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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 29, 2004


BAR unveil Bahrain car-revisions
BAR has some aero-revisions and an improved engine-spec for the Bahrain GP.

The UK-based team was out at Paul Ricard last week where it again proved on the pace with the Honda-powered 006 and F1's newest podium debutant Jenson Button.

'It's good to see we are still consistent,' said the 24-year-old Briton.

'I don't like predicting wins, but we've only had two races out of eighteen and there is a lot more to come from us. We have just got to keep on improving.'

TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

Decent mileage was put on the new-version Honda Formula One engine.

'We had a few technical problems,' said team-mate Takuma Sato, 'but we've done a lot of preparation for Bahrain now and I'm looking forward to racing again.'

Chief test-engineer Mark Ellis confirmed that 2500kms of French testing in three days green-lighted the Bahrain car and engine-modifications for the grand prix.

He said new suspension-parts should also be on the 006 in the Middle East.








New Michelin tire is good 'step'
Michelin's new Formula One tire is a step in the right direction.

The French marque was out in force at Paul Ricard last week and Renault ace Franck Montagny dedicated his last day to the evaluation of new compounds.

Runners for BAR, Williams, McLaren and Toyota also tried new products.

NEW PRODUCT

In the older R23 test-car, Franck started with front-construction tests but also tested new products for Imola which brought 'very reasonable' improvements.

Top F1-teams including BMW-Williams and McLaren were twice defeated in the opening two rounds of the new grand prix season by Ferrari and Bridgestone.

'The new tires were a step in the right direction,' said engineering head Pat Symonds, 'and the compounds showed improvements in time and consistency.'








BAR held an inquiry
Last Monday, Formula One team BAR-Honda held an inquiry.

Jenson Button had just soared to his first-ever podium but his Brackley-based outfit wanted to know why he hadn't beaten Juan Pablo Montoya to second-place.

'Everybody patted one another on the back last Sunday,' said Dave Richards.

CONTENDER

'But our goal is to be a contender for the championship in two or three years and that is going to be hard - and we want to be in the top-four this year.'

The Briton told the Sunday Telegraph that at the start of the year, he stood before the entire BAR-squad and said the days of complacency were now over.

Richards added: 'We've set ourselves demanding standards but it is about time.

'We have to admit that, frankly, at one time we've been a laughing stock.'








British teams unlikely to win: Lauda
British teams probably won't claim F1-titles with German engine-partners.

That is the claim of former triple world-champion Niki Lauda who said 'British thinking' is stopping BMW and Mercedes from scaling the championship-tree.

'It is extremely difficult for Germans to work under English supremacy,' the Austrian, who was fired as Jaguar Racing boss a couple of years ago, added.

COMPLEX

McLaren is part-owned by Stuttgart-based Mercedes-Benz and Sir Frank Williams' Oxfordshire-based F1 team has a new long-term agreement with Munich's BMW.

'[Ron] Dennis and Williams are rather complex personalities,' said Lauda.

'The sad thing for BMW and Mercedes is that the British stick to their monarchy-thinking. They discuss endlessly and come to very complicated decisions.'








Ecclestone served with High Court writ
Bernie Ecclestone has been served with a High Court writ.

The Times newspaper claims that the F1-impresario is refusing to reveal details about the directors who control F1's holding company to three investment-banks.

LEGITIMACY

Bayerische Landesbank, JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers own 75 percent of SLEC.

A report in the British broadsheet also claims that the F1-banks are 'questioning' the board's legitimacy and want more say in SLEC's administration.

SLEC manages the day-to-day operation of Formula One.








Bahrain F1-ticket forgery
A Bahraini national is in custody for trying to forge Formula One tickets.

The man had approached a printing-press and asked for a number of entry-tickets for next weekend's inaugural race to be printed, according to Akhbar Al Khaleej.

He has been detained in police-custody for at least a week.








Tires not more important than F1-car
Grove-based Formula One boss Sir Frank Williams has moved to dispel the popular claim that tires in modern grand prix racing are more important than the cars.

'It's true - tires are very important,' the 61-year old told Williams' website.

But he said Michelin and Bridgestone can not build tires capable of winning F1 races unless they are bolted to a 'great chassis' and an 'excellent engine.'

PIECE OF ART

'You can't strip a piece of art down to its components to say, this is important and this isn't,' said Frank. 'The entire package makes the difference.'

The wheel-chair bound principal, a part of the F1-furniture for three decades, has been fascinated with grand prix cars since he was a small boy in Britain.

'I'm still astonished by the standard of engineering and preparation.'

Williams added: 'I look at our car and I raise my eyebrows and I think how do these cars finish races? - because it is so phenomenally complex.'








Bahrain prepares for terror attack
Bahrain is preparing for the worst - a terrorist attack on its first F1 event.

'We do have a plan,' said Health Ministry senior adviser Gordon Pincock.

VERY HIGH THREAT

Travel-advisories in Western nations, including Britain and Australia, claim that a 'very high threat' of terrorism still exists in the Gulf Island state.

Hospital-teams have been training in respect to national disaster plans in co-operation with the Civil Defense Service, according to the Gulf Daily News.








Button and Coulthard shared a meal
Two British F1-drivers shared a meal after the sweltering Malaysian GP.

Jenson Button, the sport's newest podium-visitor, and McLaren veteran David Coulthard, dined in nearby Kuala-Lumpur last Monday, according to the Guardian.

'It was a special evening,' said the former 24-year-old BAR ace.

VERY DIFFICULT

JB added: 'I don't hang out with other drivers. DC said some pretty fantastic words about my race but, at the same time, it is very difficult for him.'

David Coulthard has been at McLaren for nine-years but will find himself out-in-the-cold at the end of this season as he makes-way for Juan Pablo Montoya.

'It's really tough [for him],' said Jenson. 'He's still quick enough to win.'







Schu not willing to hit brakes
Michael Schumacher doesn't mind if he's making Formula One 'boring.'

The German's Ferrari team has won the past five F1 grands prix and he told Munich's TZ daily that going racing these days is all about 'wanting to drive.'

Some analysts say Schumacher, the six-times world champion, threatens interest in the sport because his domination robs races of their 'unpredictability.'

PUSH HARDER

'No way,' he said when asked if he's willing to hit the brakes.

'In fact, I'm going to have to push harder because the others are getting closer all the time. Stop thinking that the championship is all but wrapped up.'

Schumacher, 35, insists that BMW-Williams' second-placed Juan Pablo Montoya is within one-victory of curbing his eight-point lead in the 2004 drivers' title.

'If the others start lapping me,' he said, 'then it'll be time to quit.'








Bahrain F1-race to generate $74m
This weekend's first grand prix in the Middle East should generate $74 million.

A study by the Bahrain Centre for Research claims that around 40,000 spectators should spend more than $220 per-day at the country's race in desert-city Sakhir.

LOCAL BUSINESS

Bahrain International Circuit was built at a cost of some $150 million.

The study concluded that most revenue would go to local businesses.

F1-supremo Bernie Ecclestone, meanwhile, branded governments such as Britain as 'stupid' for advising tourists from travelling to Bahrain for the grand prix.








Villeneuve brands accusations 'ludicrous'
Former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve has branded accusations that he accepted millions of dollars in 'secret' sponsorship as 'totally ludicrous.'

Myriam Bedard told a parliamentary investigation last week that the Quebecois was paid $12m by the government for wearing a Canadian flag on his overalls.

'I've never been asked to promote Canada by any government or agency,' the 1997 title-winning ace told Montreal's 'The Gazette' whilst on a skiing holiday.

EMBLEM

He said: 'There was never any talk of money.'

The accusation's implication was that agent Craig Pollock negotiated the deal.

'Canada's emblem has always been on Jacques' uniforms,' said the Scot.

'It had nothing to do with sponsorship. There was no money at all.'

It is understood, however, that Pollock did negotiate a deal with Quebec to promote the region but it was worth somewhere around the figure of $4000.








Firman signs World Series deal
Ralph Firman will attempt to revive his flagging open-wheeler career in Spain.

The Briton raced a Jordan in Formula One last season but has been left to sign a contract in the World Series by Nissan championship with 'Gabord Competicion'.

'I am delighted to join Gabord,' he said ...

'... as it aims to capture a third successive title.'

PRESTIGIOUS

Toyota tester Ricardo Zonta, and Renault counterpart Franck Montagny, re-entered the Formula One fray after sealing the Nissan championships of 2002 and 2003.

'There are very few prestigious championships outside Formula One,' Ralph said.

'But the Nissan World Series is one of them.'

Former F1-ace Enrique Bernoldi won both opening events in Jarama on the weekend.








Toyota backs single-engine rule
Toyota is backing Formula One's new 'single-engine-per-weekend' regulation.

The Cologne-based operation reckons limiting each driver to just one V10-powerplant per grand prix weekend has no 'negative influence' on the show.

But technical-director (engine) Luca Marmorini says there is some confusion.

He echoes Ferrari counterpart Ross Brawn's concern that the FIA should clarify a ruling about whether teams should be allowed to 'tactically' change engines.

AGREEMENT

'I think a suitable agreement has to be made on this matter,' he said.

Marmorini singled-out weight as one way to improve the otherwise lauded RVX-04.

He added: 'We have nothing special for any particular race.'

Luca confirmed that work on the 2005-engine started late last season and the RVX-05 should be on the test-bench by July 2004, and on the dyno by September.








Dixon has sore neck after F1-debut
Scott Dixon nursed a sore neck after impressing the Formula One world.

The IRL champion got within half a second of seasoned team-driver Ralf Schumacher on Friday as the New Zealander made his debut in a BMW-Williams.

Dixon, 23, lapped nearly 60-times in a current-spec FW26 at Paul Ricard.

'I've had a really enjoyable day,' said the reigning US-based series champ.

GEARBOX PROBLEM

His 'tusk-nosed' car had a gearbox problem in the morning and he told reporters that, if he'd had a few more laps, 'I think I could have gone quicker.'

Analysts have Dixon in the running for a full-time Williams seat in 2005, and he'll drive the BMW-powered racer again at Circuit de Catalunya early in April.

He was 'overwhelmed' with the brakes which he smiled are 'probably 100 times better' than the ones he is used to on his oval-prepared Chip Ganassi mount.

'I haven't turned right for a while,' Scott smiled, rubbing his neck.

* Jenson Button was France's quickest in a BAR-Honda on Friday.








BMW failure due to defective component
Ralf Schumacher's engine-failure in Malaysia was due to a defective component.

BMW motorsport director Dr Mario Theissen said Munich has been investigating why the German's FW26-model Williams race-car smoked-out of the searing Sepang race.

'We've been analysing his Malaysia engine,' Theissen said at Paul Ricard.

'We've identified the defective component.'

NOT ANNOYING

Schumacher, 28, said the first BMW-failure in 17 races 'doesn't annoy' him.

'It isn't a major issue,' said the German.

'I'd rather it happen when I'm eighth than somewhere else when I'm leading.'

BMW-Williams, the second-placed Formula One constructor, also shook-down a new FW26 chassis at last week's test in France, at the circuit near Le Castellet.








Jordan lose Gallagher
Jordan's head of marketing has switched Formula One camps.

Mark Gallagher, also in charge of sponsors at Jordan, accepted a job-offer from Jaguar Racing to become their head of business development at Milton-Keynes.

Gallagher started-out as a motor sports journalist and became Jordan's 'Press and PR Manager' in 1993 before working for Mobil Oil on their Rally sponsorship.








Schu to lead Bahrain pace: Surtees
John Surtees is looking-forward to watching the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The seventy-year-old, who won titles both on four wheels and two, said the Hermann Tilke-designed track in the Gulf is to be a 'new experience' for F1.

SPECIAL

'It is likely to be rather special,' Surtees said of the $150m facility.

He expects Michael Schumacher to lead the pace from Friday morning.

'If you look back,' said John, 'when a new circuit comes online, he is always one of the first to be on the pace. And Bridgestone must feel confident.'








Zanardi disappointed with race-return
Alex Zanardi was disappointed after his return-race to full-time motor sport.

The Italian, who nearly died in an horror Champ Car shunt (2001), drove a hand-controlled BMW 320i touring-car to just ninth in the ETCC opener at Monza.

He was tenth in the second-race.

TWO-SECONDS

Zanardi had qualified nearly two-seconds off the pace in qualifying.

'I have been slower than expected,' the former Lotus and Williams F1-ace, who lost both legs above the knee in his Lausitzring crash in Germany, commented.







Jaguar to get new wind-tunnel running by 2005
Jaguar hopes to have a second wind-tunnel up-and-running by mid-2005.

The Milton-Keynes team announced its intention in September 2003 to upgrade the DERA-facility in Bedford and has been demolishing certain parts of the building.

MODERNISATION

'It dates from the 1950s,' said managing director David Pitchforth.

He continued: 'We've nearly finished that part of the project now and we hope to start the renovation and modernisation by the spring.'

A long hand-over from the current three-shift tunnel is anticipated.








Panis explains 'communication problem'
Olivier Panis has revealed why he drove into pitlane during the Malaysian GP.

The veteran Frenchman was running tenth at Sepang but peeled off into pitlane seemingly only to gesticulate heatedly to the engineers on the Toyota pitwall.

Until now, all he would say was that there had been a 'communication problem.'

He tells Autosport: 'I didn't understand what the engineers said [on the radio].

IMPRESSED

'And they didn't understand what I said. So I thought I had to stop.'

Panis, 37, is impressed with the input of new technical-director Mike Gascoyne.

'I'm very impressed with him,' said Olivier. 'We've had some good discussions already and I think he's the guy we need to improve the team.'

He confirmed that some 'small improvements' should be on the TF104 in Bahrain.








BAR worked on engine, chassis problems
BAR has solved the chassis and engine problems that befell the team in Malaysia.

Friday-tester Anthony Davidson's Honda engine blew-up in Sepang and the team worked on solutions for both problems at the Paul Ricard test last week.

'Honda is investigating the engine problem,' said tech-director Geoff Willis.

'Our aim in Bahrain is to get on the podium and to get both cars in the points.'

MIDDLE EAST

The Bahrain-specification V10 engine did laps at the French test last week.

'Personally I've never been to the Middle East area at all,' said Japanese driver Takuma Sato, 'so I'm excited. It will be a great new experience.'

BAR boss David Richards is still smiling after Jenson Button's Sepang-podium.

'It's good,' he tempered, 'but it's not where we're striving to be.

'We will continue to push hard in pursuit of our objective - to win.'








Teams won't do more running in Bahrain
F1 teams won't do much more practice-running in Bahrain than usual.

The Sakhir-circuit is new to everyone this weekend but Renault engine-operations manager Denis Chevrier does not expect an 'excessive' number of pre-race laps.

'The circuit is relatively demanding,' said the Frenchman.

SET-UP CHANGES

'Furthermore, certain set-up changes may take a little longer than usual.'

It is also preferable not to rush-out onto a new circuit on Friday morning.

'The conditions for tire evaluation will not be optimum,' he added, 'and the sand is also a potential source of worry - it can alter the grip very quickly.'

Renault amassed the highest two-car total mileage at Sepang - 1300kms.








Webber should get off the line
Mark Webber should get off the line in Sunday's inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Aussie had qualified a brilliant second in the Sepang-race a week ago but his Jaguar Racing R5 went into anti-stall when the fifth light extinguished.

'We underestimated the amount of grip that the tires would have on the grid after the formation lap,' said the team's managing director David Pitchforth.

UNDERSTANDS

He insists that the team now 'understands' what happened.

'Now we can work on correcting it for future races,' said Pitchforth.

Friday test driver Bjorn Wirdheim undertook a one-day test at Santa Pod to work on the variables for Formula One's new mandated 'manual starts' procedure.

Webber, meanwhile, stayed in Asia after the Malaysian GP to train in high temperatures and hopes to finally finish a grand prix this season in Bahrain.








Williams is worried about Bahrain sand
BMW-Williams is worried about the sand surrounding Bahrain's new F1 circuit.

The Sakhir region, south of capital Manama in the Middle East, is surrounded by fine, coral sand that may cause 'operational' and 'mechanical' car-problems.

'Hopefully there won't be any sand storms,' Sam Michael continued.

PAINT JOBS

The chief operations engineer said a storm could batter the cars' paint-jobs.

BMW motorsport boss Mario Theissen anticipates sand 'drifting' onto the track.

The German said it will not only affect grip-levels on the tarmac but, in terms of the Formula One engine, sand might get into it and cause some damage.

'The air filter will play a more crucial role,' said Theissen.








FIA supplied Jaguar with Bahrain data
The governing-FIA has supplied Jaguar with 'some data' about Bahrain.

Dr Mark Gillan, head of performance, said the Leaping Cat is using the data of the brand-new race-facility to complete simulations ahead of the grand prix.

LITTLE USE

Managing director David Pitchforth reckons the FIA-data is of little use.

It is being used mainly for initial aerodynamic and mechanical set-ups.

'It's never as good as your own records from previous years,' he said.








Drivers line-up for BMW-Williams seat
Jenson Button, Mark Webber and - Scott Dixon.

They are probably the top-three names on a potential short-list of drivers likely to fill the soon-to-be vacant BMW-Williams seat in Formula One from 2005.

'There are a number of people that we are interested in,' said Patrick Head.

LIMITING CLAUSES

The team's technical director put IRL champion Scott Dixon in a BMW-powered FW26 last Friday but hinted that Button and Webber are probably better options.

'We haven't filled the spot yet,' said Head of Juan Pablo Montoya's seat.

'We're talking to a number of people. A number have limiting clauses in their contracts that might mean they are - but might mean they aren't - available.'








Da Matta has F1-advice for Dixon
Cristiano da Matta has a bit of advice for IRL champion Scott Dixon.

The latter New Zealander is looking to emulate da Matta's feat of switching from the premier US-based open-wheeler championship to the pinnacle of motor sport.

But one thing is different - Dixon has been going around in circles.

While Cristiano hopped into a Toyota after conquering the road-course Champ Car series, Scott has done little-more than turn-left on IRL's ovals for some time.

ROAD-COURSE DRIVER

'It's a difficult championship,' said da Matta, 'but it's obviously only on ovals. But he's done road courses before and he's a good road-course driver.

'But he'll have to get into better physical shape.'

Da Matta said Scott's oval-racing has probably robbed-him of his neck muscles.

'But I'm pretty sure he's able to do F1,' said the Brazilian.

'The tires and the light weight are the things he'll have to get used to.'








Jaguar is pleased with Klien
Jaguar Racing is pleased with Mark Webber's new Formula One team-mate.

Christian Klien is just 21-years-old and backed by Red Bull's sponsorship millions but he has finished both races in 2004 and made few driver errors.

'He's making progress,' said managing director David Pitchforth.

'You'd expect a few mistakes but we've been fortunate. He's continuing to improve as he gets to know the R5 and his lap-times are getting faster.'

PLAYING FIELD

Pitchforth believes that as F1 returns to Europe, the gap between Austria's young ace and rated Jaguar team-leader Mark Webber is likely to lessen.

Klien, currently in Asia, looks forward to the 'level playing field' of Bahrain.

'None of us have raced there,' he said ...

'... so I'm going to give it my all and see what happens.'

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