Atlas F1

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:

  • Zonta's replacement
  • Supertec's Promised Developments
  • Schumacher's presentation to WCs
  • Picked from the Bunch
  • Brazilian Tidbits

Zonta's replacement

As soon as Ricardo Zonta crashed, speculations began as to who might replace him for the San Marino Grand Prix, if he takes more than three weeks to return to fitness. Although BAR have not officially commented on the situation, there has been discussion at the top level about how best to handle the situation.

Zonta's car being towed away An obvious choice might be BAR's test driver Patrick Lemarie, except for his limited Formula One experience. He's driven only once, in a test session at Lurcy Lewis two weeks ago. Accordingly, there is plenty of speculation that Jacques Villeneuve will persuade the team to call on his friend, Mika Salo, to replace Zonta. Mika turned down the Minardi drive, as it gave no opportunity to showcase his talents, but a BAR seat - and against an ex- World Champ no less - presents no such difficulties.

Prost test driver Sarrazin impressed whilst driving a Minardi, replacing the injured Luca Badoer: he was quickly up to speed, out-qualifying and out-racing regular driver Marc Gene. As his accident is down to suspension failure rather than driver error, BAR appear interested in his potential as Zonta's replacement. Ironically, if he gets the drive, Mika Salo will surely be kicking himself for turning down the Minardi seat.

The last name mentioned with any real chance is that of Jos Verstappen. He could drive for BAR if testing commitments at Honda don't keep him elsewhere.

Supertec's Promised Developments

The disappointing performance of the Supertec runners in Brazil highlights that the next step, due at San Marino in three weeks, is way overdue.

Flavio BriatoreProblem surrounding the electronics of the engines held back the progress on power - resulting in a 90bhp deficit to Mercedes for the Interlagos qualifying session. Whilst Flavio Briatore maintains the power deficit is not the problem, citing the under powered Ford V8 in Michael Schumacher's 1994 title winning car, it should be recalled that this V8 was highly rated - it was more driveable, and possessed more low level torque than the engines it competed against, certainly not something Briatore can claim today.

The Supertec runners are finding it hard to crack the top ten. It has be admitted there's more than coincidence at play here, considering the teams involved include two of the 'big four,' and the biggest 'new entry' budget so far.

The expected step for San Marino is around 30bhp... and most of the other manufacturers looking to make a step at the same time. The next step, another 30bhp after the Monaco Grand Prix - will again coincide with progress from the other manufacturers. The Supertec progress is too little, too late to rescue the first half of the season.

Schumacher's presentation to WCs

Michael Schumacher paid a visit to the Interlagos rostrum before the start of the Grand Prix when he made a major presentation to Ayrton Senna's sister Viviane plus World Champions Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet.

Schumacher, Fittipaldi and SennaThe presentation marks the 50th year of the FIA's World Championship, and in a nice touch, the Brazilian promotors have asked the well-known Brazilian helmet painter Sid Mosca to paint 50 helmets to be presented to the 50 World Champions. Each is decorated with a special logo to mark the winner's achievement.

Ayrton Senna won the World Championship in 1988, 1990 and 1991; Emerson Fittipaldi won it in 1972 and 1974 while Nelson Piquet won it in 1981, 1983 and 1987. In presenting the helmets, Michael Schumacher noted that they were only being presented to retired drivers and so didn't want his yet (for his two World Championships in 1994 and 1995) explaining, "I don't want to retire yet."

The presentations came after all three recipients joined the 21 starters in the Brazilian Grand Prix on their drivers' parade lap. Viviane Senna later presented winner Mika Hakkinen with his trophy on the rostrum.

Picked from the Bunch

  • Rumours of Jaguar's return to Formula One seem to be linked with the form of Honda's return. It seems that if Honda run their own team and do well, Stewart might come under pressure to sell a stake in their team to Ford and change their name to the Ford Works team. Regardless, if the current Ford unit continues to impress, we can expect the Works unit to adopt the Jaguar name early next century, whilst customer units continue with the current Ford branding.

  • Prost's new suspension could be something of a double edged sword. If the team gets it working for next year, as testing indicates they should, then they could only be able to race it for a few races in the season. The system is driven by complicated G-force and wheel movement derived mechanics. Should there be trouble calibrating the system for any of the circuits, the weight penalty will take them well off the pace, though those where it works should see the Prosts with a distinct advantage.

  • Williams are rumoured to be looking into a suspension system like that which Prost is developing, but there are no reports of real progress so far.

    Irvine with friends

    Brazilian tidbits

  • Complaints about the track at Interlagos have not fallen on deaf ears. If the circuit is to successfully retain the championship for next year, a lot of changes must be undertaken to conform to the modern requirements. These will include revision of the pit entry and exit - requiring a complete change to the start/finish straight - and the track being resurfaced, among other less difficult undertakings.

  • Eddie Irvine sampled the delights of Brazilian samba dancing at the Escolar do Samba De Ouro in Sao Paulo where he was put through his paces by local experts in the Brazilian dance! Thoroughly enjoying the experience, he said: "I always wanted to go to the Carnival in Rio and now I know why."

  • Erja Hakkinen is becoming camera shy. She asked the Brazilian TV director to refrain from showing her so often after the qualifying session, where he repeated showed her watching the monitors in the McLaren pits. It seemed to make little difference, as on Sunday he showed her again!

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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