Archive for February, 2009

USF1: Wild speculation!

February 12th, 2009 No comments

Danica PatrickA formal announcement from the rumoured new Formula One team, USF1, is expected later this month according to the Charlotte Observer.  The two principals behind USF1 are Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor and they plan to promote the team as “Made in USA.”  The car will be US-built and be driven by American drivers.  According to Anderson, the team is already close to signing one driver.

The fact that there is very little information about USF1 (the official website has just a logo and an email address) naturally leads to speculation.  Is now the best time to be starting a new team?  Why start from scratch when you can have Honda for £1?  Why limit yourself to only using American drivers?  And do Americans even care about Formula One?

Assuming the team is on the grid in 2010 what kind of car might we see and who could be piloting it?

The car

The team will be based in Charlotte, North Carolina which has a big NASCAR industry and, according to Anderson, “90 percent of the technology that exists in F1 comes from the U.S. anyway.”  But what about the engine?  I suppose Cosworth would be the most likely choice, possibly badged as Ford.  I can’t see any of the US car manufacturers wanting to develop a new F1 engine in the current economic climate and while Cosworth was originally a British company, it is now owned by the Champ Car World Series owners Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven so it would probably satisfy the “Made in America” requirement.  A Cosworth V10 powered Ford’s Jaguar team before it was sold to Red Bull in 2004.

The Driver

The choice of driver could be controversial.  Americans haven’t made much impact in Formula One since Mario Andretti won the 1978 Championship.  Scott Speed had a largely unsuccessful time at Toro Rosso but he would have to be considered as he is the only American driver with recent F1 experience.

There are other young drivers in the American open-wheel series that are possibilities: Graham Rahal, son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal and Marco Andretti, son of 1991 IndyCar World Series champion Michael Andretti and the grandson of  Mario Andretti.  Andretti finished second in the 2006 Indianapolis 500 in the second closest finish in the race’s history.

But a more interesting choice could be Danica Patrick.  Patrick was named the Rookie of the Year for both the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and the 2005 IndyCar Series season and she became the first woman to win an IndyCar race at Japan’s Twin Ring Motegi in 2008.

Patrick has had some criticism of her driving ability and the fact that, like other female athletes, she has been willing to be marketed on her looks.  But Former IRL Champion Tony Stewart thinks she’s got talent.  She can obviously win races and was actually scheduled to test with Honda at the end of last year.   She has said she is keen to move to F1 and after those superbowl ads no team should have trouble attracting sponsorship with her on-board.

Will it happen?

A lot of people doubt whether anything will come of the rumours but I think there’s a good chance the team could be on the grid in 2010 although, if they are,  I’m not so sure whether they will keep the “Made in America” theme for more than the first year.

Image: Sports Illustrated

Categories: Opinion, Teams Tags: ,

Sandstorms in Bahrain, Webber in Jerez

February 11th, 2009 No comments

Massa testing at SakhirBMW, Toyota and Ferrari must be wondering whether it was such a good idea to abandon Jerez to test at Bahrain’s Sakhir circuit.

Wednesday’s morning test session was red-flagged when a sandstorm prevented the medical helicopter from taking off.  The same thing happened on the opening day of testing on Tuesday when the helicopter was grounded by fog.

After the first group test in Portimao was disrupted by heavy rain the three teams were hoping for some fine weather to justify the hundreds of thousands of pounds extra it costs to test in the Middle East but the outlook for the rest of Wednesday doesn’t look good.  Even if the wind stops the track will have to be cleared of sand so the teams might not be able to continue testing until Thursday.

Meanwhile, back in Spain, Mark Webber has climbed into an F1 car for the first time since breaking his leg in a cycling accident three months ago.  He took the new Red Bull RB5 out onto the Jerez circuit for the first time on Wednedsay.

Image: Ferrari S.p.a.

Categories: News Tags: , , ,

Red Bull release RB5

February 9th, 2009 No comments

Red Bull RB5Red Bull Racing have unveiled their 2009 Formula One car, the RB5, at Jerez today. We saw an animated preview of the car last week when Red Bull released a video describing the rule changes for 2009.

The massive changes in rules for 2009 meant that designer Adrian Newey went back to the drawing board for the new car; almost nothing is carried over from last year’s RB4.

Newey has produced an exciting looking car. The front wing looks more advanced than some other teams and the long, high nose features two bulges above the wheels. The rear wing somehow looks more in proportion than other cars, too.

While the new rules, which include aerodynamic changes, a return to slicks and the introduction of KERS, are intended to improve overtaking, Newey thinks the field could actually be more spread out than last year:

Last year the entire field was very close, with a very tight grid and five different chassis manufacturers winning races. A major rule change is likely to have the opposite effect, just one or two teams get it right and do all the winning.

Newey should know. In 1998 he designed the championship-winning McLaren MP4/13 after a number of rule changes including the introduction of grooved tyres and narrower cars. That year the McLarens of Mikka Hakkinen and David Coulthard dominated the field.

Red Bull will be hoping the RB5 has the same effect allowing them to match their sister team’s efforts of 2008 when Sebastian Vettel won at Monza for Toro Rosso.

Categories: Cars Tags: ,

Webber and Vettel rip through the rulebook in the RB5

February 7th, 2009 No comments

RB5The new Red Bull Racing RB5 is set to be launched on Monday but the team have released a preview video showcasing the new Adrian Newey designed car.

In the animated video, narrated by Sebastian Vettel, the 2008 RB4 morphs into the new look RB5 as each of the rule changes are discussed.

The car also explodes to show the battery-based Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS.)

Vettel’s team mate, Mark Webber, thinks the new RB5 will be one of the most beautiful of the 2009 cars, he told the Austrian paper Salzburger Nachrichten:

[The RB5 is] perhaps the most beautiful of the 2009 class, which under the new regulations was pretty difficult.

How similar the car will look in the flesh will be revealed on Monday but it seems like quite a nice looking car; maybe not as pretty as the McLaren or Ferrari but definitely better than Renault and BMW’s efforts.

21-year-old Vettel will be first to drive the new car on Monday at Jerez with Webber taking over later in the week.

Video: Red Bull Racing

Categories: Cars Tags: , , ,

Toro Rosso confirm Bourdais

February 6th, 2009 No comments

Sebastien BourdaisFrenchman Sebastien Bourdais will return for a second season at Toro Rosso this year.  This means that, barring Honda’s return, all F1 seats are filled for 2009.  It also means that for a second year in a row both Toro Rosso drivers will be called Sebastien.

While team-mate Sebastien Buemi was confirmed at STR last month, both Bourdais and former Super Aguri driver Takuma Sato were competing for the second seat.

Despite Sato performing well in testing, it seems money was the deciding factor in choosing to go with Bourdais.  With two teams to run, Red Bull needed a driver who could bring in the lucre.  Sato’s manager Andrew Gilbert-Scott:

Taku had showed tremendous speed and commitment during the three tests he did for the team and I believe he proved to be the faster driver. Unfortunately however the team made no secret about the fact that they would need the drive to bring a substantial amount of funding to the team to secure the drive. We have all been working very hard and have been able to attract a significant amount of sponsorship to support the team but unfortunately it was obviously not enough to secure the drive.

Scuderia Toro Rosso Team Principal Franz Tost said:

We are pleased that Sebastien will be with us again for another season. After one year with Toro Rosso, we expect him to profit from the experience he gained last season. He now knows the F1 environment, the race tracks and the team. In addition, the slick tyres, which make a comeback this year, should suit his driving style very well. Therefore he will tackle the coming season with much more experience under his belt. This will be especially valuable given that our other driver, Sebastien Buemi, is an F1 rookie, who has come up through the ranks of the Red Bull Junior Driver programme.

So Taku joins the ranks of talented drivers without a seat in Formula One this year.  Speaking on Friday, Sato said he still feels he has “unfinished business in F1”.

If the Team Formerly Known as Honda manage to find a buyer could Sato find a job there?  They will obviously want to retain Jenson Button but is Rubens Barichello’s seat so secure?  Sato has a history with Honda and as I’ve said before, I’d like to see him on the grid this year.

Categories: Drivers Tags: , ,