Category Archives: News Articles

Legendary engineer Rory Byrne to return to Ferrari for 2014 car

Rory Byrne, the mastermind behind Ferrari’s dominative cars between 2000 and 2004, as well as Benneton’s efforts in the 1990s, is to return to the Ferrari squad for the 2014 season.

Between himself and Adrian Newey, the two engineers have designed every single championship-winning F1 car since 1993. Byrne has designed every car that Michael Schumacher has won races in, and has been spotted around the Ferrari factory in recent weeks. The team confirmed yesterday that the 69-year-old will return to design their 2014 car.

Because of the huge rule changes coming for the 2014 season, Ferrari have split their design team in two – Fabio Montecchi leading the 2014 team, and Simone Resta currently working on this year’s F138. It is unsure what role Byrne will play in the design team, but we can only expect that his arrival will have a huge impact on the squad.

Jerez testing round-up: Frontrunners closer than ever in 2013

As the first of three test sessions drew to a close yesterday, nobody was quite sure who had benefited most from the 4 days running in Jerez. Drivers from Lotus, Ferrari and McLaren topped the timesheets, but the general consensus is that no one team has a large advantage over the others. Let’s have a closer look at what happened this week:

Combined timesheets

A collection of each driver’s fastest lap across the 4 days.

Driver Team Time Gap Tyre
1 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1.17.879 S
2 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1.18.148 0.269 S
3 Jules Bianchi Force India 1.18.175 0.296 S
4 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1.18.218 0.339 S
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1.18.565 0.686 H
6 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1.18.669 0.79 S
7 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1.18.760 0.881 S
8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.18.766 0.887 M
9 Jenson Button McLaren 1.18.861 0.982 H
10 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1.18.905 1.026 M
11 Sergio Perez Sauber 1.18.944 1.065 H
12 Paul di Resta Force India 1.19.003 1.124 S
13 Daniel Riciardo Toro Rosso 1.19.134 1.255 M
14 James Rossiter Force India 1.19.303 1.424 S
15 Mark Webber Red Bull 1.19.338 1.459 M
16 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1.19.502 1.623 M
17 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1.19.851 1.972 S
18 Pedro de la Rosa Ferrari 1.20.316 2.437 M
19 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1.20.693 2.814 S
20 Charles Pic Caterham 1.21.105 3.226 S
21 Luiz Razia Marussia 1.21.226 3.347 S
22 Max Chilton Marussia 1.21.269 3.39 S
23 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1.21.311 3.432 S

It is probable that Bianchi’s and Gutierrez’s times were set on low fuel. Mark Webber did only heavy-fuelled runs on his testing days, which is why he languishes down the order.

Over 15,000km of testing was run over the 4 days, with Sauber completing nearly 2,000 of this mileage.

Red Bull’s superior reliability

Red Bull were one of the few teams to emerge from the Jerez test without a serious technical hitch.

Mercedes’ first two days were completely ruined, as a flaming exhaust and failing brake system ended Rosberg’s and Hamilton’s days early. Ferrari suffered an engine failure while Pedro de la Rosa was driving on the third day.

McLaren suffered several small problems across the test session, while Lotus were forced to shuffle between several exhaust arrangements on some days.

Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel was pleased with the performance of his RB9, stating it was:

"A little bit better because last year we had some issues with reliability. It seems 
that we have done our homework well and now we move onto Barcelona for another four 
days in a row to test the car and see if we find any leakage and if so then we try 
to fix it."

Doubts over Pirelli 2013 tyre performance

This year, Pirelli had aimed to make their new tyre compounds 0.5 seconds per lap faster than the 2012 sets. However, this has proved difficult to test, as Jerez’s rough track surface has hindered their efforts.

Technical director Paul Hembery explained the problem:

"What we can’t tell of course, on a track like this because it’s so abrasive. The macro 
is so far off the scale compared to everything else we see in the season. It’s changed 
compared to last year as well.

It’s most the bitumen aspect of it, it’s worn away, so you’re left with almost the 
rocks, the stones and the gravel almost on its own with nothing in between."

Mark Webber also had doubts over the 2013 compounds being comprehensively faster:

"The car was really understeering so we need to try and improve that tonight and get 
the car a little bit more responsive. Also the tyres are going away.

If you see a car on fresh tyres you see the performance is quite nice. If you look at 
a car on older tyres it doesn’t look very nice. The tyres are struggling to do quite 
a few laps, you see lap times in 22s, 23s. The naked eye can even see the problems."

 

Hamilton suffers brake failure and crash on first Mercedes test

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes career hasn’t gone off to the best start, as the Brit crashed out of the second test day in Jerez today.

The W04 failed to slow for the Curva Dry Sack – where Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve clashed in 1997 – and speared into the barriers, travelling as fast as 160mph before being slowed down by the gravel trap before impact.

Mercedes have confirmed that the shunt was caused by a brake failure. Hamilton had only completed 15 laps before the incident, and had only driven the new car today.

Lewis described the incident soon after:

"I just hit the brake and for a split second it was working and then the pedal 
just went straight down and wouldn’t work. I don’t know, I just had to brace for 
impact. This is what testing is all about, but of course we’d like to have done 
several days.

It’s disappointing for all of us here in the team because everyone worked so hard 
over the winter. We didn’t anticipate this but I’m glad we get it out of the way 
now so we don’t have to worry about it happening in the future."

After two days of testing, Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean have topped the timesheets so far. Instead of daily reports, an article summarising the 4-day session will be put up here after its conclusion.

Here’s a video of the incident: 

Sky to broadcast final Barcelona test in 3D

Sky are to become the first broadcaster to show live coverage of the Formula 1 testing season, with the final pre-season test in Barcelona to be shown live to the public.

The broadcast will also be available in 3D, as the company attempts to push its 3D channels onto the market.

All 4 days of the Barcelona test, from the 28th February to the 3rd March, will be available live, being presented by Simon Lazenby and commentated by David Croft.

This marks the first time that a broadcaster has attempted to show a test session live, and it will be interesting to see does this trend continue into the future.

Scorpion Racing to buy out liquidated HRT team

A group of Canadian and American investors may just breathe life into the dead HRT Formula 1 team, after it was revealed that the team’s assets are being bought out. This has led to speculation that the group, known as Scorpion Racing, will attempt to bring the team back onto the F1 grid.

It is understood that the deal has the blessing of FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone, but it is unknown whether Scorpion Racing (if it is officially named as such) would be allowed onto the 2013 grid. The FIA deadline for 2013 applicants closed back in November 2012, and with the HRT liquidation soon after, the team were barred from re-competing in the sport.

Plans are believed to be in an “advanced stage”. Scorpion Racing plan to run the team from a base near the Silverstone circuit, and continue to run a Cosworth engine package and Williams gearbox.

Ecclestone has written to the team, stating: “Have you bought the HRT company? Because if you have, they [the FIA] would be accepting you.”

More details will be added as they emerge.

Timo Glock leaves Marussia by “mutual consent”

Only a month before the teams begin to unveil their cars for the 2013 season, Marussia has announced that Timo Glock has been dropped by the squad.

Glock had a contract to race for the team in 2013, but split due to “mutual consent”. Marussia noted that “tough economic conditions” may have played a part in this decision.

Max Chilton will continue to drive with the team, so Marussia have two more months to confirm a second driver before the season opener in Melbourne.

Team prinipal John Booth hinted that the team may be looking at a pay driver:

"Our team was founded on the principle of benefiting from proven experience whilst 
also providing opportunities for young emerging talent to progress to the pinnacle 
of motorsport. Thus far, this philosophy has also been reflected in our commercial 
model.

The ongoing challenges facing the industry mean that we have had to take steps to 
secure our long-term future. Tough economic conditions prevail and the commercial 
landscape is difficult for everyone, Formula 1 teams included.

We would like to thank Timo for working with us to reach this decision, especially 
as he had a valid contract, and also for the contribution he has made to our Team. 
We wish him all the best for his future and I would like to congratulate the next 
team acquiring the services of such a competitive, professional and experienced 
racer."

 

BBC reveal 10 free-to-air races for 2013

The BBC have shown off the 10 races that will be broadcast on free-to-air on the 2013 calendar.

The bold step has been made to drop the Monaco Grand Prix, which I feel is the right one, seeing as races there can be mostly boring. Replacing it is the Canadian Grand Prix, widely regarded as the fans’ favourite race of the season.

Interestingly, the season opener in Australia will not be shown, as will the next in Malaysia. Therefore BBC live coverage will begin with the Chinese Grand Prix.

The currently unannounced race, which for 2013 takes the place of the delayed New Jersey Grand Prix, is also on the BBC calendar. However, it has been confirmed that if the race is dropped, the BBC are not allowed show a different race live instead.

Similar to last year, the 10 races not shown live will be broadcast later on that day in a highlights package. Here are the 10 races being shown live:

Race 3: China: April 14

Race 5: Spain: May 12

Race 7: Canada: June 9

Race 8: TBA*: July 21

Race 9: Great Britain: June 30

Race 12: Belgium: August 25

Race 13: Italy: September 8

Race 16: Japan: October 13

Race 17: India: October 27

Race 20: Brazil: November 24

* = This race is unannounced, and will be a one-off only. It will most likely be hosted in Istanbul or the A1 Ring (now called the Red Bull Ring).

2012 final driver rankings: 25th – 16th

As is the case every 6 months, I do a brief ranking of the current batch of F1 drivers, based on their performances this season.

This article will deal with the bottom 10 drivers on the grid, and over the next week several more posts will detail my rankings. Let’s start with a familiar face at the bottom of the rankings:

25th – Narain Karthikeyan

Previous ranking: 26th

Previous quote: “Not much was expected of Karthikeyan after a disappointing 2011 season, and not much is what we got.

Business as usual for Karthikeyan, as you can tell.

It took him until the Italian Grand Prix for him to even out-qualify his teammate, and in most other situations he was over a second off the pace.

In every single race where the two of them finished, Narain was always the one who was left behind. He was completely unable to develop the struggling HRT car all year, instead all duties were offloaded to Pedro de la Rosa.

His only claim to fame in 2012 is needlessly clashing with and holding up Sebastian Vettel twice. How he continues to be hired by HRT consistently amazes me.

24th – Jerome D’Ambrosio

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote:  N/A

It’s a little unfair to include D’Ambrosio in this season’s list. The only race he took part in was badly hampered by a malfunctioning KERS unit.

Without that, he might have finished in the points – Monza is the one place where you really don’t want a KERS failure. But there’s not much else to say about him – it was only one race, after all.

23rd – Timo Glock

Previous ranking: 20th

Previous quote: “He continues to struggle to make an impact in a hopeless car.”

Unfortunately, while Glock can fail to make progress without criticism, he has failed to hold off even his own teammate, and that could end his F1 career.

Timo did have some impressive drives this season – he did well in the season opener, and absolutely excelled in Singapore, a track that he clearly loves.

But although this looks good on paper, the performances of rookie Charles Pic were enough to cast doubts over the German’s future. Personally I don’t think it’s a talent issue, it’s that Glock is completely bored at the back of the grid.

Two excellent podiums in 2009 show that he’s a great driver, but he cannot show his potential at the back of the grid. Will the midfield teams listen to this? It’s uncertain, but the driver market is closing up so fast it may not even make a difference. Glock may have raced his last laps in Formula 1.

22nd – Vitaly Petrov

Previous ranking: 22nd

Previous quote: “If he doesn’t step up his game, he runs the risk of becoming a fully-fledged pay driver.”

A dull and uninspired first half of 2012 did him no favours, but the final few laps of Interlagos may have saved Petrov’s drive for 2013.

In a 3-team battle where every cent counts, Petrov’s 11th in Brazil gained millions in prize money for Caterham. Even out of just gratitude, his chances for a drive next year have been vastly improved.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While he improved noticeably towards the end of 2012, his performances up to then were unimpressive and lagging behind Heikki Kovalainen.

It’s unclear then whether we will see him on next year’s grid. With his raft of sponsorship money seemingly draining away, Petrov’s final gambit for Caterham may have been for nothing.

21st – Jean-Eric Vergne

Previous ranking: 19th

Previous quote: “So far I have been unimpressed with Vergne’s performance.”

Like I said last time, Toro Rosso’s decision to oust Alguersuari and Buemi is still puzzling – what new things are Ricciardo and Vergne bringing to the table?

Jean-Eric boasts a 6-point surplus to his teammate, but his absolutely atrocious qualifying form is a huge setback. Being knocked out of Q1 in the majority of races is embarrassing to say the least.

Does this mean that he has been completely out-classed? No. But it means that Toro Rosso will now overlook him while they search for Mark Webber’s eventual replacement in the future. Like it or not, Toro Rosso’s young driver programme will ditch both of these drivers if they fail to show race-winning prowess.

While he is talented, I doubt that Jean-Eric will be able to hold onto his seat after 2013.

20th – Daniel Ricciardo

Previous ranking: 15th

Previous quote: “Ricciardo hasn’t underperformed, but has still struggled to cement his place in Formula 1.”

A fabulous qualifying performance in Bahrain was enough to convince me of Ricciardo’s talent. However, a first-lap mistake put an end to what could have been an even better race.

Unfortunately, that was the only chance Daniel was given all season. Several 9th and 10th-placed finishes were scraped whenever he could manage, but otherwise a lacklustre Toro Rosso car held him back.

I’m a fan of Ricciardo, but it’s crystal clear that another mundane season in the lower midfield will effectively end his career. Daniel will need to make a step up to survive through into 2014.

19th – Heikki Kovalainen

Previous ranking: 16th

Previous quote: “Kovalainen is doing all he can – now it’s up to the team.”

Times change very quickly in Formula 1. Where Kovalainen was the driving force of his team 6 months ago, he is now at risk of losing his seat for next year.

An impressive first half of 2012 was enough for him to get on top of Vitaly Petrov, but the Russian’s 11th place in Brazil has put Heikki’s spot under threat. Couple this with Caterham needing more sponsor money, and the future is grim.

It’s disappointing that these off-track factors have influenced Caterham, but Kovalainen was also not as strong in the second half of this season as he was the first. While he continued to pip his way into Q2 whenever the opportunity arose, he became outclassed on several occassions by Petrov.

I’d like a race seat for Kovalainen next year, but it may just be out of his reach.

18th – Pedro de la Rosa

Previous ranking: 23rd

Previous quote: “He has performed well, and deserves to be retained for another while.”

I’ll happily admit to under-ranking De la Rosa in previous articles. His presence at the HRT team is possibly the only thing that has kept the team afloat this year.

Having been burdened with the task of developing the woeful F112, he held on throughout the year, pulling the car home to an impressive 8 finishes in a row at one point. He also completely destroyed teammate Narain Karthikeyan across the entire year.

Still, the fall of HRT was apparent with a few weeks to go in the season, and De la Rosa’s hopes for next season were all but gone by then. It is very unlikely that we will ever see him again in the paddock, and his expertise will be sorely missed.

17th – Bruno Senna

Previous ranking: 14th

Previous quote: “Rather quietly, he is the more complete driver of the Williams team.”

Bash Pastor Maldonado as much as you/I want, he’s an extremely fast driver who can win races. It is clear that Bruno Senna is neither of those.

Bruno began the season impressively, taking consistent finishes and a healthy supply of points, despite missed opportunities. However, in the second half of 2012 he has been totally outclassed by his teammate, and has not exploited the full potential of the Williams FW-34.

The 14-point gap between the two should be much more pronounced, if Maldonado hadn’t crashed out of many points-scoring opportunities. Senna has been outqualified by Pastor 15 times this year, and rarely catches up to him in the races.

While consistent with his finishing results, a general lack of pace is the largest issue for Senna at the moment.

16th – Charles Pic

Previous ranking: 21st

Previous quote: “Pic will have to up his game if he expects to be in F1 in 2013.”

And up his game he did. Pic improved more and more as the season progressed, so much so that he will be moving on to Caterham this year.

Charles held 11th in Brazil for a significant portion of the race, before he was dispossessed of it by Vitaly Petrov. He set the fastest time in FP2 in Belgium, although to be fair he was a full minute off the dry pace!

What’s more impressive is how he held firm against his more established teammate, Timo Glock. Despite being regularly outqualified (14 times), Pic was able to finish ahead of Timo 5 times in the 13 races where they both finished.

Combining this with his decent GP2 form, and Pic is definitely a driver to look out for in the future.

HRT removed from FIA entry list for 2013

The future of the HRT F1 team has been all but decided, after not appearing on the FIA entry list for the 2013 season.

This means that the team were unable to pay the $500,000 entry fee required. HRT were put up for sale by owners Thesan Capital several weeks ago, but have been unsuccessful in finding a buyer, one of the primary reasons being a poor choice of team location (Madrid).

The only other item of note is that Sauber appear not to have fully confirmed Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez as their drivers, but this should be corrected soon.

End of the road for HRT?

The future of the HRT F1 team has been in doubt for several weeks. It was put up for sale, in order to pay the FIA entry fee for the 2013 season.

However, recent events at the team’s Madrid headquarters indicate that the situation is beyond fixing. Journalist Joe Saward has reported on team members being coerced into redundancy:

"Team members became irate when they were not allowed to leave the premises until 
they agreed to sign a contract termination document; and that personal effects, 
such as car keys, were withheld."

Even more worryingly, the team’s presence at the Brazilian Grand Prix was under serious threat. The same article notes that several crucial components on the car had gone beyond their scheduled life. It wouldn’t be out of the question to assume that the team had run out of funds to replace the parts.

With the FIA entry fee issue not going away (I don’t know when the due date is), HRT’s future in F1 appears to be slipping away further every day.

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