JANUARY 12, 1998

F1 launches come thick and fast

THIS week will see no fewer than six Formula 1 teams unveiling their cars for the coming Grand Prix season with StewartÊGrandÊPrix leading the way on Tuesday with the launch of the SF2 at Ford's Dunton Research and Engineering Center, near Basildon, in Essex. The car, which has been designed by Alan Jenkins and his team at Milton Keynes, will be tested at Silverstone as soon as possible after the launch.

On Thursday, Benetton officially unveils its B198 in London although the car spent four days testing at Jerez de la Frontera last week. Alexander Wurz completed 375 miles of running on Tuesday and Wednesday before handing over to GiancarloÊFisichella, who did another 275 miles. The prototype car ran reliably and the team was satisfied with performance to date. The team is expected to reveal some new sponsorship deals and will probably name a new test driver. Rumors in F1 circles say this is likely to be either Briton Oliver Gavin or Denmark's Jason Watt.

Jordan is planning a major launch for the 198 chassis at the vast Royal Albert Hall venue - one of the largest auditoriums in the world and the home of the Prom concerts. Benson & Hedges is inviting hundreds of guests and media to unveil DamonÊHill's new challenger, which has been designed by Gary Anderson and his team at Silverstone. The prototype Jordan will be flown to Spain immediately after the launch and should begin testing at Barcelona on Wednesday, January 21.

The day after the Jordan launch Prost Grand Prix will be unveiling the Prost-Peugeot AP01 in Barcelona. The launch is being held in Spain because of France's difficult anti-tobacco laws which mean that Gauloises - the team's biggest backer - gets no coverage if the launch takes place in France. It will also mean that there will be no delay between the launch and the start of testing. Prost drivers Olivier Panis and Jarno Trulli have spent the last few days doing fitness training in the Italian Alps at Cervinia, at the base of the famous Matterhorn peak.

The day after the Prost launch there are plans for two separate presentations: Tyrrell in London and Sauber in Vienna. The Tyrrell launch will take be held at a restaurant in Chelsea, in London, and the team is intending to run the last Tyrrell - the 026 - on British circuits until going to Barcelona on February 2. On the same day Sauber is planning to unveil the Red Bull Sauber Petronas C17 in the glorious setting of the Orangery at the Schloss Schonbrunn in Vienna. This was formerly the summer palace of the Habsburg Family and boasts 1440 rooms, rivaling Versailles as one of Europe's most impressive palaces.

The prototype C17 will be taken from Vienna to the Ferrari test track at Fiorano for its first shakedown runs a couple of days later.