F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week of the 7th February 1999:

Report - Barcelona Test

The test in Barcelona has been very interesting in many regards. Judging from the times alone, a vague impression of progress can be pulled together - and it's good to see Minardi near the top of the timesheets!

However, trackside, there are other tales to be told. Benettons new FTT system is certainly a non trivial affair: their braking distances are significantly shorter than those for any other team at the test bar McLaren. They appear to be down on overall pace - presumably from the engine being underpowered.

The new Jordan accelerated out of corners in admirable fashion: the engines power and mapping is certainly working well for the team and new car. The car looked very smooth in corners, with a feeling of potential about it.

At first glance, the Prost seemed pretty ordinary on the track, until the times were examined. It is deceptively quick, especially compared to the way last years car always looked like a handful. It would be interesting to know exactly what difference the 'wings' on the side pods make, too...

Minardi appear to have done their homework; the better deal with Ford is already translating into good times, and there's a lot of potential in the new driver, Marc Gene - watching him learn the circuit shows that whilst he is not the quickest circuit learner in the paddock, he has a lot of raw speed that kicks in once he is comfortable with his braking zones!

So, there's definitely news from Barcelona: a front runner is struggling with form; reliability is causing havoc in all camps, and even last years back runners can post competitive times. Whilst the points in Australia are probably going to be reliability oriented, the teams will have another month to sort out problems ahead of Brazil - but even then, it's going to be close. 1999 has the makings of a good season for Formula One!

Ferrari Test

It seems that Ferrari are being put into an inconvenient position by the weather; if the rain in Italy continues, they are going to get more wet weather running than they can use, and nowhere near enough dry time on track.

It's not too late for them to go look at another track - but they would probably not want to run against any other top teams yet, as they are secretive about the car and its new configurations.

If, as rumoured, McLaren, Benetton and Jordan are joining Williams and BAR for next weeks test at Kyalami in South Africa, then the Barcelona track may see Ferrari Red next week, as other options are somewhat limited at this time.

Salo to remain at Arrows?

Mika Salo and Pedro de la Rosa are likely to drive for Arrows this season.

Despite rumours that he could lose his seat, Salo is thought to be assured of the number one slot with ex - Jordan test driver de la Rosa almost certain to take the second. Japanese driver Toranosuke Takagi is now thought to be out of the frame.

Rumours started last week that Salo would be dropped in favour of de la Rosa and Takagi, who would bring around 6 million in sponsorship between them. When the Finn did not test at Silverstone the rumours furthered.

However, Arrows boss Tom Walkinshaw pointed out that Salo could not test last week because he was sick, and refused to comment on his driver line-up.

Verstappen signs with Honda

Jos Verstappen has signed a 3 years deal with Honda. The contract says he will be a testing driver for 1999 and the official driver for 2000 and 2001. Verstappen has joined this team last year already and is the first Honda driver to test their car.

Verstappen did the first run in December '98 in Vairano, Italy. Verstappen also succeeded in recent Jerez test and was fastest among other teams which are active in F1! Let's see how he can manage next year among other big teams. The second seat is still opened.

Trulli on his way to McLaren?

Jarno Trulli was recently seen in Stuttgart, the home town of McLaren's engine supplier, Mercedes. Rumors suggest that Jarno Trulli will be looking elsewhere if Prost doesn't perform well this season. Though, who will Trulli be replacing if the rumors are correct? Will McLaren dump Coulthard in favour of Trulli? Or is Hakkinen looking for a change?

Mercedes Motorsport boss, Norbert Haug, denies he is in talking with Trulli about a future seat at McLaren.

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