F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 3rd October, 1999:

The Maestro Returns

Between the hounding he received from his fans, and the German press, and an excellent test, Michael Schumacher has decided to return to racing at Malaysia.

Yesterday, the double World Champion put in a full race distance in testing, and suffered less than expected. His knees, previously enflamed by the stresses of driving appeared to be in acceptable - if painful - condition by the close of play, and he has ruled himself fit to race.

With Schumacher behind them, Ferrari are now favourites again for the Championships, despite Hakkinen's lead. Schumacher can hope to regain third overall in the standings, if he finishes well.

The change of heart is believed to be down to a number of things. Foremost, if Ferrari take the Championship without him, then Irvine will get all the credit. However, if they lose it, then Schumacher's non-appearance will be seen as a critical factor... Salo is good, but not as good as Schumacher, after all. However, this is not the case if the German is racing: if the Championship comes to Irvine, then Schumacher's support over the next two races will be seen as key, whilst failing to win would prove that Irvine couldn't win, even with Schumacher to help!

Other influences, notably the home press, and anguish from his fans around the world, played a significant part. Turning in the car's best time yet around Fiorano - unofficially, over 1.5 seconds quicker than ever before - also played a part. That car is competitive... as is the man who'll return in Sepang!

Discerning or Deserving?

Who should be the Champion? by Julie Gates

There are two races remaining in the 1999 Formula One season: twenty points and a World Championship are up for the taking. Only fourteen points separate the top four men-who will triumph to taste glory?

Immediate reaction is to expect Mika Hakkinen to win the title. He has the better car; he is supposedly the better driver. He has also catalogued a number of errors this year, ranging from crashing while in the lead or slacking-off, settling for the top six when a podium was in sight. Does this make a worthy World Champion?

Click here to read the whole article

Looking Norse

Recent rumours that Sweden could be trying to get on the Formula One calendar seem to be hitting close to the mark.

The Norse country, which last held an event in 1978 at the Anderstorp circuit, appears to be aiming at having a fully compliant circuit by 2004. It appears that a number of business men have been talking to the FIA about their chances of hosting a Formula One event, and are intending to complete a proposal for a track at Kalmar.

It's been speculated that the BHL owner, Nicola Foulston, has agreed to help fund the site and provide influence in owning a Grand Prix, in return for a control in it. No substance has been found to this yet, however!

On the positive side, a Grand Prix would bring substantial benefits to the local economy, and the local government appears to be backing the plans fully; however, there - as everywhere - the plans are expected to be opposed by environmentalists, who are concerned about the impact it would have on the surrounding countryside.

Anyone want a World Championship?

A look at how the main players are doing everything they can to lose it.

by Lauren Rutherford

From the moment we saw the McLaren roof literally falling in, even before the first race of the season in Melbourne, we should have known it was going to be no ordinary season. It was a fitting beginning to the year, a race full of incidents, smoking Stewarts and second fiddle becoming lead soloist.

Click here to read the whole article

Aluminium Beryllium Alloy Ban

The controversial alloy has been banned with immediate effect, excepting internal engine components, which must go my January 1st 2001.

Immediate impact on the teams is slight, as only McLaren and Ferrari have even been considering using the substance in any quantities outside the engine; but in the slightly longer term, all the leading engine manufacturers are going to require something of a rethink.

Mercedes, Ferrari, Honda and (rumoured) Ford all make significant use of the material, which aids low internal friction, leading to higher revs and power. Any team which finds a suitable replacement will steal a march over the others, whose performances would suffer noticably.

Speculation on Malaysia

With Bridgestone taking the soft and extra soft compound tyres to the Malaysian Grand Prix, there is a lot of speculation that the decision has been influenced by the "big players," McLaren and (particularly) Ferrari.

It's well established that the better balanced a car is, the less it will wear it's tyres. The major teams tend to establish good balance relatively early in the season, and Ferrari in particular have excelled this year. Accordingly, there are noises from some teams in the paddock that the decision to run with softer tyres will disadvantage them against the front runners, as they will be compelled to make more stops for fresh rubber.

Bridgstone's connections with Ferrari and McLaren led to a lot of concern at the start of the season, when it was believed the teams would gain "unlimited" testing and tyres. However, with the season's progress, the count on testing days has disappeared for all the teams, which caused that concern to disappear.

The work by Bridgestone to give all the teams an equal opportunity stands in risk of being undermined, if they feel that Ferrari and McLaren still have the influence to decide tyre choices, to the detriment of the remaining teams. Discontent will only hasten negotiations with the likes of Michellin and Dunlop (now part of Goodyear) to return to the sport...

But then, Bridgestone have always maintained they are looking to compete, so perhaps that's been their plan all along?

Honda Flat Out

The Honda Research and Development team have been working flat out in preparation for next year's challenge, which they intend to kick off with a strong showing at their home Grand Prix this year.

The team's plans look set to return the status of "Formula One's most powerful engine" to the Japanese marque, on their official debut in 2000. The next generation V10 is around 15% more powerful than current incarnations, with reductions to weight and height - probably holding a 25 or 30 bhp advantage over McLaren and Ferrari, notwithstanding the latter's potential plans to use a V12 unit.

Honda are not sitting back in that department either. Their plans for a V12 engine are well advanced, and there is speculation that several test units have been trialled on the dyno - even noises that one made it into a car, a month ago. It's believed that Jordan will have a chance to test a V12 unit in the middle of next season.

With Jordan running so strongly in the driver's Championship, Honda are pulling out the stops for the home appearance, bringing some ideas intended for the 2000 out, and building a new unit which will essentially be their first "2000 spec" engine, albeit an evolution away from the unit which will be on the grid next year. This engine is expected to develop and extra 30 bhp across the range. it could present Jordan with their best chance of the year to win another Grand Prix.

McLaren seek control of F1?

Despite denials from all parties, rumours around the paddock continue to abound that the Tag-McLaren group is preparing to buy a significant stake in FOA when Bernie Ecclestone sells the company. This speculation comes despite rumours that Ecclestone is considering selling half of the company to a single outfit, for nearly a billion dollars.

According to news reports, Mansour Ojjeh and Ron Dennis are selling off non-core companies. Last week they sold TAG Heuer to French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. This is thought to be part of a cash chase, which will be swelled by Mercedes completing their 40% purchase of McLaren.

There is concern in the paddock that by buying into Formula One's management, McLaren could gain advantage over the rest of the teams. They would be expected to have some influence in controlling the future of Formula One, and gain revenue from their share of what's expected to be a highly profitable company - to the benefit of already large budget.

Rumours further indicate that Ferrari (or rather Fiat) are considering a similar approach, specifically to avoid McLaren gaining the upper hand. There has been no comment from Fiat concerning buying into Formula One at this time.

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