F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week of the 15th November 1998:


Improved Stewart for 1999


Whilst Stewart will not expect to get their new car this year, they do intend to test some components for next years car in December. But what the team is really look forward to is seeing how Gary Andersons (not so) secret changes to the suspension configuration work out.

To all intents and purposes, the suspension on the SF3 will be very much the conventional configuration used by most of this years teams; however there are a some subtle differences in the detail that should have strong positive effects on both the simplicity of setup, and the way the car handles large bumps (curbs).

There are evolutionary improvements in all other areas, though a good step is expected with the aerodynamics as Gary brought some ideas from Jordan; an unexpected but welcome contribution from a man whose speciality is supposed to lie in mechanical grip.


Ford's Jaguar plans


Whilst Ford have been careful to stress their commitment to Stewart Grand Prix, and deny rumours of a buy out in 2001, they have been careful not to rule out the entry of Jaguar to the sport.

The likes of BMW and Mercedes in Formula One provide quite some incentive to start getting Jaguar involved - and a good performance on the F1 scene would be nothing but excellent for the Jaguar image.

The question is, how do Ford intend to make this happen? BMW and Mercedes have both made engines in Formala One, and are unlikely to make chassis in the forseeable future (despite the current rumours that Mercedes intend to do so in 2002); and Ford are definitely intending to keep the Ford name in the sport. So what do they do? Buy a team and run 'team Ford', whilst supplying Jaguar engines? Or Buy a team to run 'team Jaguar'? They cannot just supply Jaguar engines, or they would be competing with themselves...

Or can they? Don't be surprised to see Ford engines rebadged as 'Jaguars' in a couple of years. Buying a team would be troublesome - unless they can get into Arrows before Toyota - and might stretch them too far with commitments to both chassis and engine development. The rebadged engine - once it's competetive - is the most cost effective marketing ploy at their disposal.

How else might Ford get Jaguar into Formula One? Express your opinion on the F1 Forum.


Indianapolis GP Rumours Struggle On


The rumours are still churning regarding the Indianapolis Grand Prix: it seems more and more likely that it will go ahead, but there is a definite problem over the date it might happen.

If Bernie Ecclestone were to get his way, the race would be run immediately after the Canadian Grand Prix in the calendar, but officials at the famous track are making life difficult - currently they are only prepared to run the event later in the season (specifying late September), which is not at all what F1 would prefer: the biggest issue for putting it near the Canadian Grand Prix was to cut the transport costs.


McLaren Thunders Home to Woking


Follows: Of interest to UK readers in the Woking area, an extract from a Woking Borough Council news release...

Formula One comes to Woking on Sunday 22 November 1998, when world motor racing champions McLaren International and Mika Hakkinen drive into town in this season's championship-winning Grand Prix car.

To mark McLaren's achievements, Woking Borough Council and TAG McLaren are planning celebrations in Woking from 1.00 - 2.15pm. This will be followed by a private Civic Reception hosted by the Mayor of Woking. The main event: Mika Hakkinen, the Drivers' World Champion, will do a "Lap of Honour" from Victoria Way to Town Square. He is under starter's orders at 1.00pm. On arrival in Town Square, he will be met by Ron Dennis, Group Managing Director of TAG McLaren and the Mayor of Woking, Cllr. Mrs Rosemary Johnson, for a brief presentation. Mika will then be available for a limited time to sign autographs.

There will also be exhibitions, competitions and McLaren giveaways in Woking Town Square, together with a unique chance to see some of McLaren's racing cars.

Leaflets giving details of the celebrations are available from the Civic Offices, Woking Visitor Information Centre (telephone +44 1483 720103) and other information points across the Borough.


Takagi Packing for Arrows


The rumour mill at Arrows has Tora Takagi currently ahead of Pedro de la Rosa for the second seat. Between the slightly higher personal sponsorship that the Japanese driver brings to the team, and his extra year in Formula One where he impressed many with his unexpected speed, it seems he will be packing to move to Arrows for next year.

How Arrows will get around the language barrier is to be seen - Tora does not speak English; with Tyrrell they worked out a complicated system for indicating problems with car setup and required changes, but as he said himself (briefly), perhaps learning English would prove a distraction, and actually slow him down!

The other problem for Arrows is what it will do for the year 2000 - with both Salo and Takagi expected to leave for the Honda team that year, the Arrows team will require two new drivers. This also adds to speculation of a Toyota backed buyout after next year...


Williams ahead of schedule!


Williams are ahead of schedule with their 1999 contender, and will be able to test for next year at the start of December.

Rumours have little revolutionary changes on the car, but rather evolutions throughout its construction: the longer wheelbase will be inherent in its construction (giving the long nose look of this years McLaren), changes to the suspension are expected to close performance to that of this years McLaren - though there are further developments expected early next season should provide significant further improvements - and the aerodynamics have been improved, particularly around the diffuser and changes relating to the longer wheelbase, that should help keep the car competitive.

This is all very important as the car will be powered my Mechachrome engines, and Williams are behind Benetton and BAR in the supply list. This will put their power plant effectively fifth overall... Points for Alex Zanardi and Ralf Schumacher are expected to be difficult to come by this year; performances on a par McLaren and Ferrari will be infrequent - but if anyone can manage it, these exceptionally gifted and above all quick drivers will be able to make the most of Williams drivability to overcome the power shortage.


News on the future of Silverstone


An optimistic bid by John Lewis (the former chairman of Silverstone Estates) for the classic track looks certain to fail: whilst the 41 million pounds offered would represent about 90,000 apiece to the membership, it is only worth a large proportion of the actual value of the track.

Even if the bid had been to the full value, most of the membership, which includes a number of famous names from Formula One, are (unusually in this day and age) mostly interested in the future of the circuit rather than lining their pockets. Certainly no bid for less than the 70 million the circuit is worth would stand a chance!


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We are introducing a mailing list. We intend to post a weekly digest of the weeks rumors, and let you know where the site is posted when ISP problems prevent the normal access.


Jordan's Big Future


Eddie Jordan made an announcement this year that surprised even himself: "We need a backer".

To his great fortune, it seems that Warburg Pincus has decided it's time to take the Irishmans plea and invest in his Silverstone based team. Warburg, judging from its approach to other investments, might be best thing that ever happened to Jordan: they are renouned for their ability to think long term, making excellent investment decisions, and never being afraid to put the right amount of funding into a project to allow it to succeed.

In the case of Jordan Grand Prix, this should allow them the opportunity to invest in the man-power and equipment needed to put themselves into the top tier and stay there.

The only other question is, will Jordan float his team before the Bernie manages to float his company on the stock exchange?!


Mixed fortunes for Bernie - and Formula One


Things are looking pretty unfortunate for Bernie, as his 2 Billion dollar deal looks likely to falter amongst allegations that his organisation has been less than forthcoming over its problems with the European Commission.

Simply stated, Bernie has played down statements about the severity of the remaining issues the EC wanted to address regarding television rights in Formula One, and now a big fuss is being made by various parties concerned... resulting in cold feet for underwriters, and potential bond buyers alike. If noone will buy or underwrite the bond, it will not happen, and Bernies dreams will again have to find a new route to fruition.

It's a bit of mixed fortune for the rest of Formula One, however: the new Concorde deal was signed specifically to enable this type of financing to take place; should it collapse, a number of issues addressed by the Concorde agreement might become flexible - including, for example, the limit on the number of teams.

Should this happen, we might look forward to seeing a bigger field in the future, adding names like Toyota, Surtees and Wolf to the expected inclusion of Honda.


The Class of 1999


With the rumour mill continuing to churn over the Ferrari 1999 contender - strong statements from the likes of Eddie Irvine, whispers of V12 engines in the offing, and revolution in shapes and parts, it seems like a good time to evaluate the chances of each team in 1999.

Most of the cars will gain the characteristics of this years McLaren - certainly all the top runners. Look for long nose, higher intake to the engine, revised suspensions for the leading teams, and revised side pod aerodynamics. That's what will be the same, and it should close up the field, but let's take a look at the chances for each team:

The bottom of last year's pile was Tyrrell, now taken over by BAR. The teams less than glowing performance over the year was pretty much as expected: problems with moral, funding and drivers (the Rocket was never quite given a seat to his liking) preventing them from doing anything worthy of comment in their final season. Next years debutantes should prove an exciting addition to the middle order: the SuperTec engine is relatively respectable, if currently not top of the field, and the Raynard chassis will undoubtedly have an interesting first season, driven by Villeneuve and Zonta. Expect to see them challanging the likes of Sauber, Benetton, Jordan and Williams next season, though drop outs should be high, and points hard to come by.

Minardi are looking forward to next year: their new car and season will benefit substantially from the FIA paying their travel costs, earned by beating Tyrrell to 10th place last year. The budget increase of some 25% of their overall costs will enable the team to be a little for inventive on the chassis (rumors have some very interesting developments headed their way), whilst a brilliant deal with Ford puts them only two evolutions behind Stewart for the engine. Whilst they are still going to be at the back of the pack, there is hope that the margin has gone, and they might even take the odd point this year.

Prost had an appalling second year, their first with the all Prost chassis. The steep learning curve had about run its course last year, but the lost development time learning why the AP01 just didn't tick must have an effect on next year: the AP02 will be much improved, but too much needed to be learned and one year is not enough. Those lessons that have been learned will bring the Prosts nearer the front, but expect another mediocre year, with some flashes of potential. Will with Minardi, Arrows and (at first) Stewart at the back.

Stewart always said the second year would be tough, but even they were surprised by their poor results this year! Anderson joined the crew too late to fundementally change the car for the start of next year, but his years of experience and excellence in attaining the maximum mechanical grip should help Stewart to move forward. Expect them to start the year struggling with Arrows, Prost and Minardi, but to pick up steam as the year goes on. With Johnny Herberts technically feedback for Gary Anderson to develop the car, and Ruben Barrichello's speed to drive it, they should end it fighting the middle order for scrap end points.

Arrows have had a pretty miserable year by anyones standards. Next year will be more of the same - whether or not talks with Toyota bring a name on board for the engine. Expect another poor year, struggling with the power oriented circuits, though points at Monaco are likely again!

Sauber are looking very happy with their investment in Jean Alesi - and perhaps he is now in a team that will really let him perform. The exceptional Frenchman has always been capable of pulling off miracles, and this might be his opportunity. It will be interesting to see if he can dominate his teammate as he did Johnny Herbert this year: with the new tyres, understeer will be a big issue, and we could see Pedro going quicker on worn tryes than his esteemed team mate! In any event, Sauber should again be a midfield contender - fighting the likes of Jordan, Benetton, BAR and Williams for the 3rd to 7th slots. This might be the chance to beat Benetton and BAR - now that they have the 1998 Ferrari engine to outpower the SuperTec.

Benetton suffered this year with Bridgestone pulling in McLarens direction. It is difficult to judge whether Rocco will have a better time of it than David Richards, but there do seem to be some interesting developments in the pipeline. This years car is mostly evolutionary, but without Bridgestone misleading them on the direction tyre development will take, they should be in for a better season overall. Look for a battle with the other SuperTec teams, and Jordan and Sauber. If they have a bad year, it will be the bottom of the middle order...

Jordans revival for the second half of last season was nothing short of a miracle: from nothing to challenging for third. The coming year is most likely to be a consolidation experience: we are not likely to see a challenge for the World Championship this year, though another strong bid for 3rd is on the cards. Expect mechanical grip to suffer without Gary Anderson, but improved performance at high downforce circuits: with rumors short on inspirational changes, expect an evolution on the last car and another rollercoaster year. If any of the middle order will join Ferrari and McLaren next year, it's good odds on this team.

Williams salvaged the third place last year, but are looking at all sorts of problems with 1999. Zinardi in an undoubted talent, but unless he learns that F1 cars are a lot more fragile than CARTs, he's only going to finish one race in four... Ralf has a chance to come into his own, but will need to extract the maximum from the chassis to make up for the lacking power of the Mechachrome engine. It could be a tight battle for third place again. Look for a difficult year for Williams, suffering lower power than usual, and trying to get two drivers bedded in to their cars.

Ferrari! Last years nearly men have really pulled out the stops on the car for 1999. They want this championship badly and intend to make the most of their chances next year, Revisions to the car look to pull in all the advantages McLaren had this year, plus a few that they didn't: evolutions on the brakes to aid the car in and out of corners, engine to keep it the most powerful in the field, aerodynamics to improve downforce still more and something a wee bit special to give that extra edge waiting in the wings... Ferrari are hot for next year.

But the team they all need to beat, McLaren, is still going to be heading the pack - if they get that reliability sorted. Their achilles heel of 1998 could be the undoing of the Woking team in 99: Adrian Newey has something up his sleeve for next year, speculation hints on a serious aerodynamic package and plenty of oomph from the highly drivable Mercedes engine: power is getting to the point where drivability is key, and that edge is still theirs. But they could lose it in two key directions next year: over caution - being too conservative in attempts to prevent failure could take them off the pace, or (as nearly happened this year) failing to provide enough reliability. One thing is for sure - where McLaren faulter, Ferrari will benefit.

Will McLaren take it again? Or is it just too much? If you have a rumour, tell us; or express your opinion on the F1 Forum.

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