Posted on March 31, 2009


Very interesting piece on the Guardian site today, quoting a Brawn team ‘insider’ talking about how much faster the car is capable of going than we saw on Sunday. It’s interesting because Ross will not like this very much at all. He didn’t get where he is today by giving anything away and this gives a bit too much away. That said, it does deflect attention away from the diffuser, suggesting, as they used to do in Brawn’s Ferrari days, that the thing everyone thinks is the key to speed, isn’t and that the key lies elsewhere. “I think, basically, More…

Posted on March 31, 2009


Anyone who has read the recent biography I wrote on Michael Schumacher will know that one of his greatest qualities was that he never gave up. It’s a vitally important quality in a sportsman; the game isn’t over until the final whistle, the chequered flag. It’s something I try to communicate to my own son, look at these guys like Schuey, they never think it’s all over, they try until the last and he’s taken it on board. Anyway, this is by way of saying that we had a few examples of the value of never giving up on Sunday. More…

Posted on March 31, 2009


This is Felipe Massa looking back across the wreckage of his Sunday afternoon. With a little commentary from me at the end. Why did you start the race on the soft tyres? “Now it looks very simple, but before the race we were looking at all the numbers, looking at the grip that there was on Friday and on Saturday, also at measurements we took of the asphalt on Sunday, as we have done in the past. It looked like the soft was the tyre to start on. Now we can see how the race turned out, it looks easy More…

Posted on March 31, 2009


After an overnight flight from Melbourne I arrived at the hotel in Kuala Lumpur at 8am to find that my room isn’t ready. That’s okay, there is a pool for later, a decent restaurant and a pretty good wireless signal in the main cafe area, so here I am. It’s hot here, as you’d expect, but blessedly quite overcast which takes the edge off it. It’s a new hotel on me, Port Dickson overlooks the Malacca Straits and it’s about half an hour’s drive into the track. It’s a lot better than the place we used to stay with ITV, More…

Posted on March 30, 2009


I’m sitting in Melbourne airport in the departure lounge waiting for a 1am flight to Kuala Lumpur. I’m not alone, there are plenty of F1 people milling around, rather bleary eyed waiting for the plane. Ferrari are on the flight, along with some French and English journalists, a few photograpers and others. It’s an eight hour flight and it will be tiring, but it’s not a bad flight to catch as it gets in to KL at 6-30am, so you don’t lose a whole day travelling. I was rather surprised at the check-in to see Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali More…

Posted on March 30, 2009


Rubens Barrichello had an unbelievable afternoon in Melbourne on Sunday, which deserves a closer look. He started and finished second, but in between it was far from plain sailing, with two collisions, both of which caused bodywork damage. It is one of those, ‘How did he get there?’ races, so I thought I’d go through the race history and try to explain it. At the start he bogged down when the anti-stall mechanism kicked in as he left the line. He was swallowed up by the cars behind him, and entered the first corner in amongst the cars from row More…

Posted on March 29, 2009


I will never forget the feeling I had when I saw this Brawn car for the first time on the Monday morning in Barcelona on the 9th of March. It looked different, the detail on the car was so refined, and it went like stink. Here was the most dominant F1 car we’ve seen since the Ferrari of 2004 and it was born out of the wreckage of the Honda team. Today they got a one-two finish in the first Grand Prix, making monkeys of the opposition as they went. How must Honda be feeling now? They pulled out of More…

Posted on March 29, 2009


It was Ross Brawn himself who made the connection, when we were talking on Saturday morning about the last team to win on its F1 debut; Wolf in 1977. “Yeah, I was working for them then,” he grinned. Ross started out at Williams, but when Sir Frank got involved with Walter Wolf, Ross was seconded to go and work on the black and gold cars. What an amazing symmetry that 32 years later Ross should repeat the feat with cars bearing his own name. Brawn was the story in Melbourne this weekend, from every angle; the staggering pace of the More…

Posted on March 29, 2009


Great atmosphere in the pits and paddock as the clock runs down towards the start of the race. There is a general acceptance that the Brawn cars are going to drive away at the front of the field. Their pace over long runs is even more impressive that their qualifying pace. Rubens did a great job yesterday on low fuel in the early part of qualifying, because the Brawn team did not do any work on low fuel running during their all too brief seven days of testing. There simply wasn’t time with all the other things they had to More…

Posted on March 28, 2009


F1′s commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone isn’t here in Australia, he’s back in London doing deals. One which broke cover this weekend was a deal he’s been working on for ages with Universal Music group, the biggest recorded music outfit in the world. They own dozens of the labels you grew up with like Polydor, Decca and A&M. According to a joint statement the concept is called “F1 Rocks” and it is a series of multi-artist live music events from the Grands Prix. That part isn’t new, after all the Who are playing here tomorrow night and good old Status More…

Posted on March 28, 2009


The fuel weights have been published by the FIA for the first time, under the new rules for this season. There are some very interesting things here. For a start the Brawn cars are, as we expected, massively quick, given that Jenson Button’s car has 22 laps worth of fuel in it (59 kilos). Allowing for the fuel he will need to get to the grid and do the formation lap, this means Jenson will probably make his first stop on lap 20. Barrichello will go one lap longer, to 21. This is quite a long first stint for a More…

Posted on March 28, 2009


A dozen or so of the British media’s finest representatives sat down with Sir Richard Branson this afternoon to get some more detail. He’s a very tall man, slightly stooped, very pale looking. We sat in the Brawn hospitality area and, having looked in vain through all his pockets for his ‘cheat sheet’ notes Branson decided to just go for it and think on his feet. As always with journalists there was a faint whiff of scepticism about this sponsorship deal with Brawn, the suggestion being that money has yet to change hands. This feeling was reinforced when Nick Fry More…

Posted on March 28, 2009


The appeal lodged by some of the leading F1 teams against Brawn, Williams and Toyota, will be heard in Paris on 14th April, which is the Tuesday before the Chinese Grand Prix. This means that the results of the first two Grands Prix of the season are subject to the appeal. The stewards here in Melbourne threw out the protests of Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault on Thursday into the ‘double decker’ diffusers, which give significantly more downforce than the others are getting. Flavio Briatore is incandescent about this, frustrated as he is by his team’s performance and by the More…

Posted on March 28, 2009


There are some great characters among the journalists in the press office. Frank Schneider of Bild newspaper, the German equivalent of the Sun, is one of them. He’s got spiky hair and wacky glasses, is pure tabloid and always in trouble with one of the teams. Today the paper is likely to be in the dog house with McLaren Mercedes for this piece of Photoshop madness, “Hamilton and the silver snail” (as opposed to Silver Arrow) reflecting the fact that Lewis Hamilton is unlikely to feature in the top ten on the grid….

Posted on March 28, 2009


I followed curiously as Sir Richard Branson, accompanied by two dolly birds in Virgin T shirts made their way from the swipe gates to the Brawn GP garage to announce the sponsorship deal. Branson knows a thing or two about getting publicity and this was an old-fashioned attention grab, which worked a treat. He was answering questions from Sky TV Italy, flashbulbs popping all around him. At one point he turned to one of the girls and said, “I think we’re doing rather well, don’t you?” The Brawn mechanics were still putting the stickers on the back-board for the press More…

Posted on March 27, 2009


Finally after all the talk the protests and the politics we got some track action today. It was very weird starting the first session at 12-30pm and the second one at 4-30pm, basically two and a half hours later than normal. I got to the track for 8-45 am and there was hardly anyone here! Many of the teams were saving money on catering by taking advantage of the breakfast included at the hotel. By the time the second session was underway the shadows were lengthening and all the drivers commented on how hard it was to see in certain More…

Posted on March 27, 2009


A thought occurs to me. The seven teams who unsuccesfully protested the diffusers of Brawn, Williams and Toyota are actually in a worse position than before. With the appeal not likely to be heard for at least a couple of weeks, what do they do now? Do they put their own copy of the Brawn diffuser in the wind tunnel and burn up valuable tunnel time, which could be spent on something else, trying to make it work with their car, when the whole thing could be wasted if the appeal succeeds? Or do they not spend that time in More…

Posted on March 27, 2009


An exhilarating hour spent in the pit lane during the first practice session. Strangely unfamiliar for me as it’s three years since I was last down there, having had to yield my pit lane pass to Steve Rider back in 2006. I used to live in the pits, back in the day, knew every nook and cranny, had eyes in the back of my head for cars coming in, going out, mechanics rushing. It takes me 20 minutes to get used to the rush and the energy. I quickly get used to it again. The energy is always astonishing. You More…

Posted on March 26, 2009


There’s a strong story doing the rounds here in Melbourne that Richard Branson’ s Virgin group is going to announce a sponsorship deal with Brawn GP tomorrow (Friday). Branson himself is believed to be on his way out here to make the announcement. It is well known that Virgin looked seriously at buying the team from Honda over the winter, but pulled out because, among other reasons, it felt the sport’s environmental credentials were not as strong as they need them to be. I imagine also that they were put off by the uncertainty about the performance of the car More…

Posted on March 26, 2009


As predicted here the protests against the diffusers of the Brawn, Williams and Toyota cars have been thrown out by the Melbourne stewards. But this does not mean that the matter is closed. The plaintiff teams have appealed and that means that the three teams whose diffusers were questioned will race under appeal on Sunday. As it’s unlikely that an appeal can be heard before the Malaysian GP next Sunday, I imagine that the story will roll on there as well so the results of the first two races will be subject to appeal. It’s a bit of a mess, More…

Posted on March 26, 2009


The latest dispute over diffusers has generated a fresh wave of media ink, along with the appropriate dose of disbelief, humour and frustration at the capacity of F1 to generate news of fresh upheaval. For our part, we could not help seeing the funny side of the issue, as well as the potential for a “cunning” new business proposition for the powers-that-be … with all due respect, of course, to all involved, including all price-comparison site creators and advertisers, etc. Do YOU have any suggestions? [ RSS subscribers, SFW visuals required ]

Posted on March 26, 2009


Here’s some video I shot of the Ferrari event this morning. After reflecting on his recent misfortunes in the early races of the season, Massa talks about his feelings on the proposed winner takes all points system. Before you ask, the lady on the right is Dr Lisa Lilley, Shell’s fuel doctor. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnTEoi3kCDo]

Posted on March 26, 2009


It’s been a fairly calm day for the start of the new season. The predicted protest from the teams over the diffuser row has happened and the stewards are looking into it as I write this in the Melbourne press office, with the sun setting outside. I’ve felt all along that the three cars in question, from Brawn, Williams and Toyota will be declared legal. Charlie Whiting, the FIA’s top technical man, has approved the cars and you sense that he actually admires the innovative solutions the teams have come up with. Whatever the outcome we’ll have an appeal in More…

Posted on March 25, 2009


Just landed in Melbourne and I see that Red Bull has confirmed that it will protest the diffuser on the Brawn car, which it believes is worth half a second per lap. Seven teams believe that the interpretations of Williams, Toyota and Brawn are outside the rules. It’s one of those classic F1 moments you often get with a rule change, where someone spots a loophole, gets a performance advantage from it and the others cry foul. You can bet that if they had thought of it they would have gone for it, because that’s the nature of the beast. More…

Posted on March 25, 2009


I’m surprised more hasn’t been made of the stories in the last day or so about the meeting between Flavio Briatore, Ron Dennis and Bernie Ecclestone, where Flavio is supposed to have threatened a FOTA boycott of Melbourne if the teams were not paid some money they claim BE owes them under the terms of the extended Concorde Agreement. According to Ecclestone in the Times, “Flavio said, ‘We’re not going to put our cars on the plane, we’re not going to Melbourne.’ He started it aided and abetted by Ron Dennis.” The pair are reported to have backed down after More…

Posted on March 23, 2009


Stefano Domenicali leads the Ferrari team into world championship battle next week for only the second year. The jovial 43 year old is the modern face of Ferrari, the man who has maintained the team at the highest level of competitiveness despite the departures of Schumacher, Brawn, Todt, Byrne and Martinelli. Today in Gazzetta dello Sport he gives an interview which shows the team’s state of mind going into this campaign. Main rival McLaren is behind, but for how long? BMW and Toyota are a new threat and of course the Brawn team have a head-start, but Stefano thinks their More…

Posted on March 22, 2009


In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, FIA president Max Mosley has said that the £30 million figure, which was announced on Tuesday as the level for the budget cap due to be introduced next season, is merely the first round in a negotiation. “It is provisional. I actually think it could be done for £25 million but that’s just my opinion. All my advisers think it should be more. When people calm down a little bit they will see that all of this is brilliant for Formula One. It won’t hurt the DNA of the sport – £30 million is still More…

Posted on March 21, 2009


It was all looking so good, Ross Brawn saves the Honda team, the car turns out to be a rocket ship, David threatens Goliath, a shake up of the old order was in prospect. The racing was shaping up to be really close, with many teams on roughly the same pace. In other words a great season was in prospect, as many of you have said in your comments on this blog. And now with a week to go until the first race, we have the FIA backtracking on the winner takes all points rule, because the FOTA teams did More…

Posted on March 19, 2009


After the initial stunned silence over the decision to introduce a £30 million budget cap in F1, followed by a muted reaction from FOTA, today has seen some of the sports biggest names express great unhappiness. Chief among them is Ferrari and FOTA president Luca do Montezemolo, who didn’t mince his words, “It really is grave and absurd that our world finds itself in a situation like this. I hope for a climate of responsibility like that of the teams, who have reduced costs. It’s really absurd and dangerous that one week from the first race F1 finds itself back More…

Posted on March 19, 2009


Yesterday I posted on Heikki Kovalainen’s quick lap at Jerez, as McLaren pile on new aerodynamic parts in an attempt to claw back lost ground on the opposition. Kova did a 1m 18.202 lap on a single quali lap simulation. He’d tried a two lap run shortly before which was in the high 1m 18s. This compares with Jenson Button on Tuesday in the Brawn, who did a 1m 17.844 lap, again on a single flying lap simulation. So on that basis the McLaren was 4/10ths slower than the Brawn in outright pace. If that is a true reading, it More…

Posted on March 19, 2009


There was so much information being given out at the recent FOTA press conference in Geneva that the part about improving the TV coverage was largely overlooked by the media. As it has subsequently turned out the FIA has not adopted the FOTA proposals on rules and cost savings and instead has very much gone it’s own way. However, according to Autosport, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said yesterday that he will make sure that his TV direction team make use of the enhanced graphics being offered by FOTA to improve the TV coverage. Some of these ideas are really good, More…

Posted on March 18, 2009


Heikki Kovalainen turned the wick up today on the McLaren as the Jerez test continued for a fourth day with just McLaren and Williams present. It was very hot again in Jerez, the track temperature was 37 degrees and the McLaren pulled a lap of 1m18.202, which is four tenths slower than Jenson Button’s fastest yesterday. By recent standards this is quite an improvement for McLaren. Even yesterday their fastest run with Lewis Hamilton at the wheel was 1.21.199 1.19.268 1.19.144 1.19.165 1.20.510 The team has been bringing new aero parts to the car in an effort to solve the More…

Posted on March 18, 2009


Just going back through my email archive I came across the February 29th press release from the FIA anticipating what arrived yesterday. Take a look, especially paragraph 3 and see how it evolved from here. “In view of the difficult economic conditions which continue to affect Formula One sponsors and major car manufacturers, the FIA is preparing radical proposals for 2010. If adopted by the World Motor Sport Council, the new regulations will enable a team to compete for a fraction of current budgets but nevertheless field cars which can match those of the established teams. These regulations will not More…

Posted on March 18, 2009


Some fun responses from the drivers in the paddock at Jerez, where Brawn and Renault signed off their testing yesterday, responding to the news that the FIA has changed the system now rewarding the driver with the most wins as world champion. Nico Rosberg said, “What nonsense is this?”, Jenson Button, who could well end up benefitting from it said, “I understand the logic behind it and it’s interesting. It’s an incentive to try to win but it also looks risky to me. After 9 races you could get a driver who’s already won the title and can take the More…

Posted on March 18, 2009


There’s some very good writing in reaction to yesterday’s shock announcement of the £30 million budget cap and the new system for deciding the champion. There’s no doubt that a big part of the background to this is a response from Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone to the formation of FOTA and its recent announcement of a ‘road map’ for F1. Mosley and Ecclestone do not want the teams deciding the rules or the share of commercial revenues and they are reminding them who’s boss. The £30 million budget cap is designed to repel calls for teams to receive a More…

Posted on March 18, 2009


There has been a mixed response internationally to the new points system agreed by the FIA yesterday. Here on JA on F1, it’s pretty clear from your comments that you are against it. Also we have been running a Polldaddy poll and the results are 80-20 against. Over in Spain, Marca newspaper has a similar 80-20 against ratio. Meanwhile in Italy, La Gazzetta dello Sport has been running a poll and – with a huge response – the result is a dead heat 50-50. What I find interesting in many of your responses is that you had been really looking More…

Posted on March 17, 2009


I nearly choked on my Rich Tea biscuit when the news came through about the £30 million budget cap voted through today by the FIA world motor sport council. The teams did likewise. They did not expect this after presenting such a unanimous front the other week in Geneva. Their confidence that their unified voice would be taken into account by the FIA, when deciding rules and policy, was misplaced. Instead Max Mosley has gone much further than the teams wanted to in stripping costs out of the sport. FOTA has just put a statement out which makes clear how More…

Posted on March 17, 2009


Jean Todt, who guided Ferrari’s F1 team to it’s greatest era of success, with 13 world championships in the period from 1999 to 2007, has stepped down from all his administrative roles at the company, Ferrari has just announced at a shareholders’ meeting. “Todt has been one of the fundamental protagonists of the Ferrari story in the last 15 years, ” said Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo. ” All these years together, the wins but also the difficult moments, have created a bond between Ferrari and Todt which will last for ever.” Todt (63) arrived at Maranello in 1993 to More…

Posted on March 17, 2009


The FIA World Council made some very significant decisions today and the one which is leading the news bulletins is the decision to ensure that the driver who wins the most races becomes world champion regardless of how many points he has scored. The more significant move is the one to introduce a £30 million budget cap, which is a red rag to FOTA teams and which would effectively create a two class F1, but I’ll deal with that point in a later post. I got the sense from responses to my blog when Bernie Ecclestone suggested medals as a More…

Posted on March 17, 2009


Today is the final day of the group pre-season test programme for Renault and Brawn. McLaren and Williams continue until Thursday. It’s the last chance the teams in Jerez will have to try out new parts and fine tune their cars on the track before Melbourne. We have Brawn, McLaren, Williams and Renault all operating with a single car. So far this month the two main stories have been the stunning performance of the Brawn Mercedes cars, which came so close to never seeing the light of day after Honda pulled out of F1 and the trouble McLaren has been More…

Posted on March 16, 2009


Fernando Alonso set the fastest time on the second day at Jerez today. His lap of 1 min 18.343 was 5/100th faster than Rubens Barrichello’s best in the Brawn. This compares with the time of 1min 19.945, he set on the final day of the last Jerez test a fortnight ago. This does not mean that Renault has suddenly vaulted ahead of Brawn, as they were some way behind in Barcelona – a second and a bit. Jerez arguably suits their car better than Barcelona at the moment, Alonso was quick there earlier this month. Renault had a slow start More…

Posted on March 16, 2009


Mario Theissen put out a quick Q & A today with some comments about FOTA, a look back at the winter testing and a quandry about whether to use KERS or not at the first race. He makes no mention of the Brawn phenomenon. BMW’s testing has gone pretty well, but not outstandingly. Many, including myself, though that they would start the year with an advantage over Ferrari and McLaren because they devoted more energy earlier to the 2009 programme than their rivals. But despite topping the time sheets occasionally at tests, they have yet to show blistering pace. Robert More…

Posted on March 14, 2009


Felipe Massa ended this week’s Barcelona test with a positive message for Ferrari fans around the world, “We have the car we had hoped for.” The only problem is, there’s another car in front of it. The F60 has suffered a few reliability problems this week, a leak in the cooling system prevented Raikkonen from completing a race distance on Tuesday, while Massa lost some time with a hydraulics problem. However the pace of the car has been class leading, leaving aside the Brawn-Mercedes, and Massa heads for Melbourne feeling that he has a car which is capable of fighting More…

Posted on March 13, 2009


Today McLaren swung into action to respond to the waves of speculation about their poor testing performance and to manage expectations ahead of the new F1 season. Regular readers of JA on F1 will know that I was in Barcelona this week and reported seeing the difficulties the driver Heikki Kovalainen was having with the car, as well as analysing the lap times for further evidence of problems. New team principal Martin Whitmarsh went public on Friday with a frank admission that the car is not fast enough and that it has some problems, “”Initial testing of MP4-24, which first More…

Posted on March 13, 2009


It’s official! The Brawn is the fastest car in the F1 field with two weeks to go before the start of the season! It is an extraordinary story. The Barcelona test, which finished on Thursday, could well go down as one of the most remarkable events in recent F1 history, as a team which seemed dead in the water at Christmas, bounced back and not only set the fastest outright lap of the week, but showed that it is faster over the race distance than the Ferrari! Amazingly for a brand new car, reliability was very good too. The car More…

Posted on March 12, 2009


This has been a great week for F1 with a real buzz starting to build around the start of the new season. As predicted it has also given us a much better idea of where the teams are relative to each other in performance, with a few surprises, like McLaren and Brawn. The key question is, who’s the pace setter? Well from what I’ve seen so far this week -and the picture has been clearing as the week’s gone on – there is nothing to choose between Ferrari and BMW, with Toyota and Brawn right there too. The one thing More…

Posted on March 12, 2009


Everyone is buzzing with the performance of the new Brawn Mercedes car in Barcelona, particularly that lap Jenson did on Wednesday of 1m 19.127 to end the day fastest. There is a lot of speculation within F1 circles and the wider public about how he did that time, whether it is genuine or whether they are running an underweight car to attract sponsors, as some teams have done in the past. Even Fernando Alonso has paid tribute to the Brawn team today, saying that his Renault couldn’t do those lap times whatever configuration it was in! Well I’ve taken a More…

Posted on March 11, 2009


Here’s a shot of the practice start I was talking about in my post on Tuesday. Kovalainen in front, Raikkonen behind, but the Ferrari was ahead after 300 metres or so, fantastic grip off the line and it’s the first part of the start which makes the difference. I mention it because it also caught the attention of some of the engineers from other teams I spoke to. I’m finding this McLaren under-performance story fascinating. There are many who think it’s a new approach to testing in a season when testing will be banned from two weeks from now onwards. More…

Posted on March 11, 2009


Ross Brawn’s team still has a long way to go, the car has no sponsors on it, the Mercedes engine deal is rumoured to be for just one year and they have to find partners in an economic crisis, but for 2009 things are a lot rosier for this team than they might appear. For one thing, Ross is not running the team on a shoestring, he has been given a budget not just to compete, but to impress. Honda estimated that it would cost them €100 million to close the team down and rather than do that, with all More…

Posted on March 11, 2009


We are experimenting with Twitter when covering live events, like the testing programme in Barcelona or major press conferences. It’s all very new, but we are having fun and hope you will appreciate the immediacy of the information. If you tell us it works well, we will seek to use this as a way of covering the action during the season. It will not be LIVE all the time but we will work out a way of letting you know when we plan a session. Feel free to download the widget on your websites. Follow us on Twitter at “jamesallenonf1” More…

Posted on March 10, 2009


I come away from the Barcelona test feeling that this is going to be a great season of racing, but in a very different way from the McLaren vs Ferrari battles of the last two years. The testing performances we have seen so far suggest that McLaren has, if not a mountain, then certainly a big hill to climb, while Ferrari, BMW and Toyota look very strong, one might almost say equally strong. If the performance we’ve seen here is carried over to the early part of the season, as it has been in recent years, then you could see More…

Posted on March 10, 2009


Ross Brawn has faced the media for the first time as a team owner today at Barcelona. He spoke for around 20 minutes about his new life as a team owner, the performance of the new car, his plans for the future and the decision not to hire Bruno Senna. The most significant comments he made regarded the former Honda CEO Nick Fry. Stories emanating from Japan were that Honda did not want Fry to be part of the management buyout. Perhaps the way around this is that he has not taken a stake in the team, which apparently is More…

Posted on March 10, 2009


If you liked that James Bond sequence where he drove the BMW Q had given him using by remote control using his phone, you’ll enjoy this wacky bit of video. I remember a few years ago F1 engineers were talking about how it was possible for an F1 car to drive itself. Well take a look at this. It’s a Vodafone viral for the Blackberry Storm, but it shows McLaren are getting funkeeeee! And please, no comments about how it might be faster than the car they’ve got at the moment! [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiLoANg6nNY]

Posted on March 10, 2009


Had dinner with Sebastien Buemi’s Dad last night and he explained the problems the Toro Rosso team is having with deciding what names to use over the radio to differentiate between the two drivers, Buemi and Sebastien Bourdais. Both are called Sebastian, both are nicknamed ‘Seb’, both have the initials SB, both are French speaking and guess what, both of them have the same middle name… Olivier! What are the chances of that? They are scratching their heads. It’ll have to be car 11 and car 12, so literally they will be saying, “Come in number 11 your time is More…

Posted on March 9, 2009


One of the high points of the day was seeing Rubens Barrichello back in the F1 paddock wearing Brawn team gear. Or at least what passes for it at the moment, it’s Henry Lloyd grey sailing wear from the looks of things. No sponsors, it’s all very 1960s really having these unbranded people and an unbranded car. Anyway, Rubens looks great, pretty thin, like most of the drivers with the new KERS diet a must in 2009. It’s been a tough few months for him, not knowing if the team was going to survive and if it did, whether he’d More…

Posted on March 9, 2009


One of the most striking things about the way the testing has been going has been the performance of Toyota. In the hands of both drivers the car has proved reliable as well as fast over long runs, the ideal triple crown, really. You sense that this could be the year of the breakthrough for Toyota which is still looking for its first win in F1. Jarno Trulli certainly seemed to think that is the case, when I caught up with him this evening. “We hope so, we are optimistic,” he said. “Only the race results will tell us the More…

Posted on March 9, 2009


After several months of not hearing and seeing racing cars it was fabulous to come to the Montmelo circuit in Barcelona today and get up close to the 2009 cars. At the end of the day, all the drivers lined up for practice starts on the main straight and I could feel my heart thumping the inside of my rib cage, just as it was when the last engine was switched off in the pit lane in Brazil last November. All the teams are here and, although the 2009 cars take some getting used to with their ungainly front wings More…

Posted on March 9, 2009


I’ve been at the Barcelona test today, where Jenson Button put the new Brawn-Mercedes through it’s first full day of testing alongside the opposition. And what a day it was. Jenson was fastest this morning and then this afternoon he wound up fourth with a best lap of 1min 21.140. But we shouldn’t get too carried away with the headline lap times, the point is that the car ran very reliably, covering 250 miles in total, which is a fantastic effort for a first full day’s running, as rival teams acknowledged. It ran with hardly any problems and Jenson had More…

Posted on March 7, 2009


On Monday I’m off to Barcelona for the test session. For many teams it is the final test before the season starts. For McLaren, Williams, Renault and Brawn GP there are another three days of running at Jerez from 15-17 March. So it’s a pretty vital week for a lot of teams, most of whom will bring heavly updated cars. It’s a huge week for Ferrari, who have still not shown exactly where they are in the pecking order. Meanwhile McLaren have been having problems with the rear wing and although they have those extra days in Jerez, they will More…

Posted on March 7, 2009


Ross Brawn has revealed more details behind his takeover of the Honda team and some of the decisions he’s made. Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Brawn makes the key revelation that he had the choice of Ferrari or Mercedes engines but chose the Mercedes because it was easier to fit into the Honda chassis. This is interesting because it had been widely believed that Ferrari had said no. He also says that they started modifying the chassis just after Christmas. Brawn also reveals that, “When I left Ferrari I never imagined that one day I would become the owner More…

Posted on March 7, 2009


Here we go again. Another round of ‘what ifs’, this time based on the proposal put forward by FOTA for revising the points system this season. They suggest that the winner should be receive greater reward (12 points) and that the podium finishers should gain more relative to the rest. So the mathematicians have been working out what different championship outcomes we might havd had in the past if this system had been in place. The biggest difference is that Eddie Irvine would have won the title in 1999 and Damon Hill would be a double champion, with victory in More…

Posted on March 6, 2009


Ross Brawn issued a brief Question and Answer document today, to mark his first full day as a team owner. It doesn’t say much, beyond expressing relief and joy that they finally got there and some heartfelt thanks to Honda and Mercedes for making it happen. Interestingly he does not pick up on the theme expressed yesterday that this deal would not have happened without FOTA, nor does he express heartfelt thanks to Bernie Ecclestone (who offered to fund the buyout) nor the FIA. He says that he is looking for ‘respectable’ performance this season. What is respectable in F1? More…

Posted on March 6, 2009


From a fans’ point of view the big story from yesterday’s FOTA press conference was the changes they’d like to make to shorten the races, change the points and boost the TV coverage. Martin Whitmarsh spoke about the desire to change the points system to reward the winner and podium finishers and to shorten the races by fifty miles, which for the average race will take about 20 minutes off the race time. The points thing will exaggerate the difference between the top teams and the rest and is possibly a payback for the big guys agreeing so many cost More…

Posted on March 6, 2009


Yesterday was frantic. I got up at 4-30am in London and got the 6-50am BA flight to Geneva with a load of excited people who were going skiiing. Geneva was cold and wet, the motor show is on, but there isn’t much enthusiasm from (or for) the car industry at the moment. The FOTA press conference was held in a kind of transport museum, not far from the airport. There weren’t as many media there as I’d expected. The usual faces from Italy, Germany, UK, but not the hundreds I thought might come. It’s a sign that the credit crunch More…

Posted on March 6, 2009


I’m delighted that Brawn GP has emerged from the rubble of the Honda GP team. It is a bold move by Ross and knowing him, he would not have done it if he did not think he could be successful. Everything he does he does well. The money must be solid because Mercedes would not have done the engine supply deal if it wasn’t. The money is coming from Honda, is my understanding. It’s an enormous challenge, but the rewards are potentially enormous for him too. After all he’s now 100% shareholder in a business with guaranteed income of at More…

Posted on March 5, 2009


Former Honda CEO Nick Fry was at the FOTA press conference this morning and after FOTA president Luca di Montezemolo confirmed that the team had been saved, he felt obliged to confirm this and to say that it would not have happened without FOTA support. “Our team has been and will benefit from FOTA, first in cost reductions and help for the next three years and also from the level of support over the last three months from the all the teams. “On the day Honda announced that they were pulling out we had support from Luca di Montezemolo and More…

Posted on March 5, 2009


The Formula One Teams Association held its first press conference today here in Geneva and the show of strength from the teams underlined how united they are. The headlines are that they have agreed to measures for 2010 which will cut budgets by 50% compared to the 2008 season. This will mean teams like Force India needing a budget of around £50 million and a top team like Ferrari and McLaren operating on £150 million. It’s impressive progress, but still some way short of what FIA president Max Mosley is looking for. I think the FIA will probably accept these More…

Posted on March 4, 2009


Felipe Massa has been doing a lot of thinking over the winter judging by some comments he made on the official F1.com site in an interview today. Massa thinks that the races are too long and boring and also that teams and drivers should make more of testing, make it more of a spectacle and encourage crowds and sponsors to come along. The unspoken part of this is that he would like to do more testing miles during the season as, like many people, he feels that the ban on testing from the first GP to the end of the More…

Posted on March 4, 2009


Today’s Financial Times has some shocking information about the state of the motor industry. And as F1 is seen as an extension of that industry because of it’s reliance on, and domination by, the car companies, you need to know about this. One story says that for most manufacturers, sales of new cars in the United States are down between 40-50%. That includes Toyota who have taken a 40% hit. A little lower down on the page there’s a story from Tokyo about how Toyota is seeking a $2 billion bail out from the Japanese government. The company is facing More…

Posted on March 4, 2009


Sebastian Vettel pitched up in Milan yesterday, at the Polytechnical College to speak to some engineering students, who will have been mostly the same age as him, 21. I imagine they discussed things like whether they keep their milk in the communal fridge or on the windowsill, and which of them scrawls a note on the fridge door along the lines of, “Hands off, I’ve licked the cheese”. Actually Vettel would love that kind of talk, his lippy smile would crack into a trademark ironic smile. But such studenty conversation is pure supposition, what is fact is that he revealed More…

Posted on March 3, 2009


Quick posting with some more chatter I’ve heard from Jerez. First is following on from my point yesterday about the poor weather the teams have had for their pre-season tests, apparently it now looks as though none of the teams will manage to reach the 15,000 kilometres of testing agreed for this year, in fact none is likely to get beyond 10,000 kms. The testing ban comes into force with the first race and lasts until the end of the year. Today in Jerez it was wet in the morning and dry in the afternoon, so quite a bit of More…

Posted on March 3, 2009


Little snippet caught my eye today in the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. Flavio Briatore was on Italian radio, talking about the stories that Alonso has already signed for Ferrari for 2011 (with an option to drive in 2010 if Raikkonen has another poor season). If you want to learn more about this story, by the way, scroll down to a post I did on it at the very end of December. I’m not sure which way he would prefer it, talking about his star driver once it’s been confirmed he’s going to the opposition (2006 season) or talking about him More…

Posted on March 2, 2009


It’s raining in Jerez and is forecast to rain again tomorrow, so not much is getting done once again. These pre-season tests have been blighted – by rain in Europe and by sandstorms in Bahrain. Everyone is rushing to get things done in time for the new season, but it seems someone up high is sending a message about the wisdom of making such a radical cut in testing! Anyway I’m hearing some interesting stuff from out there. Apparently it is starting to look as though only four teams will start the season using new the KERS system; Ferrari, McLaren, More…

Posted on March 1, 2009


At the Williams team pre-season briefing the other day, I was mucking about with a Flip video camera and here is a clip of Nico explaining the big difference between last year’s cars and this years and the key to driving the 2009 spec cars. Sorry it’s a bit quiet, I’ll get the audio better next time… Anyway as you can see, Nico looks very skinny. He’s had to lose some weight to compensate for the extra weight of the KERS hybrid system in the cars this season, as have all the drivers (not that he had much to lose). More…

Posted on March 1, 2009


Things are really starting to hot up now as the new season approaches and the final two tests before the first race are upon us. This week Jerez, next week Barcelona. We will know who’s looking good and who’s not in the next fortnight. The new Force India package has been launched and this team are demanding that we take them seriously. There is every reason to. They have made a very smart technical and strategic alliance with McLaren. This means that in addition to a McLaren man moving in as the CEO of Force India, they will run the More…

Posted on March 1, 2009


Ron Dennis’ 28 year tenure as team principal of McLaren ends today. His number two, Martin Whitmarsh, aged 50, takes over the role at a fascinating time for the team and the sport in general. Under Dennis McLaren has been one of the most successful teams of the last three decades, although there have been marked downturns in their fortunes along the way, when the team struggled for competitiveness, like the period between the 1991 world title won by Senna and the 1998 one for Hakkinen. Since Hakkinen’s second title in 1999, there was a long and frustrating wait for More…



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