F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 17, 2004

Ferrari factory on fire
Ferrari's factory in Maranello has been damaged in a fire.

Reports confirm that no-one was injured but several prototypes and equipment in the road-car division were either damaged or destroyed in the midnight blaze.

One source said a new Maserati Quattroporte was among those destroyed.


'We intervened at around 1 am,' said an Italian fire-official.

He added: 'A hangar in the experimental section containing several car prototypes was burning. The fire is now under control.'

A spokesman at the scarlet-headquarters added that the affected building was not in full-use but was being used as offices for the non-Formula One test drivers.

Schu nominated for Laureus Award
Six-times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher, of Germany, is among the nominees for the latest Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award.

The Ferrari ace, 35, comes up-against tennis number-1 Roger Federer, swimmer Michael Phelps, British rugby's Jonny Wilkinson and MotoGP star Valentino Rossi.

Five-times Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong is also a nominee.


In the team award, Schumacher's Scuderia Ferrari is nominated, as are the Australian cricket team, soccer champs AC Milan and sailing's team-Alinghi.

World Cup champions England (rugby) and female World Cup winners Germany (soccer) are also in-line for the prizes to be announced in May of this year.

Maria Mutola, Paula Radcliffe (athletics), Justine Henin-Hardenne, Serena Williams (tennis), Annika Sorenstam (golf) and Inge de Bruijn (swimming) ...

The aforementioned stars are nominated for the World Sportswoman of the Year.

Estoril, Portugal, is to be the scene of the May 10 ceremony.

Exclusive sponsor for Chinese GP
Sinopec has signed to become the exclusive-sponsor of the first-ever Chinese GP.

The Chinese petrochemical giant penned a long-term deal with British sports management company Allsopp, Parker & Marsh (APM), according to a statement.

Shanghai is to stage its inaugural Formula One race on September 26, 2004.

Allsopp's president Patrick McNally was in London on Tuesday to confirm the agreement with vice-president of the Chinese company Li Chunguang.

'Formula One in China is a landmark for international motor sport,' said Li.


'Sinopec is pleased to contribute to the expansion of F1.'

It was reported by this publication that world-bank HSBC was closing-in on an $18m deal but Sinopec entered the frame at a very late stage, said a source.

Xinhua news-agency reports that negotiations took only a month.

F1-impresario Bernie Ecclestone expressed his approval for the agreement.

The 73-year-old said: 'Just as China is a perfect fit for Formula One, so too is Sinopec the ideal sponsor for the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix.'

Sinopec was ranked 70th in the Fortune 500 of 2002.

Raikkonen gets ready for heat
McLaren's Formula One drivers spent time in Thailand following the season-opening race to prepare for the physical challenge of the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The personal trainer of Kimi Raikkonen, Mark Arnall, said the heat and humidity near Kuala-Lumpur can cause drivers to lose up to 4-litres of fluid in the race.

He said the cockpit in Malaysia can be up to 50-degrees, and dehydration is likely to impact both on driver-performance and concentration levels.

'It takes the body around ten days to get use to heat,' Arnall said.


'The majority of adaptation occurs within the first three to four days.'

Arnall, who used to look-after world champion Mika Hakkinen, said he's looking to get Raikkonen, the Finn, used to taking-in a greater amount of fluids.

'Drinking just water ... can actually dehydrate you further,' he explained.

'During the weekend we try to ensure that we're re-hydrate the drivers after free practice, qualifying and the race as effectively as possible.'

F1 and the House Of Commons
Formula One and the House of Commons - what do they have in common?

A reception was held at Westminster to celebrate the success of a 'F1 in Schools' competition designed to promote the work up up-and-coming engineers.

UK students aged 11-18 were invited to design a model racing-car to face teams from a dozen other countries in the annual international CAD/CAM design contest.


'F1 in Schools' was founded by Jaguar Cars and related sponsors.

In the British parliament building, Education and Skills Secretary Charles Clarke MP praised the initiative for its opportunities for young people.

Richard Burden MP hosted the event and said: 'Stereotypes about engineering have prevented too many young people from seeing it as an exciting career.

'F1 in Schools is helping to break down those stereotypes.'

Championship Season 2003/4 attracted 20,250 students from 450 UK schools.

Michelin face-up to Malaysian tire-duel
Contrary to some pundits' expectation, F1 tire-supplier Michelin sees this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix as far from a foregone conclusion.

Following the domination of Bridgestone in Australia, it had been touted that the heat of Kuala-Lumpur should better-suit their French rivals' GP-boots.

Michelin F1-manager Pascal Vasselon, however, said that despite the firm's authority in 2003, preparing tires for Malaysia presents 'obvious difficulties.

'This is usually the hottest race of the year,' he said.

'Track temperatures can reach 55 degrees.'


While that is not in itself a problem, it is not practical for F1 teams or suppliers to test in the Far East so tires are developed at European circuits.

'This makes it difficult,' said Vasselon.

'Conditions are obviously very different.'

Bridgestone is thought to make the best-tires for cooler conditions.

But the Japanese supplier's technical manager Hisao Suganuma said the company has worked hard over the winter on improving the tire's consistency in the heat.

'We have tested long and hard for races like Malaysia,' he said.

'We have made improvements and I'm looking forward to showing off our progress.'

McLaren has fingers crossed
McLaren has its fingers-crossed that recent work on the test-tracks will improve the pace of a troubled MP4-19 racer in the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend.

The Woking-based team rolled-out the anteater-nosed car at Albert Park and discovered a two-second-per-lap deficit to pace-setters led by Ferrari.

'It was not an ideal start,' said veteran driver David Coulthard.

Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen smoked out of the Melbourne race with engine failure.

DC added: 'Everyone has been working hard at the test track and in Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart and hopefully we'll be able to improve in Sepang.'


Managing director Martin Whitmarsh revealed that 'various development programmes' took place between the opening and second rounds of the F1-season.

One of these was a four-day test at Valencia with Pedro de la Rosa.

'We worked on a number of programmes,' said Whitmarsh of the MP4-19.

He added: 'We've received some useful feedback and we will incorporate it into the package and consequently hope to improve our competitiveness for Malaysia.'

Coulthard, 32, offered his comments from Thailand, where he and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen spent-time after Australia to acclimatise for the hot Sepang event.

Raikkonen took his debut F1 victory at the circuit last season but reckons his focus for the weekend is to work on simply improving the uncompetitive package.

'Hopefully we can score some points,' the 24-year-old Finn shrugged.

Head: More to Ferrari's pace than tires
Technical director Patrick Head is not getting his hopes-up for a sterling BMW-Williams victory on superior Michelin tires at the Sepang-race this Sunday.

The Briton's racers, Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, finished only fourth and fifth at the season-opening event on the cool streets of Albert Park.

'Our performance was not good enough,' Patrick moaned.

'We were beaten by one other Michelin car (Fernando Alonso) and both Ferraris.'


Most analysts blamed the tire-situation, claiming that Ferrari's Bridgestones were perfectly-suited to the chilly track-temperatures just south of Melbourne.

Similarly, they expect a hotter Malaysian track to play into the hands of Michelin runners, such as top-chargers BMW-Williams, McLaren and Renault.

'I think the tires played a part,' said Head.

'But I don't think that was the whole reason for finishing behind Ferrari.'

Nevertheless, Head hopes Sepang will be 'dry and a lot hotter.

'Meanwhile,' he concluded, 'we're developing the car as quick as we can.'

Bahrain sky hums to sound of F1
For the first-time ever, the air in the Middle East hummed with the sounds of a modern Formula One engine on Tuesday ahead of Bahrain's official circuit-launch.

The $150m track has now got its final-layer of tarmac and it beckoned Williams' tester Marc Gene out of pitlane in last year's BMW-powered FW25 race-car.

Bahrain King Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has invited luminaries from the world of F1 to sample the facility, such as Gerhard Berger and Jackie Stewart.

Three F1 cars, representing fifty-years of the world championship, will be driven at speed on the Bahrain circuit - two of which are supplied by Williams.


A Saudia-sponsored Williams FW07, originally raced by Alan Jones in '81 and '82, turned laps, as did the 1954 Mercedes 196 'Streamliner' driven by Jean Alesi.

'This was just a brief practice run,' said a circuit spokesman on Tuesday.

'Wednesday will be the first time an F1 will have been driven at speed here.'

The opening-event has also given organizers the chance to test systems, race-marshals and rescue crews ahead of its inaugural Grand Prix in just a fortnight.

Triple champion Sir Jackie Stewart and ex-winner Gerhard Berger were among the guests who arrived in Bahrain on Tuesday ahead of the official track-launch.

'It will be quite a moment to drive Fangio's Mercedes,' said Jean Alesi.

'It will be a very emotional event. I think this circuit is amazing.'

New Bridgestones are 'excellent': Schu
Michael Schumacher has moved again to dispel a theory that Ferrari is set to fall from grace in Malaysia on the heels of less-adapted Bridgestone tires.

It is widely expected that top-team rivals' tire-partner Michelin will re-claim the upper hang at Sepang because its product is better-suited to hot weather.

'A number of people out there seem to think that the tires could create some doubt,' the six-times world champion said ahead of the weekend's race-event.

He added: 'I'd respond to that by saying that the Bridgestones are excellent.'


Schumi's subservient Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello took the long-flight back to Spain last week to test new hot-solutions in the Bridgestone range.

'Rubens stated that he was very satisfied [with them],' Michael insisted.

And Ferrari has 'never had' reliability problems in Kuala-Lumpur, he added.

As even more of a kick in the teeth for his hopeful driving-rivals, Schumacher also laughed at suggestions that even he might suffer in the stifling weather.

'Fortunately, I can tolerate such conditions well,' said the German.

'But I think it will be difficult and stressful all the same. It's not easy to drive in these conditions. Even so, I'd say my chances aren't that limited.'

FOM has done a deal with F1 Racing
Bernie Ecclestone's company has indeed done-a-deal with publisher Haymarket.

This publication reported yesterday that Formula One Management is probably stepping-up a quest for exclusivity of the trademarks 'F1' and 'Formula One'.


A letter from the F1-tsar confirmed that FOM has finalised a 'licensing arrangement' with the publishers of the popular glossy monthly F1 Racing.

Earlier, Ecclestone confirmed that it had ceased distribution of FOM's own official magazine as it had not reached desired levels of subscription.

The 73-year-old has reportedly arranged with Haymarket that existing subscriptions of 'F1 Magazine' can be transferred for copies of F1 Racing.

Wirdheim 'makes a difference' at Jaguar
Bjorn Wirdheim is 'making a difference' within Formula One team Jaguar.

The reigning F3000 champion signed-on as a Friday tester earlier this season and is getting-ready for his second outing on the hot and humid Malaysian circuit.

'I am really enjoying my time here,' said the Swede.

'I'm pleased to know that my practice makes a difference to Mark and Christian.'

23-year-old Wirdheim's main task in the spare-R5 at Sepang this weekend will be to test Michelin-tyres for the race-drivers Mark Webber and Christian Klien.

Under new rules, drivers must select their race-tyres by Saturday morning.


Wirdheim can only drive in the two hour-long official sessions of Friday.

'We don't get long out there,' said Bjorn, 'but I'm making the most of getting to know the car and some of the circuits in more detail.'

The rookie has been training this week and last with Jaguar's physician in Malaysia and reckons he has already felt an improvement in his fitness-level.

'It's going to be very hot,' said Wirdheim, 'which is a big change for me.

'I'm hoping that I will be prepared for it.'

21-year-old Christian Klien is expecting Bjorn to be a 'great help' at Sepang.

'He can focus on tyres,' said the Austrian rookie, 'while I learn the corners.'

Drivers turn-up at Sepang F1 Track
F1's twenty drivers are starting to show their faces around Malaysia.

Sponsored by national company Petronas, Swiss team Sauber was at the KLCC and KL Plaza in Kuala-Lumpur on Wednesday for a meet-and-greet autograph session.

Pilots Giancarlo Fisichella, of Italy, and Brazilian Felipe Massa, starred.

A day earlier, the pair visited a Petronas LNG complex and Fertiliser plant in Bintulu, outside the city, and signed autographs for Bintulu school-children.


Fisichella, who lines-up for his second grand prix for Sauber, was photographed guiding a blind-folded student as he 'drove' a radio-controlled race-car model.

BAR aces Jenson Button and Takuma Sato are expected to rock-up at the Hard Rock Cafe in Kuala-Lumpur on Thursday for a special-appearance for their fans.

On Thursday, Cristiano da Matta and Olivier Panis, who steer TF104 Toyotas in the Malaysian GP, will appear at the Toyota Rev Party at BarMed, Sri Hartamas.

And Ralf Schumacher, son of world champion Michael, is to wear his BMW-Williams gear for a special charity function at the Subang Parade out of Petaling Jaya.

Closer to the Sepang F1 track, meanwhile, mechanics are hard-at-work setting up their pit-garages in what most describe as the 'best' facility on the calendar.

Sepang track press officer Azhar Ghazali revealed that FIA race-director Charlie Whiting will walk the 5.5 kilometre lay-out on Thursday for a final inspection.

'It's just to check whether everything is fine,' said Azhar.

F1 chiefs play down terror threat
A couple of Formula One team-principals have played-down the threat of terrorism posed by a new grand prix to be staged for the first-time next month in Bahrain.

'Terrorism is a real threat,' said Minardi's chief Paul Stoddart.

Following the war in Iraq, and the most-recent bombings in Spanish-city Madrid, many question the wisdom of travelling to the Middle East for a sports event.

Stoddart added: 'But it's risky everywhere.'

The Aussie said the risk went-up on September 11 (2001), when Al-Queda crashed planes into the World Trade Center in New York and The Pentagon in Washington.


'We should not target out any single country,' said Stoddart. 'We are at risk anywhere in the world. F1 should not allow politics to interfere with sport.'

Stoddart, however, said all teams were taking 'necessary precautions.'

F1 colleague Eddie Jordan insists he was 'surprised' when the federal UK government issued a travel-warning advising citizens to cancel trips to Bahrain.

'I've been there three times in the last two months,' said the Irishman.

'I don't think you could find a more peaceful, homely place.'

He said he would be 'staggered' if anyone in the Formula One community hesitated 'even the slightest bit' about traveling to the Middle East in two weeks time.

F1 teams want 20-day test limit
F1-tsar Bernie Ecclestone wants to see grand prix teams do less testing.

The 73-year-old believes his sport can reduce-costs by up to 50-percent by cutting tests, freeing up money to race at up to twenty grands prix a season.

Minardi principal Paul Stoddart backed the proposed ban.

'We plan to do about 35,000kms on the track all year,' said the Australian.

'But some teams have already done that (in testing)!'

BAR's David Richards agrees that the amount of testing done with no-one watching - about 4-times the laps completed at races - is nothing short of 'farcical.'


He added: 'We need to be more global, therefore maybe we need more races.'

Ecclestone's plan is for a cap of about 20-days of testing per F1-team.

'When we test we spend money,' said Renault managing director Flavio Briatore, 'but when we race we make money - that is our business ... we go racing.'

It is widely-agreed that the biggest obstacle to a reduction in the amount of track-testing is Ferrari, as the champion-team owns several private circuits.

'It looks like some people just love spending money,' Briatore continued.

'I think everybody (else) is quite happy to cut the tests.'

Stoddart said a ban on tests is not going to close the gap from the front to the back of the grid because the saved money will just be spent 'somewhere else.'

'It's just the way it is,' the Minardi boss concluded.

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