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 traditions.

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 Western habits.

'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 statement.

Around 30 Lola cars would be on the grid, representing a single country each.

'People will bid for the national franchise,' said the Sheikh, 'and will then concentrate on running a profitable business from the income generated.'

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 scooter.

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 lay-out.

'I haven't really seen much of it other than on the map,' said Schumacher.

'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.'


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 racing-line is.

'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 exercise.

'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 complacency.

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 for Jenson.

'But now we've got to continue it in situations where we can be on the podium.'


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 same.'

But technical director Geoff Willis echoes the view of his team-principal.

'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 Middle East.


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 message.

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 scheme themselves.


In Australia it was a peace-dove; in Malaysia an image of human equality.

The Prince will unveil the latest message in the Sakhir pitlane on Thursday.

'You'll see something different again in Bahrain,' said Irish-born Jordan.

'It's about awareness and it is about Bahrain demonstrating that it is interested in raising issues that are meaningful for the world community.'

Webber to get armed-guard in Bahrain
Jaguar's Formula One drivers will be protected by armed-guards in Bahrain.

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 Sun.

Webber and Austrian team-mate Christian Klien have been asked to vary their routes to the Bahrain International Circuit and stay-away from capital Manama.


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 Bahrain.'

Race-organisers, meanwhile, confirmed that the National Guard has been deployed to boost security and will be stationed around the Sakhir-track's perimeter.

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 said.

'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 his EJ14.


'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 Grand Prix.

'We started to move in the right direction ... in Malaysia,' said Martin Whitmarsh, the so-far uncompetitive Mercedes-powered team's managing director.

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 state-of-the-art.

'We arrive with a significant level of intelligence,' hinted Whitmarsh.


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 reliability.

'... and to improve our lap-times from race to race,' the German added.

Ferrari find Bahrain advantage
Ferrari might be ahead-of-the-game in preparation for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

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 communication' problem.

'It would have been good to have him in the top-10,' he told Autosport.


'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 problem.'

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 continued.

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 performance-points bonuses.

'It looks odds-on that Ralf will be at Toyota next season,' said a source.


'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 manly enough.'

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 testing-contender.

'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 September, 2004.

He added: 'But we'll investigate the feasibility of this later in the year.'

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 'bottom-six' teams.

'I think we'll benefit even more from running three cars here,' he claimed.

'As a new circuit, the more data we can collect, the better our chances.'


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 Marmorini.

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 race configuration.'

Ricardo Zonta's third official-driver colleagues are Bjorn Wirdheim (Jaguar), Anthony Davidson (BAR-Honda), Timo Glock (Jordan) and Bas Leinders (Minardi).

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 Massa.

'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 Renault.

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 Bahrain sandstorms.

'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 suspension components.'

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