UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX AT INDIANAPOLIS NOTEBOOK Ford, Williams excited about Formula One's return to U.S. By Dan Knutson indyf1.com Special Correspondent INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 27, 1999 -- Martin Whitaker, Ford's director of European...
UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX AT INDIANAPOLIS NOTEBOOK Ford, Williams excited about Formula One's return to U.S.
By Dan Knutson indyf1.com Special Correspondent
INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 27, 1999 -- Martin Whitaker, Ford's director of European Motorsport, says Ford is delighted that Grand Prix racing is heading back to America for the inaugural United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis in 2000.
"It's always been very important for the Ford Motor Company that there is a Grand Prix in North America, particularly in the United States," Whitaker said. "The president and CEO of Ford, Jac Nasser, made his feelings felt very strongly to Bernie Ecclestone and members of the FIA when they met last year. We are very supportive of what the FIA and Bernie have done in terms of securing a race in America.
"For Ford it is vitally important, and we are delighted that there is going to be a race there."
Wonderful news: Williams team owner Sir Frank Williams also is ecstatic that Formula One is returning to the United States.
"The American race is wonderful news for F1," Williams said. "We have always wanted to go back to the U.S. - it's a great place to race. There's great visibility and exposure there."
Williams fields cars for Ralf Schumacher and two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi.
Brave and aggressive Benetton: Benetton has created what it terms a "brave and aggressive design" with its new car as it tries to get back into the winner's circle.
The team has scored only a single Grand Prix victory since Michael Schumacher left after winning the 1994 and 1995 World Championships. Last year, for the first time in a decade, Benetton finished out of the top four in the Constructors Championship.
"I do not believe there was anything fundamentally wrong with last year's car," chief designer Nick Wirth said, "but when it came to the design of the B199 I've been far more aggressive in all areas. There are some components on the car that I would describe as brave and not at all conservative."
Wirth said the new car was revolutionary, not evolutionary. It features an innovative braking system and heavily revised aerodynamics.
Technical director Pat Symonds believes Benetton now has the technology, resources and stable infrastructure to "herald the beginning of another era of success" for the team.
"In 1998 we had two new drivers, and the design group was under new leadership," Symonds said, "so the B198 was intended to be a simple, conventional car that would be able to adapt to the needs of the new regulations and particularly the new tires. In the intensely competitive state of the current formula, it has been necessary for us to redouble our efforts in the search for victory in 1999. To this end, our latest B199 sets new standards of aerodynamic performance and ingenuity to enable us to meet the opposition head-on.
"Our latest technological development and the recent opening of our on-site, state-of-the-art wind tunnel should allow us to exploit the most important of disciplines, aerodynamics, to a level never before achieved," Symonds said.
Italy's Giancarlo Fisichella, who returns to the team for a second year alongside teammate Alexander Wurz of Austria, said: "The new car has come up with great results in the wind tunnel. I hope they will translate into results once we get on the track."
The lanky Wurz visited the factory many times to guarantee that he would have a comfortable seating position in the new car.
"We have ensured that my elbows, knees and legs don't knock against the car," Wurz said. "I should be more comfortable this season." Power comes from the Supertec V10, the Renault-designed engine that is developed by the Mecachrome firm. Rocco Benetton, youngest son of the Benetton family, starts his first full season as the chief executive of the team.
"We are aiming to win the championship," Benetton said, "but we know it will be difficult. We know we must be realistic, as well, and that could mean that we have to settle for somewhere in the top three."
Villeneuve tops test: Jacques Villeneuve's new British American Racing-Supertec put in some impressive lap times while testing in mid-January in Barcelona, Spain.
Villeneuve, 1995 Indy 500 winner, topped the time sheets that included Alex Zanardi's Winfield Williams-Supertec and Eddie Irvine's Ferrari. While Villeneuve was in his 1999 car, the others were in 1998 cars. Ferrari and Williams are scheduled to unveil their 1999 cars at the end of January. "Unlike other teams, we cannot make comparisons with last year's performance because this car is brand new," Villeneuve said of his Reynard-designed F1 machine. "As with any new design, everything is new and has to be tested. On the whole, reliability is improving. The car continues to be quick, but we haven't done enough laps."