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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:

  • Jordan's European Nightmare
  • Ferrari Make Progress
  • Picked from the Bunch

Jordan's European Nightmare

A lot of folks thought it strange that both Damon Hill and Heinz-Harald Frentzen suffered ignition shutdowns in the same place. For Hill, it was in the first corner after the restart, whilst Frentzen's mishap occurred in the first corner after his pitstop.

It transpires that the team had a new feature on the cars: getting away from standing starts, the feature optimises the car's performance for pulling away from stationary. Damon Hill at the NurburgringThe feature does not classify as traction control, or a second engine mapping, but does improve consistency for the drivers as they move off. The downside is, the car cannot race with the feature enabled - as the engine cuts out at low revs. Accordingly, the drivers need to toggle the feature off once they are under way.

The feature is selected when the car is stationary, and the driver intends to pull away. It appears that Damon Hill failed to successfully toggle the feature off after the restart, whilst Frentzen forgot after his pitstop. Ironically, as Frentzen left the pits, one of the crew was detailed to remind him to reset the function, but he broadcast on the wrong channel and the message never made it.

Needless to say, the feature is not intended to be used at the last two races of the season, unless a more foolproof means of ensuring it is disabled can be provided.

Ferrari Make Progress

The work Ferrari have carried out in preparation for the last races of the season was given the thumbs up from Michael Schumacher this week. The German, who announced he is not fit to race, but has returned to testing duties, confirmed that progress with the engine and aerodynamics is moving in the right direction.

Ferrari have been developing parts for their 2000 contender, but some are expected to make it onto this year's car in the remaining races. Schumacher arrives at Mugello last monthThe biggest step forward is thought to relate to new "flip-ups" in front of the rear wheels. These now appear to contain aerodynamic elements, similar to the main wings, and are being used to provide significant downforce at the back of the car. The resulting improvements to traction and braking have reduced tyre wear, allowing the car's already excellent balance to be utilised to greater effect for longer.

Other changes include the side-pods, which have revised intakes, and it is believed the exhaust has been repositioned against the engine to improve tuning and provide a smoother power release. Lastly, a change to the sculpting of the car's nose, near the driver, has improved air flow around the driver's helmet and the anti-roll mechanism, resulting in cleaner air over the rear wings and into the engine air intake.

It's thought that progress has been made on the suspension configuration too, but it appears unlikely to appear on this year's car, as the changes would render most of the car's set-up data obsolete - something to be avoided when going to a completely new circuit, like Malaysia!

Picked from the Bunch

  • Rumours that McLaren are intending to buy into Formula One took a sharp upturn, with news they are freeing cash by selling non-core companies. Last week's sale of TAG-Heuer to a French conglomerate, and the 40% buyout by Mercedes both lend credence to the claim. Alex WurzFiat, owners of Ferrari have not indicated whether they would follow suit.

  • Benetton driver Alexander Wurz has put a most of his performance deficit against teammate Giancarlo Fisichella down to his size and weight. It leaves him unable to place ballast optimally in the car, and sometimes unable to run the same components. Next year is likely to me more of the same, but he is optimistic that by the end of the season, the car should be competitive.

  • Stewart are optimistic that they can challenge Williams for fourth place in the Championship over the last two races. The team have brought forward aerodynamic and suspension parts, originally destined for the 2000 challenger, in an attempt to gain advantage.

  • BAR's broken clutch at the European Grand Prix robbed Villeneuve of points near the end of the race. The team are injecting Honda technology in the form of a new clutch in an attempt to solve the problems.

  • The Belgian Grand Prix is set to remain on the calendar after all, thanks to a change in the region's tobacco laws, which will exempt Formula One until July 31, 2003. This will tie up with the general European Union ban on tobacco sponsorship, and should allow racing at Spa-Francorchamps to continue unhindered.

  • British broadcaster ITV signed an extended three-year deal to cover Formula One until 2005. The channel will air all races live on Sundays, as well as live qualifying sessions. ITV man Murray WalkerOn the event, FOA chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said: "ITV have given Formula One excellent coverage and I am very pleased they will continue to support Formula One."

  • Popular singer Phil Collins slammed Michael Schumacher in an interview last week, saying: "We met up at Hockenheim and swapped numbers and so on and talked about meeting up. But after making a bit of effort all we got back was - silence! Nothing at all. I was very surprised. OK, it could be shyness or it could be arrogance, which is something you probably need in this sport, but I don't know. It is not the kind of behaviour which is normal in my nature or in my business. With Schumacher, it is a bit like Oasis, who are reasonably talented. When you behave like that, unfortunately, it defeats all the talent that you have got to show that kind of attitude. Of course, I don't really know the guy, but that is the impression he gave me."

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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