical director Bob Bell admits that his team were
'slightly conservative' in consideration of over-working the engine in
'We'll look to push the envelope as the year goes on,' he added.
Theissen says Williams' P84 (BMW) unit powered up to 2003
qualifying-levels of revs-per-minute - about 19,000rpm - at the Albert
He also thinks Malaysia must pass before teams know what the gap is to
'The temperature makes a big difference,' said Mario. 'The tyre
performance can look really different under hot conditions, which we
can expect over there.'
Renault Back On Pole-Position?
If Renault can match-up its uneven qualifying and race-pace, Fernando
Alonso may well be back on pole-position at this weekend's grand prix
'We certainly need to focus on that,' said technical director Bob
Bell reckons the R24's qualifying-pace was not on the level of the
Renault drivers' speed in the actual grand prix at the recent
Australian Grand Prix.
He hinted that the qualifying-vice is in the car's actual set-up.
'We will get more power on the engine later in the season,' he said.
MANAGE THE GAP
'And then we'll be able to do more to manage this gap.'
Bell thinks Renault has the potential for a 'good, solid result' in
'Ferrari caught everybody out in Australia,' he said, 'but I'm sure we
can close the gap here. The biggest question-mark remains over tyre
* This Wednesday evening, Renault aces Fernando Alonso and Jarno
Trulli are set to attend the Mild Seven Malaysia GP party in downtown
Within sight of the Petronas Towers, the team-drivers will visit the
Zouk nightclub to be guests of honor at a fashion show of futuristic
'It is basically a big party down in the city centre,' Trulli
Toyota Says 'Sorry' To F1 Fans
Toyota can only apologize to its swarms of worldwide Formula One fans.
Team chief Tsutomu Tomita sent-out a resounding 'sorry' after a woeful
start to season-2004 in Australia culminating in both race-drivers
being lapped - twice.
'But rest assured we're putting in our strongest effort,' said the
'We're hopeful we can improve in the coming races.'
SEPANG SHOULD SUIT
On the bright side, Toyota knows that Malaysia's hot-weather for its
Michelin-tyres, and long straights for the first-rate engine, should
suit the TF104.
Tomita added: 'So our sights are set on a better race weekend.'
Technical director Mike Gascoyne was equally-disappointed after Albert
Park but reckons 'everything is in place' to make constant
improvements this F1-season.
'We've got a new front wing and new turning-vanes for this event,' he
* Ferrari ace Rubens Barrichello has backed F1-impresario Bernie
Ecclestone's plan to limit track-testing and install even more grands
prix per season.
'I'm looking forward to this eighteen race season,' said the
'I think more races and less testing is the way to go.'
Jaguar Chip-Away On Gearbox Glitch
Jaguar has been chipping away 'day and night' on a faulty F1-gearbox.
Aussie favourite Mark Webber ground-out of his home event at Albert
Park last weekend when he could no-longer select a gear on the track
higher than fifth.
'It was a disappointing way to go out,' said the 27-year-old.
Since then, Webber has been focusing 'very hard' on his physical and
mental preparation for next-race Malaysia - one of the toughest events
on the calendar.
'The body is often made to work far harder than usual to stay cool,'
Although Webber did not return to Europe or team-base in Milton-Keynes
after Australia, he knows that the factory has been working on the
'They've been trying to understand why we were unable to finish in
He added: 'I'm positive we're taking steps forward.'
Dr Mark Gillan confirmed that Jaguar has indeed been working on the
gearbox and also an hydraulic failure that befell the car of Christian
Klien in qualifying.
'We believe we now understand the reasons behind [these] and have
taken action to prevent the same happening again,' said the head of
Managing director David Pitchforth, meanwhile, said the R5 is not
carrying any specific new parts for the weekend's racing held just out
Webber reckons F1 has yet to see the 'full potential' of the new R5
car and the focus of Malaysia is on finishing the grand prix and
taking a couple of points.
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