Teams ready to roll in Australia; Arrows lands sponsor

Teams ready to roll in Australia; Arrows lands sponsor INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 8, 2000 - With a final flurry of activity the Formula One teams completed their final shakedown tests and packed up their cars and equipment to be flown to ...

Teams ready to roll in Australia; Arrows lands sponsor

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 8, 2000 - With a final flurry of activity the Formula One teams completed their final shakedown tests and packed up their cars and equipment to be flown to Australia for the first Grand Prix of the season March 12.

Races like the season opener in Melbourne and the inaugural United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis on Sept. 24 are nicknamed "flyaways" by the Formula One fraternity because all the race cars and equipment are flown to the venue. The teams use transporter trucks to haul their cars to the races within Europe.

Each team takes three cars and enough parts to build a fourth to each Grand Prix. In addition to that, each team will bring between 16 and 25 tons of equipment and spares to a flyaway race. It takes three jumbo 747 freight aircraft to haul all the cars and equipment to Australia, plus an additional three 747s to ship the television equipment for the digital pay-for-view feed available in Europe.

Orange Arrows: The Arrows team has signed a three-year title sponsorship deal with Orange, a telecommunications and mobile telephone network company based in England. The team's official name this season will be Orange Arrows-Supertec.

Arrows also announced several associate sponsors including, Eurobet, an online betting service; Lost Boys, an international media/Internet group; and Chello, a broadband cable communications company that is part of United Pan-European Communications.

Silverstone shakedown: Eight F1 teams shook their cars down at Silverstone last week before packing up for the first Grand Prix of the season. Heavy rain and windy conditions, especially on the first of the two days testing, hampered their work.

"We feel we have generally enjoyed more technical reliability with this car during the preparations for the season than perhaps we did last year," said Adrian Newey, technical director of West McLaren-Mercedes. "But as to how the season will develop, who can say."

Besides McLaren, Williams-BMW, Mild Seven Benetton-Playlife, Jaguar, Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda, Gauloises Prost-Peugeot, Arrows and Lucky Strike British American Racing-Honda were also present at Silverstone. "It was a very busy day," Benetton driver Giancarlo Fisichella said, "as we had three cars to shake down as well as doing lots of pit-stop practice. I always like the last session before the first race as there is always quite a tense and excited atmosphere."

Button back: Jenson Button, who had to take some time off after pulling a muscle, was back in the cockpit of the Williams-BMW and used the Silverstone test to practice pit stops. He ended up setting the fastest time of the 11 drivers in attendance.

"Apart from the atrocious weather conditions, it went well," Button said. "I have never simulated full pit stops before, and given how wet it was, the pit stop practice was a valuable learning experience. While we must not read too much into laps times at a test session, I am obviously pleased to be on the pace, especially as I had never driven a F1 car at Silverstone.

"All I can say is that I will give my absolute best in the first race. This is a development year for the Williams-BMW team, and we are being realistic about our level of performance this season."

Button, 20, the rookie that Williams-BMW hired to replace Alex Zanardi, began his racing career in karts at age 8. This season will only be the third year Button has been racing cars rather than karts. He competed in Formula Ford in 1998 and the British Formula 3 series in 1999.

Zanardi mystery: After winning two CART championships, Alex Zanardi returned to F1 last year but had an unhappy season. He failed to score any points, and he and the Williams team agreed that he would not return for the second year of his contract. Team owner Frank Williams said Zanardi's poor performance last year was "a mystery."

"The whole Zanardi business is still a bit of a mystery to us," Williams said. "There are many theories about what went wrong, but I am not confident why coming back to F1 didn't work for him, and I don't want to say what I think. In the first four or five races, Alex certainly had some mechanical difficulties, but very few after that.

"I spoke to Alex just a week ago, and there was no rancor. It would have been an easy solution to have kept on going for another year."

Asked how close the team and Zanardi came to staying together in 2000, Williams replied: "Very. We were trying very hard, to see whether we wanted to do it, or he did, trying to make it work. We discussed it backward and forward. He made, I think, three trips up from Italy after the last race, and we had loads of conversations.

"It was a great disappointment, too, because we had made our choice. It wasn 't a question of us being made to look silly, because we don't choose drivers to make ourselves look good, but the bottom line was that the results weren't there. That was a disappointment.

"I have to say that Alex was blindingly good with sponsors and with the people on the team. The fact that they all liked him so much made the final parting really tough."

Schumacher's dream Ferrari: Michael Schumacher claims that the new Ferrari is the car of which he has dreamed. After setting the lap record at Italy's Mugello circuit, Schumacher went to Fiorano to shakedown the third of the new F1-2000 chassis to be completed this season.

"We have done our homework, and the results are extremely positive," Schumacher said. "I can say that it has been the best preparation I have experienced since joining Ferrari. It is the Ferrari I have been dreaming of all the time.

"Everything looks good. Aerodynamics, engine, handling and speed was there almost from the first lap, and reliability has been much better than in all the previous years at a comparable stage of development."

Irvine's new helmet: Eddie Irvine has changed his trademark orange and green helmet design for a new design that features a roaring Jaguar on a black background on each side.

"I wanted to change it a couple of years ago, but we never got around to it," Irvine said, "and then when I changed teams, the orange didn't go with the (Jaguar) green at all so it was the perfect time to go on and do it. It' s just different from the normal Formula One helmet that's a load of stripes or bars, and we wanted to get away from that and do something that sticks in your mind a bit."

Prost transformed: The Gauloises Prost-Peugeot team has made major changes to its new AP03 chassis that, according to driver Nick Heidfeld, have "transformed" the car that was off the pace in testing.

"We can now classify the problems we encountered as teething troubles, which are quite common with totally new racing cars," team owner Alain Prost said. "What is unfortunate is that in addition we paid a high price for delays incurred over the winter, mainly with the engine.

"We were further penalized by the fact that they were essentially due to problems with the electronic systems. This had both direct and indirect effects. For example, we immediately realized we had a problem with the rear part of the car, but because we couldn't download any data we lost time identifying the cause."

"I'm certainly a lot more optimistic than I was 10 days ago," Prost said of the season opener in Australia. "That doesn't mean to say I have no worries. In effect, we will be arriving in Australia with a brand-new car. And by that I mean even in comparison to the one we have used up until now!

"We will be working right up until the last moment...which means that we will have mechanical and aerodynamic parts that have never been tested before. From that point of view you could say that the first race will be for us a public testing session."

Bridgestone's 50th: The F1 season opener will mark Bridgestone's 50th Grand Prix. Bridgestone, the parent company of Firestone that also supplies tires to the Indy Racing League, is beginning its fourth consecutive season of providing tires for the F1 series.

Bridgestone will bring 2,500 tires to each Grand Prix, and drivers will have a choice of two dry-weather compounds and two wet-weather compounds at each race.

McLaren junior team signs sponsor: The McLaren-Mercedes Formula 3000 team has signed a new title sponsor and will now be called The mySAP.com Competition Team.

IRL/IMS

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Jenson Button , Michael Schumacher , Nick Heidfeld , Alex Zanardi , Alain Prost , Frank Williams , Adrian Newey
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , British American Racing , Jordan