Formula One notebook January 26

LONDON, Friday, Jan. 26, 2001-Jacques Villeneuve aims to help the Lucky Strike British American Racing-Honda team finish third or better in the 17-race 2001 FIA Formula One World Championship, which includes the second annual SAP United States...

LONDON, Friday, Jan. 26, 2001-Jacques Villeneuve aims to help the Lucky Strike British American Racing-Honda team finish third or better in the 17-race 2001 FIA Formula One World Championship, which includes the second annual SAP United States Grand Prix on Sept. 30 at Indianapolis.

"Third place is the minimum acceptable for us to be happy," Villeneuve said. "And hopefully we will reach it because otherwise it will be a big weight for all of us to carry if we are not in the top three. If you can get third, maybe you can fight for second, and if you can then get second, maybe you can fight for first."

Villeneuve was speaking at the official launch of the new BAR-Honda on Jan. 26 in London. Ironically, the new car was not on display as Villeneuve had crashed it earlier in the week after experiencing a suspension problem while testing in Barcelona.

This will be the third season for the BAR team, which failed to score any points in its rookie year of 1999. Villeneuve, who won the 1995 Indianapolis 500, and the 1997 Formula One World Championship driving for Williams-Renault, has been with the BAR team since its inception. Last year, BAR finished fifth in the Constructors Championship. Now the team wants to improve on that and close in on the Ferrari and West McLaren-Mercedes teams that have dominated for the past three seasons.

"While last year was a big improvement after our debut season," said BAR's managing director Craig Pollock, "I am still not happy finishing fifth in the Constructors Championship. Our aim in 2001 has to be at least a third-place finish overall and to win some races. And with the team infrastructure that we now have in place, that is achievable, and that is what I want."

Villeneuve agrees with Pollock. "I have a high belief in all the people in BAR and Honda to give us the package needed to be in the front," Villeneuve said. "I know Olivier (Panis) and myself will work as hard as we can.

"Last year we were not that far off, and in a few races we could actually fight with them (McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari), and if we still make an improvement this year like we did the previous year, we should be able to fight against them. Hopefully now that Ferrari has won (the championship), they should go to sleep a little bit, and that should help everybody."

Villeneuve's new teammate this season is Frenchman Panis, 34, who is a veteran of 91 Grand Prix starts and won the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix in a Ligier. He didn't race last year as he worked as a test driver for McLaren-Mercedes.

"I'm pleased to be back racing," Panis said. "Last year it was frustrating to watch the races on TV. I have a lot of respect for Jacques because he has won the championship, and he is a very quick driver."

Villeneuve is looking forward to having such an experienced teammate.

"Olivier pushing me will be great," Villeneuve said.

Designed by Malcolm Oastler, the BAR-Honda 003 features the revised front and rear wing changes required by the new FIA rules as well as the changes to the monocoque to meet the latest FIA safety and crash tests. It is also 30 kilograms (66 pounds) lighter than the 2000 car, and it is fitted with electronic power steering and a smaller gearbox.

"We tried to improve on every facet of last year's car," Oastler said.

Power again comes from the Honda V10, but this year Jordan joins BAR as a factory-backed Honda team.

"We have a very reliable engine from our 2000 development program," said Takefumi Hosaka, Honda's managing director of research and design. "Our engines will be getting better, and now we can focus seriously on improving the power. We want to win as soon as possible."

***

Youthful talent cornerstone of Sauber's F1 effort for 2001: Team Red Bull Sauber-Petronas will contest this year's FIA Formula One World Championship with two of the youngest drivers in the lineup -- Nick Heidfeld and Kimi Raikkonen.

Germany's Heidfeld, 23, spent his rookie F1 season with the Prost team last year before joining Sauber for the 2001 season. His teammate is Finland's Raikkonen, 21, who has competed in only 23 auto races since graduating from karts.

"Nick learned a great deal in his first year in Formula One in 2000," said team owner Peter Sauber, "and brings that experience with him. He has already settled in very quickly and helped to move the team forward with his fast testing times.

"We may have been criticized initially for choosing Kimi Raikkonen as our partner for Nick Heidfeld. But Kimi proved to everyone's satisfaction that he belongs in Formula One despite his youth and lack of experience."

"From the moment that he first sat in one of our cars, at Mugello in September last year, Kimi showed himself to be a most unusual young man. He had never driven anything more powerful than a Formula Renault at that point, but he did not put a wheel wrong and managed to set highly impressive lap times.

"In subsequent tests he continued this remarkable form, which made him impossible to overlook as a candidate for the second C20 seat. His performance in Jerez, where he convinced the F1 governing body of his suitability to hold a Super License, was simply an endorsement of the potential that we saw back in September. We know that it will take Kimi time to find his feet in Formula One, once the racing starts, but our expectations of his long-term potential are very high."

Sauber was speaking at the official launch of the new Red Bull Sauber-Petronas C20, which took place Jan. 24 in a building next to the team's headquarters in Hinwil (near Zurich) in Switzerland.

Like the rest of the teams, Sauber had to deal with the new rules that raise the front-wing endplates from 50 millimeters to 100 millimeters off the ground and also limit the number of elements allowed in the rear wing to three. The Sauber engineers spent more than 35 weeks in a wind tunnel with a 50 percent scale model of the new car.

"The revised technical regulations forced us completely to rethink our aerodynamic package," said Seamus Mullarkey, Sauber's chief of aerodynamics. "So what you see on the C20 will change as the car develops further through the season. Aerodynamic research is an area of Formula One car design which never ceases." Power comes from a customer Ferrari V10 that has been rebadged as a Petronas. The C20, which shares few components with last year's C19, is also lighter than the C19.

"Reduced weight will allow us to run more ballast and to position it in a wider range of locations," said Sauber's technical director Willy Rampf. "This will be particularly important in 2001, as the arrival of Michelin as a challenger to Bridgestone will spark serious tire competition. We will continue to run on the Bridgestone tires.

"We envisage occasions when one tire manufacturer will have an advantage over another, both in qualifying and in the race. So, the more we are in a position to change such things as weight distribution on our cars, the more flexible we can be in extracting its maximum performance." As for the performance of the youthful talent, Heidfeld, who won the 1999 FIA Formula 3000 Championship, and Raikkonen, who won the Formula Renault 2000 British Championship, are anxious to show that they can be competitive in F1.

"I am keen on proving my talent by driving strong races," said Heidfeld, who struggled with the uncompetitive Prost-Peugeot last year, "and I am certainly hopeful about picking up my first World Championship points in the new car in the near future." In the 10-race Formula Renault series, Raikkonen finished in the top three every time and won seven races, seven poles and set six fastest race laps. "I am aware that everyone will be watching me," Raikkonen said, "and it's up to me at the beginning to prove I belong in F1. I just want to get on with my job as a Sauber driver and let my results do the talking for me."

***

Launch dates set: Ferrari will unveil its new car base Jan. 29 in Fiorano, Italy. The new Mild Seven Benetton-Renault will be launched Feb. 6 in Venice, Italy, and the West McLaren-Mercedes will be unveiled Feb. 7 in Valencia, Spain.

***

Prost confirms Mazzacane: The Prost Grand Prix team has hired Gaston Mazzacane as Jean Alesi's teammate for the 2001 season. Argentina's Mazzacane made his F1 debut with Minardi last year and now joins Alesi, the most experienced driver in the 2001 F1 lineup.

"Gaston has shown a lot of determination and motivation," said team president Alain Prost. "We are happy that he joins the team at a time that we consider a new start for Prost Grand Prix. He is in top physical condition and eager to prove himself."

***

AT&T sponsor Jaguar: AT&T and Jaguar have reached a three-year sponsorship and technical partnership agreement.

"AT&T is a global company with exactly the right skills and resources to support us," Jaguar Racing CEO Bobby Rahal said. "We look forward to expanding our relationship with them. In fact, we are currently working with AT&T to establish a network that will allow us to communicate from all 18 Grands Prix sites in 14 countries to our headquarters in Milton Keynes (England), our design teams at Cosworth and to Ford in the U.S."

***

Schumacher still motivated: Michael Schumacher says that winning his third World Championship and the first Drivers Championship for Ferrari since 1979 has not diminished his motivation to keep on striving for more victories and titles.

"I am born for racing," said Schumacher, whose record-tying nine wins in 2000 included a victory in the inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix, "and as long as I sit in a racing car, I can assure you that you don't need to have any worries about my motivation."

***

Jaguar's new technical director looking forward to returning to Indy: American Steve Nichols, who was hired as Jaguar's technical director Dec. 1, will head back to Indianapolis for the first time in 20 years when he attends this year's SAP United States Grand Prix on Sept. 30.

"I went to the Indy 500 for several years from 1976 to 1980," Nichols said. "I was designing dampers (shock absorbers) for Maremont Corporation. One of their brands was Gabriel, so I did Gabriel dampers for several teams such as Chaparral, Vel's Parnelli Jones, Lola, A.J. Foyt and Penske.

"It will be very interesting to go back there for the F1 race. It's been 20 years since I've been to Indy, so that will be quite exciting. Jaguar has a big market in America, so a United States Grand Prix is quite important to them. And there is no more an evocative racetrack in America than Indianapolis. So that's a good place to host the American Grand Prix."

***

Benetton expands technical staff: Mark Smith, formerly chief designer at Jordan, has signed a five-year contract with Benetton and will begin work with his new team May 1. Smith joins Mike Gascoyne, who left Jordan at the end of last season to become Benetton's technical director.

"Mark has done a good job for us over the 10 years since we started in F1," said Jordan's commercial director Ian Phillips, "but he has now decided that he wanted a change of scene. He will be a loss, obviously, but we will be promoting from within the company to appoint his successor."

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Four test drivers for BAR: Lucky Strike British American-Honda will have four test drivers this season: Britain's Darren Manning and Anthony Davidson, France's Patrick Lemarie and Japan's Takuma Sato.

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New sponsor: Puma, the German-based athletic footwear, apparel and accessory company, has signed on as a long-term sponsor with the Benson & Hedges Jordan-Honda team.

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Arrows to provide F1 thrills to passengers: The Arrows team has unveiled a three-seat F1 car that will allow passengers placed on either side of the driver to experience the thrill of riding in a F1 car.

"The objective behind AX3 is to provide a better opportunity for people to experience an increased and more real simulation of the G-forces, acceleration, deceleration and speed that F1 drivers go through for one and a half hours at every Grand Prix," said Huw Morgan of Arrows.

***

Sauber hires new chief designer: Former McLaren design engineer Stephen Taylor has been appointed chief designer for Red Bull Sauber-Petronas. k

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Takuma Sato , Michael Schumacher , Jean Alesi , Jacques Villeneuve , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Darren Manning , Patrick Lemarié , Bobby Rahal , Parnelli Jones , Alain Prost , Peter Sauber , Mike Gascoyne , A.J. Foyt
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , British American Racing , Minardi , Jaguar Racing , Jordan