F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week of the 8th November 1998:

Ferrari's 1999 Contender

With the success of the McLaren in 1998, Ferrari have paid special attention to the details that were so beneficial to the Woking team in the earlier races... The F650 is an inherently 'long wheelbase' car, with the extra length built in to the body, giving it the same 'long nose' look McLaren had this year.

To compensate for this, much of the ballast mass has been shifted forward to balance the centres of gravity and aerodynamic downforce - not a problem for the fundamentally light Ferrari.

The F650 rear suspension will be remarkably similar to that used by McLaren this year, utilising a double action. It will consist of a metal double cylinder in two sections at the end of the rear suspension... controlling the behaviour of the tail, responding differently as the speed and the track situations change.

The driving position is relatively low in the cockpit, both reducing turbulence behind the drivers helmet, and moving it further from the air intake. This should assist the quest for maximum efficiency at the air intake to the engine, enabling the power plant always to operate at its best possible performance along the power curve. How the new driving position affects Michael Schumacher (who prefers to be relatively upright) is yet to be established.

In many respects, these changes will leave the Ferrari - superficially at least - resembling a 1998 McLaren in Ferrari livery.

There are going to be some interesting differences, however:

The brakes are expected to be something a little bit special; the Ferrari technicians are known to be studying changes to the mechanics of the brakes that control the pressure of the "brake-bite". This should legally improve the way of balancing the braking inserting into the curve, without strictly being termed anti-lock braking. The goal is to achieve the best braking (and acceleration) with a minimal tyre wear.

The engine is expected to be the next evolution of the already top of the field V10 - producing around 835hp. With the continuous development of the 3D mapping system, improved drivability will be an important step forward here too. Another important step forward is the much higher running temperature, allowing reduced radiator exposure... so expect the sidepod air intakes to be smaller - allowing better aerodynamics. They sidepods themselves cannot be significantly smaller, or the car will fail the side impact tests.

More obvious will be the aerodynamic changes: look out for some extra trappings on the car; there is a real possibility that Ferrari have found a way around the banned T wing rule (McLaren 1995), enabling devices in the form of 'flaps' to make an appearance... at least until all the teams run them, and the FIA bans them.

It is suspected that the F650 has already made its first run... During the final days preparing for the Japanese Grand Prix, the team may have tested a disguised F650, calling it an F300 - in which case Ferrari's official test driver Luca Badoer completing some 150 laps at the Mugello circuit... who said the 1999 contender would suffer from this years efforts?

What do you think of Ferrari's chances in 1999? Voice your opinion on the F1 Forum.

Jaguar attempting to enter Formula One

Widely reported in the news is Ford's attempt to buy a top running team, in an effort to promote the Jaguar name, and milk as much kudos from the sport as Ferrari manages.

Exclusively, F1 Rumors can reveal the David Richards departure was associated with the Benetton decision not to take advantage of an offer from Ford: details of the deal remain unclear, and will probably never surface, but it seems that Ford might well have been supplying engines and a name to the Benetton team for 2000 or 2001.

The Benetton team has been jockying for position with BAR over securing a works Renault deal when they return to Formula One, and Richards saw opportunity with Ford. Benetton, it seems, disagreed, and were sure they wanted the name unchanged, unless they sold the whole team. Why the difference in opinion could not be worked out is still unknown.

Arrows struggling...

The Arrows team has been in a lot of difficulty getting their sponsorship sorted out. Different rumours have major backers climbing down over difficulties at home, or changes of direction; Pedro Diniz has taken his substantial income elsewhere, and they have to fund their own engine development.

It seems some things are finally going their way: the Yamaha/Toyota link up might take the pressure off the engine development funding, whilst a Nigerian business man is reported to have offered to buy 25% of the team. Arrows have denied the sale, but something is definitely afoot in this arena.

Bridgestone in trouble already!

Numerous teams have been up in arms over Bridgestones apparent preferential treatment of Benneton, McLaren and Ferrari.

Ferrari are closing in on their new contract, which is not to be made public: it seems they have required (and obtained) permission to test at multiple sites; something no other team will currently be permitted to do next season.

The current complaint from the Sazuka test was easy enough to deflect - it was an FIA trial, not an official car test session. But if Ferrari manage to get this consession without the other teams gaining the same rights, there will be claims of foul play that are a lot harder to live down.

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1999 Title Contenders

Speculation is rife that Ferrari may have shot its bolt, adding next years components to this years car. Counter rumours from within the camp insist that there is plenty more to come, possibly including a V12 engine (though fuel consumption issues may keep that from making it into a race, even if it shows for qualifying) that has been on and off the drawing board several times this year.

Title holders McLaren will be looking to maintain their hold, with Adrian Newey promising bigger and better things for next year. In traditional form, they are not making extravagent claims for their future performance - in fact, they are crediting the smaller teams with a chance to close the gap somewhat, as they use the experience of the last year under the regulations in designing their new cars.

Jordans Damon Hill has been quoted stating that next year will probably not be theirs - the team has come forward in leaps and bounds, but has to strive for the consistancy that the major players achieve. Ferrari, Williams and McLaren in particular always seem to produce cars that run at the top: so whilst they will be going for it from the start, he really sees it as the beginning of a consolidation process.

Another concern for Jordan will be their engine supplier after next year: the team will be relying on continuity with Honda for 1999, but have not been able to extend the contract into 2000 yet. It is vital for their long term goals that they secure this sort of deal...

F1 Experts Report

A recent report from a number of Formula One experts was submitted to the FIA: in summary, the report recommends a number of changes, including a 50% reduction in downforce, and 10% increases to both drag and mechanical grip.

In light of comments by representatives of the FIA, the recommendations are not likely to be taken up - they do not want Formula One to become another CART series, where the biggest distinction between teams is often the colour of the paintwork!

However, the report details a number of mechanisms that may play a significant part in improving things, without an excessive change in the current standards. Probably the best example is the proposal to change the shape of the undertray and diffuser. The proposed change would shift the centre of the aerodynamic effects forward, and simultaneosly reducing the turbulance effect of the diffuser (keeping the air cleaner for trailing cars).

This proposal would have interesting effects: the change to the aerodynamic centre should result in more front and less rear wing in order to keep the car properly balanced under braking; the increased front wing would aid cornering, and be less compromised by the car in front (which has reduced turbulance), allowing closer running through medium and high speed corners.

This would permit an increase in overtaking opportunity both on the straight after a faster corner, and through a long corner, as the car becomes less nervous following. As a side benefit, there will be fewer accidents from cars suddenly losing downforce in corners as they get too close to the one in front, assisting the FIA in its quest for safety.

The downside to any change is that, naturally, the biggest teams benefit as they get another chance to exploit their large budgets, so the benefits on track would probably not really be visible for a year or so after the changes took place.

More Lotus Speculation

This speculation is better quality than usual - Lotus returning to Formula One is one of the biggest sources of rumour outside the silly season: In this case, there is some speculation that Sauber may end up driving Lotus engines, through the tenuous connection: Petronas (Malaysian national Oil and Gas company) has expressed interest in buying a majority shareholding in Proton cars, which in turn owns a majority of Lotus Cars.

Whilst undoubtedly interesting, it would not provide a return to F1 for the Lotus name, and has remarkably little to do with current technology - the Lotus of the past was a chassis builder not an engine supplier, and this is unlikely to change: but stranger things have happened in Formula One... and its not much more far fetched than a Toyota link up: both these options giving Sauber a chance to get away from Ferrari.

If you think you know how Lotus may make a comeback to Formula One, please express your opinion on the F1 Forum.

Ferrari Engines - Powerful, unruly beasts

From a normally reliable source we hear Ferrari have tested an engine which peaks 938hp - truly putting the cat amongst the pigeons in the F1 arena. Whilst the figures are probably exaggerated, it is entirely feasable that Ferrari have dropped something like this into one of their cars: Schumacher recently tested an engine that allegedly took three seconds off the Fiorano lap time, which is impressive.

The report on that trial spoke of both reliability and drivability problems - the engine was exceptionally powerful, but even the masterly Schumacher could not control it... current mapping technology is excellent, but insufficient to the task of smoothing the power curve of this monster without becoming exceptionally expensive on fuel.

It also seems that the tolerances may be too fine - the prototype lasted under 50 laps on the track before breaking. But that is more than enough for a qualifying session...

For me, the big question is 'how many cylinders'? The power jump (and fuel consumption) imply a 12 cylinder engine... so we could be looking at the return of the Ferrari V12!

Progress Report, class of 1999

Most teams appear to be on target to produce their usual January release for next years contender - though some, notably Ferrari, will have thir cars running out of livery some time beforehand. Those looking to get their first cars out in December include Ferrari, BAR and Honda. The last, should their Dallara based chassis surprise everyone and be quick, might prompt a 1999 entry for the Japanese team.

McLaren have twice delayed the launch of their car whilst putting extra time in at the wind tunnel, and twice stormed the championship; this time, there should not be the same delay as Adrian Newey has had the chance to get on top of the design from day one: but the rumblings from Woking sound omminously like there is something special on its way regardless.

There has been little news of when Prost is expecting their AP02 - advanced designs in the year have been put back by changes of staff and some rethinking based on the results of testing their hybrid AP01B. Again, there is some expectation of improvements, but realistically they are still expecting to start the season mixing with the midfield.

One of this seasons bigger winners, in a manner of speaking, is Minardi: being placed 10th in the championship means their travelling expenses for next year will be met by the FIA, effectively increasing their budget by something like a quarter: the extra money in development, and the improved Ford deal, should give them the chance they need to get into the points a couple of times next year. There are rumours that the team has a few new things to try for the 1999 car, so perhaps there is a mini surprise waiting to happen amongst the back markers? Maybe 9th or 8th overall next year is not far fetched?

Jordan will probably be the first to launch their car - which may benefit from the long time in testing as they (like the other ex Goodyear teams) have to get to grips with setting up for Bridgestone tyres.

Roll on 1999...

The Bridgestone Effect

Well, the results are in. Most of the teams that moved from Goodyear to Bridgestone are finding it harder to adjustto their new rubber than those that were on Bridgestone last year...

Jean Alesi in his Sauber had a particularly torid time - being three seconds off the pace in the test. In this case, although he was flat out, the harder tyres may well be working against him, because if there is anything that will slow him down, it is understeer. And that is precisely what the new tyres will have generated: harder compounds with less rubber on the track providing less mechanical grip, and plenty of understeer. Compensating with extra wing slows the car down, either with extra drag, or poor balance into the braking zones - so Sauber will have to bear in mind Jean's abhorance of understeer in the design of next years car, making it their primary concern that it can be dialled out without sacrificing too much speed. This detail more than any other will affect the Frenchmans performance for the year in 1999.

Damon Hill with Jordan is on record saying that they can work with the new tyres - and although both the Jordan and Williams teams were behind Benetton in the tests, insiders attribute the differene mostly to setup, and Benettons extra year of working with Bridgestone, rather than other differences between the cars.

Significantly, Bridgestone themselves expect next years lap times to be approximately what they were in 1996. It remains to be seen for sure what there plans are for tyre development through the year, but with Ferrari already making waves (they wish to be allowed to test at two tracks simultaneously), the future is very much in flux: a lot of time and effort will be wasted fire fighting instead of developing, at least until Ferrari stops throwing it's toys out of the pram.

In any event, development next year cannot be seen to be for the benefit of a single team, or there will be all sorts of cries of foul play, as there is no other tyre company to fight for a title against next year.

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