News and views on motorsports

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Imola On Goings

One of the most significant news this weekend is the revelation that the Red Bull Racing team will use Ferrari engines for next year. The announcement was made in a press release circulated during Saturday qualifying. So with Ferrari supplying the Red Bull team next year, Sauber's engine supply for next year is definitely going to be on everyone's mind. Will it BMW or Cosworth? There are no announcements from Hinwil as I write this but I'd speculate that they would be switching to either one of these engines.

There have been rumours that should BMW takeover the Sauber team then Williams may just be interested in a supply of Cosworths. Apparently some discussions have already begun. And why not. The Northhampton boys have been working on the new V8 for sometime now and have a head start on all the other suppliers. Cosworth's future seems reasonably secure and they've always had expertise if not always the budget to match.

Significantly, the new suggests that Red Bull will be throwing their lot behind Ferrari in the GPWC-FIA wars. Maybe jumping the gun, but I think it's safe to say that Go9 has become G8. Jordan, the other privateer, is for now part of the G8 but their position isn't as clear cut. They still rely on Toyota for their powerplant after all.

As for Red Bull, unless Ferrari gives them the latest specification engines continously, I really can't understand why Mateschitz would elect to use Maranello power. For Ferrari, this means revenues of course but can you really see a Red Bull with a Ferrari engine win races? Would Ferrari allow them to? I'd have stick with Cosworth engines. They made great strides this year and have produced a healthy and competitive engine.

In other news, Flavio Briatore has confirmed that he will remain with Renault. Lets hope we see more supermodels in the pitlane then. I was very disappointed not to see a few in their pits during the Malaysian GP. More supermodels, Flavio. Us blokes can't be looking at your perma-tan all the bloody time. But Flavio's extension has the blessings of Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn who wishes to maintain stability in the team. Whatever his quirks, Flavio is a good leader and Renault have done well to retain him.

The GP2 series kicked off yesterday, but not to great and wide acclaim. report here, qualifying times here and results here. Highly critical review here.

Malaysia's very own Fairuz Fauzy qualified in 21st with a lap time four seconds slower than Adren Racing's Nicolas Lapierre. Eventually Fairuz finished in 17th and dead last classified, 4 laps behind eventual winner and Renault F1 test driver Heikki Kovalainen. Much hype has surrounded Fairuz among the racing community in Malaysia and how he would right the wrongs of Alex Yoong. But given such dismal results here, and given his lack of winning results in British Formula 3 with top team Promatecme and given that he did worse in Macau than Yoong, I simply don't see that happening.

But Kovalainen, despite some difficulties, continues to shine. The man won last year's Race Of Champions, beating Michael Schumacher in a straight fight. He also won the Nissan World Series in 2004 with Pons Racing, after being runner up in 2003. He finished second in the Macau Grand Prix in 2002, after coming in third in British Formula 3. His career hasn't been as spectacular as Liuzzi, Button or Raikkonen but by all accounts he's pretty solid. He's impressed the powers at Renault enough to have Frank Montagny replaced as man Friday.

On the track, McLaren had a really good Friday practise with Pedro de la Rosa leading the way in both sessions. On Saturday practise 1, Schumacher set the pace for Ferrari with Button leading for BAR in practise 2. In low fuel qualifying 1, Ron Dennis tried hard to suppress a grin but he seemed quite pleased with Kimi Raikkonen's pole position. Alonso is all but equal to the Finn in speed finishing just 0.003 seconds behind the McLaren driver.

Given that the McLaren's have not changed anything to the car since Bahrain, perhaps those softer Michelins have worked wonders for Woking. But why oh why did they put Wurz in the second car? With Pedro finishing fifth in Bahrain, McLaren would have had two cars starting late in the session. As it is, the Austrian had to go out early and didn't do that well finishing 0.7 seconds behind Raikkonen. McLaren should have just stuck with Pedro de la Rosa. He would have been quicker (as practise showed) and we would all have more fun for the race. They should just stick Wurz to simply pounding the car for testing and nothing else.

The qualifying result seemed rather odd with 7 different makes in the top 7. It seemed to separate the top performers of each team from their not so well performing team mates. Whilst Alonso was quick, Fisichella had a dismal time with oversteer. Whereas Michael's Ferrari looking well planted and hooked up, Barrichello faltered. The same with Mark Webber, Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button. Alas, Red Bull was not to join the top 10, telling a lack of development.

Qualifying 1 in fact reflects the winter testing form of the teams. The Viking horned McLaren in the right hands does have the fundamental and essential speed. It just has to be hooked up right. And, as Kimi Raikkonen reflects, its just better suited to Imola than Malaysia or Bahrain. But I believe those new Michelins have a lot to do with it as well.

Ominously however, Fernando Alonso's Renault seems to be able to do well on just about every piece of tarmac it rolls on to. As ever, discount not the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher. If those Bridgestones do last he can and will be a huge threat to Kimi and Fernando. However, reports are that whilst the Bridgestone does fantastically well over a single lap early on in its life, over a longer period, its performance detriorates with visibly. Nevertheless, this weekend McLaren and Renault show that in outright pace, they still have the edge over Ferrari. And that's fantastic stuff.

In the battle of the teammates, Karthikeyan continues to outshine Tiago Monteiro and impress us all. Villeneuve is once again eclipsed by Filipe Massa. Perhaps in all this Villenueve bashing going around these days, we miss the fact that perhaps Massa is simply driving well and outdoing himself.

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