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 Jarno Trulli.

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 conditions.

'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 trap.

'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 competitive.'

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.


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 least Imola.

'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 Frenchman.

'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 Malaysian GP.

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 Bridgestone tires.

'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 weekend.'

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 the pace.'

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 the stifling-event.

'It doesn't bother me,' he said of the heat, 'and in fact I quite enjoy it.'

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 motor sport.

'If he'd done a good enough job,' said the Colombian, 'he'd still be here.


'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 the car.

'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 mind.

'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 'under license.'


It suggests that publisher Haymarket has bought a license from Ecclestone.

FOM's previous attempt to secure exclusive rights failed because the World Intellectual Property Organisation said it could not prove 'considerable use.'

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 languages.

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 highly-rated Roman.

'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 last season.

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 skills.

'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 world champions.

Fisichella tries to explain his decision to switch from Jordan to Sauber.

'They had a seat free,' the Italian said, 'and it was worth having a look at.

'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,' he suggests.

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 holiday.

'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. 'Perfect.'


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 favourite.'

Sepang is shaping-up as a true acid-test for the Scuderia's latest product.

'We'll really understand the set-up of the car [there],' Michael continued.

'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 facility.


The W196 carried five-times champion Juan Manuel Fangio, the Argentine race-legend, to his second and third world Formula One titles in 1954 and 1955.

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 April 4.

* 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 57.840.

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 motor sport.

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 McNish.

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 super-license.


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 F1.

'It will do that unless major steps are taken,' said the sports car champion.

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 said.

'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 Prix.

'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 Park.'

Klien, however, has heard horror-stories about the heat of Kuala-Lumpur.


'I'm really starting to understand that your physical and mental fitness is so important in the fight for finishing the race,' said 21-year-old Christian.

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 Sepang's corners.

He concluded: 'I know that getting [championship] points will take time.

'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 workers.

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 Technology Centre.

'There are a lot of disillusioned people in the camp,' said an insider.

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 pace-setters Ferrari.


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 insider said.

'He's got a real problem on his hands.'

The Mirror's insider claims that Ron is too concerned about style and image.

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 season.

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 Briton.

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 bolder.

'I don't mean risk-taking - I mean pushing the boundaries, being innovative.'

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,' said Willis.

'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 awaits.

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 reports.

'One of the defining characteristics of the Malaysian Grand Prix is the scorching heat,' said Renault's engineering chief Pat Symonds on Monday.

The Briton explained the need for extra car-cooling: 'Careful planning goes into balancing the considerations of reliability and aerodynamic performance.'

* A local Chinese newspaper reported on Monday that the highest-priced tickets ($450) for the inaugural Shanghai F1 race are already nearly sold-out.

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 Melbourne.

'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 Park street-circuit.

He also thinks Malaysia must pass before teams know what the gap is to Ferrari.

'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 of Malaysia.

'We certainly need to focus on that,' said technical director Bob Bell.

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.


'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 Sepang.

'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 performance.'

* This Wednesday evening, Renault aces Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli are set to attend the Mild Seven Malaysia GP party in downtown Kuala-Lumpur.

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 F1 outfits.

'It is basically a big party down in the city centre,' Trulli explained.

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 Japanese.

'We're hopeful we can improve in the coming races.'


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 said.

* 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 Brazilian.

'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,' he added.


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 gearbox fault.

'They've been trying to understand why we were unable to finish in Melbourne.'

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 vehicle performance.

Managing director David Pitchforth, meanwhile, said the R5 is not carrying any specific new parts for the weekend's racing held just out of Kuala-Lumpur.

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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