F1 Newsround - 25/Feb/1997   HomeContentsHelp



Impressive Alesi...Magnussen in Crash...Uproar at Senna Trial...


(9th - 10th Feb)

Jean Alesi completed a total of 46 laps at Jerez today driving the Benetton Renault B197 setting an impressive time of 1.21.10. Alesi said afterwards, "I am very happy and know that I could have gone quicker, but we concentrated on working on the brake system. I can’t wait for the first Grand Prix." Gerhard Berger was also very pleased with the performance of his car.

Alesi 1.21.10

Fisichella 1.21.95

Villeneuve 1.22.15

Salo 1.22.36

Berger 1.23.39

Testing continued on Monday with both Berger and Alesi who, in the course of the five day test drove a combined total of 387 laps covering almost 2000km. It was however, Berger’s turn to shine, setting a record time for the circuit of 1.21.01. The team worked intensively with both drivers throughout the whole session managing to identify all the problems. "We are now ready to solve them." Commented Berger, "The car is definitely quick and so far, it’s reacting nicely. It’s too soon to judge how the others are doing, but I believe we are extremely competitive." The team move to Estoril for the last intensive test before the beginning of the season.

Berger 1.21.01

Alesi 1.21.17

Villeneuve 1.21.25

R Schumacher 1.21.76


(14th - 19th Feb 1997)

The past six days saw the final testing session for the Jordan Peugeot team, Ralf Schumacher starting off last Friday with Giancarlo Fisichella commencing Saturday. This was the first time that the team have tested the two 197’s concurrently. Early wet conditions prevented any worthwhile contributions and later engine problems prevented Schumacher from testing. Saturday afternoon enabled Fisichella to complete a few installation runs in what was his cars first outing.

Sunday morning was spent evaluating new specification wet tyres from Goodyear and in the afternoon despite further engine problems for Schumacher, both drivers went out on slicks, Fisichella setting second fastest time of the day (1.22.16).

Dry weather Monday enabled Ralf Schumacher to complete a full race distance but small technical problems plagued the team and it wasn’t until Wednesday, the final day of testing that Fisichella was able to complete his full distance.

Gary Anderson, Technical director, commented today that the test had been a success. "I am very happy with the general running of the car and the performance of our Goodyear tyres. I feel that it was a very positive test, particularly as we did all the running with race fuel. After sorting out a few niggling problems, it was good for both Peugeot and ourselves to achieve two full race distance runs as well." The team will be testing at Silverstone to shake down the third chassis before shipping out to Australia.

R Schumacher 1.19.76 (best lap time) 266 laps

G Fisichella 1.19.96 (best lap time) 233 laps


(20th Feb 1997)

Tyrell Racing’s 1997 pre-season test programme was completed at Silverstone Thursday (20th) with further encouraging results.

Having been forced to cancel this week’s testing in Estoril as a result of the Spanish lorry drivers strike, the Ockham based team hastily made arrangements to complete their scheduled testing on the Northamptonshire track.

Mika Salo drove 62 laps on Tuesday and Wednesday testing for various set ups and reliability and Thursday morning completed a further 35 laps on the revised 5.14km Silverstone circuit clocking a best time of 1.27.4s.

30 year old Salo said, "I can’t wait to race again and I am very much looking forward to Melbourne. The car is very easy to set up and is sensitive to the changes we make." He went on enthusiastically, "The performance of the engine has been excellent and the team is in good shape."

Team mate Jos Verstappen completed 76 laps during the course of the three days with a best time of 1.27.10s.

Managing Director of Engineering Harvey Postlethwaite is delighted with the teams progress . "The chassis and the engine have both worked ‘out of the box’ as we hoped they would and this has been our most productive pre-season for many years," he explained. "The cars are well balanced and the engines have been extremely consistent. Above all, the drivers like the car and are happy and that’s a good indication."


(11th Feb 1997)

In a rather cryptic press release Ferrari today announced that it was in effect handing over the Ferrari Design & Development facilities to it’s soon to become ex Designer, John Barnard. The statement concluded, "The facilities will continue to operate totally and autonomously in respect of Ferrari, in the field of specialist design and manufacture. Subject to final agreement, it is the parties intention to implement this project within the next two months."

Far from being downbeat, Barnard told the press that it was exactly what he had intended in his original agreement with Ferrari. Barnard’s refusal to work in Italy and the desire of Ferrari to consolidate its efforts for a World Constructors Championship at Maranello, not to mention their misgiving about the last two Barnard designed cars, are thought to be the key reasons for the split.

With the further re-location of Benetton personnel to the Scuderia (Technical director Ross Brawn and Designer Rory Byrne) it seems that Michael Schumacher is tailoring his old crew to fit his Championship aspirations and a cool relationship between himself and Barnard may not have suited his purposes. This is of course conjecture. Barnard says that "We will continue to manufacture for Ferrari and we are looking at various design programmes".

With an impending association with the Newly formed Prost Grand Prix team rumoured, it is difficult to see how Barnard can indeed wear two hats with impartiality but, ‘aerodynamic changes are coming’, he said. His contract with Ferrari expires in July.


The Brazilian Stewart-Ford driver Rubens Barrichello will marry his fiancee Silvana on Monday 24th February in their native town, Sao Paulo. It was motor racing that brought them together three years ago. Rubens is a friend of Silvana's Cousin, an IndyCar racing driver who will be racing in the International Racing League this year. Rubens 24, who proposed to Silvana last year, is over the moon .

"I have found my other half." He said, "Silvana is very supportive and she fully understands my passion for Formula One. it is a sport where you spend a lot of time on your own and it is wonderful to have her to confide in "

The newly-weds will enjoy a short honeymoon touring the golden Australian beaches Silvana will also accompany Rubens to Melbourne where he will drive his first Grand Prix for the Stewart-Ford team.

"I am extremely enthusiastic about the SF-1 car Testing in Jerez and Barcelona and has shown me that we have a good chassis and progressively more power from the Ford engine. I am looking forward very much to our First race in Melbourne. After the race, Rubens and his wife will return to Europe and will live in Monaco.


(Feb 20th 1997)

Two-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher became a father Thursday after his wife Corinna gave birth to a baby girl at St. Josef Hospital in Wipperfurth, east of Cologne. "I'm the happiest person in the world. I'm so overjoyed to have a healthy baby girl. This is one of the happiest moments in my life," 28-year-old Schumacher said after attending the 6:13 a.m. birth of Gina Maria.

He received a phone call Wednesday evening while testing his Ferrari in Mugello, Italy that Corinna had gone into labour and he rushed to be with her.

Schumacher's preparations for Melbourne have now been interrupted so that he can spend most of the next eight days with his wife and child.


(Feb 19th 1997)

Jan Magnussen lost control of his Stewart Ford whilst testing at Estoril. The impact of the crash forced part of the suspension through the drivers safety cell causing lacerations his lower leg. He was rushed to hospital but was released later, after having six stitches in his leg.


(14th Feb 1997)

It had to be the most bandied-about rumour in Formula one and it was finally announced in a curt press release from the FIA announcing that it had granted Alan Prost permission to change the name of Ligier to his own. This simple statement hid a landslide of pre season negotiations between Engine suppliers, French Government officials and Team owners. The tip of the iceberg is that Alan Prost is the proud owner of the now renamed Ligier team and from 1998 has a three year non exclusive deal with engine supplier, Peugeot.

Peugeot, currently in the final year of an exclusive supply deal to the Benson and Hedges Total Jordan Peugeot team were obviously interested in an all French team. Reticent to associate themselves with the political leanings of former owner Guy Ligier, a supply deal could only be struck if Prost agreed to change it’s name to his. This would also guarantee world wide media attention with a four times world champion at the helm.

The first fly in the ointment was the F1 Concorde agreement whereby anything affecting the F1 community as a whole, has to be agreed by all signatories. The second fly was a rather anxious Eddie Jordan up against it to produce some exceptional results for Peugeot this year after a fruitless two year association. Hoping that, with a positive season under his belt and the regained goodwill of Peugeot, he might retain his exclusive deal. This seemed highly unlikely, yet without Jordan’s signature joining the others, Prost and Peugeot were in a stalemate position. The situation finally changed however on Wednesday (12th) when Jordan finally gave in and signed after being told by Peugeot that they would definitely supply two teams next year. A statement issued by Jordan established that the engine supply to the team was an ‘on-going issue". Jordan is by no means guaranteed the Engine supply next year. However, as all the machinations are in place and provided that the Jordan Peugeot team can produce some encouraging results, there is no reason why they could not become wary bedmates with Prost Grand Prix in sharing the same supply. Prost said of Jordan at his announcement of the deal in Paris last Friday, "Without his authorisation we could not sign the deal and I really thank him, because he understood that from the beginning it was also good for Formula 1"


With Renault back in the Williams fold for the next few years (see earlier Speed Motorsport News update) and Ligier changing to Peugeot for the 1998 season and beyond, it is not inconceivable that engine suppliers to Formula one could be weaving a merry dance of musical chairs come ‘Driver swoppsy’ time at Monza. Flavio Briatore, head of the Benetton team, sharing the same engine with Williams, and fully expecting to lose his Renault Power along with Williams when they announced their retirement from the sport, now finds himself able to renegociate a deal with Renault developer Mecachrome. However it is believed that he has been wooing Mugen Honda in the light of the former Ligier teams switch to Peugeot next year. Briatore with several financial fingers in both Benetton and Prost (formerly Ligier) pies, is expected to do the right thing and sign with Honda to supply his Benetton cars.

This leaves Renault with a single customer shortage. Whilst no one in their right minds would turn down the opportunity of sticking one of those mercurial bits of metal behind their drivers, it is by no means a forgone conclusion that Mecachrome, in close consultation with Renault, would sell their engines to just any team. Sauber are in bed now with Ferrari, Tyrell and Stewart are happy so far with Ford and McLaren are tight with Mercedes. The only team that desperately needs an engine that works, like Santa needs a sleigh to deliver presents, is TWR. The Yamaha they are currently running has proved so unreliable in testing that it seems doubtful whether they will finish any of their races this year. With Damon Hill a knowledgeable user of the Renault engine and an excellent test driver in his own right, and the money that team owner Tom Walkenshaw could probably put up, would make an interesting scenario for Mecachrome, to power his team back to the forefront of the game. It also has to be noted that Williams were rumoured to be in touch with former F1 supplier BMW who have stated that it would be at least two years before they could be ready to enter the fray. This could still be the case as the ever shrewd Boss Frank Williams is cementing his German credentials with last year’s signing of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and, who knows, when Michael Schumacher gets tired of Ferrari, or even his brother Ralf, coming to the end of his contract at Jordan, to make it a double German line up by the time BMW is ready. Team performances by mid season should give a clear indication as to where these engines will go next year.


A photograph taken by Paul-Henri Cabier seconds before Ayrton Senna’s fatal crash at Imola in 1994 shows a small piece of wreckage directly in the path of Senna’s Williams car, though to be part of a Benetton car involved in an earlier collision. However Judge Maurizio Passarini said," Even if the picture is reliable, it doesn’t change the Prosecutors conviction that the cause of the accident was that the steering column ruptured." Williams Grand Prix engineering have elected not to comment before the trial in Imola which started yesterday(20th).

As court proceedings started (see seperate story), the team concluded their testing at Estoril with Heinz-Harald Frentzen topping the times. It was fairly predictable that it would be a Williams that would break all the records and following Frentzen’s time of 1.18.68, team mate Jacques Villeneuve in the other Williams, posted second fastest, with a record time of 1.18.36 on the previous day.

UPROAR IN SENNA COURT CASE (c) 1997 Agence France-Presse

(Feb 20, 1997)

The trial of Frank Williams on manslaughter charges over the death of the Brazilian motor racing champion Ayrton Senna was threatened with collapse the moment it opened yesterday (Thursday, February 20) when a lawyer for an accused member of the Williams Formula One team claimed the prosecution had "scandalously" failed to observe legal procedures.

Professor Luigi Stortoni, representing Adrian Newey, the Williams team chief designer, told a stunned courtroom that Newey had never been told he was under investigation -- as required by Italian law -- and had been questioned five months after Senna's death during the San Marino Grand Prix in May 1994 "as a witness, not as a suspect, without the presence of a lawyer."

Newey's evidence was therefore inadmissable and the charges against him should be dropped. Lawyers representing Williams and Patrick Head, his technical director, said that if the judge threw out the charges against Newey the whole case against both the Williams team and Imola track directors could crumble. "Newey gave evidence on the re-welded steering wheel, which the prosecution says was the cause of Senna's death," Oreste Dominioni, Williams's Italian lawyer, told the court. "If his evidence is withdrawn, the whole of the 500-page technical report is compromised."

None of the Williams team attended yesterday's hearing. Williams "might appear" at a later hearing next month when Signor Passarini presents his case. Damon Hill, the reigning champion, was among 44 witnesses named yesterday.

The Trial was adjourned until the 28th of Feb.

Chris Richardson

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