News and views on motorsports

Friday, November 26, 2004

Ant Update

On PlanetF1 today, Williams have denied BAR's accusations that they have been unreasonable with regards the Anthony Davidson affair. According to a Williams spokesman: "All we asked BAR for was the opportunity to retain Anthony as a race driver in 2006 if BAR were unable to offer him a race seat."

Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. In my previous article I speculated that perhaps Williams considers Ant a superior driver to Button and that perhaps the 2005 season would be a try out for a longer term deal after 2006. I was under the impression that Button would be with Williams from 2006 onwards and that Ant is under a one year "loaner." However, if BAR are unable to offer Ant a race seat in 2006, why would Williams want to retain Ant as a race driver? Since they would simply get what they wanted i.e. Button. From the statement one gets the impression that BAR feels that whatever the case may be in 2006, Ant must come back to BAR even if they cannot offer him a race seat. It would seem that BAR are the ones that are being unreasonable then.

No matter what happens, it seems BAR have been making waves throughout the entire year on and off the track. Prior to the start of the season they irked the likes of both Michelin and Bridgestone for choosing to take up Michelin tyres. During the course of the season, there was the Buttongate affair, in the midst of sterling performances on the track. And now Honda ousts the team boss and we have this Ant affair. Not exactly the stuff of a world championship contender at any rate.

If one looks at the latest poll on PlanetF1, the majority of fans out there believe that BARs moves are certainly damaging Ant's career. I would fully agree with that. Racing drivers are born to race not sit on the sidelines preparing cars for other drivers. It seems such a waste of talent in this case. Ant deserves his shot and if a top team like Williams wants to retain him for a couple of years then why not? Even if compensation were paid at least we'd see a great talent on race weekends doing the business. On this, I tip my hat off to Peter Sauber for letting Kimi Raikkonen go when McLaren came a calling. OK, so he charged McLaren for it but at least he was big enough not to stand in the way of letting talent shine.

Perhaps BAR think themselves championship contenders like Ferrari already. What is interesting is that it is apparently Honda who is having issues with the Ant / Williams affair. You can read that story here on Planet F1. This came right after Honda acquired their large stake in BAR. David Richards apparently was the one who agreed to it in the first place.

Should BAR-Honda persist in their course of action I think they'll find that they have two disgruntled drivers in their squad. I'm sure Button is not entirely happy to stay with BAR. Now, I'm sure Ant will feel a little hard done by as well. Ant has been remarkably silent on this issue or at least I haven't read any remarks from him just yet. Perhaps he's got a gagging order placed on him from on high. Such a pity then. He deserves better.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Early Winter Testing Update

Toyota seem to be glowing in the light of new arrival Ralf Schumacher into the team. Mark Gascoyne going on to declare in Barcelona this week that Toyota has now got two world champions in their cars. Ralf Schumacher was also heard saying that the TF104 was better than he expected. He confirms what the rest of us knows, that the Toyota engine is "very, very good." Surprisingly he finds that Toyota to have a nice balance. Well, perhaps its only at Barcelona. Despite my dislike for Ralf - I think he's overrated and nowhere near his brother though his agent pretends that he is - I believe that Toyota with him and Jarno on board should see some better times from two "current" drivers who are perhaps at the peak of their driving abilities.

Elsewhere, Montoya is clearly enjoying his driving a McLaren for the first time, going on to set fastest laps in the Barcelona tests. On a high from his Brazilian Grand Prix victory, he seems rejuvenated in his new team after all the rows and acrimony with Williams.

Disturbing developments continue with BAR. Anthony Davidson (Ant), who I think is a brilliant, talented and super quick driver, has been barred from testing a Williams. Ant was of course in the running for a full time seat at Grove, with a shootout planned between Antonio Pizzonia, Nick Heidfeld and himself. Funny, I never saw any news story that mentioned David Coulthard in the running. Anyway, as BAR felt that since Frank Williams could not guarantee Ant's return to the Brackley based squad in 2006 should he drive for Williams in 2005, they felt compelled to block his Williams test. Geoff Willis is quoted as saying: "Anthony is one of the team's prime assets... We clearly cannot compromise the future of BAR." Ousted former BAR boss David Richards stating that Williams were being unreasonable.

Actually, I am at a loss as to why a problem exists here. Williams were pursuing Button for 2005 but have now got to hold that till 2006 whilst Jense finishes his contract there. Anthony Davidson deserves a drive or at least a shot at it. So why not settle for Ant for 2005 and then swap him for Button in 2006? Are Frank and Patrick perhaps suspicious that maybe, just maybe, Ant is a better driver than Jenson Button? Perhaps a nice 2005 season powered by BMW would confirm that. Personally, I would believe that Ant is the better driver. He just needs a shot at the big time. Between Ant, Pizzonia and Heidfeld he clearly is the best of the three. I mean Heidfeld is okay but remember he got blown away by outgoing Williams driver Montoya when they were racing together in Formula 3000. Pizzonia is okay as a test driver but isn't even a match for Ralf Schumacher let alone Montoya. Ant however, has been known to blast regular BAR race drivers in free practice. He's got speed and he's highly rated. There's definitely more than meets the eye here.

So poor Ant is for now relegated to being in the testing seat for yet another year. If anyone deserves a race drive, its Ant. Hope might yet lie in other directions. Last week apparently, BAR held a secret shootout testing nine potential young drivers for the team. Among them Nico Rosberg and Nelson Piquet Junior (no and oh, no) and also Macau winner Alexander Premat. The hopefuls were subjected to "physical, mental and verbal tests" in addition to driving road cars at Bruntingthorpe. Errr.... mental and verbal tests? Goodness, the demands of Formula 1 these days. I mean, verbal tests??? Okay, so maybe they are tested for their abilities to communicate with race engineers. I certainly hope so. I mean, I'd hate to think that its a test to see how well they do in a press conference for instance.

Just to digress slightly, I undertook the little self test in F1 Racing magazine a couple of months ago which compares you to Michael Schumacher. I failed miserably and that's probably why he earns over a million bucks a race in the most glamorous team in the world winning the championship 7 times and I'm here updating this damn blog!

Anyway, back to the BAR issue, these days young drivers seem to be signing their lives away when they sign for a team. Whilst I don't see any real talent in the group of hopefuls except perhaps Premat, I sure hope they don't end up like Ant, being stuck in admittedly a solid up and coming team, but still denied a shot at the big time. I thought the Formula Drivers Association were against the trading of driver's souls but I guess times have changed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Cough cough. Draw your own conclusions:

At issue is a 50,000 buck tender to replace an old signboard at the Sepang circuit. The successful bidder apparently only refurbished them instead of replacing said signboard outright. Sure there aren't any more hanky panky going on in there? There are presumably people who'd tell you there's more than meets the eye down in Sepang.... but I wouldn't know any of them really. ;)

Monday, November 22, 2004

Notes From Macau

I love the Macau Grand Prix and watch it almost every year without fail since a few years ago. In an age of increased corporate atmospherics in races these days, Macau can still hark back to an age where racing was truly racing and a sense of fun and camraderie still existed. It is, as the Star Sports commentators mentioned, a race for purists race entered by real racing drivers instead of corporate robots. That is why Macau is visited by people like Charlie Whiting and other Formula 1 people.

To be honest, I'm more interested in the Guia Touring Car Race than the Formula 3 race. Don't get me wrong, the Formula 3 event is important. Together with the Marlboro Masters held at Zandvoort, it is the premier Formula 3 event every season and is the one that every future Formula 1 hopeful wants to win. Formula 1 team managers of course watch the event closely. Among the most famous winners of the Macau Grand Prix are Aryton Senna and Michael Schumacher. Ten Formula 1 world championships between them. Then of course there's Mika Hakkinen who was on course to win the event before crashing into Michael Schumacher. Ayrton Senna once described Macau as the most demanding circuit in the world. Despite a street style layout with a hairpin that is under permanent yellow flag, it's layout is far more interesting than Tilke designed dogfests. If you watched last year's race at Macau, you would probably have seen a Jordan doing demonstration laps there. Boy, was that absolutely thrilling. Anyway, this year's Formula 3 event was won by Frenchman Andre Premat with Robert Kubica of Poland taking pole position beating much fancied opposition in the form of American Richard Antinucci, Nico Rosberg and Nelson Piquet Junior. Both Antinucci and Piquet started from dismal qualifying positions and never really featured in the race. They both finished 9th and 10th respectively.

As I said earlier, I love watching the touring cars. Normally, this event attracts plenty of competition with cars of a variety different makes. Last year we had Honda, BMW and Alfa battling it out alongside private entries from Japan with Toyotas. This year however saw a grid filled with BMWs in the top 12 positions, with only a couple of SEATs spoiling an otherwise a total whitewash. No Alfas, no teams from Japan. The Hondas of Toni Ruokkonen and Simon Harrison absolutely nowhere. It was just dismal. Just what exactly happened to the rest?

Upon closer inspection, it turns out that the BMWs and SEATs were running to European Touring Car Championship rules. This is super touring specifications to you and me whereas the others are running super production. With Macau being a world championship round of next year's World Touring Car Championship, BMW and SEAT understandably want track time before coming here next year. But it all ends up being rather daft if you ask me. I mean, mixing super production and super touring cars in one race? I'm not surprised that this turned away many entrants. If you're running to Group N+ super production rules, why on Earth would you want to compete? You have absolutely no chance at all against the super touring guys. The results do not discriminate between the two sets of rules. It's all quite daft. I believe they just ought to run it to Super Production rules only. Incidentally, I not at all a supporter of the current British Touring Car Championship format where there are two classes. Its confusing actually. I mean watching a guy finishing 10th on the road but winning his class and going up the podium is just daft. They should go back to the days in the 90s when everyone ran to a single set of rules i.e. the super touring specification.

It all added up to a rather disappointing Guia race in my view. The most boring one in years really. Despite all the crashes in the Guia race, it felt like Formula BMW to me. Nevertheless the race was won by Jorg Muller who became the first man ever to win the Macau Grand Prix in both Formula 3 and Guia categories. Hopefully, we'll see a more exciting Macau Grand Prix next year. As I mentioned earlier, the Guia race becomes a full fledge world championship event in the world touring cars. Expect to see a more competitive race between a host of manufacturers including BMW, Honda, SEAT, Chevrolet, Citroen and even a Cherry! I just hope despite all the manufacturer attention, Macau will still retain its purist racing atmosphere.

Look Again Mario

Mario Thiessen of BMW Motorsport is frequently making comments in the news these days. In fact, I'd wager that he's more in the news than Patrick Head and Frank Williams put together. Read this article on I particularly like this quote: "This return to competitiveness was the result of a huge effort." BMW are blowing a lot of marketing spin these days. More than ever in fact, given their hugely disappointing season. I suppose they are making the best of things right now and are milking their Brazilian Grand Prix victory to the fullest. But let's get it right Mario. The only reason BMW Williams won the Brazilian Grand Prix was because Ferrari stopped developing their car. Ever since Monza I believe. Despite that, they still managed to whip you guys in China and Japan. Had Ferrari continued on their merry way and spent development time on the F2004, no one would be anywhere near them let alone be fighting for victory. Cut the crap Mario and just win it on the track, ok?

BAR and Honda's Decision Is Premature

Honda has announced that it will buy out 45% of the BAR team in a move signifying long term commitment to Formula 1. You can read the story on F1Racing here. A new joint venture company will be formed with British American Tobacco owning 55% of said company and Honda taking the remaining shares.

Commitments of this nature is nothing new. Mercedes already has a substantial shareholding in McLaren with talk of taking control of the team in the future. No doubt this will depend on future race and championship results. BMW also, is continuing to speak with Frank Williams on the possibility of taking control of Williams. Both Patrick Head and Frank Williams are getting on and one naturally assumes wants to sell out in the future prior to retirement. A process of "fattening up" of the team continues in anticipation of such a takeover. Manufacturer involvement in the team has its benefits of course, with the manufacturer making available facilities and resources that are otherwise unavailable to the teams. Such moves are inevitable in this sport and really there can be no complaints there.

What is interesting about the Honda deal however, is the dismissal of David Richards from the team. According to the article BAT had brought in David Richards and Prodrive to "restructure the management of the team and put BAR Honda into a position to challenge for the World Championship." Everyone knows of course that David Richards has done a sterling job with the BAR team. Getting rid of irritating annoyances in the team like Pollock and friend Villeneuve and then building a team around Messrs Button and Sato proved to be an inspired move. I have a feeling that of all the teams in the paddock, BAR and Ferrari are perhaps the only teams that currently maximizes all the available resources and are operating at peak efficiency. McLaren and Williams, the way I look at it, indulge in many frivolous exercises and should really look at the way BAR are getting on. Of course, having Geoff Willis as your technical director helps a whole lot. This guy is still popping up with new ideas unlike a burnt out Adrian Newey at McLaren.

However, given the brief of putting BAR Honda as a major championship challenger, David Richards has not yet completed his task. BAR's performance has been stunning no doubt and they will use numbers 3 and 4 next year but they are in no shape to challenge for the championship as yet. Next year they will probably be even closer to the top but I somehow doubt they will be able to stop the scarlet juggernaut just yet. Despite Button's third place in the driver's championship and BAR's second place in the constructors race this year, one must not forget that they have yet to score a win. Despite dismal performances by Williams and McLaren, they have scored wins. So to have Renault. This is important, as it demonstrates at least the potential of a team. Ok, so the BAR team came close in Germany but still it was a missed affair. Despite a brilliant performance at Monza, the Ferraris were able to catch up and after a stunning drive by both Schumacher and Barrichello, were still able to beat BAR. There is still a lot of work left for David Richards and the BAR team before they can be considered as championship challengers able to consistently battle with the Ferraris.

So why dismiss David Richards and Prodrive now when clearly they are needed more than ever? I might have an answer which was given to me by a BAR employee himself but I shan't be revealing it. It's probably something to do with the flow of money. Still, you must admit that David Richards is still the best chance that BAR have got. I mean, look back in years past when Ferrari were being trashed every weekend. Did they dismiss Jean Todt at the first opportunity? Of course not. It was probably the smartest move Luca di Montezemolo ever did keeping that little Frenchman in the team. Now look at them. They are nigh invincible. Strong teams and personnel that are performing should be kept and not dismissed.

I'm sure Honda and BAT are doing their sums and they've probably thought it out. Ummm.... yeah just like having Craig Pollock as team principal was a "brilliant" BAT plan. David Richards remains magnanimous about the whole affair. Read his comments here on Yes, David, much as I think you are a shrewd sort of person one cannot deny that he has done a superb job. Honda and BAR would do well to keep him but the die is cast. It remains to be seen but I fear his dismissal is a grave error and BAR will feel the effects next season.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Sick Of Ferrari Fans

This feature on PlanetF1 has irked me quite a bit. In fact, Ferrari fans are very vociferous and quite partisan on this website. Well, there are more Ferrari fans than fans of the other teams put together, so I suppose their views get shouted out the most.

Take this quote from one of the readers : Last time I looked at the testing miles statistics in F1 Racing, it was Michelin, and the Michelin associated teams, who had tested significantly more miles than Bridgestone. I know most of the teams are on Michelin, but the Minardi, Jordan et al, do little testing, so the miles are consumed by the big three or four competitors of Ferrari

Yeah, sure the Michelin runners clock up a lot of mileage. But if the majority of teams are on Bridgestones, then Bridgestone would be doing the same. But taken indvidually, Ferrari clocks up more mileage than any single team. Testing is paid for by individual teams and it is not paid for by some collective pool of money by the Michelin runners. If this reader made a one on one comparison between Ferrari and McLaren or Ferrari and Williams then you'd find that Ferrari's mileage beats them both individually. There is Ferrari's advantage, the ability to test at any moments notice new developments on the car.

Another quote by another reader: F1 fans are always seem to hate being told how they are 'supposed' to respond, proven by the letters of support for Ferrari after the last team meeting (when we were 'supposed' to see them as the bad guys for not signing).

Well, I don't know what this guy thinks fans are supposed to do but in my view Ferrari have always been the bad guys. They've been so for ages. Enzo Ferrari himself is not a man to shy away from using political influence to his advantage. Might I add that only Ferrari have this level of clout with the FIA. No other teams possess such influence. If the other teams unite against Ferrari, its only a reaction to Ferrari's otherwise massive political power. Does this reader not realise that in the past that when Ferrari is not happy about something and protests, the FIA just falls in line. The one incident they were caught blatantly cheating in the 1999 Malaysian Grand Prix, they were let off the hook. And before anyone says anything, yes, they were cheating. I actually know some of the stewards of that race personally. And they all agreed that Ferrari had contravened the rules. Luca di Montezemolo then proceeded to say that a 5% tolerance level are allowed for parts like barge boards. If anyone read the rules properly, they would find that tolerance is only allowed for the flat bottom of the car and nowhere else. Yet Ferrari as usual gets away with it.

Let's move on to another quote : As has been said here many times, Ferrari didn't whine to the FIA and get the rules changed to slow the other teams when they were mired in mediocrity. They worked hard and turned things around. The other teams have clearly decided that they are incapable of making such an effort and instead would rather lobby the FIA to change the rules to slow Ferrari down.

Yes, I agree Ferrari has worked enormously hard, ably led by Michael Schumacher. But to say that they didn't whine to the FIA when their chips were down is completely untrue. This comment generally reflects the rose tinted (or scarlet tinted) world Ferrari fans seem to live in. Of course they whined to the FIA. Of course, they made every technical innovation from other teams illegal by bitching to the FIA. The case was so clearly seen last year. It was they who raised the legality of the Michelin tyres to the FIA despite the fact that the Michelins were running from more than 2 years on the exact same configurations as those in the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix. Rear brake steer, various gearbox innovations, materials in Mercedes engines all approved by the FIA were overturned at Ferrari's insistence. It was Ferrari who insisted on allowing V12 engines in the past when all other teams wanted to stick to V10s. Ferrari have been lobbying to the FIA to slow other people down since the days of Enzo Ferrari. Of course, to Ferrari fans, their team are crewed by harp playing angels. So they can't possibly do anything wrong right? Wrong you morons. Ferrari of course, do such protests away from the medias eyes. The teams of course have now protested in unison in a very public manner. Perhaps that is their error because they too look bad now. But after DECADES of Ferrari politicking, they have had enough of Ferrari.

These are just some examples of Ferrari fans' blind devotion to their team. There are plenty more of them in the past on PlanetF1. What sickens me even further is that the tone of their comments indicate such confidence in their convictions. As if to say their team can do no wrong. Well, morons, in the past the other teams have had their hand tied behind their backs to compete against the richest team in the paddock. Ferrari don't need politicking. But they do it anyway. In fact Ferrari are the most political of all teams in the paddock. Once upon a time the politics destroyed their team. Now all of their political inclinations are directed outside. The teams are now fighting back by coming together, as is their right.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Ferrari will not agree

"I am sorry to say that what was presented is not sensible, This paper, you can just throw it away." - Jean Todt

Paul Stoddart has been the main mover and shaker in recent months with respect to a proposal to limit in season testing. You all know what happened. All the teams bar Ferrari held a meeting during the course of the Brazilian Grand Prix and in principle agreed to that proposal. Jean Todt and Ferrari claim that they were not invited to that meeting. One unknown source close to the teams upheld the belief that the decision not to invite Ferrari was deliberate and was intended to snub all the rest.

Now for those of you who don't know, Ferrari are opposed to in season testing. How could they not be. They own two circuits that they regularly use for testing, Mugello and Maranello. A testing limitation would obviously mean that these circuits would be under utilized. Perhaps they remember all too well the 2003 season where testing restrictions meant they had to endure much of the summer being humiliated by Renault and Williams.

In fact, I am myself opposed to in season testing for the simple reason that if teams get their cars wrong at the start of the season, they'll have to live with it till the end. Such a situation would produce enormously processional races during the summer as teams are unable to rectify the situation due to testing restrictions.

Jean Todt's comments regarding the proposal were very scathing. You can read it here on PlanetF1. I suppose a team like Ferrari does not tolerate being humiliated in that manner. They feel it is vendetta against them and quite rightly so. However, they should realise that its very hard on other teams when Ferrari, in concert with the FIA, likes to force them to dance to their tune.

Finally, in fact the teams have for once come to a mutual agreement amongst themselves after spending a whole season bickering about things that need doing. I suppose everyone knew that Ferrari would be the sticking point and the only way was to work together against them. But the FIA will not want to lose Ferrari. So I would seriously doubt that the FIA will listen to their proposals even though ironically, it is in line with Mosley's plans. The Ferrari name though is simply too big too lose and Formula 1 can't afford that. It can ill afford that especially in these times of economic uncertainty.

It is interesting to see what would happen in the next few months. Are we going to see a repeat of the FOCA - FISA wars of the early 80s? The stakes are so huge in the game these days that I doubt if teams would want to do that. Their corporate masters, the sponsors, would not stand for that I think or any action to bring the sport into disrepute. The most likely situation is that if Ferrari says no, the others will simply have to fall in line.

There will be ill will and resentment from the teams for sure but what do Ferrari care? They're in this to win and to use whatever facilities including their unlimited financial resources from Fiat to achieve that aim. Which means that if the other teams can't keep up, we'll just see Ferrari take all the championships until Michael Schumacher retires. And if they manage to replace him with someone like Kimi, then they'll just go on winning for many many years beyond that. In my estimation, the fact that the teams are coming to an agreement to reduce costs means that they simply cannot keep up with Ferrari's financial firepower and that bodes ill for the rest of us including the fans.

Dubai F1

I looked at a story about tyres here on What caught my eye was the end of the article. Its old news now to many of you, but I have just realised that Dubai F1 is going to be powered by Mercedes and they will get technical assistance from McLaren. I do admit to completely ignoring this Arab entry into motor racing. I mean, come on, they do sound like wannabes. Hey look at us, we're from Dubai. Come to Dubai why don't you? I have serious opposition to such blatant advertising from these Arabs. The same opposition fans of Arsenal have, now that their stadium is called the Emirates stadium for instance.

My first reaction to the Mercedes and McLaren connection was to ask what on Earth is Ron Dennis thinking about? I mean, he has enough trouble trying to turn McLaren around without having to sidetrack to other teams. Doing some searching on the net revealed this article on It seems that of course McLaren will be earning quite a bit for their technical assistance. The story also has it that perhaps the old Woking factory will be used to manufacture Dubai F1 cars. However, wind tunnel and team base will be in Dubai itself "to develop and demonstrate our skills in these cutting edge areas." Err yeah, I doubt that will be many Arabs involved in this. It's like to be crewed mainly by expatriates. A bit like calling Ferrari engines Petronas I suppose. Fools a lot of people into thinking that Petronas makes grand prix engines. (No, seriously, a lot of people in Malaysia at least are under that impression).

Thinking about it now, this is perhaps the best cost cutting measure for a new team like Dubai F1. I've talked about teams buying chassis to compete. Well, that rule isn't going to change, so I suppose the next best thing would be something like this. The Arabs are still going to have a wind tunnel and expensive manufacturing facilities but I suppose this greatly reduces the risks associated with a new entry these days. I still think this is going to stretch McLaren yet again but I guess with this project at least McLaren will be compensated handsomely in return I would imagine. As opposed to their silly toys like their media centre. This could be a very beneficial to McLaren. Just as having Swiss servants is useful to Ferrari. Like thirty million dollars per annum useful.

Well, this Arab team is not going to race until 2006 but I look forward to seeing their progress. Dubai F1 and Midlang F1 are going to be the first "private" new entrants to Formula 1 since Jordan in 1991. No, Toyota doesn't count I'm afraid. They're a pure works team. Well, with all that black gold financing these Arabs, I'm sure they'll do well if their expatriates don't royally screw them over. To the detriment of Jordan I suppose who was looking to sell his team to the Arabs. Let's wait and see.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Villeneuve: Rookie with big dreams?

I just read this amusing story on PlanetF1. The headline is particularly funny - JV: 'I feel like a rookie with big dreams.' A rookie Monsieur Jacques? Pardonne moi but I don't bloody well think so. Jacques asserts that given that he has won the world title before, he feels he can do it again naturally. Yeah, you and in which car mate?

Jacques is now stuck at Sauber. With the exception of one Kimi Raikkonen, people in Saubers do really go on to much bigger and better things. Oh yeah, sure Fisichella is off to Renault now but quite frankly, the odds of Renault producing a world championship challenger is always on the slim side relative to McLaren, Ferrari and Williams. This despite the big dip in form by McLaren and Williams this year. Still in the long term, you want to be with one of these teams. Jacques Villeneuve will only get into these teams over a large pile of dead bodies.

Does he perhaps think that he can get a Ferrari drive once big Schuey quits? Errrmmm.... not if Raikkonen has anything to say about that. He's being seriously considered by the Ferrari management. I'd say there's a better than even chance that he will end up there. But what about the second seat at Ferrari currently being kept warm by Barrichello. Well, with the stories of Liuzzi and Rossi being floated about these days, I'd say there's a good chance they're scarlet race seat bound as well. Ferrari I believe would definitely want an Italian behind the wheel of at least one of their cars.

Ron Dennis has had consultations with Villeneuve in the past but Ron passed him up for Raikkonen instead. I think Ron would want to consider other people rather than an old champion. So let's look at the Frank and Patrick show. Well, it's no secret that Patrick believes that Villeneuve is a difficult sort of fellow to work with. Furthermore, it is Patricks view that Villeneuve was making such hard work in 1997 when they won the championship together. Plus, seven years is a bloody long time ago and one gets the feeling that Villeneuve may have wasted one too many years at BAR under dog management of Craig Pollock.

So where does Villeneuve thinks he can go? At 33, he's getting on now and is a senior citizen. Whether or not you believe that Button blew his pants off in 2003, the perception of the press and public at large is that the Englishmen bested him during their time together. As for his former team BAR, David Richards has been heard to say that he prefers investing in youth than old timers. And why not? So long as there are talented youths out there, he may as well spend on them instead. They cost less and are more appreciative of what they get. Money saved can be spent developing the car instead of paying for superstar lifestyles.

Villeneuve may have at best three more years in Formula 1. After which, I doubt if any team would want their hands on him. Look at poor David Coulthard. Getting old with no where to go. Out of the three years left, Villeneuve will spend two at Sauber. Of course, he will just be making up the numbers. After all, there is no way Sauber will win a race let alone a championship, not with Ferrari supplying their engines. After these two years at Sauber, a permanent exit from Formula 1 I would say is definitely on the cards. No one is going to take him when he's 35.

So, forget your dreams dear Jacques. It is all over. Your loyalty to your friend Craig Pollock has been to your utter detriment, unfortunately. One that is not possible for you to recover from. Just enjoy your final two years at Sauber and watch while your once arch enemy, Michael Schumacher and his Ferrari team grind you to the dust for the next two seasons and thirty odd races. Observe how Ferrari will use their power and influence to extract every ounce from Sauber and watch while Michael just sucks away at your dignity. Your once feisty character will shrivel away until 1997 just becomes a faint and distant memory.

Now before anyone accuses me of having something against Villeneuve, I admire him. Or did once. He and Eddie Irvine were once the last two characters of Formula 1. Unafraid to speak their minds as compared to the corporate drones these days, both of them provided a refreshing relief to PR boredom. Plus, I rate Villeneuve as a good driver. After all, he did beat Michael Schumacher a long time ago. I remember in the 1996 Portugese Grand Prix, he managed to pass Michael on the outside on the final corner at Estoril. I had also watched how from being two laps down, he came back to win the Indianapolis 500 race back in the day when it was still raced on by Indycars.

Villeneuve is a real racer. In dreams, real racers like him would be in a McLaren battling with Schumacher still, and winning championships along the way. The reality is unfortunately vastly different. As an employee of Sauber, he will now have to defer as does the Sauber team, to Ferrari and Michael Schumacher. The ultimate humuiliation is at hand before finally he ends up a commodity nobody wants. Ugh. I can't bear to watch actually.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

4 More Years

The incumbent president of the world's most powerful nation has been re-elected. So you ask what effect has this on Formula 1? Well, if like me you believe that the incumbent has had a ruinous effect on the world's economy and security then Formula 1 would definitely be affected. OK so I don't really know what's going to happen in the next 4 years but if the past 4 is any indication, the world's economy will continue going downhill. It is ironic that people vote for the incumbent in the name of security, yet fear and uncertainty prevail around the world so long as the incumbent is in power. Who knows where the cowboy will ride to next on the advice of his scouts who tell him that injuns are right around that corner?

Formula 1 teams derive their income primarily through advertising from corporate sponsors. In recent years, advertising money is getting harder to find as corporations tighten their cash belts in the face of economic uncertainty. See mighty Ford who have recently pulled out of Formula 1 and have even decided to dispose of Cosworth in the process. It is tough for teams at the moment to survive in Formula 1. It must be even tougher for new teams to enter as well. Of course, by "enter" I mean being competitive not just doing a Minardi.

Should the current trend continue, I believe we could well see more teams being eliminated. Jordan and Minardi are obvious teams with pending exit visas. But let us not discount teams like Renault for instance, who have indicated that their involvement is subject to review beyond next year. Should the current economic siuation follow its current trend and cowboys roam the Earth picking fights, then who knows how long Formula 1 will survive as it is. Perhaps Mosley is right after all and cost cutting should be a huge issue. But it is a fine line to walk between making the sport more economically sound, improving the spectacle and not making the spot too artificial.

Economics aside, Michael Schumacher has been world champion with Ferrari ever since the incumbent took power. That is seasons 2000-2004. With the incumbent president around for another 4 more years, will we see Schumacher winning it for another 4 season? That I believe would really ruin Formula 1. I mean, even the most die hard Ferrari fan would be bored beyond belief.

Whatever it is, Formula 1 should brace itself for another 4 more years of hardship and uncertainty, as do us all. I am not sure what the people in the world's most powerful country are thinking about but the rest of the world are under no illusions. Its going to be tough when gun totting cowboys run around.

Sauber to use Michelins

It looks like what was discussed here has come to pass. Sauber have secured themselves a spot of Michelin tyres for the 2005 season. In fact, this is taking effect immediately. So the "winter world championships" will be run by Sauber with Michelins. This leaves only Ferrari as the most significant Michelin runner. However, I believe there is a rule somewhere that a tyre supplier has a maximum number of teams it can supply, which could mean that Bridgestone are looking for new teams. The grapevine points to Toyota as the most likely team. Perhaps BAR Honda too will be considering it as well.

From news report at PlanetF1, it seems that Sauber are unhappy with the way Bridgestone tyres perform in single lap qualifying. This is as far as I know, the only official reason given for the switch. It seems like a very silly reason to switch. After all, qualifying is one thing but the race is quite another thing altogether. Bridgestone as far as the 2004 season is concerned has performed magnificently during race conditions. In fact, Bridgestone was clearly the tyre to have. Ferrari used it to devastating effect. Look at the performance in Monza for an indication.

I suppose we should look at why Michelin would want to supply Sauber having so many good teams in their books already. No news reports have given any indication for this reason. I think perhaps this gives Michelin more revenues? I suppose a greater number of teams will also look good when the results come in. If every car finished 70% of them will be on Michelins. In fact the top ten would probably be Michelin runners in most races. After all, only Jordan and Minardi remain as the other Bridgestone runners. From a testing standpoint, this is probably a chance for Michelin to get even more feedback and data for development.

The conspiracy theorist in me however, thinks that Ferrari will be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of their Swiss servants feeding them Michelin performance data. I mean, come on. Why else would their servants be switching to an inferior tyre? It just boggles the mind. During his press conferences next year, Michael Schumacher should not only thank the Ferrari team and the test drivers but also Sauber for pulling their pants down and bending over.

Jokes aside though, Bridgestone must also be reeling from this. After all, they can only rely on Ferrari for development. PlanetF1 suggests that this dissuade Ferrari to agree to testing cuts. After all, with so many Michelin runners they would be at a real disadvantage if testing were to go unchecked. Bridgestone will need all the running they can get for their tyre development. Its one thing to run simulations on a computer but real world running is still indispensible. In fact, if at the mid season, Bridgestone are not doing well, there will be enormous frustration of the fact that they can't test their new tyre developments. Look back at 1998. With unlimited testing, Ferrari were able to work with Goodyear to produce a new front tyre that helped counter the McLaren domination. With reduced testing, I don't think Bridgestone will be able to do the same, if that situation comes about.

BAR made a successful switch to Michelin in 2004. However, I believe their progress had a lot to do with the aero, chassis and engine improvements. It will be interesting to see how Sauber progress with Michelin come 2005.