INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2000 -- Jaguar Racing has replaced technical director Gary Anderson with American Steve Nichols. The team made the announcement Dec. 1, the same day that 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal began his three-year stint as chief executive officer of Jaguar Racing. Neil Ressler remains as chairman, and this means that Americans hold the top three posts in the team.
"I fully support these changes," Rahal said of the Nichols nomination. "Our immediate objective is to step up our overall competitiveness in 2001, but our longer-term goal is quite clearly to challenge for the top honors of the sport. As Neil has consistently stated, we will continue to invest in the technical capability of the terms of facilities and talent to achieve this goal." Nichols has two decades of experience in Formula One and has spent most of that time working for McLaren. He graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. He worked at Hercules Aerospace in the U.S. Hercules helped create the first carbon-fiber monocoques used in Formula One, by McLaren in 1982. Nichols worked for McLaren from 1980 through 1989, and he helped design the car that won 15 of 16 Grand Prix races in 1988. He joined Ferrari in 1990 as chief designer and race engineer and also spent brief periods as technical director at Sauber and Jordan. In 1995, Nichols rejoined McLaren, where his most recent post was head of future projects. In addition to Anderson, race engineers Andy le Fleming and Rob Gearing, head of electronics Andy Rice and design engineer Dave Rendell are also leaving the team.
"Steve will bring a new technical dimension to the team," said Ressler. "His experience at the highest levels of Formula One, together with his engineering skills, will give new impetus to Jaguar Racing as we build for the future. During the 2000 season Gary (Anderson) has worked hard to make the Jaguar R1 a competitive challenger, but at this stage of our development we believe a change in the team's technical direction will benefit Jaguar Racing as we go forward."
*** Testing begins: With the 30-day testing ban over, the Formula One teams have begun their testing programs around Europe.
The first major test of the offseason took place from Dec. 5-7 at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain, and every team except Minardi and Prost attended. While nobody has their 2001 chassis ready yet, most teams tried out their 2001 engines. David Coulthard set the quickest time on the opening day in his West McLaren-Mercedes. Rubens Barrichello was fastest in his Ferrari on the second day, while Olivier Panis was quickest on the third and final day in his Lucky Strike British American Racing-Honda.
*** Montoya settles in: 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya had his first run in the Williams-BMW during the Jerez test. His lap times were close to those of his new teammate, Ralf Schumacher, and on the second day of the test Montoya set the second quickest time overall in the rain. "The car has improved a lot since my last experience," said Montoya, who tested for Williams in 1998, "and it is also impressive to see how far the engines have come. Contrary to what people told me beforehand, I didn't suffer any problems with grooved tires and subsequent grip levels. "Everything felt good and comfortable with the car. It's been nearly two years since I last drove a Formula One car in the wet, and I immediately felt comfortable. It's a very well balanced car which reacts well to setup changes."
*** Schumacher stays home: Reigning World Champion Michael Schumacher planned to no testing in December. He is staying home to recuperate from surgery to remove a pin in his right leg, which he broke in an accident in the 1999 British Grand Prix.
Rubens Barrichello and test driver Luca Badoer will do all of Ferrari's testing work in December.
Traction control on hold: The use of traction control and other electronic driver aids may be permitted in the 2001 Formula One season, but the rule change will not come into effect until the fifth race of the season, and then only if certain stipulations required by the FIA are met. The Formula One Technical Working Group, made up of team and FIA officials, had voted unanimously to allow the return of driver aids such as traction control, which have been banned since 1994. But when this proposal was put forward to the World Motor Sport Council at a meeting Dec. 8 in Monaco, it was decided that the rule change needs further modifications. The FIA has asked the Technical Working Group to incorporate into the new rules "a package of new measures to use electronic and other means to improve the safety in Formula One." The Technical Working Group is also required to propose measures which will absolutely guarantee that there can be no additional used of electronics as an aid to competitive driving in Formula One. Among the safety devices under discussion is a device that will alert the driver to the presence of a car in front when there is poor visibility because of spray, and a form of adaptive speed control for the use in yellow flag emergency areas. The FIA and team owners will discuss the new rules package Feb. 14. If they agree on it, it will be submitted for a vote by the World Motor Sport Council on March 1. If the Council's vote is positive, unrestricted engine electronics may be permitted as early as the Spanish Grand Prix on April 29, 2001.
Diniz buys stake in Prost team: Pedro Diniz, an F1 driver from 1995-2000, and his father Albio Diniz, owner of several supermarket chains in Brazil, have bought a significant share of the Prost Grand Prix team. Pedro Diniz will not to race in 2001 so that he can concentrate on helping to run the team.
"Obviously Alain (Prost) gave me the option of driving for the team next year," the younger Diniz said. "It was a hard decision to make because I am a driver, and I love racing. Since we have made a big investment in Prost Grand Prix, I have to think about long-term plans for the future and commit entirely to the success of the team."
Raikkonen granted Super License: Based on his performance in the Red Bull Sauber-Petronas at the recent test at Jerez, the FIA has agreed to grant Finland's Kimi Raikkonen the Super License needed to compete in Formula One. Raikkonen, 21, has competed in only 23 auto races since moving up from go-karts. He competed in the British Formula Renault series in 2000 and needed special dispensation from the FIA because normally racing experience in series like Formula 3 or Formula 3000 is needed before getting a Super License. In 2001, he will partner Nick Heidfeld on the Sauber team.
Prost to run Michelins: The Prost team has signed a three-year agreement to run on Michelin tires. Michelin, returning to F1 for the first time since 1985, now has five contracted teams: Williams-BMW, Mild Seven Benetton, Jaguar-Cosworth and Toyota. The latter will enter F1 in 2002. "Michelin have been working very hard this year," said team owner Alain Prost, "and we are confident that they will be very competitive from the start of the season."
*** BAR promotes young drivers: The Lucky Strike British American-Honda team has started a Driver Development program that will work in conjunction with its test team. It will give two promising drivers a three-day test and evaluation program in a F1 car.
Marc Hynes, who won the 1999 British Formula 3 championship, is the first driver to be nominated, and he will test Dec. 18-20 in Barcelona, Spain. The team has also signed British driver Anthony Davidson as its new test driver.
*** Murray Walker to retire: Murray Walker, who has covered Grand Prix races for British television for 50 years, will retire at the end of the 2001. Walker, 77, worked for the BBC and, more recently, ITV alongside co-hosts such as former F1 drivers James Hunt and Martin Brundle.
*** Sato's F1 test: Takuma Sato, 23, became the youngest Japanese driver to test a F1 car when he drove the Benson & Hedges Jordan-Honda on Dec. 7 at Jerez, Spain. Sato won four races and finished third in the 2000 British Formula 3 Championship.
*** Proud parents: Two-time World Champion Mika Hakkinen and his wife, Erja, are the proud parents of a baby boy born Dec. 11 in Finland.
Silverstone awarded long-term Grand Prix contract: The Silverstone circuit will play host to the British Grand Prix for the next 15 years. A partnership has been formed between the American company Octagon, which owns the rights to the British Grand Prix, and the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC), which owns the Silverstone circuit and whose rights to the British Grand Prix expire after the 2001 race. Octagon owns the Brands Hatch circuit in England, but the track would require planning permission and major rebuilding to be brought to F1 standards.