F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 14th November, 1999

Kyalami gunning for Ferrari

The likely home of a South African Grand Prix in 2001, officials at the Kyalami track are looking to entice Ferrari to test with McLaren, Jordan, Stewart, Williams and BAR from the 8th to 14th of February.

At the start of the 1999 season, a test for Williams and BAR proved popular with the locals. Accordingly, officials want Ferrari to attend, completing the lineup of the top five constructors from the 99 season... then attendance figures of up to 200,000 for the test are expected.

Ferrari are usually coy about the performance of their car during the pre-season, and generally avoid "head-to-head" testing with other teams; however, in 99 they were suprised to be so far off the pace in Melbourne, and could break with tradition in 2000. Kyalami is of particular interest because the heat, altitude and dust on the track offer similar, but tougher conditions to the Australian circuit.

Power Plant Hype

The big hype for the New Year has started up in earnest, as Formula One's closest thing to an "off season" gets started.

Ferrari are happily spreading rumours that their next generation engine is very light, very powerful, and leading edge - a major step forward from the 1999 unit. Interesting, considering they claimed that V10 development reached a plateau at the end of '98... and their '99 unit would realise the limits of the technology.

Honda have their "all new" V10 for BAR - again, supposed to be very light, very powerful, and leading the field. Except that insiders report it's not reached it's weight or power targets - and is currently underperforming against the existing Mugen-Honda V10 used by Jordan. To add spice, the Mugen-Honda unit, apparently, has potential to get to the front in 2000.

Peugeot have finally dumped their 1997 designs completely, and the 2000 engine is completely new. Unfortunately, it's so much smaller that Prost can't get it into their 1999 chassis - so they can't test it. However, it is a clear indication of progress from the troubled manufacturer.

Ford and Mercedes are being coy concerning their new engines - many pundits believe they will simply continue to evolve the current versions, as they are clearly at the front of the field already. However, there are rumours in the stalls that both manufacturer's targets for the 2000 opener in Melbourne are 850bhp...

As always, nothing will be known until the teams deliver, for real, in Australia. However, it will certainly be interesting to compare the differences between claims made now, and the results on track then!

McLaren pushing the limits

With Hakkinen coming close to failing in his bid for this year's Championship, McLaren's work on their 2000 project is taking a slightly different track to last year's effort...

Reliability proved the biggest issue for the team in 1999, so the 2000 plan is looking to avoid the "big bang" approach: rather, the team are looking at a number of parallel developments, which can be individually proven and added to the car to ensure reliability does not suffer.

The approach is unusual for an "off season" McLaren project - though normal procedure during a season, when working on new developments for the car. In this instance, it's based on the knowledge that they never quite got the best from the MP4-14, so there is a lot of performance to be attained simply from improving the car's setup; upgraded equipment on the car is intended to augment it's current design philosophy, whilst minimising the impact on the configurations already understood by the team.

End of Season Reviews

Reports on the teams and drivers, at the end of 1999, by Julie Gates...

[ Arrows | Benetton | BAR | Ferrari | Jordan | McLaren | Minardi | Prost | Sauber | Stewart | Williams ]

Turning Treads

Bridgestone are reacting to the rumours that other tyre manufacturer's could be coming into Formula One already.

The Japanese tyre supplier has been looking at a number of possibilities to ensure their tyre advantage remains. The data collected at all the tracks is of benefit - as is knowledge of individual teams requirements and wear rates. However, incoming suppliers would gather that information in no more than a season, so other steps need to be taken.

An advantage of the monopoly - one which Goodyear, it seems, did not take full advantage of - is to ensure that trial compounds, treads and constructions are tested for conditions that the teams won't see this year... but which could be a case if another manufacturer comes on the scene.

The ideas being tested include options for long lasting, soft compounds (which Bridgestone can't use now, lest lap times drop too much. compelling the FIA to change the goalposts in the name of safety), high efficiency wet weather treads, and new constructs which significantly promote life and efficiency in the tyres.

Whether or not other tyre manufacturer's are considering entry to Formula One at this time, Bridgestone intends to be ready for them...

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