THE rather dull Spanish Grand Prix resulted in a rash of critical articles in the press suggesting that Formula 1 racing has become boring because it is so difficult for the modern cars to overtake one another. The criticisms followed calls by a number of F1 people - notably World Champions Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill - for changes to the regulations to make the cars easier to drive.
THE FIA World Council surprised everyone by producing a Formula 1 calendar for next season. The 2000ÊWorldÊChampionship consists of 17 races and begins in Malaysia in the middle of February. This will mean that teams will have to have their cars ready to depart for Kuala Lumpur by February 10 which will cut into the pre-season testing schedules. The season will end in the first week of October in Japan.
BERNIE ECCLESTONE was back at work on the Friday before the French Grand Prix following his heart bypass operation. The Formula 1 boss left the hospital soon after the operation and has been recuperating ever since. He quickly waded into action again in the dispute which has been brewing over the TV coverage of the sport.
THERE are signs that a split is developing within British American Racing between the team management - led by CraigÊPollock and Tom Moser and technical director Adrian Reynard. The uneasy relationship between the partners has long been seen as a source of possible conflict and there were suggestions at Magny-Cours that these will soon boil over into overt conflict.
ALAN JENKINS has been named as technical director of Prost Grand Prix. Having considered a deal from Benetton the British engineer decided to sign for the French team, renewing his relationship with Alain Prost which dates back to the early 1980s when Jenkins engineered Prost at McLaren. Jenkins replaces Bernard Dudot who is to take a new role within the team, "focussing on the future ".
THERE were rumors in the paddock at Magny-Cours that the Ford Motor Company may decide to move Stewart Grand Prix and Cosworth Racing into combined new premises at a site between the two current factories. This would ensure that the current staff would be able to continue and that the engine and chassis departments would work in a much closer way - in a similar fashion to Ferrari. The logical location would be somewhere in the Towcester area as this would also mean easy access to Silverstone for testing.
THERE is not going to be a twelfth Formula 1 team based around the Honda Racing Developments operation. Our sources in Japan tell us that the Honda Motor Company has decided not to let go of the facility in Bracknell and now intends to use it as an engine-building and development center for the forthcoming Formula 1 project with British American Racing.
DAMON HILL left Magny-Cours after a miserable weekend, saying that "this could be my last race" in Formula 1. The former WorldÊChampion had previously announced his intention to retire at the end of the year, saying that there comes a time for everyone when "the enjoyment factor has decreased sufficiently for me to decide that it is affecting my performance."
FORMULA 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone underwent a heart bypass operation last week at the London Chest Hospital in VictoriaÊPark, Hackney. The operation was described as "routine" by consultant cardiac surgeon John Wright.
RENAULT has been reshaping its management in recent days - which could mean that a change in attitude towards FormulaÊ1 racing.
DAMON HILL is to retire from Formula 1 at the end of the season, saying that he took his decision after "much reflection". The announcement was not a surprise as Hill has not been enjoying driving the current F1 cars and has struggled to compete with his Jordan team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen this year.
IN an effort to dampen speculation that Giancarlo Fisichella will leave Benetton at the end of the year to join either Ferrari or Jordan, the Enstone team has announced that the Italian has two more years to run on his Benetton contract and quoted him as saying that "I am 99% sure to stay in 2000".
EDDIE IRVINE emerged fastest from three days of testing last week at Magny-Cours - where most of F1 teams were gathered in preparation for the forthcoming French Grand Prix. Irvine's best lap of the track was set on the final day of the test after the Ulsterman had completed 123 laps over two days. Eddie stopped the clocks at 1m15.876s which was considerably faster than everyone else, suggesting that Irvine was the only one to really go for times.
DAVID HUNT, the man who controls the rights to the name Lotus in Formula 1, says that he is hoping to bring the famous racing team back into Grand Prix racing - but he says there is no deal involving Lotus Cars nor its parent company Proton - which is effectively owned by the Malaysian government.
PEUGEOT is to decide this week whether or not it will continue its Formula 1 adventure with Alain Prost when the current contract ends at the end of next year. The company has been in F1 since the start of 1994 without success and looked very closely at pulling out of F1 at the end of 1997. Alain Prost's proposal convinced the company to stay on for three more years in an effort to use the sport to give Peugeot a high-technology image.
DIETRICH MATESCHITZ, the majority shareholder of the Red Bull Sauber Petronas team, has confirmed that he is in discussions with the Toyota Motor Company for the sale of his 51% shareholding in the Swiss team.
JOS VERSTAPPEN is tipped to become the British American Racing test driver next season, thanks to his strong connections with Honda - which will be supply the team with engines next year. Verstappen has done all the testing to date withÊHonda's own F1 car and looked like being left in the lurch when the company announced that it was not continuing with its HondaÊRacingÊDevelopments operation.
BERNIE ECCLESTONE has reorganized the structure of his Formula One Holdings group of companies with a new operation FormulaÊOne Management taking over the activities of Formula One Administration. This has been the main operating company for Grand Prix racing in recent years and looks after all negotiations with race promoters and TV companies. It also distributes the F1 prize fund.
THE Formula 1 team owners are due to meet this week to discuss the future shape of Formula 1 cars, following criticism in recent weeks that overtaking has become too difficult and the show is suffering as a result. F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone last week called for a return to slick tires to enable the drivers to get more grip and so be able to attempt overtaking manoeuvres more often. Other team bosses reckon that the tires are not the major problem and that aerodynamic downforce needs to be slashed so that cars can run close to one another.
JORDAN GRAND PRIX is tipped to be trying to hire Benetton's Giancarlo Fisichella to replace Damon Hill next year. The 26-year-old Italian drove for Jordan in 1997 but then moved to Benetton. He has since had a very frustrating time. Fisichella is believed to have a commitment to Benetton for next season but there is little doubt that if Jordan is willing to pay, Fisichella could be released. There is not much point in Benetton trying to keep Fisichella if he wants to move elsewhere.
JACKIE STEWART has spent the last few months denying that he has any intention of selling his Formula 1 team but last Friday it was announced that a deal has been struck with the Ford Motor Company. There has been all manner of speculation about the price which Ford paid for the operation, ranging from $100m to $10m, but our sources suggest that the deal is worth somewhere between $30m and $40m. The price is much lower than it could have been because of the investment made in the team by the Ford Motor Company in the last two years.
EDDIE IRVINE is never very subtle - on or off the track - and in recent days he has been trying to raise his salary at Ferrari but hinting that he has plenty of other offers for the 2000 season.
ALAN JENKINS, the former technical director of Stewart Grand Prix, is tipped to be on the verge of joining BenettonÊFormula. The British engineer has been out of work since the New Year when he was dropped by Stewart Grand Prix, but he remained in demand thanks to the competitiveness of the Stewart-Ford SF03 which he designed before leaving the team.
FORMULA 1 BOSS Bernie Ecclestone is taking a leading role in finding a buyer for the Honda Racing Developments FormulaÊ1 operation in Bracknell, Berkshire. The team - which has a staff of around 100 people - has been left in the lurch by Honda's decision to ally with British American Racing.
WILLIAMS GRAND PRIX ENGINEERING won the Le Mans 24 Hours last weekend with one of its BMW sportscars, driven by Yannick Dalmas, Pierluigi Martini and Joachim Winkelhock. The team led most of the event and looked set for a 1-2 finish when the leading car, driven by JJ Lehto, Jorg Muller and Tom Kristensen suffered a sticking throttle and crashed.
BRITISH AMERICAN TOBACCO, the principle shareholder in British American Racing, is to take a stronger hand in the management of the team. The team has confirmed management changes which have taken place in recent weeks with front man Craig Pollock being moved into a new role as president and chief executive, rather than as managing-director. Pollock will "be accountable for the overall health of the company" and ensure value to all the stakeholders.
BMW MOTORSPORT has confirmed that 46-year-old Dr. Werner Laurentz is to head its Formula 1 engine program. He will replace veteran engineer Paul Rosche who will retire at the end of the year. Laurentz previously worked with rival car manufacturer Audi and even designed a Formula 1 engine for the Ingolstadt company in the early 1990s when Audi was looking at a possible involvement in Grand Prix racing.
THERE will be a Grand Prix at the Nurburgring every year until the end of 2004. A deal was struck recently between Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and Walter Kafitz, the boss of Nurburgring GmbH, the company which runs the famous track in Germany's Eifel Mountains. Nurburgring will not, however, get the German Grand Prix as that is staying at Hockenheim and it is likely that the event will continue to be known as the European Grand Prix - although other European countries may object to German domination of an event which is supposed to switch between other European tracks.
THERE has been alot of talk in recent weeks about the future of Eddie Irvine at Ferrari. Michael Schumacher's number two has done a solid job this year - winning the Australian Grand Prix but otherwise supporting the German's efforts as he has done since he joined the team in 1996.
LORD ALEXANDER HESKETH, former Formula 1 team owner and the president of the British Racing Drivers' Club, is reportedly under pressure to resign his position following the announcement that the British Grand Prix will move to BrandsÊHatch in 2002. Silverstone - which is owned by the BRDC - failed to agree terms with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and tried to call his bluff. Ecclestone responded by concluding a deal with Brands Hatch boss Nicola Foulston.
FORMULA 1's planned move into the American market may be rather more difficult than planned if talks currently taking place succeed in reuniting the two warring parties in American open-wheeler racing. The CART and IRL series have both been struggling since they began running in competition to one another at the start of 1996. While this civil war has been taking place the NASCAR stock car series has been going from strength to strength.
THERE has been a lot of talk in the last few days about a return to Formula 1 of the Lotus name. The famous racing team has been out of the sport since the last Team Lotus collapsed at the end of 1994 - with debts of around $20m. At the time the assets of the company were bought by former racing driver David Hunt - brother of the late World Champion James Hunt - and he declared his intention to return Lotus to Grand Prix racing as soon as he could. To date he has failed to find the money to do so although in recent months he has been telling people that he is close to a big deal. We have heard stories linking Hunt to both Group Lotus and to the Austro-Canadian oil services multimillionaire Walter Wolf.
THERE were tests last week at Monza, Fiorano and Silverstone although World Championship contenders Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen both took time off for a rest: Schumacher going on holiday in the United States and Hakkinen disappearing to Finland.
THE European Commission Competition Directorate is reportedly on the verge of issuing a formal "statement of objections" to the FIA regarding the way in which Grand Prix racing is commercially organized. The long-awaited letter should open the way for negotiations to solve the points of contention between Grand Prix racing and the European authorities. A similar statement of objection is expected to be sent to Bernie Ecclestone.