NOVEMBER 25, 1996
Who is designing what?
By now most of the design work has been completed and the attention has shifted to the machine shops and composite departments as teams turn the ideas of the designers into racing cars. Industrial organization becomes vital to ensure that all the parts are made on time and all fit together correctly. The race is on to be the first team to reveal its 1997 challenger.
It looks like this race will be won by the new Stewart Grand Prix operation which is expected to unveil its Ford-engined challenger on December 10. The Stewart has been designed entirely on computer - the team claims it is the first Grand Prix team ever to do that - by a crew led by Alan Jenkins.
Of the existing teams Ferrari is expected to be the first to launch its new car - with the launch date set for January 7. The design is the work of John Barnard and his team at Shalford in England although the development of the car will be handled entirely in Italy and Shalford will be closed within a matter of months.
Arrows is hoping to have its new car running in the first few days of the New Year in order to begin work on developing Bridgestone's 1997 tires. It is important that the car be finished early as Damon Hill does not fit in the current car. The Arrows design is the work of a team led by Paul Bowen under the technical directorship of Frank Dernie.
Benetton and Williams are also aiming to launch their new cars in January so to be able to do extensive testing with the new Renault RS9 engine. The Benetton B197 has been designed by Rory Byrne and his team - although Bryne is now leaving the team - while the Williams FW19 is the work of Adrian Newey and his engineers at Williams. Newey's future at Williams is still clouded as McLaren has been trying hard to hire Adrian in recent months.
McLaren is also planning to get its car out as early as possible so that any glitches can be straightened out before the start of the year in Melbourne in March. The MP4/12 will be produced by the same design team which has built all the McLaren chassis since 1990 and the team is hoping that it has learned from the mistakes made in recent seasons.
Jordan will also be aiming for a January launch of the 197 chassis, which has been designed by Gary Anderson. The team needs a competitive car in 1997 and Anderson missed many of the races in the second half of 1996 to ensure that the car was on schedule.
Tyrrell is another team which began work early on its 025 chassis which is expected to feature the Hydrolink suspension system tried unsuccessfully in 1995. This has been designed by Mike Gascoyne and his engineers at Ockham and is expected to be a development of the useful 024. Like its predecessor, however, the 025 is likely to be handicapped by its engine - the customer Ford ED4 V8 unlikely to be a match for the works engines.
Ligier is expected to produce a tidied-up version of this year's JS43 - which will be called the JS45. This will be the work of Loic Bigois and his team under the guidance of Andre de Cortanze.
Minardi is in the process of building its Hart-engined M197 and it is expected that this will probably look rather a lot like the 1996 Benetton, now that the team is owned by Benetton boss Flavio Briatore.
Sauber and Lola are both expected to be late producing their chassis. Sauber's C16 will be designed by Leo Ress and his team at Hinwil and is expected to be a development of the current car - which suffered from the poor horsepower of the FordÊV10. If Sauber gets Ferrari V10 engines the package is likely to be strong - although the team will suffer from a lack of testing.
Lola will also be cutting corners following the late decision to enter F1 in 1997. The company designed an F1 car in 1995 and the basic design will probably be followed in producing the T97/30. The Lola engineering team is understood to be under the control of ex-Lotus designer Chris Murphy.