Week of the 3rd January 1999:
Stewart in the top four? It's crowded at the top!
There's no surprise that at the Stewart launch, there was talk of the teams prospects in 1999.
The Stewart team made a successful introduction into Formula One in
1997, with some strong performances. The '98 performance was not so
good, for any number of reasons... but particularly the dominant
performance of Ferrari and McLaren making points scarce, and technical
problems with the gearbox and engine through the year, added to a
With Ford's new engine for 1999, the Stewart team have a package that
is designed to be integral with the car right from day one, including
a number of innovative features (more on those later in the year!),
power in excess of expectations, and reduced weight with a lower
center of gravity. The improved wieght and center of gravity should
enable the handling of the car to be improved significantly, via the
experienced feedback of Ruebens Barrichello and Johhny Herbert.
So, all in all, the team has little choice but to talk of their
improved chances for 1999 - stating they hope to be up with Williams
et al chasing the McLaren and Ferrari teams, and looking for a top
four finish to the year.
But what makes them special? Why should Stewart improve dramatically
when, in the history of Formula One, almost every tail end team has
claimed it's produced a top four finisher at the launch of their car,
Well, there is something about this package. Johnny Herbert is
highly regarded for his technical feedback. Ruebens Barrichello is a
gifted and very fast driver (expect him to maximise the benefit of
Johnny's efforts). Ford are committed to this venture, demonstrated
both by extending the engine deal and building a whole new engine with
this chassis in mind... a chassis designed by an experienced and
exceptionally competent team.
There's always upbeat talk at car launches, but if there's a dark
horse this season, then it is probably going to be Stewart. A top
four finish? Probably not... but I wouldn't bet against seeing the
team regularly in the points, and giving Sauber something of a scare!
Article - Humour by Jeff Rose
We're Back, And Boy Is Formula One Happy About ThatTo read the whole article, click here
or; Jackie Stewart trained BayWatch Girls for an Indianapolis Pit Crew because
Sylvester Stallone had WonderBra for a sponsor and some French guys made
Richard Petty drink white wine instead of beer.
by Jeff Rose
(Stallone and Hollywood have been attending Formula One races in preparation
for a new movie. We have a stolen copy of the script. Beware: Many jokes
are F1 insider and racing humor.)
We're back and boy is Formula One happy about that. The LeMans Start was our
fault, a rookie mistake; but the Wet T-shirt contests in the BayWatch Pit were
not our idea. Still the Grand Prix crowd sneered at our efforts; and bad
feelings hung over our team like this upcoming flashback. At least we didn't
get a nickname like Ricardo "Wrong-Way" Rosset.
Russia to bid for a GP
In an unlikely move, an industrial city in Russia has announced that it
will be bidding for a Formula One Grand Prix. The city of Tula is 100 miles
due south of Moscow. Despite its run-down state, the city insists it is
serious, claiming to have a wealthy investor ready to put up the estimated
$300 million which would be needed to build a circuit and upgrade the
President Yevgeny Primakov is said to have approved a bid to host a
Grand Prix by a Russian city. The bid is unlikely to succeed: an FIA
spokesman said: "It's not absolutely impossible, but to say it's
possible would be premature."
The industrial city is around 100 miles from Moscow, and claims to
have the resources prepared to pay the estimated $300 million it would
cost to build a circuit and upgrade the airport and accomodation
facilities. It's a serious bid, but almost the entire world seems
sceptical about the cities chances in the foreseeable future.
Impact of running dry/wet tyres
Recently, there has
been a lot of debate in the F1 circus on the expected move to tyres
for both wet and dry conditions in 2001. Ostensibly, the reasoning
behind this move includes:
The tyres would obviously have to be a compromise between wet and dry
ideals. Currently, cars running in dry conditions use relatively hard
rubber, which operates at an ideal temperature in the region of 80
degrees upwards; full wet tyres are made from a softer compound, and
as they are exposed to cold standing water must be optimised to work at
under 40 degrees. As a current wet tyre is exposed to dry conditions,
it rapidly overheats and goes off.
- reduced costs for manufacturers;
- reduced development time required for teams;
- reduced running speeds in dry conditions;
- much reduced running speeds in wet conditions;
- more obvious application to road cars.
Looking at a wet/dry combined tyre, the compromise becomes apparent.
A tyre that is optimised for dry conditions is likely to have poor wet
performance from the reduced running temperature and harder compound
alone, whilst those optimised for wet conditions will certainly suffer
from the increased temperature and wear in the dry.
Further, it is necessary to look at the amount of tread devoted to
shifting water. A manufacturer who thinks the race weekend is certain
to be dry will produce a tyre with no tread (effectively slicks).
This would perform better than the current dry tyres with grooves.
Similarly, should it be possible to predict a wet weekend, wet
optimised tyres will be required which (again) would have little or no
speed reduction for the conditions. So in order to fulfill the
mandate above, the FIA will need to restrict the amount of rubber
actually in contact with the track, ensuring at least there is an
upper limit in terms of percentage of the tyre surface that may make
contact (effectively, ensuring grooves are present).
Then, we must consider the individual circuits. There is a different
likelihood of wet weather for each, so the tyres optimisation towards
wet or dry running will be different for each. This in turn means the
manufacturers will be required to develop a selection of tyres rated
from '80% likely to rain' (Spa, Monaco), to '10% likely to rain'
(Spain, Australia). That is without considering how hard it rains
(read depth of standing water resulting from rain), which may
range from none to a few inches! Again, the manufacturer will be
required to optimise against the expected level of standing water in
the event of rain.
So we are in danger of moving from the current position - several wet
tyres by conditions (intermediates through full wets), and two dry
tyres (prime/option) - to a single wet dry range that has to
accommodate expected odds on rain falling through and the expected
depth of standing water it would produce. Potentially, that's a new
tyre per circuit, or two if 'prime' and 'option' are to be run.
Things could get interesting here, too. In a race containing mixed
wet and dry conditions, the ebb and flow between performance within a
team might change as a 'prime' shod car, wearing tyres optimised for
wetter conditions, gains an advantage over an 'option' shod car that
expects a drier race. Further, a team might gamble that the race is
to be dry, and send one driver out on a pure dry tyre... if it rains,
he'll probably slide out, but if not then even a Minardi would expect
to make the podium if all the other teams are wearing tyres optimised
for wet running! It will be interesting to see what Mr Prost can make
Then again, the FIA would not be fulfilling its mandate on reduced
cost if the tyre manufacturers had to make 16 different tyres in order
to have one per track, so they will have to legislate there too.
The idea certainly has merits, but there will be an awful lot of head
scratching going on for the FIA to cover even the issues mentioned
here before it happens.
But if they really want to fulfill the mandate, then perhaps they
should consider another amendment to the rules. Ban pitstops. Making
tyres that last a whole race, in cars that have to carry fuel for the
whole race, will certainly slow speeds... the tyres will be even more
applicable to road conditions, and the manufacturers will not have to
supply multiple sets for the race (reducing their costs further). And
as an added bonus, we might even see some on track passing!
Young Aussie hoping for an F1 drive in 2000
Australian Mark Webber is hoping for a chance to test with the McLaren F1 team in
the 1999 season and said that he is really pushing hard for the
opportunity. "The testing is one thing that I am really looking forward to...
to learn the car and to learn the circuits in a Formula One car. I
know a lot of circuits in Europe now, but I need to go there in a Formula
He is putting hoping to enter the Formula One arena in
2000 or 2001, saying the following about his
aspirations: "I don't think there is any young driver who couldn't
see themselves sitting there, lining up".
He concluded by saying: "Hopefully I'll prove myself this time in eight or
six months so that we have the opportunity to start again here (in Formula
One) the next year, and find a position for me to challenge for some points".
Honda on Dunlops?
Maybe it isn't so far fetched. Bridgestone are unable to supply Honda
with the tyres they want for testing this year, possibly compromising
the Honda challenge for 2000. There are rumours (unconfirmed) that
Honda are getting into bed with another tyre manufacturer.
If this is the case, then things are going to become pretty
interesting. Should Honda want to run on Bridgestones at this years
tests, in order to compare their car accurately against the others on
the track, then they are compelled to honor the Bridgestone non
disclosure clause in the contract... making it difficult to work with
another tyre company without serious controversy.
And if they are prepared to go without Bridgestone tyres, then they
will have another unknown to develop this year - quite likely making
the job more complicated than the extra testing time can compensate
Also, who would go for this deal? And in what timescale? The tyre
rules are expected to change again after 2000, so there will be little
point in getting into Formula One, just to chuck out the whole first
year of experience. Further, any company involved must be prepared to
supply at least 3 teams - the FIA will ensure that's the case - if
requested, which in theory prevents a one team monopoly.
Dunlop (a subsidiary of Goodyear) may indeed be talked into taking on
the task, but don't expect to see their rubber in any races for the
2000 season, unless someone ensures the tyre regulations
are stabilized for a while.
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Formula One picking up steam
Most of the Formula One teams are back into the swing of things after
Christmas: some even had folk in over much of the festive season to
ensure they are ready for launch, and testing through January.
The much talked about Arrows team is getting to grips with their
problems: financial backing for the 1999 season (and beyond) is
believed to be established; it's a case of deciding details and making
the announcements. The power plant is not the best on the grip (quite
the opposite), but there are rumors of potential engine deals for 2000
from multiple sources - so at least one stands a chance of happening!
The Prost team is looking to turn their car around this year - Peurgot
are pulling out the stops to give them a chance, aiming for power on a
par with the leaders by the end of season, and the team is looking to
see John Barnards influence making an impact soon.
The front running teams are all moving pretty much to schedule - few
surprises have made it into the rumour rounds (we ignore all the
Mansell returning to drive for Williams type rumours unless
they can be corroborated)... there's not likely to be much until
testing or launch for these guys.
All is quiet from Minardi, Stewart and Sauber. We know they have
been busy over the Christmas period - and if anything is not going to
plan, it isn't public knowledge at this time!
What we do know, is that everything is on line for a very
interesting 1999 - potentially, we can hope up to six teams will be
truely competetive between the different venues, even if Ferrari and McLaren
dominate overall. Look for a season full of incident, and some really
hard racing. The new tyre regulations may make passing harder, but
there are some exceptionally talented drivers out there, and they'll be
intent on making the best of it...