F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week of the 31st January 1999:


No Changes for Ferrari

Ferrari has denied it will make any changes to the team staff if they fail to win the Championship. The last time Ferrari won the title was in 1979, with Jody Schecker behind the wheel. The pressure from the Italian press to win is again huge. Jean Todt reject claims that the team must win the championship this year.

'What is 'must'?' he said. 'Do we take out a gun and shoot ourselves if we don't do it? If you can explain why you lose, it's okay. If you can't explain or improve the problem, then you have to ask questions. But we know exactly where we are and why we are there. Ferrari did not win the championship for 20 years because it made too many changes. Stability is a good thing.' Both Todt and Schumacher have denied suggestions that the Frenchman's job may be on the line if the crown does not go to Maranello this year.


BayWatch All-Girl Pit Crew meets the Queen of England

by Jeff Rose

We're back and boy is the Queen of England happy about that. She didn't mind the Le Mans start with the Rolls Royce; or that our gift bottle didn't have a label; but the BayWatch All-Girl Pit Crew confused tea-time with wet T-shirt time. This was too much and the crew was tossed out of the palace. It was Jackie Stewart who saved their "buckets."

The crew landed at Heathrow and were through Customs with no problem. Well, almost no problem. Please recall that these girls speak Good Down-South American English. Down-South would be pronounced "Day-ow-won Say-outh" by any self-respecting Southerner; although they would take about a minute longer to say it than you just did.

To read the whole article, click here


Renault say no to works team

Rumours that a full works Renault team is being put together has been hotly denied by the French car manufacturer. A feasibility study was reportedly undertaken to assess the viability of returning to Formula One: "Categorically we would never imagine coming back to Renault this way," a spokesperson for the company said. "We have talked about it in the past but we made a choice never to return with our own team."

Renault ran its own team between 1977 and 1978, being one of the first to use turbo engines. Jean Paul Jabouille, René Arnoux, Patrick Tambay, Derek Warwick, Alain Prost and Eddie Cheever all drove for the équipe. It had limited success but came close to a world title for Prost in 1983, who finished second with four of his until then, nine race wins, scored with the Renault Elf team.

1990 saw their re-emergence as an engine supplier to the Williams team bowing out finally in 1997. Their power plant was responsible for 6 consecutive constructors titles and 5 drivers crowns. Although evolutions of their engine still power Williams and Benetton, via engine tuners Mecachrome, the French company pulled out of Formula One at the end of 1997.

The rumours were sparked off by news of a fully revised engine that has been on the test bed for some months. The spokesperson told the press that the engine would be current for two years before it became commercially available... or the team decided to make a return to Formula One.


V12 Rumours

It's been rumoured for a while that Ferrari and Honda are looking to get a V12 engine back into Formula One; sources indicate that Ferrari are reaching the end of development for the V10, and are starting the process for making the V12 a reality - they intend to build one for testing later this year, and hope to be able to get a 12 cylinder power plant into the 2000 car.

Even if Ferrari fail, there is some chance that Honda will manage the trick - currently their development is borderline for the 2000 season, but unless things go quite wrong, they expect to have the V12 plant for their F1 return. Renault are looking at a V8 option for 2000 - the latest rumours are that their revolutionary V6 was a non starter from the point exotic materials (eg Berryllium) were banned. Nevertheless, by 2001, we should be looking at a proliferation of engine types again, including V8, V10 and V12's all on the same grid.


The Argentine Alternative

It seems that the FIA has been contacted regarding an alternative to the Argentine Grand prix by... another Argentine track! It seems organisers at the Oscar Cabalen track have put together a proposal that meets the FIAs financial requirements, and they are doing everything in their power to get an Argentine Grand Prix reinstated to the calendar.

The inside track from the FIA is that it is not entirely without merit. Based on the idea that there was to be an Argentine Grand Prix anyway, this circuit has a proposal that would deal with the sticking point from Buenos Aires.

However, the track has not been inspected at this time, nor have any teams tested there, so with other tracks pushing to be recognised in the calendar (Kyalami, for example), the odds are against it appearing this year. Next year is another issue altogether!


More on drivers for Arrows and Minardi

With the announcement that Marc Gene will be driving for Minardi next year, the biggest competition for the second seat is for Gonzalo Rodriguez to find enough funds - Shinji Nakano is not thought likely to retain his place.

The Argentine Mazzacane has been signed in a test role; and has been linked to Minardi before; he has three competitive years in F3000 under his belt. He appears to be a talented driver - though we'll find out when he attends next weeks test if he has the talent for Formula One.

At Arrows, Mika Salo is almost certain to keep his seat, and rumour favours the last spot going to Pedro de la Rosa over Tora Takagi. Pedro comes across as better prepared to work with the team; he speaks English (something Tora did without at Tyrrell last year), and seems to get on well with the crew. Moreover, he has been fastest at the recent tests...


Who'll take the Eddie's place?

by Enrico Chiara

This January, only few people noticed a two days journey for the Prost-Peugeot Italian driver Jarno Trulli, to Stuttgart, Germany. No official explanations were given, just a mask of disappointment when he discovered a few Italian journalists were waiting for him in the Rome airport, returning from the German city.

Stuttgart is the home city of Mercedes. "Non posso parlare, non so" I can't speak, I don't know Jarno answered to the journalists questions. These journalists understood that there was something interesting behind this visit. The discovery arrived soon: Mercedes won't renew the contract of David Coulthard next year, but has offered a seat to Jarno Trulli. And he has probably accepted. This means two things: Jarno Trulli will drive a silver car for the year 2000, and David Coulthard will be without a seat...

To read the whole article, click here


Driver lineup coming together

At Arrows, there is at least one seat open - potentially two. Pedro de la Rosa has outperformed Toranosuke Takagi so far in tests, putting himself in a prime position to take the seat. Potentially, both drivers may be given a ride, after outperforming the highly rated Mika Salo (though his program was not the same, so comparison is not fair); whether he takes a back seat this year in a Honda test role is to be decided, but it's most likely he will continue as an Arrows driver for another year.

Both de la Rosa and Takagi will be putting the Arrows through its at Silverstone this week, before the final announcements made.

Minardi are in the unfortunate position of having to replace their only confirmed driver when Tuero quit - allegedly, as a result of the accident with Takagi in the Japanese Grand Prix last year.

In the running there, Marc Gene and Gonzalo Rodriguez will probably take the open seats, if they can come up with the required sponsorhip. Should they falter, Shinji Nakano may get to keep his drive another season.

Whilst Luca Badoer is contracted to Ferrari as test driver, it is possible he may run for the Minardi team this season; sticking points are his commitments to Ferrari - who allegedly will not relinquish him from his contract, so Minardi duties would be additional and secondary to existing work - and sponsorship, as Minardi really need the income provided by their pay drivers.

It is thought that Minardi could be in a position to move off the back of the grid, if the car lives up to expectations, and they get drivers with the talent to make something happen!


Reaction to Jordan launch

The Buzzing Hornets are spoiling to challenge Ferrari and McLaren this year. Whilst facing up the realistic prospect that both the title contenders will benefit more from the winter break, and their closer alliance with Bridgestone, the Jordan team is high on the results of last season.

The team is confident that the car will perform well - at least on a similar level to Williams, Benetton and BAR - straight out of the box; and after the tremendous development effort last year which dragged them from also rans to race winners, they are unfazed by the prospects of being caught out again.

Whilst the car is mostly an evolution of last years Jordan 198, there are a number of changes under the bonnet that the team are not talking about. The new Mugen-Honda engine is smaller, lighter and more powerful than the excellent unit in last years car; further, changes to the wheelbase and (apparently) the fuel tank, have enabled weight distribution to be improved.

Despite the lack of mechanical grip apprent in the last sector at Suzuka last year, the mechanics seem to believe a simple evolution to last years suspension solutions will handle the issue, and their attention has been focused on the aerodynamics. Results from the wind tunnel have been impressive!

As the car is, at heart, an evolution of last years model, expect testing times to be quicker that those for the 198 straight out of the box - unlike the Williams FW21, which started testing with worse times than last years FW20 until new setup solutions could be tried.


South Africa test looks lively

Sources indicate that McLaren, Benetton, Jordan and Sauber will be joining BAR and Williams at Kyalami on the 15th.

Ostensibly, they are attempting to find conditions as close as possible to those expected for the season opener in Melbourne; but the sudden sign up coinsides with the financial issues in Argentina causing that Grand Prix to be cancelled, and rumours of deadline problems for the Malaysian Grand Prix...

Is it possible the teams are expecting to be racing at Kyalami, and are checking the scene? Even if they are not, the fact that all the big players (except Ferrari) have tested there means that should they return with favourable reports, it must be considered a real possibility to host the Formula One circus this year!


Reaction to Ferrari Launch

It must be said, whether or not Ferrari win the Championship this year, they have a car that really looks the business!

The new contender has a very refined appearance - sleek and fast. It's been released without some of the aerodynamic trimmings that will make an appearance for Melbourne (and some of the private test sessions)... there are still some secrets to come!

If you have not seen the Ferrari in top down view, take a look in the Pictures section - there is a real impression of speed that is impossible to deny! The attitude from the team is very positive. Behind the scenes, everyone is still remarkably busy - the team has to build more chassis for testing and to have race spares, not to mention preparation for the testing sessions ahead; there are still a number of solutions to be tried in practice (wind tunnels are excellent indicators, but without trying it for real, there's just no knowing); and the team will really have to work at getting everything sorted.

Despite the hussle, and tight schedules, the positive feedback through the whole Ferrari camp is infectious, and the team really believes that Michael Schumachers time is coming again...

Is this the year of the horse?

[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]