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The Grapevine
Rumours and speculation in the world of Formula One
 by The F1 Rumors Team


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

  • Jaguar's challenger, with CR-2 power
  • Fit to drive
  • Picked from the Bunch

Jaguar's challenger,
with CR-2 power

Eddie Irvine has said little about the new Jaguar, particularly in comparison with the Ferrari he drove last year. At least, not in public. Comments in December, when Irvine started to play with the 1999 Stewart, which was running an evolution of the CR-1 engine, indicated to the public at large that the car was ahead in some areas and behind in others.

Less well known is that Irvine's impression of the Cosworth engine was significantly better than the press release let on. Its outright power, and the delivery of it, was noticeably better than the 048D; in fact, it out-performed the Ferrari unit in every regard, though the benefits were not very marked in some areas (the size of the power bands were similar). Noting that the 2000 unit, the CR-2, is smaller, lighter, and more powerful, it bodes well for the Big Cat as a power source for the coming season.

The new engine, as an evolution of the CR-1, is interesting. It contains a feature which Jaguar believe the other teams have not yet cottoned onto. Whilst a highly guarded secret, there are rumours aplenty, which indicate it is based on something Renault researched, and is intended to reduce mass, rather than improve outright power... Naturally, if this is the case, then it is something Renault would incorporate into any new engine project, should a return to Formula One be on the cards.

The engine, and its highly advanced electronic management system, are the driving force behind the scenes. More obvious elements of the 2000 package - the aerodynamics and the chassis - have also been tested in some detail. Give or take some minor reliability issues, these have given Irvine plenty to smile about. Reliability work is something he put a lot of effort into at Ferrari, so there is plenty of confidence the niggles will be ironed out by Melbourne; but more to the point, the new car is definitely better than the old Ferrari.

Clearly, Ferrari will have made progress - they are not hanging about for anyone - and McLaren have a history of shifting the goalposts that anyone would envy. However, as a package the Jaguar is looking very, very smooth. Certainly, the drivers believe they will be winning races this year; and every time the front players slip up, Jaguar aims to be in position to pounce.

Fit to drive

Modern Formula One is a different beast to that of the old in several regards; in particular, for the modern driver it is considered absolutely vital they are at the pick of fitness, or they are unable to perform. Fatigue takes the edge off mental agility, leaving it significantly easier to make mistakes.

The current leading light in F1, not just for his driving ability, is Michael Schumacher, who takes his personal fitness so seriously, he has a mobile gym to take with him when he tests. Currently training in Dubai, he is getting up to full fitness - a prerequisite to bolster his mental stamina, which is vital for the sustained qualifying-like laps he puts in over a race distance.

Over at McLaren, the team take their responsibilities very seriously and consider it part of their duty to ensure their drivers are in good shape. It's a well known fact that years of driving in circles build muscles in the neck. However, if those circles are all clockwise, and physical training is poorly implemented - if not neglected, then the muscles will build up asymmetrically, resulting in a "displaced" head. As a result, McLaren have literally straightened out some of their drivers...

All of the teams and most of the drivers have a physiotherapist, and it is a job which is becoming more and more significant. With current cars separated literally by thousandths of a second in competition for pole, and more to the point - a few quick laps mid-race making all the difference through pitstops in a race - every hundredth that can be extracted is pure gold. And if it can be gained in the driver, then all the better. The days when drivers had the 'Mansell approach' to fitness, which left him barely able to make the climb to the podium at the end of a race, are not likely to return.

Picked from the Bunch

  • Arrows' launch is expected to take place on February 24th in Holland. Rumours have it that the team's sponsor, UPC, which is the reason why the Arrows team were looking for a Dutch driver to begin with, have requested and were granted a full Dutch launch show in their home country.

  • Kyalami's license renewal leaves the circuit looking to host a Grand Prix in 2001. Track officials are preparing their proposal for inclusion on the calendar, and are expected to make their case at the end of the next Formula one test there - which runs from the 8th to 14th of February.

  • Estoril in Portugal has suffered a serious setback to plans for being on the FIA calendar. Intentions to host a test last January, in advance of approaching the FIA for a full Grand Prix in 2002 were blown away when the track failed the FIA safety inspection, thanks to shoddy work by a building constructor.

  • Audi's Formula One feasibility study has led to Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech writing to all the Formula One teams, confirming that Audi will not be in Formula One in the near future - he believes the enormous funding required is better spent elsewhere.

  • After a torrid 1999, Sauber believe they have made a significant step forward with their 2000 challenger... but do not think they will be in a position to challenge Jordan or Jaguar, let alone the leading duo this year. They believe fifth overall is attainable, however, and are looking to beat Benetton and Williams.

  • The BAR002 chassis contains some changes under the hood that were not discussed at the launch: moving from the Supertec engine to a smaller and smoother Honda unit has allowed the team to relocate a number of key components. This has yielded a significantly lowering of the centre of gravity.

    And some grapes collected by RaceFax:

  • Mika Hakkinen says he's taking a different approach to the coming season, attempting to improve his tactical approach to races. He says he has, "also changed my physical and psychological preparations, to make me stronger over the course of the season." Or at least at Monza....

  • Benetton has been promised a very lightweight version of the Renault engine "soon." It's been in development for a year and any improvement over the current 112 kilos would be most helpful. Also, Alexander Wurz reports that the current engine has the same rev limit as last year's version, but there's said to be 20 more horsepower available. More importantly, the holes in the torque curve have been filled, and the torque is increased throughout the range, all of which makes it far more driveable. One of the biggest improvements over last year is a major reduction in engine vibration, something which contributed mightily to the mechanical failures and wing losses at BAR

  • After last season ended, Eddie Irvine decided to take out an $18,000 'thank you' ad in Gazetta dello Sport, in which he intended to list the names of all 450 employees at Ferrari. The team would not provide him the names, out of fear of providing a shopping list to head-hunters

  • Just how quick is Jenson Button? During his first drive for Williams, he required only 22 laps to get within nine tenths of a second of David Coulthard's McLaren. Patrick Head had the youngster called into the garage, telling him, "You are fast enough. It took Jacques Villeneuve three days to do what you just did."

  • Recent TV tests show that it is almost impossible to differentiate between the helmets of both the Ferrari and the Jaguar drivers.

  • Rumour says that Compaq got a substantial discount on primary sponsorship for Williams -- that's more than $1 million -- in exchange for its logo type not appearing in red. Apparently BMW vetoed cigarette manufacturers as a primary sponsor. CEO Wolfgang Ziebart said recently than all sponsors must be socially acceptable. To BMW, that is.

  • Gerhard Berger was asked by MotorSport aktuell why the BMW engine wasn't shown at the Williams livery launch in Munich. Said Berger, "We would not have been doing ourselves any favors. The good details could have been exposed (to competitors), and they would have been able to make fun of the ones that are 'less good.' "

  • MotosrSport Aktuell also reports that motorcycle ace Max Biaggi ran slower in testing at Malaysia than he had last year, which he blamed on Formula 1. Biaggi said, "the grip levels are significantly worse now, because thanks to the F1 cars, there are now a lot more bumps."

  • Reports in Europe and England say that Bernie Ecclestone's planned $1.3 billion sale of 50 percent of his Formula 1 holdings to Morgan Grenfell is on hold. It seems an Iranian businessman, one Robert Tchenguiz, has filed a complaint in London, saying his company, the Rotch Property Group, had already agreed to purchase the same 50 percent, for $1.25 billion. In real numbers, the difference, $0.05 billion, is $50 million.

  • Michelin has acquired a Williams FW21, with which to develop its F1 tires for 2001 Jorg Muller is being considered for test driving duties.

  • Joan Villadelprat, the former Benetton team manager, is reportedly in discussions with BAR. He's said to be in line to take over the daily operation of the team, which has been the responsibility of Rick Gorne. The latter has taken over the R&D department.

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    "The Grapevine", a weekly column covering the latest gossip in the paddock, is prepared for Atlas F1 by The F1 Rumors team