This weekend has been quite low key in anticipation of a big week ahead. It’s the quiet before the storm.
Tomorrow Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg will pull the covers off the first Mercedes F1 car for 55 years and by next Sunday we will know what three of the main contenders for the world championship look like; Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren.
And then testing will begin and the new season will be up and running. It’s all about to kick off.
But there have been a few points worth noting this weekend, as we gear up for the action, not least because some of the last remaining seats on the grid have been filled.
Ferrari continue to talk of a third car, a concept they also spoke of in reference to Michael Schumacher. This remains something of a dream as F1 is about to have 13 teams and is moving away from the need to have three car teams rather than closer to it.
Rossi’s contract in Moto GP with Yamaha has just one year to run and obesrvers commented that there was an intensity to this test which implied that it was perhaps a more serious evaluation of his potential to make the switch than previous tests, which were largely for fun.
Rossi’s Yamaha team boss Davide Brivio played his part in the story by saying that he could see Rossi changing sport, even at the age of 31, as he will be by the start of the 2011 F1 season.
It’s not hard to see why Rossi might be losing motivation in bikes after winning countless championships and over 100 Grands Prix. The World Rally Championship is hoping to welcome him in 2011, but there are signs that he might want a crack at F1 first. Whether this is realistic, time will tell. He is one of the greatest heroes in modern motor sport, but it is not as if F1 is lacking box office names at the moment!
Also breaking cover this weekend was 36 year old Jarno Trulli, who gave an interview to Gazetta dello sport in which he said that Lotus has fantastic resources and a clear plan, but is just running a bit late. It is looking as though the car will not run in a test before 17 February at Jerez, which is the third F1 test of the new season.
At Lotus Trulli has been reunited with many familiar faces from Toyota including team manager Dieter Gass and with people he has worked with at Jordan and Renault. Mike Gascoyne has put the team together from people he rated at his previous teams and this should be a pretty harmonious unit, which should gel pretty quickly. Trulli says the target for year one is to give “dignity to a team which calls itself Lotus” and to get into the points a few times.
Another driver making headlines this weekend has been Jose Maria Lopez, a 26 year old Argentine, who was once a member of the Renault young driver programme and who won a GP2 race. Lopez’ manager told Reuters that his man will become the first driver to be announced by the new USF1 team on Monday, arguably a bad day to bury good news as Schumacher and Mercedes are certain to dominate the news agenda!
Lopez’ name has been connected with the team since November, when it was suggested that he had signed a deal. USF1 sporting director Peter Windsor told me last week that they were pretty sure who their drivers would be but had yet to sign a contract with either of them.
Lopez has some hefty commercial backing and the influence of 1970s Brabham and Ferrari driver Carlos Reutemann, Windsor’s favourite racing driver, who is now a powerful figure in Argentine politics. Lopez is managed by Felipe McGough, a regular fixture on the F1 scene thanks to his involvement with Argentine TV.
An interesting footnote on Lopez is that, despite his obscurity in Europe, he currently has over 6 million links to his name on a Google search, many times more than Nick Heidfeld or Bruno Senna, for example.
My understanding is that of the new teams, USF1 are the ones who are least ready technically for the new season, but they seem to have funding. Campos and Virgin are well advanced technically, but Campos clearly lacks funding, while Lotus will miss some vital tests but have a very solid looking base to build on.