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Team & Driver Season Review
9 - 30 November News
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30-Nov: The testing ban enforced by the FIA following the 2000 Formula 1 season ends today. Several teams are planning to shakedown their cars on the 1st of December in preparation for the first major test at Jerez from the 4th until the 7th of December. McLaren, Williams, BAR, Jordan, Arrows, Sauber and Jaguar are expected to be present at the test. Ferrari are expected to test at Fiorano during this period however they are planning to join the rest of the teams at the Valencia test session between the 13th and 15th of December. Check the Testing page for the dates of the upcoming test sessions in December.
Former Minardi driver, Gaston Mazzacane will be testing for the Arrows team during December. It is not yet clear if he will drive for them during the 2001 season or if he will become their test driver.
The latest in driver and team movements
29-Nov: Michael Schumacher has indicated that he is happy at Ferrari and will definitely remain until the end of his current contract which ends in 2002. He hinted at the possibility of staying there beyond 2002 if the atmosphere remains the same. He said "I feel really good with Ferrari. You can't compare the atmosphere with that of other teams. I have a contract for another two years and I will definitely fulfil it. If the atmosphere remains the same, I see no reason to change anything."
Schumacher added "It took us five years to reach that level and I want us to stay where we are for a while. There's nothing better than moments like these (winning both titles) and I see no reason why there should not be more of them."
Mark Webber has been awarded the Bruce McLaren Award for the
second time in his career. McLaren boss Ron Dennis presented Webber with the award which
is given to 'the most meritorious performance by a Commonwealth driver'
27-Nov: Michelin's development driver, Tom Kristensen believes that Michelin is capable of winning races but warned that they will struggle on a number of circuits due to the limited data available on those circuits. Kristensen said "I think they (Michelin) will win races, but I think they will also struggle on some circuits. It has only been possible for Michelin to test on two or three of the Grand Prix tracks. With the tyre technology being so great at the moment it's going to be difficult to be 100% correct with a certain type of tyre, given specific track temperatures, weather conditions and so on."
Heinz Harald Frentzen has indicated that since traction control was banned a few
years ago, several teams have used some form of traction control through clever software
and it was impossible for the FIA to govern it. On the prospect of traction control
returning to the sport from next year he said "There is little doubt that some teams
have been cheating and getting away with it with clever software programs, so the
reasoning is, that if it is allowed, then at least everyone will be playing from the same
Although they have been using it for 2 months, McLaren have officially opened their new wind tunnel at their Paragon headquarters. Martin Whitmarsh, the managing director of McLaren said "The tunnel has actually been blowing wind for around two months. We've had a model in it for the past two weeks or so. For the moment, we are also retaining our existing wind tunnel as well."
Peugeot's motorsport chief Corrado Provera has indicated that
only the top 2 teams with their 4 cars are scoring points in Formula 1 while all the other
teams are fighting for expensive peanuts. He added that the top 2 teams have scored 322
points while Williams in 3rd place only scored 36. He believes that the level of both
McLaren and Ferrari is so high and will remain high because each team has only one target
and that is to kill the other one.
He added "This has been an awful year because we have known since the end of 1999 that we had to withdraw. This has been personally and professionally something very difficult to undergo. We both (Peugeot and Prost) decided that we couldn't announce it in order to avoid the disruption to the team."
Ferrari have chosen to test alongside their competitors in December, something
they have not done last year. Rubens Barrichello and Luca Badoer will do the driving while
Michael Schumacher is recovering from his leg surgery.
23-Nov: Ralf Schumacher believes that while it is difficult for the other teams to catch up with the top 2, it is also difficult for the top 2 to remain up there. He believes that Williams, BAR and Renault (who own Benetton) will soon be able to challenge McLaren and Ferrari but not as early as next season though. He said "They (McLaren and Ferrari) simply have the best package. I think it's quite realistic to say they are going to be dominating the next season again. But I personally believe that a change is coming soon. BAR is getting up there, we are close and I'm sure with Renault, Benetton will be coming again. To come to a top level is difficult, but to stay there is difficult as well. So I'm quite sure it will change."
23-Nov: "Team & Driver Season Review" is the title of the 36th issue from the Diagnosis and Prognosis Series for the 2000 season. In this issue, the Heretic looks at the 2000 Formula 1 season - Check it out here !!
Jean Alesi, the most experienced Formula 1 driver today has indicated that
drivers are becoming less and less important in how they can affect the outcome of the
race. He still believes though that only the best make it. He said "I'm really sad
that there is a lot less space for the driver now. We're often asked: how much of the
impact is the cars and how much the drivers? I don't want to say the driver is not
important any more, but it is close. Sometimes I drive the car and cannot do anything.
Because after one lap you understand your level, and that's it for the weekend. It was
absolutely not like that in 1989.
Marc Gene who was officially announced as the Williams test driver for 2001 has
indicated that he did not hesitate when he was offered the new role. Gene said "I
think that it is preferable to be a test driver in a team that has won the world
championship many times, rather than racing with a small team. The truth is that when
Williams rang me I felt honoured and didn't hesitate in taking up their offer.
Gene described Minardi as necessary for the sport and said "The good thing about Minardi is that they give an opportunity to young drivers to make a start in Formula One. Teams like Minardi are necessary and my time with the outfit has been a very valuable experience."
Gene will test for Williams at the upcoming test at Jerez starting from the 5th of December. Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya are also expected to be present.
21-Nov: "Your top 5 drivers of all time" is the topic of the month - Have Your Say
Juan Pablo Montoya completed a 2 day visit to the WilliamsF1 HQ where he held
various meetings and discussions with the team's key personnel. Montoya will get a seat
fitting and will be preparing himself for the upcoming test session at Jerez between the
5th and 7th of December.
Williams will be testing the 2000 car fitted with the brand new BMW engine running on Michelin tyres.
Marc Gene has become the latest Formula 1
driver to sign a test driver contract for 2001. He becomes the official Williams test and
The latest in driver and team movements
19-Nov: With the recent news that the FIA are about to announce the return of traction control, Rory Byrne, Ferrari's chief designer agrees with the expected decision and said "It's a big step forward, and in principle I think it will clear things up a lot. I don't think this will put an end to all the innuendo in the sport, but it will certainly simplify things. The status quo that we've had this year hasn't been satisfactory. There have been a number of attempts to simplify the verification procedure, but the FIA couldn't really be 100 per cent sure that there was nothing going on."
Craig Pollock has again survived at the head of British American Racing following
a failed attempt by the management to buy out the team. He now wants to rebuild stability
in the team and said "What we need now is real stability built in at all levels. I am
the managing director of this team and I have every intention of remaining so for as long
On the signing of Olivier Panis to partner Jacques Villeneuve, Pollock hopes that Panis will give them valuable information on the McLaren car and believes Panis to be at the same level as Hakkinen and Coulthard. He said "I think the fact that he has shone so well during a testing programme at McLaren means that Panis is capable of doing what Coulthard and Hakkinen do in a car. I'm sure that he is able to come across not only with his driving talent, but also with the ability to tell us the differences between a McLaren and a British American Racing car. I think it's a very, very positive thing. I shouldn't be saying it, but it is a fact."
Pollock also hopes that Panis will give Jacques Villeneuve a run for his money and said "We've taken an older driver who speaks the same language, and who can turn round to Jacques and tell him to piss off!. The more that Olivier can slap Jacques in the face, the more Jacques is going to step up. I think Panis is very capable of getting the whole team behind him very quickly and will be willing to put the effort in to do that, and that will be Jacques' problem - will Jacques be able to keep his team behind him, will he not lose it? To me it's going to be a very, very healthy competition next year."
Following the breakdown of discussions between Minardi and PSN,
Minardi faces a major financial problem and is still without an engine deal. Gabriele
Rumi who sold his majority share to PSN only to take it back again has indicated
that the situation is difficult and said "PSN has not respected its commitments.
Minardi is not dead, but it is not in the best of health. I am trying all possibilities to
secure a safe place for the team, and I hope that in about a week there can be some
16-Nov: Despite the fact that Frank Williams decided to replace Jenson Button with Juan Pablo Montoya in 2001, he believes that Jenson Button could be the driver of the decade and said "I think Jenson could be the man of this decade, once Michael hangs up his hat. Mind you, there are one or two others, too, who might do that including JPM (Juan Pablo Montoya)."
He added that while he made plenty of mistakes in his time,
he doesn't think bringing Montoya to Formula 1 will be a mistake and said "Juan Pablo
may match up to Jenson, may be better, may not be as good. Whatever happens, I won't lose
any sleep over it, I've made plenty of mistakes in my time. Tell you what though, I don't
think Juan Pablo will be a mistake."
Telefonica, the major sponsors for Minardi
in 2000 appear set to leave Formula 1 after terminating their deal with Minardi earlier
this year (story) and following comments by Prost's
newly appointed managing director Joan Villadelprat who confirmed that there are no deals
between Minardi and Prost and said "There is no way for us to do a deal. Telefonica
is completely finished with Formula 1."
PSN who earlier this year announced the plan to purchase a majority of Minardi share have officially confirmed that they are no longer in discussions with Minardi. PSN issued a statement saying "PSN has terminated discussions with Minardi. Several issues arose that led to this decision though we are not in a position to elaborate. PSN is very pleased with its association with Gaston Mazzacane during the past year and remains interested in continuing the relationship. To this end, PSN is exploring several options though we are not in a position to discuss the alternatives being explored."
It is now believed that PSN could become sponsors of Arrows or Prost as both teams have yet to finalise their driver lineup for 2001.
The latest in driver and team movements
Minardi are still without an engine deal for 2001 and without a major sponsor, things are not looking so good for the Faenza based team.
15-Nov: It appears that the top Formula 1 teams are all planning to hire experienced Formula 1 drivers as their test drivers. Last year McLaren had Olivier Panis as their test driver, this year McLaren have signed Alexander Wurz, Jordan signed Ricardo Zonta, and Williams have initially talked to Johnny Herbert and now it appears that they are involved in talks with Marc Gene.
It doesn't appear that Marc Gene will be able to keep his seat at Minardi due to sponsorship conflicts and his only choice might be to join Williams as a test driver. Gene's management refused to comment and said that an announcement will be made soon.
14-Nov: Benetton have confirmed that Australian Mark Webber will be their official test driver for 2001. Webber will also compete in the Formula 3000 championship.
Mark was excited about his new role and said "I'm very excited to have such a fantastic opportunity ahead of me next year and to be linking up with two of the most respected names in Formula 1 - Benetton and Renault. It is a great opportunity for me to get some mileage and experience in a Formula 1 car and I can learn a lot from working with a top team. I'm also very happy that I can race next year in F3000 so I can keep my racing skills honed."
Benetton's Managing Director praised Webber and said "When Webber tested the B200 this year we were impressed by his attitude and skill. Im happy we can give him the opportunity to develop his Formula 1 experience as well as give him the chance to race in Formula 3000."
13-Nov: Sources close to Mark Webber in Australia have indicated that Mark has secured a test driver role with Benetton for the 2001 season. Webber had a 3 day test session with Benetton in September where he clocked a better time than regular driver Giancarlo Fisichella. It is unlcear if Webber will take his duties next month when testing resumes. Benetton have yet to confirm this deal.
12-Nov: Jenson Button has indicated that Frank Williams has made a mistake by releasing him and choosing to give Montoya the drive. Button said "In my heart I think Frank Williams has made a mistake. We've had a great year and I wish things could have worked out differently. But there you go. Things happen."
Button is determined to show how good he is in the Benetton and prove that Frank was wrong. But he also acknowledges that driving alongside Giancarlo Fisichella is going to be a real challenge and said "I've got a real chance to show Frank he was wrong. It's going to be a real challenge. But guess what? I'm really up for it."
Several teams have been pushing for a return to Traction Control aides as it is very hard to determine who is using it illegally. The FIA introduced tough regulations earlier this season after Max Mosely confirmed that a team was under investigation. McLaren's technical director favours such a move and says "I am no great fan of traction control as such, but the fact that you have fuel and ignition systems on any car means that, in my view, if you have the mindset to cheat and use traction control, then the basic tools are in place for you to do so. I think it is a pragmatic and positive thing to do, because races have clearly been won in the past by cars using traction control, and this is an unacceptable situation."
It appears that these calls will be answered with the F1 Technical Working Group proposing to re-introduce electronic aides. The F1 commission will decide on this proposal during their next meeting early in December.
11-Nov: Michael Schumacher indicated that he is feeling fine after the leg operation he had to remove the pin after breaking his leg at the British Grand Prix in 1999. Schumacher said "I feel fine after the operation. I am confident I will soon be mobile again with no problems and will continue to enjoy my holidays. That way, I will be in top form when it's time to start work again."
Juan Pablo Montoya is expected to arrive in England on Tuesday to start his preparations for the pre-season testing that starts in early December.
10-Nov: Michael Schumacher is recovering at a private Geneva
clinic after a successful operation where doctors have removed a pin from his right tibia.
Ricardo Zonta who drove for BAR in 99 and 2000 has indicated that he suffered too
much within the team.
Zonta has signed as a test driver for the Jordan team for 2001 in the hope that he'll secure a drive in 2002. Zonta believes that what he couldn't show at BAR, he'll be able to do at Jordan in 1 year and said "What I could not show at BAR I will be able to do in one year with Jordan. I will never return to a team whose driver is a world champion and whose owner is also the manager and best friend of this driver. I suffered too much.