Frank to put Ralf in line for a championshp.

Frank Williams has gone on the defensive about signing Ralf Schumacher for Williams. 'Journalists write that I chose Ralf because the BMW engine is arriving. That's completely wrong. I chose him because he is damn fast and very young. He will be looked after and kept in line and then he will be champion'.

Frank also went on to defend signing Zanardi: 'We're sure he'll deliver for us . In Champ Cars, he demonstrated a skillful and aggressive style and a remarkable overtaking ability. Most of all, we were attracted by his spirit.'

Pollock back on championship trail

Craig Pollock has upped the ante, after recently playing down expectations. He has been quoted saying 'We intend to go out and challenge for the championship. We believe we have a very good car and team'. Jacques Villeneuve has backed up the claims saying 'We can be challenging for race wins from the start of the season'.

A Williams Super Nova?

Super Nova are being linked to a deal to be renamed the Williams Grand Prix Junior Squad. An announcement is expected in the next 2 weeks. The team has existing links with Williams through their test driver Juan Pablo Montoya and Max Wilson.

Tom still in at Arrows

As hadn't really been expected, Tom Walkinshaw is to stay at Arrows, with a 25% stake in the team. 70% is now owned by Morgan Grenfell and Prince Malik of Nigeria. The remaining is to be used for staff incentives. In the end the consortium bought out Jackie Oliver's 49% stake in the team for £54m, valuing the team at around £110m.

Arrows to sue Diniz

The Arrows team is suing Pedro Diniz, claiming he has breached his contract by leaving the team. Diniz claims that there was a performance clause in his contract. Arrows are suing Diniz for £9m.

Williams in rights battle

Sources say that BMWs deal to underwrite the Williams F1 team comes at a price of getting commercial rights of the team. Williams has denied this, though sources at BMW say otherwise.

Herbert decides to get tough

Johnny Herbert has decided to go for honesty and a new strategy for 1999, and is suggesting the same for Coulthard. "I think David and I have the same sort of problem. We can be a little too nice, we need to get a bit harder and look after ourselves. We can't afford to let people get to us and push us around."

Moss says safety is ruining the sport

Stirling Moss, the greatest driver never to have won the drivers championship in many peoples eyes, has said that the sport is getting safer, and it is spoiling the sport: "I think the trouble with safety is that it's ruining the sport, I mean, the safer a car gets the more contempt you get of danger. In my day, no way would you think of trying to drive another guy off the road at high speed, because you know you're likely to go with him. Today, you've seen the very finest drivers in the world actually punting other people off at 100mph, 150mph, sometimes 170mph. And I think that is an indictment of the sport"

Minardi ready to roll

The Minardi M01 has passed its crash tests at the first attempt, and is now ready for testing later this month. The car is said to be considerably lighter than the 1998 car.

Zanardi says brakes are the hurdle

Alex Zanardi has said that it is braking that is causing him problems on his return to F1. "I'm used to carrying speed into the corners, but these cars don't want to go quickly through corners - so you have to be late on the brakes, slow through the corner, then early on the power."

Hill says no problem with Frentzen

At the Autosport show, Damon Hill has said he doesn't have a problem with Heinz-Harald Frentzen. "One thing I've got to make very clear from the start is that I have no problem with Heinz- Harald. He didn't take my Williams seat, Frank, in his wisdom, let me go and left a vacancy. Sorry, Sir Frank… That's motor racing, it happens, it's all history. I get on well with Heinz-Harald, I raced against him in Formula 3000. We'll take it one step at a time. It's the usual thing with team mates, they're all bastards…"

Damon later went on to say what the aims were for 1999: "Realistically we could aim for the top three in the constructors championship. Realistically we could look at winning more races. Three race wins would be very satisfying."

With regard to the drivers championship, Damon said "I don't doubt I could do it but it really all comes down to how good this year's car is. But you don't go into the season thinking like that, you go into the season thinking 'right, I can win this' and if you still dream of it and it still keeps you coming back, then who knows. Yeah, I could win the championship this year."

stephen@motorsport.org.uk (Stephen M Baines)