F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 25th April, 1999:

Qualifying Reaction

Close at the front - Michael Schumacher nearly managed to get himself onto the front row, which would have sent the Tifosi wild. David Coulthard's last ditch attempt at pole was excellent, and behind them, Jacques Villeneuve did remarkably well to get his underpowered car so far up the grid. It's a top performance from the BAR team, and a real chance to finally get some points on the board if Jacques can drag it to the finish.

Others who did well - Panis recovering from his Prost expiring on the circuit to make eleventh place, ahead of his (also troubled) team mate, and Rubens Barrichello, who again placed his car well up the grid.

It bodes less well for the Jordans, - they chose the soft option with tyres, which is supposed to be worth upto seven tenths in a lap, only to be placed seventh and eighth. It will be interesting to see if their race strategy will work out tomorrow...

But for the race, it seems there could finally be something interesting going on at the front. The Ferrari should be even closer to the pace in race trim, and with Eddie Irvine on soft tyres covering all the options, there could be two Ferrari's on the podium.

The race is likely to be decided by strategy, but with a mix of hard and soft tyres, and overtaking opportunities, this could be a race to remember!

Reaction to Practice

Looking at the orders, you might think that "normal service has resumed" in most camps - McLaren on top, Ferrari next, and Stewart edging in front of Jordan... but then you'll notice that the Jordans are bracketted by the Williams of Ralf Schumacher and Alex Zanardi.

Compared to the qualifying sessions earlier this year, the drivers are all performing very similarly to their team mates - indicating that they are all on the limits of their cars, rather than their own skills!

What this means for qualifying is that unless the teams mix their tyre types, they are likely to see their drivers qualify alongside each other - something which happened a lot last year.

What bodes well is that Michael Schumachers times are clearly within half a second of the McLarens demonstrating that Ferrari have closed the gap somewhat - something they desperately needed in front of their home crowd. Whether that's enough to see a scarlet car on the front row is to be seen - pole will probably go to Coulthard, who's performing very well, unless a mechanical error or spin puts him out!

Behind that, look for the teams to come out pretty much in order - with both Stewarts going well this time, as Johnny Herbert is on terms with his team mate. Ralf Schumacher could be one to watch as he has put in some sensational laps; but then again, his team mate Zanardi has not suffered so much bad luck yet this weekend, and has his best chance yet of demonstrating he has the measure of the young German in front of his home crowd.

Expect Prost and Sauber to go better than the other Supertec runners - with Alesi either pulling something special out of the bag to mix with the Stewarts and Jordans, or being outqualified by Diniz... always an extremist, he's totally unpredictable here!

Here, tyre choice will depend on race strategy, so we could be seeing the Williams running soft whilst the other Supertec's are on medium tyres, looking for qualifying and race advantage respectively. At the front, it's anyones guess - but it has the makings of an excellent session, and the first realistic chance of a mixed front row this year.

Ferrari Upgraded

Michael Schumacher's chances of winning at Imola are limited - the McLarens will continue to have a performance advantage until the new revision Ferrari engine comes on line.

That does not mean that Ferrari are standing still! They have worked on some aerodynamic solutions that should already be helping to close the gap to McLaren - and they hope the deficit is less than half a second in Qualifying at San Marino. The main change to allow this is the well publisised front wing, but there is speculation that there is a modification to the rear suspension which helps gain traction. How this works is yet to be revealed!

Work in the pipeline include new front and rear wings, the new engine and further changes to the suspension - the car that is finally competitive will be very much evolved from the F399 revealed at the start of the season!

San Marino Jet-Set

the Further Adventures of the BayWatch All-Girl Pit Crew
(- see F1 Articles section for back-issues)

by Inky Black

Breaking in to Formula One can be tough. And two races into the 1999 season the BayWatch All-Girl Pit Crew had already crashed their '67 BRM and '58 Maserati. In doing so they had made few friends; they had gotten the FIA pretty mad; and on top of everything else, their tobacco spitting was getting out of hand. Yes, the pit crew from so deep in Georgia that they live in North Florida, had dribbled so much "chew" down the sides of the rent-a-car that the FIA thought they had tobacco sponsors.

The crew arrived at San Marino with four excellent tires and wheels; fitted with some high-tech carbon-fiber brakes. These had stopped on a dime at the Brazil GP; but the suspension snapped and the '58 Maserati tub stopped on a quarter. Unfortunately the quarter was in somebody's pocket in downtown Interlagos.

At the nearby Rimini Beach army surplus and scrap yard, the crew looked for something to race at Imola. Their budget was tight and there wasn't much hope that the crew would find a race car. Yet as overhead cranes dropped Minardis scatter-shot across the yard, the BayWatch All-Girl Pit Crew glimpsed something. "Yes!" It was their ride for Imola. A 1949 Saab!

To read the whole article, click here!

Atlas-F1 Grapevine

This week's Atlas F1 Grapevine:

  • Pressure on BAR to Salo's Benefit
  • European Grand Prix Shakeup
  • Picked from the Bunch

Jordan sign Lucent

Lucent Technologies (the worlds largest maker of telecommunications equipment, based in the US) has signed a three year deal with Jordon which will be offically announced at San Marino. The deal will ensure the Lucent logo remains on the arms on the drivers suits.

Getting the Lucent logo on the podium in both the first two races helped to seal the deal...

The original deal was with Bennetton but Lucent terminated it when the team's management changed; there is also speculation that Lucent are considering being the official sponsor for the 2000 Indy F1 race.

Playing the Odds

There's a rumour that Eddie Irvine has placed a substantial bet on himself - leading the Championship going to Monaco.

Looking at the points situation, and McLaren's reliability, he's got a better than fifty percent chance of pulling it off! Should Mika fail to complete the San Marino Grand Prix, Eddie's lead should be maintainable - if he finishes in the points.

Should Mika finish, but come off second best to David Coulthard, Eddie will need to take the last podium spot - which is most likely to be taken by Michael Schumacher - to keep his advantage in the championship.

The rumour is probably just that - a rumour - but should it turn out to be true, it shows commendable spirit from the Irishman, who is certainly having his best year ever - McLaren's pace notwithstanding!

Jerez Fallout

All the teams were pursuing their own programs in Jerez, with some teams working only on race setup, or testing new parts, and others loooking for qualifying setups. It makes the timed results very difficult to interpret, so possibly it's better to go by the teams reactions.

McLaren were disappointed to suffer reliability problems, particularly as they were only running one car. Ferrari capitalised on day one, to take the fastest time, though David Coulthard demonstrated quite adequately there's more work to be done by getting into shape on day two. The Ferrari team was encouraged by the results, and really do think Michael could manage to be less than half a second off the pace in San Marino.

Jordan and Stewart were surprised by the pace of the Supertec teams - whose new engine has some potential it seems. Williams showed they have not lost the plot, setting some very fast times whilst looking for qualifying setup, and Jacques Villeneuve put some excellent runs together. Benetton are happy with Wurz work, and feel they've made a good step ahead of San Marino.

The Prost team were feeling good after scoring in Brazil, and took that optimism to Jerez. They are in with a shout of making some points this season, after a positive test, and more parts in the pipeline...

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