F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 30, 2004
Bahrain 'amazed' Button
Jenson Button was amazed - a crowd of Bahrainis chanted his name.
The Briton visited the Kingdom late last year and could hardly believe
that a Middle Eastern region not only knew about F1, but knew exactly
who he was.
'I was amazed by the hospitality,' Button now says ahead of the
A new $150 million F1-circuit amid the desert-sands of Sakhir is now
complete and is already starting to fill-up with Formula One's
equipment and personnel.
'Everyone was hugely enthusiastic about F1 and incredibly
Jenson, BAR's 24-year-old team-leader, walked around the souks of
capital-city Manama and, despite the region's bad-name, was impressed
at the warm welcome.
He said: 'I had some great food - vine leaves and some nice spicy
'It's a cool place and I think a lot of the F1 fraternity will be
pleasantly surprised when they go for the first time. I'm looking
forward to going back.'
Ferrari about a second-per-lap in front
Ferrari are about a second per-lap ahead of top F1-team rival
According to technical director Patrick Head, that equates to about a
year of aerodynamic development 'so we're going to have to make it up
in other areas.'
But chief operations engineer Sam Michael is happy with the FW26
'It's very good,' the Aussie told Reuters.
EASY TO RUN
'It's easy to drive, to set-up. You turn-up at a track and it runs in
whatever set-up you like. If you change a spring, it does what you
think it should.'
Michael concludes that the 'tusk-nosed' challenger has no vices.
But Colombian driver Juan Pablo Montoya knows that FW26 needs more
He finished second in Malaysia but not only wants to match the
Ferrari's pace on Sunday afternoon - he wants to stroll ahead of
F1-champion Michael Schumacher.
'We're not trying to be at their level,' said the 28-year-old, 'but
Rubens learns circuits in 'old-fashioned' way
Rubens Barrichello learns new F1-circuits in the 'old fashioned' way.
Unlike new-boy Christian Klien, who is a devout follower of the
'PlayStation' method, Ferrari's veteran intends to hop-on a bike later
this week in Bahrain.
'I've never been anywhere in this part of the world,' said Rubens.
'I'll probably do a couple of laps - walking, running or cycling - to
get a feel for it. Then all you can do is drive and learn the track
phase by phase.'
Barrichello said memorizing the $150m layout will not be such a 'big
'But I've heard there are not many landmarks around the track,' he
added, 'as it's in the desert. But sometimes there's a bridge ... a
change in asphalt.'
He'll need about ten-laps to know the track well, according to the
Rubens is spending a couple of days in Dubai prior to setting-down in
Dixon 'definitely' desires F1 switch
Scott Dixon has decided - Formula One is where his heart really lies.
The IRL champion got his first-taste of a BMW-Williams car last week
at Paul Ricard and reckons if he could get back behind the wheel
today, 'I would.'
'It's definitely what I want to do,' he told the AFP news-agency.
'It was good to turn right again! The car kind of shocked me.
EAR TO EAR
'I had a smile from ear to ear all day.'
Dixon, from New Zealand, could hardly believe what happened when he
hit the carbon-brakes and 5-times the weight of his head crashed down
on his shoulders.
'It's huge,' he beamed. 'My neck was done - I couldn't hold it up.'
The 23-year-old's next Formula One test with the Oxfordshire-based
outfit is a 'proper' three-day one at the Circuit de Catalunya near
Bridgestone to resume streak in heat?
Bridgestone is confident it can resume a winning-streak this weekend.
The tyre-supplier carried Ferrari's Michael Schumacher to victory in
the cool ambient conditions of Albert Park and in the searing heat of
Japan's brand ended season-2003 behind-the-game to Michelin on a hot
'That was one of our main aims over the winter,' said director of
motorsport Hiroshi Yasukawa, '... to improve the competitiveness of
our tyres in the heat.'
Bahrain's dark tarmac may bring track-temperatures above the 50C-mark.
'It will retain the heat,' said technical manager Hisao Suganuma.
Bridgestone teams, including Sauber, Jordan and Minardi, will benefit
from the brand's new-shaped front-tyre on the Bahrain International
Circuit in Sakhir.
Michelin boss Pierre Dupasquier says neither tyre-rival knows 'much
about what lies ahead,' except for the expected heat and the risk of
sand on the tarmac.
Bibendum will offer three middle-range tyre-options to teams this
Where does Jenson's future lie?
Jenson Button isn't really sure where in pitlane his Formula One
The Briton is contracted to Honda-powered BAR and the Brackley-based
team's 006 was good-enough to help him end a four-year void of podium
places in Sepang.
'I'm contracted ... for the next two years,' he told The Guardian.
'So that's where I'm going to be - for the moment.'
If you read the newspapers, or listen to the subtle messages of
F1-bosses Frank Williams and Patrick Head, JB is top-of-the-list for a
Juan Pablo Montoya, who displaced Button in late-'00, is off to
McLaren in 2005.
Button, 24, has heard the praise of his former team-principal.
'It's great when Frank says nice things about you,' the Englishman
told the newspaper. 'It's very special because Frank doesn't dish out
The Frome-born challenger has no doubts about his desire to become
'If I don't do it one day,' Jenson added, 'I'll be very disappointed.
'You need to be with the right team.'
Schu says sand is the 'real worry'
Michael Schumacher has more than Bahrain's predicted heat on his mind.
Forecasters say the Middle East is heading for a weekend of mid-30s
but Ferrari's Formula One champion reckons the real worry is sand on
'We are all concerned about it,' said the 35-year-old German.
Not only would sand reduce circuit grip-levels, it could damage the
Schumacher continued: 'I'm quite confident, though.'
Michael spent his week testing in Italy but he had the weekend off and
chose to visit family and friends back in Koln before catching the
flight to Bahrain.
He said he'd stay near the desert to acclimatize.
'I am very curious,' said Schumacher. 'Even if we can't always
understand the new cultures we visit, travelling is always something
that enriches the soul.'
It is understood that Bahrain organizers have coated the fine
coral-sand around the new Sakhir circuit with a type of glue to
prevent it from blowing around.
Opposition groups promise no disruptions
Opposition groups have vowed to stay-away from the running of the
Reuters reports that four such groups, including Al-Wefaq, said they
would postpone planned protests in city Manama including one against
'[They] wish the event to pass-by peacefully and quietly.'
Al-Wefaq head Sheikh Ali Salman also predicted 'no disruptions' at all
despite recent protests against Western influences including the sale
Bahrain is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and is just 600 miles
Toyota want a point or two
Toyota wants a point or two from the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Cologne-based team was actually only a few seconds from a world
championship-point at the second grand prix of the 2004-season at
'We're aiming to continue our momentum,' said technical director Mike
At Albert Park and in Malaysia, both TF104s made it to the
Bahrain is the first new-venue since Indianapolis in 2000, and the
first brand-new Formula One circuit since the first Malaysian Grand
Prix late in 1999.
So it's the first time Toyota has entered a GP-weekend on a level
'The result will be dictated as much by how quickly teams and drivers
can learn the circuit, as it will be determined by competitiveness,'
'I think that we can expect another respectable showing,' said Tsutomu
The team principal added that Cologne is 'already working' to rectify
the Gustav Brunner-designed TF104's competitive problems both for the
short and long term.
Sauber brings F1 closer to fans
Formula One is again moving to bring fans closer to the inner sanctum.
In Australia, it was Grand Prix Drivers' Association director Mark
Webber who fronted a competition with the prize of sneaking a look at
On Thursday morning in Bahrain, Swiss-team Sauber takes-up the theme.
After visiting a falcon farm in capital Manama, the Hinwil-based
operation's team drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa will
run a competition.
MEET THE TEAM
'The lucky winner will get the chance to visit the Formula One paddock
and meet the Sauber team on Sunday just before the race start,' said a
Sauber ace Massa, 22, earned the team's first 2004-point in Malaysia.
'I always love going to different places,' said the Brazilian.
'I enjoyed taking the C23 to Borneo recently - they'd never seen an F1
car before so they were going crazy. I think this weekend could be
Renault has learned from its mistakes
F1-team Renault has learned from its mistakes in the Malaysian heat.
It is expected to be just as hot amid the desert-sands of Bahrain this
weekend but Italian-driver Jarno Trulli does not anticipate the same
'The R24 went well [in Malaysia],' said Trulli.
'But we were surprised by what happened when the temperature changed.'
Trulli insists that Renault has 'learned' from Sepang.
'Overall the car performs well in high temperatures,' said Jarno
Trulli, who revealed that he would walk the circuit with engineers on
Jaguar miles ahead compared to last year
Jaguar is miles-ahead of where it was this time last-year.
That might be surprising to hear from an ace driver who has so-far not
managed to reach the chequered-flag after two rounds of the new
Formula One season.
'I am frustrated that I've yet to finish a race,' said Mark Webber.
'But it's not through a lack of trying by myself or the team.'
Webber has touched-down in Dubai prior to his flight to Bahrain later
The Australian notes that his R5 'Leaping Cat' was four-seconds
per-lap quicker around Malaysia's Sepang circuit than the
green-challenger had been last season.
'So our hard work is certainly paying off,' said Mark.
'Progress at this level does not happen overnight. We're still
Ecclestone slams British government
Bernie Ecclestone has lashed-out at the British government.
The F1-impresario reckons the Foreign Office was wrong to re-iterate
its travel advisory warning tourists against traveling to Bahrain for
the grand prix.
'None of us has ever discussed this terrorism business,' said Bernie.
The 73-year-old told 'News of the World' that some people are 'stupid.
'Especially the government - they come out and stupidly tell us not to
600-MILES FROM IRAQ
Bahrain is just 600-miles from war-torn Iraq.
'You must do whatever you feel is right,' added F1 champion Michael
'I'm sure security in Bahrain will be very high.'
BAR ace Jenson Button finds it hard to dismiss the troubles of the
He told the Guardian: 'The bombings in Madrid remind us that no one's
safe anywhere. You're just as likely to be blown-up in a bus in
Drive a Formula One car ... blindfolded
Want to drive a Formula One car ... blindfolded?
Believe it or not, the offer of 'Record Breakers' founder Anita Knight
is real and their latest challenge is to beat the blindfolded
land-speed world record.
Any proceeds would go to British charity 'Blind Sport.'
The current blindfolded-record is 144.7mph and Knight reckons it is
'possible to exceed' that mantle by more than 50mph in a
800-horsepower Formula One car.
Anyone willing to take-on the speed-challenge would be properly
trained at the wheel of a Tyrrell car in Northern France by EuroBoss
trainer Matthew Mortlock.
'Do something amazing this year,' is the catch-cry of 'Record
Can Ferrari be beaten this F1-season?
With two red-victories in the bag, can Ferrari be beaten in
'Ferrari are just so superb,' said BAR boss Dave Richards after
He told Reuters: 'But even they can make mistakes.'
Pierre Dupasquier, who runs the Michelin-challenge of top-teams
including BMW-Williams, McLaren and Renault, is pessimistic about the
fight to Ferrari.
'It's going to be a great achievement if we get close to them,' he
But McLaren chief Ron Dennis is reluctant to talk-about domination.
'I think it's a bit premature,' said the Briton.
'Other teams are going to win races this year but not one team is
going to compete constantly against Ferrari so it's going to be
difficult to beat them.'
Renault advance plans for engine-step
Renault is advancing plans to introduce a major performance-evolution
of its new-architecture Formula One engine, the RS24, by the next-race
of San Marino.
Engine technical director Rob White said approval of the new pieces
requires 'rigorous endurance testing' on the dyno and verification
The revised 72-degree V10 unit is scheduled to debut at Imola next
White said: 'The signs are favorable as we enter the final phase of
Williams to attend Formula BMW opener
Sir Frank Williams is to attend the series-opening Formula BMW UK
The eponymous Formula One owner and principal will be accompanied by
BMW motorsport director Dr Mario Theissen at the Thruxton circuit on
Formula BMW also runs in Germany and Asia.
'I have a strong conviction that F1 may one day be graced by Formula
BMW graduates,' said Frank, who added that Williams would be involved
in the series.
Button 'felt sick' on first F1-podium
Jenson Button 'felt sick' as he stepped-out onto his first Formula One
The BAR driver told 'The Guardian' that he was exhausted and
dehydrated but only realised it when the adrenalin had stopped pumping
after the race in Malaysia.
'That would have made the front pages,' Button, 24, laughed ...
'... if I'd ended-up vomiting over Schumacher.'
But who better to share your first podium with than Formula One
pacesetters Michael Schumacher, the reigning F1 world champion, and
Juan Pablo Montoya ...?
'Everyone regards them as the best drivers,' said the Briton.
Button still ripples with anger when he recalls 1996 world champion
Damon Hill's observation that he is 'too normal' to conquer the world
of grand prix racing.
He asked: 'How many ordinary guys can get up on the podium alongside
Schumacher and Montoya and talk about beating them? But I wouldn't
want to be bonkers.'
Cristiano has an advantage ...?
Cristiano da Matta thinks he has an advantage ahead of the Bahrain GP.
The Brazilian switched as series-champion from CART to F1-team Toyota
in '03 and had to swiftly learn the majority of race-circuits on the
grand prix schedule.
He thinks that experience, under new F1-regulations that even further
reduce practice sessions and miles, stands him in good-stead for this
'It could offer me a slight advantage,' said da Matta.
'I've become quite adept at making up ground to my rivals.'
Bahrain is 'severe' test of reliability
Bahrain is likely to be a 'severe' test of a Formula One cars'
Renault technical director Bob Bell said there are a number of areas
on the desert-town Sakhir track's layout where 'extremely heavy
braking' is required.
Equally, there are extended periods - up to 13 seconds - of full
'It will be a tough challenge from that point of view,' said Bell.
In terms of performance, Bob expects Bahrain to 'play less to the
known strengths' of the R24 package, even though team-podiums are
Moreover, ambient conditions - and particularly sand - may threaten
'Work has been done to mitigate ... the risks,' said Rob White, engine
First fruits of Sauber wind-tunnel are ready
The first-fruits of Sauber's high-tech new wind-tunnel should appear
Technical director Willy Rampf said a range of aerodynamic revisions
as a result of the new car development-programme may be ready to try
on the C23 from Friday.
'I enjoy going to new countries and cities,' commented Giancarlo
The former Jordan driver, an Italian, expects a few good
overtaking-spots on the $150 million Sakhir circuit but has also heard
that it could be a bit slippery.
'... like Zandvoort, in Holland,' he said in a pre-event statement.
'I'm quite happy with the way the car is progressing and we're
continuing to learn a lot about it. So I'm hoping that we can qualify
and race well here.'
We're a long-way from Ferrari: Schumacher
Juan Pablo Montoya is relishing the challenge of a new Formula One
The Colombian says Bahrain's layout boasts 'several' overtaking
'After my podium in Malaysia,' the star of top-team BMW-Williams
added, 'me and the team are more confident and keen to improve on that
performance in Bahrain.'
Team-mate Ralf Schumacher visited the desert-town of Sakhir last
He reckons Juan Pablo's second-place in Malaysia showed that the
Grove-based outfit is not 'as far away from Ferrari' as they had
feared after Australia.
'But we're still a long way from beating them,' the German concluded.
New rules not compatible with new F1-tracks
Fernando Alonso has criticized Formula One's new 'single-engine'
regulation for being incompatible with the introduction of new
circuits including Bahrain.
The Spaniard said there is 'no substitute' for lots of track-mileage.
While drivers want to study in detail the nuances of a new circuit,
they must keep total laps down so that his sole-designated V10 makes
the weekend distance.
What's more, Bahrain is hot, and drifting-sand further threatens
'Is this the way F1 should be?' asks former F1 champion John Surtees.
'I don't think so. The rules are not really suitable for new
Nonetheless, Alonso thinks he'll know the Sakhir layout in about 10-15
The Renault driver continued: 'Then I should feel comfortable with the
circuit and know which curbs to use. For sure it should be a real
Bahrain's King has best F1-view
Who's going to have the best view of the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix?
None other than the King, of course!
The nine-storey 'Sakhir Tower' is the show-piece of the $150 million
Bahrain International Circuit's Formula One paddock, according to a
And the top-floor is assigned to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and
Pitlane is already starting to buzz with the F1 teams' personnel and
the entire Gulf State is 'alive' with the anticipation of motor
sport's prestigious race.
But Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello admitted the spectre of
'Look at Madrid,' said the Brazilian. 'Such a beautiful city and
something like that happens. It means that wherever you go in the
world there is concern.'
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