INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 6, 1999--The sounds of silence ended Dec. 1 with the shriek of Formula One V10 engines revving to 16,000 rpm in Spain and Italy. F1 rules ban testing for 30 days after the final race of the season. On the 31st day -- Dec. 1 -- several F1 teams began testing for the 2000 Formula One World Championship season that will include, on Sept. 24, the first United States Grand Prix to be staged at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Rubens Barrichello drove what he called an emotional first test for Ferrari at that team's private Fiorano test track. Meanwhile, in Jerez, Spain, four teams -- West McLaren-Mercedes, B&H Jordan-Mugen-Honda, Williams-BMW and Gauloises Prost-Peugeot -- took part in a three-day test session.
Zanardi's future: The Williams-BMW team issued a brief statement following intense speculation by the media that two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi would not be returning to the team for the second year of his contract. "We are aware of the considerable speculation concerning the driver lineup for Williams F1 in 2000," the statement said. "We do not intend to respond or make any comment on this speculation. If any confirmation of our position is considered necessary or appropriate in the future, then this will be handled in the usual way by means of a press release from the team." Zanardi struggled in his return to F1 this year and failed to score a single point while his teammate, Ralf Schumacher, finished in the top six 11 times. In a recent television interview, Zanardi said, "I'm not going anywhere."
BAR confirms: British American Racing moved to quell rumors about its lineup in 2000 by confirming that 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve, rumored to be returning to Williams, would remain with the team. BAR also stated that Craig Pollock will remain as managing director and that technical director Adrian Reynard would be taking a more active role in the team.
"I believe that BAR, having gone through very difficult times in 1999, now has the management structure to be competitive very quickly," said Villeneuve, who scored no points in his first season with the new BAR team.
"I am very much looking forward to being with the team during the 2000 season."
Reynard, whose company builds most of the cars in the CART series, said BAR' s F1 effort is now on track.
"We now have a really solid platform from which to work," Reynard said, "and are consequently looking forward with great anticipation to the start of the new Grand Prix season. We are also very excited about the fact that the British American Racing-Honda 02 will run for the first time in the next few days."
The official unveiling of the new BAR-Honda will be Jan. 24 in London.
"I am happy that the team's management structure is now settled, and all of our energies can be directed toward the performance of the team for the 2000 season," Pollock said.
Emotional day: Rubens Barrichello said his first drive for the legendary Ferrari team was an emotional one. He takes over Eddie Irvine's seat at Ferrari while Irvine has replaced him at Stewart-Ford/Jaguar.
"For me it's a great time and a great emotion to see my name written on a red car," Barrichello said when he drove the car for the first time Dec. 1. "We are still just testing the car. I feel like I have driven this car for longer because I feel very used to it. I've got a small problem with the brakes: I have to brake with my left foot, which I'm not used to, but I'm doing fine."
On his second day in the car, Barrichello lapped within half a second of the lap record at Ferrari's Fiorano test track located next to the factory.
Schumacher waits: Two-time World Champion Michael Schumacher said he is still not fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered when he crashed on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix in mid-July. He will not test this month but will wait until the new Ferrari is ready in January. "I will resume testing only when the new car is ready," Schumacher told reporters. "There's no need to work on further improvements to the old car."
McLaren tests: David Coulthard and newly signed as test/reserve driver Olivier Panis were on hand for the West McLaren-Mercedes at Jerez. The team' s program included developing the Mercedes-Benz V10 for 2000. Coulthard set the pace with the fastest time clocked by any of the drivers at the test.
Schumacher's first: Ralf Schumacher, younger brother of Michael Schumacher, got his first taste of BMW power when he drove the Williams-BMW FW21B at Jerez. BMW, along with Jaguar and Honda, is one of three new engine manufacturers that will compete in next year's F1 season and the Grand Prix at Indianapolis.
"After a four-week break, it's good to get back in the Williams as we start to prepare for the next year with our new partner BMW," Ralf Schumacher said. "In the morning when I went out for the first time, I stopped after half a lap because the oil-pressure warning light came on. In the afternoon, I managed to do 17 timed laps, and I am satisfied with the engine." He drove a modified 1999 Williams chassis painted in blue and white BMW colors. This was not, however, the livery that 2000 car will carry at its debut in January.
"It is now important to compare ourselves with other teams," said BMW motorsport director Gerhard Berger. "That is the only way to find out where we really stand. The test did fulfill our expectations. We had incidents, but these will give us further important knowledge for preparation program." On Dec. 3, Schumacher drove a full race distance split into three stages. Alex Zanardi was not present at the test.
First outing: Jarno Trulli had his first outing in the B&H Jordan-Mugen-Honda. The team brought two 1999 chassis to Jerez. "They have impressed me with the way they work, using both cars to ensure that I was gaining maximum track mileage while the other car was in the garage," said Trulli, who spent his first three seasons in F1 with the Minardi and Prost teams.
Team owner Eddie Jordan commented, "Jarno is doing a good job, and his confidence is increasing daily."
New Year's change: On Jan. 1, 2000, the Stewart-Ford team will officially become Jaguar Racing. The team is working hard back at its England base as it readies itself for the new season with drivers Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert.
New drivers: Jean Alesi and Nick Heidfeld, the new drivers for the Gauloises Prost-Peugeot team, got their first run in the cars during the three-day Jerez test.
"I had to learn, at the same time, about the car, the team and become familiar with the new environment," Alesi said. "I was very eager to start, and in the end, everything worked out well. Everyone has given me a lot of attention.
"It's good to be associated with a works engine deal again. The way the team works is perfect. We've laid the basis, and now we can begin to work well together."
With 166 Grand Prix starts, Alesi is the most experienced driver in the lineup next year. His teammate, Heidfeld, won the 1999 FIA European Formula 3000 Championship and is about to embark on his rookie F1 season.
"I get along well with Jean, and I'm sure we will do a great job together," Heidfeld said. "I feel confident in the car now that I know it a little bit better."
Driver revelation: Nick Heidfeld was awarded the Driver Revelation of the Year trophy by the French publication L'Automobile Magazine.
Benetton prepares: The new Mild Seven Benetton-Playlife should make its debut in mid-January. As it prepares for the new season, the team does not plan to test until the end of December.
Barcelona bound: While they skipped the test at Jerez, the Stewart-Ford/Jaguar, Red Bull Sauber-Petronas and Arrows teams plan to take part in the Barcelona test session in mid-December. A test session at Jerez is also scheduled for mid-December.
Jordan nurtures talent: The Jordan Grand Prix team has started a program to nurture engineering talent at three universities in England -- Southhampton, Imperial and Cambridge.
Called the Formula Student Competition, the program, modeled after the 20-year-old American Formula SAE competition, will allow students to conceive, design, fabricate and compete in small Formula-style racing cars. A senior Jordan engineer will advise each team of student engineers, and the most talented may be offered positions on the F1 team.
CART move: Former F1 driver Shinji Nakano will compete in the CART series next year for Walker Racing.
Charity race: Michael Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Alexander Wurz, Ricardo Zonta, Luca Badoer, Tony Kanaan and Christian Fittipaldi were scheduled to take part in a charity kart race Dec. 5 in Germany. They were raising money for the United Nations' UNESCO charity.
Sarrazin signs: West Competition, the Formula 3000 team run by West McLaren-Mercedes, has signed Frenchman Stephane Sarrazin, 25, for the 2000 FIA European Formula 3000 Championship. He replaces 1999 champion Nick Heidfeld, who has moved up to F1 with the Prost team.
"The West Competition Team has consistently proved to be one of the leading teams during its two seasons in F3000," Sarrazin said, "so this is a great opportunity for me. Next year will be my third season in F3000, and after gaining experience in such a competitive environment, I hope to challenge for race victories, and ultimately the championship in 2000."