F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 25, 2004

Renault vow to work-on small errors
Renault has vowed to up its game in future Formula One races.

The Enstone-based team did not live up to pre-grand prix expectations in the heat of Malaysia last weekend and has admitted to an assortment of small errors.

'More so than ever,' chassis technical director Bob Bell started ...

'... there is absolutely no margin for error.'


He said modern regulations and the general level of competitiveness at the front of the field mean that the penalties for small mistakes are 'extremely high.'

'If we err,' added engine tech-director Rob White, 'we will be punished.

'We must strive for perfect race weekends.'

On the positive side, only Ferrari has matched Renault's achievement of getting both cars reliably-home in the points in the opening two races of season-2004.

Pre-Bahrain F1 testing: Day two
BMW-Williams, BAR and Renault joined the test-action in France on Wednesday.

Brazilian tester Antonio Pizzonia was fastest in a FW26 car as the Michelin-clad F1-teams worked-hard to close a Ferrari-led gap to tyre-rivals Bridgestone.

Renault's Franck Montagny was near the bottom of the timesheets as he gave last-year's R23 chassis its final outing in the Enstone-based team's test-programme.

'High winds hampered Franck's work,' said test-engineer Christian Silk.


Takuma Sato was the only F1 race-driver on-track in his Honda-powered car.

Spaniard Marc Gene drove a second BMW-Williams FW26.

'Both drivers worked on two new chassis,' said test-manager Tim Newton.

McLaren and Toyota fielded their full compliments of development-men.

Paul Ricard, in Le Castellet, is set-up this week in the 4.1-kilometre '2D configuration' which features a hairpin and a few high traction-zones.

* In Italy, Ferrari test-driver Luca Badoer continued in the F2004 car at a chilly Mugello, but the session was again affected by intermittent rain.

World champion Michael Schumacher takes-over on Thursday.

F1 green-lights qualifying tweak
The FIA's World Motor Sport Council has ratified a few minor tweaks to the highly-criticised 'back to back' qualifying system introduced this season.

Slammed as boring, the marathon format spanned more than two-hours in Malaysia.

It is to be split into two distinct lap-by-lap sessions, with an approximate fifteen-minute interlude, as of next weekend's inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix.


A statement explained that the first-session is to start at 1pm.

It dictates the order of final-qualifying, scheduled to start an hour later.

The new format, decided at yesterday's World Council meeting in Paris, is designed with the TV-spectacle and the world's Formula One broadcasters in mind.

Some agencies further speculate that the first-session will no longer feature 3-minute commercial-breaks as only final-qualifying is likely to be televised.

Saturday's two 45-minute practice sessions start an hour earlier than usual.

Villeneuve paid $12m to wear Canada logo
Jacques Villeneuve was 'secretly' paid $12 million by the Canadian government.

A former Olympian unearthed the scandal when she told a Commons committee that Jacques, the ex-F1 ace, took money in return for wearing a logo on his overalls.

The logo featured the 'Canada' catchcry, according to sources.

Myriam Bedard said she attended the race in Montreal in '97 or '98 and was told by a man - Jean-Marc St. Pierre - about the secret payments to the former champ.


She couldn't say how long ousted BAR-star Villeneuve was paid to wear the logo.

The two-time biathlon-gold winner, Bedard, was speaking as the Canadian federal government investigates a sponsorship-scandal involving advertising agencies.

She added that she thought one ad-agency was dealing in drugs.

'This fee for Villeneuve's $12 million,' asked Liberal MP Dennis Mills ...

'... was it for one-year, three-years, five-years, ten years ?'

'I have no idea,' said a reticent Bedard.

Barrichello chose the wrong-tires
An incorrect tire-choice compromised Rubens Barrichello's race in Malaysia.

The Brazilian is back home in Sao Paulo and is blaming the hardest compound of Bridgestone F1-selection for failing to match the winning pace of his team-mate.

'I decided on Friday,' said Barrichello, who's sitting-out pre-Bahrain testing.

'At the time, it looked like being one of the hottest-ever races.'


But when Sunday dawned with the mildest temperature-forecast of the entire weekend, RB instantly knew that he wouldn't have Michael Schumacher's speed.

'It was a gamble that didn't pay off,' he said.

He explained an early-race mistake that gave a place to Juan Pablo Montoya: 'At turn-four, it was really slippery and the tyres weren't working well.

'It was in those laps that I lost any chance of winning.'

The irony of the situation, meanwhile, is that he only learned of the supposed advantage of Bridgestone's hardest-compound whilst working-hard at Valencia.

Rubens had been the only racer to make the trek back to Europe ahead of Sepang.

Was Button's debut-podium a one-off?
BAR has warded-off claims that Jenson Button's Malaysian podium was a 'one off.'

It has come to light that the English racer was wearing a different - softer - compound of race-tyre in Sepang than was the remainder of all Michelin runners.

In the slightly less-hot-than-expected conditions at the circuit on Sunday, Button found brilliant grip but not too-bad tyre-wear on the novel compound.

But it might not have worked out just right, points-out Autosport magazine.


'I don't look at it that way,' said BAR-Honda principal David Richards.

'I'd rather look at it as a positive sign that we've got it right.

'I look at it that we're learning about the tyres - we're moving forward.'

Certainly, nothing can take-away the fact that BAR and Button earned its deserved top-three result in the Malaysian GP on performance - not attrition.

Richards continued: 'I think Jenson learned a point, too.

'I think he's taking the fight to them really well.'

Barrichello 'upset' by Montoya accusation
Rubens Barrichello is upset that fellow South American F1-racer Juan Pablo Montoya accused him of unsporting tactics during the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Brazilian is now back in Brazil and fiercely rejected the suggestion of BMW-Williams' Montoya, from Colombia, that he blocked him on purpose at Sepang.

'I don't feel he ever really had a chance to overtake me,' said the Ferrari ace.

Montoya said Barrichello blocked-him to halt his chase of Michael Schumacher.


Barrichello retorts that was stuck behind the slow Minardi of Zsolt Baumgartner.

'Maybe that's what gave him the impression,' Barrichello continued. 'At first, he wouldn't let me by and then he got sideways - it cost me a lot of time.

'I guess that's why Juan Pablo got upset.'

Ferrari's driver said he is now 'a bit upset' by his friend's accusations.

'I had two laps to go before I was going to pit - why would I hold him up to make him lose time. I certainly didn't change my strategy just to do that.'

Trulli made trip to Stewards' room
Jarno Trulli made a trip to the stewards' room after the Malaysian F1 race.

It has come to light that the Italian was asked to meet with FIA technical-delegate and race-director Charlie Whiting to discuss his start-line moves.

Trulli leapt off the line with his impressive Renault R24 but, in the process, clashed wheels with Jenson Button and pushed David Coulthard onto the grass.


No more than a stern talking-to was given to the exhausted F1-racer.

'I am so pleased for Jenson - my old team-mate,' JT explained afterwards.

'I actually hit his car at the start and I said sorry for that. But for sure he deserves this podium-result - I guess Malaysia owed him a little something ...'

Brabham backs Webber's F1-title quest
Mark Webber is to become the first Aussie F1 champion since Alan Jones in 1980.

That is the prediction of racing-legend Sir Jack Brabham, also an Australian, who conquered the world of Formula One racing in seasons 1959, 1960 and 1966.

He told ABC that Webber, 27, 'has the ability to go on' and do it.

Brabham backed Mark's speculated switch from Jaguar to BMW-Williams in 2005.

'Now it just comes down to the car. So far he hasn't been able to prove just how very good he is - and that is just down to the car he is currently in.


'It's not really good enough to show what Mark can do.'

Brabham, known in his racing-career as 'Black Jack,' marvelled at the qualifying-pace of Mark Webber in Malaysia, good enough for the front grid-row.

'That was a big effort,' said the 77-year-old. 'Full marks.

'To get on the front line with Schumacher would not be easy in that field. It was fantastic and I really felt for him when he couldn't get off the line.'

Wilson set for Champ Car switch
Justin Wilson has agreed a deal to race in Champ Cars, according to reports.

The former Minardi and Jaguar star is just a couple of days from an official announcement of a drive for Conquest Racing in the rejuvenated US-based series.

'There is a lot of will here to sign Justin,' said team-owner Eric Bachelart.


He was quoted by Autosport: 'We are just waiting for some final decisions.'

Wilson, a tall Englishman, is in 'serious dialogue' with the team, according to his manager and another former Formula One race-driver Dr Jonathan Palmer.

JW is currently in Indianapolis - home of Conquest's base in America.

BAR podium timely for Honda talks
Jenson Button's podium at Sepang was timely for the BAR Formula One team.

The Brackley-based outfit's contract with Japanese manufacturer Honda expires this year so David Richards took particular cheer in the Malaysian result.

'It's just good for the confidence - of everyone,' he told Autosport.


DR added: 'The contract situation doesn't matter. A result is a result.

'But it proves to Honda that we've made the progress we've always claimed.'

Work on next year's Honda-F1 engine has already begun, sources report.

McNish wins on sports-car return
A flirt with F1 has not slowed Allan McNish's desire to win sports-car races.

The Scot, who spent '02 at Toyota and last-season in a Renault test-cockpit, secured victory last weekend on his return to Le Mans-style motor racing.

McNish, with team-mates Frank Biela and Pierre Kaffer, won the Sebring 12-Hours.


His American victory in the Audi R8 was by a margin of no less than 5-laps.

'It was like a great home-coming,' McNish told reporters.

He will also contest the fabled Le Mans 24-Hours in June this season.

Sauber can't wait for Bahrain race
Peter Sauber can't wait to roll-out his Formula One challengers in Bahrain.

The F1 team-owner, whose independent outfit is based in Switzerland, reckons it is 'extremely important' for his sport to have a presence in the Middle East.

'So I'm really looking forward to this next grand prix,' said Sauber.


Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher agrees that the $150 million project surrounded by desert-sands in Sakhir should be an 'impressive' sight.

'It's great to see new circuits and new countries,' said the German.

Barrichello bemoans badly-behaved backmarkers
F1's backmarkers are not hearing the pleas of the more experienced race-drivers.

Ferrari ace Rubens Barrichello said Sunday's event in Malaysia highlighted the need for the slowest cars to quickly but safely move over for the F1-leaders.

'I don't think I was the only one who had problems,' said the Brazilian.

Before the new-season kicked off, Grand Prix Drivers' Association heads Mark Webber and Michael Schumacher spoke to FIA's Charlie Whiting about the issue.

Barrichello, currently in Sao Paulo, reckons it's now time something was done.


'There are some difficult tracks coming up,' said the 11-year F1 veteran.

'So it will be even more of a problem.'

Ferrari's driver said an inexperienced backmarker is often 'so anxious' to let a quicker-car past that he slows down too quickly, and that can be 'dangerous.

'If you're being lapped,' he suggested, 'just lift off a tiny amount.'

Barrichello is to head to Dubai prior to the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix.

'It's strange being in Sao Paulo at this time of year,' he smiles, 'knowing that for the first time in years my home-race is not the next round on the calendar.'

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