News from the Paddock - San Marino GP
Saturday April 9th, 2000
Michelin's competitions chief Pierre Dupasquier was in the Imola paddock, along with several other members of the Michelin company, as the company begins its rundown to its entry into Formula One in the year 2001. Rumours persist that the company has already begun its test programme with the prototype Williams-BMW driven by Tom Kristensen but that they also have a Toyota GT1 sports car and a Formula 3000 car run by Hughes de Chaunac.
It is suggested that while the ordinary spectator sales for the British Grand Prix are around average, corporate and Paddock Club attendance has not been so good. Those handling corporate hospitality have been told by major companies that holding the race at Easter is a disaster, because Easter is a christian holiday and many companies are loathe to even ask guests to events, for fear of breaking up the family at that time. One corporate hospitality arranging company said that they had lost at least five accounts for the Easter weekend.
Donington seems to have stepped into the British Grand Prix conundrum. Apparently a lot of money has been spent at the circuit which hosted the European Grand Prix in 1993, while Brands Hatch still seems stalled at the planning permission stage. However, there are still strong indications that the British Grand Prix will remain at Silverstone, with or without the help of Octagon, the company that recently bought Brands Hatch.
Leo Ress has stepped down as technical director of Sauber. His place has been taken Willy Rampf who was head of track engineering. He has been responsible for co-ordination of engineers at races and tests. Rampf is 46-years old from Bavaria and he will deal with the organisation and management of all technical areas of the factory, rather than design tasks as such. When design of the new Sauber is begun in May, it will be under his management. Willy Rampf worked for Sauber from 1993 to 1997. At the end of 1997 Willy Rampf joined BMW and returned to the team in December 1999. Ress (49), meanwhile, celebrates his 15th anniversary as Sauber's designer. Leo will now take charge of long-term technical research and development at the team's headquarters in Hinwil. It has been Leo's wish for a while to hand over technical management and to focus on more specific tasks such as the design of the new seven-speed transmission for the C19 race car. The incidents of the last few weeks prompted him to bring that decision
The FIA announced their HANS system at Imola, otherwise known as their Head and Neck Support. This is a kind of collar tailor-made for each driver which is mounted on the driver's shoulders, around his neck, to lessen the effect of a major accident on the head.
It has been developed with the help of DaimlerChrysler and McLaren and was originally initiated following the accident to Mika Hakkinen in Adelaide in October of 1996. Originally, the FIS had hoped to use airbags, but there were several problems with this: sensors weren't fast enough, impact with kerbs might activate them, there was no help in a secondary impact and little help in the event of a side impact.
HANS will be made obligatory as from January 2001 and will be tested by teams during the coming year. It will also be tested in CART and the new DTM series in Germany. It has been developed in conjunction with helmet manufacturers, with Arai and Bell already involved, and David Coulthard has been the guinea-pig for initial tests.
The first European Grand Prix of the year is always an opportunity for teams to reveal their new motorhomes and facilities. Of course, BMW are making their entry this year, and have turned up with a bigger version of Benetton's 'bouncy castle' design, with two double-decker motorhomes joined by a an atrium. A new one is due out for Jaguar at Silverstone, while the former Winfield motorhome run by Karl-Heinz Zimmerman has returned in Bernie Ecclestone's corporate grey as a VIP entertainment area, and where FIA officials can get a cup of tea! Finally, Eddie Jordan has had the interior of one of his two motorhomes redecorated - to resemble his Sunseeker powerboat. Technology has not yet been employed to allow it to rock on its moorings.
The on-going story of the Frentzen babe continues. Heinz-Harald's wife Tanja is expecting their first child, and it was even 'encouraged' or induced prior to the Brazilian Grand Prix. However, that didn't work, and the pair decided to let nature take its course. Well nature is being a bit slow, and the baby, believed to be a girl, still hasn't appeared.
All the Grand Prix teams apart from Minardi are testing at Silverstone during the current week, as a formal British Grand Prix test.It is a massive test, from Tuesday to Friday, with some teams bringing two cars. Sponsors are taking full advantage, and it could well be that there are more corporate guests for the test than for the Grand Prix itself.
The San Marino Grand Prix marks the 100th Grand Prix for both Eddie Irvine and Heinz-Harald Frentzen. It is also Jos Verstappen's and Giancarlo Fisichella's 60th race, Michael Schumacher's 130th and Jean Alesi's 170th (the most by any driver in the field). Mika Hakkinen started from the 24th pole position of his career - placing him equal 6th in accumulative totals with Lauda and Piquet, and one spot ahead of Michael Schumacher.