F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 26, 2004

Bahrain tried to cancel grand prix
Two weeks ago, Bahrain tried to cancel its first-ever Formula One race.

Circuit supervisor Philippe Gurdjian had decided there was 'no way' the $150m-facility would be ready but F1-supremo Bernie Ecclestone simply said 'No.'

'So we just had to get more people in to get the job finished,' he added.


Gurdjian told Autosport that the circuit in Sakhir, set to host round-three of the 18-race calendar next weekend, is not '100 percent' ready for Formula One.

But 'it's finished,' he told the magazine, 'and the race will go ahead.'

The Bahrain Grand Prix is Formula One's first in the Middle East region.

Oastler quits Jaguar
Jaguar's chief engineer Malcolm Oastler has announced his retirement.

The Australian said he would give-up motorsport altogether in mid-June to return to his native country because the 'lure of the southern sun' proved too strong.

Oastler, fired by BAR in 2002, only joined the team-in-green 14 months ago.


He spent twenty-years in motorsport but now wants to set-up a 'rural venture.'

'I don't think this is something you should do forever,' said Malcolm. 'I love the technical aspects and the people, but in the end the beach has won the day.'

Jaguar's team-boss David Pitchforth said he was 'sad' to see Oastler leave.

The Australian's designs spanned Formula Ford, F3000, Indycar and Formula One.

Mosley meets Italian justice minister
Max Mosley sat-down with Italian justice minister Roberto Castelli on Wednesday.

The pair discussed the looming problem of the European Arrest Warrants law (EAW) which could lead to F1-personnel being prosecuted in the event of fatal smashes.

'It's a very dangerous sport,' said Mosley, president of the governing FIA.

He said he would 'lobby strongly' against what is a 'dangerous principle.'


'We want a law that makes it clear that dangerous sports will not be subject to prosecution unless an act is committed outside the normal realm of the sport.'

Italy is one of a few European countries yet to enact the EAW.

Castelli said the law was designed for 'terrorists' not 'Formula One teams.'

Italy hosts two grands prix per-season, at the Monza and Imola race-circuits.

Schumacher is just like boxer Ali
Michael Schumacher is just like boxing-legend Muhammad Ali.

That's the newest suggestion of F1-impresario Bernie Ecclestone who insisted that the six-times world champion's dominance of the sport is 'not boring.'

'Every sport needs superstars,' he told German magazine Wirtschafts-Woche.

Bernie said: 'Some people want them to fall from their pedestal and taste defeat. Others want them to keep on winning and become an even bigger star.'


The 73-year-old said Ali was someone you either 'loved' or couldn't stand.

But he added: 'Why did you stay up all night watching your televisions?

'The millions of people around the world wanted to see whether a superstar could produce yet another moment of greatness or because they thought he may lose.'

Schumacher, 35, dominated the first two grands prix of season-2004.

Villeneuve did not receive 'secret' payment
1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve received no such 'secret government payment' of $12 million to wear a Canadian flag on his F1 race-suit.

The Quebecois' agent denied yesterday's claims of a former Winter-Olympics gold medallist, Myriam Bedard, who spoke to a parliamentary-committee investigation.

'It's all false,' said Barbara Pollock, wife of JV's agent Craig.

She said Jacques or Craig had never received 'any funds' from the government.

$4500 DEAL

Bedard, who also alleged government-sponsored drug trafficking, said her former agent Jean-Marc St-Pierre had told her of the F1-scandal in Montreal in 1998.

St-Pierre recalls informing Bedard that it would cost around $12 million US-dollars if a sponsor wanted to put its name on Jacques Villeneuve's F1-suit.

'From there, it went to a secret $12 million fund,' he scowled.

'I swear on the Bible that I said no such thing.'

A federal Public Works spokesman confirmed that Jacques, who retired from Formula One late last season, received $4500 to display the Canadian flag.

Bahrain vows to step-up security
Bahrain has vowed to step-up security ahead of its inaugural F1 grand prix.

Hundreds of rock-throwing demonstrators attacked the US Embassy in capital-city Manama on Wednesday denouncing the Western world and inciting a police-riot.

The Sakhir F1-circuit issued a statement on Thursday insisting that security is of 'paramount importance' ahead of the race-weekend set to start next Friday.


It said Bahrain would protect against 'vandalism to international terrorism.'

'The onus on the organizers is that of ensuring the safety and well-being of those attending the event,' said a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior.

He said the circuit has the cooperation of various governmental agencies, as well as the National Guard and certain assets of the Bahrain Defence Force.

Head wants BMW-Williams to close gap
Patrick Head is leading BMW-Williams' chase of F1 pacesetters Ferrari.

The team technical-director noted that the FW26 was quicker in Malaysia than in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix but it is not yet ready to win races.

'We're a clear second in the constructors' championship,' said the Briton.


'But Ferrari and Bridgestone are clearly the strongest package at present.'

Clearly, the Michelin pace was closer to Bridgestone's in the Sepang heat and F1 analysts can expect more of the same as the circus moves on to the Middle East.

But Ferrari and Michael Schumacher continued to pull-away.

'We can't permit that to continue,' said Williams' technical director.

Toyota has improved: Panis
Toyota made a decent step-forward between the Australian and Malaysian F1-races.

Race-veteran Olivier Panis was not a happy-Frenchman last Sunday but he did praise the technical-teams at Cologne for improving on a woeful Melbourne car.

'I believe we showed a much improved performance level in Malaysia,' he said.

Panis' TF104 struggled with a lack of grip on the Albert Park track.

The Toyota racer, Olivier, has ten-years of Formula One driving-experience.


'So you have to believe me,' he said, 'when I say that to make such aerodynamic developments during two overseas races is a real achievement for any team.'

OP's Toyota featured a new front wing and revised turning-vanes.

Panis' Sepang-smile turned upside-down, however, when 12-laps from the end, while running tenth, a 'radio communication' problem brought him into the pits.

'It basically ended my race,' he said of the incident in which he gesticulated angrily to the Toyota pitwall. 'Needless to say, I was not so happy.'

Wilson completes Champ Car switch
Justin Wilson will revive his flagging race-career in US-based Champ Cars.

The Englishman has signed a contract with Eric Bachelart's 'Conquest Mi-Jack Racing' having driven for the Jaguar and Minardi Formula One teams in 2003.

'It is a series I've always admired,' he said of the beleaguered championship.

Wilson, 25, does not expect an easy ride but targeted a couple of race-wins.


He continued: 'It would be nice to go back to Formula One if the opportunity arose but I reckon a career in Champ Cars wouldn't be too bad at all.'

Meanwhile, fellow beleaguered British F1-driver Ralph Firman has completed a switch to the World Series by Nissan for title-winning team Gabord Competicion.

The former Jordan star starts his campaign in Jarama (Spain) this weekend.

Schu offered armed-guard in Bahrain
Michael Schumacher has been offered an armed-guard for his visit to Bahrain.

The Formula One world champion is set to arrive in the Kingdom next Wednesday and has been promised one of the King's limousines and an official residence.

All touring F1-personnel have been told to be alert in the Middle East region in light of a high threat of terrorism and protests against the Western world.

'The Mirror' reports that Schumacher will not stray from the hotel or the track.


'We are concerned about ... threats to places where Westerners might gather,' read the latest travel-warning for Bahrain issued by the British Foreign Office.

BMW-Williams has advised race-personnel to stay-away from capital Manama.

And the Schumacher-brothers' manager Willi Weber said he had spoken to the secretary to the King of Bahrain and he promised the highest level of security.

The German added: 'The King even kindly offered to let Michael stay at the palace but, with his schedule, Michael did not want to be a nuisance.'

Dixon primed for Formula One shot
Scott Dixon yesterday flew from America to Europe with Formula One on his mind.

The New Zealander, reigning IRL champion, is primed to test a BMW-Williams contender at the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet (France) later on Friday.

He told a news conference at the scene of June's Indianapolis 500 that this season did not necessarily represent his last-shot at the fabled American crown.

Dixon, 23, laughed on Thursday: 'I'm not gone yet!


'Everyone's saying I'm going, but this is just a test - ok?'

Williams' technical director Patrick Head said he and team-boss Sir Frank were keen to 'take a look' at Chip Ganassi's latest championship-winning talent.

Former Ganassi drivers Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya wound up in F1.

'He's openly stated that he'd like to be in Formula One,' Head concluded.

F1 cars are 'too fast': Jarno Trulli
The latest brand of Formula One challenger is 'too fast.'

It's not really the kind of opinion you normally hear from a driver but Renault star Jarno Trulli has called on the rule-makers to curb the rising speeds of F1.

Trulli, from Italy, is a director of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association.

He told Autosport: 'Normally, us racing drivers are happy to go faster ...

'... but now the cars are too fast.'


F1 landed on the season-opening tracks at Albert Park (Australia) and Sepang (Malaysia) and demonstrated advances of multiple-seconds per-lap over last year.

The tyre-war and aerodynamic advances are most likely to blame.

'It's something the technical people have to sort out,' said Jarno Trulli.

The F1 Technical Working Group's latest speed-curbing changes were a single-engine formula and mainly minor-tweaks to the aerodynamic car-regulations.

Sauber vows to improve F1-team's pace
Peter Sauber has vowed to improve the pace of his Formula One team.

Some might assess that a single-point from the first two grands prix of season-2004 does not represent a great start for the customer Ferrari-powered team.

'I've already said it would be extremely hard this year to score points.'

The team-owner added that Sauber was 'happy to get one' in Malaysia.

Sauber, a German-speaking Swiss, is 'convinced' that the C23 has much potential.


It has been criticized as a Ferrari look-alike but Peter prefers to ignore the knockers and work-on giving his new Formula One drivers a better car each race.

He said Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa both have new race-engineers.

'I'm sure we'll further grow together and allow us to achieve more,' said Peter.

A positive sign is the apparent improvement of tyre-supplier Bridgestone.

'In Australia we got an all-new construction,' Sauber confirms, 'and in Malaysia we had the right compound to be competitive even in the very hot conditions.'

Renault has 'taken it easy' on V10-revs
Jarno Trulli has predicted a 'huge improvement' for his Renault F1 team.

The Enstone-based outfit has already confirmed a step on its new 72-degree F1-engine for the San Marino Grand Prix which takes-place at Imola next month.

But Trulli, the Italian driver, said Renault may also have been taking it easy.

'I think the [engine] evolution will be a huge improvement,' he said.


He and Spanish team-mate Fernando Alonso have been consistently mid-pack in the speed traps at the first two races of season-2004 in Australia and Malaysia.

The RS24 is an all-new architecture to combat single-powerplant rules.

It appears to be revving at about 1000rpm under pace-setters Ferrari and BMW, which a source predicts could translate to an around 30-40 horsepower deficit.

Trulli continued to Autosport magazine: 'At the moment, for the sake of reliability, we've maybe been prepared to take it a bit easier than normal.'

Grass might be greener for Webber
For Mark Webber, the grass might be greener elsewhere in Formula One.

The Aussie raced onto the front-row of the grid for the Malaysian Grand Prix and in so doing only ramped-up speculation that his future lies at a bigger-F1 team.

We have no intention of losing him,' said Jaguar boss Tony Purnell.

Tony told Autosport that if the car goes well, 'he'll want to stay.'


The British magazine reckons Webber has asked manager Flavio Briatore and Jaguar to 'clarify the situation over his future' by the British Grand Prix this July.

'You always get what you deserve,' Autosport quoted Mark Webber, 27.

'If people think I can go somewhere else, then that's possible.

'You always think it's greener somewhere else but that is not always the case.'

Bernie egged-on Villeneuve's F1-rise
Bernie Ecclestone egged-on Jacques Villeneuve's rise to Formula One.

The F1-supremo liked the Indy 500-winning French-Canadian because he was a character and would help raise the profile of Formula One in the United States.

'Fundamentally, we decided to go with Jacques [in 1996],' said Patrick Head.

Williams' technical-director however, told Reuters new-agency that Bernie was certainly 'very strongly encouraging us' to run the reigning Champ Car champion.


'I don't think he feathered our nest in any way,' said Head.

'But he was certainly very keen on that happening.'

In the same way, then, has 73-year-old Ecclestone moved his influencing-hand to spur-on today's maiden Formula One test of reigning IRL-champion Scot Dixon?

'He hasn't said anything to us about Scott,' Patrick Head insisted.

Zanardi makes full-time race return
Alex Zanardi makes his full-time return to motor racing this weekend.

The Italian, former Formula One star for Lotus and Williams, lost both his legs and nearly his life in an horror Champ Car shunt at the Lausitzring in 2001.

He is to steer a BMW in the ETCC-opener at Monza this weekend.


Zanardi debuted a hand-controlled 320i at the circuit late last season.

'My expectations are totally different,' the Monaco-based star insisted.

He concluded: 'I surprised everybody, including myself, with my pace in the tests but I want to keep my feet on the ground - if I can say that.'

Bad luck should not have surprised Ralf
A run of bad-luck should not have surprised Ralf Schumacher in Malaysia.

The German got a sneak-preview into the kind of weekend he could expect in the searing Sepang-heat on Thursday when he arrived at the track in a BMW 7-series.

Reports say the BMW-Williams star drove it straight into the wire-fencing which separated his designated parking-space from the rest of the Formula One paddock.


Schumacher, 28, qualified seventh for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

His race-proper started badly with a poor get-away and then, during a passing manoeuvre with Mark Webber, he clashed wheels and damaged the FW26 car's setup.

Schumacher's run ended with the first BMW-V10 failure in seventeen grands prix.

* The German worked on traction-control at the Paul Ricard test on Thursday.

Button goes to top of times: Ricard
Jenson Button went to the top of the times at the Paul Ricard test on Thursday.

The BAR driver led Antonio Pizzonia, who steered one of two BMW-Williams FW26s.

'Ralf [Schumacher] joined the test today,' said Sam Michael, chief operations engineer for one of the five Formula One teams in action near Le Castellet.

Pedro de la Rosa put 30-laps on the experimental McLaren carbon-fibre gearbox.


Frenchman Franck Montagny continued work in the older Renault R24 charger, evaluating a range of Michelin tyres for the beginning of the European season.

'We also tested some tyre solutions for Bahrain,' said Pat Symonds.

Meanwhile, over at Mugello (Italy), Michael Schumacher ran a F2004 car.

That test completed, the German now switches to Fiorano on Friday.

Ferrari tester Luca Badoer drove at the local circuit on Thursday with an older F2003-GA version for a programme of mainly Bridgestone race-tyre development.

Jaguar is not 'proper' F1 team: Surtees
Jaguar is not a 'proper' Formula One team, according to John Surtees.

The grey-haired F1-legend, who also won titles on motorcycles, hinted that the Ford-owned outfit has a history of not running two competitive car-entrants.

'Full marks to Mark Webber,' he said of the Aussie's qualifying in Malaysia.

'It's just a pity [Jaguar] are not a proper two-car team.'


Since inception in 2000, Jaguar's second-car has not been fully up-to-speed.

Names including Johnny Herbert, Luciano Burti, Pedro de la Rosa, Antonio Pizzonia, Justin Wilson, and now Christian Klien, spring instantly to mind.

Nonetheless, John said Jaguar's Cosworth-powered R5 has real 'potential.'

Surtees, 70, also heard stories about Renault from the Sepang-race.

He told Vodafone Racing: 'I heard they had a large number of holes cut in the bodywork because of over-heating - maybe this affected their performance.'

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