F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 5th September, 1999:

Kyalami Looking for 2000 slot

The owners of the Kyalami circuit are believed to be in negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone about the possibility of holding a South African Grand Prix in 2000.

Since Spa was removed from the calendar, there has been a lot of interest in the currently "free" space in the calendar. It's known that if Belgium changes it's tobacco laws in the short term, then Spa will keep it's slot; however, in the meanwhile, there are bids from the Netherlands, China and now South Africa for the position.

Officials at Kyalami believe their chances are strong, as they held a very successful test at the start of the year, and addressed the minor changes required after the track was inspected against the Formula One standards. It's also known that the bid is certainly not being viewed unfavourably by the FIA...

Return to Form

At the Monza Grand Prix, two teams are looking for a return to form, and the chance to put their season long rivals under pressure.

Ferrari have just finished a very productive test at Monza, where they needed to demonstrate their owners, Fiat, that the team's ability to develop the car did not end when Schumacher broke his leg. After the very public dressing down for lack of performance in the last two Grand Prix - admittedly, partly due to McLaren and Jordan making good steps forward - the team has struggled to claw back some of the advantage the Silver Arrows now hold.

In front of their home crowd, Ferrari are desperate to race on terms with McLaren, and be back ahead of Jordan, who were arguably ahead at Spa.

The other team seeking to regain ground on Jordan is Stewart. They have struggled to maintain the pace of development to conclusion this season, and are looking at an accelerated development program to get back to the front. With Barrichello moving to Ferrari next season, however, the team is faced with the unwelcome dilemma of effectively halting development on the car, or risking Barrichello taking their latest develpments with him...

The team causing the headaches, basically, is Jordan, whose massive development program for the second half of the season rivals their efforts last year. The improvement to the car has left Stewart behind, and already brought them on terms with Ferrari - and could bring them up ahead of McLaren by the end of the season. Heinz-Harald wants to race the McLaren's at Monza, but you can be assured he's planning to beat them in Japan...

Philosophies of Racing

Julie Gates checks them outů by Julie Gates

I have to say that Ron Dennis' approach to racing is mighty refreshing. In the red corner we have Ferrari, who many would say are as good as cheating for the sake of the illustrious title. In the silver corner we have McLaren who are willing to see their drivers race each other, maintaining the integrity of both the sport and themselves. So why is Mika Hakkinen trying his damnedest to change the one refreshing thing about Formula One today?

Fair enough, Mika Hakkinen has been robbed of three victories this year: Silverstone, Austria and then Hockenheim, through no fault of his own. In fact, had all gone to plan, he would be leading the title chase by thirty-odd points and would most likely have secured another title for Woking. However, he made a driver error this year, which also cost him ten points, so without those forty points, he isn't really in a position to demand number one status from his team, with three men locked in a battle for the Championship. He may have performed best of the three, in terms of speed there is little comparison, but he has not been the most consistent driver, and his car has not been the very reliable. This is motor racing, and as I'm sure you're all aware, anything can happen and there are no guarantees.

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Schumacher's Downer, Salo's Chore

Although Schumacher's less sympathetic critics are saying the maestro does not want to return, as he would rather not be used to employ the tactics asked of Salo in supporting Irvine's World Championship bid, the truth of the matter is that a genuine medical condition is preventing the return.

Were the medical condition not so pressing, perhaps Schumacher would object to being used as a mobile chicane, enabling Irvine to score points at cost to himself; however, few doubt the utter professionalism of the man, or his ability to do whatever is required to secure the crown for Ferrari.

Meanwhile, Salo has the unenviable task in Schumacher's absence - and the plans being discussed for Monza include the possibility that the Finn will qualify well enough to provide a similar role to that he played in Spa, assisting Irvine in opening enough of a gap over fellow competitors to protect his place through pitstops.

It seems, following the excellent performance at Hockenheim, the team believe he might again out-qualify the Irishman. In this instance, expect to see an early change of places, and a significant - over ten second - gap open up... enough to ensure advantage over persuing cars through the pit-stops in what's almost certain to be a single, late stop race for all the front runners.

"Only Following Orders"

Fuel for the Team Orders debate

by Colm Doherty

McLaren's team tactics at Spa have suddenly thrust the issue of team orders back into the limelight. The resultant confusion left their drivers trading paint at La Source, and the undignified sight of a world champion sulking at the post race press conference. Despite Ron Dennis' clear statements beforehand that they could race each other, the McLaren babes each interpreted that differently. Certainly Hakkinen didn't expect Coulthard to put the squeeze on him through turn one. But while Mika puzzles over a team strategy that effectively robbed him of 4 points, and could yet cost him the title, the rest of us are left to solve a more intriguing riddle - namely, under what circumstances does Ron Dennis regard team orders as "fair dinkum" and when are they "unsporting." His track record on the issue gives very few clues. Consider for a moment his post-Spa assessment:

"We let them race." "It wasn't an easy decision. But we're just not prepared to sacrifice our integrity," he said. "There will be a time when we influence the outcome of Grands Prix," he concluded. "It certainly wasn't today but it may well be in the latter part of the season."

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