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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 22, 2004


Webber admits Jaguar 'stuffed' Sunday
If Mark Webber was elated on Saturday afternoon, his delight had gone full-circle by mid-distance in the Malaysian Grand Prix after an horror afternoon.

'I'm ugly enough to know this is our sport,' said the Australian.

Webber, 27, had wrestled his Jaguar R5 to the front-row of the grid but fell into the clasp of the mid-field pack when his start-technology failed him.

'We stuffed up the most important part,' he barked at reporters in Sepang.

DAMAGED DIFFUSER

'You've got to get off the line.'

Mark started a fight-back to the front of the field but ran into Ralf Schumacher after 'pissing' the German off by overtaking him no less than two times.

Webber got a puncture, and then sped in pitlane when he got it fixed.

'It damaged the diffuser,' said the Aussie. 'The speeding was my fault - and I think because of the damage it hurt the tires and that's why I spun it out.'








Schu doesn't expect dream F1-season
Malaysian GP winner Michael Schumacher does not think the first two grands prix of the season indicate an imminent cruise to a seventh F1 world championship.

'That's two races down,' said the German, 'but sixteen go to.'

Unlike in Australia, the 35-year-old Ferrari driver did not coast to a one-minute victory at Sepang but analysts believe the run was very comfortable.

'I'm not relaxed,' Schumacher countered. 'I have 20 points in my pocket, which is better than last year, but I was under pressure all the way today.'

QUICK ENOUGH

The gap to BMW-Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya fluctuated throughout the race.

'When we needed to be quick,' Michael admitted, 'we were quick enough.'

Schumacher also confessed that a maximum-point start to the new Formula One season does make it an 'easier' platform for the championship than last year.

'It is a better start,' he smiled, dedicating the win to five-year-old son Mick.

'It would be a dream to stay in front but we don't live in dreams.'








Bridgestone no longer second-best in heat
Sunday in Malaysia demonstrated that Bridgestone is no-longer the second best Formula One tyre supplier when track-temperatures go through the roof.

It was cooler at Sepang during the grand prix than at any other time all weekend but, even still, new compounds for Ferrari seemed a definite step-forward.

'This has really showed that our performance was consistent and quick in these tough conditions,' said Bridgestone's technical manager Hisao Suganuma.

'Temperatures were in the forties and still we had a strong performance.'

NEW COMPOUNDS

Bridgestone is poised to bring new compounds to further grands prix.

'I think this is a turning-point,' said the Japanese, 'and our rivals can expect us to be strong this year even if we have a scorching European summer.'

Ferrari technical-director Ross Brawn said the win in Malaysia 'means more' than the win in Australia given the expectation that rivals-Michelin would dominate.

'When you think about the fact that we've struggled here in previous years,' said the Briton, 'then I think this really is down to Bridgestone.'

Race-winner Michael Schumacher's tyres, however, were not fully consistent.

Analysis shows the performance went up-and-down all race but were good towards the end of each-sector so he was able to build-up gaps at the crucial moments.








Struggling team McLaren has improved
It might not look like it, but McLaren has improved since Melbourne.

David Coulthard struggled home for sixth-place, and Finnish team-mate Kimi Raikkonen again collected 'nil points' as his transmission packed-up.

The 24-year-old 'Iceman' then lost his cool when he violently-shoved a Malaysian track-marshal as he was escorted out of the scorching gravel-trap to safety.

'We have increased the competitiveness of the car,' said team boss Ron Dennis.

DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME

Dennis said an intensive 'test and development programme' will continue in the run-up to Bahrain and expects the MP4-19 to be even quicker in the Middle East.

Coulthard said his silver-car was hard to handle on the Sepang-track.

'In the fast corners,' said the Scot, 'it was difficult and at one point I very nearly lost it altogether when I had a moment - but I managed to hold it.'

Raikkonen, meanwhile, reckons a podium was within reach before, for the second time this season, he pulled-over with a smoking Mercedes-powered MP4-19 car.

'We've got to improve the reliability,' said Mercedes' boss Norbert Haug.








Jaguar to investigate start-line fault
Jaguar has vowed to investigate Mark Webber's start-line fault.

For the first time since 1981, an Australian was on the front-row of a Formula One grid but he was swallowed-up by the mid-field when five lights extinguished.

Team-mate Christian Klien also suffered a slot-start in Malaysia.

FRUSTRATED

'We'll investigate why,' said a team-spokesman, who insisted that both men had completed successful and quick-starts during the rest of the race-weekend.

20-year-old Klien said he was 'frustrated' by his own poor manual-start.








BMW failure due to 'defective' part
The Formula One team had a better race-pace than in Australia, but still BMW-Williams has work to do in order to match the form of champions Ferrari.

Juan Pablo Montoya put the FW26 on the podium, and pitwall-residents like Sam Michael - chief operations engineer - heaved a little sigh of relief.

'It was better in the race than in qualifying,' said the Australian.

'But we've got work to do - on the chassis, the engine, the tyres.'

WORK TO DO

Montoya's race team-mate Ralf Schumacher smoked out of the event with a BMW engine-failure, the first-such occurrence in seventeen grands prix.

Michael said Juan's race was a 'cool blooded' performance.

After Schumacher's engine-failure, and Montoya had given-up the fight to Michael Schumacher, BMW turned-down the revs on the Colombian's own P84 powerplant.

'The failure was completely unexpected,' said BMW chief Mario Theissen.

'It must have been due to a defective part.'








Montoya accuses friend of 'dirty' racing
The friendship of South American Formula One drivers Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW-Williams) and Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) was strained even more in Malaysia.

Montoya accused the Ferrari star of performing an illegal blocking move.

'I came out of the last pit stop behind Rubens,' said the Colombian.

'I got a run on him but I moved and he closed the door. Then he slowed down.'

The BMW-Williams driver, who was successfully chasing-down the race-leading Ferrari of Michael Schumacher, said Barrichello had made a 'dirty' move.

CLOSED THE DOOR

'I knew I should not even try to pass,' he said.

'I just backed off and cruised.'

Montoya got a penalty in the United States Grand Prix last season after a collision with Barrichello, which effectively ended his charge for the F1-title.

'When you're not in a Ferrari,' said Montoya, 'it's better to back off.

'It's better to go home with eight points than none at all.'







Button and father embrace in F1-paddock
Jenson Button and father John stood in the Formula One paddock in embrace.

The BAR-Honda driver had just emerged from his first-ever post-race media conference after powering to the podium in nearly his seventieth grand prix.

'He did it all himself - he deserves it,' John told The Guardian.

LIT UP CIGAR

Champagne-soaked Button also saved a hug for his countryman and team boss David Richards, who lit-up a cigar to celebrate the first-podium under his reign.

'He got this podium in a straight-fight with the best in Formula One,' he said.

Richards added in Malaysia: 'That's real proof of how far we've come.'

Fellow British racer David Coulthard paid tribute to Button's achievement.

'He's been close to it for a while now - it's a great day for him.

'Your first podium is special. It is a great feeling.'








Minardi gets welcome cash-boost
Struggling Formula One team Minardi has received a welcome cash-boost.

Long-time sponsor Allegrini has not only re-signed as a commercial partner, the Italian team announced in Malaysia, but it has increased its financial support.

PROMINENT DECAL

The detergents company, therefore, gets a prominent decal on the PS04B's nose.

'It shows that we're able to deliver a package that consistently meets their specific marketing and promotional requirements,' said boss Paul Stoddart.








Renault expected to fight up-front
Renault expected to fight up the front in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.

Team managing director Flavio Briatore was disappointed to see drivers Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso finish the race only fifth and seventh respectively.

A team statement said Italian Trulli's car suffered from understeer.

SWITCHED STRATEGY

And team-mate Fernando Alonso, just 22-years-old, started at the back of the grid and was switched to a two-stop strategy so he could avoid the slower pack.

'The gamble didn't pay off,' said a team source.

Briatore explained: 'The result didn't match up to our expectations.

'We'll learn from our mistakes and achieve our full potential in Bahrain.'








Toyota unimpressed by Panis' contempt
Toyota's top-personnel looked unimpressed when veteran Formula One driver powered down pitlane and offered them the universal hand-sign of contempt.

The 37-year-old was tipped into a spin at the start but fought back to run quite strongly in tenth place when a so-called 'radio communication' error occurred.

'It resulted in an unscheduled pit-stop,' the Frenchman said later.

'It's a real pity because the car was handling well.'

BIT BETTER

Team principal Tsutomu Tomita took-heart in the two-car race-finish.

'It underlines the reliability of the TF104,' said the Japanese.

'We certainly need to find some more pace but it's a little bit better.'

In Panis' anger at strolling into the pits unnecessarily, he was slapped with a drive-through penalty for releasing the speed-limiter a little too early.

Second time through, he had tempered his disdain with a shake of the head.








Montoya bemoans the 'blue Ferrari'
Juan Pablo Montoya had a much better race-start in the heat of Sepang.

The Colombian didn't get off the line very well at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix as he and BMW-Williams adjust to a new rule outlawing launch-control.

'The reaction of the car was a big difference,' he said in Malaysia.

Montoya finished second to Michael Schumacher on Sunday but his good start was hampered a bit when he came across the slow-moving Jaguar of Mark Webber.

SLOW OBSTACLES

'I moved off the line very quickly,' he explained.

'But I had to swerve pretty much straight away and that kills the acceleration.

'But apart from that it was no problem.'

Montoya, 28, also came across a couple more slow-moving obstacles in his quest to beat Michael Schumacher to the line - and both of them were Ferrari-powered.

Juan accused Rubens Barrichello of blocking him, as well as Felipe Massa.

'It's a bit of a shame,' he said of the Sauber's actions - 'the blue Ferrari.'








Alonso blames team for lost points
Fernando Alonso blamed a disappointing result in Malaysia on his F1 team.

When the Spaniard came in for service in his second out of three scheduled pit-stops Renault, without notice, had decided to top him up to go to the finish.

'What we did was not what we had planned,' he told reporters.

'I don't even know why they changed it.'

DIDN'T PAY OFF

Alonso, 22, started at the rear of the grid but the team decided to change the strategy when his charge for the front halted in a gaggle of slower cars.

'I think I could have finished even higher up,' Alonso said.

The man behind the decision, Pat Symonds, admitted the move didn't pay off.

'But he didn't lose any positions,' the engineering chief insisted.

Alonso said he was not consulted or even warned of the strategy-switch.

He concluded: 'Yesterday, I made the mistake - today, the team did.'








Ralf, Webber, accuse each other
Ralf Schumacher and Mark Webber exchanged accusations after damaging their Formula One cars in a racing-accident during Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.

'I overtook him - twice,' said Australia's star of Jaguar Racing.

'I think Ralf was pissed off. I just felt something in the back. It damaged the diffuser and it caused me to come into the pits because it cut the tyre.'

THIRD LAP

BMW-Williams' Schumacher sees it another way.

'I made contact with Webber on the third lap,' the 28-year-old confirmed.

'My front wing was damaged. I was trying to overtake him but I got to the point when I realised there was not enough room so I backed off to avoid a hit.

'But Mark didn't give me enough space. He was being pretty aggressive.'








Don't expect much of Dixon: Montoya
Former CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya has warned the racing-world world against expecting too much from the first Formula One test of Scott Dixon.

The reigning Indy Racing League champion, who drives a Chip Ganassi-prepared car, is scheduled to try a BMW-Williams at this week's Paul Ricard F1-test.

'For the last while he's just been doing ovals,' said Montoya in Malaysia.

'So it might take him a bit of time to get into the rhythm.'

TWO TESTS

Montoya, 28, also earned his US-championship in a Chip Ganassi car as did Sir Frank Williams' driver of the 1999 season, Italian speedster Alex Zanardi.

'He's pretty good,' the Colombian said of New Zealand's top racer.

'The first test ... don't expect anything from Scott - but the second test that he'll do in Barcelona in April will see him be a little bit more competitive.'

Montoya is the only Williams driver not scheduled to drive in France this week.

Teammate Ralf Schumacher will join testers Marc Gene and Antonio Pizzonia.








Bahrain should get F1 sell-out
Bahrain should have a full-house for its inaugural Formula One race.

There are just thirteen-days left until the first grand prix in the Middle East and organisers said on Sunday that it had already sold 30,000 race-tickets.

That's more than 75 percent of the tickets put on sale to nationals of no less than 40 countries, according to chairman Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammad Al-Khalifa.

7,500 tickets were reserved for university students, he said.

MALAYSIAN PM

Malaysia's Sepang organisers, meanwhile, stunned attendees at the grand prix on Sunday when it claimed that 90,000 others watched Michael Schumacher win.

Certainly, the Prime Minister of the country was one confirmed spectator.

Despite the fact that it was general-election day, PM Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi arrived at the track near Kuala-Lumpur thirty-minutes after the race started.

The Sultan of Brunei was also spotted among the dignitaries.








Renault promise engine evolution by Imola
Renault has promised an evolution to its new V10-engine by Imola.

So far, the team's new 72-degree unit has had bullet-proof reliability but a step in performance is now on-line for the first race of the European season.

'We haven't sought to hide the fact that we would introduce an evolution in Imola,' said Renault's engine operations boss Denis Chevrier in Malaysia.

OTHER MODIFICATIONS

The Frenchman said 'other modifications' will follow later this season.

Although there were no particular engine problems in Malaysia, both F1-drivers complained of poor handling and lost performance at certain points of the race.

Chevrier added: 'We need to establish why.

'Having said that, the speed came back at the end of the race.'








Nothing can stop Schumacher: Michelin
Nothing can stop Michael Schumacher from cruising to a seventh F1 title.

That's the view of Pierre Dupasquier, the competition-director for Michelin.

Asked whether anything could stop the German's Bridgestone-clad Ferrari juggernaut, Dupasquier - a Frenchman - replied: 'I don't see how.'

HANDICAP

He added that Michelin's biggest handicap to Japanese-made Bridgestone is that all the red-points go to Schumacher, while Michelin must share the plaudits.

'All of our partners are close to each other,' Pierre told Reuters.








Ferrari praise look-alike Sauber
Question - how often does one F1 team praise another in an official statement?

Answer - not often.

But that's what happened on Sunday afternoon in Malaysia after Scuderia Ferrari surveyed the official score-sheet printed by the sport's governing body.

The top-eight finishers at grands prix earn championship-points, and three of those cars in the heat of Sepang were powered by engines produced by Ferrari.

Sauber's Felipe Massa crossed the line in eighth-place.

FOUR FERRARI ENGINES

'It is very satisfying to see four Ferrari engines make it to the flag, three of them in the points,' said Ferrari's team principal Jean Todt in Malaysia.

The Frenchman added: 'I must congratulate Sauber on their result.

'This season, it is no easy task finishing in the points.'

Massa, the 22-year-old Brazilian, was an official tester for Ferrari last season and he may still drive a scarlet car in 2004 to help Maranello's development.

What's more, his Sauber-C23 is a practical look-alike of the 2003-spec Ferrari.

The two Formula One teams run on Bridgestone tyres and Sauber's new approach to adopting Ferrari-like design strategies may help Ferrari collect more data.

Sauber also make-use of a Ferrari-made gearbox and drive-train.

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