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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 13, 2004


Briatore's future formula
One engine per two-day grand prix weekend, an end to the current tire war - this is how Renault managing director Flavio Briatore sees the future of Formula One.

'The objective must be to reduce spending,' he told L'Equipe magazine.

'At the same time we've got to put on a better show.'

Briatore, the flamboyant Italian, believes the F1 'show' is not good enough.

'And it costs so much that people can't understand why it isn't better.'

He would like to see an extension to the new 'long life' engine regulations, a reduction of the three day weekend to just two, and a 'control' supply of tires.

'And we should cut speeds too - because the FIA will crack down on us soon.'

Briatore reckons it is up to the teams to anticipate changes like these.

'Qualifying has got to be better,' he added. 'We've got to find new technical ways to inspire overtaking. Our 'customers' have got to be satisfied ones.'








Button ends test on top
Jenson Button ended a busy testing week at Circuit de Catalunya on top.

The Briton, on Friday, led his BAR team-mate Takuma Sato and world champion Michael Schumacher, who drives a scarlet Ferrari, by a few tenths of a second.

'It's been a difficult test with the weather,' said the 24-year-old.

'Fortunately we've got another test next week at Paul Ricard.'

Pedro de la Rosa went fourth quickest in a MP4-19 McLaren.

WET CONDITIONS

Jaguar, BMW-Williams and Sauber also ran in the intermittently wet conditions.

Renault packed up on Thursday afternoon after another sodden day in Spain.

'The new engine looks promising for the next grands prix,' said chief test engineer Christian Silk. 'We've only had a few minor problems along the way.'

* Last week, BAR's Anthony Davidson clocked up 1100kms over two wet days at Valencia in the 'concept' car. 'I look forward to testing in Vairano,' he said.

And Luca Badoer kicked off a new testing week on Monday when he started a car development programme in the F2004 Ferrari at the team's rainy Fiorano track.








BMW-Williams spoiled BAR innovation
F1 team BMW-Williams lodged an official complaint about a radical rear wing design that appeared on the podium-getting BAR of Jenson Button in Bahrain.

The governing FIA reacted by banning the 'three plane' solution.

England's 'Sunday Mirror' reports that BAR argued a third element was legal because it was only connected to the legal second wing-aspect by guide vanes.

'[It] has been batted around in the Technical Working Group,' said a source.

ADVANTAGE

He said Williams 'couldn't afford' BAR having the advantage of running it.

Another source denied that the Brackley team would protest the FIA's ruling.

Nonetheless, BAR-Honda's development programme continues unabated.

'You have to keep finding performance,' said technical director Geoff Willis, 'and we've got other improvements coming for the next grand prix at Imola.'








Toyota admit contact with Ralf
Ralf Schumacher has not signed a three-year contract to drive for Toyota.

The Cologne team, through a spokesperson, rejected speculation of Munich paper TZ that a $63 million switch from F1 team BMW-Williams has now been completed.

'We admit we have had contacts with drivers including Ralf,' he said.

'But we haven't signed him. We're not even close as far as I know.'

BACK STRAIN

Schumacher, 28, flew from the Circuit de Catalunya race track on Friday after just a few tours in his FW26 while a statement claimed he had a back strain.

Former GP winner Johnny Herbert scoffed at reports that Ralf is worth $100m.

'There's no way he's worth anywhere near that,' he told the Sunday Mirror.

'The way he's driving and behaving I'd say he's worth about $10.'








Ralf and Michael fell out
Ralf and Michael Schumacher aren't getting along as well as they used to.

UK tabloid 'News Of The World' claims that the German brothers didn't sit next to each other in the Bahrain F1 drivers' briefing because their wives fell out.

'It is obvious something has happened,' one 'driver' source told the newspaper.








Ralf pulls out with back pain
Ralf Schumacher pulled out of a test session in Barcelona with 'back pain.'

A BMW-Williams statement claimed that the German was 'forced to leave the circuit early' after just five tours of the Spanish F1 facility on Friday.








Dixon finds pace in Spain
Scott Dixon has done his Formula One aspirations no harm.

The Kiwi ran for three days at Circuit de Catalunya last week and left the Spanish track just a tenth slower than Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello on Friday.

His BMW-powered FW26 mount left him feeling a bit battered, though.

'Gear changing is like someone punching you,' the 23-year-old said.

And the Williams' steering wheel is slightly more complicated than his IRL one.

'There are probably 40 buttons on the wheel,' Dixon marveled.

Scott also compared well to German team racer Ralf Schumacher, who only managed to outpace the New Zealand born rookie by just two tenths earlier in the week.








Sato likes revised BAR
Takuma Sato likes the newest aerodynamic modifications to his BAR-Honda car.

'It's been a good test here at Barcelona,' the Japanese said on Friday.

Sato said the 006 racer should also have a new-spec Honda engine at Imola.

'It all looks quite promising,' he continued.

PIT STOP

Podium-getter and team-mate Jenson Button also participated in the Spanish session after a brief pitstop at the Brackley factory located in England.

A statement said he 'thanked the team' for their part in his Bahrain triumph.

Honda's engineering director Shuhei Nakamoto owned up to a problem on one engine at Circuit de Catalunya 'which we'll address' this week at Paul Ricard (France).

BAR is also scheduled to run at the Vairano track in Italy.







Dixon disappointed
Scott Dixon's mum reckons the IRL champion was a little disappointed after testing a Formula One car over three days at the Circuit de Catalunya last week.

'He didn't feel he accomplished much,' Glenys told the NZ press.

BREAK DOWN

The weather in Spain was dreadful and Scott's BMW-Williams broke down on Friday.

Glenys continued: 'So he didn't really get the chance to put really good times on the board. But he was happy with the team which was very professional.'








Bernie's house sets new Guinness record
The Guinness Book of Records is likely to note the sale of a house in London.

F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone has just sold his 12-bedroom residence, with a jewelled basement swimming pool, to a steel magnate for $129 million dollars.

It is the most expensive house ever sold.

The house in London boasts Turkish baths and sits near Kensington Palace.

Lakshmi Mittal, who bought the house, said the sale is not yet completed.

A spokesman added: 'It's a very large sum [of money] and while the two sides have exchanged contracts, these things are never over until they're completed.'

The current Guinness record is for a $114 million house in Hong Kong.








Stoddart slams top team 'wasters'
Give it $184 million, and Minardi will challenge Ferrari for the F1 title.

Team boss Paul Stoddart said cash-laden BMW-Williams and McLaren are 'wasters' for spending their money in the wrong places to win the Formula One series.

'Ron [Dennis'] motor home cost almost more than it does to take the whole of my team to a race,' the Australian recently told Britain's 'The People' newspaper.

'I can't believe they can't do a good enough job with the budgets they have.'

Stoddart says his F1 drivers have completed 'more laps' than McLaren in 2004.

'That shows what a great job we do,' he continued.

'Unfortunately my hands are tied with my budget.'








McLaren name 'scapegoat'
A 'scapegoat' has been named for McLaren's dismal start to the F1 season.

England's authoritative 'The Observer' newspaper claims that engine building firm Ilmor's managing director, Hans-Ulrich Maik, is to shortly depart the team.

REVIEW

Moreover, Ilmor owner Mercedes is to order a review of its F1 involvement.

In July, boss Jurgen Hubbert hands over to Wolfgang Bernhard and the German might not be as keen on the 40 percent ownership of McLaren as his predecessor.








Schu denies F1 should slow down
Michael Schumacher denies that Formula One cars should be slowed down.

The six-times world champion told Autosport that he disagrees with drivers like Jarno Trulli who reckon their 900bhp GP-monsters are speeding out of control.

FIA boss Max Mosley has ordered technical chiefs to find a way to slow down.

'I don't think the speeds are dangerous or problematic,' said Schumacher.

The German knows that per-lap times are an average 3.5 seconds quicker in 2004, mostly due to the Michelin/Bridgestone tyre war and advances in aerodynamics.

'I don't think we need to make a change,' the 35-year-old insists.

'There is no need to panic right now.'

Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello agrees there is 'no rush' to make changes.

'I haven't got a problem with the speeds,' assents BAR speedster Jenson Button.








Turkey track ahead of schedule
Turkey's new F1 circuit is speeding along two months ahead of schedule.

The country's motorsport federation boss Mumtaz Tahincioglu told Reuters that Hermann Tilke and his team would try to have it finished by the end of 2004.

He said the 'final layer' of the track should be down by August next year.

NO TOBACCO ADS

'That's when the race is planned,' said Tahincioglu.

Turkey's track, in Kurtkoy near Istanbul, is costing $110 million to build, and Tahincioglu also confirmed that F1 tobacco advertising would not be permitted.

'But if someone paints their car with the colours of a cigarette company without the brand name on it,' he concluded, 'we cannot do anything about that.'








Pantano as Ambassador
Giorgio Pantano has been named a 'Special Ambassador' for Padova.

The city mayor, Giustina Destro, said the Jordan ace, who was born in the nearby town of Padua, should formally represent the Italian region all over the world.

25-year-old Pantano flew direct from Bahrain to Padova last week.

In a ceremony at city hall, he was awarded a medal and Giorgio presented some Irish Waterford Crystal glasses and a letter from F1 team boss Eddie Jordan.

'I will enjoy going around the world representing my town,' said Pantano.








FIA rules out ex-drivers as stewards
F1's governing FIA has ruled out appointing former drivers as race stewards.

Race director Charlie Whiting argues that it would not stop 'controversial decisions' on the GP tracks, according to a report on the Williams website.

'I have nothing against ex-drivers - on the contrary,' he said.

'But I don't think it would solve any problems.'

NOTORIOUS CLASH

He uses, as an example, the notorious clash of Juan Pablo Montoya and Rubens Barrichello in the US Grand Prix, in which the former Colombian was penalized.

Whiting said he spoke to two 'prominent' ex-drivers about the Indy incident.

'They had completely different views,' he said. 'We have a system that works.'

Charlie said disagreements were 'in the nature' of any referee's decision.







The jury's out on F1 youngsters
The jury is out on who is able to steal Michael Schumacher's Formula One crown.

Ferrari's six-times champion admits that Fernando Alonso, the 22-year-old Spaniard, and McLaren star Kimi Raikkonen, are best of the young challengers.

'[Raikkonen] had a great 2003 season,' Schumacher told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

CONSISTENT

'... and Fernando Alonso is on the up.'

But we're not going to discover this season which is the next F1 champion.

'Only when they both have a car that enables them to consistently fight for first place,' said Michael Schumacher, 'will we finally understand who is best.'








Todt to succeed Mosley?
Jean Todt has emerged as favourite to succeed Max Mosley as FIA president.

Ferrari's current sporting director is under contract for three more years and Mosley has earmarked the Frenchman as someone who'd be an 'excellent' successor.

'But as far as I know,' said Max, 'he's happy ... in his present position.'

PLAUSIBLE

F1 team boss Eddie Jordan also responded to the rumour in F1 Racing magazine.

'It seems plausible,' the Irishman commented.

'Jean is very experienced in this area, and the fact that he is on the FIA World Motor Sport Council shines more light on him. It's a ... reasonable rumour.'








Button's not too polite
Jenson Button is not 'too polite' to become world champion.

The view that a driver has to be 'bonkers' or overly aggressive to win a fight with Michael Schumacher is pedalled by former 1996 world champion Damon Hill.

But it's not shared by 24-year-old Button's BAR principal Dave Richards.

He told 'The Times' that signing the Briton was 'never a gamble.

'He's pleasant ... because that's his nature.

'But I see him in meetings and there's plenty of steel.'

Button, who stole debut consecutive podiums in Malaysia and Bahrain this season, has got the perfect antidote for those who think he's too weak for the top.

'They're wrong,' Richards continued.

DR said Jenson dealt 'comprehensively' in 2003 with ex-champ Jacques Villeneuve.








Gascoyne installs duel design teams
Mike Gascoyne has nearly installed 'phase one' of his plan for Toyota.

The Briton, who switched from Renault on a multi-million dollar salary late last season, is enacting the same duel design teams as is now in place at Enstone.

Gascoyne's overlapping teams ensure that as one group of designers develops and improves their current racer, another works exclusively on the next F1 charger.

Team driver Cristiano da Matta knows that Toyota needs to work on performance.

MODIFICATIONS

'For Imola we have quite a few modifications,' the Brazilian told Autosport.

Team-mate Olivier Panis, meanwhile, said Cologne's test team is now moving from Barcelona to Paul Ricard (France) as it boasts similarities to the Imola layout.

'The kerbs are similar,' the French veteran noted.

'We've really struggled [over the kerbs] at Imola in the past.'








Montoya vows to stay positive
Juan Pablo Montoya has vowed to stay positive despite bad luck in Bahrain.

The Colombian, 28, had put his 'tusk nosed' FW26 Williams in a comfortable third position in the Gulf state but a gearbox failure saw him demoted to thirteenth.

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, by contrast, has scooped a clean sweep of wins.

'You've got to go for it in every race,' said Montoya.

NOT AS QUICK

'You've got to score as many points as possible on the day.'

Although he's off to McLaren in 2005, Juan Pablo is convinced that his current BMW-powered employer has the wares to close to the gap to the world champions.

'We're not as quick as we want to be,' he added.

'But it's not like we're ten spots away.'








Schu unlikely to perform sweep
Six-times champion Michael Schumacher has sniffed at claims that he's likely to perform an unprecedented clean sweep of victories in his latest model Ferrari.

The German has already scooped up 2004's first three flyaway grands prix.

'I did not expect to win in Malaysia and Bahrain,' he told La Gazzetta.

'I have to say we had some good luck ... like with the temperatures.

BLACK PERIOD

'I'm certain [the clean sweep] will not happen.'

Schumacher, 35, also rejected speculation that McLaren is spiralling into a period of reduced competitiveness from where it is unlikely to quickly recover.

He said the silver team is going through a 'black period.

'But recall 1996, and where Ferrari stood [then]. Look where we stand now.'








F1 looks to Libya
Formula One might one day race in African country Libya.

It is understood that Colonel Qadhafi cancelled a scheduled visit to the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix but instead sent his deputy, PM Shukri Ghanem.

TERRORISM

UN sanctions against Libya were suspended in April 1999 when Qadhafi, who had seized power in a military coup in 1969, decreased his support for terrorism.

F1 has not raced on the continent since the South African GP of 1993.








Schu rules out manager role
Michael Schumacher does not want to be a Formula One team boss.

In an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, the Ferrari driving world champion said when he finally hangs up his scarlet helmet, he won't try a manager role.

'I know what my limits are,' he told the Italian publication.

GP winner Gerhard Berger, former BMW motor sport director, and failed Formula One team owner Alain Prost are famous examples of F1 drivers-turned-managers.

'I wouldn't like it either,' said Schumacher, 'as it's too complex.'








Minardi brings on top F1 drivers
Paul Stoddart does not gauge his own personal F1 success with world titles.

The Minardi chief said that, in competing with the mammoth budgets of Ferrari, McLaren and Toyota, he prefers to focus on bringing on the sport's top drivers.

Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli started in F1 at the Italian stable.

CREDIT

And rising aces Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso got their birth in black suits.

'Every year we bring someone into the sport,' Stoddart told The People.

The Australian said F1's grandees don't give Minardi 'any credit' for this.








BAR supporters should 'wake up'
BAR is not teetering on the brink of success, Dave Richards has warned.

The Brackley boss insisted that Jenson Button's run of podiums in Malaysia and Bahrain this year does not indicate an imminent run to the world championship.

'Anyone who thinks [that] is deluding themselves,' he told The Times.

Some commentators claim that Honda-powered BAR is set to join traditional top F1 teams Ferrari, BMW-Williams and McLaren in the sport's elite as early as 2005.

MOMENTUM

'It just won't [happen],' Richards said in the British broadsheet.

But he also claimed that Ferrari's momentum can't roll on forever.

'The day is coming when another team picks up the mantle,' said DR.

'It'll probably be a young team ... like us.'

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