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.
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.
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... :))
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.
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.
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?).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
PF: FNippon I think rather than F3000 -- I last saw him in F Renault about 8 years ago. Good but not remarkable.
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....
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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...
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?
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.
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.
PF: See above... but he's the main person who's convinced of his talent...