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Thoughts on Rossi, Massa, Trulli, Alguersuari and Lopez
Thoughts on Rossi, Massa, Trulli, Alguersuari and Lopez
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Jan 2010   |  11:07 pm GMT  |  66 comments

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.

Rossi (Photo: Ferrari)

Rossi (Photo: Ferrari)

Towards the end of last week, motorcycle legend Valentino Rossi did two days testing at Barcelona in a 2008 Ferrari. He then handed the car over to Felipe Massa on Friday. There has been a lot of speculation about what these tests signify. Why take Rossi and a team of mechanics all the way to Spain, when he could have tested in Fiorano and Mugello – tracks which Ferrari owns? Why go to the expense, for a start? And why two days for Rossi, taking his total time at the wheel of a Ferrari F1 car since 2004 to 14 days?

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!

Massa (Photo: Ferrari)

Massa (Photo: Ferrari)

Rossi lapped Barcelona in 1m 21.9 seconds, in a 2008 car with 2009 tyres. The following day Massa put the performance in context when he went almost three seconds faster, setting a time in the 1m 18s. It is not known whether the conditions in terms of fuel load and new tyres were identical. Massa covered over 400km in his test, helping him with his rehabilitation from injury.

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.

Alguersuari: Another chance

Alguersuari: Another chance

Toro Rosso confirmed that Jaime Alguersuari will stay with the team for his first full season, having replaced Sebastian Bourdais last summer. Alguersuari is still only 19 years old and with the return of Michael Schumacher to the grid this means that we will have drivers born in four different decades on the grid; the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and 90’s – an unprecedented spread of ages. Watch out for the livery of the Toro Rosso car when it launches – sources have suggested that Alguresuari may have brought some significant sponsor income to the team.

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.

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And I have seen this:

Perhaps not the only factor (and we certainly don’t know to which extent) but Raikkonen’s time was on grooved tires whereas the GP2 tires Massa ran at his last test were slicks…

There is no chance in hell that demonstration tires, grooved or slicks, or any other type of variable applied to the car could represent a 3 second increase. I don’t know who your sources are but good lord man, have some common sense….pragmatism….let it in….


The difference in times are from 2 different cars. The time Massa set was in a 2008 spec car compared to the 2009 spec car that Kimi won in. There was a significant reduction in aero down force from 2008 to 2009 which would explain why Massa’s test even on GP2 slicks was faster than the 2009 time.


this is the first time i have visited this site and I have to point out that this statement is nothing but a lie!

“Rossi lapped Barcelona in 1m 21.9 seconds, in a 2008 car with 2009 tyres. The following day Massa put the performance in context when he went almost three seconds faster, setting a time in the 1m 18s.”

Massa conducted this test with the 2008 car equiped with demonstration tires. Kimi won the Spanish grand prix at the same venue in the same car with a fastest lap of 1:21.670. So Mr. Allen, where did you get the figures you so clearly stated about Massas’ recent test?


Massa’s speed seems extraordinary. Wow. It will truly be interesting to see if indeed he is rubbished by Alonso this season as so many seem to suggest he will be. I really think it will be otherwise.

Massa’s times will surely have got Rossi’s attention also. Personally I don’t think there is anything serious about his time in the Ferrari. I think Ferrari have made so many bad mistakes the last while – from hiring/firing Raikonen to losing Massa the Championship to letting Michael slip away – that getting one of Italy’s favourite sons into the car on a regular basis is simply great P.R. to appease the more militant Tifosi. They no doubt were impressed by the steepness of Rossi’s learning curve over the 2 day test – and no doubt Bernie has offered to foot the fuel bill as he would dearly love to get Valentino into the loop – but I would think that his performance was reflected upon more ruefully as an indicator of what might have been several years back rather than as a prelude to actually getting him into the car now as a competitor. Whereas I would love to see the irreverant breath of fresh air Rossi would bring into the grim death dissemblance that F1 mostly is, I would hate to think of him being diminished by the process also.


Now I wonder why Jose Maria Lopez has three times the links in Google? A common name and totally unrelated hits has nothing to do with it…?


Hi James.

Nothing to do with this story!

For the past 6 year or so myself and a good friend have gone to Grannollers for a couple of winter tests each year, usually to take in the BAR/Honda car launch. We know John Button and Geoff & Francesca Willis well so they look after us a bit (in fact I remember you sitting behind us once in the BAR tent having lunch!)

Going back a couple of years you use to be able to get live timing on the circuit de catalunia website but its now gone. Would you know why? and/or do you know of any other way for the public to get live timings at tests?

Any how keep up the good work, and me might bump into you end of Feb.!




In the 2008 GP Raikonnen did 1.21.8 so Massa seems to have gone round almost 3 seconds faster in the same car with GP2 tyres?? You sure of these times ??


Perhaps not the only factor (and we certainly don’t know to which extent) but Raikkonen’s time was on grooved tires whereas the GP2 tires Massa ran at his last test were slicks…



If Massa did a 1min 18.9 lap in last weeks test does this puts him faster than any previous F1 time there?… and is this possible with a 2008 car on GP2 tyres?


James, any comment on the JV rumors?


There have been JV rumours since last summer..if Heidfeld is struggling to get a ride with his pace and recent experience it shows how hard it is for JV.


Lole drove for Brabham, Ferrari, Lotus and Williams.


So, what are the chances that the other USF1 seat will go to Taku?


Once USF1 confirm their first driver, Sato’s chances will be reduced in half. And half of ‘close to nil’ doesn’t sound very promising… But it would indeed be amusing to see him back on the grid


I think the estimated room for improvement is more important in Rossi`s case than the acctual laptimes. The team probably have much clrearer picture.


James, as Ferrari can’t get the okay for a third driver, do you think they will think of doing a red bull and buy a second team or even start one?


Not really.


Valentino Rossi has been driving a Ferrari for the last 3 years and there are a couple of reasons.

He was interested to drive F1 and make history in modern motorsport to be the first driver to win races on a motorbike and in a F1.

He soon realised that this was not possible and he become a Cliente, a customer, for Ferrari to boost his own image and Ferrari as well.

The speculation that Valentino will drive a F1 are always high but the reality is, Valentino is a very astute PR machine and he will not switch because he knows that he will be impossible to be a winner in F1 but it makes sense to boost his PR profile.

Moreover he might switch from Yamaha to Ducati after 2011 in MotoGP and Ducati is the Ferrari on 2 wheels.

Another reason for the test with Ferrari is to see how the general pubblic and the media is responding.

He has probably a couple of years left in MotoGP, he is a very competitve chap, what is he going to do next?

WRC is my favourite option and he will need to find sponsors for that if he wants to drive a top car.

Another option could be the Pris-Dakar, very famouns race in France and Italy but very little coverage in the UK.

He could drive there with a buggy or a modified rally car.

Regarding Massa, he is a driver that needs confidence and he is trying to get up to speed after his accident.

All will be revealed when the tests will matter but if you see his early career, as soon as he gained confidence in himself he became a very quick driver, without confidence he will be a less than average driver.

Trulli has made a very bold decision to stay in F1 but it might pay off long term.

Mike Gascoigne is an excellent team organiser and if Lotus has designed a decent car, Trulli could be having a good 2010.

He is quick and probably will suit a less corporate approach than before, without feeling any pressure to perform.

Toro Rosso decision is one that interest me a lot.

Is Red Bull usning Toro Rosso to have, long term, a double budget spending Toro Rosso budget to increase they funds?????

Meaning, will Toro Rosso become a team with at least 1 paying driver and they will spend some of their budget to develop parts for Red Bull without anyone knowing???

USF1 will be completely off the pace this season, due to the difficulties to design a modern F1 and for the strange set up they choose.

I might be wrong but I can see USF1 not able to make an impact in 2010 and I don’t know if they will be there in 2011, certainly Prodrive could have offered a better value for money.


I can’t honestly see Rossi going to anywhere but Ferrari, which could make it very difficult for him to break into Formula 1. Having said that I would love for him to join the grid, has there ever been anyone that has made the switch from Moto GP to Formula 1. I know Damon Hill and John Surtees rode in bike catagories before they entered Formula 1, I don’t think it was Moto GP though.


Lest we forget, Tazio Nuvolari, perhaps the greatest driver of them all..


Surtees was the World Champion in Grand Prix motorcycling four times, in 500cc which at the time was the top category. He also won Isle of Man three times.


John Surtees to this day is the only person to have won the world championsip on two and four wheels. A true legend.


James, surely Lopez has so many hits because his name and surname are very common.



things are shaping up nicely for the new season. The grid is creditworthy. Lopez is perhaps the biggest surprise thus far but his credentials are better than many who have raced in F1 before. Winning a GP2 race is no mean feat especially a few years ago when the grid was vastly superior than it has been of late. Lack of experience may hinder USF1 massively, though.

On another note is the test next week being covered anywhere? BBC red button, the internet? How will you keep us informed? I presume that you will be going?


The test is not covered live on TV. There will be information available. I’m going to the Barcelona test later in the month, as usual.


rossi i guess will stay in motogp for at least 2 yrs his ferrari test is just a test no more no less, the grid will have 26 cars so theres no reason that ferrari will have a 3rd car down there. the 2nd toro rosso driver will be given another chance to shine because of his sponsors. massa? he needs more tests, he will be eaten alive by alonso though he is a member of the ferrari “family”, we all know what alonso can do to a team. he brings 3\10 and most improtantly PROBLEM


also from the pics massa was running a lower downforce rear wing, to emulate the 2009-10 downforce levels. which would make the car slower also than the one rossi drove.

making the gap more like 3-5 seconds.


“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.”

I think this may be partly because there’s a Spanish footballer with the same name, which probably brings up the link count a bit…


I’m no expert on how search engines operate and so cannot tell you what those numbers mean but Jose Maria Lopez… isn’t that pretty much like searching for John Smith. Lopez has to be in the top 10 (top 5 even) hispanic surnames.

That might just be me being pedantic but it was the first thing that struck my mind when reading this. I’m sure you’ve got better things to do with your time but it’d be interesting to know if those results were all for the same Jose Maria Lopez


There is plenty of Lopez, but if you google pechito lopez you get +700K hits, and I’m pretty sure it’s him.

enough with this google issue.


James, why no mention of Nick Heidfeld and his decision to be a test driver for Mercedes? Is there any truth in this story?

I’m all for the new teams in F1, however, I feel that we will be back to the spread in lap time amongst the field being in the 6 plus second range. I suppose that we will have the inevitable situation where one of the leaders is held up/taken out by one of the renta drivers. I know that paying drivers have been around the sport since its inception but it seems that in 2010 we will have more than the recent quota.


It sounds like that is the case and we should therefore hear from him today at the launch. I’ll cover it then


it seems really strange to me that heidfeld would settle for test driver, albeit at a top team, when there is still a race seat available.

i think either he knows something we don’t about petrov (or someone else with significant backing) or he’s counting on a) schumacher getting injured or bored or b) rosberg not being quick enough.


it’s the crisis.


MAybe this Massa test was also some test for the car or engine, with a very good disguise…


“we will have drivers born in four different decades on the grid; the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and 90’s – an unprecedented spread of ages.”

You gotta know that you’ll be fact-checked without mercy on any absolute claim like this, and it didn’t seem at all likely. Take for instance the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix, where drivers from *five* decades appeared on the grid, including:

Louis Chiron (1899)

Nino Farina (1906), Luigi Villoresi (1909)

Maurice Trintignant (1917), Paul Frère (1917)

Jean Behra (1921), Mike Hawthorn (1929)

Eugenio Castellotti (1930), Cesare Perdisa (1932)

Yeah, I know it’s pathetic to spend my time looking that up, but someone had to do it. And I was pretty sure that there were some awfully old drivers on the grid back in the early days of the championship.


I should have added…”in modern F1″


be more carefull the next time. Just kidding.


A large portion of the Lopez hits on google seems to be a Maria Jose Lopez.

“Jose Maria Lopez” only gets 67 700 hits, “Nick Heidfeld” 1 040 000 and “Bruno Senna” 2 030 000.

Is it really the 2010 Mercedes that will be revealed on Monday? I thought it only was the new livery on the old Brawn car.


Whatever happened to USF1’s plans to use drivers from the USA? Peter Windsor said a while back they’d turned down paid drivers because they wanted Americans and they have spent a lot of time talking about how undervalued US Talent is in Europe.

I vaguely recall hearing that not enough high quality US Drivers have FiA Super-licenses, the ability to get those licenses or something of that nature? But that begs the question of why the new team with the biggest headstart didn’t have time to do something about that. Mind you, that same question comes up when you wonder:

A) Why they’re the least advanced technically despite ostensibly starting first

B) Why they are the ONLY team with NO drivers at this stage.


From what you know are we likely to have 13 teams on the grid in Bahrain?

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