F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 21, 2004
Were Renault playing games?
Were Renault playing games with their Formula One rivals in
In session-one, Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli were fastest of all
with 1min33s laps, but the best Trulli (8th) could ultimately manage
was a 1.34.41.
It sparked speculation that the team was trying to convince Ferrari
that it was opting for a three-stop race, when a two-stop strategy is
actually more likely.
Alonso, the Spaniard, spun off the track at turn-fourteen.
'Our strategy was to initially run relatively light ... to take
advantage of the change in circuit temperatures we had noted on
previous days,' said Pat Symonds.
The engineering chief notes that the current qualifying format goes
beyond four o'clock, so running on a cooler track would probably boost
'But the second session ran less smoothly,' he said.
'Three mistakes compromised Jarno's chances - it lost him nearly a
Symonds said Alonso was heading for a front-row berth when he
Webber doesn't dream of Sepang-podium
Mark Webber crossed the line and his pit-to-car radio instantly
'Very, very good job,' said the Australian's race-engineer.
'I looked at the big screen to see if I'd got Rubens,' second-placed
Webber said in Malaysia, 'and I was so happy to see it said number one
at the time.'
Webber reckons the race 'is going to be tough' with a scarlet-racing
champion, who goes by the name of Michael Schumacher, just ahead on
the highest grid-row.
FINISH THE RACE
Mark, 27, isn't really dreaming of the Malaysian GP podium.
'We need to finish the race,' he said, 'as we didn't do it in
He warned that no F1 car is bullet-proof, especially on a 55-degree
'We are hoping to get some decent points,' said the Queanbeyan-born
Ferrari charge to second 2004-win
Ferrari are charging to their second-win of the new Formula One
That was the claim of BMW-Williams technical director Patrick Head
even if the Michelin-challenge is stronger in the stifling-heat near
'I doubt they are particularly lowly fuelled for the race,' said the
Most analysts agreed that Ferrari's Bridgestone tyres would be shaded
by the French-made product at Sepang - but Head is always wary of the
'I won't go to bed in rosy comfort tonight,' he said with a
BMW-Williams isn't giving much away about its own race-strategy for
'With the new regulations,' said chief operations engineer Sam
Michael, 'strategy has changed and is now a fine-balance of risk
Montoya hopes for better manual-start
BMW-Williams' drivers are hoping for a better manual-start today in
Launch-control is banned this year but Juan Pablo Montoya in
particular, and team-mate Ralf Schumacher, didn't get-off to a
brilliant start in Australia.
'The clutch was very cold,' said the Colombian.
'It works better with higher temperatures.'
Montoya, Grove's highest-placed driver in fourth, said he'll do some
burnouts on the formation-lap in Malaysia and 'if I slip the clutch,
we should be okay.'
Alonso's new engine to start from pitlane
F1 team Renault has opted to change Fernando Alonso's engine.
The Spaniard was heading for a front-row berth but he lost the R24
under-braking in final qualifying and instead faced a grid-spot near
the rear of the field.
'For the sake of caution, we've decided to change his engine,' said
The decision, under new single-engine rules, carries with it a 10-grid
penalty but the 22-year-old has little to lose by being so-far down
'It will be replaced with the engine from the spare car,' Symonds
Renault's tech-chief said the plan improves the likelihood of
'It doesn't give us a performance advantage,' he insisted, 'but of
course it is better to use a low-mileage engine. Our reliability has
The Enstone-based team later hinted that Alonso would start from
'What we're doing also opens up other strategic options,' Symonds
'They are currently under consideration.'
Symonds said both two and three-stop strategies are likely for the
Grand Prix because the Sepang circuit is so-hard on the tyres -
especially the rears.
Renault can't live with Ferrari: Alonso
The back row of the grid is 'no problem' for Formula One's charging
Renault's youngster was heading for the front-row in Malaysia
yesterday when he threw it in the gravel - but Fernando Alonso thinks
points are still realistic.
'A couple of times last year I was right back here,' he said at
'But I managed always to be in the points.'
14th AT FIRST CORNER
Team-strategists are already counting on Renault's sterling-new
manual-start system which should rocket Fernando up to about
fourteenth by the first-corner.
Alonso, 22, doesn't think he threw-away a win under the Malaysian sun.
'We're not strong enough,' he said. 'The Ferraris are much stronger.
'I don't think we can live with them.'
Head marvels at Ferrari progress
Patrick Head marveled at the pace of his scarlet Formula One rivals.
The BMW-Williams tech-chief doesn't think Ferrari will win by
sixty-seconds at Sepang but reckons the Maranello-juggernaut has made
'Look at [Michael Schumacher's] pole time,' the Briton started.
The German's flat 1m33-lap against the 2003-pole of 1m37, set by
Fernando Alonso in the Renault, is no less than a four-second advance
in just twelve months.
'And Alonso only went to lap-14 in the race,' Head exclaimed.
'We've found 3.9s but we were in a position of not being fast enough.'
Patrick therefore predicts that BMW-Williams is a long-way from
'If the Ferrari is a lap faster just as a car,' he said, 'we need to
improve the aero by probably more than 12 percent. That usually takes
a year to achieve.'
Gap is 'bigger than expected': Ferrari
Even Ferrari, on new hot-weather tyres, didn't expect to be this far
Conventional-wisdom said that in the conditions, with
track-temperatures topping fifty-degrees, rival-brand Michelin would
have an upper-hand near Kuala-Lumpur.
Michael Schumacher's Bridgestone-clad car is six-tenths faster than
the nearest French-clad challenge, which comes in the form of Jaguar's
ace Mark Webber.
'The gap is bigger than I expected,' said a cautious tech-director
'We'll have to wait to see what strategies other people are on.'
Ferrari boss Jean Todt said all the work done over the winter in
conjunction with Japanese-brand Bridgestone is 'bearing fruit' at the
heat of a race-track.
But he advised: 'It will be a long and very difficult race.'
Has Trulli shelved dream of victory?
Surely, Jarno Trulli has shelved any dreams of a maiden victory at
'Anything can happen here,' said the Italian after qualifying eighth.
Trulli and Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso were quickest-of-all in
the first-session but they were just running-light to
get a better final-quali spot.
The new R24, however, is much better over long-runs than on a single
'I made some mistakes,' Jarno continued, 'because I wanted to get on
the second row. But I'd rather lose tenths attacking
than go out and be cautious.'
Melbourne demonstrated that the new blue-car is like a bolt off the
'The ideal thing would be to take four cars at the start,' Jarno
smiled, 'gain a few more during the pitstops ... and then
hope for a couple of retirements!'
Trulli said Sunday is likely to be a 'very hard' and physical grand
Sunday at Sepang: track-notes
Michael Schumacher romped to his fifty-seventh career pole-position
and his fifth in the six-year history of the Malaysian Grand Prix held
One of the features of yesterday's attendance at the Sepang F1-circuit
was an air-show performed by the Kuantan-based Royal Malaysian Air
Six MIG 29M jets flew in tight-formation during the 10-minute show.
Minardi ace Gianmaria Bruni was slapped with a $750 fine on Saturday.
He was clocked at 62.7kph in the 60kph-limited pitlane during final
Mark Webber, second on the Sepang grid, does not expect to win today's
Malaysian Grand Prix but equally he does not expect Michael Schumacher
to romp ahead.
'It's going to be an interesting fight,' said the Jaguar driver.
'But Michael is in a good position.'
Williams has 'quiet word' with F1 drivers
Frank Williams has had a 'quiet' word with his feuding Formula One
The BMW-powered boss said earlier this weekend that he would not
'control' Ralf Schumacher in his threat to punt teammate Juan Pablo
Montoya off the circuit.
But Frank did whisper in both drivers' ears, according to Patrick
'I think he reminded them that the focus of their competitive spirit
should be pointed outside the team rather than inside the team,' said
The technical director thinks Ralf probably regrets what he said in
'Maybe he was just feeling generous to the media,' the Briton laughed.
Qualifying is two-hour tedium
It took two-hours and five-minutes to complete the qualifying-process
McLaren chief Ron Dennis insisted that the top Formula One teams are
not 'closed minded' to getting rid of the tedium but only after
another grand prix weekend.
MADE A MISTAKE
'If you make a mistake in life,' he said, 'you have to stand up and
say 'we have made a mistake' and then the next step is doing something
'But it would be prudent to wait three races so everybody
Dennis also revealed that all ten team-bosses were likely to
green-light minor changes to the back-to-back process to aid
television broadcasters from Bahrain.
Michelin thinking about Bahrain
The F1-circus is still in Malaysia but already the sport's tyre-manufacturers
are thinking hard about the next challenge near the desert-sands of
'We've looked at the circuit now,' said Michelin manager Pascal
He commented: 'We have software that allows us to recreate the track
electronically, and then we can get to work on conducting computer
The Frenchman said a quite narrow selection of compounds was taken to
Sepang but a range with a 'broader operational spectrum' should make
the flight to Bahrain.
'This minimizes the risk of error,' he explained.
Race-fans can't vote for Schumacher
F1-fans have been warned - you can't vote for Michael Schumacher.
Malaysian politicians are worried that citizens will forget to cast
their votes in today's national elections and instead travel direct to
the Grand Prix.
'I urge voters who are Formula One fans to vote first,' said Chan Kong
The Transport Minister added that fans are still urged to attend the
Jordan 'fight back' still on track
F1 team Jordan's 'fight back' is still on the race-track.
Team-owner Eddie Jordan nearly didn't roll a yellow-assault onto this
year's championship but when he did it was with the uncompetitive EJ14
'Jordan have always had a fighting spirit,' he told the Daily
The Irishman said he has changed his mind about assaulting F1 with
experienced drivers and has instead gone back to his roots of
bringing-on young rookies.
'We discovered them and now I look at them all on the grid,' he said.
Jordan gave brothers Michael and Ralf Schumacher their first-rides in
Formula One, as well as Giancarlo Fisichella, Rubens Barrichello and
'Right now we are not going to beat ... Ferrari and McLaren,' he
'So we've gone for young drivers and targeted the year as the
fight-back. We've gone through hell but we're strong and commercially
we're stronger than ever.'
EJ is hoping that the reign of the carmakers ends soon.
'I see a slight glimmer of hope,' said Jordan, 'for us guys. The
manufacturers aren't going to be there forever - history proves that
time and time again.'
F1-banks sue Ecclestone
A group of banks who own the majority of Formula One commercial-rights
company SLEC has filed a lawsuit against 73-year-old race-impresario
The Reuters news-agency is reporting that a suit has been filed in
London and German bank Bayerische Landesbank confirmed the speculation
through a spokesman.
He declined to go into more detail than that.
Bayerische, JP Morgan and Lehmann Brothers, the banks, own
seventy-five percent of 'SLEC Holdings' taken-over after the collapse
of the Kirch media empire.
Ecclestone owns the remaining quarter.
Sources in the banking industry said the suit probably concerns the
banks' desire to make appointments to their property's (SLEC) board of
Bernie's allies dominate the present SLEC-board.
Alonso won't abandon Renault
Fernando Alonso has vowed to not abandon Formula One team Renault.
The Spaniard's contract lasts for another two full-seasons and he said
in Malaysia yesterday that he is 'happy to stay' with manager Flavio
'Renault's growing up very well,' he told the Guardian.
'At the end of two years we'll study the possibilities.'
Alonso, 22, praised Briatore - the Renault managing-director - for
supporting his charge up the Formula One grid starting with a
race-drive at Minardi in '01.
'Everything I have achieved in F1 is down to him,' said the youngster.
The Ovierdo-born star has been linked with a switch to Scuderia
But Alonso wants to be world champion with Renault and believes it can
'If I didn't think that,' he said, 'I wouldn't be on the grid.'
Not only terrorism threatens Bahrain
Not only terrorism threatens the upcoming grand prix in Bahrain.
F1 officials have been alerted to an incident in the Middle Eastern
country last Wednesday when forty youths violently attacked a
restaurant in capital Manama.
They were protesting about the sale of alcohol in the country and,
worryingly, the arrival of Formula One also has been slated for its
The youths attacked 'La Terrasse' with knives and set fire to it.
One of the attackers was stabbed.
'The government and the private sector are working so hard to attract
foreign investors to Bahrain to create employment,' said businessman
Dr Esam Fakhro.
He told the Bahrain Tribune, just fourteen days from the inaugural F1
race in Sakhir, that the 'forces of intolerance' are destroying
Davidson didn't look great
Anthony Davidson didn't look great after Friday practice at Sepang.
The young Englishman is BAR-Honda's 'third' driver this season but he
didn't have the luxury of the race-aces to adjust to the heat and
humidity last week.
'Ever since I got here I've struggled a bit,' he said.
Davidson, 23, said the worst-part was coming back into the garage
after a run.
'You just sit there and cook,' he smiled.
He added: 'At the end of the run I was quite nauseous, which isn't
nice, but fitness-wise I'm fine so I had no problems whatsoever with
that aspect of it.'
The Briton ended the first-session third-quickest before an
'I really like the circuit,' he said. 'It suits my style.'
Who's plumped for a three-stopper?
A three-stop strategy is a viable option for this afternoon's
Last year, Kimi Raikkonen's winning formula was two-stops but the
pitlane speed limit has been increased to 100kph making an
extra-service seemingly workable.
'Strategy will be governed mainly by tyre-war,' said a Ferrari
The statement explained how those stopping in the pits three-times
could be looking to make their first visit 'as early as around
lap-seven or eight.'
Like Fernando Alonso, who spun out of final-qualifying on Saturday,
BAR-Honda's Takuma Sato has also changed his engine ahead of the
afternoon's Malaysian GP.
Jordan loses key F1-sponsorship
Jordan has lost a key-sponsorship worth around eleven-million dollars.
Scottish telecoms group Damovo has pulled its support of the
Silverstone-based Formula One team after a legal battle, according to
a Glasgow newspaper.
There was still a year to run on the agreement but Michael Collins,
the new Damovo CEO, terminated because he saw it as too-expensive for
Damovo has retrenched workers in recent months, said a source.
Eddie Jordan signed the deal in 2001 with former boss Pearse Flynn.
Flynn left Damovo last August after a disagreement with majority
shareholders Apax Partners, and Collins quickly appointed lawyers to
dismantle the F1-link.
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