Friday, August 21, 2009

Rosberg future's speculation

Nico Rosberg was still giving nothing away as speculation once again reared its head on Wednesday about his future in Formula One.

With it already rumoured that he is McLaren engine partner Mercedes' preferred choice for 2010, the British team's boss Martin Whitmarsh on Wednesday acknowledged that Lewis Hamilton's current teammate Heikki Kovalainen needs to up his game.

We revealed some time ago that an option for the 2010 season on Finn Kovalainen's contract would expire at the end of July. It has now emerged that McLaren indeed did not automatically extend its deal with the 27-year-old.

When faced with the lingering talk about his future this week, German Rosberg, who currently drives for Williams, said only: "Everything is a question of the right timing."

Kubica - "I knew BMW withdraw on internet"

Race drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld were not informed of BMW's decision to withdraw from Formula One at the end of the season by the team's management, they told the media at Valencia on Thursday.

"I woke up in the morning, did some running, opened the internet and then saw it," said Kubica, who is being linked with a move to Renault for 2010. "Then I received an email with the decision."

Kubica said he is not bothered about not receiving a phone call about the news. "I'm just a small piece of this paddock. One small tool of the team," he insisted.

The 24-year-old gave nothing away when asked by reporters about the possible identity of his future employer.

"I'm confident to find the right place to be next year," said Kubica. "It's difficult to know which team it will be."

His teammate Nick Heidfeld meanwhile revealed that he heard the news about BMW's withdrawal not from team boss Mario Theissen, but from press officer Heike Hientzsch.

Alonso - "Piquet sack by human factor"

Fernando Alonso is of the opinion that difficult interpersonal relationships between former teammate Nelson Piquet and Renault team management contributed and eventually led to the young Brazilian's sacking.

Following the Hungarian Grand Prix last month, Nelson Piquet was advised by Renault that his services were no longer required after a season and a half spent racing with the team he joined as a Formula One rookie.

The ensuing statements from the Brazilian were very critical of Renault boss Flavio Briatore – also his current manager – whom he accused of holding double standards between the team's drivers. He also blasted the Italian for having done little to help his F1 career, with Piquet saying he considered Briatore as his 'executioner.'

At the drivers' press conference held in the Valencia paddock media centre on Thursday, Fernando Alonso gave his opinion on the matter: "Obviously something went wrong with him, with the team or whatever.

"Technically speaking, I think we always had the same car; this has to be clear," insisted the double World Champion. "But maybe on the other side, on the human side (...) he was maybe never very happy with the team or whatever, so it was difficult."

Alonso reminisced on his own experience when, after a maiden year racing with Minardi and another year spent test-driving for Renault, he was offered a race seat with the team.

"I also remember my time in 2003-4 with the team," he related. "It was not so easy when you arrive in Formula One and being a hundred percent confident and happy with the team, so I think this was one of the problems with Nelsinho unfortunately."

The Spaniard had good words to say regarding his now-former teammate: "I think that I always had a good relationship with Nelson. I consider him to be a very good driver and a very nice person. I'm sure he will have more opportunities in Formula One because I really think he has the talent."

As for Romain Grosjean, the Renault reserve driver who will become a Grand Prix racer this weekend at the controls of the second R29, Alonso pointed out that the Frenchman holds "a big opportunity to consolidate his Formula One career."

Alonso added: "I hope the best for Nelsinho as I said and I also hope the best for Romain to do well."

Button high hopes in Valencia

Speaking at the FIA drivers' press conference held in the Valencia paddock on Thursday, championship leader Jenson Button advised that his team is fairly certain of having pinpointed the Brawn BGP 001's weak spot.

"We think we know where we went wrong," he said. "We think we know a hundred percent where we've gone wrong but until you get on to the circuit and test it you never know."

Over the course of three races, the Brawn GP car has lost the dominant edge it previously held over its rivals as problems reportedly related to the car's difficulty in bringing the tyres up to their prime operating temperature have seen both Button and teammate Rubens Barrichello lose points to the competition.

Problems arose following updates, and Button revealed that team engineers have considered reverting back to previous configurations as they work on new solutions.

"I think we understand the car much better than we did one or two races ago," he said. "It looks positive and we have got to hope when we get onto the circuit tomorrow that it feels positive and it is not just what we see in the data.

"We can be strong again," Button insisted. "This car is not bad. I think that we have just maybe gone slightly in the wrong direction. But we will pick up our pace for sure."

With seven races remaing on the 2009 calendar - including this weekend's European Grand Prix - Button still holds an 18.5-point lead over his closest rival.

However the Brawn driver is very much aware that Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel have scored at least twice the amount of points he has over the last three events.

Since the British Grand Prix, Button has collected nine points while Webber claimed 24 and Vettel 18 despite retiring once.

"We can't finish off of the podium," Button stated. "We need to be on the podium as often as possible but it is very, very competitive now. You haven't just got the Red Bulls who are strong. You have got the McLarens, the Ferraris, the Renaults and even the Williams has been competitive. Nico (Rosberg) has finished in front of me the last three races, so we need to get back on top of it.

"I have got an 18.5-point lead but that could disappear very quickly," the Briton continued. "We are not going to get too worried, we are just going to stay positive and work out our issues as we do have an advantage.

"18.5 points is quite a bit but we need to make sure that we go into this race and we have a positive attitude and hope that we can get back to the front again," Button added.

The Championship fight is back on Valencia track

Formula One's month-long summer hiatus is over, and the circus has arrived in Valencia for the European Grand Prix weekend while drivers contemplate their objectives.

Jenson Button has lost some ground over the last three races, his Brawn BGP 001 failing to deliver as well as the charging Red Bull drivers. Although Button succeeded in taking points, over the same period Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel have scored double or more.

The series leader still enjoys a 19.5-point advantage on his closest rival, Webber, who is himself in a close fight with teammate Vettel and the Brawn outfit's other driver, Rubens Barrichello.

However the competition is gearing up, as was seen at the Hungarian Grand Prix: Fernando Alonso started from pole, Lewis Hamilton won the race and Kimi Raikkonen came in second. Any points the other drivers and teams take away from the Brawn and Red Bull racers will only make the job harder for the championship contenders.

The Valencia street circuit's many corners will be a challenge as brakes are highly solicited and have little time to cool down, while rear tyre wear might become an issue as drivers accelerate away from the 25 curves the venue features. Both items need to be watched closely over the 57 laps upon the 5.4km track.

Despite the many corners there are a few opportunities to speed above 300kph as the cars race by the coastal city's beautiful marina; engines are therefore required to switch often between high-powered sections and low-speed curves. Although there is more track space and run-off areas than Monaco, Valencia is nonetheless a concrete-walled street circuit where the margin of error remains low.

However, having inaugurated the stylish track last season, this time the teams will benefit from advance knowledge of the challenges which lie ahead this weekend on the streets of the Spanish city.

Fernando Alonso will benefit from a home crowd greatly cheering him on while Valencia sees the F1 debut of his new Renault teammate, Romain Grosjean. Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari takes on his second race with the team, but a first Formula One race before his compatriots.

Replacing the recovering Felipe Massa until further notice, Ferrari test and reserve driver Luca Badoer returns to active Grand Prix racing this weekend, a decade after his previous participation at the wheel of a Minardi.

1. Jenson Button - Brawn Mercedes BGP 001
"It's going to be great to get back racing again after the summer break and everyone at the team is looking forward to Valencia. (The) track is quite fun when it goes round the edge of the marina and over the bridge. It's quite challenging for the drivers with so many turns and the added factor of being surrounded by barriers means you have to maintain your concentration. With the cars at the front being so close at the moment, it will be an interesting weekend."

2. Mark Webber - Red Bull Renault RB5
"I didn't really feel the need for the break after Hungary, but I reckon I'll feel the benefit when we come to the final three races of this season."

3. Sebastien Vettel - Red Bull Renault RB5
"It's been the usual F1 clich̩ of 'relaxing and training.' I can't wait to get back to work in Valencia, where I came sixth last year Рit's a fun track to drive, much quicker than a normal street circuit like Monaco or Singapore."

4. Rubens Barrichello - Brawn Mercedes BGP 001
"Valencia is a cool city and proved to be a great venue for the European Grand Prix last season. The challenge of a new circuit is always exciting and even more so this year as we should be in a much better position to challenge for a good result this time. The first part of the lap is quick with the long pit straight followed by a curved right-hander before the slower section leading up to the bridge over the marina and then you're down onto another curved straight.

"The second half of the lap feels more like a street circuit as you head away from the water and the third long straight ends with a tight hairpin at Turn 17 which is the best overtaking opportunity. The final part of the lap is quite fast with some sweeping corners before the tight left-hander which takes you back out onto the pit straight. It's a very different type of circuit to the classic image of a street track such as Monaco."

5. Nico Rosberg - Williams Toyota FW31
"This will only be our second trip to Valencia and I'm looking forward to going back as the organisers have built a really good track. Unlike what you would normally expect from a street circuit, Valencia has a lot of corners but they aren't tight and twisty, but quite fast and flowing so the whole lap is quite quick. Combined with the temperatures, it can be a demanding race, but I'm prepared."

6. Jarno Trulli - Toyota TF109
"Unlike somewhere like Monaco, Valencia is actually very fast for a street circuit so that should suit our car pretty well. In fact, it doesn't really feel much like a street circuit at all because it is so much faster than other city tracks. We were in the top six last year in Valencia and that is my target this season. The Valencia track has a different character so it's difficult to predict at this stage but my target is to score as many points as possible."

8. Lewis Hamilton - McLaren Mercedes MP4-24
"It's great to be getting back to business after the four-week break. I'm still buzzing from the win in Hungary and I'm hopeful of being able to carry that pace into the Valencia weekend – particularly with our new upgrades to the car. It's a very demanding circuit, the kind of place that punishes any mistakes hard. It's quite tight and relatively slow, so it should suit our package. It's also very difficult to overtake, as we discovered last year – but, with our KERS, Mercedes-Benz has proved that anything can happen and I'm once again hoping that it will provide the difference in the race."

9. Kimi Raikkonen - Ferrari F60
"We got a good result in Hungary, which allowed us to climb back on the third place in the Constructors' Championship. This is the team's realistic goal for the final part of the season. For myself I hope to win at least one race, after a third place in Monaco and a second at Budapest.
We're racing on a city circuit at Valencia, but with very different characteristics. Last year I didn't end the race at Valencia, caused by an engine failure. So this year I want to return and maybe even gain a place on the podium. This is our realistic goal, although we know that it will be difficult. The qualifying will be fundamental."

10. Timo Glock - Toyota TF109
"I really enjoy street circuits and I generally perform very well on them. We know from last year that overtaking is very difficult on this track so qualifying will be particularly important, which is a similar situation to the previous race in Hungary. After finishing in the top six from 13th on the grid in Budapest, my goal this weekend is to start as high as possible and give myself the best chance for a good result in the race."

11. Fernando Alonso - Renault R29
"Our performance in Hungary was encouraging as the car was quick and we managed to get pole, which was actually a bit of a surprise. To retire from the race was disappointing, but I'm looking on the bright side because I think that the car can be just as competitive in Valencia. Racing at home is always special and Valencia is a beautiful city and a great place to have a race. I've always enjoyed racing on street circuits as they have a special atmosphere and the whole city gets involved in the race. Also, as it's a home race for me I know that there will be amazing support from the fans and I really want to reward them with a good result. As I've said, I would love to fight for the podium, but the main priority is to score points this weekend."

12. Heikki Kovalainen - McLaren Mercedes MP4-24
"We've now got a car that's much easier to drive on the limit, and which really rewards your input. So I'm really looking forward to the European Grand Prix, which, while it won't suit us as strongly as the Hungaroring, should be another strong opportunity for us to score some more points. I think there's a lot of potential for the remaining races."

13. Nick Heidfeld - BMW Sauber F1.09
"Valencia is a street circuit, but it doesn't drive like one. In fact it's just like one of the modern race tracks. You're not right up against the buildings, there isn't the tightness you usually get at street circuits, but there are run-off areas. I'm excited to find out what effect the latest modifications will have on our car."

15. Robert Kubica - BMW Sauber F1.09
"I really enjoyed the Valencia circuit a lot. I like the character of stop-and-go tracks. In Valencia you have a lot of long straights followed by narrow corners and long straights again. That means a lot of heavy braking. It was very hot there last year as the track is between concrete walls and there is not a lot of air. These conditions are very tough for the car's cooling. Last year I performed quite well in Valencia."

*. Kazuki Nakajima - Williams Toyota FW31
"I've spent lots of time on our simulator preparing for Valencia over the course of the year so feel I know the circuit quite well. It's not a typical street circuit, but you have to be really careful around the lap as there are no run off areas. I think the biggest challenges over the weekend are grip levels as it was quite green when we arrived last year, as well as cockpit temperatures."

*. Adrian Sutil - Force India Mercedes VJM02
"To be honest, Valencia isn't one of my favourites. It's a street circuit but it doesn't feel like it as the roads are so wide and it's really just fast straights into a hairpin, accelerate out and then another hairpin so you don't get the adrenaline you would at Monaco. This year it could be quite good for us though as we have a big new upgrade. Every upgrade we've introduced so far this year has really made a difference so I have a lot of confidence that this will move us forward as well. The car is getting better and better to drive and with another upgrade I hope we will really be in the midfield now and in the hunt for points."

*. Giancarlo Fisichella - Force India Mercedes VJM02
"The Hungarian Grand Prix was quite a tough race but I was able to have a good, quick middle stint and fight with Kubica and Barrichello, so I hope I will be able to do the same, if not more, in Valencia. Last year it was quite a good race for me, one of my best, as we were genuinely fighting for positions. I quite like the track. We also have a new upgrade for this race, the same step as we had in Silverstone, so I hope we can have a good race and score some points."

*. Romain Grosjan - Renault R29
"My goal has always been to become a Formula One driver and to do that with a French team makes it even more special. There is maybe a bit more attention because people have been waiting for a French driver in a Renault, but I will do my best to show that they were right to believe in me. I've only driven the R29 in straight-line testing so my first race will be a learning experience. It's difficult to set myself an objective so my first priority will be to get comfortable with the car, build my confidence over the weekend and do the best job I can for the team."

*. Luca Badoer - Ferrari F60
"I am very motivated to make the most of this opportunity, even if I know I am facing a tough challenge. It will effectively be a test session for me, but I will be trying my best to secure a good result. I have to say, my first thoughts when I take to the track will be for Felipe, because I got a real fright when I saw his accident. I am delighted that he is making a good recovery and I hope he will be back racing as soon as possible. I repeat how grateful I am to Luca di Montezemolo and Stefano Domenicali for giving me the chance to make my childhood dream come true."

* No championship points yet scored.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hamilton also ready to quit F1

F1's reigning World Champion has joined other drivers and eight current Formula One teams in threatening to quit the FIA World Championship at the end of the season.

Outspoken 2005 and 2006 drivers' title winner Fernando Alonso has been widely quoted as saying he would "prefer to race in any other category before the new F1" if Max Mosley's budget cap is imposed in 2010.

His comments followed a meeting between the drivers of the FOTA-affiliated teams and officials of the alliance prior to Sunday's Turkish Grand Prix.

Afterwards, Toyota's Jarno Trulli was nominated the drivers' spokesman on the issue, and experienced competitors including Nick Heidfeld, Mark Webber and Felipe Massa similarly fully backed the stance of the Formula One Teams Association.

"All the FOTA drivers are with FOTA in the future," said Red Bull's Webber.

Ferrari's Massa added: "If F1 is not possible because it is not F1 any more, then we will go to another championship."

2008 champion Lewis Hamilton is usually guarded when it comes to political matters, but on Monday he said he would not split with his FOTA member team McLaren Mercedes, even if a breakaway championship is established.

"I am under contract at my team and will go wherever they go. That's the way it is. That applies for all drivers," the Briton told Deutsche Presse Agentur in Stuttgart.

Alonso ready to race elsewhere

Double World Champion Fernando Alonso has no qualms about quitting Formula One if FIA President Max Mosley's controversial 45 million (US$ 62m) budget cap deal is implemented next year.

The Spaniard is squarely siding with the Formula One Teams Association in their belief that the sport will be severely diluted if an agreement is not reached between the eight opposing teams and the FIA.

"I would prefer to race in any category before the new F1," Alonso was quoted as declaring by the Daily Record.

"The teams have done their maximum," he said, referring to the cost-cutting proposals presented to Mosley by the FOTA teams, which span a three-year period instead of implementing drastic cuts coming into effect within a few months.

The Renault driver claimed that teams cannot "suddenly move" from 500m budgets to 45m, even if certain salaries and marketing expenses are not affected by the Mosley plan.

The Renault, Ferrari, Toyota, McLaren, Brawn, BMW, Red Bull and Toro Rosso teams filed their entries for the 2010 season under the condition that an agreement be reached with Mosley by June 12th, the date upon which the FIA will be publishing the entry list for next year's championship.
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However, the FOTA members also demanded that their entry forms be handled as a whole, meaning they should all be accepted - or rejected - by Mosley as one group.

There exists a risk that the eight allied teams could be blocked out of the sport and replaced by new outfits which have already pledged their acceptance of the 45m budget cap in order to enter the series.

If such were to happen, the FOTA members will explore alternatives to Formula One.

And if a new high-profile series organised by the FOTA teams should become reality, Alonso has already announced his interest in signing up.

"If the manufacturers organise a parallel event, that would be interesting as you would see the technology and the fastest cars in the world," he stated.

The drivers of all eight 'rebel' teams declared their support for the FOTA initiative.

Turkish GP Race - Button wins again and again

Justify FullJenson Button secured his sixth win from seven races today in Turkey to extend his championship lead to 26 points over team-mate Rubens Barrichello who failed to finish after a dramatic day. With title rival Sebastian Vettel finishing in third position, Button surely now is in a commanding position as he aims for the championship with Brawn Mercedes.

The start of an entertaining Turkish Grand Prix saw Vettel make a good getaway from his pole position with Button slotting in behind. Starting third, Barrichello almost stalled his Brawn and plummeted down the field allowing a fast starting Jarno Trulli up to third position with Mark Webber right behind.

Vettel s one error came on that first lap as he ran wide through turn nine and with his momentum lost, Button breezed by to take the lead exiting turn ten, one he would never relinquish.

The Red Bull Renault team has opted to run Vettel with a slightly lighter fuel load than both Button and Webber in the second RB5 but opted not to switch from three stops to two even after the Chinese Grand Prix winner lost the lead to Button. This error would prove critical in the latter stages of the race as Vettel dropped behind Webber and the race for second was effectively over.

Webber drove a strong race and fully deserved his runner-up position to close within 1.5 points of Vettel in the battle for third in the championship. After being jumped by Trulli off the line, the Australian racer soon forced his way ahead and then ran 20 seconds or so behind eventual winner Button until the final laps. Conserving his Brawn Mercedes, the championship leader allowed the gap to tumble to seven seconds at the chequered flag.

Jarno Trulli had a very solid race for Toyota. After losing position to Webber early in the race, the Italian veteran found himself behind Nico Rosberg following the first round of stops. Trulli pressed on and regained the position in the second and final stop.

Rosberg duly finished fifth in his Williams Toyota, his best result of the season, but may have lost time behind team-mate Kazuki Nakajima ahead of his second stop and this could have cost the German racer fourth position. Nakajima himself ran well and was challenging for points until problems fitting the front-left wheel in the final stop dropped him down the order and out of contention.

Felipe Massa had a quiet race to sixth in the leading Ferrari as he trailed Rosberg by eight seconds across the line while Robert Kubica secured his first points of the season with a seventh place finish in his BMW Sauber. The team are still a long way from being a front-runner, but at least they made gains this weekend following the disastrous Monte Carlo showing.
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Kubica held off a charging drive from Timo Glock in the second Toyota who made the best of a long first stint to beat some very big names.

Kimi Raikkonen lost ground at the start and then made light contact with Fernando Alonso to damage his front right wing endplate. It mattered little as the F60 had little race pace and the 2007 champion finished out of the points in ninth position. After his podium in Monaco, Turkey was a disappointing race from the 2007 world champion.

Another champion was out of the points and that was Renault star Fernando Alonso. With a light fuel load from eighth position on the grid, it was always going to be a tough race and the Spaniard duly finished in tenth position.

Nick Heidfeld finished 11th in the second BMW Sauber after losing position mid-way around the first lap ahead of Nakajima and the McLaren Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen. The Turkish Grand Prix was a disaster for the Woking-based team with the flaws in the MP4-24 package cruelly exposed through the long four-apex turn eight. Hamilton at least made best of a one stop strategy to finish on the lead lap.

Sebastien Buemi led the Toro Rosso team to 15th position ahead of Nelson Piquet in the second Renault, Adrian Sutil in the surviving Force India and finally Sebastien Bourdais who was the final finisher in 18th.

Giancarlo Fisichella retired from 18th early in the race with a recurring braking issue while Barrichello had a most entertaining race.

Barrichello leaves Turkey facing an uphill struggle after failing to finish. Starting third, Barrichello s Brawn Mercedes almost stalled off the line dropping the Brazilian down the order. By lap nine of 58 he found himself in a great tussle for 11th place with Kovalainen and after a few moments, contact was made dropping him behind Hamilton. The Brawn racer made a clean pass on the defending champion and then was overly optimistic on a passing attempt on Sutil. After a stop for a new front wing he resumed before retiring on lap 49 with a gearbox problem.

Barrichello s problems is good news for Button as he really does now enjoy a commanding championship lead heading to his home Grand Prix at Silverstone in two weeks time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Briatore derides F1 new entrants

After Ferrari derided next year's prospective entry list as turning F1 into 'Formula GP3', Flavio Briatore has followed suit.

The Renault boss says the sport risks watering down its prestige and value by opening the door to outfits worthy of junior categories.

"We are devaluing Formula One," Italian Briatore is quoted as saying in El Mundo newspaper. "It is not correct that teams of GP2 race with us; it brings down our image and our technology."

The 59-year-old also rejected claims that making it easy for new teams to enter Formula One is necessary because of the risk of existing competitors pulling out.

"It is said that the constructors will go. But with normal regulations, I do not believe that any constructor would go," Briatore said.

"What we cannot have is F1 with a little bit of Formula Two and a little bit of GP2.
The small teams have to have success on the basis of their results.

"I began with a small team, Benetton, and with clear regulations we competed with McLaren and Ferrari and won (the titles) in 1994 and '95 with a budget 80 percent smaller. We never asked for different regulations."

Briatore added: "We want a Formula One that is unique, with the best technology and the best teams and drivers."

Haug - Rosberg on the list

Norbert Haug, Mercedes-Benz's F1 boss, has admitted interest in seeing his German countryman Nico Rosberg at the wheel of a McLaren.

Rosberg, 23, is out of contract at Williams at the end of the season, and - while happy with the Grove-based team's progress this year - is openly assessing his options for 2010.

With Lewis Hamilton the darling of the works team and under long-term contract, the seat in question is the one currently occupied by Finn Heikki Kovalainen, who joined McLaren last year to replace Fernando Alonso.

At the same time at the end of 2007, McLaren pushed to hire Rosberg but found the German securely under contract.

"We had to respect it," Haug told Spox.
com in Monaco. "How things develop, we cannot discuss in public, but we have known Nico long enough and he is a man on the list."

"It is clear that he is on many teams' lists," the German added.