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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 in Dordrecht.

FUTURE

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' agent added.

He said: 'I'll see what happens ... but let's not jump to conclusions.'

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 Monday.

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.

TEST RECORD

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 forward.'

Team boss David Richards said Jenson is presently 'on a roll.'








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.

NEW PACKAGE

'Now, the challenge is to further strengthen our challenge.'

To that end, BAR unveils a revised aero and engine package for Imola.

'And we've got a further step from Michelin, too,' he continued.

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 driver.

'Overall, it is more driveable, too.'

Renault's R24 race car also sports some chassis developments in Imola.

'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 race track.

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.








Sato disappointed
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 Imola.'

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 performance.

'I won't be focusing on what happened three weeks beforehand.'

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.

RATZENBERGER

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.

CLEAN SWEEP

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 home turf.

'I hope we can live up to [it],' said world champion Michael Schumacher.

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 added.

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 Schumacher.

'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 explained.

The former Champ Car champion said his TF104 featured low fuel and soft tyres.

PIZZA

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 northern Italy.

'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 conflict.

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 Telegraph.

'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.'

COOL WEATHER

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 continues.

'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 Michael Schumacher.

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 challenge.

SOFTER TYRES

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 Imola challenge.

'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 One.

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.

SICKENING

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 race.'

INJURED

'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.

BOYCOTT

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 - in 2001.

NOTHING NEW

'I really like Italy,' he said, 'and the surrounding area of San Marino.'

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 racing circuits.

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 do it.

'But I've always loved speed. And from now on I'll be a racing driver.'








Pantano turns the corner
Giorgio Pantano insists he has finally turned the corner in Formula One.

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 replaced.

'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 very quickly.'

In Bahrain, things started to look better than in Australia and Malaysia.

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.

PILE UP

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.








Remembering Roland
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 world.

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 Imola.

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 primary materials.

NO SHOW

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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