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The final day of the season
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The final day of the season
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Nov 2009   |  11:07 am GMT  |  27 comments

It’s race day at Yas Marina Circuit, the last day of the 2009 Formula 1 season and everyone is preparing to race for the final time before a long lay off over the winter.

The next time F1 cars will be driven in anger is late November, when the young driver test takes place in Jerez. After that no-one will turn a wheel until February. Formula 1 will drop into a deep sleep as far as the public are concerned, although behind the scenes a lot will still be going on, much of it being discussed and planned right now.

IMG_0357
For some mechanics and engineers it will be their last race as the teams are forced to downsize over the winter. Teams now bringing 70 people to races will have to say goodbye to 25 of them. For teams like Force India and Brawn, reaching the agreed limit for 2010 of 45 people on site will be easy as they are more or less there already. For McLaren, Ferrari and Toyota it will be much harder. The big teams are asking the smaller ones to cut them some slack nest season and fudge a few roles so they can get down to the number gradually.

Many insiders regret that F1 has gone too far in reducing testing. This season has highlighted the need to have some testing, so that young drivers can be blooded, so that teams in trouble can test out development parts and make progress more quickly. Of course they want to stay away from the idea of test teams, but there are some small things they could do to make life better.

Take the young driver situation, for example. Sebastian Vettel was blooded by BMW who gave him plenty of outings on Fridays in the days when teams were allowed to run young drivers during free practice. Vettel consequently arrived well prepared when a race seat opened up.

Contrast that with Romain Grosjean and Jaime Alguersuari. Both a talented drivers, but neither of them is ready for the harsh reality of racing in F1 that they have encountered this season. In Grosjean’s case it could destroy his career, Alguersuari is at the Toro Rosso driving academy where learning is allowed, so he may be okay, but F1 cannot continue to devour and destroy promising talent. Drivers are nurtured for years and then their careers curtailed unnecessarily.

So there is a move from some team bosses to run young drivers on Fridays again and that has to be welcomed.

IMG_0358
On a business level a lot is being done here in Abu Dhabi. Mercedes has its entire board here, as does Brawn GP. The Abu Dhabi investment people have been very active and there was some suggestion that a deal might be announced regarding Aabar, which owns 9% of Mercedes, taking a controlling interest in Brawn. The deal is on and it will set Brawn up as a top team for the foreseeable future.

David Richards is here. He is looking at doing a deal with an existing team, not to take over as team principal and come to races, but to restructure the team along the lines of the new resource restriction agreement and manage the long term strategy. He would be excellent at that and Renault would appear to me to be in need of that kind of help. Perhaps a deal will be done there, but don’t expect Richards to then appear on the pit wall.

Picture 52

Ron Dennis is here in the paddock for the first time since the start of the year. He is raising money for his road car project and working with his partners Mansour Ojjeh and Mumtakalat to buy out Mercedes’ shares in the team. But finding a price is difficult. And the galling thing for McLaren is that once they pay the money to Mercedes it will then go straight to Brawn to but the controlling interest and make them an even more formidable competitor.

Abu Dhabi has done F1 proud with this track, but it is no white elephant like Shanghai or Istanbul. This track with its stunning hotels and restaurants and marina is set to become a social and entertainment hub for Abu Dhabi, so will have an even more dynamic existence day to day than it is enjoying with the F1 in town. As Yas Island is only 20 mins drive from downtown Abu Dhabi and an hour from Dubai, this is a place that people will come on Saturday night, for dinner, entertainment and fun. It’s very well conceived.

Marina
From Abu Dhabi’s point of view it sends out an important message and one which is much stronger than just buying a football team like Manchester City and then throwing money at buying players. The point they have made with this place is that they can get things done. This is a place which means business and for that reason is better integrated with F1 than any of the recent new venues. For that reason I see it lasting on the calendar for much longer than the others.

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27 Comments
  1. jw1980 says:

    James,

    very interesting comment regarding Abu Dhabi. It does look like a very exciting prospect indeed. Surely this type of venue puts huge pressure on the likes of China and Turkey who have not taken to F1 at all. How much longer will they be on the calendar? There have been many stories this year suggesting that neither are keen on paying the huge F1 fees in the future.
    It just emphasises the importance of keeping the British GP (and German, French, etc). Okay at present they may not pay the megabucks that China, Turkey, etc do but as a long term bet these circuits are going to be around a lot longer.
    Abu Dhabi is incedible. To a certain extent you could argue that Singapore is irrelevant now. However, no one will be saying that about Monaco, Monza, Silverstone and Spa….

  2. jw1980 says:

    James,

    behind the scenes has Ron Dennis been setting up a new engine department for F1? You have been quiet on this subject compared to other websites.
    In a post earlier this year you said that Ron was driving everyone mad at the road division because the job was not as exciting as being F1.
    Surely this would be Ron’s ultimate dream to have a McLaren car winning with its own engine?
    Interesting he’s at a GP now Max is no longer president.

    1. James Allen says:

      I was quiet because I want to try to get accurate information first. My sense from this weekend is that they are not going to do their own engine and that they would like to use the Mercedes until the end of the current engine formula, which is end of 2012. Contract with Merc is to end 2011…

  3. Mark says:

    Great as ever to have some insight James, how about telling us how the grid will be next season. My Guess:

    McLaren: Kimi
    Toyota: Heikki, Glock
    Brawn: Button, Rosberg
    Force India: Sutil, Fisichella
    Toro Rosso: same

    The new teams are to unrealiable to guess, but I think that Piquet might be a dark horse.

    1. James Allen says:

      ..or he might find part of one sleeping in his bed..

      1. Brace says:

        hahaa, great one James! XD
        I can’t wait for November hearing.

  4. Paul Sivyer says:

    I totally agree with your comments on testing and young drivers. It’s difficult to believe that such a regulation would have been conceived at the outset!

    I’ll be a sad day for many of the teams and their workforces. I hope that they can redeploy their staff and not lay them off. Fans will also be very sad today – the end of one of the most entertaining F1 seasons.

    Thanks to you James for all the “Twittering” and blogs. You made a fantastic contribution to my enjoyment of the F1 year. I hope you’ll be able to keep the info coming during the “closed season”! Cheers.

  5. Ross Evans says:

    Has there been any whispers on how much of the Brawn team Mercedes are hoping to get?
    If I remember correctly Ross Brawn acquired the entire team for £1 when Honda pulled out. As this should see him make a tidy profit, is it likely that Ross will repay much of this to Honda?

    1. James Allen says:

      75% is the figure I’ve heard. It’s definitely a controlling interest.

  6. Silverstoned says:

    James, first are you going to continue updating us through the winter?

    My other question is do you agree it now falls on Jens’s shoulders more than anyone to campaign for recognition and support frrom the government for F1 staff and facilities, esp Silverstone? May not be a fight that’s easy but…

    1. James Allen says:

      Definitely. The site is all year round. I think everyone with any influence should lobby the British government. But the sport has not helped itself this year with the way it has carried on and I think on that level it hasn’t helped itself

      1. David Hodge says:

        I don’t know that our trough-feeding MPs are in a position to lecture F1 on probity James!

  7. Werewolf says:

    Outstanding article, James.

    Following on from the road car project, do you think McLaren will develop its own engine for F1, which could also become a revenue stream, or look towards another partnership with a different manufacturer?

    1. James Allen says:

      No I do not. I think they will use Mercedes until the end of 2011 and would like a little longer than that, but I cannot see them building an F1 engine at the same time as buying out Mercedes 40% shareholding and building a new road car.

  8. Jake Pattison says:

    Please tell me you will continue to keep us updated through the off season James.

  9. theoldman says:

    Congratulations James I always enjoy reading your blog, as it is the most informational, and the most intuitive that I have seen.
    Please keep up the great work!

  10. John Bayldon says:

    Congratulations to the people for the new circuit, but I have a bad feeling about that tunnel. Especially in this era of safty consciousness this looks like a retrograde step.
    It isn’t Monaco, a street circuit. At least they should have had a fixed, mounted, crane.
    Hope things go well anyway, now with an Arab corcuit at each end of the contest.
    Cheers!

  11. Brace says:

    is it just me or that hotel looks like a giant phallus from certain angles?

  12. ade says:

    Thanks for the great grand prix coverage this year James.
    .
    Regarding your comment about Alguesuari and Grosjean struggling due to lack of testing, how do you square that with Kobayashi’s excellent performances for the last two grands prix?

    1. kenneth mulvaney says:

      -The argument [testimg & Romain Grosjean and Jaime Alguersuari] held some water until the arrival of Kobayashi.

      Kobayashi looks like the real deal, and made raikkonen and button look very ordinary (maybe not that great of an achievement).

      It is certainly impressive that a guy we hadn’t heard of until 3races ago can come in and run at podium pace in a not great car.

      –We havnt seen that since Schumi’s arrival!!

  13. ade says:

    Just thought I’d add – this was a tedious grand prix livened only by Button’s attack on Webber at the end and Kobayashi’s quality performance.
    .
    We were beaten around the head from all sections of the media with how fantastic this race was, but for someone who wasn’t there in the paddock, on a yacht in the marina or on the balcony of the hotel quaffing champagne as the cars raced underneath them it was a bit underwhelming.
    .
    Like Singapore it’s yet another venue where we’re being sold the “event” rather than the race and if you’re not actually *at* the event there’s nothing left but a dull procession. If this is Bernie’s vision of future F1, I’m going to start watching my kids play Scalextric.

    1. Jodum5 says:

      I was at the grand prix and agree that the race would have been a major let down if it wasn’t for Jenson Button and Mark Webber’s battle at the final 10 laps of the race (I rented a Kangaroo set and could see JB begin to reel him in). However, it’s impossible to guarantee an exciting race at ANY track. Monaco, Silverstone and Suzuka have had their exciting and dull races. So has Turkey, Fuji (RIP), and Shanghai.

      There really isn’t much to be done to prevent this (apart from continuing to add artificial elements to encourage “racing”).

      Anyway, as a fan who has attended GPs at Montreal (2007) and Abu Dhabi, I have found attending a GP SHOULD be about the total experience (travelling to a new country/city) not just cars going round and round in circles. That’s what justifies the huge cost for f1 races. With this trip, I have found attending a GP should not be compared to attending a soccer or baseball game.

      1. ade says:

        Attending a GP is one thing, watching it on telly is quite another. It doesn’t matter how many colours the hotel changes into over the course of a race, if the actual on-track action is dull then television viewers will turn off. Where will Bernie get his telly revenue from then?
        .
        When the race coverage is reduced to showing yachts in the harbour and aerial shots of the multi-hued hotel rather than actually following the on-track action, then that suggests that there is something fundamentally wrong.
        .
        Besides, if I wanted to watch a sunset over the desert I would rent a DVD of Lawrence of Arabia.

      2. James Allen says:

        Good point. One of the interesting things to come from the weekend is that the difference between the experience of being there and of watching it on TV were much bigger than with, say Singapore, or many other races. It’s a case of “You really had to be there,” which surprises me a bit because the TV guys did a really good job. Somehow it still left some people cold. But take it from me that track is no white elephant. It’s got F1 DNA.

  14. Harveyeight says:

    There is, as you point out, a major problem with developing drivers for F1. I have assumed the testing ban is the major factor in how slow Ferrari and McLaren were to get their cars up to speed. Whilst this might be seen as a good thing for the sport, with (let us hope for) stability until 2012 they will be the class of the field from now on.

    It’s been an interesting season, with two new teams establishing themselves at the top. Whilst Brawn has, quite rightly, received a considerable share of the headlines, Red Bull has been a revelation. I thought they would tail off towards the end of the season. Way off the mark there I have to say.

    From a corporate point of view, Abu Dhabi seems to have been a total success. But if, as you say James, a GP should be a total experience, then Abu is lacking in one of the most important aspects, that of history. I think you can put up with an occasional boring race at Spa given the memories just being there stirs. The stands might be less than comfortable and there are no pretty lights, but there are plenty of ghosts of GPs past.

    And should a report on a GP sound like something from a Thompsons brochure? Abu D was interesting rather than exciting. What would revealing, although not that interesting, would be the count of the number of times the commentators on the BBC said the word ‘hotel’ during the race. If the infrastructure is the most memorable part of a GP the venue’s in trouble.

    The Italian GP in 1971 (approx date) had half a dozen changes for the lead in the final two laps, with four(ish) drivers sharing the spoils. (All figures and dates subject to fading memories.) The reason was high speed tows. Why can’t we get back to that?

    You use the phrase ‘artificial elements’, presumably in a derogatory way. You are not suggesting, I take it, that F1 is in any way ‘pure’ are you? It is all artificial. Every limitation, or regulation, is an artificial element. There’s an article there that might run in the next few bleak months.

    This season has been a cracker overall. Had it not been for the politics, that overwhelming cloud that has dulled the sport for years, it would have been a showpiece. Still, we’ve been blessed with two faces leaving, although not disappearing I bet. But even so, it’s got to give the fans hope. I have little expectation of Todt and I expect him to live up to it, but you never know. He didn’t put up a good show during the electioneering, making a few fundamental errors, and he doesn’t come with the highest of recommendations given Head’s resume of his abilities as a leader.

    But what must be good for the sport is that the old order has changed. Whilst McLaren’s resurgence in the latter half of the season put most of the pretenders in their place, there has been a change in the order of things. That’s got to be good for the sport.

    I know you should not end on a down note but I’ve got to say that some of the new circuits have lived up to expectations. Stands empty of fans, races empty of thrills. I’ve got to say that, as a fan of F1 for many years, the sport seems to be changing. Change can be good, if not essential, but things are not getting better, unless you count gaudy hotels. And now Bridgestone is leaving. Is the reason for their poor tyre choice for Abu D the fact that they were using up old stock?

    Bridgestone have been around for so many years. It is a shame.

  15. Neil Williams says:

    1. For ‘Yas’ read ‘Yawn
    2. Wasn’t ‘Yas’ part of the Plastic Population? (or am I showing my age)

  16. Elly says:

    I agree with James’s point of view about tests.
    The drivers, not only the young and unexperiensed ones but also the superprofessionals, passing in a new team must have more opportunities to test the race cars before the beginning of the season.

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