Monthly Archives: June 2010

Di Montezemolo blasts new teams (again) in latest rant

Luca di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari

Luca di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari

Once again, Lucas di Montezemolo, the boss of Ferrari, has blasted Formula 1′s new teams, calling them “a joke”. In an interview with Autocar, he also expressed his will for 3-car teams, the return of in-season testing, and changes to the layout of a Grand Prix race.

Regarding the new teams, he said:

"There is a need to have competitive teams. F1 is like soccer. It
needs heroes and it needs big teams. You cannot equalize everything.
We need to avoid having too many small teams as it means too many
compromises."

Luca has made these sort of statements before, but since then, the new teams have made good progress to catch up, and are now only about a second behind the midfield. Why he finds the need to attack them when they have done nothing wrong, I don’t know.
He also suggested revisons to Formula 1, such as introducing 3-car teams (yet again) and bringing back in-season testing:

3-car teams: "Giving this car to a good young driver or Valentino
Rossi would be better than a team being four seconds behind."
Changes to race weekends: "Do we need to race at two in the
afternoon when everyone is at the sea. Could we have two races per
meeting? Do races need to last so long? F1 is not an endurance
race. We need races to be short and tough."
In-season testing: "F1 is the only sport in the world where there
is no training."

We all know by now that Di Montezemolo wants the intorduction of 3-car teams, as he has said it many times before. However, FOTA have never really discussed it, and few people are in favour of it, so I can’t see it happening.

The in-season testing ban has really hurt Ferrari, as they now cannot use their Mugello circit for most of the year. I would be in favour of reintroducing testing, but only when given to young drivers at specific points across the year. But, what he says about F1 testing is wrong, in my opinion. There is time for training in Formula 1, and it’s called Friday Practice.

I have said in the past that I’m not in favour of Di Montezemolo’s suggestions, and this time it’s (mostly) no different. Also, I think it’s disgraceful that he can attack the new teams like he did. Ferrari have never started off as a new team in a developed grid like Lotus, Virgin and HRT have, and these teams have done great work in increasing their pace and improving reliability. Luca should learn this, and actually respect the teams that will be racing him in a few years time.

Webber extends Red Bull contract until 2011

Mark Webber will continue to drive alongside Sebastian Vettel next year

Mark Webber will continue to drive alongside Sebastian Vettel next year

Mark Webber has signed with Red Bull Racing until 2011, alleviating fears of him possibly making way at the end of this year. He will continue to be alongside Sebastian Vettel, whose contract also expires at the end of 2011. This should also help concerns after their Turkish Grand Prix collision.

Webber said this about his new contract:

It was an easy decision to remain with Red Bull Racing. We began 
talking very early this year and were in a position to sign by 
the Barcelona Grand Prix.

The decision to extend for a further year was a mutual one; it’s 
widely know that I’m not interested in hanging around in Formula 
One just for the sake of it and at this stage of my career, I’m 
happy to take one year at a time.

Christian Horner also seemed happy with Mark:

He is an important member of our team and is currently in the best 
form of his career, as the current leader of the drivers’ 
championship. The team is extremely happy that the driver pairing 
of Mark and Sebastian will remain unchanged for a third season in 
2011.

A no-brainer really in my opinion, as despite their collision, Webber and Vettel are up there with Hamilton and Button as the best driver line-up on the grid. Mark should be around for a good few years more, and I don’t think that Sebastian would have any reason to move any time soon.

However, this practically gets rid of any possibility of Kimi Raikkonen returning to F1 in 2011, as many rumours were linking him to Red Bull. Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes already have solid line-ups, so I don’t think we’ll see Kimi ever again.

Can Liuzzi hang on?

Vitantonio Liuzzi has been comfortably outpaced by team-mate Adrian Sutil this year

Vitantonio Liuzzi has been comfortably outpaced by team-mate Adrian Sutil this year

This is the third attempt Vitantonio Liuzzi has had in Formula 1. Only 2 of those should really be taken into consideration though, as his first stint with Red Bull was an absolute mess, as the driver rotation system left him on the sidelines far too often. Despite this, he has had plenty of time to adjust to F1, but he still hasn’t made the grade.

This season, he has been comfortably outpaced by team-mate Adrian Sutil in practically every race. He has been out-qualified 6-1 by Sutil, and that would have been 7-0 if it wasn’t for Vitaly Petrov’s crash in Monaco qualifying. So, the question is, how long can Liuzzi hang on for? Because there is increasing pressure from many sides to see him go, most notably from talented rookie test driver Paul di Resta.

As we can see here, his pace against Sutil has been very poor in the first 7 races, being out-paced in all but one race: (Don’t forget Sutil was in a first-lap collision and had an engine failure in the first 2 races)

Bah Aus Mas Chn Esp Mon Tur Points
Adrian Sutil 12 RET 5 11 7 8 9 22
Vitantonio Liuzzi 9 7 RET RET 15 9 13 10

In his entire 51 races in Formula 1, I have only seen 2 notable performances. The first was his drive to 6th place at the 2007 Chinese Grand Prix. However, this was overshadowed by him still being beated by team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who was 4th. The second good drive was Italy 2009, where he was in contention for a podium, before a transmission failure ruled him out. That was his first race returning to F1, but he has been unimpressive since then.

Some people will argue that some of it is just bad luck, and Liuzzi may well have the pace to match Sutil. However, this next chart says differently. This chart puts Sutil’s and Liuzzi’s qualifying performances together. Since qualifying is low-fuel, it is an excellent opportunity to show true pace in a driver.

(Note: If one driver was knocked out in Q1/Q2, then the other driver’s time will be from that same session, to ensure similar track conditions when the times were set.)

Bah Aus Mal Chn Esp Mon Tur
Adrian Sutil 1.54.996 1.25.046 1.50.914 1.36.671 1.21.985 1.15.318 1.27.951
Vitantonio Liuzzi 0.627 0.697 1.34 0.49 0.869 -0.257 1.007

Worse still for Liuzzi, there is a very talented youngster in the sidelines waiting for an opportunity to drive in Formula 1. Paul di Resta has been competing in several Friday Practice sessions this year, and even with such limited milage has been showing potential. Shown below are Di Resta’s times comared to Sutil and Liuzzi:

Aus Chn Esp
Adrian Sutil 1.38.008
Vitantonio Liuzzi 1.28.192 1.23.284
Paul di Resta 0.345 0.61 -0.254

As we can see, on one occasion Paul di Resta has managed to beat Liuzzi, this time in Spain. The other time, Liuzzi was faster, but only by three tenths of a second. However, that was Paul’s first ever practice session, so that is a very poor margin for Liuzzi considering that. On the other hand, when Sutil was up against Di Resta, he comfortably beat him by 6 tenths.

In my opinion, Di Resta should get Liuzzi’s seat, preferably by the British Grand Prix. Don’t forget, this is the man who, in the 2006 F3 Euroseries, beat team-mate Sebastian Vettel to the title by 11 points. A talent like this doesn’t deserve to be wasting away in DTM, so I fee that Liuzzi should make way if he doesn’t improve soon. What do you think?

McLaren told Hamilton that Button would not overtake in Turkey

Lewis Hamilton's lead may have been protected because of team orders

Lewis Hamilton's lead may have been protected because of team orders

The debate about last week’s Turkish Grand Prix has taken an interesting twist, with the news that Lewis Hamilton was told by his team that Jenson Button would not be attempting an overtake. While Button did soon get past, Hamilton quickly retook the position, and Jenson slowed down after that.

After the Red Bulls took each other out of contention, Lewis Hamilton was leading the race ahead of team-mate Jenson Button. Jenson was catching him from behind, as it is believed that Hamilton was instructed to start saving fuel. Before he did, Lewis asked on the radio: “If I back off is Jenson going to pass me or not?”. The team responded: “No, Lewis, no.”

This radio conversation happened before Jenson tried to get past Lewis, and the full conversation is as follows:

Lewis: Jenson’s closing in me you guys.
McLaren: Understood, Lewis.
Lewis: If I back off is Jenson going to pass me or not?
McLaren: No Lewis, no.

Soon after this, Jenson passed Lewis at Turn 12 on Lap 48. However, Lewis swiftly got back his position on Lap 49. On Lap 50, Phil Prew went on to the radio to both drivers, but it is unclear what he said. However, it is my guess that he instructed Button to back off. This is because Jenson never mounted a challenge to Hamilton after Lap 50.

Also, the team spoke to Button two laps later, saying: “We need more fuel saving. Fuel is critical. Save tyres in turn eight.” Many people speculate that this was in fact a coded message (since team orders are banned) for Jenson to not overtake Lewis.

All of this will do no help to alleviate people fears of team orders being used in modern F1. The radio conversation can be listened to on F1.com’s highlights of the race, which is available here.

Technical evolution of the cars in 2010 (Part 1 of 3)

In a 3-part series, I will look at how this year’s Formula 1 cars have developed technically, as well as new innovations on the cars. This is the first post, looking from testing to the 7th race in Turkey. The second part will be written up after the end of the European season (after the Monza weekend in September), and the final part will be after the season concludes.

F-duct

The F-duct is the most controversial innovation so far this season, and has already been banned for next year. The F-duct got its name, as it was located where the “f” on Vodafone is on the engine cover on the McLaren car. McLaren developed this invention before the season began, but it was really only first noticed in the first few races.

The F-duct will be explained in its original McLaren format, as it has been altered by other teams. There is a duct on the nose of the car, which takes air in and feeds it to the rear wing, which is perfectly normal. This air travels around the side of the car, and crucially, past the side of the cockpit. So, a driver had place their hand/wrist/leg on a hole on this tube, and stop the air travelling to the rear wing. This means that there is less air on the rear wing, meaning less downforce and less drag.

The F-duct is only applied on straights, as this is the only situation where less downforce is wanted. It is estimated that an F-duct is worth between 6-10km/h on a straight. Sauber were the first to copy this design, followed closely by Ferrari, then Force India and Red Bull. Each team has used a different configuration, such as Sauber’s duct beginning on the sidepod and not the nosecone.

While Force India and Red Bull are the latest teams to introduce the F-duct, neither of them ran it during the Turkish Grand Prix. Red Bull found their system to be inconsistent and difficult to operate, though it is unknown why Force India did not run the device.

Mercedes' opening of their F-duct

Mercedes' opening of their F-duct

Red Bull's more complicated F-duct system

Red Bull's more complicated F-duct system

The driver-operated mechanism for the Force India F-duct

The driver-operated mechanism for the Force India F-duct

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

.

Mercedes’ airbox

At the start of the year, Mercedes GP had managed to avoid making its airbox design a structural part of the car’s rollover protection, and therefore wasn’t part of the chassis development ban. This meant that the team were free to change it across the season. Before the first race, a small slot was introduced behind the engine air intake, which improved aero efficiency at the rear of the car.

However, by Barcelona, the team had already introduced a radical new intake, which is much lower and further back than before. It is still not a part of the actual chassis, as it is part of the engine cover, meaning it can still be developed over the season. These changes ensured that airflow over the back of the car was cleaner, and helped the performance of the rear wing.

So far, no other team has attempted to copy this design, or at least we haven’t seen it in action yet. Having said that, it is an ugly invention, so I wouldn’t be sad to see this innovation fail.

Mercedes' new airbox innovation

Mercedes' new airbox innovation

Nico Rosberg running Mercedes' radical new airbox

Nico Rosberg running Mercedes' radical new airbox

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Ban on outboard wing mirrors

An outboard wing mirror is where the car’s wing mirrors sit on the outside of the cockpit, often on top of the turning vane. However, the problem with this design was that it was outside the drivers’ peripheral vision, which meant that it was not within their straight line of vision, meaning a driver had to look away from the road to look in the mirrors.

After many near misses and collisions, most notably Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso in Australia, the FIA sought to ban outboard wing mirrors, effective from the Spanish GP onwards. Though these mirrors were worth about one tenth of a second in aerodynamic efficiency, the teams were forced to move their wing mirrors to the inside of the cockpit, so they were inside a drivers’ peripheral vision.

Outboard wing mirrors, visible here on the Williams FW32

Outboard wing mirrors, visible here on the Williams FW32

Wing mirrors on the inside of the cockpit, seen here on the Red Bull car

Wing mirrors on the inside of the cockpit, seen here on the Red Bull car

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Diffuser starter motors

As with outboard wing mirrors, diffuser starter motors have been banned, in this case since the Australian Grand Prix. Under normal circumstances, a Formula 1 car’s starter motor is in the back of the car, which makes it easy for the mechcnics to plug in the starter motor. Remember, F1 cars do not carry a starter motor themselves. To accomodate this, a small hole or slot must be made into the diffuser section of the car, to allow the starter motor to be plugged into the car.

However, the teams began to see how they could exploit this section of the car. The slot was made unnecessarily large, and aerodynamically sculpted, so as to improve airflow around the diffuser of the car.

Once complaints were made, the FIA swiftly closed the loophole allowing these devices to become too large in the first place, by placing a size limit on diffuser starter motors.

McLaren's diffuser starter motor, which was one of the designs against the rules

McLaren's diffuser starter motor, which was one of the designs against the rules

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

This was the first of a 3-part series. The second post will be up after the Italian Grand Prix weekend.

Ecclestone working on new 10-year deal for Turkish GP

The Istanbul Park circuit is working on a new 10-year contract for the Turkish GPa

The Istanbul Park circuit is working on a new 10-year contract for the Turkish GPa

Bernie Ecclestone has said that Istanbul Park will continue to hold the Turkish Grand Prix, despite having a very poor attendance rate since it started in 2005. Ecclestone also revealed that talks are underway to renew the Turkish venue’s contract, which expired after last week’s race.

Despite poor attendance to the venue in the last few years, Ecclestone was adamant that the situation had improved this year, and was certain that Formula 1 would return next year, saying: “We’ll be here again next year”.

This is excellent news, as the Turkish Grand prix is my favourite of the new circuits, and can certainly throw up an exciting race, as we’ve just seen. Having said that, the attendance is still a big problem, as we have seen. For example, at the Turn 1 grandstand, the crowd for Friday Practice 1 increased this year by 250% – from 4 to 10 people.

However, Turkey still needs to learn how to host an F1 race properly. There are constant complaints from visitors, such as bus drivers and taxi drivers not knowing the way to the circuit, or exorbitant prices for even the cheapest of food. Also, everything that isn’t bolted down after the race is stolen and sold, apparently, even the safety car signs from the marshal’s posts.

Still, if they can provide great racing, then I’m sure problems like that can be sorted easily. The main problem is that most of Istanbul isn’t even aware there’s a Grand Prix on, so it’s just a matter of advertising it around the country.

Force India also suing Gascoyne, and Mark Smith leaves for Lotus

Mike Gascoyne is now being involved in the dispute between Force India and Lotus

Mike Gascoyne is now being involved in the dispute between Force India and Lotus

A day after Force India announced that they were suing Lotus for copying their design of their 2010 car, it has been revealed that Mike Gascoyne, the Chief Technical Officer, is also being sued as part of this court battle. Gascoyne worked with Force India from 2006 to 2008.

At the moment, it is understood that Force India are suing Lotus and Gascoyne, as they believe that the green and yellow team have used Force India’s pre-season design in their own car, through the Aerolab company, which provides aero tunnel usage for both teams. Lotus claim that they are simply caught up in a spat, and have revealed that Aerolab have provided them full indemnity in this case.

However, a statement from Force India today very clearly states that the Lotus team “has utilised and benefited from the use of Force India F1 Team’s intellectual properly”:

"The Force India F1 Team confirms it has instigated UK civil 
proceedings against 1Malaysia Racing Team SDN BHD (a Malaysian 
company), 1Malaysia Racing Team (UK) Limited (Lotus Racing's parent 
companies), Michael Gascoyne and Aerolab SRL. Force India also 
confirms that a complaint for disclosure of confidential information 
was filed in December 2009 with the competent authorities in Italy 
and that investigations are being conducted.

Force India believes that Lotus Racing, via its use of Aerolab and 
Fondtech facilities and data, has utilised and benefited from the 
use of Force India F1 Team's intellectual property, including 
components and tyres exclusively licensed by Bridgestone to the 
Force India F1 Team, on its wind tunnel model design for the current 
Lotus T127 chassis without permission from the Force India F1 Team. 
Force India states these are very serious claims and therefore it 
would not be taking such action if it could not provide supportive 
evidence.

Additionally Force India would like to clarify that any action 
between Aerolab and Force India for undue termination of contract 
is now being addressed by the courts. Force India confirms it paid 
approximately one million euros in autumn 2009 to secure the payment 
claimed by Aerolab and it is now for the competent courts to decide 
whether, indeed, this outstanding amount should be paid to Aerolab 
given the seriousness of these current allegations.

For reference, the civil court action documentation is in the public 
domain and can be accessed via the High Court of Justice, Chancery 
Division."

This is getting more and more serious every time I hear something about it. To make matters worse, it has been revealed today that Mark Smith has left Force India to join, you guessed it, Lotus. At Force India, he was the design and technical director, and will now be technical director at Lotus.

The reason I’m concerned about this is simple. When he worked at Force India, Mark Smith was the Design Director of the last 4 Formula 1 cars (2007-2010) that the team have made. Seeing as this controversy is centred around the pre-season designs of Lotus’ and Force India’s cars, it would be a disaster if Smith brought IP (intellectual property) with him to Lotus, as this would just fuel the debate even more.

Force India suing Lotus over wind tunnel design

Lotus' pre-season car design, which Force India claim was copied from their design through Aerolab

Lotus' pre-season car design, which Force India claim was copied from their design through Aerolab

Germany’s Motorsport Total is reporting that the Force India team are suing the Lotus team, over their cars’ wind tunnel designs. Force India claim that Lotus used pre-season designs that were being made similarly at Force India. This dispute also involves the Aerolab company.

Essentially, here is the dispute. A few months ago, Force India made queries when Lotus’ pre-season design had certain similarities to their own. Aerolab were caught up in this, as they provide wind tunnel usage to Lotus, and are in a technical partnership with Force india since September 2009. However, previously, last November, Aerolab sued Force India over “serious and persistent breaches of contract”.

Lotus work with Fondtech, the parent company of Aerolab. In fact, even last year, Force India had again raised concerns that Lotus had copied designs off their 2009 car, and put them into Lotus’ 2010 car. However, no legal challenge was raised until now.

In their defense, Lotus claim that they are simply caught up in a spat between Force India and Aerolab:

"Lotus Racing has been joined as a co-defendant in civil proceedings
which are principally between Force India and Aerolab/Fondtech.

These proceedings do not allege any wrongdoing on the part of Lotus
Racing. Aerolab/Fondtech vigorously denies any wrongdoing and have
provided Lotus Racing with a full indemnity in relation to the
claim."

More on this story as it develops.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers