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Atlas F1 The Grapevine
Rumours and speculation in the world of F1

  by The F1 Rumors Team


This week's Grapevine brings you
information fresh from the paddock on:

  • The Williams Phenomenon
  • Dirty Laundy
  • Kavanagh on a Mission
  • Picked from the Bunch

The Williams Phenomenon

BMW and Williams are busy downplaying the results of last weekend's Grand Prix. They mentioned it as a lucky result - finishing behind the Ferrari and McLaren being the best they can hope for...

However, life is not so simple. On Friday, Williams tussled with reliability, and inclement weather, before bouncing back on Saturday. You could argue that a drying track reduces engine disadvantages, and traffic makes the session a lottery, so making it to sixth and seventh on the grid was a stroke of luck - but it's funny how Minardi never get so lucky...

Then, over the course of the race, both Williams ran comfortably on the pace of Frentzen's Jordan - the only other front-runner on a comparable strategy. True, it was lucky for them that Frentzen developed a gearbox gremlin and dropped out, but otherwise, they beat the remainder of the second tier fair and square.

Ralf Schumacher and Jenson ButtonBy Williams standards, the results were mediocre - even considering they are better than anyone expected so shortly into the relationship with BMW. The outfit is in the game to win the Constructors Championship, preferably by dominating all the races, and their sights are strongly focussed on that goal.

It should be noted, however, that there was no accident involved in the results at Silverstone. The qualifying session reflected the drivability of the BMW engine: damp conditions require a delicate touch and very predictable power curve, or the car suffers a lot of wheel-spin. Changing the engine mapping rules also had noticeable impact, as the BMW's engine has inherently smooth characteristics, so the mapping makes less difference than for some of the other, more "peaky" units. Race conditions showed that power is approximately on a par with the customer Mugen-Honda engines - though Jordan claim these running around 20bhp down on the power developed before the regulations changed.

Rather unusually for Williams, there best assets are not just the hardware: having "the complete package" is vital. Jenson Button is still unproven - despite a great start in Formula One - but he is quick to learn, and to the point, has a style that suits the 2000 chassis. Leading the way is Ralf Schumacher, who most of the team rate above his double Championship winning brother...

Over the next few races, there is a lot more to come from both Williams and BMW. The engine has planned revisions to address both weight reduction and increased power over the next three races, whilst Williams are convinced they are en route to gaining improvements with both the aerodynamics and front suspension.

The changes are all incremental, following the tried formula of "evolution, not revolution," and they are expected to net some interesting results. In particular, keep eyes open at Monaco, where a balanced chassis and drivable engine is king...

Dirty Laundy

Since Max Mosley made his statement that the FIA have evidence that "a team cheated" last year, there has been more and more outcry at the authorities continuing to refuse to name the team in question.

Australian GP - 2000The silence has provoked a lot of speculation around the paddock, let alone in the media at large. The cynics believe the FIA has no evidence at all - just the nagging suspicion that their vaunted experts are unable to guarantee that no-one is cheating. They believe the claims that "a team has been caught" is intended to provide an excuse for introducing the new rules at such short notice, whilst making everyone sit up, and maybe remove the dodgier elements from their software...

There are other, even more cynical onlookers, who believe that the FIA were compelled to make the sudden changes after examining data from the Australian and Brazilian Grand Prix - a number of cars were managing suspiciously close to perfect acceleration off the line and out of slow corners. Unable to prove anything other than suspicious coincidence, they were compelled to take immediate steps to provide an environment they could reliably monitor. In their evidence is the claim that had the FIA really uncovered cheating over the off season, the announcement would have come ahead of the first Grand Prix - giving the teams significantly more time to update their software and test it properly.

The few charitable souls in the paddock who take the FIA at face value - and the press - are all up in arms to know who has been cheating. Until the culprit is exposed, aspersions are being cast indiscriminately, tarring all the teams with the same brush. Even they are unwilling to trust the claim that cheating did not affect the championship: every team was in a tight struggle with their competitors for points, so an underhand advantage would certainly have made the difference to someone...

And they have a point. Until the FIA reveal the actions that prompted their unprecedented step, the sports' image is tarnished, whether due to FIA's ability inability to police the teams effectively, or due to the belief that someone in the pitlane has taken home the wrong prize-money - and might find a way to do so again this year...

Kavanagh on a Mission

"I'll make Murray Walker eat his words" -- the bold statement of Irish woman racing driver Sarah Kavanagh, who will race her Formula One Jordan in the European BOSS F1 championship at Donington Park on April 30th, came after Grand Prix commentator Murray Walker publicly asserted that a woman would never be strong enough for Formula One.

Sarah KavanaghThis ongoing issue about women in racing, which was rekindled by Bernie Ecclestone's recent interview with Atlas F1, seems to have ignited a widespread debate among racing personnel everywhere. Kavanagh herself, it should be said, seems to welcome the challenge of those detractors, Murray included.

"I'm ready to prove that a woman can drive just as well as the men and can be fit and strong enough to handle the speed and physical forces in a Formula One car," Kavanagh says and adds that, "Bernie Ecclestone has said that he would very much like to see me in Formula One." Kavanagh isn't alone in reproaching Walker: Jackie Stewart joined Kavanagh in saying, "There's no reason why a woman cannot do it. And just imagine the commercial opportunities for a woman in Formula One!"

Picked from the Bunch

  • Jordan's talented technical director, Mike Gascoyne, is rumoured to be leaving Jordan next year to assume a similar position with the new Renault team. Gascoyne's contract with Jordan expires at July 2001, so it's not quite clear yet whether he will see the 2001 season through with Jordan, or leave earlier.

  • Despite claiming no responsibility for placing Silverstone at Easter this year, both Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley have responded to criticism with a statements of intent to return the event to July in 2001... though neither has actually provided any guarantee this will happen.

  • Jaguar believe their race-day problems are a due to over-sensitive aerodynamics at the rear of the car when the suspension is depressed with a heavy fuel load. They are looking at a month of wind-tunnel work before they can rectify the problem - at least two more races. The latest hydraulic bug-bears should be solved before the next Grand Prix.

  • Following their one-two at Silverstone, McLaren are gaining optimism for the battle ahead this season. The team are looking for another strong outing at Barcelona, which traditionally suits their car, to set up their fight back.

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