F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

Week starting 5th December, 1999


The Barcelona proving ground

Continuing the theme of Coulthard's dominance in Spain, Panis and Ralf Schumacher are getting to terms with developments for the new season in no uncertain terms.

Since signing to McLaren as test driver, Panis has been spending much of his time getting accustomed to the new car, whilst evaluating components for the new chassis. Having had an opportunity to compare the 2000 tyres against this seasons, the Frenchman has finally had a chance to run in something like qualifying trim... and posted times three tenths off Coulthard.

However, the big mover of the second day is Ralf Schumacher, who is pushing the new BMW engine through it's paces. With the long straight allowing the engine to work properly, the test saw Williams start to bring the revs up to projected limits, whilst improving experience with the engine is allowing the chassis setup to be taylored more effectively too.

All told, a very positive test for Williams, who are discovering some advantages with the highly drivable (and relatively low vibration) BMW engine - now they are optimistic the goal of a win in 2000 is achievable.


Coulthard Bullish in Spain

McLaren members are reporting Coulthard's attitude towards testing as "bullish," with the Scot putting in strong laps every time he ventures onto the track.

Last year, after winning the World Championship, Mika Hakkinen spent the off season on promotional work and holiday, returning shortly before the season began at least as quick as he departed. Coulthard, who had done all the testing to that point, was stunned by the performance the World Champion put on, despite weeks away.

This year, Coulthard is intent on making the most of his time in the car: his attitude to December testing was that every moment in the car is an opportunity to gain speed, and experience with the 2000 components. Despite being closer to Hakkinen in speed this year, Coulthard was never really on a par, and looks to 2000 as the year that changes.

Many believe the Scot has the potential to outpace Hakkinen, but will need to eliminate his occasional mistakes. The concept for the 2000 challenger is to keep everything much as it is, but make the car easier to drive. Whilst reducing the odds on Hakkinen falling off the road from a comfortable race lead, it should also help Coulthard gain advantage.

In any event, 2000 is almost certainly make or break time. If he doesn't close the gap, there's Panis, Zonta and Heidfeld looking for McLaren seats... and rumour has it, should Schumacher fails to clinch the Drivers Championship, he'll be looking to McLaren too.


BMW vs Honda

With BAR running their new Honda engine for the first time - the RA000E V10 - at Silverstone, the world can finally see the doomsayers were wrong about the development.

Early on, Honda's reputation, and their known intention to build a winning engine, led to all sorts of guesses about the product. Rumours from a V12 through to a super small V10 abounded. As time progressed, and the information coming from Honda failed to meet expectations - particularly the part about running two seperate development teams - speculation held the engine as late for delivery, overweight and underpowered.

Similar rumours have followed the BMW engine's progress, though few expected the manufacturer to be right on the pace from day one. However, when it's come to it, both have units in cars, on the track, gaining mileage.

BMW's first run was not as impressive as Honda's perfect 35 laps, but they had more to learn. They also had their engine ready months ago. What's going to be interesting, is seeing if Honda can live up to their reputation - and be on the pace by the end of the season - and if BMW can keep pace. Whilst considered a "no contest" by the world at large, it must be said that Williams do expect to outperform BAR this year... whether or not they have a Honda engine on board.


Trulli's Jordan, J200

Jarno Trulli was recently reported to be delighted with the Jordan team, and his first impressions of the J199. However, it comes to light he is more than pleased with plans for the 2000 development, the J200...

Moving from the overweight Prost, Trulli discovered the Jordan's handling was improved, and the balance - particularly braking into corners - was totally enviable. Plans for the 2000 car rely on Mugen-Honda delivering to specification on a new engine, which should be significantly lighter than the '99 unit (quoted as "definitely under 100kg" by sources). The reduced and lower centre of gravity will tie in with a new, even lighter gearbox, allowing the team to place significant ballast where it can do the most good.

Plans to revise the suspension appear to be an evolution of the current solution - which, in fairness, has worked well for the team over the last year. The aerodynamics are expected to incorporate changes which reduce drag on high downforce circuits (though there is no claim of extra downforce being generated).

All in all, Trulli believes that he has a lot to look forward to with Jordan in 2000 - and it seems there's plenty of reason for it.


Verstappen in demand...

For once, the rumours of popular dutch driver Jos Verstappen's return to Formula One are not just driven by optimistic fans.

Verstappen has admitted being in talks with a number of teams, and will be testing for at least one this month: what's less well known is the options open to him.

Speculation running highest is that Verstappen is being offered a test role with the Williams team, capitalising on his experience developing "new" products (the work with Honda last year), whilst providing a backup with recognised F1 experience, should the Zanardi deal fall through. Jos is believed to consider the role a serious opportunity: whilst others (read "Panis") are not interested in a one year deal, the dutchman has seen what a couple of decent drives did for Salo, and knows there's a real opportunity there.

Otherwise, there is a deal on the table from Arrows, but it comes with a serious sponsorship requirement. Whilst Verstappen can raise the money, the issue is more one of should he have to? His experience makes him valuable, and therefor he thinks it would be better to gain a paid drive, in his own right.

A less well advertised role is testing for Jordan. Whilst Eddie Jordan normally requires sponsored drivers for the position, it seems that Honda feel obliged to Verstappen for his work with them in 1999. They are reputedly prepared to push Jordan to ensure the role is available, if all else falls through. Why Jordan and not BAR is uncertain: possibly, it's because this rumour originates from fans (who would rather see him in the more competitive of the two teams) rather than reality; it's now too widespread to isolate the source.


Bio of Derek Warwick

Brief history of a country lad

by Michael Bass

Here's the brief story of Derek Warwick's steps to fame since beginning his career in 1972.

British boy Derek Warwick started his career in kart, racing winning races regularly before moving to stock cars; he started collecting fans even then.

Warwick went on to win the World Superstox title in 1972, aged just 18, in a family-built trailor company car. After a couple more successful years, he moved to single-seater racing cars for 1975, becoming European Formula Ford champion in 1976.

Click here to read the whole article


Jaguar getting ready to rumble

Progress on the new Jaguar chassis is proceeding better than expected. Aligned with what's promising to be a significant step forward on the engine, the team is getting optimistic about the 2000 season.

Components for the new chassis are performing to expectations in the wind tunnel; furthermore, believing a number of lessons learned from the reliability problems in 1999, the team see the first few races as key to finishing the season on a par with McLaren and Ferrari - and that's where they aim to be.

Speculation on Minardi's future Ford power has led some on the Jaguar shop floor to believe the Minardi engine might be an ideal guinea pig unit for new, perhaps risky parts, that are intended for the Jaguar unit; however, top brass does not seem to be following that route.

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