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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:

  • Ferrari Rejoice Alone
  • Prepared for Japan
  • Where the Money Goes
  • Picked from the Bunch

Ferrari Rejoice Alone

With the appeal going Ferrari's way on what many would call "a technicality" there has been a heap of reaction from the teams and the media. The "everyone has it in for Ferrari" conspiracy theorists have been mollified, but their natural opposition, the "one rule for Ferrari, another for the rest" theorists are flat out.

McLaren, having tipped off the FIA concerning Ferrari's barge-board, are really quite put out. The scrutineer assured McLaren not only that Ferrari was at fault, but they had admitted their error and signed papers to that effect. Irvine receives the news of the victory in TokyoAccordingly, with the opposition disqualified, McLaren did not protest Schumacher's clearly illegal rear tyres in their views his second stint had worn all traces of grooves from them, and by the time the appeal had succeeded, the time for protests had passed.

Stewart, who would have benefitted well from Ferrari's disqualification, suffered their disappointment well. They phlegmatically stated their acceptance of the court's decision, before heading home to consider the best approach to securing fourth in the Championship from Williams. Their position is far from secure, and with Ralf Schumacher a demon on Japanese soil, the added five point buffer would have been significant. The team themselves were not surprised by the decision they've long been resigned to the vagaries of the FIA's rule interpretations, and Ferrari's ability to gain advantage.

With the decision, a new wave of theories hit the forefront. The most adventurous have Ferrari engineering the whole thing last week, it was to prevent Irvine from winning the Championship, and this week, in order to "pull a fast one." The theory runs that Ferrari's lawyers spotted the 5mm loophole, and the barge-boards were made oversized, then McLaren's attention drawn to them care of the covers placed over them every time the cars returned to the pits. The idea, allegedly, was to ensure a protest against the apparently illegal parts, so that other, less obvious failings on the car, were not questioned. If that was Ferrari's plan, they certainly succeeded!

Naturally, the press had a field-day after the decision too as they would, whichever way it went at such a critical time in the season:

"Ferrari profit proves F1 loss," proclaimed Britain's Sunday Telegraph, adding that the result has "left the sport open to ridicule and demonstrating its inability to police its own regulations..."

The Observer commented that there were no winners from a "sorry episode - The richest sport in the world has dragged itself through the mire and come up smelling exactly of what you would expect."

Finnish papers were more philosophical, commenting that Hakkinen and his team had expected the decision to go against them in order to ensure the title was decided at the end of the season. Hakkinen's manager Keke Rosberg said on Finnish television: "Hakkinen was mentally prepared for that and will now concentrate on Suzuka."

Helsingin Sanomat, the country's biggest circulation, went as far as to say the judges' decision appeared logical and honest. "It was a surprise, however, that the Ferrari team came out of the investigation with almost entirely clean bill of health..."

Over in Italy, the papers that had called for everyone to resign from the Ferrari team, saying "kick the guilty ones out, this stupidity can not be tolerated. Millions of Italians feel betrayed," now changed their tunes entirely, saying how Ferrari are a great team, who will win the championship...

"Ferrari triumphs," said Gazzetta dello Sport. "Ferrari, the world championship is yours." La Stampa ran a large front-page colour picture of fans holding a huge Ferrari flag. "Big red party, Ferrari flies towards the title," it said. "Ferrari has won another Grand Prix, that of the Paris court," la Republica said in yet another front-page editorial. "Everyone on the podium, from Montezemolo down, including the lawyers who proved as good as the technicians at Maranello," it continued.

German papers, while reporting Schumacher's jubilation at the verdict, said the FIA had emerged from the affair with little glory. The Tagesspiegel reported: "The bosses of the FIA can rub their hands and celebrate a pyrrhic victory," and "The showdown of the season next week in Japan was everything, the credibility of the FIA was nothing."

Bild am Sonntag stated: "The FIA has put a question mark over its own competence. It's a bit like robbing an apple, getting caught and then getting away with it because one side was already rotten. Theft is theft, a millimetre too much is still a millimetre too much." Though it should be mentioned that according to the complicated rules laid down by the FIA, the car wasn't even a micron over the allowed tolerance, and hence completely legal.

Prepared for Japan

With the season drawing to a close in Japan, the top teams in the Formula One circus are working hard to go out on a high.

Ferrari have been concentrating on wet weather testing in order to be prepared for the worst, though they also tested new aerodynamic components and a revised engine which enabled Luca Badoer to break Michael Schumacher's lap record at Fiorano. They are clearly flat out to win this race and will be able to demonstrate a significant step forward for the event. Another Ferrari front row and one-two is their aim, and the whole team is flat out to get there.

McLaren, meanwhile, have worked at Magny-Cours with Nick Heidfeld and Olivier Panis, nominally testing components for the 2000 car, though are going out to Japan for the last event. They will be tested on Friday with the aim of closing the gap to Ferrari.

Jordan is looking forward to Honda's promised "SS" engine though rumours indicate that the unit might either be delayed, or be available only in qualifying. Testing to ensure reliability has gone slower than anticipated, leaving Honda's technicians working long hours to make the deadline... but if it arrives, the front three teams will all be in with a shout of winning.

Stewart and Williams are expected to be close too; the battle for fourth in the Constructors' Championship is hot. Williams' driver Ralf Schumacher loves this track, whilst Alex Zanardi has something to prove after a miserable season. Stewart's Johnny Herbert has gone well here and looks forward to maintaining his recently improved form by beating Barrichello. Either way, they are looking for the front three to make mistakes, and open up scoring opportunities; however, none of the teams appears to have a significant enhancement available for their cars...

Where the Money Goes

Jordan's Trevor Foster told Sport Auto that Jordan's 1999 budget was $62 million. The drivers split $12 million equally, and Honda got $9 million for the engines. The team therefore managed on a design, construction and operating budget of $39 million.

The team kept testing to a minimum to conserve its funds, spending 44 days testing. McLaren tested for 61 days, and Ferrari for 92. Only one dedicated test chassis was produced, saving additional money, but creating problems when both drivers wanted to test. The race spare chassis was then used.

Foster said the new transmission the team introduced at mid-season saved nine kilos (almost 20 pounds), which proved beneficial with the latest Mugen-Honda engine which turned out to be just one kilo lighter than its predecessor, versus a promised savings of six kilos.

(Thanks to RaceFax for this story)

Picked from the Bunch

  • Jacques Villeneuve has proposed to his Australian girlfriend, Dannii Minogue. Australian newspapers extensively reported this week on the engagement. Dannii MinogueMinogue's London-based assistant, Jules Kulpinski, confirmed that Villeneuve proposed to Minogue while the two were in Australia. "They are both very happy and very in love, obviously. Yes, I can confirm they are engaged", she said. One of the newspapers even reported that Minogue, 28, and Villeneuve, 27, were in Melbourne recently shopping for an engagement ring.

  • Honda are embarking on getting their 2000 project off to a flying start. The engine manufacturer is working closely with BAR, and allegedly have the 2000 chassis pretty well designed. They anticipate supplying BAR with next generation V10 units in late December, and Jordan could take delivery of prototype V12s by the middle of next season.

  • Olivier Panis tested for McLaren at Magny-Cours, apparently performing significantly better that the current test driver, Nick Heidfeld, though they were running separate programs. The Frenchman is believed to have signed a testing contract for 2000, and will be offered first rejection should a seat become available next year.

  • Gene is set to remain at Minardi, though the team is desperately looking to close an engine deal. Rumours of their impending takeover by Toyota have continued, though they appear to be closing in on sponsorship from Telefonica which would see them run at least another year.

  • Jody Scheckter damned Ferrari and McLaren in an interview with the BBC, stating that neither team deserved to win this season's Championship. He believes that Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Ralf Schumacher are the only true drivers who have driven consistently well this year, though neither is actually in a position to challenge the WC.

    And some grapes collected by RaceFax:

  • The recently tested Peugeot A20 engine, which may debut in the back of the Prost cars at Suzuka, is said to be over 60 pounds lighter than the current engine.

  • The recently announced ban on beryllium-aluminum in engines for 2001 means that Ilmor will have to design an entirely new engine for that season.

  • During the latest test of the BMW F1 engine in Austria, the company's Dr. Mario Theissen joked that Williams wants, "1000 horsepower, the engine should be all but invisible, and the center of gravity should lie below pavement level." MotorSport aktuel's Helmut Zwickl snuck a look at the engine, and told his readers that, while it isn't invisible, it is dwarfed by the transmission.

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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