This week's Grapevine brings you
information fresh from the paddock on:
- Black Cat at BAR?
- Ferrari headaches
- Salo in a Ferrari?
- Picked from the Bunch
- Melbourne Tidbits
Black Cat at BAR?
At the debut race of the new BAR team, there was a noticeable absentee - shareholder and chassis designer, Adrian Reynard, who did not make it to the track. Reynard is renowned for being actively involved in the running of every team he's been a part of, so naturally speculations were circling in Melbourne, around his absence. One rumour has it, that Reynard and BAR manager, Craig Pollock, have profound differences of opinion as to the managing of British American Racing. Craig Pollock, being questioned on TV about Reynard's absence, only enhanced speculations while replying: "why don't you ask Him."
The Grapevine will continue investigating into this, and will keep you posted in the next issue.
After the disappointing speed in the Ferrari, the team are getting their act together to bring forward their development program for the car. The F399 program for 1999 has a number of potential developments in progress, expected for San Marino; but with the full second a lap deficit at Melbourne, the pressure is on to make the changes happen for Brazil.
Another aspect that is destined for attention is the tyre wear effects: with Eddie Irvine in particular saying the tyres feel better as they get older - providing better balance, rather than improved grip - and observing McLaren run one set per car in qualifying, has set heads to thinking. The team is now aware that they don't know as much about the tyres as they are going to
need if the Championship is to be viable. A testing program to work on tyre data is being mapped out, to work alongside the car development program.
The last aspect is what to do now that Eddie has a win under his belt. Should the Ulsterman be leading the next Grand Prix, and have to give way to Michael Schumacher (as his contract dictates), then the team could be in trouble with the race stewards, for using team orders in an illegal fashion. The team orders could not be argued as 'aiding the championship', as they would actually be penalising the Championship leader!
Salo in a Ferrari?
Since leaving Arrows, there's been some speculation about the future of Finnish driver, Mika Salo. The popular rumour is that he will be going to Honda - he had a provisional contract and allegedly has a letter of intent to that effect, prior to the signing of Jos Verstappen. Since Jos has been going so well in testing, it might be hard to keep them to it, however.
Another rumour has Salo taking on a test role at Ferrari - who have been too busy in Melbourne to offer comment at this time - which makes an element of sense with Luca Badoer being subcontracted to Minardi for the season. Sources in Ferrari declined to comment, but the F1 Rumors team does not see it happening.
Picked from the Bunch
Bridgestone preparing to change brand name: with the introduction of Firestone branding to the advertising at Melbourne, tyre company Bridgestone is showing their hand, and will be going worldwide with the Firestone branding they use in the USA for performance tyres.
Flying New Zealand visit: Mika Hakkinen slipped the crowds ahead of the Australian Grand Prix by taking a trip to New Zealand. He stayed in a private location, to prepare mentally for the race ahead.
Lamborghini in Formula One: It is rumoured that VW's plans to enter Formula One as an engine supplier have taken a step forward with the decision to use the Lamborghini name, which is believed to have the right image.
Honda V12: It seems Honda have stolen a march on Ferrari to be the first returnee of the V12 engine to Formula One. The Japanese company is rumoured to have tested their new engine for the first time on a circuit in Japan.
gossip from the race weekend
It seems that not everyone in Melbourne is up to date on Formula One. Damon Hill went into a model shop, because he saw in the window a very nice model of the Lotus '49 which his father Graham Hill used to race. The shopkeeper obviously did not recognise him and istead tried to sell him a model of the Lotus '49 driven by Jim Clark.
Anti-tobacco rules in Australia forbid F1 team personnel from wearing cigarette brand logos outside the circuit, so all team members have to cover them up, or change, for the journey from their hotel to the track and back every day - which amounts to around 100m for the closest placed teams.
Grand Prix Safety Car driver, Oliver Gavin, had a bad start to the weekend. Apart from his official duties, he was also competing in the Porsche Supercup race on Friday. Having qualified ninth, he only got as far as the third corner on the first lap, when he was driven into and crashed off the track. No Safety Car came out after that incident!
Melbourne Race winner Eddie Irvine has a busy schedule after this race. From Australia, he flew to Malaysia to attend the opening of the Sepang Circuit, which will host the penultimate race of this season. From there he flies to England and immediately appears on the popular morning television show, "The Big Breakfast", on Channel 4. After a day to get over all that travelling, the Irish Ferrari driver is being taken for a spin in something much faster than his Formula One car - he is joining the crack
British aerobatic squad, the Red Arrows, as they practice their routine.