Atlas F1 The 1999 Teams Review

  by Ewan Tytler, U.S.A.

1999 was a difficult year for the Formula One teams. They had a shorter off-season to prepare; the technical regulations made things more difficult and more expensive; the four grooved front tyres resulted in more spin-offs; the cars were less reliable than the year before. All this accumulated to a fairly different Constructors Championship order than we have come accustomed to in previous years. Ewan Tytler has a say on who was hot and who was not.

Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro       1st, 128 Points

6 wins, 3 Pole Positions, 9 Fastest Laps, 4 DNF
Team Principal: Jean Todt. Technical Director: Ross Brawn. Chief Designer: Rory Byrne.

Ferrari did their homework over the winter and the F399 was a capable, well-tested, reliable car that handled well in the dry. However, unlike the Goodyear-shod F300 of 1998, the F399 was not as competitive in the wet. Despite losing Michael Schumacher in mid-season, Ferrari went on to win convincingly at Austria and Germany. Ferrari brought the wrath of the Italian press on their heads by being uncompetitive at Monza and incompetent at the Nurburgring. They then flirted with disaster on Michael Schumacher's return at Sepang, getting disqualified after a one-two victory, followed by a week of legal wrangling which they ultimately won. Their pit-stop strategies were superior to McLaren's, especially at San Marino, Austria, Germany and Malaysia. For the season, Ferrari had only two DNFs due to mechanical failure and two DNFs due to crashes. Ferrari took their 9th manufacturers' title, matching Williams' all-time record. Ferrari still holds the all-time records for wins, points, pole positions and fastest laps.

West McLaren-Mercedes       2nd, 124 Points

7 wins, 11 Pole Positions, 7 Fastest Laps, 12 DNF
Team Principal: Ron Dennis. Technical Director: Adrian Newey. Chief Designer: Neil Oatley

The McLaren MP4/14 was designed to be a car for all conditions, coupled with the excellent Ilmor-Mercedes engine. The MP4/14 had a clear advantage on high-speed circuits and handled very well in the wet but seemed to quickly snap out-of-control when pushed to the limit in the dry. It is said that Formula One championships are won or lost early in the season and that was true for McLaren in 1999. McLaren were ill-prepared for the 1999 season, the MP4/14 was not fully tested and had 4 DNFs due to mechanical failure in the opening four races. The Achilles heel of the MP4/14 was the hydraulics system. For the whole season they had 7 DNFs due to mechanical failures and 5 DNFs due to crashes. McLaren's pit-stop strategies were, at times, ill thought-out, often looking like they had been caught napping. They had two major pit-stop disasters at Silverstone and Hockenheim but they excelled in Spain, Hungary and Belgium. The MP4/14 dominated the races, leading for more laps than its competitors.

B&H Jordan-Mugen Honda       3rd, 61 Points

2 wins, 1 Pole Position, 0 Fastest Laps, 13 DNF
Team Principal: Eddie Jordan. Technical Director and Chief Designer: Mike Gascoyne.

Jordan had their most successful season ever despite being essentially a one-car team for most of the year. The switch from Goodyear to Bridgestone did not affect them and the Jordan 199 handled well and won under wet and dry conditions. The development of the Jordan 199 and the Mugen-Honda engine throughout the year was steady and incremental. Jordan was a reliable and consistent team; patience, steady progress and "people-smartness" were their greatest assets. Generally their race strategies were sound, they stumbled only at the Nurburgring.

Stewart-Ford       4th, 36 Points

1 win, 1 Pole Position, 0 Fastest Laps, 13 DNF
Team Principals: Jackie and Paul Stewart. Technical Director and Chief Designer: Gary Anderson.

Stewart-Ford came of age in 1999 by scoring their first victory but the Stewart-Ford team lacked consistency throughout the year. Despite a dreadful start to the season, Stewart ended the 1999 season well. The season started with a severe crash in testing at Catalunya, both of Stewart SF3s spontaneously combusting on the grid at Melbourne and both SF3s having suspension failures at Monaco. Although they had several car failures, these happened towards the end of races so they managed to put in a lot of race laps during the season which helped the development of the SF3. The season must have been exciting for the team, with continual development by Ford-Cosworth eventually paying off. The SF3 became a very competitive car that was well mannered in the wet and had superior traction out of corners. Getting involved in Ferrari's disqualification at Sepang was Stewart Ford's only tactical mistake in 1999, something they should have left well alone.

Winfield Williams-Supertec       5th, 35 Points

0 wins, 0 Pole Positions, 1 Fastest Lap, 15 DNF
Team Principal: Sir Frank Williams. Technical Director: Patrick Head. Chief Designer: Gavin Fisher.

1999 was Williams' worst year in Formula One since 1990. Handicapped by the Supertec engine, Williams knew that the FW21 would not be very competitive this season. The BMW GT project also siphoned a lot of their resources and energy but rewarded them with a victory at Le Mans. Despite this and the fact that they were a one-car team for the year, we saw at Monza the first signs that Patrick Head was close to designing a car that was capable of winning, without the assistance of Adrian Newey. Williams were the most successful team using the ageing Supertec-badged, Mecachrome-manufactured, Renault-designed engine.

Mild Seven Benetton-Playlife       6th, 16 Points

0 wins, 0 Pole Positions, 0 Fastest Laps, 14 DNF
Team Principal: Rocco Benetton. Technical Director: Pat Symonds. Chief Designer: Nick Wirth.

The 1998 season ended with Benetton in disarray. Team principal Dave Richards resigned and Rocco Benetton took over the reins. Held back by the Playlife (Mecachrome) engine, Benetton managed to keep their head above water. The B199 was supposed to be bold and aggressive in design but this did not translate into performance on the track. Their radical front torque transfer (FTT) braking system was quietly dropped mid-way through the season. Equipped with one of the best wind-tunnels available, Benetton diligently developed the B199, but they had difficulty getting the correct balance in the cars and could not find consistency. Despite a promising start to the season and a chance to win at the Nurburgring, Benetton scored no points in the last seven races. The Benetton team was quite reliable but their retirements came early in the races. All that translated to a fall in the championship ladder - from 5th last year to 6th in 1999 and nowhere near their primary comeptitors of '98 - Jordan and Williams.

Gauloises Prost-Peugeot       7th, 9 Points

0 wins, 0 Pole Positions, 0 Fastest Laps, 15 DNF
Team Principal: Alain Prost. Technical Director: Bernard Dudot. Chief Designer: John Barnard.

The Prost-Peugeot AP02 set very competitive times in pre-season testing at Catalunya, but it was a different story under racing trim. The Peugeot A18 engine was obviously very fast, but was overweight compared to the Mercedes, Ferrari and Ford engines. This seems to have caused problems in properly balancing the car, especially on slow circuits. Although Jarno Trulli and Olivier Panis didn't publicly complain, it was clear that the Prost AP02 was a handful to drive and was unstable under braking. On high-speed circuits like Hockenheim and Monza, the Prosts were fast but tended to be mobile chicanes. Under wet conditions at Magny-Cours and the Nurburgring, the AP02 handled quite well. Tension built between Prost and Peugeot during the season but this appears to have resolved itself with an increased commitment from Peugeot.

Red Bull Sauber-Petronas       8th, 5 Points

0 wins, 0 Pole Positions, 0 Fastest Laps, 21 DNF
Team Principal: Peter Sauber. Technical Director: Leo Ress.

Sauber-Petronas had a poor year with the unreliable C-18. Sauber never quite seemed to get their act together, despite having two capable drivers. Frustration levels were high, which ended up with Jean Alesi publicly haranguing the company and leaving for Prost at the end of the season. They even stumbled at Malaysia, the home Grand Prix of their main sponsor, Petronas. Fortunately they ended the season with a points finish at Suzuka.

T Minus Arrows-TWR       9th, 1 Point

0 wins, 0 Pole Positions, 0 Fastest Laps, 22 DNF
Team Principals: Tom Walkinshaw and Prince Malik Ado Ibrahim. Technical Director: Mike Coughlan.

Tom Walkinshaw did what he had to do to keep Arrows afloat for another season: flirt with Zakspeed, attempt to sue Pedro Diniz, and release Mika Salo. The A19 was a version of the John Barnard-designed A18 of 1998 modified to meet the 1999 regulations. The TWR engine was not competitive and the team had two inexperienced drivers in Tora Takagi and Pedro de la Rosa. Arrows surprised everyone by scoring a point at Melbourne, but from then on things went downhill. Despite initial high hopes, the financial partnership with Prince Malik foundered, which was a great shame as Formula One would be enriched by more racial diversity. When development of the A19 stopped, Arrows had the indignity of occupying the back row of the grid. Their reliability went downhill and the Arrows cars covered the fewest miles under race conditions in 1999. Having said all that, Arrows had worst years in the past.

Fondmetal Minardi-Ford       10th, 1 Point

0 wins, 0 Pole Positions, 0 Fastest Laps, 16 DNF
Team Principals: Gabriele Rumi and Giancarlo Minardi. Technical Director: Gustav Brunner.

Minardi introduced a completely new car for 1999. To mark the reorganisation of the company, the new car was numbered the Minardi 01. This was a successful year for Minardi, after a mediocre start to the season, the Minardi 01 was qualifying ahead of Arrows and sometimes Prost and BAR. Minardi ended a three year points drought, scoring a vital point just days after Giancarlo Minardi publicly pondered on calling it quits. They would have scored more points this year apart from some bad luck, and they even finished ahead of Williams at Malaysia!

British American Racing - Supertec       11th, 0 Points

0 wins, 0 Pole Positions, 0 Fastest Laps, 23 DNF
Team Principal: Craig Pollock. Technical Director: Malcolm Oastler. Chief Designer: Adrian Reynard.

Craig Pollock set ambitious goals for his fledgling team. After a remarkable winter and some promising times during pre-season testing, BAR made the fatal error of challenging the FIA over their paintwork. The valuable time and energy wasted on this legal wrangle would have been better spent on solving technical problems. As the DNFs due to mechanical failure mounted up, BAR was soon the subject of pitlane jokes. By mid-season they were looking for scapegoats and there was a hasty reorganisation. At Spa, Villeneuve and Zonta both survived terrifying accidents at Eau Rouge, confirming the safe design of the Reynard monocoque. The BAR 01 was actually quite fast, running third at Catalunya. By seasons end, BAR had solved most of the reliability problems and were making respectable mid-field performances. That said, they are still the team with most DNFs and least Championship points - nothing to boast about, considering their huge BAT budget and pre-season vanity.

Ewan Tytler© 1999 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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