This week's Grapevine brings you
information fresh from the paddock on:
- Critical Tyres for the Nurburgring
- Webber's Dream Drive
- Picked from the Bunch
Critical Tyres for the Nurburgring
The tyre selection Bridgestone are taking to the European Grand Prix is to include the "Soft" and "Extra Soft" options. The official line is that the Extra Soft should be quicker than the Soft tyres initially, but go off much faster, presenting increasing understeer. Teams using the Soft option are expected to suffer in qualifying, but gain a significant performance advantage in race conditions.
One of Ferrari's strengths this year has been their lower rear tyre wear compared to McLaren. Their engine mapping system is excellent, and the car's balance is arguably the best on the grid this year, and the team expects to gain an advantage at the Nurburgring as a result.
Bridgestone's assessment of the tyre situation is based on the average tyre wear rates for all the teams, and the expected characteristics of the track. Ferrari's analysis holds a slightly different view, based on their work in testing last week, and the car's excellent balance.
The better a car is balanced, the less the tyre's wear. Ferrari's work has shown that the improved grip from using Extra Soft tyres helps to avoid wheel-spin, which reduces the wear rate, and can allow the tyres to last as long as the Soft option on the rear. Ferrari also discovered that Irvine's chassis, which has completed substantial mileage between all the races and testing, has begun to lose rigidity, accounting for a fair portion of the team's problems in race conditions recently.
The Ferrari team have a new chassis for Irvine, and believe they have developed the car's aerodynamic loading and set-up, orienting it particularly to look after the front tyres, so they expect to run quicker over a race distance on the Extra Soft tyre than on the Soft option. With McLaren expected to require the Soft option to maximise their race performance, Ferrari hope to compete in the qualifying session, with a strong chance of seeing Irvine on the front row of the grid.
Webber's Dream Drive
After relentlessly pressuring anyone and everyone to gain a drive in a competitive Formula One car, Marc Webber's persistence is finally set to pay off.
The Australian has always been well supported from home and carried sponsorship from a number of (particularly) Melbourne businesses. He performed creditably through his career and looked good racing for Mercedes, though his sole event of this year - Le Mans - was cut short when the Mercedes cars were withdrawn on safety grounds.
However, strong petitioning, stronger self belief and superb financial support from Australia, currently led by Fosters, has seen Webber convince Bernie Ecclestone that he should get a chance in Formula One, and not for a back-marker either. Speculation has it that Bernie has dropped a "suggestion" to Eddie Jordan that the Australian's talent could be utilised by the Irishman's up and coming team. Whatever the reason, it seems Jordan has decided that giving the Mercedes bonded driver could be advantageous, and has agreed to allow Webber to test for a sum in excess of $200,000.
A date is still to be set, but already it's thought that a strong showing - and more funding - will earn the driver the testing role for 2000, and from there, it's only a short step to a full time ride.
Picked from the Bunch
Adrian Newey is once again rumoured to be considering a role with Ferrari. Paddock gossip has it the aerodynamicist wants to design a car for Schumacher before the Ferrari man retires, and Ferrari are keen to see him on their books - keen enough, one report says, to offer Newey 12 million dollars a year - almost twice as much as he's paid now.
Jordan's push is right behind Heinz-Harald Frentzen, as of the Monza Grand Prix, where the German took advantage of the only qualifying engine available to the team. Damon Hill is in agreement with the tactic to push Frentzen, and welcomes the opportunity to help Jordan in the Championship chase, even if he would not be in the starring role. Incidentally, Eddie Jordan says Damon Hill's deal is now race to race. Insiders say there's still a chance he could be off to retirement before the end of the year, if Jordan clinches third place in the championship, at which point Jarno Trulli would move to Jordan early, and Nick Heidfeld would replace him at Prost. Don't bet on it happening, though: Nick Heidfeld is reported to be reluctant on jumping in the deep water so soon, and with no serious testing on the car.
Olivier Panis could be able to pull enough funding together to gain an Arrows drive next season. It's speculated that PIAA - sponsors of Takagi - will reduce their sponsorship from 10 million US dollars to 1.2 million. This would effectively eliminate the Japanese driver from the running in 2000.
And a few grapes collected by our friends at RaceFax Online:
The European press was nearly universal in its condemnation for Mika Hakkinen's bout of weeping after he took himself out of the Italian GP. One person who showed a surprising empathy, however, was RTL commentator Niki Lauda, who said: "It is a clear sign to his team that too much pressure is being applied. Had he won at Spa, none of this would probably have happened, but as things stand, he is putting himself under far too much pressure to show that he is the clear number one. Clear team orders must come into force now to stop this."
Tickets order forms for the first U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis were mailed last week, and now we finally have an idea of what the prices are going to be like. Prices range from $45 to $150, which is comparable to the price for the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400. There will be general admission tickets available, for the Friday and Saturday only, price to be determined. Tickets will not be mailed until after Aug. 1, 2000. Current ticket holders for the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 will automatically receive order forms. Others should request them by sending a post card with name and address to: United States Grand Prix, P.O. Box 24915, Speedway, IN 46224 USA, e- mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-822-4639. Orders will be accepted by mail only, beginning October 1st, and must be accompanied by cashier's check, certified check, money order, company check or personal check. Credit card orders (MasterCard, VISA or Amex) must include the card number, type of card, expiration date, daytime telephone number and a signature, exactly as your name appears on the card.
Benetton has confirmed signing three designers formerly with the aborted Honda F1 team. Named were: Tim Densham, formerly the Honda chief designer; Ben Agathangelou, former head of aerodynamics (lord, can they use him); and Chris Radage, former senior designer. The three will work under the overall guidance of Pat Symonds, technical director, and Nick Wirth, chief designer.
MotorSport aktuell and the DSF Plus television network in Germany claim that Estoril, rather than Zandvoort, has the inside line to replace Spa on next year's calendar, should the local Walloon government fail in its challenge to the Belgian tobacco advertising ban.
Michelin is planning to eliminate 7,500 jobs, despite a profit of 17.3 percent this past half-year, apparently ending hopes the tire giant would enter F1, after requests from Williams-BMW, Benetton and Ferrari.
The first mock-up BMW engine delivered to Williams was reportedly described by Patrick Head as "more, uh, robust than the Ilmor or Ford engines," which translates to large, and presumably heavy.
Telefonica looks unlikely to purchase part of Minardi, but is seen as likely to continue its $40 million annual sponsorship. The Spanish telephone giant may have some competition for the hearts and minds of its country's racing fans. We hear rumours of a Spanish Super Team, funded by Repsol, headed by Joan Villadelprat (of Benetton) with Marc Gene and Pedro de la Rosa as the drivers.
There's a wild rumour going around that Gerry Forsythe and Craig Pollock will swap places next year, with Forsythe running the BAR team and Pollock heading the Player's and McDonald's teams in CART, the blue Player's cars switching to Lucky Strike branding. And of course the story has Jacques Villeneuve following Pollock back to CART. Forsythe is a minor shareholder in the BAR team.
The FIA tried its dashboard warning lights again during the recent Monza test, with what might charitably be called mixed results. The lights on the cars of Damon Hill and Pedro de la Rosa stayed dark when triggered, but all of Jean Alesi's lights were illuminated simultaneously, and the distraction send him sliding off at the second chicane.