This week's Grapevine brings you
information fresh from the paddock on:
- Villeneuve’s Virtual Challenge
- Brands Hatch looms
- Silly Season Update
- Picked from the Bunch
Villeneuve’s Virtual Challenge
Having taken on the world’s top talent in CART and Formula One, Jacques Villeneuve has a plan for the future to ensure all armchair critics are put firmly in place.
Anyone who knows anything about Villeneuve, will know that surfing the net and playing video games come high on his list of leisure pursuits. Getting away from it all is something the ’97 World Champion takes very seriously… but more than that, he sees a future beyond Formula One which brings his hobbies and job together. In the offing, Villeneuve is planning a racing school. Not just any racing school either – the worlds first, and certainly most ambitious, virtual trainer.
With courses at the school include advice from the World Champion on cornering, gear changes, braking and overtaking, top graduates can compete for a chance to race against the Champion himself, providing an ideal opportunity to see first hand why Villeneuve took CART and Formula One titles.
The project is ambitious, and has completed the concept stage. If all goes to plan, which is rare for a game on this scale, UbiSoft will put up a development budget of over a million dollars, and "Virtual Velocity" (the projects current working name, not the final title) could be in the real world on console in eighteen months. And when it is, there will be no more excuses for the armchair critics who believe misfortune was the only obstacle between themselves, and racing stardom.
Brands Hatch looms
In the game that decides the Formula One calendar, the movement of the Monaco Grand Prix left either the French or British affair to be moved to an earlier slot. More astute politic maneuvering by the French authorities saw them seal the event in the summer, whilst the British Grand Prix was moved to April.
Before the F1 circus arrived in France to test ahead of the event, the organisers of the British Grand Prix had already been hauled over the coals by the FIA concerning their handling of the Easter event. Some excuses concerning the abnormal conditions were accepted, but basically the session amounted to a knuckle wrapping.
The new calendar sees the British Grand Prix provisionally moved to May – which should make some impact – but the date is only being held until the BRDC come up with a plan to ensure that traffic congestion and bad conditions will be handled "appropriately" before then. The marshalling issues are simple to deal with, and already covered, but the other issues are a thorny problem.
Having successfully beaten off the attentions of Brands Hatch Leisure, the BRDC were looking at Silverstone and the annual GP as the jewel in their crown; however, the cost of investing to build a by-pass and hard-course for parking is enormous. More than that, the event is only guaranteed for one more year, then it is expected to go to Brands Hatch.
The BRDC have been expecting Octagon (the new owners of BHL) to struggle in getting planning permission for the changes to Brands Hatch, and could be accused of complacency in expecting the event to remain with them. However, between the FIA’s requirements for Silverstone’s development, and the fact that Octagon have all but cleared the final hurdles, it seems Silverstone’s grip on the British Grand Prix is slipping.
Silly Season Update
Every year, particularly around this time of the season, speculation about the future of all the key players in the sport takes off. For the most part, the rumours are contradictory, unlikely, or just plain untrue, but all too often there are gems hidden amongst the dross that bear consideration.
Over the remainder of the year, the Grapevine will be keeping tabs on the latest hot gossip from the Silly Season, to keep you up to date on who is going where, and why, in 2001:
Mika Salo continues to run at the forefront of silly season rumours, and is apparently sitting on a four year deal with Toyota – worth some $24million US dollars. He is believed to be seriously considering another year of testing, and accepting the offer.
Arrows have taken the unusual step – for them – of indicating they are looking to keep the same driver line-up in 2001. However, neither driver will be convinced of the statement until the ink has dried on a contract.
McLaren have also indicated they are happy with Hakkinen and Coulthard; it’s not the same as confirming them for next year, but has quelled the rumour mill for now.
Jacques Villeneuve is now expected to remain with BAR for another year, then go to Renault for 2002 – there is no feedback from either party concerning this new state of affairs.
Giancarlo Fisichella has expressed satisfaction with Benetton and it’s Renault future, and a desire to stay with the team in 2001.
Jenson Button has been talking to Jordan, Jaguar and BAR about potential rides for 2001, following continued rumours that Montoya could be in Formula One next year – "just in case," as he says.
Jordan is openly courting Audi (VW) and General Motors in an attempt to close a works deal for 2002 onwards
Picked from the Bunch
Ralf Schumacher has come away from Canada with significant bruising, after Villeneuve speared his car at the end of the race. However, the young German is well on the road to a full recovery, and should be completely fit by Austria. His performance in France is not expected to suffer.
Widely published comments by Johnny Herbert, condemning the state of Jaguar as "Stewart re-badged" and "making no progress" have been denied angrily by the Englishman, who reiterated his commitment to Jaguar.
Jordan have a new evolution engine for the Austrian Grand Prix: peak power has not moved on far, but the unit is significantly easier to drive than its predecessor. The team hope it will be available for French qualifying, but await information from Mugen engineers...
Michelin continue to make progress with their tyres; however, the latest batch of "super-soft" tyres are too sticky, so despite significantly enhanced grip over the Bridgestone equivalent, wear rate is a worry, and when drivers go over the limit, they cannot regain traction.