This week's Grapevine brings you
information fresh from the paddock on:
- BHL vs the Environment
- Stewart, pulling for 2001
- Renault Powering Back
- Picked from the Bunch
BHL vs the Environment
Brands Hatch Leisure's hopes of bringing the British Grand Prix to the Brands circuit have been hit hard by action from the local environmentalists.
BBC television's Country File program ran a story on the impact BHL's planned changes would have to the local ecosystem – particularly the destruction of some 37 acres of "Ancient Woodland" which is currently enclosed by the track. This woodland would have to make way for the proposed pits – required to meet FIA standards; and grandstands – required to make money.
The report to the local council, requesting planning permission, described the woods as "in poor quality" as a consequence of the off-road rally tracks running through them. However, locals report the woodland to be in rude health, with all the qualities of other woods in the area, marking it out as a fine example of its type. They are planning to maintain protests, delaying construction at least until it is too late for BHL to host the British Grand Prix in 2002.
BHL officials would not permit the BBC to film the woodland and refused to be interviewed. Sources indicate they are confident of beating off the environmentalists' claims, saying that the locals are looking for any excuse to prevent the new works taking place, as they are really concerned about noise pollution, rather than the woodland, which they never use anyway. They also believe the feared noise pollution issue has been exaggerated out of proportion – the only time it might be an issue is over a Grand Prix weekend, when the track would be very busy.
The local council is now in the position of making a decision on the planning application. Now only are they in the invidious position of choosing between bringing an estimated £200 million to the local economy, and protecting woodland, which dates back to the ice age.
Stewart, pulling for 2001
With Eddie Irvine joining Johnny Herbert at Jaguar for 2000, Ford bosses are looking for solid work from both veterans, building the chassis over the season.
The emphasis, pre season, is to work hard on the chassis, attempting to make it the most competitive in the field. Cosworth are to continue the development program of the engine, and will be turning new evolutions for February's tests, with a revision (incorporating solutions to all testing problems) for Melbourne.
The team believe they will start the season on a par, or slightly behind, Ferrari and McLaren, alongside Jordan. With the experience of both drivers pushing the car on, they expect to end the season as one of the leading contenders at every race; however, the main purpose of the year is to ensure all the mistakes from 1999 have been learned and new processes work properly.
Plans for the 2001 car have not been started, but the team has parallel development in mind, and could see initial designs as early as April: whilst looking to be competitive, and win races in 2000, the plan is to take the championship by 2002. This fits the original "five-year plan" put together by Jackie Stewart when he formed Stewart Grand Prix.
Renault Powering Back
Rumours concerning Renault's return to the Formula One fold continues to do the rounds in the paddock.
The French manufacturer is known to be looking for an "edge" to make their return worthwhile and are known to be researching a number of technologies from unusual cylinder configurations to an adiabatic design. However, current speculation has Renault focussing on establishing Formula One's first "direct injection" engine.
This technology should improve an engine's fuel consumption efficiency considerably, allowing cars to run with reduced fuel loads, or make fewer stops in races.
Although this is a feature of modern engines, translating the technology to high revving Formula One engines is not trivial. Ferrari are believed to have examined a combined induction/inject solution to surmount the rev problem, but without success; there have been no reports of other teams coming close.
If Renault can succeed with the plan, they project close to two seconds per lap advantage for teams using their engines, at the start each race, compared to traditionally engined cars on the same strategy – which would certainly be something to write home about.
Picked from the Bunch
Nick Wirth's resignation from Benetton sparked a flurry of rumours concerning his possible future. The only one to last longer than 24 hours is the speculation Toyota could contact him... to advise on the pitfalls of F1 car design.
Sauber plan to launch their new package on the 2nd of February, at 8pm. Inventively, this will be "20:00, 2/2/2000" – hoping it's not the highlight of their season.
Marc Haynes, the British Formula 3 Champion, is expecting to land a Formula One testing role, whilst competing in the FIA's F3000 Championship. It's thought that Jordan are interested.
Luciano Burti, runner up to Marc Haynes, has impressed Jaguar bosses with testing the Stewart car. He is expected to take a testing role with the team next year as well.
Ever popular, Lotus rumours are again circulating, with speculation that Sauber sponsor Petronas could buy to Proton car company, who own the Lotus cars (though not the Team Lotus name, controlled by David Hunt). Speculators believe the engine could be renamed Lotus, making the team Sauber-Lotus for the 2000 season.