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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 16, 2004


Toyota and Minardi
Toyota might supply F1 minnows Minardi with Formula One engines in 2006.

Speculation hinted that Jordan might get Cologne's high-revving V10s but a report in 'Auto Motor und Sport' reckons Paul Stoddart is pushing for a supply.

It might even be free, or in exchange for Minardi running as a 'B' team, similar to the current union of fellow F1 privateer Sauber and works supplier Ferrari.

JUNIOR DRIVERS

Toyota may also subsidise fees to Minardi in return for Faenza trialling 'junior F1 drivers' and engineers and getting another vote under the Concorde Agreement.

Clearly, though, any collaboration is far from a done deal.

Toyota's principal Tsutomu Tomita said supplying a second team with customer powerplants only makes sense if 'all of our own problems' are already solved.








Schu, Rubens, visit Rome
Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello are to hang their testing helmets on the rack later on Friday as the Ferrari driving pair jet in to Rome, Italy.

The F1 stars are scheduled to cut the ribbon on a new Ferrari retail store.

They'll open the three-storey shop in Via Tomacelli and then meet with fans.

Items range from a Ferrari notebook to the F1-2000 F1 engine - at 40,000 euros.

'We chose Rome as the new ... location,' said president Luca di Montezemolo, 'partly because of the special historic links the capital has with Ferrari.'








Button can't be toppled
Jenson Button could not be toppled as F1 testing continued at Paul Ricard.

The Briton again outpaced Kimi Raikkonen, in the perhaps improved McLaren.

Former Jag racer Antonio Pizzonia trailed by a few tenths in the FW26 BMW-Williams, while Fernando Alonso and Renault test-mate Franck Montagny followed.

Williams' chief operations engineer Sam Michael said Pizzonia, from Brazil, worked on set-up but also did long runs with the 'most interesting' Imola tyres.

SMOKY

Alonso got his Imola-spec V10 engine to click over to a full 800km distance, a feat praised as 'very pleasing' by chief team test engineer Christian Silk.

But the Spaniard was noted as pulling over with a smoky car at one stage.

Toyota's Olivier Panis and Ryan Briscoe amassed a collective 225 laps.

And Christian Klien, in the Jaguar, suffered a suspension failure after a meagre 25 tours of the southern French facility under heavy cloud and cool conditions.








Hockenheim sees new McLaren
Press reports have earmarked Germany as the scene for a heavily revised McLaren.

A source in the Australian media said the Woking based outfit, so disappointing in the first races of 2004 with the MP4-19, will unveil a new car at Hockenheim.

That race, on the redesigned track near city Mannheim, is scheduled for July 25.

RELIABILITY

Mercedes-Benz boss Norbert Haug told German sports news agency SID that Stuttgart and McLaren are 'doing everything' to make the silver package better.

He said: 'We need to get back the reliability and speed.'

David Coulthard has clocked up only four world championship points in the three flyaway events but team-mate Kimi Raikkonen has not even seen a chequered flag.








Dixon breaks ankle
F1 hopeful Scott Dixon has crashed and fractured his ankle in Japan.

The Kiwi, IRL champion of 2003, tested a BMW-Williams in Spain earlier this week but spun into the wall whilst driving his US racer at the 'Motegi Twin Ring.'

Hospital tests revealed a 'non-displaced hairline' crack of his left ankle.

'I'm not too worried about it,' the New Zealander told the media.

Spotters said several drivers, including Tomas Scheckter, spun in the same spot.

'The car just went round,' 23-year-old Dixon continued.

Scott, who got within a few tenths of tester Marc Gene's time at Barcelona last week, was touted as a likely candidate for the spare BMW-Williams seat of 2005.








Mosley wants more F1 teams
Max Mosley wants to see a couple more teams in Formula One by 2006.

The president of the governing FIA told 'Motorsport News' that he's pushing for both a reduction in engine capacity and measures for drastically cutting costs.

'Things will happen ... within the next year,' he told the magazine.

CONCORDE

Mosley has also voiced his concerns about the cars' rising cornering speeds.

F1's binding Concorde Agreement makes provisions for 24 cars, or twelve team entrants, but the sport lost Prost in 2001 and Arrows Grand Prix during 2002.

Many highlight a $48 million 'new team' deposit as one of the biggest obstacles to attracting new entrants, particularly non-manufacturers, to the F1 party.







Trulli to run marathon
One of the fittest drivers in Formula One knows just how to spend a weekend off.

Renault's Jarno Trulli is all signed up to run in the Florence half-marathon.

'I love running,' the Italian said ahead of Sunday's event.

He added: 'It's important to keep pushing yourself to new targets - and doing preparation for events like this really helps motivate you during training.'

FITNESS

Trulli, who has competed in the New York marathon, said jogging for long distances helps enhance a drivers' endurance fitness for long Formula One runs.

Team-mate Fernando Alonso, the winning Spaniard, told this publication at a grand prix in 2004 that he 'envied' the way Trulli motivates himself to train.

'I wish I could ... go through the same exacting daily routines,' he said.

'But I have to say it is one of Jarno's real qualities.'








Sato given 'half a season' to shine
Takuma Sato has been granted a few more races to get up to speed.

His race engineer Jock Clear, who used to work with Jacques Villeneuve, said BAR is aiming at 'half season' before it expects Sato to match Jenson Button's pace.

'It is going to be a process,' the Briton told Autosport.

The half-point of season 2004 is round nine - the US Grand Prix in late June.

'Then we'll see if he can match [Jenson's] pace and consistency.'

Clear said Button's podium-winning form has effectively 'raised the bar' for Sato, a young Japanese, who test drove cars for JB and Villeneuve last season.

He also said Taku took a 'big step forward' in Bahrain.

'To get four points ... is a calming influence for him,' Jock added.

Earlier, team boss David Richards reckoned Sato was 'overdriving' the 006.








Williams complete wind tunnel
Construction of a new wind tunnel at Williams' Grove factory is now complete.

'Autosport' reports that the BMW-powered team's facility is already undergoing calibration runs but is not expected to go online for three or four months.

'I don't think it will come on full stream until the FW27,' said Sam Michael.

Tech director Patrick Head, meanwhile, says his job has changed almost beyond recognition since he joined the Sir Frank Williams led squad in the late 70s.

'The design department was me ... and a drawing board,' the Briton smiled.

He said a wind tunnel is vital for innovations like the FW26's 'tusk nose.'

'If you want to play it safe,' said Patrick Head, 'you usually won't find anything new. Those who are scared will soon be overtaken by their rivals.'








Has Fisichella 'got his Ferrari'?
Some people believe Giancarlo Fisichella finally 'has his Ferrari.'

The Italian desperately wants to pilot a scarlet car but he's come as close as ever before to that dream in 2004 at the controls of a Ferrari-powered Sauber.

'This isn't a Ferrari,' the 31-year-old told F1 Racing magazine.

'It's blue - and it's built in Switzerland.'

Fisichella, born in Rome, would take a drive at McLaren or BMW-Williams but he re-affirms his desire to go to Maranello - 'It's where I want to be,' he added.

'This is just where I have to be right now to prove I have the talent.'

The former Benetton and Jordan ace has been promised a test drive in a Ferrari before the season is out, albeit in an older title-winning F2003-GA version.








Brawn regrets Bridgestone criticism
Over the winter period, F1's hacks went wild in criticism of Bridgestone.

Finally, they said, Ferrari's rivals could set their sights on the world championship because supplier Michelin had found more speed in the 'tyre war.'

The so-called Bridgestone-Ferrari 'near monopoly' came under particular fire.

'I was sorry to read so many critical comments about Bridgestone during the winter,' said the technical director at Maranello's team, Briton Ross Brawn.

All the winter pre-season test data indicated that Bridgestone was struggling.

'In reality they were working on parallel programmes,' Brawn explained.

He said 'compounds, constructions and profiles' were getting a full work out, and that is evidenced in the squarer shape of the Japanese product in 2004.

Brawn added: 'When they put everything together, the tyres worked immediately.'

Scuderia Ferrari, with number one and champion driver Michael Schumacher, has won the first three 'flyaway' grands prix of the 2004 series from pole position.








Senna wanted McLaren return
Ayrton Senna probably would have driven for McLaren again.

The great Brazilian, who switched from Woking to pacesetting Williams in 1994, died when his Renault-powered challenger crashed into the wall at Imola in May.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis remembers a conversation with Senna in France.

'I vividly recall being in Magny-Cours,' he said, 'at some run down chateau.'

REGRETTED

He told Reuters: 'We were outside talking.'

Dennis said Ayrton, then 34, 'regretted' deserting McLaren - with whom he won all three of his Formula One world championships - for Frank Williams' team.

'I can't remember the words,' Ron continued.

'But ... the message was 'I don't feel at all comfortable and I'll be back'.'







Jordan quell Pantano patter
Formula One team Jordan has moved to quell speculation surrounding rookie Italian driver Giorgio Pantano's pedestrian start to his grand prix race career.

Paddock rumours had Augusto Farfus Jr, or even Jos Verstappen, replacing him.

But, on Thursday, the Italian clocked up another 100 laps of test mileage at Silverstone and even got within a tenth of Nick Heidfeld's own best lap time.

That performance earned Giorgio, third in last year's F3000 championship, the praise of Jordan's head of race and test engineering, Briton James Robinson.

'Giorgio is becoming more confident,' he said.

Unlike at Albert Park, Sepang and Bahrain, Pantano already knows the Silverstone track layout and is therefore 'progressing very well,' as Robinson continues.

He said: '[Pantano] is close to Nick's lap times here.'








More anti-tobacco opposition in China
Opposition to cigarette advertising at the inaugural Chinese GP is growing.

This publication can reveal that F1's governing body, Federation International Automobile, has received a letter from China's National Tobacco Control Office.

It outlines Chinese law which forbids tobacco adverts at sports events.

LIMIT DAMAGE

F1 had hoped new markets in Asia and the Arab world might limit the damage of a total ban on cigarette advertising in the European Union from July of 2005.

China recently signed the World Health Organisation's anti-tobacco framework.

A spokesman for Formula One Management said he was 'unaware' of any issues relating to this matter that might threaten September's grand prix in Shanghai.








Button aims for Imola win
Jenson Button might win his first grand prix at next weekend's Imola race.

The Briton has landed on the podium twice in this season's three flyaway rounds and gets a raft of chassis and Honda engine improvements for the San Marino GP.

'Going back to Europe,' said BAR chief David Richards, whose team is equal-third with Williams, 'even I didn't expect to be where we are in the championship.'

Richards said Button, 24 and hotly tipped to return to BMW-Williams in 2005 to fill the seat of Juan Pablo Montoya, was 'simply incredible' in the Bahrain GP.

He told the PA news agency, 'Now we must aim for that first win.'

Button, meanwhile, told Autosport that the Imola package looks 'positive.'

Thursday's fastest at Paul Ricard added: 'We know Ferrari are going to be strong [in Imola] but I'm happy with what we've done. I'm not sure about the tyres.'








Purnell drags up F1 'driver swaps'
Tony Purnell has dragged up the once-touted plans for F1 'driver swaps.'

The team principal for Jaguar Racing told British magazine 'F1 Racing' that twenty top drivers would be selected at the start of the grand prix season.

Each driver would be required to drive each team's car during the year.

It would mean that, for example, the Ferraris could be driven by Felipe Massa and Mark Webber and then two weeks later by Jarno Trulli and Olivier Panis.

Minardi's pairing, meanwhile, might be Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen.

Purnell's plan also includes an annual budget cap of $100 million.

'The constructors' championship would really mean something,' he told the magazine, 'because ... driver and budget variables would have been removed.'








BRDC chairman visits Paul Ricard
F1 test track Paul Ricard welcomed a special visitor on Thursday.

Ray Bellm, who is chairman of the British Racing Drivers' Club, touched down at the southern French facility to find out why it had become a popular test venue.

The BRDC owns the under-fire Silverstone track, located in rural England.

Bellm met with Ricard president Philippe Gurdjian as a field of F1 runners did laps, and admitted that he wanted to 'find out what circuits need to be like.'

He was a keen sports car racer in the 1980s.

'I also wanted to see a circuit that has Mr Ecclestone's approval,' said Roy, in reference to the F1 impresario's latest condemnation of 'run down' Silverstone.

'Now I understand his expectation,' he said - 'I'm sincerely impressed.'








Ferrari, Jordan, test alone
Andrea Bertolini concluded his straight-line tests in the F2004 on Thursday.

The test driver for the Ferrari-Maserati Group clocked another 337 kilometres in Michael Schumacher's car whilst running up and down the long Vairano straight.

A few drops of rain fell at the end of the day, read a statement.

At nearby Italian circuit Fiorano, meanwhile, Michael Schumacher took over the controls of another F2004 to work on a Bridgestone tyre development programme.

And over in England, at the rural Silverstone circuit, Jordan runners Nick Heidfeld and Giorgio Pantano ran up miles on an unusually sunny April day.

Heidfeld, the German, led rookie Pantano's pace by a tenth in a EJ14 car.

Head of test engineering James Robinson said they worked on Bridgestone tyres.








No 'B spec' car for BMW-Williams
BMW-Williams, unlike rival top Formula One team McLaren-Mercedes, are not planning to close the performance gap to Ferrari by producing a 'B spec' car.

Sam Michael told Autosport that there is 'nothing wrong' with the current FW26.

'We just need to add performance to it,' said the chief operations engineer.

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