F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 25th July, 1999:

Austrian Grand Prix Weekend

Practice Sessions
Friday 1, Friday 2, Saturday 1, Saturday 2, Race warmup

Press Releases
"Thursday", "Friday Four", Friday Practice Quotes, Post-Qualifying (audio), Qualifying Quotes, Post-Race (audio), Race Quotes

Main Sessions
Qualifying, Race

Peugeot Power...

One thing that Peugeot have always maintained about their engines is they are both powerful and reliable. Looking at the practice times in Hockenheim, it's clear that their claims to produce power alongside the top units are well founded.

Through all sessions, the Peugeot powered Prosts have been up with the leaders. This track is a good indicator of pure power, with handling characteristics only really coming to the fore in the closing Motordrome section. The evidense implies the Mercedes and Ford units might have a slight edge over the Peugeot and Mugen-Honda engines, but not a lot. Ferrari, by working on different strategies, have managed to keep that card close to their chest... but the qualifying session will be revealing!

The issue now is whether the Prost's lack of performance has been down to the unwieldy nature of the engine - it' size and weight - or the design of the car, failing to provide a good platform for the unit. As it happens, this is the same argument that Prost and Peugeot have threatened to split up over since the relationship began... and we won't get any real answers today!

Formula One - The Fickle Factory

by Julie Gates

This Formula One lark is a fickle old game! Two weeks ago saw the Italian press cussing Eddie Irvine and the British press praising the brilliance of Coulthard. Today, the roles are very much reversed...

The Austrian Grand Prix exposed many - in the media and general public - who changed their perception of the two top Brits dramatically. Eddie Irvine has revelled in his Austrian success, whilst Coulthard has been the expected victim of even more criticism.

The oldest saying about Formula One drivers goes like this: "You are only as good as your last grand prix." In Shakespearean context, it's more like: "thou shalt not be judged unless thy performance classes as major cock-up or race win." Well, similar anyway! But is this really fair on the teams or drivers? After all, as a tree doesn't make a forest, a mistake or win does not define a driver.

Click here to read the whole article...

Ferrari's secret weapon - updated

There are rumours in the paddock this weekend that Ferrari targetted the German Grand Prix as early as this time last year, when Michael Schumacher struggled with the new car, and spent much of his practice time off-track, watching the other drivers. It brought his worst performance in front of his home fans.

Accordingly, the team have worked especially hard this year to ensure the car has a competitive low downforce configuration, and some revisions to the engine aimed at improving top end power.

Over the weekend, Ferrari are not sure they have the legs on McLaren - who are taking longer to set up their cars, courtesy of the better inherent stability of the Ferrari - but really think everything has come together at the right time to give them a fighting chance.

All they really wanted on top of this was their German star to be driving - but Eddie Irvine is intending to demonstrate that he'll cover quite adequately for the Boss.

Update: Ferrari performed in excellent fashion during today's practice. The new configuration includes very low drag wings - which makes the Motordrome section difficult to master, as both drivers discovered! However, the team believe the inherent stability of the car is giving them the edge overall, allowing them to run absolute minimum wing over the course to gain maximum time in the long straights. The team is expected to use their "short life" (12 lap) qualifying brakes in tomorrows session.

Honda could purchase BAR

The linkage between BAR and Honda is not proving to be as successful as either company hoped so far, according to sources. If this continues to be the case, it is believed that in two or three years, Honda will either purchase BAR or follow the original plan to build its very own 100% Japanese works team.

Honda Racing Development (HRD), the subsidiary company/team which was responsible for build the trial works team run this year, was closed down soon after the death of Harvey Postlethwaite. It's thought that in late October a new 'HRD' will be opened, though probably under a different name. We will keep you informed!

Sauber upbeat

With the strong performance Sauber managed at Austria, the team are looking forward to the German Grand Prix, which might suit them better than many of their rivals.

The team is running Ferrari's 1998 engine, which is relatively large and underpowered compared with the Mercedes, Ford and Ferrari '99 units, but it has a power advantage over the Supertec and possibly Prost engines which should be highlighted at the Hockenhiem circuit, where power is paramount.

Although balanced downforce settings are critical for the high speed chicanes and the final "stadium" section, the team is confident that changes introduced at Austria were clear indication of their improved performance. Race pace was better then many in the paddock thought possible - enough for Jean Alesi to hold off Hakkinen, though the two cars were on different strategies - and all they need now is a good qualifying session.

Despite the power stakes placing Sauber behind Ferrari, McLaren, Stewart and Jordan, the German circuit is a notorious engine breaker, and could provide Sauber with their best points scoring opportunity this season... now they've finally nailed the gearbox gremlins that plagues the first half of 1999!

Twisted engine sagas

It's an ironic twist that next year, Arrows will be running Supertec engines, whilst up to two other teams could be running what's currently their own "in house" unit.

With Supertec only committing to supplying two teams at this point, namely Arrows and Benetton, there's a problem on the horizon for Minardi, whose deal withFord will not be renewed next year, and potentially Prost, who are struggling to work with Peugeot.

There's speculation that Toyota, in preparing to return to Formula One full time, has been talking to Arrows about taking on their engine technology, and to both Prost and Minardi about running the units in 2000. They are also believed to have consulted Al Melling concerning his Powertech unit (which no team saw fit to use this year).

The deal would benefit Arrows no end - they need the capital to pay for the expensive Supertec units - whilst Toyota would recoup the costs of developing a competitive 2001 engine by selling "customer Arrows" units to Minardi and Prost. They could be badged "Hart," "Arrows" or "Yamaha," depending on who is prepared to spend money on badging in uncompetitive engine...

And that's the big down side for Prost and Minardi: the current Arrows V10 is very underpowered. It would leave the teams fighting each other to avoid the wooden spoon while Toyota used them as guinea pigs, developing the unit they run in their own car, come 2001. But at least they'd have engines, and be able to take part in 2000 while sorting out a deal for 2001.

Todt's Disdain for Irvine

For the second time, Jean Todt has failed to make an appearance on the podium to celebrate Eddie Irvine's win.

It's been believed for a while that Todt does not like the Irishman, and is working to see him out of the team for next year. It makes Irvine's achievement at Ferrari all the more remarkable, as the team leader appears to be failing in his role by providing no support to his (current) number one driver!

In fairness, sending Ross Brawn up to receive the constructor's trophy was a fair move: it's believed that his strategy earned the race win, so it's right and proper he takes credit in the public eye. However, that doesn't stop the rumour mill from picking up the undercurrents: when Schumacher wins, Todt goes up on the podium with him. When Irvine wins, its "Brawn's strategy" rather than driver brilliance that made it happen, so he goes up instead...

The question is, with Todt publically distancing himself from Irvine, would Schumacher's departure mark the end of Todt's time at Ferrari? Then again, if Irvine does the business and attains the World Championship, would Todt be on his way regardless of Schumacher's future?

Schumacher out?

As could be expected after the Ferrari number two making good on his mouth, there was a rumour circulating at Spielberg that Michael Schumacher may not come back at all. Considering what he's earning from his insurance, that's quite understandable!

The rumour runs as follows: Schumacher will not drive for Ferrari next year, whatever happens. He has a get-out clause in his contract which he can invoke if he does not finish in the top three in the Drivers Championship. More interestingly, Ferrari have the same option. Apparently Luca Di Montezemolo is finding it difficult to justify Schumacher's expense to Giovanni Agnelli, especially when Eddie Irivine seems capable of winning for a great deal less.

Then, Ferrari are rumoured to want Jacques Villeneuve to partner Eddie Irvine - with equal status - for the 2000 season. This is not as far fetched as you might think: although Villeneuve has a stake in BAR, and manager Craig Pollock is a long time friend, he races for the joy of winning. BAR are realistic, and already admit that Villeneuve can move if they cannot even get the car to run a race distance.

Villeneuve just loves to race. And while the tifosi respect the talent of Schumacher, they'd go bonkers if the son of Gilles was to step into a Ferrari. Agnelli would love it too. He could probably have Jacques for 5 million down and a hefty bonus if he brought home the driver's title.

Villeneuve and Irvine could also be suitable team mates. Indeed, Eddie quite respects Jacques for winning the world championship in only his second F1 season, in as much as EI respects anyone...

Review of Austria, 1999

Motormouth lives up to his own publicity

by David Cunliffe

Eddie Irvine's mouth has been working overtime since his team leader, Michael Schumacher, crashed himself out of the Championship two weeks ago. The Northern Irishman's popularity has suffered, at least in Germany and Italy, as a consequence. But a superb win in Austria, aided by Ferrari's brilliant race strategy and the McLarens tripping over each other, will earn forgiveness from the tifosi, the Ferrari faithful who can forget much after a victory by one of their favourite red cars.

Winning might have been more of a problem for Eddie though had David Coulthard not tapped Mika Hakkinen into a spin at the second corner on lap 1. The Scot's ill-judged attempt to pass his team-mate could have so easily ended in disaster for both McLarens. As it was, both escaped unscathed - at opposite ends of the field. Whilst DC stretched his lead by one second a lap from second placed man, Rubens Barrichello, Mika was staging a stunning fight back from the rear of the pack. That was but one of the highlights of an entertaining race which featured more overtaking than the average F1 season.

Click here to read the whole article...

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