F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 24, 2004

Fisichella can recover: Peter Sauber
Giancarlo Fisichella can recover from a spate of bad luck since joining Sauber.

The highly-rated racer was on Peter Sauber's wish-list for several years but he got stuck in traffic in Australia and was beaten by his team-mate last weekend.

'My engine stalled in the second and third stops,' Fisi moaned in Malaysia.

Sauber admitted the Italian was not 'spoiled by luck' in his first two-races.

He said: 'But I'm convinced that he will get over this.


'I'm sure, in the future, he'll be able to show his true skills.'

One of the convincing-elements of Fisichella's switch from Jordan to Sauber in 2004 was his Swiss-based employers' new and leading F1 wind tunnel at Hinwil.

It became fully operational just before the season-opening Melbourne event.

'We've already generated some preliminary results,' said Peter Sauber.

'But this is not yet reflected in the performance of the car.'

F1 track-testing resumes in Europe
Formula One track-testing resumed in Europe on Tuesday.

The main-action took place in France, at the Paul Ricard track in Le Castellet.

McLaren and Toyota started four-day sessions with team development drivers Alexander Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren), Ryan Briscoe and Ricardo Zonta.


The 2D-configuration of Paul Ricard, which can be designated in 40-different lay-outs, was set-up, and Alexander Wurz (McLaren) set the pace in his MP4-19.

Sunshine but strong winds dominated at the 'High-Tech Test-Track'.

BMW-Williams, Renault and BAR-Honda will join the action on Wednesday.

Over in Italy, Ferrari put Luca Badoer and a new F2004 car on the private Autodromo del Mugello circuit but rain left dry-weather tyre-tests undone.

Schumacher to sign podium-bonus contract
Ralf Schumacher is likely to sort-out his differences with BMW-Williams.

The German's manager said on Tuesday that a new contract, to reward Schumacher's run to the podium or race-wins with cash-bonuses, should start from next season.

Willi Weber has been recently quoted by news-agencies highlighting Toyota or Renault as possible post-BMW-Williams employers for his 28-year-old charge.

'It looks good that we can come together [with Williams],' he now says.

'It [just] might take a bit of time.'

He denied that negotiations with Sir Frank Williams had stalled over money.


'It's not true,' said Weber. 'Fact is that we lose some money.

'It's not lost, but the fixed payment will be reduced.'

Weber also denied speaking to cash-laden Toyota about a possible drive for Ralf.

'I read in the paper they are interested in making some offer,' said the German.

The offer is real, according to F1-sources, and worth upwards of $20 million.

Schumacher, Weber and Frank Williams sat-down in Malaysia and had a 'good talk,' and Weber remarks that some-sort of deadline must now be in place for a deal.

'I don't want to say it's a deadline after Bahrain,' he concluded.

Ferrari wants to run on Shanghai circuit
Ferrari wants to run a Formula One car at the new Shanghai Circuit in China.

The Maranello team is known to have expressed frustration after discovering that Michelin-clad BMW-Williams was allowed to send an FW25 challenger to Bahrain.

Marc Gene did 25-laps on the new lay-out as part of its opening ceremonies.

Autosport reports that Ferrari has approached F1-supremo Bernie Ecclestone and asked to be considered if Shanghai wants to put a demo-car on their new circuit.


McLaren chief Ron Dennis said he had been invited to send a year-old McLaren to Shanghai last week but the silver-clad equipment never made it past the airport.

Technical director at BMW-Williams, Patrick Head, revealed that any advantage gleaned from the Bahrain practice-run is likely to be small and short-lived.

But he said Williams now know more about 'corner speeds and [gear] ratios.'

One of the biggest advantages of catching an early-glimpse of a new F1-circuit, however, is surveying its shape and features with Global Positioning Systems.

Wind-tunnel did not catch fire: Sauber
Sauber's new Formula One wind-tunnel did not catch on fire on Tuesday.

The Swiss-based team denied that its multi million-dollar facility has been damaged but revealed that a short-circuit did occur in one of the transformers.

'Fire alarms were triggered because of smoke development,' read a statement.

'However, there was no fire, which means there was no damage.'


A spokesman for the Ferrari-powered team said repair-work on the transformer is expected to take about a week, during which time the tunnel will not function.

Sauber racer Felipe Massa scored a championship-point in Sunday's Malaysian GP.

'We expected that it will be extremely hard this season to score points.'

F1-team principal Peter Sauber continued that he expected Ferrari and Michael Schumacher to take victory in the heat and humidity near Kuala-Lumpur.

'But in Australia I had been surprised by [his] domination,' said the Swiss.

BMW-Williams is F1's biggest improver
BMW-Williams is Formula One's biggest track-improver since last season.

At the opening grands prix in Australia and Malaysia this year, the team's novel FW26 challenger was an average 3.1-seconds per lap quicker than its predecessor.

BAR-Honda is second, with an average improvement of 3.446 seconds at Sepang.


The step-forward for Michael Schumacher's Ferrari team, which dominated the first two races of the new-season, was a comparably-paltry 2.6 seconds per-lap.

BMW-Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya set the fastest race-lap in Malaysia on Sunday and said the tusk-nosed Formula One car was more competitive than in Australia.

'If I hadn't had Rubens in the last stint,' said the Colombian, 'I think we could have been quite a bit closer because at the end I was really cruising.'

F1 cars must be color-coded
F1 cars are color-coded this year to help fans and officials identify drivers.

>From the season-opening Australian GP, the governing-FIA has required all cars to carry a uniform colour-distinguisher on their airbox-mounted camera-wing.


A team's primary-car must carry an airbox-wing painted in incandescent-red.

The second-car's is to remain black, and the 'third' car has a yellow marking.

When's it an advantage to be 10th?
Question ... when might it be an advantage to be tenth on the Formula One grid?

Answer ... when your grand prix racer was the fastest-of-all in qualifying-trim and a fresh V10-engine is fitted and ready to burn-rubber in the 300-km race.

That's precisely why Ferrari tech-director Ross Brawn has sought a clarification from the governing FIA on a finer-point of new single-engine regulations.

Brawn said the requirement was 'not entirely clear' in Malaysia.

He wants to know if Renault should have been allowed to replace the engine of Fernando Alonso just because the Spaniard had mucked-up his qualifying-lap.


Is an F1-team allowed to change the engine as a 'tactical ploy,' he wonders.

He added: 'Or do you need to show you actually have a problem?'

It is understood that teams were told that if engine-changes were regularly made for seemingly 'tactical reasons,' then the loophole would be closed by the FIA.

Ross Brawn therefore says the rule needs 'tightening' now.

'You could go to Monza and put the car on pole with a qualifying-engine,' he said, 'and then change to your race-engine and just go back ten-places.

'But you'd have a very strong engine for the race.'

Something was wrong with Jarno's R24
Jarno Trulli's Renault was a handful in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Italian could finish only fourth at a hot and humid Sepang International Circuit after his R24 developed handling-problems in the middle of the race.

'We've yet to find out exactly what was wrong,' said a disappointed racer.

Some observers noticed Trulli's helmet bobbling-about in his R24 cockpit sparking speculation that he was having difficulties with the 33-degree heat.


Trulli said the car actually went slower after changing tyres at pit-stops.

'The front [tyres] grained,' he said. 'We don't quite know why.'

Most analysts expected the Enstone-based outfit to shine in Sepang.

Team-mate Fernando Alonso set pole in 2003 so Renault arrived with confidence.

'As soon as we got going on Friday,' said Jarno, 'we could see we were struggling. It was much harder to be competitive than we were last year.'

No comfort for cautious Schumacher
Michael Schumacher is not finding much comfort in his already eight-point Formula One world drivers' championship-lead to the nearest non-Ferrari charger.

The German insists that the 'tables could turn' in the next few races.

'This kind of thing has been part of the F1 world for too long,' he said.

Michael, 35, reckons his race in Malaysia, unlike Australia, was not all easy.

'We had some difficulties,' Ferrari's number-one admitted.

'And we were all very focused because [Juan Pablo] Montoya was so close.'


Indeed, the Colombian set easily the fastest race-lap on Sunday.

'Our rivals are motivated and able to counter-attack at any time,' said MS.

Schumacher recalls periods in the past when early season-leaders have been overtaken during the course of a calendar through the hard-work of development.

'Last year,' he offered as an example, 'Williams didn't do well at the start.

'But all of a sudden they were going for the title.'

Bridgestone to dominate in Bahrain
Bridgestone is likely to dominate at next weekend's first-ever Bahrain GP.

That was the ominous warning of Alex Wurz on Tuesday as the Austrian tried new specifications of tyre-rival Michelin's F1-product at the Paul Ricard circuit.

Wurz, McLaren tester, visited the $150m Bahrain-facility last month.


He said it wasn't as hot as most F1-insiders had predicted.

'It's so dusty and dirty, it is definitely going to be a Bridgestone track,' Wurz told Autosport. 'And the temperature when I visited was around 22-degees.'

Similar conditions let Ferrari and Bridgestone totally dominate in Australia.

Jaguar does not intend to lose Webber
Jaguar has no intention of losing its highly-coveted driver Mark Webber.

The Australian, no-doubt a Formula One world champion of the future according to boss Tony Purnell, is hotly-tipped as the next team-driver for BMW-Williams.

'I think Mark and Michael [Schumacher] are very similar,' said Purnell.

The Jaguar chief added: 'I think, sure, [Mark will] be champion one day.'

Webber, 27, has signed a contract with Milton-Keynes that is valid for another two-seasons and he is also overseen by Renault team-principal Flavio Briatore.


'I have no intention of losing him,' Purnell told The Independent.

'But it's good to have something that other people covet.'

Paul Stoddart, who introduced Webber to Minardi in '02, speculates that his countryman would get more out of Frank's cars than either current Williams ace.

'Ralf and Montoya can quibble and trip over themselves,' he started.

'But Mark will go there and quickly work-out a way to get the team behind him.'

BAR set winning-sights
Target-One achieved, F1 team BAR-Honda can set about the task of Target-Two.

Jenson Button powered his Brackley-built car to a debut-podium in the Malaysian heat last Sunday and can now start to think about the next 'plan' - winning.

'Hopefully, this will lead to bigger and better things,' said David Richards.

The team-principal told The Sun that more-podiums are now the target.

Clearly, however, someone forgot to tell technical-director Geoffrey Willis that winning is stronger than just a wish when he said a 2004-victory is 'possible.'


'It won't be easy,' the Briton told the Mirror.

'It's our plan. You need a bit of luck but we've got a very good package.'

Jenson Button, 24, is to put Target-Two on-track this week in a three-day test at Paul Ricard, which starts at the Le Castellet circuit in France on Thursday.

'There's no time to relax,' said the Englishman.

'I can feel exciting times on the way but the work cannot stop. We have some new parts to try on the 006 car which, hopefully, will keep us right up there.'

Schu is sport's second-highest earner
Six-times F1 champion Michael Schumacher is the second-highest earner in sport.

The German made a massive $64 million (US dollars) during the 2003-season.

Only golfer Tiger Woods earned more, with a $103 million annual-income.


England football-captain David Beckham comes next, with $36.1 million, followed by boxers Oscar de la Hoya ($33.1 million) and Roy Jones Junior ($27 million).

Kevin Garnett (basketball), Shaquille O'Neal, female tennis champion Serena Williams, Alex Rodriguez (baseball) and Michael Jordan all earn more than $20m.

Security at top of agenda: Bahrain GP
Security is at the top of the agenda ahead of next weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix.

That is the avowal of a top official of the Middle Eastern nation, director of visas and residence-permits Shaikh Ahmed bin Isa bin Khalifa Al Khalifa.

He revealed that special teams are to be set-up at the airport to keep track of the thousands of visitors who will flock to the race-circuit for the F1 event.


Earlier, interior minister Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa had instructed the easing of entry-rules during the inaugural event on the $150m F1-facility.

Getting an entry-visa is easier than ever for F1-visiting tourists.

But the number of immigration staff on duty will be doubled for the grand prix.

F1-impresario Bernie Ecclestone said the Formula One authorities, including the governing FIA, won't put in place any extra security-measures for the race.

Tusked-car should soon win: Marc Gene
BMW-Williams' new FW26 will soon win a grand prix, according to the team-tester.

Spaniard Marc Gene headed to Paul Ricard (France) on Wednesday to kick-off a three-day test for the Grove-based team ahead of next week's race in Bahrain.

'I think we are one of the best teams at developing cars,' said Gene.

'If we start with a good car and develop, we should really be aiming to win.'


Gavin Fisher's tusk-nosed car was launched early in the winter to avoid the problems of 2003 - that is, an early-season deficit to pace-setters Ferrari.

Gene, however, insisted that Williams has never done more testing.

'Personally, I've done more than ever,' he insisted.

'And I'm happy with the car's reliability.'

Stoddart sues former Minardi-sponsor
Paul Stoddart has initiated legal proceedings against a former Minardi sponsor.

The Australian boss said ex-driver Alex Yoong is joining-forces with the action to recover around $200,000 owed to both parties by the errant Malaysian firm.

'This could take several months,' warned Stoddart, the Formula One team-owner.


Stoddart told Malay Mail that the unnamed sponsor lacked 'moral responsibility.'

The 48-year-old was infuriated to discover that the company is still using images of Minardi F1-cars on billboard-advertisements throughout the world.

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