Spanish GP Michael Schumacher Aims for Three-peat

INDIANAPOLIS, May 27, 1999 - Ferrari's Michael Schumacher heads into this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix hoping to score his third consecutive victory of the season and further extend his lead in the World Championship. It's not...

INDIANAPOLIS, May 27, 1999 - Ferrari's Michael Schumacher heads into this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix hoping to score his third consecutive victory of the season and further extend his lead in the World Championship. It's not going to be easy, however, as Schumacher says the West McLaren-Mercedes cars of rivals Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard will be more competitive than his Ferrari around the Circuit de Catalunya located on the outskirts of Barcelona. "As I expected," Schumacher said, "Monaco was a good circuit for Ferrari, and this is probably the worst circuit for us in our current situation. It will be a difficult weekend but, as I usually say, not an impossible weekend. We will work and we have some ideas on how to improve compared to the last test. And we will find out whether we succeed or not." If he succeeds and beats McLaren-Mercedes, would Schumacher consider that he'd delivered a hammer blow to the rival team that's considered to have the performance advantage on this track? "It depends on the circumstances," Schumacher said. "If you have a perfectly clear situation, and it turns out like this, I would first of all be surprised and pleased. And maybe McLaren wouldn't! Let's see what happens on Saturday and Sunday. Then we will make a judgment." Schumacher leads the championship with 26 points. His Ferrari teammate Eddie Irvine, who has one victory this season, is second with 18 points while Hakkinen, who also has one victory, is third with 14 points. Last year, Hakkinen led all but two laps to win the Spanish Grand Prix. Would he consider it a hammer blow if Ferrari were to beat his McLaren-Mercedes in Sunday's Grand Prix? "No, I don't think it would be a disaster," Hakkinen said. "But it would be very close to disaster! We will have to see what happens on Saturday and Sunday. It's impossible to look back on test results 100 percent and make a judgment out of how competitive we are and how competitive the other teams are. If you are talking about the feeling of the car, yes it feels good on the track. It feels quick. Is that enough? That's difficult to say." Asked why the Ferraris struggle at the Barcelona circuit, Schumacher said it was due to the combination of many small things. "In general it is 180 degrees different compared to Monaco," Schumacher said. "Monaco is very slow speed and a little bit bumpy. Here you have a very flat circuit, and probably less grip from the tarmac itself. You have high temperature, much faster corners and much faster speed, so it's completely different. Therefore, we may have bigger problems. "What the reason is for that, I can't precisely tell you. It's probably a bit of everything. We may suffer on mechanical grip, aerodynamic grip, and a little bit on engine power in comparison. Little steps in each area make a certain gap." Barcelona is the favorite testing venue for the F1 teams, which spend even more time at the track in southern Spain than they do at Silverstone in England where most of them are based. "This is a circuit we should know better than any other because we tested here all through the winter," Winfield Williams-Supertec driver Alex Zanardi said. "We're not expecting anything in particular as we've had difficult times recently. It's nice for us -- unfortunately as it is for everyone else -- to have tested here just one week before the race." Because all the teams test at Barcelona and because it doesn't contain wildcard variables like Monaco's walls or Brazil's bumps, this weekend's qualifying and Grand Prix should give a good indication of the relative efficiency of Grand Prix cars. "The combination of long, 180-degree turns and the decent-length straights you get in Barcelona as opposed to the chicanes and short straights of, say, Monaco, really allows the strong cars to stand out," said Jock Clear, senior engineer on Jacques Villeneuve's British American Racing team. "In Spain, there is no substitute for good aerodynamic balance and an effective chassis package. These are areas where we know our car excels, so we have high hopes for the Grand Prix. "Since the Circuit de Catalunya doesn't 'mask' the abilities of a Formula One car in the way some tracks do, it means that if most teams get through their respective prerace programs during practice, then the results of Saturday's qualifying session should reflect fairly accurately the current state of the Formula One grid." And what will be the outcome? "I don't know yet," Hakkinen said. "We have done plenty of testing this year in Barcelona, and we have been able to get quite a good balance to the car. Yes, I can say I'm quite confident here, but then again, we will see what happens on Sunday."

FORMULA ONE NOTEBOOK

Where to watch: Television viewers in the U.S. can watch the Spanish Grand Prix live on SpeedVision at 7:30 a.m. (EDT) Sunday. Fox Sports Net will air the race tape-delayed at 10 a.m. Sunday in all time zones. SpeedVision will show qualifying live at 7 a.m. (EDT) Saturday. *** Points always: Since his debut in 1991, when he brought his Benetton home sixth through last year, when he took second place in his Ferrari, Michael Schumacher has finished in the points every time he's raced in the Spanish Grand Prix. In addition to winning in 1995 and in 1996, he's finished on the podium on four other occasions and racked up two other top-six placings.

*** Split loyalties: Mika Hakkinen attended the European Champions League soccer game Wednesday night. England's Manchester United beat Germany's Bayern Munich, 2-1, at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona. Manchester United, behind by a goal almost the entire game, scored both of its goals in the last two minutes to take the victory. "It was for me the first time to really experience a big football game like that," Hakkinen said. "It was extremely good fun to see all the fans and how excited they were, and how surprisingly well they were behaving--after all the stories I have seen and heard of before. "Obviously I drive for an English team, and our engine comes from Germany. I wasn't exactly sure whom I should support! But I enjoyed it. It was a fantastic game."

*** Great date: Two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi believes that the date - Sept. 24, 2000 -- of the inaugural United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a perfect time to visit Indianapolis. "It's a good time to go," he said. "In September in Indianapolis the weather is normally quite nice. I'm looking forward to going back to the United States and in particular to Indianapolis, which has been my city when I was there in the United States."

*** BAR lands Honda deal: Honda will return to Formula One next year as an engine supplier and technical partner to British American Racing. The announcement of the three-year contract was made May 21 in Tokyo and confirmed speculation that Honda has decided not to build its own chassis but follow the trend of companies such as Ford and Mercedes, which supply engines to established F1 teams. "As we would like to concentrate on the technology side, we think we should put our resources into that area rather than the effort needed to run a team," said Honda President and CEO Hiroyuki Yoshino. "We had requests from several teams for the supply of our engines. Among them, only BAR, which is a new team and has more flexibility in their decisions, could reply positively to our desire that we wanted to develop a chassis together." According to a statement from Honda, BAR and Honda "will be involved jointly in the design of future race chassis for the team, with engineers from the Honda R&D Company assuming major responsibility for developing advanced Formula One vehicle technologies, including chassis control systems." Honda's return to F1 "does not affect any of our CART racing activities," Yoshino said. This marks Honda's third era in F1. It built both chassis and engines from 1964 to 1968, and it supplied engines to top teams such as McLaren, Lotus and Williams between 1983 and 1992. In all, Honda had 186 Grand Prix starts, 71 victories and 74 poles. Honda won the Constructors Championship six times, and Honda-powered drivers won the Drivers Championship five times. "It is very exciting news that Honda has decided to return to Grand Prix racing as a partner with British American Racing," said the team's managing director, Craig Pollock. "It is a company with an illustrious heritage in motorsport, and you can be sure that together, British American Racing and Honda will be aiming to add more stories of success to the Formula One history books in the years to come." BAR is in the first season of a two-year contract with Supertec, which supplies the Renault/Mecachrome V10s to BAR, Benetton and Williams. However, BAR announced on May 20 that it and Supertec had jointly agreed "that they will not extend their contractual arrangement for the provision of Supertec engines to the team into the year 2000, as originally planned."

*** Power for Jordan: Jordan has extended its engine deal with Mugen-Honda for two more years. Honda has yet to confirm if Jordan will get the same specification engines as BAR. *** Prerace test: Barcelona, favorite winter testing venue of the F1 teams, was also a site of a major three-day F1 test last week as the teams prepared for the upcoming Spanish Grand Prix. Every team was present, and if the test gave a preview of the race, expect championship rivals Mika Hakkinen in the West McLaren Mercedes and Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari to lead the pack.

*** Happy 400th: Team Williams celebrates its 400th Grand Prix start in Spain. In 399 Grand Prix races since it made its debut in Argentina at the start of the 1973 season, the team has won the Constructors Championship a record nine times; McLaren and Ferrari are tied for second with eight Constructors Championships each. Williams drivers have won the Drivers Championship seven times. The team is third in the record books behind McLaren, which has won 10 Drivers Championships and Ferrari which has won the crown nine times. With 103 Grand Prix victories, Williams is also third in the all-time win standings behind Ferrari, which has 122 victories and McLaren with 117. Williams drivers have also won 108 pole positions and set 109 fastest race laps.

Source: IRL/IMS

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Michael Schumacher , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Jacques Villeneuve , Alex Zanardi , Jock Clear
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , British American Racing , Jordan