F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
April 25, 2004

Button plans Imola win
Jenson Button went to sleep Saturday night thinking he might still be dreaming by the time 62 laps of the Imola race circuit are complete later this afternoon.

On Friday, after also going fastest, the BAR star ruled out a race win.

But having snatched pole at the 'Enzo e Dino Ferrari' facility in a sleepy Italian town, Jenson is once again planning a trek to the Sunday F1 podium.

'It's every driver's dream to win a grand prix,' he said.

'I've been inching closer and closer to that right through the season.'

His boss, Brackley chief Dave Richards, urged his man to 'have a go.

'You can play it safe or take a few risks. Jenson's up for it.'

Ralf distracted?
Does Ralf Schumacher have unsigned F1 contracts on his mind?

The German, who is yet to complete negotiations with BMW-Williams regarding next season and beyond, was outqualified for the fourth consecutive time at Imola.

'If he's distracted,' said technical director Patrick Head, 'we're not.'

Williams' gruff chief added that Ralf, 28, can't be happy about losing out to Juan Pablo Montoya on Saturday afternoons, or his haul of 7 points so far.

'I feel he is having trouble weighing up the risk in qualifying,' said Head.

'I think he went too aggressive in the first session and then over-compensated.'

Schumacher won his first-ever grand prix at Imola three years ago.

Race rain 'definite'
It was raining by the time pole-sitter Jenson Button and his nineteen Formula One track rivals put their heads on their motorhome pillows on Saturday night.

And they can forget it if they expect to again wake up to Italian sunshine.


A weather source at Imola near Bologna said showers are 'definitely' going to strike some time Sunday, when temperatures stay around a chilly 12 degrees.

It might mean that Bridgestone's tyres, notably on the scarlet Ferrari cars, work better at Imola following an unexpected top of 28-degrees in qualifying.

Be patient, Kimi - Ron Dennis
How on earth does Kimi Raikkonen drag on his silver overalls when the chance of another engine failure is probably better than his chance of finishing the race?

'Every driver is salaried,' replied McLaren-Mercedes boss Ron Dennis.

'In our team, drivers have very good salaries.

'And every driver knows this is the nature of the sport - up and down.'


Raikkonen, 2003 runner-up, is at the back of the grid for today's San Marino GP after yet another technical problem on the nonetheless uncompetitive MP4-19 car.

'We'll get going again sooner than you think,' Dennis continued.

'I don't know how long it will take - double figures, in races, perhaps.'

The team CEO urged Kimi, and veteran team-mate David Coulthard, to 'be patient.'

Teams complained about BAR wing
Charlie Whiting told BAR 'your radical rear wing is not legal.'

Respected internet publication AtlasF1 first said Ferrari, and then Jaguar, complained to the FIA technical delegate about the innovation in Imola.


It features two 'shark like' fins attached to the two legal wing elements, an approach imitated by BMW-Williams who have removed the fins here in Italy.

Honda's Otmar Szafnauer said Brackley was considering an appeal.

Rossi invited to second F1 test
Valentino Rossi has been invited to take a second F1 test, if he likes.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo touched down at Imola on Saturday and said the 'hugely professional' MotoGP bike champion is 'more than welcome' to return.

He said Valentino and Michael Schumacher had a 'delayed' mutual respect after the Formula One champion loaned Rossi a helmet to put-off the racing paparazzi.


'There's not much in common between a German from Kerpen,' said the Italian of their differences, 'and a 25-year-old rider from Tavullia in the Marche.'

Montezemolo also took his hat off to pole sitter Jenson Button.

'It's important that young drivers come to the fore,' he added.

Zsolt gets new engine
Zsolt Baumgartner is to drive a brand new engine in today's San Marino GP.

The Minardi rookie twice spun his PS04B in the quick Variante Alta chicane on Saturday and thus would ultimately have lined up at the back of the grid anyway.

Changing the engine carries with it a ten-grid race demotion.

'I'm pleased that my first sector time wasn't bad,' said the Hungarian.

Zanardi at Imola
Alex Zanardi was spotted at the Imola race circuit on Saturday.

The Italian, who drove a Lotus (1993) and Williams (1999) at the Enzo e Dino Ferrari track, lost both his legs in an horror Champ Car shunt three years ago.

He is a guest of the BMW-Williams camp this weekend.

Schu village demolished
Michael and Ralf Schumacher's birth village is to be demolished.

German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reports that Manheim, on the edge of Kerpen, is to make way for a 400 metre-deep expanding open-cast coal mine.

The pit is operated by energy utility RWE.

Ralf and Michael, who respectively drive for BMW-Williams and Ferrari in Formula One, buried their mother, Elisabeth, in Manheim around this time last season.

Sueddeutsche said Manheim, home to 1700 residents, would be gone by 2012.

No smoke at Imola start
Don't expect to see plumes of tyre-smoke on the Imola grid this afternoon.

One keen F1 analyst has noticed that despite a recent ban on launch control systems, drivers are making no-wheelspin getaways in their 2004 car models.

'We were expecting it,' said FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting.

The Briton said he has 'no problem' with the legality of launch 'optimisation.

'You can do things based on known grip levels,' he continued.

Whiting said teams are modulating the engine power at the race starts, based on the knowledge of how much grip a certain tyre on a certain surface will give.

He added that the only limitation is that the throttle and clutch must be under the total control of the driver at the very start of a race, up until 100kph.

Minardi to stay in 2008
Minardi has vowed to stick with Formula One beyond 2007.

Paul Stoddart, the Faenza team chief, scowled at claims that five F1 manufacturers are again vowing to 'break away' from the sport in 2008.

He sides with fellow privateer Eddie Jordan.

The Irishman said he uncovered a 'plot' by the GPWC in which they are to share the majority of revenue between themselves, at the expense of smaller teams.

'If they want to break away, fine,' said Stoddart, an Australian.

'Minardi will be one of the teams left in the FIA Formula One championship.'

Stoddart said GPWC is little more than 'a lot of idle threats.'

Michelin to leave 'control' F1?
Bridgestone is most likely to become Formula One's 'control' tyre supplier.

Among FIA president Max Mosley's plan for a 'better' future beyond 2007 is to end the highly-competitive tyre war which often sees one constructor dominate.

'We want to be involved no matter what,' a Bridgestone spokesman told us.


Rival brand Michelin, meanwhile, appear less keen on the idea.

Competition boss Pierre Dupasquier said Bibendum came into Formula One at the request of some 'current partners' in a bid to beat Bridgestone and Ferrari.

'If there's no longer a fight,' said the Frenchman, 'maybe there's no longer a point. But there's a long way to go before 2008 - we haven't thought about it.'

Brit GP has '50/50' future
Britain has a '50/50' chance of staging a Formula One race beyond July.

Former BRDC chairman Martin Brundle said in Imola that 'it's all a mess.

'Good riddance to Interpublic,' he added of the US advertising giant.


'They haven't served British motorsport well.'

But Martin said the track-owning Club does not have the money to take-over the reigns of the GP, whose race rights are now in the hands of Bernie Ecclestone.

The former driver and TV pundit concluded: '... we'd like to be involved.'

More horses for Button
Pole sitter Jenson Button is set to get even more Honda power in mid-June.

Otmar Szafnauer said the revised engine, powering Honda's first pole since 1992 with Ayrton Senna, would feature 'two or three more' steps later this season.

'The next step is Canada,' he told Reuters in Imola.


Szafnauer said the strategy is different to previous seasons with BAR.

'Almost every grand prix we had something.

'But now we're doing less steps but more significant ones.'

More Ferrari developments
Even more car developments are to appear on the Ferrari in Spain and Monaco.

Technical director Ross Brawn said the F2004 is wearing a new bodywork kit in Imola but there are 'one or two more things' which haven't been finished yet.

'We thought we might have them here,' said the Briton.

'We tested them but we haven't got them to where we want to.'

There's also talk that a radical Bridgestone tyre shape is to debut this summer.

'It's true, we are working on a new concept of tyre,' Brawn admitted.

'But whether it will prove to be better - we don't know.'

Rossi to emulate Surtees?
At the age of 25, a slight Englishman switched from two to four wheels.

Within a few years, the seven times motorcycle title winner was F1 champion.

'Valentino Rossi is intelligent and forceful,' said the man, John Surtees.

He told The Guardian: 'It depends whether he can immediately be fast in a car.'

Last week, at the Fiorano track, 25-year-old MotoGP champion Rossi pulled on Michael Schumacher's helmet and got within a second or two of the German's time.

Is 'safe' F1 still spectacular?
Formula One is a much safer exercise than in Sir Jackie Stewart's day.

Since Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger died at Imola, the sport has accelerated the Scot's vision to almost rule out the possibility of fatality.

But can grands prix still provide a spectacle, in the absence of mortal danger?

'There's still a lot of incidents,' Stewart countered in 'The Scotsman'.


'When these guys are travelling at 200mph, wheel to wheel, at the absolute limit of their ability and their car's - of course it is still an exciting spectacle.'

Prior to Senna's death in 1994, he and JYS hardly exchanged a word.

'I had been very critical of something he did,' the Scot recalls.

'But in the end, actually, we often got together so that we could discuss what to do to assist the safety programme. He wanted to leave F1 a better place.'

Wouldn't swap his Button
'We've rattled Ferrari's cage,' grinned John Button, father of Jenson.

The pair shared a brief embrace before the youngest, 24, kissed his girlfriend and was engulfed by a throng of journalists and cameramen at the Imola track.

BAR chief Dave Richards now appears confident, given his young driver's superior qualifying pace, that Button can take the fight to Michael Schumacher on Sunday.

'I think he can handle him,' Richards told Reuters.

'He'll sleep like a baby tonight, that's for sure - he's very calm.'

Richards said he 'wouldn't swap Jenson' for any other driver in Formula One.

Senna looked serene
Ayrton Senna looked serene.

Professor Sid Watkins was the first man on the scene after the Brazilian great smashed his Williams-Renault into the wall on lap-seven of the 1994 Imola race.

'I remember raising his eyelids,' said the Briton.

'It was clear from his pupils that he had a massive brain injury.'

A suspension arm had penetrated Senna's helmet like a spear. 'We lifted him from the cockpit and laid him on the ground,' Watkins told The Telegraph.

'As we did so, he sighed. I felt his soul depart at that moment.'

One of the trackside medical team, Doctor Pezzi, arrived on the scene at Tamburello shortly after and got on with the task of intubating Senna's form.

'I could feel his pulse,' Watkins said.

'But I knew he couldn't survive.'

Lock the doors - Stoddart
Minardi boss Paul Stoddart has a bold idea for how to push Max Mosley's radical raft of cost-cutting Formula One rule reforms through an unanimous team vote.

'Put them in a room,' said the Aussie, 'and lock the bloody doors.'

An early-May meeting has been scheduled to discuss the proposed 2008 changes.


'We talk, and talk, and talk,' said the back-of-the-grid team principal, who operates his Faenza-based operation on the smallest budget in Formula One.

He added: 'Nothing ever happens. Talk doesn't pay my bills.

'Now we're going to discuss what has already been discussed.'

Senna wanted Ferrari drive
Ayrton Senna probably would have lived out his F1 days in a Ferrari.

President Luca di Montezemolo touched down at Imola on Saturday and said the Brazilian great, killed here ten years ago, wanted to drive a scarlet car.

'I remember meeting him in Monza,' said the Italian.

'He said, 'I want to end my career trying to win something with Ferrari'.'

Montezemolo also reacted to Max Mosley's latest raft of proposed reforms.

'If you talk about safety, I'm always in favour,' he added.

'But the changes that were introduced to stop Ferrari, have not worked,' Luca continued. 'So as for the rest, I think we have to discuss them some more.'

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