F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 16th May, 1999:

Engines for Spain

Ferrari's hopes to introduce their next engine specification for the Spanish Grand Prix have allegedly been thwarted by potential relibility issues. What should have been a new revision to their already excellent V10 package has been put off, after reliability problems in testing.

With a lead in the championship to consider, it is seen as better to run a slightly lower spec engine and finish in the points, than possibly retire and score none. It's unknown if the Ferrari team will be running the new engine in qualifying.

Jordan's promised "new revision" engine from Mugen-Honda could cause some friction in the team. If rumours are to be believed, then only one car will run the new engine in Spain. It is speculated that comparing the resulting telemetry will define the development direction for the engine over the remainder of the season.

If this is the case, then it places the Jordan team in an interesting position. Damon Hill's luck and performances this season have lagged behind his team-mate, so the last thing the Englishman would require is a power handicap - the press are already claiming he is over the hill. On the other hand, it could make the difference between fourth place and a podium for Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who is in form. Added to that, both drivers have "equal status" within the team...

Mark Webber back in the News

Following earlier rumours that all the talented Australian Mark Webber requires in order to secure a Formula One drive is a lot of sponsorship, and a larger dose of luck, it seems things may be starting to fall into place.

Webber's chances have taken a positive turn as Ron Walker (chairman of the Australian Grand Prix) has been gaining support for him from the Australian Business community. It's believed that they can stump a couple of million Australian dollars to get him a drive somewhere.

After Webber met Ecclestone in Monaco - attempting to generate his own luck - it seems that there is a real chance of at least a test drive next season. Names mentioned include Jordan and Sauber, though Minardi, Williams and Stewart are all viable test drive options. Odds on landing a racing seat are very long, however.

Honda Pleased with Progress

After the first day of testing in Barcelona, the Honda team's driver Jos Verstappen had clocked the sixth fastest time of the day.

The team believes this is a good indication not only of the excellent job made of producing the car in the first place, but of their progress through the season to stay on the pace of the leading teams.

The team think this performance is significant, and shows they could have been racing this year - probably scoring points by now, as reliability has been excellent. The general attitude is "roll on 2000," although no-one seems to know quite what is planned for the Honda Racing Team then...

Atlas-F1 Grapevine

This week's Atlas F1 Grapevine:

  • Clandestine Calendars
  • Honda Plans V12 and V10 for 2000
  • Picked from the Bunch
  • Monaco Tidbits

Ferrari Traction Control?

Since both Ferraris got off the line so cleanly in Monaco - performing synchronised perfect starts - there has been a rumour floating around that Ferrari have a traction control system in place.

Formula-1.co.uk carry a typical example of the rumour; except that the originator claims to have photos exhibiting a "green glow" from the rear brakes - truly remarkable!

Whatever the reason for Ferrari's excellent start to the race - which their strategy apparently depended upon - there will always be critics, ready to put any good work down as cheating; if the car is running illegal devices, it will come out in the wash sooner or later. And we'll be first to provide the inside track!

Lotus Resurface

One of the most believable "Lotus Return" rumours - since the company departed Formula One - has started the rounds.

With AutoSport reporting that David Hunt has acquired the Lotus Team for half a million dollars, and announcing $81 million in financial backing, the Lotus name could capitalise on Honda's inability to field a chassis in 2000, and make their own entry.

The rumours do not go so far as to speculate on an engine supply (presumably if BAR go for the Honda deal, a Supertec engine is likely), or the cost of buying into the grid.

Unlikely speculation has it that this is part of a face saving exercise by Honda. The design team that built the Honda chassis might well find they have a new home to go to in Team Lotus, as soon as Honda announce they are only producing engines for the 2000 season. Next they'll announce there's a Mugen-Honda engine destined for the car too, no doubt.

Bridgestone work well with Ferrari

With the news that Bridgestone are pleased with the feedback concerning their Extra-Soft tyre at Monaco, there are some less than sporting rumours that Ferrari were in a position to influence it's development to their advantage in an earlier test this year.

In the tyre test session around the Brazilian Grand Prix, which Ferrari attended and McLaren did not, speculation has it that the Extra Soft compound tyres were developed further. Naturally, as Ferrari were doing the testing, it was to their benefit.

It's unlikely that Bridgestone are actively promoting Ferrari's chances this year, and this rumour undoubtedly reflects Ferrari's better performance on this tyre compound in Monaco. It will be interesting to see if McLaren suffer again, should Bridgestone bring their Extra Soft tyres to any future races in 1999.

Williams Struggle On

Williams suffered a beating at the hands of Benetton during the race - their cars did not perform as well at Monaco as expected. Consequently, the team is embarking on trying to fix the problems, and at least ensure they are the "best of the Supertec runners."

Patrick Head is quoted as saying the team hopes to be on track for Barcelona, but sources indicate that could be a tall order. There's a lot of development in the pipleline for the car, but it's really due for the Silverstone Grand Prix.

Having said that, the Williams team has never been known to give in easilly, and their intent to fight back should be taken seriously. They are rumoured to have a couple of projects in the pipeline which could be advanced... and if either produces a significant step, then they could regain the initiative from Benetton.

McLaren's Reaction

Whilst McLaren were disappointed to score only the single third place at the Monaco Grand Prix, the team is not especially disheartened.

The track evidently suited Ferrari - who performed superbly all weekend, gaining good mechanical grip, and making the most of the situation. Furthermore, Michael Schumacher is generally acknowledged as a brilliant driver on the circuit. It provided the Prancing Horse with a level field on aerodynamics and engine power, something that's not likely to be repeated over the next few races.

For Barcelona, McLaren have new parts to test - some to increase aerodynamic performace, some to improve reliability. And a new revision Mercedes engine, boasting improved top end power, and better drivability at the bottom of the range.

All told, the Monaco result was excellent news for Ferrari, and they earned the victory, but Mika's front suspension problem took an edge off his pace, making the Ferrari appear more dominant than it really is. Overall, McLaren believe they still have an advantage, and the new parts will only improve it.

Review of Monaco 1999

A red whitewash...

by David Cunliffe

Michael Schumacher and Ferrari put another result in the record books today. The German's 35th GP win was his 16th for Ferrari, one more than Niki Lauda who was previously the driver with most wins for the Scuderia. Eddie Irvine completed another ecstatic day for the tifosi, bringing his red car home in second place, just ahead of Mika Hakkinen. It was, as Martin Brundle remarked on TV, a Ferrari whitewash.

After an exciting qualifying session on Saturday, the McLarens just had the edge, with Hakkinen stealing pole at the last moment and Coulthard directly behind in third on the clean side of the circuit. But the Ferraris were alongside, ready to pounce. The team's drivers returned to Fiorano to practice their starts after qualifying. And it paid off handsomely. Schumacher and Irvine both squeezed past their Silver Arrows rivals at the first corner, Ste Devote, and hared off up the hill towards Casino Square. At the end of lap one, the Ferrari No1 was 1.3s ahead of his opposite number at McLaren. The respective No2s were 3rd and 4th.

Rubens Barrichello was an impressive 5th again for Stewart-Ford, and Frentzen was 6th looking likely to score more points for Jordan. Their team-mates were having a less happy time. Damon Hill, running way down in 17th, tried an over-ambitious move on his former team-Mate, Ralf Schumacher, at the "New Chicane", they touched, and Damon's race was over after only three laps. Rubens' team-mate, Johnny Herbert, lasted 29 laps more than his compatriot but then went out spectacularly on the way down to Mirabeau as his suspension failed. Little did Rubens know that he would have a carbon copy failure towards the end of the race whilst running strongly in fifth. Still, at least their Ford engines didn't explode this time...

To read the rest, click here!

Schumacher Dominates at Monaco

Michael Schumacher put on a superb performance at at Monaco, dominating to take the flag clearly in control of the race. Eddie Irvine managed an excellent race to take the second step on the podium, capitalising on Mika Hakkinen's sole mistake (delayed by a spin in Takagi's Arrows engine's oil).

Once the race began, where both Ferrari's made suspiciously identical perfect starts, each making a single place to take first and third respectively, it all unfolded in (for Monaco) simple form: Schumacher pulled away at a second per lap, and led from first to last. Hakkinen was beaten by Eddie Irvine, who's two stop strategy played exactly right when the World Champion span.

A dismal day for McLaren, only taking four points as David Coulthard's gearbox gave up. Spinners and crashers out included Damon Hill, who tried an overly abitious manoeuver on Ralf Schumacher on lap three - frustration getting the better of the Jordan man, whose team mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen again drove a mature race to take fourth place.

Rubens Barrichello was disappointed to lose the back end in the Swimming Pool complex in the closing stages of the race, handing his fifth place to Benetton's Giancarlo Fisichella, and promoting Alexander Wurz to sixth place - the three points they scored move the team ahead of Williams in the standings.

Full race report, from David Cunliffe, to follow...

To see session times, and hear the press conference, click here!

Warmup, overview

The warmup for this afternoons Grand Prix was revealing - Michael Schumacher headed the timesheets for Ferrari, with Eddie Irvine half a second behind, both ahead of the McLarens of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard. If they leave the grid in qualifying order, there might be an on track pass for the lead - which would be ironic, as Monaco has the reputation of a non-passing circuit!

Damon Hill showed that yesterday's result was an aberation - caused by dented confidense and lost track time - by clocking the fifth fastest time, ahead of Ralf Schumacher's Williams, and team mate Frentzen's Jordan. Zanardi spun out in the other Williams, and finished the session near the bottom of the list...

The Supertec runners in general - barring Ralf Schumacher - faired worse than in qualifying. With a mixture of Soft and Extra Soft compounds on the grid, it should be interesting to see how the strategies unwind... and if there might even be the odd passing manoevre!

To see session times, click here!

ITV-F1 Viewfinder

On the ITV-F1 Viewfinder column, provided by F1 Rumors, you can find:

  • Monaco - Spectator Sport - what makes Monaco the Jewel in the Formula One Crown
  • Technical: Perfect Corners - Julie Gates explains weight distribution and Center of Gravity.

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