INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Feb. 18, 2000 - Minardi unveiled its new Formula One car Feb. 16 at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The Minardi Fondmetal cars this year have a new paint scheme of yellow with blue accents, the colors of its...
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Feb. 18, 2000 - Minardi unveiled its new Formula One car Feb. 16 at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The Minardi Fondmetal cars this year have a new paint scheme of yellow with blue accents, the colors of its primary sponsor, Telefonica. Telefonica, a Spanish telecommunications company, has increased its backing of Minardi this season. Team principal Giancarlo Minardi said that Telefonica is considering buying the team but has not done so. Spain's Marc Gene, 25, returns to Minardi for a second season in F1. His teammate is rookie Gaston Mazzacane, 24, of Argentina. Last year, Gene scored the first World Championship point the Minardi team has earned since 1995. Mazzacane worked as Minardi's test driver last season and drove several races in the FIA Formula 3000 series prior to that. Power for the M02 chassis comes from a Ford Cosworth V10, which was the engine used by Stewart-Ford last year. Fondmetal, an engineering and design company, has bought the rights to develop the engine, which will be called a Fondmetal. Minardi also signed 18-year-old Spaniard Fernando Alonso as its test and reserve driver. *** Testing continues: Formula One teams have tested steadily as they prepare for the 17-race season that opens in Australia on March 12 and includes the inaugural United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis on Sept. 24. After taking some time off because of a stiff neck, Michael Schumacher drove the new Ferrari at Italy's Mugello circuit, where he set a lap time 0.2 of a second quicker than he ever clocked with last year's model. "The car is as good in the dry as it is in the wet," Schumacher said. While Ferrari tested in Italy, most of the teams have tested in Barcelona and will continue to test there and at Spain's Jerez circuit before packing up everything to be flown to Australia.
Stormy weather: Williams-BMW and Lucky Strike British American Racing-Honda went to South Africa's Kyalami circuit for hot-weather testing only to encounter the worst rain storms that country has had in 60 years. Both teams extended their stay to get some dry running. "We have made some real progress," said BAR-Honda driver Jacques Villeneuve, "but it was a bit of a frustrating test, to be honest. We lost time in the first few days because of the weather and then encountered some small technical problems in the final two days. The car is running strongly, though, and we are improving the pace all the time. We still have work to do, and the Jerez test will be important next week." Despite the rain, Villeneuve and his teammate Ricardo Zonta completed more than 500 laps at Kyalami. The BAR-Hondas have covered 3,100 miles (5,000 km) in preseason testing, the equivalent of 16 Grand Prix races. Williams-BMW drivers Ralf Schumacher and Jenson Button were also frustrated by the lack of dry track time until the final two days of the test. "I am beginning to feel more at ease with the FW22," said rookie Button. Patrick Head, technical director of Williams-BMW, said: "Given the terrible weather conditions over the past week, we are much happier with the mileage completed over the last two days of the test. We are now beginning to make progress but still need more dry running, which we hope to accumulate at Jerez."
High-tech fitness: F1's never-ending quest for speed involves not only developing the cars but also the drivers. The Mild Seven Benetton-Playlife team has opened a $6.5-million, state-of-the-art training facility at its base in Enstone, England. The facility, which includes a testing laboratory, physiotherapy clinic, performance studio and briefing room, was built to provide a personalized, scientific and comprehensive approach for the physical fitness training of the team's drivers, Alexander Wurz and Giancarlo Fisichella.
Stewart still involved: Jackie Stewart announced last month that he was resigning as chief executive officer and chairman of Jaguar Racing, but he will still remain actively involved with the team. "I am not running away," Stewart said. "I will still be a part of the strategy of Jaguar Racing in the future and service the many sponsors that we have. I will be at most of the races and the testing, but not with the same number of hours - I've been working 18-hour days for the past four years. "I need to move over and have more time for my family. I now have five grandchildren and, of course, my lovely wife Helen."