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Behind the scenes

Away from the glamour and glare of the Grand Prix weekend the daily grind of Formula One continues with eight of the teams testing at two different venues. Ferrari, Williams, McLaren, Renault, BAR, Jaguar and Toyota are pounding about in pouring rain at Silverstone, England while Ferrari, Williams, BAR, Sauber and Toyota also have cars testing at Monza in Italy.

In the sunshine of Northern Italy, Ferrari continued to demonstrate its dominance with test driver, Luca Badoer topping the timesheets on day one of the test. Ralf Schumacher in the Williams was next up followed by the increasingly impressive Anthony Davidson in the BAR-Honda who was less than three tenths of a second off BadoerÕs best time. Toyota drivers Olivier Panis and Ricardo Zonta, split by SauberÕs Felipe Massa rounded out the drivers in action, all three being at least a second and a half slower than the Ferrari. All five teams were evaluating low down force aerodynamic packages that will be in use for the next two races in Canada and Indianapolis.

On day one at Silverstone RenaultÕs Fernando Alonso made good use of a brief dry spell to set the pace just 4/100ths of a second quicker than the new McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen. Apart from this the times were fairly meaningless as can be seen from Michael Schumacher being almost four and a half seconds off the pace at the end of the day, but by far the fastest driver in the wet when he drove in the morning. He did not set a time when the circuit had started to dry out.

The major news of the day was the debut of McLarenÕs heavily updated car, the MP4/19B, which the team hopes will turn around their disastrous start to the season. Raikkonen, who completed 45 trouble free laps was impressed with the initial speed and handling of the car and said, ÒMy first impression is that it feels good, but it takes time to develop a new car so we still have two very busy days ahead, but the car seems to feel and behave really well so far.Ó

However, although an optimum set-up of the existing car is tricky to achieve that has not been McLarenÕs major problem this year. The lack of reliability from their Mercedes-Ilmor power plant has hampered any attempts at finding the ideal set-up during race weekends and if your races end with enormous smokey engine failures, it doesnÕt really matter how quick the car could be. The team tries to ensure that the engine makes it to the end of the race by doing fewer laps in free practice. This hampers the efforts of the team to find a good set-up for the race, which usually ends in retirement anyway making the car look slow as well as unreliable. In the recent European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring McLaren only ran about three quarters of the practice laps put in by Ferrari and David CoulthardÕs engine still expired before final qualifying, forcing him to start from the rear of the grid. In three of the seven races held so far at least one of the McLaren drivers has had to start at the rear of the pack due to engine failures and on no fewer than six occasions has their race been ended with an engine related problem. Unless Ilmor can overcome these troubles then IÕm afraid that the West sponsored team may move up the grid, but still have a smoking problem.

The rumour mill regarding the 2005 Williams driver line up continues to churn. The latest is that they are trying to tempt 1998-99 World Champion Mika Hakkinen out of retirement and that a test is due shortly. Almost everyone except Williams and Hakkinen have denied this but it is fairly unlikely to take place. Decidedly more likely is that 1997 Champion and currently unemployed Canadian, Jacques Villeneuve will test for the team, and sooner rather than later. It may be as early as later this week at Monza but more likely later this month when the team gets back from the United States Grand Prix. By then we will also be half way through the season and have a better idea where current favourite for the drive, Mark Webber stands. If, at the half way point of the season, the Jaguar team is not in the top six of the Constructors Championship a performance clause in WebberÕs contract makes it easier for him to move to another team despite having another year to run. They are currently in eighth place but only two points behind sixth placed McLaren.

The political infighting continues as FIA president Max Moseley attempts to force through his raft of changes to the sport. No sooner than there had been announcements that an in-principle agreement had been made to change the qualifying format from the tedious, 2 hour, single lap shoot out to an aggregate of two, twenty minute sessions in which each car must complete at least six laps in each, and that the new engine specification would be a 2.4 litre V8 from 2006 the griping started. First, Australian Minardi boss, Paul Stoddard was quoted as saying that he wouldnÕt agree to the qualifying changes because it would rob the smaller teams of valuable TV airtime and then BMW engine boss Mario Theissen came out saying he wanted to stick with the current V10s with a slightly extended endurance, up to three races, and would not be supporting the move to smaller engines. The problem is that under the current Concorde Agreement these changes cannot be made without unanimous agreement from all the teams. As interest in Formula One is waning due to the lack of actual racing on the track, changes are needed urgently to rescue the sport from itself.

Sam Snape

02-06-04

EUROPEAN GRAND PRIX

After the high drama and entertainment of Jarno TrulliÕs win last week at Monaco, normal service resumed at the Nurburgring on Sunday as Michael Schumacher and the red Ferrari juggernaut demolished their opposition with a resounding 1-2 finish. Indeed, the race was as good as over by the time Schumacher pitted for his first refuelling stop on lap 8. Getting the jump on the field after a scrappy start, Michael had built up a 14 second lead in just six laps while the pack was trapped behind Kimi Raikkonen's fairly slow McLaren. On exiting the pits Schumacher came out just behind Jarno TrulliÕs Renault in seventh place who was at the back of the train of cars behind Raikkonen, which meant that he was only a few seconds off the lead with everyone in front of him yet to make their pit stops. By lap 15 all those stops had been made and Schumacher was a good twenty odd seconds in front of his nearest rival and was never again headed in the race. SchumacherÕs strategy of a very light fuel load paid off giving him pole position on the grid and the ability to disappear while the others battled with each other.

Read more: EUROPEAN GRAND PRIX

EXPAT EXPLOITS

The final weekend of May was not a great one for Australian drivers trying to make it on the world scene. There were some brighter moments but all in all it was a week of hard luck and hard landings.

The hardest luck came in the World Supersports motorcycle race at Oschersleben, Germany when Ten Kate Honda team-mates Karl Muggeridge and Brock Parkes finished a resounding 1-2 after a terrific race long duel only for them both, and the other top six Honda riders, to be disqualified after a discrepancy was found in the homologation of the rear wheel spindle. This gave the win to SuzukiÕs Stephane Chambon and meant that Dutchman Jurgen van den Goorbergh extends his championship lead instead of losing it to Muggeridge. In the same race Aussie Yamaha rider Kevin Curtain had one of the hard landings when he fell while battling strongly in the second group. Had he stayed up he may well have been declared the winner but...

Read more: EXPAT EXPLOITS

A1 GRAND PRIX

{mosimage} Germany’s latest wunderkind, Nico Hulkenberg, continued his domination of the A1 GP series at Eastern Creek last weekend with two more victories over stable mate, New Zealand’s Jonny Reid. So total was his domination he was hardly headed all weekend. Fastest in the final practice session, two of the four qualifying sessions, Pole position, victory and fastest laps in both the Sprint Race and the Feature Race. He did, however make a slight mess of the start of the Feature race and let Reid into the lead through the first corner. Reid’s lead lasted only as long as the pit stops. Hulkenberg pitted a lap before the Kiwi, put in a blindingly fast out lap and when Reid rejoined he was a second behind the German and that, as they say, was that. Reid tried hard and occasionally pulled some time back on the leader but never really troubled him.

Read more: A1 GRAND PRIX

Welcome to Multimedia Motor Sport

After 18 long years at Telstra, working as everything from a punching bag to a project manager, and rapidly approaching 40 years of age, when the possibility of a nice redundancy package was mentioned for about a third of my sections staff, my hand shot into the air of it’s own accord. The idea of turning my passion into a profession was too much to resist. Will it succeed? Who knows, but as I can write and take fairly good photos, I’ve just got to give it a go.

Read more: Welcome to Multimedia Motor Sport