NEWS FEATURE

Winter update 1998-99

Winter update 1998-99

WEST McLAREN MERCEDES

Once the end of season testing ban was over the McLaren test team was back in action, with three tests planned in December at Barcelona and Jerez de la Frontera. Most of the work fell to David Coulthard as Mika Hakkinen was too busy with promotional duties around the world as a result of his World Championship success. With Ricardo Zonta having joined British American Racing the additional testing and development work was handed over to the team's second test driver Nick Heidfeld, who races for the McLaren Junior team - West Competition - in Formula 3000.

The first test kicked off on December 1 and both Coulthard and Heidfeld had chassis available to them as they concentrated on tyre development for Bridgestone. The intensive work meant that the two drivers completed a total of 210 laps in the course of the first two days of running but torrential rain on the third meant that little could be achieved. It turned out that Heidfeld emerged with the faster time of the two McLaren drivers, recording a best lap of 1m24.08s after 100 laps. Heidfeld had one spin but this did not cause any major damage. Coulthard was just a few hundredths slower after his 110 laps, recording a best lap of 1m24.14s. Both McLaren drivers were beaten by the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher.

The McLaren test team then headed to the other end of Spain where there was a test planned for the Jerez de la Frontera circuit between December 8-10. With Hakkinen still busy Coulthard was again partnered by Heidfeld and once again the emphasis of the testing was on doing endurance testing work with Bridgestone tyres and trying out new components which will be used on the new MP4-14 - although the new car is not expected to be seen in action until the middle of February, McLaren preferring to maximize the design time rather than spending an extra month track testing.

At Jerez Coulthard completed around 150 laps to set a best lap of 1m24.75s, while Heidfeld got down to a 1m24.98s in the course of his 150 laps.

The team then returned to Barcelona for the final test of the year between December 15-17 but for this there was only one car available and once again it was left to Coulthard to do the work. In the course of the three days of testing he completed a total of 200 laps of the track to set the third fastest time of the week with a lap of 1m22.89s as he continued his MP4-14 development work. By the end of the test the McLaren team had completed a total of nearly 2000 miles of running in December.

While the spotlight in December was on the McLaren test team, work continued back at the McLaren headquarters on the development of the MP4-14 and building work pushed ahead on the team's new factory. The only notable announcement of the month came with the news that the team has signed a deal with the window-making firm Schuco International. It seems likely that the company will be helping McLaren to furnish the new factory in exchange for a little space on the cars.

The team did not do any testing in the first three weeks of January as all attention was focussed on the production of the new car, which was due to run for the first time in the last week of January at Barcelona.

SCUDERIA FERRARI MARLBORO

Ferrari was back in action in Barcelona as soon as the month-long end-of-season testing ban was over with Luca Badoer in action on one day and Michael Schumacher taking over for the second. He set the fastest lap of the test although there would be no running on the third day because of bad weather. The Ferrari test team then headed south to Jerez de la Frontera for another three day test, this time with two cars which were driven by Badoer with Eddie Irvine sharing the second with Schumacher (who did only one day but again set the fastest lap of the test. That proved to be the final test of the year, the team having completed 1350 miles of running - considerably fewer miles than were completed by McLaren in the course of December.

In the New Year the team was back in action in Barcelona with Irvine and Badoer adding another 900 miles in the course of two intensive days of running. There would be a further test at Ferrari's test track in the middle of the month with motorcycle racer Max Biaggi being given a chance to try his hand at a single-seater racing car. The 27-year-old Italian, who will be racing this year with the Yamaha Racing Team in the World 500cc Motorcycle Championship, acquitted himself well in the test and hopes that one day he will move into four-wheeled competition.

With the new Ferrari due to appear at the end of January the team was concentrating on the build programme and there was little other news from Maranello. The team signed a deal with Mattel, the American toy company will produce Ferrari toys, clothing and accessories in the years to come.

The only other announcement was that technical director Ross Brawn and chief designer Rory Byrne are to continue at Maranello until the end of the 2001 season. This came just a few days after Damon Hill made critical comments about the Ferrari technical team, describing them as being "stale" and it must be seen as a reaction to those remarks as it had been assumed that both Brawn and Byrne would be staying with Ferrari at least that long. Under the leadership of Jean Todt Ferrari has insisted on giving its top engineers contracts for five years and as both Brawn and Byrne joined the team at the start of 1997 it is logical to assume that they would be staying until the end of 2001. The news that the two men have been re-signed must, therefore, be regarded as a publicity exercise - although it is quite possible that options were recently taken up by Ferrari as the contracts have been running for almost exactly two years.

There was some publicity suggesting that Ferrari would be given a special supply of tyres by Bridgestone for use at Fiorano but it seems that McLaren will also be given an extra 50 sets as the two teams have been chosen to do the necessary tyre development work. According to Bridgestone this idea was proposed by the FIA. It has yet to be decided whether the extra tyres will be used outside the 50-day testing limit to which all the teams have agreed.

WINFIELD WILLIAMS

The big news since the end of last year is that Frank Williams has received a knighthood in the New Year's Honors List. It was ironic that the award should come at the end of the team's worst season in 10 years, Williams having failed to win a race in 1998. The coming season is likely to be even more difficult as the Supertec V10 is unlikely to better than last year's engine. However with expectations low Williams knows that it can make a big impact with some good results. Mistakes were made in 1998 and the team is determined not to repeat those errors which should give the team a chance to win if the frontrunners hit trouble.

With two new drivers and increasing testing restrictions in 1999 it was important for Williams to run as much as possible in December so that Ralf Schumacher and Alessandro Zanardi could get used to their engineers and the cars. Unfortunately Ralf Schumacher was out of action for the first few days of the month having undergone an operation to remove his tonsils and it was left to Zanardi and the team's test driver Max Wilson to drive in Barcelona in the first week of December. This was followed by a test in Jerez with Zanardi and Schumacher and then a second Barcelona test with the two men both running on all three days. The emphasis was on future development and reliability testing and by the end of the month the team had completed 2100 miles of running - more than the other top teams. Zanardi and Schumacher were back in action in the New Year in Barcelona with Alex setting the fastest time of the first test of the year as the pair added another 600 miles of testing. The team then waited for the arrival of the new Williams-Supertec FW21, which was due in the last week of January.

The team has announced two new sponsorship deals and the launch of a new "Williams F1" brandname in the course of the recent weeks. The biggest new sponsor is with Canadian telecommunication company Nortel Networks which has agreed a multimillion dollar three-year deal with the team. A smaller deal has been signed with the Brother electronics company and the team has also concluded a merchandising alliance with the American toy company Mattel, similar to the deal which Mattel has struck with Ferrari.

The news that British American Tobacco is to take over Rothmans looked like bad news for Williams but the Winfield deal is due to run out at the end of 1999 and we hear that the team has a new title sponsor for 2000 when it begins its alliance with BMW.

The BMW engine development programme is running a little behind schedule at the moment, although there is a Williams FW20 chassis in Munich already, waiting for the first engine to be installed. The aim is for the BMW test team to do as many miles as possible this year with developments of the new V10 engine so that it is sufficiently powerful and reliable for Williams to be competitive in 2000. The BMW testing work will be done by Jorg Muller, the highly-rated but under-used German driver who has been testing for Arrows and Sauber in recent years.

BENSON & HEDGES JORDAN MUGEN HONDA

With the Honda Motor Company having announced that it is to enter Grand Prix racing with its own team in the year 2000 Eddie Jordan and his team at Silverstone know that they need to score some impressive results in the early part of the 1999 season if the team is to have any hope of securing a really competitive engine deal for the year 2000. Jordan may be hoping that some early season victories might convince Honda to continue supplying the team with engines in 2000 while the Honda F1 operation gets up to speed. If not Mugen may decide to push on with the development of the current engine without as much Honda support as it has enjoyed in recent seasons.

With Williams, Benetton and BAR likely to struggle to be competitive with the Supertec V10 engines as the year progresses, Jordan has the opportunity to finish in the top three in 1999 and the Jordan technical team under Mike Gascoyne has been doing intensive work to ensure that the package is reliable. Jordan took part in three tests in December and completed nearly 1900 miles of running.

The tests begin at Barcelona in the first week of December with Damon Hill having two cars available for the two days of testing. He completed 80 laps before crashing heavily and damaging the rear end of the one of the cars. Despite this Damon set the third fastest time of the test.

The test team then moved on to Jerez de la Frontera where Hill was replaced by the team's new signing Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who had previously tested for the team briefly in the post-Suzuka tyre testing. On this occasion the German driver was able to complete a total of 130 laps of the track with any major incidents as he worked on information gathering with the Bridgestone tyres and reliability work with components which will be used on the new Jordan 199. Heinz-Harald went off at one point when he had to avoid Luca Badoer's Ferrari when it slowed unexpectedly in front of him. Frentzen's best lap was the fourth fastest time of the week.

For the final test in December the team was back in Barcelona with a single car. For the first two days of the test this was run by Damon Hill who completed 110 laps and ended up second fastest. For the final day of running Hill handed over the car to Frentzen and Heinz-Harald had an intensive day of testing, finishing up with an impressive 83 laps in the day.

There have been some changes to the technical staff in recent weeks with the departure of a couple of engineers to join Gary Anderson at Stewart.

The team decided not to do any track testing in January although the new gearbox was run on rigs at the team's Silverstone base. The Jordan 199 is due to be launched in London on February 1.

In the next few months we expect to hear of major expansion plans for the team, resulting from the $60m investment made in the team in November by venture capitalist company Warburg, Pincus & Co. Jordan is an obvious partner for Toyota if it decides to enter F1 as an engine supplier and an expansion of the staff and facilities at Silverstone would be a wise investment for the future.

MILD SEVEN BENETTON PLAYLIFE

The new Benetton-Playlife B199, launched at Enstone in mid-January, promises to be an interesting Formula 1 car with what the team claims to be its ground-breaking "Front Torque Transfer" system, which will enable the driver to switch the braking balance from wheel to wheel depending on the corner being taken. The team says that Nick Wirth's B199 also features major advances in the fields of transmission, aerodynamics and electronics. Wirth says that the car is revolutionary and should provide a performance boost, so long as it proves to be reliable.

The team has decided to take a risk this year in an effort to produce some better performances than in recent years, Benetton having had a lean period of results in both 1996, 1997 and 1998. Last year Benetton slipped to fifth in the Constructors' Championship and with the current Mecachrome engine likely to become increasingly obsolete in the years ahead the team needs good performances to attract the support of a new engine manufacturer. The team hopes to be able to convince Renault to return to F1 but this is by no means certain and British American Racing has adopted a similar policy.

In order to minimize the risks of a revolutionary car the team has rushed the B199 out so as to get as much pre-season testing as possible. In preparation for hard work in December, the team did no testing at all after the tyre testing at Suzuka. The only big announcement in that period was the unveiling of the team's much-delayed $20m windtunnel facility, which the team claims is one of the most advanced facilities in the world with a 10,000 horsepower engine needed to activate the 60-ton fan used to create airflow which can used to test full-scale F1 cars rather than scale models which are used by the other teams. While this should mean that Benetton will gain an advantage in detailed aerodynamic development there is a danger that using the groundbreaking windtunnel may cause short-term problems. The tunnel has not had an glowing history to date, being nearly 18 months behind schedule and well over budget. Research work on the B199 was done largely in the Defence Research and Evaluation Agency windtunnel at Farnborough but the opening of the new facility meant that there was a chance to run the car in the new tunnel as well and then the team worked flat-out through the Christmas holiday period to get the car ready to test in the third week of January.

The Benetton driver line-up remains the same with Giancarlo Fisichella being partnered by Alexander Wurz, while Minardi test driver Laurent Redon joins the team. The team is to retain most of its 1998 sponsors although Federal Express has decided not to continue and has switched to Stewart Grand Prix.

In terms of staff Benetton has lost quite a few employees in recent months to the new British American Racing although none of them are leading members of the team.

RED BULL SAUBER PETRONAS

The Sauber team unveiled its C18 chassis at the Jean Tinguely museum in Basle in mid-January. The car is an evolution of last

year's car, and the team admits that is not expecting any great leap forward in terms of results. Sauber's best finish in 1998 was third in the incident-packed event at Spa but otherwise the team struggled to score major placings. The team says that it can expect little more than that in 1999.

It has now been confirmed that the plan for Sauber Petronas Engineering to build its own V10 engine in the year 2000 has been put on hold. The Malaysian national oil company is unwilling to fund the programme because of the economic difficulties in Malaysia. Petronas itself is doing very well as it deals in dollars in the world's oil markets, but the company is being forced to help out other ailing sectors of Malaysian business by order of the government. This has made it very difficult to justify a Formula 1 engine programme, at least in the short-term.

The use of Ferrari V10 engines, therefore, continues although team boss Peter Sauber admits that if the team is to take the next step forward in F1 it must have a deal with an major engine manufacturer. There have been suggestions that a link with Toyota is possible in the future. Such a deal would make a lot of sense for Toyota as the Sauber Petronas engineers have a great deal of data about the Ferrari V10 engine and this would mean that the Japanese car manufacturer could cut out a lot of development work and enter F1 with an engine which would be quite competitive from the start.

Sauber has a good budget but around one-third of the money has to go to Ferrari to pay for the engines. In an effort to balance the books Sauber decided to hire Pedro Diniz to replace Johnny Herbert. This deal has been worth around $12m to the team as it no longer has to pay out Herbert's salary and Diniz brings in around $9m from Parmalat.

At the launch the team had much the same sponsorship package as last year and there was no sign of rumoured new sponsorship deals from Swissair and the Swiss watch-making group SMH.

While the future remains unclear the Sauber test team has been working hard over the winter doing development work, with two tests in December involving Alesi, Diniz and the team's test driver Jorg Muller, although he has since given up the testing work to join the BMW test team. He remains Sauber's reserve driver if there is a problem with either Alesi or Diniz.

Bad weather and electronic problems meant that the December testing was badly disrupted and the team managed to complete only 900 miles of running, which was about half of the mileage done by the big teams. Sauber did not do any testing in January until the new car was completed.

Rumours suggest that the team is about to recruit British engineer Gary Savage as its head of research and development. Savage was previously employed at McLaren but in recent years was head of R&D at Arrows.

ARROWS GRAND PRIX

The big news of the winter months is that Arrows Grand Prix has been sold to a consortium made up of Tom Walkinshaw, a Nigerian Prince called Malik Ado Ibrahim and Morgan Grenfell Private Equity Ltd, an investment company belonging to Deutsche Bank.

Walkinshaw is the chairman of the company and owns 25% of the shares. A further five percent of the team has been set aside for the staff, which means that Prince Malik and MGPE would appear to own 70% of the team. Sources in the business world say that MGPE is unlikely to want to control the team and it is logical to assume that Malik and Walkinshaw control a majority of the shares, while MGPE is the largest shareholder. The team said that the deal was worth $160m, which would be about right if MGPE bought 40% of the company for around $67m - which would be around the same price as Warburg, Pincus & Co recently paid for the same shareholding in Jordan GP. This would suggest that Prince Malik owns around 30% of the team.

Whatever the exact details, it seems that former owners Jackie Oliver and Alan Rees have now sold the team and are no longer involved. Oliver and Rees are understood to have refused a lower bid for the team from Zakspeed.

The deal includes not only the racing team but also TWR's F1 engine unit in Kidlington. Brian Hart Ltd is not believed to be part of the deal although it will continue to build the engines for Arrows.

The team should now be able to pay off its $25m of debt but we hear that more money is still needed for the coming season and that the team is searching for sponsorship and hoping that British American Tobacco will contribute if it loses its battle over twin liveries with the FIA. Walkinshaw is also trying to recoup some of his 1998 losses by suing former driver Pedro Diniz for $6.5m, claiming that Diniz broke his contract by moving to Sauber. Diniz did have an Arrows contract for 1999 but is arguing that the team failed to meet performance clauses.

Although there have been a lot of engineers leaving the team in recent months there are still 168 employees at Leafield under the new technical director Mike Coughlan and operations director Gordon Message. John Walton remains team manager

Throughout the weeks of uncertainty the team has tried to remain concentrated on the winter development programme, which has been largely centered on engine work. Mika Salo and Pedro de la Rosa did the work in December in two Barcelona tests during which they completed around 1000 miles of running using the 1999-spec engine and a brand new gearbox.

The team was back in Barcelona again in January with Salo, de la Rosa and Toranosuke Takagi doing another 700 miles at the Circuit de Catalunya. The work was concentrated on engine development and trying out suspension settings with the latest Bridgestone tyres.

De la Rosa is the man most likely to land the second seat alongside Salo. The Spaniard has considerable financial support from the Spanish oil company Repsol. The full Arrows package is not expected to be announced until mid-February.

STEWART FORD

There have been big changes at Stewart in recent weeks following unsettling rumours - which leaked from within the Ford Motor Company - that the company is planning to buyout the Stewart Family and turn the team into a Jaguar F1 operation. This may still happen but Ford's announcement that it has extended the Stewart deal until the end of 2001 suggests that Jaguar will not be taking over until 2002 at the earliest.

Whatever the case the management at Stewart has been shaken up with appointment of a new managing-director David Ring, a 36-year-old Briton who is an experience manager in the aerospace industry. Ring replaces Paul Stewart, Jackie's son having been moved to become Deputy Chairman. In addition operations director Andy Miller has been appointed Racing Director and will run the race team at Grands Prix, while logistics will continue to be handled by team manager David Stubbs. Ford's Neil Ressler has also joined the Stewart board of directors.

There have also been major changes on the technical staff with the departure of both technical director Alan Jenkins and chief aerodynamicist Egbahl Hamidy. Gary Anderson has been appointed technical director - which was no big surprise - and former Jordan aerodynamicist Darren Davis, who has spent the last year with the Arciero Wells CART team in America, has taken over from Hamidy. The team has also hired another ex-Jordan engineer, Simon Smart, who will engineer Johnny Herbert. Rubens Barrichello will be engineered by Robin Geary while the 1998 engineering team of Malcolm Tierney and Andy LeFleming have been promoted to jobs in design and research and development.

The team decided not to do much winter testing and concentrated on getting the new SF3 ready early so as to get as much testing as possible. The team did run Herbert briefly in Barcelona in December and he was joined by Formula 3 driver Luciano Burti in a second car. The pair completed 450 miles of testing. The SF3 ran for the first time at Silverstone just before Christmas and features a dramatic new Ford CR1 V10 engine, built by Cosworth Racing. This is considerably lighter, lower and shorter than the Zetec-R and is a big risk as it has been hurried out much quicker than previous Cosworth engines. It has been designed by Nick Hayes at Cosworth but has involved considerable input from Ford engineers in Dearborn, Michigan. The engine weighs only 100kg and has no carry-over parts from the old engine. Initial reports are that it is going to be very competitive. The SF3 is a conventional car with the troublesome composite gearbox replaced by a traditional magnesium unit.

The team is expected to announce shortly that it has signed a sponsorship agreement with former Benetton backer Federal Express. Ford recently concluded a worldwide deal with the Memphis-based FedEx for the transportation of automotive parts and the company's name is expected to appear on the Ford rally and touring cars as well.

The additional sponsorship is good news for Stewart Grand Prix as it had lost the support of Texaco.

GAULOISES PROST PEUGEOT

The big news for Prost Grand Prix in the winter months was the long-awaited confirmation that the team will be working with former Arrows technical director John Barnard. The English engineer will work as Prost's "technical consultant" alongside technical director Bernard Dudot and chief designer Loic Bigois. Following media speculation Prost denied that Dudot was being replaced but it is worth noting that the former Renault Sport technical boss will soon be 60 and will probably fade graciously into retirement in the course of the next few months.

As expected the deal with Barnard includes programmes with his companies B3 Technologies in Shalford, England and Metallor in California. B3 will oversee the development of the Prost-Peugeot AP02 and the team admits that Barnard has had quite a considerable involvement in the design of the new car having fallen out with Tom Walkinshaw of the Arrows team as long ago as July last year. Since then Walkinshaw and Barnard have been trying to find a legal solution to their grievances: Walkinshaw arguing that Barnard had broken his contract by refusing to work for the team and Barnard saying that the contract was broken because Walkinshaw refused to pay B3 for work that had been done.

The fact that B3 was working for both Arrows and Prost (and other teams) in 1998 did not help matters and the deal between Barnard and Prost means that B3 will now work exclusively with Prost Grand Prix. It is expected that Prost engineers will be assigned to work with the operation in England to ensure the closest possible collaboration and that B3 engineers will be working at the Prost headquarters in Guyancourt. With the AP02 not due until the end of January the winter testing programme centered on developments of the AP01, designated AP01B and AP01C.

With Olivier Panis out of action for six weeks after an operation to remove pins and plates from his legs on November 5 in Montreal, the team turned to its official test and reserve driver Stephane Sarrazin and he was in action alongside Jarno Trulli in two tests in December with Panis returning to partner Trulli in the third test session. In total the three drivers completed around 1800 miles of testing doing AP02 development work, notably on a new gearbox, a new braking system and on Peugeot engine development work.

Panis and Trulli were back in action at the first January test, the pair completing another 750 miles of running in the course of three days of testing. Both were keen to get started with the AP02, which was launched at Guyancourt on January 25 and began testing the following day in Barcelona. The team is concentrating on reliability and production so as to be fully prepared for the season.

Prost continues to expand his technical partnerships, having recently signed a deal with Altran Technologies, a Paris-based research and development company which employs 6000 engineers in 11 countries. Altran will assist PGP in its research and development programmes.

MINARDI TEAM

There are high hopes at Faenza that the Minardi team - which is now controlled by Fondmetal boss Gabriele Rumi but still run by Giancarlo Minardi - will make a big breakthrough in 1999. Rumi has invested heavily in the last 12 months in new engineering staff and facilities and hopes that the resulting package will enable the team to score more results and thus attract a better engine package and more sponsorship.

Such is the level of competition in F1 these days, however, that this will not be at all easy and Minardi remains the team which is most often mentioned when there is talk of new operations buying their way into Grand Prix racing. This will not happen unless Rumi agrees and Minardi retains a significant shareholding in the team and says he has no intention of giving up his dream to win Formula 1 races. With the increased money available from the sale of F1's TV rights Minardi is in no danger of closing down and so it is simply a question of whether or not the team can produce a good enough car in 1999 to move up the F1 ladder.

The team has been focussed for some months on the research and development and design of the new Minardi-Ford M01 chassis.

The team has yet to make any official announcement about its drivers and sponsors in 1999 but it is expected that Argentina's Esteban Tuero will be retained for a second season with a package of sponsorship from Argentina.

Shinji Nakano has spent most of the winter talking to the team but it seems now that Spaniard Marc Gene is a more likely second driver. Gene is expected to bring considerable support from Spanish companies. The team's test driver Laurent Redon has moved on to take over the testing work at Benetton.

Before leaving the team Redon was in action for the final Minardi test on 1998 in Barcelona where he completed 50 laps of running before handing over to Gene. Esteban Tuero had been scheduled to take part in the test but he had been experiencing discomfort with his back in November and it was discovered that he had suffered slight damage to three of his vertebrae as a result of his collision with Tora Takagi in Suzuka. He was ordered to rest until the end of December.

The test saw the first appearance of Minardi's new sporting director Cesare Fiorio, who has worked in F1 on and off for the last 10 years as sporting director of Ferrari, Ligier, Forti and Prost.

Gene ran for one day, completing 22 laps and setting a time which was faster than that set by Redon. On the third day of the test the car was handed over to Dutchman Donny Crevels but in his enthusiasm to drive an F1 car for the first time the Italian Formula 3 Champion crashed on his first lap out of the pits. The car was repaired and he eventually completed a total of 25 laps although he did not set a representative lap time.

The team did not test again with everyone concentrating on the production of the new M01. This was due to be launched on January 19 but delays meant that the first runs were delayed until the second week of February.

BRITISH AMERICAN RACING

The British American Racing project seems to be more or less on schedule with the first tests of the BAR-Supertec 01 taking place in Barcelona during the final testing session of the year between December 15-17.

The new car, which has been designed by a team led by Malcolm Oastler and aerodynamicist Wilhem Toet, had a few teething problems with the gearbox electronics and hardly ran at all on the first day of the test. On the second day these were overcome but Jacques Villeneuve had problems with the rear bodywork flying off the car. On the final day of the test Villeneuve was able to complete a couple of decent runs with the car and set some promising lap times, although the team had hoped to complete a little more than the 100 miles achieved.

It was a similar story at the first January test in Barcelona although Villeneuve attracted a lot of media attention by being fastest on two of the three days. In the course of the three days he completed only 205 miles of running as the team worked to develop the suspension of the BAR chassis and the Supertec V10 engine.

While the lap times have provided the new team with plenty of publicity their relevance remains uncertain as the BAR-Supertec 01 had not run with any of the other 1999 cars although the team was due to do so in Jerez as we were closing for press.

The team has maintained its high profile throughout the winter with a grand presentation at the start of January at which one car appeared in State Express 555 colours and the other was shown in Lucky Strike livery. The team is hoping to win its battle with the FIA over whether or not the cars can run in different color schemes. If all goes to plan this will be settled by the International Chamber of Commerce's International Court of Arbitration on January 30. BAR is claiming that the governing body of the sport is restricting its commercial freedom by insisting that teams run cars with the same color schemes. The FIA says that if BAR wants to take part in the World Championship it must accept the rules as they stand.

There is no doubt that the FIA regulations exclude the possibility of twin liveries and that according to the FIA rules teams must accept the regulations "and the consequences resulting therefrom" if they wish to take part in the World Championship. The wording of this rule is clearly intended to avoid commercial questions.

BAR personnel say that there are no contingency plans if they lose the battle but one would expect that British American Tobacco would then have to kick in extra money. This would be a blow as the hiring of Jacques Villeneuve came specifically because he fitted the rebellious image which Lucky Strikes likes to promote. It is worth pointing out that while BAT continues to fight for State Express 555 and Lucky Strike colours the planned takeover of Rothmans International means that Lucky Strike will slip from being BAT's second biggest brand to fifth place behind Rothmans, Peter Stuyvesant and Dunhill.

While the team waits to see what will happen a sponsorship deal has been announced with Canadian telecommunications company Teleglobe Inc. The cars will carry branding from Teleglobe and its subsidiary Excel on its cars.

HONDA RACING DEVELOPMENTS

The Honda Motor Corporation finally confirmed in December that it is going ahead with its own Formula 1 team in the year 2000, bringing to an end speculation that the Japanese carmaker might be buying into an existing Grand Prix team.

At a press conference in Tokyo Honda President Hiroyuki Yoshino said that the Honda team would be ready for the 2000 season and that the company planned to build "not only the engine but also the chassis". Yoshino added that the F1 programme was being seen as a way of strengthening the identity of Honda around the world.

As we have been predicting for some months the Honda F1 team will be based at premises in Bracknell in Berkshire and we believe that the operation already employs well over 100 people - many of them being refugees from Tyrrell - the old Ockham factory being only 12 miles from the new Honda base. The Honda F1 team is being led by former Tyrrell managing-director Dr Harvey Postlethwaite and includes ex-Tyrrell men Rupert Manwaring and Steve Nielsen and most of the old Tyrrell design engineers - who had been working in a secret Honda design office in Leatherhead while they waited for the Bracknell operation to be established.

As the team was in no position to build any cars, the prototype Honda F1 cars were built by Dallara Automobili in Italy and one of these was tested by Jos Verstappen at the littleknown Varano circuit, next door to the Dallara factory, on December 15. This was followed by a second test at Mugello. The team was due to have its first runs alongside other F1 machinery at Jerez as we were closing for press and in the course of the year the Honda team is expected to be seen at most of the organized tests as Bridgestone is very keen not to have to supply tyres to different testing locations.

The design team at Bracknell is already working on the research and development for the 2000 car which will be designed and built in Britain. Honda will, however, be seconding its chassis engineers to Bracknell to learn the skills of composite engineering and gradually it is expected that the Japanese involvement will become more important. The team is expected to test with both Verstappen and Formula Nippon Champion Satoshi Motoyama and at least one of the four Dallara-built chassis will be sent to Japan where an engine testing programme is planned, similar to the Japanese testing programme which Honda ran in the McLaren days when Emanuele Pirro was based permanently in Japan, developing the company's engines.

The news that Toyota is planning to enter Formula 1 in the course of the next few years will give Honda engineers a little extra motivation as the company will not wish to be beaten on the race tracks by its rival car company.<\#026>

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