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New BAR 'challenger' revealed

Lucky Strike B·A·R Honda marked the beginning of their 5th season in Formula One today with the unveiling of their 2003 challenger in Barcelona, Spain. The all-new B·A·R Honda 005 is the result of a huge effort made by the team over the past year to dramatically improve engineering standards and to lift the performance of the team to a much higher level than previously achieved.

In 2002, under the guidance of new technical director Geoffrey Willis, the team committed to design and build a car of outstanding quality. Compared to the 004, the new B·A·R Honda 005 is significantly smaller, lighter, has a lower centre of gravity and is more aerodynamically efficient than its predecessor.

Generally, the B·A·R Honda 005 is the product of a completely revised design philosophy and process, the results of which start with the chassis. It is constructed using an entirely different concept to the previous year's car, with new internal bulkheads making it substantially lighter, whilst maintaining the required design stiffness and meeting all the FIA crash test requirements. The gearbox is all-new, the maincase now being an aluminium investment-casting and using Xtrac internals. The revised suspension layout is also more compact with lay-down torsion springs. The fuel and cooling systems are much more refined. The number of parts used has been reduced by some 10% and the team has reassessed the way it manufactures components in order to make use of lighter materials.

Bridgestone continue with the team as official tyre supplier for the fifth consecutive year. The new technical regulations imposed over the winter have meant that each team will be allowed tyres specifically designed for their cars, so pre-season testing will see B·A·R and Bridgestone working very closely to ensure that they have the best possible package for the new season.

2003 will be a challenging year for B·A·R but we have made a substantial step forward over the winter. Together with our partners Lucky Strike, Honda and Bridgestone, I am confident that we will make significant progress towards our long-term target of winning the World Championship, said team boss Dave Richards. None of the other teams have been standing still though, so we will need to stretch ourselves throughout the entire season to achieve our goals. With a much - improved car, Jacques Villeneuve will now be able to demonstrate his extraordinary talent, whilst Jenson Button, with three seasons under his belt, is well-positioned to challenge the front runners. Together with our third driver Takuma Sato, I feel that B·A·R now has a driver line-up that is the match of any in Formula One.

Getting his first taste of the car in Barcelona today was British young gun Jenson Button, who joins the team alongside Former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve to create what is undoubtedly one of the most exciting driver line-ups in Formula One today. At only 22, with three seasons in Formula One behind him, Jenson has put his faith in B·A·R in the belief that the team will provide him with a winning car in the long-term.

The B·A·R Honda 005 will make its testing debut tomorrow (15 January) at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona with Jenson Button at the wheel.

The new BAR - PicturesCollapse )
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Jordan out of F1?

Reports in the Swiss press are claiming that the Jordan Formula One team is at the edge of an abyss and that in reality, financially, it is already dead. The team have yet to name a second driver or a title sponsor, putting fear into the hearts of many fans that Max Mosley's statements last year are about to become a reality.

Mosley warned that we might only see 18 cars on the grid when the Australian Grand Prix gets underway in March, as there were a few other teams on the verge of bankruptcy. Paul Stoddart has vowed that his Minardi outfit will be there and is planning on a hometown launch of the new car, and with Arrows already out of the picture, Jordan is the only other squad in serious financial trouble.

After trying unsuccessfully to buy the Sauber Petronas squad a few years back, Dietrich Mateschitz is reportedly waiting in the wings to take over the Silverstone based team should it become available. The Red Bull chief has been desperately attempting to begin an All American F1 team for some time now and it was thought that he was one of the interested parties in buying the Arrows squad last year. Earlier reports hinted at a deal that would involve the purchase of 65% of Jordan by the energy drink company, however it appears as if Mateschitz now wants it all and plans to put 45 year old former F1 racer, Eddie Cheever at the helm.

After 197 GP's, Eddie Jordan is not likely to throw in the towel and the team has already announced their scheduled testing program, that will be conducted by their only signed driver, Giancarlo Fisichella. However, Red Bull could still be a major player in the team, even if they fail to secure a take over bid. Felipe Massa is thought to have secured backing from the company and they already have Enrique Bernoldi on their books. Both drivers are in with a chance, however it appears as if Massa has the upper hand at this stage.

Jordan could also go down a totally different path and sign a British driver, Eddie Irvine or Anthony Davidson. While neither driver is prepared to pay for a seat in the team, signing either one would ensure stronger funding from tobacco giant Benson and Hedges. Now, it's just a case of playing the waiting game.

Well I hope they do go bust, I never did forgive them for sacking Frentzen.
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Jos the boss confirmed at Minardi

The KL Minardi team has confirmed the news that many Formula One fans have been eagerly awaiting: hard-charging Dutchman, Jos Verstappen, will join Britain's highly regarded Justin Wilson in the Faenza squad's 2003 driver line-up. The announcement was made by Minardi Team Principal, Paul Stoddart, at a press conference held in Rotterdam early this evening evening.

At 30, Verstappen brings a highly desirable combination of undoubted pace and extensive Formula One experience to the Italian-based team, having driven for Benetton, Simtek, Arrows, Tyrrell and Stewart in the course of a seven-year career in Grand Prix racing.

The Montfort-born driver's rise to motor racing's top category was nothing short of meteoric. Sensationally quick in karts, he moved rapidly through Formula Opel Lotus, dominated the German F3 Championship in 1993, and found himself debuting for the Benetton Formula One team in 1994, alongside Michael Schumacher, after regular driver, JJ Lehto, was injured in a pre-season testing accident. Amazingly, Verstappen had less than 50 car races under his belt when he started the season-opening Brazilian Grand Prix.

Always regarded as one of Formula One's quickest drivers, Verstappen's best result to date was his third-place finish in the 1994 Hungarian Grand Prix. He is perhaps most famously remembered, however, for emerging singed but not shaken from a fiery refuelling incident that marred that year's German Grand Prix.

I am very pleased to be back in Formula One and to have signed to drive for Minardi in 2003, comments Verstappen. Up and down the pit lane, it has always been known that Minardi builds good cars and is a strong little team that has only been prevented from achieving its full potential over the years by a lack of sponsorship. If you look at the budgets of the top F1 teams compared with what Minardi has available, I think Paul Stoddart is doing a fantastic job. I'm impressed by his plans for the team and by this year's technical package, which looks strong to me. I have been around Formula One long enough, however, to know better than to make extravagant statements about a team's competitiveness before a new season begins. All I can say is that I like what I see at Minardi and I am going to do my best for the team in 2003. I also want to extend my personal thanks to Michel Perridon and Trust Computer Products for believing in me and helping me to make my return to Formula One. I'm really looking forward to the challenge.

This is extremely good news, says an equally enthusiastic Paul Stoddart. The combination of Jos Verstappen and Justin Wilson will, I believe, give Minardi the strongest driver line-up in its history. The two of them will provide just the right blend of youth and experience, and combined with an effective chassis and Cosworth Racing's powerful CR3 engine, we will definitely have a much stronger package than in 2002. Until we get to the first Grand Prix, in Melbourne, it's impossible to know to what degree the other teams will have improved over the winter and how we'll compare with them. Even so, I'd like to think Minardi could be the ‘breakthrough team' of 2003.
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No seat for Albers at Minardi

It appears as if Christijan Albers won't be taking up residence at Minardi for the 2003 season with reports on the Dutchman's personal website stating that despite finding the necessary budget, an agreement between potential sponsors and Paul Stoddart could not be reached.

Christijan had signed a conditional agreement to drive for the Faenza based squad that expired on the 31st of December. Although an extra week was granted in an attempt to find a solution that would suit all concerned, it has been confirmed that sponsors and Stoddart could not agree on contracts and the payments due in the very short term.

As a result, Christijan will more than likely compete in the DTM series this year while attempting to gain further experience in Formula One, either as a test driver with Minardi or another team interested in his services. But, Formula One remains his ultimate goal and he has vowed to one day make it into the pinnacle of Motorsports, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Formula 1 remains the ultimate goal for me so I do not give up my hopes, Albers said on his website. I know I can make it. My sponsors made a fantastic offer to Paul, which he unfortunately could not accept. Fortunately there is still a lot to win for me with Mercedes in DTM and since I am only 23 there is enough time to become F1 driver. I still hope that I can start my career with Paul Stoddart and Minardi F1. I really like the team and hope that they get stronger soon. I look forward to the next season and hope it will be as successful as the year in which I became F3 champion. I want to win again and I am top fit."
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Sponsorship value falls by up to 50%

According to reports in the British Press, rate card sponsorship has been slashed as Formula One teams fight to do deals with potential sponsors. The Times quotes and unnamed sponsor claiming that the difference in figures between now and three years ago have been cut by up to 50%, showing how much teams have been forced to lower their prices in the current economic downturn.

"Three years ago, being a title sponsor for a middle ranking team would have set you back around EUR10.78m ($11.293m) for one season. That fee has since collapsed to between EUR6.1m ($6.4m) and EUR7.7m ($8m). The very basic entry level to get in the Formula One team door was around EUR770,365 ($806,000) three years ago. Now you can take at least a third off that."

Jordan and Minardi are just two teams fighting to find title sponsors for the upcoming 2003 Championship and the cut in rates in comparison to the spiralling costs in the series, means that they definitely have a struggle on their hands with only two months until the season opener in Australia.
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Frentzen is too sensitive for F1

German Formula One driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen is too sensitive to succeed in the sport his former boss Frank Williams said on Monday. The 35-year-old was let go by Williams after winning just once in his two years at the English team in 1997 and 1998.

He looked to have rebuilt his reputation when he went on to Jordan and won two Grand Prix finishing third in 1999, but then fell out with team leader Eddie Jordan in 2001 with whom he recently settled for compensation on his contract after he was sacked midway through the season.

Things got little better for him as he joined up with Prost which went bust last year. He fared little better at Arrows, who endured similar financial problems but has now returned to another of his former teams Sauber. However while Williams praised Frentzen for his handling of the car he said he was too sensitive for the hardness of the sport.

"I don't know of any other driver who has such a fantastic feeling for the car he drives as Frentzen does," Williams told the BBC. "But Heinz-Harald is a very sensitive character and not hard enough for this business."
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Jos and Jordan?

After making certain comments on his official website on Christmas Eve, and a reported offer, former Arrows driver Jos Verstappen has been linked to the vacant seat alongside Giancarlo Fisichella at Jordan.

For some time now it has been thought that the Dutchman would join Paul Stoddart's 2003 driver line-up after he stated that should the team confirm Ford power for next season he would definitely agree to a drive. Stoddart has more than Jos on his potential list of teammates for Justin Wilson, including Joss countryman, Christijan Albers. Albers signed a conditional contract with the team that required substantial sponsorship, however it appears as if the date to finalize the deal expired on New Year's Eve, and there has been no final confirmation of his position since, one way or the other.

Jos stated on his website that Minardi was not his only option and with Jordan having the only other available seat, the Silverstone based squad has become the only other possibility. Jos' experience would be a certain plus for Jordan, especially as they have opted for limited testing, and he is very positive regarding a new role in 2003.

We are in contact with all teams where we think they can offer me a chance, he said on his website. The general public might think that we are only talking with Minardi but that is not true. We are speaking with other teams as well. That is all I can say, it is very sensitive. We know what we are doing and I will tell you again, although nothing is sure in Formula 1, it looks good and I am very positive that I will return."

Reports are that an offer has been made by Jordan, however there are several other drivers in line for the position, including Eddie Irvine, Ralf Firman and Richard Lyons.
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"Salo was too negative"

The Panasonic Toyota team shocked the F1 world earlier this year when they opted to replace both drivers, veteran Mika Salo and rookie Allan McNish, from their 2003 driver line-up. Former British American Racing driver Olivier Panis was signed on soon afterward and was later joined by 2002 CART champion, Cristiano da Matta.

Although some expected McNish to be shown the door, Salo's dismissal came as a shock as the Finn still had a year to run on his contract, however the team explained that changes needed to be made to help the young team move ahead.

Ove Andersson, boss of the Toyota outfit, has since explained the move in greater detail, stating that McNish struggled too much in qualifying and Salo was often too negative with his comments.

"First look at Allan. He's very good at PR and he works very well with the team," he explained in F1 Racing. "But I only gave him a go on the understanding that, if it didn't work out, he'd be prepared to step out of the car after the first three races. He did a good enough job to warrant a whole season, but I think it's fair to say that he struggled too much in qualifying. As for Mika, he did a very good job for us on the track, but there's a clear feeling in the team that we needed a change of direction. Sometimes Mika could be very negative which wasn't useful. Olivier, on the other hand, is a very positive person and that was the key factor in hiring him."
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Leo Ress leaves Sauber

Sauber's head of research and Development, Leo Ress, has left the Swiss based Formula One team after 17 years of faithful service, to take up a role with Honda where he plans to further his career with a new challenge.

Ress, who was only promoted to the position as head of R and D two years ago after working on thirteen of the teams' F1 challengers, the C7 to the C19, left under amicable conditions and will be sorely missed by team boss Peter Sauber and all those involved in the Hinwill based squad.

At this stage there is no confirmation as to Ress' replacement.
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