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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 9, 2004


Schu back on top: Barcelona
Michael Schumacher resumed his usual Formula One spot - in P1.

The world champion and triple consecutive race winner got back into his F2004 at Barcelona on Thursday and lapped the damp track quicker than Fernando Alonso.

Team-mate Rubens Barrichello (3rd) was also in action.

TRICKY

'The weather was a bit tricky early on,' said Toyota driver Olivier Panis, who revealed that nearly all outfits had their scheduled programmes disrupted.

He added: 'It started raining on certain corners but not on others.'

McLaren, BAR, BMW-Williams, Sauber and Jaguar filled up the 15-strong field.








BAR shelve 'radical' rear wing
BAR has been asked to shelve a proposed radical rear wing.

According to Autosport, the Brackley-based outfit showed plans of the design to the governing FIA who advised them that it would indeed contravene the rules.

ILLEGAL

The Paris-based body believes it would give BAR an illegal 'third' element.

A spokesman said a rule 'clarification' would now be issued to all teams.








Pantano in doubt
Giorgio Pantano's place on the Formula One grid might be in doubt.

The Italian rookie drove his third grand prix in Bahrain last Sunday but speculation now has Brazilian Augusto Farfus Jr taking his race seat.

Jordan swiftly denied the reports, principally of the Brazilian media.

NOT HAPPY

But rumours persist that Eddie Jordan is not happy with Pantano's pace.

'In F1,' said the Irishman, 'you don't get much time to prove yourself.'

Farfus, who carries some financial backing, is Euro F3000 champion and the current series leader of the European touring car championship for Alfa.








Shanghai nearly ready
Shanghai's new F1 track is just about ready to roll, according to reports.

Media agency 'Associated Press' claims that the Chinese facility, set to host the F1 series in late September, is nearly complete and now getting asphalted.

OBJECT D'ART

'We want to give all our country, and the world, a first rate 'object-d'art',' said Xu Zheng, who is the president of the circuit's construction group.

Officials believe Shanghai cost less to construct than Bahrain's $150 million.








Empire State Building is red
New Yorkers wondered why their Empire State Building was glowing scarlet red.

On Wednesday, the tall building basked in red light to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the very first Ferrari arriving in the United States (1954).

THRILLED

'It would have thrilled Enzo Ferrari,' said president Luca di Montezemolo.

The US is Ferrari's largest sales market for road cars.








Dixon gets first wet running
Scott Dixon got his first taste of wet running in a grand prix car.

The IRL ace was a couple of seconds slower than world champion Michael Schumacher at Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday as rain spoiled the whole day.

SLOWER

Dixon, 23, was 1.3 seconds slower than fellow FW26 pilot Ralf Schumacher.

'He worked on different engine maps,' said chief engineer Sam Michael.









FIA wants F1 to slow down
F1's governing body wants to slow down the current flock of racers.

FIA president Max Mosley is worried that this year's cars, traveling an average 3.0 seconds per lap faster than in 2003, are accordingly more dangerous.

He's looking 'very carefully' at enacting powers under the Concorde Agreement.

'... we can give notice to the teams,' he told Reuters, 'which requires the Technical Working Group to come up with proposals for slowing the cars.'

LIMITED TIME

Mosley said the TWG would only have a 'limited time' to enact change.

'If they don't come up with anything, we have the right to impose something.'

According to sources, the TWG would have two months to find a solution.

If they don't, the FIA would provide teams with three alternative packages of measures and F1 bosses and technical directors would have to chose from those.








French GP cuts ticket prices
Officials have cut ticket prices to boost attendance at the French GP.

Following the similar action of the Nurburgring track, Magny-Cours' body FFSA said it would also put on a more spectacular support event package in 2004.

'We are aiming for a much larger crowd,' said president Jacques Regis.

Support events include F3000, F3, Porsche Supercup and Historic Grand Prix.

GOBBLED UP

Regis also confirmed that Mobil 1 has signed to sponsor the event, but said all the revenue would be gobbled up in administration costs to Formula One bodies.

The FFSA also wants people to 'change their minds' about the rural circuit.

'... especially the press and the teams,' Regis added.

Jacques said the French government gives the grand prix 'no cash' backing.








Canada's F1 'disaster'
Jacques Villeneuve's absence has had a 'disastrous' effect on F1 in Canada.

'La Presse' newspaper reports that TV viewing figures have never been so low.

A million viewers used to tune-in to watch the Quebecois race his Williams and BAR-Honda cars but the most recent grand prix in Bahrain attracted only 150,000.








Ferrari has eye on Renault whiz
World champion F1 team Ferrari has its eye on Renault's electronics whiz.

It is reported that Naoki Tokunaga, currently working for sister brand Nissan, pioneered the superior electrics system of Renault's impressive R24 model.

COOLEST

In other quick news, Jenson Button is winning more than F1 podiums.

'BBC Top Gear' magazine voted BAR's Briton the 'fifth coolest racing driver in history' behind James Hunt, Barry Sheene, Steve McQueen and Ayrton Senna.








Briatore: F1 is 'not a bore'
Flavio Briatore does not agree that Ferrari is robbing F1 of all suspense.

The Renault managing director told L'Equipe magazine that the scarlet team won last year's championship because rivals BMW-Williams and McLaren 'lost it.

'Michael [Schumacher] is right,' said the Italian.

'If people give you presents, why should you not accept them ... ?

FAR FROM OVER

'But things are far from over this year.'

Fun-loving Briatore is also out to spread the word that F1 is not a bore.

'You don't need to over-dramatise this job,' said 53-year-old Briatore. 'We need to stop telling the world that we do the most difficult job in the world.

'There are people who work harder than us and get no perks.'







Schu plays soccer for charity
Michael Schumacher is to star in a soccer match in Naples later this month.

A team made up of race aces past and present, including Riccardo Patrese, Max Biaggi, Ivan Capelli and Fernando Alonso, will take on a team of Italian MPs.

Proceeds of the April 30 match are to go to victims of the recent 'Nassiriya mission' killings in Iraq and also to a charity for children with leukaemia.








What's wrong with McLaren?
What's wrong with the new McLaren MP4-19?

Reuters asked team principal Ron Dennis whether it was generic, perhaps fed from the never raced MP4-18 project, or whether the car's shortcomings have a fix ...

'The most truthful answer is I don't know,' the Briton said.

'If I did, we would address it.'

Dennis reckons the most confusing element of the crisis is that at certain circuits, MP4-19 is quick, but at others, the pace is absolutely nowhere.

WEAKNESS

He continues: 'We've narrowed down the areas of weakness.'

There's also strange things, in terms of reliability, going wrong with the car.

In Bahrain, David Coulthard speared off the track at 140mph.

'The [brake] disc that failed is the first one of its type that has failed in Formula One - ever,' said Ron Dennis. 'And three or four teams use it.'

Reports are now arising that McLaren is set to shake up its design team.








Brawn feels sorry for Raikkonen
Ross Brawn feels sorry for Kimi Raikkonen.

The young Finn, Raikkonen, drives for the McLaren team which is enduring its worst start in Ron Dennis' tenure to a world championship campaign since 1981.

In Bahrain, the 24-year-old retired from his third straight race.

'It's sad to see someone of his talent not being able to fight,' said Brawn.

Brawn, an Englishman, is technical director for the dominant Ferrari outfit.

He told Autosport: 'But I think it will be good for his character.'

Kimi finished runner-up to Ferrari's Michael Schumacher in the 2003 title chase, but when McLaren finds form, Brawn says Raikkonen will be a 'stronger' driver.

At the new Sakhir facility, Raikkonen's engine caught fire in practice, incurring a ten-grid penalty, before it again spat flames in the grand prix.

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








Bernie supports 'A1 Grand Prix'
The 'A1 Grand Prix' series is not a rival for Formula One.

His Highness Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum recently unveiled the winter series and said F1's Bernie Ecclestone had been 'extremely supportive.'

To show his support, top grand prix aces Rubens Barrichello and Juan Pablo Montoya attended the A1 launch in Dubai prior to the Bahrain GP weekend.

Al Maktoum said 'A1' opens up 'possible new venues' for F1 in the future.

'That's why [Bernie] is supporting it,' he concluded.








F1 works on '50 percent' budget cut
F1 is working towards a fifty percent reduction in annual team budgets.

Frank Williams paid F1 counterpart Flavio Briatore a compliment recently when he said the Italian 'is not a racing man, but he always makes the right decisions.'

Renault's boss is the man behind the '50 percent' figure.

'I've been saying we've got to do it for years,' said Briatore.

'Now, the others are beginning to realize that it is urgent. But that is positive, because it means we will get it done,' he told L'Equipe magazine.

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