This week's Grapevine brings you
information fresh from the paddock on:
- Schumacher's Ire at Eddie
- Benetton looking to Monaco
- Picked from the Bunch
- San Marino Tidbits
Schumacher's Ire at Eddie
The Ferrari team may have some friction in the ranks, as Eddie Irvine is currently not Michael Schumacher's favourite person. Since the Ulster man took his win in Australia, he has shown more determination in carrying out his own agenda and is starting to perform on a level closer to Schumacher than the German star appreciates.
It's come to the point where even the ultra-professional Schumacher can't keep the lid on in public: enough that there was friction when they attended the mandatory new Friday afternoon drivers' safety briefing. Irvine alone objected to a new rule now requiring all the drivers to meet twice on the same weekend - on Sunday morning before the race, as usual, and now on the afternoon of the first day of practice.
Schumacher at first thought Irvine was joking, but Eddie stood firm. The Sunday briefing, he thought, had been enough in the past and therefore should be enough in the future. Irvine was outvoted, but the point had been made. As the drivers filed out of their meeting room, the British Sunday Times reports Schumacher saying "You're an idiot" to Irvine as they walked away, unsmiling. Other papers believed the expression to be more vulgar.
Schumacher's preference for subservient teammates is well known. When Johnny Herbert performed too well, his penalty was losing access to the German's telemetry, though Schumacher continued to use his. However, an excellent performance at Imola has put Schumacher ahead of Irvine in the Championship, so things are likely to settle down again now.
Benetton Looking to Monaco
With more works in the pipeline and a good result from The San Marino Grand Prix behind them, the Benetton team is looking forward to Monaco.
The team is expecting the Front Torque Transfer (FTT) system to come into its own on the twisty circuit. Planned work for Monaco apparently includes a revised front wing which should increase downforce, along with lighter rear wing and front assembly, which should allow them to improve the chassis balance.
Qualifying performance for Monaco is a priority, and the improved balance is expected to give the team a boost - potentially qualifying both cars in the top ten, though that seems optimistic to Formula One pundits. With the FTT installed for the race where the benefits are best felt (it is most effective when the fuel tanks are full) the team believes there is a real chance for points.
The opening races have not been kind to Benetton, which has been struggling to get on terms with even the other Supertec teams. They are looking to get a boost to their season, and this is the best chance they are likely to get.
Picked from the Bunch
Ferrari's competitiveness this season seems assured with the news of advances due this season. The Imola front wing was the first in a package of changes which will see evolutions to the rear wing and engine by Spain. The competitive disadvantage to McLaren could be old news by Silverstone.
Jordan signed a three year deal with Lucent thanks to a strong performance in the opening races of the season. Management changes put Benetton out of the running to keep their association with the American telecommunications giant.
Eddie Irvine's significant bet on himself did not pay off - thanks to an engine failure preventing him from claiming a spot on the podium, he does not lead the championship heading to Monaco. Reports claim he lost 5,000 Pounds.
Ford's announcement over the weekend that it intends to concentrate its resources on the Works plant for Stewart and drop all customer units, has scotched rumours that the manufacturer could be looking for other teams to supply customer units to. Minardi may struggle for an alternative power source next year.
San Marino tidbits
Rumours were flying around the paddock that FIA Race Director and Safety Delegate Charlie Whiting could be on the move. The man in charge of all technical and safety related issues in Formula One has apparently been offered the job of running the Benetton team, alongside current manager Rocco Benetton. The Anglo-Italian team had a terrible season in 1998 and they are not doing much better at the moment. A man of Whiting's experience would be a great asset. Commenting on the rumour, West McLaren Mercedes boss Ron Dennis said that if Whiting did take the job, it would be a great loss to the sport as a whole, as all the teams trusted him. One interesting aspect of the move is that in his current role, Whiting is privy to most of the teams' technical solutions.
Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo was in Imola and spoke to members of the press on Saturday. Some of the key points he made about Formula One were that he would like to see more manufacturers enter as complete teams, providing both chassis and engine. He felt F1 should have "ecological credibility" with teams not using military materials or toxic substances.
The wrong horse - A Jordan team guest telephoned his wife from Imola and asked her to put a bet on Rubens Barrichello for the race. When he called again the next day, his wife said she had been to the betting shop, looked through all the newspapers but nowhere could she find a horse called Rubens Barrichello!
The Irish television broadcaster had a problem when it arrived in San Marino as the authorities reckoned they had not paid in advance for their radio transmission license. The argument went on and on, until the people demanding the money struck a deal. If the Irish TV crew could get them a Ferrari hat signed by their fellow countryman Eddie Irvine, then the license was free. Irvine duly obliged and Irish TV viewers got to watch the race after all.