F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 11th April, 1999:

McLaren's strong future

The rumours that Mercedes' parent company Daimler-Benz are to purchase a significant part of the TAG McLaren company have been hotly denied by all parties concerned.

Reports that the profit made by majority share holder of the Woking based team and owner of TAG (Technics Avante Guarde) Electronics, Mansour Ojjeh, would then purchase a large shareholding in Bernie Ecclestone's FOH (Formula 1 Holdings) have also been denied.

Further rumours then suggest that McLaren boss Ron Dennis may be put in charge of Formula1 Holdings as a successor to Ecclestone when he retires. Dennis announced that the rumours were completely without foundation and that 99% of what has been said was 'rubbish'. He did however concede that a dialogue had taken place.

"It's no secret that as a group of companies, McLaren wants to be more than a Grand Prix team," he said. "So it's completely understandable that there has been dialogue between ourselves and Mercedes Benz to see if there is any common way forward. But what you hear is by and large, speculation."

He did however reiterate his position as boss of the team that he has brought to multiple championship winning glory over the past 17 years. "There is no chance of myself or Ojjeh divesting ourselves of our interests in McLaren," he added. "Formula1 is in our blood and McLaren is part of my life, as it is Mansour's."

Sources: www.Formula1.com and www.AutoRace.com

Johnny Herbert retiring?

All the rumours about Stewart looking for new drivers makes you start to wonder, doesn't it?

With the 'news' that Jackie Stewart has been looking at enticing Jeff Gordon from the NASCAR series, Dario Franchitti from CART or Colin McRae from the World Rally Championship, you might be forgiven for thinking that someone knows something we don't...

Johnny's public position makes clear his move to Stewart has nothing to do with a final year in Formula One, and he intends to make the most of his time there. Jackie Stewart himself rates Johnny as a valuable team member, whose ability to help develop the car and move the team forward is highly regarded.

The rumours doing the rounds place a different light on things: Rubens seems to be foing so much better than Johnny, that speculation on his retirement is always going to be high. The truth of the matter is that he will remain in Formula One for as long as he feels himself competitive, and team owners believe he delivers value for money.

We could see stars from other disciplines in a Stewart, but it probably won't be next year! Johnny might move to pastures new at the end of the season, but current standing and performances indicate otherwise.

ITV-F1 Viewfinder

If you have not yet been there, check the ITV-F1 Viewfinder column for:

  • Great escapes
  • Reaction to Brazil '99
  • Check your luck numbers
  • Clipping the wings
  • Looking forward to Brazil

Toyota Rumours

With Honda reserving the last team spot available on the grid, Toyota would need to buy out another team in order to run a complete works and engine unit, like Ferrari, Arrows and potentially Honda.

News recently of a potential buy out from Benetton has been rapidly quashed - the team are not interested in selling out. However, they are interested in a potential engine deal.

Whilst the new Ford unit is very promising, and you could see one in the Benetton as early as next year, it would not be comparable to having a taylor made unit that is built to suit the car itself. With the increasing trend towards complete packages, Benetton are very interested in a potential partnership with Toyota - as an engine supplier.

This deal has potential, but the car company might not be prepared to provide power ahead of 2004 - after the current Supertec arrangement ends. This leaves the door ajar for the Ford unit to make a brief Benetton appearance.

Postlethwaite dies of heart attack

We would like to express our regret at the news of Harvey Postlethwaite's death following a heart attack yesterday.

Williams FTT delayed

Williams are still rumoured to be planning a test of their own version of Benetton's Front Torque Transfer system. The test would be to find out how much advantage is actually gained... but FTT is not at the top of their priorities.

This rumour of their intent to trial the system has been around since the Kyalami test, but so far the programs have been taken up with more important issues - reliability currently being something of a concern. Alex Zanardi in particular has been unlucky with his Williams, and the team aims to put a stop to his woes.

With new (conventional) components needing testing, on top the FTT, they are not expected to have a race worthy version of the system ahead of Silverstone - even if it proves useful.

Atlas-F1 Grapevine

This week's Atlas F1 Grapevine:

  • Zonta's replacement
  • Supertec's Promised Developments
  • Schumacher's presentation to WCs
  • Picked from the Bunch
  • Brazilian Tidbits

TV Coverage in New Zealand

New Zealands Sky television released this statement on Friday:

Thank you for your recent email in regards to SKY's 1999 Formula One coverage,

TVNZ have announced that they have secured the rights to the Formula One for the next 3 years. Whilst we are disappointed our bid was unsuccessful, we are pleased New Zealanders are able to see the races live.

If you have any further queries please our Customer Services Department on 0800 759 759.


After the acrimony that has accompanied the TV rights wrangling, it might pay to read the following fax from the FIA to Jim Berry, reproduced with kind permission of Formula-1.co.uk:

Formula One Administration Limited (FOA) are pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached with Television New Zealand Limited ("TVNZ") ensuring that live and delayed coverage of Formula One events will be broadcast for the next 3 years to fans in New Zealand.

The agreement ensures that Formula One fans in New Zealand can enjoy enhanced free coverage of Formula One including coverage of the Saturday qualifying sessions, the race and race highlights.

FOA regret that they were unable to renew their agreement with Sky Television Limited (Sky). As some recent comments in the press about our negotiations with Sky have been misleading, FOA would like to clarify that:

  • Prior to the 1999 Australian Grand Prix, FOA offered the rights for 1999 to Sky for a drastically reduced rights fee from the fees paid by Sky in 1997 and 1998. Despite this and various other concessions, Sky chose not to conclude that deal.
  • Following the 1999 Australian Grand Prix, Sky sought to re-open the negotiations, but despite further concessions from FOA and a further reduction in the fee, agreement still could not be reached.
  • Since then, Sky have sought to acquire rights to broadcast by pay per view, however, as this would have severely restricted coverage in New Zealand, FOA decided to pursue alternative options to ensure that the Formula One fans in New Zealand were given the opportunity of continuing to receive the coverage the deserve.
  • At no stage during the negotiations with Sky for the rights to broadcast events of the 1999 FIA Formula One World Championship have FOA ever suggested or insisted, that Sky should not be able to broadcast other open wheeler racing.
Formula One Administration Limited
Friday, 9 April 1999

This fax indicates that it is not always the FOA who are to blame. Therefore if you have an issue regarding TV coverage of F1 (or lack of it) don't assume it is always the FOA, or greed, that's to blame.

The fax number for the FOA (Formula One Administration) is +44 (0) 171 589 2191

Minardi Crashes

Rumours are circulating that Sarrazin's crash took the same form as Luca Badoer's - and the team has a problem with it's drive by wire system.

The complexity of the system, and the relatively rare circumstances of failure, leave the team speculating concerning the causes of the problem, and make it difficult to prove it has been fixed.

There's been no official comment from the Minardi camp, but reports inside reports seem to indicate Sarrazin's failure was related to a suspension member giving way, not the drive by wire system failing.

Brazilian GP to move?

With many teams complaining every year about the conditions of the Interlagos circuit, which is notoriously bumpy, it seems the sports authorities could be making changes for the 2000 season.

Rumours started when Bernie Ecclestone did not attend the Brazilian Grand Prix, which is in the final year of it's hosting contract. It's believed that the circuit could keep the Grand Prix, but only by introducing a number of changes, including resurfacing the track.

Three times world champion Nelson Piquet and Emerson Fittipaldi are heavilly involved with the Jacarepagua track near Rio de Janeiro, which hosted the Brazilian Grand Prix from 1973 to 1988. It's believed they are making a strong bid to host Formula One from 2000.

Press Conferences from Brazil

If you have real audio, then you can hear the press conferences for Qualifying and the race.

For more information, and other formats, click here!

Review of Brazil 1999

The Championship race is on...

by David Cunliffe

Two of the main contenders topped the podium at Interlagos. The World Champion, Mika Hakkinen, took his first win of the season, and his biggest rival, Michael Schumacher, was only 5s behind at the finish - the race for the title is now well and truly joined.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen came in third to score his second podium position for Jordan, but the man of the race was again Rubens Barrichello. After qualifying his Stewart-Ford a stunning third at his home circuit, Rubens gained a place at the start as second placed man David Coulthard was left standing on the grid. The on form Brazilian then proceeded to shadow leader Mika Hakkinen for four laps until the Finn had a slight, but temporary, problem at the start of lap five which dropped him to third.

Rubens then confidently led the race, keeping the gap to second placed Michael Schumacher to around 3 seconds, until he pitted about one third of the way through. He returned to the fray in fourth, 28.5s down on the leader, close behind the Melbourne winner, Eddie Irvine. Stewart GP's Deputy Chairman, Paul son of Jackie, was seen optimistically scurrying down the pitlane to speak to Ferrari boss Jean Todt, presumably to ask him to radio Eddie to move over. Whether or not the Ulsterman listened to any such request, Barrichello made short work of him to take third with a clean overtaking manoeuvre at Turn 1.

To read the whole article, click here!

Brazil Race Warmup - Reaction

The warmup ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix appears to demonstrate Michael Schumacher's claims that Ferrari are more competitive in race trim - posting times within 6 tenths of Mika Hakkinen's best for McLaren. The issue for the race ahead will making the podium… which means getting ahead of Stewart's Rubens Barrichello.

Rubens own goals include getting amongst the McLarens for the first corner, which he sees could give him the potential to really put the cat among the pigeons! He is not complacent about the pace of Ferrari, but the soft compound tyres could give him a sufficient early performance advantage to keep Michael Schumacher at bay.

Other surprises from the warmup are Panis in fourth place, showing he's finally getting the Prost car setup right for the race ahead. He has often gone well here in the past, and must be hoping to get into the points this afternoon. With a good race, and a modicum of fortune, he might do just that.

Damon Hill rescued an indifferent session with a strong last run to place his Jordan 4 thousandths off his team mate's time. The lack of running - broken car on Friday, and shortened practice yesterday - have made a mark on Hill, but the Englishman still thinks both Jordans can take points home today.

With Jacques Villeneuve of BAR and Ralf Schumacher from Williams just making the top ten, and Giancarlo Fisichella's Benetton well down the timesheets, it seems the struggle for points might exclude all the Supertec runners.

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