F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 2, 2004

Schumacher denies $100m Toyota deal
Ralf Schumacher is not about to sign a five-year Toyota deal worth $100m.

The German said speculation in British tabloids is probably the result of Formula One being a 'bit boring' because his brother is winning every event.

Schumacher, 28, still puts BMW-Williams at the top of his wish-list.

He said in Malaysia that a sort of deadline-meeting would occur in Bahrain but now reports that he and personal agent Willi Weber will 'wait a little longer.'


'It must come eventually,' Ralf promised.

Weber said he sat-down with Sir Frank Williams in Kuala-Lumpur.

'It was quite positive,' said the German, who hinted that Ralf must drive well.

He said only 'casual' meetings had been staged with alternatives like Renault.

Montagny assesses Bahrain on foot
Renault's F1-tester Franck Montagny walked the new Bahrain track on Thursday.

'They're still working on it,' said the Frenchman, 'but what I can tell you is that there are no quick corners - the fastest will be in about fourth gear.'


One of the biggest challenges for a new-guy, then, is the desert location.

'It reminds me of Paul Ricard,' he said. 'It's hard to tell what is the track and what isn't! The first 10-laps will be a race to get on top of things.'

Montagny predicts a 'close, exciting battle' between F1's top-four teams.

Goings-on in Bahrain pitlane
On Thursday, F1-supremo Bernie Ecclestone touched-down at the new Bahrain track.

Podium-contenders Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button, wearing a custom 'Button Up' tee-shirt, jogged the track in spite of temperatures in the lower-thirties.

A 4x4 vehicle and the Safety Car also did a few laps, and both showed that sand may be a problem in the desert location as they threw up rooster-tails of dust.


The Pajero's job was to pull a rig designed to clean the brand-new F1-surface.

Britain's Prince Andrew was given a personal tour of the track.

Someone pointed-out that the last Grand Prix held in the Middle Eastern region was no less than 46-years-ago - the Moroccan Grand Prix staged in Casablanca.

Bernie Ecclestone was there, too - 'bit different to here,' he smiled.

Massa holds wild falcon
Felipe Massa looked a little uncomfortable ... with a wild falcon on his arm.

The Sauber driver visited a wildlife park in Sakhir on Thursday.


'I can feel how crazy Bahrain is about fast cars,' he said later.

'They're very enthusiastic about Formula One.'

Sakhir not so dirty: Barrichello
Rubens Barrichello reckons Bahrain's desert-track is not all that dirty.

The F1 ranks believed sand and dust would be a real problem in Sakhir, but when the Ferrari ace walked the circuit on Thursday, he reported pleasant surprise.


'It's smooth - not so many bumps,' said the Brazilian.

'The track seems grippy. I'd heard everything about the track being dirty but my first impressions are that it is probably cleaner than Melbourne or Sepang.'

Court re-opens Senna trial
A court has moved to re-open the trial surrounding the death of Ayrton Senna.

Italy's high court annulled the verdict passed-down last year which cleared chiefs of the Williams-led F1 team of manslaughter charges, reported ANSA.


It said there had been 'material errors' and a new hearing is to be set soon.

Brazilian-born legend Senna died when he crashed at Imola ten-years ago.

Sand might spoil Bahrain's big race
Bernie Ecclestone has rubbished fears that sand could spoil Bahrain's big race.

The F1-impresario told reporters in Sakhir that 'nobody' has seen any sand.

'I think what we should do now,' the Briton continued, 'is get a big fan and put it on one of the turns so that if Michael gets in the lead, on goes the sand.'


Williams engineer Frank Dernie hopes there's a Sunday-sandstorm.

The veteran told newspaper The Independent: 'Drivers slip-sliding around the track may not be much fun for them, but it's a damn sight better for the fans.'

Button predicts podium-repeat
Jenson Button is predicting a podium-repeat in the desert-heat this Sunday.

The BAR-Honda star sweated to his first top-three finish in Malaysia a fortnight ago and says Brackley has found 'extra time' on the chassis-setup in testing.

'Our car works well on these sorts of tracks,' he said in Bahrain.


'And we have a new rear suspension.'

Tech-director Geoff Willis reckons the Englishman is relishing his new role.

'Now he's able to influence the team,' he said on Thursday, 'he's able to give that leadership from the cockpit. I certainly think he's stepped-up even more.'

Renault builds best F1 cars: Ralf
My brother does not have the best car in Formula One.

That's the claim of BMW-Williams' Ralf Schumacher who insists that Renault, not elder brother Michael's Ferrari team, has built the best 2004-spec contender.

Schumacher, 28, has heard rumours that Renault's new-architecture V10-engine is up to 80-90 brake-horsepower short of the pacesetters including Ferrari and BMW.


'Still, they're quick,' the German told reporters in Bahrain.

'The car looks nice and seems to have very good aerodynamics.'

Fernando Alonso's R24 car finished 30-seconds ahead of Ralf's FW26 in Australia.

Ferrari block qualifying reform
Ferrari is blocking proposed changes to F1's much-criticised qualifying format.

F1-boss Bernie Ecclestone said on Thursday that he hates the new 'back-to-back' system and the only way to overturn it this season is through an unanimous vote.

'It's not possible,' he said in Bahrain.


'It's Ferrari. At the moment it's the best possible decision for them.

'I've said it all along - this is a Michael [Schumacher] regulation.'

Technical boss of the scarlet team, Ross Brawn, defended his marque's opposition to more reform by saying 'we shouldn't chop and change' the format all the time.

He added: 'But if something's very wrong ... then it needs to be fixed.'

F1 cars to rip-up Bahrain surface?
Formula One's mighty cars might rip-up the newly-laid Bahrain track-surface.

That is the latest concern buzzing up-and-down pitlane on Friday morning.

The track's bitumen was only completed mere weeks ago and it has not fully settled nor been properly tested by the running of lower-formula motor races.


'When cars run on it, some of the top surface may indeed come off.'

Circuit official Martin Whitaker also told Autosport that such a scenario is not necessarily a major concern as it allows the lower surface-levels to 'bed down.'

Montoya sat-down with Patrick Head
Last week, Juan Pablo Montoya sat-down with his technical director Patrick Head.

'In Australia I was alarmed,' said the Colombian, 'with Ferrari's pace.'

He told the Telegraph: 'We know we don't have the quickest car at the moment. But we do know it will get stronger. So now ... we have to score points.'

Two weeks ago in Malaysia, though, Juan's BMW-Williams FW26 was quicker.


'Ferrari had the better tires there,' he added, 'but I got close.'

Montoya, 28, insists that the trick in the few coming races is not to panic.

'I walked around the track yesterday,' he said in Bahrain.

'We're not in bad shape. We have a few revisions for this race.'

Honda simulated Bahrain-sand on dynos
Formula One teams cannot simulate sandy conditions on the test-benches - right?

Not so, according to the technical-director of Honda's F1 team BAR.

'Honda sent some guys [to Bahrain] a few months ago,' said Geoff Willis.

The Briton said they collected various samples of the desert-sands from all four corners of the $150 million facility set to stage the Bahrain GP this Sunday.


'With the samples,' he said, 'we did our tests on the dynos.'

It gave Honda insight into what engine-filters to use here, for example.

Geoff added: 'The first worry is what damage the sand can do to the engine.

'Second is tires. I guess we're just going to have to wait and see.'

Willis also said Honda found a solution to the recent V10 engine-failures.

Bahrain threatens Silverstone: Ecclestone
Facilities like Bahrain do threaten the status of Europe's Formula One tracks.

F1-supremo Bernie Ecclestone said in the Middle East that Silverstone, for example, is proposing to renovate its house by changing a few 'light bulbs.'

'And there are other circuits like that,' snarled the Briton.


Ecclestone, 73, suggests that the more traditional European race-tracks, including Monza, Monte-Carlo and Spa-Francorchamps, are fairly secure.

'It would not be nice to leave those,' he said.

'But if I had a message for other tracks - it's watch your back.

'You're not going to do what they've done here - but you can raise your game.'

Schu says Bahrain track is 'spectacular'
Michael Schumacher has branded Bahrain's new Formula One track 'spectacular.'

The German said the $150 million facility has 'taken care of all the problems' that often crop-up at the traditional-order of race-circuits back in Europe.


'Certainly the mechanics are happy to work here,' he said after a scooter tour.

Surely the lay-out is no match for his favourite track - Spa-Francorchamps?

'... even Spa was new once,' the German smiled.

True track-test on Sunday: Tilke
Designing circuits is German architect Hermann Tilke's job ... and hobby.

He is behind Bahrain's new F1-facility and his other recent projects include the Chinese track in Shanghai, Malaysia's Sepang and the revised Hockenheimring.


'For a civil engineer that goes motor racing himself, building a circuit is definitely a career highlight,' said Tilke. 'I have been very lucky.'

But he said Bahrain's true track-test only occurs on Sunday.

'It's no use,' he said, 'if the whole field pulls apart after the first turn.'

Foreign Office intensifies Bahrain threat
Britain's Foreign Office has stepped-up its assessment of threat in Bahrain.

'We judge that there is a high threat from terrorism,' read the new statement.

The UK government acknowledged that from this Friday to Sunday, the Middle Eastern island hosts an F1-race that should attract 'thousands of visitors.'


It said Bahrain has enhanced traffic and security arrangements.

Nonetheless, the FO advises potential tourists to 'review your security arrangements carefully ... and remain vigilant, particularly in public places.'

Coulthard to become F1 'journeyman'
David Coulthard is on the verge of becoming F1's 'journeyman.'

That's the assessment of F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone who said the Scot, driving his final season for McLaren, has never been under more pressure to perform.


'He's had plenty of opportunities to win the title,' Bernie told the Mirror.

'He hasn't made the most of them.'

Heidfeld criticizes Bahrain
Nick Heidfeld was unimpressed on his first sight of the Bahrain lay-out.

But the Jordan driver changed his mind when he walked it on Thursday.

'I was wrong,' said the German. 'It looks very nice.'

Heidfeld, 26, still thinks there are a 'few too many' slow bends.


'But it's probably designed to create overtaking chances.'

The former Prost and Sauber star, however, is surprised that - given everyone's concerns about desert-sands - organisers didn't plant grass on the track-verges.

'It's odd,' he said.

'I also prefer gravel traps than tarmac ones, but it looks quite good and safe.'

German brothers top F1 millions-list
The Schumacher brothers top a ranking of Formula One's highest earners.

Michael comes first, with a total annual-taking of $46 million, followed by the coffers of junior-sibling Ralf Schumacher, who earns around $22m per-season.

A 'paltry' third is Schumacher's Ferrari team-mate, Rubens Barrichello ($11m).


'The Sun' claims that Finn Kimi Raikkonen trails his heels on $8.2 million.

David Coulthard ($7.3m), Juan Pablo Montoya ($6.4m), Jenson Button ($5.5m), Jarno Trulli ($4.5m) and Fernando Alonso complete the tabloid paper's top-ten.

Half of the remaining ten drivers pay for the grand prix privilege.

Brazil wins new five-year F1 contract
Brazil has won a new five-year contract to host Formula One races.

Sao Paulo's city-council confirmed on Thursday that it has signed an agreement with F1-supremo Bernie Ecclestone to keep the event at Interlagos until 2009.

'We hold the race for various reasons,' Autosport quoted Nadia Campeao.


The city's secretary of sport added that, firstly, F1 promotes Sao Paulo.

'It generates jobs, stimulates the economy and ... offers entertainment.'

She concluded that Sao Paulo sees a three-times return on its investment.

Thunderstorms on way to Bahrain
Believe it or not ... thunder-storms are on their way to Bahrain.

It's heading for a cloudy but pleasant 29-degrees on Friday and should clear a little in time for Michael Schumacher to lead the field out in first-qualifying.

But Sunday is a different story altogether, according to a local report.

Scattered thunder-storms are expected in the nearby Manama capital on Sunday morning and the region is certain to have seen some rain by the end of the day.


By Tuesday, the rain would have really settled in, said another weather source.

So far, Ferrari ace Rubens Barrichello is enjoying the weather in the desert.

'I thought we were going to die but it's really nice,' he smiled.

Technical boss Ross Brawn added: 'It's getting quite warm now.'

Bernie pans Bahrain terror-threat
Bernie Ecclestone rubbished Britain's assessment of threat in Bahrain.

The Formula One supremo, already on the Gulf Island state which is just 1000kms from Iraq, said he would go the entire weekend without any armed bodyguards.


'I'm safer in Bahrain than I am in London,' he said on Thursday.

'Sadly, the danger of terrorism is everywhere.'

Gascoyne works on Toyota's problems
At least one man wasn't surprised when Toyota discovered it had a slow F1-car.

'I think we're still a young team,' said new technical director Mike Gascoyne.

The Briton joined Toyota from top-team Renault four months ago and he said almost as soon as he walked through the Cologne doors, he found problems.


'We're working to put them right,' Mike said in Bahrain.

Malaysia, two weeks ago, was a much better race for the TF104 car.

'It's about where we go long-term as well as short-term,' said Mike. 'New pieces go on the car all the time so we'll be where we want to be a bit later.'

One tire-company likely to dominate
One of F1's two tire-companies is likely to dominate in Bahrain.

That is the belief of Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn who said neither Bridgestone or Michelin have any 'real knowledge' of the Sakhir track-surface.

'It's going to be the one who has guessed it right,' he said.

Bahrain is likely to be a circuit which is strong on traction, hard on braking, and does not have an awful-lot of fast corners - a 'non-Ferrari' track, then ..?

'I see it that way,' said Brawn. 'So I think it's going to be a close race.'

Sand problem is in the air
Bahrain's 'sand problem' is not only on the track ... it's in the air.

Chief operations engineer at BMW-Williams, Sam Michael, said both problems 'are a worry' and an F1-team's only real defence is getting-it-right on air-filters.

'The problem is [if it] gets into the car,' said the Aussie.

Sam said mechanical components like drive-shafts, the steering-rack, damper-shafts - and of course the engine - can absorb 'very fine' particles of dust.

Spotters in Bahrain, meanwhile, noticed a range of custom plastic-covers in the Williams garage designed to shield parts like the gearbox when being worked-on.

F1 cars about to slow down: Brawn
Formula One's cars are about to slow down, according to Ross Brawn.

The Ferrari technical-director notes the comments of some drivers, like Renault's Jarno Trulli, who reckon the current crop of racers are 'too fast.'

'In 2006 there's a fairly major changing coming,' said Brawn in Bahrain.

Chaired by Charlie Whiting is the FIA's Technical Working Group.


'We're working hard to find a new technical package,' he added, 'which we can all be happy with to reduce the speeds of the cars. You have to peg it back.'

Brawn said F1 cars could easily chop five-seconds per-lap.

'An F1 car still needs to be fast,' he maintained.

In 2008, revisions to the current 3-litre, V10 engine formula are scheduled.

'In my view,' said Ross, 'the best package would include a reasonably substantial drop in the performance of the engines - to around 700 bhp.'

Sam Michael supports 'tactical' engine rule
Sam Michael has backed a move to curb 'tactical' engine-changes in Formula One.

After Malaysia, Ferrari's Ross Brawn complained that Renault may have contravened the single-engine regulation by changing-out Fernando Alonso's V10.

'It's not a hard-and-fixed rule,' said Michael, of BMW-Williams.

The chief operations engineer agrees that in Monza, for example, it might be 'tempting' to sacrifice a ten-grid penalty for fitting a brand-new race-engine.

'It really just needs a clarification,' said the Australian.

Montoya plays down Bahrain threat
Juan Pablo Montoya has played-down security threats in Bahrain.

The BMW-Williams ace harks from Colombia, where many people around the world believe they would be approached by a drug-dealer straight-off the aeroplane.

'So far, Bahrain has been great,' the 28-year-old told The Telegraph.

'People say you shouldn't go to Colombia but when you do it's just like this - very nice. Friendly people. If you look for it, you'll find trouble anywhere.'

Montoya played a round of golf in Bahrain on Wednesday.

Jordan unveil 'Ban the Bomb' message
Jordan's EJ14 features the historic 'Ban the Bomb' campaign-logo in Bahrain.

The Sponsored-by-Bahrain message was unveiled on Thursday by Eddie Jordan, his F1-drivers, and the 'Crown Prince' Shaikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

'Ban the Bomb' emblem is synonymous with the campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

German team-driver Nick Heidfeld commented: 'It's cool.'

Alonso poses with camels
Fernando Alonso got a taste for Bahrain on Thursday.

The Spaniard, and Renault driving-colleagues Jarno Trulli and Franck Montagny, headed to the central 'souq' in down-town Manama to check-out the spice stalls.

'It's very traditionally Arabic,' commented Italian-born Trulli.

Next, was a trek into the desert near the Formula One circuit.


'We were out near an oil refinery,' said Montagny, the Friday tester.

Alonso, 22, was glad when no camels appeared to be in sight.

'Then, typical, we come out the track and drive right past a herd,' he laughed.

'So we had to stop. It was ... how do you say it ... interesting!'

Big-wigs happy with qualifying tweak
A couple of big-wigs are happy with tweaks to F1's 'back-to-back' qualifying.

Instead of the two Saturday-sessions running into one another as in the first two races, the FIA has now installed a 10-minute gap to start this weekend.

'Logistically,' said BMW-Williams' Sam Michael, 'the only difference is you don't have to worry about using refuelling rigs. Otherwise ... it's the same.'


Ross Brawn said for the sake of television, it's a 'reasonable step.

'It gives TV its one-hour of 'proper' qualifying,' said the Ferrari chief.

He also said a stricken car can probably be recovered in time for session-two.

'Drivers were being careful,' he said, 'because if they'd dropped it in the first one, they couldn't take part in the second one because there wasn't time.'

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