Archive for February, 2009

More engine tweaking

February 24th, 2009 No comments

Toyota TFf109 engineThe new engine rules for 2009 are set to be refined by the FIA to make it so teams cannot change an engine after the start of Saturday morning practice.

The regulations aimed at cutting costs were announced in December last year and limit a driver to using no more than eight engines during a Championship season.  Since then there has been some confusion as to when new engines may be used.

This latest change seems to go against FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting’s comments in a technical briefing last month which seemed to indicate he expected teams to change engines during an event:

What the teams will do is to have a Friday engine that’ll probably do the first four races or something of that nature. They’ll then take the engine out and use another one for Saturday and Sunday.

The tweak to the regulations comes from a request from the teams.  Renault’s engineering director Pat Symonds told

All the teams I’ve spoken to feel that that’s a little bit against the way we’re trying to do things, and it will mean that you will have to take more people to the races. If we blew an engine on Saturday morning, of course we have enough people to change it. But we don’t have enough people to systematically change two engines, so we don’t really want that to be the case.

I guess this makes sense.  There’s no point saving money on the number of engines used in a season if you just have to spend it again on engineers to replace two engines every weekend.  It should also make it easier for fans to keep track of the state of the engines being raced.  But it does go to show how every regulation will be exploited by the teams to the maximum extent.

I would like to see some kind of press release from the FIA that totally clarifies the 2009 engine regulations and the penalties that will be imposed.  Maybe I’ve missed something but I’m still not entirely sure what will happen when a team uses a ninth engine.  Surely they will only be penalised once and not for every race that they use the ninth engine.  Will a penalty be applied for every new engine used after engine number eight?

The engine use rules are reasonably clear now but I think the engine penalty rules could use some further clarification.

Categories: News Tags:

Force India to unveil new car

February 23rd, 2009 No comments

Force IndiaForce India will unveil their car for 2009 at the Jerez circuit in Spain this weekend, the team announced on Monday.

The VJM02 will take to the Spanish track for the first time on Sunday, before beginning its development programme ahead of the start of the season in Melbourne.

Last year’s car was powered by Ferrari and Force India have been working hard since the end of last season to adapt the VJM02 to new engine supplier Mercedes-Benz.  A deal with McLaren will also see Force India use McLaren gearboxes and KERS devices.

Technical Director, James Key has said that work on parts of the car to make the switch from Ferrari to Mercedes-Benz were fairly straightforward, while other bits were more complicated:

Some areas of the car matched very well with the new packaging requirements we had, while in other areas it was significantly different.  Effectively we have had to redesign quite a bit of the car, and starting in November, that’s been quite a major undertaking.

Categories: Cars Tags:

Williams saves weight with paint

February 23rd, 2009 No comments

Williams FW31 testing at AlgarveWilliams have announced they are extending their partnership with paint supplier PPG who have been supplying paint for Williams race cars since 2003.

When you look at a Formula One car the paint job is one of the first things you notice and getting it right can turn an average looking car into a piece of art.  But it’s not just about making a car look good.

While McLaren recently highlighted their paint partner AkzoNobel’s advances in reducing the time required to paint a new part, Williams claim that PPG have developed a paint that can give important weight savings that will translate to faster lap times on the track.

According to the Williams press release:

Every weight saving on our race cars makes a real and direct contribution to lap time and paint finishes are part of this consideration. PPG have consistently helped us maintain our finish standards while reducing the weight demand. This winter we have worked in tandem on another progression in the painting of the FW31 race cars which has enabled us to use less primer and no lacquer coat, providing another significant step forward. We value their important contribution and this new and extended agreement is both commercially and competitively welcome.

I have no doubt that, after losing the sponsorhip of Baugur, Lenovo and Petrobras, the agreement is commercially welcome but can a significant weight saving really be made from paint?

There is a (probably apocryphal) story that this is how the 1934 Mercedes Silver Arrows racing cars got their colour.  Before the introduction of sponsorship, racing cars had always been painted in the traditional colour for their country; Britain was British Racing Green, France was French Blue and Italy was, of course, Rosso Corsa.  German cars were painted White.  From 1934 onwards a maximum weight limit of 750kg was introduced and Mercedes-Benz found that their W25 weighed 751kg.  After puzzling over what they could do to lose weight, racing manager Alfred Neubauer came up with the idea of scraping off all the paint to leave the silver aluminium exposed.  This supposedly saved the 1kg required and the Silver Arrows were born.

Categories: Cars Tags: ,

Teixeira: F1 is copying A1GP

February 22nd, 2009 No comments

Tony Teixeira and Felipe Massa at Kyalami The South African round of A1GP was held at the former F1 venue of Kyalami on Sunday.  The last Formula One race to be held there was in 1993 when Alain Prost won in torrential conditions ahead of Ayrton Senna and Mark Blundell.  Only five cars made it to the chequered flag that day and Rubens Barrichello made his F1 debut.

Sixteen years later, Alain Prost’s son, Nicolas, could only manage 18th and Sunday’s feature race was won by Switzerland’s Neel Jani.

Felipe Massa was there to promote the new A1GP Powered by Ferrari car but this didn’t stop the chairman of A1GP, Tony Teixeira, accusing Formula One of stealing all the good ideas from A1GP.

Speaking to the South African Times newspaper Teixeira said that F1 is blatantly copying the ideas introduced by A1GP such as a single tyre supplier and a standard engine performance and even comparing Force India to the “World Cup of Motorsport” that A1 aims to be:

Everything we are is what Formula 1 is trying to be

He also predicts Toyota, Renault and BMW all widthdrawing from F1 in the near future.

While this is all just a bit of bluster from Teixeira, perhaps trying to deflect attention from the state of A1GP’s finances, it does provide a cautionary note.   The FIA needs to tread a fine line between cutting costs and turning Formula One into a spec-series.

Adrian Newey, Red Bull’s Chief Technical Officer, has already said the new restrictions in F1 have forced him to rethink his future in the sport and Sir Frank Williams has warned that any moves towards a spec-series could cost Formula One its drivers and fans:

If it’s to be spec cars, why not just go and buy some IndyCars? Then I think you’d find all the talent and interest would pretty quickly drift away

But I’m pretty optimistic that won’t happen.  It’s not something the team principles want and even Max Mosley seems to realise they may be taking things too far:

It’s a fault with the regulations.  They have constricted the areas where they can work to keep speeds and costs under control to the point where you get the best returns by endlessly refining every single component of the car.

It will be interesting to hear FOTA‘s view when they reveal their plans for the sport at a press conference in Geneva on March 5.

Categories: Opinion Tags: ,

All your Suzuka are belong to us

February 20th, 2009 No comments

SuzukaLike a lot of F1 fans I was sorry to see Suzuka dropped from the Formula One calendar in 2007 in favour of Toyota’s Fuji Speedway.  With its unique figure 8 layout and demanding corners, Suzuka is one of the great circuits of the world.  It’s right up there with Spa as one of the fans’ and drivers’ favourite tracks.

Thankfully, the Japanese Grand Prix returns to Suzuka this year.  In a statement outlining its 2009 automobile motor sports activities Honda, who own Suzuka, said:

Full-scale renovation work will soon be completed.  As the opening event on April 12, the Circuit will be hosting the Start Suzuka Opening Thanks Day – F1 Kick-off Party. And after a break of two years, the Grand Prix of Japan, Round 15 of the Formula One World Championship, will be held, October 2-4.

“The Start Suzuka Opening Thanks Day – F1 Kick-off Party”.  What a great piece of Engrish!  It sounded like so much fun I went to the Suzuka website to see what I could find out.  There wasn’t anything there about the F1 Kick-Off Party but it sure made interesting reading.

In June 2006 Suzuka Circuitland Co. Ltd. merged with Twin Ring Motegi Co. Ltd to form Mobilityland Corporation.  According to the website:

Uniting the two enterprises of Suzuka Circuit, which has contributed to the spread of motorsports in Japan, and Twin Ring Motegi, which introduced to Japan the new mobility of American motorsports. By concentrating the power and know-how these two companies have accumulated, we hope to be a business providing joy, fun and excitement to the community through an ever richer mobility culture.

So it’s all about mobility, then.  Whatever that is.  Luckily the site has a definition:

People move because they have goals. Community begins when people move to another place and run into other people. Through these moves, they meet different kinds of people and learn about each other; it is there that new cultures and new values are born. We call such movement-related areas “mobility.” Pursue convenience, fun, and the value of mobility; have them take root in the lives of many people. This is what we call “mobility culture.” One of Mobilityland’s main missions is to promote a richer and safer mobility culture in society.

Right, well that clears that up, then.

I’ll leave you with a little old-skool Suzuka action and as you watch Ayrton Senna’s pole position lap of Suzuka in 1989 remember the Three Joys of the Basic Principles as described in the Mobilityland Philosophy:

  1. The Joy of Buying
  2. The Joy of Selling
  3. The Joy of Creating

Er.  Ok.

Categories: Circuits Tags: , , ,