Daily Archives: January 5, 2010

The 2009 F1 Review- The new teams for 2010

As opposed to the first 4 parts of my 2009 review, this part is dedicated to the new teams for 2010: Virgin, Campos, Lotus and USF1.

The Lotus F1 team is nothing like the Lotus of the past, except in name. It is now owned by 1Malaysia, and run by Tony Fernandes, Group CEO of Air Asia. Money seems to have helped the team start off, as Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen are two very talented drivers. Also, Mike Gascoyne’s arrival as chief technical officer will have a large impact on the car’s design.

The team’s plans appear to be on schedule, according to Tony Fernandes. However, before the season has already begun, the team has already decided where they need to finish: anywhere ahead of Virgin. As you will probably know, there is know a bet between Fernandes and Richard Branson (principal of Virgin Racing). Whichever team loses next year to the other, that team prinicpal must work for a day, as an air stewardess in the other’s airline! Whatever happens, it is sure to motivate both teams well.

The Virgin Racing team started off by announcing its drivers as Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi. Again, another good pairing. Glock has speed and experience, while di Grassi can hopefully grow, in his first year of F1. Virgin’s car is to be designed using only CFD (Computer Fluid Dynamics), which is the first ever F1 team to do so. This plan may either fail or succeed hugely, depending on how good the technology is. To be honest, I want it to work, because otherwise we may see Branson in a stewardesses costume!

Lotus are so confident of beating Virgin, they have even picked out an outfit!

Lotus are so confident of beating Virgin, they have even picked out an outfit!

Campos are probably the least reported new team for next year, because they make the least noise about anything they’re doing. The problem is, they appear to have very little done at all. Bruno Senna has been confirmed as one of their drivers, and that’s it. Their website is practically useless, as all they do is advertise for small positions within the team. This concern has been repeated by Bernie Ecclestone, who in December, said that he doubts they will be ready for the 2010 season. We will have to wait and see what happens next.

The Campos Meta logo

The Campos Meta logo

While Campos appear to be failing quietly, USF1 appear to be failing with an enormous bang. They came in claiming to be the first ever “all-American” team, which would be based in America, try to use American parts, and hire American drivers. However, no drivers from the US will be avilable until at least 2011, most of their parts suppliers are European, and the team is secondarily based in Spain. Worse than that, they have hired no drivers at all yet. The ony progress they appear to have made yet is their company base, in Charlotte, is up and running.

Boullier confirmed as new Renault team boss

Eric Boullier, team boss of Renault

Eric Boullier, team boss of Renault

Eric Boullier has been confirmed as the new team principal for Renault.

He was the team principal for the French A1 GP team from 2007 to 2009. He is also the CEO of Gravity Sports Management, a company which is owned by Gerard Lopez. This is the same person who bought into Renault last month, alongside Genii Capital.

Gravity Sports Managment does not manage current F1 drivers, but upcoming ones. One name on their list you may recognise is Ho-Pin Tung, who tested for – surprise – Renault at the young driver test last month. Otherwise, there are a few drivers from GP2, F3 Euro Series and Formula BMW Europe.

It may not be surprising, after this deal, to see Ho-Pin Tung confirmed as the test driver for Renault. It is also possible for him to get the second driver seat, behind Robert Kubica, but I feel that he requires more time, having only driven an F1 car twice, for Renault and BMW (in 2004).

Boullier, 36,  has no previous Formula 1 experience. He is, however, xompletely different to the previous principal, Flavio Briatore. Flavio knew only about the commercial side of Formula 1, and nothing about the technical aspect. Boullier, on the other hand, has a background of engineering and team managment, when he worked in junior formulae.

The appointment of Boullier means that Bob Bell, the stand-in principal after Briatore left, can now return to his role of technical director.

Included is a Q&A which was supplied by Renault:

In what frame of mind was the team when you arrived?
EB: When I started in the job it quickly became clear that the staff’s morale had been affected by the end of the 2009 season and that the last few weeks had been quite challenging. However, the team is now very motivated thanks to the new philosophy that the Renault F1 Team wants to implement and, when it was presented at the factory shortly before Christmas, it was welcomed with applause. Everyone is now refreshed and ready for action.

What will be your day-to-day responsibilities?
EB: I will concentrate solely on the sporting and performance aspects. Bob Bell will oversee the Design Office, Production and the technical development of the car. We have already had a lot of discussions and we think in the same way. I think that we will work well together.

Are you a representative of the new strategic partners of the team?
EB: I have been appointed by Renault F1 Team who stays in charge of all operational aspects of its F1 activity. Of course, representatives of Genii Capital were consulted, but it would be wrong to think of Renault as a two-headed structure that will have two decision-making hubs. This is one team with one structure.

Have you been given a time frame to prove yourself?
EB: My employers never mentioned this, however I have set myself relatively high objectives. F1 is a dream for an engineer and I wouldn’t want to let this opportunity pass me by. There is no pressure, only the motivation to do the job for which I have been appointed well.

Can you summarise your approach in three words?
EB: Humility, rigorous and openness. For me, the racing is the most important thing above all.

Is your age an advantage?
EB: I like to think so. The team wanted some fresh blood and to open a new chapter. F1 is made of cycles and the shape of tomorrow’s sport is being defined now with a new generation beginning to fill the paddock little-by-little. Ferrari and McLaren have, among others, followed this evolution. And Christian Horner from Red Bull Racing is my age!

What are your objectives for 2010?
EB: It is still a little early to describe them precisely, but my mission is foremost to put the team back on track by concentrating on two main themes. One of my priorities will be to put in place an organisation that flows and is efficient in order for Enstone to work in harmony. Then, for the performance, we must put in place an improved feedback process. It won’t happen in two months, we know that, but it will need to be progressive and solid. Today we have all the means to reach this objective. The budget is fixed, 60% of the wind tunnel has been upgraded and our high-tech CFD centre is now in full swing. So there’s everything to play for.

As CEO of Gravity Sport Management, will the second driver be a Gravity driver?
EB: The second driver will have to be able to score points and challenge Robert Kubica. So in fact, it might be a Gravity driver or not, but I can guarantee that it will be even more difficult for a Gravity driver to be selected as they really will have to prove their worth to be chosen as Renault’s second driver.

Briatore’s lifetime ban overturned (Updated)

Flavio Briatore, when managing Renault

Flavio Briatore, when managing Renault

Early reports from Paris suggest that Flavio Briatore’s lifetime ban from Formula 1 has been overturned by the French courts. Briatore was at the centre of the crash-gate conspiracy regarding Singapore 2008.

The judge claims that the sanction imposed against Briatore was illegal, and should be overturned. Briatore was even awarded €15,000 in compensation. The FIA legal team are said to probably launching an appeal.

In my opinion, this is an absolute disaster for the sport. Flavio brought cheating and corruption in many ways to this sport, and to be given money for being caught cheating says it all. The silver lining is, the FIA aren’t going to let him back into F1 without a fight… hopefully.

And anyways, even if he wasn’t involved in crash-gate, he was once photographed wearing a thong. Which deserves a lifetime ban itself.

Update: Pat Symonds’ 5 year ban has also been overturned, and will receive €5,000 in compensation.

Update 2: The FIA are legally obliged to release details of the ban being lifted in the next 2 weeks. The FIA statement can be found here:

“The FIA notes the Decision of the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris in relation to Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds.

The Court has rejected the claims for damages made by Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds and their claim for an annulment of the FIA’s decision.  In particular, the Court did not examine the facts and has not reversed the FIA’s finding that both Briatore and Symonds conspired to cause an intentional crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

However, the Court did question the FIA’s authority to impose bans upon Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds for procedural reasons and because they are not FIA licence holders and, according to the Court, are therefore not subject to any FIA rules. The FIA’s ability to exclude those who intentionally put others’ lives at risk has never before been put into doubt and the FIA is carefully considering its appeal options on this point.

The Court’s decision is not enforceable until the FIA’s appeal options have been exhausted.  Until then, the World Motor Sport Council’s decision continues to apply.

In addition, the FIA intends to consider appropriate actions to ensure that no persons who would engage, or who have engaged, in such dangerous activities or acts of intentional cheating will be allowed to participate in Formula One in the future.”

2010 F1 testing dates confirmed

Because of the heavy rain last year, testing will not return to the Portimao circuit

Because of the heavy rain last year, testing will not return to the Portimao circuit

The days of testing before the F1 season were revealed today. There will be 4 sets of tests, in 3 different locations:

February 1st – 3rd – Valencia (Ricardo Tormo), Spain
February 10th – 13th – Jerez, Spain
February 17th – 20th – Jerez, Spain
February 25th – 28th – Circuit de Catalunya, Spain

As the same as last year, the teams will be allowed 15,000 km of testing, spread out over 15 days. This means that there will be no testing this year at the Portimao or Motorland Aragon circuits.

So far, only Mercedes have confirmed their launch date: February 1st, to coinicide with the first test in Valencia.