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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 5, 2004


Ferrari fined, Ralf reprimanded
An emphatic Ferrari won the first ever Formula One race in the Middle East, but the team was also slapped with a $10,000 fine for an incident in pitlane.

Stewards reviewed video-evidence and independent explanations and ruled that Rubens Barrichello had been released from a stop when it wasn't 'safe to do so.'

A near-collision with the Renault of Jarno Trulli was averted.

Rubens defended Ferrari and passed the buck to the Italian.

'He cut across me,' said the Brazilian, 'and I had to brake.

CLOSED THE DOOR

'It was not my intention to block him.'

Ralf Schumacher was also punished for a clash with the BAR of Takuma Sato.

After a similar review process, stewards ruled that the Japanese ace had been 'forced off the track' by the German who received an official reprimand.

'Ralf just closed the door on me and turned in,' said Takuma.

Three reprimands during the season equals a race-ban.

'I think he was a bit optimistic,' retorted Schumacher.

'He thought he could just simply get back the place he had just lost.'








Button: two podiums in a row
After a 70 race drought, Jenson Button made it two podiums in a row in Bahrain.

'We smell like ladies,' he grinned in a media conference, coated in fruit juice.

'I actually had quite a bit of understeer today but we adjusted it.'

Button, 24, is now third in the drivers' world championship.

'It's really starting to come together now,' he beamed.

Team boss David Richards left the circuit talking about that illusive first win.

INCREDIBLE

'Jenson was simply incredible this afternoon,' said the Briton.

Even team-mate Takuma Sato (5th) ended-up with good points in Bahrain.

'I'm glad he had a better weekend here,' Richards added.

Technical director Geoff Willis said BAR now heads off for a test to work on new engine and chassis developments before the first European event in San Marino.

'I was on the pace,' said Takuma Sato, 'but my tangle with Ralf was disappointing. We should have got through turn two side-by-side.'

After that, he ran wide in a corner, damaging the front wing on a kerb.

He added: 'And I lost even more time when the gurney (flap) came loose.'








Montoya's wrong tires
Juan Pablo Montoya blamed failing to lead the pace on choosing wrong tires.

But the Colombian, one of just three Michelin runners on the softest option, also lost the chance of a comfortable podium in Bahrain with a gearbox problem.

Montoya ended up thirteenth because of the problem ten-laps from the end.

'We're not going to match Ferrari at the moment,' he said.

'But today we were the quickest on Michelin tires, and that's important.'

Montoya first lost seventh gear and then a few more.

NO DRIVE

'Eventually I had no drive,' he explained.

Team-mate Ralf Schumacher described his afternoon as 'limitation of damage.'

The German endured a trying event in the Middle East, not least a spectacular collision with BAR driver Takuma Sato that has earned him a formal reprimand.

'From my point of view, it was an unfortunate race incident,' he said.

'But I think it's ok because, looking at the data, I was running close to Ferrari's pace whenever I had free track ahead. This gives room for hope.'

Chief operations engineer Sam Michael said Ferrari 'beat us fairly' in Bahrain.








Minardi woe
Minardi's problems had started before the PS04Bs even lined-up on the grid.

Both Gianmaria Bruni and Zsolt Baumgartner experienced 'electronic difficulties' on the formation laps but the latter Hungarian fixed his from the cockpit.

Bruni, from Italy, was less fortunate.

His car was pushed from the grid and started two-laps down from the pits.

On lap 46, Baumgartner's woes ended with an engine failure.

'I set times not far off the Jordans,' said 22-year-old Zsolt.

Bruni spent the race struggling with handling and down on engine power.

'Without the problems, I could have raced better,' he said.

F1 now takes a three-week break before the first grand prix in Europe.








Schu and Rubens share 17th one-two
In Bahrain, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello shared their 17th one-two.

It was Schumacher's seventy-third career victory in Formula One.

'A dream result,' said Michael, who later confessed that lower than expected track temperatures after a morning storm helped his Bridgestone tire pace.

Technical director Ross Brawn echoed the sentiment.

'It was tough,' said MS, 'because we had to manage the brakes.'

Schumacher, 35, was also 'all shook up' for the first race stint.

'I couldn't unlock the brakes at the start,' he added, 'so I had much vibration. But all day, on this very tricky circuit, I drove slightly below my limit.'

Barrichello thinks a few drops of rain at the start worked against him.

'My brakes took time to warm up,' said the Brazilian.

He also started slowly after slipping on oil from an earlier historic F1 race.

Time was lost during a pitstop, too.

'I thought I could go,' he said, 'but it was still on the jack.'

Englishman Brawn had expected a 'much tougher' race.








Webber saves a point
At least Mark Webber scored Jaguar's first point of the season.

It wasn't the best of weekends for the Australian in Bahrain but he had already clawed back a few places in the R5 to be 10th at the end of the first circuit.

'That's where I should have qualified,' he said.

Webber, 27, explained his off in turn-13 on a pitstop flap-change.

'It was perhaps too much ... but I was lucky to catch it.'

Team-mate Christian Klien fought a spectacular race to 14th.

SPINS

The Austrian lost a couple of places with a spin on lap-16.

He also had a coming-together with Fernando Alonso on the first lap.

'My R5 was damaged a bit,' he said, 'but I continued ok.

'I enjoyed my battle with Kimi Raikkonen.'

Another error caused Klien to spin at turn eleven. 'After this I was just pleased to finish,' he said. 'It was still good fun to try and overtake.'

Like many teams, Jaguar now heads to Barcelona for a test.








Nick wants 'new things'
Nick Heidfeld wants some 'new things' on his Jordan EJ14.

The 26-year-old struggled home for 15th in Bahrain and he said the best thing about his first F1 event in the Middle East was finally seeing the chequer.

'I didn't get on top of the car balance,' he said.

Worse, he had to start at the back after a late Ford engine-change.

'The new Bridgestones are better ... we just need to understand them more.'

Minor nuisances were a small brake problem and a blue-flagged Minardi.

PENALIZED

'I don't know if he was penalized,' said Nick, 'but he should have been.'

Jordan tests at Silverstone prior to Imola in three weeks.

Team-mate Giorgio Pantano also had a problem with an hydraulic leak on the last ten laps but at least he finished his third career race since signing on.

'I had a bit of understeer,' said the Italian.

'I think I've improved in qualifying a bit so now I have to work on the race.

'I want to be closer to Nick.'








Kimi suffers another engine failure
Kimi Raikkonen said very little.

He'd started from the back of the grid after a raft of pre-race technical faults but was already powering back to the pits on the back of a scooter by lap eight.

The Finn's Mercedes-Benz powerplant, again, had erupted in flame.

'I just want to forget this weekend,' said Kimi.

'I lost power all of a sudden. The engine went.

'There's not really anything else I can say or do.'

Team-mate David Coulthard also failed to finish the inaugural Bahrain GP.

His problem was a loss of air in the pneumatic system of the engine.

The Scot called it an 'extremely unsatisfying' couple of days in the Gulf.

'First of all, I lacked speed,' he said.

'I came into the pits to see if we could fix the problem but it was impossible.'








Trulli inconsolable
Jarno Trulli was an almost inconsolable figure in the Bahrain F1 paddock.

The Italian had just driven a perfect race to fourth but saw the chance of a podium finish escape him around the time of his third and final pit-stop.

'We should have got to the podium,' he said.

'The car was perfect but after the final stop it became harder to drive. I lost grip. It was quite strange. Also I lost time in traffic on all my out laps.'

Nonetheless, Renault lies second in the constructors championship.

INCIDENT

Team-mate Fernando Alonso, having started 16th, drove an incident filled race.

He was squeezed at the start by a Jaguar and lost his front wing in another first-lap collision and rejoined the circuit thirty seconds behind the pack.

In the end, F1's Spaniard settled for sixth when he couldn't pass Takuma Sato.

'I did my maximum,' he said, 'but I was also surprised by how some cars were being driven today. A Jaguar nearly put me in the wall at the start.'

Alonso also gesticulated at Mark Webber after a blocking move.








Da Matta is disappointed
It's always frustrating to finish ninth ... just out of the points.

In Bahrain, Olivier Panis, of Toyota, was lumbered with the role.

'Of course it's a little disappointing,' the Frenchman told reporters.

'But it's been positive for us here. We've all worked hard to perform as well as we could. We've shown another increase in our level of performance.'

NO GRIP

Teammate Cristiano da Matta was just behind him in tenth.

'It's quite disappointing,' the Brazilian commented.

'I didn't have much grip in the race. It's frustrating because I thought we were capable of more especially after what we did earlier this weekend.'

At Imola in three weeks, the TF104 will feature a new aerodynamic package.








Bad race for Sauber twins
It couldn't have been a lot worse for Giancarlo Fisichella in Bahrain.

The Italian finished 11th because 'huge understeer' settled into his Sauber.

'Later it felt like the engine lost power a bit,' he added.

Fisichella also had problems in his last two pit stops.

Both times, he asked for first gear ... but got second.

RALF SPIN

'And Ralf spun me on lap 31,' he moaned.

'Without this, especially Ralf, I think we might have got a point.'

Team-mate Felipe Massa was also a lap down (12th) in the other C23 car.

'I was really struggling for grip,' said the Brazilian.

'And I had lots of vibration. It felt really unstable.'







Button 'has what it takes'
Jenson Button 'has what it takes' to become a Formula One winner.

That's the new opinion of retired Jaguar star Eddie Irvine who has done has fair share of 'Button bashing' since the young Briton joined the circus back in 2000.

Button, BAR's star, scored a back-to-back podium in Bahrain on Sunday.

Irvine told The Sun that JB has 'emerged from four years of hype.

'He appears to be the real deal,' said the Ulsterman.

EI thinks Button's main new weapon is confidence.

'He obviously feels comfortable now because the team is behind him,' said Eddie.

Helping that, said Irvine, is Button's F1 team-mate Takuma Sato.

'He's useless,' said the 38-year-old. 'Blowing him away gives him a lift.'

Irvine also puts some of BAR's success down to new tech-director Geoff Willis.

'We tried hard to poach him when I was at Jaguar,' he admitted.








Toyota should start winning
Toyota should start winning Formula One races in two or three years.

That is the prediction of president John Howett, in Bahrain.

'We're beginning to build a good team,' he said.

'I'm sure as we bring in new people and reinforce the team, we'll get there.'

Based in Cologne, Toyota vowed to become the first team in the modern phase of F1 to build Ferrari's brand of success by making both the car and V10 engine.

One of the objectives is to change the public's perception of the 'passenger car' manufacturer, the world's third-largest carmaker, by winning grands prix.

'I think that's a bit untrue,' said Howett.

'We're not really a passenger car maker. We're young and dynamic.

'Through F1, we want to show how passionate we are as a company.'








Raikkonen ready for title
Kimi Raikkonen believes he is 'ready' to challenge for the F1 championship.

His current McLaren might not be up to it, but it is one of the Finn's dreams.

'It's not going to be easy,' the 24-year-old said in Bahrain.

That was his sentiment before smoking out of his third successive race with yet another Mercedes engine failure, according to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper.

'It would be good [to win the title]. Hopefully it will happen in the future.'

It might have to happen with another Formula One team, though.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has already expressed his interest.

'I'm happy to be here,' Raikkonen, under contract until 2005, laughs.

'This is just normal life for me. This is just another year of my life.'








Dixon has a future in F1: Frank
Scott Dixon has a future on the Formula One grid.

That is the belief of top team owner and principal Sir Frank Williams.

Dixon, 23, recently tested a tusk-nosed FW26 car at Paul Ricard.

'He could be a very good prospect one day,' Frank was quoted by Reuters.

CHIP GANASSI

Williams has a seat to fill in 2005 with the departure of Juan Pablo Montoya, and has previously filled seats with US-based Chip Ganassi drivers like Scott.

Dixon, from Auckland, has another test scheduled at Barcelona this week.

'I wasn't there [at the test],' said Frank, 'but I was told he was very sensible in his approach. His memory of the cockpit buttons was as good as we've seen.

'He took the whole thing cautiously. We were quite impressed.'








Podium drivers smell 'like ladies'
Usually, sweating drivers soaked in champagne smells distinctly ... unpleasant.

'We smell like ladies,' smiled Bahrain podium-getter Jenson Button.

In deference to Arabic traditions, the normal routine of spraying expensive champagne was replaced by drivers showering in a 'rosewater' fruit juice.

'It smells very good, I confess,' said race winner Michael Schumacher.

'We normally smell a bit strange. But now we're beautiful.'

Rubens Barrichello joked that he drank his champagne 'before' the race.

'Maybe that's why I'm sweating so much,' the Brazilian laughed.








No 'secret' to new circuit form
The last time F1 visited a new track, Michael Schumacher put it on pole and won.

Actually, a Ferrari topped qualifying and strolled to victory on the last three occasions that a new circuit - Bahrain, Malaysia and Indianapolis - turned up.

COINCIDENCE

'I guess it's just a coincidence,' said Schumacher on Sunday.

'I don't think there's a special secret. Obviously we are prepared properly, we have a very good car and a very good team. We're just using our opportunities.'








Barrichello looked tired
After finishing second in Bahrain, Rubens Barrichello looked tired.

Someone noted in the post-race news conference that even despite lower than expected track temperatures, the Brazilian's face matched his scarlet overalls.

'You sound quite tired,' the questioner probed.

'I'm sweating a bit more than normal,' Barrichello conceded.

Ferrari's number-two ace insisted that he had faced 'no problems at all' in Malaysia, where temperatures and humidity soared past the Middle East offering.

'I haven't slept very well whilst I've been here,' Rubens continued.

'So I was a bit tired three-quarters through. But I kept pushing.'







McLaren has dropped out of F1's top-four
A defective MP4-19 did not cheer David Coulthard up.

The Scot has been struggling all weekend in his McLaren and both he and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen ground out of the Bahrain GP with engine-related dramas.

'This is not where anyone expects us to be,' he said.

'Even if we had finished it would not have been anywhere near where we should be. But I don't suppose we'll be in this position for all that long.'

Coulthard, 32, insisted that a season should not pass without a silver win.

Even in 2003, when the outfit rolled out of pitlane with a development of the 2002-car, DC won in Melbourne and Kimi Raikkonen pulled it to a title finale.

'We've got to dream of a win. It might well be a dream.'

David admits that, on current form, McLaren has dropped out of F1's top-four.

'The pecking order is Ferrari, Williams, BAR and Renault,' said the veteran.

Team principal Ron Dennis said no real improvements are expected until Spain.

'I expect we'll only be stronger in the latter part of the season,' the Englishman added. 'Until then, we're going to have to grin and bear it.'








Schu rides with wife's amulet
The secret of Schumacher's success ... a lucky charm he wears under his F1 suit?

Just before the six-times world champion climbed into his scarlet racer in Bahrain on Sunday, the German noticed he'd left a lucky amulet at the hotel.

'[Wife] Corinna is always with me,' Michael told TV reporters.

DIFFERENCE

'I asked someone to dash over to the hotel to get the charm my wife gave me and brought it back. That was perhaps the difference between winning and losing.'

He won, of course, for the seventy-third time.

'Corinna and the children always ride with me,' said Schumacher.








Merchandise rip-off in Bahrain
Merchandise traders at the Bahrain GP ripped-off their patrons.

Earplugs, that cost (US) $1.30 on Friday, went for $2.65 on race day.

One pair was sold for $5.00, someone told Gulf Daily News.

T-SHIRTS

Official T-shirts that should cost $66.00 were selling for up to $93.00.

A spokesman for the Formula One circuit said it did not control prices.

He said an agreement was made between the F1 teams and 'greedy' merchants.








'Pedal to the metal,' screamed Button
'Pedal to the metal!' - that was the radio-message in the ears of BAR personnel.

The Honda-powered line of pitwall-sitters weren't sure what they'd heard.

'Say again,' Jenson Button's radio engineer communicated to his man ...

Button, 24, had just soared past an ailing Juan Pablo Montoya in Bahrain, paving the path for his second successive podium position in a four-season race career.

JB pressed the button for radio-communication again.

'... everything is okay,' he told his crew twice, according to the Telegraph.

Team boss Dave Richards knows a lot of F1's doomsayers very well.

'Some of them consider that our third in Malaysia was lucky,' he said.

DR lit another celebratory cigar ... 'this shows we are to be taken seriously.'








No cigarettes or alcohol
No cigarettes and no alcohol - the strict diet of Formula One team Toyota.

Five of the sport's ten Formula One teams, including top outfits Ferrari, McLaren and Renault, are backed by some of the world's biggest tobacco firms.

Not Toyota.

'We want a 'clean' image,' a spokesman told reporters in the Gulf.

'Toyota is firm on this and we will pursue it.'

BMW-Williams is also pushing the 'clean' image of no tobacco-clad liveries.

'We used to have tobacco sponsors,' said a team spokeswoman.

'But we made the decision to stop when BMW joined us [in 2000].'

She added that Toyota and Oxfordshire-based Williams are likely to be totally unaffected by Formula One's vow to stop all tobacco advertising in July 2005.








Ralf made 'mess' of Bahrain GP
Ralf Schumacher made a 'bloody mess' of his Formula One race in Bahrain.

Those are the words of Williams' technical director Patrick Head who noted that Ralf clashed with Takuma Sato, earning a reprimand, and Giancarlo Fisichella.

Schumacher, 28, also ran over his crew whilst stopping for service.

'Ralf was just bloody stupid,' Head continued to fume.

LIMPED

After thumping wheels with Sato, Ralf limped back to the pits.

But Head, who looked closely at the FW26, found RS's car in perfect order.

'He lost a lot of time getting it checked,' said the Briton. 'Not good.'

Ralf is linked with a $100 million switch to Toyota in 2005.








A Bahraini on the F1 grid?
A Bahraini might one day join F1's current flock of mostly European drivers.

Sir Frank Williams, boss of the successful BMW-powered team, advised the country to establish a sort of 'Formula One school' so that F1 talent may be nurtured.

'They need to then join junior category races.'

JOURNEY

He said: 'It's a long journey but I'm sure this will become a reality.'

Later, BMW announced plans for such a school.

The 'Performance Centre Bahrain' will be built at the new F1 circuit sometime this year and is to teach selected young people racing skills 'from scratch'.

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