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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 4, 2004


Curbs cause problems
Curbs caused more problems at the brand-new Bahrain F1 circuit on Saturday.

After the first practice session, FIA race director Charlie Whiting sped out to the final corner of the layout to inspect more ripple strips deemed 'too sharp.'

CUT TIRES

Several drivers suffered cut tires amid the desert backdrop this weekend.

A ten-minute delay was imposed on the start of the final pre-qualifying practice session as Whiting ordered the curbs at the final corner to be ground down.








Renault fix Alonso issue
It is understood that Renault is fixing Fernando Alonso's brake problem.

The Spaniard's R24 headed straight into parc ferme after a torrid final qualifying run that put him just seventeenth on the Bahrain Grand Prix grid.

'Locating the precise cause has proved problematic,' said Pat Symonds.

The chief engineer said his team had isolated 'potential' sources of the issue.

ALLOWED

'We'll do what is allowed within the rules,' he concluded.

One of the talking points in pitlane on Saturday was brake wear.

'It seems slightly worse than we expected [prior to the event],' said Symonds.

He also noted that, for the first time since 2003, tire blisters have appeared.








Bahrain hard on brakes
The hardest-braking circuit in Formula One is now Bahrain.

That is the belief of many pitlane chiefs, including McLaren's Ron Dennis.

Team driving veteran David Coulthard experienced an exploded-disc on Saturday.

MATERIALS

'The speeds [of Formula One] have gone up,' said Dennis, the team principal.

'So we've reverted to different [brake] materials.'

Dennis said Bahrain is even harder on brakes than Canada's Montreal circuit.








Lone Montoya on soft tire
Juan Pablo Montoya (3rd) is the only front-runner on the soft Michelin tire.

Only his BMW-Williams and the two Toyotas went for the 'option' in Bahrain.

Part of JPM's strategy gamble included racing to pole position on Saturday.

UNDERSTEER

'I picked up some understeer in the final corner,' he explained.

'I ran wide. But I'm glad I'm not on the dirty side of the track.'

28-year-old Juan Pablo Montoya reckons the start-time of 2.30, which is likely to boast cooler ambient and track temperatures, should play into his decision.








Ralf won't complain
Juan Pablo Montoya blamed a mistake for missing out on pole position.

But fourth-placed team-mate Ralf Schumacher admits he got the most from his car.

'There was no more in me, in the car, here,' the German said in Bahrain.

The BMW-Williams ace added: 'We expected this so ... I'm satisfied.

'I certainly don't think you'll hear anyone in the team complain.'








DC can't hide distress
David Coulthard is usually the consummate corporate professional.

But even the handsome Scot could not contain his disappointment in Bahrain.

'Crap,' the McLaren ace barked when asked how his qualifying-run went.

EXPLODED

Since racing out of pitlane on Friday, DC has spun out at 140mph with a Michelin failure, again with an exploded brake disc, and fended off technical problems.

Asked what the plan was for Sunday, he said it was to 'stay out of trouble.

'We'll have to see if there's any overtaking opportunities.'








Kimi delays flying lap
Kimi Raikkonen is not so much on the back foot as on the back row of the grid.

But, at least in Bahrain, the ploy is partly deliberate.

The McLaren driver's Mercedes V10 blew-up on Friday and changing the engine for the rest of the weekend carries with it a penalty of losing ten grid positions.

NEW TIRES

In qualifying, 24-year-old Kimi chose to forego his flying lap.

'We'll have new tires,' said the Finn on Sunday morning.

Sources reckon Raikkonen won't opt to start the race from pitlane.

He added: 'Hopefully it will help on the first lap in particular.'







Michelin up to Bahrain fight
Michelin may have been pipped for pole, but boss Pierre Dupasquier is confident that drivers including Juan Pablo Montoya are up to the fight in the Bahrain GP.

'I'm sure the race will be fiercely competitive,' said the Frenchman.

'Lap times have been close this weekend.'

SURPRISE

Boosting the sentiment is Ross Brawn, whose Ferrari boys - front row sitters Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello - 'surprised' him with their pace.

'Maybe we run our cars more conservatively than the others [in practice].

'We'll see what strategies people have tomorrow,' said the technical director.








Hard fought pole: Schu
Saturday represented Michael Schumacher's hardest-fought pole position of 2004.

The German has completed a clean-sweep of the top qualifying spot this season but he hinted that the layout in Bahrain does not particularly suit his style.

'That wasn't one of my best laps,' said Michael, 35.

'I think I sort of struggled - lost time.'

TRICKY

Technical boss Ross Brawn noted that Bahrain is not a Ferrari track.

'It's very tricky because it's a technically difficult circuit,' said Michael, who uncharacteristically went off the $150m track a few times this weekend.

'None of us can say it hasn't happened to us here,' he smiled.

'It's very slippery out there.'








Backmarkers to feature
Slow backmarkers should again feature in today's Formula One race.

3rd on the grid Juan Pablo Montoya notes that it is so slippery off the line.

'It's going to cost us quite a bit of time,' said the BMW-Williams ace.

RUBBISH

Rubber, tarmac pieces and sand has collected off the Bahrain racing-line.

'You're going to have to drive on all that rubbish,' said Juan.

'The tire will pick it all up. It'll take a while to clean up again.'








McLaren woe is 'surprise'
McLaren's woeful start to the Formula One season is a surprise.

F1 champ Michael Schumacher has won the first two races of 2004 whilst reigning title runner-up Kimi Raikkonen rots in the so-far slow and frail MP4-19 racer.

'It is a surprise to some degree,' said the Ferrari star.

'But we know that when it goes wrong ... it really goes wrong.'

UNLUCKY

Not only are the Mercedes-powered team bad, they're also unlucky, he said.

'But you never discount them,' Schumacher added.

'They always have the capacity to come back.'

The 35-year-old also confirmed that his fine for speeding in the pitlane on Saturday was his mistake ... 'I forgot to push the button,' said Michael.








Sato a match for Button
Takuma Sato is now matching BAR team-mate Jenson Button for performance.

Boss David Richards criticised his Japanese ace for 'overdriving' in the opening grands prix but 'Taku' narrowly outqualified the podium-set Button in Bahrain.

'I'm delighted for him,' the Briton said after qualifying.

'This is crucial in our bid to challenge the top three teams.'

Technical director Geoff Willis contrasted the pair's pace by explaining that Sato found a good balance in qualifying but Jenson failed to attain track grip.







BMW-Williams need pole
BMW-Williams is not likely to defeat the Ferrari juggernaut in Bahrain.

Ralf Schumacher (4th) said 'no-one' can complain about the team's qualifying form but chief operations engineer Sam Michael offered one dissenting voice.

'In order to start beating Ferrari,' started the Australian.

'... we really need to be on the front row.'

Schumacher lost qualifying time in the second sector and 3rd-placed team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya said he had pushed too hard for pole in the final corner.








Ferrari were conservative
Did Ferrari come from nowhere to steal the front row of the grid in Bahrain?

It appeared that way, as neither Rubens Barrichello or pole sitter Michael Schumacher headed the top of the times as official practice led into qualifying.

'We adopted a very conservative approach,' explained tech boss Ross Brawn.

ONE ENGINE

A new rule in F1 demands the use of just one engine per driver, per weekend.

On top of that was the added unknown of the sandy desert surrounds.

'It made us even more cautious,' the Briton said of Ferrari's engine approach.








Like Princes or Kings ...
They stood in a row ... like princes or kings.

That observation was not far from the truth in Bahrain on Saturday as the Duke of York, Prince Andrew, and King of Spain Juan Carlos, posed for photographs.

Beside them was Sheikh Salmen bin Hamed Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince of Bahrain.

HONOR

And for good measure, Formula One's own 'king' stepped in with a smile.

'It is an honor for me to meet the King,' said Spanish driver Fernando Alonso.

He's referring to Carlos of Spain, not Bernie Ecclestone, by the way ...

'For us Spaniards, the King is a very special person,' said the Renault star.








Dennis mentions 'f' word
Did Ron Dennis dare utter the unmentionable ... the 'f' word?

'All you need to do to get some attention is fail,' he said in Bahrain.

Not only has Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard's silver car been unreliable, it has failed to match up to its supposed status in the 'top three' of F1 teams.

'We exist to win,' said Dennis, pitlane's perfectionist.

'If we don't, we're not happy ... but we have to focus now.'

ALL OVER

Raikkonen, a Finn, is so far from pole that he's at the very back of the grid.

'We're having a difficult season,' he added. 'Especially right now.

'It's going to be all over if we keep on like this but it will get better.'

Dennis was asked how the Mercedes-powered team is feeling ...

He barked: 'How would you feel? At least we don't have to worry about external criticism - we get plenty of it. We're pretty critical of our own performance.'








Rain in the desert!
Sunday morning ... and it's raining in desert-town Sakhir!

By mid-morning the rare weather in Bahrain had subsided a bit but high winds and moisture may have changed track conditions a little ahead of today's big race.

Generally, only 17mm of rain is seen in the Kingdom all year.








Small crowd in Bahrain
A small crowd has descended on Bahrain's inaugural Formula One event.

It had been hoped that 100,000 people would turn out at the desert circuit over three days but organizers now say figures between 40 - 60 thousand are expected.

In nearby Manama's Seef Mall, the Grand Prix is not having a big impact.

'The crowds seem to be the same as always,' said a store owner.

'We have noticed an increased presence of foreigners though.'








Schu remembers Senna
Ayrton Senna's pole-position record is not yet surpassed by Michael Schumacher.

But the German came a bit closer to the 65-mark in Bahrain with number 58.

'I remember 1980,' said Schumacher as the anniversary of Senna's death nears.

2004 marks ten years since the great Brazilian was killed at Imola.

'I saw him in karts, and he had much better ability than his competitors.'

EMOTION

Senna's countryman Rubens Barrichello doesn't think about his hero every day.

'But, living the emotion of being Brazilian, I live with him always.

He said: 'For me, it's no different than the ninth year, or the eleventh one.'

South American Juan Pablo Montoya was a 'massive' Senna fan.

'I still am,' said the BMW-Williams driver, from Colombia.

'When we go to Imola, we know it happened, but we're not thinking about it.'







Russia in Bernie's vision
Russia still figures in Bernie Ecclestone's vision for a future F1 series.

The Briton said in Bahrain that China is to host its first race in September.

'And Turkey next year,' Ecclestone, 73, promised.

He said: 'After that, Russia and India.'








Rubens gets a ticket
Rubens Barrichello was pulled over by a policeman last week.

The Ferrari star was caught driving in Sao Paulo whilst talking on a mobile.

VODAFONE

'They gave me a ticket for that,' said Barrichello, 31.

'I sent it to [F1 sponsor] Vodafone.'








Williams 'disappointed' with Italian legal system
Frank Williams is disappointed that a court has reopened the Ayrton Senna case.

The F1 boss and team technical chiefs were finally cleared of manslaughter charges in 1999 following the great Brazilian's death at Imola ten years ago.

REGURGITATING

'I am clearly disappointed,' he said in Bahrain, 'that it is regurgitating itself again after ten years. But that's just the Italian legal system.

'We have to deal with it.'








VW boss shows up in Bahrain
An interesting face in the Bahrain paddock this weekend is Bernd Pischetsrieder.

He's the Volkswagen boss, a manufacturer many believe will 'inevitably' join F1.

'It's down to corporate policy whether you continue on a small scale,' BMW's Mario Theissen told Autosport, 'or whether you put everything into one basket.'








Bernie snubs bodyguard
Bernie Ecclestone has explained his decision to forego a bodyguard in Bahrain.

The F1 supremo reckons it's 'safer here' than in London.

'If a terrorist or someone wants to get you,' said the 73-year-old, 'they'll spend a lot longer thinking about it than I will. The danger is everywhere.'








Montoya wants title: Head
He might be leaving, but Juan Pablo Montoya is still charging for the title.

BMW-Williams' tech boss Patrick Head says that even though the Colombian ace is heading to McLaren in 2005, he's throwing out a challenge to Michael Schumacher.

'He's 100 percent committed,' Head told The People.

'He wants a championship ... whether he's racing a Williams or a McLaren.'

Teammate Ralf Schumacher might also move-on next season, to Toyota.

'There's all this talk,' said Head, an Englishman.

'But it isn't a factor for us. Anyway, Frank is thinking about that.'

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