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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 20, 2004


Schumacher 'went over the roof': Montoya
Ralf Schumacher 'went over the roof' in a pre-event press conference.

That was the reaction of team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya who laughed-off the German's threat to have him off if he tries an overtaking manoeuvre this Sunday.

'I think he was just a bit too excited,' said the Colombian.

'I think the reporter asked the right question and wound Ralf up, that was all.'

Montoya, 28, slid up the inside of Schumacher's identical BMW-Williams FW26 in Melbourne but the pair banged-wheels before the overtaking move was complete.

BOSS WON'T CONTROL

Team boss Sir Frank Williams said he would not try to 'control' his drivers.

'Words are easy,' the Englishman reacted to Schumacher's JPM-threat.

'Under racing conditions they are free to race, they are free to bump wheels if that's the only way. What they're not allowed to do is push each other off.'

Williams' reluctance to do much about the internal-spat might be because certainly one, and perhaps both, team-drivers is leaving at the end of the year.

'A naive man might say it's difficult [to control them],' said Williams.

'But I think they both raced well in Australia - they did real overtaking, Ralf moved up quite a few places. You couldn't criticise their dedication at all.'








Jaguar is 'punching above' its weight
Mark Webber's promising early-Malaysian pace is genuine, the Aussie has claimed.

He powered his Jaguar R5 to third-place, behind only the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen and Ralf Schumacher's BMW-Williams, at the end of Friday's practice.

'I feel so confident in the car,' said Webber, 'which allows me to really push.'

Mark, 27, said not only was the one-off performance of the heat-loving Michelin tyre good, but the consistency of his twenty-odd laps was also very impressive.

'But it was so hot out there,' said Webber.

BRING IT ON

'I'm not sure how significant the times are - but bring it on!'

Team boss Tony Purnell said Jaguar is satisfied with their work so-far but worries about the car-reliability that let Webber down at the season-opener.

'It's nice to be in the company that Mark is enjoying,' he beamed.

'But I think we're punching above our weight slightly.'

Purnell said Jaguar was operating on a fraction of the cost of the pace-setting teams and one of the first compromises is guaranteeing bullet-proof reliability.

'You can't do everything,' he said. 'We can't test like the big-guys do.'








Bahrainis rip-off F1 clients
Some Bahrainis are taking-advantage of their upcoming Formula One race.

Private landlords are jacking up prices, and others are refusing to book-out hotel rooms until the last minute to ensure the highest possible fee.

There is a chronic accommodation-shortage for the inaugural grand prix.

ACCOMMODATION SHORTAGE

Prices are going as high as 800BD (about $2000) for a one-bedroom apartment.

'Customers are not prepared to pay more than a certain amount,' a source told Gulf Daily News. 'Some have said they might change their destination.'

A spokesman for the $150m Sakhir-F1 circuit, however, rejected the criticism and said a hotel room in Monaco on Grand Prix week costs up to $5000 for one-night.








Only the brave bet against Ferrari
Only a brave man would bet against Ferrari at this weekend's hot Malaysian GP.

Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne reckons the field has closed-up since Australia but warned there is more to the situation than practice-times show.

'We've got good first lap performance,' he said of the Michelin-product.

Michelin-clad Kimi Raikkonen led the stifling pace at Sepang on Friday and the top Bridgestone runner, Michael Schumacher, was good only for fourth-position.

NO NEW BRIDGESTONES

But Gascoyne says Ferrari's tyres work well on the longer stints.

'After one lap, we get quite a big drop-off,' he continued, 'whereas the Bridgestone seems to be very stable. So I think we'll have to wait and see.'

Bridgestone technical manager Hisao Suganuma, meanwhile, confirmed that the company had not taken its latest-spec, hot-weather tyres to the Malaysian event.

'We have a programme to reduce temperature,' said the Japanese.

'But that is still ongoing. Here, we've got an improvement of the normal tyre.'








Leinders owns F1-superlicense
Bas Leinders is the proud owner of a new Formula One superlicense.

The Belgian wasn't allowed to run in a Minardi two weeks ago but he has since collected the requisite 300kms of F1-testing and debuted in Malaysia on Friday.

'I'm very satisfied with the way things went,' he said at Sepang.

'I started off gradually and just worked on picking up time with each lap.'

DEVELOPMENT PARTS

Leinders tried-out development parts for the PS04 which should eventually find their way onto the race-cars of drivers Gianmaria Bruni and Zsolt Baumgartner.

Minardi sporting director John Walton was pleased with Leinders' first effort.

'Thanks Bas,' he said, 'for a mature job. He played himself in steadily, produced consistent lap times and provided useful feedback to the engineers.'

Leinders lapped three-seconds off the pace of the nearest Minardi charger, and no less than seven-point-five seconds per-lap slower than the leading F1-pace.








Ralf smiling despite stifling heat
Ralf Schumacher is a happier man despite the stifling heat of Malaysia.

The German star lapped second-fastest in Friday practice but, crucially, his Michelin-tyred BMW-Williams fended-off the Ferrari challenge by a few tenths.

'We expected to be much quicker here than in Melbourne,' he said.

'So far that seems to be the case.'

QUICKER AGAIN

Ralf's brother runs on Bridgestone tyres that revelled in the cooler Melbourne weather but appeared to struggle on the 56-degree Sepang-F1 circuit-tarmac.

'I'm sure he'll be close if not quicker again tomorrow,' Schumacher added.

'But, on our side, it looks a bit better.

'The Bridgestone grips a lot better on a slightly dirty track but as soon as we get rubber on the circuit then Michelin's tyres start to pick up performance.'








Ecclestone resents F1-tobacco ban
Bernie Ecclestone resents the impending F1-ban on tobacco advertising.

'Maybe next the government will stop drinking,' a snarling race-impresario told the Daily Telegraph, 'so they'll take-away our drinks sponsorship too.'

To counter the looming problem, Formula One is racing out of Europe and breaking new ground in Bahrain and China, then possibly Korea, Turkey, India and Russia.

'The flight to Asia won't solve the problem,' is the response of Ford's head of F1 operations Richard Parry-Jones in an interview with Autosport magazine.

HALF THE GRID

He said Ford doesn't 'want to be linked' with a sport which relies on tobacco.

Most of Ford-owned Jaguar's race-rivals, such as Marlboro-red Ferrari, West-branded McLaren and Mild Seven-blue Renault, rely on their cigarette cash.

Jordan and BAR are also heavily-sponsored by tobacco-brands.

Ecclestone, however, worries about the post-tobacco future of Formula One.

'If we lose it completely,' the 73-year-old told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung last month, 'there will be a rupture. People don't know how bad it would be.'








Pitchforth puts his foot in it
Oops - that's what David Pitchforth would have said some-time last week.

The managing director of Jaguar Racing put his foot in it big-time when he lamented the reliability problems of Aussie Mark Webber in his home Grand Prix.

'Mark was running in a points scoring position,' he started in a newsletter.

LAUNCH CONTROL

'We believe he'd have been seventh quite handsomely and, if he hadn't had a problem with the launch control, quite possibly even higher than that.'

Launch-control electronics were banned ahead of the new Formula One season.

Webber, 27, actually ground to a halt at Albert Park with a gearbox-glitch.







McLaren resists test limitation
Limiting track-testing would only drive up costs, according to Ron Dennis.

The McLaren chief would reject a proposal to accept less testing even if it meant Formula One teams could do more 'free' running at the actual grands prix.

Some F1-players reckon a test-cap would cut costs by up to fifty-percent.

SENSIBLE REDUCTION

'The reason it increases costs is that you'd have to manufacture sufficient quantities of parts so that you could introduce them at that race,' said Ron.

'At a test, though, you only bring one example of the part.'

It was earlier thought that only Scuderia Ferrari resisted test-caps.

BMW-Williams would support a 'sensible further reduction' in summer testing by a 'modest amount,' because Sir Frank Williams does believe it would cut costs.

He said: 'Car building and car operation are by far the biggest drivers of cost.

'Every year Formula One costs more but the revenues don't increase.'








Rain on way for qualifying?
It might yet rain ahead of this afternoon's qualifying-session in Malaysia.

A source reports that a storm is just a few hours away from the hot and humid Sepang track and it may strike while the drivers prepare for their hot-laps.

FEW DROPS

Otherwise, a few drops of rain fell on Saturday morning and it is heading for a top of around 34-degrees, while the rain should stay-away on Grand Prix day.








Not just pride that powers Sir Frank
It's not just personal pride that is powering Sir Frank Williams.

The wheelchair-bound Formula One boss told 'Auto, Motor und Sport' that the race-series cannot afford much more domination by the champions who wear red.

'The directors of [the car] companies will lose interest,' he warned.

'We need to at least be able to compete for first place.'

Williams said spectators are less likely to turn their television-sets on if they know who is going to set the pace, 'so that means less money for us.'

COST-CRIPPLED

It's a scenario the cost-crippled race-outfits can ill-afford, he said.

Williams added: 'Money is becoming a problem for all the teams except one.

'Toyota worry me because they are advancing in giant leaps.'

He's impressed by Renault who operate on a smaller budget than the other top-four teams but nearly out-paced the lot of them at the opening Australian GP.

'To be honest, it makes me sick,' the bright-eyed boss smiled.

Williams also rates team-driver Ralf Schumacher even if the pair are locked in a dispute over how much money the German should earn if he signs a new contract.

'He's very talented,' said Frank, 'very logical and is extremely intelligent.'








Is there a secret to Schu's success?
There must be a secret to six-times champion Michael Schumacher's success.

That is what his nineteen Formula One track-rivals hope but the Ferrari-driving German said leading the race-pace is just a matter of hard work and dedication.

SEVERAL HOURS

'It's about jumping about in the gym,' he said in Kuala-Lumpur.

'Or it's about running on the beach - and for several hours a day.'








The lap-records are tumbling
The lap-records are tumbling at Malaysia's Sepang Formula One circuit.

Michael Schumacher set the best-time near Kuala-Lumpur last March; a 1.36.412 that he had already smashed by the end of the first official 2004 session.

The Ferrari's first-Friday time was a 1.34.437.

IMPROVED

But Kimi Raikkonen showed the field how it was done in session-two when he improved Schu's mantle and strolled to a 1.34.395 in his MP4-19 McLaren car.

Come Saturday, Michael Schumacher was back at the top of the timesheets and his best-tour of 1.33.391 is more than three-seconds faster than his lap of 2003.








McLaren start Formula One 'fight-back'
McLaren has started a fight-back to the other top Formula One teams.

The silver cars were off-the-pace at the season-opener but Kimi Raikkonen showed he had not given up by going quickest of all during Friday practice at Sepang.

'We are a team that competes to win,' said team CEO Ron Dennis.

'Before Australia, we couldn't verify some new components at the affected Imola test but we tested them in Valencia last week and they're now on the car.

'But there were other reasons for our lack of pace.'

NEW FRONT WING

A new front-wing package adorns the MP4-19 challenger in Malaysia.

Dennis said he expected McLaren to be better in Australia but never got depressed about the result - 'it was a good wake-up call,' the Briton smiled.

'Sometimes good organizations get it wrong.'

The Woking-based boss referred to one or two 'oversights' within the team at Melbourne that required mechanics to work very late in the pre-event evenings.

'So the team was very tired,' he explained. 'We just didn't have our act together. I don't think, to be honest, we performed very well as a team.'

McLaren's car is also lacking in the horsepower and aerodynamic departments.

A several-hour long 'post mortem' of the issue was discussed at Woking the day after the race where key personnel and McLaren 'made a plan,' Dennis confirmed.

'So far so good,' he said. 'But it could be a long haul.'








F1 teams to green-light quali-change
Formula One's ten teams are likely to agree unanimously to a proposal to slightly alter the format of the back-to-back qualifying system from Bahrain.

The system will, for now, only be tweaked to better accommodate TV-broadcasters.

'Very often, we can over-react,' said Ferrari chief Jean Todt.

'But I think these changes are a reasonable step forward.'

Sir Frank Williams said the criticised system was brought-in to please the small teams who complained about not getting enough TV-exposure during qualifying.

FOLLOW TELEVISION

'We will follow television,' said the Briton.

'That's how we get our money - so whatever works for that.'

All teams, the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone must green-light the changes, including a longer-delay between sessions and a definitive start-time for the second part.

'I'd like to see a [bigger] change,' Jaguar chief Tony Purnell continued.

'I didn't find the whole thing very entertaining and in fact I found last year's system more entertaining. So I would like to see more of a change to that.'

Todt added that F1 officials opted for the two-lap system to give the public 'more to look at' and more visibility for the smaller teams' race-sponsors.







Bernie has solved F1's qualifying-bore
Bernie Ecclestone thinks he's solved the dilemma of boring F1-qualifying.

The F1-impresario told the Daily Telegraph that rather than going out in back-to-back, single-lap processions, drivers should just draw a number from a hat.

'Then you can't say it's not the same for everybody,' he smiled.

OVERTAKING

'Maybe poor old Schumacher will never draw pole - maybe someone will draw it three times. But it would add to the excitement and promote overtaking.'

Unfortunately, or perhaps luckily, Ecclestone cannot impose his iron-will.

'No - we're a democracy,' the diminutive Briton scowled.

'Actually, it's even worse - a lot of the regulations require a unanimous vote to change them. So it's difficult to get change at all.'








Ferrari admit performance-deficit
Ferrari has owned-up to a performance-deficit in hotter weather conditions.

Track-temperatures rose beyond 50-degrees on Friday and Saturday at Sepang and team boss Jean Todt says it is 'useless to compare' Malaysia to Australia.

'We have completely different tyres here,' said the Frenchman.

HIGH TEMPERATURES

'But we know that when temperatures go higher it is not in our favour.'

Michael Schumacher still led the pre-qualifying pace on Saturday but only by a few hundredths of a second to the Michelin-shod Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya.

The next 9-cars, representing 7 F1 outfits, were covered by less than a second.








BMW-Williams get Bahrain advantage?
BMW-Williams already have an advantage going-into the inaugural Bahrain GP.

The Grove-based team ran a 2003-specification FW25 with test-driver Marc Gene at the $150m facility last week as part of the track's inauguration celebrations.

'We were also offered the opportunity,' said McLaren chief Ron Dennis.

The Mercedes-powered team's representative at the desert-facility near Manama was a 50-year-old W196 originally driven by Juan Manuel Fangio to the title.

SHANGHAI CANCELLED

Dennis said he would have taken a new car to Bahrain but he was invited to run his demo-racer at the Shanghai track in China - but the event was cancelled.

The McLaren boss said BMW-Williams would have learned a little about tires.

'But the most frustrating thing,' Ron said, 'is that we weren't allowed to go there and survey the circuit with GPS - so I think Williams have an advantage.'

Frank Williams, however, moved to appease his miffed McLaren chum.

'We weren't allowed to use our own proper equipment either,' said the F1 boss.








F1 bosses reject budget-cap idea
Formula One's top-bosses have rejected the notion of a budget-cap.

Ford chief Richard Parry-Jones said accountants should keep-tabs on a maximum-expenditure for each team and impose penalties for those who spend too much.

'No comment,' said a disinterested Ferrari boss Jean Todt. 'Not realistic.'

Sir Frank Williams said competing for the 'best deals' was part of motor racing - or indeed any business - and spending money prudently was a good team's 'cap.'

IMPOSSIBLE TO POLICE

McLaren's Ron Dennis said the regulation would be 'impossible to police.'

Not surprisingly, Ford-owned Jaguar's Tony Purnell likes the idea.

'It would make it a very interesting business and technical exercise to try and do the best job on a fixed budget. It would certainly revolutionize the sport.'

A budget-cap would, however, see an end to the idea of 'technical partners.

'You'd have to close all the back doors,' said Purnell, 'but I don't see it as difficult to police as some people would imagine. It would be law of the land.'








Dennis has signed new McLaren contract
Formula One boss Ron Dennis has no plans to retire.

The CEO and part-owner of top-team McLaren rejected recent quit-speculation in the best possible way - by announcing the extension of a company contract.

'I'm passionate about the McLaren brand,' he said in Malaysia.

'I have no intention of walking away from the team.'

MAKING A PLAN

Dennis is, however, making a plan to generate more depth in management so that when the day does come for him to call it a day, McLaren can still shine-on.

'You can fall ill, you can go under a bus ... you can retire,' he continued.

'All of these things should be preceded by a plan.'

The McLaren chief said he does not have an intention to work for the rest of his life 'but I have no immediate plans - and I certainly won't retire a loser.'








F1 prone to terrorist attack: Bernie
It is impossible to protect Formula One from a terrorist attack.

That's the belief of race-impresario Bernie Ecclestone who told the Daily Telegraph that no extra measures are to be in place for the Bahrain GP.

'I'm not going to panic,' he told the paper. 'Not at all.'

VIGILANCE

The journalist asked Ecclestone how he can simply answer in the negative when other sports are going-crazy with terms such as 'vigilance' and 'security' ... ?

'I just say it,' Bernie insists.

'To actually police our sport is very difficult. We've got tracks with seven-hundred to eight-hundred acres of land and an event that runs for four days.

'We can't run a team of border police.'








Trulli bemoans Sepang 'cauldron'
Jarno Trulli was drenched in sweat as he climbed from his Renault R24 car.

It was 37-degrees at Sepang on Friday and again more than 50-degrees on the track in Saturday practice - conditions the Italian described as 'awful.

'I try and open the visor but the car has no cooling for the drivers.

NO COOLING

'It would damage the aero performance - it's like a cauldron for us.'

Trulli enjoys the Malaysian lay-out and said it is a drivers' circuit meaning that the better drivers can open-up a bigger advantage to their rivals.

'I just wish they'd turn down the heat,' he puffed.








Saturday in Malaysia: track notes
Michael Schumacher had a harmless-spin at Turn-9 in Saturday practice.

Fernando Alonso, so far about 6-tenths slow, predicts a close qualifying.

'We know what we have to do,' said the Spaniard.

Large containers holding water are giving BMW-Williams' crew respite to cool-down at the circuit, while dry-ice equipped ventilators do the same for cars.

Jaguar tester Bjorn Wirdheim did NOT encounter an engine-problem on Friday.

'We know that wasn't it,' said team boss Tony Purnell.

BUMPIER CIRCUIT

Jarno Trulli, Renault ace, said Sepang is bumpier in 2004 than in the past.

'Particularly under braking for Turn 4,' said the Italian. 'Fairly big bumps have appeared on the track surface, and we have had to adapt how we drive.'

Jordan's EJ14 cars carry a message of 'Equality' on the engine-covers.

The Bahrain-sponsored message is to change at every grand prix this season.

Meanwhile, Ferrari's pursuit for excellence seemingly never-ends with news that tester Luciano Burti turned laps at Fiorano (Italy) on Friday afternoon.

The Brazilian shook-down some electronic solutions in an older car.

And F1 teams Toyota and BMW-Williams announced new-deals at the Malaysian event.

Toyota has joined-forces with Toyoda, a world-leader in machine tools, and Williams' deal is with Boysen, a manufacturer of complete exhaust systems.








Richards slams Ferrari
An F1 boss has slammed Ferrari for resisting a change to the qualifying format.

BAR-principal David Richards told the Daily Telegraph that most rivals wanted to overhaul the highly-criticized 'back-to-back' system ahead of the Malaysian GP.

'Until the team in red are prepared to put the interests of the sport ahead of their own nothing will change,' the Englishman said at the Sepang-F1 race-track.

Richards said a 'broad agreement' to change the format now exists.

BROAD AGREEMENT

'But it needs all the teams to vote it through,' he said.

Ferrari principal Jean Todt has defended Maranello's reluctance to embrace change-after-change in the wider interest of giving some stability to F1 rules.

'I can understand that,' Richards told the newspaper.

'But when something is so obviously wrong, it makes no sense to do nothing.'

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