Week of the 14th February 1999:
Unlimited Testing for Ferrari and McLaren
With the recent question and answers session on the Bridgestone role
as tyre supplier to Formula One in 1999, Hiroshi Yasukawa (Director
of Bridgestone Motorsport) has revealed how Ferrari will be able
to get the unlimited testing they required for this season:
"Tests carried out under the Bridgestone tyre development programme
will not count either towards the 200 sets of tyres or the 50 agreed
days of testing".
Ferrari and McLaren are the two teams that Bridgestone will be working
with in their tyre development program, stating "We intend to agree
mutually convenient test dates and venues with the two teams
Ferrari are incredibly secretive about their contract with Bridgestone
- an issue that's come up before. It's already known that they have a
clause relating to tyres for their road cars; but now it seems the
definition of mutually convenient may also be defined - under
Kyalami's Nathan to Meet Ecclestone
Following speculation earlier in the week concerning Kyalami’s Selwyn Nathan meeting Bernie Ecclestone regarding a South African Grand Prix this year, Nathan confirmed today he is meeting with Ecclestone next week.
Nathan leaves Sunday on his trip. Although the meeting’s agenda is scheduled to cover motorsport business other than a Grand Prix at Kyalami, Mr. Nathan felt it was not out of the question the subject of a South African Grand Prix would come up during his discussions with the FIA.
Questioned on timing, should a Kyalami be requested to take up the Argentina date of 21 March, Nathan said that would be an all but impossible task to achieve, especially in light of the circuit hosting the World Superbike opener only one week later. He did not totally dismiss a grand prix date later in the year however, but again added that at this stage he had no indication at all that the FIA was even interested in a date at Kyalami.
Any news of the outcome of Nathan’s meeting with the FIA, will however be awaited with some trepidation by South African F1 fans, especially after the taste some 70,000 spectators had of a Formula One test last week.
The Reliability Issue
With McLaren practically showing a clean pair of heels to the whole
paddock last year, 1999 has presented a tough challenge to all the
designers. In order to close the gap, each team has had to attempt a
big leap forward, which in turn means lots of new, untried components
on the cars.
Testing this year has certainly been informative: all the teams have
had reliability problems; with lots of new components at maximum
tolerance, it's inevitable that there will be breakage. Testing is
the means to discover where tolerances are too narrow, or unexpected
side effects come into play - the Supertec vibration causing rear
wings to fall off is an excellent example!
Furthermore, with the Bridgestone dispute over tyre supplies around
December, even launching early has not allowed most teams the running
they need to ensure their biggest reliability worries are covered.
So, the opening Grand Prix in Melbourne will find most of the teams
running in a high temperature environment for the first time, without
the expected miles in reliability tests...
The famous addage to finish first, first you must finish is
certainly going to be demonstrated in Melbourne.
The Ford Factor
It's not news that Jackie Stewart would be delighted if he was in a
position to offer a drive to a talented, and above all popular,
American driver. With Ford as an engine supplier, the positive
publicity it would generate for the company 'back home' is very
In the 1999 season, Ford have demonstrated a commitment to Stewart
that is comparable to the Mercedes effort with McLaren: the power
plant is tailored to the Stewart teams requirements, utilising leading
edge technology and exceptional tolerances. The weight of the engine
this year is on a par with the other top runners certainly withing a
couple of kilos of the Mercedes unit - and the center of gravity has
been lowered too; furthermore, the power developed is has been
improved, and the development program for this season is very
Even beyond that, Ford is lending enourmous resources to the Stewart
effort. The company has years of experience in competitive
motorsport, adding valuable managerial experience at the top level to
Jackie Stewarts own Formula One knowledge.
Recent rumours speculate the Jeff Gordon might make his way into a
Stewart car. It's not entirely far fetched! The popular Nascar
driver has expressed an interest in testing a Formula One car, and
would certainly be interested in playing with one; but is on record
stating that beginning again in a new series is not a challenge he
considers in his future. He would be just another new boy, starting
at the back, and having to learn everything from scratch.
What would be gained? It's not like moving from the CART scene, which
is often compared against the fundamentally similar sport of Formula
One! A whole new driving approach must be learned to go well in the
open topped single seater series of Formula One: the prize for success
would be a new following in a new series, but failure would be costly
indeed. Jeff Gordon is an exceptionally popular figure in Nascar,
with a huge following and commanding enourmous mechandising revenue.
That's an aweful lot to gamble away - especially by joining a team
that is not running at the front of the field in the new
The Ford influence is strong, and they would like someone of Jeff's
stature in the Formula One team they are associated with. They
might be able to provide him with a package to tempt him into
the Formula One fold; but the word on the street is that Jeff Gordan
will see out his days in Nascar, thank-you very much. Though he's really
very flattered by the interest!
Formula One Racing Meets Quantum Relativity
or; Welcome to CERN- Fastest High-Speed Oval in the WorldTo read the whole article, click here
by Jeff Rose
Well, we're back and boy are the Quantum Physicists happy about that. With no
races scheduled, the BayWatch All-Girl Pit Crew went to Switzerland for
testing. Rumor had it the fastest oval track in the world was at someplace
called CERN. This place the pit crew had to see.
The crew showed up early morning at the CERN high-speed oval course.
Following the directions they found no race course; only a large parking lot.
The crew was usually on top of things. And, funny, that's what the people
from CERN said when they asked: "You are right on top of things." But no
problem here, the parking lot had some good corners and would do just fine for
the tests. Later the crew would find out about the true, and underground,
nature of the CERN high-speed nuclear particle ring.
The weekend at Barcelona
Ferrari are disappointed to be running slightly behind McLaren at
Barcelona. Both teams were sandbagging somewhat - in Ferrari's case,
this included not running with some of their aerodynamic solutions;
and McLaren never put the MP4/14 into qualifying trim.
Schumacher seems to be on form - his consistancy is as good as ever,
and he manages to know exactly where to break into the corners, even
as conditions change through the day. It's something of an experience
to see how he finds the limit of braking, without quite straying over,
time and again. The Ferrari's stability in corners and under traction
away is improved from last year, though it seemed less smooth than
either the McLaren or Benetton.
For all that, Ferrari would have preferred to come closer on at least
one day - but were realistic on a track where McLaren tested
for the whole previous week, it was unlikely that even Michael
Schumacher would be able to put the Ferrari straight into the top
spot; indeed, many in the team seem pleased to have been looking at a
couple of tenths, as they believe there's nearly a half second in
performance terms that was not on the car.
The games will continue: this week Minardi is testing at the same
track as Ferrari, and might provide a scare of their own (Marc Gene
looks very quick), whilst Jordan will be attempting to put the
frightners on McLaren by posting quick times at Barcelona... but the
next time Ferrari and McLaren run on the same track is at Melbourne,
and they won't be sandbagging then!
Ralf Pleases SA Crowd
Twenty five thousand grand prix-starved South African race fans converged on
AA Kyalami today, to witness the first real F1 action there since the 1993
SA Grand Prix. They were treated to an interesting first day of the official
FIA Kyalami F1 test session,which saw Ralf Schumacher top the time sheets in
the Winfield Williams, from team mate Alex Zanardi and the BAR of Jacques
Perfect, sunny South African conditions saw the trio swapping fastest times
towards the end of the session this afternoon, as the afternoon shadows
stretched over Kyalami, and track and ambient temperatures dropped off from
highs of 40deg.C and 28deg.C respectively.
Most of the day saw the teams finding their way at Kyalami, dialling the
cars in to conditions at the circuit just north of Johannesburg. Then, later
in the afternoon, first Villeneuve stopped the clocks at 1min.25.8 seconds,
according to his lap boards, the first car into the 1m25 bracket. No sooner
was he back in the pits, than Schumacher responded with a blistering 1m24.7,
to the joy of the pit grandstand as the Williams board man showed the time.
Zanardi was also circulating at the same time, getting down to a very
consistent pace just off his fastest lap of 1m.25.1. Villeneuve went out
just before the end of the session, but the BAR “broke something” on the out
lap. This was the only technical problem of the day, although Schumacher had
a spin earlier in the session, but continued unaffected.
The BAR breakage continues the fledgeling team’s run of niggling development
Williams, in particular, praised Kyalami as a top-line circuit,
complementing the tracks facilities as world class and perfect for testing
purposes. The session also drew a cheerful, enthusiastic crowd, matching the
biggest at any local race day in number, despite a busy schedule of other
important SA sporting events this afternoon.
Kyalami offers the FIA a perfect solution to their problem with a shrinking
GP calendar this year. It is clear by the large crowd which turned out to
watch three cars test today, that South Africa is ready for a Grand Prix
|Kyalami F1 Testing, 13 February 1999|
|1||Ralf Schumacher||Williams FW21 Mecachrome||1 min 24.7|
|2||Alex Zanardi||Williams FW21 Mecachrome||1 min 25.1|
|3||Jacques Villeneuve||BAR 01 Supertech||1 min 25.8|
|Track temperature: 40C|
Ambient temperature: 20C
Conditions: Warm, Sunny. Partly cloudy later
Lap Record: Nigel Mansell (Williams Renault) 1 min 17.578 (1-March-92)
(Lap record prior to circuit change by addition of chicane)
All times unofficial, no official timing in place.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Circuit Talk - Why not South Africa?
So, there may be problems with the Malaysian Grand Prix. The
financial situation is putting pressure on the completion plan for the
circuit (this should sound familiar to F1 Rumors regulars!) and the
FIA may need to look elsewhere to avoid a 15 race schedule, with a
month gap between the last two races.
The current news is that the Portugese Grand Prix may make a comeback
to the calendar - despite having a track that is not really up to F1
standards, and an officialdome that in the past has rocked the
So, why not have a South African Grand Prix at Kyalami? In
preparation for BAR and Williams testing there next week, Charley
Whiting - the FIA safety officer - inspected the track over the
weekend. Sources revealed a couple of minor issues (some adjustments
to a tyre barrier, and some circuit markings to be redone) to attend,
but otherwise, Whiting was satisfied and gave the go-ahead for the
session starting on Saturday.
The track itself is obviously fit for a Grand Prix, then. So what are
the problems? It's possible that costs are a factor - travelling to
South Africa is more expensive that going to a European venue - but
surely, as it's a potential replacement for a long haul Grand Prix
(Malaysia or Argentina), the costs are actually reduced from the
If it's not costs, then maybe there's a problem with the management -
in this case, there might be something, as Kyalami was the centre of a
big scam a few years ago - around the time of the last South African
Kyalami was saved by the SA Automobile Association after it was
auctioned off in an attempt to recover costs towards the proprietors
(principally a certain Mr B. Ecclestone) significant debt. Key
positions at Kyalami went to (among others) Piet Swanepoel, and Selwyn
Mr Nathan has gone on to his current position, owning the TV rights to
all circuit racing in South Africa, and might be held by Bernie
Ecclestone to be part of the 'old regime'. Possibly, this might have
created an invisible barrier, holding back any commitment to a
Grand Prix there, despite the fact that everything's in place to do so
- because Mr Ecclestone would certainly not wish to line the pockets
of anyone he felt to be connected with an organization that caused him
substantial financial loss and embarrasment.
That is, of course, pure speculation; but if it is the issue,
then this should be interesting: there is a rumour running the rounds
in South Africa that Kyalami is being sold to a British business for a
substantial sum. Further digging has revealed that this might be
Ms. Nicola Foulston - already owner of Brands Hatch, and certainly in
Mr Ecclestones good books, as she previously arranged guarentees for
the British Grand Prix to remain at Silverstone if she bought the
Perhaps things are not going entirely to plan in the Silverstone
purchase, and Ms Foulston is revising her plans - certainly the
Kyalami track is only missing the FIA actually placing it on the
calendar. Pure speculation? Maybe! But the current Sterling
to Rand conversion rate can only lend credance to this story.