F1

Notebook 1999-11-30

INDIANAPOLIS, Nov. 30, 1999 -- It's been a month since Mika Hakkinen and West McLaren-Mercedes clinched the Formula One World Drivers Championship. During that time the F1 engines have been silent because the rules prohibit testing for 30 days ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Nov. 30, 1999 -- It's been a month since Mika Hakkinen and West McLaren-Mercedes clinched the Formula One World Drivers Championship. During that time the F1 engines have been silent because the rules prohibit testing for 30 days after the final race of the season.

Several teams plan to begin testing on Dec. 1 in Jerez, Spain, as they begin trying out components for their new cars that will contest the 2000 F1 season, which includes the inaugural United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis on Sept. 24.

While the teams have not been testing, plenty has been happening in the F1 world. Here's a roundup of the news from the past month.

***

New cars debut: Several teams have already announced when they will unveil the new cars that will compete in the 2000 F1 season and the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis.

The new Ferrari will be shown Jan. 25 as will the new Jaguar (formerly Stewart-Ford). Red Bull Sauber-Petronas will launch its new car on Feb. 2 in Zurich, Switzerland.

The Sauber introduction, which will include an exhibition by a famous Swiss horse-jumping show, will be open to the public. Call 41-1-316-7788 for more information.

***

Driver confirmed: Spain's Pedro de la Rosa will be back with Arrows next season.

***

Testing drive for Panis: Veteran F1 driver and 1996 Monaco Grand Prix winner Olivier Panis has joined West McLaren-Mercedes as the team's test and reserve driver.

Panis started 101 Grand Prix races for the Ligier/Prost team. "Joining West McLaren Mercedes is an exciting challenge for me, and I am looking forward to helping develop the team's new Formula One car for the 2000 season," Panis said.

Martin Whitmarsh, managing director of McLaren International, said: "We have decided that we require a third driver in the Formula One program to meet the demands of our intensive test schedule. Olivier has already impressed us in the car and with his desire to take over this role, and we are confident that his contribution will be significant."

***

BMW's reasonable approach: BMW is making its F1 comeback after an absence of a dozen years. It will supply engines to the Williams team. BMW's motorsport director, former Grand Prix winner Gerhard Berger, said BMW realizes it's going to take time to be competitive.

"We've been testing the engine in the car recently," Berger said, "and it's doing well, but we still have a long way ahead of us. We have to be realistic.

"If we can get in midfield and show in the first year that we're working hard and going in the right direction and can be competitive, we'll have achieved what we want. But it will be at least half a year before we can be competitive or win a race."

***

Sauber changes: The Red Bull Sauber-Petronas team has undergone management and personnel changes during the month of November.

Peter Sauber remains as chairman and director of the team on race weekends, while chief executive officer and board member Heinz Haller has taken on operational management of the team at its headquarters in Hinwil, Switzerland.

Sergio Rinland, the new chief designer, has joined technical director Leo Ress. Rinland has worked for Brabham, Ferrari, Dallara, Benetton and Dan Gurney's All American Racers.

***

Designer moves: Nick Wirth has resigned as chief designer at Benetton Formula.

"After considerable discussions with both (team boss) Rocco Benetton and the technical management," Wirth said, "we have agreed that we have differing ideas as to the future direction of the car's development. I have therefore decided that the moment is opportune for me to leave Benetton Formula to pursue new career opportunities."

Tim Densham has signed on as the team's new chief designer. He has worked as a designer and engineer at Lotus, Brabham and Tyrrell, and his most recent project was working as a designer for the Honda F1 test team that closed after Honda decided to return to F1 as an engine supplier only (to British American Racing) rather than build its own chassis, as well.

***

Testing drive for Burti: Brazil's Luciano Burti has signed as the official test driver for Jaguar.

Burti, 24, drove for Stewart Racing's Formula 3 team for the past two years, and in the 1999 British Formula 3 series he scored five wins and finished on the podium 14 times to place second in the championship.

Burti's talent impressed Jackie Stewart, chairman and chief executive officer of Jaguar Racing (formerly Stewart-Ford).

"Burti is yet another example of the considerable talent that has come out of Brazil," Stewart said. "He was the first driver in the 1999 Stewart-Ford F1 car, and has subsequently done a lot of testing for the Stewart-Ford team in 1999 and provided excellent feedback for the test and race engineers." Said Burti: "I see this as an opportunity to prove that I have the ability to one day join the ranks of the famous Brazilian drivers who have already graced F1. I feel privileged to be associated with a marque with such a proud heritage as Jaguar's."

***

Hakkinen takes time off: World Champion Mika Hakkinen has gone on an extended vacation at a secret location. Before going away, he went to the Mercedes-Benz factory in Stuttgart, Germany, where Mercedes-Benz employees honored him.

***

Barrichello no butler: Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo does not expect Eddie Irvine's replacement, Rubens Barrichello, to play a support role to Michael Schumacher in 2000.

"I do not expect him (Barrichello) to be a butler or servant to Schumacher," di Montezemolo said.

***

Grand Prix pays off: The Australian Grand Prix, held in the city of Melbourne, brings considerable economic gain into the city and the state of Victoria.

"The Grand Prix has significantly boosted Victoria's international profile," Victoria Premier Steve Bracks said. "This year more than 345,000 people attended the 1999 Qantas Australian Formula One Grand Prix -- many of whom traveled from interstate or overseas to Melbourne and Victoria to experience it. As the premier of Victoria, I recognize the important role that the Grand Prix plays in showcasing Melbourne and showcasing Victoria. "As the host of this prestigious event, Victoria has made substantial economic gains. It was recently estimated that the Victorian annual economic benefit from the Formula One Grand Prix was in excess of Australian $95 million (US $63 million)."

***

New cap: Michael Schumacher's familiar red cap with the Dekra logo will be replaced with a new sponsor -- Deutsche Vermvgensberatung (German Wealth Consulting) starting in the 2000 season.

***

Herbert's momentum: Johnny Herbert finished the 1999 season on a high note. After a slow start in the early races, he earned the first Grand Prix victory for the Stewart-Ford team at the Nurburgring and finished fourth in Malaysia.

"I can take that momentum into winter testing and into next season," Herbert said. "So I really feel confident what I can do now. I've showed that I'm still in there. I could have quite easily have given up. But I've never ever given up: I've always believed in myself, and I always keep on trying to get something that I'm happy with."

***

The place to eat: When Rubens Barrichello went to the Ferrari factory recently for a seat fitting, his visit included lunch at the famous Cavallino ristorante next door to the factory. The restaurant was a favorite of Enzo Ferrari and many of Ferrari's drivers.

***

Jordan wins: Team owner Eddie Jordan was one of nine winners of Ireland's "People of the Year" award.

-IMS-

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