With Christmas and the New Year out of the way, our focus is turning more and more to the imminent return of Formula 1.
Fans have plenty to be excited about this year, particularly the return of a certain world champion. Before we get stuck into the testing season next month, I want to know what interests you this year. Here are a few examples…
The clash of 6 champions
Can Raikkonen upset the order in 2012?
The return of Kimi Raikkonen means that, barring disaster, there will be 6 world champions at the starting grid in Melbourne. As far as I know, this is completely unprecedented in F1 history, as former/current world champions now make up a quarter of the entire grid.
These six drivers will be seated in vastly different cars, and not all of them will deliver as expected. Raikkonen’s move to Renault is particularly noteworthy, as it is still unclear what type of approach the team have taken to their 2012 car.
As well as this, Michael Schumacher is still well in the mix, and a powerful Mercedes car could propel him back to the podium. We still have the established champions – Vettel, Hamilton, Button and Alonso – to take everyone else on.
The return of the US Grand Prix
The Circuit of the Americas may well get finished
The Circuit of the Americas has had a difficult birth, fraught with controversy and arguments, resolved only weeks ago. Still, it appears that the track is on schedule to be on the 2012 calendar.
From the get-go, it became clear that this track would be a fan favourite. The layout incorporates corner elements from Turkey, Silverstone, and a small bit of Interlagos is in there too.
There is fantastic incline around the track, and many of the corners are fast and flowing. More importantly to Bernie Ecclestone, this track is F1’s latest hope to crack into the American market, which has been rather cold to the sport since the Indy 2005 fiasco.
Exciting new rookies
Can Pic survive longer than Di Grassi and D'Ambrosio did?
After Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi were booted out of Toro Rosso, it became clear that we were to see an influx of new rookies. Their latest two drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, are an exciting pairing to say the least.
Ricciardo impressed last year in a HRT – quite the feat in itself – and Vergne has performed well in testing in the past. We also have Charles Pic, the third driver in 3 years to partner Timo Glock at Virgin. Whether he can perform better than Lucas di Grassi or Jerome D’Ambrosio still remains to be seen.
As well as this, Romain Grosjean has finally been given the opportunity to return to F1. It’s debatable whether he’s actually a rookie, but it’s certain that 7 races in 2009 was not enough for the Frenchman to prove his potential. I am quite a fan of Grosjean, and am hugely looking forward to see how he performs against teammate Raikkonen.
Siginificant French drivers – finally
Can Grosjean cause a major upset and beat his teammate?
Neither Grosjean or Sebastien Bourdais could retain their seats in 2009, and with the imminent exit of Renault as a constructor this year, it appeared as if the French had completely abandoned F1.
However, with the arrival of Grosjean (again), Charles Pic and Jean-Eric Vergne, the French F1 fans have reason to celebrate. The last successful French F1 drivers were Jean Alesi and Olivier Panis, who took his one and only win back in 1996.
I’m not suggesting that these three drivers could win a race in 2012 (though I’m not completely ruling Grosjean out), but there is fantastic potential here for future seasons.
The end of exhaust/diffuser debates
Exhaust-blown diffusers are finally buried for good
The FIA have finally stamped down on “off-throttle blown diffusers”, as the layout of the exhaust has been restricted so as to not generate downforce over any area of the car.
Exhaust-blown diffusers were an excellent idea, generating plenty of downforce with minimal drag. However, as the technology evolved into the “off-throttle” format, it became more and more irritating to watch the teams scuffle over the regulations.
This ruling should hopefully end the 3-year debate on exhausts, diffusers and the like, which began in 2009 with double-decker diffusers being introduced by Brawn, Toyota and Williams.
Can Lotus/Caterham hit the midfield?
Another year, another promise from the team now known as Caterham, as they drive to reach the back of the midfield.
While they have made good progress over the last 2 years, many fans are wearing thin with watching the 3 “new” teams languishing at the back, and it’s time that one of them makes a stand and changes the running order.
I won’t comment on Jarno Trulli, but I feel that Heikki Kovalainen is the most promising chance to pull the team out of the bottom 3. Whether it happens any time soon remains to be seen.
The return of the Bahrain Grand Prix
Over to you…
I can’t cover all the exciting prospects of the 2012 season, but those above should do fine.
But back to the original question: What excites you about the onset of the 2012 season? Have a say in the poll below, and you can add your own answer if you wish:
The Circuit of the Americas is back on the calendar
The United States Grand Prix is back on the calendar, as disputes over payments to Bernie Ecclestone have been resolved.
After several failed payments to ringmaster Ecclestone, he hinted that the first race in America since 2007 would be shelved, after comptroller Susan Combs suspended all payments.
However, the Circuit of the Americas has today stated that Bernie has received payment, which has been confirmed by the fact that the race is back on the 2012 calendar.
Construction has also resumed at the circuit, ensuring the track will be completed before its inaugural race on the 18th November.
Here is the full 2012 calendar:
18 March Australian GP
25 March Malaysian GP
15 April Chinese GP
22 April Bahrain GP
13 May Spanish GP
27 May Monaco GP
10 June Canada GP
24 June European GP
8 July British GP
22 July German GP
29 July Hungarian GP
2 September Belgian GP
9 September Italian GP
23 September Singapore GP
7 October Japanese GP
14 October Korean GP
28 October Indian GP
4 November Abu Dhabi GP
18 November US GP
25 November Brazilian GP
The Circuit of the Americas is in serious trouble after recent disputes
F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone has said that he is ready to axe the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, after contract disputes in the last few days have ground construction to a halt.
In India rumours surfaced that the event was in trouble, but it has only been in recent days that the full extent of the contract collapse has been revealed. Ecclestone’s original contract with Tavo Hellmund’s Full Throttle Productions company – who are organising the race – has been cancelled in the last few days.
As well as this, a row between the track organisers and the event promoters has surfaced, and the track developers have stopped contsruction. This is because the developers have not received the race contract from Formula One Management – Bernie Ecclestone’s company.
Ecclestone is yet to receive a guarantee of several payments from the Circuit of the Americas, and has given them up to 3 weeks to resolve the issue. To make matters worse, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, who controls the money flow to the circuit, has stopped putting money into the project, stating that she will not put taxpayers’ money into the track until the race contract is secured.
Bernie explained the situation today from his point of view:
"We had an agreement with Full Throttle Productions. Everything was signed and
sealed, but we kept putting things off like the dates, various letters of credit
and things that should have been sent, but nothing ever happened.
Then these other people [Circuit of the Americas] came on the scene, saying that
they wanted to do things, but that they had problems with Tavo [Hellmund]. They
said they had the circuit, and that they wanted an agreement with me.
I told them they had to sort out the contract with Tavo, which they said they
would. But that has gone away now because we've cancelled Tavo's contract as he
was in breach.
We've waited six months for him to remedy the breach. He knows full well why
we've cancelled. He's happy. But these other people haven't got a contract. All
we've asked them to do is get us a letter of credit.
We are looking for security for money they are going to have to pay us. That is
via a letter of credit, normally from a bank. If people don't have the money they
find it difficult to get the letter of credit, and so we don't issue a contract."
After a 4-year absence from the calendar, the United States is a prime market for Formula 1, and disputes like this will do the sport’s reputation in America no good whatsoever, considering the last debacle in 2005.
The track layout for the US Grand Prix, to be held in Austin, Texas, has been shown for the first time to the public. By the looks of it, the track will have huge elevation changes, a section of fast sweeping corners, as well as speeds of up to 320km/h.
A 3-D layout of the US GP track
A track layout for the US GP, in Austin, Texas
The first corner, a 90 degree turn left, looks interesting, especially with a huge amount of elevation increase entering the corner, and then dips sharply exiting. The rest of the first section seems to be lifted from Silverstone, with a Becketts-style left-right-left-right sequence.
Another downhill short straight leads to Turn 11, a slow tight left-hander, before entering the back straight, where the cars will reach speeds of up to 200mph, then ending in a heavy braking zone.
The final sector is a series of short straights and tight corners, although it doesn’t seem to require as much downforce as one might initially suspect. Then, Turns 16, 17 and 18 are inrerconnected high-speed right-handers, with essence of Turn 8 in Turkey here. Then, a left hander, followed by a short straight then another left hander (like the final few corners in Interlagos) ends the lap.
I must say this is much more impressive than what we were expecting. Tavo Hellmund claims that there are 4 spots for overtaking, maximum elevation change of 133ft, and the track width will vary between 39 and 52ft. The venue itself should hold up to 130,000 or 140,000 people, and that the fans should be able to see most of the action around the track because of the elevation changes.
In recent years, Tilkedromes have been notorious for failing to produce exciting races, as the cars struggle to overtake. Hellmund says differently though:
“They’re so on the ragged edge that it’s hard to pass."
In his official release, he stated:
“In the modern era of Grand Prix racing, I think this track
layout and topography will be very special. It will have many
of the elements of previous ‘classic’ circuits combined with
the benefits of FIA-mandated safety for the competitors and
spectators alike. Add in the amenities fans have come to
expect, like rare, multiple-turn viewing opportunities for
added value, and you have an ideal, world-class venue."
“For the competitors, we’ll have all the ingredients
necessary. You’ll see fast turns that require commitment
from the drivers and technical turns that will test the
engineers from a set-up point of view. We have a good deal
of elevation to make it not only scenic but challenging
also, and the view of downtown Austin is wonderful as
While no official date has been set for construction to begin, it is believed that it will start in December, to be ready for its 2012 grid slot.
Austin, Texas, the location for the USGP from 2012 onwards
Bernie Ecclestone has announced that from 2012 to 2021, Formula 1 will race in Austin, Texas, as the host of the United States Grand Prix. A brand new facility will be built for the event.
While more details will be announced, the circuit will almost definitely, lets be honest here, be designed by Herman Tilke. Full Throttle Productions, the promoter of the United States Grand Prix, said:
“We are extremely honoured and proud to reach an agreement with the
F1 Commercial Rights Holder. We have been diligently working together
for several years to bring this great event to Austin, the State of
Texas and back to the United States. All parties involved have a great
amount of trust and confidence in each other and are committed to
establishing the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas
as a prestigious global event.
This is a case of the right timing in the right place. As many
Americans know, Austin has earned a reputation as one of the ‘it’
cities in the United States. Austin features that rare combination of
ideal geographic location and beauty. Its fine dining, world-renowned
hospitality and excellent transportation infrastructure make Austin
ideally suited to host and manage an event of this magnitude. Few
cities if any in America could rival the connectivity of all the key
elements needed for hosting a Formula 1 event as well as Austin. Now,
many people around the world will have the opportunity to experience
a world-class event, facility and city.”
Bernie Ecclestone explained further:
“For the first time in the history of Formula One in the United
States, a world-class facility will be purpose-built to host the event.
It was thirty years ago that the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™
was last held on a purpose-built permanent road course circuit in
Watkins Glen, NY (1961-1980), which enjoyed great success. Since then,
Formula One has been hosted by Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas
and Phoenix all on temporary street circuits. Indianapolis joined the
ranks of host cities in 2000 when they added a road course inside the
famed oval. Lewis Hamilton won the last Formula 1 United States Grand
Prix™ in 2007, signalling the end to eight years at Indianapolis Motor
Speedway. This however, will be the first time a facility is constructed
from the ground up specifically for Formula One in the US.”
Well, that was quick wasn’t it? The fact that it is in Texas surprises me, but Austin doesn’t seem too bad a location. What we do know about the circuit so far is that it will be in close proximity to the hotels, downtown and the airport. It will also be well located to accomodate North, South and Central American visitors. 250,000 hotel rooms are available within 180 miles, so it seems that spectators won’t find this location a problem.
The Austin skyline at night
Austin itself is regarded as the Live Music Capital of the World, the Greenest City in America (MSN), and Least Stressful Large Metro (Forbes). It is also considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the United States.
So, the city looks good, the only worry will be regarding the circuit. If Herman Tilke is designing it, then we can only pray that he doesnsn’t throw in 90 degree corners everywhere. Formula 1 has raced in Texas once, back in 1984, but only on a temporary circuit, and the sport never visited again.
The Monticello Motor Club, situated at the foot of the Catskill Mountains, is making an offer to host the United States Grand Prix from 2012 onwards. They are believed to be indiscussions with Bernie Ecclestone already about the offer.
The President of the Monticello Motor Club, Ari Strauss, has written a letter to all members, as it is a private club at the moment, regarding this issue:
A few months ago, [MMC chairman] Bill McMichael and I met with
Bernie Ecclestone, President/CEO of Formula One Management (FOM),
and discussed the terms for an exclusive 10-year United States
Grand Prix to be hosted at MMC.
Shortly thereafter, Hermann Tilke, the chief engineer and circuit
designer for F1, spent time at MMC and confirmed that our track
and surrounding properties, with some expansion and minor track
modifications, is an excellent location for a Grand Prix.
Since receiving a letter of understanding from FOM confirming their
hope to bring the U.S. Grand Prix to Monticello, Bill and I have
continued to secure the backing and support of local, state, and
federal politicians and organizations.
If F1 comes to Monticello, our intent is to preserve MMC as, first
and foremost, a private country club. Obviously, demand will
accelerate as well as the initiation fee for new members.
There has already been an offer to host the US Grand Prix, at Jersey State Park. However, this plan was massively flawed, and received no support from locals, groups or the Jersey mayor. While this offer would be better, there are still large problems.
First of all, Monticello Motor Club is a private club. Not just for driving there, but to spectate as well. The last line that I quoted read: “If F1 comes to Monticello, our intent is to preserve MMC as, first and foremost, a private country club. Obviously, demand will accelerate as well as the initiation fee for new members.” This line implies that people will have to become a member (massive subscription I suppose?) to buy tickets, which would be an absolute disaster for F1.
Secondly, the track doesn’t look like it is up to F1 standards. It was designed by Brian Redman, a former F1 driver. While it is 6.59km long, and seems very good for sports cars, it doesn’t appear to be up to F1 standards. Herman Tilke has reccomended changes to the circuit, but it is unclear what. Have a look at the full lap:
And thirdly, it isn’t the New York Grand Prix that Bernie would want. It is a 75 minute drive from Manhattan, which is nothing like the view that we would have got from the Jersey plan.
Again, it looks like a bad plan. We need a proper circuit, in a proper location, and not a private track like Monticello. I still think we should take a look at Watkins Glen.