F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 18, 2004
F1 stars drive Bahrain circuit
Formula One drivers past and present offered a cumulative thumbs-up to
the new circuit in Bahrain on Wednesday as they turned-laps in grand
'It's a world class track,' said Marc Gene. 'I really enjoyed driving
The Spaniard steered his deafening BMW-Williams FW25, last-year's
Formula One model, around the $150 million Sakhir facility as it was
Bahrain King Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa arrived by helicopter to
entertain 350 guests including ex-triple F1 world champion and Scot
Sir Jackie Stewart.
Gene, Williams' test and reserve driver, predicted that April 4 at the
circuit 20kms from capital-city Manama is going to see a 'challenging'
Formula One race.
'I think we might just see one of the best ever,' he enthused.
Former Ferrari and Jordan ace Jean Alesi took to the cockpit and did
laps in the latest gull-wing Mercedes SLR and a vintage 1954
Mercedes-Benz 196 Streamliner.
'This track is going to make many F1 hosts cry,' the Frenchman
'It's so modern and so beautiful.'
Alesi, who retired in 2001, said the 5.4 km layout asks for longer,
heavier braking around the bends and should also allow opportunities
Designer Hermann Tilke attended the opening and confirmed that F1's
governing FIA has approved the track and will do a final inspection
later this month.
The 'Bahrain Order' was awarded to Stewart and Tilke for making a
'significant contribution' to the construction or awareness of the
inaugural Bahrain GP.
A 1981 Williams F1 was pedalled by Mohammed bin Sulayem and a Formula
BMW single-seater also did laps driven by Middle Eastern driver Karim
Some like it hot - even Ferrari
In Formula One, some like it hot - even world champion team Ferrari.
Many analysts are expecting Maranello's F1 rivals to close the gap in
the heat and humidity of the Malaysian GP, to be staged near
Kuala-Lumpur this Sunday.
But technical director Ross Brawn warns them not to hold their
'This grand prix was one of the factors that influenced our decision
to start this season with the new car, the F2004,' revealed Ferrari's
Brawn says the new car has 'much better' cooling than its predecessor.
'Too often,' he explained, 'we were running our cars in an inefficient
way - with all cooling ducts fully open. So we really tried to improve
F2004 is optimised to run at higher temperatures, meaning that its
aerodynamic configuration is less disrupted by having less cooling
'holes' in the bodywork.
'It means we've got bigger radiators so more weight,' said Brawn.
'But we decided this was the way to go. F2004 has far more cooling
One of the considerations was engine-reliability, especially with new
rules that saw each powerplant collect up to 600 kilometres at the
opening Aussie F1-event.
'The engine is what suffers most in hot conditions,' Ross said.
FIA propose qualifying 'tweak'
Formula One's governing body has proposed a 'tweak' to the highly-criticised
new back-to-back qualifying system to be ready by the upcoming Bahrain
An FIA statement was issued on Wednesday confirming that the two-lap
system, run for the first time in Australia, will proceed unchanged
this weekend at Sepang.
But in the future, to better-facilitate TV-scheduling, the Commercial
Rights Holder has requested that the procedure should begin at 1pm,
rather than at 2pm.
Further, qualifying 'proper' - the second part - should start at 2pm
rather than simply at the end of the laps which determine the order of
TEAMS MUST AGREE
The first-half of the procedure takes about 45 minutes, meaning that
the slowest cars should have around 15 minutes - not two - to
get-ready for their second go.
Formula One's ten-teams must agree unanimously to the revised
Bosses are to get-together in Sepang this weekend and, pending a
positive response, the issue will be put to the Formula One Commission
by a fax-vote.
Then, if the World Motor Sport Council confirms the decision at its
meeting on 24 March, the new schedule could be introduced from the
April 4 Bahrain GP.
'In all other respects,' read the FIA statement ...
'... the qualifying procedures would remain as published.'
Dixon lands BMW-Williams F1 test
IRL champion Scott Dixon has taken another step on his road to Formula
The New Zealand star is to complete a test-drive for the successful
BMW-Williams team next week at the 'Paul Ricard High-Tech Test-Track'
in southern France.
Grove is on the look-out for at least one, and possibly two, new F1
race-drivers ahead of the 2005-season, and Sir Frank Williams is keen
on the US-product.
Current team-ace Juan Pablo Montoya is a former Champ Car champion and
'99 driver Alex Zanardi won the US open-wheeler title twice before
trying F1 again.
Montoya, Zanardi and 23-year-old Dixon all drove for the Chip Ganassi
1997 Williams-Renault world champion Jacques Villeneuve won the Indy
A source close to Williams told BBC that the Formula One team has
organized Dixon's test in order to 'evaluate his potential' in view of
the full-time ride.
He'll also get a three-day test at Circuit de Catalunya (Spain) in
Williams will put up a fight: Ralf
Ferrari can expect a tough fight from BMW-Williams in Malaysia.
That was the message of confidence delivered by Ralf Schumacher on
Wednesday night as the German met the press in the light of the
awesome Petronas Towers.
'Clearly, we've got a lot of work to do,' he said. 'Melbourne showed
Not only did Ferrari stroll to an easy one-two, both FW26 Williams
cars were beaten to the line by the similarly Michelin-shod Renault of
FIGHT-BACK STARTS HERE
'If we want to close the gap, we have to start it here,' Schumacher
'I am sure that McLaren are wanting to fight back, too.'
All Michelin runners are hoping the analysts are true when they say
hotter conditions, such as those expected in Sepang, should suit their
'I believe it is true,' said 28-year-old Ralf.
'Maybe it did not turn out in the truest way in Melbourne. Maybe there
was still a lot of experimenting going on. We will find out here, I
Michelin-clad McLaren star Kimi Raikkonen won the 2003 race near
Sepang Is Ferrari's true test: Schu
Sepang is the first real test for Ferrari, according to Michael
The six-times world champion romped-home victory at the season-opening
Australian event but Malaysia will evaluate exactly how the F2004
'I like the idea of the next race being in Malaysia,' said the German.
Schumacher continued: 'I think it could be an interesting one. We are
all eager to gauge the real significance of our dominance in
Michael considers the wide, Sepang lay-out to be a 'real challenge.'
Apart from the obvious heat, he said, it is not easy to drive.
'It has its built-in difficulties,' said the 35-year-old. 'It is flat
- maybe too flat - and it's hard to get the racing-line and best
Michelin might be in 'deep trouble'
If this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix sounds a similar tune to the
season-opening event in Melbourne, F1 tire-supplier Michelin is in
The French firm's motorsport boss Pierre Dupasquier admits that
Ferrari and tyre-rival Bridgestone dominated the pace in the cool
'If we go to Malaysia and they're still dominating,' he told Reuters
'... then we are in deep trouble.'
It is definitely, however, too early to start the real panicking.
'But Malaysia is clearly a very important event,' said Dupasquier.
'It will help to give us a clearer idea of this year's hierarchy.'
Michelin ruled the hot-race of 2003, when Fernando Alonso and his
Renault qualified on pole position and Kimi Raikkonen strolled to
victory for McLaren.
'That doesn't mean we take anything for granted,' Dupasquier
'But we're confident we can give our teams tyres that are capable of
What is Pantano worried about?
What is Giorgio Pantano worried about as he eyes his second Formula
The Italian rookie struggled to learn the Albert Park lay-out over
limited laps two weeks ago and now hopes the Sepang F1 circuit is not
quite as intricate.
'It looks beautiful,' he said in Malaysia on Wednesday.
'But hopefully it will be easier to learn than Australia.'
HEAT AND HUMIDITY
Pantano is also a little worried about the heat and humidity just
south of capital-city Kuala-Lumpur, looking set to settle in the
mid-30s this weekend.
'It's a bit worrying,' he admitted.
'But I travelled down here early to train in these climate
Pantano is eager to hit the circuit on Friday to 'see what we can do'
now that he knows the Ford-powered EJ14 and the Jordan Grand Prix team
a little better.
The Roman was the last driver confirmed in the 2004 Formula One
'For sure,' he said, 'there's a lot more to come.'
Jordan's head of race engineering, James Robinson, said the
yellow-clad outfit's F3000-winning rookie put a 'well-driven'
race-distance under his belt in Oz.
Cars to do more laps at F1 races
Renault's Denis Chevrier has allayed concerns that the Australian
Grand Prix weekend was an indicator of the kind of track-mileage
expected throughout 2004.
On the Albert Park street-circuit, the average distance covered by
each team with two race-cars was 1080km, or less than two grands prix
distances per car.
This season, each car is restricted to the use of a single engine per
'I think what we saw [there] will prove to have been at the
conservative end of what we will see in 2004,' said the team's head of
Just why did teams give drivers fewer laps to adjust to the Melbourne
Because if a V10-powerplant blows-up in the approach to Sunday
afternoon's grand prix, the penalty for changing it out is ten-places
on the F1 starting-grid.
Chevrier said Renault, for one, is 'still adjusting' to the new
'I think we may include up to a dozen extra laps in future races,' he
What type of circuit the F1-circus is visiting will also influence the
mileage covered; in Bahrain, for example, drivers can expect to do a
few more laps.
'Our usage of the engines will change according to how well we know
the circuit,' Denis explained, 'and how demanding it is for the
Webber supports two-lap qualifying
Mark Webber has denied that Formula One Fridays are now 'boring.'
The Australian welcomed a 2004-change of schedule that has canned a
preliminary round of single-lap qualifying in exchange for the
familiar two-hours practice.
'I thought Friday last year was very strange,' said the Jaguar star.
'The track was dirty and the guys doing well in the championship had
Webber, 27, is willing to admit that mid-field runners - like himself
- were sometimes 'flattered' on Friday and had a better slot for the
'I think it's nice to have both sessions together,' he adds.
World champion Michael Schumacher was often the first-car to take to a
dusty Friday circuit last season because the running was dictated by
'What we have now,' said the German, 'is more positive than last
Rubens has praise for F1 rivals
Rubens Barrichello has some praise for one or two of his Formula One
The Ferrari star said before the F1-circus even landed in Australia
that Renault and Spanish driver Fernando Alonso should shadow the pace
of the race-leaders.
'I predicted they'd be quick,' said the Brazilian, 'and they are.'
Barrichello, from Sao Paulo, also reckons it's 'nice' to see other
formerly mid-field teams like BAR-Honda climbing the competitive
ladder in grands prix.
'It provides some variety,' said the second-placed Melbourne finisher.
'But I am more excited about the fact that our car seems to be going
Most media agencies outlined their surprise that the scarlet-team
dominated at Albert Park and now hope that Ferrari won't go so well in
the Malaysian GP.
Certainly, Barrichello doesn't expect to have the same kind of
'We can expect a tougher weekend,' said the Ferrari star.
'But this car runs better in hot conditions than its predecessor.'
Schu can't wait for Bahrain race
Michael Schumacher can't wait for the first-ever F1 race in the Middle
After his Ferrari car has competed in Malaysia this weekend, the
circus is off to Bahrain to contest the Kingdom's inaugural event on a
'It's great to see new circuits and new countries,' said the German.
'I've heard it is a very impressive project so I can't wait to see
HOTTER THAN KL?
Jaguar ace Mark Webber said the event, staged in the deserts of Sakhir
near city-Manama, is likely to be hot - perhaps even more than in
'I've never been to Bahrain,' said the Australian.
'I think the whole paddock, the whole industry, is excited about it.'
Webber, 27, said a globalizing F1-calendar 'broadens the touch' of
Sato out to boost Asian interest
Takuma Sato is relishing the challenge of driving for Japan in Formula
The BAR-Honda ace is probably the country's best prospect in the
history of grands prix but he does not see the responsibility as an
'I am very excited about it,' he told Press Association in Malaysia.
Sato reckons F1 needs to inspire a 'lot more interest' in Asia.
'So it's up to me,' he said, 'to do a good result and create a huge
opportunity for interest in Asia and in Japan. My personal target is a
The Japanese reckons his Brackley-based F1 team has 'massive
'It is a very big project,' he said of the Honda-powered outfit.
Takuma, 27, doesn't mind if the Sepang skies turn dark this weekend as
his British F3-winning skills are renowned on a damp and slippery
'But in the circumstances for BAR,' he said, 'I think we prefer a dry
'Michelin has usually worked very well here in hot temperatures.'
Toyota target top-ten qualifying
Formula One team Toyota can bounce-back on a hotter Malaysian circuit.
That's the expectation of team manager Ange Pasquali who told a media
conference that a double-lapping at Albert Park left every member
'It was not good,' he said. 'Here, we want to qualify in the top-ten.'
Cologne's race-team, headed by drivers Cristiano da Matta and veteran
Olivier Panis, did just that last season on what Toyota calls the
'Malaysia suits our car better,' Ange told the assembled media.
He said: 'Our engine speed can be emphasized more on the long
straights, and the hot weather should also be an advantage for our
Michelin supplied tyres.'
Toyota 'third' driver Ricardo Zonta and test ace Ryan Briscoe, of
Australia, also attended the press conference while the race-drivers
were off training.
'They are preparing for this race in Singapore,' said a spokesman.
Panis and da Matta are scheduled to arrive in Kuala-Lumpur on
'Quick Nick' eyes Sepang hat-trick
Nick Heidfeld has his eye on a Malaysian Grand Prix hat-trick.
The German, albeit driving a Sauber F1 racer in 2002 and 2003, scored
points at Sepang on his last two visits and hopes for more of the same
this time round.
Heidfeld was nudged-off to cash-strapped Jordan ahead of the new-year.
'I hope that we have more success than in Melbourne,' Nick said in
'I'm optimistic because the tyres and the car are a bit different here
and hopefully we can get something out of the analysis of our last
27-year-old 'Quick Nick' was forced to retire at Albert Park with a
clutch failure that also powered-him into a couple of team-mechanics
at a pit-stop.
'We fully understand the cause of the problem,' said James Robinson.
Jordan's tech-head added that the team has 'implemented changes' for
'One of our strengths is our young and fit driver line-up,' said the
'These conditions play heavily on driver fitness.'
* Eddie Jordan and the F1 team-drivers will unveil a new
Bahrain-sponsored emblem to be displayed on the EJ14 engine-cover on
Friday morning in the pits.
Stoddart sacks airline workers
F1 team-boss Paul Stoddart has axed 560 workers at European Aviation.
The Australian, as well as owning back-of-the-grid outfit Minardi,
runs the small airline which flies out of English airports Bournemouth
560 lay-offs represent a hit-rate of four out of five staff.
SLUMP IN BUSINESS
European's workforce is therefore down to 160, from 720, and
48-year-old Stoddart blamed a slump in the airline-business since
September 11, 2001.
But fired staff accused him of neglecting European Aviation.
One told The Sun: 'He has been playing with cars and we're out of
Stoddart retorted by claiming management consultants had been running
the airline and, in light of the lay-offs, he would return as chief
F1 prepares for seven-race spread
In a period of eight weeks, fans will never have seen so much F1
Between Monaco (May 23) and Germany (July 25), the grand prix circus
will race on no less than seven track-venues in little more than two
The sport's fittest-driver is certainly unfazed by the schedule.
'So there's less testing and more racing,' Michael Schumacher
The world champion added: 'That's good, in my view.'
>From a physical perspective, the hectic run through Europe and North
America also doesn't bother another highly-tuned Formula One racer in
'It's fine,' said the Aussie, 'but of course you have to be in good
Technically, though, the seven-race spread might catch-out a team or
'There won't be a lot of testing going on,' the Jaguar driver
'So if you're having a bad run with reliability or something, you're
not going to have much time to do anything about it. But for us it
should be fun.'
Schu not bothered by Malaysian heat
Ferrari's F1 drivers don't let a bit of heat bother them.
World champion Michael Schumacher is well-known for hopping out of his
scarlet car after a tough Malaysian Grand Prix without a beat of sweat
'I'm not too badly affected by the heat,' the German confirmed.
'My physiology means I don't sweat very much.'
Nevertheless, 35-year-old Schumacher always goes somewhere in the Far
East to do his training and acclimatise for the hot and humid
challenge of Sepang-F1.
'I actually don't drink very much during a race,' he continues.
'In fact, for some races, I don't even have a drink bottle in the car.
But here I make a point of drinking a lot of electrolyte drinks during
And even heat-proof Schumacher has a drink-bottle in his Malaysia-spec
F1 news: brief
En route to Malaysia, Renault's F1 drivers stopped-off in Singapore.
Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli helped launch the new Megane
Coupe-Cabriolet and then hosted a charity-auction for children
suffering from leukaemia.
* Sauber drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa had a busy day
in Malaysian capital Kuala-Lumpur on Wednesday ahead of the weekend's
They test-drove the new Proton Gen-2.2, posed with Grid Girls,
tried-on Puma shoes in a sports shop, and posed for photographers in
the Petronas Twin Towers.
* In Portugal, former F1 racer Heinz-Harald Frentzen showed he had
lost none of his speed by topping the test-times for a second day
running in his DTM car.
The German will race an Opel Vectra GTS in 2004.
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