The Totally Biased F1 Season Preview
Pete Fenelon and Richard Clegg
This is what happens when two men with too much time on their
hands start thinking of Formula 1.
TWR ARROWS YAMAHA Bridgestone
The car is "lovely but slow". Says it all. Yamaha
engines have a propensity for self-destruction, Arrows ran for far too
many years without ever winning a race... Walkinshaw has rebuilt the team
in his own image, but really, it doesn't look good. He's talking about
2-3 race wins for Hill but in my opinion that's moonshine. Wet qualifying
and a wet race MIGHT JUST let him do it, but...
Wet qualifying and a wet race where the spark plugs on the
Prost-Mugen got damp so they wouldn't start I'd say and only then if
the Stewarts spin off. The "Bridgestone advantage" is much
talked about - to be honest it worries me that I have a non-sexual
interest where people get worked up about rubber compounds. Perhaps
somewhere like Monaco the sticky tyres will pay off?
DAMON HILL has taken the most inexplicable move by
a World Champion since Phil Hill (no relation) left Ferrari to go to ATS
in '62. The logical move would've been Jordan or Stewart, but Walkinshaw
lured Hill to his new outfit. Given that Hill really only has a few years
left in F1 (have heard he'll quit at 40) I think we may never see him on
top of the podium again, but I'm prepared to be surprised. Will probably
get points semi-regularly.
When you said "quit at 40" I was thinking "Miles
or Kilometers per hour". I'm not sure how Hill will handle being a
mid-back field runner in a slow car (unless they have some secret weapon
or didn't take the handbrake off during testing). It'll be interesting
to see if he is the "mature statesman-like driver" that people
said he was in '96 orif he barges about like a berk as he used to.
PEDRO DINIZ is a former bete noire of mine. As '96
progressed he started demonstrating genuine speed, but basically he's paying
Hill's wages (and a lot of other people's). Would be amusing if he outqualified
or outraced Hill and I'd lost a bet or two if he did. Gentleman playboy,
probably better suited to racing in GTs or something if we're being honest.
Hill will have to remember all those little things from his
driving test about overtaking. I'm sure it was a long time ago, but it
can't be that difficult. He should probably make sure he's got his sarnies
and his flask in the car, he might be able to watch a lot of the races.
He might even start turning up in the commentary box for a natter like
Johnny Herbert used to when he was at Lotus.
So, our final advice to Damon has to be "Mirror,
Signal, Manoever" [bugger, I can never spell that].
Pedro Diniz, like Craig Charles, is not as funny as he used
to be. I still think he'll outqualify Hill once this season - and you owe
me a good dinner if he does Pete.
Something tells me the Big Mac remains safe. Expect to
see him buying a hugely expensive Porsche next year 'cos he's been comprehensively
taken apart by Tom Walkinshaw for being crap.
Given the state of the Arrows I think that's a bit rich.
WILLIAMS FW19-Renault Goodyear
Last season with works Renaults before two years paying for
them. This will clearly annoy the *careful* Frank, who will no doubt be
after freebie engines for 2000 onwards. The car has tested well, but we
are still not sure how well as there's a body of rumour that says the drivers
have been told to take it easy.
Williams... boring boring boring... Sorry, I don't want to
see them running away with the championship again but I'm afraid it looks
like they might do so. Not by as much as last year I reckon but still clear
favorites for the constructors.
JACQUES VILLENEUVE is world championship favourite,
largely on the strength of still being around and wearing baggy overalls
and unlaced boots. He is very, very quick and seems unbothered by anyone
and anything, and presumably this year's Williams is designed with his
fairly idiosyncratic requitements on chassis setup in mind.
No doubt at all. May as well let them have that one and be
done with it. It's about time Williams emptied the trophy cabinet and gave
some of it away to charity, along with last years cars to one of the struggling
teams... pity that's illegal.
I like J.V. he's a role-model for the scruffy geek who
plays too many computer games. I'd be just like him except I don't have
bootlaces to leave untied. You can see why he's favorite for the championship
and he's got to be the most sensible bet to win it.
HEINZ-HARALD FRENTZEN can charitably be regarded as
something of an enigma. Williams has had his eye on him since his Sauber
debut, and the consummation of this epic romance will be observed with
much interest by the entire F1 scene. Frentzen's season blew hot and cold
last year but he presumably knew he had a safe seat at Williams... Should
win a race or two.
He's a better man than I am when it comes to chucking an
F1 car around Spa on F1GP2. Mind you, driving at Spa on the ORIGINAL version
of that used to scare me, the new one is just terrifying. Perhaps JV will
do a couple of races from home and drive by joystick next year, we could
put someone even smaller in the cockpit...
Like the theory that Damon drove last years Williams on remote
pilot from Mansell in a specially widened arcade game booth.
Frentzen's season blew something last year - especially towards
the end although he was good for the start of it I admit. He looks like
Fox Mulder to me but I'm not sure if that will prove a racing asset. I
reckon he'll run close to J.V. particularly towards the end. He's German
so we can expect lots of dribbling fits from Murray Walker about him being
arrogant and I'm hoping (although not realistically) to hear him described
as the Blue Baron.
Blew chunks, I think. You could see he'd lost interest, and
was counting the money and the days. You know he's half-Spanish? Wonder
how long it is until they start laying claim to him... You must remember,
Murray doesn't like Germans, he blew enough of them up in WW2.
Hmm... do we have any preprepared racial stereotypes
for Spanish drivers?
FERRARI F310B Goodyear
Not been doing well in testing, to be charitable. As usual,
next year is the championship season, this is the rebuilding year (like
every year since 1989). Reliability and handling problems abound, and the
cars have changed colour which hardly pleases the eye. Spending more than
some teams' entire budget on their No. 1 driver.
As usual Ferrari are claiming to be two seasons away from
victory and as usual I can hear little orphan Annie singing "Tomorrow"
when they claim this. They're evolving the car towards McLarens '96 colour
scheme which I think is a bad move - red and white cars have been slower
than red cars in recent years.
MICHAEL SCHUMACHER may well be with Ferrari for the
money or the romance, or to prove that despite his car he's still the greatest
driver alive, but in the current climate I don't see him sustaining a championship
challenge with the equipment available to him. I expect fireworks and hugely
dominant race wins, but I also expect to see him parked by the side of
the road in a broken car a lot, particularly in the early season.
Yes, but there haven't been blue Ferraris since 1964, and
that was just 'cos the Commendatore had a tif with the Italian authorities
and entered his cars in the name of his American distributor for a couple
of races.Maybe this would be a good time for Ferrari to do the same again,
but the blueness of the F1 field bothers me. I want some green F1 cars
Green cars are proven losers - when was there last a
fast green car?
1968. Which was a good year. I was born then.
I expect fireworks too - but I think you were just giving
me a feedline for an obvious engine reliability gag. If the car holds it
together consistently he'll be WC but I don't think it'll happen.
EDDIE IRVINE took on a doubly-thankless job (No. 2
at Ferrari and No. 2 to Schumacher -- both historically not good jobs)
and came out of it reasonably well. This year he's been promised more testing,
and he's not been psychologically effected by Schumacher. I expect to see
him close behind the leaders most of the time, if his car holds up. May
surprise with a race win or two.
The bloke is so fit he might be able to push it around for
the last 40 laps and still beat most of them.
Perhaps they could lose weight from the car by removing
the engine and have him doing a Fred Flintstone?
I'd be among those surprised if he got two race wins. He
didn't do that badly last year considering (if I recall correctly) that
of the full time drivers only Verstappen did fewer miles before explosion.
Wow. My money would've been on one of the Tyrrell chaps there.
Well, maybe I recall incorrectly then. But he was definitely
an eco-friendly driver and if they have to sell his car to pay Schumi at
least they can claim there's not many miles on the clock.
BENETTON B197-Renault Goodyear
The car that's arguably been the best in winter testing,
but that proves little. Benetton are recovering from a winless 1996, and
the loss of their designers. Nick Wirth (ex-Simtek) has refined the ideas
behind the 1996 car and the team are quietly confident, although are presumably
worried about their 1998 engine situation (Honda?). Benetton have to win
this season, or they'll slip into a McLaren like slump which is difficult
to crawl out of.
If you mean they have to get a win, I agree and they almost
certainly will. If you mean they have to win the season I disagree and
they almost certainly won't. Testing results for Benetton look good (and
we all know how much that means don't we children) so I expect them to
have a much better season than last - but then, it'd be hard not to.
JEAN ALESI had another hot and cold season in '96,
occasionally driving like a hooligan but he is also capable of stunning
displays of talent. Perhaps now he's in a car which owes something to his
style rather than being an evolution of a car designed for a Schumacher
he'll be somewhat more consistent.... deserves more than his solitary GP
I meant race wins, and I reckon 5 or so won't be a problem.
I'd hope to see more... I'll take that 5 and raise you
Hot and cold put it rather mildly - there are days when I'd
not employ him to drive a Pizza delivery moped and there are days when
he's brilliant. He's going to do better than last year I reckon and just
about deserves to. He also gives journalists a superb case for using phrases
like "Latin Temprement" "Fiery Mediterranean Blood"
and just about any other variation on "from Europe and quirky"
except perhaps "Nordic and Not-all-there".
GERHARD BERGER is the elder statesman of F1. He seems
to believe he's in with a shout at the Championship this year and to be
honest it couldn't happen to a nicer driver, but whether Gerhard can keep
the motivation together for a sustained challenge is a little debatable.
He's still fast and is more consistent than his team-mate, but I wonder
whether politics in the Benetton team will force one of the two to play
Well, being French AND Italian he's two stereotypes for
the price of one. The only difficulty will be if Alesi starts winning,
then he'll have to stop being "the vastly experienced and desperately
unlucky Alesi" (as he was until his first win) or "the man who
so cruelly has only won one Grand Prix" (as he is now) but instead
"the pretty good driver who hasn't quite done as well for himself
as everyone thought when he arrived and blew the doors off Senna a couple
of times in a Tyrrell with 100bhp less than the McLaren..."
You're right - he might be better off crashing spectacularly
and retiring at this point.
Yup - say what you like about Gerhard, he's old. Actually,
I think he's quite sweet and apparently Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill have
both said that he'll be champion this year (I think that's because he's
the only person apart from Schumi and Williams drivers that they could
credibly say would win it). I like to picture Berger and Alesi as F1's
buddy movie. I'd pay to see that.
He's less bald than Martin. Did you notice that Damon
Hill is starting to go a little grey, too? Perhaps Berger and Alesi could
make Stakeout 3, or something. Lurking in the pits waiting for some little
guy to arrive from England with some new carbon fibre panels.
I'd go grey more quickly if I were driving an Arrows
and expected to defend the World Championship. Maybe Berger and Alesi could
discover a "passion that dare not speak its name", marry and
live happily ever after. I'm sure they'd fight though and I bet Alesi can
be a real bitch if he gets worked up.
MCLAREN MP4-12 MERCEDES Goodyear
It's silver and the Spice Girls played at its launch. It
also seems to be the best McLaren since 1993, and might actually be a car
worthy of the illustrious name and snazzy colours. Definitely no power
worries (the Merc is alleged to be the most powerful engine in F1), and
the chassis seems encouragingly good. About time McLaren returned to the
top of the podium and I have a good feeling about this season.
McLaren - not just in a slump any more but I think they've
actually lost consciousness and started to drool. I reckon that the lauch
party is the only claim to the no. 1. spot they'll have. Serves them right
for hiring the Spice Girls if you ask me.
MIKA HAKKINEN is long overdue his first F1 win; he's
got great car control, reasonably good racecraft and undoubted courage.
If the McLaren is anything better than middling I would expect to see him
putting the team back where it belongs, though I could do without him scratching
his testicles on the podium.
They had Jamiroquai too but I decided not to mention that.
No, this McLaren is a serious piece of kit. I like it. If last year's was
Sporty Spice or Scary Spice, this years is definitely Baby Spice or Posh
Ick... I refuse to comment on this because you're trying
to provoke me by showing that you know the epithets of all the Spice Girls.
I think I missed out the one who sings. And I don't know
their actual names.
I've never seen him scratching his testicles on the podium
(or worse still, scratching his testicles with the podium). Still, it must
get a bit cramped and sweaty in the driver's seat for two hours. To be
honest, he's not been on the podium enough for this testicle scratching
to be a problem recently. I'm sure there's a monocoque joke I could add
here but I can't work out the details.
DAVID COULTHARD may have flattered to deceive. He
is fussy on chassis setup, and seems less at ease than his teammate. On
the right day he can look brilliant (Monaco '96 springs to mind) but I
don't think he's anywhere near as good as Hakkinen, who I don't rate as
an all-time great.
Foul man. No, if Mika gives up the day job he'd definitely
make it as a professional pocket billiards player. I assume his McLaren
is carrying a fairly heavy weight penalty.
Hmm... there's a cartoon strip in there somewhere - Mika
Hakkinen and his Unfeasably large testicles? Perhaps they could act as
air bags in the event of a crash.
I read that as "flattened to deceive" and thought
you were having another go at his Kryten-like appearance. "Hmm...
spare head no #4 wasn't fitted with the pit-wall avoidance camera today
Mr. Dennis sir. Shall I iron your underwear now." He's not bad at
David likes the rear end of his car this year. I refrain
from further comment.
JORDAN 197-PEUGEOT Goodyear
After a "character-building" (i.e bitterly disappointing)
1996 Jordan have restructured and expanded. This year the winning HAS to
start, and the car does look capable of it. Why, then, has the team settled
on rookie drivers? Although every season since their debut has been described
as "make or break" for Jordan this really is the big one -- if
they blow it this year they'll lose one of the best engines in F1, they'll
lose their big sponsor and they'll lose their credibility. Need podium
positions, and could do with race wins. Oh, love the snake graphics.
Yup - the tackiest paint job in F1 since that dire Rizla
Girl painting in the 70s -- I like it though. I think I preferred the looks
of last years car (voted car I'd most like to sleep with '96) but then
last years car handled like a pig (and a badly adjusted pig with unaerodynamic
ears and an elegant but doomed twin sidepod solution at that). I've got
to say that I think they made a dumb move by changing both drivers simultaneously
and getting rookies with no proven set up ability. I'll still be supporting
Jordan this year (despite the disappointments of last year) but they should
never have got rid of both Rubino and Brundle.
RALF SCHUMACHER, baby brother of Nietzschean Ubermensch
Michael, is no mean driver himself -- he was excellent in F3 and in
Formula Nippon (far more competitive than European F3000). But he is a
strange choice to lead a team that desperately needs experience. I'd like
to see Ralf doing better than occasionally creeping into the points, but
with my hand on my heart I can't see it.
Eddie Jordan's a great showman, but is he a great manager
(he asked hypothetically)? I hope they do well; I fear they won't.
I think with Jordan it WOULD be a case of "pay no
attention to the man behind the curtain" or whatever it was in The
Wizard of Oz, but the Man Behind The Curtain has sloped off for a few pints
of Guinness. Last year I wasn't sure whether Jordan were in F1 to try to
win races or to try to make money, 'cos Eddie seems to love both... I still
reckon he's a fair bet (after Briatore) to succeed Bernie Ecclestone as
evil uberguru when Bernie decides to retire and buy an island -- Ireland
Oh great then, in the circus of F1, the clown would also
be the ringmaster.
I'd like to see him get a win or two and it could happen....
but probably not. Still, good to know that racing has found a use for all
that cloning research. At the very least I think Schumi Two will do well
enough that interviewers will ask about his driving BEFORE they ask about
his brothers. Expect Murray to foam at the mouth with excitement if they're
within spitting distance to each other in any race.
GIANCARLO FISICHELLA is touted as the next Italian
World Champion by a lot of people who know young drivers well, and it's
been a long time since there've been any serious candidates for that accolade.
He is quick, tidy and a good tester, but realistically Jordan have probably
got him a couple of years too soon to form the backbone of a serious attack
on the title.
He was bad enough with Brundle and Blundell. Schumacher
and Schumacher (wow, sounds like an academic publishers) will just have
him in paroxysms, particularly as they're from That Country Whose Tanks
Murray Used To Do Bad Things To.
In the words of Basil Fawlty: "Don't mention the War."
I'm sure that Murray's Red Baron comments are entirely acceptable humour
and have no racist connotations.
Well, he certainly sat in that Minardi last year didn't he.
Hard to say anything else given that it was a Minardi and they don't go
fast enough for much to go wrong. Unfortunately, there aren't enough championships
for every touted World Champ to actually become a world champ. Good luck
to him though.
Last year's Minardi bore as much resemblance to proper F1
car as a Pot Noodle bears to a proper meal. Fisciho did well to make it
go round corners. Occasionally. Didn't help that they were into formation
destruction acrobatics, but then again that's always been a Minardi speciality.
I like Pot Noodle actually I quite like Minardi too - they're
both harmless and unlikely to do anything spectacular but amusing in the
PROST-MUGEN HONDA JS45 Bridgestone
Formerly Ligier, now headed by multiple-champion Prost and
very well-financed. Really an interim season with Honda power and a Ligier
chassis before a Peugeot-powered 1998 (possibly with Michelin tyres and
John Barnard designing). The team should be on the way up,
if they can sustain the momentum from last year.
Go on, do the nose joke, do the nose joke. Oh, OK don't then.
I expect to see a lot of profile shots of the team manager in F1 glossies
this year. I think he'll be looking pleased in most of them. We can also
look forward to Murray saying "Panis in the Prost-Peugeot" in
'98 which I'm anticipating already - particularly if he passes perfectly.
OLIVIER PANIS has been setting excellent testing times
and in the right circumstances could score another race win -- he is probably
Bridgestone's most realistic hope of winning a race. He is quietly confident,
but needs to sort out his qualifying performances, he is a skilful racer,
but a lousy qualifier. Get him onto front 3 or 4 rows of the grid regularly
and podium positions should be a certainty.
But Prost is so unphotogenic. Unless you catch him from one
of the few angles where his nose is pointing in roughly the same direction
as he is. I do wonder if he's going to miss playing with the cars, he said
he might drive it in testing, but only slowly. Yeah, yeah, right.
Hmm... perhaps he should test for Lola - driving slowly would
be race conditions for them.
I reckon he's got a good chance in a wet race. Monaco last
year was a fluke (not that he wasn't brilliant but his brilliance wouldn't
have paid off if any of the reasonable cars were still circulating) - this
year he may get a win on merit alone.
SHINJI NAKANO is Japanese and has money. He has not
embarrassed himself in other formulae; neither has he set the world alight.
Hard to see Prost lavishing much attention on a rent-a-driver, especially
as a more secure financial future beckons. Probably his one and only season
Given where he started there -- 16th or thereabouts -- he'd
probably still have been in the top 3 or 4 even if the retirements were
less silly. Panis was mighty all weekend, and I shan't hear a word said
against him. You know he overtook all but three drivers last year, at one
point or another? Poor soul had to, he's so bad at qualifying. Olivier,
you do a *FAST* lap, not a smooth one.
OK - I'll be generous and say through gritted teeth that
he deserved it.
I'd not heard of him before - probably not likely to again.
Why they have to rent out a seat in a decent car is beyond me.
All settled after Diniz left with his sponsors and before
Prost bought in. Wouldn't it be amusing if Alain had just a *little* go?
Yeah, just let him drive for one of the short races.
Grin. That race looks like sheer bloody murder, one slip
of concentration and you're OUT.
SAUBER-PETRONAS (Ferrari) C16 Goodyear
Sauber's two years with works Ford power have gone, to be
replaced by re-badged 1996 Ferrari engines -- ex Honda and Ferrari engineer
Osamu Goto will be setting up his own engine shop to look after and develop
these. Recent Sauber chassis haven't been too brilliant, and the team really
needs to get its act together if it's not to be threatened by the Bridgestone
runners. Should have no power problems and has a pretty good driver lineup.
I can just about see Sauber winning a freak race or two but not on a
If I were to pick an engine from last year to power my car
then the Ferrari wouldn't be my first choice - I doubt it'd even be my
fourth choice. Take some advice from a programmer, never use Goto (sorry).
I can't see them doing much more than they did last year.
JOHNNY HERBERT was a fairly reluctant choice by Sauber
in '96 but worked hard and kept pace with the highly-touted Frentzen. He
is dedicated, talented, often unlucky and never quite receives the credit
he deserves -- Sauber is probably his last chance to shine in a good team
and I hope he keeps a level head and piles up the points.
Ferrari's worst problem wth the gearbox (Italian gearboxes
are traditionally crap and cost Stirling Moss two World Championships).
If you look at the stats, the engine wasn't that bad on reliability and
pretty damned good on power. Better than that Ford V10 anyway. I didn't
like the Ford V10 as you might've noticed :)
Well the Ford V10's going to be good this year. Really it
is (I do, I do believe in fairies).
He talks funny - and he squints. Still, he didn't do too
badly last year and I think he'll have a similar season this year.
NICOLA LARINI is better known for his touring car
exploits, but has a lot of F1 testing and some F1 racing experience. He
knows Ferrari well and is a committed and hard racer. This is really his
big break, a full season with a sound mid-ranking team, and I'd expect
to see him somewhere round the bottom of the top 10 in the championship.
Johnny's had the same kind of season every year since
he got back into F1 -- the usual mixture of five good drives, five silly
retirements, a couple of inadvertent involvements in someone else's mistake,
and a few solid drives. It's people like him who add depth and colour to
F1. He's not going to win anything else, make a space for him in the commentary
box for '99.
What, and replace the charismatic Martin Brundle?
My sister claims that he's bound to be good because he's
called Nicola just like she is and, in the words of Forest Gump, "That's
all I have to say about that".
He doesn't have the Clegg Nose. Mind you the Tyrrell nose
is odd this year. And Nicola's not a girly name at all.
Leave my nose out of this, and tell my sister she's got
a blokes name and she'll beat hell out of you.
TYRRELL-FORD 025 Goodyear
Ken Tyrrell and Harvey Postlethwaite are talking about podium
positions. With a customer Ford engine. A development of last year's chassis
(which wasn't that bad). And Goodyears while the rest of the midfield will
be on the probably rather quicker Bridgestones. Do I sense delusion and/or
desperation beginning to creep in? Lots of new money from Japan, probably
to run Toranosuke Takagi next year. If Tyrrell play the reliability card
I can see them scoring points, but really, if they get more than 10 or
15 all season I'd be surprised. F1 without Tyrrell would be a poorer place
but really the cars have been making up the numbers for the last 20 years,
with only a couple of good seasons since the six-wheeler experiment.
Tyrrell - well, you can't be good with a name like that.
Wasn't Tyrrell a villain in one of the more famous Shakespeare's? Richard
III? Not to mention the evil corporation in Blade Runner. They're "quietly
confident" this year - probably because they've not got much to shout
about. That Ford engine will do them no favours either. Postlethwaite is
the name of a man who makes clogs, collects steam engines or plays in a
brass band - it is not the name of a man who is a successful Formula One
JOS VERSTAPPEN... well, if the frenzied support of
his Internet admirers was a measure of his talent, "Jos the Boss"
would've been world champion every year. In the real world, partial seasons
with Benetton and Simtek and a desultory year with an transitional Arrows
team haven't really given us the chance to see his true level... which
I feel is probably midfield, if he can stay on the track.
I suspect Tyrrell are stuck in a timewarp. They probably
think that their car can trounce the 1974 Lotus and Brabham, and the loss
of Jackie Stewart and Francois Cevert won't hurt them. It's Groundhog Season.
Oh. You're thinking of Pete Postlethwaite. I just got that joke a day later.
(Sigh) Oh dear... Jos keeps in shape by walking back to the
pit lane his hobbies include spinning and weaving. He is grateful to all
his fans both Dutch and insane. You'd've thought he was a candidate for
world champion rather than a back-marker in a poor team the way some people
go on. OK, I'm sure he's not a bad driver and he might well be very competent
but I think a "Keep off the Grass" sign should be affixed to
his steering wheel just to remind him. It's notable that if you're talking
about F1 racing and you say "J.V. is a brilliant driver" only
the dutch will think you're talking about Jos. He also has an ugly nose
and unaerodynamic eyebrows.
MIKA SALO is probably Tyrrell's most saleable asset
and may be one of the most under-rated drivers in F1. Salo in a good car
is a potential race winner, I think, but this year's Tyrrell isn't it.
I see him moving onwards and upwards unless the car is VERY special.
Verstappen's appeal might well be in his very mediocrity
-- the sort of post-modernist irony so popular with the youth of today.
"No,see, no, I admire this driver because he spins a lot and doesn't
take F1 too seriously". Die you Tony Parsons-worshipping scum.
I like this idea - Jos Verstappen, a driver for the people
- he doesn't make you feel inferior.
There's already a Mika in a top four car - another would
be too many. I didn't see him doing much that was so special last year
but then he wasn't on camera that much.
He was great at the start of the season. Then the teams who
had money developed their cars further and Tyrrell went backwards. As they've
done virtually every year.
I never noticed them actually reversing. But they might
as well have been.
MINARDI-HART M197 Bridgestone
Flavio Briatore (put that BLOODY hat on the right way round,
you gormless goit!) now owns most of Minardi and has got it on a sounder
commercial basis than before, so we should probably think of it as the
Benetton reserve team. Still the most Italian of teams, and very popular
in the paddock. This year's chassis looks notably pretty and has interesting
aerodynamics, and the Hart V8 is excellent as such devices go, but it doesn't
look like a winning proposition.
Say what you like about Minardi, they're good value for
the sponsors. Wen Forti left they were the only car where you could read
the ads on the tyres while they were on the straights. Typically they're
passed four or five times by the leaders and they had an amusing habit
of bumping into each other last year. They'll be glad of Lola keeping them
off the back of the grids. With luck they'll have improved this year and
look forward to some battles with Tyrrell happening off camera at the back
of the field unnoticed by all and sundry.
UKYO KATAYAMA has had his good years, and he's had
ones where he spends most of his time spinning. Katayama in 1994 form and
a good car would be a good points contender, Katayama in '95/6 form in
a mediocre car we may as well forget about. An annoyingly inconsistent
driver, which is a pity because he IS good.
Ah, but the ads are always so small 'cos there's dozens of
them, and nobody's ever heard of any of their sponsors outside Bologna.
Doimo? Valleverde? Cogif? Apparently Minardi have the best coffee machine
in the paddock and their engineers spend as much time working on that as
their cars. Perhaps they should go for a steam-powered F1 car next season.
Perhaps a steam-powered combined F1 car and cappucino
maker? That would certainly attract attention.
If we need a Japanese driver I'd prefer Taki Inoue - he was
much funnier. Katayama failed to impress me last year or indeed make any
kind of impression - the definitive "also ran" of F1.
JARNO TRULLI, an Italian youngster fresh from F3,
is presumably at Minardi as a means of showing him the ropes and keeping
him sweet for an eventual Benetton drive (Benetton have been backing his
career for a while). As such it'll give him a chance to make an unobtrusive
debut; if he impresses, so much the better. File under "Not to be
opened until 1999 or thereabouts".
You missed his good year, he chased the Williamses in a Tyrrell-Yamaha
at Monza in '94. Lord knows how big an engine he was running or what additives
were in the fuel...
That's not a good year, that's a good race.
Um... errr... I don't follow F3 since I'm much more monomaniacal
about F1 racing than you are Pete. I'll take your word for it. Until then,
I can only say he rhymes with Julie like in that Shakin' Stevens number
and is very good tabloid headline material. Trulli Awful will probably
be most appropriate given the car he's in. Since a Minardi is about as
likely to be competative as the 5p put-your-kiddies-in-it car-on-a-stick
outside Sainsburies I don't think it makes much difference.
Hate to disappoint you but the 'u' in Trulli is quite a short
one, so it'd be more "Oh Jully" than "Oh Julie".
That was never a Shakin' Stevens song Pete - it'd never
STEWART-FORD SF1 BRIDGESTONE
Along with Jordan and Sauber, one of the few serious attempts
to enter F1 at the sharp end in the 90s. The team has the money, it has
the technical backing, it has the organisation, it has the drivers, it
has the very cute and quite promising car... and still JYS merely talks
about getting a couple of points towards the end of the season. I'd expect
to see a little more. Podiums by midseason, certainly, if Ford have made
the V10 work (last year it sounded like a Fiesta back-firing down a side
Go Stewart. I love this car - pretty car, Jackie Stewart
is really cool. That's a genuine tartan you know (well, a mix of two genuine
tartans with the colours tweaked for televisual appeal). OK, I'm disgustingly
and dribblingly enthusiastic about Stewart's chances - I even read all
of the promotional flyer they put in all the car magazines and believed
it. I think they'll be better early season since they've had longest in
testing. I've heard rumours that they have rear-end problems but that's
more in your line of humour Pete so I won't comment on that further.
RUBENS BARRICHELLO's career might well parallel that
of his compatriot Mauricio Gugelmin -- initial promise which never quite
realised itself because of too long at the wrong team. However, the switch
from the formerly rather chaotic Jordan to the methodical Stewart outfit
might revive his fortunes. I'd expect a solid season with some flashes
of brilliance, and maybe a top-10 position in the championship.
Yep, the tartan is a mix of two real ones. Our house
is filling up with copies of the Stewart-Ford flyer, I think I now have
three, and I know everything I want to know about factories in Milton Keynes.
Oh, I especially like the touch of ochre in the white to prevent glare.
Wusses. *McLaren* never minded glare.
Yes, well perhaps if they were they wouldn't be where
they are today.
Forza Rubino! (Or whatever it is that Italians say about
Ferrari all the time - think it means Strength or something - possibly
it's even an extreme right-wing political organisation - anyway, general
good kudos is the kind of thing I'm trying to express) I think he'll do
well - hope to see him in the top eight but perhaps I'm letting my enthusiasm
for Barrichello and the team cloud my judgement here. I get the impression
he's quite tempremental, not in the Alesi "I'll torpedo another driver
today" way but in the way that he needs handling carefully or he goes
into a bit of a decline. Actually, I think I get this impression becuase
Paul Stewart said it in interview. Perhaps "fragile" is a better
description than tempramental. Possibly not the next Senna but far and
away the best of the Brazillians (note how I skillfully avoided using the
phrase Boys from Brazil). Good Kudos Rubino!
JAN MAGNUSSEN has only one Grand Prix start to his
name but Stewart rated him the best F3 driver he'd seen since Senna. Jackie
is not a man to shower praise indiscriminately and those who remember Magnussen's
blitz on the British F3 title are inclined to agree -- here is a true racer
and a man to whom races surrender. I don't expect a lot from 1997, but
watch him in future.
I imagine he's a wee bit tempramental too, and really
wants to see the entire team wearing a Ruffles baseball cap, a Forza Rubinho
badge, a Brazilian t-shirt and a "Get stuffed Magnussen" banner.
Mind you my confidence would've started to take a bit of a knock after
a few years at Jordan.
Heretic - Jordan was a fine career move, really it was.
And so was leaving it for Stewart!
He injured himself mildly pranging the SF-1 in practice.
Bearing in mind that what I know about F3 can be, in the words of Douglas
Adams "Comfortably fitted in a matchbox without removing the matches
first", I only have his testing results to go on so I'd say that he's
likely to be nearly but not quite a match for Rubino. Which naturally means
that he's pretty good given my attitude to Rubino. Mind you, by that standard
Martin Brundle isn't that bad either. He's definitely quite an ugly driver
with a silly smile so if he does get to the podium he'll look ugly and
gawky there - good job it's so unlikely really.
Oh, it was only a few stitches in his thigh. Stewart has
managed to get him to stop smoking and eating (basically), and generally
taking things seriously. I.E., he's probably been turned into a coporate
publicity android like all the other ex-Stewart drivers (Coulthard, take
Hmm... I'm not sure the not-eating thing will be good
in the long term.
Lola's entry to F1 is their first "works" effort,
even though they've built cars for other teams on many occasions in the
past. The car was developed in less than four months, and is fairly straightforward
(though Eric Broadley says there are some interesting aerodynamic bits
on it). The engine is a placeholder, customer Fords will be relpaced by
a V10 of Lola's own manufacture, possibly later this season or maybe next
year. There is serious money for this campaign and Broadley is thinking
in terms of a five year buildup before challenging the top teams. Hmmm.
I see Lola being the only team battling with the 107% rule at the start
of the season as their car is basically untested.
I think "works" is a singularly inappropriate description
perhaps "doesn't work" or "works fitfully" is the best
we can hope for considering they've not even been together enough to be
ready for testing. They may surprise us - say by getting within 107% consistently.
Best thing to do with this car is to file it down into Mastercard sized
pieces, sign the back and try to fraudulantly purchase goods with it. If
they can get reliability sorted they may be able to get work as the pace
car. OK - perhaps they're not that bad, but lord they're not good.
RICCARDO ROSSET singularly failed to impress me in
the Arrows last year, but it was an unsettling and difficult season for
that team with a mediocre car. I don't see 1997 in a Lola being much better,
I'm afraid, and I think Riccardo may have missed the boat if he wants to
progress much further in F1.
They've got one thing right in that they've painted most
of the car blue. I don't fancy sticking an engine made somwhere up round
blackpool by a biker-looking bloke called Al into the back of it, but it's
probably better than renting clapped out Cosworths.
Maybe Rosset should start renting cars by the race instead
of for a whole season.
Say what you like about Rosset, he's got what it takes to
drive a low end F1 car - readies and lots of them.
VINCENZO SOSPIRI has been knocking around F3000 for
years before finally tasting success and getting an F1 chance, but in time-honoured
fashion he's at the back of the grid in what's initially going to be a
struggling team. Unless he's very special indeed I don't see him making
a big splash -- in fact, I don't even expect to see him qualify for many
Yep. Did you know that Rubinho contributed about 4m to
Jordan last year?
That was a valid sponsorship deal you swine - that's
not the same as being a rent-a-driver. (Isn't he paying 5m odd to Stewart?)
F3000, I ask you - what happened to the other 2997 formulae?
Oh, sorry, you wanted me to say something about Sospiri? But I've never
heard of him or seen any test results. Silly name, silly car, don't expect
to see him much. With luck he won't bump into other people as they whizz
past at immense speed.
I doubt he'll have the chance. He'll be doing a lot of spectating.
Oh well, at least he's got an all areas pass out of it.
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