Archive for January, 2010

McLaren Chief Predicts More Overtaking!

McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh believes that fans will see more overtaking this season, thanks to the refuelling ban:

Q: The main regulation change this year is the banning of refuelling. What impact will this have on the racing? Will it be better, or will it result in more processional races?

MW: Inevitably, when you make a change, there are pros and cons. Regarding the pros, it arguably makes qualifying purer because the fastest car/driver combination will be setting the fastest times, and the public can understand that. Secondly, in the race itself, overtaking was often being planned and implemented to occur as a consequence of strategy, and therefore happening in the pitlane and not the circuit. In the absence of that effect, drivers will have a greater incentive to overtake. There have been occasions in the past where a driver hasn’t had that incentive because he knows he will be running longer and can get past the car ahead strategically through the pitstops.

Additionally, the fact that drivers will qualify on low-fuel, and then the next time they drive the car in anger into the first corner will be after a standing start with cold tyres and cold brakes and 160kg of fuel. That will be very challenging for them, not just in terms of getting round that first corner, but in terms of how they look after their tyres and how the balance of the car will alter as a consequence of that. And there will be drivers who are able to deal with those changes better than others.

Those are all the positives. On the negative side, it’s possible that if all of the above is managed equally well by every driver, then we’ll have lost one of the strategic campaign interests that the more avid fans enjoyed in the sport. Hopefully the former points will outweigh the latter.

(Source: McLaren F1)

On a personal level, I am delighted to see the end of refuelling, and the race fuel load in Q3. I have lost count of the occasions when a refuelling rig became stuck, or wouldn’t attach to the car … and as for cars driving down the pit lane with the rig still attached ….
Image by ClickCluck
Image Source: ClickCluck

Formula One qualifying should be about outright speed, and the final sessions were an anti-climax, IMHO. You couldn’t be sure whether a lap time was genuinely fast or slow. It was particuarly difficult explaining the complex strategies and factors to casual viewers .. who make up the bulk of viewers! Most people (myself included) want qualifying to be about raw pace, and the race to be as transparent as possible. It was a lot easier to understand a race in 1993, compared to 1994, when refuelling was re-introduced! The simplification of F1 races is not a case of “dumbing down”. Between 1984 and 1993, F1 fans witnessed some of the finest talent and action ever, and refuelling was banned!

Here’s to an exciting and straightforward 2010 ….

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López to join USF1 imminently

Photo by Sebastian Rodriguez

  • USF1 is on the verge of announcing José María López as one of their new drivers. López will be the first Argentinian driver since 1998, when Esteban Tuero drove for Minardi. Tuero wasn’t highly regarded in F1. His final race was marred by a crash that influenced the outcome of the 1998 World Drivers’ Championship!.

  • Heidfeld becomes Mercedes Test Driver

    Ex-BMW driver Nick Heidfeld has joined the Mercedes F1 Team, as the official test driver.

    Nick Heidfeld in 2008 (Photo: Mark McArdle)

    Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher will undoubtedly get the lion’s share of pre-season testing, and current F1 regulations prohibit F1 testing during the season. Nick will therefore use the team’s simulator, but some might question why Nick joined the team, as he will get very little track time. If you look at it from another angle, it was a smart move. I would be very surprised if Nico Rosberg didn’t deliver the goods this year. This is the first time he has had truly competitive machinery at his disposal, and I’m sure he will make the most of it … not that I’m expecting him to win the title! Michael is tipped to challenge for this year’s Championship, and it would be a very brave man to doubt Michael’s ability and renewed hunger.

    Nick could be in line for a drive with Mercedes in 2011, or even sooner. Anything can happen in F1, especially during a fiercely competitive season. Michael’s performances could be slower than anyone was expecting, or a heavy shunt could make him think twice about driving at the age of 41. A recurrence of his neck injury could halt his driving mid-season, and therefore Heidfeld could replace him, in which case a 2011 drive is almost guaranteed. Should Rosberg fail to deliver, Heidfeld could be drafted in at short notice …..

    Rossi’s F1 Test

    Earlier this week reigning MotoGP Champion Valentino Rossi took part in a two-day F1 test, at the Circuit de Catalunya. Rossi was pleasantly surprised by his lap times, and he suggested that a move from MotoGP to F1 was possible.

    Rossi’s Ferrari F2008 was operated by Ferrari’s “Corse Clienti” division, rather than the F1 racing team. This was due to the F1 testing ban, which ends on February 1st. Rossi’s car was fitted with GP2-specification “slick” tyres, as part of the F1 test ban. I personally dislike the testing ban, but I fully understand the need to reduce costs in Formula One.

    Valentino’s best time was 1′ 21.9″, which was very respectable. Let’s compare his performance to the 2008 Ferrari drivers at the same circuit. The first two qualifying sessions for the 2008 Spanish GP were run with low fuel levels*. Kimi Raikkonen’s fastest lap was 1′ 20.7″, whilst Felipe Massa’s best time was 1′ 20.5″. If you look at the lap times “on paper”, Rossi was over a second off the pace, but Rossi’s time must be seen in context. He was running on GP2 slick tyres, and not 2008-spec grooved Bridgestones. The 2008 Qualifying session took place in sunny conditions, but Rossi’s test took place in much cooler weather. The lower temperature should have been an advantage to Rossi, as cooler air equates to higher air density, and therefore more engine power. Another factor to consider is that Corse Clienti may have been running the F2008 conservatively, compared to the F1 team’s “all-out” 2008 efforts. The engine may have been “de-tuned” to conserve its mechanical condition, and the aero package may have been different … only Clienti know the answer to that! Interestingly, Felipe Massa drove the car at the same circuit today (Jan 22 2010), so Ferrari will be able to make a comparison, using telemetry.

    (* From 2003 to 2009, the third qualifying session (Q3) took place with heavy race fuel loads, and the times were slower. I therefore disregarded those times. If Rossi set that time with a detuned engine and a heavy fuel load …. he is a genius!).

    Sixteen Years Ago …

    On a cold January day in 1994, the Williams Renault team launched their new branding at Estoril. The legendary Ayrton Senna and future champion Damon Hill were on display for the hundreds of photographers present at the Portuguese circuit. For many years the Williams cars sported a distinctive yellow, blue and white livery, which was in deference to their main sponsors. As Rothmans were the new title sponsors for 1994, the car’s livery changed accordingly:

    (Photograph by DoctorVee)

    The 1994 car wouldn’t be ready for several weeks, so Williams adapted the 1993 FW15 for the 1994 regulations. Electronic driving aids such as active suspension, ABS, and traction control were banned for ’94. The new rules meant that traditional passive suspension returned, and the drivers had to control wheelspin manually.

    The team proudly displayed Senna, Hill, and the FW15D “interim” car to the World’s media. The new livery looked smart, and everyone was expecting the Williams team to run away with both championships for a fourth consecutive season. The team used the FW15D for pre-season testing until late February, but the car wasn’t all that quick, compared to the new Jordans. The ‘D’ variant’s suspension and aerodynamics were designed around active suspension, and it was more of a compromise than anything. Frank Williams would later describe the car as “mediocre”. The new FW16 was designed for passive suspension, and would make its first appearance during a pre-season test at Silverstone, in March. Much was expected of the new car, and of Senna. Unfortunately, the 1994 season turned into a nightmare, and Senna’s death on May 1 1994 would shake the team to its core.

    Welcome to AzureF1’s Blog

    Over the next few months I intend to establish a reputable source for motor sport information and news.  The majority of my posts will be F1-related, but from time-to-time I will include other motor sport categories.

    This blog will feature “On This Day” posts, that will commemorate motor sport events from the past! I hope to include photographs of the very event, and personal memories of the event.

    Blogging is new to me, so I am still “learning the ropes”. This site could expand significantly, and I am very excited about this project of mine.