F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 2nd May, 1999:

Ferrari's Best Co-Driver

With only three races run in the 1999 season, daggers are drawn, and speculation is flowing on the subject of Eddie Irvine's replacement for the 2000 season!

The Irishman has been putting in sterling work at Ferrari, and performed nearly on a par with his illustrious team leader - actually heading the championship until San Marino, and still in second place overall now. Hardly grounds for dismissal, you might think!

However, there's always something going on, and right now, it seems that the hint of discontent in the Ferrari camp (see Altas F1 Grapevine), combined with knowing the Irishman's contract expires this year, has sponsored the following rumours:

  • Jean Alesi is to return to Ferrari - a team he has regretted leaving. Allegedly, he is happy to play second fiddle to his friend Michael Schumacher, and wishes he had never lost his temper with Jean Todt.
  • Jeff Gordan could make the transition from NASCAR to Formula One, to drive a Ferrari next year.
  • Pedro Diniz is favoured by Michael Schumacher as a team mate for 2000 - he Brazilian "knows his role as a number two," or somesuch.
  • Giancarlo Fisichella has been approached by Ferrari, but there's no sign of any contract.
It makes for interesting reading, and provides a filler until the silly season gets going for real. But it's all pure speculation at this time - and something that Ferrari are likely to want to stop before it gets out of hand, as they have a Championship to concentrate on.

If Eddie Irvine wishes to remain, and continues to perform as he has to date, then that's what will happen. Expect an early announcement of next years lineup from the Italian Marque...

Silver Mika vs Red Michael

by Julie Gates

The current World Champion or the former double World Champion? Just who exactly should have the crown for today's best driver in Formula One? From the first sentence, a majority of readers are shouting "Schumacher" at the computer screens! Is the issue really as clear cut as that, though? If you look at the statistics, then Schumacher is clearly in a league of his own, but statistics are only one chapter of the book…

Pressure - who handles it better? Who is strongest psychologically? There's a difficult question! Turn the clock back to Adelaide 1995. At this Grand Prix, we saw Mika Hakkinen close to the grave, and apparently unlikely to set foot in a Formula One car again. Today he is World Champion and stronger than ever, full of confidence and growing as a driver with every race that goes by. He has rebounded from a tough psychological position, managing all the pressures of that situation. Many would say it demonstrates that he has the capacity to deal with anything... including a certain German.

To read the whole article, click here!

Atlas-F1 Grapevine

This week's Atlas F1 Grapevine:

  • Schumacher's Ire at Eddie
  • Benetton Looking to Monaco
  • Picked from the Bunch
  • San Marino Tidbits

Alesi's Ferrari Intentions

Jean Alesi made his intentions clear in French newspapers L'Equipe (Monday) and Liberation (Saturday). In both, he stated his friendship with Michael Schumacher, recounted his regret at the angry parting with Jean Todt in 1995, and made it clear he has volunteered to return to Ferrari.

Last September, Ferrari is known to have talked to a number of drivers (including Alesi) concerning the number two role with the team. It is speculated that Eddie Irvine was upset not to have been informed first - he clearly believes his loyalty to the team has been demonstrated and he has earned some back. Correspondingly, rumours of the Irishman changing team have been rife ever since.

It is believed that Alesi signed an option with Ferrari last September, enabling them to call on his services for the 2000 season; furthermore, there have been reports that the Sauber man has been seen at Maranello since Brazil. If this is the case, then things certainly start to fall into place - we can expect an early announcement from the Italian marque concerning it's number two driver next year: perhaps the mercurial Frenchman will make a return to the team he's always regretted leaving.

Stewart and Jordan moving forward

Stewart and Jordan are both looking to gain the most from their pre season competitiveness.

The Stewart team are currently the "best of the rest" behind McLaren and Ferrari, but need to capitalise on their performance before the higher budget teams can get their act together and close the gap. They have more revisions to the engines in the works, and some aerodynamic upgrades that could bring them closer to the front, particularly in low downforce setup

Jordan, on the other hand, are looking to accelerate their programs in the same fashion as last year. The team hopes that developing at the same rate as last year should allow them to close the gap to McLaren and Ferrari by the end of the season - and certainly overhauling Stewart around the mid season. Qualifying in San Marino was a disappointment, but the results are coming, and there's lots more yet - particularly from Honda. Should Jordan make it up to Ferrari and McLaren's performance, they can expect to at least maintain third in the Constructors Championship.

Review of San Marino 1999

Tifosi Heaven

by David Cunliffe

An elated Italian crowd left the Imola circuit at the end of a dramatic race, happy to have witnessed the first win of the season by their hero, Michael Schumacher. Though hero No2, Eddie Irvine, failed to finish because of a rare Ferrari engine failure, the Northern Irishman completes a Ferrari 1-2 at the head of the World Championship table with three races gone. The Italian team is also now 18 points clear in the chase for the Constructors' Championship. Arch rivals McLaren took only six points from a stolid second place for David Coulthard, after Mika Hakkinen made an uncharacteristic mistake at the last corner and put his Silver Arrow into the wall, much to delight of the partisan crowd. Once again, Rubens Barrichello had a great race for Stewart-Ford, this time clinching the bottom step of the podium.

To read the whole article, click here!

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