Week of the 29th November 1998:
Warning shots have been fired for 1999
With the third day of testing wiped out, all the teams taking part in
the test at Barcelona are headed home to see what they can do about
ensuring their 1999 cars work with Bridgestones new tyres.
The best settled in on the new rubber is undoubtedly Ferrari, who have
definitely thrown down a gauntlet to McLaren: whilst neither team was
running a true 1999 car, both tried out new parts that are expected to
be on their new contenders. The bad news for McLaren is that Ferrari
already have a bead on the tyres, and there is going to be no help
from Bridgestone to stay ahead of the competition this year - indeed,
if rumours about Ferrari's contract with Bridgestone are true, the
opposite will happen.
Jordan made their mark too - being only tenths off the pace, even
though like Ferrari they are changing rubber. It would certainly be a
more interesting season if they can mix it with the big boys from the
start this year!
The question is: who is going to win in Melbourne? We'll give you a
rundown on the odds (from viewpoints inside the teams) next week.
Meanwhile, of you have an opinion, voice it on
the F1 Forum!
There are several hinderances to high revs in a modern Formula One
engine, with a number of established work arounds.
As revs go through about the 17,000 rpm mark (V10 engines),
there is a serious problem getting more power from increasing the revs
further, as the spark literally doesn't get time to propagate through
the gas in the chamber - reducing the explosion to propel the
Reducing the volume of the cylinder (by, for example, moving to a V12
configuration) helps, as does clever positioning and timing of valves;
but multiple sparks has became the way to go.
Another factor is the inertia of the pistons - bigger pistons take
more effort to move, and are harder to get up to pace - traded off
against the friction of the piston against the walls of the chambers
and the drive shaft... fewer, larger pistons have reduced friction at
expense of mass (also providing torque benefits, particularly at low
revs), whilst more, smaller pistons have less mass to move at a higher
cost in friction. Again, recent developments have made this less of
an issue: McLarens low friction cylinder linings might well be one of
the key items in bringing V12 engines back for Ferrari or Honda in
Then again, valves are a difficult sticking point: already, they open
and close faster than mechanical springs would allow (as the recovery time
just isn't good enough), and are now driven by high pressure
One of the Powertech breakthroughs - which will probably be seen in
any number of engines by 2000 - is to change the concept of the valve
system, to operate using a rotating mechanical mechanism that is
designed not simply to open and close precisely (per a normal valve),
but in the process of opening or closing to actually enhance the gas
The question is, who will run with this engine in 2000?
Thoughts of Jordan...
The Jordan team are quietly pleased with the test results so far in
Barcelona: the change over to Bridgestone is happening smoothly, and
they are getting onto the pace really very quickly.
Whilst testing times are not true performance markers, sources in the
team have suggested they expected to be around half a second off the
pace that Ferrari or McLaren might muster; ending both the first two
days well inside that mark - and well ahead of other teams - is a
considerable bonus. Especially after losing track time with Damons
little excursion damaging the car.
All they have to do now is keep up the progress...
Testing times are always supposed to be taken with a pinch of salt.
That said, it seems that Ferrari are not suffering from the new tyre
regulations very much: their current car in the hands of Luca Badoer
is quicker than David Coulthard in a championship winning
It remains to be seen which evolutions either team was running, but
the rumour mill keeps come up with speculation that Ferrari are
running a 'between versions' engine - a half way house between the
unit from the end of last year, and what they will be running next
year. Quite what that means, or how they would do so is another issue
altogether... unless it's the new engine mapping technology on the old
engine, or revised electronics on the old block, or something along
those lines. More likely, Ferrari have simply made an excellent
transition to the new tyres...
A strong showing by Damon Hill in the Jordan indicates the team has not
fallen off the pace by moving to the new Bridgestones - the team is
looking forward to trying some new parts intended for the 99 car, but
gathering data on the new tyres takes precedance. Having said which,
after the comments Damon made about Ferrari progress last season
(compared to the Jordan teams progress on a tenth the budget), it would be
an unfortunate time to start going backwards!
Do not be misled by Zanardi's apparently slow times... the running
order for the day never had him in a qualifying trim during the peak
time setting periods - quite intentionally. His role for the day was
to get to grips with the Williams, so that when he is let loose
properly, it doesn't get written off! At this stage, his technical
feedback on a planned program is of far more use (and importance) than
a time at the top of the timesheets. There's more to come
Mika Salo (Arrows) outperformed Pedro Diniz (now with Sauber) as
usual, but that is expected to change as the season progresses: the
Sauber team are taking trouble over the settup of the car for the
coming season, and are losing time now learning how to dial out
understeer - the major requirement for their star driver Alesi to
perform at his best.
So, few suprises from the first test... but noone is driving their new
cars - we will not see any true comparisons until all the 1999
contenders are out in February - and that will have a couple of
Zakspeed win the Arrows battle.
Zakspeeds $55 million bid looks likely to be enough to take the Arrows
name out of the sport.
The deal went ahead, despite a strong bid from Walkinshaw's friend,
African Prince Malik Ado Ibrahim, and could spell the end of the
Arrows name. Zakspeed are now likely to relocate the team into
Germany. What happens next is what we aim to find out... we'll let you
If you think you know, tell us all on
the F1 Forum.
The psychological war has started!
The first public shots in the psychological war for the 1999
championship have been fired!
Michael Schumacher, usually the master in this area, was on the
receiving end from Damon Hill, who commented on BBC television "I
wonder about his ability to develop cars and make the right decisions
because quite often you see situations where the car looks good at the
start of the season but gets worse throughout the year. There is more
to it than just driving."
News from inside the team, as well as the public image, puts the
Jordan team as an outside contender for the title this year: with
Mugen-Honda designing an all new engine for the challenge, and Jordan
hoping to maintain the rapid improvement rate acheived at the end of
last season, they expect to be in the top six for qualifying and the
race in at least half the races this season. This really could be
year that Jordan prove their claim that they are as good as the 'top
four', and are expecting a top three finish to the season, though
they are hoping - and working for - even better things.
Launch date Blues
In the run up to the 1999 season, we are seeing a number of different
approaches to getting the cars out: some teams, notably BAR (who are
new to the game), need to get out as early as possible... requiring as
much running time as possible to iron out reliability problems.
Others will be appearing late - Williams, Sauber and possibly McLaren,
will unveil at the start of February. Their strategy lies on keeping
the cars in the wind tunnel as long as possible to get the most out of
the aerodynamics - which removes the issues surrounding remaking half the shell
when the solution required for the start of season is known. This relies on a
clear understanding of the mechanics involved in the new car, and knowing that the
cars reliability will not suffer excessively from the reduced track time.
Then there is the Ferrari approach. Most teams run tests with new
bits on old cars, gathering data for the final solution whilst keeping
the new car in the wind tunnel, or get the car out and run the new
bits on the new car. Ferrari are different. Leveraging their
enourmous budget, they can have the contender out, unofficially, a
month in advance, whilst still developing aerodynamic solutions flat
out. They can get a lot of running in with all the new bits on the
intended new car, knowing that aerodynamic improvements can be fitted
before the release - even if a complete overhaul is required, as the
actual release version is developed in parallel to the car being
tested on the track. Enhancements found on track and in the wind
tunnel both go straight on to the car; potential reliability issues
are substantially cut by actually running all the parts properly in
Ferrari performance and reliability is no accident - the structure is
there, and phenominal work goes in to making it happen: McLaren stole
a march last year, but expect reliability to be the key to this
season. Performances levels at the top are close, and it's going to
be missed opportunities that make or break title hopes again.
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Ferrari F650 out by Christmas
It's officially unofficial, but the F650 should be taking its first
steps in the real world before Christmas.
Luca Badoer tested a large number of parts for the car (before the
Japanese Grand Prix) on a heavily revised F300, so much of the new car
has already seen the light of day. But the first true F650 chassis is
nearing completion, and expected to run some preliminary tests more
than a month in advance of the cars official release.
Once more, we can expect to see Ferrari running camoflage Black cars
before their more spectacular colours are revealed at the official
opening - and we can tell you now, that is definitely something to
look forward to!