F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
March 31, 2004
No champagne in Bahrain
There's no risk that Jenson Button might choke on a high-powered
stream of expensive champagne after this Sunday's inaugural Formula
One podium in Bahrain.
Race-organisers have requested that, in respect of Islamic law,
alcohol and scantily-clad grid-girls should play no part in the
running of the Grand Prix.
Sparkling-water is the likely fizzy substitute, although when
sponsored by a Saudi company in the 80s, Williams' Alan Jones sprayed
orange-juice in victory.
'It didn't really matter,' the Australian laughs today.
'You'd still won the race - but it was a bit sticky.'
A parliamentarian said celebrations 'must conform' to Bahrain's
Bahrain is one of the more liberal Gulf States, but parliament-speaker
Adel Al-Moawada believes citizens 'won't accept' some of Formula One's
'A1' is not rival for Formula One
Organisers launched 'A1 Grand Prix' but insisted that it is not a
rival for F1.
His Highness Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum unveiled the
'World Cup of motorsport' in Dubai on Tuesday that has been sanctioned
by the governing FIA.
'It will actually help Formula One,' said Maktoum.
'I have the full support of Bernie Ecclestone.'
A1, to start in September 2005, is to fill the gap of open-wheeler
action in the European winter and could take-place in dozens of
countries around the world.
Dubai, Bahrain, China and Australia are already signed-up, read a
Around 30 Lola cars would be on the grid, representing a single
'People will bid for the national franchise,' said the Sheikh, 'and
will then concentrate on running a profitable business from the income
A 500bhp F1-style car, already crash-tested by the FIA, was unveiled.
Schu plans scooter-ride in Bahrain
Michael Schumacher plans to ride around the Bahrain circuit on a
The world champion said he would complete the task on Thursday as he
contemplates a hat-trick of grand prix wins in 2004 on a brand-new
'I haven't really seen much of it other than on the map,' said
'I've tried to get lots of information about the place but it's only
when we get there will I get a clearer idea of things. I'll have a
good look on Thursday.'
WINNING IS OBJECTIVE
Ferrari's ace said riding-around on a scooter allows a Formula One
driver to analyse how far the curbs stick out, or to guess where the
'Of course, winning is our only objective,' the 35-year-old smiled.
Schumacher is also happy to go to the Middle East despite the fears of
journalists and commentators that terrorist-threats make it a risky
'F1 is a global sport,' said the six-times title winner.
'We're expanding geographically and that means that we should see this
race as only logical. Anyway, a new race gives us a real thrill - it
is the unknown.'
BAR warns against complacency
David Richards has warned Formula One team BAR-Honda against
The Brackley-based squad powered Jenson Button to his maiden-podium
under a fortnight ago in Malaysia but that feat is now 'out of the
way' and 'finished.'
Richards told Reuters: 'It was encouraging and a memorable occasion
'But now we've got to continue it in situations where we can be on the
NOT THERE YET
The British media went wild in adulation for both BAR and 24-year-old
Button after the searing Sepang race but DR insists that the team
'isn't there yet.'
English-born Jenson said he heads to Bahrain looking for 'more of the
But technical director Geoff Willis echoes the view of his
'Our people will just go out and work even harder.
'They won't think 'phew, we've done it' because they still want more.'
Dubai launch F1-style circuit
Dubai launched a Formula One-style race-circuit earlier this week.
The under-construction 'Autodrome and Business Park' has been designed
with Formula One in mind should the category want another race in the
Designed by West Surrey Racing, it is 3.3-miles long.
'The aim of the Autodrome is to provide the highest standard of
facilities,' said Anis Al Jallaf, chairman of the project's
financiers, Union Properties.
Crown Prince to unveil Jordan message
Bahrain's Crown Prince is to personally unveil F1's next humanitarian
The Kingdom is a new partner of team Jordan this season and at each
race on the calendar a new 'Message from Bahrain' appears on the
yellow car's engine-cover.
His Highness, Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa,
and Formula One team-principal Eddie Jordan dreamed-up the unique
In Australia it was a peace-dove; in Malaysia an image of human
The Prince will unveil the latest message in the Sakhir pitlane on
'You'll see something different again in Bahrain,' said Irish-born
'It's about awareness and it is about Bahrain demonstrating that it is
interested in raising issues that are meaningful for the world
Webber to get armed-guard in Bahrain
Jaguar's Formula One drivers will be protected by armed-guards in
Australian media sources also reveal that 'security advisors' to Mark
Webber's team have been employed to check his R5 racer for bombs every
day of the event.
Hotels will be under round-the-clock surveillance, said the Herald
Webber and Austrian team-mate Christian Klien have been asked to vary
their routes to the Bahrain International Circuit and stay-away from
Team bosses and principals like BAR's David Richards, meanwhile,
maintain the importance of the inaugural Formula One grand prix in the
Middle East region.
'We're sure it will all go well,' said the Briton.
A Renault spokesman added: 'We don't believe it is unsafe to travel to
Race-organisers, meanwhile, confirmed that the National Guard has been
deployed to boost security and will be stationed around the Sakhir-track's
Jordan urge Pantano to improve
Jordan has vowed to focus on car-reliability in the short-term.
The struggling Formula One team, through head of race and test
engineering James Robinson, said it would just try to get both
Ford-powered cars home in Bahrain.
'Giorgio [Pantano] is still learning the car and the formula,' he
'Hopefully we'll see him get closer to Nick as the season progresses.'
Team-mate Nick Heidfeld, meanwhile, is yet to see a chequered-flag in
'Of course it's a little disappointing,' said the German.
'But I've made some good starts and my speed hasn't been bad.'
Italian-born rookie Pantano, meanwhile, looks forward to finding a
level-playing field on the brand-new circuit and then working on
improving speed in Sakhir.
'I don't think we've done a bad job,' he defended.
'I'm feeling a bit more confident with the whole environment and it's
starting to come together a bit more easily. Now we can start to
improve the results.'
McLaren eyes performance-gain
McLaren is eyeing another performance-gain at the imminent Bahrain
'We started to move in the right direction ... in Malaysia,' said
Martin Whitmarsh, the so-far uncompetitive Mercedes-powered team's
He thinks McLaren might be better-prepared for the event than others.
Despite BMW-Williams' 25-laps in an older-car at the circuit's recent
inauguration, Martin says his team's CFD modelling-tools are
'We arrive with a significant level of intelligence,' hinted
And since Sepang, veteran-ace David Coulthard notes that McLaren
continued its test-programme at Paul Ricard with testers Alexander
Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa.
The Scot said they collated 2000kms on the MP4-19s.
Mercedes boss Norbert Haug, therefore, is hoping for 'absolute' car
'... and to improve our lap-times from race to race,' the German
Ferrari find Bahrain advantage
Ferrari might be ahead-of-the-game in preparation for the Bahrain
It has come to light that the brand-new, $150 million circuit in the
desert-town of Sakhir has been laid with a variety of bitumen
pioneered by oil-firm Shell.
Ferrari is sponsored by the Dutch/British-founded Shell brand.
Moreover, Shell bitumen was laid at the recently-revised German
Hockenheim track and at Ferrari's own private Fiorano
development-circuit near its Italian base.
Panis thought he had an engine problem
Olivier Panis thought he had a problem with his Formula One engine.
That's why he cantered into the pits whilst running tenth in the
Malaysian Grand Prix and waved furiously at his Toyota pitwall,
according to boss Mike Gascoyne.
The tech-chief expanded on the post-race press statements of Toyota
personnel, including Panis, that the French veteran had a 'radio
'It would have been good to have him in the top-10,' he told
'Basically what happened was that we decided to cut the engine revs to
look-after the engine. Olivier thought we were calling him in about a
Panis was told he wasn't needed, so was instructed to exit pitlane.
In his obvious anger, OP lifted his finger too quickly off the
pit-limiter button and got a speeding-penalty and a hefty fine, as
Gascoyne, who has been widely lauded since joining the Cologne-based
operation, also revealed that 'quite a lot' of updates will be on the
TF104 car by Imola.
Schumacher ready for Toyota switch
Ralf Schumacher is preparing to sign a five-year Toyota contract.
According to British-tabloid The Sun, the current BMW-Williams ace's
new deal is worth around $100 million and even contains added
'It looks odds-on that Ralf will be at Toyota next season,' said a
WILLIAMS WON'T MATCH
'There is no way Williams will try and match the offer.'
Actually, Sir Frank Williams wants to cut Ralf's wages in quarters.
The source, which is reportedly 'close to Schumacher,' added that at
28 Ralf feels that this could be his 'only chance' of emulating
brother Michael's feats.
Button's hands are 'quite dainty'
Jenson Button reckons his hands are 'quite dainty.'
The Evening Standard reports that the 24-year-old BAR-Honda Formula
One driver demanded a 'hand model' during filming of a
television-commercial for the BBC.
BBC's ad shows Button fiddling with a remote-control in close-up.
An insider told the newspaper: 'Jenson has got delicate hands. He
probably didn't want them filmed at close range because they're not
Work on 2005 Toyota V10 is underway
Work on the next Toyota F1 engine is well underway.
Technical director (engine) Luca Marmorini told the media that design
on the RVX-05 started at the end of 2003 and should be on the
test-benches by July.
'We are still working on the shorter lead-time parts,' he said.
'This is an ongoing process.'
Toyota hopes to run the new model on a dynamometer later this season
to get as much mileage on it as possible before it runs in a TF104
'Ideally that will happen before the end of the year,' said Marmorini
who hopes RVX-05 is fitted under a car's engine-cover by the month of
He added: 'But we'll investigate the feasibility of this later in the
Several steps of the current engine - one of the most impressive in
Formula One pitlane - are planned during the course of 2004, including
reduction in weight.
Third drivers on duty in Bahrain
The role of the 'third' Formula One driver is to take on an increased
importance this weekend as the grand prix circus moves to a brand-new
circuit in Bahrain.
Brazilian Ricardo Zonta is Toyota's 'man Friday.'
He's allowed to run a spare-car in practice alongside other
'I think we'll benefit even more from running three cars here,' he
'As a new circuit, the more data we can collect, the better our
F1's bottom-6 are likely to have the jump on their grandee-rivals
because Ferrari, Williams, McLaren and Renault should collect far
fewer practice miles.
'We are able to let him [Ricardo] run freely,' said engine-boss Luca
He added: 'More importantly, we can conserve the engine life or car
reliability on both race cars by focusing on Ricardo's car for the
Ricardo Zonta's third official-driver colleagues are Bjorn Wirdheim
(Jaguar), Anthony Davidson (BAR-Honda), Timo Glock (Jordan) and Bas
Massa wants another championship-point
Felipe Massa wants another championship-point.
The Brazilian ran to eighth-place in Malaysia and says his
quasi-rookie status does not apply on the sandy Bahrain track because
it's new to every driver.
'We'll all have to learn the track at the same time,' said 22-year-old
'We've made a simulation of the track,' said the Sauber race-driver,
'but we can't really be sure of the set-up so there will be much work
to do on Friday.'
Bahrain is not typical 'Tilke' track
Bahrain is not a typical 'Tilke' circuit, according to F1-team
Engineering director Pat Symonds said before he had looked at the new
track in much detail, he assumed it would be like Sepang, also
designed by Hermann Tilke.
'There are subtle differences,' the Briton told Autosport.
Pressed by the publication, Symonds refuses to reveal any more detail.
'... because maybe we've done our work better,' he defended.
One thing no-one is expecting is for Michelin's new-and-improved
wet-weather tyre to feature on the sandy circuit smack-bang in the
middle of the desert.
'I've asked Michelin to bring some Paris-Dakar tyres,' Symonds joked.
Sauber technical director Willy Rampf, like most other chiefs in the
F1 teams' engineering departments, is similarly worried about possible
'The effect would be a slippery and abrasive surface,' he commented.
Rampf concluded: 'The sand could also get in and affect the engine and
other car components such as wheel bearings, seals and composite
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