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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:

  • Launch time Blues
  • Montreal, Centre of Motorsport Excellence
  • Picked from the Bunch

Launch time Blues

The launch season has spectacularly failed to impress the vast majority of Formula One fans around the world. The recent move to cover launches on the internet is all very well, but without the underlying bandwidth to support it, the results are something of a disaster... at least, from the fans viewpoint.

Most of the hundreds of thousands of fans visiting their team's "official website" for the launch, found that the so called "live" link did not allow them to connect at all; the more fortunate discovered themselves faced with poor, disjointed images - suffering from low resolution for the former, and net congestion for the latter.

Face it, though: this is not really aimed at the fans. Marketing has discovered an interesting loop-hole in their strategies. Who are they attempting to reach? Well, to attract sponsors, you need to let them know their brand will be seen by "the right" people. The best of these are affluent professionals; often middle and upper management, and usually with offices. Many are interested in Formula One, have a computer on the desktop, and high capacity company networks. Very convenient for, for example, catching your favorite team, launching live on the net.

Many of those suffering poor images or no connection will have complained to the originating website; however, the team's PR department is certainly not going to pass this onto the sponsors! And of course, the odds on a sponsor directly discovering the internet is not the ideal tool are slim, for those that matter, are invited to the launches.

Who said marketing was all smoke and mirrors?

Montreal, Centre of Motorsport Excellence

Reports have hit the press that a consortium, led by Marc Bourdeau, head of the Vector Motorsport Company, is attempting to build a Centre of Motorsport Excellence in Montreal. Other big guns involved in the project include Mike Earle, who owned and ran the Onyx Formula One team, and John Nicholson of Nicholson McLaren Engines.

Bourdeau is intending to bring the rights to a new prototype engine technology, based on concepts originally drawn from British technology (there have been rumours that the PowerTech concept has been resurrected), but put together in a potentially revolutionary form.

Earle currently runs Price Design, a chassis manufacturer, whilst Nicholson has tremendous experience of running a company which assembles and tests engines at the highest level, and has supplied a large number of motorsport series. The consortium is intended to bring together all this experience, and a whole lot more besides. They have the technical depth to design a complete chassis and engine, from the ground up.

Initial applications to the local and national government have been made, looking for start-up grants as an employer of three hundred people - rising to five hundred in the five year timescale. It does reveal a surprise move in the location, however: most of Canada's motor industry is based in Ontario, and would be expected to home the new group; however, Montreal's reputation as a centre of technological excellence ties to the aeronautical industry, and the prospect of a good grand makes Quebec and Montreal the intended target.

Initial plans are to build CART chassis and engines, which would be sold to the series to generate revenue for future projects; however, the longer timescale is more ambitious: the consortium will look to buy a Formula One team in around five years. The team would be relocated to Canada, and run from there: initial approaches to the FIA have been made.

Funding for this move is not expected to require government input: if all goes to plan, the consortium should be able to raise most of the money from private investors, and will have some significant inflow of it's own. The location is ideal for promoting work with both the motor and aeronautical industries, and the with many developments coming out of the consortium expected to be applicable to both, there is significant revenue potential.

As it stands, England is considered the natural home of Formula One; however, if these plans come to fruition, then the future might just lie with the New World.

Picked from the Bunch

  • 500cc World Champion Mick Doohan will be dropping the chequered flag on the winner of the Australian Grand Prix. The organizer chose Doohan for being the most competitive Australian of the 90s - a period which saw him collect five consecutive world titles.

  • Michael Schumacher's fitness has been considered likely to be suspect in 2000 by the press, since he broke his leg at Silverstone; however, Schumacher has incorporated lessons learned through physiotherapy after the accident into his workout, and claims to be at his fitness peak.

  • Prost's teething trouble included an unexpected breakage in their new suspension; it seems the fault was basically the product of a relatively simple error in tolerance calculation. Gossip indicates the error only came to light because an inexperienced worker used the wrong type of carbon fibre in constructing the component...

  • Arrows are optimistic, following their test at Barcelona last week. Outperforming both Benettons, they surmise their approach to the season is not only on track, but likely to place them well into the midfield. Efforts at the next test are expected to include work to translate testing speed into race speed...

  • Rumours of Ron Dennis retiring - or being poached into the FIA hierarchy - surfaced soon after Jackie Stewart announced his own departure. Needless to say, the rumours were rapidly quashed.

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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