OCTOBER 31, 2000
Arrows holds out hopes for AMT-badged Peugeot engine
That's the firm message from Arrows Technical Director Mike Coughlan who believes that the Leafield-based team will be better prepared than ever for the start of the 2001 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season.
The AMT-engined Arrows test car has already tested prior to the November "break" at the Valencia circuit in southern Spain and Coughlan is delighted to report that it was quicker than this year's Supertec-engined A21.
"I think it was important and useful that we were able to give our drivers (Pedro de la Rosa and Jos Verstappen) a taste of the new engine before the November ban on testing,' he said.
'The AMT engine was quicker with the car set up to comparable weight as the Supertec car we ran there before. Obviously it would be nice if we could show sufficient form to tempt Peugeot back into F1, but for the moment I think it would be wrong to judge the engine purely on the Prost team's performances this season.'
Coughlan also believes that the 2000 season was crucial in assisting Arrows to raise the standard of its F1 game.
He thinks that the switch from the Arrows-badged Hart V10 to the Renault-based Supertec unit saw the team change up a gear in terms of its expectations.
'I was very impressed,' he said. 'Working with the Supertec people raised our game considerably. Whenever we asked a question, they gave us more information in return that we'd ever expected from an engine supplier. They had huge reserves of experience and resource.'
Yet to achieve seventh place in the Constructors' Championship was less by far than Arrows believed it should have managed. 'Taking the season as a whole, I would have to say that we were encouraged, but ultimately very disappointed,' said Coughlan.
'We definitely underperformed. Overall, we should have been challenging for fifth place in the Championship and I believe the A21 was basically a better car than the Benetton, the other Supertec user. Our end result was not really indicative of our potential. In my view, we should have been up there challenging Jordan.
'So often we would wind up perhaps seventh and ninth at the end of Saturday morning free qualifying only to slip to 11th or 12th when it mattered. I think to some extent we also suffered because it was the first season we were using the Supertec engine. We gave away some development time prior to the start of the season when we were just coming to terms with installation issues.'
Two of the most frustrating retirements came at Austria and Germany. At the A1-Ring de la Rosa was heading for third place on a one-stop strategy when a gearbox oil pipe failed and he had to retire. At Hockenheim a fortnight later he spun into a gravel trap while on course for a rostrum finish.
'That Austrian result was particularly disappointing,' reflects Coughlan. 'Pedro told me he was cruising, just cruising. To be sidelined by the failure of a bought-out component which had never failed before was really hard to take.'