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FORMULA ONE

 NEWS UPDATE - 08/12/1996

Formula 1 News Update Jan 7th 1997

Damon Hill has been awarded an OBE in the New Year's Honours List. First to congratulate him was, typically, Murray Walker. Hill himself seems to have avoided media attention. If he actually says anything in the future about it we'll report it….

The date has been set for Team boss Frank Williams and employees Patrick Head and Adrian Newey to stand trial for Manslaughter over the death of driver Ayerton Senna. They are to appear before a judge in Imola on Feb 20th 1997. Roland Bruinseraede the race director and an FIA official is to face the same charges. They could face a maximum jail term of seven years but the ‘best legal advice’ according to FIA President Max Mosley himself a barrister suggested that they would be acquitted. Whilst not ruling out a total ban on future participation in FIA governed racing events in Italy - if the Italian legal system regarding accidental deaths during races was not clarified before the start of the season on March 9th - Mosley said that ‘there may be difficulty persuading competitors from outside Italy to participate.’

Bernie Ecclestone President of the Formula 1 Constructors Association said that he was ‘hoping that the Italian Government will look at their law and bring it into line with other countries. It is not realistic to threaten a ban on motor racing in Italy, but I doubt if any team would want to go there and race knowing that they could end up in the nick’.

Williams Grand Prix Engineering have yet to be allowed more than a cursory glance at their car, still impounded in Italy, yet have had to surrender all computer data and video recordings they hold that are relevant to the crash, to the Italian courts

After his brief taste of life in the fast lane, Nigel Mansell has declined the opportunity of competing with Eddie Jordan’s team for next season. After leaving the Barcelona test session bubbling with enthusiasm, his decision not to race may have been influenced by FOC president Bernie Ecclestone who was quoted as saying, ‘Mansell in a Williams could have made a nuisance of himself, but in any other car, he would be really struggling.’ Mansell’s statement predictably made no mention of this, instead he declared that he ‘could n0o longer devote the time necessary for a formula 1 season, due to other commitments.’ He declined to say that the Jordan car had no winning chances. This probably means that Brundle will be Schumaker’s teammate. A disappointed Eddie Jordan still thinks that Mansell ‘could still be a winner’ and said that ‘The door will always be open for him.

The appearance in the frame of Giancarlo Fisichella, could soften the blow for Jordan and add further to the frustration of long suffering Martin Brundle who is desperately holding on to the hope of taking back his place in the team.’

Oil giant Texaco is to place 12 million in sponsorship money with ITV when it commences coverage of the new season in March 1997. The deal is worth 4 million a year over the next three years for coverage of at least 192 programmes including qualifying and race updates.

Texaco is also part of the package that is funding the new Jackie Stewart Grand Prix team making its debut in 1997.

There was a ripple of bad feeling amongst the contenders for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year recently. Damon Hill the winner for the second time in three years, was deemed to be less worthy than 4 times Olympic Gold medal Rower Steve Redgrave or championship Jockey Frankie Dettori. Despite Hill himself personally endorsing Redgrave, Redgrave himself was none to happy about being runner up. He was after all ‘only a rower’. The BBC ironically gave their award to a sport that they will have little or no coverage of in 1997.

Black boxes will be fitted to all Formula 1 cars next year. Similar to the Flight Data Recorders fitted to all civil aircraft, the system will provide information about the performance and functioning of a car immediately prior to an accident. Delco Electronics who designed the box hope that it could prevent protracted investigations like that of the Death of Ayrton Senna almost three years ago and only now about to be resolved.

In a recent interview with French magazine ‘Auto Hebdo’ Tom Walkinshaw, Boss of the revamped TWR/Arrows team, predicted that Hill was capable of at least two Grand Prix wins in the coming season. Despite high optimism for the new chassis and Bridgestone tyres, as reported in ‘Speed’ earlier this year the Yamaha V10 is an unproven power unit and has been an extremely unreliable beast for Tyrell over the last two years.

Damon Hill TWR’s prestigious signing, attempted to cool Walkinshaw’s exuberance by saying that he wasn’t going to go out and win the first race but, ’we could be up there fighting at the front occasionally’.

 

After all the media activity of Mansells showing at the winter testing in Barcelona, Williams driver Jacques Villeneuve unsurprisingly showed fastest times beating ex team mate Damon Hill’s race time by seven tenth of a second. This came in the wake of the grumbling by Villeneuve, that the new version Renault RS9 was not appreciably quicker than the old RS8. Williams new ‘Wunder Kind’ Heinz Harald Frentzen, unhappy with his laid back driving position could do no better than 6th overall behind the McLaren of Coulthard. With Irvine in fourth in the Ferrari, second and third places went to the hard working Benneton team, Berger being half a second quicker than Jean Alesi.

 

News in Brief

BBC sports producer Keith McKenzie has been pinched by ITV to head the production of it’s newly acquired Formula 1 coverage. With Marray Walker already in the bag and the possibility of them using Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ as their opening theme it will be to all intents and purposes ‘Grand Prix’ with adverts.

Silverstone will not be the nominated test circuit for Title holders Team Williams next year. As required in the FIA rules, teams have to nominate a single venue for testing throughout the season. Barcelona will be used instead. It is believed that it will be used as a bargaining point in negotiations for the 1998 calendar. FIA will drop this ruling in exchange for 20 races in 1998. The teams have agreed to 18. Silverstone is also to have a new sponsor in the Royal Automobile Club for the nex three years.

As reported in ‘Speed’ last week, Lola, another new team for 1997 has hired Italian Vincenzo Sospiri and Ricardo Rosset drive for 97. The Sospiri contract plus options, is believed to be for 4 years. Sospiri was F3000 champion in 1995 and was test driver at Benetton this year. Rosset, second Arrows driver to Jos Verstappen in ’96 is believed to have been hired as part of Lola’s contractual obligation to Major Sponsors Master Card to hire a Brazilian driver. The new car is scheduled for unveiling on Feb 1st.

Scheduled car launches: The Arrows should be launched on 9 January at the Birmingham Motor Show. Both Hill and Diniz will be on hand to pull off the sheet. It is expected that it will be given a brief shakedown at Silverstone the following day before being exported somewhere more exotic for evaluation and tweaking. Ferrari is scheduled for January 7. Sauber will be launching in February as they are behind with the design of the C16 due to late negotiations to use Ferrari power. Until recently the team didn't know if they would be carrying a V8 or V10. Engine type and weight has a big effect on locating the car's center of gravity and setting up the desired wheelbase.

Adrian Newey will go to McLaren early in 1997. It is reported that he will be earning more than current highest rolling car designer, John Barnard. A figure in excess of $3 million was mentioned.

Ann Bradshaw, much praised public relations officer for Team Williams is obviously missing her ‘favourite boy’ Damon Hill. She is to take up a similar position with Damons new bosses Tom Walkinshaw Racing. She will be missed by Williams, providing as she did, the very important link between the media, team activities and personalities. This will no doubt be influential in increasing Hill’s ‘comfort zone’ and to a ‘seamless’ integration into his new team.

Shinji Nakano has been signed to drive for the part Flavio Briatore owned Ligier Mugen-Honda team. According to an official press release, Minardi has announced half of their driver lineup for 1997. Ukyo Katayama is confirmed, but the 2nd driver is still not being announced. Early reports that Tarso Marques has the 2nd seat, seem premature. However, with Fisichella, another possibility, looking through the Jordan Window(see earlier story), Marques might just get lucky.

The Canadian Government are putting moves into action to ban all tobacco advertising. This could put in serious jeopardy the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal (not to mention the Indy Cars series’ etc). Not only Players the major Sponsors of the GP would be banned but all teams currently sponsored by Tobacco money. It is thought that merely ‘covering up’ or changing the lettering/colour schemes would not satisfy the authorities.

Normand Legault, president of the GP for Canada announced that there is a clause in the contract with the FIA which states that the said contract would be automatically void if an anti-tobacco law is passed by the government, limiting the advertising on F1 cars. He confirmed that the 1997 Montreal GP could be canceled.

 

Canada Post announced on December 10, 1996 that it will issue 2 commemorative stamps to honour the late Gilles Villeneuve. Artwork for one of the stamps, to be issued next June 12, 1997, was unveiled at the time of the announcement at a function attended by Gilles' widow and mother. The image shows a close-up of Gilles at the wheel of his Ferrari.

 

Provisional line up for Cars and engines for 1997

Arrows FA17 Yamaha V10 Bridgestone

Williams FW19 Renault V10 Goodyear

Ferrari F310/11 Ferrari V10 Goodyear

Benetton B197 Renault V10 Goodyear

McLaren MP4/12 Mercedes V10 Goodyear

Jordan 197 Peugeot V10 Goodyear

Ligier JS45 Mugen Honda V10 Bridgestone

Sauber C16 Petronas(Ford) V10 Goodyear

Tyrrell 024/5 Ford ED V8 Bridgestone (?)

Minardi M196/7 Hart V8 Bridgestone

Stewart 001? Ford Zetec-R V10 Bridgestone

Lola 001? Ford ED V8

 

All news reported is, as heard, read and seen by a ‘bloke over the pit wall’ and should be at least 50% correct! But things change in Formula 1 with the speed of a Benetton pit stop. Next week the tyres could be on the other wheel. Keep watching these pages.

 

Chris Richardson e-mail zoom@cix.compulink.co.uk

 

A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!!

 1996 onwards. Speed and its contents may not be reproduced without written permission from the editorial team.