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:

  • Temporary Role Reversal
  • Television Coverage
  • Picked from the Bunch

Temporary Role Reversal

With Michael Schumacher unable to test due to injury, and Eddie Irvine's confidence riding high following his first Grand Prix win, there was a very strange air about the Ferrari pit at Barcelona. There was a positive air about the test and approach to the next Grand Prix, that centres around an Irishman rather than his German counterpart.

Schumacher congratulating Irvine on his first winEddie enjoyed the luxury of having everything his own way - the test program was tailored to his preferences; all change requests were handled, back to back comparisons were made between different chassis (rather than changing components on the car), new tyres were available when required - all without having to check the requirements of Michael Schumacher.

The team was concerned to find itself 'among the pack' at Melbourne - with the progress made over winter testing, they expected to be within half a second of the McLaren duo, and clearly faster than the closing pack. They were sure that there was more in the car for Australia, but the potential could not be unlocked. Whilst the car was very well balanced, it just didn't perform as testing indicated it could - there was always something not quite up to the required level. The cars potential is very high; the team believe it can run with McLaren, and soon - certainly it should be ahead of the others.

There is a plan to fix this. It will require a lot of effort from the team, but every aspect of the car is up for review - the development team have been working overtime to advance a complete set of solutions. The aim is to close the gap to no more than half a second by Brazil - Eddies times at Barcelona show progress is being made there - whilst the next engine step should be available for Monza, putting Ferrari within a couple of tenths of McLaren.

How this will work out is uncertain, considering McLaren should have sorted their reliability issues before Brazil and be back to working at speed. It is not thought that Mercedes (Ilmor) will have a significant step for the engine until after Monaco, but judging from the drivers feedback, the chassis just seems to be waiting for setup time to get a lot more out of it... even without the development team bringing new parts into the fray!

Judging by the test sessions so far, and the attitudes of the team members themselves, closing the gap to McLaren is not the big issue - that will happen, sooner or later. The progress being made by Stewart is a greater cause for concern in the Ferrari camp ahead of Brazil.

Television Coverage

With the rather second rate TV coverage of the Australian Grand Prix - with even the drivers upset about the standards, there are questions being raised about the shots being shown.

Coulthard's on-board camerasBernie Ecclestone makes no secret of the fact he is pushing his digital channel, looking to make Formula One a top pay per view experience. Digital subscribers get the best shots, including in car footage from all the cars (rather than the single on board camera allocation to terrestrial TV). The question is, is there any justice in the system?

Without television - specifically, the millions of viewers now being denied top coverage - the whole Formula One circus would not be the great spectacle it is today. Investors would not have been so impressed by the potential to reach millions world wide, and the teams budgets would be a fraction of what they are today. Television made Formula One lucrative, and it seems right that those involved should be permitted to make something from it.

The issue is, where should that stop? TV coverage is now worse than it was years ago - we are back to no on board footage, and endless shots of the lead car circulating whilst the action takes place off screen. Alex Wurz put in what he considers to be the overtaking manoeuvre of his career in Melbourne to pass Zanardi, but there's nothing to be seen on screen.

It might be inept work by the Melbourne race director... but if current rumours are to be believed, it was all part of the grand plan to get the viewing public subscribing to digital - where you can bet the action was prominently visible.

Picked from the Bunch

  • The Salo/Zanardi Rumour is a tribute to the popularity of the highly regarded Fin, but frankly, his chances of securing Alex Zanardi's seat are slim to the point of ridiculous - but there's hope of a test seat yet.

  • The Australian Mark Webber is within real possibility of a Formula One drive, if he can only get some funding together - Eddie Jordan is on record as saying funding is the only stumbling block to an F1 future.

  • Barcelona testing has put the cat amongst the pigeons, with Stewart comprehensively out performing Ferrari at the test... though they have fragile engines, and sour grapes hints at running underweight.

  • Impact of FTT is best seen on cars with full fuel, running at circuits with heavy braking into the corners - it could be worth as much as two tenths; enough for an advantage, not enough for the FIA to ban it.

  • Rear wing Deflection tests are destined to involve a 100kg pull on the wing, with a maximum permitted deflection of 1 degree... which should pose little problems for the cars as the forces at top speed are far in excess of 100kg; Prost, Sauber and Ferrari are known to be tightening their designs to be sure, however.

  • A Mercedes tie to McLaren could still happen according to the engine manufacturers - despite being rebuffed over their generous offer last week, it seems the German giant are still keen to gain a financial interest in the team that they have put so much effort into, so a future attempt to buy in certainly cannot be ruled out. If a future bid was successful, the McLaren team would basically remain as it is, rather than relocating or anything like that.

  • Ferrari's Plans to build a V12 are progressing - with news of test cells that have projected power of 'just above 900bhp', revving at 19,500rpm by the time a complete engine is on the dyno... and development potential to put out 'around the 1000bhp mark by the end of 2000.' Of course, there may be propoganda in the last statement, but there's no doubting the results of the cell test - which shows emphatically that there is potential for the V12 engine in Formula One.


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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