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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:

  • Running on Empty
  • Renault Kills Return to F1?
  • Picked from the Bunch

Running on Empty

Since Ford exposed the Mercedes advantage, developing a small, light-weight engine for the '99 season, the teams have been focussing on putting together integrated engines, with the focus on "the package," rather than pure horsepower.

Peugeot's new unit is expected to weigh around 105kg one of the heavier engines in 2000 and be around three-quarters the size of the '99 unit. It is not expected to show a power gain (the original was very powerful, though unwieldy). However, the reduced size will allow the car's aerodynamics to be significantly improved, whilst the small, low mass will provide for improved balance.

Mercedes, so far the power house to beat, are looking to shift the goalposts again. They are so comfortable with progress to date, that the usual blanket of silence has been lifted to reveal that the 2000 engine will have less mass, more power, better drivability, and improved fuel consumption. Work in testing at Jerez already indicates the interim (off-season) engine is impressive, and there is plenty more to come.

Ferrari are not standing still either. Traditionally, the marque has opted for power ahead of all else their legendary V12's were powerful, but large, heavy and thirsty. Taking a leaf from Ford's book over the '99 season, they worked on reducing the mass of their V10 unit, and the results showed just how much development potential the V10 still has work intended to bring back the V12 to Formula One has been suspended accordingly. The 2000 unit is to take the concept forward, working on reducing mass and bringing the centre of gravity down. Additionally, they are believed to be working on a lightweight gearbox, designed specifically to work against the peak power of the new engine... though that might lead to reliability issues at the start of the season.

Honda are fighting on two fronts. With teams competing against each other to produce the best solution the Mugen team supplying Jordan, enhancing the '99 unit, against the all-new BAR unit many believe the company is wasting resources. The argument that a single larger development department could move the whole project along quicker is not accepted by the teams, however, and things are moving forward in separate paths. Honda has a reputation for bringing engines in on time, and on performance targets; however, it's thought the BAR unit is significantly overweight and oversized at the moment, so at least one of the R&D teams is behind.

But currently highest in confidence is the Jaguar team. Whilst they have been concentrating on getting the new chassis together, Cosworth have stepped up their game again. Little is known officially about the new engine, but rumours emerging from the shop floor indicate they have found something new. Maybe the research on direct injection has paid off; or possibly, the low friction research has brought a new cylinder lining material to light. Or maybe, they've just managed more of the same: lower mass, improved power, improved revs, and smaller size.

Renault Kills Return to F1?

An interesting, and unusually detailed rumour, has Renault deciding not to return to Formula One after all.

According to the story, the company had developed a method of direct port injection which would have dramatically improved fuel consumption. Had Renault been able to convince the powers in F1 to eliminate refueling, the reduction in the quantity of fuel required to run a race distance would have yielded a two-second per lap advantage.

The company's involvement with the Mecachrome-Supertec F1 engine continues, however. The problem there is getting a competitive team to run the engines. Apparently there's little to expect from Benetton, as the 2000 car was essentially completed by Nick Wirth before his departure, and new chief designer Tim Densham will be able to do little to improve it in the time remaining before the new season begins. What attempts can be made at patching the new car are evidently one of the reasons the team will not test in December.

All that combined, it seems has Renault giving up on the idea to return to F1. For now.

(Thanks to RaceFax for this story)

Picked from the Bunch

  • Sarrazin's Team West F3000 move has restarted speculation that Prost could be running customer Mercedes engines in the 2001 season. Mercedes are on the record that such a deal is not impossible, even for 2000, if a team has no other options, though they would rather focus on McLaren.

  • Minardi might gain Ford power for the 2000 season, if the latest rumours from the camp are believed: Bernie Ecclestone is thought to have brokered a deal with Ford to run the engine Stewart used in 2000.

  • Michael Schumacher's absence from testing is reported to be a continuation of problems with his Silverstone injury. It's unknow when he'll finally be fit for action again, but the German is optimistic he'll be fully fit for the start of the 2000 season in March.

  • South Korea have expressed interest in hosting a Grand Prix, by lodging track drawings with the FIA for approval. Officials reported they hope for a 2002 slot to coincide with the Soccer World Cup.

    And some grapes collected by RaceFax:

  • Norbert Haug has been given a vice-president's title at Mercedes and will now report directly to Mercedes honcho Jurgen Hubbert, who said the promotion was a way of thanking Haug and rewarding, "an employee who represents our interests so well, both in good times and in bad." Haug himself said Mika Hakkinen's Suzuka win "rescued my position" at Mercedes.

  • Germany's recently privatized postal service is said to be joining the Jaguar team as an associate sponsor. They recently acquired the U.S. firm Air Express, and seek to increase their visibility.

  • Egypt is evidently in competition to host a Grand Prix. Bernie Ecclestone likes the idea of a Middle East race because it's on the way to the fly-away races in Asia, and the time zone is favorable for Europe television viewers.

  • Derrick Walker has signed former F1 driver Shinji Nakano for his CART team. Nakano, 28, was a test driver for Jordan Grand Prix in 1999, and previously drove for the Prost and Minardi teams. Walker will field a Honda-powered Reynard

  • Sao Paulo will continue to host the Brazilian Grand Prix, thanks to a five-year extension of the contract with Bernie Ecclestone. The race track will be resurfaced for the coming season's GP, and the paddock will be enlarged, among other improvements. The new surface is said to be puddle-resistant in the event of rain.

  • Bernie Ecclestone plans to extend the season's-end testing ban to January 1st, following the 2000 season. According to an Autosport report, the plan has the acceptance of the teams, which would save up to $750,000 a year.

  • MotorSport Aktuell has published, without citing source, a roster of F1 team budgets. From the top, in U.S. dollars:
    Ferrari      $216 million
    McLaren      $126 million
    BAR          $104 million
    Williams     $100 million
    Benetton     $ 68 million
    Prost        $ 63 million
    Sauber       $ 57 million
    Jordan       $ 47 million
    Stewart      $ 43 million
    Arrows       $ 36 million
    Minardi      $ 29 million

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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