Malaysian GP Preview, M. Schmacher to drive

UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX AT INDIANAPOLIS NOTEBOOK M. Schumacher does about-face, will drive in last two races of season INDIANAPOLIS, Oct. 12, 1999--Michael Schumacher has changed his mind and decided that he will take part in the final two...

UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX AT INDIANAPOLIS NOTEBOOK M. Schumacher does about-face, will drive in last two races of season

INDIANAPOLIS, Oct. 12, 1999--Michael Schumacher has changed his mind and decided that he will take part in the final two Grand Prix races of the 1999 season. Schumacher, who had missed six races after breaking his leg when he crashed his Ferrari in the British Grand Prix on July 11, had recently been cleared by doctors to drive again. But Schumacher, saying that he was not physically fit enough yet for the rigors of a Grand Prix, decided he would sit out the rest of the season. Five days later, after highly successful test sessions at Ferrari's private Fiorano track (where Schumacher set the fastest time ever recorded in this year's Ferrari F399) and at the Mugello circuit in Italy, Schumacher changed his mind.

A statement from Ferrari said: "After three days of intensive testing at Mugello and Fiorano, Michael saw that there had been a big improvement in his physical condition, and therefore has decided to take part in the two final and very important races of the season, to give the maximum support to Ferrari in the fight for the Championships and to fulfill the wishes of the team and all the fans."

With only two races to go -- Malaysia and Japan -- in this year's 16-race Formula One World Championship, Mika Hakkinen holds a 62-60 lead over Ferrari's Eddie Irvine. West McLaren-Mercedes heads Ferrari in the Constructors Championship, 110-102. Schumacher and Irvine will use an evolution of Ferrari's 048 V10 engine in the final two races as they try to win Ferrari's first Drivers Championship since 1979 and first Constructors Championship since 1983.

*** Far East trip: The Formula One season ends with two races in the Far East -- the Malaysian Grand Prix on Oct. 17 and the Japanese Grand Prix on Oct. 31.

The inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix will take place on the new Sepang International Circuit. Built at a cost of $120 million, the 15-turn circuit is 3.443 miles (5.542 km) long and features state-of-the-art pit, hospitality and spectator facilities. It's located about 35 miles south of Kuala Lumpur and adjacent to the city's new airport. Former Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve spent part of his early career racing in the Far East. "I don't know anything about this new circuit as I've never been to Sepang before," Villeneuve said, "but I'm really looking forward to driving on a new track. "I've been quite competitive on new circuits in the past, such as the A1 Ring in Austria two years ago, and I hope to do the same again. I'm sure that Malaysia will be interesting, as it seems very different from the other countries we visit. "From previous experience, plus visits to Hong Kong, Macau and China, as well as living in Japan, I know that I like Asia, so I hope that it will bring me luck and we will get positive results in our last two GPs this season."

The F1 teams have not tested at Sepang and thus, just as will be the case for the new road course at Indianapolis, they will use computer models to give them their initial chassis setup parameters. "The fact is, none of the teams knows exactly what it's going to find when it gets to Malaysia," said British American Racing Chief Engineer Steve Farrell. "We've done a considerable amount of computer simulation work on Sepang using circuit data provided by the organizers as well as Bridgestone, which also supplied a number of the motorcycle teams who raced there earlier this year. "This has allowed us to work out theoretical chassis settings and gear ratios, and although we have developed a good correlation between our in-house simulations and real-world conditions, we won't know for sure how close we are until we start running there. "As far as specific technical issues for this race are concerned, the obvious ones relate to the climate of Malaysia -- high ambient temperatures and the likelihood of tropical downpours. As far as rain is concerned, we've done considerable wet-weather running this year and feel that we are as ready as we're ever going to be on that front. "The most interesting aspect of this first Malaysian Grand Prix is that the competition will be more even for all the teams than would normally be the case. Those with the best computer simulations will still have a small advantage, but I think it's going to be a case of thinking quickly on your feet during the race weekend and using your initiative. It should make for a very interesting Grand Prix."

*** BMW tests in the open: BMW has tested its new F1 engine in public for the first time. Until now, BMW has done all its testing in private at its Miramas track in France, but the next stage of the development program called for trials at a current F1 venue. So BMW spent four days at the A1 Ring, home of the Austrian Grand Prix, with test driver Jorg Muller. The V10, a prototype of the engine to be used next year, is fitted to a modified Williams F1 chassis. "The best time (on the first day) was about two seconds off what our regular cars did at the Austrian Grand Prix," Team Williams technical director Patrick Head said, "so that is quite an encouraging start." After an absence of a dozen years, BMW will make its F1 comeback next year with Williams. BMW supplied engines to the F1 series from 1982 through 1987, and Nelson Piquet won the 1983 World Championship driving a Brabham-BMW. Honda will also make its F1 return next year although it kept in touch with the series via its sister company Mugen-Honda.

In all, seven different engine manufacturers will be trying to win the first Grand Prix at Indianapolis next year: BMW, Ferrari, Honda, Jaguar, Supertec (originally Renault), Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot.

More testing: While Ferrari tested in Italy and BMW in Austria, West McLaren-Mercedes, Winfield Williams-Supertec, Mild Seven Benetton-Playlife, B&H Jordan-Mugen-Honda, Stewart-Ford, Red Bull Sauber-Petronas, British American Racing-Supertec and Gauloises Prost-Peugeot headed for Barcelona for the last major F1 test session of the season.

David Coulthard's McLaren-Mercedes was quickest in two of the three days while Johnny Herbert, who recently gave Stewart-Ford its first Grand Prix victory, was fastest on the other day.

Magny-Cours confirmed: The FIA has confirmed that the Magny-Cours circuit will play host to the French Grand Prix through 2004.

Increased safety: In its never-ending quest to improve the safety of F1 cars, the FIA has mandated more stringent crash test and driver protection requirements for next season.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Johnny Herbert , Michael Schumacher , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Jacques Villeneuve , Jorg Muller , Nelson Piquet , Patrick Head
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , British American Racing , Jordan