Archive Page 2

10/03/1991: Senna won US Grand Prix

By Stu Seeger

On 10th of March 1991 Ayrton Senna won the United States Grand Prix.

The McLaren MP4/6 had only been completed a few weeks before the first race, but McLaren did a fantastic effort with the car, and its reliability was solid for the entire season. Williams were using the FW14, which featured a semi-automatic gearbox, and Mansell had rejoined the team from Ferrari. Ferrari started the season with the 642, which was based on the successful 1990 chassis. Jordan made their debut at this race, with the beautiful 191 car:

Picture by Stu Seeger

Onto the race itself:

At the start, Senna and Prost maintained their places while Mansell sliced ahead of Patrese and Piquet lost out to Alesi and Berger. The order at the end of lap 1 was: Senna, Prost, Mansell, Patrese, Alesi and Berger.

Early on, as Senna was pulling away from Prost, Alesi got past Patrese for fourth. However, Patrese repassed him on lap 16 and closed up on Mansell. He attacked on lap 22 but shot into an escape road and rejoined behind Alesi and Berger. He quickly closed up on them with Berger attacking Alesi but unable to pass. Patrese passed Berger on lap 34. On the next lap, Mansell’s gearbox failed and soon afterwards, on lap 36, Berger had fuel pump trouble, which forced him to retire. Patrese then passed Alesi who pitted on lap 43. He closed in on Prost and the Ferrari pitted on lap 46, with right rear troubles putting him down to seventh.

Patrese didn’t last longer, his gearbox failing and then the stationary car was hit by Roberto Moreno, forcing both of them out. Piquet, who did not stop, was passed by Alesi for second with Prost taking fourth off Stefano Modena soon after. Alesi was having gearbox troubles and was holding back Piquet as Prost began to attack both of them. On lap 70, Piquet passed Alesi and Prost followed him through. Prost then shifted sides getting ahead of Piquet as well. Modena passed Alesi for fourth and Alesi soon retired with gearbox troubles. Unflustered by all this, Senna won from Prost, Piquet, Modena, Satoru Nakajima and Aguri Suzuki.

(From Wikipedia)

Senna would go on to win the first FOUR rounds of the 1991 Season, which was quite a feat in the early 1990s. F1 cars were considerably less reliable back then. It was common for a dozen cars to retire from the race, and sometimes more! This would be the final US Grand Prix at Phoenix, and the last US race until the 2000 USGP in Indianapolis!

Let’s hope that the upcoming season is as good as 1991!

The Great USF1 Farce

Thirteen months ago, Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson announced the creation of the USF1 team. Less than a week ago, the team was all but dead. The entire staff has been put on unpaid leave, Lopez has terminated his driver contract with the team, and the car will never see a racetrack. Some would argue that the economic climate had a significant effect on the team, as potential sponsors were fighting for survival, rather than spending millions on an “extravagance” such as Formula One. Others would argue that this project was doomed many months ago.

One of the biggest criticisms of USF1 has to be their lack of communication to fans and media alike, who need to see tangible evidence that the team is on target to run during testing sessions, or to participate in the first race. A few YouTube videos from USF1 appeared, but apart from that … absolutely nothing! Many of the team workers didn’t receive a wage during the final weeks, and, in my opinion, these people are the real victims of the USF1 fiasco. They will have worked tirelessly, for no financial or psychological benefit.

Another team who won’t compete in the 2010 Championship is StefanGP. If you have read about their financial position …. it is probably a good thing they won’t be participating! You need a little more than one paid member of staff and a few thousand euros to run F1 cars in a TEST session, let alone a Grand Prix!

Heidfeld Confirmed as Mercedes Reserve Driver

As I mentioned last week, Nick Heidfeld has become the official Mercedes Grand Prix reserve driver. “I am very pleased to be joining Mercedes Grand Prix”, Heidfeld said. He also suggested that he would have preferred a race seat, which is completely understandable for a competitive racing driver. Nick could deputized for an injured/unwell race driver, and that could result in a race seat for Heidfeld in 2011. F1 test/reserve ‘drives’ can also mark the end of a driver’s F1 racing career, as Fisichella, Panis, Badoer, Gene, and Wurz have demonstrated. I was going to include de la Rosa, but he has had a lucky reprieve!

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 ….

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!).