SEPTEMBER 4, 2001
Ferrari paranoia prevents Fassler from having F1 Sauber test
MARCEL FASSLER, the DTM Mercedes driver, has been prevented from testing an F1 Sauber C20 because he is also getting the chance of driving a McLaren MP4/16. And Ferrari, who supplies Sauber's Petronas-badged V10 engines, is worried that McLaren and Mercedes would thereby gain an insight into the comparative performance of the two power units.
On the face of it, it seems absolutely extraordinary to imagine that a touring car racer with no F1 experience could gain any information which could be of worthwhile use to a rival. It therefore must be concluded that Ferrari is paranoid about the issue - or Peter Sauber is effectively punishing the McLaren-Mercedes alliance for having the temerity to make an move on his latest prodigy, the brilliant 21-year old Kimi Raikkonen.
Truth be told, it's always interesting when a driver switches from one engine to another. This year one of the most interesting switches has been the Prost/Jordan swap of Jean Alesi and Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Both drivers have been extremely discreet on the matter, but while Frentzen is delighted with the punch provided by the customer Ferrari V10 in the Prost, Alesi - while impressed by the Jordan chassis - is less than impressed by the gutless Honda V10's performance in his new car.
There will be interesting future comparisons as well, particularly as Jos Verstappen is upbeat about the prospect of his new Cosworth-engined Arrows A23 being in a position to give the works Jaguars an embarrassing run for their money in 2002.
Verstappen makes the point that this year's Asiatech-engined car hasn't been all bad and that the new Jag-supplied Cosworth V10 is at least 16kg lighter than the former Peugeot unit. That, he assures us, will enable more ballast to be deployed strategically around the car, much to the benefit of the new Arrows' handling balance.
In principle, I it is easy to understand Jaguar F1 team principal Niki Lauda's theory that supplying engines to a second team will give Jaguar a valuable yardstick. But when it comes to it, there will be potentially uncomfortable comparisons drawn between the performance of the two teams.