F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 8th August, 1999:

Hungarian Grand Prix Weekend

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

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

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

Review: McLaren back on top, by David Cunliffe
Preview: Can anything stop Eddie Irvine?, by Jo Howard
Preview: A Hilly Location!, by ITV-F1 Viewfinder

Irvine & Herbert

the Antipodes of Fortuity

by David Bell

With the "best" half of this year's campaign long gone, I feel that an attempt to rationalise a truly comic 1999 season is now due. But to do so in toto, in the depth such an analysis deserves, would protract this article from 'rather lengthy' to the 'insufferably prolix.' Concerned for my readers' mental health, therefore, I will solely concentrate on the winners and losers who now shape the title run-in to this millenium's final World Championship.

Click here to read the entire article

Prost's Options

Will Prost be Silly Season's biggest loser?

by Christiaan W. Lustig Four-time Formula One World Champion Alain Prost and his team Prost Grand Prix could be left empty handed with their drivers and manufacturer leaving and virtually no choices.

Prost's current engine partner Peugeot is likely to quit supplying the French team with engines, eventhough their contract runs for another year.

Jarno Trulli is due to sign for Jordan Mugen-Honda, because Prost can't live up to the performance clause in Trulli's contract. Prost's other driver, Frenchman Olivier Panis, was set to be dumped, and is now linked to Arrows. That said, test driver Stephane Sarrazin, favoured replacement, hasn't impressed much in recent testing, so Panis could be staying at Prost for one more year. Potential engine supplier Supertec has already been confirmed as signing a third team: Minardi. Supertec does not have the infrastructure to supply a fourth team in it's current shape.

Few options remain to Prost. The team could try for Arrows' current Hart-built engine, but these have not been properly developed in recent months - even Arrows boss Tom Walkinshaw admitted all development goes to next year's car. The engine is over-sized, under-powered, and bearly adequate for qualifying!

Prost are limited on drivers to choose from, too. Rumours indicate they have approached Ferrari driver Mika Salo, but it is highly unlikely the Finn would give up the chance of a Ford or Ferrari seat to drive a Prost.

Yet, there are a few positives in the pipeline for Prost. It's rumoured that Mercedes is prepared to supply Prost with (old) engines in exchange for the education of their protege Nick Heidfeld, if nothing else is forthcoming. Another manufacturer has also connected with the team - Honda. Having signed with both British American Racing and Jordan, a third team using older spec engines could provide income to further speed up development of the BAR-Honda factory team. In that case Honda's test driver Jos Verstappen would come with the package, which could be useful to Prost.

Whatever happens and whatever choices Alain Prost makes, his promises of being able to compete for the championship within four years is unlikely to come true. In fact a number of years could pass before Prost becomes competitive enough to score a healthy number of points…

Schumacher's return as 'Guest Star'

Sources indicate that the second Schumacher operation was a great success. Apparent, what they've done is decided that Schumacher is so fit, they can ease off the plate a bit and make his leg move more freely. Very useful when using the accelerator, apparently.

The downside is that Schumacher can expect to have terrible arthritis in later life as a result of this, but he won't be driving for Ferrari then so, that was not the major consideration. Still, it's now expected that even if Schumacher is not back for Monza as Webber is hoping, he should be back for the last two races as a sort of 'guest star.'

There's little cause to expect his pace to be diminished, however - apart from residual problems overcoming the injury, which could take a race or two, he should be as quick as ever.

Is the Red Sea Parting?

by Jo Howard

Ferrari haven't won a championship for 20 years, and they make no secret about their desire to win another one. The "problem" (for some) is, that with the absence of Michael Schumacher the burden has fallen onto the shoulders of Eddie Irvine. With the change of drivers and the possibility of the world championship, rifts are developing within the Tifosi. There are those who are delighted to see Ferrari's winning, the next best thing in the absence of their hero. Winning races and the constructors title is not an issue for debate among fans, they all want to see the scarlet cars reign supreme this season. When it comes to the drivers title, there is much division.

Click to read the whole article...

Sounds of discontent from BAR

With even the BAR team itself confessing they have underachieved this year, it seems likely a rocky end of season is in prospect, unless points come soon.

Jacques Villeneuve is a competitor - always keen to race, but never happy to struggle at the back of the pack. The second half of last season, where his underpowered Williams finally started to be competitive, gave him an opportunity to show his mettle, and fight for points. Being at BAR, in a car that hasn't carried him to the finishing line once, is proving a demotivating experience. Unless something changes in the immediate future, there are strong odd's he will move on. Prost, Stewart, Ferrari and even Jordan have been mooted as possible candidates.

The deal with Honda, whilst widely publicised, is not absolutuly certain even now. Should things fail to gel between the Japanese giant and BAR, particularly if Villeneuve moves on, they could find themselves without an engine deal or star driver to attract the capital to gain one, and fold.

Clearly, having ten teams in Formula One is never going to be an option, so Bernie Ecclestone would probably step in and salvage the team - either by persuading Honda to buy BAR out at a knock down price, or arranging for an Arrows or other lower order engine supply, and promote an F3000 team.

Either way, if BAR want to be in Formula One next year, they need to make the car reliable enough to finish races, and ensure the relationship with Honda works well. Losing either Villeneuve or the engine deal would probably be terminal.

Formula One on BBC

It's not a done deal, but the incoming BBC Director General Greg Dyke is thought to be considering a major shakeup in the Formula One digital coverage scene.

The BBC's home sports coverage has been suffering a lot over recent years, seeing Formula One move to ITV, Soccer to Sky, and Cricket to Channel 4 to name a few high profile losses. Greg Dyke is expecting to strike back where possible, to demonstrate that the BBC can still carry World Class Sport.

With football costing very serious money, his primary target is thought to be Rugby Union - something achievable that the license payers would appreciate. A close second is Formula One. Greg Dyke gets on well with Bernie Ecclestone, and is thought to have an interesting sweetener up his sleeve; something that would appeal to Ecclestone, and make ITV's financial strength less of an issue.

Preview, Hungary 1999

Can anything stop Eddie Irvine?

by Jo Howard

The Hungaroring is home to the Hungarian Grand Prix. This track makes heavy demands on both the driver and the teams. Overtaking is virtually impossible, meaning that pit stop strategies play an important role. The average speed is a meagre 113 mph, meaning a lot of the course is negotiated in the lower gears. Pressuring the man in front and hoping he makes a mistake is the only chance to overtake on the circuit, meaning that racing is very close. The last two races have been tense finishes, and with only five cars going the full racing distance at this track in 1998, it should demonstrate whether criticism of backmarkers is valid or not.

Click to read the whole article...

Talk of Prost Mugen-Honda for 2000

It's been noted that Prost's conversation with the Japanese engine supplier Honda have taken a twist since Austria, where Peugeot made it clear their involvment in Formula One could cease at the end of this season.

The talks surround the possibility of the Prost team utilising a Mugen-Honda sourced unit next year, replacing the Peugeot unit. It is believed that Prost can buy a supply of engines running two or three releases behind those run by BAR and Jordan, but the price is expected to be very high.

Prost have also talked to Supertec and Ferrari. With Minardi announcing Supertex power for 2000, and Ferrari apparently unwilling to supply a second team with customer units, options are running out. Still open are the chances of Powertec (Al Melling's design) and Arrows engines for 2000.

Other rumours that Prost could field driver Jacques Villeneuve, replacing Jarno Trulli who is expected to go to Jordan, are thought to be wide of the mark.

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