News and views on motorsports

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.

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