FERRARI HOPES TO REVERSE RECENT TITLE-FIGHT TREND AT SILVERSTONE INDIANAPOLIS, July 8, 1999 -- This weekend's British Grand Prix, the eighth of 16 races in this year Formula One World Championship, marks the midpoint of the season. It's a...
FERRARI HOPES TO REVERSE RECENT TITLE-FIGHT TREND AT SILVERSTONE
INDIANAPOLIS, July 8, 1999 -- This weekend's British Grand Prix, the eighth of 16 races in this year Formula One World Championship, marks the midpoint of the season. It's a season that's seen a duel for the crown develop between West McLaren-Mercedes driver Mika Hakkinen and Ferrari's Michael Schumacher.
Hakkinen, with three wins, leads with 40 points, while Schumacher, with two wins, has 32. But in the last three races, Hakkinen has racked up two victories and a second place while Schumacher has only managed a third and a fifth-place finish. Ferrari, however, still heads the Constructors Championship with 58 points to McLaren's 52. "At the beginning of the season we managed to win races even though the car
wasn't quite right," Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn said. "Now I believe that the car is quite good, but we are managing to lose races. That is a trend we have to reverse."
Schumacher, who won at Silverstone last year, is hoping for a repeat victory.
"I love the challenge of high-speed corners like Copse, Becketts and Stowe," Schumacher said. "We had quite a satisfying test in Silverstone last week, so I hope we can do well again. The atmosphere in the race weekend is unique. The fans are just great. It's a pity that the weather is often cool and wet."
The weather forecast for the weekend, however, is hot and dry, and that's good news for the huge crowd. The organizers limit Sunday's attendance to 90,000 fans, and all tickets were sold out a month ago.
Located north of London, near Oxford, the Silverstone circuit played host to the first British Grand Prix in 1950. Two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi calls the circuit "the temple of British motor racing." The track takes its name from the nearby village of Silverstone, which is named after the early English word for "wooded" area.
Built in 1948 on the site of a World War II British bomber base, the Silverstone circuit has undergone several major changes in recent years not only for safety reasons but to improve spectator viewing.
This is the home race for seven of the 11 F1 teams. Jordan has its factory just outside the main gates of the track. Williams, British American Racing, Stewart, Benetton and Arrows all have their bases nearby, and McLaren is located south of London.
It's also the home race for four drivers from Great Britain -- Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert, Scotland's David Coulthard and Northern Ireland's Eddie Irvine. The latter is third in the championship.
"I'm happy to be coming to Silverstone as the leading British driver in this year's championship," Irvine said, "and I would be even happier to leave the circuit as a winner. I have a lot of support from the fans, and it's nice to meet many friends from my early days in racing."
While his McLaren-Mercedes teammate Hakkinen leads the championship, Coulthard has had a string of mechanical failures -- including an electronic glitch that knocked him out of the lead in France -- and has only finished in the points twice this season.
"Although I haven't won a race this year and I haven't won a world championship yet, my motivation is as high as ever," Coulthard said. "To win my home Grand Prix would be fantastic."
Hill has been in the news often in the past two weeks. Will this be the last Grand Prix for the son of the 1966 Indy 500 winner Graham Hill? Damon Hill announced two weeks ago that he would retire at the end of the season ... or sooner if he was unhappy with his performance or that of the car. Now Hill has said he will race in the British Grand Prix and make a "clarification" regarding his future after the race.
Hill's teammate at B&H Jordan Mugen-Honda, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who won the recent French Grand Prix, is still suffering from several tiny fractures in his right knee -- a legacy of his accident in the Canadian Grand Prix a month ago.
"I am very optimistic about the race," Frentzen said when asked if he could score back-to-back victories. "Technically we are doing a great job, and I think we can still be up there again at Silverstone."
1995 Indy 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve, former teammate of Hill at Williams, won the British Grand Prix in 1996 and 1997. This year he's just hoping to finish the race. Villeneuve joined the new British American Racing-Supertec team this year but failed to make it to the checkered flag in the first seven races.
"I knew it was going to be difficult to start a new team," Villeneuve said, "but I did think that we would have achieved some better results by now. It's easy for people to forget that we are a first-year team and that we are quicker than first-year teams have ever been.
"If you look at it that way, the situation doesn't seem so bad for a newcomer team, but we are way below our own expectations, and that's why its frustrating. The thing is, we came in as a big team so we are not seen or judged as a new team. I have a strong feeling that everybody in the team is working together, so I'm confident."
FORMULA ONE NOTEBOOK
Where to watch: Television viewers in the U.S. can watch the British Grand Prix live on SpeedVision at 7:30 a.m. (EDT) July 11. Fox Sports Net will air the race tape-delayed at 10 a.m. July 11 in all time zones. SpeedVision will show qualifying live at 7:00 a.m. (EDT) on July 10. *** BMW backs Williams: BMW, which will supply engines to Team Williams starting next year, will also become the primary sponsor of the team. This brings to a close Williams' six-year partnership with Rothmans/Winfield, which will end its sponsorship of the team this year. Williams won 32 Grands Prix, two Drivers World Championships and three Constructors Championships wearing the Rothmans/Winfield colors. European Union law dictates that all tobacco sponsorship in F1 must end by 2006. Next season the team will be called BMW WilliamsF1, and BMW will have control over the livery of the car. "This partnership provides a sound commercial foundation for our activities and will allow us to work in conjunction with BMW for the global marketing of the team," said team owner Frank Williams. BMW's Motorsport Director Gerhard Berger said, "To BMW, Formula One represents a major technical challenge, which at the same time has an important communicative function for the company as a whole as well as for its products." *** Silverstone heritage: While Grand Prix racing stretches back to 1906, the modern Formula One World Championship was created in 1950. The first-ever race in the new series was the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in May 1950. Italian Giuseppe Farina won driving an Alfa Romeo and would go on to become the first World Champion. *** Distinguished drivers starred at the Brickyard and Silverstone: Three former Indy 500 winners also won the British Grand Prix -- Jim Clark, who was victorious five times, Emerson Fittipaldi and Jacques Villeneuve. Other Indy 500 luminaries that have won the British classic include Alberto Ascari, Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Peter Revson, Jochen Rindt and Nigel Mansell. *** Just like a Grand Prix: With all 11 teams on hand at Silverstone, plus the team's hospitality units, sponsor guests, spectators, the media and traffic jams, the three-day pre-British Grand Prix test made it all seem almost as if it was the actual race weekend rather than merely a test. West McLaren Mercedes driver Mika Hakkinen topped the test times with Rubens Barrichello's Stewart-Ford next on the list. B&H Jordan-Mugen-Honda brought in Jos Verstappen and Shinji Nakano to test as possible replacements for Hill. *** Frentzen to stay: Jordan has taken up its option on Heinz-Harald Frentzen, and he will remain with the team next year. *** A better package: The Stewart-Fords feature several modifications including new sidepods and rear diffuser for this race. "We set this date as our target (for major change to the car)," Jackie Stewart said. "We have got a package now, for the second half, which is considerably better than anything we had in the first half." *** United States Grand Prix tickets: Ticket orders for the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis will be accepted by mail only beginning Oct. 1 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ticket office. The race will take place Sept. 24, 2000. Current ticket holders for the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 will automatically receive an order form. Others should request an order form by sending a postcard with name and address to: United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis P.O. Box 24916 Speedway, IN 46224 Forms can also be obtained by e-mail at email@example.com or by calling (800) 822-4639. Order forms will be mailed in September.
British Grand Prix Fast Facts
Date: Sunday, July 11 Race: Eighth of 16 on 1999 schedule Venue: Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone Circuit length: 3.194-miles, 5.14-km Race length: 60 laps On TV: Race (live) - 7:30 a.m. (EDT) July 11, SpeedVision. (Tape-delayed) - 10 a.m. in all time zones July 11, FOX Sports Net. Qualifying (live) - 7 a.m. (EDT) July 10, SpeedVision Points leader: Mika Hakkinen, McLaren-Mercedes 1998 race winner: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari 1998 pole winner: Mika Hakkinen, McLaren-Mercedes Previous winners: 1997 -- Jacques Villeneuve; 1996 -- Jacques Villeneuve; 1995 -- Johnny Herbert; 1994 -- Damon Hill; 1993 -- Alain Prost