Archive for the ‘Drivers’ Category

Piquet’s out

August 4th, 2009 No comments

Nelson Piquet Jr, Germany, 2009“Flavio is a business man, but he doesn’t understand shit about F1.”

When Nelson Piquet Jr said that, we knew he wasn’t much longer for Renault and on Monday he confirmed that he had been told his services would no longer be required.

All season there has been a question mark over the young Brazilian and his future in Renault and Formula One.

At the Hungarian Grand Prix Flavio Briatore was seen leaving the circuit after Alonso had retired but Piquet was still running.

There has been no official comment from the team but Piquet posted a lengthy statement on his website:

I have received notice from the Renault F1 team of its intention to stop me from driving for them in the current F1 season. I want to say thanks to the small group who supported me and that I worked together at Renault F1, although it is obviously with great disappointment that I receive such news. But, at the same time, I feel a sense of relief for the end of the worst period of my career, and the possibility that I can now move on and put my career back on the right track and try to recover my reputation of a fast, winning driver. I am a team player and there are dozens of people I have worked with in my career who would vouch for my character and talent, except unfortunately the person that has had the most influence on my career in Formula 1.

Piquet confirmed that he had signed a contract requiring him to score 40% of Alonso’s points by mid-season but said that the development of his car was always one race behind the double World Champion’s:

For the 2009 season Briatore, again acting both as my manager and team boss of Renault F1, promised me everything would be different, that I would get the attention I deserved but had never received, and that I would get ‘at least equal treatment’ inside the team. He made me sign a performance-based contract, requiring me to score 40% of Fernando Alonso’s points by mid-way through the season. Despite driving with Fernando, two-time world champion and a really excellent driver, I was confident that, if I had the same conditions, I would easily attain the 40% of points required by the contract.

Unfortunately, the promises didn’t turn into reality again. With the new car I completed 2002km of testing compared to Fernando’s 3839km. Only three days of my testing was in dry weather – only one of Fernando’s was wet. I was only testing with a heavy car, hard tyres, mostly on the first day (when the track is slow and reliability is poor), or when the weather was bad. Fernando was driving a light car with soft tyres in the dry, fine conditions. I never had a chance to be prepared for the qualifying system we use. In Formula 1 today, the difference between 1st and 15th position is sometimes less than a second. It means that 0.2 or 0.3s can make you gain eight positions.

In addition to that, car development is now happening on a race-to-race basis due to the in season testing ban. Of the first nine races that I ran this year, in four of them Fernando had a significant car upgrade that I did not have. I was informed by the engineers at Renault that in those races I had a car that was between 0.5 and 0.8s a lap slower than my teammate. If I look at Germany (where I out-qualified my teammate despite that), if I had that advantage in qualifying I would be fifth and not tenth. If we had that difference in the race, I would have finished ahead of my teammate, which I did in Silverstone, despite him having upgrades that I did not have.

It has been suggested that Piquet’s three-time World Champion father could take over the BMW Sauber team when BMW withdraw from Formula One at the end of the year.  He has had experience running the Piquet Sports team with which Piquet Jr raced in F3 and GP2.  In 2006, Piquet Jr came second in the GP2 Championship, just 12 points behind Lewis Hamilton.

I feel sorry for Nelsinho.  In fact, I feel sorry for anyone who has to work for Flavio Briatore and I hope he gets another shot at Formula One next year.  His performances in other racing series suggest he is a talented driver and with 56,000 twitter followers he is clearly quite popular.

But then again, how many other talented drivers are out there?  With only 26 seats available people are always going to miss out.

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Schumacher’s back!

July 29th, 2009 No comments

Felipe Massa and Michael SchumacherForget BMW leaving Formula One.  That’s old news.  The big shock is the announcement today that seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher will return to drive for Ferrari in place of the injured Felipe Massa.

This comes just 24 hours after Schumacher’s manager, Willi Weber, discounted rumours of a comeback by saying he was 200% sure someone other than Michael would be driving in Valencia.

Today Ferrari issued the following statement on their website:

Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro intends to put Michael Schumacher in Felipe Massa’s car untill the brazilian driver will be able to race again. Michael Schumacher said he is ready and, over the next few days, will undertake a specifc training programme at the end of which confermation will be given of his participation in the Championship with effect from the European Grand Prix on the 23rd of August.

Schumacher is a close friend of Felipe Massa and was a mentor to the young Brazilian when he was his team mate at Ferrari in 2006.  No doubt this influenced his decision to return to F1.  On his website Schumacher wrote:

The most important thing first: thanks God, all news concerning Felipe are positive. I wish him all the best again.

I was meeting this afternoon with Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo and together we decided that I will prepare myself to take the place of Felipe.Though it is true that the chapter Formula 1 has been closed for me since long and completely, it is also true that for loyalty reasons to the team I cannot ignore that unfortunate situation. But as the competitor I am I also very much look forward to facing this challenge.

He won’t be the only one looking forward to it.

While Ferrari don’t have the crushing dominance they did in 2004 when Schumacher won 12 of the first 13 races, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa have put the Red Cars on the podium three times so far this year.  How incredible would it be if Schumacher returned to give the Scuderia their first victory of the season?

Michael won’t be able to test the F60 — with KERS and an adjustable front wing — before the European Grand Prix but I’m sure it won’t take Schumacher long to get used to the extra buttons on the steering wheel.

It’s going to be a fascinating European Grand Prix with Schumacher going head to head with Hamilton, Vettel and his old team mate Rubens Barrichello.

And when Michael gets to Monza in September the Tifosi are going to go mental.

Image: Reuters

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Schumacher considering a return to F1

July 28th, 2009 No comments

Michael Schumacher, 2006It has been more than two years since Michael Schumacher last raced an F1 car but comments from his spokeswoman Sabine Kehm suggest we might see him back on the track in Valencia.

On Sunday, Felipe Massa was hit in the head by a spring that had fallen off Rubens Barrichello’s car at the Hungarian Grand Prix.  The 160mph impact fractured Massa’s skull and injured his left eye.  The Brazilian seems to be making a steady recovery but doctors say it is still to early to know if he will compete again this year or even at all.

So that leaves Ferrari with a decision to make some time in the next four weeks; who will drive Felipe’s car while he is recuperating? They could decide to run only one car but that seems unlikely as it would almost halve the number of constructors points available to them at each race.

While a number of possible replacement drivers have been suggested let’s not forget that Ferrari actually have two reserve drivers, Marc Gene and Luca Badoer, who they employ presumably for this very possibility.  But, despite being Scuderia test drivers, their recent F1 experience is limited. Badoer’s last race was for Minardi in the 1999 Japanese Grand Prix where he finished last and Marc Gene hasn’t raced in Formula One since the 2004 British Grand Prix where he filled in for the other Schumacher brother at Williams.

There are mixed messages about Schumacher’s possible return.  His spokeswoman told the BBC:

The whole thing will be considered by Ferrari. If they approach Michael, then he will consider it. Usually, I would say he’s not interested because he’s fine with his life and he doesn’t miss anything but now the situation is so different.

While his manager, Willi Weber, seems pretty sure that Michael won’t want the job:

Whoever sits in the car at the next race in Valencia, it will not be Michael Schumacher. I am not 100 per cent sure; I am 200 per cent sure. The pressure on him would be huge. He would be expected to win, but he has not driven this car.

When Michael was racing he would get as close to perfection as possible. In this case, it would not be perfection; it would be a gamble – and that’s not Michael’s style.

I think it is pretty unlikely Schumacher will make a comeback.  While I would love to see him race against drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian ‘Baby Schumi’ Vettel, I don’t think it would suit his perfectionist style.  The expectations on him would be huge and Ferrari isn’t the same team it was when he was winning Championships.

Who would you like to see take Massa’s seat?  Bourdais?  Senna?  Rossi? Alonso?

Image: Ferrari

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Jaime Alguersuari to be the youngest ever F1 driver

July 20th, 2009 No comments

Jaime AlguersuariThe worst kept secret in Formula One is now official.  Jaime Alguersuari will replace Sebastien Bourdais at Toro Rosso from the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend.

The Spaniard has been competing in World Series by Renault and is the reigning British F3 Champion.  He will also be 19 years, 4 months and 3 days old on Sunday 26 July.

This will make him the youngest ever driver to compete in the Formula One World Championship, beating the previous record held by New Zealander Mike Thackwell of 19 years, 5 months and 1 day although this record is debatable.

Thackwell did line up on the grid at the 1980 Dutch Grand Prix but he was involved in an accident on the first lap which caused the race to be restarted.  According to the regulations, if a race is stopped on the first lap, that lap is annulled and the race is started again.  As Thackwell’s car didn’t make it to the grid for the restart, technically his first race was not until four years later.

This means the record was really held by Ricardo Rodríguez, the brother of Mexico’s only Grand Prix Winner Pedro Rodríguez, who was 19 years, 6 months and 27 days when he started the 1961 Italian Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel remains the youngest Formula One driver to appear at a race weekend, though.  In August 2006 he was BMW’s Friday driver at the Turkish Grand Prix when he was just 19 years, 1 month and 22 days old.

It is going to be hard for Alguersuari to make his debut half way through the season when he has never driven the car before and will have zero testing time but he seems to know what he is getting himself in for:

I am aware that I’m facing a very tough challenge, because coming into Formula One is never easy, coming into Formula One in the middle of a season is even harder and doing so without any testing is really difficult. But already I feel that I am getting great support from the team, who have quite a reputation for looking after rookie drivers.

Team boss Franz Tost seems to have limited expectations anyway:

I do not expect anything from him for at least his first three races, during which he has to get used to the car, the team and to the Formula One environment.

It seems a strange choice to me to drop (an admittedly struggling) Sebastien Bourdais for a rookie halfway through the season.

Toro Rosso will be bringing their new double diffuser to the Hungaroring this weekend.  It will be interesting to see what the two young drivers can do with it.

Image: Getty

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Formula One drivers on Twitter

July 18th, 2009 No comments

According to a Nielsen survey, from February 2008 to February 2009 Twitter grew 1,382 percent and now has close to 2 million users.

And it’s not just your mates tweeting about what they had for breakfast, either.  Everyone from Barack Obama to Paris Hilton is using Twitter and a few Formula One drivers are, too.

There are official team Twitter pages like McLaren and Brawn GP, but some of the drivers also have their own Twitter accounts which can be a bit more personal.

Today there was this little exchange between Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello and Nelson Piquet Jr:















You can follow F1 Buzz on Twitter, too.  If you know any other drivers that are using Twitter I would love to hear about it in the comments.

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