F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 12th September, 1999:

Panis In, Takagi Out?

Olivier Panis may be in-line for a drive at Arrows next season. Panis, who has been left without a drive next season due to Prost's complete driver change, may be in contention for Toranosuke Takagi's seat at Arrows.

Takagi is said to be in sponsorship difficulties with his Japanese backer PIAA, who are threatening to pull the plug on a deal for next season. PIAA are said to reduce its $10 million deal to just $1.2 which would virtually throw Takagi out of Arrows, who require a minimum of $11 in sponsorship from its drivers.

Panis is understood to be putting together a sponsorship package.

March Could Return

Former March boss, Robin Herd admitted plans to make an F1 comeback in the near future. Herd has made enquiries about the possibility to fill the 12th and last slot on the grid. "It is a very serious project, but it is not completely finalised yet".

The main holdback which could hamper his progress is that there has been no official decision from F1 bosses as to whether they will allow a 12th team to enter the championship. A proposal of a 30m bond for any new team has been put forward to thw FIA.

Marc Webber will test

Finally, Australian Mark Webber is going to get his chance to drive a Formula One car - and despite Eddie Jordan's assurance he has no interest in training up drivers for other teams, it will be in a Jordan.

The price tag for the ride is expected to be in excess of $200,000 - and it's now down to arranging the date for the event to take place. A strong, positive test could place Webber with a chance of a test drive with a front line team next year, leading to a full time ride in 2001.

Webber has been persistent about getting a drive in Formula One, working on all angles, and pushing to get a chance with a front running team. Backed by a consortium headed by Foster's, he could be in a position to take the Jordan test driver spot next year, and then anything might happen.

Rumours of Newey turning Scarlet

Since Adrian Newey dropped in on Ferrari - ostensibly because his car had broken down - for lunch, a few months ago, there have been rumours that his association with the team could become formal in the forseable future.

Whilst all parties deny talks, there's no denying the rumours in the paddock, which currently hint at a $12 million cash incentive, in order to bring together the talents of the best Formula One aerodynamicist, and the best Formula One driver.

Whether or not the rumours is true, it is based on some logical premises, which certainly could be seen to add up. Rory Bryne is, apparently, seeking to retire next July - or move to Jaguar, if rumours are believed - which opens the doors for a new Technical lead. Furthermore, Newey is thought to be keen on seeing how effectively Schumacher would be able to drive one of "his" cars. Lastly, the deep coffers of Maranello ensure money is not object.

The rumours do not go on to indicate how Ferrari would get around Newey's long term contract to McLaren, which would certainly be expected to put a spanner in the works...

Jordan planning a suprise...

It's not a very well kept secret that Jordan have placed a lot of importance on maintaining their development right to the end of the season. It's what earned them fourth place in the Championship last year, despite an appalling start, and was key to Heinz-Harald Frentzen's victory in Italy last Sunday.

Plans for the future hinge around developments to the engine. Rumours of another step forward for Malaysia are appearing, with indications of a potential step forward of over 10 bhp, predominantly at the upper end, courtesy of low friction and lighter components. It's believed a new, even lighter gearbox (though some rumours indicate it will weigh the same, but have lower internal friction) is due around the same time.

It's thought the new engine will be used in qualifying only at Malaysia, and for both qualifying and the race come the Japanese finale.

Optimistic estimates, apparently originating inside the team, though we have not been able to confirm them yet, indicate that alongside upgraded aerodynamics and improved weight distribution, the team expect to be competing for pole position and race wins at both the last two events of the year.

Review of Italy 1999

Tears at bedtime

by David Cunliffe

After a couple of dull races, the drama returned to F1 in spades at Monza. Half way through the race, Mika Hakkinen, in a seemingly unassailable lead, threw his McLaren off the track at the first chicane, much to the surprise and delight of the passionate tifosi. Although their local heroes, Ferrari, were off the pace all weekend, supersub Mika Salo managed to bring his [Michael Schumacher's?] red car home in third, and team leader Eddie Irvine at least claimed a point by struggling home in sixth place. With David Coulthard finishing in a lowly fifth, the title races progressed little this weekend.

Click here to read the whole article

A Future for Jos Verstappen

Following hard on rumours that Jos Verstappen has a real chance of an Arrows drive in 2000, is news of a Dutch consortium that could be interested in buying out Minardi.

With the disappointment of the Arrows drivers taking out both Minardi's in Sunday's race, Giancarlo Minardi admitted that the future of the team is very open, and a complete sale is definitely a possibility.

Former Dutch radio station Verdonica DJ Willen van Kooten has spoken to reporters, concerning his views that so much Dutch racing talent is failing to find top line drives, that he is taking action to change it. With a possible Dutch Grand Prix on the cards next year, it seemed the ideal opportunity to make a move.

Should things go according to the Dutch consortium's plans, it seems Minardi could be a Dutch team in 2000, with Tom Coronel (currently doing very well in Formula Nippon, and apparently also in talks with Arrows) and Jos Verstappen driving for them.

Another Grand Prix in France

According to Formula1.com, Bernie Ecclestone is considering an early appearance in the F1 calendar for the Paul Ricard circuit, which he has financial ties with.

Speculation has it that the Eurpopean Grand Prix could move from Germany (which effectively holds three events this year) to France, allowing the circuit to come into play ahead of hosting the French Grand Prix when the Magny Cours contract runs out.

With requirements for more Grand Prix outside Europe, this move would be unexpected, and provide a lot of room for debate from the disappointed nations, which could include the Netherlands (though they are European), South Africa, China, Argentina, Russia and South Korea.

Opening the Door to new teams

A new rumour indicates the FIA are expected to change the rules for new teams entering Formula One, enabling any team which can find a 48 million dollar deposit to do so.

The deposit would be pid back over a five year period, as long as the team was still on the grid. The idea is to ensure that only teams with sufficient funding can attempt to be involved in the sport. This approach would have prevented the likes of Peter Sauber and Eddie Jordan becoming involved, but would probably stop fiasco's like Honda's start/stop entry.

It's thought that Toyota is certainly interested, and could have a 2002 team, but the resurgent Lotus return could be halted by this hurdle. There has been no comment on how this affects the Concorde agreement, which restricts the grid to twelve teams...

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