FEBRUARY 7, 2000
A rash of new cars
THE last week has seen the launch of the Jordan, Prost, Sauber and McLaren chassis for the 2000 season and everyone is now waiting to see the new Ferrari F320. The first car was completed at Maranello on Friday and is due to be launched today. It will begin testing immediately with Rubens Barrichello running on Tuesday and Wednesday morning before handing over to Michael Schumacher. The team is hoping that the new car will be reliable as the late launch means that there is not much time to iron out mechanical problems.
The week began with Jordan unveiling the Jordan-Mugen Honda EJ10 at an event at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in London. The new car is a development of the 1999 concept with better aerodynamics and a much lighter chassis. This has been developed by Mike Gascoyne and his team at Jordan.
"It will be a good step forward.." said Gascoyne. "but any time you take a lot of weight out of a car to improve performance, things are going to break earlier, so you have to be on top of that."
Immediately after the launch the new car was sent down to Barcelona where it began testing on Wednesday with Heinz-Harald Frentzen at the wheel. There were a few problems with the clutch and a hydraulic pump but Frentzen managed to complete 148 laps in the course of three days of running, during which he set the fastest time of the week with a 1m21.89s lap. The team will start working again on Tuesday with both Frentzen and Jarno Trulli in action.
Tuesday witnessed the launch of both the new Prost and the new Sauber. Prost confirmed its sponsorship deal with Yahoo! and showed off the new Prost-Peugeot AP03, which has been designed by a team of engineers led by Alan Jenkins, with assistance from John Barnard.
Jenkins said that the new car was smaller, lighter and shorter thanks to a new engine from Peugeot Sport which has enabled the team to make a lot of changes and improve the aerodynamics. The design process of the engine and the chassis were integrated and so the team is hoping for major progress in terms of competitiveness.
"This year will see far more than just an evolution," said Jenkins. "The team is maturing and we feel that the whole package is coming together now."
The team immediately began testing but the test lasted only six laps before Jean Alesi suffered a rear suspension failure and the team decided to return to its base at Guyancourt for investigation into the accident.
The Sauber launch took place in Switzerland with the team confirming the changes which have been made in recent weeks. The package was much as expected. The team has hopes for the C19 which will be powered by the Sauber Petronas SPE 04A V10 engine. This is a development of the 1999 Ferrari V10 engine and is therefore a big step forward from Sauber's 1999 engine. It is 10kgs lighter, revs higher, produces more horsepower and needs smaller radiators, which helped Seamus Mullarkey's aerodynamics team to produce a more efficient bodywork. The car features a new seven-speed longitudinal gearbox. "We were able to save weight in crucial places," said technical director Leo Ress.
The Ferrari engine proved to be very reliable last year and Sauber is hoping that this will help the team produce much better results in 2000.
McLaren launched the MP4/15 at Jerez on Wednesday, the car appearing in its regular silver-grey livery without any major changes in sponsorship from last year. The car is an evolution of the 1999 car but has a completely new Mercedes-Benz engine - designated FO110J V10. This has been testing on the dyno at Ilmor Engineering in Brixworth since November and was run for the first time at Jerez in the first week of December. The intention was to build an even smaller and lighter unit than last year with improved driveability and more horsepower. Although smaller the basic concept of the engine is unchanged and so it should not have the reliability problems which afflicted the V10s in 1999.
"There were quite a lot of things which we wanted to modify from last year's car," said McLaren technical director Adrian Newey, "and we have done that. It is basically the same car but quite a lot has changed."
Mika Hakkinen said that he has benefitted considerably from his long winter break. "After Suzuka I was physically and psychologically finished," he admitted. "I was burnt out because it was such a tough season. I found it difficult to find the motivation and meaning for the championship last season after winning it the year before. But for this season I have the same feeling as I had at the start of 1998. I am very hungry for a third championship and I believe I can do it."
David Coulthard said that he would also be fighting for the World Championship and hopes that he will be given more reliable cars in 2000. "If I get a reliable car there is no reason why I can't be World Champion," Coulthard said. "I am older, wiser and fitter - and hopefully more consistent. I feel refreshed and motivated and cannot wait to go racing again in Australia. Mika is obviously going to be tough to beat having won for the past two years but I've beaten him in the past and if I can get a good start then I can put him under pressure."
Team boss Ron Dennis admitted that the team had let Coulthard down in 1999 and said that he was quite happy with David's performance.
The team began testing the car and completed 34 laps while Coulthard completed 93 laps with one of last year's machines.
"It is fabulous," commented Hakkinen. "The potential is enormous. The team has managed to solve all the problems we had last year."
Arrows had its new car in Barcelona for testing. On the first day Pedro de la Rosa did only a handful of installation laps. On the second day the weather was bad and then the car suffered gearbox trouble and on Thursday morning a front wing failure caused the team to stop testing while design modifications were made to the wing and new pieces produced. This was done in time for testing on Friday and Jos Verstappen completed 18 laps in the car - and set the second fastest time of the week with a lap of 1m22.35s.
This rather overshadowed the efforts of Benetton which ran the new B200 alongside one of the old B199s. The cars were shared by Alexander Wurz and Giancarlo Fisichella and by the end of the week Wurz had completed 125 laps with a best of 1m22.38s and Fisichella had done 151 laps with a best of 1m22.45s.
Jaguar Racing stayed at Silverstone where Eddie Irvine tested two new Jaguar-Cosworth R1 chassis on the National Circuit, completing 101 laps, despite some delays because of light rain.
The Ferrari test team spent three days at the Vairano test circuit doing aerodynamic development work with an F399 driven by test driver Luca Badoer, while BAR and BMW Williams stayed at home getting ready for their warm weather tests this week at Kyalami in South Africa.
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