News and views on motorsports

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The News In Brief

Alex Wurz, unable to fit the latest McLaren and passed on as one of the "Men Friday," is planning to leave the Woking based outfit at the end of the year. mentions a possible link between the new Dubai F1 team and the tall lanky Austrian for a possible race seat next year. If Dubai F1 is indeed making its debut next year, one would have expected them to get cracking already by now with test mules and the like but so far there's not been even a pin drop from them.

Whilst Alex may leave McLaren, McLaren themselves are threatening to leave the sport altogether come the end of 2007, according to this story in According to Martin Whitmarsh, should the situtation remain in the status quo, then the team that bears Bruce McLaren's name will not be participating in 2008. Furthermore, Whitmarsh does not believe that there will be two rival world championships, which means something has got to give and either its Bernie or GPWC. Whitmarsh further states that "I don't believe the voting members of the FIA have any comprehension of the dissatisfaction felt by all the manufacturers and the nine teams at the current situation in F1." As the Americans would say: I feel you, dog.

In this souless world of F1 corporate speak, where individualism and personalities take a back stage to sponsor image and corporate presentation, its great to see a team like Red Bull endorsing a show of spirit. Christian Horner, of Arden Racing and now the head of Red Bull F1, is quoted as saying: "We need more personalities. If David gives Michael the finger, I won't be complaining." Amen to that Mr Horner. Christian wants a team that appeals to Joe Public a.k.a. The Fans. Quite rightly, he states that Red Bull's objectives are different from the manufacturers.

I should also think that Red Bull knows its main customers are the fans themselves. Red Bull's products are consumed by the everday person. Whereas Mercedes customers are cronies and corporate stiffs who do their dirty work in the board room behind the scenes but loves to maintain a spick and span image to the world. I'm not suggesting that Mercedes itself is run by those sorts of people, but let's be honest, quite a lot of their customers are.

According to Williams test driver Antonio Pizzonia, the FW27 is "driveable" and reliable but simply not quick enough going in to the season opener at Melbourne. story here. It would explain their recent testing form where they have been severely lagging behind Renault and McLaren to the tune of between 1.5 to 2 seconds at times. I say, what will Patrick Head be thinking of now? This has always been happening for the last 3 seasons. Will we once again see Williams playing catch up? What will Mario Thiessen be saying to the press now? This should be interesting.

By contrast Pedro De La Rosa of McLaren thinks that the new MP4/20 is "easy to drive" underlining his performance at McLaren's final day at Barcelona last Thursday where he set fastest time, with Fisichella, Barrichello and Schumacher in close attendance to the Spaniard. I bet Pedro is simply aching to race again but I should think Messrs Raikkonen and Montoya are far quicker than him.

The Iceman and The Monster looks to be a rivalry that could potentially be equal to that of Prost and Senna. Both set scintillating test times, with I believe Montoya have a slight edge over Iceman. Cool as he may be, I doubt if Raikkonen would like that very much if it became a regular feature of the season. Montoya looks to me to be a lot more motivated this year than ever. Time will tell but I think Ron Dennis has again managed to pull a good one out of the bag. Both are supremely quick drivers and future world champions. Just as Prost and Senna pushed one another every quicker and ever faster when they were teammates, so I believe Montoya and Raikkonen will be pushing one another to ever greater heights. Coulthard may have been quite good, but I doubt if Raikkonen was ever really worried about him. This year, he should worry about Montoya.

Giancarlo Fisichella has been in resurgent form lately with Renault, more than once edging out his much fancied teammate Fernando Alonso. Everyone knows that Alonso will probably be world champion one day but many underestimate Giancarlo. In case anyone didn't notice before, here is a driver who's whipped every teammate he's ever had including that lemon, Ralf Schumacher. I firmly believe he is vastly underrated and given good machinery, has it in him to be a world champion as well. He certainly hopes that Melbourne will be a good hunting ground for the Renault team according to this story on I wish him the best.

Ferrari it would seem are back on the pace again after languishing in the earlier Valencia and Barcelona tests. Their lap times are once again comparable to the McLarens and Renaults. However, Barrichello was moved enough to admit that Ferrari are indeed struggling for pace. Michael Schumacher seems a bit more confident but is not bursting at the seams with enthusiasm.

Toyota has been sporadically quick in the hands of Ricardo Zonta. The Brazilian, I believe was driving a different spec TF105 as compared to race drivers Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher. Both the race drivers, like Williams, are struggling for pace, ending up seconds behind Renault and McLaren. Thankfully, Toyota's aim for this season is at least one podium and that doesn't seem too unachievable. I think Mike Gascoyne will at least make this one stick. However, further developments on the TF105 are in the pipeline, with Mike Gascoyne stating that the car racing in Malaysia will be a totally different animal to the Melbourne challenger. The technical director of Toyota wants to make sure that the full resources of the Japanese team will be utilized and developments can be pushed at a fantastic pace.

Red Bull are suprising me for a team that is now a fully private effort, having lost its manufacturer backing. David Coulthard and Christian Klien, whilst not setting the ultimate laps times in testing, nevertheless are quick enough to be consistently mixing it amongst the Ferraris, McLarens and Renaults. Are these guys just showboating and running light? I hope not, although their completed number of laps suggest they are testing just as much as any of the other fellows in the pits. Now imagine, if those bean counters at Ford had been a little more foresighted about their racing, these guys would probably have been competing with the top 3 for the top of the lap charts.

I think F1 Racing magazine put it best when they argue that dumping Jaguar Racing was just a high profile way to bolster Ford's stock prices in the short term. Jaguar Racing represented less than 1% of Ford's marketing budget. It shouldn't have done anything to Ford's fundamental value in the market but Wall Street works in mysterious and sentimental ways at times, so there you go. Investment bankers and accountants can be real gits.

The teams move to Valencia for final tests before Melbourne and it should be interesting to see the final state of play before the season opener. Although, many, including yours truly, predict a yawningly boring qualifying. ITV-F1 plans to drop final Sunday qualifying from their broadcast according to this story on Frank Williams putting it simply, "This format is not good."

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