F1 NOTEBOOK: PAST INDY WINNER VILLENEUVE LIKES NEW CAR Zanardi learning fast; Honda returning to F1 INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 23, 1998 -- Indy 500 winner and Formula One World Champion Jacques Villeneuve found his new Reynard-designed F1 car to be ...
F1 NOTEBOOK: PAST INDY WINNER VILLENEUVE LIKES NEW CAR Zanardi learning fast; Honda returning to F1
INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 23, 1998 -- Indy 500 winner and Formula One World Champion Jacques Villeneuve found his new Reynard-designed F1 car to be quick right out of the box.
After only three days of testing in Barcelona, Villeneuve posted lap times close to those set by the Williams, McLaren and Jordan teams also present at the test. He ended up fourth quickest of the 10 drivers present. Villeneuve notched up a piece of F1 history Dec. 15 when he drove the new British American Racing Supertec for the first time. The car managed only three laps on the first day as the team worked on the typical "teething" problems of new cars. Such is the intensity and commitment of F1 these days that the BAR team modified a gearbox back at its base in England and flew it to Spain for the second day of the test.
"We had a number of problems over the three days," a delighted Villeneuve said, "but that is normal with any first test. The car is quick 'out of the box' even without doing any setups.
"The problems we have encountered have now been resolved. The important thing is that they have not happened twice and will not happen when we resume testing in January. I am already quicker than I thought I would be, and that is without even trying. That first feeling is very important to me. And that is why I'm happy - I'm sure it will be a good car."
Villeneuve left the Williams F1 team after three seasons to join the new British American Racing (BAR) team for 1999. BAR bought and absorbed the legendary Tyrrell team and joined forces with Reynard, which is making its first foray into F1.
Reynard is well known in the U.S., having posted wins in the 1995 and 1996 Indy 500s.
Zanardi learning: Two time CART Champ Car champion Alex Zanardi has been settling into his new home at Team Williams.
He took part in the three-day, pre-Christmas test at Barcelona, Spain, which was attended by Williams, McLaren, Jordan, BAR, Prost and Arrows. Although he was slower than his teammate Ralf Schumacher, who set the quickest time of the 10 drivers at the session, Zanardi was not upset. "I would be worried if our cars were the slowest overall," said Zanardi, who was fifth fastest. "I need time to get to know the car and the team. This test was all about that, and I can honestly say we have made good progress.
"Every lap I take in the Williams Supertec teaches me something new, which is exactly what we are here to do. I am here to learn and to communicate my experiences and opinions with the team. I will be eager to get back in the car after the New Year break."
Honda confirms F1 return: Japan's Honda Motor has confirmed that it will return to Formula One in 2000 -- the same year as the inaugural United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis.
"We plan to use Honda's products, including not only the engine but also the chassis itself," Honda President Hiroyuki Yoshino said at the announcement Dec. 21 in Japan. "It is going to strengthen the culture of Honda."
Honda competed in F1 from 1964 to 1968, when it built the engine and chassis. American Richie Ginther scored the marque's first victory in the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix and also gave Goodyear its first of 368 Grand Prix wins.
Honda returned to F1 in 1983 and supplied engines to top teams such as Lotus, Williams and McLaren. The list of drivers who used Honda engines contains such stars as the late Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet and Keke Rosberg.
Honda withdrew from F1 at the end of the 1992 season, by which time it had racked up 71 wins. Honda-powered drivers won the World Championship five consecutive years between 1987 and 1991. Honda engines also won six Constructors Championships from 1986 to 1991.
Honda had its first test Dec. 15 using a prototype car. Dutchman Jos Verstappen drove the white car for two days at the Varano circuit in Italy, but fog kept the car in the pits most of the first day.
The track is near the Dallara factory, which built the chassis for Honda and also manufactures cars for the Pep Boys Indy Racing League. The prototype Honda car was fitted with a 1998 specification Mugen-Honda V10 engine as used by the Jordan team.
1999 schedule set, Chinese Grand Prix dropped: The Chinese Grand Prix has been dropped from the 1999 Formula One schedule due to problems experienced by its organizers.
According to the FIA (F1's governing body), the race "will definitely be included in the calendar for 2000."
Bernie Ecclestone, chief executive of Formula One Administration Limited, said there had been some logistical problems getting everything ready for the race in China, which was scheduled for March 1999. It would have been the inaugural grand prix in China.
The organizers of the Chinese circuit at Zhuhai are using the delay to further improve the pit garage, race control tower and media facilities as well as road access to the track.
Zhuhai is located 18 miles over the border from Macau, across the bay from Hong Kong. Meanwhile, the Hungarian and San Marino Grands Prix, both listed as tentative events for 1999, have been confirmed by the FIA. The 1999 calendar now features 16 races with the Argentine Grand Prix listed as first reserve and the Chinese Grand Prix listed as second reserve.
These races will only be held if one of the 16 scheduled events is canceled and/or a majority of the teams agree to add an extra race.
Ford extends contract with Stewart: Ford has extended its engine contract with the Stewart Grand Prix team through the year 2001. "Ford completed the purchase of Cosworth Racing in October 1998," said Neil Ressler, vice president of Ford's Advanced Vehicle Technology, "and it is well along with its new V10 engine, which will be run in the Stewart-Ford car during the 1999 season. "Stewart Grand Prix is making organizational and staffing changes and placing greater focus on design, engineering and management.
We recognize that Stewart is still a young team with much to do, but we are optimistic about the future. "Renewing the contract with Stewart underlines our commitment to the team and our future success in Formula One," Ressler added.
Three-time F1 World Champion Jackie Stewart, who finished sixth in the 1966 Indy 500, and his son, Paul Stewart, formed their F1 team in 1997 with Ford, which supplies the team with an exclusive engine deal. While other teams may use Fords, they are of an older specification than those run by Stewart drivers Rubens Barrichello and Johnny Herbert.
Ford, together with Cosworth, entered the F1 scene in 1967. They supplied a newly crafted V8 to Lotus drivers Jim Clark and Graham Hill, and Clark gave the engine a victory in its debut. Code-named the DFV, the Ford Cosworth dominated F1 until the turbo era began in the mid-1980s. In all, Ford scored 174 Grand Prix wins between 1967 and 1994.
The names of Ford and Cosworth are synonymous with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy-style racing as well. Clark won the 1965 Indy 500 in a Lotus-Ford, and Ford Cosworth's DFX model dominated Indy-style racing in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Ford Cosworth-powered cars won every Indy 500 from 1978 to 1987.
Winners reunite: Two of Formula One's all time winners have reunited: Alain Prost and John Barnard.
Prost has a record 51 Grand Prix victories, and many of those wins as well as two of his four World Championships came in cars designed by England's John Barnard. Now Prost has hired Barnard to work exclusively for his team in the role of "technical consultant."
After retiring from the cockpit in 1993, Prost eventually bought the Ligier team and changed its name to Prost in 1997. While the Prost team is based near Paris, Barnard will continue to work out of his R&D facility, B3 Technologies, which is on the outskirts of London. Thirty employees at B3T are working on the design and development of the 1999 Prost-Peugeot.
Barnard began his career as a race car designer with Lola in 1969 and moved on to McLaren in 1972 where he worked on both the F1 and USAC Indy machines. Between 1975 and 1979 he was based in the U.S., working first with the Parnelli USAC team and then later designed the ground-effects Chaparral 2K Indy car, which Johnny Rutherford used to win both the Indy 500 and the Indy championship in 1980.
Barnard rejoined the McLaren F1 team late in 1979. His first car at McLaren, in 1981, broke new technical ground in the use of composite material -- carbon fiber -- for the chassis developed by the U.S.-based company Hercules. Barnard's "MP4" series of cars won the World Championship from 1984 to 1986. He joined Ferrari in 1986 and since then has also worked for Benetton, Toyota and, most recently, Arrows.
While at Ferrari, he developed the innovative "semi-automatic" gearbox (now, like carbon fiber, standard in F1), which allows drivers to change gears by flicking a paddle behind the steering wheel.