1999 Totally Biased Formula One Season Preview

RGC: Well, here we are again with a low down on the runners and riders for the 1999 season. Generally I think it'll be a closer season this year - the rules changes caught a few people off guard but I think that with the teams all having a chance to catch up and get used to it, we won't be seeing the same kind of run-away domination this year. Also, I'm glad to see the back of the tyre war. Call me trivial but my interest in which rubber compound is both sticky and hard-wearing has now waned.

West McLaren Mercedes

RGC:"I've got a silver machine, and I'm feeling mean." as Hawkwind so rightly sang - and they could well have been talking about Ronald Dennis. Try as I might, I can't really warm to Ron Dennis (but actually, I haven't tried that hard) and the idea of another season of McLaren domination fills me with horror. Fortunately I don't think it will happen again. There's a lot of teams catching them up and, even if McLaren are the lead contender I really don't see them lapping the field like Melbourne last year. The new car doesn't look that different to this year's and it's been released late which I don't think is a great sign.

PF: If Ron Dennis is Dave Brock, is Big Norbie Lemmy during his Hawkwind phase? Norbert needs the prize money to pay for his beer and his outsize Hugo Boss kecks, anyway. McLaren are as ever one of the most stable teams going into '99 and nothing has convinced me that they won't continue where they left off in '98.

RGC: Well, if you want to make it this year's bet, I'm willing to wager a Thai meal that Schumi will be WC this season.

PF: Deal. Hell, I don't mind paying for a meal if Ferrari get the driver's championship again.

1) Mika Hakkinen

RGC: Mika.... make.... car.... go..... fast.

PF: Is Mika's single-minded devotion to make.... car.... go.... fast... going to wane now he is hitched to the pulchritudinous Erja? (who seems about four billion times brighter than Mika, but that's hardly difficult). Ron might have to start slipping bromide into his Finlandia voddy.

RGC: I don't know - if I started to win races and then got to marry Erja Hakkinen then I might drive even faster in the hopes of being awarded a second one.

PF: I kind of get the feeling one Erja is as much as any one Finn can deal with.

2) David Coulthard

RGC: Well, what on earth happened to David last year? I know he had some unlucky results in the early season and _that_ gifted race in Oz - but still, it was only his to gift because of that pit screw up. How did Hakkinen suddenly come to outclass him when they'd been on a level for so long? I think perhaps it was a bit of a confidence thing. Apparently, he went to see Nigel Mansell for advice on how a Britsh contender for the World Championship should handle losing repeatedly with a view to later winning. So I expect we'll hear David whining pathetically in a tedious Brummie accent this season unless he can somehow get on a par with Mika. I hear that he's a bit happier with his rear end this season - make of that what you will.

PF: It's all psychology. I'd've thought DC was tough enough to cope -- after all, he managed to withstand Williams for a while -- but it's obvious that the "special relationship" between McLaren and Mika has done him no good. It could well be that (perhaps unconsciously) the McLaren men have started designing a car around Mika's driving habits leaving David to deal with whatever's left... Incidentally, there's now a Coulthard Museum at Twynholm. I'd've thought there's a limited number of 2nd and 3rd place trophies you can look at without getting bored.

RGC: David's got SOME first place trophies. (And got them before Mika if you remember). If I was designing a car around Hakkinen it would probably be a Volvo estate - Boxy but good.

PF: Ah, you saw that crap Dudley Moore film the other night. (see remarks below about Jaguar... :))

Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro

RGC: I'm pretty bad at this kind of thing but I think 1999 is going to be Ferrari's year to win the Drivers' and probably the Constructors' Championship. They lost it last year in the first few races. Remember when all the articles in Autosport and F1 racing were "Will Coulthard or Hakkinen be Champ." and ITV went on with tedious regularity about the chances for our British contender. Well this year, they're going to be competetive from the start and not be playing catch up all the time.

PF: Y'think so? It's what I'd like to see, but unless the rumours that MP4/14 isn't fast/reliable are true, I think McLaren still have the edge. Close, mind, now there's no rubber issues separating them (as it were).

RGC: Yes - but I think McLaren had the edge even at the end of last year but the brilliance of Schumacher offset that. At the beginning of the year though, they had the edge, the middle and most of the other edge as well. That's the difference for me.

PF: I really think there was almost nothing in it by the end of the season, but it looks like McLaren have moved the goalposts just that little bit further than Ferrari.

3) Michael Schumacher

RGC: Another controversial year for Michael - what with David and Damon trying to kill him (according to him at least) and him trying to kill Frentzen (although I don't think he actually saw Frentzen) it had all the drama of an old Dallas episode (with him as JR). I think this could be his year. I just hope that we can avoid the stupid bitch fighting between certain drivers.

PF: I don't care what you say, he's the quickest, bravest, fittest and brightest driver out there, and Hakkinen's only been beating him lately because of a superior car. Probably as good as Senna ever was now.

RGC: Ah well, I'd back DC over him in an arm-wrestle and I think Wurz or Alesi might rate as braver - but basically I agree with you. Also, tends to drive into people as much as Senna ever did.

PF: True bravery isn't the Jean Alesi mad nutcase stuff -- it's thinking.

4) Eddy Irvine

RGC: Could this be the year that Irv the Swerve gets his first race win? Well it could but actually, I think he had his best chance last year. There's plenty more people ready to pick up the podium positions if Michael and the McLaren's fail. I can't see Eddy having as good a year this year as last.

PF: I can, I think the season will be very highly polarised around McLaren and Ferrari for wins; the "battle" will be for those last two points places or any gaps caused by retirement/mad Schumacher incidents. Eddie won't win a race in his own right unless Schumacher hits misfortune.... or has the Championship either safe or out of reach. Probably at the crucial point now where if he doesn't leave Ferrari he won't.

RGC: But where would he go from Ferrari that would be an improvement? Better to serve in heaven than rule in hell. Or, in this case, better to be second driver at Ferrari than first at Williams. (This year at least).

PF: Depends on whether or not Eddie is in it to win races or make money. (Which other Irish Eddie did I say that about a while ago?).

Williams Supertec

RGC: A "character building" season for Williams last year - in the case of Ratprick Head, you can only hope that they've built his character from scratch without using any of last season's parts. Frank seems confident but I think that having a crap engine and no driver stability is not going to make them much better this year. On the other hand, they've put a lot more into the development of this year's car (let's face it, there was no point in developing last year's).

PF: It looks a better car -- but that's not difficult. I don't see any wins on the horizon until 2000 and BMW though. Grin and bear it, and hope you don't lose any sponsors. (At least this year's paintjob is not as Blue Peter). Williams refuse to admit that the loss of Newey was a big blow... which is on a par with believing in a flat earth.

RGC: (Grin) Typical of Frank Williams, he doesn't believe that mechanics, engineers or drivers are actually necessary. Just him and Patrick would be enough if only the FIA would allow it.

PF: They know what's wrong. If they could get Alan Jones back in the car, it'd all be OK.

5) Alessandro Zanardi

RGC: Well, he's returned from that strange and slightly tedious Yankee series covered in glory. I wonder how good he'll prove in F1 again? I'm not so sure. F1 is a lot different now than when he was last here - and CART doesn't race in the rain, doesn't have grooved tyres and seems to reward the "bull at a gate" style of driving a little more than modern F1. I hope he fits in, I'm not sure he will.

PF: Williams certainly have two of the least inhibited drivers... Zanardi was incomparably brilliant in CART -- a real joy to watch -- but the cars there take a fair old bit of manhandling and there is a little more rough-and-tumble there; some of the stunts he's pulled in CART are more likely to leave him in the armco picking carbon fibre out of his overalls in F1. To some extent he could also trade on a reputation as a "tough but fair" guy there when it came to getting past people -- doubt that'll cut much ice in F1. Give him a year to get back into the swing of things and watch for real results in 2000 with a proper Williams and a proper engine.

RGC: Uninhibited is, perhaps, not a great complement to a driver. For me it smacks of "the uninhibited berk drove into me".

PF: Different types of racing demand different levels of toughness -- maybe Sandro will find F1 just doesn't appreciate his style.

6) Ralf Schumacher

RGC: A rather bizarre choice for Williams - but on the other hand, he's cheap and he thinks he's god so he should fit in as a Williams driver. The competition between Alex and Ralf should be interesting. My money is on Ralf actually.

PF: Sensible choice really; German engine next year, some German sponsors who came in with H2F, German driver, regular points scorer, not psychologically delicate... and possibly a reasonable long-term bet. OK, not as good as his brother but nobody is. I think Ralf will have the advantage over Sandro in the early races but Sandro will prevail later in the season.

RGC: I'm not so sure I'd have swapped H2F for Ralf Schumacher though. Not an inspired trade.

PF: RS has a longer career ahead of him than H2F. H2F will be in sports cars by 2002-2003, probably.

Jordan Mugen-Honda

RGC: As usual, it's a crisis season for Jordan with their reputation on the line and everything to lose if they don't perform. This year I think their main concern has to be performing well enough to persuade someone to give them an engine next year. The days when you could do well with a customer Ford are long gone (actually, the days when you can do well with a works Ford also seem to be long gone). If Honda come in next year, Jordan could find themselves with a hole in the back of the car where the engine used to be and an Arrows-like plunge down the grid from a not-that-lofty-to-start-with position.

PF: I don't see this as a crisis season -- for the first time since 91, in fact, I think it *isn't* a crisis season for Jordan. They are established winners. They almost certainly had the 3rd best car by the end of the season. They should be in a position to challenge for podiums at every race and pick up the odd lucky win. Engines are an issue, yes... Honda will be in next year, but I reckon they'll keep feeding Jordan with one-spec-behind engines if necessary (or if Stewart blow it again, perhaps the works Ford deal?)

RGC: Yes - but a "one spec behind engine" becomes a two spec behind engine if you start to do well. I think that, if Jordan want to avoid slipping back next year they've got to get themselves a real permanent engine partnership. Perhaps back to Peugeot or some other company wanting an F1 in.

PF: I'd not be pushing hard for Peugeot. Works Fords, I reckon, if Honda give up. Or maybe works Renaults if they decide to come back and play properly, as is rumoured.

7) Damon Hill

RGC: The usual dilemma - Damon Hill, talented gentleman racer or sad old git with grudges? You decide.

PF: Talented gentleman racer who expects people to behave reasonably well on the track. Possibly a couple of seasons past his best, and may quit F1 if the car doesn't do well this year.

8) Heinz-Harald Frentzen

RGC: I think Heinz will be a lot happier at Jordan if he can just fit in properly. He's got a lot to do in order to fit in though. Damon and him got into some stupid situations in '97 and I think that if he sets himself in a "you help me or you help him" situation then the Irish team will pick the guy who lives in Dublin and who won their first race. On the other hand, I think that H2F is a nice guy and a damn good racer if he gets the right atmosphere. Let's hope that Jordan is.

PF: H2F has driven for Eddie before -- F3000 in the dim and distant past -- and apparently got on well with him. I don't think we've yet seen H2F in a team that suits his temprament and style -- or indeed whether there is such a team. I'm not sure of Frentzen's hungriness and commitment... does losing hurt him enough?

RGC: At Williams, losing hurts you enough because Patrick hits you round the back of the head with a lump of two by four.

PF: Ratprick is my kind of man-manager. Calls a spade a spade, as he hits you with it.

Benetton-Playlife

RGC: ...or Benetton Playschool as the school for aspiring young drivers and managers has become known. Replacing Dave "Designer Stubble" with Bullwinkle Benetton as team principle has to be seen as a retrograde step. A team-manager who's convinced that after last year, Benetton can "fight for the World Championship" either knows something we don't or is clearly a bit of a loon. Given that he's one of the Benetton brood, I seriously doubt he knows much that the average woodlouse doesn't. My money's on Benetton not being a serious contender for much more than the odd podium.

PF: Agreed wholeheartedly. Once FTT is banned -- as it no doubt will be -- Benetton will be left with a chassis no better than (say) Sauber, a middling engine and two OK drivers. Can't see much sustained success for that package. Rumours that the Benetton family may want to sell some of their share in the team.

RGC: I don't think FTT will be banned this season anyway. Only Benetton and possibly Williams will use it early on and I don't think either will do that well. No reason to ban it if it doesn't look ugly and doesn't affect the WC much.

PF: Ferrari don't have it, ergo, it will be banned.

9) Giancarlo Fisichella

RGC: Pretty uninspired last season I thought but it's hard to tell with that car. If I recall correctly he outscored and outqualified Wurz which speaks well of him - he didn't seem to be as hard racing though.

PF: Less spectacular than his teammate -- reminds me a bit of Rubens in the way he goes about his racing. Didn't claim to be "ver' 'appeeee" on many occasions last year but it was probably that sort of season at Benetton. Probably looking nostalgically at the good times at Jordan. And there can't be many drivers who've gone somewhere less stable...

10) Alexander Wurz

RGC: F1's stunt driver Wurz had some pretty thrilling times last year. He didn't seem to get as good a final result as Fisico but he certainly seemed to have more fun getting there. Some pretty hairy shunts didn't seem to dent his confidence. I think he's definitely a star of the future. It was also nice to see that, after his coming together with MS in Monaco, both drivers said it was a racing incident and neither was to blame. Good to see that there are some drivers who can race wheel to wheel without sobbing to the press when it doesn't work out.

PF: Fast and still just a little wild, he's the kind of driver I'd give the benefit of the doubt to going side-by-side into a corner, just to be on the safe side. I think Wurz has wins to come, but probably not championships -- he strikes me as too inconsistent for that. But I don't think those wins are going to come at Benetton in its current incarnation. It seems that Benetton have got another pair of drivers who get on well; though it could be a "you and me against the world" thing given the management there....

RGC: Well, last year the management was OK (for the first time in a long time). This year, however, I'm less hopeful.

PF: Indeed -- both drivers got on well with Dave Richards; the fact that they're young enough to remember the same kids' tv shows as Rocco Benetton says a lot for the inexperience all around.

Sauber Petronas

RGC: Well, not too bad a season for Sauber I suppose. They didn't seem to flag towards the end so much and they'll actually have a top line engine this year "Monza spec Ferrari and developments" I hear.

PF: As usual... mediocre chassis and engine with a fair bit of poke will add up to a few points and little more. The definitive upper-midfield team.

RGC: Ah, but we used to say that about Jordan.

PF: We did, and then they got a good Honda engine and sorted their chassis out dramatically. Sauber don't move quickly as an organisation.

11) Jean Alesi

RGC: Ho hum... well, he did better than I thought he would but I still don't like him. His tiff with Herbert ended Johnny's time at Sauber effectively. I thought that Herbert would blow him away and was wrong. Does it mean Alesi's got good again or Herbert's got bad?

PF: Less cretinous incidents than usual, and has clearly made himself at home at Sauber -- obviously settled in for the twilight of his career. Should outperform Diniz at most races, and will as ever be good in the wet.

12) Pedro Diniz

RGC: Definitely a man on the uptick our Pedro - he's gone from being a pay driver at Forti through Arrows to Sauber. At this rate, he'll be in a McLaren by 2002. I wonder how he'll stand comparison with Alesi? It's indicative of modern F1 that he was clearly outclassed by Salo but he's got the bucks so he's got the job. On the other hand, I like Diniz.

PF: Scores points on good days, doesn't do too much wrong, and clearly enjoys racing otherwise why would he pay so much to do it? Difficult to say much more about him, beyond the fact that as pay-drivers go he's a pretty good one.

Arrows

RGC: The slings and arrows of pretty poor fortune. Well, Arrows continue their Walkinshaw-inspired dive to the bottom. A lot of people are predicting that they'll have a tough time battling Minardi this season (and I'm one of them).

PF: This year's car is a warmed-over version of last year's, there's problems with Brian Hart the engine man, and even though they've got lots of money (from new sponsors Repsol, new owner Prince Malik, and their big investment bank...) that doesn't make for a winning team. Realistically, the best Arrows can hope for is to hang on until Toyota want to buy them in order to enter F1.

RGC: It is great to see Prince Malik involved with F1 - shame it's with Arrows though when there's other more deserving children who need the finance.

PF: Arrows have been in F1 for over 20 years now and have probably wasted an eight- or probably even nine-figure sum over that time. Sobering really, isn't it?

14) Toranosuke Takagi

RGC: Tora Tora Tora as the Japanese say (in old b/w films unsually before some incident involving aircraft carriers and Zeros) - I'm not sure what it means. It's good to see that "Tiger" has a drive after him thrashing back of the grid regular Tosser (anag.). Hopefully we can see him in the Honda next year - should be interesting.

PF: At least Tiger knows all the circuits now, so perhaps we'll see less of the banzai first lap followed by an off on the second. Should qualify well (probably round about 15th) at a few places, but I don't think points are on the menu very often.

RGC: I'm not sure points are on the menu at all.

PF: Grumbling around two laps down might get the odd one or two.

15) Pedro de la Rosa

RGC: Went pretty well in F3000 as I recall - but we all know that doesn't necessarily translate to F1 success.

PF: FNippon I think rather than F3000 -- I last saw him in F Renault about 8 years ago. Good but not remarkable.

Stewart Ford

RGC: Well, a bit of a disappointment last season, still plagued with reliability worries and an engine which was underpowered when it wasn't exploding. I hope they can turn it around - the engine is better, the testing results look positive and I think we can expect to see them up there. But, given the backward step that last season was and the change of designer (what makes them think Anderson will fit in better here than he did at Jordan?) I'm not so sure that we can expect much significant - especially as everyone else has improved too.

PF: The new engine is alleged to be good -- maybe now Ford actually own Cosworth Racing there can be a bit more synergy between them. As ever a good-looking car but looks don't necessarily mean performance. JYS's management style is alleged to have "destroyed" Magnussen; wonder if it did the same to Alan Jenkins and hope it won't do the same to Anderson. Remember, Ford might bring a second works team in with Jaguar branding soon.

RGC: I'd heard it was Paul rather than Jackie who had the dubious management style. I think that, no matter what the management style, if you're a superb driver, you will beat or come near to your team-mate. Jan clearly didn't even when he had equal equipment - for that reason, my sorrow for him is pretty limited.

PF: JYS hyped Jan so heavily and then started criticising so heavily that the poor lad just got all of a tizzy....

16) Rubens Barrichello

RGC: Well, I'm sure everyone knows by know that I think Rubinho is one of the best driver's on the grid. He's still waiting for that call from a top team though and I think that, unless Stewart makes significant progress this season...

PF: ...what? it's too late? Possibly, but he's still young. Definitely one of the top half dozen in terms of talent but I think mentally fragile and very, very unlucky.

RGC: I'm not sure about unlucky... the worst piece of luck I've seen was Monaco '97 when he would have won if Schumi hadn't managed to recover from that off.

PF: That wasn't bad luck. That was good luck, surviving long enough to be second. Schumi knew he could get out of that off.

17) Johnny Herbert

RGC: There was a computer game this year called "Johnny Herbert's Grand Prix Racing." It was slow, clunky, outclassed by near rivals and producing performance which would have been acceptable in '95 but times have moved on. Draw your own conclusions. I like Johnny, but I can't help think that on the "staircase of talent" (to use Mr. Stewart's phrase) he's descending.

PF: I don't think Johnny is on the slide -- his career really never peaked. He'll always be good for a few points whenever the car is. And he's got loads of experience, is good at testing, and presumably doesn't cost too much. A good solid journeyman driver who's never going to make many stupid mistakes.

RGC: Never peaked? In '95 he was in, if not the best car, then one of the two best. OK, so it was set up and designed around Schumi and Johnny didn't get much testing but Eddie Irvine has based his recent career on similar circumstances. That was the peak of his career and, to be honest, it wasn't that high a peak.

PF: '95 wasn't really a peak. Any moderately good driver could've picked up a couple of wins in that Benetton.

Prost Peugeot

RGC: Pretty Pathetic. Professor Perplexed. Poor Performance.

PF: Last year at Prost was pretty much like living out of a suitcase while you're in the throes of moving house -- the team was on the move and doubling in size. That said, the car was rubbish at the start of the season but the AP-01B bits they tested towards the end of the year gave a bit of hope. Peugeot don't seem to be progressing very well though -- I think they probably peaked in '97. Still, their engine sounds lovely. John Barnard has been resurrected yet again as technical director, presumably punting Loic Bigois and Bernard Dudot sideways. Prost now has the lineup he was after in '92!

RGC: Yeah - we all know what a great success having John Barnard in a different country doing tech support is. It enables effective blame management, as Ferrari found out. JB will blame the French, the French will blame JB and nobody sees any need to change. Just like it was at Ferrari.

PF: Maybe Prost harbours a secret desire to be Napoleon Todt.

18) Oliver Panis

RGC: Well, what can you say - he looked uninspired and dejected last year. It can't have helped that he had a bunch of metal in his legs and any further damage would have written him out of the F1 game completely. Still, I think, at this stage in his career, he really wanted something better than a back-marking car.

PF: He no longer has the metal in his legs but there is a school of thought that says a driver is never the same after a leg injury.... it gets to you mentally... Has to outperform Trulli if he wants to stay in F1 much longer, but then again he's not getting any younger.

RGC: There's a lot of deserving drivers out there. Sad to say, I think Olivier will be one of those who never really gets his chance.

PF: It's a pity his '97 season was curtailed -- had he kept up the sort of form he'd had in the first few races he (and Prost) might've developed a little better...

19) Jarno Trulli

RGC: Again a man who looked like he wanted to be elsewhere last year (who can blame him) after some great performances in '97. Let's hope that Prost can give him the car he deserves this year.

PF: Running the risk of being yesterday's rising star, Jarno needs either to drag the Prost into the points regularly or start looking elsewhere for a drive if his career momentum is to be sustained. One day there really will be "Italy's next world champion". Jarno isn't it, I don't think.

Minardi Ford

RGC: Well, with Tyrell gone, it's a good job that Arrows look likely to be contesting the back of the grid slot.

PF: With a fair wind, I can see Minardi beating Arrows semi-regularly. Their new car looks tidy and has put in good testing times, and Minardi have always been fairly reliable.

20) Marc Gene

RGC: Who he?

PF: Spanish. Dropped out of F3000, went back to some weird Nissan-powered Spanish formula (a bit like Formula Palmer Audi), cleaned up in it, and got the Minardi drive. Only went pro again this season -- worked as an accountant with Price Waterhouse to finance his racing. Can't see him doing a great deal...

RGC: Large check book has he?

PF: Apparently has a few bob, but he's also the guy who's been setting all those semi-respectable times in testing...

21) Luca Badoer

RGC: My name is Luca, I live on the second floor, I regularly test for Ferrari, Guess you've heard of me before.

Well, the eternal test driver is getting another chance at being a real driver. Can't see it helping him much given that it's hard to impress anyone in a Minardi pitted against a nobody teammate.

PF: Sensible choice, he knows F1 well and although not the fastest driver is going to give excellent testing feedback, assuming Minardi can afford to test much. Been kicking around the back of the grid for ages and presumably has no illusions about his role in life.

BAR Supertec

RGC: A tradition of highly polished bullshit and sales-pitches. Good testing results though. I can see them being consistently at the Benetton level. It'll be interesting to see another team with a chance and I can envision them being a major player as soon as they get a proper engine instead of Mr. Briatore's clockwork one.

PF: On one hand, Team Bullshit. On the other hand, Reynard have won their first race in every formula they've entered (FFord, F3, F3000, Indycar), and all the technical staff have been pilfered from good teams. I think BAR are sailing too close to the wind with regard to the FIA... and as a new team they are going to need all the friends they can get. I foresee a season that'll start off with niggling unreliability problems and settle down to racing with Benetton and Sauber most of the time, occasionally roughing it with Jordan and Williams.

RGC: I think you're right - but I can also see the odd podium for them.

PF: I'm not denying that. But they're going to have to work for them.

22) Jacques Villeneuve

RGC: It did a lot for my opinion of Jacques to see that he was still so obviously trying in a car that was far from front of the field and in a team that he would be leaving. We'd never seen him in any other position than racing for a win before last year and it speaks volumes and it was good to see that he was still "on the edge, for sure" when the prospect of a podium (and sometimes even points) was unlikely. Kudos.

PF: I've always liked JV's attitude -- if it's got four wheels on it and seems to handle you'll get good lap times from him, however weird a setup he wants to put on the car. I expect a few podiums, mainly through luck and attrition -- a building year. JV is still young enough to jump ship and go elsewhere if it all goes pear-shaped, but he owns 20% of the team...

RGC: Team Villeneuve - now there's a name to conjure with.

PF: There were plans for that in the 70s when GV considered leaving Ferrari...

23) Ricardo Zonta

RGC: I saw him racing F3000 in '97 and he was bloody good - definitely seemed to be another driver who really races. Great to see a new guy given a chance in a good team and I hope that he can make the most of it. Wasn't Zonta the robot on Listen with Mother in the early 70s? I once won a postcard by drawing a picture of him.

PF: I'm not sure, don't you mean Zoko? It seems that it takes a few years to get out of 3000 and into F1 these days, with all sorts of curious sidelines into GTs and CART. Zonta is "on loan" from Mercedes so if he's any good expect to see Wavy Davy looking for a new drive in 2000.

RGC: He's going to have to be really good to get McLaren to change its driver pairing.

PF: Or Coulthard could continue to look like a mere journeyman who occasionally gets lucky?

Goodbye and Adieu and Farewell

Again we look at the great (and not that great) names which left F1 in '98.

Dave "Designer stubble" Richards

RGC: Alas, we hardly knew ye. He hardly had time to get his seat warm but it really looked like he could turn things around at Benetton when along comes another family member to turn them back again.

PF: Busy running Ford's BTCC effort. I'm sure he'll end up in F1 again at some point.

RGC: Maybe, apart from Benetton most teams seem to have reasonable manager stability.

PF: yep, the musical chairs recently have been designers.

Jos Verstappen (again)

RGC: Who will rid me of this turbulent Dutchman? Like a nasty smell in the bathroom, Jos simply won't go away. Given that he's attaching himself remora-like to Honda, we may see him back again next year.

PF: Possible... but it might just be 'cos he's cheap. I predict the Honda drives will go to one japanese and one other driver -- Takagi and Coulthard? :)

RGC: I'd hope for Takagi and Salo.

PF: Salo's long overdue for some luck.

Ricardo Tosser (anag.), Esteban Tuero, "Rusty" Nakano, Jan "The next Ayrton Senna" Magnussen (and anyone else I've forgotten).

RGC: Well, I suppose the CART championship can always use a few more "starting money specials". I don't think there's anyone here who counts as a great loss. Shame that the Argentinian GP seems to have stopped since Tuero took his bat and ball and went home.

Mika Salo

RGC: Out of the many drivers on the F1 scrap heap this year, t'other Mika is the only one who seems a real loss. I think that his decision to be a test-driver for Honda rather than a main driver for Arrows is correct in the long-term. If he can convincingly beat Jos da Boss then he might get the Honda drive in 2000 and then we'll really see his talent.

PF: See above... but he's the main person who's convinced of his talent...


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