Category Archives: Interviews

F1 paddock divided over unpredictable season

The unprecedented start to the 2012 F1 season has put F1 in the spotlight for many different reasons. With 6 different winners from 6 races, we still have absolutely no idea who will be leading the championship by the next race.

However, with such excitement comes plenty of controversy, as F1 followers are used to.

Over the past few weeks, complaints have grown about the “unpredictability” of the season so far. Die-hard purists have been disappointed with the topsy-turvy grid order, and some have speculated that this may turn fans away from the sport.

Mark Webber was one of several drivers to note the “random” nature of this season, saying:

"It's very unusual, normally in seasons gone by you had a clear break of people who 
were going to be favourites for the Championship but it's very difficult to know 
which teams or drivers are going to be in the best position with three or four races 
to go.

I think for the fans it's interesting for them, but I don't know if they will get 
sick of seeing so many different winners.

It's nice to have so many different winners but also it's always good to have 
rivals, people fighting for the Championship and having lots of different people 
always fighting."

Interestingly, this comment was made before his win at the Monaco Grand Prix, and he has not repeated this statement since. However, McLaren driver Jenson Button has not backed down, claiming that numerous different winners will turn fans off from the sport:

"Clearly everyone is excited about so many different winners, which initially was 
great for the fans and great for the sport.

But there will come a time when the fans will say, 'So anyone can win a grand prix, 
everyone can lose a grand prix like that?' (snaps his fingers). I think they're 
finding it a little bit strange now."

Button has of course suffered a drop in form in recent races, and has not competed for a race win since Melbourne.

Former world champion Niki Lauda has been the most vocal of all:

"We have been surprised. But if it continues, we’ll lose spectators as the main 
public wants to see world champions winning.

We need two races with known winners and then the crazy stuff can start again."

It should be noted that when he won the world championship in 1984, there were only 5 race winners in the entire season. Also, I feel the need to add that 4 of the 6 race winners so far this season are “known winners”.

However, it has not been all complaining from the F1 paddock. Team principal Martin Whitmarsh attacked what he called the “180 degree change” of opinion from many people:

"If people now say randomness is unattractive, then that is a 180 [degree change] 
from what people felt a few years ago when it was very predictable.

On balance I am sure that people want a lack of predictability. You want to go to 
each event not knowing who is going to win. You want to go through the course of 
the weekend not sure what is going to happen in each session, and you want to go 
through the race not knowing what is going to happen. Every one of our races this 
year has been tremendously exciting."

Pirelli, who are the cause of much of this unpredictability, were adamant that their tyres provide a well-needed shake-up of the F1 grid. Motorsport director Paul Hembery claimed that this type of racing was exactly what the fans wanted to see:

"The vast majority of feedback we get is that people are enjoying the races. At 
the start of the year, if we had said five different winners and five different 
cars then everyone would have suggested you had been smoking something - but we 
have got it.

And I think the vast majority of fans will be pleased to see exciting races. 
Anyone who begrudges Maldonado's win in Spain with Williams is someone who needs 
to get out a bit more, because the whole paddock was delighted. I think for a 
lot of people's views, that is what they want to see."

Obviously, there will be many different opinions on any debate in F1. However, I feel that the most important quote from this debacle comes from Sebastian Vettel, the driver who effectively flattened the 2011 title race. After a processional battle for the title last year, Vettel came out in full support of the 2012 formula:

"If you look back ten years there was heavy criticism of a boring F1 because 
of Michael Schumacher winning all the time. Now we hear F1 is unpredictable 
and a lottery.

You cannot satisfy all of the people all of the time. But I think we have a 
good show, a lot of overtaking, good action now.There is more tension – for 
people who watch and for us inside the cars. I think I like the way it is 
going. However, we have to be careful not to create something artificially."

Verstappen “convinced” Schumacher used driver aids in 1994

Jos Verstappen claims that Schumacher cheated en route to his first title

Jos Verstappen claims that Schumacher cheated en route to his first title

Former F1 driver Jos Verstappen has re-ignited the controversy over Michael Schumacher’s 1994 title success, after claiming that the German used illegal electronic driver aids.

In 1994, the FIA found that Schumacher’s Benneton did indeed contain illegal launch control protocol, which heavily assists a driver from a standing start on the grid. The software was hidden behind an ominously named “Option 13″ setting.

However, the sporting organisation was unable to prove that the Benneton actually used this software, although the 1994 French Grand Prix start suggests otherwise.

Now, Verstappen – Schumacher’s teammate in 1994 – has restarted this debate. In an interview with Dutch sports magazine NUsport, he said :

"I know what happened when we were together at Benetton. People think that I’m 
looking for excuses, but I know that his car was different from mine. I always 
thought it was impossible. I braked at the limit and I went into the corners as 
hard as it was possible. So how could Schumacher have done it? There was something 
wrong.

There were electronic driver aids. It was never mentioned, but I am convinced. I 
know enough now. Like everyone else, Michael is dependent on his car. For most 
people he was a god but he is not superman – in a kart he never beat me.

They [Benneton] will never admit it, but I am convinced. I later asked Flavio 
Briatore, who had brought me to Benetton and was then the team manager. He said, 
"Let's not talk about it." I know enough."

In 1994, Benneton were also embroiled in other controversies, such as illegaly removing a safety filter from their fuel rigs, speeding up pit stops. However, this also resulted in slightly fiery results, as Verstappen found out in Germany that year, as leaked fuel ignited and set his car ablaze.

Here is footage from the controversial start in France 1994:

Massa: Hamilton “not learning” and “can’t use his mind”

A furious Felipe Massa has struck out at Lewis Hamilton for their collision in today’s Singapore Grand Prix.

Lewis hit the back of Felipe’s car during Turn 7, leaving Hamilton with a broken wing and drive-through penalty, and Massa with a puncture.

Massa was livid, particularly after them nearly colliding in qualifying:

"My thoughts is that again, I told you yesterday, he cannot use his mind. Even in 
qualifying, so you can imagine in the race."

And after having his race ruined by the McLaren driver, Felipe didn’t mince his words on their collision:

"I was on the straight and he touched me, not even when he was on my side. He 
touched me when he was behind me.

Then, when I got to the end of the braking, my tyre was already punctured. For 
sure it was a big, big problem for my race. And he paid for that as well, so 
what can I say?

How many races this year he did this? He went in the wrong direction and he paid 
and he never learned. The FIA is looking for sure for that, because he is doing 
that so many times.

I think he is not learning. I tried to speak to him after we wait, but he didn't 
listen to me. I called him two times, but he didn't listen to me, he [walked] past 
me. He didn't even look to me.

I called him to speak, but when I show him, I said, 'very good job, well done'. 
Like that you will win many championships!"

Regarding the last paragraph of that quote, when Felipe went to speak to Lewis in the driver’s pen, Hamilton responded “Don’t touch me again” after Felipe grabbed his arm.

While Martin Whitmarsh defended his driver’s actions, I feel that Lewis must calm down on the racetrack if he is ever to win another world championship. Countless crashes and mistakes in 2011 have possibly resulted in the worst year of Lewis’ F1 career.

Lewis has been racing at the highest level for 5 years now, and silly rookie mistakes should be well ironed out by now.

Vettel rivals concede 2011 title

All of Sebastian Vettel’s title rivals have all but given up hopes on challenging for the 2011 championship crown.

This comes after a crushing victory for the German, slicing past Fernando Alonso in the early stages and dominating the race from there.

Teammate Mark Webber, who has barely led a lap this year, never mind win a race, was the first to concede the title:

"I think we're all battling for second now. Seb needs to have a very, very 
incredibly disappointing finish to the season for anyone to take the 
championship off him at this point.

He's in a great position. He's done a great job. And clearly the car was good 
today, so it was a missed opportunity for me."

Fernando Alonso was next up, stating that the title was well out of reach:

"Sure, it would have been fantastic to do the double after 2010, but we must 
stay cool and concentrate and try to reach targets that are within our reach: 
today we did just that. It’s true the title has gone now, but there is still 
great motivation: we want to win races and try to defend the position I have 
just reached in the drivers’ championship."

Lewis Hamilton was more blunt with his statement, saying:  “I doubt it’s still possible to beat Sebastian for the title, but we’ll keep pushing.”

Vettel has a 112-point lead over Fernando Alonso, and a 117-point lead over Button and Webber, with Hamilton a further 9 points adrift. There are 150 points up for grabs in the final 6 races of the season.

In order to win the championship at the next round in Singapore, Vettel must win the race, with Fernando Alonso 4th or lower.

Hamilton accepts blame for Kobayashi collision

Lewis Hamilton turns into Kamui Kobayashi in Spa

Lewis Hamilton turns into Kamui Kobayashi in Spa

Lewis Hamilton has made a U-turn on his previous statements, and now says that he accepts responsibility for colliding with Kamui Kobayashi.

Lewis moved to overtake Kamui in the early parts of the race, but moved back onto the racing line, where Kobayashi had already parked his car. The McLaren crashed out, while the Sauber struggled on to 12th place.

The McLaren comes off much worse in the collision

The McLaren comes off much worse in the collision

After initially claiming that Kobayashi was at fault:

"As far as I was concerned, I was ahead of whoever it was I was racing, and I got
hit by them, and that was my race over."

Lewis has now accepted that he was at fault. A brief statement from his Twitter feed reads:

"After watching the replay, I realise it was my fault today 100%. I didn’t give
Kobayashi enough room though I thought in was past. Apologies to Kamui and to 
my team. The team deserves better from me."

Kamui seemed surprised that Lewis had initially blamed him, saying:

"I know I cannot fight because he is much quicker than me. He overtook me. I 
don’t know if he was using the rear wing, I was just using the KERS. I think 
we have very low downforce, that’s why I catch up him. Just at the end of the 
straight I was staying left, and he was in the middle of the track.

He came back and we just made contact. If you see the replay later, I was 
following the white line always, I don’t change at all my line. So I don’t 
know what I need to do – maybe I have to go to the gravel for him? That’s 
stupid, you know. He had to stay in the middle, not come back [towards me].

Definitely I was not trying to overtake him, just staying on my line, doing 
my race. It’s a little bit difficult situation, because he’s fighting for 
the championship. I am doing a different race!

The stewards have stated that there will be no investigation into the collision.

FIA explain V6 decision in Q&A

The recent announcement of a 1.6 litre V6 engine by the FIA has not been universally commended, with many questioning the benefits of such a change.

With this in mind, the FIA have released a Q&A session, in which they explain the thinking behind the engine regulation change, as well as state the detailed engine specifications:

1. The World Motor Sport Council voted on 29 June 2011. What did it decide?

Following consultation with the various Formula One stakeholders  and the current Formula One engine manufacturers, the WMSC has ratified the adoption of a V6 turbo engine to be used in Formula One from 2014 onwards. This required changes to the regulations initially adopted by the World Council on 3 June 2011. The full regulations applicable to the 2014 season will be published in due course.

2. Will a V6 use more fuel, or have inferior economy compared with the original proposal?

No. To push the engineers to develop engine efficiency, the technical regulation imposes a fuel flow control. When evolving the regulation to fit with the manufacturers’ new request this parameter has not been changed. Thus the efficiency requirement will be unchanged.

3. Why has the rev limit been increased from 12,000rpm to 15,000rpm. Is this purely to enhance the sound of a Formula One car?

No. This parameter has been updated from 12000rpm to 15000 rpm to allow engineers more flexibility in power and energy management. However, as a consequence of the new architecture (V6) and the change in rev-limit, the engine will sound different, but will remain representative of Formula One.

4. Will the increase in rpm alter fuel consumption?

Absolutely not. As mentioned above, the fuel flow limit will stay the same. The technologies are the same and as a consequence any increase in rpm will constrain the engineers to work harder on reducing friction and gaining on engine efficiency. The challenge will be even bigger than originally planned and will therefore enhance the technological lead of Formula One.

5. Has the FIA  retained the energy recover devices originally intended to be used in conjunction with the I4 engine?

Yes, the concept initially presented is respected. All of the technology intended for the I4 is still present. This new power plant will be a dramatic step forward in both fuel efficiency and in energy management.

6. Will those manufacturers already engaged in the development of a four-cylinder engine face increased costs now they need to redirect their resources toward designing a V6?

To our knowledge, five manufacturers were working on the proposed 4-cylinder engine. They will all need to adapt their project and this will surely involve some additional costs, depending on how advanced each project was. This evolution has been proposed and supported by all four engine manufacturers currently involved in Formula One.

7. Why is the introduction of the new generation of engines now being delayed by year?

The decision to delay the introduction until 2014 comes at the request of the four engine manufacturers currently involved in Formula One. Their request for extra time is linked to the change in architecture but also to ensure their projects are more robust (one of the goals of the project is to enhance engine durability to c.4000km)

8. Will these energy recovery systems and other efficiency devices ultimately influence the development of road cars?

Yes. The clear need for the automotive industry to reduce emissions means energy management will increasingly become a key factor in the development of more efficient powertrains. Kinetic energy recovery is already applied in Formula One and the introduction of exhaust energy recovery will add another technology route to be explored. Formula One will also return to its role as a developer of turbo-charger technology. This research will have real-world benefits, contributing valuable knowledge that will be of use to future road car development.

Combustion engine specifications:

1600cc, V6
15000 rpm max
Direct fuel injection up to 500bar
Single turbocharger
Controlled fuel flow

Energy recovery and storage systems specifications:

Kinetic, 120kW on the rear wheels
Exhaust energy recovery linked to the turbocharger

Alonso bemoans slow Ferrari

Fernando failed to keep up with the McLarens and Red Bulls

Fernando failed to keep up with the McLarens and Red Bulls

Fernando Alonso has said that a 3-stop strategy would not have helped his challenge for a podium today.

Today’s Chinese Grand Prix saw a mix between 2 and 3-stop strategies, and Fernando finished down in 7th after a lacklustre performance. However, the Spaniard feels that the car simply isn’t fast enough, no matter what the strategy:

"It's very easy to choose the strategy when you have the fastest car and it's very 
hard when you are slow. Webber today showed qualifying is not very important.

The most important thing is to have a good tyre degradation and a good strategy, 
and this year we can overtake. As I say, the easiest thing is to have a quick car, 
like Red Bull, you pit three, two, one times and you end up on the podium.

We need to improve the car above everything. I don't think it would have changed 
much. We were much slower than the cars we had in front so we would ended up with 
a similar result."

Alonso also claimed that his race never had much potential:

"We just weren't fast at any point during the race and we kept on losing positions 
little by little.

Then we opted to go for two stops so it looked like we were in a good position 
during some points of the race and others where they were flying like bullets from 
behind. We had to try to hold on and finish the race in whatever position."

Fernando is currently 5th in the points standings, 42 points away from Sebastian Vettel.

Klien still in talks with Hispania

Christian Klien is still hopeful of a 2011 drive

Christian Klien is still hopeful of a 2011 drive

As it has been for some time, there is only one seat left to be filled for the 2011 season – the second driver role at Hispania. Christian Klien has revealed that he is still in talks to take the final race seat.

Klien, who drove for 5 races for HRT last year, impressed the team by out-qualifying Bruno Senna on multiple occasions. However, he has recently been on the back foot, as both Vitantonio Liuzzi and Giorgio Mondini have been testing in last year’s F110.

Despite this, Christian remains confident of racing in F1 this year. In an interview published on his own site, he stated:

"My manager Roman Rummenigge is in permanent contact with the team's management. 
Needless to say I would love to drive for HRT. I am convinced the team will make 
good progress and surprise a few people. In Geoff Willis and chief designer Paul 
White they have engineers who know very well how to build competitive racing cars. 
I would love to develop it further. And they are masters of efficiency like no 
other team on the grid."

Even if Klien gets the drive, he and the team will be faced with the huge challenge of developing a car, three weeks before the start of the F1 season, that hasn’t turned a wheel yet. Despite this, he remains hopeful that Hispania can become more competitive than last year:

"Each day matters. But if you look back how this team rose from the ashes of another 
operation at the beginning of 2010, you will have no doubt HRT will make the most of 
its limited resources in 2011. They have a solid and analytical way of facing 
challenges."

The rest of the interview is available on Christian’s website.

Brawn “comfortable” with Mercedes’ position

Team Principal Ross Brawn is confident Mercedes will improve before Melbourne

Team Principal Ross Brawn is confident Mercedes will improve before Melbourne

Despite a radically new car at the start of this month, Mercedes has so far failed to shine in pre-season testing, most days struggling in the midfield.

However, in a team Q&A session, team principal Ross Brawn claims that he is content with the team’s current form:

"We are well aware of the pace of our current car, the distance to the current front 
runners and the reasons for this, which include the compromises brought about by our 
cooling issues. Our intention was always to launch the car in a fairly basic 
specification to allow more time to focus on the upgrade package. This inevitably 
means that we look further off the pace than people might expect. Knowing all of the 
facts, I am comfortable with our current position and the developments that we have 
to come."

The Wo2 car is expected to recieve several large upgrades before the season opener in Melbourne. One of these is a brand new front wing, as Brawn explains:

"The front wing that we used in Barcelona will not be our final race specification 
but is moving closer to the wing that we will use in Melbourne. Our previous front 
wing was based heavily on the 2010 version, while the wing that we used in Barcelona 
moved closer to our 2011 design. We used the opportunity to investigate and confirm 
our direction before finally signing off the race-specification wing."

 

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."
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