German GP Many championship contenders on home turf

HOCKENHEIM, Germany, Thursday, July 27, 2000 - The German Grand Prix, which takes place July 30, is home ground for the top three contenders in the World Championship battle this season. Points leader Michael Schumacher of Germany...

HOCKENHEIM, Germany, Thursday, July 27, 2000 - The German Grand Prix, which takes place July 30, is home ground for the top three contenders in the World Championship battle this season. Points leader Michael Schumacher of Germany is always a favorite of the local fans, who wave flags, sound air horns and even shoot off fireworks when his Ferrari enters the “stadium section” of the Hockenheim circuit. “It’s exciting when you come in after qualifying or after the race,” Schumacher said of the crowd’s reactions. “But when you are racing, you are concentrating on that instead of the fans.” This year’s race, round 11 of 17 in the FIA Formula One World Championship, is also sort of a home Grand Prix for Scotland’s David Coulthard and Finland’s Mika Hakkinen, as both drive Mercedes-powered West McLaren cars. “This race is very important for us,” Hakkinen said. “The pressure is high, and we have a big fan following. But I don’t see that as being a problem for us. We are always trying to do our best, and David and I always try to put on a good show for the fans.” Germany’s influence can be found throughout the F1 lineup this year with four German drivers, Michael and Ralf Schumacher, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Nick Heidfeld; and two German engine manufacturers: BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Furthermore, McLaren’s title sponsor, West, has its headquarters in Germany. While this is race important, Williams-BMW driver Ralf Schumacher said, he keeps it in perspective. “It is nice to be in front of the German fans,” he said, “but this is one of 17 races, and we want to do well in all of them.” Frentzen finished third in last year’s German Grand Prix. “I have always wanted to do well on home turf,” Frentzen said, “and it was great to finish on the podium in front of my home crowd.” This year’s sellout crowd will see the next round in the championship battle that remains close after officials ruled that Hakkinen could keep the points he earned with his victory in the Austrian Grand Prix two weeks ago. West McLaren-Mercedes, however, had to forfeit the winning manufacturer points because of a technical infringement on Hakkinen’s car. Michael Schumacher has 56 points, while Coulthard is second with 50 points and Hakkinen third with 48. Ferrari holds a four-point lead over McLaren-Mercedes in the Constructors Championship, 92-88. After winning the first three Grands Prix of the season, Michael Schumacher has seen his lead erode from 24 to six points due, in part, to failing to finish three of the last four races. But he forecasts a change in his fortunes. “The last few races have not been ideal,” Michael Schumacher said, “but we have had enough bad luck, and now we can return to the good moments.” Coulthard was also in an ebullient mood as the weekend began. “I am as confident as I can be that I can win this race,” he said. Hockenheim is located south of Frankfurt and southwest of Heidelberg. The 14-turn, 4.241-mile (6.825-km) Hockenheim track consists of a tight, twisting section and a high-speed section. Because of that, it is the track with characteristics that most resemble the new 13-turn 2.606-mile (4.19-km) road circuit that will play host to the inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix on Sept. 24 at Indianapolis. “The only racetrack that is the most likely one to compare with Indianapolis is Hockenheim,” Heinz-Harald Frentzen said when he toured the Indianapolis road circuit in June. “Hockenheim also has the very long straights and a tight infield, but the infield is not as sophisticated as this one here (Indy), and the straights are not as long as this one here. So this (the Indy circuit) is going to be a completely different racetrack for us.”

FORMULA ONE NOTEBOOK

Where to watch: Television viewers in the U.S. can watch the German Grand Prix live on Speedvision at 7:30 a.m. (EDT) July 30. Fox Sports Net will air the race tape delayed at 10 a.m. in all time zones July 30. Check local listings.

Speedvision will show qualifying live at 7 a.m. (EDT) July 29.

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Frentzen stays: Heinz-Harald Frentzen has signed on for two more seasons with the Benson & Hedges Jordan-Honda team. He joined the team in 1999 and won two Grands Prix that season.

“He is Jordan’s most successful driver to date in terms of wins, points and front-row grid positions,” team owner Eddie Jordan said, “and we expect him to play a key role in our challenge for the championship honors with our 2001 partners Honda and Bridgestone.”

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Herbert heading for U.S.: Johnny Herbert announced that his 12-year Formula One career will end at the close of the season. “I have decided that I will go to the CART series next year,” he said. “I have to sign a contract, but that is what I want to do.” Herbert, who has won three Grands Prix and the Le Mans 24 Hours, said he also wants to race in the Indianapolis 500.

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No protest: The West McLaren-Mercedes team said it will not protest the decision by officials to fine the team $50,000 and strip the constructors points earned by Mika Hakkinen’s victory in the Austrian Grand Prix because of a technical infringement on the car.

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BMW returns: This is the first German Grand Prix for BMW, which returned to F1 this year after competing in the series from 1982 through 1987.

“Although the BMW V10 engine has never run so far on the high-speed track of Hockenheim,” said BMW’s motorsport director Dr. Mario Theissen, “we are aware that this circuit is one of the toughest for a F1 engine. After the A1-Ring in Austria, a lap at Hockenheim is second in terms of full-throttle percentage.

“There is no F1 circuit in the world on which an engine is stressed longer under full throttle than on the straights at Hockenheim.”

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Peugeot leaving: Peugeot announced July 25 that it will withdraw from Formula One at the end of the season, and that its F1 engine program will be taken over by Asia Motor Technologies, which will supply engines to the Arrows team in 2001 and 2002.

Peugeot entered the F1 arena in 1994 as engine suppliers to McLaren. Jordan took over the Peugeot engine deal from 1995 through 1997, and the Prost team has run the engines in 1999 and 2000.

In a statement released by Peugeot, the French car manufacturer said it is planning a program to increase its market share of sales of its road cars, and its F1 budget would be needed for this new project.

Peugeot also stated that it was important that the “know-how of the entire Peugeot Sport F1 Team be preserved and its future guaranteed.” This is why Peugeot decided to cede its F1 engine design, development and operations activity to Asia Motor Technologies (AMT), which will take over the project on Jan. 1, 2001.

The operation will remain based in its present facility at Velizy, France. Prost has yet to announce its engine plans for 2001.

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Rested Hakkinen: Mika Hakkinen took a vacation before the Austrian Grand Prix two weeks ago and another one before this race. The rest from testing or racing every week makes him faster, he said.

“The F1 season gets harder and harder every year,” Hakkinen said, “and the more time a driver can have off the more ideal it is. The more time I have off, the better prepared I am for the Grand Prix.”

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Shared history: Many winners of the German Grand Prix also competed in the Indianapolis 500, including Alberto Ascari, Graham Hill, Jim Clark, Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Denny Hulme, Mario Andretti and Nelson Piquet.

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<pre> German Grand Prix Fast Facts

Date: Sunday, July 30 Race: Eleventh of 17 on 2000 schedule Venue: Hockenheimring Circuit length: 4.241 miles, 6.825 km Race length: 45 laps On TV: Race (live) -- 7:30 a.m. (EDT) July 30, Speedvision. (Tape delay) - 10 a.m. in all time zones July 30, FOX Sports Net. Check local listings. Qualifying (live) -- 7 a.m. (EDT) July 29, Speedvision Points leader: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari 1999 race winner: Eddie Irvine, Ferrari 1999 pole winner: Mika Hakkinen, West McLaren-Mercedes Previous winners: 1998 - Mika Hakkinen; 1997 - Gerhard Berger; 1996 - Damon Hill; 1995 - Michael Schumacher; 1994 - Gerhard Berger

-IRNLS/IMS-

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Ralf Schumacher , Johnny Herbert , Michael Schumacher , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Mika Hakkinen , Nick Heidfeld , Eddie Jordan , Gerhard Berger , Jackie Stewart , Alberto Ascari , Mario Andretti , Jim Clark , Denny Hulme , Nelson Piquet , Graham Hill , Mario Theissen
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Jordan