F1 Winter Break
Things that have caught my eye lately
Things that have caught my eye lately
Posted By:   |  29 Jun 2009   |  6:50 pm GMT  |  34 comments

In the parallel F1 world, away from FIA and FOTA, there have been a few interesting little developments lately.

Donington got its planning permission, thanks to the resolution of the legal row between Simon Gillett and the landowners Wheatcroft and Son. Also the company which is selling the debentures, ISG, an offshoot of IMG, broke cover and commented for the first time in ages about Donington. It’s now a year since Gillett said that he would be announcing plans for a ‘fan powered debenture scheme’ to pay for the developments.

In May this year he announced the plans. Debentures will be for three, five and 10 years, with prices between £1,200 and £4,000 a year, depending on level of access.

There are 40 days of entertainment in the package plus the Grand Prix, made up of other motorsport and music events and track days.

Gillett told the Express recently that the demand is there, “We’re only looking for 4,700 a year globally to buy into our idea. Our survey shows they are out there.”

And Andrew Hampel of ISG (an offshoot of IMG, which is in charge of the debenture scheme) said, “It is nonsense to say that the Donington Park figures and debenture scheme does not stack up. Through IMG and Bastion, ISG has vast experience and we are world leaders in the area of stadium and arena marketing.

“Without doubt, as paying customers, motorsport fans are ready for the same level of quality that fans of other leading sports have become accustomed to, and there is no reason that Donington Park cannot provide that.”

Brawn GP carjpg
The Brawn team is running away with both championships and today I noticed that Alex Wurz, the former Honda test driver, has been talking to Auto Motor und Sport magazine about the car which Honda chose not to race. Now renamed Brawn, Wurz reckons that it is the “most expensive car with the lowest operating budget ever”, based on the assertion that it was developed in five windtunnels with three separate programmes running. I’ve heard rival teams mutter that this is the most expensive car ever made too, but thought that they were probably jealous! Meanwhile one of the designers, Jorg Zander, has left Brawn recently. Zander has moved around a fair bit in recent years between Toyota, BAR, Williams, BMW Sauber and Honda. He lasted a year at Williams, a year at BMW and two and a half years at Honda/Brawn.

Of the three new F1 teams who entered for 2010 thinking that there would be a £40 million budget cap, two say they are going ahead, while one says that it looks more difficult than it did before. USF1, which is backed by one of the You Tube founders, is the only one of the three which is building its own car, trying to be a genuine F1 team, just like the others. Manor is taking a car from Simtek, while Campos is taking a car from Dallara. Manor boss John Booth spoke recently about the uncertainty which still hangs over next year’s rules and I get the impression from other F1 teams that they think this project might struggle to get the funding, despite rumours of Virgin being interested in sponsoring them, which I can’t really see. Meanwhile Gianpaulo Dallara is quoted today as saying that they began work on the 2010 car three months ago and as for the collapse of the budget cap, “We are continuing as if nothing had happened,”

Like all of the F1 technical departments, Dallara gambled that the rules would be based on 2009, with no refuelling and he was proved right,
“We have worked on 2009 specification adding the extra fuel capacity required for 2010,” he said.

Campos is down to use the Cosworth engine, but as I posted here a couple of days ago, they will not be allowed to run at 20,000rpm, so it will be interesting to take a look at how they get that engine up to speed. Frank Williams, who used the engine in 2006, said recently that it was not even close to the package provided by the modern manufacturer engines, like the Toyota.

And speaking of engines, another little gem from Auto Motor und Sport says that Robert Kubica a contender for the season’s most miserable driver, has now chomped through five of his allocated eight engines for the year. He looks like making some unwanted history by being the first man to take a penalty for using a ninth engine. Apparently at Silverstone he lost two engines, one on Friday and then it’s replacement on Saturday. How he must look back on last season and his chance to fight for the title and wonder when that chance may come around again..

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With regard to Robert Kubica, it was his sixth engine that he finally used in the race at Silverstone, and with us less than half way through the season and a lot of his previous five engines blown, he really is in dire straits. He will easily need 10 or 11 engines to get him through the season at least, so lots of penalties coming up.


I have to say I feel a little bit vindicated after reading Wurz's comments. All I've heard this year was praise for how Brawn is winning races with such a small budget. As if everyone immediately forgot how much money Honda dumped into this car before they called it quits.


So James, I'm a bit confused on the 2010 engine rules. Does this mean all the teams sticking with the 18k rev limit for next year or are they going with the "cost cap" rules for everybody and all teams having no rev limit? Or is this all yet to be decided?


"... it was developed in five windtunnels with three separate programmes running."

That would explain Ross Brawn's choosing Honda upon his return from sabbatical!

Speaking of Mr. Brawn, I remember what Ron Dennis said when Adrian Newey left McLaren for Red Bull. He said something to the effect that modern F1 did not depend on a star designer but rather a whole team of engineers. With his success at Benetton, Ferrari, and his own Brawn along with Newey at Red Bull it looks like a star engineer is still a necessity.

What do you think James, is a star designer less important today?


With regards the Cosworth unit, it would appear that no one told Williams of the ban on duel regulations for 2010. He's now suggesting that they will be allowed to run with no rev limit.


All very odd. I have problems accepting that they are opting for an engine which will make them uncompetative next season and makes then half a second a lap slower. More spin than Massa.

Williams threw their hat in the ring with Mosley. They have not yet asked to become full members of FOTA post Mosley's capitulation/total victory (take your choice). Are they still on the side of the dictator/democratically elected servant of the masses (take your choice but look to history for guidance)? I am a big fan of Williams. I hope they don't go digging themselves a big hole. The FOTA refusal to go with the breakaway saved them from oblivion. You'd think they'd be grateful.

That's an interesting take on the Honda/Brawn car. Mind you, why would you need all those wind tunnels? Air is air and fast air is fast air.

What cannot be denied is that the Brawn, regardless of how much it cost, is a quality car. But it does beg the question: how much development work can Brawn put into it? Next season the demand will be for a car which run predictably and well on full tanks to fumes. At the moment it would appear that Brawn can't exploit the car's potential on circuits that don't warm the tyres.

Both championships would appear to be sewn up. Silverstone has been reported as a glitch of the circuit and ambients and Button will have everything done up within three races, or that's the theory. I've got to say It has me convinced.

Donnington? I don't know. Are they really suggesting return on investment from ticket sales when fans are to be bussed in? The thought I had when Eccs said there would be a British GP next season was that he had guaranteed the loan but on second thoughts, he's not the sort to throw good money after bad. Or, come to that, throw money.

Mind you, I've got some big outgoings next season so lashing a couple of hundred for a ride in a bus doesn't really seem likely for me. So count me out, Bernie.


And on a different tack completely, how about some sculpture, inspired by F1, by a chap that spent 20 odd years working in F1, for Benneton and BAR/Honda.

I found out about this from a garden design magazine...

The sharks look interesting... and he also does a piranha (I wonder if any of the team bosses are customers, Jenson and Rubens are).


kubica's first engine failed towards the end of friday practise. the second one was pulled out the car but it's not blown up, there was just a sensor fault on it.

we'll see if manor actually last - i read today that FOTA are considering appealing their entry, based on the fact that alan 'conflict of interest' donnelly seems to have some fairly close links with the team, and nick wirth of manor used to run(?) simtek, along with a certain max mosely... certainly their entry at the expense of prodrive has raised a few eyebrows. sounds like they might be quite sympathetic to the FIA cause - but i'm sure that was not considered and that the entire process was completely transparent and the FIA findings on the sustainability of these teams are watertight.


James, good to read something other than FOTA/FIA!

Question for you ... what's your view on the value of "star designers"? Maybe they're not designers as such any more, but guys like Adrian Newey and Ross Brawn have a long pedigree of getting the design philosophy right and coming up with winning cars.

Both Mclaren and Ferrari have had good runs with Adrian and Ross in the past. But both teams now seem to prefer more a collegial team of designers, without any one "design star" leading the technical team. And both Mclaren and Ferrari have been caught out by making poor design decisions in the face of a sweeping change of technical regulations.

While Adrian & Ross are well paid they don't cost their teams what Kimi or Lewis do. What's your view on whether the best investment a team could make would be pour money into buying the star designers ahead of star drivers?

Cridland [CommentCrid@gmail.com]

On top of what F1Outsider is saying: Does anyone remember the spectacularly nasty things that Bernie was saying about Honda sometime around the Christmas period, when no deal had yet been cut to save the team? This was after Honda had spent millions, perhaps billions, over the preceding few years... No small percentage of it going to Bernie.

I'm sure someone more knowledgeable about F1 –and about business, for that matter– could make a case that Honda's management techniques were a failure, or that the Japanese approach to teamwork was insufficient dynamic, or something like that.

But it still seemed improbably that the Supremo would mock a company of that size that had helped make him so rich.

On the other hand, he got rich by not saying things without good purpose.

So can anybody explain what was happening?


All the hype will wain come 2010 if there's a breakaway series which I hope they do. This is the worst of the worst for F1. WE NEED CHANGE, BIGTIME.


BMW is a bit like last two year's Honda at the moment isn't it?
Had a victory in the previous year, hoping to be fighting for the championships in the next. But now they are struggle to get into the points.


As you can tell by my name, I'm a huge Kubica fan and I am gutted that things aren't working out for him and Heidfeld this season.

The best I am hoping for now just now is that if BMW can somehow pull off what Alonso and Renault did late last season.

However, I'm sure Kubica isn't the only one short on engines. Vettel and Red Bull have gone through a few engines already have they not?


I have really been enjoying Kubica's bad year, he thoroughly deserves it for what he did last year in Brazil to Lewis. In case anybody has forgotten, he decided to unlap himself and in doing so, 'accidentally' forced Lewis wide, allowing Vettel to pass. We were a few corners away from the Pole cheating Lewis from his very deserved 2009 WDC and zero chance of any FIA sanction against him.

Given what was going on, and the incredible events that happened that year, Robert made himself quite a few enemies that day, for life.


Surely poor Robert Kubica has enough of a penalty just driving the BMW this year.
As for the teams using the Cosworth next year, do we really need mobile chicanes again. Those of us old enough to remember the days of pre-qualifying will recall teams that made it through then toddled around until they were lapped within 10 or so laps & generally got in the way.


"Now renamed Brawn, Wurz reckons that it is the “most expensive car with the lowest operating budget ever”, based on the assertion that it was developed in five windtunnels with three separate programmes running."

On the BBC Eddie Jordan loves to talk about how it is a "fairytale". Bernie said that Brawn is in front because they were "careful with their budget".

This is an important distinction to make. I hate it when people describe Brawn as the "underdogs", as though the car really should be painted dark metallic green and Button is the plucky Brit. Nothing could be further from the truth; Honda threw away last year's car and poured an incredible amount of resources into this year's contender. It is far from a "fairytale".


The comparison of BMW being like Honda is interesting. Also it seems like Kubica and Button have swapped places: Button from bottom in 2008 to top in 2009, Kubica from top in 08 to bottom in 09.

lee in Farnborough

hi james

this is something that caught my eye but i not seen it anywhere else so can you spread some light on this...

this spanish source is saying that Sebastian Bourdais will be replaced by Jaime Alguersuari for up coming race..



The 2010 regs are in the air, ther is plenty of time for a chap in charge (Oops! i nearly said dictator there) to change them to allow no rev limit for Williams STR and Red Bull, those being the ones that signed up as blacklegs while t'strike was still on. Ferrari were signed up too, but they didn't want to be, so they will have a rev limit as will anyone who annoys Max.

The engine saga, you may remember my post before the season with the voice of the balls calling which engine had been drawn and when it was last seen. After that it was stated that teams would use the same engine all weekend, but it now seems that they use different ones for Friday and Sat morning, so I wasn't so far off after all.

Kubica could have worse luck, he could have been Johnny Herbert at whose mere appearance, all kinds of faults magically developed in any car he was supposed to drive, so much so that I cant remember him finishing a GP.


"That’s an interesting take on the Honda/Brawn car. Mind you, why would you need all those wind tunnels? Air is air and fast air is fast air."

A lot of F1 Wind Tunnel work is an iterative design and testing process (or, to put it more crudely, trial-and-error). the more tunnels you have, the more tests you can do and the more tests you can do, the more refined your design gets.

Even if there's only, for example, 10 front wing concepts, 10 sidepod concepts, and 10 rear wing concepts - because of the interactions of the components that's 1000 tests to cover all the combinations to see which one works best.



It sounds as if Williams is trying to align itself to a Cosworth engine in the instance that Toyota drop them for the FOTA / FIA betrayal.

How can the FIA propose a double standard for engine rules? Does that mean Ferrari or Mercedes can run a 2006 engine rev-unlimited??


James, could you shed light on this scenario? If there is a ban on refuelling and the drivers still have to use both compounds of tyre, what is to stop someone pitting on the last lap to put on the less desirable tyre and drive over the line? Even if they had to do one complete circuit (and not Schumacher Stop/Go Silverstone style) wouldn't it be worth a go? Or are the tyre regs scrapped? I haven't heard them mentioned.

I thought someone like Pat Symonds might have tried it at least once this year despite the fuel implications... he always been a subscriber to the 'do something different' idea.


williams are confirmed with a toyota engine, the fact they signed up early to the FIA championship should have no impact on the engine deal, and i expect williams and FIF1 to be reinstated to FOTA along with the other 3 teams soon (depending on the actions of spanky of course).

the article was just more to reassure FOTA that the cosworth cars would not gain a competitive advantage from the extra 2000RPM, not in power (engines have moved on a fair bit in the last 3 years), and a definite disadvantage in terms of fuel consumption. i don't know if those engines would be subject to the same 8 engines per season limit as the current engines though, as i can't see them lasting much more than 8 races if the teams do utilise them up to the full 20000RPM.


do you really think that he does it on purpose? It is impossible to blow an engine after one lap as it was at Malesian gp or at Sliversone in qualifing session... The engines are rpm limited so it's impossible to overdo at least when you shift gears properly. I have not seen that RK upshifts or downshifts unproperly. He has a lot of bad luck. Engines of BMW are simply not good enough.


Yes but you would need to be leading the car you were racing against by over 20 seconds at most venues to hold on to your track position, plus your tyres would be pretty hammered after running 70 odd laps in a heavy car.


Trial and error? Good heavens, Rich, leave me some of my illustions. I thought these people were engineers. The thought of Newey saying:

Ok, that's rubbish. Let's try the wing the other way around,

is just too horrible to contemplate.


Not really a discussion point of any value from me... just thought I'd say Paul, that's a brilliant idea! McLaren could win half the races and blow up in the rest just like 2005!


You're right.
He isn't a Vorlon.
Neither a Shadow.
Ferringhi perhaps?


More to do with having a star manager, and having a star designer means that they get a level of respect from their team that is required to be a star manager.


I'd imagine it like most team efforts. My experience is from the world of software where you typically have lots of good people and a few people that are supremely expert in their particular domain. I think that probably translates quite well to high end engineering.

You can have the best engineers in the world, but without good management (to keep stuff away from the engineers) and good direction (to point the engineers in the right direction), it doesn't mean squat.

So its not so much as a "star engineering genius" as the requirement for a talented engineer that knows what to do, has the people skills to do it and the technical skills to stop bad ideas before they get past germination stage.

At all the places I've worked where things have been done well, the guy running the show is not the best engineer, is not the smartest guy, but he is the guy that sees the bigger, longer term picture and knows how to orchestrate all of his people well. The key thing I've noticed is that they are always "team first" rather than "superstars first" people. Seems to me that Ross Brawn is like this.


Not heard that one, but it would seem odd to chuck him in with no testing.


I always thought sifting through the chaff and identifying the wheat was one of my skills but I have to admit Bernie has shown me that it was merely conceit. He's impossible to predict.

As you say, his criticisms of Honda, especially when they'd spent so much, was a bit uncalled for (and Mosley had a go at one off the cuff comment from Luca).

But the only time they've had real success is when they've supplied engines to proper teams. Williams and then McLaren were both class of the field with their engines so why not repeat their success? What commercial advantage was there in chasing a dream?

I felt they were quite responssible in their exit, handing over the team as a whole, with some investment still outstanding. So why have a go at them, Bernie?

He's had a few bust ups with Mossy in the past. There was the mobile phone-throwing incident, the swearing at him on the phone when demanding his resignation after Slappergate (bet that gets modded) and in front of posh people and pushing aside of journalists then, in reply to bland questions, saying: Ask Mosley.

I think the strain was beginning to tell on Bernie. You'd have thought his hair woud have started to fall out. Given his actions in the brokerage of the deal that was, or might be is, I bet the shares in Vodaphone have gone up, and not only because Ron might be coming back.

Much as I want to criticise Bernie for taking so much money out of the sport, and abandoning so many great circuits, I have a certain sympathy for him as he's never put himself up for beatification. He has made no secret of his motivation. The image I get of him is asking first and always, How much?


Confused also. especially given that engine rev limits is one of main reasons cars can't overtake this year.
Surely the solution is: Maintain engine life restrictions, but allow unlimited revs.
Current rules discriminate against engine manufacturers who can make an engine more reliable and higher-revving than their competitors. Surely a technical triumph all on its own


Actually I like the idea of a few slower cars. I wasn't old enough to follow F1 in the pre qualifying days, but I remember how the likes of Minardi, Arrows and Prost used to get lapped quite often until a few years ago. It makes a change from today where they're all about the same speed. That may make qualifying much more exciting but it does nothing for overtaking. If a driver falls to the back of the pack now he'll probably stay there, so we don't see any big fightbacks anymore.


To be fair, it's been said in quite a number of places this season, just not so much in the pop press. Still, with similar budgets, others are doing much worse jobs, so it's not all about the money, eh?

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