F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
May 14, 2004

Sato raves about new Honda
Takuma Sato raved about Honda's Canada-spec engine on Thursday.

The Japanese managed 105 laps with the Montreal unit at Paul Ricard (France), and went faster than all runners including BMW-Williams, Renault and McLaren.

''It was very, very good,'' he told Autosport.

''We [even] had a chance to go for a full blast! It was really good.''

Heidfeld 'not cleared' to test
Nick Heidfeld rocked up at Paul Ricard on Thursday and expected to test.

But circuit doctors declined to let the German climb back into a repaired Jordan F1 challenger after he crashed heavily in southern France just a day earlier.

A spokeswoman told us Nick, 26, then travelled to a hospital.

Rumour has it he drove himself to Marseilles, where he got the all-clear to resume on Friday, even if a statement said Timo Glock would do the session.

Brazilian 'back at the races' - Rubens
Rubens Barrichello returned to the races at Circuit de Catalunya.

After struggling to meet Michael Schumacher's four grands prix-winning pace leading into Barcelona, the Ferrari star claims he found a good set-up in Spain.

''All weekend I was only a couple of tenths behind him,'' said the Brazilian.

Barrichello, 31 - second at race's end - also claims he could have taken pole.

''I decided to go for something different,'' he said, referring to a 2-stopper.

But after qualifying well off Schu's pace (fifth) on Saturday, the media were split - some saying Rubens was still slow, some predicting a heavy fuel-load.

''But no-one at all really thought I was making only two stops,'' he smiled.

''It was a pretty good lap, especially as the car was heavier [with seven laps more fuel than Schumacher] than I'd ever driven it in testing at that track.''

Schu 'sounded horrible' - Ross Brawn
For the first time in ages, Michael Schumacher's Ferrari 'sounded horrible.'

That's how technical director Ross Brawn summed up his fears when the bright red racer moaned past the pitwall from lap-20 onwards in last Sunday's Spanish GP.

''The [broken] exhaust progressively got worse,'' the Briton told Autosport.

''I really didn't think he'd finish. It was a minor miracle.''

At the time, Brawn told a pitlane reporter that the German should be able to drive the F2004 home - he didn't, of course, want rivals to know his worries.

He continued: ''The strange thing is the car kept working fine.

''We were just worried about not finishing. It burned a bit of bodywork.''

Schumacher last retired from a race with a cracked exhaust in 2000, in the Monaco GP, when leaking hot fumes burned through a piece of rear suspension.

''Since then,'' said Ross, ''we've had sensors on the suspension.

''We were watching them. We thought maybe we'd have to call it a day.''

Webber out to 'destroy' F1 teammate
The placid Mark Webber lets rip when asked about his Formula One teammate.

Since hitting the sport, for the struggling Minardi crew and now Jaguar, Australia's star has 'destroyed' the fellow occupant of his team's 900bhp racer.

Justin Wilson is ''very nice,'' he once said, ''but I've got to kick his ass.''

''It's my job to destroy my teammate,'' Mark continued the theme in Barcelona.

Webber's four occasional team-mates from 2002 and 2003 - Alex Yoong, Anthony Davidson, Antonio Pizzonia and Justin Wilson - are no longer on the F1 grid.

''If I'm blown away by my team-mate,'' he adds, ''I'm doing something wrong.

''It's a driver's nightmare to get beaten with exactly the same equipment.''

Sauber 'not ready' for big guns
Sauber is not ready to take on Formula One's big guns.

That's the warning of Hinwil technical director Willy Rampf who said earlier this week that the Ferrari-powered privateer squad was now targeting McLaren.

''We're still a long way from the front runners,'' he admitted on Thursday.

''We're making advances in the wind tunnel but it's not going to be translated into huge track advances overnight. All of this takes a lot of time.''

Sauber's impressive wind-tunnel facility is now running at full steam.

Rampf said the team, one of only three remaining outfits not backed by a giant vehicle manufacturer, is 'gaining new insights' and venturing into new terrain.

''It's a complex tool,'' he warned, ''and it's going to take time before it's perfect. The importance of measuring a full-size car is, though, evident.

''The effects of the wind tunnel will only truly show with the C24.''

Dixon 'dreams' only of Formula One
Indy 500 favourite Scott Dixon only dreams of winning Formula One races.

The New Zealander, second fastest in the opening days of practice for the fabled American open-wheel event, is tipped to fill a hole in the BMW-Williams squad.

''It's all about opportunity,'' he said in the Detroit Free Press.

Scott, 23, added: ''There are a lot of people banging at the F1 door.

''But, as a kid, all I ever wanted to be was a F1 driver.''

Three years ago, aged twenty, Dixon became the youngest driver ever to win a major open-wheel race - in the then 'CART' Champ Car series in Nazareth, USA.

Sato 'leads pace in France'
Takuma Sato gave F1 analysts a taste of what we can expect for June's Canadian Grand Prix by going fastest with a new-version Honda engine at Paul Ricard.

The Japanese ace powered his BAR ahead of McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen.

Renault ran with tester Franck Montagny in French sunshine and showers.

The local boy, like the other seven testers, used the 'Monaco' configuration on the changeable Le Castellet facility - a twistier version than on Wednesday.

''Weather was good until ... a large storm broke,'' said a Renault spokesman.

BMW-Williams, Toyota and Jordan also fielded runners.

'Man Friday' Davidson's Catch 22
Doing really well is a 'Catch 22' for Friday tester Anthony Davidson.

If the young Briton helps pull BAR, who field race aces Jenson Button and Takuma Sato, into the top-four Formula One constructors in 2004, he'll be out of a job.

Only the 'bottom six' teams get the spare-car-in-official-practice privilege.

''I want the car to be quick,'' he smiled.

''But at the same time I still want to be doing this next year.''

Better still, though, Davidson - who raced a couple of times for Minardi in 2002 - wants a full race drive. ''I'm trying not to think about it,'' he admitted.

The 24-year-old continued: ''I'm pretty confident, fairly optimistic.''

How so? Because he's caught the eye of the F1 media, and competing teams.

''It makes me laugh,'' Ant smiled. ''Two years ago I'd do a good job in a test and no-one gave a monkey's. Now my name's just at the top of the times ...''

Toyota to 'clean out' F1 line-up
Toyota is likely to perform another 'clean sweep' on the driver front.

The struggling F1 team cleaned out Cologne's starting line-up of Mika Salo and Allan McNish in late 2002 in favor of Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta.

But the latter French and Brazilian drivers are now set for the chop.

Newspaper 'The Guardian' claims that the Mike Gascoyne inspired TF105, Toyota's fourth GP charger, will probably be driven by Williams refugee Ralf Schumacher.

McLaren veteran David Coulthard is favorite to join him, said Alan Henry.

The British media report continues that Toyota believes Ralf and agent Willi Weber's 'asking price of about $18m a year needs to be trimmed significantly.'

A Williams 'insider' also reckons Schumacher, 28, is 'frustrated' in 2004.

He said: ''[Ralf] might be able to revitalize his form with a switch of team.''

'Arden F1 hopes fading' - report
A 'lot of good will' is pushing-on Arden's quest for the Formula One grid.

The F3000 championship-winning team hopes to buy a customer chassis and affordable engine from a manufacturer-squad and compete as early as 2005.

Boss Christian Horner said a 'substantial amount of commercial interest' was provoked by the governing FIA's announcement that F1 racing should be cheaper.

But a report by magazine Autosport claims Arden's hopes 'are fading.

''GP team bosses are reluctant to agree to rules changes,'' it claimed.

Formula One's smaller teams, including Jordan, Minardi and Sauber, are unlikely to agree to remove the $48 million start-up deposit required by new entrants.

They believe it would devalue their hard-earned spot in pitlane.

''We won't vote for this,'' Australian Paul Stoddart told the magazine ...

''... unless all teams receive prize money.''

Jaguar ready to update wind tunnel
Jaguar is ready to start the 'total modernisation' of its Bedford wind tunnel.

Construction consultant 'Ridge' has been contracted to handle the design of the huge structure which will eventually house a rolling-road, according to reports.

The Milton-Keynes based F1 team hopes to have the tunnel running by mid-'05.

Formerly owned by DERA, Jag has finished demolishing sections of the building.

''It dates from the 1950s,'' said managing director David Pitchforth.

Bridgestone 'must improve' tire - Brawn
Ferrari is worried about next weekend's trek to Monaco.

Tire partner Bridgestone's technical manager Hisao Suganuma admits that rival Michelin is likely to have vastly superior 'first lap' performance at the track.

''We think we can solve the problem,'' said the Japanese.

He added: ''But we probably need more time.''

The biggest problem is that, so far in testing at the Fiorano and Mugello tracks, a better 'first lap' Bridgestone tire loses consistency over long runs.

Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn said the F2004's advantage at Formula One tracks is neglected if a quicker Michelin-shod car gets out front at the start.

It happened at Imola (Jenson Button), and again in Barcelona (Jarno Trulli).

But it might have dire consequences on the impossible-to-pass streets of Monte-Carlo, where David Coulthard once sat 40-laps behind a vastly slower Arrows.

''First-lap performance will be absolutely critical at Monaco,'' said Brawn.

He said Ferrari is willing to sacrifice 'a little' consistency.

Brawn doubts 'six lap' qualifying
Ross Brawn has cast doubt on Formula One impresario Bernie Ecclestone's intention to rid the sport of its much-lambasted single-lap qualifying system.

Ecclestone said F1 would revert to a multi-lap format before 2004 is out.

He wants to impose a 'two half-hour' system where cars must complete a full six timed laps in both sessions, to be run on Saturday and introduced 'mid season.'

But Bernie might also scrap the mandatory 'parc ferme' stipulation.

Ferrari's technical director, however, says such a move would not be sensible as 'most 2004 cars' are designed to run one qualifying lap and then start the race.

''So most of us now have small fuel tanks,'' Ross Brawn told Autosport.

Monaco's 'the place to win' - Webber
No contest - Monaco is the place to win your first Formula One race.

That's the belief of one of the sport's rising talents, Mark Webber.

The Jaguar star has won before in the glamorous Principality, in F3000.

''If I could pick somewhere to win my first grand prix it would be Monaco,'' said the Aussie. ''It's akin to winning a golf tournament on a links course.''

But he doesn't expect to do it next weekend, in the tricky R5.

''It's going to be difficult,'' he laughed. ''A good result would be to get some points. But I always enjoy going to Monaco. It's a massive challenge.''

A feature of the Monte-Carlo streets is that there's no margin for error.

''Absolutely,'' the 27-year-old agrees. ''The car's constantly moving around.

''The key to a good lap is controlled aggression.''

BAR 'think hard' about Spanish form
BAR-Honda thought it would be faster around the Circuit de Catalunya.

Technical director Geoff Willis said Brackley shipped out of Barcelona to have a 'very hard think about' why the 006 charger had not posed a winning challenge.

''It's quite healthy [to think like that],'' he told Autosport.

''Let's put it in perspective - we came away with two cars in the points.

''So to be disappointed, you have to say, is a healthy sign.''

Team principal David Richards, meanwhile, told us after the Spanish Grand Prix that the country had not hosted 'what we were hoping for' after winter testing.

''At least we've strengthened our third place [in the championship],'' he added.

But somehow, the consistency expected in Spain went begging on race-weekend.

Willis concluded: ''We'll work hard to understand how to improve for Monaco.''

Williams try to 'kick Ralf out' - Weber
Williams is trying to 'kick Ralf out,' according to a new Formula One rumour.

A quote has surfaced on the internet allegedly spoken by German ace Ralf Schumacher's agent Willi Weber, who was responding to the latest speculation.

''To kick him out,'' said Weber, ''Frank has to prove he's not performing.''

Sources close to this publication report that Schumacher, 28, has a two-way performance clause in his Weber-inspired contract, set to expire this season.

Ralf is off to Toyota in 2005, unofficial reports now unanimously claim.

Weber said Sir Frank Williams will 'struggle' to objectively prove Ralf's lack of performance 'in a court,' even if he wants to pre-empt a Toyota announcement.

Why has McLaren failed? - analysis
An analyst close to this publication believes he has discovered the true reasons for McLaren's startling lack of pace with the latest Mercedes-powered MP4-19.

He said the first evidence was the new car's very early winter testing debut.

Winning Adrian Newey/Neil Oatley designs usually take a long time to build, are launched late, and head off to the Australian GP with virtually no track-time.

But '19,' a de-bugged version of the un-raced 18, was the first car to surface.

Then, said the analyst, close inspection revealed that 19 had 'a little too much' in common with the '03 'anteater-nose car' that was plagued with problems.

Former Arrows and Lola designer Mike Coughlan, not Newey and Oatley, was the guiding force behind both dreadfully slow and unreliable silver F1 versions.

And another relative newcomer, former Indycar man Mark Williams, helped out.

Then, news filtered into the F1 paddock that McLaren had a new brake supplier.

MP4-19 soon developed a tendency to lock wheels or spin under braking and, almost simultaneously, the first new Mercedes-Benz V10 engines began failing.

Engine blocks were 'cracking and flexing,' the British analyst reports.

Ferrari test on two fronts
Ferrari's race drivers tested at separate Italian circuits on Thursday.

Michael Schumacher tried tires and new components for Monaco at Fiorano, while Brazilian team-mate Rubens Barrichello also drove in light rain over at Mugello.

He also worked on 'development of new components,' according to a statement.

Meanwhile, at the Silverstone circuit under rare sunny skies, Italian ace Giancarlo Fisichella took over the controls of Sauber's sole-running C23.

He completed the three-day session by assessing a new front wing.

Renault 'is F1's slickest crew'
Renault has Formula One's slickest pit-stop crew.

According to official 'Formula One Management' figures, the Enstone-based team has achieved the 'fastest timed stop' at every racing-round so far this season.

''The standard we're performing to,'' said technical director Bob Bell, ''reflects our current level of motivation. We are also enjoying our racing.''

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