|ATLAS F1 Volume 6, Issue 28|
Rumours and speculation in the world of F1
|by The F1 Rumors Team|
This week's Grapevine brings you
Coulthard: Breaking the mould
David Coulthard has seen a lot of misfortune at McLaren. In years gone by, the lions share of misfortune with the car has gone his way. Add to that, his team-mate is blisteringly quick in qualifying trim, has the emotional support of the team's management, and is generally considered the only real competition to the "world's best driver."
That said, things are going through a very different stage at this moment. Keke Rosberg has just called for McLaren to support Mika Hakkinen as their "only real hope" of hauling in Schumacher this season. An interesting stance to take, when the team's top scoring driver is actually Hakkinen's team-mate, and not the double world champion himself: Coulthard's performances this season, particularly since the air-crash, have been from the top drawer, whilst Hakkinen has been a shadow of his former self.
It is not immediately clear what has brought this about: the accident was a big thing, sure, but why has Coulthard's game been raised by it? Funny though it may seem, there are two aspects. The first, on track, is the more obvious: Coulthard now knows precisely what his life is worth when he is on the limit. He has discovered something that Jacques Villeneuve had all but made his own in the sport: complete commitment, in the sure knowledge that if the worst happens, whilst it would be better it didn't, he is prepared to face it.
The second is more subtle. After the accident, Coulthard called the office, and let them know he was intact. The team were concerned - genuinely - for his health and well-being, and ironically, guaranteed his commitment by giving him "the time he required" to recover from the accident. Coulthard's professionalism saw him in the car at the next race, and the team, as a whole, rallied around him. For the first time since joining, he felt the emotional support that Hakkinen has been able to take for granted for years, and it has made a mark.
Rosberg's plea for Hakkinen to be made number one came only as his manager: Rosberg is fully aware that the Finn is unused to handling a situation where he does not have the teams' exclusive support on the emotional level, and it is taking a while to learn how to operate on a relatively level pegging with his team-mate; Rosberg believes he needs a demonstration of support to short-cut that process, however illogical it may seem. Coulthard still doesn't garner quite the same emotional support from Ron Dennis that Hakkinen manages, and probably never will; but then again, he doesn't need it. All he ever needed was to know that the team really do rate him, on his own merit, and that the commitment was a two way thing. And now he does.
The conspiracy theorists are out again, this time over something that is generally considered a step in the right direction: eliminating testing on tracks ahead of any Grand Prix held there.
Proponents, including Bernie Ecclestone, see dead Friday practices on a Grand Prix weekend as very bad for business: the paying spectators are inevitably disappointed if the stars they paid money to see only run a couple of installation laps. The TV rights for the sessions are worthless - as no-one will be interested - if there are no cars on the tracks. It's a simple scenario: and it's easy to fix, just by making teams want to run on the test day.
Taking out pre-event tests (or even all in-season testing), but giving a full day on the Friday will ensure that every team requires that time in order to establish the merit of new components, tyre wear conditions, optimal setup for race and qualifying sessions, and so on. The value of the session is improved immeasurably as a spectator event.
On the flip-side, which is where the conspiracy theories creep in, there are some issues with this. It's no surprise Frank Williams is concerned about this turn of events: he will be running on Michelin rubber next year, so plenty of running on all surfaces is required, or Bridgestone's historical knowledge of the circuits will provide them an insurmountable advantage over their rivals for at least the first season.
The tyre battle is only half the story: how are the FIA to police a testing ban? What's to stop teams using their own private track in closed session (Ferrari), or hiring an airport runway for a day (Williams) for some surreptitious test sessions? Certainly, the FIA are not trusted to handle what's under their nose (electronics in scrutineering), so how can they possibly guarantee high budget teams are not breaking the rules?
It's a hot-bed for sure, and there are no simple answers. But it's a fair bet that where TV rights are involved, something is going to happen, and the situation will change.
Still carrying the grudge, Jean Alesi recently told Germany's Blick magazine that, "My goal remains to be ahead of Sauber at season's end." Peter Sauber may get the last laugh, however.
Sauber is on the verge of a link with a Swiss investor, either the Union Bank of Switzerland or the investment banking firm of UBS Warburg. In addition, Petronas just extended its deal through 2002, which assures the Swiss team of the $20 million needed for the Ferrari engines which carry the Petronas badge.
In addition, if Salo is off the Toyota, as rumored, then Sauber will have two seats available, as Pedro Diniz is likely to be released for tearing up too much equipment. One of the replacements could bring an additional windfall, with the other occupant determined by ability.
Meanwhile, Alain Prost, who is Alesi's only hope of remaining in Formula 1, can't even find anyone willing to sell him engines, and sounds increasingly desperate. Consider the problem: how do you design a car for next year when you don't know what engine will make up the back half?
(provided by RaceFax)
Silly Season Update
Picked from the Bunch
A few grapes collected by RaceFax:
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