Motor racing: Who's new and what's new: Six gear changes for the Grand Prix season
Sunday 28 February 1999
For Tyrrell, read BAR, or British American Racing. And for BAR, read controversy. The new team have already made quite an impact. Boss Craig Pollock set up his British American Tobacco-funded team to run the two cars in different cigarette liveries, but FIA refused. Even Pollock's compromise half-and-half livery may not go down well. After Melbourne BAR must go before the World Motor Sport Council to answer charges of acting in a manner "injurious to the governing body". They might yet be banned from a few races.
The calendar changes yet again. Financial problems and the unexpected and unexplained disappearance of driver Esteban Tuero from Formula One have removed the Argentine GP, but Malaysia will host a race in October on the bespoke Sepang circuit. The circus's first visit to South-east Asia has evoked much excitement, especially as the Pacific Rim market place is a strong tobacco arena in an age where restrictions become ever stricter in Europe. China's aspirations for a race fell at the logistical hurdle.
There was a time when a struggling team faced extinction, but this is now a big business. When death's door appeared to beckon Arrows late last year it was only a matter of time before somebody stepped in. Enter Prince Malik Ado Ibrahim and Morgan Grenfell Private Equity, who joined with Tom Walkinshaw to acquire control. The Prince, the third son of a Nigerian tribal king, says breaking Formula One's mould has given him pleasure. "It hasn't attracted young black men. I want to change that," he said.
This time last year the drivers cursed the FIA's decision to insist all tyres had grooves, a move which was designed to reduce cornering speeds. At that time the rear tyres had to have four grooves, the fronts three. Gradually, drivers got used to them, and the fight between Goodyear and Bridgestone ensured that lap times challenged, and sometimes beat, the previous season's. Now Goodyear have gone, and the front tyres need four grooves. And the drivers are complaining again. What goes around comes around.
RALF AT WILLIAMS
The last time Sir Frank Williams changed both his drivers at the same time was in 1993, when Alain Prost and Damon Hill replaced Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese. Now Alex Zanardi and Ralf Schumacher depose Villeneuve and Frentzen. At Jordan, Michael's younger brother had a reputation as a bit of a wild man; at Williams thus far they cannot speak highly enough of a young man on his way. "He's doing a great job," Sir Frank chuckled. "And I'm delighted he's done much of his learning at somebody else's expense."
Remember the Belgian GP at Spa, where it wasn't just torrential rain that fell out of the sky, but a dozen wheels and tyres after the dramatic first-lap crash, which involved most of the field? To reduce the risk again, the FIA have introduced a rule requiring retention cables to prevent wheels detaching themselves completely from the car during an accident. Johnny Herbert tested them thoroughly in Spain last week, when his Stewart retained all four wheels after a mammoth shunt.
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