F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 1st August, 1999:

German Grand Prix Weekend

[ Friday 1 | Friday 2 | Saturday 1 | Saturday 2 | Qualifying | Race Warmup | Race ]

FIA Press Releases
[ "Thursday" | "Friday" | Post-Qualifying (audio) | Post-Race (audio) ]

Team Press Releases
[ Preview | Friday Practice | Qualifying | Race Reports ]

Williams Update for Hungary

The Williams team has been working on further evolving the aerodynamics introduced to such excellent effect at the British Grand Prix. The key changes are believed to affect the front wing end-plates and undertray.

They believe that the new evolution provides significantly reduced drag for the downforce generated, and could go some way further to evening the power deficit of the Supertec engine compared to the front running teams. They are further hoping for a Supertec evolution at Spa which could provide a stronger performance than any this season - though it's not likely to be a return to winning ways.

The team's hopes for the remainder of the season is to close the gap to Jordan - they no longer believe they will beat them - and provide a stern defense of their fourth place against the Stewart team, who are considered likely to improve their reliability problems and pose a real threat.

F1 Rumors Newsletter

Are you subscribed to the weekly F1 Rumors Newsletter? If not, then in recent weeks, you've missed the following articles:

  • Harry Sykes on Overtaking in 1999
  • Why Frentzen benefits from Hill's discomfort
  • He who pays the piper, drives for Ferrari...
  • Ferrari warmed by success
  • Stewart more upbeat than ever
  • Hakkinen concerned about Coulthard
  • Jordan Target Spa
  • Irvine's Dream Ticket
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Irvine to Stewart... with Barrichello

Eddie Irvine is confirmed to have signed a contract with Jaguar Sport (the new name for Stewart) to drive for them, valued at six million pounds per season.

At this time, he is expected to line up alongside Rubens Barrichello, with Mika Salo taking his seat at Ferrari - though these details are to be confirmed. Barrichello is thought to be considering the Ferrari seat, but to be unhappy about playing a number two role, when he has clearly demonstrated his abilities this year.

Mika Salo's role in Germany caused Jean Todt to state that he is guarenteed a seat in Formula One next season - though he was cagey about whether it would be with Ferrari. It's thought that Stewart and Jordan are both interested in the Finn's services, but Ferrari have the first call.

Damon - Is he Really Over the Hill?

by Julie Gates

As the sun ascended over the fast and flowing Hockenheim circuit, yet more darkness loomed over the uncertain career of ex-world champ, Damon Hill.

His drive in the German Grand Prix, all fourteen laps that witnessed his presence, were somewhat reminiscent of his weekend at Magny-Cours only a short time ago. Even though the Brit topped the timesheets during practise on Saturday morning, he lagged behind in qualifying and upset his team when he retired to the garage after being told to stay out on track.

This has sparked even more controversy in the "Will he? Won't he?" saga and his performance would have inevitably carved yet another slice out of his already dented self-confidence.

Click here to read the whole article

Todt in shock Prost move!

OK, so it's a tabloid headline. But you could be reading it in the press if things keep going the way they are.

Jean Todt loathes Eddie Irvine - he makes it clear. Just how much he loathes him is awesome.

At base level, Todt hates Irvine mouthing off which is why whenever Eddie wins a Grand Prix, someone else like Nigel Stepney has to go and get the constructor's trophy. Now he is rattling Irvine's cage by suggesting that Schumacher will be back for Hungary, making Eddie relinquish his title chase once the contracted Number One returns.

Why? Well, the current situation is not the picture he sold to Ferrari. His dream ran along different lines. Theoretically, Schumacher was intended to take the driver's title, with Eddie in faithful support, so Ferrari won the constructors' title as well. Clearly, it isn't working out like that and Todt knows that if Irvine wins the title and then heads off to Stewart as rumoured, all his dreams will be in ruins. He will have spent serious money on Schumacher not taking the title, and virtually nothing on Irvine winning it... and taking it away with him. This would leave Todt with egg on his face - because his pre-condition for joining Ferrari was Schumacher and he got him. Trouble is, just as he got the car and team sorted out, he lost Schumacher again and got Irvine instead.

Rumour has it that a disgruntled Todt has been talking to Prost and Chirac. It appears that the French President is keen to see the "French national team" to go well, and wants to see Todt with the French team... and he is playing the patriotic card to get him there.

If it's backed with promises of government funding, and all requirements being met, there is a realistic chance that Todt could make the move to Prost.

Marc Webber shooting for 2002

Marc Webber's hopes for a test drive with Jordan appear to have taken a dive, with Eddie Jordan remarking "I am only really interested in testing people who are free... but am I going to run him? No... he is contracted to Mercedes."

However, with Ron Walker - the Australian Grand Prix chairman - confirming that there is funding behind the talented youngster, it seems that McLaren are considering running him in their F3000 junior team. If McLaren can place Nick Heidfeld in Formula One next year, then there are opportunities for the Australian to enter the two year F3000 program (a year of "learning the ropes", followed by another consolidating), and follow Heidfeld onto the F1 stage.

F3000 has traditionally been seen as a good hunting ground for future F1 talent, and the modern trend in Formula One teams to set up their own F3000 team to bring on their future drivers make the ties all the stronger. A good performance in an F1 junior team is almost certainly going to earn an F1 test, which could lead to a drive.

The Injury Lowdown

Rumours of Schumacher's early return to Formula One from his broken leg are based on the knowledge that Heinz-Harald Frentzen managed to win at France with broken bones in his own legs, and Schumacher's determination to succeed.

It seems, however, that the broken leg might not be the big issue relating to the double World Champion's return. Allegedly, that is healing according to plan, and if it was the only problem to contend with would see the German back in his Ferrari for Spa. No, the problem seems to be with damage to his heel, which whilst not appearing to be as significant an injury poses different problems.

It appears that this damage seriously affects the sensitivity of the foot - something whilst has to be in top shape to sit right at the limit in a Formula One car. The healing process is a long one, and there's nothing that can speed it up, super-fitness or not, so Schumacher is sidelined until the heel has repaired itself, and sensitivity sufficiently regained for his immaculate car control to re-assert itself. Then he still has to get back to full fitness before expecting to perform over a race distance.

All in all, it's possible that Schumacher might not make it back into the car this year.

Conspiracy Theory

Even as the conspiracy theories start to come forward - from a Ferrari spy in the McLaren camp, to Bridgestone team members payed off by Bernie Ecclestone (!) and a sniper in the crowd to shoot out the tyres, Bridgestone are moving to dispell fear, uncertainty and doubt around McLaren's misfortune at the German Grand Prix.

Bridgestone's immediate statement after Coulthard's qualifying problem reads as follows:"Having gathered as much physical evidence as possible, Bridgestone engineers had an opportunity to examine the remains of the left rear tyre which failed on David Coulthard's car during qualifying. The tyre was found to have a very severe cut, the exact cause of which cannot be ascertained. However, the close examination to which the tyre was subjected indicates that the failure was not the result of any fault inherent in the materials or construction of the tyre. The remains of the tyre will now be sent to the Bridgestone technical centre in Japan for further examination."

Furthermore, the officials are expected to put Hakkinen's tyre under the same scrutiny at their home base, to ensure peace of mind in all camps.

Officialdom's initial reaction to Hakkinen's blown tyre is that it could be a direct result of the rear wing failure, as the jagged edge could have been responsible for cutting the tyre. That the jagged edge appears to be on the wrong side of the wing has temporarilly escaped notice... but the completed analysis is due any time now...

Whilst Ferrari take part in a tyre evaluation test on the 6th August, they are now expected to be asked to perform a couple of extra runs with McLaren's Germany spec tyres, to gather data for comparison purposes. McLaren, however, are not taking part in tyre testing this month!

Tobacco with more sway than Brussels?

One of the rumours coming out of the German Grand Prix is that the tobacco companies have been getting together to establish how they can continue their lucrative advertising campaigns via Formula One.

It is alleged that Phillip Morris, representing the group, has taken the bull by the horns, and talked to Bernie Ecclestone (the man who decides the Formula One calendar), requesting more Far East Grand Prix in the coming years.

It's believed that the tobacco giants see the European Union's stance on advertising as an obstacle to be circumvented, rather than the end of their involvement. Europe is only a part of the rapidly expanding global market, after all.

Whilst the Tobacco Giants expect to see more non-tobacco sponsorship in the sport, possibly with other teams following the Williams plan to take their engine supplier as their title sponsor, they still see investment in Formula One as viable, provided more exposure in the expanding markets (Asia and Africa) can be provided.

With the Malaysian Grand Prix coming into play this year, and talk of others from India to China in the offing, tobacco money could still be a major force in Formula One, well into the next century...

Review of Germany 1999

Eddie assumes the mantle

by David Cunliffe

Two in a row. After victory in Austria last week, Eddie Irvine, with a little help from the replacement Ferrari No2, Mika Salo, won at Hockenheim today to resume his early season lead in the Championship. The difference between then and now though is that Eddie looks increasingly like a serious challenger for the title, with the team's erstwhile saviour, Michael Schumacher, sidelined for several races. And with Salo following dutifully in Eddie's wake to make it a 1-2, Ferrari also look like a much better bet for the constructors' title than they did just one week ago.

It started badly for Eddie though. He fell from fifth on the grid to sixth in the race. Team-mate Salo wasn't following the script at that stage. Not only had he qualified one place higher than his team leader but he also made a storming start, grabbing second place and holding it for lap after lap. Coulthard was then third, Frentzen was fourth and Barrichello briefly held fifth until his hydraulics packed up on lap 5.

Click here to read the whole article

Where to, Irvine?

Rumours of Eddie Irvine's departure to Stewart have been loud in the paddock this week; and the work he's doing for Ferrari cannot be doing any harm to his reputation at all.

With a win in the German Grand Prix to match the Austrian effort, his stock is certainly rising, along with his chances of taking Ferrari's first Championship in twenty years. However, there's still lots of noise concerning Todt's dissatisfaction with the Ulsterman, and Stewart's evident interest.

It also raises a new question on who would replace him at Ferrari; and it seems that Mika Salo is now in the running. His excellent performance at the German Grand Prix - having to yield the lead to Irvine under team orders, to complete the Ferrari 1-2 - has shown the merit to rumours that Ferrari are considering him for 2000, rather than spending serious money on someone like Barrichello.

With the Silly Season starting to calm down (Hakkinen and Coulthard are now confirmed at McLaren for next year), it means that even more attention will be paid to the Ferrari manoeuvers over the coming weeks.

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