US GP notebook 2001-02-12

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Feb. 12, 2001 -- West McLaren-Mercedes has unveiled the car it will use to try and regain the FIA World Drivers and Constructors Championships it lost to Michael Schumacher and Ferrari last year. "We have made a lot of...

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Feb. 12, 2001 -- West McLaren-Mercedes has unveiled the car it will use to try and regain the FIA World Drivers and Constructors Championships it lost to Michael Schumacher and Ferrari last year. "We have made a lot of changes not only to the car but also internally within the team," McLaren director Ron Dennis said when the new car was launched Feb. 7 at the Valencia circuit in Spain. "I believe that we are as strong as ever engineering-wise, and we are going to give everything we have to reclaim the championship." Two-time World Champion Mika Hakkinen, who has spent much of the winter relaxing at his homes in Monaco and Finland with his wife and newborn son, said he is highly motivated to try for a third title.

"We certainly have a very competitive season ahead of us, and my goal is to win the Drivers Championship and help the team secure the Constructors title," Hakkinen said. "I'm as determined as ever to go flat out, and I believe we have the necessary equipment to do just that." Hakkinen is back with the team for an eighth full season, while his teammate, David Coulthard, enters his sixth season with McLaren. Coulthard, too, is motivated and focused on winning the championship and has even postponed his marriage to American model Heidi Wichlinski in order to concentrate on his quest for the crown.

Designed by the engineering team led by technical director Adrian Newey, the MP4-16 chassis is an all-new car rather than an evolution of last year's model. This year's cars must pass a far more stringent side-impact test and feature stronger rollover-hoop protection. Raised front wings and smaller rear wings also have reduced aerodynamic downforce. The new McLaren is powered by an all-new Mercedes V10 that has already been tested 14,000 miles on the dyno and more than 6,000 miles on the track. "If anything, the car seems a little easier to drive than last year's car," Coulthard said after the initial shakedown of the new car, "and my first impression is that it has more grip."

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Super team remains together at Ferrari: The newly crowned World Championship Ferrari team has extended the contracts of its "super team" of sporting director Jean Todt, chief designer Rory Byrne, technical director Ross Brawn and engine department director Paolo Martinelli through the 2004 season. World Champion Michael Schumacher, whose contract with Ferrari expires at the end of 2002, said the news may persuade him to stay on with the team. "It could have an influence on the eventual extension of my agreement with the team," Schumacher said, "but it is too soon to talk about it."

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Benetton-Renault plans transition year: The Mild Seven Benetton-Renault Sport team plans to use the 2001 season as a "year of adjustment and transition" as it prepares to challenge for the World Championship in future years. The team, once owned by the Benetton family, has been sold to Renault.

"2001 will be, above all, a year of adjustment and transition," said Patrick Faure, president of Renault. "It is a year in which we will strengthen and develop the team and will test new solutions, particularly the RS21 engine, which represents a great technological leap forward in terms of compactness, weight and efficiency. Technological research and innovation are the very essence of Formula One. In order to win, new creative solutions are needed: new engines and new aerodynamics but also new creative partners." Faure spoke at the official launch of the new B201 car that took place Feb. 6 at St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy. The team is in the process of laying the foundations for future victories, team director Flavio Briatore said.

"Winning the championship in 2001 is not our goal," Briatore said. "Our goal is to put the right people with the right tools and put a development program in place to lay the foundations for our future challenge. We have carried out a significant recruitment program that began in 2000 and will bear fruit throughout 2001 to get the people necessary to make a championship-winning team.

"A key advantage for the team is that we have Renault Sport UK in Enstone and Renault Sport France in Viry, where the teams work closely together to fully homologate the car. We also have the might of Renault offering all the technical support we need." The team's drivers this season are Italy's Giancarlo Fisichella, back with Benetton for a fourth season, and Great Britain's Jenson Button, who starts his second season in F1 after a rookie season with Williams-BMW. They will drive the B201 chassis, which is powered by Renault's new V10 that features a radical 111-degree V angle.

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Lauda heads up new division: Three-time World Champion Niki Lauda, who retired from F1 after the 1985 season, has been appointed as CEO of Ford's new Premiere Performance Division. The division was established to oversee, coordinate and support the motorsport activities of Jaguar Racing, Cosworth Racing and the Pi electronics group. Lauda's new position will allow Jaguar Racing CEO Bobby Rahal to concentrate on running the team.

"I see Niki as an ally of mine as we help pull Jaguar Racing to all the success we all want," Rahal said. "Niki's new role will enable me to clearly concentrate on my objective when I joined that team, and that is to develop Jaguar Racing into a championship-challenging team." American Neil Ressler, who was the interim chairman of Jaguar Racing and vice president and chief technology officer of the Ford Motor Company, has decided to retire.

*** New drivers signed: The European Minardi team has signed Spain's Fernando Alonso, age 19, as one of its drivers for the 2001 season. Alonso finished fourth in the FIA International Formula 3000 Championship last year and won the round at Spa, Belgium.

The team has nominated Italy's Andrea Piccini as its test driver. Piccini also will drive for the European F3000 team.

Brazil's Enrique Bernoldi will drive for the Orange Arrows-Asiatech team this season. Pedro de la Rosa, who competed for Arrows last year, will be the Prost test and reserve driver in 2001.

-USGP/ISM

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Jenson Button , Pedro de la Rosa , Enrique Bernoldi , Michael Schumacher , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Andrea Piccini , Bobby Rahal , Ross Brawn , Niki Lauda , Flavio Briatore , Jean Todt , Adrian Newey , Paolo Martinelli
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , Minardi , Jaguar Racing