F1 News Leader
Date: 27 November 1997, 19:00 GMT
Villeneuve criticizes rule changes
(c) 1997 Copyright MWEB
(c) 1997 Reuters
Location: WIENER NEUDORF, Austria
Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve on Thursday renewed his criticism of the sport's rulemakers, saying they make Grand Prix auto racing too easy.
According to the Austrian press agency, Villeneuve sees Ferrari's Michael Schumacher as his biggest competition next season. But the Williams driver criticized new FIA rules. He said they make cars slower and easier to drive, giving even average drivers more of a chance.
"Before the cars were real monsters, now they look more like Formula-3 cars," said the Canadian, who has said in the past that rules changes unnecessarily took many of the risks out of the sport.
Villeneuve will drive a new, bright red Williams next Wednesday at Barcelona, Spain.
Portugal determined to save Estoril race
© 1997 MWEB
© 1997 Reuters
Next year's Estoril Formula One grand prix is to go ahead as planned despite a court ruling threatening to stall it, Portuguese officials said on Thursday .
The International Automobile Federation (FIA) dropped Estoril from the 1997 calendar because promised repair work to the twisting track outside Lisbon was not completed on time.
But under a subsequent accord between FIA and Portugal's Economy Ministry, Estoril was to be reinstated in 1998 providing the work was completed by next spring.
But a decision by the Court of Accounts, the country's financial watchdog, to reject terms of a deal between the government and real estate group Autodril, former owners of the circuit, could mean another red flag for the race.
"Of course the grand prix is going to take place," said new Economy Minister Joaquim Pina Moura, who took over this week from Alberto Mateus in a government reshuffle.
"We will ensure that all the conditions are met for Formula One to return to Estoril as planned in 1998," he told journalists.
The court has objected to clauses in the contract with Autodril under which the government agreed to buy a controlling stake in the track.
In particular, it opposed the granting of "emergency" status to the repairs, something which allowed the awarding of contracts directly without any need for competitive tenders.
Work has started, but the court ruling blocks any payment being made to the contractors.
Government officials have warned that halting the building work and putting it out to tender at this stage could leave insufficient time for the deadline to be met.
The repairs include alterations to the paddock and various spectator facilities, as well as enhanced run-off areas.
Damon Hill is not too happy with the fact that Goodyear will retire at end of 1998. He fears that Goodyear will slow down the pace of their development work as they ease down their involvement in the sport.
The former world champion said that he is hoping Goodyear will sustain the pace of their development work.
Crisis for Stewart
The Malaysian Tourist Bourd, who backed the Stewart team has withdrawn from the team due to unsatisfactory results in the 1997 season.
According to sources, Stewart's second major sponsor, Texaco, are also unsatisfied with the results of the team in 1997.
How this sponsorship withdrawel will effect Stewart is not known. Ford will most likely make up any shortfall in the short term, but it is unlikely that they will keep on doing it for the full season.
New technical rules
The throttle system, introduced this season by Ferrari, have been banned from the start of next season by the FIA who decided that it was too close to the traction control system of the car.
It was also decided that the pre-programmed electronic brake balance changers could stay if they only alter the balance front to rear, and not side to side.
Another decision made at the meeting was that grooved tyres would be tested before they were used, rather than after,and that the tyres would have to be constructed allowing no performance advantage from running on tyres which grooves had been worn down.
Unlikely test at Kyalami
The agreement of all the teams were required by the FIA for the test at Kyalami to be held in the New Year.
Several teams refused to agree due to the fact that they will not have sufficient time to build up the spares needed for the new cars to be able to test properly.
Tyrrell deal on hold
The attempts by BAT to buy Tyrrell have been taking consideribly longer than expected after rumors that Walter Wolf, seventies Formula One entrant, are interested in gaining control of the Ockham team.
Ken Tyrrell, founder of the Tyrrell team, already rejected an offer from Wolf who is believed to have offered them 10 million pounds earlier this month. Wolf told Austrian sources that the Bat consortium outbid him with an offer of 18 million pounds which has yet to be accepted.
According to sources, the current technical director for the Tyrrell team, Harvey Postlethwaite who owns 10 per cent of the team, may retain his position if the team is taken over by BAT and Reynard. However, it is said that the Bicester marque's chief designer Malcolm Oastler will be designing the teams cars from 1999.
BAT views Tyrrell as a vehicle on which to base a Formula One superteam in partnership with Reynard and the management team of Jacques Villeneuve, consisting of Craig Pollock and Julian Jakobi. Rumours have it that BAT will paint the cars each in a colour of one of their two cigarette brands - 555 and Lucky Strike-.
Last week Tyrrell staff were told that their jobs will not be affected this year.
Winter testing for the team is sceduled to start on December 9 in Barcelona where Tora Takagi will be testing a narrow-track 025.
Boullion to return to F1
Jean-Christophe Boullion, former test driver for the Williams team, is under series consideration for a Tyrrell drive in 1998 if the team is taken over by BAT.
He seems to be a strong contender because of the testing that he has done for Williams with a narrow-track chassis, new grooved tyres and the fact that a French driver will be attractive to Mecachrome.
Ayari joins William's list
Williams' assessment programme held next week at Barcelona has added a new driver to their list. He is the Macau GP winner, Soheil Ayari.
Ayari will join his fellow F3000 contenders, Juan Pablo Montoya, Max Wilson and British F3000 runner-up Nicolas Minassian for the chance to be the Williams Formula One test driver for 1998.
The Williams team will take two FW19 chassis to use at Barcelona for the four possible test drivers on Monday, December 1 and Tuesday, December 2.
Jacques Villeneuve and Heinz-Harald Frentzen will be using the Williams team's interim FW18D chassis and a narrow-track FW19 during the test.
Zonta to test for McLaren
Ricardo Zonta, Formula 3000 champion, will be a test driver for the McLaren Formula One team during 1998.
Zonta have reportedly signed a deal with Wocking team to conduct developing work for them next year and possibly race in the FIA GT series for Mercedes.
The Brazilian has done extensive testing on a narrow-track Jordan this season.
Zonta's manager, Geraldo Rodriguez, said that they think that is important for Zonta to race next season and not just test. He denied that a deal was already in place and stated that they have three options.
It is expected that Nick Heidfeld, McLaren-Mercedes Formula 3000 driver, will also assist with the test programme.
Schumacher triumphs despite FIA ruling
Despite being kicked out of the world championship, Michael Schumacher was declared king of the inaugural Champion World Driver Rankings.
Schumacher's position at the top of the Champion's inter-formula contest was debated after the collision between himself and World Champion, Jacques Villeneuve at Jerez, but it was decided that he should retain the unofficial crown.
John Watson, former British GP winner and panel chairman said that the rankings are only dependent on race results and that they were not altered by the FIA ruling.
CHAMPION WORLD DRIVER RANKINGS - THE FINAL SCORE
Awards to Frank Williams and Gerhard Berger
Frank Williams received a special Gold Medal at the BRDC's annual awards to commemorate his team's record ninth Formula One constructors title. Gerhard Berger, also at the BRDC'sannual awards received the Innes Ireland Trophy for the driver who most embodies the spirit and values of the legendary driver.
Also at the BRDC's annual awards were, Land Speed Record holder Andy Green received the John Cobb Trophy, while GT ace James Weaver won the Richard Seaman Trophy, as well as with Andy Wallace, the Earl Howe Trophy.
Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, Mark Blundell, Jonny Kane, Nicolas Minassian, Justin Bell and Andy Middlehurst also received awards at this occasion.
Laurent Redon, French F3000 driver, and Oliver Martini, Italian F3000 champion, will be testing for Minardi in Barcelona next week. Another driver night be the Argentinian, Esteban Tuero.
Andrew Gilbert-Scott, Formule Nippon pilot may begin testing with Jordan's interim Mugen Honda-engined car in Barcelona next week.
Flavio sold share in Minardi
Flavio Briatore, former Benetton team boss, sold his shares in the Minardi team because he could not sell the team to BAT, according to reports Monday.
But he said that team founder Giancarlo Minardi and Fondmetal boss Gabriele Rumi - his partners in the team after a 1996 reshuffle - refused. Rumi recently purchased Briatore's stake to make him the conclusive majority shareholder.
Briatore is left without significant interest in Formula One, but according to sources he has a close link with the Prost team.
He might move to football, but denied reports that he is about to take over Italian Series A side Napoli.
Goodyear promise new development next season
Goodyear's announcement that they will retire from Formula One at the end of the 1998 season, is a concern for all the teams who use the tyre.
They are worried that the company will not do any new development, penalizing them next season. But according to sources close to Goodyear, the company promised to continue development until they retire. We expect an announcement from Goodyear soon.
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