F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 11th July, 1999:

Williams test Backwards

In the Friday practice for the British Grand Prix, Williams gambled on testing some new aerodynamics to gain performance: Ralf Schumacher was impressed with the improved handling of the car, and the team adopted the new parts for the race weekend.

In testing at Monza over the last week, the team has completed their evaluation, performing the tests which would normally take place ahead of trying to race with the new parts. The tests established Ralf's opinion was very much right - indeed, the (misquoted) claims that this year's Williams could be as good as McLaren, given the same engine, might not be so extravagent at the moment.

The revised aerodynamics are expected to be a feature on the car in Austria: it's unknown at this time if they will be used in Germany.

ITV-F1 Viewfinder

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

  • Technical: Gravel Traps - Scott Gruer explains the issues
  • Looking back on Silverstone - A sideways look at the British Grand Prix
  • Humour: Dodgy Bets at the British Grand Prix - Humour by Inky Black with Cartoon by Gurmit

Minardi's Supertec Aspirations

Since Ford announced their withdrawal from the customer engine market, Minardi have been casting around for a reasonable deal to keep them on the grid. With their tight budget, a top of the line model is out of the question, but a three year old unit wouldn't allow them to qualify.

At this point in time, the team are in negotiations with Supertec, attempting to close a deal which would again see the company supplying three teams.

There has been rumour and speculation that Bernie Ecclestone was attempting to arrange a twelfth team on the grid next year, provisionally running Supertec engines - he has an interest in the company, and that makes a lot of sense.

Supertec was stretched to provide engines to three teams this year. The legendary reliability of the engine has taken something of a beating, as it's failed several times. Furthermore, they are looking to provide a completely new engine for 2000, which could help alleviate the power problems that are so problematic to this year's teams.

If Minardi closes a deal for the Supertec engine, it's going to take a huge chunk out of their budget, which would have a significant impact on their chassis development. Just as significantly, it means that any twelfth player next year must find their own engine deal - as Supertec certainly won't be able to supply a third of the grid!

Tribute to a Cliche

Growing too Big for Ones Boots...

by David Bell

So far, the 1999 season has played host to the same old winners, losers, occasional heroes and villains, but with a slight difference. A new driver has emerged from Maranello. Gone now, surely, are the days of lap dog Eddie, the second fiddle team-mate to the German double World Champion he so reveres? Why, the relaxed Ulsterman, known to an adoring crowd of 88 grand prix starts, is now a winner. He is no longer Schumacher's apprentice. The taste of success has been sampled and enjoyed. Eddie Irvine's contribution to this year's campaign has been as crucial as anyone's. But, and this is a big 'but,' the unbounded ego of this man is shamelessly and incessantly damaging the hopes for his future in Formula One.

Taking a refresher course... Melbourne opened the silly season. The down-under contretemps saw both Mclarens retire with mechanical failures after Hakkinen's pre-race attempt to bring the roof down (given a smaller stockpile of Bridgestones, he might even have reshuffled the management). Michael Schumacher stalled on the grid for the second consecutive time, being relegated to the Minardi row, before a mid-race puncture destroyed all realistic hope of points. Fate had heard Johnny Herbert was now in a Stewart, but not which one, so causing both to simultaneously lose their engines on the grid. Hill's trial was in session after an early exit and poor Murray Walker was left befuddled by the unexpected melange of six different constructors forming the leaders. Irvine led the pack but the margins of victory were minimal indeed.

Click here to read the entire article

Trulli's Dilemma

With Prost unsure they will be keeping the Peugeot deal until the end if next year, the offer from Jordan must look like like a Godsend to Jarno Trulli.

The team is looking unlikely to manage the performance criteria required to keep him, should he choose to move; and the only other option to date has been a potential drive with Ferrari - as number two - but only if Irvine and Barrichello turn the ride down.

A chance to drive with the Jordan team - who are looking strong this year, and could be battling with the leaders next season - would provide Trulli with a chance to race at the front, and even win occasionally.

Where's the dilemma? Well, as it stands there is none. Except that Prost is starting to get into gear in it's own right. The engine Peugeot are promising for next year should be able to compete with the Mercedes, Ford and Ferrari and Honda units for power, whilst carrying a similar weight penalty (estimated at 85 - 90kg).

Furthermore, Prost have a brilliant suspension concept on the drawing board that could give the team the same edge that Williams enjoyed in the early 90's, with their headstart on the active ride technology.

The question is, should he stay and help turn the team into something special, or leave for a current front runner, only to discover progress has diminished, and he's back in the midfield? A dilemma indeed!

Atlas-F1 Grapevine

This week's Atlas F1 Grapevine:

  • Foulston Still Targeting Silverstone
  • Silly Season Update
  • Picked from the Bunch
  • Britain Tidbits

Review of Britain 1999

Triumph and tragedy...

by David Cunliffe

After the tumultuous French GP two weeks ago, the British crowd weren't expecting quite such a dramatic day in the untypically hot and sunny Silverstone weather. Most of them had come to salute Damon Hill, their departing hero, on his last appearance in the British GP. But they also witnessed what was almost certainly the premature end of yet another title challenge by Michael Schumacher.

As the red lights dimmed, there were two stallers on the grid. To give time to clear the start/finish line, the stewards quickly called for the Safety Car. As the field raced down the Hangar Straight to Stowe Corner, some drivers spotted the warnings but others, apparently including Schumacher, were less observant. An as yet unidentified mechanical failure may also have contributed to the severity of his ensuing accident. Whatever the cause, the Ferrari No1 twice almost collected his team-mate and speared straight into the barriers at Stowe at over 100mph, in an accident eerily reminiscent of Senna's fatal crash at Imola.

Click here to read the whole article

Half-term reports

by Julie Gates

Julie Gates has compiled a series of half term reports, looking at all the teams and how they have performed over the first hald of the season:

So, you can see how your favourite teams rate: Arrows, British American Racing, Benetton, Ferrari, Jordan, McLaren, Minardi, Prost, Sauber, Stewart, Williams.

Hill to Complete the Season

Damon Hill has today re-affirmed his pledge to help the Benson and Hedges Jordan team achieve its highest ever placing in the Formula One Constructors' Championship by continuing to race for the remainder of the 1999 season.

Jordan Mugen-Honda currently holds third place in the Championship, a position boosted by Hill's fifth place finish at the British Grand Prix on Sunday 11th July.

Hill commented "I am looking forward to helping the Benson and Hedges Jordan team achieve its highest ever Constructors' Championship position."

Eddie Jordan, Chief Executive of Jordan Grand Prix added, "We are all extremely pleased with Damon's decision. His contribution to this massive team effort is invaluable and we are all eagerly anticipating the last eight races."

Both Hill and Jordan are currently on holiday with their families. B & H Jordan will test this week at Monza with Shinji Nakano and Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

McLaren back on track

Speculation that Mika Hakkinen's wheel problem was a one off could be verified this week. Some pundits believe that a simple cross-threading of the wheel-nut when the tyres went on (at the grid) was to blame.

McLaren are not being complacent with the absence of Schumacher. The team is fully aware that the Ferrari drivers are currently only eight points behind them, and they must make the most of this opportunity to gain a march on their rivals.

The next three circuits - in Austria, Germany and Hungary - saw the McLaren team dominate in 1998. Ferrari's performance is closer this year, and there's no advantage from the tyres, but the team believes that aerodynamic changes for Austria and Hungary, and an engine upgrade for Germany, will keep them in front, barring reliability problems.

Irvine in the Limelight

Eddie Irvine's result in the British Grand Prix puts him alongside Michael Schumacher in the Drivers Championship, pushing him violently into the position he's claimed should be his this season - parity with the Double World Champion.

Irvine's mouth has earned him a lot of trouble this year, claiming he is better than the likes of Coulthard et al, and often stating his case for parity at Ferrari. Now it seems his future depends on it.

Sources indicate that the Ferrari team are going to give him the opportunity to pull his foot out of his mouth by supporting him in a bid for the title. Irvine is eight points adrift from Hakkinen, and in the best position he will ever have to challenge for glory. Over the coming four or five races, Irvine has to lead the Ferrari challange against the Silver Arrows, at least keeping the team's title hopes alive.

Schumacher has stated categorically that he will support Irvine in his challenge, if the tables are turned and Irvine's in the best position for the Championshiup. Accordingly, Schumacher will be expected to support the Irishman on his return, if Irvine is still in contention.

Mercedes buy into McLaren

With all the fuss over Schumacher's accident, and the potential replacements for him (which, incidentally, now number Australian Mark Webber in their number), there's been little reaction to the news that McLaren are taking a leaf out the the Stewart book to sell a 40% share to Daimler-Chrysler, the parent company to Mercedes.

The deal ensures that the teams future is tied to Mercedes, and is seen by some to be a penalty (rather than reward) of their success. As integration between the car and engine becomes more critical, it has become very difficult to justify the "insular" attitudes that the companies maintained to now, with either in a position to move away.

It has been known for a while that BMW is looking for a similar stake in the Williams team, and is expected to renew it's talks on a similar connection, particularly in light of their further involvement in the financial support of WilliamsF1 since Rothmans withdrew their sponsorship.

BAR and Honda could also announce financial ties between the companies if their 2000 project goes to plan: the three year deal would then end with Honda buying into the BAR team, completing their top to bottom involvement.

Rumour mill Churns over Schumacher's replacement

Michael Schumacher's extremely hard crash at the British Grand Prix has put him out of action for six to eight weeks. That means he will miss at least the Austrian, German and Hungarian Grand Prix' and perhaps even the Belgian Grand Prix, too. Of course the second question aske, was "who will replace Schumacher for those races." (The first was "was it driver error," of course!)

The first driver that comes to mind is Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer, currently driving for Minardi. If that would be the case, Gonzalo Rodriguez, currently in Formula 3000, or Prost's test driver Sarrazin, would probably replace him at Minardi.

An other consideration mentioned was that Sauber's Jean Alesi would return to Ferrari, with Badoer replacing him at Sauber. Peter Sauber would have limited choice in the matter given both the facts that Alesi wants to race in Scarlet again, and Ferrari provide his engines...

Other names mentioned are, as usual, Mika Salo and Jos Verstappen - whose loyal supporters will ensure they are always in the rumour mill. Both are available in theory, but contractually tied - Salo needs BAR's permission to race, whilst Jos Verstappen is a Honda man, and would be seen as a spy in the Ferrari camp.

Sources reveal that there is an outsider with a surprisingly good chance: Prost's test driver Sarrazin impressed most of the paddock with his debut Grand Prix in a Minardi, and could expect a phone call from Todt in the next 24 hours...

British GP Final

Also published at Formula-1.co.uk

This race stuck chords for many people, starting with tragedy for Ferrari at the start. Michael Schumacher made a poor start, dropping to fourth behind Eddie Irvine; two cars stopped on the grid, bringing out the safety car, but before it had registered with Schumacher, he made a move on Eddie Irvine into Stowe, and failed to take the corner.

The session was immediately red flagged, as the marshalls struggled to pull Schumacher from the wreckage of car and tyre wall. He was stretchered off, apparently suffering a broken tibia, which will keep him out for five to nine weeks - and probably returning for the Belgian Grand Prix. Obviously, he did not make the restart...

The restart saw Eddie Irvine, Ralf Schumacher and Jean Alesi making superb starts, putting the race order to Hakkinen, Irvine, Coulthard, Frentzen, Ralf Schumacher, Hill, Barrichello and Alesi. The race was relatively static, with Ralf Schumacher passing Frentzen in the pits, Irvine passing Coulthard on his first stop, and being repassed on his second, and both Jordans led before their second stops.

Mika Hakkinen lost the lead with mechanical troubles, which saw his rear left wheel depart mid corner, and ultimately the McLaren's retirement. Johnny Herbert stole a position under the safety car, resulting in a ten second stop/go that cost him sixth place - promoting Diniz to earn Sauber a point. Rubens Barrichello suffered a puncture, ending points hopes.

So, Ralf Schumacher finished on the podium, clearly the racer of the day as the Williams has no right to battle the Jordans and Stewarts at this time; Coulthard has finally won at Silverstone, and got back on track - beating The Mouth (Irvine) into the bargin; Damon Hill led his last Silverstone Grand Prix for a lap, and Jordan put both cars into the points.

Full report from David Cunliffe follows.

Click here for results...

British GP Warmup

Also published at Formula-1.co.uk

The morning session demonstrated again just how dominant the McLarens - and Mika in particular - are at Silverstone. Michael Schumacher came within a second of Hakkinen at the end of the session, but never troubled the Woking team.

Damon Hill's form continues to be impressive, with the fourth fastest time ahead of Barrichello, Irvine and Frentzen. Ralf Schumacher continued to show the Supertec runners the way forward, and Jean Alesi must be wondering why he couldn't be this competitive in qualifying, after posting the ninth fastest time - as must Trulli behind him.

Look for McLaren to have the legs on the rest of the field, with Schumacher in hot pursuit. Behind them, it's a toss up between the Jordans, Barrichello, and Irvine, with Ralf Schumacher again having a chance for points as attrition thins the field in front...

Click here for results...

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