F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week of the 10th January, 1999:

BAR fastest again in Spanish test!

More of the same for BAR - top of the table. Jacques set the pace for the others to chase, despite reliability issues. But, as they say, better here than in Melbourne! It would have been interesting to see what Zonta made of the car though. He is reputed to be keen to drive... but the opportunity is not there yet!

Alex Zanardi was a close second, whilst Ferrari, Arrows and Prost were following other programs preventing their best times coming at the best time of day... so there's little to be deduced at this time. It made a nice change to see Panis quicker than Trulli, despite so few laps, but we have not found out why yet.

Unofficial times
Villeneuve (British American Racing) - 1:23.8 - 23 laps
Zanardi (Williams) - 1:23.9 - 15 laps
Badoer (Ferrari) - 1:24.1 - 13 laps
Panis (Prost) - 1:24.5 - 12 laps
Salo (Arrows) - 1:24.6 - 18 laps
Irvine (Ferrari) - 1:24.7 - 54 laps
Trulli (Prost) - 1:24.9 - 54 laps

The Scuderia Ferrari "650" project

by Enrico Chiara

Even though most of the team was concentrating on this season's final showdown at Suzuka, there was a part of the team that didn't think about the 1998 title, but was working South-African "wizard" Rory to secure the 1999 season World Championships. It is the projecting team under the management and technical leading of the Byrne. The the end of June, the new project carries the usual code number used to identify the Ferrari F1 cars. Last year, the F300's code number was "649". At 1999 season "650" project still only existed on paper.

Three months later, the first opinions of the people who saw the 1:2 scale model of the F650 in the windtunnel were: "It is ugly" - "It looks like a Formula 3000 car". More accurate opinions about the provisional design of the new car were: Concerning the general concept of the car, it looks like the 1998 McLaren in several aspects. This probably means a more compact design of the sidepots.

Rory Byrne, who described the 1999 season challanger as "revolutionary", used the long-wheelbased F300 chassis as the base of the new car. Therefor it is expected to be a developement which has all the positive characteristics of the sucessful regular F300 and the long-wheelbased version. The new design will also exploit all the advanced technologies gathered by the Italian team with renewed and reinforced economical support by the Fiat concern. Every aspect of the car from the new 048 series engine to the suspensions, passing through brakes and especially the aerodynamics are more an evolvemant rather than a completely new design. The current F300 is a winning car, therefor next season's project 650 will be a natural evolution of it.

To read the whole article, click here

Argentine Grand Prix news

It looks highly likely that there will be an Argentine Grand Prix in 1999. The details for the deal are being finalised over the next week - and is expected to go through, even though money markets sudden blip may delay proceedings.

BAR fastest in Spanish test!

Just what the doctor ordered for BAR - Jacques Villeneuve was fastest in Spain, despite frustrating problems which restricted them to 23 laps.

Alex Zanardi continued to outpace his team mate, though Ralf was again on a different program and had problems of his own. The Ferrari duo made the most of their day, and are right on the pace whilst trying out components for the F650 (or whatever Ferrari will decide to call their 1999 contender).

Pedro de la Rosa complicated matters for Arrows by being quicker than both Tora Takagi and Ralf Schumacher (in a Williams), so he is not certain to lose out on the second seat yet! At least, they were doing better than the beleaguered Prosts, who are still fighting with a hybrid between the 1998 and 1999 cars - Trulli and Panis are definitely looking forward to their new cars!

Unofficial times
Villeneuve (British American Racing) 1:23.8
Zanardi (Williams) 1:23.9
Irvine (Ferrari) 1:23.9
Badoer (Ferrari) 1:24.1
de la Rosa (Arrows) 1:24.2
R Schumacher (Williams) 1:24.3
Takagi (Arrows) 1:24.4
Trulli (Prost) 1:24.8
Panis (Prost) 1:25.4

Testing news and views!

The first day back in testing, and unofficial timing shows Jacques Villeneuve bringing the BAR in second fastest, sandwiched between the Williams of Zanardi and Schumacher... needless to say, BAR are happy to find themselves comparable to the Williams, even if the latter have not launched their 1999 car yet.

For the first time, Alex Zanardi was quicker on the day than Ralf Schumacher - though little can be read in to this, as the ex-Jordan driver was on a completely different program, which didn't allow comparison between the drivers at any point. One thing that is worth mentioning, however, is there are unconfirmed rumours that Alex has finally been fitted with pedals that allow right foot braking... which might easilly account for a jump in performance as he is reputed to find left foot braking awkward.

Takagi was about 0.3 seconds quicker than de la Rosa - if he keeps that up, then there's little doubt he can clinch the second seat in the Arrows team; there was no sign of Mika Salo to give an accurate comparison with an established driver, however.

The future is bright, at Arrows.

With the announcement of a majority stake in Arrows going to an equity investment company, and a friend of Tom Walkinshaw ( Reference: Morgan Grenfell Private Equity, Prince Malik Ado Ibrahim and Tom Walkinshaw acquire Arrows Grand Prix and Engines Businesses ), a number of serious doubts regarding the future of the team are put to rest.

It has been widely speculated that Zakspeed would be taking buying into Arrows, and moving the outfit lock, stock and barrel to Germany, which would certainly have been unfortunate for the current employees! This new position allows the team to get on with the job of Formula One, rather than fighting for its existance, and will enable them to sign their second driver, and establish where they are going with the engine.

Now that the teams continuation is established, Arrows are expecting to announce a new title sponsor with next months launch. Testing before then will establish whether they go for Tora Takagi as expected, or Pedro de la Rosa who performed well in the last tests. The future of the engine is looking most likely to be inhouse for another year - though a badging deal is still possible if it shows promise!

Ferrari double talk...

"Ferrari said that beryllium is toxic when it is inhaled in particle form and that it should be banned on the grounds of it being a health risk and an unnecessary expense. Many thought that the team made the move because rival Mercedes was using the friction-reducing material in the cylinder heads of its engines and Ferrari wanted to reduce their advantage.

"Frank Williams has accused Ferrari of hypocrisy in its attempt to ban an exotic metal from the sport. The Italian team won its battle to have beryllium banned from F1, but Williams says its arguments do not stand up.

"Williams, who admitted that his team had wanted to use beryllium in a new transmission, said, 'I can list you the components of an F1 car that are more poisonous than beryllium: resins, compounds, carbon-fibre dust. To say it should be banned on safety grounds is simply hypocrisy. If Ferrari want to ban it on the cost it engenders, that is even greater hypocrisy, given the incredible sums it spends to pay its drivers.'" Source - AutoSport.

Even leaving aside the issue of costs, the point must be well taken - the fatuous claim that Beryllium needs to be banned of safety grounds, due to the small particles it can produce when Ferrari are sponsored by a tobacco company is laughable. After all, what does smoking do, except cause cancer care of the small particles inhaled in the process?

There is another serious point though. With the FIA acknowledging a claim that small particles can be unhealthy, have they opened the door for anti-tobacco lobbyists? We know that at least one faction is making a case for both the FIA and European Union court, based on the precident of the Beryllium ban.

The FIA will shortly find itself between a rock and a hard place - being compelled to recind the ban; ban tobacco; or look foolish by attempting to claim both that small particles are bad for health, and that they really aren't a health hazzard.

Of course, if the ban remains, then they will face a barrage of requests from the smaller teams for other exotic materials to be banned on similar safety grounds, when they are unable to get them for their own development purposes... in which case, they can be seen to outright support Ferrari (by supporting their ban request and noone elses), rescind the ban, or accept that a lot of materials are going to become disqualified in the future.

Jordan quietly confident

The mood in the Jordan camp is amazing! Pretty much the entire team thinks that this is the year they'll pull off something special. Many are unsure whether the championship is within reach, but there is no doubt that the outfit is going places.

Eddie Jordan has assembled an excellent team, full of self belief on the back of last years excellent come back, and looking forward to the new project. The new car is expected to perform on a par with the predicted Ferrari and McLaren performances.

The issue is what the McLaren and Ferrari teams have up their sleeves: most teams think that both have something that won't be revealed until Melbourne... if it's Ferrari, then there will be a game of catch up like 1998, but if almost any other team finds something revolutionary, the cynics are betting it will be banned!

However it works out, the Jordan team strongly believe they have the people and the tools to take on everyone next year: the engine is on line to be compared favourably with any; the drivers are proven racers; and the car is looking excellent so far. But much more to the point, they are not afraid to play catch up with the big boys if things are not going to plan.

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