F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 4th April, 1999:

BAR Drive up for Grabs?

Ricardo Zonta could well be ruled out for the San Marino Grand Prix due to the foot injury suffered in the second free practice session on Saturday. Rumour has it that former Arrows driver Mika Salo may be in contention for the drive. Salo turned down the Minardi drive, apparently because he would not be able to show his true talents in that car, and the team were not prepared to pay him. Salo would be expected to accept the BAR drive: the car certainly does have potential, so there's no excuse for Salo not to show his true talent alongside friend Jacques Villeneuve.

Also in contention for a drive is Prost test driver and Minardi stand-in, Stephane Sarrazin. His performance has been outstanding considering he has never stepped in the Minardi up until Friday - and it has been noticed by BAR's top brass.

Interlagos - Qualifying

Another all action session shows that qualifying is definitely worth seeing - it has excitement and thrills all it's own that nicely complement the race!

There were a few striking things about this session. McLaren's dominance was plain to see - they were in complete commmand with six laps apiece for Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard. These are still the men to beat and the performance they see from their cars makes them difficult to match. A McLaren one-two is on the cards unless they have reliability problems.

The next striking item was the speed that Rubens Barrichello pulled from his Stewart - the team had both cars in the top ten (Johhny in tenth place), and Rubens made the most of his soft option tyres to claim third place on the grid. This places him in a position to mix it with the McLarens at the start of the race tomorrow, if he gets off the grid well. Furthermore, Ferrari's claims their race pace should match McLaren's might not be shown, if Michael Schumacher - fourth - gets stuck behind the Brazilian.

The last thing I'll mention was the poor running from the Supertec runners. Conditions were perfect for engines, highlighting the deficit in Supertec power. Rumour has the deficit at around 90bhp to Mercedes, but that's without considering the qualifying tweak that Mercedes often use - worth five to ten hp.

Having said that, the action was non stop. All the drivers boiled out at the start of the session - rain was implicated - and there was not a dead moment to the end. The McLarens were always in command, but the action for third place was intense. Rubens eventually claimed it from a Michael Schumacher who struggled all session - Eddie Irvine fared better until the last run. Naturally, the crowd went wild!

A number of teams had problems; Marc Gene fell off the track; Zanardi struggled with his car, then for pace in the test car, before the Supertec engine blew. Ferrari again put both cars in thegain put both cars in the top six, though their gap to McLaren was bigger than expected.

To top it all, when all the other teams had expired their laps, the McLarens - already holding the top two places - came out again to run some exhibition laps... and shave four tenths off the pole time.

Friday Practice

The first session was basically wet - conditions changes continuously, so team comparisons from the final timesheets show little of the relative form of the teams.

Michael Schumacher looked most impressive for the session, going well in the wet, whilst the McLarens only ran 12 laps, essentially just checking the cars were running. Most teams had problems with spinners, or car failures. An interesting session, but best used for learning the track - conditions changed so much that it was hard to work on setups.

The second session started dry, before a wet finish. The McLarens showed they have what it takes - taking the top spots - with the Ferrari duo close behind.

Damon Hill of Jordan and Jacques Villeneuve from BAR suffered early failures, and did not post competitive times; but the indications for qualifying tomorrow, should it be dry, are that McLaren have a distinct advantage over Ferrari, and it's almost anyone's to take behind them. Stewart and Jordan both failed to demonstrate their ability to compete with Ferrari for pace so far, but that could change tomorrow.

If it's a wet qualifying session, Michael Schumacher has a real chance to make up the deficit to the McLarens... more to the point, Ferrari think their race pace should nearly match McLaren's, failing that, it appears the battle for fourth or fifth place will be where the action is.

Read more at Atlas F1, news!

Stewart to Sell Team to Ford?

Although making it very clear to the media that Stewart-Ford isnít for sale at the present time, team bosses Jackie and Paul Stewart have said that they would consider selling the team to engine manufacturer, Ford.

Paul Stewart said this week that it they have not ruled the possibility out. 'It's something that could happen eventually. It's important to have a strategic partner. With the way F1 is going, no one will survive in the longer term as a privateer. If the right scenario came along and if we thought it was the right solution for the team, why not?' said Paul Stewart.

The links between Ford and Jackie Stewart are very strong, so there may not be any need to sell the team to Ford. As long as Ford is suppliying engine for Stewart, Fordís relationship between the team can only get stronger, not saying it isnít already strong.

Racing Humour - The girls from Ipanema

or; Fastest pitlane changes in the world

by Inky Black

With two old cars and a bad reputation, the BayWatch All-Girl Pit Crew arrived at the Brazil GP with plenty to prove. The team were well-known for their wet t-shirt contests, and people were still talking about the Full Monty in Melbourne. But here, here in a country where everyone wears a bikini, the girls would try to wear the pants.

Oba! That means whoopie here in Sampa! And Sampa means Sao Paulo here in Sao Paulo. "Oba Sampa! We're here!" screamed the BayWatch All-Girl Pit Crew as they busted out of the airport and into the rhythms of everyday Paulistano life.

The girls had one day free and headed straight to Ipanema Beach. Here they found that everyone in Brazil wears bikinis. Men and women. Old and young. Big and small. Rotund and rotunder. Everybody!

To read the whole article, click here!

Brazil Preview

Seconds out, round two - in Brazil (by F1 Rumours)

With the preparations for the Brazilian Grand Prix hard upon the teams, it is time to consider what might happen when they get there! With the new tyres, errors are heavily punished so even slight mistakes on a qualifying lap can cost half a dozen places on the grid. Bearing that in mindÖ

The show McLaren put on in Melbourne was spectacular while it lasted. If reports from Silverstone are to be believed then their reliability has been considerably improved, and the team expects to dominate. Mika Hakinnen has gone better than David Coulthard at Brazil for the last three years, and can hope to take both pole and the win - though David is in a great position to capitalise on any mistakes. The other teams must surely be looking for reliability problems to prevent this duo taking the top spots in the podium.

Their most likely title rivals - Ferrari - were clearly surprised to be so far off the pace in Melbourne and will be trying to show they have at least got an edge over the rest of the field, if not the pace of McLaren! Last year, Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine qualified fourth and sixth respectively, and Michael at least will hope for a podium place this year. Despite the boost of winning in Australia, Eddie can expect Michael to outqualify him by a tenth, and team orders should ensure the German is ahead for the race.

To read the whole article, click here!

Jaguar lowdown

Everyone has gone Jaguar mad, with the rumours spreading that the big cat could be seen on Stewart's cars as early as next year.

Sources reveal that Ford has been considering the introduction for some time - one scheme would have seen a return with Benetton this season, though the plans fell through.

Currently, the men in charge see opportunity to expand awareness of Jaguar's new range, by competing against Mercedes and BMW in Formula One as well as in the showroom.

The precondition for using the Jaguar name is being competitive: the Big Cat is associated with success, and it must remain that way. With the progress Stewart made over winter, it's rapidly becoming evident that Ford's commitment is paying dividends, and is paving the way for Stewart-Jaguar cars on the 2000 grid.

Speculation concerning Ford buying Stewart is not entirely unfounded - there's a lot of merit in running a Ford-Jaguar team, allowing both names to profit from the exposure. Several options are being discussed, ranging from leaving the status quo as it is through to a buying Stewart out. The favoured option - currently - is to buy a large stake in the Stewart team, which will remain Stewart Grand Prix, and keep the Ford name active by supplying engines to other teams.

It is interesting to note that the preference for using Ford as the team name varies in line with rumours of Honda's return next season - if a Honda team is formed, then pressure to run an all Ford team is higher, and takeover rumours multiply.

Atlas-F1 Grapevine

This week's Atlas F1 Grapevine:

  • Badoer's Replacement
  • Salo Rumours
  • Zanardi's Seat at Williams
  • Autumn US GP?
  • Picked from the Bunch

Stewart's Progress

Recent testing has put the Stewart team into a very positive frame of mind for the Brazilian Grand Prix. They have made solid progress with the self-destructing engine, certainly both drivers are expected to start the race this time, and there's good odds on at least one finishing.

The team think they've found at least another three tenths in the car and engine - though it might not show so well on the bumpy Interlagos circuit. If the changes from Australia bear the expected fruit, then Stewart should be around eight tenths off the expected pace of the McLarens.

It is expected that Ferrari and Jordan have made enough progress to keep things interesting in the chase for podium places.

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