F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 20, 2004
Jordan meets Verstappen agent
Jos Verstappen might make a Formula One come-back sooner
rather than later.
The Dutchman, who missed out on a yellow seat in 2004, is
back in bed with sponsor Trust whose chief Michel Perridon
met with boss Eddie Jordan on Monday.
Jordan's EJ14 race cars carry small Trust decals but the
meeting of Perridon and the team's marketing head Ian
Phillips at 'Hockenheimring' should also be noted.
Verstappen's agent Raymond Vermeulen confirmed the meeting
A report on the driver's website said EJ requested the
meeting, which was only a 'business meeting' between Jordan
and one of his sponsors, according to sources.
But Vermeulen was also invited, 'and that's all I know,' Jos'
He said: 'I'll see what happens ... but let's not jump to
Vermeulen, however, still sees a 'future for Jos Verstappen'
in Formula One.
Button on a roll
Jenson Button is aiming for a hat-trick of F1 podiums at
Imola this weekend.
The Briton tasted top-three champagne for the first time in
Malaysia last month and topped it off by taking his
Honda-powered BAR to the podium in Bahrain, too.
'I'm hoping to keep the momentum going now,' Jenson said on
Brackley is about to unleash an aero and engine upgrade for
San Marino but Button, 24, casts aside doubts that the
quicker car may also be less reliable.
JB's 006 model completed 150 laps in a single day last week
at Paul Ricard.
'That's a record for us,' the Englishman smiled.
'I'm sure the top teams will also have made a good step
Team boss David Richards said Jenson is presently 'on a
BAR strengthens challenge
At the season-opening race in Australia, Dave Richards said
BAR could 'take the fight' to the top Formula One teams in
2004 with the new Honda-powered 006 car.
The principal now insists that Brackley is 'delivering
against that target.'
Technical director Geoff Willis added that Jenson Button's
podium-winning pace in Malaysia and Bahrain, in particular,
highlighted the package's strengths.
'It worked well on each of those circuits,' he added.
'Now, the challenge is to further strengthen our challenge.'
To that end, BAR unveils a revised aero and engine package
'And we've got a further step from Michelin, too,' he
The engine evolution played up when BAR went testing at
Barcelona recently, but engineering director Shuhei Nakamoto
said Honda has now 'resolved' the problem.
Trulli pleased with engine step
Jarno Trulli is pleased with his new-spec Renault engine.
The Enstone/Viry collaboration unveils more power and torque
for its new-architecture RS24 engine at this weekend's first
European event of season '04.
'It's a good development in all areas,' said the Italian
'Overall, it is more driveable, too.'
Renault's R24 race car also sports some chassis developments
'It's harder to feel those small aero steps,' Trulli
explains, 'but the stopwatch has definitely confirmed the
wind tunnel readings in testing.'
Trulli said Imola is 'maybe not the most exciting circuit'
for a driver, but added that a trouble free weekend should
mean that he is pointing at the podium.
New Renault is four tenths quicker
Renault's car should be four tenths quicker on a Formula One
Technical director Bob Bell said a 'B-spec' engine and a new
rear wing, revised bargeboards and diffuser represent a
'good step forward' after track testing.
'We hope it helps us close the gap to Ferrari,' he added
ahead of Imola.
Bell predicted that a 'sensible' qualifying target is the
second or third rows, even if the Italian circuit does not
really suit the known strengths of the R24.
'... it lacks any true high speed corners,' he explains.
Engine chief Rob White, meanwhile, said the 'B-spec' engine
is the first 'major evolution' of 2004 and incorporates
brand new cylinder head and inlet systems.
'And there are related changes to the bottom part of the
engine,' he revealed.
Toyota look long term
F1 team Toyota does not like Italy's Imola race track.
The Cologne squad has traditionally struggled over the
circuit's tricky kerbs but team boss Tsutomu Tomita said 'a
lot of work' has been put in to the TF104.
'So I hope the car is more driveable,' he added.
At the start of the season, Tomita said the target was to
qualify in the top ten for all eighteen rounds of the series
and then score points at every F1 circuit.
Now, however, 'I'm not going to set any concrete targets,'
said the Japanese.
'We have to look at improvements on a longer term scale.'
Technical director Mike Gascoyne said the TF104 already
boasts less weight.
'So we go to Imola with a car that should be easier to set
up,' he said.
It also features new front and rear wings, designed to cope
with the maximum downforce Imola track, and the team also
did 'kerb simulations' at Paul Ricard.
Takuma Sato is disappointed as he eyes the first European
round of 2004.
The Japanese headed to Paul Ricard last Friday to prepare
for Imola but strong winds and torrential rain meant he
couldn't complete a timed lap in the BAR.
Sato's only race in San Marino was in 2002, for Jordan.
'It was disappointing,' he said on Monday.
'Jenson had good conditions in France and he set some good
times with the new package so it looks promising. I can see
we've taken a good step forward.'
Team principal David Richards told 'Taku' he had been
overdriving in the season opening Australian and Malaysian
rounds but praised his race efforts of Bahrain.
'It gave us a taste of what I'm sure will be some exciting
races for him,' said the Briton. 'The challenge is to
maintain the fight with Williams and Renault.'
Alonso on attack despite errors
Renault ace Fernando Alonso has vowed to keep pushing 'to
the limit' in single-lap Formula One qualifying despite
driving errors in Malaysia and Bahrain.
'No,' the 22-year-old said on Monday. 'Not at all.
'You have to push on every lap, especially at a place like
Alonso said the past two races are 'over now' and when he
exits pitlane on Saturday this weekend, all he'll be
concentrating on is how to drive the lap.
'... where I can make up time, how to extract maximum
'I won't be focusing on what happened three weeks
The Spaniard predicts that his driving style should suit
Imola, where tricky kerbs require a driver to 'really attack
them' in order to post a quick time.
Panis remembers fallen drivers
Olivier Panis has never really enjoyed going back to Imola.
The Frenchman is one of just two active Formula One drivers
who were actually racing in the San Marino GP when Ayrton
Senna crashed fatally a decade ago.
A third, Rubens Barrichello, had broken his nose in a big
shunt during qualifying and Michael Schumacher chased Senna
into Tamburello on lap seven.
'It was so tragic,' the Toyota star, who in those days drove
a Ligier, reflects.
Panis, 37, also remembers Austrian rookie Roland
Ratzenberger, who died when his Simtek machine speared into
the barriers on the run to 'Tosa' in Imola practice.
'I'm sure their memory will be especially strong this
weekend,' he concluded.
The only positive Panis takes to Imola in 2004 is that the
Toyota outfit, grappling with a disappointing TF104 car, is
'now working well as a team.
'Stability is critical,' Olivier said.
New trucks for Bridgestone
New trucks will haul new Bridgestone tyres to the Imola
track this weekend.
A statement explained that Mercedes-Benz 'Actros 1844'
trucks will spend their lives hauling the Japanese marque's
motorhome and trailers around Europe in '04.
Bridgestone and Ferrari have scooped a clean sweep of F1
wins so far this year.
'We should have plenty of support,' said motorsport director
Hiroshi Yasukawa, who notes that F1's two Italian teams,
Ferrari and Minardi, wear Japanese boots.
Ferrari billed Imola favorite
Ferrari is billed as favorite to win the Imola F1 race on
'I hope we can live up to [it],' said world champion Michael
The German has spent the past couple of weeks on the test
tracks and is just back from a night out in Rome as a guest
on the 'Porta a Porta' television show.
'We always do well at Imola,' the hat-trick race winner
But everyone should calm down if they expect the scarlet
team to keep turning laps with as big a gap to rivals like
BMW-Williams as witnessed in early races.
'I think the other teams have improved a lot,' said
'I don't think the gap will be that great.'
We don't belong in top ten: Da Matta
Some commentators claimed that Toyota 'made impressive
progress' at the Bahrain GP, particularly when both drivers
put their TF104 in the top-nine grid places.
But Brazilian ace Cristiano da Matta does not agree.
'We had a very aggressive strategy in qualifying,' he
The former Champ Car champion said his TF104 featured low
fuel and soft tyres.
He added: 'So I wouldn't say that was the true performance
of our car and where we belong yet - we don't yet have the
overall package to be running that high.
'It's certainly where we ought to be.'
Da Matta doesn't really like the 'Enzo e Dino' race track in
'It's just a bit too bumpy,' he said. 'But Imola's a good
place for a pizza!'
Brawn in conflict
Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn is in a position of
As an engineer, the Briton is revelling in the apparent
dominance of Maranello's latest F2004 race machine, but as
an enthusiast he does miss closer competition.
'I fully understand the situation,' he told the Daily
'I sympathise with those who say Ferrari's dominance is not
good for the sport. But we have a huge fan base who would be
very unhappy if we start to lose.'
And it's not likely to get immediately better for the
enthusiasts, Brawn warns.
Cooler temperatures have so far played into the hand of
Ferrari's car and Bridgestone combination and it is often
snowing in the region surrounding Imola.
'We haven't yet faced the strongest challenge,' Ross
'But there will be some stiff tests as the season unfolds.'
Imola to host Michelin fight back?
Imola is not likely to host Michelin teams' fight back to
Ferrari and Bridgestone revelled in the cooler than expected
conditions of the first three flyaway grands prix - and in
Italy, it's set to get even colder yet.
But Michelin has been hard at work in addressing the
According to a report on the BMW-Williams website, the team
and its tyre partner did a lot of 'evaluation tests with
softer compounds' in F1 tests since Bahrain.
Michelin project manager Pascal Vasselon reveals another
'Although the surface is smooth,' said the Frenchman, 'the
tarmac has been fixed here and there, so some of the
chicanes are more slippery than other sections.'
Hill remembers Ratzenberger
Roland Ratzenberger was 'one of the nicest men' in Formula
That is the recollection of 1996 world champion Damon Hill
who pays tribute to the Austrian who most dismiss as the
'other driver' who was killed at Imola '94.
Hill told The Times that Ratzenberger's front wing failed
before the corner.
He 'flew unchecked at maximum speed into the concrete wall'
in the Simtek.
Damon said the impact speed, when he later saw the replay,
was 'sickening,' even if he drove slowly past the actual
wreckage and didn't think it looked too bad.
'The car may have withstood the forces, but poor Roland
could not have.'
In fact, Ayrton Senna - who later died just one corner
before Tosa on the Sunday of that very race weekend - went
to the crash scene to check it out, said Hill.
'He talked with Sid Watkins who I think tried to persuade
him not to see,' Hill recalled. 'He came back, very upset
and angry, and told us Roland was dead.'
Speed is Senna's legacy: Cristiano
A teenage Cristiano da Matta was at home on May 1, 1994.
'I was watching the race from Imola on television,' the
Brazilian driver said.
This weekend's race in Italy marks a full decade since the
great Ayrton Senna died when a piece of the Williams'
suspension arm pierced his helmet in a shunt.
'I remember thinking at the time 'he'll just miss the next
'I thought he might be injured but not like that.'
Da Matta, Toyota's young star, says blinding qualifying
speed is Senna's legacy.
'That's my main memory of him, anyway,' said Cristiano.
'Of course I admired his human side as well, but when I
looked at him I just thought of his natural talent for
speed. Everything seemed so easy for him.'
F1 to boycott Spain?
F1's governing FIA and all team bosses are to meet on May 5.
Max Mosley, president of the Paris body, is to chair the
Monaco meeting which, according to sources, puts the cars'
rising speeds at the top of the agenda.
One prominent publication is, however, speculating that the
sport might be trying to find a unified voice - perhaps a
race boycott - for the EAW issue.
The 'European Arrest Warrant' law, already agreed by Spain,
Britain and Belgium, is a problem for F1 chiefs who might
thus agree to skip the Barcelona event.
Webber keen to forget flyaways
Mark Webber is keen to forget all about the first 'flyaway'
races of 2004.
The Jaguar star said he wants to start showing what the R5
racer is 'really like' on the European F1 tracks, starting
with this weekend's event at Imola.
Webber, from Australia, won at the track - in an F3000 car -
'I really like Italy,' he said, 'and the surrounding area of
Since Bahrain, Webber tested first in Spain and then in
France, at Paul Ricard.
Jaguar has nothing in particular to debut at Imola, but it
has been working on 'weight distribution, tyres and front
wing ratios,' according to a spokesman.
'Senna' returns to race track
The legendary 'Senna' name is about to return to the motor
A decade after the death of triple world champion Ayrton
Senna, Bruno Senna - his nephew - says the family has lifted
a ban forbidding him from the tracks.
Bruno, now 20, is set to return as a kart racer.
'I understand why my mother and my grandfather, Milton,
banned me from racing for so long after my uncle died,' said
Senna. 'That was such a terrible time.
IN MY BLOOD
'They did not want the same thing to happen to me and I
don't blame them.'
But since the tender age of ten, Bruno has been trying to
persuade his family that Uncle Ayrton would have understood
that racing is simply 'in my blood.'
Senna continues: 'My mother still does not really want me to
'But I've always loved speed. And from now on I'll be a
Pantano turns the corner
Giorgio Pantano insists he has finally turned the corner in
The rated Italian graduated from F3000 to Jordan-Ford as a
pay driver in 2004 but quickly started to look like the
latest Alex Yoong, according to Autosport.
But Pantano is keen to dispel rumours that he might now be
'I had only five days of testing before the first two
races,' he said.
'F1 is a faster car than F3000, and difficult to understand
In Bahrain, things started to look better than in Australia
Pantano admits that team-mate Nick Heidfeld was quicker on
the first few laps with new tyres but reckons 'I was
probably quicker than him' over a long run.
'The feeling is starting to come now,' says Giorgio.
'The engineers probably understand more about what I need
with the car.'
Kimi gets Bandini award
Kimi Raikkonen is the 2004 'Lorenzo Bandini' award winner.
According to a statement, the Finn is to receive the prize -
in memory of the leading Italian driver of his period - at a
ceremony in Brisighella on Thursday.
Previous winners include McLaren team-mates David Coulthard
and Alex Wurz.
Bandini, who won a single GP, succumbed to burns in the 1967
race at Monaco.
* Former Jaguar star Justin Wilson narrowly avoided a first
corner pile-up at Long Beach on Sunday as he started a new
career in US-based Champ Cars.
The Briton eventually finished sixth, 37 seconds behind
winner Paul Tracy.
It's too easy to forget that an Austrian rookie, by the name
of Roland Ratzenberger, also lost his life at the San Marino
Grand Prix weekend of 1994.
F1 photographer Keith Sutton is keen to remind the racing
The veteran has had 100 pins bearing the late 33-year-old's
helmet re-printed and he'll present them to a number of
'friends' in Imola, according to ITV.
Sutton remembers bumping into the Simtek driver at an
airport in 1994.
'Roland gave the check-in staff a badge of his helmet - he
used to hand them out to friends. So this will be my way of
ensuring that his life is celebrated.'
Jaguar unveil new sponsor
Jaguar's F1 car will sport the logo of a new sponsor in
Local Italian company 'AMIK Italia' joins the team in time
for the 2004 San Marino Grand Prix, according to a statement
issued by the Milton Keynes outfit.
AMIK is an importer and distributor of chemical products and
Head of performance Mark Gillan, meanwhile, warns that while
no visible changes feature on the R5 at Imola, 'it doesn't
mean we haven't taken steps forward.'
And managing director David Pitchforth announced he would
not attend the first Euro round of the season as he is
focusing on the wind tunnel in Milton Keynes.
But he said new 'head of marketing' Iain Brown, and new
'head of business development' Mark Gallagher, will be at
the 'Enzo e Dino' circuit in Italy.
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