JUNE 8, 1998
Villeneuve and Zanardi at BAR?
THE Formula 1 paddock is waiting impatiently to hear details of Craig Pollock's all-singing, all-dancing British American Racing package for the 1999 season. The team set out with the aim of securing a factory supply of engines and top drivers with the intention of making a big impact in F1. Our sources tell us that the team is offering salaries which are 50% more than the major F1 teams in an effort to grab good experienced F1 people. Among those recruited in recent weeks have been half the engineers in McLaren's research and development department.
There have been surprisingly few members of the Tyrrell team joining BAR operations at Brackley. The team is planning to unveil its new factory on July 8 although this facility will not be up-and-running for some time yet although the team is hoping to run a test car which will be based on the current Tyrrell. This will be built by Tyrrell staff at Ockham and should be ready in mid-September.
Our spies within the BAR operation tell us that this will feature a completely new electronics system which has been designed by the team in close association with Cambridge-based software company PI. The car will have its oil tank in front of a new hydraulically-operated gearbox.
The biggest question mark over the team is what engines it will be using and there have been many contradictory stories flying around in the paddock. This appears to be part of the BAR strategy to create speculation and therefore maximize coverage for the team.
The stories which linked the team to Honda engines have faded in recent weeks and the obvious choice of a supply of Mecachrome V10s is the safest option as it will guarantee that the team will be able to start out at a sensible level of competitiveness.
There continue to be rumors suggesting that the team's drivers will be Jacques Villeneuve and Alex Zanardi although Villeneuve said last weekend that he had not even thought about his future. "It has not even crossed my mind where I will be driving next year," he commented. "Everybody is concentrating so hard on getting this season going in the right direction that there have not been any discussions on next year."
This may be so but Williams is not known to wait around for drivers and if past record is anything to go by Frank Williams and Patrick Head would prefer to invest their money in research and development rather than in paying drivers. The team is going into what is very likely to be a slump in 1999 and it would be a good moment for the team to introduce new young drivers so that they will be trained up and ready to race when the Williams-BMW project starts to become competitive in 2001.
We would not be surprised to see Frentzen retained for one more year with Juan-Pablo Montoya joining him with the team's second test driver Max Wilson moving into Montoya's drive with the Supernova Formula 3000 team, which is on the way to becoming a semi-official Williams F3000 operation.
BAR is expected to have its own Formula 3000 operation in 1999 with British Formula 3 team owner Richard Dutton (of the Fortec team) expected to be in charge.
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