The Virtual Racing Career of Nathan van Dijk

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Re: The Virtual Racing Career of Nathan van Dijk

Postby BassTrombone » 14 Sep 2020, 20:38

Your monthly source for racing news, stories and rumors | Wednesday 5th June, 1996

The Silly Season has Started

Although the current season is not even halfway done, much work in the paddock is already being done for 1997. And of course, the spread of rumors cannot be avoided, especially when speaking about one of the most asked questions: who drives where next year? With only eight drivers already under contract for next year and, if all the announced teams make it to the grid, 32 seats to fill, there is a lot to talk and gossip about. Furthermore, the teams will need an engine to power their cars as well. Grand Prix News tells you per team what we know and what we heard.

Ferrari is the only team where everything seems sure. Obviously they will keep Ferrari engines, but both Michael Schumacher (until '98) and Eddie Irvine ('97) have a contract for next year. The only way something might change, is if Schumacher is bought out of his contract by Williams or McLaren, but it seems more likely that he continues his Ferrari project.
Confirmed: Ferrari
Confirmed: Michael Schumacher, Eddie Irvine

Both Renault and Jacques Villeneuve have a deal for 1997 with Williams. The biggest mystery is the other seat at the championship-leading team. Damon Hill is Williams' current lead driver, although he is behind his team mate in the standings. Hill does not have a contract for next year, though. Heinz-Harald Frentzen is strongly rumored to have already signed a contract with the team. A perhaps less likely story is that Williams is looking to buy Mika Hakkinen out of his contract with McLaren. Renault is said to desire a French driver, which would make Olivier Panis an outsider to snatch the seat as well.
Confirmed: Renault
Confirmed: Jacques Villeneuve
Likely: Heinz-Harald Frentzen/Damon Hill
Rumored: Mika Hakkinen/Olivier Panis

Benetton looks to have suffered from the departure of Michael Schumacher and Rory Byrne, although the Italo-British team seems to have recovered a little bit over the last few races. Renault still has a contract for one more year with them and Jean Alesi was recently rewarded with a contract extension for 1997 as well. Johnny Herbert's future is a little less certain at the moment. He was expected to lead Benetton's title charge this year, but so far, Alesi is the main candidate for it. Meanwhile, Italian youngster Giancarlo Fisichella is showing at Minardi that he deserves a better seat in F1.
Confirmed: Renault
Confirmed: Jean Alesi
Likely: Giancarlo Fisichella/Johnny Herbert

1996 should have been the year Jordan really closed the gap to the top, but it has been slightly disappointing so far. Peugeot will stay for 1997 nevertheless, although that may well be their final year together. Jordan has not signed any drivers for next year. Rubens Barrichello is performing maybe better than ever and he should be likely to stay. However, some say the Brazilian is not happy anymore at the Irish team and he is looking for new possibilities. Brundle looks unlikely to stay, unless he improves a lot in the second half of the season, while the team may have a golden opportunity to sign Damon Hill if he is dropped by Williams. Eddie Jordan is said to be looking for a new young talent. Ralf Schumacher, Michael's younger brother, has sparked Eddie's interest, while Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Nathan van Dijk may be possibilities as well. The wildest, yet still persisting rumor is that Nigel Mansell is plotting a comeback.
Confirmed: Peugeot
Likely: Rubens Barrichello/Ralf Schumacher
Rumored: Nathan van Dijk/Heinz-Harald Frentzen/Damon Hill/Nigel Mansell

Although McLaren hold a solid 3rd position in the constructors' championship, the gap with the top teams is disappointingly big. Mercedes is yet to confirm their plans in F1, although it is getting more and more likely that Ron Dennis can convince them to stay and invest. McLaren's drivers are already signed: Hakkinen has a contract until the end of 1997; Coulthard even until '98.
Likely: Mercedes
Confirmed: Mika Hakkinen, David Coulthard

Things are still quite uncertain at Sauber at the moment. The Swiss team is trying to secure another deal with Ford for V10 engines, but DFC's money and the influence of Ford do Brasil may prevent that. Another possibility is that Sauber's sponsor Petronas rebadges V10 engines, which would then most likely come from Hart or Judd (the current Yamaha engines). Sauber did already sign their current driver Gerhard Berger for another year, rewarding the Austrian for a solid season so far. Heinz-Harald Frentzen is under consideration at teams higher up the grid and is likely to leave the team. His successor could almost be anyone at this moment, although the names of both Dutch F1 drivers are being mentioned, among some others.
Likely: Ford
Rumored: Hart/Judd (Yamaha)
Confirmed: Gerhard Berger
Rumored: Nathan van Dijk/Tom Kristensen/Jörg Müller/Jos Verstappen

The biggest uncertainty at Ligier is who will own the team next year. The French government would love to make the team all-French again, but they will still have Mugen-Honda engines next year. Olivier Panis is also already contracted for 1997, but his team mate is less certain. So far, Luca Badoer's performances have not been that impressive and Mugen, or rather Honda, is willing to pay to give a Japanese driver a seat. Several Formula Nippon stars' names have been dropped lately. A French youngster such as Laurent Redon could also be an option.
Confirmed: Mugen-Honda
Confirmed: Olivier Panis
Likely: Luca Badoer
Rumored: Emmanuel Collard/Naoki Hattori/Shinji Nakano/Laurent Redon/Toranosuke Takagi

The small Minardi team may currently be working more on surviving this year, than preparing for 1997. After the sponsor issues with Taki Inoue, it looks likely that the Italians will need to sign a pay driver to finish the season. A cheap V8 engine and at least one driver with deep pockets will be required next year.
Likely: Cosworth (Ford)/Hart
Rumored: Norberto Fontana/Pedro Lamy/Andrea Montermini/Pedro de la Rosa/Ricardo Rosset

The same applies to Simtek as to Minardi. The team is in serious financial trouble and they will need money. Strangely, Taki Inoue's name is still mentioned by several sources when talking about the small British team. Deals with drivers and an engine supplier will be highly dependant on a possible investor.
Likely: Cosworth (Ford)
Likely: Andrea Montermini
Rumored: Naoki Hattori/Taki Inoue/Elton Julian

Tyrrell's deal with Yamaha is uncertain at the moment. Mutual disappointment and lack of budget may force Yamaha out of the Surrey-based team. Hart or Cosworth customer V8s look like the only feasible alternative, even though both scenarios would be a step backwards. Mika Salo will stay at the team, looking to further improve his performances. Ukyo Katayama's season has been disappointing so far, as he has been largely outperformed by his young team mate. Tyrrell is most probably looking for a new young talent, although Ken Tyrrell also still holds his former test driver, Emmanuel Collard, in high regard.
Likely: Cosworth (Ford)/Hart/Yamaha
Confirmed: Mika Salo
Rumored: Kenny Bräck/Emmanuel Collard/Tom Kristensen/Jan Magnussen/Gianni Morbidelli/Jörg Müller/Vincenzo Sospiri/Jos Verstappen

Tom Walkinshaw is highly ambitious with Arrows. According to some, he is even looking to start in-house engine development on the longer term. The easiest way to achieve that is to buy an existing engine program, such as Hart's or Yamaha's. The ambitions are no less on the driver front: a big budget is said to be available to sign one or two big names. Jos Verstappen may be a relatively cheap second driver; the Dutchman performing well with an underwhelming car so far. Several more or less realistic names are rumored for the first driver seat, with the wildest rumor probably being that Walkinshaw is in negotiations with Damon Hill. A paydriver would then be required to pay his salary, though.
Likely: Hart/Yamaha
Likely: Jos Verstappen
Rumored: Rubens Barrichello/Mark Blundell/Martin Brundle/Gil de Ferran/Damon Hill/Pedro Lamy

DFC is yet another ambitious project. A deal for Ford V10s is all but signed, although Mugen-Honda and Yamaha rumors are persistent, as well as talks about a customer Mercedes deal. The owner's son Pedro Diniz has unsurprisingly extended his contract with the team for two more years. Nathan van Dijk is almost consistently outperforming Diniz in the races, but DFC's plan is to sign a big Brazilian star from F1, F3000 or CART. If that plan proves to be too ambitious at this moment, Van Dijk looks the most likely candidate.
Likely: Ford
Rumored: Mercedes/Mugen-Honda/Yamaha
Confirmed: Pedro Diniz
Likely: Nathan van Dijk/Christian Fittipaldi
Rumored: Rubens Barrichello/Gil de Ferran/Marcos Gueiros

Larrousse DAMS
Things are rather quiet around Larrousse DAMS. The team is having a bit of a slow start on their return in F1 this year, but there seems to be no panic. A customer deal with Peugeot seems quite likely, otherwise the French team will keep the Cosworth V8s for another year. Hiro Matsushita has already a contract for next year and Emmanuel Collard looks likely to stay if he cannot find a better seat. The French sponsors will push another French talent forward if Collard leaves.
Likely: Cosworth (Ford)/Peugeot
Confirmed: Hiro Matsushita
Likely: Emmanuel Collard
Rumored: Jean-Christophe Bouillon/Laurent Redon/Christophe Tinseau

Jackie Stewart's new team looks like an interesting gamble for several drivers. Their long-term contract as a works partner of Ford gives them a good prospect, although their performance in their first year could be anything from surprisingly good to disastrous. Apart from Jordan, Stewart looks like the most likely new team for Damon Hill if he loses his seat. A driver with some years of F1 experience seems like a must for the team anyway, so Rubens Barrichello, Nathan van Dijk and Martin Brundle could be serious options. Former or current Paul Stewart Racing drivers like Ralph Firman and Jan Magnussen could join one of the experienced guys.
Confirmed: Ford
Rumored: Rubens Barrichello/Martin Brundle/Nathan van Dijk/Ralph Firman/Dario Franchitti/Damon Hill/Jan Magnussen

Dome is another new F1 project with some significant backing. In this case, it is Mugen-Honda which will provide the team with engines and it is not unlikely that Honda will take over the project in the near future to transform it into a full works team. Dome is currently testing with Shinji Nakano and Marco Apicella; both seem likely to become the race drivers for 1997. Ukyo Katayama might be an interesting alternative if he is dropped by Tyrrell.
Confirmed: Mugen-Honda
Likely: Marco Apicella/Shinji Nakano
Rumored: Ukyo Katayama

The third team aspiring to enter F1 in 1997, is Lola. Whether or not they will make it to the entry list, is highly dependant on their search for a main sponsor. At this moment, it is anyone's guess which engines and which drivers they will have. Allan McNish is an educated guess, as he tested for Lola last year. A paydriver to join him is in the line of expectations.
Rumored: Cosworth (Ford)/Judd (Yamaha)
Rumored: Giovanni Lavaggi/Allan McNish/Ricardo Rosset

Short but Sweet

Australian GP will be season opener again in 1997 • First Bridgestone tests to be done by Verstappen this week • Shannon to buy Simtek already this year? • Designer Chris Murphy joins Lola
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