Week of the 24th January 1999:
Luca Badoer - Opportunity knocks?
It's no accident that Luca Badoer is driving the installation laps for
Minardi - this appears to be no simple agreement to 'borrow' a driver from
There is rumour (coming from sources in close to the team) that Luca
will be driving for Minardi in 1999, whilst still contracted to
Ferrari as their official test driver, and replacement for Michael
Schumacher or Eddie Irvine, should anything happen to them.
Sticking points are, as usual, mostly financial - if the team can get
a significant boost to it's finances by taking someone else, then they
might well go that route anyway. Further, the clause keeping Luca in
the Ferrari test role could hamper development of their own
Initial reports show that the installation laps driven yesterday went
much as expected - that's to say, all the expected problems were
encountered, but no show stoppers. Prognosis? If they can get the
drivers sorted out, Minardi are looking at a good year.
If they want a good year, then obtaining a rated driver like Luca
should provide the opportunity to make the most of their car.
So, where's this McLaren then?
Again, McLaren are delivering their seasons contender late. Why?
If you listen to the rumour mill, then it's because they've found some
design faults that have to be fixed! The official line is that a
major step forward was discovered for the front suspension. Actually,
from what we've been able to find out, there's truth in both stories -
and they are connected.
The McLaren MP4-14 is, it seems, going to be something really
special. The MP4-13 - which walked away at the start of the 1998
season - was only a prototype for the new car. There have been some
very interesting developments in all the crucial areas - and the
aerodynamics have a twist that noone else seems to have included this
year. Wait and see!
But that is not the only thing. The story about the front suspension
appears to be founded in truth - there really is something in the
pipeline (though it might only be a variant of the Front Torque
Transfer system Benetton pioneered); couple that with an evolution to
the engine that should surprise a few people, and what appears to be a
neat way around the 'independant braking' issue, and the car really
could be the business.
Is it going to be a McLaren cakewalk? No. Even if the car starts
1999 with a second per lap advantage, Ferrari will probably catch up
in three or four races; and no one is quite sure what Jordan have up
their (currently very quiet) sleeves... the regulations are much the
same as last year, so it should be tighter at the top.
Having said which, the feeling at McLaren is that something really
rather good is coming out of the workshops - and they've got a
reigning World Champion to drive it.
Thoughts from testing
At the end of the weekend in Jerez, Ricardo Zonta showed his potential in the
British American Racing car, finishing clearly ahead of his
experienced team mate. That he beat Jos Verstappens time for
yesterday is a bonus, but without the Honda on the track, there's no
way to really compare the performances.
Stewart went well, and are looking like they have a real chance to
spend time amid the Benettons and BARs of the world this season. They
have had reliability problems, and are still trying to dial out
understeer - but they have arguably the best technical man for that
job on board in Gary Anderson.
Most talk is still of Honda. Their test went exceptionally well,
getting plenty of miles on the car. Feedback was very positive from
the team, and they know they have placed a marker for themselves.
Whilst being seen in an 1999 Grand Prix is highly unlikely, they will
be able to get a feel for the pace of development this year, testing
alongside the other teams.
The Barcelona test showed Mika has come back from holiday ready for
action - his fastest time of the day in last year's McLaren was just
ahead of Ralf Schumachers time in the 1999 Williams. With the new
step expected from Renault, they might not be too far off the pace
Just when the FIA had the 1999 calendar sorted, things start going pear shaped!
The Malaysian Grand Prix appears to be in trouble - according to
F1-Magazine, the Sepang circuit is suffering from
the current economic crisis in Asia, and may only be ready to host a
Grand Prix in February 2000. The track itself is actually complete,
but the supporting structures (pits, gravel traps, Grandstands and so
on) are behind schedule.
With the loss of the Argentine Grand Prix already cutting the season
to 15 races, it is very likely that China or South Africa will appear on
this years calendar, should the Malaysian Grand Prix fail to materialise.
Article - Humour by Jeff Rose
BayWatch All-Girl Pit Crew at AutoSport 99To read the whole article, click here
by Jeff Rose
We're back and boy is AutoSport 99 happy about that. Autosport International recreated a Formula One pitlane with WilliamsF1, Benetton, Sauber, Ferrari, Jordan and McLaren. Things were going great until the BayWatch All-Girl Pit Crew arrived. The crowd figured they didn't know a tire change from a wet tee-shirt contest.
Honda rumours are rife
In the wake of Honda's exceptional test results this last weekend,
there are rumours flying that the team might be seen in the last four
to six races this season.
Despite the difficulties associated with bringing forward their entry,
it's a feasible proposition. A complete season would put both Dallara
and Bridgestone into a difficult situation to supply chassis parts and
tyres - despite the huge financial help Honda could provide; but a
'short season' might just fit the bill... rumours are already
indicating that Honda have asked Bridgestone to confirm a large number
of tyres for the season - enough to run several Grand Prix, in
addition to testing. Further, there is speculation inside Honda as to
who would run with Jos Verstappen - whose place is confirmed - should
it happen... it's expected to be a Japanese driver, but who varies
according to the teller!
The questions remain, though, how Honda will stack up to Ferrari and
McLaren. Further, with development over the coming season expected to
be just as rapid as last, how long can they expect to maintain the
advantage over mid runners like BAR and Benetton? Should they attempt
to run the first Grand Prix in Melbourne? Or risk confirming entry
later in the season, to find they have lost the edge?
South African Grand Prix in 1999?
With the loss of the Argentine Grand Prix to the 1999 calendar, is there chance of an event at Kyalami, South Africa?
Kyalami has the backing, infrastructure and circuit (already inspected
for the event) to replace the Argentine or Chinese Grand Prix. Bernie
Ecclestone placed South Africa on the reserve list, with the intent of
a Grand Prix for 2001, and promised testing in 1999 and 2000.
The test session in 2 weeks time is happening, as promised. So, with
a race possibility opening up, there's a real chance that the Vodacom
South African Grand Prix can become reality in 1999.
A track official commented "We have not been notified of anything
at this stage."
Jos Verstappen is having a ball
It's little surprise that Jos Verstappen is so happy at the moment.
Finishing the third day of testing at Jerez a full second ahead of
BARs Ricardo Zonta has left him feeling very pleased with his and the
Some of the other teams have been shocked by the Honda performance,
and there was talk of running a light car - something the team has
emphatically denied, stating the car fully complies with all
regulations, as they are not there to kid themselves. Furthermore,
they are using the same Mugen-Honda engine as Jordan used for the
Japanese Grand Prix - not the new higher powered unit expected for
this years Jordan.
So, what can we expect from the other teams? Zonta proved team orders
would be unjustified at BAR (two tenths quicker than Villeneuve,
though it was a difficult day with lots of stoppages), but a full
second behind the Honda. Benetton had another day of learning - way
off the pace. It is thought they are running this years
Renault/Mecachrome/Supertec engines, but judging from performance
against the Honda and Ford, they must hope there will be a new step
Showing their intent for the forthcoming season, Stewart - this time
in the shape of Johnny Herbert - were again ahead of Benetton. Their
pre-season promise to Ford and their fans to move into the 'second
tier' of teams looks like a possibility.
Argentine GP linked with Tuero's withdrawal?
There was a rumour when he quit, that the reason behind Tuero's withdrawal from Formula One was an impending reduction of his personal sponsorship deals.
With the Argentine Grand Prix also looking unlikely to go ahead for
financial reasons, possibly impacting directly on Tueros sponsors,
there may be some credance to this story - though it would be a shame
if financial issues are behind losing this youngster to the F1 scene,
but maybe his talents will bring him back in years to come.
The second day at Jerez has been relatively exciting: though it
depends who you ask as to timings. At least, Ricardo Zonta had a good day, and is already competitive with Jacques Villeneuve.
Honda continued to be the car to beat, some half a second clear of the
field in the hands of Jos Verstappen - wouldn't it be ironic if the
fastest car of 1999 turned out not to have entered? Meanwhile,
Stewart's Rubens Barrichello demonstrated that their 99 contender is
on a par with BAR by posting competitive times (Johnny Herbert got
little running, thanks to persistant oil systems problems).
Testing times are always to be taken with a pinch of salt - Stewart
had Rubens at ahead of the BAR team in the timesheets, BAR had
Villeneuve in second, track side timing had Zonta second - but the
overall feeling is that Honda have made a good job of their car,
putting themselves in the position to beat, whilst Benetton struggle
to get enough time and laps in their car to be competitive with BAR
This season will hold some surprises - even though we have not seen last years top four yet.
Honda Management thinking hard!
After the first stunning day of Honda's debut test in Jerez, there are rumors within the team that management may rethink the 2000 entry strategy!
The team was a full second quicker than BAR on the first day, so they already know they are at least competitive with the other new kids in Formula One... and more than competitive against the Stewart team, who are struggling against understeer.
Sources indicate that the management was very encouraged by the session, sparking rumours they could be looking to enter this year, rather than wait - though it's unlikely, as they would need to ensure provision of chassis parts from Dallara, and ramp up the supply of engines to go through Mugen. But if this level of performance continues, the logistics can be handled, and the FIA give permission, we could see Honda enter it's cars this year.
Arguably more pleased with the result is the Jordan team, who are looking forward to trying the new Mugen-Honda engine in their 1999 contender next month!
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Australia could lose GP over TV rights!
Allegedly, the FIA is in dispute with Australian TV company Channel 9,
who does not show livequalifying and races to it's
An FIA spokesperson said 'Any TV broadcaster who has their own race
in their own country should show qualifying and races, for all
races.' That Channels 9s efforts for the Australian Grand Prix
have won them awards in 95 and 96 matters not, and the FIA will
rescind the Australian Grand Prix for 2000 if the matter is not sorted
out by August.
Other TV stations are interested in buying the rights from Channel 9.