F1 Newsround - 21/July/1997   HomeContentsHelp



Testing news from Monza


Unhappy Schumacher crashes

Fisichella sets early pace with a new body

Berger back on form suffers from too much gas


14th July - There was a mass scuttle by most of the teams to Monza after the British Grand Prix and no doubt a great many questions needed to be answered after a race of high attrition in which only half the field finished.

After its unlucky showing at Silverstone, Ferrari were there at the crack of dawn, Monday for four days working in preparation for the German Grand Prix on 27th July at Hockenheim. Eddie Irvine kicked off testing but only managed 16 laps before rain brought an early end to the test. The Irishman began work on the set-up of the F310B on the Monza track, setting a best time of 1m 26.411s.

New Benetton protégée Alex Wurz covered just eight laps to shake down a gearbox in preparation for the German Grand Prix on 27 July.

15th July - Ferrari was visited by Fiat's Honorary President, Gianni Agnelli, who spoke to the engineers and mechanics, taking an interest in the outcome of the testing and the way data passes from the car to the pits via telemetry. Asked to comment on the race at Silverstone, Agnelli said he was satisfied with the performance and described Ferrari's unfortunate retirement as "one of those things that happens in racing."

Michael Schumacher, working on different suspension settings on his F 310 B, suffered an exploded left rear tyre after he ran over a piece of metal debris at 300kph as he approached the Parabolica right-hander. The German was testing new suspension components and completed 56 laps for a best time of 1m 24.93s After the test, Schumacher said, "The opposition was very fast. Our car is well balanced and we still have other things to try. "

Giancarlo Fisichella set the early pace for Jordan-Peugeot. The team had a good day completing a total of 79 laps with a best time of 1m 23.85s. Fisichella tried low downforce specification bodywork and concentrated on a Goodyear tyre test programme. At the end of the day, he did a practice start and then a slow lap during which he went off lightly, damaging the car's front wing.

Both Jean Alesi and Alex Wurz made progress for Benetton, on mechanical set-ups and concentrated on engine development and aerodynamic work. Throughout the afternoon they practised pit approaches and stops on most of their 'in' laps. Alesi covered 23 timed laps for a best time of 1m 25.46s with Wurz covering 33 laps with a best of 1m 26.07s.

Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard began their testing for McLaren where Coulthard had a high speed accident after three laps in the morning, damaging the back end of his MP4/12, bodywork and the underfloor. The car was repaired and he managed 1m 24.42s best. Mika Hakkinen also left the circuit, damaging his car's left front corner, and managed a 1m 25.63s best. The team used a mixture of E and F spec-Mercedes engines on Tuesday and Wednesday after which the latest F-spec engine was flown out overnight for Hakkinen to sample later in the week.

Jacques Villeneuve and Heinz-Harald Frentzen commenced testing low downforce aerodynamic set-ups for Williams, in preparation for both the German and Italian Grands Prix - specifically, wing settings for Hockenheim and an assessment of whether or not the FW19s will run with their deflectors on the rear bodywork. Frentzen completed a total of 37 laps for a best time of 1m 24.13s with Silverstone winner, Villeneuve, covering 43 laps to record a best of 1m 24.33s.

16th July - A long run was planned for Ferrari on Wednesday afternoon, but it was not completed due to strange rear-end vibrations which turned out to be a suspected gearbox problem. His best time on his second day, was 1m 25.44s. The car was closely examined in the pits and the team decided to postpone the scheduled run until Thursday. Schumacher covered a total of 33 laps, all of them in race trim, with a best time of 1m 25.4s

Ralf Schumacher in the Jordan-Peugeot, did a 1m 24.35s, spinning once on the exit of the first chicane which caused minor suspension damage. New body work developed after aerodynamic testing for the area around the front of the rear wheels, proved hugely successful and will run on the car for the German Grand Prix.

Composite manager Tom Anderson explained, "The new body work gives us aerodynamic performance gain which was shown by the wind tunnel and has now been confirmed by the Monza test. It will help the straight line speed of the car and it will now be current for all races and all circuits, making the old bodywork obsolete." He continued, "The three piece body kit will enable mechanics to take away the centre section leaving the side parts on and adjust the dampers and roll-bar area far faster." It is understood that Jordan have also upgraded their front wing packages especially for the high speed circuits of Hockenheim. Monza and possibly Spa.

A newly fit Gerhard Berger returned to his duties with Benetton on Wednesday after a six weeks' absence. Back into good form and feeling comfortable with the car, he spent much of the day working on mechanical set up, concentrating in the afternoon on rear suspension geometry. A stuck throttle however gave him an unwelcome homecoming moment. "I was approaching the Roggia chicane, braking from 300kph when the throttle stayed open," he said. "It was the scariest moment of my life as there is not enough run-off at that corner. Probably, I went on the clutch a bit too late and I was lucky to get the left front wheel on the grass. That made the car spin five or six times and I ended up at the exit of the chicane, the car pointing in the race direction and the throttle wide open."

Berger, who’s enforced absence from the last three Grands Prix due to a sinus infection, said he had no intention of retiring when his contract expires at the end of the season. "I'm a driver and I want to keep on racing," he said. Berger also stated that he had been having talks with Williams and expected to race for at least another couple of years.

He covered 31 timed laps for a best time of 1m 24.55s and is confident that he can be competitive in Hockenheim. Alesi managed a 1m 24.39s after trying a low downforce aerodynamic programme in the afternoon.

Frentzen covered 45 laps for a 1m 24.86s with Villeneuve completing 63 laps for a 1m 23.84s.

After 83 laps the previous day, Johnny Herbert managed to produce the best time of Wednesday's Monza test times with the Sauber-Petronas with a 1m 23.73s. Team director Max Welti described it as a very positive test, but added; "You cannot carry over completely the experience gained at Monza for Hockenheim as the German track is much more bumpy."

Herbert drove 75 laps then suffered an engine failure, the first experienced this season. The team was concentrating on high-speed aerodynamic configurations and Norberto Fontana continued the test on Thursday.

17th July - This was the fourth and final day of Monza testing for Ferrari, with Schumacher driving. In the morning, the German did 14 laps, working on various front suspension settings. In the afternoon he tackled the postponed race distance simulation. With the F 310 B (chassis 172) fitted with a new engine, He was still unable to complete the run. Having done 46 of the 53 laps that constitute an Italian Grand Prix distance, the engine began to lose power and the test was curtailed. His best lap time was 1m 24.958s. "I am unhappy," said Michael. "If we cannot complete a full simulation, it means we have relaxed a little bit and must work even harder to examine the components which have failed."

Schumacher Junior improved to 1m 23.20s after only five laps and three laps later, the Peugeot V10 failing. He later had another minor off-track moment when he went over a kerb and the team decided to finish running for the day.

Alesi completed his testing at Monza with a suspension and aerodynamic programme, producing a best time of 1m 23.74s after 37 timed laps. Berger concentrated on brake development and general set-up work and managed 1m 24.53s after 55 timed laps.

Hakkinen tested alone today, successfully completing a race distance run in the hot conditions using an F-spec Mercedes engine.

Frentzen got down to 1m 23.69s Thursday afternoon, Villeneuve setting a best time of 1m 25.46s both in FW19’s.



Also at Monza..


With seven engine failures over the British Grand Prix weekend, four of which took out all Cosworth powered cars in the race, the Tyrrell team reported successful testing on Wednesday and Thursday with Mika Salo driving. Using an ED5 Cosworth engine his best time was 1m 25.8s. On the last day he tried the team's narrow track development car on grooved tyres for a best time of 1m 30.2s, saying that he found the car "much improved" since he last tried it.

The Prost team was at Monza from Monday until Thursday working on a low downforce aerodynamic configuration as well as testing tyres. A much improved Shinji Nakano ran the first two days then Olivier Panis replacement Jarno Trulli took over till Thursday lunchtime. In the afternoon Nakano returned, but driving a narrow track '98 development car with grooved tyres, suffered a broken gearbox.


At Fiorano, Eddie Irvine carried out a series of tests in preparation for the Hungarian Grand Prix. The Irish driver did 41 laps of Ferrari's private track suffering some minor hydraulic problems and set a best time of 1m 00.525s. Irvine will test at Fiorano until Saturday.


Grooved testing at Silverstone

Further improvement for Tyrrell-Ford

Hill cools it


Meanwhile, at Silverstone Jean-Christophe Boullion was out testing ‘Skinny Lizzy’ the narrow-track Williams 1998 test car, on grooved dry weather rubber. He completed around 30 laps on Tuesday and 40 laps on Wednesday.

New test signing, Nick Heidfeld began testing with the 1998 spec test chassis, a revised McLaren MP4/11.

In a less publicised showing than the British Grand Prix, Rubens Barrichello continued the development work on Ford's P7 spec version of the Zetec-R V10 engine in order to help prepare the Stewart team to field both cars using these engines, at the forthcoming German Grand Prix. Barrichello completed 58 laps with a best time of 1m 24.7s which encouraged the team to use the latest spec engine at Hockenheim. Jan Magnussen ran on Tuesday and asked for changes to his P6 spec-engined car with a low downforce specification. Magnussen was quite happy to have equalled his British GP fastest lap of 1m 25.5s.

Fresh from his first points score of the season, Damon Hill approved a new cooling system for the Yamaha D-spec V10 engine at Silverstone on Wednesday when he assessed the system installed in the Arrows A18 test car. He ran the car equipped with '97 spec tyres in the morning and ’98 spec grooved tyres in the afternoon. With the grooved tyres Hill's best lap was a 1m 28.30s with 50kg of fuel aboard. After some further modifications to the cooling system overnight, Hill managed a 1m 24.46s on a '97 set-up.

Arrows also continued its test programme with Pedro Diniz and official test driver Jorg Muller. The Brazilian drove the team's spare car powered by a C-spec Yamaha engine. His best time came on Wednesday when he clocked 1m 23.78s during the 27 laps he completed during the afternoon after a lunchtime engine change. Muller completed 58 laps for a best of 1m 25.73s during which he carried out the preliminary tests on the revised cooling system which employs two similar water radiators and a heat exchanger system for the engine oil. Preliminary evaluation suggests that it slight decreases the oil temperature but has an opposite effect on the water.



Prost to move ‘or quit’

Alain Prost, frustrated by delays in the transferral of his team from their old ‘Ligier’ headquarters at Magny Cours to Versailles near Paris, has threatened to quit the Formula 1 team if he is forced to yield to Political pressure.

"All I care for is to win." He told a French newspaper last week "If I'm prevented from winning, I will draw all the necessary consequences." The Magny-Cours area is dominated by the ruling Socialist party, while the right wing supported Versailles area, is a traditional stronghold of French president Jacques Chirac.

"It was a businessman's decision to leave," Said Prost. "Looking back, you'll realise Ligier were not efficient enough. It was due to their isolation,"

His claim that his move from Magny Cours to Versailles was blocked by a resettlement committee helping firms establish themselves in the French provinces, seems to be valid as it was Guy Ligier’s friendship with former President Francois Mitterrand that decided on their original location in the Socialist hot-bed around Nevers.

Prost made an announcement that his team was moving back in June and coincidentally, prior to the French General Election and has been regarded in some quarters as a political decision.


Berger’s father dies in aircrash


Gerhard Berger’s 62 year old father Johann, was killed in an aircrash in Austria last week. He apparently became disorientated in foggy conditions and crashed the private plane into a hill shortly after taking off. Benetton boss Flavio Briatore said, "We know how close Gerhard was to his father. Our thoughts are with him." Whilst considerably distraught, it is understood that Berger will continue his commitments with team Benetton and he rejoined them at the Monza testing session last week after his enforced absence due to sinus infections.


Flavio signs Fisichella


Benetton Team boss Flavio Briatore is rumoured to have signed 24-year-old Giancarlo Fisichella to drive for the team in 1988. Current Jordan Peugeot driver, Fisichella, has been impressive in his first full year in Formula 1and it has long been suspected that Briatore, who also manages the Italian, would take up his option on the driver. It is expected that he will replace Jean Alesi who is rumoured to be in talks with the Prost team.

Once again the uncanny knack of Team boss Eddie Jordan to spot rising talent has given others the opportunity to capitalise on their talents. Jordan was first to sign the likes of Eddie Irvine, Jean Alesi and Michael Schumacher. Speculation is rife that he may also lose Ralf Schumacher to McLaren possibly in an exchange deal that will fund a seat for Damon Hill.



Jordan grab Mugen-Honda deal


Jordan have finally confirmed what everyone has expected, that they have signed a deal with Mugen-Honda for an engine supply for the next two years. It is not expected that Honda will supply any other team. A delighted Eddie Jordan flew in from Japan on the eve of the British Grand Prix and announced the signing. He would not confirm that he had to use a Japanese driver as part of the package. With Fisichella expected to be on his way to Benetton at the end of the year, a place would exist, but with the current crop of average Oriental drivers available, it would negate the advantage of a quick engine.



TWR nowhere to go but down?


With the final engine deal going to Jordan, it now looks almost impossible for Tom Walkinshaw’s Arrows team to secure a competitive engine for next year. Mecachrome/Renault, it seems, are content to let sleeping dogs lie and keep both Williams and Benetton supplied for the next couple of years at least, whilst Peugeot, never on the cards even as a customer engine, will go exclusively to the Prost team. Ford, contracted to Stewart and supplying Tyrrell with earlier evolution units, are not in the market to supply a second customer team. The under-funded Hart would need considerable development to get their V10 competitive and a large cash injection and would probably offer no greater benefit than the engine they currently use. With rumours of Yamaha quitting for a two year sabbatical to regroup and let the laughing die down, Walkinshaw has little choice but to go it alone with his own development engine.

Newly signed technical director John Barnard has apparently ‘known for at least six weeks’ what engine they will be using next year. If it is to be Yamaha, it will continue to be prepared by TWR partners Judd and will not be badged with the team name.

Maybe Barnard could let Damon Hill in on the secret so that he can pack his bags early. Whatever options Walkinshaw has left, is not likely to appeal to Hill who needs a car to challenge for the championship again.




Bridgestone renew tyre contracts


Bridgestone tyre supplier announced last week that it will continue to supply tyres to the same four teams in 1998. The remaining teams have contracts with Goodyear until the end of next season and it is understood that should any teams wish to change to the Japanese company’s tyres there would be severe penalties to pay before their contracts expire.



And finally... more driver rumours


It seems the whole of the Formula 1 paddock is waiting to see where Damon Hill sits down in the annual game of musical chairs. His name so far has been linked with practically every team except Arrows and even old boss Frank Williams, seriously disappointed with the performance of Heinz Harald Frentzen this year, could actually admit to making a judgement error in signing the German and make amends by bringing back the Englishman. This would generate higher TV viewing figures with the prospect of Hill battling old adversary Michael Schumacher again. It is understood that Renault technical director Bernard Dudot said that ‘Williams would be leading the championship’ by now if Hill had remained with the Grove based team.

Both Sauber and Prost have expressed an interest in his services but it is now expected that Jean Alesi will take the seat at Prost, powered by Peugeot next year, alongside Olivier Panis. Sauber, whilst fairly reliable, has this year, been a disappointment and could not be considered by Hill, to be a car to win races despite its Petronas-badged Ferrari powerplant.

A move to Benetton now seems unlikely with the expected signing of Fisichella to replace Alesi and the likelihood of Berger a): retiring or b): moving on, would only motivate boss Briatore to employ the talents of far cheaper drivers such as Jarno Trulli or current hotshot and test driver Alex Wurz.

McLaren has always been his best option. With Mika Hakkinen, despite recent fine performances, yet to score a victory for the team, it is likely that the Finn could find his way to Sauber leaving Hill to Join forces once again with David Coulthard, who last week hinted that it would be ‘great to have him as a team mate again.‘ The sticking point within McLaren however, is Mercedes, who are desperate for a German driver. This could be Frentzen if Williams do not take up their option on him for next year or, more likely, Ralf Schumacher. This would make Eddie Jordan’s humiliation complete, being also expected to lose star protégée Giancarlo Fisichella to Benetton next year. Hill could however, grab the German’s seat at Jordan, as it is well known that Jordan was disappointed that he could not afford him last year. Hill will be aware of the fact that had he signed with the Silverstone based team, he could conceivably have been in contention for the Championship at this stage.

Apart from Williams, the latter two teams seem to be the only options worth considering and it would be a wise team boss to make the offer before Walkinshaw has another go at holding on to him for another inglorious year.



Chris Richardson


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