F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 19, 2004

Rubens not F1's 'nice guy'
Is Rubens Barrichello really Formula One's nicest 'nice guy'?

Before an interview with an Aussie TV network, the Brazilian was quizzed by a reporter who noted that Rubens might not be tough enough to win a championship.

'That's not true,' said the Ferrari star, team-mate of Michael Schumacher.


He added: 'Maybe I am a nice guy, and I'm that way because my mother and father brought me up to be that way. But get me in the paddock and I'm different.'

Barrichello reckons his pitwall personnel know the 'racing' Rubens.

'If you heard some of the things I say on the radio during the race,' the Paulista continues, 'you'd think 'ok, Rubens really is a tough, tough guy'.'

Weather halts French test
Bad weather halted the final day of Formula One testing at Paul Ricard.

'It can be dangerous to drive in these conditions,' Olivier Panis explained.

He said on Friday: 'It was gusting up to 65 knots so it just became impossible.'

A Renault team spokesman added that the 'appalling weather' also included torrential rain and neither test driver completed even a single timed lap.

BMW-Williams similarly abandoned the test, but only after Juan Pablo Montoya and Antonio Pizzonia had done some work on traction control and practice starts.

Takuma Sato, of the BAR camp, headed to the French circuit for just one day in the Honda-powered car but he said Friday was 'over pretty much before it began.'

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Jaguar decided to pack up for a different reason - rookie ace Christian Klien suffered a rear suspension failure at high speed.

Panis expects no Imola cure
Olivier Panis does not expect a miracle to cure his Toyota in Italy.

The Frenchman tested a TF104 at Paul Ricard last week but he isn't particularly looking forward to the Imola race - in the past, Cologne has really struggled.

'But we just have to keep pushing,' he said.

'We'll be looking to make the best out of our package there this time.'

Some reliability gremlins might also be creeping into the red and white challenger, as Panis pulled over in France on Thursday with a gearbox problem.

On Wednesday, team-mate Cristiano da Matta's engine blew up.

'Hopefully we'll now have an easier time adapting the car to different situations,' said the Brazilian, 'and getting the maximum out of the car.'

Meanwhile, a day earlier, tester Ryan Briscoe also had a faulty gearbox.

'We've only made small improvements [on the car] so far,' said the Aussie.

Williams fix JPM's Bahrain glitch
Juan Pablo Montoya has never 'monstered' at the Imola race track.

Last year was not a great Formula One event for the Colombian in picturesque Italy - he finished just seventh after pit problems and less than sterling pace.

On Sunday, though, he hopes colder weather affects Ferrari and Bridgestone.

'Our car should go well,' Montoya, 28, predicted.


'Maybe I'll have better luck this year.'

In Bahrain two weeks ago, Juan lost a probable podium placing when his Williams-made gearbox packed up and sent him ailing down the order to finish thirteenth.

Operations engineer Sam Michael said the team has 'rectified' the problem.

'We've also made some aero improvements,' said the Australian team chief, 'and we'll run them in Imola and hope these will improve our competitiveness.'

Theissen pessimistic
At Imola, BMW-Williams finds itself in the role of Formula One 'hunter.'

The hunted? - a hat-trick winning Ferrari steered by Michael Schumacher.


BMW motorsport director Dr Mario Theissen said Grove must again take up the challenge of 2003 - to steadily close a performance gap to the scarlet team.

'But for San Marino,' he said, 'I regard Ferrari as having the best chance.'

Hill's life changed on May 1
Damon Hill reckons his 'whole life' changed on Sunday, May 1, 1994.

Ten years ago, Hill - in his second year of Formula One - was team-mate at Williams to race legend Ayrton Senna who crashed and died at the Imola track.

He now admits that he would 'never have been world champion' if Senna had lived.

And Hill told The Times that Williams had reduced the thickness of the Renault-powered car's steering column so as to give Ayrton more room in the cockpit.

But he thinks that's a 'red herring' as to the real cause of the fatal shunt.

Damon said Ayrton, in the drivers' briefing, brought up the new 'Safety Car' because he thought it reduced F1 tyres to 'dangerously' cool temperatures.

Hill believes cold tyres 'contributed' to Senna's accident.

New Renault not as 'stable'
This year's new Renault car as not as 'stable' as its predecessor.

Franck Montagny, the Enstone-based team's test driver, got his first taste of the R24 at Paul Ricard last week and said it was immediately quicker than R23.


'But because you go through the corners quicker,' said the French-born star, 'you need to be a bit more careful - the car is not yet as stable as the R23.'

Montagny said the new engine is also better with a 'more linear' power curve.

F1 boss eighth on 'rich list'
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has a personal fortune of 2.3 billion.

That puts him 8th on the latest 'Sunday Times' rich list, down from 3rd in 2003.

The next man to represent Formula One is Eddie Irvine - 267th with 153m, earned not only with drives at Ferrari and Jaguar but thanks to property investments.


1979 champion Jody Scheckter has 90m, and is ahead of both team bosses Ron Dennis, with 82m, and the 527th ranked Sir Frank Williams who has 76m.

BAR chief Dave Richards is 666th and Eddie Jordan is 777th (50m).

The only other driver represented on the list is McLaren's current star and Scot David Coulthard, with 35m, bolstered by his ownership of a swank Monaco hotel.

Ralf eyes brother's pace
Ralf Schumacher believes 'improvements' have been made to his FW26 racer.

The German said BMW-Williams should therefore be able to close the gap to his older brother, who drives a three-times in 2004 race winning Ferrari, at Imola.

Schumacher, 28, won his first ever grand prix at San Marino in 2001.

'I always like to return there,' he said.

Ralf insists that a miracle should not be expected in Italy but the 'Enzo e Dino Ferrari' circuit has always suited the BMW-powered cars built in Grove, England.

A team spokesman, meanwhile, confirmed that 'several' new aerodynamic parts are to grace the already innovative FW26 at the first grand prix of 2004 in Europe.

'It's nice,' said Juan Pablo Montoya, 'because we can bring our motor homes!'

Sauber to build own gearbox
Sauber has signed a new 3-year agreement with US software company Fluent.

The deal extends a cooperation in the field of 'Computational Fluid Dynamics' and includes Fluent getting access to the Sauber wind tunnel and F1 marketing.

Meanwhile, the team's boss Peter Sauber told a local publication that Hinwil is likely to build its own F1 gearbox for 2005 rather than simply buying Ferrari's.


* Juan Pablo Montoya's young brother, Federico, has finished 9th in the opening round of the open-wheeler race series 'BMW Germany ADAC' at the Hockenheimring.

* David Coulthard attended the 'Auto Mobil International Motor Show' in Leipzig, Germany, on Saturday, and was part of the event's official opening ceremony.

* Anthony Davidson's planned three-day aero test at Vairano in northern Italy had to be cancelled when a fire caused by an oil leak damaged the BAR racer.

Irvine sued
Retired F1 racer Eddie Irvine is being sued for defamation.

Former friend John Foley claims the Ulsterman made business-damaging comments about him in a newspaper whilst in the process of setting up a club in Dublin.

Irvine owns the Cocoon Bar, located next door.

Foley and Irvine, who last drove a Jaguar car in 2002, fell out last year over the running of co-owned Cocoon and Foley is also suing for wrongful dismissal.

Irvine fired Foley for 'financial impropriety.'

'Long journey' to first win
Jenson Button disagrees that his first Formula One win could happen in Imola.

The BAR star ran at Paul Ricard last week and was usually at the top of the times with a new car package that includes revised aero and a Honda evolution.

'We've shown good speed,' 24-year-old Button said on Friday.


But, despite double podiums in Malaysia and Bahrain, a long journey lies ahead.

'We still have a long journey before we can comfortably challenge Ferrari.'

Button concluded, however, that he is 'encouraged' by the test's results.

Rain to fall at Imola
Rain is likely to affect this season's first F1 race in Europe.

A few spots of rain fell overnight in the quiet Italian town of Imola and morning showers and cool weather (around 12 degrees) are expected on Tuesday.

By Thursday, scattered showers should have settled in at the Enzo e Dino track.

And by the time Michael Schumacher gets his Ferrari into action on Friday and Saturday, forecasters predict that light to moderate rain might be falling.

Brazilian Ricardo Zonta completed a two-day wet Michelin tyre test at Estoril, in Portugal, last week and hopes Toyota get an advantage if it rains in Imola.

'The forecast currently predicts [rain],' said the Friday tester.

* Meanwhile, world champion Michael Schumacher wrapped up a test at the Fiorano circuit by testing wet weather Bridgestone tyres at the rainy Italian venue.

Montoya ignores Ferrari
Juan Pablo Montoya has urged his team to ignore Ferrari's apparent progress.

The Williams star spent a few days in Colombia after the Bahrain GP and returned to the cockpit of his 'tusk nosed' FW26 at Paul Ricard (France) last Thursday.

'It's not slow,' he told reporters in Le Castellet.

'It's good, but it's just not a winning machine yet.'


Montoya insisted that the Grove/Munich collaboration won't make up a track deficit to Ferrari by basing its efforts on the pace of the scarlet champions.

'We can't make Ferrari go any slower,' he explained.

'All we can do is the best job with what we've got.'

Juan Pablo, 28, has never finished higher than fourth at Imola.

Dixon drives with broken ankle
Even a broken ankle can't keep Scott Dixon down.

It was expected that a 'non displaced' hairline fracture sustained during an Indy Racing League shunt in Japan might dent the Kiwi's Formula One ambitions.

But he put his Chip Ganassi car sixth on the grid during 'Twin Ring' qualifying.

A source explained that the reigning champion, who recently tested a BMW-Williams, was given the all clear by circuit medical staff prior to the session.

'I was definitely a bit cautious,' said Dixon afterwards.

Run-off changed at Bahrain
Sandy run-off areas at the new Bahrain F1 circuit are to be re-surfaced.

According to a report on the BMW-Williams website, the governing FIA and F1 team principals requested that the work be done to improve the track verges by 2005.


The run-off this year was a troublesome mix of sand, water and cement.

'People thought they would see lots of sand on the track,' said advisor Philippe Gurdjian, 'but it didn't happen. Bahrain really showed what it was capable of.'

Senna versus Schumacher
Ayrton Senna versus Michael Schumacher - as the pair crossed the line to start lap seven of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, the duel was well into a swing.

By Tamburello, it was over - Senna, the great Brazilian, was dead.

'A competition between them would have been fantastic,' Viviane Senna, Ayrton's sister, told the 'Sunday Herald' newspaper as the ten year anniversary looms.

'It's sad for the world because a thrilling show would have been served.'


Schumacher, then 25, has gone on to win six Formula One world championships but Viviane Senna believes her brother 'had the capacity' to surpass any limit.

'But he knew there were bigger issues to address, too.'

One of them, she has continued by developing the Ayrton Senna Institute into an organisation that has helped the lives of 390 million kids in the last decade.

'This is the legacy of which he would be proudest,' Viviane concluded.

Gordon in talks with Williams
NASCAR ace Jeff Gordon has admitted to 'discussions' with Sir Frank Williams.

'There are discussions going on,' he told reporters at Martinsville Speedway.

'I'm going to the Spanish race to watch and he's getting me credentials.'


Journalists, who had gasped at the first statement of the tin-top driving American, smiled at the joke which had started as a rumour in season 2003.

Gordon drove a BMW-Williams in a demo drive at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

'Every time anyone asks me about F1 I say this - I had a blast driving the car but I don't plan changing my career. I make much more money here, thanks.'

Da Matta disillusioned
Cristiano da Matta cast a solemn face in the Paul Ricard circuit paddock.

The Brazilian switched as Champ Car champion to Formula One in late 2002 and expected Toyota, who spend more money than eight teams, to quickly win races.

'So far, it's been very disappointing,' he said at the test in France.

'I hope we can find the solutions because we're not where we want to be.'


Toyota, based in Cologne, made a few modifications to the TF104 ahead of Malaysia but an identical car hit the new circuit in Bahrain a fortnight ago.

Da Matta denies that bad luck has kept the team out of the points.

'No I don't,' he frowned in response to the question.

'So far we finish races, which is of course ok, but the reason we're not getting into the top eight is simply because right now the car is not quick enough.'

Glock in action
Timo Glock burst into action as Jordan concluded a test at Silverstone.

The German, who is Friday tester for the locally-based Formula One outfit, drove reliably alongside rookie Italian racer Giorgio Pantano in the EJ14 on Thursday.


'We've made good progress with Bridgestone's tyre programme.'

Head of race engineering James Robinson concluded that Jordan is 'fairly optimistic' as the team packs up and heads off to Imola's Enzo e Dino circuit.

No points in sight for Toyota
Toyota might have to wait the whole season until highly-paid technical director Mike Gascoyne's influence is felt on the stopwatch, according to Ove Andersson.

The Swede admits that the 'speed is not there' in the new TF104 car.

'And that's why we have Mike,' the former team principal told Autosport.


One of the biggest criticisms of the Cologne-based Formula One team might be that although the car is finishing all the races, it is nowhere near the points.

So have Toyota been too cautious?

'No - I think the engine is quite powerful,' said Ove, a team consultant.

Ferrari send F1 drivers home
Ferrari opted against the high-profile attendance of Formula One drivers Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello as the 'Ferrari Store' was opened in Rome.

Instead, Luca di Montezemolo and Rome mayor Walter Veltroni hosted the event.


A statement said the changes were made in deference to the 'sombre mood' hanging over Italy at present, most probably the kidnapping of three nationals in Iraq.

A fourth Italian was executed on Wednesday by the captors, said a news source.

Senna was 'pretty shaken up'
Ayrton Senna 'knew the risk' of racing his Formula One car at ten-tenths.

That is the belief of the great Brazilian's former boss, Ron Dennis, who spoke at length to reporters as the sport moves to the scene of Senna's fatal crash.

A few months earlier, Senna had crashed his McLaren in Mexico City.

The triple world champion rolled over in a gravel trap at some 150mph.


'He was unscathed but pretty shaken up,' Ron told the Sunday Mirror newspaper.

Dennis accompanied the great driver to the circuit's medical centre.

'Sid [Watkins] hooked a piece of gravel out of Ayrton's ear and he reacted as if someone had re-attached a part of his body. It had just got inside his helmet.

'But he thought it was a pain that was never going to go away.'

McLaren's gearbox problem
Exploding engines aside, this publication can reveal the source of perhaps the principal technical problem facing McLaren in 2004 - its innovative gearbox.

The MP4-19 comes complete with a super-small titanium/composite transmission but designers are grappling with problems of heat-expansion in the two materials.


It's metal parts are expanding more than the carbon ones, producing cracking.

Sources in the British media reveal that chief designer Mike Coughlan masterminded the idea which bonds with McLaren's radical 'twin clutch' gearbox.

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