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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 7, 2004


Coulthard: don't blame Mercedes
David Coulthard has moved to divert fingers of blame from the Mercedes V10.

McLaren team-mate Kimi Raikkonen has twice retired from grands prix this season, and fell foul of the single-unit regulation in Bahrain, with detonating engines.

'At the end of the day it's not one element,' said the Scot.

'You've got tyres, engine, drivers and chassis.'

He said 'all four' pieces need to work in harmony towards race victory.

WINNING CARS

But David, 32, reckons the MP4-19 chassis actually isn't that bad.

'If the pace was there,' he said, 'I'd be reasonably happy with it. I've certainly had winning McLaren cars that are more difficult to drive than this.'

Coulthard admitted that the silver contender lacks 'speed on the straights.'

But it's also not great in the middle, and on the exit, of corners.

'Positional ability is difficult,' said DC, 'so that's where you lose time.'








Renault to unleash performance step
Renault is to unleash a 'sizeable performance step' at the next race in Imola.

Technical director Bob Bell said the upgrade is 'primarily on the engine side' but some chassis modifications are also being tested at Barcelona this week.

'We now have two R24 chassis available for testing,' he said.

'We'll use them in Barcelona and next week at Paul Ricard.'

FRUSTRATED

A Renault spokesman agreed that the team's form on some occasions, particularly in qualifying on Saturday, has left personnel 'frustrated' come race day.

'There is a very genuine gap in performance to Ferrari,' Bell continued.

'I'm pleased, but we know how much progress still needs to be made.'

He said the chassis modifications are designed to make the car easier to drive.








Jordan gets Toyota power?
Jordan might be Toyota-powered in 2005.

Authoritative website grandprix.com reports that Eddie Jordan has commenced negotiations with the Cologne-based outfit for a new V10 engine/gearbox deal.

It may also include aerodynamic consultancy.

One of the first observations of Toyota's new tech director, Mike Gascoyne, when he joined the team was that the RVX-04 is one of the best engines in pitlane.

'It's also incredibly reliable,' the Briton added.








McLaren to scrap MP4-19 challenger
After a dismal start, McLaren is about to give up on season 2004.

British newspaper The Guardian reckons the team will scrap the terrible MP4-19 and replace it with a brand new car possibly in time for the Hungarian GP.

McLaren, based in Woking, also scrapped its 2003 car, the never-raced MP4-18.

Disappointed veteran driver David Coulthard hinted to the media on Tuesday that he may not be the only McLaren man to 'drop out of the system' in coming months.

'Obviously there are people in the comfort zone,' said the Scot.

CRITICISM

Team CEO Ron Dennis denied that he was one.

'Taking criticism is painful,' the perfectionist said in Bahrain.

He continued: 'But only a fool identifies one individual in an organization and says that organization is succeeding or failing because of that one person.'

Mercedes boss Norbert Haug attempted to stamp on the 'give up' speculation.

'Jumping ship is not an option,' the German told AFP.








Ralf loves his brother, but ...
Ralf Schumacher loves his brother ...

... but the BMW-Williams racer did not love an article in German paper 'Bild' on Tuesday which moved to accelerate celebrations of Michael's seventh F1 title.

'Thanks for another ... title,' the journalist told Ferrari's star.

Clearly, Schumacher Junior had hoped for a better start to the season.

'But those who are already celebrating another championship with Ferrari should not forget that there are still 150 points left to be won,' said Ralf, 28.

He added: '... a lot can still happen.'

Williams are scheduled to start a test in Barcelona on Wednesday and even though radical car changes are not on the cards, 'effective improvements' are planned.

'We won't have anything that you could term a major package,' said Sam Michael.

The chief operations engineer confirmed, however, that 'changes' to the FW26 are ready to be tested ahead of Imola - 'there's nothing really wrong with the car.'








Barrichello expects turning point
Rubens Barrichello hopes a turning point is around the next corner.

The Brazilian, second in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix, has had to watch Ferrari team-mate Michael Schumacher win the first three instalments of the F1 season.

'I got closest to him in Australia,' said Rubens.

In Malaysia, Barrichello insists that cool weather played against his tyre choice and in Bahrain he 'expected' to do a bit better than he eventually did.

He continued: 'I feel I'm on the right pace ...

'... but I don't think the whole season will go like this.'

Rubens has returned to Europe to participate in pre-Imola test sessions.








Alonso quickest in Spain
Fernando Alonso led the pace as a multi-team Formula One test started in Spain.

The Spaniard outpaced BAR's Anthony Davidson by a tenth of a second.

But it was third-placed Jarno Trulli who drew most attention.

The Italian, driving another R24, tested a brand new aerodynamic package and a new specification of Renault RS24 engine, both scheduled to debut at Imola.

PROBLEM

He couldn't do many laps late in the day with an hydraulic problem.

But JT said the new engine represented a 'good improvement' over the old one.

'Tomorrow, both drivers will run the new engine,' said Pat Symonds.

Two McLarens were split by Luca Badoer, who gave the F2004 Ferrari its first Circuit de Catalunya run, and a couple of Toyotas brought up the field's rear.







Multi-millions make F1 look 'silly'
An annual team budget of $550 million makes Formula One look 'silly.'

That's the belief of Englishman and 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell.

He told The Sun: '... In my day it took years to develop the relationships between driver and team and you had to work hard ... to improve the car.

BUTTON

'Now a young driver can get in, point and squirt, and he's away.'

But after watching Jenson Button power to consecutive podiums in Malaysia and Bahrain, Nigel Mansell believes Britain might have found its next F1 champion.

'... he could be fighting at the front on a regular basis,' he added.








Champ Car unveils two-seater
Reigning champion Paul Tracy tested a two-seater Champ Car on Tuesday.

The car, run down a section of the Long Beach circuit, uses the same 750hp turbo Ford-Cosworth engine and Bridgestone tires as the series' single-seater field.

PIONEER

F1 pioneered the two-seater idea when, in 1998, McLaren rolled out its Mercedes-powered version and Minardi still organizes events for sponsors and team guests.

'Everybody who gets out of the car has a look of astonishment,' said Tracy.








Boss believed in Button
David Richards believed in Jenson Button before he'd become a podium veteran.

When the team principal wanted to sign Button after his two terrible seasons at Renault, Formula One impresario Bernie Ecclestone advised him to think again.

'But I saw a young driver in need of focus and structure,' DR said.

Richards sucked an another cigar after the Bahrain Grand Prix.

'Before a wheel was turned,' he said, 'I put my cards on the table.

TITLE SPONSOR

'I said I believed in Jenson. I was not afraid to stand up.'

The Brackley-based boss said his 24-year-old driver's back to back podiums have given BAR 'momentum' and a spirit to achieve even more - like a grand prix win.

It's also helped in the quest to replace Lucky Strike as title sponsor in 2006 or 2007, when all tobacco and cigarette advertising bites the category's dust.

'The marketing people are thanking Jenson as much as anyone,' DR smiled.

'We have three or four significant deals in the air at the moment.'








Turkey on track for F1 race
Turkey's F1 track is scheduled for completion in March 31 next year.

Istanbul has signed a preliminary agreement with race impresario Bernie Ecclestone to stage a late-season grand prix from 2005 until around 2012.

The circuit comprises no fewer than 16 corners, to boost overtaking chances.

Like Interlagos and Imola, it features a rare anti-clockwise layout.

DETAILED MAP

This publication has reviewed a detailed map of the circuit, which shows a left-hand bend as the first corner and several fast stretches of road from turn-8.

Architect Hermann Tilke, also behind the new Bahrain and Shanghai grand prix projects, has designed the $85 million facility to reflect 'Turkish culture.'

It should have a grandstand capacity of around 75 - 100,000.

The proposed GP also has the backing of Turkey's Chamber of Commerce.








Bahrain 'civil rights' under fire
Bahrain has come under fire from the 'Human Rights Watch' organization.

HRW claims that an anti-torture activist was arrested before the Gulf state's first ever Formula One race on Sunday to prevent him from staging a protest.

The detention of Abu al-Rauf al-Shayeb was a 'crude effort,' said HRW.

Bahrain has put in doubt its government's commitment to respect civil rights, said a report by Human Rights Watch's acting executive director Joe Stork.

Al-Shayeb is a member of the 'Committee of Torture Victims' committee.

He had planned a 'peaceful' protest at the Bahrain circuit against Law 56, a government decree conferring immunity on officials responsible for torture.

He was not permitted visits from friends, family, or a lawyer.








Buckle up, says Schu
Michael Schumacher has urged road users to put on a seat belt.

The six-times Formula One champion, fresh from Bahrain GP victory, was guest of honour as a charter on European road safety was signed in Dublin on Tuesday.

BELIEVE

'It may safe your life,' said the German.

'I guess if I say it, maybe people will believe it a little more.'








Schu asked again - 'are you quitting?'
Maybe one day, the speculation will stop.

Once again, as is now almost the weekly routine for one Michael Schumacher, the six-times world champion was asked if title number seven might be his last.

'I guess I'll be asked it everywhere,' he told reporters in Dublin.

'I'll probably be asked until I say 'that is it, I am finished.'

This season is rapidly turning into a 2002 repeat, when Ferrari was so far ahead of its rivals that the biggest interest was in how they orchestrated the finish.

'I don't want to talk about the future,' Schumacher said when still in Bahrain.

'The fact is, I love the sport and I'll keep racing as long as I do.'

But as much as he tried, the 35-year-old driver didn't really succeed in convincing journalists that he was working harder than it looked on the track.

'I think both tyre companies fought with blisters,' said Michael on Sunday.

'It was a fine line. But I was only a couple of seconds ahead of the next man.'

Incidentally, the 'next' man, Rubens Barrichello, drove an identical F2004.







'Impossible' to close gap, says Theissen
In Bahrain, BMW-Williams was half a second a lap slower than Michael Schumacher.

'It's quite a lot,' admitted BMW motorsport director Dr Mario Theissen.

'Obviously, we'd hoped to return to Europe with better results.'

But all is not lost, the German insists.

THREE WEEKS

F1 teams have three weeks to work on the deficit to pacesetters Ferrari and Williams are aiming to use the time to 'intensify and accelerate' development.

'... and find out where we are behind,' said Theissen.

He admits that it is probably 'impossible' to close the gap for Imola.

'But last year we closed an even bigger gap over the whole season and it's our goal to do this again now. It is far from being an irredeemable situation.'








Renault promote Alonso
Renault seldom misses an opportunity to promote the talents of Fernando Alonso.

The team's new technical director Bob Bell reckons Bahrain demonstrated that, whatever the race circumstances, their feisty little Spaniard 'never gives up.'

Alonso, 22, wound up 17th on the grid in Bahrain with a brake problem.

And then he lost one of his R24's forward bargeboards in a first lap clash.

'It certainly handicapped his performance,' said Bell.

'But the adverse circumstances didn't destabilise him.'

Fernando, from Oviedo, finished the race in a solid sixth place and even set the second fastest race lap after Bahrain winner and F1 champion Michael Schumacher.

Alonso agreed that Bahrain was probably his 'best race' so far in 2004.

'I fought harder,' he said, 'and really had a good time in the car too.'








Bahrain sends 'message' to Europe
John Surtees believes Bahrain sends a 'little message' back to Europe.

The former champion said the $150m track, supported by the chamber of commerce, tells Britain that 'more than talk' should be pumped into its own race.

'Nothing is sacred,' the 1964 champion told Vodafone Racing.








Toyota get faster car for Imola
Toyota should have a faster car by the time it races at Imola this month.

F1 veteran Olivier Panis is testing at the Circuit de Catalunya this week and a spokesman confirmed that 'some new aero parts' debuted on the TF104 on Tuesday.

'We don't want to expect too much,' said Frenchman Panis.

'We weren't fantastic over the curbs at Imola last year.'

REPACKAGING

Panis said the technical team, headed by new arrival Mike Gascoyne, is working on 'repackaging' the car to reduce the weight and lower the centre of gravity.

'I'm sure we'll make some progress [in Imola],' said Panis.

He lauded the arrival of Gascoyne four months ago as 'very good news.

'Together we'll definitely continue to get better.'

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