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:

  • "Would the real 12th team step forward please"
  • McLaren plan changes for France
  • Picked from the Bunch
  • Canada Tidbits

"Would the real 12th team step forward please"

There is a lot of speculation concerning who will fill the last place on the grid, now that Honda have confirmed the withdrawal of their 2000 entry in favour of supplying engines to BAR and Jordan. All the teams would appreciate a 12th entry, as it increases the value of their "franchise" considerably, as any new entry afterwards would be compelled to buy an existing concern.

The name most frequently linked with the twelfth spot is Toyota. Since Honda announced their plans to become involved in Formula One again, their major competitor has been working flat out to put together a reasonable deal to enter themselves. Recent rumours have linked the team to an engine deal with Minardi and nowadays to Sauber, or a complete team in 2001.

Sauber have been looking for a decent manufacturer engine deal for some time, and are known to have been talking with a number of companies not currently in Formula One. Currently top of the list is Toyota, already a part owner, but it appears that the Japanese giant is more interested in taking over the entire team than just supplying engines. It has been mooted that they could supply engines in 2000, in return for access to telemetry and design information for their own entry in 2001.

But back to 2000 - another name in the news in Renault. Although Renault top man, Louis Schweitzer, has said "We won't come back unless our engineers tell us that they possess an advance such that, with a good partner, we will be able to win the world championship," Benetton's Joan Villadelprat has told press "If all goes well there could be a Benetton Renault next year ... I believe we've persuaded the French base to whom we've stayed loyal for almost a decade that this partnership should be recreated as soon as possible."

If this is the case, then there could be an announcement at the French Grand Prix that Renault are returning in 2000 or 2001 - it is known that they have been researching adiabatic (uncooled) engines, which could have provided them with an edge for running very high temperature engines. This would massively reduce the need for coolants, and the dimensions of any radiators required.

Should Renault take on a Works deal, it would leave Supertec in a strong position to enter its own team in 2000 or 2001. They could continue to supply "customer" units to other teams - Arrows and Minardi are known to be interested - whilst utilising Renault's resources to build a team and run the works engines themselves. Bernie Ecclestone was thought to be favouring this idea, and talking to David Richards about heading up the challenge, and the Honda Development Team about their options in the future (though, currently, they appear to working on a hybrid BAR/Honda car).

A less rumour is the possibility that Lotus could return - probably by tying up with an existing F3000 team, providing a name and financial backing for making the transition to Formula One.

Whichever team is interested in reserving the spot for a 2001 entry, they will be required to place a very large deposit with the FIA, in order to prevent the fiasco that Honda caused by their unexpected withdrawal!

McLaren Plan Changes for France

The McLaren team are fully aware that Ferrari are likely to have a performance edge in France, the way things stand at the moment, particularly as the circuit will probably allow the Ferrari team to run soft compound tyres, whilst they will want the medium compound.

Accordingly, the team are pulling out the stops to tackle their performance deficit in two areas: the balance issues are being looked at, to make the car run better on the soft tyres, and engine mapping to improve traction out of the corners.

Revisions to the suspension are expected to promote a significant improvement.

Picked from the Bunch

  • V12 engines are likely to be on the grid in 2000 - with at least Ferrari, Honda, Arrows and Renault known to be evaluating the possibilities. It is expected that Ferrari and BAR at least will run V12s, whilst Arrows and Benetton could decide the performance gain is not worth the weight penalty.

  • Prost are relying on a new chassis due for the French Grand Prix to turn their season around. They are rumoured to require ten world championship points in order to exercise their option on Jarno Trulli for the 2000 season - not that he has said he will move on if they do not perform.

  • The Stewart Racing sale to Ford is rumoured to be the tip of the iceberg in the selling stakes. It seems that Mercedes are pushing McLaren for a merger, and BMW want a slice of the Williams pie to guarantee their futures.

    Spain Tidbits

  • The annual trip to Canada has a special relevance to Eddie Irvine, since a large contingent of the Irvine clan live near Toronto. Over 40 years ago Eddie's father, Edmund Sr, plus two of his brothers and one sister, emigrated to Canada. Ed lived and worked in Toronto from 1959-61, before returning to Northern Ireland to marry Kathy. However, brother Herb and sister Lily stayed on in Canada. Along with their children and grandchildren they are big fans of their famous relative, and make the trip up to Montreal every year to offer their support.

  • Ralf Schumacher was caught exceeding the 80 kmph pit lane speed limit by around 40 kmph. This in itself was enough to command an impressive fine of $11,500, but as he has already committed a similar offence earlier this season, he might have had to pay up double that - but the stewards thought that a little excessive and let him off with the lower figures. By the way, it was later discovered that it wasn't really Ralf's fault - the Williams mechanic had his speed button set accidentally to 120 kmph, rather than 80 kmph.

  • Olivier Panis' Prost was stuck on the track on Friday afternoon. Jordan driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen was not very impressed with the time taken by track marshals to remove the car. The first time he drove past, he had a good look at what they were doing and the second time he appeared to take time to look at his watch.

  • Five team garages were broken into on Friday evening and various bits of equipment were stolen. McLaren lost five computers, but as they were brand new, they had no confidential data on them.

  • Anne Wall of the Montreal Rowing Club writes - Departing from regular F1 extra-circular activities, members of the British American Racing team and a small contingent of mechanics from Supertec took to the waters of the Olympic Basin with members of the Montreal Rowing Club on the Wednesday evening before the race. BAR's chief mechanic Allistair Gibson (an experienced oarsman) enjoyed the opportunity to get back in a racing shell and row with some of the club's elite rowers, as well as two members of the Canadian National Jr Women's team. Gibson described the experience "as a rowing orgasm". (Apparently it's been a very hard year at BAR). The members of the Montreal Rowing Club also appreciated the opportunity to introduce the Supertec mechanics to the sport of rowing. Some of the mechanics proved to be naturals, and expressed a desire to form a real team for next year's "Canadian Grand Prix Rowing Regatta". Apparently Bernie Ecclestone is already taking steps to make this dream a reality...

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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