Monthly Archives: February 2011

Kubica promises to return in 2011

Robert Kubica has vowed to return to racing this year

Robert Kubica has vowed to return to racing this year

Despite going under the knife for the second time in a week after his horrific rally crash, Robert Kubica has already vowed to return before the season ends – and better than ever.

The Polish driver is set to undergo a 7-hour operation today, as doctors try to repair the damage to his hand, arm and leg. Kubica was involved in a crash at the Ronde di Andora rally, where a crash barrier went straight through the car, causing his injuries.

While doctors have warned of a 12-month recovery period, F1 personnel have speculated he could return in 6, and Kubica has stated he “must” return to racing this year:

"I want to get back on the track stronger than ever, because after these accidents 
you aren't what you were before, you improve.

It happened to me in 2007 too, after the crash in Canada. I was out for a race and 
when I got back I was better. A driver is not just throttle and steering wheel, it's
more than that. There's a difference between someone who drives at 80 per cent and 
who does at 95 per cent: in that 15 per cent extra you find the abilities and the 
motivations coming out.

Since 2007, I'm stronger head-wise as a driver. And it will be the same this time 
again, when I'll be back in good physical shape. I must return this year.

I remember well my state when, seven years ago, when I was in a car with a friend 
driving, we were hit by another car driven by a drunk. Back then too, we ended up 
against an armco barrier and bent it, before falling down a cliff.

It was the same right arm - massacred. But after four days it didn't feel as good 
as it feels now, and this reassures me. Dr Ceccarelli did the rest, and he assists 
me now too.

I have an insane urge to cut the times with the best possible preparation. I don't 
even know what a bone is like, but since they are fixing it for me, it's up to me 
to make it work the way it's supposed to."

It has been reported that Polish church leaders have sent Kubica a drop of blood from Pope John Paul II to aid his recovery. They have also sent the former Pope’s robes to Robert, for him to keep his faith.

However, it’s worth noting how close to death he actually came. His manager, Daniele Morelli, described how he was prepared for the worst:

"When he arrived here he had only one litre of blood. 'Call the boy's parents,' 
the doctors told me on Sunday afternoon. I felt a chill in my spine."

Jerez Day 1: Massa heads the field

Massa headed today's Jerez session

Massa headed today's Jerez session

As the Formula 1 paddock rolls into Jerez for the next round of testing, Felipe Massa leads the timesheets after day 1.

He set his fast times early, and stayed on top for most of the day. Sergio Perez was over 7 tenths behind in the Ferrari-powered Sauber, while Mark Webber was third.

Lewis Hamilton, Timo Glock and Adrian Sutil were all trying out their 2011 cars for the first time, while HRT did not attend this test, instead moving to Monza for a few filming days with Pirelli.

Daniel Ricciardo only drove in the morning, but was still 4th. Hamilton was happy with the improvements of his MP4-26 in 5th, and Jaime Alguersuari was 6th, sharing his seat with Ricciardo.

Adrian Sutil had only 28 laps today, while Vitaly Petrov and Nico Rosberg were 8th and 9th. Jarno Trulli was 10th and Timo Glock 11th. Pastor Maldonado was last, stuck in the pits because of a rear wing problem, and only did 14 laps.

Three red flags disrupted today’s session. Sergio Perez stopped out on track in the morning, while Rosberg stopped later on. Vitaly Petrov later spun his Renault into the gravel.

Pirelli brought all 4 tyre compounds to this test, and drivers seem to be happy with the new rubber so far.

Hamilton drove his car for the first time, and appears impressed:

“How it felt today was definitely a step forward.

Whether that’s aero or mechanical, I haven’t yet identified exactly which part it is but 
it’s a good thing that it feels good initially.

My initial response was that it felt quite comfortable to drive and there’s certain areas 
I noticed particularly that were quite a good improvement on last year.

We didn’t do that many runs today, we had quite a lot of programmes to get through. So I 
was really doing what a test driver would do: just go out and do this test, that test. We 
did that all day generally.

The car feels good, it’s positive. My initial thought was it’s a good step better than 
last year so I was quite happy with it.”

Times from Jerez Day 1:

Pos  Driver             Car                   Time       Gap
 1.  Felipe Massa       Ferrari               1.20.709
 2.  Sergio Perez       Sauber-Ferrari        1.21.483   0.774
 3.  Mark Webber        Red Bull-Renault      1.21.522   0.813
 4.  Daniel Ricciardo   Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1.21.755   1.046
 5.  Lewis Hamilton     McLaren-Mercedes      1.21.914   1.205
 6.  Jaime Alguersuari  Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1.22.689   1.980
 7.  Adrian Sutil       Force India-Mercedes  1.23.472   2.763
 8.  Vitaly Petrov      Renault               1.23.504   2.795
 9.  Nico Rosberg       Mercedes              1.23.963   3.254
10.  Jarno Trulli       Lotus-Renault         1.24.458   3.749
11.  Timo Glock         Virgin-Cosworth       1.25.086   4.377
12.  Pastor Maldonado   Williams-Cosworth     1.34.968   14.259

Heidfeld to be evaluated for Renault drive

Nick Heidfeld will be testing with Renault this weekend

Nick Heidfeld will be testing with Renault this weekend

Nick Heidfeld is to share a car with Bruno Senna this weekend in Jerez, as Renault seek a replacement for he injured Robert Kubica.

Kubica, who of course was involved in a rally crash last week, will probably be out for the entire season, and Renault have already made moves to shuffle their line-up. Vitaly Petrov will continue to drive one of the Renaults, but the other drive is up for contention.

Bruno Senna, one of the team’s test drivers, is in the running, as is Vitantonio Liuzzi and Nick Heidfeld. Nick will be evaluated by the team this weekend at Jerez, according to a statement:

Lotus Renault GP has revised its driver line-up for this week’s test session in Jerez 
de la Frontera, Spain.

Vitaly will drive the R31 on Thursday and Friday, as originally scheduled. For 
Saturday and Sunday, the team will give mileage to Bruno Senna and will also 
evaluate Nick Heidfeld, who is a potential replacement for Robert Kubica as a 
race driver. The exact running order for the weekend will be confirmed on 
Friday evening.

If Senna gets the drive, it is believed that he will take the second driver role, while Petrov would be the lead driver. On the other hand, if Heidfeld or Liuzzi is hired, then either of these two will lead the team.

Force India VJM04 launched

The new Force India VJM04

The new Force India VJM04

Force India were the last F1 team to unveil their 2011 car. Today saw the launch of the VJM04 online.

Despite the apparent use of the 2010 front wing, other changes have been made to the sidepods, nosecone, undertray and rear suspension. The livery has also been altered, with a clash of orange and green at the back. Like all of the other teams, the shark fin engine cover has been dropped.

The roll-hoop air intake has been changed from a conventional system to a “blade” design, which was first introduced by Mercedes last year, although they have since ditched the layout.

Mercedes engines will be used as per last year, as well as Mercedes-designed KERS systems.

This is the first car for Force India to be designed by Andrew Green. While they finished 7th in last year’s constructor’s championship, the team say they want to be in the top 5 in 2011.

Green explained in detail the changes to the car:

“The most obvious visual change is that we’ve gone away from a conventional roll-hoop 
to a blade. This gives us a small packaging improvement compared to a more 
conventional style.

The engine cover is different, in-line with the abolition of the F-duct system. But 
there are a lot of differences under the skin that people won’t necessarily notice.

We’ve recovered a lot of the aerodynamic performance, we believe. We still have a 
little bit to go, but we are still in the process of the realignment after the end 
of last season, because it does take a long time to move aerodynamically from one 
position to another.

The movable wing is a whole new game, and we’ll be trying to exploit its performance 
to the max.

Exhaust management will also be a big area of development this year. There will be 
an upgrade for the first race, so there are some changes that will come into effect 
at the Bahrain test. Further down the line there are some big updates for the front 
of the car coming in for the first European race.

The Mercedes KERS system looks very strong, and we’re really happy with it.

We’ve done a lot of running in the simulator, so the drivers are well up to speed 
with how to use it. We’re well developed with what we have to do for harvesting and 
deployment. It’s smaller and lighter than in 2009, and packaging required very few 
vehicle compromises.”

HRT F111 revealed

The new HRT F111

The new HRT F111

Hispania Racing are the second last team to show off their 2011 car: The F111.

This car was launched online today, and reveals a new livery, designed by renowned Daniel Simon of Cosmic Motors. Instead of last year’s bland grey,  striking red and white setup has been applied, with various chequered flag-style pictures around the car.

The new HRT F111

The new HRT F111

Technically, there are several changes. Both the front and rear wing are revised, as well as a half-shark fin engine cover, similar to the Red Bull RB7.

Despite the addition of Narain Karthikeyan, who brings along with him several sponsors, the car does not include any extra sponsors. Instead, the team have placed “This could be you” and “Your logo here” messages on the car – although you could argue that the former message was aimed at drivers rather than companies!

HRT are not going to participate in the next test in Jerez next week. They will instead be going to Monza on the 14th-16th February, to complete several filming days with Pirelli. They will meet up with the F1 paddock in Barcelona on the 18th. However, sources have claimed that the F110 will be used at this Barcelona test, and the F111 will only be driven in the Bahrain test (3rd March), which suggests that the car isn’t fully finished yet.

 

Virgin MVR-02 launched in London

The Marussia Virgin MVR-02

The Marussia Virgin MVR-02

The Marussia Virgin MVR-02 is the 10th F1 car to be launched so far this year.

It was first shown to the public at the BBC Television Centre in London today. Like last year, this car is designed solely by using CFD (Computer Fluid Dynamics) technology.

The air intake at the front of the car is modeled to look like a Marussia B2 road car. Designer Nick Wirth has confirmed that the car has not been created with KERS in mind, claiming the high cost of the unit deterred the team from using it.

The Marussia Virgin MVR-02

The Marussia Virgin MVR-02

In contrast to the other teams, the MVR-02 sports a very low and bulky nosecone. As well as this, a new front wing and a revised rear wing have been added. A new hydraulic system, which had caused severe headaches last year, has already been tested on the Vr-01 last week in Valencia.

One apparent disadvantage to the Virgin team is that Wirth’s CFD system does not yet incorporate underbody aerodynamics. It is unclear how they have solved this problem, although the team have clarified that they have not used a wind tunnel.

Interestingly, Wirth explained that his team had looked at using a front diffuser, similar to Renault:

“We’d heard about that towards the end of last year. It’s very cost-effective and easy 
for us to check other solutions out so I can confirm that we have tried a solution 
very similar to what you see on the other car and it gives results that are very 
different from ours. We’ve actually gone so far as to get our drivers to test it on 
the simulator to see.

We can see why they’ve done it but it takes a team of the financial, human and 
technical resources of Renault – or Lotus – to make that happen. If you’re fighting 
where they are you might be interested in doing it but we’re happy with the solution 
we’ve got.

It is a massive, massive undertaking what they’ve done, getting high-temperature 
exhaust gasses past the fuel system, past the cooling system, past wiring, hydraulics 
and, most important, getting it past safety structures, the side impact structures 
which are not normally tested at anything other than room temperature.

So they’ve obviously got to satisfy the FIA that it’s legal, even when it’s hot, so 
that’s just a massive job and hats off to them for having the bravery to do something 
like that.”

Driver Timo Glock explained his difficulties with the car last year, and why they should make a good start in testing:

“We could be in a good shape for 2011, or in a better shape. ‘Good shape’ doesn’t 
mean scoring points, it means taking a step forward, closer to the midfield teams.

An acceptable level would be very close to teams like Sauber, Toro Rosso, maybe 
Force India.

(Last year) I had some thoughts about ‘bloody hell, what am I doing here?’

Because you’re fighting the whole weekend and then you go into the race and after 
ten laps you get a radio call ‘Timo, you have to come back to the pits’. It was 
quite tough, quite hard.

I just want to drive 800km a day and fall into bed and say ‘OK, I did enough today’, 
and it was not that the car broke down again.

What we have to make sure is at the first test we have to hit the track and drive, 
drive, drive. See where the bad points are on the car to sort them out before the 
first race.

Because if you come to the first race and you’ve got a light of problems then you 
can’t sort it out, you’re already in trouble, and you start on the back foot.”

 

Up to 12 months on the sidelines for Kubica

Robert Kubica may be ruled out for the entire year after his crash

Robert Kubica may be ruled out for the entire year after his crash

After his crash while rallying, the injuries sustained by Robert Kubica could take up to a year to heal, doctors say.

He lost control of his Super 2000 Skoda Fabia, hit a wall, and the crash barrier penetrated the cockpit of the car. He suffered multiple fractures to his right arm, leg and hand. He has been in surgery up to a few hours ago.

There were initial fears that his hand would have to be amputated, after a huge amount of blood loss, but doctors say that his hand is safe – for the moment.

Dr. Igor Rossello, a surgeon with a specialty in hand injuries, told the media:

"We need to wait for a week at least to verify whether the hand survives. The nerve
lesions are the ones that leave us with the most question marks over the recovery of
functions.

Rehabilitation will be relatively long, probably one year. He came here with
multiple traumas, with several associated injuries. He won't necessarily have to
undergo further surgery on the hand, but he will if needed."

Regarding Kubica returning to racing, he stated:

"One year is the best provision.

I think it is quite difficult now, but you never know. Drivers are always very
special patients. I have a lot of motorbike patients and they heal in a much
faster way - faster than normal people."

Kubica’s co-driver Jakub Gerber avoided injury from the crash, although he said that he did not know what caused the Poe to lose control of his car:

"We were on the first four kilometres of the first special stage. I was looking at
the notes and didn't notice that the car was skidding. Only when we crashed I saw
Robert holding his arm, and after a few moments he lost consciousness.

Robert isn't just a great driver, he is a friend. I just hope he can recover soon."

Some have criticised Renault for allowing Kubica to go rallying, particularly just before the start of the season. However, team principal Eric Boullier defended the decision:

"We've let him do it because rallying is what he loves to do. Rallying is vital for
Robert and for his sanity. Besides that, there is a reciprocal agreement. We knew
the risks and so did he. We didn't want a robot or a corporate man for a driver."

The following is a press conference a few hours ago: (note Fernando Alonso at the start of the video, he visited the hospital where Kubica is)

Update: Renault have released the following statement:

“Robert Kubica underwent a seven-hour operation at the Santa Corona Hospital in 
Pietra Ligure this afternoon. The Lotus Renault GP driver had been diagnosed with 
multiple fractures to his right arm and leg following a high-speed accident at 
the Ronda de Andora rally this morning. He also suffered severe cuts to his 
forearm, which could have an impact on his right hand mobility.

Doctors are reasonably satisfied with the way the operation went. Tonight, Robert’s 
condition remains stable but serious. He has been placed into an induced coma and 
could be woken up in the morning.

Professor Mario Igor Rossello, Director for the Regional Centre of Hand Surgery 
at San Paolo Hospital in Savona: ‘It has been a very important and difficult 
operation. Robert Kubica’s right forearm was cut in two places, with significant 
lesions to the bones and the tendons. We did our best to rebuild the functions of 
the forearm. It took seven doctors, split into two teams and a total of seven 
hours to complete the operation. One team was the emergency task force from the 
hospital of San Paolo (Savona) that is normally appointed to treat this sort of 
injury, while the other team came from the orthopaedic department of the Santa 
Corona Hospital (Pietra Ligure). At the end of the operation, Robert’s hand was 
well vascularised and warm, which is encouraging. Following the surgery, Robert 
Kubica will remain under permanent monitoring overnight because his condition 
remains serious.'

Eric Boullier, Team Principal and Managing Director of Lotus Renault GP: ‘The 
news of Robert’s accident came as a real shock to the whole team. All of us, at 
Lotus Renault GP, wish him a quick recovery. We have been really impressed with 
the way the doctors looked after him today and we would like to thank the whole 
team of the Santa Corona Hospital for their professional approach and dedication. 
I will be travelling to Italy tomorrow, along with Vitaly Petrov, in order to see 
Robert and tell him that we are impatiently waiting for his return.’

Another update will be made tomorrow morning at 9h30, at the hospital, by 
Professor Rossello and Daniel Morelli, Robert’s manager.”

 

Kubica seriously injured in rally crash

Robert Kubica's 2011 season is in doubt after a crash while rallying

Robert Kubica's 2011 season is in doubt after a crash while rallying

Robert Kubica has suffered multiple fractures to his right arm, leg and hand, and possibly his hip, after a high-speed crash at the Ronde di Andora rally today.

He is currently undergoing surgery at the Santa Corona Hospital in Pietra Ligure. All we know about his crash so far is that he left the track and hit a wall, caving the front of the car in, and shattering part of the roll structure.

His co-driver, Jakub Gerber, has posted on his Facebook account that he is perfectly fine.

A statement from the team read:

“After undergoing extensive medical checks this morning, Robert Kubica has been
diagnosed with multiple fractures to his right arm, leg and hand. He is currently
undergoing surgery at the Santa Corona Hospital in Pietra Ligure.

Robert suffered a high-speed accident this morning while competing in the Ronde
di Andora Rally.

Daniel Morelli, Robert’s manager, will be available for the press in front of
the hospital emergency entrance at 16:30 CET (15:50 GMT).

Lotus Renault GP driver, Robert Kubica, suffered an accident at high speed this
morning while competing in the Ronde di Andora Rally.

The driver was airlifted to Pietra Ligure Hospital, where he is currently
undergoing medical checks. His co-driver is fine.”

This has without question ruled him out of pre-season testing, and there will be huge doubts as to whether he will be able to start the 2011 F1 season, which begins on the 13th March. If he is not able to compete, new test driver for Renault Bruno Senna will probably be the one to take his seat.

All of us fans surely must have breathed a sigh of relief after hearing that he should be alright. However, after an accident like this, restrictions on F1 drivers competing outside of F1 will probably become even more stringent. For the moment though, let’s just hope that his condition doesn’t get any worse.

Update: It appears his injuries were caused by a crash barrier penetrating the door. Reports say that he was stuck in the car for more than an hour before specialist equipment extracted him from the car.

Update 2: Kubica’s operation will finish at 8:00 CET (7:00 GMT). His hand will not have to be amputated, but it remains to be seen whether he will be able to use it afterwards. The focus of the operation is on the blood supply to his hand.

Update 3: Co-driver Jakub Gerber has stated: “(he) was conscious, then fainted and woke up a couple of times, without having full knowledge of what has happened”. It has been confirmed that there is no threat to his life.

His manager, Daniele Morelli, has said: “The surgeons are trying to restore the functionality of his right hand. They must now think about the muscle function, but Robert has a very strong temper and will succeed.”

An Italian video after the crash:

McLaren unveil MP4-26

The McLaren MP4-26

The McLaren MP4-26

McLaren were the 9th team of the Formula 1 grid to release their 2011 challenger: the MP4-26.

It was unveiled at Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, where competition winners brought in different pieces of the car, and it was assembled in front of the press.

The innovative L-shaped sidepods on the McLaren MP4-26

The innovative L-shaped sidepods on the McLaren MP4-26

The team say that their objective was to achieve 2010 levels of downforce, despite the ban on double-decker diffusers this year. As well as KERS and the adjustable rear wing, the Mp4-26 also features a strange L-shaped sidepod arrangement.

McLaren say that this is to manage airflow to the rear of the car more efficiently, although it means that they cannot run deep undercuts in the sidepods.

The car will first be tested at the Idiada Proving Ground on Tuesday, before joining the rest of the F1 paddock in Jerez on Thursday.

Tim Goss, director of engineering, explains how the new KERS unit was implemented:

"The system was also more difficult to package because you’ve got to carry 
more fuel. That was the first challenge, but we got through that.

There were a few difficult decisions concerning architecture around 
different aerodynamic concepts, but I think we ended up with a design 
layout we’re happy with.

KERS is now a single integrated unit that sits within the survival cell, 
beneath the fuel-tank. In 2009, it was housed in the sidepods. The hybrid’s 
cooling intake sits directly below the main roll-hoop intake.

And, once again, we’ve really pushed the car’s cooling configuration: we’ve 
got a second air intake on the engine cover for gearbox and hydraulic 
cooling.

A 3D view of their car is available on the McLaren website.

Kubica leads third day of testing in Valencia

Robert Kubica headed the final test in Valencia

Robert Kubica headed the final test in Valencia

Robert Kubica headed up the final day of testing in Valencia today. His fastest lap got him on top of the timesheets, despite spending only the second half of the session on track.

Adrian Sutil was 5 hundreths behind in the Force India, having completed 117 laps, albeit in the 2010 car. Button, in 3rd and also in his 2010 car, struggled in the cold temperatures, and was half a second off Kubica.

Massa's Ferrari F150 catches fire

Massa's Ferrari F150 catches fire

After a master cylinder failure yesterday, 4th place and impressive constant pace was good for Mark Webber. Felipe Massa was 5th, but had a spectacular incident after the hour mark.

His Ferrari ran wide, and when it rejoined, a small fire started at the back of the car. He continued on for a few more corners, before he spun on his own oil, and stopped in the middle of the track. The red flag was thrown while the car and oil were cleared.

Ferrari later explained the incident:

"As he was coming to the end of his first run of laps, the Brazilian had to 
park at the side of the track, with an oil leak caused by a broken clamp.

Unfortunately the lubricant ended up on the exhausts which led to a small 
fire breaking out and that caused some damage to the car.

The mechanics immediately set to work on repairing the damage, but it is 
unlikely that the car will be back on track much before three in the 
afternoon."
Massa soon spun the car on its own oil

Massa soon spun the car on its own oil

Virgin did mostly 12-lap runs with Timo Glock in the VR-01 for 114 laps, and were rewarded with 6th place. Pastor Maldonado focused on longer stints, testing the team’s KERS system, and was 7th. Sergio Perez stopped after 9 laps to get a gearbox change, but still got 104 laps on the board.

Michael Schumacher failed to keep up with the frontrunners, and ended the day 9th. Sebastien Buemi and Narain Karthikeyan did mostly 5-lap runs, and were 10th and 11th, Narain being 1.7 seconds off the Toro Rosso.

Jarno Trulli had a torrid day, waiting the entire day for a steering part to be sent back to the team from England. It never arrived, and he spent 38 laps doing installation laps and aero checks, never getting a lap time in.

Jenson Button was happy with the new Pirelli tyres:

"I like the feeling of the tyre.

It has a stable rear when you enter high-speed corners, you have a stable 
rear when you brake for low-speed corners, and that is something that I 
really do need with the car. I am happy with that step.

There are areas where it is weaker than previous tyres, but that is the 
way it is built. You just change the balance of the car to suit that.

There will be degradation on the soft tyre and you do have to look after 
it, but there always has to be a balance. You want to be quick over one 
lap and you want to be quick over a long run, so there is always a bit of 
a compromise. It is whether you can get the compromise right or not."

Times from Day 3 in Valencia:

Pos Driver            Team                Time    Gap    Laps
 1. Robert Kubica        Renault               1.13.144           95
 2. Adrian Sutil         Force India Mercedes  1.13.201  0.057  117
 3. Jenson Button        McLaren Mercedes      1.13.553  0.409  105
 4. Mark Webber          Red Bull Renault      1.13.936  0.792  105
 5. Felipe Massa         Ferrari               1.14.017  0.873   80
 6. Timo Glock           Virgin Cosworth       1.14.207  1.063  114
 7. Pastor Maldonado     Williams Cosworth     1.14.299  1.155  101
 8. Sergio Perez         Sauber Ferrari        1.14.469  1.325  104
 9. Michael Schumacher   Mercedes              1.14.537  1.393  110
10. Sebastien Buemi      Toro Rosso Ferrari    1.14.801  1.657   73
11. Narain Karthikeyan   HRT Cosworth          1.16.535  3.391   63
12. Jarno Trulli         Lotus Renault         N/A               38
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