Monthly Archives: August 2011

Mercedes 1-2 in Belgian first practice

Michael Schumacher's special one-off helmet for this weekend

Michael Schumacher's special one-off helmet for this weekend

Michael Schumacher marked his 20 years in Formula 1 by leading first practice for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Wearing a special gold helmet for this weekend, Michael was the first out of the pits, and this proved to be crucial.

Teammate Nico Rosberg was 2nd, as both Mercedes cars were the only drivers who went out on track before a heavy shower.

The rain lasted for the first half an hour of the session, completely soaking the track and forcing the other drivers to take on extreme wet tyres. Over the 90 minutes, drivers opted to switch to intermediates as the track slowly dried out.

Jenson Button was third fastest, over 8 seconds behind Schumacher. Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton were 4th and 5th.

The damp track still caught out several drivers, most notably Bruno Senna and Paul di Resta, both crashing out at Turn 9.

Times from FP1:

 1.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1:54.355            13
 2.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes              1:54.829  + 0.474   15
 3.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      2:02.740  + 8.385   8
 4.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      2:03.752  + 9.397   10
 5.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      2:04.301  + 9.946   7
 6.  Adrian Sutil        Force India-Mercedes  2:04.663  + 10.308  18
 7.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               2:04.728  + 10.373  10
 8.  Rubens Barrichello  Williams-Cosworth     2:05.391  + 11.036  12
 9.  Jaime Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari    2:06.583  + 12.228  16
10.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        2:06.886  + 12.531  15
11.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               2:07.055  + 12.700  12
12.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        2:07.481  + 13.126  15
13.  Jarno Trulli        Lotus-Renault         2:08.233  + 13.878  14
14.  Sebastien Buemi     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    2:08.239  + 13.884  14
15.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Cosworth     2:08.918  + 14.563  10
16.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      2:09.792  + 15.437  8
17.  Timo Glock          Virgin-Cosworth       2:12.278  + 17.923  13
18.  Tonio Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth          2:12.389  + 18.034  10
19.  Jerome D'Ambrosio   Virgin-Cosworth       2:12.772  + 18.417  13
20.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes  2:13.058  + 18.703  8
21.  Karun Chandhok      Lotus-Renault         2:13.090  + 18.735  11
22.  Vitaly Petrov       Renault               2:13.601  + 19.246  10
23.  Bruno Senna         Renault               2:14.340  + 19.985  7
24.  Daniel Ricciardo    HRT-Cosworth          2:14.933  + 20.578  11

20 years since Schumacher’s debut

Today marks exactly 20 years since Michael Schumacher made his Formula 1 debut. While his current performances have been lacklustre to say the least, there is no denying how incredible his debut was.

Schumacher spent most of 1991 in Group C racing

Schumacher spent most of 1991 in Group C racing

In 1991, Schumacher was racing in Group C racing with the Mercedes team. It was a strange choice by his manager Willi Weber, as many had speculated it could have ended his career prematurely. Very few drivers were able to make it to Formula 1 by this route, Formula 2 being the better option.  Nevertheless, he performed well in Group C, alongside teammate Karl Wendliger.

His opportunity arrived when Jordan driver Bertrand Gachot ran into a spot of trouble with a taxi driver. After an argument with Eric Court, Gachot dealt with the situation in a bizarre manner – by spraying him with CS gas. While many expected a fine or suspended sentence, the judge dealt him 9 months in prison.

Gachot had a tyre test in Monza scheduled the day after, and so the Jordan team fell into disarray. The Belgian Grand Prix was less than a week away, and they were one driver short.

The main issue with any new driver was sponsorship, as Gachot had brought a substansial amount of money to the team. Team boss Eddie Jordan wanted to go for Keke Rosberg, even though the Finn had retired 5 years ago. Stefan Johansson and Derek Warwick were also contacted, but all three were requesting payment. Senior figures in the team soon spotted Schumacher as a prime talent.

The 22-year-old German was given an opportunity to prove himself, being allowed to lap the Silverstone South Circuit several times in an older Jordan car.  On his first flying lap, he almost lost the back of the car, but held the Jordan in an impressive rally-style slide.

According to several news sites also reporting this story, the team members had to stand in the middle of the track to force Schumacher to stop driving!

Within several laps, he was within several tenths of a second of the South Circuit record. He had impressed the team, and a one-off payment of £150,000 was given to Jordan from Mercedes for the Grand Prix opportunity.

Oddly enough, Michael may have had to lie in order to get the drive. Manager Willi Weber had promised Eddie Jordan that Schumacher had lapped the Spa circuit “hundreds of times”, but in actuality Michael had never even seen the track.

Schumacher on his debut test with Jordan

Schumacher on his debut test with Jordan

Nevertheless, Michael turned up in the Ardennes mountains amid fury regarding Gachot’s imprisonment. Many of the drivers and fans had started a campaign to release Bertrand from jail.

With this, much of the pressure had escaped Schumacher, as he calmly lapped the track in a fold-out bike to learn the layout. Andrea de Cesaris, his teammate for the weekend, was supposed to take him around the 7km circuit, but never found the time to do so.

On Friday practice, Schumacher went eigth fastest. He repeated that position in qualifying on Saturday, shocking the entire paddock. In the final sector alone, gained 1.2 seconds from his previous lap:

While he was 2.1 seconds away from Ayrton Senna, there was no denying that Schumacher was a fantastic talent. After Ricardo Patrese’s lap was disallowed for the car having no reverse gear, Michael was elevated to 7th, 4 places ahead of his experienced teammate.

In the morning warm-up Schumacher went 4th fastest – another incredible performance. But what happened at the start of the race is one of the most brilliant pieces of driving in recent times.

Within seconds, Schumacher had flown past Jena Alesi and triple world champion Nelson Piquet. He was so fast off the starting line that Piquet thought the German had jump started.

Here is a video showing the start. At 0:15 seconds in, you can see Michael (blue car in the middle) sail around Alesi:

Unfortunately, this miracle start didn’t last for long. He dipped the clutch at the La Cource hairpin, and brought it up again too quickly, burning the clutch out. He coasted to a halt after Eau Rouge.

After that, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Jean Alesi and Andrea de Cesaris all were in contention for the race win. Engine failures for Alesi and De Cesaris, as well as an electrical problem for Mansell, handed the win to Senna.

With De Cesaris having challenged for the lead from 11th, who knows what Schumacher could have done on that day. The aerodynamic and mechanical stability of the Jordan suited Michael perfectly.

However, he didn’t even start the next race for the Jordan team. Benneton had seen enough of Schumacher to want him, and the German was poached from under Eddie Jordan’s nose. He took his maiden win a year later, at the same circuit. And the rest is history…

Senna confirmed at Renault for two races

Senna has taken over Heidfeld's seat - for the moment

Senna has taken over Heidfeld's seat - for the moment

It has been revealed today that Bruno Senna has been confirmed at Renault for the next two races of the season.

While it appears as if the team want for him to race for the rest of the year, legal issues with Nick Heidfeld’s contract remain. It appears as if Heidfeld does not wish to leave, and his contract does not include an exit clause.

A brief statement from Bruno reads as follows:

"I am confirmed for this race and the next race. The intention is I will do the rest 
of the year but it is not confirmed."

The Telegraph is reporting that Nick Heidfeld is prepared to take Renault to court in order to keep his race seat.

Renault are yet to comment on this issue.

Heidfeld replaced by Senna? (Confirmed)

The BBC are reporting that Renault driver Nick Heidfeld has been dropped from the squad’s line-up, with Bruno Senna taking his seat for the rest of the year.

Heidfeld has endured a trying year with the Renault team, having failed to lead the team after the loss of Robert Kubica after a rally crash.

It has also been hinted that Renault are suffering from a lack of funding. While Nick demands several million euro in salary, Senna comes with substansial sponsorship money free of charge.

Romain Grosjean was rumoured to be lined up for a race seat, having performed exceptionally well in GP2  this year. He previously stood in for sacked Nelson Piquet Jr. in 2009.

While this story has been reported by a trusted source, the team are yet to confirm this story.

Heidfeld currently lies 8th in the drivers’ standings, 2 points ahead of teammate Vitaly Petrov.

Update: Renault have confirmed that Senna will race alongside Vitaly Petrov in this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix. A short statement was issued:

"Lotus Renault GP is pleased to announce that Bruno Senna will race alongside Vitaly 
Petrov at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.

Bruno will attend the Official FIA Press Conference tomorrow at 15.00.

A press release with further details on the matter will be issued tomorrow morning."

It is currently unknown is this switch for one race only, or for the rest of the season.

FIA bans DRS for Eau Rouge corner

After speculation earlier today, the FIA has announced that the Drag Reduction System will be banned for the Eau Rouge corner.

The DRS system will be blocked from after the La Source hairpin (Turn 1) all the way until the exit of Radillion (second half of Eau Rouge).

However, it has also emerged that this is not just a driver issue. Team engineers have noted that the open rear wing would not be able to close if a driver hit the brakes through Eau Rouge. This would apparently lead to the rear wing possibly becoming stuck open for the rest of the lap. This issue is believed to be because of Eau Rouge’s high downforce/speed/incline combination.

Also, going far too quickly through Eau Rouge can lead to massive crashes – see Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta in 1999 (both drivers had agreed to take the corner flat out before the qualifying session).

The DRS zone for the race will be placed after Radillion, and will continue on until the Les Combes complex.


Karthikeyan expects to replace Ricciardo for Indian GP

Narain Karthikeyan may be back racing in October

Narain Karthikeyan may be back racing in October

Narain Karthikeyan has said that he expects to be back in the Hispania car for the inaugral Indian Grand Prix in October.

Having returned to the sport after a 6-year absence, Karthikeyan was replaced by Daniel Ricciardo at the half-way marl this year.

However, after facing the media when unveiling tickets for the Grand Prix last Saturday, the Indian driver said that he expects to be racing in front of his home crowd:

"It was always a dream for me to race in Formula 1 and race in front of my home
crowd. And now thanks to the Jaypee Group that dream is going to be a reality."

However, fellow Indian Karun Chandhok is less hopeful of participating in the Grand Prix. While maintaining his belief that he has not paid his way into Lotus (and one-off drive at the German Grand Prix), Chandhok is still doubtful over driving in India:

"I've always maintained that racing in the German GP this year was a one-off. The
team seem to be pleased with my performance at the event so we will see what

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the Buddh International Circuit, which is hosting the Indian Grand Prix, will be inspected by the FIA in mid-September. If the track is approved, the circuit will be open to the media by the end of that month.

DRS ban for Eau Rouge?

Eau Rouge, an extremely steep corner on the Spa circuit

Eau Rouge, an extremely steep corner on the Spa circuit

The FIA is investigating whether the Drag Reduction System is suitable to be used at the Eau Rouge corner in Spa-Francorchamps.

DRS was banned earlier this year in the tunnel in Monaco, after several drivers noted that some might take unnecessary risks through the right-hand kink.

The same reasoning applies here. Eau Rouge is a famous high-incline corner, which is taken flat out in the dry conditions, like the Monaco tunnel. However, the risk of a crash here is also high, according to Rubens Barrichello:

"We’re going to see crashes going on, and that’s not the purpose.

"You’re going to gamble. I mean, last year we had to raise the knee to make it 
work [referring to F-duct system], and I went through Eau Rouge with one leg, and 
that’s not the purpose."

According to Mercedes, the DRS system may be used for up to 63% of the Spa circuit, second only to Monza.

Mexico to return to Grand Prix calendar?

After a 20-year absense from the F1 calendar, rumours are abound that a revival of the Mexican Grand Prix is being planned.

The main people involved appear to be CIE, a Mexican entertainment company, as well as Carlos Slim Domit, son of Carlos Slim – the world’s richest man. Previously this year, Slim’s company Telmex organised a sponsorship deal with the Sauber team.

One of the venues being investigated is the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit, which has hosted 15 Grands Prix in the past. However, there are several problems with this track. Firstly, the surface of the track is reported to be extremely bumpy, which would render Formula 1 cars useless.

Secondly, the high altitude (2.285 km above sea level) would cause considerable problems for teams. The thinner air would be a hindrance to drivers, as well as engine air intakes. It has been confirmed that a large upgrade of track facilities would be necessary in order for Formula 1 to return here.

According to Reuters, the other option at the moment seems to be a new street circuit, located in Guadalajara. This city has been praised for huge economic potential, as well as a large young population. It has been touted as a “city of the future”. However, no concrete circuit plan has been drawn up yet.

Mexico currently has its first Formula 1 driver since Héctor Rebaque back in 1981.

New development plans for Silverstone

Silverstone appears set for another redevelopment

Silverstone appears set for another redevelopment

After the construction of a new pit and paddock facility last year, the owners of the Silverstone circuit have moved forward with plans for further development of the area.

2011 was the first year that F1 cars raced using the new complex, called “The Wing”, as well as a relocated start/finish straight and new grandstand.

Today, news has emerged that the owners wish to add a business park, technology park, education campus, three hotels, a new karting track as well as an outdoor stage to the current track.

Spectator facilities are also being planned, which are known to include a museam of motorsport.

This development is being touted as “the most important initiative that Silverstone has taken in its 60-year history” by managing director Richard Philips:

"Approval of this planning application will help maintain Silverstone’s position as 
a leading global centre for sport, leisure, education and technology and support its 
vision of becoming a world-leading motor sport destination."

Pirelli to drop hard tyre for rest of 2011

Pirelli's hard tyre will soon be replaced

Pirelli's hard tyre will soon be replaced

Pirelli has stated that it is unlikely to use the hard compound tyre again in 2011.

After announcing tyre compounds for the next 3 races (a mix of super-soft, soft and medium), it was becoming increasingly likely that the unpopular compound would not be used again.

Today, Pirelli’s motorsport boss Paul Hembery has explained that the medium as effectively replaced the harder tyre:

"I don't think we'll see the hard compound again. I think it's probably too hard and 
that the medium is proving sufficiently robust for the aggressive circuits we've 
still got to come. So don't think we'll be going the hard route."

This will prove beneficial to Fernando Alonso’s title hopes, as his Ferrari team has struggled massively on the harder compound this season, with particular problems bringing the rubber up to temperature.

Hembery also revealed that the hard tyre probably will not make an appearance in 2012, with the medium taking up that role:

"Probably next season the medium will become the hard. We'll probably slot something 
in between the current softs and mediums - We want to keep about one second between 
each. The super soft and soft gap is about right to be honest, because you've got a 1s 
speed advantage but you've got a clear degradation and limitation on use. If we could 
replicate that now with a new medium and a new hard then I think we'll be well placed."