F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Weeks of the 20th and 27th December 1998:

A worrying trend... (not a rumour)

Can a flag be copyright?

Though not strictly a Formula One rumour, the potential for this issue runs deep. David Coulthard wants to stop any new drivers from wearing the white cross on their helmets. The Saltire is the white St Andrews cross on a blue background from the Scottish flag, and it's Davids most characteristic identifier when driving, as his helmet carries it...

The motivation is, of course, money - David has his own line of mechandising, and intends to protect his interests. Drivers do have rights to their images - for example, Damon Hill owns the copyright on his very distictive eyes. That, in it's own right, is not a bad thing - they have, after all, worked hard to get where they are. The question that needs to be answered, however, is whether somone should be allowed to pick up an emblem of the State (enhancing their own popularity, without doubt), then to stop others from doing the same when they become famous.

If the Saltire can be copyright, then technically someone can own the flag of Scotland - and if that's possible, then all national emblems can be copyright by individuals, and surely that is daft!

Let's hope nothing silly comes of this... or there's no knowing where it will stop.

Pressure Pays...

The final details of Ferrari's Bridgestone contract are not open for public scrutiny - and there are good reasons for it too.

Should other teams think that Ferrari is getting preferential treatment at the hands of the tyre manufacturers, they would pack up and start working for the 2000 season now: as demonstrated last year, tyres are vital to the speed of the car; and the direction tyre development takes can make all the difference to a championship year (McLaren), or the worst for a decade (Benetton).

So, should it be known that Ferrari have secured a deal ensuring that no development will take place in a direction they do not like, then they have the championship sown up before the first test in January...

Of course, that isn't why Ferrari is not disclosing the contract details. They could never have arranged such a deal. Could they?

So, who will win the first race in Melbourne?

Of course, no one knows that answer yet - who would have predicted at this point last year that McLaren would lap the field? And the recent tests are all very well, but the only team to be running their new car - and that's due for revisions - was BAR!

But we can certainly narrow the field... realistically we need only consider last years top 5 teams and BAR contenders for an away Grand Prix, because unless rain evens the odds, none of the other teams are likely to make a big enough technological step forward to challenge.

Benetton? Their new wind tunnel might make a difference - much of Jordans gains last year came from time in their new wind tunnel during the season. Or Benetton might have a trick up their sleeve. A late launch is often a used to hide a new feature. But will it make up the difference to McLaren and Ferrari?

BAR and Williams have a pretty even shout - all the drivers are new to their team, all have proven themselves fast and determined drivers (if not in F1, Zanardi and ZOnta), and all will want to aquit themselves well. But realistically, who would place any new team so far up the field in its first outing? Of them all, only Ralf is likely to make the podium if the race was run today (and we would not have said that a year ago).

McLaren and Ferrari are last years title contenders, both with enourmous budgets and very capable drivers. Neither team expects to be much ahead of the competition in Melbourne, but they only fear one other team closing the gap by then. Expect to see three or four of the top six places taken by these teams.

And Jordan. That's going to be interesting. The team that moved from battling Minardis in Monaco, to Ferraris in Spa. Some progress! If their off season matches their progress over 1998, they'll have 1.5 seconds over the opposition by Melbourne... OK - so not all of it was the car. Damon Hill got back on form as the car became competitive, and Ralf Schumacher finally looked like fulfilling his promise. But would you bet against a Jordan on the podium?

F1 Rumors will be running a poll at the start of January to see who you think will win in Melbourne... we are interested in your opinion!

Honda's return confirmed... a little more that isn't!

Honda have finally confirmed they intend to be the 12th team on the grid in the year 2000, and are expecting to attend several test sessions this year whilst developing a chassis for the competition.

The Japanese team will, like Ferrari (and the 1998 Arrows team) be trying to run both a chassis and engine themselves; though unlike Ferrari they are expected to be putting their works power plant into another team, for two reasons: first, it will allow them to see exactly what progress they are making with their chassis by comparing it against another team more directly, and secondly, for the image: there is more credit if they can beat another car with the same engine, as it proves the chassis is up to scratch.

Rumours have it that whilst Eddie Jordan has not yet got the contract with Honda into the 2000 season, it is probably not because they don't want one: it's because Honda are trying to decide whether they can get their V12 engine ready it time. The contract details require the basic form of the engine, in order to set the intended power / weight / dimension constraints...

Takagi Likely to go to Arrows

Toranosuke Takagi looks likely to claim the last available seat in Formula One for 1999. The Japanese driver is favourite to drive for Arrows, alongside Mika Salo.

Takagi drove for the Tyrrell-Ford team this season, having an impressive debut season and often justifying his nickname, 'Tiger' Takagi. He qualified for every race, a feat that proved too much for his more experienced team-mate, Ricardo Rosset.

Takagi is rumoured to be bringing substantial personal sponsorship with him to the cash-strapped Arrows team - possibly as much as $9 million. However, his position might not be confirmed until the future of the whole team is announced - it is widely believed that the team is to be bought by the German Zakspeed outfit.

One more seat remains to be filled, at Minardi - but it is thought that Shinji Nakano is almost certain to remain with the team for another year.

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