F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 17th October, 1999

Malaysian 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) | Ferrari appeal ]

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

Review: Fallout from Sepang - by ITV-F1 Viewfinder
Review: Championship Decided... on a technicality - by David Cunliffe
Humour: Welcomew back Mr Schumacher - Inky Black
Preview: Malaysia - by Formula-1.co.uk
Preview: Cataclysmic Events? - by Jo Howard
Preview: Descending on Sepang - by ITV-F1 Viewfinder

Ferrari over the moon...

With the verdict of the appeal going entirely in Ferrari's favour, the team is overjoyed: their lead in both Championships is now commanding, putting them back into overall favourite position for Irvine to lift the Driver's crown.

Reaction from the other teams in the pitlane includes an element of disbelief: the fact that Ferrari did not gain a performance advantage from breaking the rules does not change the fact they broke them. Accordingly, almost all the teams believe some form of punishment is appropriate, and that just has not happened. It enhances the "one rule for Ferrari, another for the rest" attitude that's been rife in the pitlane for years.

Ferrari's Suzuka Challenger

Ferrari's Susuka challengerFresh off the press, it seems that Ferrari's contingency plans, for the verdict going against them on the appeal, include this hybrid 1999/2000 car.

The car's design includes parts tested at Fiorano, and sanctioned by the FIA, though there is some concern that should the car win races, other teams could protest the revolutionary turning vanes...

Picture: origin unknown.

Honda step up for 2000

Preparing for the 2000 challenge, the Honda development team are working with BAR to refine their existing car, and integrate the best ideas from their own, aborted challenger.

The new car is expected to carry the Honda drive train, and incorporate an number of aerodynamic affects from this year's development model. BAR's suspension configuration will probably be retained, but revised by Honda engineers in an attempt to improve mechanical grip, which has been lacking this year.

The car is expected to house a V10 engine, as work on the V12 unit has not shown significant benefit in the short term, and the priority with BAR is to build a car that can make the finish line in 2000.

After Heinz-Harald Frentzen's excellent season with Jordan, and the promise of another solid performer in Jarno Trulli, Honda are keen to see the Jordan team perform well next year... accordingly the "customer" Mugen-Honda units the team will run are expected to be the development versions of those run by BAR. It leaves the team in a questionable position: they'll have better power and drive, but significantly increased risk of failure.

It's also thought that Jordan will take delivery of the first "public" version of a V12 engine shortly after the 2000 season begins, but only for testing purposes. It's unlikely to make a race debut until 2001, though nothing can be ruled out if it proves a major step forward!

Panis in Demand!

Rumours from Sepang concerning the future of Panis linked him - potentially - to Williams, as a replacement for Zanardi, who had a poor race.

However, Zanardi's contract is pretty solid, so unless he chooses to walk, it's unlikely anyone else will be in his seat in the next two years; but Panis is already tied to Mercedes for next year. The deal opened the door to a testing contract with McLaren - and a potential seat if either of the current drivers is injured or off the pace in 2000.

Evidense that Panis signed a McLaren test contract in Malaysia has risen again, following the Frenchman's appearance at Magny-Cours yesterday, to test a McLaren - incidentally posting a better time than Nick Heidfeld, who is en route to Prost for next season.

Given Panis' appearance in a McLaren, if only to test, it throws doubt on the rumour of Zanardi's departure from Williams.

Scenes from a SNAFU season

by Colm Doherty

"The infinite expanse of space is exceeded only by man's stupidity" A.Einstein.
"Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" Murphy
"A variation in the tolerance of a part will be in such a direction as to have the most adverse consequence" a corollary of Murphy's Law.

Pete Mooney's brilliant observations of a season gone wrong ( "Dumb and Dumber") probably sums up many of the questions now on the lips of F1 fans everywhere. As luck would have it, I found myself in the media centre at Sepang last Sunday evening, just as Joe Bauer's bombshell memo hit, causing a 1000 grown men to scream & weep as they ripped up 2 hours of finely honed copy.

The news spread through the paddock, and beyond, met by astonishment, incredulity and amazement all round. And yet, isn't the barge board controversy simply the next logical step in this SNAFU * season?

Click here to read the whole article

Dumb and Dumber

"Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated" Sun Tzu, The Art of War, 5th century B.C.

by Peter Mooney

Hands up, who wants to win the World Championship? Hello?

While the races at the Nurburgring and Sepang, on the face of it, were exciting, many of the top F1 teams seem to be losing it completely. The level of incompetence shown per dollar spent would find many drivers and team members out the door and on skid row in the real world. Hero to Zero was the tag for the day at both events, and it appears that a creeping disease has taken over the Formula One grid this year.

Click here to read the whole article...

Ferrari push on...

In the hope that the Championship challenge won't be ended by a negative outcome from Friday's appeal, Ferrari are flat out pursuing development on the car.

In addition to fixing the illegal barge-board, the team are pursuing development to the engine and rear suspension, attempting to counter the rumour that Honda are supporting Jordan with a new, improved by 30bhp engine for Japan. Ferrari expect that would bring Jordan on a level with themselves, and hope to counter by improving traction.

That's not all. It transpires the team are quietly checking for any "mole" who might have been hired by the team, who could have sabotaged the barge-board design to make it illegal - though they believe it's just a genuine error, they want to be sure. Furthermore, they are testing relations with the FIA who originally validated the design, to see if there are any ways the interface could be improved, ensuring this type of error does not occur again.

The Honda Dilemma

by Carlos Soto

It seems that Formula One teams are looking for deeper involvement with their engine manufacturers, involving them more closely in the design and running of the team, rather than just as "suppliers of motive power."

Click here to read the whole article

Panis for Zanardi?

Rumours from the pitlane in Malaysia indicate that Zanardi could be on the way out of Williams, after an appalling race where he struggled - and failed - to pass Gene's Minardi.

If the rumours are to be believed, his excellent technical knowledge and rapport with Frank Williams and Patrick Head will not save him; and his replacement would be... Olivier Panis.

Technical Detail on the Ferrari Issue

A number of readers have written in to ask about the technical details of the Ferrari's disqualification, and whether they really did gain any advantage from their illegal barge boards. Accordingly, and with thanks to the Tifosi-Club for the images, we shall attempt to explain the issue...

Ferrari's illegal barge boardThe barge-boards, or turning vanes as they are correctly known, are located in front of the side-pods on the car. Their function is to smooth the flow of air over the rear body work and into the side-pods (which contain the radiators used to cool the engine). They are particularly important for dealing with the dirty air from the front wheels and wing.

The controversy seems to centre around a small, horizontal piece at the bottom of the vane. As part of the whole package, it does have some affect on the overall aerodynamic efficiency of the car - it wouldn't be there otherwise. However, it's significance is so miniscule, it's really there just to finish the piece, completing the "aesthetic" rather than practicle side of the design.

Nominally, the design has been approved by the FIA prior to being used - as was the McLaren independant braking system last year - but been declared illegal by the scrutineer at the track. The turning vane does, in fact, take the car outside the rules; however, with several previous scrutineerings, the FIA's implicit approval, and the car not being disqualified at the Nurburgring besides statements up and down the pitlane that the effect of the flat piece is negligable, the team have some hopes of salvaging something from their appeal on Friday.

Credit for the image to The Tifosi Club.

Support for Ferrari

Up and down the pitlane, there is support for Ferrari in their appeal against the FIA's decision - though it's mixed feelings from McLaren!

The disqualification is over a missing piece which - technically - makes the car illegal. However, it's absence is clearly an oversight by the team, and with no aerodynamicist believing a performance advantage was gained, the general feeling is that Ferrari are hard done by.

However, they are also maintaining that the rules are clearly broken, so whether it's intentional or not, some form of punishment is appropriate for failing scrutineering.

Review of Malaysia 1999

The Championship is decided... on a technicality

by David Cunliffe

Ferrari did everything right - at least in the race - at the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix, taking an emphatic 1-2. Unfortunately for them and millions of tifosi, all their efforts were wasted when they were disqualified shortly after the chequered flag on a technicality. The team is appealing the decision, on the basis that the modifications in question were approved by the FIA and, indeed, were used at the previous race. But the long list of appeals to the FIA contains few successes. Mika Hakkinen, who finished third on the track, promoted to first and 12 points ahead of Irvine, is therefore almost certainly World Champion again.

Click here to read the whole article

Potential Solution for the FIA

Having disqualified Ferrari for a technical infringement, the FIA will hear from the team in Paris on Friday. However, Ferrari's chances of a reversal are miniscule, as their car clearly infringed the rules.

The rules, whilst designed to ensure the cars cannot gain competitive advantage over rivals, make no allowance for "discretion" if no performance advantage is to be gained; for this reason, the decision to disqualify the team has to be upheld.

However, politically this would be unfortunate; it would stop Ferrari going to Japan, hand the Driver's Championship to a frankly underperforming Hakkinen, and penalise Schumacher and Irvine after a completely dominant display on the race track. Furthermore, with the problem not being picked up through any of the numerous scrutineering checks over the weekend, let alone the post-race check after Nurburgring, the FIA are appearing to be malicious.

Accordingly, as the drivers are not at fault, but the car is clearly illegal, the FIA may be inclined to disqualify the team - preventing points being scored in the Constructor's Championship - but not the drivers... which would keep the Championship alive, and avoid penalising them for something that is not their fault, if nothing else.

Ferrari threaten to withdraw from Suzuka

Having entered the same car at both the European Grand Prix, three weeks ago, and the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend, the team are dismayed and upset that the same scrutineering procedures which passed the cars then have disqualified them now.

The illegality relates to the nature of the car's barge board: the top edge is curved slightly, which results in a 10mm overhang - illegal under the incredibly strict rules. The team maintain it's a manufacturing error (the boards are incomplete), and there is no significant performance advantage to be gained; something that aerodynamicists along the pitlane confirmed.

With the Championship wrapped up, and the FIA in Ferrari's bad books, they see no point in going to Suzuka.

Ferrari's appeal will be heard in Paris on Friday. The FIA are not known for reversing their decisions, however...

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