Week of the 13th December 1998:
The third test - signs and portents
If next season goes anything like the last test, then we are in for
one of the best in recent history.
The Jordan team happily dominated the first two days, Damon Hill
setting some very quick times and leading the timesheets. BAR joined
the party with their new toy, and it made Jacques Villeneuve's eyes
light up... he compared the way he feels about it to the 1997
championship winning Williams, even whilst downplaying BARs chances.
And given they managed to get inside Zanardis time for Williams, who
would want to bet they'll spend the season anywhere other than
fighting for a top 6 place?
Williams are still not pressuring Alex for pace (though they would
have preferred him not to be nearly a second and a half off the pace
of his team mate), and believe his progress adequate; they think next
years car will suit him better, so it's more a case of getting used to
the tyres and setup proceedures, and providing feedback on new
components (an area he really excels in) than worrying about his pace.
They are all very pleased with Ralf Schumacher for the time on the
third day - though the tyre wear from hot laps is worrying.
Olivier Panis has made the most of his return, and now the pins are
out of his legs, his renewed confidence might allow him to get back on
top of his upstart team mate next season! Prost have taken John
Bernard on board to strengthen the design team; they expect to be
competetive by mid season... though no one outside the team is holding
their breath. If nothing else, at least they stand a real chance of
improving their drop out rate next season - retirements was by far
their biggest problem in 98.
Ferrari, apparently, considered their testing program for this year
complete - though sources imply that a wrangle with Bridgestone over
their tyres might be involved: we are working on getting the details,
though at this stage we think it's about technical rather than legal
issues. Another suggestion is that the team, having topped last weeks
time lists, felt that nothing could be gained from testing next
week... especially if Michael had not been able to outpace Damon,
after the recent inflamatory remarks made by the Jordan driver!
BAR's Progress - Updated
The whole team at BAR is pleased with the first shakedown of their
1999 car - it completed three laps before being pulled to deal with
electrical problems; something a certain team at Silverstone would
have paid money for last year, after their new creation managed 200
It was known that the designers (a team recruited from the other F1
teams, and unconnected to Reynard Racing Cars) were pleased before the
car was unveiled, and now we know why! The car has a mid height nose,
much like this years McLaren, and the styling is smooth and elegant,
making it as attractive as last years Arrows - though likely to
A few team members expect the car to be a real winner, but others see
prospects for the coming season to be much like this test - good
whilst it's going, but with technical issues that have to be handled
through the season.
The BAR people face a huge task, running in a new team from the ground
up - but the wealth of experience in the team, and
talent in the drivers could show some excellent results early. When
reliability isn't dogging them, they should provide interesting
competition to last seasons top 5.
First day, third test.
The third test is shaping up nicely: Damon Hill managed to put his
Jordan onto the pedestal for everyone to aim at this week, clocking a
time fully half a second quicker than anyone else.
David Coulthard was tied up with component testing, and didn't go for
a pure timed run, so it's not yet known if the McLaren was genuinely
off the pace of the Jordan, or just running a normal test program that
happened not to allow the best running at the best time in the
Williams saw Alex Zanardi running behind Ralf Schumacher again... but
the gap is narrowing. He's not expected to perform on a par to Ralf
until the season begins - the adjustment from CART and slick tyres to
F1 and grooves is much greater than moving between a Jordan and
Williams; his efforts are fully occupied with learning the finer points
of setup and evaluating new components, without competing with his
team mate - at least until February.
BAR have revealed their times - they had an interesting session with
Jacques Villeneuve at the wheel, and are considering their position
for the remainder of the test. The cars' first run out passed with no
serious incident, and the team is optimistic.
Stewart hiding in the workshop...
The Stewart team is trying to get to grips with next years car in time
to do some testing before the start of the season!
Their latest project is a major technological step forward from the
previous years efforts in all directions, but carries the price of
increased complexity. Everything is taking longer, and the car will
be in need of extensive testing to avoid the problems associated with
this move: Arrows last year looked for a big technological move
forward, and spent the first half of the season retiring!
The expertise acquired by Stewart should at least provide a stepping
stone over most of the problems a less experienced team might
encounter, but they are expecting to face some difficulties in testing
before getting the car running smoothly - lets hope they iron the bugs
out before the first race!
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Arrows keeping quiet about the future
Whilst there is no official word about Arrows deal with Zakspeed,
there are a number of rumours circulating - including some that have a
buy out already in place...
Arrows employees have told the press they believe that a sell-out is
not the order of the day. With this in mind, it seems more likely
that Tom Walkinshaw does not yet want to throw the towel in on Formula
One, and is likely to be offering a proportion of the team to Zakspeed
to boost finances; other rumours linking Yamaha with the team would
imply that a complex deal has been (or is being) brokered which probably
provides the following:
If the engine proves successful (and it may well be), then expect a
Sauber or Benetton running works Toyotas from 2001; whilst if the
chassis is successful, the name on it won't be Arrows or
Zakspeed, but Toyota. There's a power behind these deals that is
intent on remaining invisible - but Toyota have both means and motive
to be there.
- funding for the Arrows chassis in 1999 by the deal with Zakspeed - a
technology share in return for financial backing;
- funding for the Arrows engine - rebadging the Hart engine as a
Yamaha, giving Yamaha access to current F1 engine technology in return
for financial support;
- a way in for Toyota - Toyota might be behind all this; supporting
the bids from Zakspeed and Yamaha individually.