Archive for September, 2009

Alonso confirmed at Ferrari (finally)

September 30th, 2009 No comments

Alonso puzzleFormula One has never been able to keep a secret and today the latest worst kept secret was finally confirmed: Fernando Alonso will drive for Ferrari.

Alonso’s contract is for three seasons starting 2010, partnering Fellipe Massa with Giancarlo Fisichella as reserve driver.

There has long been speculation that Kimi Raikkonen would make way for Alonso next year (a year before his contract was up) but Felipe Massa’s accident and then the Renault race fixing investigation held up the announcement which was expected at Monza.

Like one of those sliding puzzles, Alonso’s move to Ferrari now frees up a space at Renault and the game of musical chairs can begin.  Where will everyone be sitting when the music stops and who will be left standing?

McLaren say nothing has been decided yet but there are rumours that Kimi may return to the Silver Arrows in place of fellow Finn Kovalainen (and that Spanish bank Santander will pay Kimi’s 2010 Ferrari salary.)

Robert Kubica has been tipped to take over Alonso’s seat at Renault while Nico Rosberg could switch places with Rubens Barrichello at Brawn.

While Adrian Sutil will probably stay at Force India, Tonio Liuzzi may be under pressure from Nick Heidfeld to keep his seat there.

The good news for those drivers worried about losing their seats is that there will (hopefully) be at least three new teams on the grid next year.  None of them have announced their driver lineup yet but McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa  has been linked with Campos while Manor or Lotus could provide a way back in to F1 for BBC commentator Anthony Davidson.  I actually think Davidson is a really good commentator but I also think his Formula One career was prematurely interrupted just as it seemed to be getting off the ground.

Somewhat surprisingly we may even see Nelson Piquet Jr return in 2010.  Manor team boss, John Booth, could offer the Brazilian a drive in 2010.  He was quoted by the Telegraph as saying (without a hint of irony):

I’ve not spoken to him at the moment, but he’s a smashing little driver. I’ve no personal problems with him, but it is unclear what his current position is with regards sponsorship

Ferrari press release

Categories: Drivers Tags: , ,

Singapore: Fuel adjusted qualifying times

September 27th, 2009 No comments

Nico Rosberg, Singapore, 2009The FIA now publishes the weights of each car after qualifying on Saturday. Those cars that make it through to the final qualifying session must use the fuel they qualified with while the rest of the field may refuel before the race.

Below is a graph showing the actual top ten qualifying times as well as those times adjusted for the weight of fuel each car is carrying. The graph assumes a standard lap time cost of 0.3 seconds per 10kg of fuel.

From these weights we can see that while nobody is really out of place when adjusted for fuel, Lewis Hamilton is quite a bit faster that his nearest rival Sebastian Vettel.  Starting from pole with KERS power Hamilton has every chance of taking the win.

Rosberg’s best qualifying this season was done on merit as well and fuel adjusted he was faster than Vettel in front of him.

2009 Singapore GP Q3 (weight-adjusted)

2009 Singapore Grand Prix Car Weights

Image: Williams

Categories: 2009 Season Tags: , ,

2010 Formula One Calendar

September 24th, 2009 No comments

Korea International CircuitAlong with the Renault verdict, the FIA also slipped out a couple of small but important pieces of information in a press release on Monday.

Firstly, the 2010 Formula One calendar has been announced.  And it’s big.  There will be 19 races next year!

As well as a welcome return to Canada in June, October will see the inaugural Korean Grand Prix to be held at the Korean International Circuit.  Located some 400 kilometres from Seoul and designed by Hermann Tilke (who else?) the semi-permanent track will be built partly along the harbourside.  Will it be another Monaco or Valencia?

Brazil takes over the final race again in November and Bahrain moves to the season opener on 14 March.  Here is the full calendar:

2010 FIA Formula One World Championship

Europe (Valencia)
Great Britain
Abu Dhabi

*Subject to the completion of contract negotiations with Formula One Management. If these are not completed then the Turkish Grand Prix will be moved to 6 June.

Note: The race in Australia will start at 1700 local time, in Malaysia at 1600 local time, in Singapore at 2000 local time, and in Abu Dhabi at 1700 local time.

The second little detail was the fact that teams will be permitted to modify engines to achieve performance parity — but only by detuning.  This seems a crazy idea that goes completely against the spirit of Formula One.

It would mean that Mercedes (who clearly have the best engine at the moment) would have to knock off 20-30hp of performance so that the Toyota and Cosworth (based on a 2006 design) engines could be competitive.

It will now be up to the teams to decide whether they want to go down this route.  The FIA have washed their hands of the matter:

Following suggestions that there is a differential between the performance of engines used in Formula One, the World Motor Sport Council has decided that should this be the case, and should the teams wish to eliminate this performance differential, they may be allowed to do so by reducing the performance of the more powerful engines. However, no engine upgrades will be allowed.

I would rather see the engines stay as they are than be purposely made to go slower.

Image: Wikipedia

Categories: News Tags: , ,

Prediction game: Round 14 – Singapore

September 22nd, 2009 7 comments

Nico Rosberg, Singapore, 2008With all the Renault controversy it’s easy to forget we still have a race this weekend.

Although we now know the result was fixed I loved last year’s Singapore Grand Prix.  Formula One’s first night race looked fantastic under lights and gave a chance to see things you would normally miss such as the red hot glowing exhaust pipes and the showers of sparks as the cars bottomed out on the bumpy circuit.

There are only four races left and unless something goes very wrong it seems almost certain that Jenson Button will be crowned champion but, despite being 28.5 points behind the leader, Red Bull’s Mark Webber hasn’t given up yet:

We’re hoping for a change in fortune in Singapore – the street circuits haven’t been a happy hunting ground for us so far this year. It’s certainly not going to be a piece of cake, but we’re doing our absolute utmost to get back towards the front again.

One thing we haven’t experienced at night yet is bad weather.  Thunderstorms are always a possibility in that part of the world and it is unclear how drivers’ visibility would be affected in the event of rain.

McLaren will be bringing their final upgrades to Singapore before concentrating on next year’s car and the tight and twisty, high-downforce circuit should suit the MP4-24.  Last year Lewis Hamilton had a Championship to worry about and so had to be a bit conservative.  Now he is just out to win as many races as possible between now and the end of the year:

I remember my race in Singapore last year was all about damage limitation – I was driving with one eye on the world championship and wasn’t going to take too many risks. I was happy to finish on the podium. This year, it’s very different – I know I’m out of the title hunt and I want to attack these last four races, pushing for as many victories as I can.

To make your predictions in round 14 of the F1 Buzz prediction game (and be in with a chance to win some nice prizes), just leave a comment on this post with your driver predictions for the race in the following format:

Fastest lap:

Remember, the deadline for entries is start of qualifying on Saturday, that’s 14:00 GMT.

Good luck!

Image: Williams

Categories: Prediction Game Tags:

The Renault verdict: Briatore banned for life

September 21st, 2009 No comments

RenaultThe World Motor Sport Council met in Paris today to decide Renault’s punishment for asking Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

They got off pretty lightly, I think.

Even though the FIA thinks that “offences of this severity merit permanent disqualification from the FIA Formula One World Championship”, that penalty was suspended for two years.  All Renault had to do was admit it was wrong, say sorry and sack the people responsible.  Oh, and make a “significant contribution to FIA safety-related projects.”

So, no fines, no loss of constructors points and no real ban for the team.  I suppose it is understandable.  After the loss of Honda and BMW, the FIA will do just about anything to prevent any more constructors pulling out of Formula One.  If Renault were to be forced out it would also negatively impact teams like Red Bull who are engine customers.

But if Renault as a team were let off lightly, the FIA really threw the book at Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds.

Briatore got, in effect, a lifetime ban from professional motor sport:

for an unlimited period, the FIA does not intend to sanction any International Event, Championship, Cup, Trophy, Challenge or Series involving Mr. Briatore in any capacity whatsoever, or grant any license to any Team or other entity engaging Mr. Briatore in any capacity whatsoever. It also hereby instructs all officials present at FIA-sanctioned events not to permit Mr. Briatore access to any areas under the FIA’s jurisdiction.  Furthermore, it does not intend to renew any Superlicence granted to any driver who is associated (through a management contract or otherwise) with Mr. Briatore, or any entity or individual associated with Mr. Briatore

So not only is he banned from all FIA events, he can no longer even manage drivers.  The WMSC have cast him out of the FIA paradise, utterly.

Pat Symonds gets it a little easier, but not much.  Due to him expressing his “eternal regret and shame” that he participated in the conspiracy, he gets a 5 year ban.

Fernando Alonso was cleared of any knowledge of the plot.

After the judgement, Renault F1 Team president Bernard Rey issued the following statement:

Today, we fully accept the decision of the Council. We apologize unreservedly to the F1 community in relation to this unacceptable behaviour. We sincerely hope that we can soon put this matter behind us and focus constructively on the future.

And what of Nelson Piquet Jr?  In a statement on his blog he said:

I bitterly regret my actions to follow the orders I was given. I wish every day that I had not done it.

Mr Briatore was my manager as well as the team boss, he had my future in his hands but he cared nothing for it. By the time of the Singapore GP he had isolated me and driven me to the lowest point I had ever reached in my life.

I feel sorry for Piquet.  Obviously he should have refused to crash his car but he was clearly under intense pressure and it didn’t help that his team boss and his manager was a total ass-hat.

Who knows what will happen to him now?  He has immunity from the FIA so in theory he could race again, something he clearly wants to do:

I have had to learn some very difficult lessons over the last 12 months and reconsider what is valuable in life. What has not changed is my love for Formula One and hunger to race again. I realise that I have to start my career from zero. I can only hope that a team will recognise how badly I was stifled at Renault and give me an opportunity to show what I promised in my career in F3 and GP2. What can be assured is that there will be no driver in Formula One as determined as me to prove myself.

The trouble is, there are so many talented drivers and so few seats in Formula One that if you screw up just once, that’s it.

Full WMSC statement.

Categories: News Tags: , , ,