Tag Archives: F1 2011

Renault bought by Group Lotus, to become Lotus-Renault for 2011

The following article is the first post from a new contributor, Murai Kadam:

The Lotus livery on this year's Renault R30

The Lotus livery on this year's Renault R30

The Malaysian owned car maker Group Lotus has taken a 50 per cent
stake in Lotus Renault worth $100 million and has become its title
sponsor, the remaining 50 per cent will under control of the current
owners, pending rumours of a full takeover.

The news are coming about Group Lotus will be taking full control of the outfit in the next few years. Though nothing has been decided yet about future plans, the Lotus CEO Dany Bahar has hinted about a full takeover:

"Our way of doing things means that at the end of the project we would
like to control it ourselves."

Though there has been some court disputes over the Lotus name, as Tony
Fernandes’ Team Lotus raced in 2009 but their plan has been spoiled with Group
Lotus’ F1 entry, so there might be two teams on the grid branded as
Lotus. Also, both of the teams want to keep the iconic Gold and Black
colour.

‘Lotus Renault GP’ plans were unveiled on Wednesday, also the releasing photos of a re-livered R30 car said its cars will also be black and gold next year. Reverting to this Team Lotus owner Tony Fernandes accused Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar of “hijacking” Team Lotus’ livery plans, but Renault team owner Gerard Lopez said the opposite is in fact true. Bahar said that he would look at this as extra promotion for his brand, rather than a potential confusion or competition. And he feels that four are better than two.

The reason to link with Renault rather than Lotus racing is for cost reduction, as to build a winning team in Formula One from scratch is not affordable. And that’s why Group Lotus has decided to go with one of the top five teams because there is the potential to go back to where they were when they were winning world championship titles.

Maldonado confirmed at Williams for 2011

Maldonado has been confirmed at Williams for next year

Maldonado has been confirmed at Williams for next year

After Nico Hulkenberg made way a few weeks ago, Pastor Maldonado has been unveiled as the new Williams second driver, alongside Rubens Barrichello, today.

He is the 5th out of 6 GP2 champions to progress to F1 after winning the GP2 title. The last time a Venezuelan driver was in Formula 1 was Ernesto Viso, who drove in Friday Practice for Midland in Brazil in 2006. Before that, Johnny Cecotto raced back in 1984 for Theodore and Toleman.

Pastor previously tested an F1 car with Minardi in 2004, where Giancarlo Minardi complimented his driving, even though he was only 19 at the time.

Williams have also released a Q&A with Maldonado:

What started your career in motor sport?
PM: Having competed themselves, my father and my uncle are very passionate about motor sport, so I inherited it from them. In my city of Maracay, there is a go kart circuit about five minutes from my home. When I was about three or four years old I said I wanted to race but I was too young, then when I reached the age of seven my father gave me a kart and we started from there. From that moment until now we have never stopped.

After karting in Venezuela, I came to Europe in 1998 to compete in international kart races, which was great for me to get experience racing outside my country. After consistently being at the top, I decided to move to Italian Formula Renault. I won the championship in my second year. We made the jump to GP2 in 2007 but I only did half a season as I had an injury. We came back in 2008 and finished fifth in the championship, just six points adrift of the leader in a very close championship.

You were crowned GP2 champion this year. What does that feel like?
PM: It was an incredible season. We were competitive from the beginning and went on to win six races. The team worked well together to achieve victory and by the middle of the season I already had a good gap and took the title at Monza.

Do you think you are ready for F1?
PM: GP2 is a very good championship; it really prepares drivers well for F1. I have worked very hard to get to this position and yes, I definitely feel ready.

How does it feel knowing you will be driving for AT&T Williams next year?
PM: Williams do an amazing job. It is unbelievable to be here and to be part of the team. It is a dream.

What do you make of your new team mate Rubens Barrichello?
PM: For sure Rubens is a pleasure to have as a team mate as he is a very experienced driver. I can learn so much from him. It will be fun as he is South American too! I think it is going to be a very interesting team.

How will you prepare for your first F1 season over the winter?
PM: I will keep pushing in my training and working in the simulator. We don’t have a long time, just one or two months before the first test, and I am going to be fit and ready.

You had a day in the FW32 at the Abu Dhabi Young Driver test. How did that go?
PM: It was amazing. It was a big moment for me because only days before I had been driving a GP2 car and there are some big differences. I improved lap after lap and completed the programme so it was a very good experience for me.

What are the differences between a GP2 car and an F1 car?
PM: There are three big differences. The first is the difference in engine power; the F1 car has amazing power and a higher top speed. Secondly, the braking point; the brakes are a lot harder in F1. Finally there is much more downforce and general grip.

You will be only the fourth Venezuelan to have ever driven a Formula One car. What does that mean to you?
PM: It has been nearly 30 years since Venezuela has had a driver in Formula One so the country has been pushing young drivers in the hope of having someone represent them. I am happy to now be that driver.

To summarise, what will be your objectives for the 2011 season?
PM: I just want to do my best, to be as close to the top as I can and to get the maximum out of the car. The team are working very hard and I need to push to be at the top as soon as possible. I am a rookie but that isn’t going to be a problem. I need to keep focussed and to do my job.

Ricciardo to drive in Friday Practice for Toro Rosso for 2011

Daniel Ricciardo will drive the Toro Rosso on Fridays in 2011

Daniel Ricciardo will drive the Toro Rosso on Fridays in 2011

It has been announced today that Australian Daniel Ricciardo has been confirmed as the test and reserve driver for Toro Rosso for 2011, and will be driving the car during the Friday Practice sessions throughout the year.

Sebastien Buemi’s drive for 2011 had been in some doubt in recent days, after team boss Franz Tost complimented Jaime Alguersuari, but said that Buemi had “struggled” at times during the year. However, with this news, Alguersuari and Buemi now have confirmation of their contracts with Toro Rosso for next year.

Ricciardo finished 2nd in this year’s Formula Renault 3.5 Series, and won the 2009 British F3 championship last year. More recently, he finished 1st on both days of the young driver last week, setting the fastest lap of the Yas Marina circuit in the process.

Nico Hulkenberg to leave Williams

Nico Hulkenberg has said today that he will be leaving the Williams team for the 2011 season onwards. This comes only two weeks after he obtained his first ever pole position at the Brazilian GP.

On his official website, he said:

 I heavily regret that, because I would have been happy to 
stay with Williams. I want to thank the team for a great 
time and I wish Williams all the best for the future.

However, his manager Willi Weber, who used to manage Michael Schumacher, has said that Nico will definitely be driving for another team for the 2011 season. It is heavily suspected that the man to replace him at Williams will be Pastor Maldonado, the current GP2 champion.

While Hulkenberg has already said he doesn’t want to drive for Hispania, he will take part in testing with them this Wednesday.

Nico Hulkenberg will be leaving Williams this year

Nico Hulkenberg will be leaving Williams this year

Although Nico scored 22 points this season, compared to seasoned veteran team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who took 47, I’m surprised at this decision. His pole position in Brazil was hugely impressive, and he has been improving steadily over the second half of this season.

But, as it seems to do too much these days, money talks, and Maldonado brings a huge sponsorship package from Venezuelan oil giant PDVSA.

Marussia invests in Virgin Racing

Nikolay Fomenko, owner of Marussia, with Lucas di Grassi and Timo Glock

Nikolay Fomenko, owner of Marussia, with Lucas di Grassi and Timo Glock

Marussia, a Russian sports car manufacturer, has announced that it has invested in and acquired a “significant stake” in the Virgin Racing team. As well as this securing the team’s participation in the sport, it also means that the team will be renamed Marussia Virgin Racing next year.

For much of this year, word around the paddock was that a lack of investment, particularly from Richard Branson, was stunting Virgin’s progress. With this new company on board, the team claim that they can now “cement their place on the F1 grid”.

Marussia logos already appear on the Virgin cars, as they have sponsored them all year, and this investment is to promote Marussia’s venture into the European sports car market.

Chinese Grand Prix in doubt?

The Chinese GP could be in doubt for next year

The Chinese GP could be in doubt for next year

The Chinese Grand Prix has been placed in doubt recently, over the FIA delaying the addition of the circuit to the 2011 calendar, and the track’s contract not yet extended by Bernie Ecclestone.

The FIA’s 2011 race calendar was updated today, with 2 changes. Both of these changes related to two circuits being “subject to homologation”. The first is the Indian GP, which is obvious, seeing as that track is still under construction. The second, however, is the Shanghai International Circuit – even though no changes are being made to the circuit.

The reason the FIA are delaying the conformation of the circuit is because their contract runs out with Bernie Ecclestone this year, and has not yet been extended. Rumour has it that Bernie wants $30m per year on the new contract. To make matters worse, this circuit has not been running profitably, with low ticket sales (many tickets are given away free), and a lack of interest by the Chinese government in investing there.

It looks like we will have to wait and see what happens to the future of the Chinese Grand Prix. Would you miss it if it went? I’m not sure I would…

Hispania to use Williams gearboxes for 2011

The Hispania team have announced that they are to use Williams gearboxes for the 2011 season onwards. They follow Lotus in moving away from the current supplier to all 3 new teams, Xtrac.

Hispania will use Williams gearboxes from 2011 onwards

Hispania will use Williams gearboxes from 2011 onwards

Hispania have, along with the other teams of course, suffered many technical retirements this season, and like Lotus, many of these were because of transmission and gearbox failures. Geoff Willis has previously complained about Xtrac’s lack of reliability:

.

"Most of our problems have been related to transmission 
hydraulics, which is a complicated part of the car. It 
is the first time that Xtrac has been involved as a 
supplier of the whole system."

It appears as if Cosworth engines had a role to play in this deal as well. Both teams already use Cosworth engines already, and Williams claim that today’s deal will “extend for the lifecycle of the current Cosworth engine technology”.

This is a good step forward for Hispania to associate themselves with a trusted supplier. Xtrac won a contract from the FIA to supply cheap transmission systems to the new teams this year, but have done themselves no favours by supplying what appears to be very unreliable machinery to Lotus, Virgin and Hispania.

While both Lotus and Hispania have both stated their intentions to move away from Xtrac, Virgin have made no such announcements. Bernie Ecclestone has recently suggested that Virgin is suffering from a lack of investment by Richard Branson, and this may be what is holding them back.

Toro Rosso and Force India retain drivers for 2011

It has been announced today that both the Toro Rosso and Force India teams are to retain their driver line-up for the 2011 season.

Both Force India and Toro Rosso are to keep their drivers for 2011

Both Force India and Toro Rosso are to keep their drivers for 2011

There had been rumours around that both teams were considering driver changes, but all of that appears to have been put to one side as Sebastien Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari, Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi will continue to race for their respective teams.

This of course means that there is no space available for Paul di Resta, the highly rated test driver for Force India, and contracted to the Mercedes racing group. His only option is if there is a vacancy at Mercedes, which looks very unlikely.

 

Lotus to use Red Bull technology for 2011

Lotus have announced a tie-in with the Red Bull team, where they will be using Red Bull-manufactured engines and hydraulics for the 2011 season. They have already announced their annulment of their contract with Cosworth, so an announcement about them using Renault engines is also imminent.

Lotus will use Red Bull hydraulics and gearboxes for 2011

Lotus will use Red Bull hydraulics and gearboxes for 2011

Reliability has been the main problem from Lotus’ first season, with 9 mechanical retirements, most of these from hydraulic and gearbox problems. Their current supplier, Xtrac, who supplies gearboxes and hydraulics to all 3 new teams (Virgin making their gearbox casing being the only exception), has been lagging behind other competitors in terms of reliability, and Lotus claim that this move will be a big step forward for them.

Techincal officer Mike Gascoyne said:

"The announcement that we have reached a multi-year agreement 
with Red Bull Technology for the supply of our gearboxes and 
hydraulics from 2011 is obviously a massive step forward for 
us, both in engineering terms, and as an expression of our 
ambitions for next year and for future championships.

The gearbox / hydraulics package obviously plays a critical 
role in the performance of the car, not just on track but in 
design and packaging terms, and this deal gives our design 
and aero teams a very exciting platform to work with.

The removal of the double diffusers in 2011 will allow the 
whole grid to tighten up the rear bodywork and mechanical 
structures around the gearbox, and this supply deal will 
allow us to capitalise on that with our 2011 car. Exciting 
times lie ahead!"

I was slightly surprised, considering that we were all expecting the Renault engine announcement, but this is a great step forward for Lotus. The Renault engine news is surely due any day soon.

Sergio Perez signed by Sauber for 2011, Telmex confirmed as sponsor

Sauber have announced today that Mexican racing driver Sergio Perez will drive for the team for the 2011 season. He will partner Kamui Kobayashi, meaning that Nick Heidfeld will not be retained for next season.

Sergio Perez has been signed by Sauber for 2011

Sergio Perez has been signed by Sauber for 2011

The second seat at Sauber has been shuffled around recently. It was held by Pedro de la Rosa until before the Singapore Grand Prix, until poor performances and failing to keep up with Kamui Kobayashi meant he has been replaced for the rest of the season by Nick Heidfeld. However, today’s announcement means that Heidfeld will be looking for a drive elsewhere for 2011.

Perez is racing in GP2, and is in second place behind Pastor Maldonado, who has already won the championship. Previously, he won the National Class in British Formula 3 of 2007, and was 4th in British F3 the following year. However, it isn’t just his racing talent that has caught Peter Sauber’s eye.

Sauber also announced a new sponsor for the team, Telmex, which is run by Carlos Slim Helu (world’s richest man of 2010). However, Carlos Slim also runs Escuderia Telmex, which sponsors and supports upcoming drivers. As you can probably guess, Perez just so happens to be sponsored by Escuderia Telmex.

The last Mexican Formula 1 driver was Hector Rebaque, back in 1981, so it will be very interesting to see how Perez gets on. In my opinion, he looks like a good talent, with a mixture of racing ability and of course the backing to get to the top.

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