F1 Rumors

ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 32 Email to Friend   Printable Version

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:

  • Testing fallout
  • Supertec relenting
  • Silly Season Update
  • Picked from the Bunch

Testing fallout

Alexander Wurz is having a pretty miserable season. Even after promising tests, he has not been able to get much form for qualifying, and when things have been better in races, his car has failed. Add to that his belief that Giancarlo Fisichella has had better equipment all year, and you start to see the picture of a pretty unhappy Austrian.

David Coulthard, during qualifying for the Australian GP this yearIt's ironic, but no surprise, to discover his worst testing accident of the year - at same point on the Valencia circuit which saw Fisichella crash spectacularly into Heinz-Harald Frentzen's Jordan earlier this year - just before what was supposed to be the most important race of his career to date. With Benetton expected to drop him at the end of the season, a gash to the bone from crashing minutes before the end of a test with suspension failure is certainly not something he needs.

The good news is that Benetton have identified a good set-up for the forthcoming event; revisions to suspension have worked, and the latest high downforce aerodynamics show promise: Williams has been targeted, and points are a real possibility.

When David Coulthard lost his rear wing whilst testing in Valencia, his only comment on returning to the pits was "Well, I'm definitely awake now." It was a definite highlight of an otherwise routine test for the team, which saw their cars running through most of the planned test program. Evolution to aerodynamics showed promise, until the wing failure. McLaren remain tight lipped about the cause, but rivals believe the failure was related to a weakened mounting on the revised suspension - being revised to improve bump handling - rather than the wing itself giving up…

Williams had a relatively trouble free time; steady progress being made on the aerodynamics in particular. The team arrived with a bundle of components which looked very good in the wind tunnel, but in serious need of real life track time. Mostly, they worked, but the whole balance of the car shifted as a result, so much time was then required to get the car set up for Hungary. Lap times were not important - race conditions are the most important consideration – so the team did not appear to set particularly competitive times...

Supertec relenting

When Renault took over the Benetton team, it was with the intention to stop providing customer units to any others on the track. They are developing an all new engine for their chassis in 2001, which is expected to be something of a departure from the current Formula One norm, bringing a new, cutting edge technology to the sport.

Bernie Ecclestone, at the German GPSpeculation is rife about precisely what form this will take, with top favourite a package based around an extra-wide V construction. This would help to keep the centre of gravity very low, assisting in the quest for a perfectly balanced car. Some believe that Renault have a whole new bag of tricks up their sleeve, as since leaving the fold, the manufacturer is believed to have put a lot of research into high temperature technology (reducing or removing the need for coolants), and they could also have an edge in other areas.

However, with engines in short supply for 2001, Supertec, essentially an umbrella company operating a customer arm for Renault, appears set to continue providing at least two teams with engines in 2001, after appeals to Bernie Ecclestone, who wholes a stake in the company.

The principle owner, Flavio Briatore, is believed to have taken some convincing - he is now wrapped up in the running of Benetton, and shaping it for the challenge to come. The last thing he is looking for is the hassle of running Supertec for another year - and in particular, he does not wish to be part of something which sets up another team with similar technology to his own.

The Supertec deal is not signed, sealed and delivered, but it appears that both Prost and Minardi will be using the engines in 2001. Prost is thought to have had the option for around three months - on the proviso he steps down from running the team. Precisely why that is, no-one is prepared to admit, but it seems the problem stems from Prost's decision to go with Peugeot, when they lost the Mugen-Honda unit.

Until each team has a long term deal in place, rumours will continue to circulate. Prost is currently the focus of the latest (annual) "Lotus returns" rumours, supposedly as a vehicle for the Lotus name to make a comeback as engine supplier to the outfit. Quite who would actually be behind this is not mentioned in the rumours.

Similarly, Minardi continue to be the subject of speculation concerning the 1999 Ford Cosworth engine. If they are to be believed, the team’s to-be-announced sponsors will be bringing Ford leverage with them, and hence the CR-1 would become available to the team at a knock down price (the only figure bandied is around the $15 million mark). If this should turn out to be the case, it would be particularly ironic, as the Jaguar outfit has recently been using a modified CR-1 in preference to their new unit - looking for the power, drivability and reliability of the old unit, against this the model which has been so disappointing this year.

In the paddock, the attitude - right or wrong - is that Prost and Minardi will run Supertec power next year. The all know that Bernie Ecclestone is not going to let a team become sidelined from lacking an engine… particularly when he has so much input with at Supertec.

Silly Season Update

  • Jenson Button and Olivier Panis are reported as the leading contenders for seats at Benetton and BAR, respectively. Or the other way around, depending who Flavio Briatore would prefer in the forthcoming Renault team.

    Luciano Burti

  • Luciano Burti is currently top tip for the Jaguar number two role, alongside Eddie Irvine. Dario Franchitti is reputedly not interested in making the move this year – the package "is not yet right."

  • Juan Pablo Montoya's announcement of a move to Williams is reported to be pending finding a replacement at Ganassi who meets the requirements of Toyota, who supply engines to the team.

  • Jos Verstappen and Enrique Bernoldi are both believed to be discussing the second seat at Sauber. Some reports indicate Jean Alesi and Alexander Wurz also have a shot at the role, but the former at least has publicised his commitment to Prost.

  • Bruno Junquiera is thought to be in discussion with Arrows concerning a race seat in 2001. A test could be arranged before the end of the season.

  • Mark Webber seems set to land a test at Benetton – which could lead to the role of test driver next year. A race seat is not an option at this time.

    Picked from the Bunch

  • Jean Alesi's malady after the German Grand Prix is believed to be viral, rather than a specific result of his high speed exit from the event. Having examined him from top to toe, finding nothing outside the ordinary, medical opinion holds that concentrating on performing for the weekend prevented him feeling the effects until the accident allowed him to relax.

  • Coca-Cola is believed to be interested in making a major investment in Formula One over the next five years. Expectations include sponsorship of events - with Indianapolis and Hungary currently hot favourites - and teams, along with track-side advertising. Jordan is expected to be best positioned to land a contract, as the team carries the "fun, lively, and competitive" spirit the company are looking to portray. Benetton and Ferrari are also high on the hit-list - Williams.are not going to be considered unless BMW permit a colour scheme change.

  • Jenson Button's management believes the five year contract with Williams is hurting their chances of placing the driver with other teams. An approach to Frank Williams to end the contract were met bluntly, with the comment "I wouldn’t do it even if you offered me $45 million" saying it all.

  • Giancarlo Fisichella and Michael Schumacher are expected to have words at Hungary on Thursday. Following the building war of words in the press, time out to diffuse the situation is considered a necessity by both. Along the same lines, the drivers meeting is expected to include further discussion on starting protocols.

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