Features - News Feature

FEBRUARY 1, 1996

Seasonal Preview 1996


Seasonal Preview 1996

1996 Seasonal Preview:

Scuderia Ferrari (I)

Team principal: Luca di Montezemolo

Managing director: Jean Todt

Chief designer: Mike Coughlan

Technical Director: John Barnard (chassis), Paolo Martinelli (engines)

Race engineers: Ignazio Lunetta, Luca Balderisseri

Other directors:

Chief mechanic: Nigel Stepney

Other engineers: Gustav Brunner, Osamu Goto, Giorgio Ascanelli, Wilhem Toet, George Ryton, Andy Le Fleming, Luigi Mazzola, Aldo Costa

Team manager: Claudio Berro

1 Michael Schumacher (D)Scuderia Ferrari

There is currently little doubt that Michael Schumacher is currently the top man in Formula 1 racing. You can argue that he has had it all his own way at Benetton in recent seasons - with the team built around him - and that this has given the confidence to take a step beyond his opposition. That is probably all true but the really top drivers are in the right place at the right time and they make things happen. Michael's move to Ferrari is not curious at all. He was offered so much money that he could not refuse. He dresses it up by saying that he needed a new challenge and so on, but before deciding to move he certainly calculated the risks involved. Ferrari was on the way up again; the team was willing to spend a lot of money to make things happen and the chances are that it will work out in the end. Whether or not Schumacher will be able to fashion the Italian team around him as he did at Benetton remains to be seen, but racing people like nothing better than a fast driver who gives everything when he is out on the track and you can never accuse Schumacher of taking it easy when he is behind the wheel of a racing car. This year may be a rather character-building experience for the German with the pressures of the volatile Italian press to contend with. This would affect some drivers but Schumacher's greatest strength appears to be his mental strength. It will be interesting to see how things develop because we have not really seen him under real long-term pressure in the past. Having said that he has such inate self-confidence that it is hard to imagine that he will begin to doubt himself.

2 Eddie Irvine (GB)Scuderia Ferrari

Eddie Irvine is in the perfect position for a racing driver to find himself. No-one expects him to be faster than his team mate the World Champion. If he is he will very quickly become a big star as he has a feisty and amusing character. He is like Schumacher in that he seems to have endless amounts of self-confidence. This tends to appear as arrogance but is more likely to be Eddie's way of coping with an inate shyness. Arrogance may be annoying but it is something which is essential for any top driver. They have to know that they are good and not be afraid to say it. The fact is that Eddie doesn't really care what people think about him so long as they respect him as a driver. He is a good driver although he has yet to really prove that he is a topliner. He is always quick in qualifying but last year he had a tendency to make silly mistakes. These did not lead to his retirements but they did disrupt the rhythm of his races and he was often overshadowed by Jordan team mate Rubens Barrichello. This is certainly going to improve because while pure speed does not go away, discipline can be instilled and with Schumacher to study, Eddie will learn - just as Gerhard Berger did when he was partnered with Ayrton Senna at McLaren. Eddie's greatest strength - and the reason he was hired by Ferrari - is that he is mentally very tough, having struggled in his career, making up for early mistakes. He is not going to crumble in the face of Schumacher and, with a longer contract at Ferrari than the German, may one day take over as the team's number one.

Mild Seven Benetton Renault (I)

Team principal: Alessandro Benetton

Managing director: Flavio Briatore

Chief designer: Rory Byrne

Technical Director: Ross Brawn

Race engineers: Pat Symmonds, Christian Silk

Other directors: (Engineering) Tom Walkinshaw, (Marketing) John Postlethethwaite

Chief mechanic: Mick Cowlishaw

Other engineers: Nick Wirth, Frank Coppuck, Dave Wass, James Allison, Graham Heard (drawing office manager), Philip Henderson (head of composites)

Team manager: Joan Villadelprat/Greg Field

3 Jean Alesi (F)Mild Seven Benetton-Renault

For years people have been looking at Jean Alesi and saying that there was a driver who was superbly fast but never had the right equipment. This year we will find out, once and for all, whether Alesi still has the spark of genius which we saw when he was a youngster at Tyrrell.

Jean is enormously popular with race fans because of all the drivers he is the most passionate, his Latin temperament often getting him into trouble when things are not going well.

The Benetton management might be promoting the new Italian status of the outfit but this is only window-dressing - presumably for marketing reasons - Benetton is a very English team - with very English attitudes. The staff will expect Jean to do the job and, being used to working with Schumacher, will not be interested in any excuses. There have always been suspicions that like many seat-of-the-pants racers in the past, Jean does not have a great technical understanding of the car. Jean hates such suggestions, saying that he has earned his spurs with Ferrari. If, however, the Benetton engineers find it hard going working with him we are likely to see explosions. One suspects that the success of the relationship will ultimately depend on this. If everything gels it could be spectacularly successful but there lurks the possibility of it not working at all. Only time will tell. With Gerhard Berger alongside him, Jean at least knows his team mate and is unlikely to get into any scrapes with the Austrian so long as they are getting the same material.

4 Gerhard Berger (A)Mild Seven Benetton-Renault

Nine seasons after he left Benetton - having just given the team its first Grand Prix victory in Mexico City - Gerhard returns to the fold. He will find a very changed organisation. There are a handful of engineers he worked with in the old days, notably Rory Byrne and Pat Symonds, but otherwise the team is completely changed. That really doesn't matter a great deal because Gerhard fits in wherever he goes, his easy-going attitude always having a relaxing effect on the teams he drives for.

It is hard to imagine that nowadays Gerhard is the old man of F1. He knows that - at 36 - his time in Grand Prix racing is running out but, because so much of his career was overshadowed by Ayrton Senna, he is still hungry to win races, just as Riccardo Patrese was a few years ago. Berger's career was a little more successful than that of Patrese but he has still never won more than a couple of victories in a season and his best championship result has been only third - in 1988 and in 1994. With a Benetton-Renault he will have the best chance ever for World Championship success and, for what must be the first time in his career, thanks to the new cockpit regulations, he will have a cockpit in which he is totally at ease - with plenty of room to operate.

Gerhard is a very technical driver and always works well with engineers but there are still times when he makes silly mistakes - something which has been with him throughout his career. He knows it and tries to improve.

Rothmans Williams Renault (GB)

Team principal: Frank Williams & Patrick Head

Managing director: Frank Williams

Chief designer: Adrian Newey

Technical Director: Patrick Head

Race engineers: Jock Clear

Other directors:

Chief mechanic: Carl Gaden

Other engineers: Brian O'Rourke, Geoff Willis, Egbahl Hamidy, Clive Cooper, Dave Lang, Grant Tuff

Team manager: Dickie Stanford

5 Damon Hill (GB)Rothmans Williams-Renault

All logic - if such a thing exists in F1 - suggests that this will be Damon Hill's year in Formula 1. He is the only top driver not to have changed teams and has twice finished runner-up to Michael Schumacher. He has Renault engines and a Williams chassis. If the Williams is as good as recent cars have been he should have no problem if he can keep his head together. Although David Coulthard was beginning to show him the way around at the end of last year, Damon has done a remarkable job for Williams. His strongest weapon has always been his ability to learn as he goes along and while this has been a very public process as he was thrust into the limelight by Williams in 1993 with very little F1 racing experience, it has made him a very tough competitor. We all tend to forget that he has still done only 51 races - compared to Schumacher's 69. It is, therefore, not really surprising that he makes more mistakes than the German. You can argue that Damon has to work harder in the cockpit than the German because driving F1 cars does not come as easily to him as it does to Schumacher.

However Damon does it well and deserves recognition for that work. Williams has always been a team which has used the philosophy that drivers should be thrown up against one another rather than nurtured and there have been times when one wonders if this is the most sensible approach. As a result the team has won seven Constructors' Championships but only five Drivers' titles.

6 Jacques Villeneuve (CDN)Rothmans Williams-Renault

Frank Williams has been known to make some unusual driver choices over the years. The hiring of Indycar Champion Jacques Villeneuve is certainly a risk and a half. Having said that Williams has been a great deal more sensible with Jacques than McLaren was when it ran Michael Andretti back in 1993. There will be no flying backwards and forwards across the Atlantic for Villeneuve. Because he spent a lot of time in Europe in his childhood there will not be the cultural difficulties which Andretti suffered. And, most importantly, Jacques has done a lot of testing in the last six months, which means that at most of the European circuits, he will not be at the same disadvantage as Andretti was. In all probability, however, as only a few of the F1 guys have raced against him in the past to any great extent, there are going to be a few accidents early on as everyone finds out how much he is to be respected in the first corner of a race. Such things seem to be inevitable when you parachute a star in from another racing world into the aggressive pack of F1 drivers. Jacques reputation is one of being a sensible driver who finishes races but he may have to sacrifice a result or two to carve a place in the pecking order. We will have to see how he does once established but it is quite possible that towards the end of the year he will begin to challenge Hill on a more regular basis.

Whatever the case, the arrival of the Indycar Champion in F1 is a good thing as it gives everyone the chance to argue themselves stupid as to which series is the best...

Marlboro McLaren Mercedes (GB)

Team principal: Ron Dennis & Mansour Ojjeh

Managing director: Ron Dennis

Chief designer: Neil Oatley

Technical Director: Neil Oatley

Race engineers: Steve Hallam, David Brown, Pat Fry

Other directors: Creighton Brown, Bob Ilman (Financial), Ekrom Sami (Commercial)

Chief mechanic: Paul Simpson

Other engineers: Henri Durand, Tim Goss, David North, Patrick Lowe, Dieter Gundel, Matthew Jeffreys, David Neilson, Tim Goss, Gary Savage, Steve Nichols

Team manager: Davey Ryan/Jo Ramirez

7 Mika Hakkinen (SF)Marlboro McLaren-Mercedes

So far in testing Mika Hakkinen has shown himself to be completely unaffected by the very serious accident he had in Adelaide last November. If this is indeed the case it will be a miraculous comeback because - no matter what everyone would have us believe - very few racing drivers who suffer serious head injuries are ever as good as they used to be when they return.

Having said that, final judgement on Mika's comeback must be reserved until we see him racing in the company of others. Hopefully Mika will be fine because everyone loves miracles and Mika is one of F1's most popular racers. He is - and always has been - blindingly quick although he remains prone to the odd accident when in company with other aggressive youngsters. His career has suffered from joining McLaren when he did because in the last two seasons the team has not been the great force it used to be.

Mika has always tended to do better when there is a more technically-minded driver alongside him although he has worked tirelessly to improve his understanding of the technical aspects of F1. The McLaren race engineers are a talented bunch and so they can often make up for what the driver is not always able to tell them.

Having said that watching Mika on one of his loony-tunes flying laps in qualifying is one of the most entertaining and exciting things to be found in F1 these days.

8 David Coulthard (GB)Marlboro McLaren-Mercedes

There is little doubt that David Coulthard will be much more comfortable as a McLaren driver than he was at Williams. He did not react well to the Williams philosophy towards drivers and did not really begin to show his full potential until he knew that he was not staying at Williams and the pressure was off. Coulthard is still very young but he needs to develop a stronger attitude if he is to survive in the rough and tumble of top F1 drivers. Hakkinen is going to be merciless and, as your teammate is your worst enemy, he is the man who has to be beaten. It should be an interesting fight, although since Hakkinen's return at the end of January Coulthard has been thrust into the role of number two at McLaren, having very little running in the main tests at Estoril. David's other great problem last year was that he made a string of silly unforced errors - he twice spun off during the recognition and parade laps before the races and then ran into the Adelaide pitwall on his way into the pits while leading the race. These were a sign of inexperience and must quickly disappear. Having said all that Coulthard still seems to have the most potential of any of the current drivers. he also has that most elusive element in motor racing drivers - star quality.

Equipe Ligier Gauloises Blondes (F)

Team principal: Flavio Briatore

Managing director: Tom Walkinshaw

Chief designer: Claude Delbet

Technical Director: Frank Dernie

Race engineers: Andre de Cortanze, Paolo Catone, Martin Bryant

Other directors: Tony Dowe (Operations), Richard Grundy (Marketing), Bruno Michel (Financial)

Chief mechanic: Robert Dassaut

Other engineers: Loic Bigois, Paul Crooks, Steve Clark, Etienne Demeocq (electronics), Jean-Pierre Chatenet (test team), Alain Savagere (hydraulics)

Team manager: Eric Vuillemin

9 Olivier Panis (F)Equipe Ligier Gauloises Blondes

One has to feel a little sorry for Olivier Panis because at the launch of the Ligier team in Monaco a few weeks ago team boss (or whatever role it is he is playing this week) Tom Walkinshaw made it quite clear that he would rather have chosen a different driver to lead the team and that Olivier was only their because the team's few remaining French sponsors insisted upon it. Panis, Tom said, would have to prove himself to be a number one. That will not be an easy task because the car Olivier will be driving is just a tarted-up version of last year's model and so it is inevitable that it will slip down the grids unless a great deal of money is available for investment in the team. This appears not to be the case as Walkinshaw and his crew have already said that 1996 is a year to be survived in preparation for a stronger future. All of which leaves Monsieur Panis in a rather uncomfortable position. Having said that Olivier has made a career out of being underrated by everyone and has survived throughout...

10 Pedro Diniz (BR)Equipe Ligier Gauloises Blondes

Pedro Diniz is a pay-driver. A very wealthy one. And that is the only reason that he is driving for Ligier this year. Having said that Diniz is not as bad as some of the rent-a-drivers we have seen in F1 in recent years. He has a modicum of talent but only it seems enough to fight in the midfield in F3 and F3000. We must always remember that F1 is a game where you have to have money and so people like Diniz have value beyond their obvious driving talents. The other day FIA President Max Mosley said that we not forget that Niki Lauda started out as a rent-a-driver and, while not comparing Diniz to the Austrian triple World Champion, his point was made. Let us see if Diniz can develop into something. It will only take a few races to discover...

Total Jordan Peugeot (GB)

Team principal: Eddie Jordan

Managing director: Eddie Jordan

Chief designer: Gary Anderson

Technical Director: Gary Anderson

Race engineers: Tim Holloway, Andrew Green

Other directors: Ian Phillips (Commercial), Trevor Foster (General Manager)

Chief mechanic: Paul Thompson

Other engineers: Darren Davis

Team manager: John Walton

11 Rubens Barrichello (BR)Total Jordan Peugeot

Barrichello had the misfortune - or perhaps the good fortune - to arrive in Formula 1 racing far too young. He was only 20 and had enjoyed a trouble-free run from Brazilian karting directly into a world inhabited by his idols Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Rubens was not overawed for long. In his third race, in 1993 at Donington Park, he found himself dicing with his heroes in the pouring rain. He outraced Prost and ran second to

Senna until his Jordan-Hart died under him with just a few laps to go. Later that year he scored his first points at Suzuka and at Aida in April 1994 took his first podium. And then everything went off the rails. Senna was killed and there is little doubt that this had a profound effect on Barrichello. At the same time Eddie Irvine, being louder and punchier - and sometimes quicker - overshadowed Rubens and everyone started thinking that the Brazilian had been around for too long without achieving a great deal. Last year was tough particularly after Ferrari turned him down and took Irvine instead. But Rubens is fighting back. In winter testing with the new Jordan-Peugeot he has been flying - beating all the big guys in the major test at Estoril - and so he will be coming to Melbourne with high expectations.

12 Martin Brundle (GB)Total Jordan Peugeot

Martin Brundle has been competing in F1 since his team mate Barrichello was 11 years old and while poor old Martin has never actually won a race he has acquired a great deal of very useless experience with Tyrrell, Zakspeed, Williams, Brabham, Benetton, Ligier and McLaren. Jordan hired him to get hold of that knowledge and the decision is sure to pay off. To date the testing times have been very impressive and Martin probably suspects that when it comes to racing he is going to be able to handle Barrichello, although the Brazilian will probably be a faster qualifier. Martin has never qualified well but has always been a great racer. At 36 he is still hungry for success in much the same way as other drivers of his era who never enjoyed the victories they felt they deserved: men like Gerhard Berger and Riccardo Patrese. As motivation and desire to win play such an important role in F1, Martin is probably better placed than ever before to become a Grand Prix winner. If it is going to happen it needs to be in the early part of the year because Jordan is still a small team and will fall back as the big industrial combines such as Ferrari, Williams and McLaren develop their challenges throughout the season.

Red Bull Sauber Ford (CH)

Team principal: Peter Sauber

Managing director: Peter Sauber

Chief designer: Leo Ress

Technical Director: To be announced

Race engineers: Gilles Alegoet, Willy Rampf

Other directors: Max Welti (Vice-President)

Chief mechanic: Daniel Christ

Other engineers: Walter Naher

Team manager: Beat Zehnder

14 Johnny Herbert (GB)Red Bull Sauber-Ford

People love to argue over whether Johnny Herbert is a star or not. He matched Hakkinen without too much trouble when they were together at Lotus but Michael Schumacher made him look very second-rate at Benetton. Herbert did not take that sitting down and as soon as Benetton had decided not to retain him, he told the world that he had been fighting with one arm tied behind his back. Most people listened, some said he was whingeing. The fact is that Johnny has to show he can do it this year, against Heinz-Harald Frentzen. It will not be easy because HH has been with the team for two full seasons and is settled and happy. They all speak his language. However one must never underestimate Herbert. He has twice fought back from serious leg injuries: in FF1600 in 1984 and then in F3000 in 1988. He could hardly walk when he made his F1 debut and yet finished fourth in his first race. He was fired by Benetton but found a way back into F1 and finally became a winner. He's got guts, he's got talent and he's got character. If drivers won races based on their popularity in the paddock Herbert would be a multiple World Champion. The reality, however, is that nice guys don't make it. Johnny ha to prove that he is not as nice as we think.

15 Heinz-Harald Frentzen (D) Red Bull Sauber-Ford

Heinz-Harald Frentzen has a wonderfully different attitude to F1. After Senna was killed he turned down the chance to drive for Williams because Sauber needed him there. When it is suggested that all the top drivers in recent years have walked out of contracts to get to a better drive, Frentzen does not admit that he is too nice. He says that this does not mean it always has to be done that way. He will do it his own way and if it works, it works. There is no doubt that Frentzen has the raw talent to show Michael Schumacher the way around a race track. He has not up to now had the same mental discipline and application which marks out Schumacher as being different to the rest of them. Heinz is a fierce - but fair - racer and he is extraordinarily quick. With a good car he is a Grand Prix winner, there is no question about that and, as most drivers move up to a different level after they have won a race, he may well have the potential to be as big a star as Schumacher. It all depends on whether the Sauber-Ford is good enough...

Arrows Hart (GB)

Team principal: Jackie Oliver & Alan Rees

Managing director: Jackie Oliver

Chief designer: Dave Amey

Technical Director: Alan Jenkins

Race engineers: Rod Nelson, Allen Macdonald

Other directors: John Creak (Commercial)

Chief mechanic: Dave Luckett

Other engineers: Paul Bowen

Team manager: Alan Harrison

16 Jos Verstappen (NL)Footwork-Hart

I think Flavio Briatore is mad to have let Jos Verstappen escape from the long-term contract he had with the Dutchman. Jos did a really remarkable job in 1994 when thrust into F1 alongside Michael Schumacher. He was on the podium in his sixth race - having been set on fire by the team in his fifth. It was inevitable that he should have accidents trying to keep up with Schumacher - all young drivers do. He did extremely well in the Simtek on the one or two occasions when the car actually ran without a problem. Give him a steady base for a while and a sensible car and I have no doubt that Verstappen will develop into a winner and as he does so his rather dour image will fade away. The only real explanation I can think of is that Briatore has been completely spoiled by having Michael Schumacher and has developed the belief that there is always another exceptional driver available and it is not worth nurturing a remarkable talent. Jackie Oliver at Footwork has been around F1 long enough to know that Verstappen is worth having and even if one cannot expect the team to win anything, it will provide Verstappen with a way to show just how good he is.

17 Ricardo Rosset (BR)Footwork-Hart

Until last season Ricardo had done nothing to suggest that he was going to be an obvious candidate for a Formula 1 drive. He was a late-starter in serious motorsport, beginning karting at Brazilian national level at the age of 22. His subsequent career to catch up with his generation was fast and furious and not very successful. He won one race in British Formula 3 - in his second season in the formula. He leapt into the limelight by winning his debut F3000 race at Silverstone last year. Only a few drivers have ever achieved that: notably Johnny Herbert, Martin Donnelly and Alessandro Zanardi. He went on to win at Enna and finished second in the championship at his first attempt to team mate Vincenzo Sospiri - in his fourth season of F3000. There is no question that the SuperNova team was the dominant force in F3000 last year but Rosset certainly capitalized on that to put himself into a strong position for an F1 drive. We will have to see if he can develop into a long-term F1 driver.

Tyrrell Yamaha (GB)

Team principal: Ken Tyrrell

Managing-director: Harvey Postlethwaite & Bob Tyrrell

Chief designer: Harvey Postlethwaite

Technical Director: Harvey Postlethwaite

Race engineers: David Brown, Tim Densham

Other directors: Noel Stanbury (Marketing, Rupert Manwaring (Commercial), George Koopman (Financial)

Chief mechanic: Nigel Steer

Other engineers: Mike Gascoyne, Paul Burgess, Chris White, Nigel Barker, Conway Young

Team manager: Steve Nielsen

18 Ukyo Katayama (J)Tyrrell-Yamaha

There were times in the past when Katayama was able to cast off his image of being a rent-a-driver. He always had a budget thanks to Japan Tobacco (either Cabin or Mild Seven) but in 1992 and then to a greater extent in 1994 he was able to establish himself as an F1 driver on talent alone. Last year he lost his way completely, shocked at the speed of his new team mate Mika Salo. He was still quick but he flew off the road far too often, while Salo kept the car on the island. Ukyo would not have kept the Tyrrell drive if he had not had money available from Mild Seven and political clout from Yamaha. Ukyo is realistic enough to know that and has spent the winter trying hard to reinvent himself as a challenger to Salo but in testing to date he has continued to struggle. He is, however, a fighter. Years ago in the junior formulae he went over the barriers at the old Clermont Ferrand circuit in France - a terrifying place - and broke his neck. He has come back from that and so one must be careful not to write him off. A great of F1 is fought inside the drivers' heads so one must always keep an eye on the tough ones because they survive the hard times and come out ahead.

19 Mika Salo (SF)Tyrrell-Yamaha

For those who remember the British Formula 3 Championship of 1990, it was no real surprise to see Mika Salo arrive in F1 and shown a formidable turn of speed. Back in 1990 Salo had made his compatriot Mika Hakkinen work hard to win the British F3 title. He had none of the help which Hakkinen enjoyed from Keke Rosberg and Marlboro and as a result while Hakkinen bounced straight into F1 with Lotus, Salo ended up in exile in Japanese F3000, driving for a middle-ranking team. In fact he may no impression in Japanese F3000. He did a little testing for Bridgestone in an old Tyrrell F1 car but otherwise his career stagnated. It was only when he scraped together some money to join Lotus at the end of 1994 that things began to move again. A good showing led to interest from other teams and with the arrival of Finnish communications company Nokia, Salo suddenly became a commodity. Tyrrell grabbed it and never looked back - although Nokia walked at the end of the year. Salo is quick and tough, his maturity coming from the hard times in Japan. In many ways he has the attitude of a racer from the old days. He likes to race hard - and to play hard. Thank God there are a few like him!

Minardi (I)

Team principal: Giancarlo Minardi

Managing director: Giancarlo Minardi

Chief designer: Mauro Gennaro

Technical Director: To be announced

Race engineers: Gabriele Tredozi, Renato Moscati

Other directors: Renato Capucci (Sporting)

Chief mechanic: Gabriele Pagliarini

Other engineers: Mariano Alperin, Bruno Fagnocchi

Team manager: Frederic Dhainaut

20 Pedro Lamy (P)Minardi

Assessing the talent of Pedro Lamy is not an easy task because his F1 career hasn't really taken off when he suffered very serious leg injuries which kept him out of Grand Prix racing for over a year. At the end of last year, however, he returned with Minardi and quickly showed himself to be an equal of team leader Luca Badoer. He ended the year scoring Minardi's only point of the year in Adelaide.Lamy came to F1 with a very good reputation in the junior formulae. He was the German F3 Champion of 1992 and was a winner in his first year in F3000 in 1993 - his win coming on the streets of Pau, where only the best win. He did four races with Lotus that year, replacing the injured Pedro Lamy and another four in 1994 before his leg-breaking testing shunt, caused when the rear wing fell off his car. Such a shunt - and the death of Ayrton Senna, who advised him throughout his early career might have shaken the confidence of a young driver, but he seems not to have been affected.

21 Takichiho Inoue (J)Minardi

Takichiho Inoue is currently F1's most blatant rent-a-driver. He is 32 years old and has done little to warrant an F1 drive, except to provide a great deal of money from a Japanese slot machine company called Unimat. He can list no successes of any note in his biography. His only moments of glory in 1995 - when he drove for Arrows - were in Monaco (where his car was hit and rolled over by a errant safety car), in Hungary (where he was hit by another safety car while trying to put out a fire at the back of his stranded car) and at Monza where his indecision while being overtaken by leaders Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher contributed to the accident between the two World Championship leaders.

Forti Corse (I)

Team principal: Guido Forti & Carlo Gancia

Managing director: Daniele Caronna

Chief designer: Giorgio Stirano

Technical Director: Paolo Guerci

Race engineers: Bruno Petrini, Paolo Guerci

Other directors:

Chief mechanic: Loreto Sanfratello

Other engineers:

Team manager: Daniele Morelli

22 Andrea MonterminiForti Grand Prix Racing

A talented driver, at 31 Montermini is a little old to be embarking on a serious F1 career. He is, however, a terrier-like character hanging on and hoping that something will come along. He has always had trouble coming up with money to fund his racing. He first made his mark in international racing by taking pole position for his first F3000 in 1990 but it was not until 1992 that he was able to mount a serious challenge in the series, finishing second to Luca Badoer. Since 1990 he has done a lot of F1 testing, including 10,000km for Ferrari in 1991 and other work for Benetton and Scuderia Italia. His initial impact in F1 was in Barcelona in 1994 when he scared the hell out of everyone by having an enormous accident in a Simtek on his first flying lap in qualifying. It was a month after the death of Roland Ratzenberger and F1's nerves were exposed. He broke his ankle in that crash and was not seen again in F1 1995 when he drove the Pacific with verve and enthusiasm which the car did not really deserve. It is hard to imagine how driving a Forti will help his career - but I guess to Andrea anything is better than nothing...

23 To be nominatedForti Grand Prix Racing

The fight to drive the second Forti has been decidedly quiet.<\#026>ATTN: MAYUMI NOGUCHI


On an aeroplane, January 29

Here are your articles about the 1996 F1 cars. These are the teams which I expect to see improve the most:

1 Tyrrell

I expect to see Tyrrell make a big step forward this year, despite the fact that the team has lost its Nokia money.

The major reason for this will be the fact that the team did so badly last year. Tyrrell has some very fine engineers - notably Harvey Postlethwaite and Mike Gascoyne. Both were frustrated last year and want to do better. They think that last year's car was too complicated. They will not make the same mistake again and, as the team has also instituted a lot of changes in its organisation, they will be better prepared to cope with problems.

I would also expect Yamaha to do a much better job on the engine than was the case last year. The company says the new engine is very good and the indications are that this will translate to better performance.

2 Jordan

I expect Jordan to have a much better season because last year the Peugeot engines and their ancillaries were very unreliable. The team has spent the winter making sure that everything will work properly in 1996.

There are also signs that the team is going to have a much better budget this year and that means that the team should have more chance to test and develop the chassis.

The other big step forward is the hiring of Martin Brundle. He has enormous experience in F1 and will not make the kind of mistakes which typified Eddie Irvine's performance last year. His experience will also help the team know how to make the car go quicker and also how to make the team operate in a more effective manner.

3 Sauber

Sauber has a promising year in 1995 but the started out very badly. Gradual progress throughout the season made it possible for Heinz-Harald Frentzen to record some impressive results towards the end of the year.

The team made many changes in 1995 which did not really affect the immediate performance. The influence therefore was not felt in 1995. The work done to build a stronger team will show this year. The Ford V10 engine may be new, but I expect it will be both fast and reliable. Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Johnny Herbert are a very strong driver pairing, while Max Welti - who is currently guiding the team - is a formidable manager - who knows how to make a team win.

Which team will not do as well as it did in 1995?

I think McLaren will not do as well as it did last year. There is no obvious sign that the team has done anything to improve the design team which produced the McLaren MP4/10.

Morale inside the team is not at all good because many realise that the management has become so convinced that it cannot make mistakes that it will look for anything to blame rather than face the fact that the McLaren system does not work without Honda engines and Ayrton Senna.

David Coulthard is good but he is not Senna and I think it is naive to believe that Mika Hakkinen will have no problems resulting from his Adelaide crash.

I think that if the car is not good in the first couple of races, McLaren will be in big trouble...

My views on Minardi

I think Minardi knows very well that whatever happens the 1996 season is going to be very difficult. The little Italian team goes into the year with what is fundamentally exactly the same car and engine package as in 1995 - although one or two changes have been made because of the regulations. The team has lost its technical director Aldo Costa, its aerodynamicist Rene Hilorst and one of its race engineers Andy Tilley. This is not such a disaster in terms of producing the M196 - because that work was done before the engineers departed but it will be felt in the course of the season because their experience in development will be missed.

It will, therefore, be a year in which the team must survive and do as well as it possibly can. There will probably be difficulties at some tracks with the new 107% qualifying rule which will probably mean that the team will not qualify both cars on all occasions.

All the team's current problems can be traced back to the start of last year when Mugen Honda decided to ignore its contract with Minardi and ally with Ligier instead. Giancarlo Minardi now needs to find a more reliable engine supplier in order to be able to build a more competitive future for his team.