F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 30th May, 1999:

F1 hopes for Lotus decline

With news that Lotus are closing their windtunnel facility at Wyndonham in Norfolk at the end of June, it seems that their five years of attempting to return to Formula One will not continue to be based on the original team.

David Hunt, the owner, has been talking to Bernie Ecclestone about the possibilities for occupying the twelfth and final spot on the grid in 2000. This latest news means that if the team does return, then it will be in name only.

There is still speculation concerning the Lotus name being tied to the current Honda Development team, or an F3000 team making the transition.

Irvine could outqualify Schumacher again...

One of the biggest features of the F399 is it's exceptional balance. The car is arguably the best balanced of all the current crop, for all it's aerodynamics and engine power are a fraction behind McLaren's.

One of the advantages of a balanced car, is that it is easier on tyres. This allows Ferrari to run on the softer compound where other teams might have to use the harder compounds, potentially worth half a second on some tracks, compared to their harder shod rivals.

The particular characteristic allows Eddie Irvine to perform closer to the limit of the car. Michael Schumacher, famously, can get the best out of even a relatively ill-behaved car where his team-mates might struggle.

What this does mean, however, is that the drivers are both performing as well as the car itself permits, enabling whoever gets the best balance in a given session to outperform the other; including qualifying sessions - something Schumacher senior is not accustomed to!

The net result is that the qualifying positions at Barcelona, whilst unusual, were no accident - and it would not be a surprise to see Irvine ahead of Schumacher on the grid for other races this season.

Jordan 'Power Up' for Canada

Following sessions with the new Mugen-Honda V10 in Spain, Jordan are looking forward to trying their new engine in earnest, when it's used for qualifying in Canada.

The new engine develops more top end power - potentially bettering the Ford unit and rivalling Mercedes for pure power. Combined with good drivability, allowing excellent traction out of slow corners, the team is looking forward to competing against Ferrari and McLaren in the qualify session.

Silly Season for 2000 under way...

In Formula One, a driver's seat is only as good as his last race, and already - with a number of contracts up for renewal at the end of the year - the rumours are flying about who's in, and who's out.

In the last couple of weeks, drivers in the news include:

  • Alexander Wurz - expecting Benetton to excersise their option on him
  • Giancarlo Fisichella - Benetton expect to retain his services for 2000
  • Eddie Irvine - rumoured to be lining up either an equal contract at Ferrari, or a move to number one spot elsewhere
  • Olivier Panis - is likely to find Prost taking on Stephane Sarrazin in his place
  • Damon Hill - needs to turn his season around really fast to regain his teams confidence in his abilities - particularly with Honda rumoured to be trying to place Nakano (Jordan test driver) in a racing seat
Accordingly, the silly season page will be returning to F1 Rumors in the near future...

Atlas-F1 Grapevine

This week's Atlas F1 Grapevine:

  • Team feedback session for FIA
  • McLaren's shiny new hope for Canada
  • Picked from the Bunch
  • Spain Tidbits

David Coulthard - What Right to Ridicule?

by Julie Gates

What heinous crime has Coulthard committed? Why is it that everywhere we look there are people putting him down left, right and centre? Is he not worthy of peoples' time or respect?

OK, it might be fair to say that Coulthard is not the best driver in Formula One, but this is no reason to disrespect the guy. He still earned a place among the top twenty-two drivers in the world, and has driven some brilliant races during his career. Perhaps those should be mentioned more instead of just reliving the mistakes he has made?

Like the Austrian Grand Prix last year? He finished second after stopping on the first lap for a new nosecone, placing him last! He drove a meteoric race, and overtook rather a lot of cars for someone who supposedly can't overtake - this is the same race where Michael Schumacher's driving mistake put him to the back of the pack, but he failed to catch and pass Coulthard. Then again, there's the San Marino Grand Prix from 1998 - his lone victory that season. He drove another brilliant race, and held Schumacher at bay even though he had to take it relatively easy, due to debris embedded in one of his sidepods!

To read the whole article, click here!

ITV-F1 Viewfinder

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

  • Reaction to Spain - "Car Wars: Return of the Jedi," F1 Rumors reviews the Spanish Grand Prix for ITV
  • Humour: A Slow History of the Fastest Lap - Humour by Inky Black, with cartoon by Gurmit
  • Who'll Reign in Spain? - Checking out prospects in Barcelona
  • Reaction to Monaco - A review of the Monaco Grand Prix
  • Technical: Perfect Corners - Julie Gates explains weight distribution and Center of Gravity.

Keeping Up With the Mosleys

A Lesson From Sportscar Racing's Turmoil

by Emily Wheeler, USA

Imagine, if you will, this tragic scenario:

WOKING, England--McLaren rocked the motor racing world today by announcing their withdrawal from Formula One for the 2000 season, based on the FIA's requirement that all teams adopt slick tyres for the new year. A spokesman stated "the team cannot justify the expense of a complete chassis redesign, as required for the new tyres, especially in light of the changes made in 1999 to support the four-grooved tyre. Therefore, the decision has been made to withdraw from Formula One competition for the year 2000."

Happily, this is not the state of affairs. But the world of sportscar racing, which carries the same long-held traditions and extraordinary costs as Formula One, was shocked by news as earth-shattering when Porsche withdrew from competition at the end of 1998, because of the skyrocketing expenses associated with changes to racing's rules.

To read the whole article, click here!

McLaren Ready to Rock

With both cars going the whole distance in Spain, the McLaren team believes they are getting on top of the reliability issues that plagued their start to the season.

Realistically, the team recognises that the cars are not as reliable as the Ferrari's - and probably won't be over the remainder of the year. Correspondingly, they are looking to ensure that when a car does make the finish, it is ahead of the competition.

In order to ensure this is the case, a number of projects that sat on the back burner whilst reliability issues figured so highly are being brought forward. Some of these might even be ready for the Canadian Grand Prix - though how much difference that will make is unknown at this time.

Projects are rumoured to include some new, light weight parts in the rear suspension, with a new configuration; the "Ferrari" like periscope exhaust, and some new electronics. Whatever is actually in the works, it is likely to serve in the performance quest, and keep the car at least on terms with Ferrari, who certainly are not standing still themselves.

Of course, if McLaren's newfound reliability holds up, and the two leading teams really pull away, then there will only be three points per race up for grabs between the other teams, ensuring the fight for third place and down in the championship is as tight as the battle for the title.

Review of Spain 1999

Swings and roundabouts

by David Cunliffe

McLaren-Mercedes needed a 1-2 in Spain to reinvigorate their Championship challenges. Hakkinen and Coulthard duly delivered, relegating Schumacher and his Ferrari team-mate Irvine to 3rd and 4th. No points this time though for the other early season front runners, Jordan and Stewart - the final places in the top six were claimed by Ralf Schumacher for Williams-Supertec and Jarno Trulli for Prost-Peugeot.

After a tense and close fight for pole on Saturday, the Ferraris looked a lot more competitive at the Barcelona track - supposedly the team's worst - than expected. Irvine had outpaced his team leader for once, qualifying 2nd to Schumacher's 4th; the two McLarens were alongside, with Hakkinen keeping his 100% pole position winning record for the season. Irvine was to hinder rather than help the Ferrari No1 as the red lights dimmed - he started poorly and impeded Schumacher's fine start, allowing Jacques Villeneuve to grab 3rd place. For lap after lap, the Canadian impressively held off the Ferraris in his under-powered BAR-Supertec as the McLarens steamed off to take a seemingly unassailable lead.

To read the whole report, click here!

Race Feedback

Although processional, the Spanish Grand Prix had some interesting moments - right from Eddie Irvine's poor start giving Jacques Villeneuve a chance to move into third, and Damon Hill passing Rubens Barrichello for seventh place at the end.

Full race report by David Cunliffe to follow...

To see results and timings, and listen to the post race press conference, click here!

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